Four Light Years Different
Written September 2001
Synopsis: A different version of “Four Light Years Farther,” where it isn’t Michael and Nikita who run away…
Spoilers: one scene from “Up the Rabbit Hole”
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
Nikita walked into the Perch, noting the stiffness of Michael’s posture as he looked out the windows. She took a breath. “The latest satellite sweep was negative.” She paused slightly. “We still can’t find them.”
He didn’t move, his eyes fixed on an invisible point below. “Sweep again.”
“We’ve been sweeping for the last two months. Paul and Madeline are gone.”
“Center wants them found.”
She leaned against the railing to look at him. “Center? You mean, Mr. Jones contacted you?”
“Yes.” He turned his head, gazing into her eyes. “They’re sending us a new search program, but they still want constant satellite scans.”
“Center must want them pretty badly; why?”
“This is the first instance of Section heads going rogue. They know too much to be allowed freedom.”
“And when we find them?”
He looked out the windows again, his silence frightening her more than any words could.
Madeline stood on the balcony, watching the sun set over the ocean. Paul came up behind her, kissing the nape of her neck and wrapping his arms around her waist. She smiled, leaning back into his embrace.
He sighed, nestling his chin in the hollow between her shoulder and neck. “Dinner’s ready.”
“I’ll be there in a moment.”
He turned her around and brought her close to him. “What’s wrong?”
She smiled at him, kissing his lips gently. “Nothing.”
“You can’t fool me anymore, Madeline,” he said lightly, running his fingers along her back. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
She hesitated, averting her eyes. “I’m not comfortable here. I think we should leave.”
“Do you still think they’ll find us?”
He chuckled. “We had our implants removed, we live alone in the middle of nowhere… We helped build the computer system they’re using to track us, so we know how to avoid detection. And you still think they’ll find us.”
“Yes.” He started to speak again, but she continued. “We’ve worked too long and too hard on our escape to become relaxed this early in the game. We need to keep moving until they give up on us completely, and two months is not long enough.” She rested her head against his chest. “If they find us, they’ll kill us.”
He rubbed her arms protectively. “You’re right.” He kissed the top of her head. “We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly, gazing into his eyes with a smile.
Nikita watched as Quinn ran the search program from Center. “It’ll take about ten minutes to cycle through,” the technician announced.
She nodded. “Let me know if you find something.” She started walking without a destination, weaving her way through the halls of Section, lost in thought.
Two months… It seemed like an awfully long time but only because it had been so frustrating. Early that Wednesday morning, three mission profiles had been approved, but Operations had not reported to Systems. The Perch was dark. An operative went upstairs to find him, but he wasn’t there. They called for Madeline; she, too, was gone.
Security teams were assembled, instantly assuming a kidnapping or something more sinister since the heads of Section couldn’t be located on the satellites. Further examination revealed that both of their apartments at Section were void of any personal effects. Slowly, the situation began to look less and less like a kidnapping. Security scanned the computer data banks and all backup files; Paul and Madeline no longer existed in Section.
Things were difficult from then on. Center called, asking that Michael take command of Section and begin the search for the missing operatives. He chose Nikita as his second, and the two of them had been on a wild goose chase ever since. Searching for Paul and Madeline proved to be a more daunting task than originally intended.
Why? What reason would they have for running away? How did they come to choose that precise day to leave? Their departure seemed to have been carefully planned. Everything they said and did would have had an outcome on their escape, so they must have chosen their words and actions with great care. The questions were endless, the possibilities mind-boggling.
“Nikita,” came Quinn’s voice over her communications device, “we’ve found them.”
“I’m on my way,” she replied, hurrying back the way she came. When she arrived in Comm, Michael was already there.
He turned to her. “The program found them immediately.”
“I don’t know.” He pointed to Quinn’s screen. “It’ll only take a few hours to get there by air. A team is already in prep.”
“What time will it be when the team arrives?” she asked.
Quinn glanced at the chronometer and did some mental calculations. “Around one o’clock in the morning.”
Michael nodded, his expression blank. “Deploy the team. Make sure they know to bring the prisoners back alive.”
Paul stared at the ceiling, Madeline sleeping peacefully in his arms. He still couldn’t believe they were out, that their plans of the last three years were finally becoming a reality. And she was right; they had worked too hard to be discovered this early. They would leave in the morning.
He gazed at the clock beside him. 12:47 a.m. Five hours. He would wake her in five hours, and they would board a plane using false passports and fly to somewhere new. He wondered what she would say about South Africa. He smiled. Probably nothing; she always let him choose. She must have enjoyed his leadership; otherwise, she wouldn’t have stayed by his side over the years. Seventeen years, twelve of which were spent leading Section One together. Together–that was the key. In all honesty, he didn’t care where they went as long as they were together. Live or die, by her side is where he would stay.
Although she tried keep the truth from him, he knew she felt the same. She was rarely verbal, preferring to show her emotions more subtly. Most people would say she had no feelings, but he saw them. They were evident in her smile, in her laugh, in the way she made love to him. Her touch alone was enough to drive him wild with desire, when she wanted it to. She constantly kept him guessing, and he enjoyed every minute of it.
He slid out of bed, gently settling Madeline’s head into the pillows. He walked through the living room to the kitchen and was just passing the front door when he heard it click. His heart pounding in his ears, he ducked behind the counters and glanced around the edge, waiting.
He recognized the figures by appearance, and a knot formed in his throat. Section operatives. He and Madeline had been found. Alarms went off in his head at the thought of her. She was still sleeping in the bedroom, and two of the six operatives were headed in that direction. They didn’t have hard ammo; they carried tranquilizers. So they want us alive, he thought, watching them fumble around in the blue moonlight.
Paul heard Madeline cry out, and his breath caught in his throat. Never once had he heard fear in her voice, and the sound terrified him. He reached in the cupboard and pulled out a frying pan since his gun still sat in the nightstand drawer. His fingers gripped tightly around the handle as one of the operatives came closer.
He jumped from his hiding place, swinging his arm and making contact with the intruder’s skull. The others turned around, and he aimed at them as well, but ultimately he was outnumbered. He received a blow to the chest from one operative and felt the sharp sting of a dart enter his shoulder. He reached for it, collapsing onto the floor. “Madeline…” he whispered as the world around him spun to a close, engulfing him in darkness.
Michael gazed at the computer screen. Both Paul and Madeline had been contained and placed in separate rooms, divided by a Plexiglas wall. Waiting…for what, he was sure they knew.
Nikita entered the Perch. “Both prisoners have been secured.”
“Yes, I have them on my monitor.” He folded his hands in front of him. “Mr. Jones called again. He has ordered the cancellation of one of them.”
“He asked me to choose.”
She lifted her head ruefully. “And?”
“It’s a difficult decision.” He glanced at her. “I’d like your input.”
She looked at the screen. Paul was pacing along the wall, watching Madeline as she sat on the floor with her knees drawn to her chest. Her face was unreadable, but he looked heartbroken. “Paul,” she said quietly. “Paul should be cancelled; Madeline should live. Her knowledge and abilities are invaluable, and she could recover from his death more easily.”
“Which is why he should live and she should die.”
Nikita turned to him curiously. “He’s only useful in leadership situations.”
“But he can be controlled.” Michael continued to stare at the screen. “Watch him.”
She didn’t have to. “He loves her.”
“Yes. She is his weakness. He will need something to cling to, to keep him going after she’s gone. He’ll choose Section.” As Nikita nodded slowly, he pressed a button on the monitor, and the image disappeared. “Madeline will be cancelled.”
Paul knelt across from Madeline, trying to look into her eyes, but she wouldn’t meet his gaze. He choked back a sob. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“They can hear us.”
“I don’t care!” He slammed his fist against the glass.
She lifted her head, an impassive expression on her face. “We were naive to think we could escape, but I’m surprised they found us so quickly.”
“They shouldn’t have found us at all.”
She stood, her long silver nightgown moving with her. “They will kill one of us.”
“Why not both?”
“They will use your grief as leverage to get you to comply. You can’t let them.”
He shook his head, slowly at first then more quickly as the truth sank in. “No. No, Madeline, they should kill me, not you.”
“Either way, they are anticipating our inability to work apart.”
“They’re right.” He ran his fingertips along the transparent wall, her face positioned behind them. “I can’t live without you.”
“You don’t have to. No matter what happens, I’ll always be with you.” She flattened her palm against the glass, and he shadowed it with his. “I love you.”
He stared at her through the haze of his tears, finally hearing the words he always longed for her to say. He kissed his fingertips and pressed them back against hers. “I love you, too.”
He had barely gotten the last word out when the door to her cell opened, and two operatives came in to drag her away. “Where are you taking her?” he called out, eyes wide with fear. “Madeline!”
She cast him a long apologetic look before she was forced to walk with the guards. She could still hear him yelling as they started down the hallway toward the gambit room. Operatives that were in the corridor stepped to the side and watched. Madeline faced forward, head held high.
Once inside, they strapped her in the chair, and she did little to resist, knowing her efforts would be futile. She turned her attention from her bound wrists to the darkly-dressed figure standing before her.
The blonde stared at her former superior, swallowing the tense nervousness that had risen in her throat. “Hello, Madeline.”
The guards backed away, out of Madeline’s view, and she looked into Nikita’s emotionless face.
“You’ve probably figured out by now that you’re the one marked for cancellation. Paul will be tortured and questioned…but in the end he will live.” Madeline remained silent, and Nikita took a breath. “Why did you do it? You had everything: power, money, control, domination. You were accountable only to Oversight, and even they let some things slip through the cracks. There was no need for you to run.” There was still no answer, so she motioned to the man in the observation room. “Fine.”
Paul appeared on the other side of the window, his hands cuffed together. He looked puzzled until something caught his attention, and he began to tremble, shaking his head repeatedly. Madeline heard the cocking of a gun and felt the cold metal as it was pressed against the base of her skull. She glanced at Paul, who was being held in place by two guards. His torture would be watching her die.
She looked at Nikita almost smugly. “Congratulations. You’ve become one of them, Nikita…one of us. Cold, heartless, and cruel.”
She straightened, hoping she wouldn’t lose her composure. “Goodbye, Madeline.” She turned toward the door. As she reached for the handle, her telephone rang, startling her. She pulled it out of her pocket. “Yes?”
“Nikita.” It was Michael. “Is Madeline still alive?”
“Mr. Jones is on his way to Section, and he wants to meet with both of them–and us.”
She clicked the phone shut and raised her hand toward the guard. He holstered his weapon obediently. She stared at the wall but addressed Madeline hollowly. “It seems you’ve been granted a reprieve. Mr. Jones wants to see you and Paul.” She stepped out of the room and leaned against the wall, breathing shakily.
Walter, who had been walking down the corridor, rushed over to her. “Hey, sugar, you okay?” He looked at the door and back at her. “Did you–”
“No.” She lifted her head. “Mr. Jones is on his way here.”
“Mr. Jones?” His jaw hung open slightly. “Are you sure?”
She nodded. “He wants to meet with Michael and me…and them.” She faced him. “Would you bring Madeline to Committee after she’s dressed? I need to, uh… I need to think.”
“Yeah, sure.” He touched her shoulder, smiling sympathetically. “Don’t worry, sugar. You’ll be fine.”
“I hope so.”
End of Part 1