Nikita: The Gift

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Nikita: The Gift

Postby GirlTalk on Mon Apr 04, 2011 8:44 pm

Author’s Notes:

I want to say thank you to everyone that continues to encourage me to write for the CW’s Nikita fans. I feel so fortunate to be able to live among these characters in my stories and to please a group of fans that love and support the CW show as much as I do.

I’ve incorporated many of your suggests in this newest story. My philosophy is to write them as if they were episodes of the television show. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy them in that context.

I recommend reading the stories in the order they were posted to help with understanding the progression of the relationships and the creation of new characters that pass in and out of Nikita and Michael’s lives. They are One and None; Killer Moves; Dead Sleep; Secrets and now The Gift.

Thank you again for your wonderful support.

GirlTalk



Nikita: The Gift

Michael’s bedroom is dark and silent. He’s sleeping and deeply embedded in a dream.

He’s back in Afghanistan. He’s sitting in the passenger seat of his car. His wife, Beth, is driving. His daughter, Annie, wiggles in his lap. He can’t seem to help her get comfortable. She continues to toss and turn as they wait in a long line of traffic.

Cars line the road in both directions preventing them from moving. Michael turns to look through the rear window and then back through the front. He’s anxious about their inability to move. It makes them extremely vulnerable and he knows it.

“Honey,” he finally says to his daughter. “You’ve got to settle down.”

She just smiles at him and precedes to accidently kick him in the groin. He winces in pain but says nothing. Her large brown eyes are filled with love for him and as much as he knows he should, he can’t seem to scold her.

“Annie,” Beth calls out. “Hop in the back.”

Annie follows her mother’s instructions and climbs over her father. She takes her place in the backseat of the car. Beth looks at Michael. Her expression suddenly changes to one of pain.

“Why did you do it?” Beth asks just above a whisper.

Michael turns to face her.

“Do what?” Michael gently asks.

“Why did you leave us?” she begs as tears begin to fall down her face.

Michael can hear sobs from the backseat now.

“I miss you, Daddy,” Annie cries. “Why can’t we be together?”

Michael turns to see her.

Annie is dead now although she is still looking at her father. Her face is badly cut from shards of shrapnel that are lodged deep in her skin. Blood cakes around her eyes and mouth and her skin is severely burned. Red tears trickle down her cheeks.

“Baby,” Michael whispers, his voice cracking. Tears fill his eyes.

When he turns back around to Beth, she is also dead. Like Annie, Beth’s body is battered and burned. She is looking straight ahead with her charred hands tight on the steering wheel. Michael reaches for her and the gesture causes her to fall toward him. Michael lets out a pained scream.

“Beth,” he shouts as he wakes and frantically sits up in his bed. He is covered in perspiration.

“Michael,” Nikita calls out.

His cries have startled her awake. She sits up reaching for him. Michael melts into her arms.

“It was a dream,” she whispers. “It’s over.”

Michael gently slips from her arms and jumps out of the bed. He rushes to the large picture window at the far end of his room and tears open the curtain. He looks across the skyline. His expression is dark. His breathing is heavy and the sound of panting fills the room.

Nikita crawls to the edge of the bed and wipes away a tear. She’s tempted to go to Michael but resists. He leans on the window sill trying to regain his composure.

“It was so real,” he says still trying to catch his breath. “I can’t seem to shake it.”

Nikita pushes off the bed and walks closer.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she gently asks.

Michael turns to face her. He gives her a vacant look. Nikita can see that he is lost somewhere between his memories of reality and his dream. Slowly his eyes turn soft as he studies her face. He steps closer but doesn’t reach for her. She notices he is trembling. The rims of his eyes are red and swollen.

“I can’t,” he whispers.

Nikita places her hand on his cheek. He closes his eyes when he feels the warmth of her touch. He leans his face against her hand in an effort to take in as much of her comfort as possible. Nikita responds by gently wrapping her arms around his neck. At first, Michael lets her hold him. Then, he slowly moves his arms around her body and pulls her tight.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

The doorman holds the door open as Nikita exits Michael’s apartment building.

“Thank you,” she says and the man tips his cap.

It’s a beautiful spring morning but the sun has yet to warm the night air. Nikita shivers and wonders if she should hail a cab.

Suddenly, her phone vibrates. It’s a text from Owen.


Meet me at Grand Central Station.


Nikita studies the message for a moment and then looks at her watch.

Quickly, she flags a cab and hops in.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Michael and Percy have been summoned to CIA Headquarters to meet Derek Barton, the Director of Operations for Forum, a new unit of the CIA. Forum has been established to manage the CIA’s relationship with Division.

“I’m sure you’re curious about Forum,” Derek starts out as all three sit around a large conference table.

“Not really,” Percy snaps. “I’m never surprised by the workings of the CIA. Forum is just another layer of bureaucracy for the politicians to deal with.”

“I’ve heard you like your autonomy.” Derek says.

“I prefer to refer to it as discretion,” Percy says. “It assists in our ability to complete missions when we limit our circle of consciousness.”

“I’m not here to stifle your success,” Derek replies.

Michael studies Derek Barton. He admires how Derek prepared for this meeting. He’s wearing a black suit, white shirt and red tie. Power dressing, Michael thinks.

At first glance, he has the look of a high priced celebrity lawyer ready to defend his client no matter how guilty. His tall frame and muscular build are the result of good genes and years as a field agent for the CIA and Secret Service.

“What are you here for?” Michael jumps into the conversation.

“The CIA wants to proactively approach the recent challenges we’ve had with our relationship with Division,” Derek offers.

“I’m not aware of any challenges,” Percy snaps.

Derek grins ever so slightly.
“Let’s put it this way,” Derek says. “We know you killed Dennison.”

Michael looks surprised by Derek’s revelation. Percy responds with a cold stare.

“I believe Dennison committed suicide,” Percy offers.

“Dennison’s supposed suicide is just another example of Division’s creativity,” Derek replies. “We both know you have agents with counterfeit credentials roaming this building. It would be easy enough to make a death look self-inflicted.”

“I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed,” Percy says. “We don’t work that way.”

“You’ve worked that way for years, Percy,” Derek offers. “I even have proof.”

Percy turns stone faced.

“I suspect you’re trying to send us some type of a message,” Michael jumps in.

“Percy knows.” Derek says looking directly at Percy.

Percy’s anger peaks. He stands and stares down at Derek.

“I’m not sure what proof you think you have,” Percy says. “But I can assure you, you can’t hurt us.”

Percy storms from the room. Michael studies Derek for a moment. He actually admires a man willing to take on Percy.

“It was nice to meet you,” Michael says as he offers Derek his hand.

Before Michael can leave, Derek stops him.

“May I have a few minutes of your time?” he asks. Michael looks surprised.

“Of course,” he answers.

“I understand you used to be in Naval Intelligence,” Derek says.

“You pulled my file,” Michael offers.

“I’d be a fool not to,” Derek says.

“Interesting,” Michael says. “And I’ll bet you knew my clearance wasn’t high enough for me to pull yours.”

“What would you like to know?” Derek asks.

“Why you pulled my file?” Michael coyly asks.

“You’re a rare commodity in your organization, Michael,” Derek shares.

“How so?” Michael asks.

“You still know the difference between good and evil,” Derek says.

“Unfortunately, there is no difference in our business,” Michael says.

“I don’t believe that,” Derek tells him. “Honor is the difference. Something Percy doesn’t have.”

“So Percy’s a villain in the eyes of the CIA?” Michael softly asks.

“Let’s put it this way,” Derek says with a stern look. “He’s figured out which side he’s own. You need to do the same.”

Derek opens the conference room door for Michael and they walk into the hallway.

“I’m sorry about your family, Michael,” Derek quietly says. “I lost my wife too.”

Michael stops and faces Derek.

“Thank you,” he says just above a whisper.

It had been a little over an hour since he last thought of Beth and Annie. Now, the pain comes rushing back.

“I have something for you,” Derek says as he holds out a small black device the size of an iPod Shuffle.

Michael takes the device and looks up at Derek.

“What is this?” Michael questions.

“Follow the instructions exactly,” Derek tells him.

Michael looks confused.

“I know I haven’t earned it yet, but I need you to trust me,” Derek continues.


____________________________________________________________________________________________________
When Nikita arrives at Grand Central Station she’s late.

She cuts through the crowds to the middle of the terminal but Owen is nowhere to be found. She pulls out her phone and sends him a text.

Where are you?

“Here,” he says sneaking up behind her.

“Owen,” she says startled.

“You’re late,” he playfully barks.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice,” she says.

“Funny,” he responds.

“Why did you need to see me?” Nikita asks showing signs of impatience.

“You asked me to let you know if I had a lead on another Black Box,” Owen replies.

“You’ve found one?” Nikita asks with excitement in her voice.

“The CIA just happen to stumble onto a Guardian,” Owen shares.

“How?” Nikita asks.

“Long story,” Owen says. “But the Guardian decided to fill some of his spare time doing mole work for the CIA. A mission got blown. The Guardian came under suspicion. A CIA agent followed him to a remote location where he’d hidden the box. There was an altercation and the box came home with the CIA.”

“We have to get that box,” Nikita tells him.

“I was afraid you were going to say that,” Owen says.

“We need to move fast,” she says. “If they start forensics on the box, we’ll never bring Percy down.”

“What’s the plan?” he asks.

“Are you sure you’re up for this?” she quizzes him.

“Let’s just say I still owe you,” he says.

Nikita gives him a warm smile.

“End of the week,” she says. “Be ready.”



Michael joins Percy in front of the main entrance at Langley. He is obviously angry over having to wait for Michael to finish with Derek.

“I assume you two were talking about world peace,” Percy says sarcastically.

“He’s lost his wife too,” Michael answers, intentionally concealing the receipt of the small device.

“Nice,” Percy snaps. “He pulled your file. Never trust a man that knows more about you than you know about him.”

“I don’t trust anyone,” Michael adds with a sharp tone to accentuate his point.

“That’s good,” Percy adds. “Paranoia keeps you alive.”

“What’s this ‘proof’ he’s referring to?” Michael says.

“Whatever proof he thinks he has,” Percy shares. “He’ll never be able to access it.”

“I’m not so sure,” Michael says.

“Don’t worry,” Percy continues. “I’m not going to sit by and watch him destroy Division.”

“What exactly are you planning?” Michael asks.

“He said we’re creative,” Percy cavalierly says. “I’m afraid he’s going to find out first hand just how creative.”



The streets of Tangier, Morocco are crowded with a motley crew of tourists, drug dealers, sex traffickers, police, prostitutes and the occasional john and hop head looking for a fix. It’s dusk and the shops are just beginning to see the evening customer levels increase.

Mark is waiting at a table outside a small café. He’s dressed in traditional Moroccan clothing in an effort to blend in but his Western features are difficult to mask. He looks exactly like his brother Michael. He didn’t mind in high school when it helped him pick up chicks but in his current line of work, it’s detrimental.

He nervously taps the gun in his pants pocket. He knows it’s there but he keeps checking. Must be a pesky touch of compulsive obsessive disorder, he thinks.

Suddenly, Omar Deokar appears on the street and Mark’s attention is heighted. He watches as Omar walks out of his apartment building and begins passing the many vendor carts that line the side street. Periodically, Omar stops to study the different varieties of merchandise before continuing north toward the main thoroughfare.

Mark stands and tosses several bills on his table. He takes the last sip from his glass and starts after Omar.



Michael and Percy ride back to their hotel in silence. Michael bows out of dinner with Percy and heads to his room.

Once in his room, Michael pulls out the device Derek gave him. He turns it over in his hand several times. There is a small LCD screen and three buttons along the side. Instinctively, he presses the first button. The screen comes alive. An envelope icon blinks on and off.

Michael taps it and the envelope opens to reveal a message. He reads the text. Then he pushes the second button on the side. Another message pops up on the screen. He reads it and then pushes the last button.

Michael hears a voice he doesn’t recognize share a set of instructions. After the voice goes silent, Michael studies the device and then places it on the desk in his room.

He sits on the bed thinking about the device and the messages. He falls back to lie on the bed. It’s soft; so soft that he can’t think of anything else. Suddenly, he’s in a deep sleep. As he sleeps, the device on the desk self-destructs.



Derek is alone in his office at Langley. It’s late but he’s waiting for a call. He leans back in his chair and thinks about the mission.

Suddenly, the phone rings. Derek looks at the display and then answers the call.

“Well?” Derek says into the phone.

“I’m safe,” whispers the voice on the other end of the phone.

“How close are you to accessing their network?” Derek asks.

“Tomorrow,” the voice shares.

“Perfect,” Derek says. “We need their encryption decoded before we can make a move and we’re running out of time.”

“I understand,” the voice continues. “Should be a simple hack.”

“I’m pulling you as soon as we crack this one,” he says.

“Good,” the voice says. “Then, I want to hack something in Tahiti.”

“Deal,” Derek says.



Percy is angry when he returns to Division the next day.

“What did you find?” he snaps at his walks over to Birkhoff’s workstation in Division’s Ops Center.

Birkhoff sits up in his chair when he hears Percy enter.

“There’s no signal from his tracking chip,” Birkhoff shares as he pops open the monitoring software on his computer.

“What about direct contact?” Percy asks.

“I’ve sent priority signals requesting communication,” Birkhoff adds. “But he’s not responding. I also sent a team to his last known address.”

“And?” Percy asks.

Birkhoff just shakes his head.

“I need to be more selective next time I pick a Guardian,” Percy barks. So it’s safe to say Barton’s threat that he has proof is accurate.”

“He can’t crack the encryption,” Birkhoff says.

“Are you willing to bet life imprisonment on that?” Percy asks.

Birkhoff’s face turns pale.

“Can you destroy it remotely?” Percy asks.

“I can try,” Birkhoff says.

“Try very hard,” Percy says.



Omar hurries down the busy Tangier street. Suddenly, he stops and turns around to look in Mark’s direction. Mark panics and quickly turns his attention to the butcher’s cart just a few steps away.

The cart is dressed in selections of lamb and goat meat. The vendor barks at Mark about the deals he offers. Mark tries to look attentive while still watching Omar’s movements out of the corner of his eye.

Omar suddenly pulls out his cell phone and looks at the display before taking a call. Mark slips around the butcher’s cart to improve his position on the street and get a better look at Omar’s activities.

Suddenly, a small Honda Accord pulls up and abruptly stops in front of Omar. A door swings open and he jumps in. Mark watches as the car pulls away and down a side street. He frantically looks around for a cab or other vehicle but there are none available.

A block away, Mark sees an old motorcycle leaning against a building wall. He rushes over to the bike and looks around the street. No one is watching. Mark rolls the bike down an adjacent alley.

Less than a minute later, the roar of the bike’s engine can be heard along the makeshift marketplace. Mark, riding the bike, appears from the alley and heads in the same direction as Omar.



“Nikita,” Rurik calls out when he sees her exit the small private jet.

He is standing next to a black limousine on a small tarmac at Moscow International Airport.
It’s a beautiful day in Moscow. The forecast called for rain so Nikita is surprised by the warm sunlight. She hurries down the plane’s stairway.

“Rurik,” she says as she embraces her long time arms dealer and friend, Rurik Kaminski. She kisses both his cheeks.

“You’ve brought the sunshine,” Rurik says.

“You noticed,” she replies.

Rurik gives her a huge grin as he grabs her bag and opens the door to the vehicle. Nikita climbs in and Rurik follows.

The driver pulls the limo off the tarmac and onto the frontage road surrounding the airport. Nikita glances out the tinted window and then turns to Rurik.

“I can’t believe you’re making me wait,” Nikita anxiously says. “So I have to ask, don’t I?”

“Yes,” Rurik tells her. His smile is infectious.

“Well?” she pushes.

Rurik chuckles at her impatience.

“Yes,” Rurik replies. “I have the target.”

“You are amazing,” she says pleased by his news.

“I call it luck” Rurik says.

She looks back out the window lost in thought for a moment, and then turns to Rurik.

“I know I should feel relieved,” she reveals.

“What do you feel?” Rurik asks.

“I don’t know,” she says softly. “Anxious, happy, confused.”

“You’re doing the right thing,” Rurik says.

Nikita gives him a reassuring smile.

“I hope so,” she says.

She looks out the window again just as they pass Red Square. The sun shines down on the scene and it is remarkably beautiful.

“He’ll be here soon,” Rurik says.

“And this will all be over,” she whispers.



Bree Alanen ends her call with Derek Barton. She’s been at Division for two days. Her job as a top systems analyst with the CIA makes her the perfect plant for this mission.

Derek has given her instructions to tap Division’s system and help him crack the Black Box.
Tomorrow, she’ll take her first Applications Training class. Tomorrow, she’ll get access to the network.



The dark and dreary basement of Rurik’s warehouse is a frightening place. The long hallway is lit by two small bulbs at each end of the corridor. On either side of the hallway are doors. Each door leads to a cell in what appears to be a makeshift prison.

Nikita walks behind Rurik as he guides her down the dark hall to one of the cell doors. He stops and turns to face her. Nikita leans toward the door and then slides open the small wooden slat that covers the peep hole on the cell.

A sudden puff of air hits her nose. She rears back and frowns. The cell smells like rancid food and urine.

Her face is hidden in the shadows of the dark hallway. Only her eyes are visible as she catches her first glimpse of the prisoner.

He’s lying on a dirty sawdust filled mattress on a small cot in the corner of the room. A chain attached to his left arm and right leg prevents much movement. One small window offers the only light. The twelve inch thick cement walls discourage escape.

The prisoner doesn’t move even though it’s obvious someone is watching him. After a couple of minutes, Nikita slides the slat closed. She looks down for a moment.
“You aren’t sorry are you?” Rurik asks.

“No,” she quickly says looking up at Rurik. “But I want this to be over.”

Rurik can sense a hint of anxiety and frustration in her voice.

“Soon enough,” Rurik says. “What do you Americans call it? Closing?”

“Close enough,” Nikita replies.

“Everything is in order,” Rurik says as he turns to walk back down the hallway.

Nikita follows him. They begin to climb a dark set of stairs.

“I’m in your debt,” she tells him.

“I think not,” Rurik says once they reach the top of the stairs.

Nikita leans close to him and kisses his cheek.

“I think so,” Nikita offers with a warm smile.

“Tomorrow, then,” he says.

“Tomorrow,” she repeats.



Bree is up early. She’s anxious for her day to begin. She heads to the cafeteria for breakfast.

The large mess hall is relatively busy. There are a quite a few people trying the whole wheat waffles and fresh fruit. A host of guards watch every move from the catwalk that surrounds the large cafeteria.

Bree grabs a tray of food and sits down at one of the tables. Before she can take her first bite, she’s interrupted.

“Mind if I sit here,” Alex says with a warm smile.

“No, please,” Bree offers.

Alex sits opposite Bree.

“I don’t think we’ve had a formal introduction yet,” Alex says. “I’m Alex.”

“Bree,” she says.

“So what’s your impression so far?” Alex asks as she dives into her waffles.

“Overwhelming,” Bree shares.

“It gets easier,” she says. “Have you started systems forensics?”

“Today,” Bree says.

“Have you heard much about Birkhoff?” Alex asks.

“No,” Bree replies.

“He’s the in-house systems stooge. I real byte head,” Alex says. “I suspect he’s a serial killer during his off hours.”

“Try not to scare me too much,” Bree says.

Suddenly, their conversation is interrupted by the barking of Birkhoff standing on the catwalk.

“Boys and girls,” he shouts. “I recommend you wipe your dirty little faces and get your asses to class now.”

Bree looks over at Alex who is giving her a big smile.

“Great,” Alex says. “He’s PMSing.”



Mark sits on the stolen bike alongside a tavern. He’s waiting for Omar to reappear. He popped into the tavern about thirty minutes ago. Mark suspects Omar is completing a drug deal. Finally, tired of waiting, he abandons the bike and he walks into the bar.

He pushes open to door to the rundown tavern and walks up to the bar. He sits on the only empty stool. He looks around the room.

The dirt floor is full of ruts that snake through the room. The tables and chairs are a hodge-podge of scavenged furnishings. The cinder block walls are full of what looks like small dots. Only after a closer inspection does Mark realize they are bullet holes.

Omar and his driver friend are sitting at one of the small tables in a dark corner of the room. There is another man sitting with them. Mark doesn’t recognize him. They appear to be deep in conversation.
“Whiskey,” he barks at the old man behind the bar.

Mark does a double take when the man walks over with his drink. He’s wearing a Justin Bieber T-shirt.

“Five dirhams,” the bartender calls out. Mark pulls out several waded bills tosses them on the bar.

Suddenly, the sound of Elvis singing Jail House Rock fills the room. Mark looks around to see a juke box on the front wall of the tavern. Someone wanted to hear Elvis singing in Morocco. He shakes his head. It’s a weird world.

Finally, Omar stands. He shakes hands with the other man at the table. Then, he disappears behind a large screen placed to block the view to a back hallway. Omar’s friend shakes the stranger’s hand and exits out the front door leaving Omar on his own.

Mark slowly stands and walks toward the back of the bar. He follows Omar behind the screen and cranks his head to look down the hallway. It’s dark but he can see two doors.

Mark pulls his gun from his pants pocket. He silently releases one bullet into the chamber. He pulls a silencer from his other pocket and screws it into place. For a split second, Mark notices the change in the music selection. Now, the juke box is playing Holiday by Madonna. Mark smiles.

He finishes preparing his weapon just as one of the doors opens. Omar emerges and sees Mark at the far end of the hallway. He freezes. Mark takes no time to aim. He quickly positions the gun and fires.

The shot hits Omar in the chest and he falls backward. Mark doesn’t take time to breakdown his weapon and instead slips it in the back of his waistband under his shirttail.

He turns and walks back into the bar. The heat from the hot gun makes him uncomfortable but he nonchalantly walks out the front door before anyone has a chance to find Omar’s body.

Mark doesn’t take the bike but instead hops into a waiting cab parked outside the bar. Ten seconds after the cab pulls out into traffic, he takes a deep breath. After all these years, Mark still hates killing. He doesn’t know how Michael does it.



Michael’s flight from Washington D.C. was long. Although he slept most of the trip, he’s tired as he grabs his carry-on and exits the plane. He looks around the terminal at Moscow International Airport. He follows the signs toward ground transportation but he doesn’t get far.

Standing just thirty feet in front of him is a man in a chauffeur’s uniform. He’s holding a sign that reads, ‘Michael Samuelle’. The man smiles when he sees Michael stop and stare. He happily rushes over.

“Right this way,” the man says in a thick Russian accent.

Michael follows as they walk through the terminal and exit the front entrance. Directly in front is of the main terminal entrance is a black limousine. The chauffeur rushes to the passenger door.

“Let me get that, sir,” he says as he holds the door open for Michael.

Michael climbs in but makes a dead stop for a brief moment when he sees a passenger waiting for him. After the awkward moment passes, Michael sits on the seat opposite the stranger. The driver takes his place behind the wheel and the car pulls out into traffic.

“Michael,” Rurik says.

“You’ll have to forgive my rudeness,” Michael says. “But, who the hell are you?”

“I knew I was going to like you,” Rurik says with a smile. “You’re a man that doesn’t trust easily. It’s a tribute to Derek that you came at all.”

“I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into,” Michael says. “This is a bit cloak and dagger even for me.”

“All will be revealed soon,” Rurik says.

“Am I allowed to ask questions?” Michael asks.

“You won’t have to,” Rurik shares. “Soon, you will know all.”

“Trust me,” Michael says. “I’m going to have a few questions like what’s your relationship with the CIA.”

“Something’s are a perpetual mystery, my friend,” Rurik says. “Like is God a man or a woman?”

Michael smiles at Rurik’s revelation.

“I may be in trouble either way,” Michael shares.



Birkhoff stands at the front of Division’s computer lab. A room full of recruits blindly stares back at him from behind their computer monitors.

“Once again,” he says. “I’m looking at a flash mob of losers that can barely open up Internet Explorer much less hack an adversarial system.”

The group shrinks in their seats as Birkhoff verbally abuses them. He begins pacing the rows of desks.

“Today,” Birkhoff continues. “We will hack a shell program I’ve prepared. I call this part of the class ‘Hacking for Dummies’.”

The class moans as Birkhoff moves his way around the room.

“If you would just click the picture of Ryan Seacrest on your desktop,” he tells them. “Then we can get started.”

Bree is in the back row of the class. While no one notices, she silently taps a few keystrokes and her screen goes black. A single prompt appears and flashes before her eyes.

“Now, see how the picture of Ryan jumps through the hoops?” Birkhoff continues. “That’s what you’ll be doing today.”

Bree continues to gently type lines of code, one after the other. The screen flashes several times. Then, she sees another prompt. She continues to type code.

Birkhoff is now in the back of the room, one row over from her. He hasn’t noticed her yet.

“Hacking is just a game,” Birkhoff says. “You have to always be one step ahead of your opponent.”

She needs to hurry. Birkhoff’s almost on top of her.

The screen prompt flashes ‘executing’ and she minimizes the view. She clicks on the Ryan Seacrest icon and the program opens just as Birkhoff rounds the corner and makes eye contact with her.

“What’s your name?” he asks.

“Bree,” she answers with an uncomfortable smile.

“Well, Bree,” he questions sarcastically. “Since you weren’t paying attention, why don’t you tell the class why hacking is important?”

“What makes you think I wasn’t paying attention?” Bree asks.

“Because you’re not catatonic like the rest of the class,” he says.

“Listen up,” Birkhoff turns to direct his comments to the whole class. “If you can’t learn this stuff, we kill you.”
He turns back to Bree.

“Might be advantageous to pay attention in class,” he whispers.



Rurik’s limousine pulls up to a rundown warehouse located on an almost deserted Moscow street. The driver jumps out and opens the door. Rurik slips out of the car. Michael cautiously follows.

They climb the few steps to the front door of the building. Rurik slips a key into the deadbolt and pushes hard on the old wooden door. It finally gives way to reveal a dark hallway. Rurik holds the door open and Michael reluctantly slips into the building.

Rurik shuts the door removing all of the outside light from the hallway. It takes a few seconds for Michael’s eyes to adjust but when they do, he sees several small LED lights at the end of the hallway.

Suddenly, he feels the need to have his gun available. He slowly removes it from his holster. Rurik flips a switch and a small blub hanging from the ceiling springs to life.

“You won’t need that,” Rurik says. “But you’re smart to have it at the ready.”

Michael remains cautious.

“This way,” Rurik continues as he walks ahead of Michael.

Michael looks at his surroundings as he follows Rurik down the main corridor. The building before him appears to be divided into storage rooms. Many of the rooms are closed off but a few are open. Inside, Michael can see cardboard boxes stacked ten feet high.

The building is empty of people with the exception of one room that is bustling with activity. Michael notices the men in the room are unloading weapons. Rurik stops and turns to Michael.

“I’m an arms dealer,” Rurik says with a confident smile.

“Everyone needs a hobby,” Michael offers as they begin to walk again.

“I’m just in it for the money,” Rurik says over his shoulder.

“Somehow, I feel relieved,” Michael says. “At least you’re not dealing body parts.”

“Not today,” Rurik replies with a smile.

Rurik stops at the end of the hall. Michael sees the source of the LED lights. It’s a state-of-the-art security door. Odd, Michael thinks. It’s definitely out of place in this rundown building.

Rurik steps up to the key pad and keys in a code. Seconds later, the door opens. Rurik turns to Michael.

“Watch your step,” he tells him.

Michael follows as Rurik descends a set of stairs to the building’s basement. They walk down a narrow hallway. Michael notices what looks like cell doors lining the hallway. Rurik stops in front of one of the cells.

“Take a look,” he says.

Michael tries not to act suspicious but it’s difficult. He slowly moves to the door and slides the wooden slat back revealing a prisoner in the room. Michael takes several seconds to be sure he’s not dreaming. Then he backs away still staring at the cell door.

“A gift for you,” Rurik says. Michael slowly turns to look a Rurik.

“What?” he questions, shocked by what he sees.

“Your destiny, Michael,” Rurik offers.

“How?” Michael asks.

“I’m repaying a debt,” Rurik says. “To a very good friend.”

“Nikita?” Michael asks.

“Yes,” Rurik shares.

“But why?” Michael asks still not sure if the scene he’s involved in is real.

“You’ll need to ask her,” Rurik says.

Michael leans back to look through the slat again. Kasim is still lying on the cot in the same position as the day before when Nikita was there. This time he turns his head toward the door.

“I’m not afraid, Michael,” Kasim shouts in Farsi. “Come, see me laughing.”

Michael looks back at Rurik who is now offering him a key.

“You’ve waited a long time for this moment,” Rurik says his voice deeper than before.

Michael slowly takes the key. Then, Rurik turns and leaves Michael alone in the hallway outside Kasim’s cell.



Nikita waits in her hotel room. It’s dark except for the light reflecting from her laptop. She stops typing when she hears the sound of a keycard open the door to the room.

She turns toward the sound. Suddenly, she feels a shot of adrenaline flow through her veins. It makes her shiver from the sudden rush.

The door opens and she sees Michael’s silhouette in the hallway. She stands but doesn’t move toward him. He steps into the room.

The additional hallway light disappears when he lets the door close behind him. Nikita can hear his breathing now. It’s slow and deep.

She sees his outline getting closer but doesn’t realize how close until he takes her hand. She lets out a small sigh. His hand is warm against her cool palm and he weaves his fingers through hers. His touch gives her a chill that ripples through her body. Michael feels her tremble.

He slips his other hand around her waist and gently pulls her close. He leans his head next to hers and breathes her in. He notices the slight scent of flowers.

Nikita leans up and wraps her arms around him. He pulls her close and holds her against his body. He slowly pulls back and finds her lips. He takes a deep breath as he presses his mouth against hers. Nikita returns his passion as she anxiously responds to his kiss.

Suddenly, he picks her up and takes her to the bed.



Daylight fills Nikita’s hotel room. She’s caught in twilight sleep. She can see the morning light through her eyelids but she resists opening them.

She stayed up most of the night with Michael. He never said a word about Kasim. He just made love to her until neither of them could move. Wrapped in each other’s arms, they finally fell asleep sometime before dawn.

After a few minutes of remembering the night before, she opens her eyes. She pulls on the covers and leans over to touch Michael but he’s not there. She quickly sits up in the bed and looks around the room but he’s gone.

She grabs the bed sheet and wraps it around her. She walks to the picture window and opens the curtain. The Kempinski offers an incredible view of Moscow. The city is in motion before her and it brings a smile to her face.

She checks her phone. No messages. Maybe last night was a dream, she thinks.

Nikita climbs in the shower. She closes her eyes and lets the hot water warm her. Suddenly, the door to the shower springs open. She jumps.

“Latte,” Michael says.

He’s holding two large coffees.

“Michael,” she says both startled and happy at the same time.

He shuts the shower door.

“I didn’t want to wake you after I kept you up so late,” he says over the sound of the water.

“I won’t be long,” she says trying to regain her composure.

Michael places her coffee on the counter and slides down the wall to sit on floor. Nikita pours a generous bead of shampoo in her palm and runs it through her hair.

“No rush,” he says. “I’ve got time. How about you?”

“I’ve got a flight out tomorrow,” she says as she rinses the shampoo from her hair.

“Then, I’m staying ‘til tomorrow,” he tells her.

Nikita turns off the water. She pushes open the shower door and steps out into the bathroom. Her wet hair causes large streams of water to fall down her body and onto the bathroom rug. Michael watches the water as it slips down the curves of her figure.

Nikita grabs a towel from the rack. She pulls her long hair to the side and pats it with the towel. Michael continues to watch her. He marvels at how beautiful she is just standing there.

The water drops covering her body, glisten in the dim light. They slowly pool and fall to the bathroom floor.

She tosses the towel on the counter and walks closer to Michael. His eyes grow wider as she reaches for a robe hanging above his head.

“I forgive you,” Michael finally says as she pulls on the robe.

“I beg your pardon,” Nikita says surprised by his comment.

“For being impulsive,” Michael adds.

Nikita considers his words for a moment. Then she slides down the wall opposite him.

“I’m not getting another lecture on mission logistics, am I?” she asks.

“I thought I taught you to keep your circle tight,” Michael says.

“How do you know it isn’t?” she asks.

Michael looks down at the floor for several seconds in silence.

“How did you do it?” he finally asks breaking the silence as he looks up at her.

Nikita studies his expression. He’s humble.

“Bratva,” she says.

“I see,” he whispers. “I’m afraid you’ve exposed your vulnerabilities. You‘ve just painted a huge bull’s eye on your back.”

“If I cared about my exposure, I wouldn’t have done it,” she adds.

“Why did you do it?” he asks.

“You needed it,” she says.

“For a cold hearted assassin,” he says. “You’re surprisingly sensitive.”

“Maybe I’m not cold hearted,” she says. “Maybe that was something Division wanted.”

“I can’t say the same,” Michael says with darkness in his eyes.

He stands, grabs her coffees, and hands it to her.

“It’s been so long,” he says as he sits on the closed toilet above her.

He can’t make eye contact with her.

“I looked into his eyes,” Michael continues. “So much hate for this man. I’ve let it takeover my life. I wanted to rip out his heart and hold it in my hand so I could feel the last beat and know he was dead. I wanted to hear his last breath and watch his eyes close for the last time. I’ve literally dreamed of these things.”

Michael stops his train of thought and looks down at her.

“I got to do all those things,” he says, his voice deeper than usual and with a hint of gratitude to his words.

After a few seconds of silence, Nikita pulls up her legs and leans her head on her knees.

“What?” Michael quietly asks.

She moves her head back and forth and then slowly looks up at him.

“Nothing,” she whispers.

“What am I going to do with you?” he asks.

“I’m afraid I’m an epic fail at being cold hearted,” she says.

“Possibly your only character flaw,” he tells her.



Birkhoff is working late at Division. He’s trying to isolate the signal for the one missing Black Box.

“****,” he mumbles to himself after another failed attempt to remotely destroy it.

“Damn it,” he says as he slams his hand on the desktop and reels back in his chair.

He’s not sure what Percy will do if he fails to destroy the box. And then there’s the off chance the CIA could actually crack his encryption.

As a distraction, he decides to run a system diagnostic on Division’s network. He needs something to go well for a change.

Finally, he looks at the clock. It’s 2 a.m. He decides to pack it in for the night. He’s almost ninety five percent through the system diagnostic so he’ll let the program run until dawn.

Suddenly, a warning message pops on his screen. It startles him. The diagnostic has located a string of rogue code hidden in an unused sector masked as a backup program.

He peels back the mask to reveal the code’s purpose. It appears it’s been planted as a backdoor for someone on the outside to move in and out of Division’s network undetected.

Birkhoff thinks the skill level of the assailant matches that of his own. The only other person able to crack ShadowNet was Nikita and she’s dead.

He pulls up a firewall performance analysis. Suddenly, the performance grid crashes. Birkhoff panics. The system is experiencing a series of well organized, repetitive attacks.

Quickly, he shuts down the network. He’s in deep trouble.



Mark is anxious for his payment. He’s due $10,000 U.S. for the hit on Omar. He doesn’t typically meet clients on their home turf but Zakaria insisted. If he wants his money, he’s going to have to come get it.

Mark enters a small white two-story building in the center of Tangier. He walks up the flight of stairs and down a long breezeway. At the end of the breezeway is a wooden door protected by two body guards. These drug dealers are so mistrusting, Mark thinks.

“Up, up,” one of the guard’s calls out in Arabic.

Mark holds up his arms as one of the men frisks him for weapons. He pulls out Mark’s Glock 22 and the silencer.

“Don’t lose those,” Mark says in Arabic to make sure he gets his point across. “I’ll be right back.”

One of the men opens the wooden door and Mark walks in.

The room is alive with activity. Several men are on a balcony overlooking the street below. They are holding assault rifles which they periodically shoot into the air.

Two other men sit at a coffee table stacking kilo bags of hashish and opium. Mark estimates the dollar value to be approximately half a million U.S.

Finally, Mark sees Zakaria. He is sitting on a couch in the main room. There are several other men sitting next to him.

The sound of a video game blares from the large screen TV at the far end of the room. Zakaria is engaged in a game of Grand Theft Auto. It appears from his excitement, he’s winning.

Zakaria looks up and sees Mark.

“Khalid,” Zakaria calls out in English. “Pay my friend.”

Khalid, sitting at a table in the kitchen, looks over at Mark with a look of mistrust. He slowly opens a metal lockbox on the table and takes out a stack of bills. He counts out $10,000.

Mark walks over and scoops up the money. He quickly tucks it in his pocket and backs up toward the door.

“See you around,” Mark calls to Zakaria as he turns to open the door.

Zakaria looks over at Mark but doesn’t respond. Mark walks out into the hallway.

“Gun,” he barks at the men still guarding the door.

One of the men hands Mark his gun and silencer.

“Dog,” the man says in Arabic. Mark smiles.

“Same to you, dick,” Mark calls after and he hurries down the hall and into the street.

Mark walks out into the sunlight with a new sense of freedom. His dealings with Zakaria are over and he has $10,000 to spend. The warm sun beating down on his tan skin makes him feel like a drink.

He starts across the street. The cars move about with no real sense of order. Mark weaves around the cars as they continue in both directions. Just before he reaches the other side of the road, a car cuts across a lane of traffic and hits Mark head on.

He flies over the hood of the car and lands on the road in the line of traffic. The car stops. Several men pile out of the vehicle and grab Mark. They shove him into their car and speed off.



Michael is back at Division. He is assisting a class of new recruits as they breakdown and rebuild an M16 while blindfolded.

“10 more seconds,” he shouts at the recruits.

Panic sets in. Only a handful of the twenty recruits have actually rebuilt the weapon.

“Time”, Michael calls out. The recruits pull off their blindfolds.

Just then, the door to the training room opens and Birkhoff burst in.

“Michael,” Birkhoff calls to him in a bit of a panic.

Michael can see something’s wrong.

“That’s it for now,” Michael tells the class. “We’ll try this again after dinner.”

The class begins to disburse. Birkhoff and Michael walk toward each other.

“What is it?” Michael asks.

“Derek Barton is here to see you,” Birkhoff says just above a whisper.

“Here?” Michael questions.

“He’s with Percy,” Birkhoff says.

Michael rushes out the door toward Percy’s office.



Mark wakes up from his unconscious state. He’s in pain and lets out a horrendous scream. Both his legs are broken but he can’t see the extent of his injuries. He’s in complete darkness. He feels around and realizes he’s in some kind of a carpeted box.

Abruptly, a strobe light begins to flash. Mark looks around. Unfortunately, he was right. He’s in an eight by four foot cell. He can’t see a door but he can see a camera in the corner of the ceiling. It’s pointing right at him.

“Who the hell are you?” he shouts at the camera but there is no response.

Mark is in an unfortunate position. His years of mercenary work have caused him to rack up enemies. His captors could be one of a dozen people Mark’s **** off over the years. He’ll have to wait until they tip their hand before he will know for sure. In the meantime, there’s nothing he can do but wait.

Suddenly, Mark jumps from the sound of ear popping music. Blaring from somewhere outside the cell is the sound of heavy metal music at full volume.

Mark understands now. He’s to be tortured with the never ending sounds of Nine Inch Nails vibrating the walls and jeopardizing his sanity.

“****,” Mark whispers.

After a few minutes, he begins to beat his head against the wall.



Bree is skipping lunch today. She needs to review the performance level of the worm she’s planted in ShadowNet.

She logs on and opens the key to the gateway. She enters her password and waits. After several seconds, she hears a popping sound as the screen goes black and her hard drive crashes.

She panics. She grabs her BlackBerry and tries to open the gateway again. The screen flashes several times and then goes black.

Suddenly she realizes it is booby trapped with a virus to destroy any system trying to access her worm. Birkhoff knows.

Unexpectedly, she hears someone pushing on her door. There are no locks on the recruit’s doors at Division. For some sense of privacy, Bree has inserted a pen in the door jamb. She realizes it won’t hold much longer.

Quickly, she closes her laptop and slips it under her mattress. She jumps up, removes the pen, and tosses it across the room.

Suddenly, the door flings open. Birkhoff is standing before her. Her heart skips a beat. She can feel her face flush red.

“You jammed a pen in your door,” Birkhoff says suspiciously.

“Yes I did,” she defiantly says. “Are you going to have me killed?”

“Tempting,” Birkhoff says with a big smile. “Why aren’t you at lunch?”

“Stomach flu,” she lies.

“Field agents don’t get sick,” he tells her. “Suck it up if you want to make it in this business.”

“Thanks for the career advice,” she says sarcastically. “Other than looking out for my welfare, what do you want?”

“I’m going to give you the chance of a lifetime,” Birkhoff says.

“Somehow, I doubt that,” she tells him.

“I need help,” he says.

“What kind of help?” she asks.

“Someone very clever and devious is trying to hack Division,” he says. “I need help figuring out whom.”

She is both shocked and suspicious of his intentions.

“I know nothing about computers,” she lies. “Why don’t you ask one of the gamers out there to help?”

“You’re ignorance makes you trustworthy and I mean that in the kindest way possible,” he says.

“You really know how to charm a girl,” she says.



Michael walks into Percy’s office. Derek and Percy are sitting around the conference table.

“What’s going on?” Michael asks.

“The CIA just received a transmission that concerns you,” Percy shares.

Percy holds up a remote control and clicks the power button. The large LCD screen mounted on the wall lights up. Michael looks at the screen carefully. He slowly moves closer.

The scene is from the camera mounted in Mark’s cell. Mark is beating his head against the wall of the cell as the sound of heavy metal blares in the background.

“What the …?” Michael says as he finally recognizes his brother.

Suddenly, the screen changes to a view of Kasim’s three brothers Bhushan, Ahmed, and Mohammad.

“This message is for Michael Samuelle,” Mohammad says to the camera. “We have your brother. We plan to torture him until he begs for death. Then, we will scatter his bones over the desert for the buzzards to feast on.”

The three men laugh at their superiority over the situation. Then the screen returns to the shot of Mark. He’s in obvious pain. He breaks the rhythm of head banging and lets out a pitiful scream.

The screen goes black. Michael looks at Percy and Derek.

“Do you know these men?” Derek asks as he stands and walks over by Michael.

“No,” Michael says curtly.

“Mark is a mercenary,” Percy says.

“Years ago he worked for Division,” Percy continues. “We parted ways when Mark decided freelancing was more lucrative than working for Division.”

“I don’t have to tell you the seriousness of this situation,” Derek adds.

“What’s the percentage of a successful extraction?” Percy asks.

Michael watches as Derek’s expression turns dark and he remains silent.

“I can assist with identifying the location of the transmission,” Derek reveals. “But beyond that, the CIA can’t be involved.”

He opens the door to Percy’s office.

“I’ll be in touch,” Derek says as he leaves.

Percy now focuses his attention on Michael.

“Is there something you want to tell me?” Percy asks.

“If you want to know if I’ll let them kill Mark,” Michael says. “The answer is no.”

“I assumed as much,” Percy says. “I’m just curious if this is the result of Mark’s activities or your own.”

“Get to the point, Percy,” Michael snaps.

“Kasim’s dead, isn’t he?” Percy asks.

“Yes,” Michael says. “Next question.”

“Where do you think Mark is being held?” Percy asks with signs of genuine concern.

“No clue,” Michael says. “He could be anywhere in the Middle East. This will be like finding a grain of sand on the moon.”

“If you need anything,” Percy offers.

Michael gives Percy a suspicious look.

“Thank you,” he tells Percy.



“Can you meet me?” Michael says into his cell phone as he leaves Division and hops into a cab.

“Of course,” Nikita says.

“Langley in four hours,” Michael says.

“Langley?” Nikita questions.

“I’ll explain when you get there,” Michael says and he hangs up the phone.



The parking lot at CIA headquarters is packed. Michael parks in a visitor spot and waits. It’s almost been four hours since he talked to Nikita.

Abruptly, the door to his car opens and Nikita slips into the passenger seat.

“What’s going on?” she asks showing signs of concern.

“Kasim’s brothers have kidnapped Mark,” he says.

“What?” Nikita says in disbelief.

“They’re going to kill him,” he says.

“Like hell they are,” she says confidently.

“Want to help me take down a few bad guys?” he asks her.

She smiles.

Suddenly, she opens the car door. Michael grabs her arm.

“Where are you going?” he says in a panic.

“To find out everything I can about Kasim’s brothers,” Nikita says.

Michael looks worried.

Nikita leans forward and softly presses her lips on Michael’s mouth. After several seconds, she gently pulls back.

“We’ll find him,” Nikita whispers.

She pushes open the door and disappears in the parking lot. Michael lingers in the car after she leaves.

Finally, he walks into CIA headquarters and asks to see Derek Barton.



Michael is pacing the floor of Derek’s office.

“We don’t know much yet,” Derek tells Michael. “The transmissions indicate he’s still alive.”

“Any idea where he is?” Michael asks.

“We’ve narrowed it down to Afghanistan,” Derek says. “They’re using an old Russian satellite to transmit the signal but that’s all we know at this point. They’ve set up some type of decoy software. It sends multiple signals along the same path both to and from different points of origin. That’s making it difficult to pinpoint the actual location of the transmissions.”

The door to Derek’s office opens.

“Michael,” Derek says. “This is one of our top analysts.”

“Sludge,” Sludge replies as he shakes Michael’s hand. “Just call me Sludge.”

He gives Michael a reassuring smile.

“I was just briefing Michael on the technical challenges we’ve encountered,” Derek says.

“They are using an older technology,” Sludge says. “Problem is our current technology is so far advanced it makes it difficult to track and decipher the archaic stuff. I’m developing a predator program that will locate the source of the transmissions to within a quarter mile of their location.”

“When?” Michael questions.

Sludge sees the desperation in Michael’s eyes.

“Twenty four hours,” Sludge promises.



Owen walks in the front door a seedy hotel on 45th Street in New York City. He climbs two flights of stairs. Then, he slowly pulls out his gun as he reaches the third floor landing. The hallway has only one working light making it a prime spot for an ambush. Owen turns and peers down the hall.

The window at the end of the corridor is open and the sheer curtain blows in the breeze. He continues down the hallway. He stops in front of a door. He reaches for the knob.

Suddenly, he hears footstep behind him. He turns and cocks his guns.

“Owen,” Nikita calls out when she sees his gun.

“What in the hell are you doing here?” he asks in a sharp tone.

“I need to talk to you,” she says.

He grabs her by the arm and drags her down the hall. He pushes open the door to one of the rooms and shoves her inside.

The room is dark. Owen flips on a lamp. The room fills with dull yellow light from the faded lamp shade.

“What’s going on?” she asks.

Owen slowly sits down on the sole piece of furniture in the room; a double bed.

“I refused a freelance job,” he says. “Now, I’m a liability.

“What happen?” she asks as she sits next to him on the bed.

“Yakuza wanted a hit.” he says. “I politely declined their offer but they don’t really like the word ‘no’.”

“Owen,” she softly says. “I’m sorry.”

Owen stands and paces the room.

“I’m not worried,” he says. “They’ll forget about me soon enough.”

“Yakuza doesn’t forget,” she offers.

“I’m not running anymore,” he says.

“Let me help you get a new identity,” she begs.

“Nikita,” he says. “I’m not leaving. I can take care of myself. Besides, we have a job to do.”

“Actually, that’s why I’m here,” Nikita says. “We have to postpone the mission.”

“What?” he asks.

“Something’s come up,” Nikita says. “So our mission is scrubbed for now.”

“No way,” Owen says. “I’ll go in alone then.”

“I can’t let you do that,” she says.

“I’m not asking,” he says. “Look, you were right. We have to get that box. The CIA having it is just as bad as Percy hiding it. We have to do it now. I have to do it now.”

“This is insane, Owen,” she shares. “The odds are totally against you.”

“They usually are,” he says.



It’s day three for Mark in his isolated cell and he has yet to see his captors. His broken legs are swollen and the blood circulation is beginning to falter. He realizes the tingling sensations signal the onset of critical problems. He needs medical attention now. He wonders if he calls out if it will bring assistance or more suffering. He decides to wait.

His thoughts are interrupted by a sound from the small doorway used to pass food and water to the cell. He hasn’t been all that hungry but he’s forcing himself to eat. If he’s going to die, it isn’t going to be from starvation.

He scoots over to the doorway and gently slips his hand inside. At first, he feels a bottle of water. He pulls it out of the passage way. Then, he slips his hand back inside to feel for today’s food.

Suddenly, he screams in pain and pulls his hand out of the passage. Swinging from his forefinger is a mouse trap. Mark tears the trap from his finger. He can smell cheese.

He pulls a hunk of goat cheese off the trap and jams it in his mouth. He sticks his hand back into the passage and gently feels around for any additional food. There is none.

He opens the water bottle and takes a big swig. After several seconds he chokes and spits out the liquid. It’s not water. He’s afraid to guess what it might actually be.

Mark leans up against the side of the cell. For the first time since being taken prisoner, he’s worried he might die. But, at this point, it might be the best option out of this nightmare.



Nikita sits in the back corner of the Starbucks at 48th Street and 52nd Avenue. She takes a sip of coffee just as Owen walks in. He joins her at the table.

“Have you come to your senses?” she asks.

“I’m afraid not,” he tells her.

She pulls a set of CIA credentials from her coat pocket and places them on the table. Owen notices her hand is shaking. He picks up the badge and studies it carefully.

“I actually look cute, don’t I?” he asks with a quizzical look.

“So cute,” she mocks him.

He takes her hand from across the table.

“You need to stop worrying,” he says. “I don’t deserve it.”

She is embarrassed by the intimacy of the gesture. She gently slides her hand from his grasp.

“I’m not worried,” she says. “You’re too smart to get killed.”

“How about arrested for treason?” he asks. “Am I too smart for that?”

“You’d better be,” she says.



“Michael,” Michael says as he answers his phone. He’s just exiting the turnpike toward JFK Airport.

“He’s in Khost, Afghanistan,” Sludge says.

“Tell me you’ve got surveillance,” Michael asks.

“I’ve got the site and the number of men entering and exiting each day,” he says. “But I can’t give you Mark’s exact location within the building.”

“What about heat sensors?” Michael asks.

“Interesting development,” Sludge offers. “They are using an IR jammer to prevent detection.”

“Now why would they do something like that?” Michael contemplates.

“Good question,” Sludge says. “Which I think you should ask when you’re kicking their asses.”



Owen turns his rental car into the main entrance to CIA Headquarters. He pulls up to the guard house. Owen grins as the guard steps out to greet him.

“Sir?” the guard says.

Owen hands the man his credentials. The guard studies the badge picture carefully and then looks at Owen. Owen continues to smile.

“It will be just a moment, Sir,” the guard says as he turns and walks back into the guard house.

Owen watches as the guard picks up the phone. He nonchalantly looks around at his surrounds. If he needs a quick escape, it’s going to be challenging. Owen thinks about how many seconds it takes to pull a gun. For a split second, he thinks about Nikita. His heart is racing.

Suddenly, the guard returns.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” the guard responds as he hands Owen his credentials. “Have a good day, Sir.”

Owen watches as the gate to Langley opens.



Bree walks into Division’s Ops Center. Birkhoff is heads down at his workstation.

“Hello,” she calls to him.

“Busy,” he says lost in his thoughts.

“You asked me to come,” she calls back to him.

Birkhoff finally notices Bree. He jumps up and holds out a swivel chair.

“Take a seat,” he says.

Bree reluctantly sits. Birkhoff focuses her attention on the computer at the workstation in front of her.

“I’ve discovered a worm in our system,” he says pointing to a message flashing on the screen.

“What’s a worm?” Bree asks knowing he’s talking about her hack.

“An evil program planted to wreak havoc,” he tells her.

“If you’ve found it, why do you need me?” she asks.

“Quarantining a bug is only half the battle,” he says. “I need you to monitor a ‘search and destroy’ program I’m running,”

“Why?” she asks.

“It’s going to tell us where the hack came from,” he tells her. “And if there are any other breaches to our firewall.”
“So you just want me to watch the screen?” she asks.

“Sounds boring, right?” he asks.

“Unbelievably,” Bree insists.

“Well,” he tells her. “You could ask me questions. Get to know me better,” he says with a grin.

“Now why would I want to do that?” she asks.

“You could learn a lot from me, he adds.

“I already know how to be an A-hole,” she says.



Michael is walking through the terminal at JFK.

“I need a Black Hawk at my disposal, no questions asked,” he says into his cell phone.

“I see you’ve talked to Sludge,” Derek responds.

He can hear the desperation in Michael’s voice.

“Yes or no?” Michael asks again.

“I told you the CIA couldn’t be involved,” Derek says.

“You’re already involved,” Michael says.

The line is silent for several seconds.

“You’ll need to get to Bagram,” Derek tells him.

“I’ll be there within twenty four hours,” Michael says.

“I’ll let them know,” Derek says.

“Thanks,” Michael offers.

“Oh, and Michael,” Derek shares. “It’s good to see you’ve picked your side.”



Nikita pulls up to the guard station at Bagram in a military Jeep. She is dressed in U.S. Army fatigues. Her hair is in a tight ponytail and she’s wearing a Lieutenant’s cap. Her aviator sunglasses conceal the apprehension in her eyes. She hands the guard her credentials and turns away as he studies her badge.

“Lieutenant,” he says as he salutes her and hands her back her credentials.

Nikita returns the salute. The guard raises the gate arm. She nods to the soldier and speeds away.

Nikita follows the other vehicles as they avoid the hazards of the runways on their way to the hangers. Once at the row of hangers, she continues until she finds number 7.

She parks in the rear and then heads around to the front of the hanger. She rounds the corner and peeks through the open hanger door. It’s empty. She slowly enters.

Suddenly, she hears voices in the distance. She pauses and listens. She recognizes one of the voices. Just then, two men walk into the hanger.

“It’s forty minutes,” says Captain Henessy, one of the base officers.

“That’s per …” Michael stops when he sees Nikita.

“Nice partner,” the Captain whispers to Michael when he sees Nikita waiting.

Michael gives him a wicked smile.

The Captain shakes Michael’s hand and leaves. Michael joins Nikita.

“I see you had no problems getting here,” Michael says. Nikita smiles.

“I just happen to know someone, who knows someone,” she says.

“I can just imagine,” he replies.

“Did you finagle assistance?” she asks.

“The Captain is being gracious enough to let us borrow two men,” he says. “But he wants them returned unharmed.”

“I’ll let the bad guys know,” she teases.



Owen adjusts his tie and straightens his suit jacket as he climbs the stairs to the employee entrance of CIA Headquarters. His stomach is in knots. He steps through the door and lines up for the security check point.

He studies the behaviors of the employees ahead of him. His CIA badge lists his ability to possess a gun. He notices other agents removing their weapons and handing them to the guards. Owen mirrors their actions and hands his gun and badge to a Security Specialist.

The guard keys some information into his computer as Owen passes through the metal detector. He quietly exhales when he realizes no alarms have been sounded.

“Your gun, Sir,” the guard says as he hands Owen his gun and badge.

“Thank you,” Owen says just above a whisper. Then, he moves into the building with the rest of the employees.



It’s just after midnight when the Black Hawk touches down on the outskirts of Khost. Michael, Nikita, and the two Army soldiers quickly jump from the helicopter, guns drawn.

They quietly slip into an old rundown market building just at the edge of town. Michael silently signals to the soldiers to assure the building is secure while Nikita begins basecamp set up.



Percy is in his office when Birkhoff burst in.

“You wanted to see me?” he asks.

Percy looks up as Birkhoff.

“I was hoping you could tell me why I can no longer access our backdoors to the FBI and CIA?” Percy asks.

“It’s just temporary,” Birkhoff says.

“Can you be more specific?” Percy asks.

His patience is wearing thin.

“I’m cleaning up a bit of debris left in the system,” he says. “Unfortunately, ShadowNet is a bit unstable at the moment. I had to shut down all of our backdoors.”

“You’re hiding something,” Percy adds.

“We’ve experienced a minor attack that I was able to repel,” he reluctantly tells Percy. “I’m just securing the system right now. I should have everything at optimum performance in a couple of days.”

“A couple of days?” Percy shouts.

“At the most,” Birkhoff adds.

“This attack,” Percy asks. “Have you identified the target?”

“Yes,” Birkhoff says just above a whisper.

Percy leans back in his chair and studies Birkhoff for a moment.

“What’s the target, Birkhoff,” Percy shouts.

“Our encryption code,” Birkhoff mumbles.

“And you’re just telling me this now?” Percy says as he jumps up from his desk.

“It’s just an attack,” Birkhoff says. “I’ve got it under control.”

“Now what makes you think you can stop a hack when you can’t even find that damn Black Box?” Percy asks enraged.

“I’m working on it,” Birkhoff mumbles again.

Percy, fuming, walks over to stand within inches from Birkhoff‘s face.

“It would be unfortunate if I had to find a new systems analyst,” Percy continues. “But if you don’t get your house in order within twenty four hours, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”



Michael and Nikita intently study the multiple laptop screens set up at their makeshift command center.

“I need eyes on the ground,” Michael says.

“Working on it,” Sludge says through a speaker on one of the laptops.

“You’ll need to plant the devices on a variety of targets to allow for maximum visibility,” Sludge tells them.

“We know there are seven men maintaining a presence in the building,” Michael says as he points at one of the screens.

“Three of them seem to come and go at random,” Nikita says.

“We can assume they’re Kasim’s brothers,” Michael says.

“The other four are in an out at regular intervals,” Nikita adds.

“Guards,” Michael speculates.

“Those are the four you need to target,” Sludge calls out on the speaker.

Michael looks at Nikita.

“Your usual tactics may not work in this scenario,” Michael says. “Any other ideas?”

Nikita gives him a reassuring look.

“I think we need to pray,” Nikita says as she looks over at the two Army soldiers assisting in the mission.



Owen briefly looks at the map on his Blackberry and then continues down the east corridor on the third floor of CIA Headquarters. He stops in front of a doorway and slips the phone in his pocket.

He opens the door and sees a small waiting area separated by a large plexi-glass wall. A guard stands behind the glass. Owen walks over.

“You can leave this in the bin just inside the door,” the guard says as he hands Owen a scanning device.

Owen swipes his badge over a card reader at the door and walks into the CIA’s main property room.

He looks around at his surroundings. The room is huge and lined with rows of shelves and thousands of bins. Each bin is marked with a barcode.

Owen scans one of the barcodes with his device. An LCD screen displays details of the contents of the bin including type of evidence and date secured.

He walks down the main hallway until he comes to a row that includes the appropriate evidence type and date he’s searching for.

Suddenly, he hears the main door open and close. He stands completely still. He hears the sound of high heels clicking across the floor.

“Hi,” a voice says.

Owen looks over to see a beautiful woman standing before him. Her tall statuesque appearance and long beautiful blond hair remind him more of a super model and not a CIA employee.

“Hi,” he says trying not to act suspicious.

She moves closer to Owen. Owen tries to concentrate on scanning the box barcodes. The young woman finally stops next to Owen and then slips just passed him.

“Awfully dusty in here,” she says.

“Makes me feel right at home,” Owen says as he continues to study the boxes.

“It can’t be this bad?” she asks.

Owen smiles.

“I plead the fifth,” he says.

The young woman pulls a box off the shelf and removes the top.

“Finally,” she says as she digs out a small voice recorder. “I’ve been looking for this for an hour.”

She slips passed Owen. Just as she gets to the main hallway, she turns.

“Good luck in your search,” she says and hurries away.

Owen, now alone again, continues scanning the boxes.

Finally, he finds a box that may be promising. He opens it and notices it’s separated into six compartments lined with foam inserts to protect the devices.

Owen sees the Black Box right away. He tucks it in the back of his waistband and puts the bin back on the shelf.



Bree watches Birkhoff very carefully. His meeting with Percy evidently didn’t go well. He came back to Operations in a foul mood.

She doesn’t mind that he’s leaving her to fend for herself. She needs the opportunity to undo some of the damage he’s done to her attack on ShadowNet. She quietly begins keying.

She temporarily pauses Birkhoff’s ‘search and destroy’ program. Then, she pulls up a prompt and keys numerous lines of code. After several seconds, she stops and proofs her code. No bugs. She taps the enter key and sends the program off to do its job; plant a decoy IP address for Birkhoff’s ‘search and destroy’ to discover.

She looks up from her screen. Birkhoff is still distracted. She pulls a flash drive she’s hidden from around her neck and plugs it into a USB port on the desktop. She sets up a new worm download and watches the screen light up.

After five minutes, her new worm completes its download. She removes the flash drive and slips it over her head again. She looks over a Birkhoff. He’s still heads down.

She re-engages the ‘search and destroy’ program and after another minute, the diagnostic has discovered the IP and flashes an alert on the screen.

“Finally,” she yells across the room.

Birkhoff jumps up and runs over.

“Up, get up,” he barks. Bree moves slowly. Birkhoff is impatient and practically shoves her aside.

He types at the keyboard for several seconds. Then, he studies the screen for a moment looking confused.

“What is it?” Bree says innocently.

“Strange,” Birkhoff says.

“What?” Bree repeats.

“It’s Percy’s IP address,” he says.



The mosque in the center of Khost is alive with the sound of the call to prayer. Men from all over the city flood the main sanctuary and take their place facing Mecca. The prayers continue for ten minutes.

After prayers are over, the men congregate to discuss everything from world events, and the price of oil, to marriage arrangements.

Kurt, one of the army soldiers assisting Michael, is dressed in traditional Muslim garb. His dark features and tan skin help him blend in with the crowd.

He has just finished his performance of the Muslim prayer Salat and is now mingling with the crowd. Several men are involved in a heated discussion about the unrest in other parts of the Middle East.

Kurt maneuvers closer. He accidently trips and falls against a man in the crowd.

“Forgive my clumsiness,” Kurt says in perfect Farsi.

“Fine, fine,” the man says as he helps Kurt stand up straight.

No one notices the small camera device Kurt has planted on the stranger.

Kurt circles around the small sanctuary and identifies another man in the crowd. He implements the same stumbling act and plants yet another camera on the man.

Kurt heads to the south entrance. There, he meets up with Mac, the other soldier assisting in the mission. Kurt nods at Mac and they both slip out of the mosque and back down the street.



Bree finally leaves the Ops Center. It’s 4 a.m. She’s been up all night working with Birkhoff. She’s anxious to check her new worm. On her way back to her room, she sneaks into the computer lab.

She quickly rummages through the stockpile of old computers. Finally, she finds a compatible hard drive. She quickly secures the new hard drive and heads to her room.



Owen slips from the property room and out into the main hallway. It’s a little after one o’clock. He just has to make it down to the first floor and to his car.

He pushes the elevator button on the third floor. He notices someone coming up behind him. He turns to see the beautiful young woman from the property room.

Owen smiles at her as the elevator doors open. He lets her enter first and then follows.

“Thank you,” she says.

Owen pushes the first floor button then turns to her.

“Are you going to one?” he asks.

She nods and smiles at him. The elevator slips down to the second floor.

Suddenly, alarms sound throughout the building. The elevator abruptly stops. The power is cut and emergency lighting kicks in.

“What’s happening?” Owen asks frantically.

“Did you remove anything from the property room?” she asks in a panic.

“Yes but so did you,” he says.

“Critical pieces are tagged with GPS,” she says. “An alarm sounds if they leave the third floor.”

Owen pulls the Black Box out and looks for the GPS device. He can’t find anything on the exterior that looks like a tracking device.

Immediately, he hears sounds in the elevator shaft above him.

“They know you’re in here,” she says.

Owen gives her a panicked look.

“Do you know where it’s tagged?” he asks.

“You’re kidding right?” she says. “Who are you?”

“I work for a branch of the U.S. Government called Division,” he lies. “Black Ops. This device holds secrets that will jeopardize national security. The CIA stumbled across it by mistake. We want it back.”

Owen hears the sound of boots landing on the roof of the elevator.

“Even if I believed your story,” she says. “You’re trapped.”

Owen hears the sound of someone trying to pry open the trap door on the elevator roof.

“What’s your name?” he frantically asks.

“Megan,” she tells him.

Owen grabs both her arms and gently shakes her.

“Megan,” he says. “Look at me. Do you want to help me?”



Michael and Nikita greet Kurt and Mac as they return from the mosque. Kurt gives them the thumbs up. They all circle around the computer screens.

“Sludge,” Michael calls out. “Anything?”

“Sending the four camera views now,” Sludge says through the computer speakers.

Instantly, they watch as the camera views of the interior of the building where Mark is being held pop on the screen.

“I’ve isolated the key positions and am sending those now,” Sludge says. “Main entrance, back exit, all three floors and where they’re holding Mark.”

Michael studies the screen for several seconds. He sees the floor where Mark is being held captive.

“What is that?” Kurt asks.

“Some kind of a box,” Nikita says.

“Sludge,” Michael says. “It’s tonight.”

“I’ll be ready,” he says.



Nikita sneaks down an alley. She stops along the far wall of the building where Mark is being held prisoner. Her face is covered in black face paint. She’s got a GSM earpiece in her left ear and a skull cap pulled down to cover her hair.

“I’m in position,” she whispers.

“Check that,” Michael says.

“I’m in position”, Kurt says from his lookout at the front of the building.

“Ditto,” says Mac.

“Copy,” Michael says.

In the distance, they can hear the sound of heavy metal music blaring.

“Both entrances are guarded,” Sludge whispers in their earpieces. “Back door to the right and front door head on.”

“Move out,” Michael says and with that, all four converge on the building.

Nikita rushes through the back entrance. The guard is sitting on the main staircase reading a newspaper. Before he can notice her, Nikita pulls a knife and throws it at the guard. It plunges deep into his chest preventing him from taking a breath. He gasps. Then, falls backward and slips down the stairs.

Michael, Kurt, and Mac quietly meet up with her.

“Two down,” Michael whispers over the sound of Metallica blaring above them.

Michael silently leads them up the stairs. They round the second floor landing and Michael signals for them to stop. He looks around the corner. They don’t see the third guard.

“Sludge,” Michael whispers.

“Peeing,” Sludge says.

Michael signals for the team to wait. He tiptoes down the hallway to the toilet. He pushes open the door.

Michael sees the man standing in front of the urinal, his back to him. He fires a single shot. The bullet pierces the man’s back. He falls.

“Status,” Michael whispers as he catches up to Nikita, Kurt, and Mac as they wait on the stairs.

“Still no sign of Bhushan,” Sludge says.

Everyone nods their acknowledgement to Michael. He signals for them to ascend the last flight of stairs.

Nikita takes the lead this time. She hugs the wall as she moves toward the third floor landing. Her gun is drawn and she holds it directly in front of her.

She rounds the corner to take the last ten steps. Suddenly, she sees Mohammad walking straight for her. He stops when he sees her.

“Intruders,” he shouts in Farsi.

Nikita fires and Mohammad falls before he can pull his handgun from his waistband. The last guard and Mohammad’s brother, Ahmed, grab their weapons. Gunfire explodes in the room.

Michael leaps around Nikita and sprays the scene with bullets. Kurt and Mac move up the stairs behind Michael. Nikita lunges into the room sliding on the floor. She fires in Ahmed’s direction but he’s taken cover behind the box housing Mark.

Michael signals for his team to seek cover. He and Nikita hide in a small room off the main corridor. Kurt and Mac take up positions on the opposite side of the box from Ahmed.

“What are the chances that thing’s bullet proof?” Michael whispers to Nikita.

“I’d say zero,” she adds.

She signals a new plan to Michael. He covers for her as she moves out of the room and across the hall.
“Sludge,” Michael whispers.

“I see a window,” Sludge says.

“What about the cell?” Michael asks.

“No,” Sludge tells them.

Nikita signals again and then disappears down the main corridor.

“You’re trapped,” Michael calls out to Ahmed over the loud music. “You can end this now.”

“It ends with your brother’s death,” Ahmed says.

“Kasim deserved to die,” Michael says. “And you know it.”

“Perhaps your brother deserves to die as well,” Ahmed calls back.

“He’s innocent of my crimes,” Michael says. “Just like my wife and daughter.”

“Collateral damage,” Ahmed says. “The cost of knowing you.”

Suddenly, rapid gun fire explodes from outside the window by Mark’s cell. The glass shatters as Nikita jumps feet first from the outside ledge. Kurt and Mac split off and fire from their positions behind the cell and attack the guard. He quickly falls from multiple gunshots wounds.

Michael charges Ahmed’s position. He is caught off guard. Michael shoots him point blank. He falls, his eyes still open.

Michael looks at Nikita as she pulls off her skull cap and lets her hair fall down her back. He looks around the room. The music is now painfully loud. Michael fires multiple rounds at the stereo in the far corner of the room. Suddenly, the room goes quiet.

“Mark,” Michael calls out as he gently taps on the box.

There is no response.

Quickly, Nikita and Michael drop their weapons and rush to the box. Kurt and Mac follow.

“I don’t see any booby traps,” Kurt offers.

“It’s as if they built it around him,” Michael says as he searches for any type of entrance.

“We need him out of there now,” Nikita says.

“Sludge,” Michael says. “Any sign of Bhushan?”

“None,” Sludge says in their earpieces.

Nikita pulls out several small explosive devices from her pocket and hands them to Michael. Together, they arm the explosives and place them along the side of the box.
“Find cover,” he calls out.

Kurt and Mac move to the far end of the room and crouch down. Nikita and Michael take cover by the staircase. After ten seconds, the devices expel very small charges that destroy the key supports for one side of the box.

They rush to survey the situation. Michael wedges the barrel of his M-16 into the damaged box. Kurt does the same on the opposite side. They pull until the side breaks off exposing the inside of the cell.

A pungent smell permeates the room. Mark is hunched in the corner. Michael crouches down and enters the box. He checks Mark’s pulse. It’s dangerously slow.

“He’s alive,” Michael says.

Nikita crawls in and helps Michael lift Mark out of the box. They gently lay him on the floor.

“Bhushan,” Sludge says into their ears.



Bree replaces the crashed hard drive on her contraband laptop. Her new worm has been running for several hours now and she’s anxious to see if she’s been successful.

She accesses ShadowNet and locates a prompt. She types the worm address. The program pops open. She’s in.

She’s set up the detection sensors, the search for the encryption software, and she activates an internal self-destruct in case of detection.

Now, she waits.



A CIA SWAT team breaks through the ceiling of the elevator. Owen and Megan are waiting for them.

“Don’t move,” the team captain shouts.

Owen and Megan look at each other. The captain waves a detection wand at Owen. It’s silent. He then waves it over Megan’s bag. The device makes a series of loud buzzes.

“Ma’am,” the captain says. “You’re going to have to come with us.”

“We’re secure,” the captain says into his 2-way.

Suddenly the power pops back on and the elevator descends to the first floor. The doors open and the SWAT team escorts Megan out.

“Sorry, Sir,” the captain says to Owen.

Then, he follows after his SWAT team. Owen watches Megan round the corner to the security office. She glances at him one last time before she disappears.



Bhushan enters the building. It’s quiet. He realizes something’s wrong.

He pulls out his cell phone and calls Mohammad. The call goes straight to voicemail. He walks down the first floor hallway by the staircase and listens. There’s complete silence.

He pulls out his gun and begins to ascend the stairs. He sees nothing as he walks up to the third floor.

At the top of the landing, he peers around the corner. He sees the box housing his prisoner but the rest of the floor is deserted.

He walks over to the box and bangs on the side wall.

“Can you hear me?” Bhushan asks.

“Perfectly,” a voice says from behind him.

Bhushan turns and Mark fires three shots. Nikita and Michael hold Mark steady as he watches Bhushan fall to the ground dead.

“Sludge,” Michael says. “We need extraction in five.”

“Done,” Sludge calls back.



Owen unlocks the door to his rental car and slides behind the wheel. His hands are shaking. He places them on the steering wheel just to steady them. Then, he pulls the Black Box from his coat pocket and locks it in the glove box. He starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot.

He quickly realizes he needs a drink.



Bree is restless. The chess match she’s playing with Birkhoff over their hacks is keeping her on edge. She thought about skipping dinner but needs the distraction.

The food line in the cafeteria is long but it appears to be moving fast. She grabs a tray and some silverware and looks down at today’s selections. Bree grabs the meatloaf with mash potatoes and a container of milk and looks around for a familiar face to dine with.

Suddenly, she sees Birkhoff sitting alone. He doesn’t see her at first. She stops for a split second and then walks over to his table and sits down. Birkhoff is startled when he sees her. No one ever sits with him.

“If I get food poisoning,” she says. “Can I get out of this place?”

Birkhoff looks at her tray and then into her eyes.

“We have a working hospital on the premises,” he quietly says.

“What about an alien invasion?” she asks.

Birkhoff snickers for a moment.

“There’s only two ways out of this place for you,” he shares. “Field agent or a pine box.”

“Why do you work here?” she sincerely asks. “I mean really. It has to seem like prison to you too.”

“Actually,” he says. “This was my alternative to prison.”

“Let me guess,” she says. “It was a Ponzi scheme, bank fraud, or money laundering. Am I right?”

“I hacked the DOD and stirred up some trouble for one of our nuclear submarines,” he says.

“No ****?” she replies.

“I was trying to make a point about the futility of our dependence on computers,” he says.

“Interesting way of going about it,” she adds.

“I was young,” he tells her. “Anyway, I was offered twenty years in prison or an opportunity to serve my country in a more appropriate way.”

“What makes this appropriate?” Bree asks.

“I didn’t really care,” Birkhoff says. “Percy approached me and it seemed like the right decision at the time.”

“Is it still the right decision?” she asks.

“I ask myself that every day,” he says, a sadness to his voice.

“Aren’t you here kind of late tonight?” she asks. “Tell me you’re not pulling another all-nighter.”

“I’m going fishing,” he replies.

“What?” she asks with a hint of panic to her voice.

“I’m installing a little program I whipped up to identify any new code added to the network,” he says. “Should be an interesting night.”



Percy enters Michael’s office.

“Congratulations,” he says.

“For?” Michael asks.

“Not only were you able to rescue your brother,” Percy says. “But you were able to garner favor with Mr. Barton.”

Michael leans back in his chair and studies Percy.

“Division garnered favor,” Michael says.

“Don’t kid yourself, Michael,” Percy offers. “His attitude toward Division hasn’t changed; only his opinion of you.

“Are you worried about what he can do to Division?” Michael asks.

“Yes,” Percy replies. “But maybe not for long.”

“What exactly does that mean?” Michael asks.

“We’re close to eliminated the CIA as a threat,” Percy confides

“How close?” Michael asks.

Percy just smiles.



“Jameson,” Owen tells the bartender.

Owen looks around the bar. This is not the typically dive he frequents. He prefers dark secluded places that specialize in shots. This is more like Olive Garden.

“You found it,” Megan says.

Owen turns to see her.

“I promised you a drink,” he says. “I pay my debts.”

The bartender returns with Owen’s scotch and Megan orders a martini.

“You alright?” he asks.

“Yes,” she says. “They said it must’ve been human error, and let me go.”

“I’m not quite sure why you helped me,” Owen says.

“I’m not sure either,” she says.

“I feel very fortunate,” Owen says sincerely.

The bartender brings Megan’s drink. Owen taps his glass to hers.

“Thank you,” he says just above a whisper.

“You’re welcome,” she offers also at a whisper.

“Are you a field agent?” Owen asks.

“No,” Megan says. “I’m an encryption specialist but I do some intellectual property forensics as well.”

Owen is shocked. Of all the people he could’ve run into at the CIA, he picked a person that could actually decipher the Black Box.

“Forgive me but you’re too pretty for system’s work,” Owen says.

Megan grins.

“You think I should be a spy?” she asks.

“Definitely,” Owen says.

“Care to share what Division does?” she asks.

“I’m afraid you don’t want to know,” Owen says. “Could keep you up at night.”

Megan studies his face for a moment.

“Have you ever killed anyone?” she boldly asks.

Owen is shocked by her bluntness.

“You’re not afraid of me are you?” Owen asks.

“Answer the question,” she pushes.

“Yes,” he says. He watches her face for a reaction. To his surprise she doesn’t appear shocked.

“Would you have shot your way out of that elevator?” she asks.

Owen says nothing. He smiles and takes another sip of his drink.



It’s after 1 a.m. when Bree walks into Operations. Birkhoff is studying the messages on his desktop computer screen.

“What in the hell are you doing here?” Birkhoff says with complete surprise when he notices her. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

“I thought you might need some help,” she replies.

“How did you get passed Security?” he asks.

“I lied,” she says.

“That’s a sin, you know,” Birkhoff says with a smile.

He’s actually glad to see her.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she says.

Birkhoff walks over to one of the computers and pulls out the chair for her. She pops in the chair and faces the screen. Birkhoff leans over her and keys a few lines on the keyboard. The screen comes alive.

“I’m almost done,” he tells her. “But you can keep me company.”

Bree suddenly gets a lump in her throat.

“So you’re close to finding the hack?” she asks her voice shaking ever so slightly.

“Very,” he adds.

“How do you do it?” she asks curious about his methods.

“Fingerprints,” he says.

“But I don’t understand,” she says a bit more panicked.

“Someone’s leaving fingerprints all over the system,” he says.

“But how?” she asks.

“It’s not as tough as it seems,” he says. “Hackers have characteristics or identities just like we do in the real world.”

Bree’s heart begins to race.

“I’ve created a database of those characteristics and a program to identify the particular hacker,” he continues.

“Actually,” she says even more panicked. “It just hit me how tired I am. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to head to bed.”

“You can’t,” he says confused. “I’m too close. You’ll miss all the excitement.”

“What kind of excitement?” she cautiously asks.

“Percy won’t let this type of attack go unpunished,” he says. “As soon as I let him know who it is, they are as good as dead.”

Birkhoff doesn’t notice Bree’s mounting apprehension. He’s too involved in the hunt and the kill. He rushes back to his workstation and continues to study his screen as his program slowly reaches the end of its search.

“You can tell me all about it in the morning,” she says trying to stay calm.

Birkhoff didn’t hear her last comment and she’s actually glad. She slowly gets up from her chair. Birkhoff doesn’t notice her. She slowly backs away from the workstation. She turns and quietly takes the five steps to the catwalk above Operations.

Abruptly, the program stops and Birkhoff’s screen goes black. A small box appears. A message slowly scrolls out within the box.

Birkhoff studies it intently for several seconds. His mouth drops open. He slowly stands. Then, he turns to face Bree but she’s gone.

He looks up to see her running the length of the catwalk. She pushes through the Ops Center door. Birkhoff chases after her. She’s down the hall at break neck speed and lunges at her room door. Birkhoff is right behind her. She turns and puts all her weight on the door. But, Birkhoff forces his way into her room and stands before her.

She looks scared yet defiant.

“I’m not going to die tonight,” she tells him.

Birkhoff’s expression softens.

“You’re a plant,” he speculates. “Who do you work for?”

Bree is silent.

“You’ve put on a great act,” he tells her still in shock.

“If anything happens to me,” she says. “This place will be torched.”

“For some unknown reason,” he says. “I believe you.”

Birkhoff studies her for a moment and then walks over to her bed and sits down. She’s surprised.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“Trying to figure out how we’re going to get you out of here,” he says.



Michael passes through the sliding doors of New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. He takes the elevator up to the sixth floor and passes the nurse’s station. Several of the nurses smile at him as he walks by.

He pushes open the door to the last room at the end of the hall. He’s startled to see Nikita sleeping in a chair in the corner. She’s returned to wearing her short red wig as she moves about New York and he likes the way it looks on her.

He quietly walks over. He bends down and presses his lips to hers. The sensation is just enough to wake her and she smiles at him. She slowly stands and stretches ever so slightly.

They both look at Mark. He’s sleeping. There are plastic tubes protruding from his nose and arms. His legs are in casts suspended over the bed. He’s receiving blood and narcotics intravenously and the bags hang over his head.

Michael turns back to look at Nikita.

“What are you doing here?” Michael asks in a whisper.

“I don’t know,” she says. “I think I wanted to be here if he woke up. Sound crazy?”

“No,” he says.

“What would you say if he woke up?” Michael asks.

“What’s new?” she teases.

“Perhaps you should point out how you saved his life,” Michael adds.

“Maybe best to leave me out of it,” she says.

“No,” Michael says with a more serious look now. “He needs to know. I want him to know.”

“I hate to shatter your elevated opinion of me,” she says. “But I didn’t do it for him.”

Michael moves closer.

“I know,” he whispers.

He places his hand against her cheek and gently caresses. He moves closer and places a warm kiss on her forehead. He lingers in the kiss for several seconds and then looks into her eyes.

“I love you,” he whispers.



Owen walks Megan to her car. It’s midnight. What started out as a drink quickly moved to dinner.

“Thank you for dinner,” she says when they arrive at her black Saturn Sky.

“Small price to pay for freedom,” he says.

Megan smiles and bends down to open her car door. Before she slips in, she turns back to Owen.

“What’s in the Black Box?” she asks.

Owen leans close to her and quickly weaves his hand into the hair on the back of her neck. He pulls her mouth to his. Megan is surprised but doesn’t resist. His lips are supple and inviting. Her soft tongue finds the warmth of his mouth and Owen hears a small sigh catch in her throat. He gently pulls away from her.

“Conspiracy,” he says.

“Wait,” she whispers.

She pulls him closer and moves her mouth to return his kiss.

Suddenly, Owen’s rental car explodes.
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