Madeline had paid the electric bill, gas and such. The apartment was pretty bare but at least for the moment she was safe. She also knew that she wouldn't remain that way for long and was making plans with several contacts in other states and transferring funds from offshore accounts to several alias she had set up previously.
Carefully, she tucked the last strands of her natural hair into the auburn wig she had purchased during her errand run that morning. She would have to venture out again to buy groceries and other needed items if she were going to eat. She couldn't risk sitting in a restaurant and certainly wasn't going to risk calling and having anything delivered to the apartment. As far as she knew, no one knew of it and she had planned to keep it that way as long as possible.
Putting on the black wool overcoat that she had found at the neighborhood thrift store, she slipped her bare feet into the gym shoes that had also been part of her early day shopping spree. Money wasn't going to be a problem, her main goal though was to make it day by day. She also knew she would have to make arrangements for transportation...Riding the buses and taking taxis were another risk she was putting to the bare minimum. Madeline laughed to herself that she had avoided any department stores for her coat but hadn't hesitated when she found the running shoes that she was now wearing...she wondered if she wasn't going to be putting them to the test any time soon.
Michael sat in his office pondering his next move. Having learned that Madeline had managed to escape, he couldn't help but wonder if Operations had indeed been either involved with Nikita's adjustment or had been behind 'allowing' Madeline to escape as a possible way of buying his own time. Reviewing the disk of Madeline's conversation in Level 10 and after a lengthy talk with Annie, he was no closer to finding out if Operations was involved from the start. Annie had assured him that she was continuing her tests to find a way to undo the 'adjustment' that she now felt totally responsible for.
After securing the disk once more, Michael left his office and made his way to Birkoff’s' workstation. The bespectacled young man was sitting hunched over his computer and didn't notice the older operative had approached until Michael reached over and tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me Birkoff, but I need a moment of your time" he gave a nod toward one of the seldom-used tunnels that ran throughout Section.
"Okay Michael, just give me a sec.." he looked up and Michael could see that his eyes looked swollen and bloodshot. "If you're busy, I can come back" it was the first time Birkoff could ever remember Michael being willing to wait for him. "No, just finishing something for Walter" he smiled, clicked off the computer and rose to follow.
When they got into the tunnel and well out of earshot, Michael rubbed his face with both hands, gave a tired yawn and shook himself. "I don't know how much more I can handle Seymour" Birkoff looked up at him, surprised at the use of his first name. "What is it Michael? What can I do to help?"
Michael shrugged. He didn't know himself. "I need to know if Operations was really kept in the dark by Madeline, Annie doesn't know, Walter doesn't know and Operations is never going to admit it...he swore he had nothing to do with it." He leaned heavily against the wall.
"I'll see if I can dig something up, but so far." Birkoff looked just as tired. "How's Nikita? I haven't been to see her in a few days but Walter told me she was awake."
Michael’s head shot up "You can't tell anyone!" He practically shouted. "If Operations found out…" he didn't need to finish the statement.
He was quite sure that Operations wasn't above using Nikita's life as a bargaining chip for himself and quite possibly Madeline, if in fact Michael's hunches were right. Birkoff, I need to know if Madeline had a safehouse. I need to know if she has any underground contacts and any offshore accounts. I know you have your work to do...but I need this as soon as you can." He tapped Birkoff on the shoulder as he passed to leave him..."And Birkoff, be careful. Don't trust anyone and don't leave a trail." with that Michael was gone.
Madeline waited until nightfall before leaving the 'safety' of the apartment. Quietly she slipped out the skylight, crawled the seventeen stairs of the metal ladder leading to the roof, crossed over to the building next door, slipped into the stairwell and made her way out of the building. She decided that crawling on roofs was not for her. She had scheduled a meeting with Graham Stucker, someone she had managed to save from cancellation by Section many years ago. She hoped he remembered the promise of "any favor she would ever need".
She hated living like this, wigs, heavy makeup, trench coats that were too large so that they covered the layers of clothing she wore to make herself appear to be an overweight housewife out shopping for the late night forgotten item. Walking around the all-night grocer, she kept her head buried in the collar of the wrinkled gray London Fog and only brought her eyes up to watch the doorway for Grahams' arrival. After 20 minutes, she was beginning to think he would never show so she left the confines of the store after making the 'token' purchases. Twenty feet out the front door, Madeline noticed the rusty Dodge Duster sitting doubled at the curb. When she walked, it slowly rolled behind her. Not sure who it might be, Madeline quickened her pace but the car caught up to her before she made the alleyway.
"Ma-de-line" the sickly sweet German voice accentuated each syllable. "Get in the car Ma-de-line." the door squeaked and groaned as it was thrown open by the cars occupant. Madeline tossed the grocery bag into the nearest trashcan and slipped into the vehicle. "Vot is it I can do for you Ma-de-line?" He swiftly turned the car down the darkened streets.
"I need to leave the country!" She shifted herself, bulky clothes not making this very easy in the closed confines of the old car. "You are running from Section ya?" he snickered "Iz Operations aware of theese?" Madeline chuckled to herself, Grahams' "accent" was getting thicker by the moment.
"Living in Germany has agreed with you ya?" she touched the older mans shoulder. "Could you drop the accent just for now?" she sat back, more relaxed than she had been for the last week or so. "I don't know who is after me? Operations... Section security.... Michael" she sighed.
"You won't get far if Operations send Michael after you." he said matter-of-factly. He had been away from Section for many years but had kept tabs on the members through various ways and means. "You know Michael?" Madeline turned to face him; her chin quivering gave Graham the knowledge of just how powerful Michael might really be. "I know of Michael. From what I have heard, he is the best?" the question/statement brought a hard swallow from Madeline.
"Unfortunately, Operations won't have to send Michael after me. Right now, I am more than sure killing me is high priority on Michael’s' list." She sunk into the cracked leather seats.
Madeline and Graham managed to find a little known out of the way tavern on the outside of town. Once inside, they slipped into a corner booth that gave them both a clear view of the door and an easy exit route in the event that either of them might feel they needed it. Both had a reason to be overly cautious of being followed. After the waitress, a overly made up, well past her prime teenage wanna be took their drink order, Madeline settled back against the booth and stretched her legs.
Graham removed his coat and folded it next to himself. "So Madeline, what have you done to make Operations and this Michael person so angry?" He motioned her to hold the thought as the waitress returned cracking her gum and chewing like a cow with a mouthful of grass. "Will there be anything else?" She waited for the tab to be paid. "If we need you" Madeline gave her one of her often-used phony smiles "We know where to find you" she shoved the money and the bar receipt back across the table. The waitress quickly calculated her tip and scooped the money and change off the scarred wooden tables "Thanks a lot" she snickered, turned on her spiked heels then teetered away.
"Graham, I really need your help" she sighed "and you owe me!" the statement was meant to bring up the past. "Yes Madeline, I didn't forget the promise I made to you so long ago" he took a sip from the frosty mug of beer "Just want to know what I am getting involved in?" the question hung in the air. Madeline reached in her coat pocket and removed two pictures. One was of Michael, the other of Nikita.
"These two, they are operatives in Section, Michael and Nikita." she took a sip of the daiquiri that had been place in front of her. "They developed a close, close being the main word here, relationship." she waited for him to grasp her meaning. "I see" he let her continue "And you know Sections' views on close personal relationships?" she reminded him of the past once more. "Yes Maddy I remember" he smiled.
"Operations was going to allow them to proceed as long as...."
"As long as it didn't interfere with their work?" Graham knew the rest of the story there. Madeline nodded. "But that didn't sit too well with you? Did it Madeline?" Graham reached across the table, placed a hand on one of Madelines' and lightly caressed her fingers. Madeline pulled her hand back as if some electrical charge had hit her. "No, I couldn't allow that!" her voice raised. "Why should I? Operations ended every relationship I had!" she grew louder until a look from Graham reminded her that being the center of attention was not to either of their benefits. "Section forced me to kill my own husband...after keeping him out in the field for years and letting me believe that he had been killed!" She swallowed the rest of her drink. "Waitress!" she waved the bleached blonde over from the barstool that she occupied on the other side of the bar. "I would like another please?" she shoved the glass toward the woman.
After she left, Madeline continued. "I was forced to take matters into my own hands and now Operations has just about handed my head over to Michael on a silver platter" she brought her hands up to her face. "This is all such a mess." she pushed her bangs back and ran her hands through her hair. "What exactly did you do?" he waited. "You didn't kill this. Nikita woman did you?" he hoped not.
"No, but I'm starting to think I should have" she sighed once again, waited until her drink was placed in front of her, paid the bill once again and resumed her conversation after the waitress left. "I used a memory adjustment on her... but, it was experimental at best. I don't even know if it will remain permanent or she will get her memory back." The statement was a plea for help "And if she does, just put her on the list of people wanting to see me dead."
It had been two months since Nikita had regained consciousness. Two months of hiding from Operations and surviving in Section. During this time, Michael had continued searching every available avenue in the hopes that he might find a way to reverse the "adjustment" process. Every day, he made contact with the people that were working for him. He stopped in to see Nikita who, having grown increasingly restless with her life within Medlab had taken to working out with Birkoff, not much of a challenge as of late but enough that her muscles no longer felt weak and her stamina was quickly returning
"If Michael finds out that you're outside of Medlab Nikita, he's going to be after someone's' head, MINE!" he grunted while standing being the kick-board that he held for her.
"I know, I know" she landed another solid kick which threw the unsuspecting Birkoff to the floor. "Sorry, Birky" she reached out a hand and helped him to his feet. "But it's soooo boring in there" she grabbed a towel, not that she really needed one. Lately she hadn't even broken a sweat like she had when she had begun training.
"It's for your own good Nikita" they walked out of the hidden room and made their way back to her cubicle. "Michael said it would only be for a little while longer". He waited until she was safety back inside and returned to his own work area, a shower would have to wait. Birkoff knew he was having a harder time explaining the frequent absences from his Communications area but with Michael out of Section and Walter working from the inside, most of the looking after of Nikita fell on him.
Nikita finished taking her shower, drying her hair and dressing in simple black stretch pants and a cut off tee shirt. After straightening up her area, she returned to her bed in Medlab for the multitude of tests that she knew had been routinely scheduled for her. The nurse that came in, Connie had become a friend, someone to talk to and break the monotony of the long days that she had to spend alone.
"So, how is our patient today?" She smiled while wrapping the blue blood pressure cuff around Nikita's' upper arm.
"Smashing." Nikita gave a less than enthusiastic response. "Bored out of my mind." She tried to change her tone but Connie had seen how increasingly agitated she had become.
"Hopefully you can get out of here soon?" She removed the cuff, jotted down the notes that Nikita had become used to and placed the stethoscope in her ears and against Nikita's chest. "Deep breaths for me now" she repeated what had become mundane and routine. "Not bad," she placed the stethoscope back around her neck and continued her note taking "Can I get you anything?" she smiled again leaning back against the bed while she waited for Nikita's list.
"Freedom," was all she said before laying back on the bed and lifting her shirt for the examination of the scars and surgical sites that had long ago finally stopped hurting.
"They look great, you can almost not see them" the girl replaced her shirt. "Nikita, I know you want out of here, I know you can't leave and that no one is to know you are even awake but there has to be something I can do for you?" She waited again.
"There is," Nikita quickly sat back up. "I need weights and some exercise equipment moved into a room so that I can work out without worrying about getting caught" she hung her head.
"If Michael found out.... He'd," she didn't finish.
"If Michael found out... then don't let him." She looked Connie straight in the eye. "I need to get back in shape." She hesitated, "I have some unfinished business with Madeline and I have to be in the best condition...." The confused look on Connie's face made Nikita stop mid-sentence. "What?"
Connie shook her head "You don't know?"
"Know what?" Nikita was at the edge of the bed. "Don't I know what?" She wanted to shake Connie who had taken a step back from her.
"Madeline is gone" was the simple statement.
"Gone? Gone as is dead? Cancelled?" Nikita stood up and took a step forward "Gone where?" She grabbed Connie's shoulder.
"She disappeared just before you came to.... Operations was having her cancelled and she escaped...Didn't Michael?" But Connie knew the answer without finishing the question...
"No, he didn't." Nikita grabbed a tissue, slid off the table and headed for the door.
"Nikita! No! You can't leave!" Connie screamed, but her words fell on deaf ears as Nikita left Medlab and made her way to the Observation Deck.