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.
The rest of the flight was spent mostly in silence. Paul spoke on the phone, arranging teams and searching for intel. Madeline began to pick up on some of the terminology as she sat in the passenger seat, her knees drawn to her chest. She didn’t understand how people could be so ruthless, how they could commit murder without a conscience. It went against everything she believed in, everything she had experienced. But if she was a member of Paul’s organization, she had probably seen a lot worse.
Once they had landed, they got in his car and began the drive to Section. Paul had told Michael to expect him in twenty minutes, so she knew the ride would be short. She looked out the window, hoping to get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower or something equally Parisian.
“There are some things I need to tell you before we arrive.”
She glanced at him. He sounded tense, nervous. “What?”
“Everyone thinks you’re dead. They assumed that I had cancelled you a year ago.”
Her mouth hung open slightly. “Okay…”
“They can’t know the truth. If anyone knew that you’ve been free, or that I broke policy, we would both be killed.”
“What is it with your organization and killing its members? You make one small mistake and you’re dead?”
“It wasn’t a small mistake, Madeline, nor was it an unintentional one. Our most binding principle is the fact that we must remain a secret. No one can know what we do or how we do it.”
“Okay, fine. Better to be seen than heard anyway, right?”
He sighed, as if she hadn’t understood a single thing he’d said. “Just stay with me, don’t speak to anyone else, don’t smile–”
“Don’t smile? Why not?”
“Because you never smiled.”
She didn’t say anything, just stared at him with wide eyes. “Well, that’s good to know. I probably would’ve ruined things right off the bat!” She turned away from him, gazing out the window again with a frown on her face. What have I gotten myself into now?
It was the longest elevator ride in her life.
Madeline fidgeted, taking deep breaths. This was it. They were going to be in Section One any moment now, and she had to be quiet. No smiling, no blushing, no laughing, no crying. No emotion. What was she, anyway, some kind of stone statue? Some kind of window decoration for the head of operations?
“Stop it,” Paul said through gritted teeth.
“You try acting natural when your life depends on whether or not you smile!”
He faced her, putting his hands on her shoulders and gently rubbing her neck. “You’ll be fine. Just memorize the cover story. We faked your death and put you in the United States to draw out Dark Moon and HTL. It worked. Now you’re returning to Section to help bring them down once and for all.”
“Okay.” She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt. “Okay.”
He kissed her gently, slowly, and the tension slowly dissipated. “For luck.” He returned to his previous position, arms folded behind his back, head held high. Madeline tried to match his posture; she was, after all, the second-in-command of the world’s most powerful organization. She probably shouldn’t slouch.
The doors slid open, and they strode down a short corridor to another metal door. It clanked back, revealing the small crowd that had been waiting for them: two men in white lab coats, an attractive long-haired man in black fatigues, and a striking blond woman in leather pants and a matching coat. They all looked at Paul then cast their eyes on Madeline. Everyone grew silent, staring in shock and disbelief, like they had just seen a ghost. In a sense, they had.
“Michael, status.” Paul wasn’t going to let them lose focus. He didn’t want their attention on her since she might do something wrong. However, all eyes were still on her, and she tried to imagine herself somewhere else. Her cheeks were growing warmer… “You already know Madeline, now let’s go over what we don’t know. We have a situation here!”
That brought them back, and the long-haired man began to speak. He had a soft voice, void of emotion and accented with French. “Intel suggests that the university was the intended target. There was a presentation in progress when the bomb exploded.”
“It’s certainly newsworthy. What else?”
They started to walk, and Madeline followed, trying to listen to the conversation in case she was questioned later or asked for her input. However, the blonde joined her, the shock still evident on her face. “Is it really you?”
Madeline didn’t look at her. “What?”
“We thought you had been cancelled! What happened?”
“Everything will be explained later,” she replied, quickening her pace to catch up with Paul and Michael. The woman continued to walk beside her but said nothing else. Apparently, Madeline’s influence still reigned in Section One. Impressed by her own status, she stepped around a corner and gasped softly.
The room was enormous, partitioned by glass walls. A long table with eight chairs sat beneath a wide, high window. In one area were several computers, with plain-clothed people at each station. Nestled into one wall was a small alcove. An elderly man with a gray ponytail was examining something meticulously. Madeline followed her group to one of the computers, where a young man sat. He seemed almost too young to be working for such an organization, with round glasses and closely cropped brown hair.
“Birkoff, what’s the status on Dark Moon and HTL now?”
The man didn’t look up, still typing furiously at his keyboard. “It’s just Dark Moon now, sir. They obliterated their allies.”
“We just received word from our team in Thailand that HTL’s headquarters in Kashmir was destroyed shortly after the university bombing. Same explosive: RDX packed in a homemade bomb. It appears that HTL got the RDX from the military and gave it to Dark Moon. Dark Moon probably detonated it from a remote location.”
“Killed by their own weapons.” Paul nodded, taking it all in. “All right, so Dark Moon eliminated HTL. Why?”
Birkoff looked up then and saw Madeline. He was briefly stunned into silence but found his voice again after a moment. “Now that they’ve made headlines, they won’t need HTL providing them with explosives anymore. They’ll be up for hire.”
“They’re likely to come after Section again,” Michael mentioned.
“Was there anyone at the university that Dark Moon may have been targeting?” Madeline asked. She couldn’t help it; blowing up a large auditorium seemed rather pointless unless there was a reason behind it.
Paul glanced at her then down at Birkoff, who was still staring. “Find the guest list for that presentation, see if anyone was a likely target for assassination. In the meantime, keep a close watch on Dark Moon. I want to know every move they make.”
He started back the way he came, and Madeline followed, unsure of what to do. She didn’t think he even knew she was walking with him until they were far from the eyes of everyone else. “Did I do all right?” she asked. “That blond woman kept asking me questions–”
“That’s Nikita, and yes, you did fine.”
“I didn’t mean to speak, but I couldn’t help myself. Everyone was looking at me so strangely that I wanted to show them that I hadn’t changed.”
He quickly glanced around before pulling her down a quiet, dark corridor. “Madeline, you have nothing to worry about. You did fine. Your question was poignant, something I should’ve asked anyway.”
She sighed, leaning against one of the imposing architectural columns that jutted out from the wall. “I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I’m going to say something wrong or I’ll blush or smile, and everyone will know that I’m a fake.”
“You’re not a fake. We just haven’t been entirely truthful about the circumstances regarding your absence.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist, nestling her head in the hollow between his shoulder and neck. The safety she felt in his embrace was real, and she released a soft sigh, warm currents flowing through her body. Somehow she imagined that everything would be all right if he just held her. Feeling calmer, she kissed his neck slowly, working her way up to the soft spot below his ear. His breathing became irregular, and she could feel his pulse quicken beneath her lips.
“I’d, uh… I’d better get to Medical,” he said, slowly easing away from her. “Stay in Section, don’t go anywhere. I’ll be working all night, but maybe we can have dinner later.”
Awkwardly, she cleared her throat. She couldn’t figure him out. One minute, he wanted her, and the next, he was coming up with numerous excuses to be apart. Her face flushed pink. “Okay.”
“And after dinner, I may be able to take a few hours off.”
She knew what he was getting at, but she wasn’t in the mood to play that game again. The interruptions would be more likely at Section. “Yeah, we should go over my cover story again.”
“Oh. Okay, if you want to do that.”
“That’s probably all we’ll get accomplished before someone calls you again.”
“Is that what this is about? I can’t do anything about the interruptions, except keep trying until we get it right. Protecting the world isn’t a nine-to-five job. I can’t contact all of the terrorist organizations in the world and ask them to put their bombings on hold while I spend time with you. It doesn’t work that way. We take what we can get, that’s what we’ve always done.”
Swallowing her own sadness, she looked at him. “I don’t want to ‘keep trying until we get it right.’ Paul, I’m tired of trying. I don’t understand what you want from me. I thought you had feelings for me, but now I’m not so sure. It’s like if you make the first move, that’s fine, but if I even try to initiate…” She felt a blush rise to her cheeks, but she forced herself to keep their eye contact. “…any kind of intimacy, you pull away. So until you figure out what it is that you want, don’t ask me to keep trying.” Perfectly composed, she walked past him and disappeared down the hallway. She thought she heard him say ‘I want you,’ but that couldn’t have been true, and turning around for a confirmation would have only resulted in further heartache.
It just wasn’t fair, as if anything in life was fair. She had to fall in love with a man who couldn’t decide if he loved her back. And even if he did, he could never tell her. Spies never said those three little words, did they? She should be flattered that he wanted to spend his free time with her; that was a close to saying ‘I love you’ as she was likely to get. And what did you do? You told him to get lost!
Oh, why couldn’t things just be simple? The last year of her life had been such a whirlwind, she almost didn’t know who she was anymore. First she was a single, lonely psychiatrist with a dog, who liked shopping and erotic novels–or rather, liked to edit erotic novels. Who are you kidding, Madeline? You ate them up! Then a mysterious albeit incredibly handsome man waltzed into her life and showed her love, passion, laughter. You sound like a trashy romance novel! And now she was a spy who didn’t smile.
Who’s lost in her own headquarters. Madeline stopped in an intersection of corridors, trying to find her way back to the big room with the windows and computers and big table. She’d been wandering around, lost in her own thoughts, that she didn’t realize she was really lost. “Great,” she muttered under her breath. If her true condition hadn’t been figured out yet, it would be the moment she asked for directions to ‘that one room.’
She spun around, her emotions a paradox of relief and tension. It was the leather-clad blonde. What had Paul said her name was? Anita? Lolita? “Hello.”
“Where are you going?” She grinned broadly. “I’ll walk with you.”
Chiquita? Damn, she wished she had been paying attention! “I’m actually not headed anywhere in particular. I was hoping to shower and change, but Paul didn’t assign me to any quarters.”
“Paul?” Madeline knew she had just invented a new shade of pale. His name wasn’t Paul either? “Oh! You mean Operations! I forget his name is Paul. He didn’t get you any clothes?”
“No. There was a situation. We didn’t have time to discuss it.” Nikita! That was it!
“Well, I was just about to go shopping. You want to come?”
Her weakness exposed, she almost whimpered. Her old self probably never went shopping, least of all with this woman, but it was a tempting offer. As much as she loved her button-down lime sweater, she needed at least two dozen other outfits and shoes to match. “Okay. I don’t have any money though.”
“No problem. When Section goes through my bills, if there’s any trouble, I’ll just direct them to you. Now come on. There’s a big sale I want to hit before all the good stuff is gone.”
Her eyes lit up at the word ‘sale.’ “Then what are we standing around here for? Let’s go.”
End of part eleven