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.
“Something’s not right.”
Madeline didn’t like the sound of that. She pulled the car up to the terminal slowly, turning off the headlights and parking. The lights were on inside, but there was no movement. The old private airport was rarely in use, not to mention the fact that it was twenty miles outside of town. Paul had told her his operatives would be waiting for them. “Where are they? They’re supposed to be here, right?”
Paul got out of the car, removing his gun and walking cautiously toward the entrance. Madeline followed, her legs trembling as they inched ahead. It didn’t make sense; the team should be there, greeting them, protecting them as they entered the plane. The sinking feeling that something was wrong made her shiver. She knew Paul felt it, too; every muscle in his body was tense, and he held the gun tightly, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. She reached for her identical weapon, unlatching the safety as he had showed her. If there was a gun battle of some sort, Paul wouldn’t be able to protect both of them, especially with his wound. She would have to pull her own weight.
He opened the front door and surveyed the small room. Madeline glanced over her shoulder. Aside from their car, the parking lot was empty. She looked forward again, creeping behind Paul, her hand on his back. “Where are they?” she whispered.
He waved her in one direction, and he stalked the other way, toward the lounge. Madeline hesitated for a moment; what if she encountered an enemy? How would she know it was an enemy? Was she supposed to shoot him? Where? Shaking her head, she walked to the check-in counter. She could see everything on her side of the room except for behind the counter. Nervously, she jumped around the corner, pointing her gun at whatever she might find.
He ran to her side, and she dove into his arms. On the floor were four bodies, all with fatal gunshot wounds. He swore softly, rubbing her back.
“Are they your people?” she asked, wildly hoping he would answer negatively.
“Dark Moon killed them?”
She pulled back from his embrace, careful not to look at the men behind the counter. “But I thought you said Dark Moon came after me. How would they know your people were here?”
“They probably saw us together, did some research.”
“But the airport. How would they know you were at this airport?”
Paul seemed to consider her question but didn’t offer an answer. “We have to get out of here.”
“How? Your pilot’s dead!”
“I can fly the plane.”
“You can?” She sighed at her own surprise. Of course he could fly a plane. All spies could fly planes. She’d seen enough James Bond movies to know that. “Okay, fine, but I can’t fly a plane, and you’re still bleeding.” She gestured to the crimson-colored t-shirt that was protecting his wound. “What if you pass out at the controls or–”
“There’s a first aid kit on the plane. We’ll change the bandage, I’ll take some painkillers, we’ll be fine. As for flying the plane, yes, you can.”
Before she could protest–she most certainly could not fly a plane–he grabbed her hand and led her outside. They moved the metal staircase to the jet, climbed up, and opened the hatch. Madeline saw the first aid kit immediately and retrieved it, while Paul took the pilot’s seat. She imagined he was going through the pre-flight checks, but she didn’t have a clue. Quietly, she slipped into the seat next to him and fastened her seat belt.
Paul dialed a number on his phone. “Michael, it’s me. My team was ambushed; they’re all dead. I’m about to fly out. I need you to have Birkoff divert all air traffic from here to Paris.”
Madeline raised her eyebrows. Paris? She’d never been to Paris, but Cam had been several times and always told the most wonderful stories about it. She’d never thought she’d be able to see it herself.
“Housekeeping will be needed.” A pause. “Right.” Paul hung up the phone and looked briefly at Madeline. “We’ll be fine. Michael will take care of everything before our arrival.”
“You didn’t tell him I was coming.”
He began to taxi the plane to the runway. “I’ll explain everything when we’re in the air.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
Paul offered her a small smile. “It’s a long flight. We’ve got to find something to do.”
A blush crept onto her cheeks. No, he didn’t mean that, he meant tell her about her past, how he knew her. As they sat at the end of the runway, the engines powering up, Madeline allowed herself a moment to relax. Soon they would be airborne, heading somewhere safe. She breathed a sigh of relief.
With a loud roar, the plane stared down the runway, gaining speed. Paul’s hands moved over the controls effortlessly, and Madeline found his knowledge comforting. They would be safe. Everything would be fine. Nothing to worry about… “What the–” He froze in mid-sentence. “Oh, my God.”
The sound of his voice shattered her calm. “What? What’s wrong?”
Madeline squinted into the night at the lights along the runway, following them until she saw two bright white lights that didn’t look like the others. “What?” Panic rose in her throat, and she began to pant. “What are they?”
“It’s a car.”
“A car? On the runway? Why?”
His eyes flew over the gauges on his instrument panel. “We still have some runway left. We might be able to make it.”
“Might be able to make it? Paul, tell me what’s going on!”
“I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I’d say that car belongs to Dark Moon. They’re trying to prevent us from taking off.”
“By sitting there? Won’t they be killed?”
“Yes, and the landing gear will be damaged; we might be killed as well.”
She whimpered, clawing at her armrests. “We’re not going to make it. We’re not going to make it!”
“Madeline!” If he had been able to take his hands off the controls, he probably would have grabbed her. “This runway is longer than necessary. It was made for commercial airliners. We have more than enough room to take off before we even reach the car…or before the car reaches us.”
“Reaches us?” She looked out to confirm her fears. The lights were coming toward them at an amazing speed. Her breath came in heaves now, and she thought she might hyperventilate. Why did he have to tell her they might die? Why couldn’t he have calmed her from the start and promised her that everything would be okay? The car was even closer now, and Paul hadn’t even begun to bring them into the air. They had to be going fast enough! “Now?” she asked hopefully.
“No.” His eyes were fixed on the runway, switching occasionally to the dials in front of him.
The car was close, too close. She could make out its shape, could imagine the crazy people inside, waiting to die. Her knuckles were white as she gripped the armrests. Every passing second was like an eternity, bringing them that much closer to the car, that much closer to death. Now. Now, now, now! She hadn’t realized she had been yelling it as well. “Now! Now, Paul, now!”
He probably had been shouting something back, but she couldn’t hear him, couldn’t hear herself, just the angry roar of the engines and the pounding of her heart. They were going to hit, she knew it! The car was too close, there was no way they would make it!
And then suddenly it was gone. The car was gone, the lights were gone, the ground was gone, and they were going up, up, up… Madeline choked out a sob, laughing through her tears. They made it! She stared out the windows in awe. They went through the sky, parting the clouds and soaring above them.
“Are you okay?”
Paul’s voice startled her, and she looked over at him with a nod. “I’m–I’m fine. I’m sorry.”
“I panicked. I could’ve distracted you, and we might not have made it.”
“But we did.” He glanced at her briefly. “Don’t let it bother you.”
Madeline sighed and leaned back in her seat. She felt like such a child! If he hadn’t been so calm under pressure… She didn’t want to think about what might have happened.
“Our altitude has stabilized,” he announced after a while, unbuckling his seatbelt and removing the makeshift bandage. “Can you clean and dress this now?”
Nodding, she removed her own seatbelt and reached for the first aid kit. When she turned to him again, he had stripped off his shirt and was examining his wound. Her eyes dropped to his chest. The skin was smooth, taut, trim. Didn’t he have a single flaw? Blushing from the tingle of excitement that rushed through her, she reached out to clean up the dried blood. “It looks all right, but you’ll need medical attention when we touch down.”
Paul nodded, swallowing two aspirin. “Doctors will be waiting when we land.”
She didn’t look at him, focusing on his wound. “I heard you say we’re going to Paris. I assume you mean in France.”
“Is that where you live?”
“Yes.” He winced as her fingers brushed over the wound.
“Sorry.” She reached for an adhesive bandage and pressed it on his shoulder. “There.”
They both sat on the edge of their chairs, and the nearness made her head spin. She had to focus on something else, ignore the desire to touch him. “So do I live in Paris, too?”
“I don’t speak French. How can I live in Paris if I don’t speak French?”
“You do speak French.”
“Really? Then why don’t I–”
“Tu parles français et tu le parles très bien.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but no sound came out. She had understood his sentence; she could translate it and offer a reply. It was strange; she didn’t know she could speak it, but when faced with a conversation, it became natural again. “Okay, fine, but this isn’t fair! You know more about me than I know about myself.”
He grinned at that. “At the moment.”
Madeline put her elbows on her knees, resting her chin on her hands. “Why weren’t you honest from the start? You could’ve saved us both a lot of trouble.”
“I doubt it. How would you have reacted? ‘Hi, I know you don’t remember me, but I’m the leader of a secret global agency, and you’re my second-in-command. Why don’t you come back with me so we can finish ridding the world of terrorism.'”
She was about to reply to his sarcasm when the meaning of his words hit her. “I’m second-in-command?”
“You can’t be serious!” He didn’t respond, but she understood the look on his face. “That’s insane!”
“I don’t handle decisions well. One time, I spent an hour trying to decide between two pairs of shoes. They were nearly identical except one had a little strappy thing and the other didn’t. I don’t like tense situations.”
“Shopping is a tense situation?”
“Yes!” She nearly scowled at him. “I finally resorted to coin-flipping to choose a pair.”
He sighed. “Well, you’ll be pleased to know that the second-in-command merely gives advice and that I make the final decision.”
“Fine, but if I’m your second-in-command, why didn’t you just tell me? I know that I probably would’ve run in the other direction, but you didn’t have to…” She didn’t even want to say it; the word sounded so different now. “…seduce me.”
He shifted uncomfortably. “That hadn’t exactly been my intention.”
“Oh.” She paused. “Well, what was your intention?”
Paul turned forward, staring out the windows, arms folded across his chest. Silent.
Her heart sunk a little. She wanted a reason, any reason. Didn’t he feel the same way? The possibility sent a shiver throughout her body. He was using her? Maybe I’ve finally found his flaw. The loneliness of the cockpit was unbearable. Without a word, she stood up and disappeared into the cabin.
End of part nine