Persistence of Memory 15/15

Persistence of Memory
Written February 2002
Rated R
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.


Paul could barely concentrate. Lydia was a double agent? How could she have kept it a secret for so long? And why was she confessing now? His head swam with dozens of questions while he pondered an escape. Neither he nor Michael were armed; they had no reason to be. Lydia was keeping her distance from them, eliminating the possibility of overpowering her. If only someone would creep up behind her…

There was a noise behind him, and he turned. “Madeline!” Wrong door…

The smile on her face vanished when she realized what was happening. “Wh–”

“Get in here!” Lydia shouted. “Give me that shopping bag.” Madeline held it out, and she snatched it from her, gazing at the contents. Satisfied that it was safe, she threw it in the corner and turned her attention to her hostages. “Now that we’re all here, we can proceed.”

“What do you want?” Paul asked, slowly edging his body in front of Madeline’s.

“Revenge.”

“Revenge for what?” Madeline asked, regarding her fearlessly.

“For what?” Lydia scoffed, as if she should know. “Revenge for the death of my father and my four brothers. And this man,” she stressed, training her gun on Paul, “this man you call your leader, killed them in cold blood…but spared me. Do you remember that, Paul Wolfe?”

He wanted to close his eyes, to hide from the memory, but he couldn’t. “Yes.”

“You told your commanding officer that you had killed everyone in the house, but you lied! Why didn’t you kill me, too?”

“Be–” He paused, pressing his lips together. When had his mouth become so dry? “Out of compassion. I let you live because you were innocent.”

“We were all innocent!” Lydia’s breath came in angry heaves. “My father and my brothers were innocent!”

“No, they weren’t,” he countered. “They were helping to smuggle nuclear weapons from China through the Tien Shan mountains to Moscow.”

“That’s what the mission report said, too, but that’s a lie. My family never did anything like that.”

“You were five years old; it’s doubtful that you would remember.”

“Oh?” She gave him a patronizing look. “As doubtful as me not remembering the face of the man who killed my family?”

Paul sighed inwardly. It had been an early mission in his career at Section, and he had not yet given up his compassion. Seeing Lydia as a child, cowering in the corner, had made him sympathetic, and he lied to his team leader when asked if the family had been eliminated. Over the years, he had stuck to his story, that he hadn’t seen the child when he raided the house, even after Section found Lydia at the university. And now his compassion had come back to haunt him.

“I’ve waited for this day for twenty-five years,” Lydia said softly. “When I found out your true identity, I did everything I could for Section to recruit me, and they finally did. I began to search for you, finding you in Section One. By the time I was transferred there, you were in charge. However, a lowly level three operative doesn’t have much opportunity to get close to the great Operations, so I created Dark Moon. Once you realized what formidable opponents they were, I knew I had found my chance. My protégé, Jerome Gibson, was so fascinating that you, Madeline–” She turned her gun on the woman with a grin. “–couldn’t resist studying him, finding out what made him tick. And when you figured it out, you personally went after him. Just as planned.”

Paul’s body was frozen in shock as he stared at his chief strategist. “You–you ordered Gibson to kill Madeline?”

Lydia seemed pleased with herself. “Yes. I was confident of being chosen as her successor, should she meet an untimely death. And I was, but her resurrection made me alter my plans.”

Madeline thrust her shoulder between Paul and Michael, pushing herself to the front of the group and blocking both men. “So you told Dark Moon where to find Operations.”

“Oh, yes, his ‘field reconnaissance.’ I sent my agents after him because something about his mission didn’t fit. They reported back that he was courting a psychologist. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be you.” Paul drew in a breath, which Lydia noticed. “Oh, I’m sorry, was that supposed to be a secret?” She grinned broadly, but the smile never reached her eyes. “Well, enough talk. Here’s the plan. I am going to kill Paul, and one of you is going to kill me. Easy enough?” She cocked the hammer of the gun.

“So that’s it?” Madeline asked, drawing looks from both Paul and Michael. “You’re just going to kill him? What’s the point?”

“He killed my family! He deserves to die!”

“He may have pulled the trigger, but Section gave the order. Why punish one man when you could control the whole organization?”

Paul clenched his fists. What was she doing? Trying to talk her way out of it? It didn’t seem effective; Lydia still held all the cards. He glanced at the panel by the window. If he could just reach the button to lighten the windows, someone below could see what was happening, but making a move might get them all killed.

“You have control of Dark Moon,” Madeline continued, “and you’re holding Section’s highest ranking operatives hostage. And all so that you can be murdered in the end?”

“It doesn’t matter! Don’t you get it? Killing him is the last piece of the puzzle. I should have died with my family, and I have lived every day wishing that I had. But he spared me! I live to avenge their wrongful deaths. Once that is completed, then I can die. Nothing else matters.”

“Rather than living with the consequences, you want to take the easy way out.”

“So I can be with my family.”

“So you don’t have to suffer!” Madeline glared at her with reproach. “Millions of people will suffer if you kill this man. His friends, his colleagues, the people he protects. You’re the only one who suffered from your family’s death.”

“How dare you!” Lydia’s jaw hung open, her whole body seething with rage. “You know nothing about me!”

“I know that you’re selfish, that you care nothing about your family.”

“You lie!”

“Let their memories rest in peace!” Madeline shouted in return.

Paul kept his eyes on Lydia’s gun. Her trigger finger was trembling from her fury, and the gun was now pointed at Madeline. It could go off any second. “Madeline…”

She didn’t seem to hear him, or else she was ignoring him. “All you care about is your grief, your anger. You became obsessed with killing him–”

“No!”

“–but the only person you really want killed is yourself!”

The sound of a gunshot silenced the shouting, and for a moment nobody moved. Paul’s breath hung in his throat, and he was blind to what had happened. Slowly, Lydia slumped to the floor, revealing Nikita in the stairway behind her, the smoking gun in hand.

Lydia released a shaky, weak breath, staring at the ceiling. Her eyes roamed around the room until they rested on Paul, and a tear slipped down her cheek. “Prostite menia, Papa,” she wept softly, “prostite…”

Paul reached out, gently drawing her lids downward until they were closed. No one spoke; they didn’t need to. Lydia’s words seemed to echo in the silence. Prostite menia.

I’m sorry.

***

“I just heard from Oversight. They are very pleased with the elimination of Dark Moon.” Paul smiled cheerfully as he approached Michael in the Perch. There was nothing better than receiving a commendation from Oversight, particularly when the head position would soon be up for grabs. Anything to get my foot in the door. “In light of the situation with Lydia, they are going to increase their background checks on potential operatives, try to prevent any similar situations from occurring.”

“Nikita performed well. She should be commended.”

“Actually, it was Madeline’s idea. While she distracted Lydia, Nikita retrieved a weapon and came up the other stairway.” Although he hadn’t thought it was a good idea at the time, it had worked.

Michael turned to him, his face blank. “Will Madeline be returning to her position as chief strategist?”

“We’re going to discuss that this afternoon, but I don’t see any reason why she shouldn’t.”

“If her memory hasn’t returned completely, it would be best to wait until it did.”

Paul paled at the words but forced himself to be stern. “However you wish to interpret Lydia’s statements, the fact remains that–”

“The fact remains that Madeline was on the outside for a year, and you helped her.”

“You’ve done the same for Nikita.” It was a lousy comeback, but it was the only one he could think of. Michael was right; he had helped Madeline, had broken Section’s cardinal rule regarding freedom. That alone could get him cancelled, but Michael had helped Nikita escape over three years ago.

Stalemate.

“I’m returning you to your former position as team leader,” Paul said when Michael remained silent, “but I’m also promoting you to level six. And informing Oversight that you will succeed me as Operations when the time comes.”

There was a brief flicker of something in Michael’s eyes–surprise? “Thank you.” He walked to the stairs, passing Madeline on his way out.

Paul pressed the button on the panel to darken the windows before smiling at her. She looked perfectly composed, much like her old self, and was even wearing the same sort of formless earth-toned business wear. He hadn’t seen her in such muted colors for a year. “Have you come to a decision?”

“I have.”

He drew in a breath, anticipating her response. “And?”

“Although I’ve only remembered my recruitment into Section, I will return to my former posts–under one condition.”

He wrapped her arms around her waist, grinning like a lunatic. “Anything.”

“The boss–that’s you,” she teased, “–still has to respect me in the morning. Every morning.”

He raised an eyebrow at that. “Every morning?”

“Mmm hmm,” she confirmed, playfully nuzzling her nose against his.

“I think I can agree to those terms.” He kissed her hungrily, his heart pounding between them. He’d be insane to refuse this woman that he loved so much. “I’m glad you’re back.”

“In truth, I didn’t know if I was going to accept, until the incident with Lydia. I didn’t think I’d be able to use psychology to draw information out of someone or to torture them with it.”

“But that’s what you did, and you did it well.” He curled his fingers against her cheek, rubbing her brow with his thumb. “You know… In a way, your situation paralleled hers.”

“Really? How so?”

“You were both chained to your past, but, unlike Lydia, you were able to overcome it.”

Madeline nodded in agreement. “We both felt guilty about surviving a childhood tragedy, and we had no one there to love us when it was all over. If I had taken a different path, I may have ended up just like her.” She smiled at him. “I don’t think I ever thanked you for saving me… or for loving me.”

“The pleasure is all mine.” He gently caressed her lips with his, a whisper of his feelings for her, a promise to always love her regardless of the consequences.

“I bought you something,” she murmured, removing an object that had been hidden in her jacket.

Paul took it. It was a thick paperback book with a man and woman on the cover in a provocative position, scantily dressed. “Cam’s latest novel,” he realized, noting the author’s name. “‘Spurts of Hungry Desire.’ Spurts?”

Madeline suppressed a chuckle. “Read her dedication.”

He opened the cover and thumbed through the first few pages until he found it. “‘To my husband, David, for countless nights of exhausting research.'” With a curious glance at her, he continued, “‘And to my wonderful friend, Madeline–may she find a Mason to her Rhea.’ What does that mean?”

“The book is about Mason and Rhea. After one night together, she left, but he realized he was in love with her, so he spends a year searching for her.”

“What happens?”

“I think you know.” She took the book from him and tucked it back in her jacket. “But in case you don’t, I’d be willing to read select passages to you tonight.”

“Perhaps we can just act them out instead.”

Her grin widened as she walked out of the Perch. “Perhaps.”

The End

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