Persistence of Memory
Written February 2002
Synopsis: Madeline develops amnesia, and Paul releases her until her condition improves. However, a new terrorist organization is determined to make her re-integration into Section as difficult as possible.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
It was going to be a long flight.
Paul rubbed his temple, trying to ease away the headache that pulsed there. With no one to talk to, nothing to distract him, the minutes ticked by with an excruciating slowness. Madeline had left him several hours ago and hadn’t returned. He had used the lavatory and gotten a fresh shirt an hour into the flight, and he found her sleeping in one of the chairs.
She would make his intentions her first question. Not ‘where do we work’ or ‘what do I do,’ but ‘why did you seduce me.’ Of course; she was a psychiatrist. Motives ranked high on her list of things to know. But damned if he could tell her the truth! He’d sound selfish, like he was using her. Hell, she probably thought that anyway.
All he had ever wanted was to be with her. From the first moment he saw her, so many years ago in the Ukraine, he had wanted to be with her. There was something about her, something that to this day remained a mystery. She was like a drug to him: addictive and nearly impossible to give up. It had always been like that, but he didn’t care.
But every time he asked her to dinner, or for something as harmless as coffee, she would refuse. No reason, just ‘no, thank you.’ They got caught up with work, and he rarely saw her inside Section. On one particularly dangerous mission, he almost hadn’t made it, but Madeline saved him. She pulled him out of the crossfire and got both of them to their egress point safely. So he asked her to dinner again, to thank her for her heroism, and this time she finally agreed. The restaurant they went to had a live band. Their first dance was accompanied by a saxophone rendition of ‘Gentle Rain,’ and by the time the last note faded, he knew he was in love with her.
“So why can’t I just tell her that?” he grumbled, double-checking the gauges on the control panel. Everything was fine with the jet, but nothing was fine with him. Now he was starting to get tired.
He really hadn’t been trying to seduce her, as she had said. He merely wanted to be with her, but he couldn’t help himself. His original intent had been to make her feel comfortable with him so that when she did regain that part of her memory, she would be more apt to go with him and ask for his help. But the more time they spent together, the more he fell in love with her again. And then maybe, just maybe, he could help her get over the guilt she felt about her sister’s death. It was a bit selfish; of course he wanted to help her, but it would help himself, too. The old Madeline claimed she couldn’t open herself up to love because of her past. But if she could get over that, maybe they could continue their love affair.
But not if I’m in the cockpit and she’s in the cabin!
Paul leaned back in the chair with a sigh. He was going to have to explain things. She needed to know the truth–that he loved her and wasn’t going to give her up without a fight. Hopefully she’d listen.
Madeline opened her eyes and stretched. Her muscles screamed from being cramped on the airplane seats for so long. How long had it been anyway? They hadn’t landed, so it hadn’t been twelve hours, but that was the best she could determine from her location.
She had to go to the cockpit.
She had to talk to Paul, even if she didn’t want to. He promised her an explanation, and she would demand one until he told her everything. If he wouldn’t answer, she would badger him until he did. She needed to know what to expect when they landed, what other people would expect of her.
When she sat up, a blanket fell from her lap. She hadn’t gone to sleep with any blanket, so someone must have put it there. And since there was only one other person on the plane…
Madeline shook her head. He was going to make it really difficult to stop caring for him, wasn’t he? Her life was too confusing now to be in love, particularly with a man who hadn’t cared for her at all. And that was exactly what she was going to tell him, too…if she could find the nerve.
She walked to the cockpit, sun streaming through the windows. Was it daylight already? Where were they? She couldn’t see anything. That would be a good conversation starter, she decided, neutral and polite. “Where are we?” When she didn’t receive an answer–don’t tell me he’s still not talking to me–she looked at the pilot’s seat.
It was empty.
Gasping in shock, she backed away quickly. Parachutes, parachutes–all planes had parachutes, didn’t they? She didn’t know anything about parachutes, but she wasn’t about to let the plane crash with her on it! She turned around to run and collided with Paul and a cup of hot coffee. The liquid splashed onto both of them and the floor.
He smiled at her. “Did you want some coffee?”
She resisted the urge to slap him. “Why aren’t you flying the plane?” she demanded shakily, her voice louder and higher than it should have been with him standing so close.
“It’s on autopilot.”
“We could’ve crashed!”
That made him laugh, and he squeezed past her, wiping the edges of the cup with a towel. “Into what?”
“I’m serious! I’m terrified of heights! I would’ve had to parachute to the ground if something had happened to you!”
“The pressure outside the jet is too great. You wouldn’t be able to open the hatch.”
“So you would’ve let me crash.”
“There will be no crashing.” He put the cup down and wrapped his hands around her upper arms, trying to calm her. “Look, if you’re so worried, I will teach you how to fly the plane. Now sit down.”
“I thought you said I knew how to fly a plane,” she pouted, taking her place in the pilot’s seat.
Chuckling, he gestured to the semi-circular object in the middle. “This is the yoke.”
“Isn’t that the yellow part of the egg?”
“No, that’s the yolk. The yoke is the steering wheel of the plane. It’s very sensitive, so you don’t have to move it very far in either direction to turn the plane. Now take hold and move us a little to the left.”
“I don’t want to.”
“If you said we’re not going to crash, then there’s no point in me teaching me something that I’ll eventually remember how to do.”
“Just put your hands on the damn thing!” He grabbed her wrists and guided her to the yoke, keeping his hands over hers. “Now we turn it just a little to the left–not that much.”
He showed her everything that he could: throttle, altimeter, landing gear. Although she wasn’t about to admit it, she was having fun. She liked the power it gave her, knowing she controlled something as massive as an airplane. It certainly kept her mind off of crashing and made her feel better prepared for it, should the worst happen. She even sent Paul to bring them both breakfast while she took the controls.
He sat beside her with cereal and fruit. “I’m sorry there are no pears, just bananas and apples.”
“It’s safer that way,” she replied, peeling the skin from her banana. She knew how he would reply, so she quickly continued, “Tell me about me. Who am I, what do I do, how do we know each other.”
“Well, your name is Madeline. You are my second-in-command–or you were, rather. Now Michael is. You were also the chief strategist.”
“The chief strategist of your spy agency?”
Chuckling, he said, “It’s not really a spy agency. It’s an anti-terrorist organization called Section One.”
“You probably do some spying.”
“So what was my function? What kind of strategies did I work up?”
“Mission scenarios, psychological profiles–”
“Ah, something I can do!” She grinned broadly, but he didn’t return the gaze with as much enthusiasm. “Okay, what else did I do?”
His expression grew still and serious. “Well, you… You were in charge of extracting the intel from our prisoners.”
“That sounds kind of devious. How?”
“Any means necessary.” He paused, hesitant to expound.
She took a deep breath. She needed to know what she had done. “Such as?”
“Physical and psychological torture, mutilation. You got inside their heads, used their fears and weaknesses against them.”
Madeline’s stomach turned. Her smile had been replaced by an astonished stare, her face as white as a sheet. Until that moment, she hadn’t considered the possibility that she had killed people. Murdered people without a second thought. She shuddered, shaking her head. “No, I– You must have the wrong person, I’m not like that.”
He slid to the edge of the chair, his hands on her knees. “You’re right; you’re not like that. You’re a different person, Madeline.”
She pulled away from him, but he reached for her arms and held her in place. “I can’t do it, Paul. I won’t!”
“I’m not asking you to, I…” With a small sigh, he eased her closer to him. “A year ago, you went with a team to retrieve Jerome Gibson, a faction leader for Dark Moon. He kidnapped you, hoping to use you as a hostage in exchange for Section’s Directory, mainframe codes, whatever he could get. Another team was coming to rescue you, but they didn’t make it in time. He–” Paul bit his bottom lip, sounding angry and sad at the same time. “You went into a coma, and when you woke up, you didn’t know where you were or who you were. Section policy is to have you cancelled, to have you killed, but I couldn’t.”
Trembling, she gazed at him. His head was bowed, but she still noticed a small tear sitting in the corner of his eye. “You saved me.”
“Yes,” came his whispered reply.
He wavered a moment, and her heart stopped. “Because I couldn’t let you die.”
Madeline frowned slightly. That wasn’t the answer she was expecting–or hoping–to hear. “Oh.”
“So I had you moved somewhere safe, until you started to remember your life at Section. I didn’t know that Dark Moon would find you. I didn’t predict any of this.” He shrugged. “It just goes to show you that you’re much better at planning than I am. You made an excellent strategist, and as far as being second-in-command, well, you were second to none. I need you, Madeline. That’s why I couldn’t let them kill you.”
“You need me.” She folded her arms across her chest. “I’m no good to you if I can’t do my job, Paul, and I can’t kill or torture people.”
“You have aides who take care of the physical torture; you’re in charge of the questioning. As far as killing people, you would rarely have to do that.” She started to shake her head, but he interrupted her before she could speak. “These aren’t innocent people we kill, Madeline. They’re terrorists. The things they do are often worse than what we do. Section One is here to protect the public; without it, the world would revert to chaos, and nothing would be safe.”
She sighed, covering her face with her hands. “This is all a dream, and when I wake up, I’m going to find myself in a boring life.”
He uncovered her face, brushing a kiss across her lips. “When your memory returns, everything will be fine.” He helped her to her feet. “I’m going to check in with Michael. When I’m done, I’ll field more of your questions.”
“Well, I really only have one more that’s important.”
“Oh. All right, go ahead.”
She focused on his face, prepared to look for any nonverbal hints if he didn’t answer clearly. “I get the impression that we know each other well.”
His brows flickered a little, and the corners of his mouth turned upward slightly. “Very well.”
Trying to decipher his cues, she asked, “Could you be a little more specific?” She didn’t want to guess; she had to know.
He seemed to be trying to figure her out as well. “I think what you’re really wanting to know is if we were ever intimately involved.”
She managed a stiff nod.
“The answer is yes.” He leaned forward, his breath hot on her cheek. “Very intimately involved.”
Her skin prickled with arousal when he didn’t back away. So his seduction was nothing more than an echo of his desire for her. She had hoped as much. If they were lovers before, then there was no reason they couldn’t be lovers now…
Except for the damn ringing telephone!
Madeline groaned softly, stepping out of the way so Paul could answer it. It was crazy, the number of times they got interrupted. She listened to his end of the conversation, which wasn’t much except for a few affirmatives and questions. She wondered if he was as annoyed as she was.
“That was Michael,” he said when he finally hung up. She could tell by the way he moved that something was wrong. “Dark Moon just bombed a university in Russia. Eleven hundred people were killed.”
End of part ten