JAYBEE AND DEBBIEBIV'S STORIES

Sometimes When We Touch




The wind was howling outside, but that was nothing compared to the storm that was raging inside her. Nikita was torn, ripped asunder like small bits of tissue paper as she had been so many times before. Her tender, gentle heart as mashed as the potatoes she had eaten with her dinner that night. Why did he always have the power to do this to her? Why? Why? Wasn't it enough that she killed the bad guys on his command and Section's? Did he have to be so cold to her as well?

Why did she always let him affect her with his coldness? Why was she so surprised? Shaking herself mentally, she got up from her perch on the seat and walked over to her radio system and turned it on. It was on a rock station and she was blown away as the words hit. Gasped at the pain as they penetrated her mind. The Toni Basil song was one of her favourites.

'Oh Mickey you're so fine,
You're so fine you blow my mind
Hey Mickey! Hey Mickey!
Oh Mickey you're so fine,
You're so fine you blow my mind.
Hey Mickey! Hey Mickey!

Oh Mickey you're so pretty
You don't understand.
You take me by the heart
And you take me by the hand...'

The song continued to play in the background as she walked around her room, staring at the nothingness of her walls.

So blank, so plain, so empty were the walls, just like her life. She swallowed, feeling a lump of melancholy rise in the back of her throat, but then she frowned. The walls weren't entirely blank.... She cocked her head, staring, and could just barely make out the pattern of little black dots. Then she crossed her eyes, and it got slightly clearer. Finally, she stuck out her tongue, and then she saw it! Words, sinister phrases, hidden in her wall!

Too much junk food is bad for your complexion.

Gasping in horror, she spun around to look at another wall.

Be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

Quaking in fear, she looked at the ceiling.

Don't forget to take your vitamins.

Damn them!!!! And their nefarious subliminal manipulation! Why wouldn't they leave her alone? Isn't it enough that she did what they told her? What more did they want?????

With a cry of rage, and a flourish of her flaxen locks, she rushed to her kitchen counter and yanked out one of the drawers, snatching out a plastic bag full of chocolate kisses. Hands shaking, she unwrapped a handful and stuffed them defiantly into her mouth.

"Take that, Operations!" she shrieked, smacking her mouth loudly as she chewed.

She ate another handful, larger than the first.

"And that's for you, Madeline! You might be able to take my life, but you'll never take my soul!!!!"

Enraged, but bravely defiant, she snarfed down the entire bag. Satisfied, she looked at the empty bag, and then a sob escaped. Chocolate kisses. Just like Michael's. Except, well, chocolate. Tears began to fill her eyes, when she heard a knock at the door. Now what?

She marched to the door and flung it open.

"Ahhh," said Mick, looking at the angry look in her sky-blue eyes and the chocolate smears all over her face, "it must be that time of the month, eh lollipop?"

"What is it Mick? Whaddaya want?" Nikita asked despondently, trying to hide the anger in her heart and the chocolate around her mouth, which in turn hid the chocolate that was now in her stomach.

"Oh, my sweet little Gummi Bear with marshmallow centres, how you continue to wound me with your icy, icy coldness! Tell ole uncle Micky-poo just exactly what is troubling you? Is it that nasty Section again?" Mick continued, pushing past a semi-reluctant Nikita to enter her apartment.

Walking into the room, Mick stopped when he got to her sofa and flopped himself down on it. Resting one arm along the back of the couch, he patted the seat with his other hand and continued cajolingly, "Come sit beside me, my funny-honey-love-button-with-almond-nut-sprinkles. Tell me all about it. I'm all yours. Ready to listen to all your terrible woes. On the ever ready to staunchly defend you at all costs. Standing by your side in the face of adversity. All for one and one for all. No matter how big or how small the problem, I'm there for you Bunnykins. Through snow and sleet and wind and rain and fire and hail and drought and famine and hot and cold. I am there for you...."

"Enough!" cried Nikita. "I get it, Mick, I understand...." and then she stopped as a memory hit her like a giant tidal wave. Michael had sat on that very same sofa just last week, his mouth curving in a seductive smile, his eyes twinkling as she moved to straddle him.... Collapsing on the floor in grief, she sobbed her heart out as Mick sat there watching helplessly.

************

"There you go, sweetie," Madeline cooed, placing a tiny designer hat and coat on one of her beloved bonsai. "Mommy doesn't want you catching cold, now does she?”

She jumped, startled, as she heard her office door swoosh open, and spun around abruptly so that her back hid the dressed-up plant. Operations. Of course. Why couldn't he ever knock?

He eyed her warily as she stood by the row of plants.

"I swear you pay more attention to those things than you do to me," he muttered, wishing he had a cigarette.

"Of course not," she laughed breathlessly. "Don't be silly." She frowned. "Did you want something?"

"You're the one who asked me to come down here," he reminded her, wishing again that he had a cigarette.

"Oh, yes. That's right." She walked swiftly over to her computer and tapped a few keys. She then swung the monitor around so that he could see the footage of Nikita gorging orgiastically on chocolate. "Our plan is working," she said smugly. "Soon, she'll be so fat and unhealthy that Michael won't even look at her."

"Excellent!" Operations said, rubbing his hands in diabolical glee. "So the reverse subliminal programming works!"

"Yes. She's so obstinate that she'll do the opposite of whatever we command."

He sneered triumphantly for a few moments, striking a malevolent dark-lord-of-the-universe pose with his hands in the pockets of his Armani suit, as he wished once more that he had a cigarette. But then he frowned. "Remind me again, why are we doing this?"

She sighed in exasperation and rolled her eyes. "Because..." she started, but then frowned herself. Why was it? Was it because Nikita's thrift-store wardrobe offended her refined sense of fashion? Because Michael's efficiency had declined .0000000000054 percent? Because seeing Walter leer like a sixty-year-old teenager made her ill? All of those things were true, but they weren't the real reason. "Because we can," she said with a sadistic smile. Yes, that was it.

Operations nodded knowingly. Then a wicked gleam lit up his pale blue eyes, and he bent over to start nibbling on her neck. She pushed him away coldly, and he sighed. Why, why did she always have to torment him so?

"Here," she said, pushing him several feet away and turning him to the side. She then stepped toward him, unbuttoned her jacket, and then seized his head and thrust it against her chest. "The camera angle's better this way."

He looked up and smiled. "What, is George watching again?"

"No. I've had Birkoff set up a live web-cam. We charge $2.99 per minute. So far, we've brought in enough revenue to open up three new substations."

Pulling back suddenly, Operations stared at her with his mouth open in a gob-smacked expression. His long, hard, skilful fingers continued to caress a path from one of her pink tipped breasts to the other as he started, "Madeline! How could you? I am absolutely horrified to think that you think that I think that you think so little of our love that you would broadcast our passionate, lust-filled, erotic sessions to the whole world!"

Bending her back slightly over his arm, he continued his sensual ministrations as he continued to gaze into her face. Which was starting to look a little flushed, with her cheeks pink-tinged, flushed looking, and a little moan and groan escaping as he pinched a bit, as he continued, licking his lips lasciviously, "And I can't believe that you would actually put the money you've made on this little venture back into Section coffers!" Manoeuvring himself back while keeping a steady stroking rhythm on her upper torso, he laid her gently upon her desk as he continued, "Why, with the money I've got from the live web-cam feeds in the Tower and the Perch, I've managed to buy you a little present."

Deftly moving his hand down to her skirt, he raised it up as Madeline breathlessly groaned, "Oh Paullll...you mean...," stopping on that note to stifle an erotic moan as he snapped her garter belt quickly three times against her leg.

"Yes, my love muffin, I have managed to purchase you the islands of the Philippines, along with various companies around the world. As soon as we are rid of the pesky Michael and Nikita problem, you will become the first Armani-clad, Manolo Blahnik-wearing, MAC-accessorised, Queen of your own country. And I believe that the shoe shopping there is to die for!"

************

Michael was despondent, his heart pounding despondently in his manly chest as he sat in his office, surfing the net and avidly watching the new web-cam site he had stumbled across - "Office Lust One", as he thought of his dear, darling, beloved Nikita. It was so cruel what he did to her. And their song kept running through his mind.

‘The Love Shack is a little old place where we can get together
Love Shack baby! Love Shack, that's where it's at!
Huggin' and a kissin', dancin' and a lovin', wearin' next to nothing
Cause it's hot as an oven
The whole shack shimmies! The whole shack shimmies when everybody's
Movin' around and around and around!’

Yes, those poignant verses of the B-52s truly captured the despondence that he felt so despondently every time he thought of his visits to Nikita's apartment. The Love Shack. Yes, that's what it was. Or rather, what it would be, if he weren't such a deceitful cad, manipulating and stomping on her heart as the Section's dutiful errand boy. She deserved better. He deserved better. Or, no, he didn't deserve better, because he was a deceitful cad, but she deserved better, which meant that he deserved better, too. Or something like that.

He was just about to sigh despondently when he heard a knock at his door. He looked up in curiosity as the door swung open and Davenport stepped inside. The bald, goateed muscle-man stared at the floor, shuffling his feet and clearing his throat nervously, but then looked back at Michael.

"Uh, Michael," Davenport said. "I need your help with something."

Michael looked patiently at Davenport in response.

"Um, you see, I've been ordered to cancel you again. Could you do me a favor and just freeze in place for a moment while I shoot you?"

Michael continued to sit silently, unmoving.

Davenport pulled out a sawed-off shotgun from behind his back, aimed it directly at Michael's chest, and pulled the trigger repeatedly and furiously until he ran out of ammo. The force of the blasts sent Davenport jerking uncontrollably backwards; eventually, he crashed into the wall behind him and toppled over.

When the smoke cleared, Michael stood, walked over to Davenport, and offered the other man a hand to help him up. "Your aim was a bit off," he assessed sombrely.

Tears of gratitude filled Davenport's eyes. "Man, you really are the best."

************

When Nikita finally stopped crying, she looked up at Mick. Perhaps she should tell him what was going on. She could use a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. After all, there was no one else she could talk to. Well, there was Walter. And Birkoff. But they weren't here, and Mick was.

"Operations and Madeline are trying to brainwash me again," she sighed.

"Oh, like when they made you fall in love with that terrorist sleazeball by making you picture him as Michael?"

"Yes, exactly! But how did you know about that?"

"Well, my scrumptious little chocolate truffle, you know how you've been leaving little scribbled notes for Centre in the flowerpot inside the front lobby of our building every time Operations does something that threatens the well-being of Section? Like bleaching his hair so atrociously that it nearly made everyone go blind?"

"Yes," she answered suspiciously.

"I've been the one retrieving your messages, my delectable cotton candy swirl. So I know all about each and every one of your complaints."

"Ohhhhh," she said, nodding. "So you're an agent for Centre, too."

"In a manner of speaking, smoochie-poochiekins." Suddenly, he dropped the Mick persona and straightened his posture. "Actually," he confided gravely, dropping his voice an octave to emphasize just how very, very grave this information was indeed, "I'm Mr. Jones."

"Who?"

"Mr. Jones - the head of Centre. The Grand Poobah. The suzerain of all I survey. The super-secretest spook of them all."

Nikita made a face and then doubled over with a painful snort of laughter.

"Yeah, right!"

"No, I'm quite serious." He frowned. How could she doubt him? He had used his ultra-grave voice, the kind that always got standing ovations when he did dinner theatre. "Mick is only my alter ego, used so that I can monitor my underlings without their suspecting anything."

Nikita rolled around the floor in hysterics, tears streaming down her face.

"Okay, Mick, you're a funny guy, but that one takes the cake. Why, the only thing that would be more ridiculous would be if you told me that the head of Centre was my long-lost father."

"Um...."

"Or that Birkoff has an identical twin brother who also happens to be a computer genius, except that he has a really silly accent."

"All right, now that's ridiculous. Please, don't insult my intelligence.” He reached for his wallet and pulled out a business card, handing it to Nikita. "Here. This should prove who I am beyond a doubt."

Mr. James Earl Jones
Chief Bigwig
The Agency
Tel: Highly classified
Email: don’teventhinkaboutspammingme@centre.org

Nikita looked up and gasped. "Wow! You really are the head of Centre. But why are you telling me this now?"

"Because I want you to begin a secret mission, spying on Section One."

"But I'm already on a secret mission spying on Section One."

"Ah, yes," he said, frowning. "Well, I want you to start a second secret mission spying on Section One. And this one is much more dangerous," Mick continued, licking his lips at the thought of more covert spying. "This mission will be to spy on the mission to spy on Section One. It is a lot, lot, lot, lot, lot, more dangerous."

"More dangerous?" Nikita was dumbstruck with incredulity. "How is that possible? And more importantly will I get to wear some cool new hats and sunnies?"

"Ah yes, my little chocolate dipped, blonde-haired, brussel sprout, you can have as many new hats and sunnies as your heart's content. In fact, why don't we go out shopping right now? I'd like your input into some new pink chintz drapes that I'm thinking of putting around the windows and on the roof in my hot-tub room." Mick looked Nikita lasciviously up and down as he continued, "Oh yeah, my sherbet-filled all day sucker, I really want you in that room! I mean I want your input in that room. What else could I mean?"

Clapping her hands enthusiastically, Nikita smiled and answered, "Oh goody, goody gum-drops - SHOPPING!"

************

Walter whistled while he worked. Just whistled while he worked. It was another great day in Section. The sun was shining - well ok, so he was situated in a windowless room three miles underground and really didn't know if the sun was shining. The birds were singing - ok, so once again, that three miles thingy. The bees were buzzing - hang on, three miles; flowers were blooming - bloody three miles again. But wait, Walter paused in thought, I may be able to swing this one cause Madeline does have those pot-plants in her office! Satisfied that he was justified in his thought processes, Walter went back to his whistling while he worked. Just continued whistling while he worked.

And as he continued his happy whistling, he failed to notice all those cute little cartoon-like characters milling around him. They seemed to come out of the woodwork. Rabbits and skunks and deer and Bambi and ducks and geese were all in a flurry. And then, from out of the blue came the pink-tipped surrey. The surrey with a fringe on top. All of them were sitting down and listening and watching Walter whistle happily while he worked. Just listening to him whistle while he worked. Looking at each other and smiling and giggling and - suddenly they froze in shock, a look of utter horror crossing all their faces at the same time, scattering them all in various and different directions. Back into the woodwork as the sounds of CFM pumps clicking on the floor echoed.

Madeline glided effortlessly into Walter's work area, and leaning slightly on his workbench, and breathed quietly in that really quiet scary voice that she could get with no trouble at all, "Walter, do you have my chloral hydrate ready?"

"Suuuuuuure," he said, handing over a bottle of liquid and a dropper. "Whatcha gonna use this stuff for, anyway? There are a lot better sedatives than this available."

"Yes, but this mixes so well into drinks. Like alcohol. Or coffee." She smiled sweetly.

He gulped. "C-c-coffee?"

She didn't answer, but just continued to smile that enigmatic but sinister smile for several seconds; she then turned sharply and walked off, heels clicking ominously into the distance.

I've got to warn Nikita and Michael! Walter thought in a panic.

************

Taking a deep breath, Michael tapped lightly on Nikita's door. He had finally worked up the courage to go to her apartment and declare his undying love, to pledge to no longer trick and manipulate her, to get down on his knees and beg her forgiveness - but where was she? She wasn't answering the door - was she ignoring him? Had she given up on him in frustration over the cold, cruel way he abused her emotionally and twisted her feelings to serve the (admittedly just) ends of their ruthless-means-using masters? Sighing, he turned to leave - but paused. No! He would not be kept from her side any longer!

Lifting and tensing the supple but strong muscles of his well-developed thigh, he kicked the door to the apartment open and strode determinedly inside. He stood in the centre of the room, smouldering with a musky sensuality as he ran his hand through the soft dark locks of his hair, beads of sweat forming on his perfectly chiselled brow and dripping down to his slightly stubbled but firm jaw, which he clenched and unclenched in fierce determination to defeat all obstacles to his eternal love. He slowly unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt and flexed his gleaming pectorals - until he realized that she wasn't home. Merde! All that wasted effort posing!

He relaxed and flopped onto the couch to wait, looking in vain for a magazine - anything - to pass the time until the love of his life returned. Nothing. Well, what could you expect from someone who didn’t have much of an internal life? So he stared glumly at the walls. Stared. Glumly.

Funny, he thought. Why does she have all those black magic marker dots on her walls spelling out basic tips for healthy living?

Before he could ponder this question any further, the door opened - no wait, he had kicked down the door - two figures stepped through the opening where the door once stood. His heart leapt with joy - Nikita! But then his heart landed with a dismal thwack - and Mick. Ugh.

He watched as they set down the five dozen shopping bags they each carried - and then, his Section-trained and mission-honed powers of observation noticed something deeply disturbing. Eerily ominous. Fearfully frightening. Spookily scary.

He jumped up and seized Mick around the neck, lifting him bodily into the air and shaking him about like a little - but bald - rag doll.

"Where did you get those black magic marker stains on your fingers?" he demanded.

"Aaaccchhhherrrrrarghhhhhh," Mick gasped, strangling.

Michael opened his hand and Mick plummeted to the floor in a crumpled heap.

"You will answer," Michael said, bending over Mick threateningly. "Or you will die."

"Michael!" Nikita screamed. "No - what are you doing? How could you attack this poor innocent man, you big bully? You are at least 10 inches taller than he is; your hair is thicker and longer than his is. Your muscles ripple so much more than his do. You wear your jeans down lower on your hips than he does, with a backside so much tighter and firmer than his is. Your green eyes twinkle so much more than his do...hang on, just what colour are your eyes, Mick?"

The only response that Mick was able to give was a small pained groan, which increased to a pained scream as Nikita whirled around to stare at Michael, inadvertently standing on Mick's hand with her 12 inch spiked heel CFM boots with the gold lame faux fur trim in hot fluoro blue. She continued with her tirade, "And how did you get in anyway? I had Walter install an anti-Michael-cold-cruel-operative locking device on my door so that you would be unable to enter my apartment and break my heart once again with your cruel, cruel lies and your callous, uncaring behaviour!"

Rushing towards her with a song in his heart, Michael stopped before her and slowly caressed her cheek, grabbing her other hand with his and doing some sort of little hand-dance thingy as he replied, "Oh, my one true love. The light of my life that gives me hopes to carry on. You light up my days and fill my nights with song. Didn't you know that the anti-Michael-cold-cruel-operative-locking device is rendered useless in the face of a true and powerful love? Wild horses couldn't keep me away from your glorious beauteous side now that I have decided to reveal all my love to you."

He continued to gaze into her eyes, continuing the hand-dance thingy as the faint strains of the hokey-pokey could be heard emanating from his nose. It was a little known fact by Section operatives that Michael, along with all the other super-spy attributes that he had been given by god, could also whistle whole symphonies with his nose with little effort on his part. It truly was a gift from the heavens.

A groan from the slumped form of Mick startled the lovers' manoeuvres mid-hokey, as they guiltily sprang apart. Their eyes spoke volumes between them as their minds echoed the unspoken words 'later, we need to get rid of the dork.' They moved as if one, their hands continuing the hand-dance thingy, all the while looking at Mick, when he suddenly spoke.

"Oy, Spyboy, what's the big idea hitting me and interrupting my planned tryst with my luscious cream-filled tootsy roll!"

Michael regarded Mick as he would a buzzing fly, and contemplated tossing the man out the window so that he could return to hand-dance ecstasy. But then he remembered - by destroying the door, he had rendered it impossible to lock Mick out, to keep him from returning over and over again like an annoying flare-up of - well, some thoughts are better left unfinished.

Michael sighed and turned toward Nikita. "Let's go get some coffee," he said, his emerald-green eyes brimming with unspoken meaning.

Then he turned back toward Mick. "You. Wash all the magic marker dots off the walls, or you will die."

Mick gulped and nodded.

************

"Birkoff," Walter said in a low voice as he sidled up to the bespectacled young computer genius. "I need some help."

Birkoff looked up from his work, his mouth full of half-chewed Oreo. "Walter, I'm busy. A certain website," he said, shivering in disgust as he looked up at the Perch, "is getting so many hits that our servers are overloaded. The whole system's slowed to a crawl."

Walter leaned over and whispered in Birkoff's ear. "Michael and Nikita are in danger."

"Yeah, what else is new?" Birkoff scowled. "They're covert operatives, remember? They go out on missions, get shot at, come back with bullet holes that miraculously leave no scars on their gorgeous, tanned bodies, you know the routine."

"No, not that!" Walter whispered more insistently. "They're in danger from them," he explained, jerking his head toward the Perch.

"Oh, why didn't you say so?" Birkoff sat up straight, a look of worry filling his face.

"I want you to do a search on all active missions and see what Madeline's using the drug I just gave her for. Search on 'chloral hydrate' and 'coffee' and tell me what you find."

Birkoff's fingers clattered nimbly over the keys. Suddenly a series of file entries spun wildly down the computer screen, faster and faster, until Walter began to grow dizzy looking at it.

"Hey, Walter, can you narrow the search down a little bit?" Birkoff asked. "All the active missions involve chloral hydrate and coffee."

"Okay. Try 'chloral hydrate', 'coffee' and 'Michael'."

Again Birkoff typed and hit his enter key. "Uh-oh," he said. "This is quintuple encrypted. I'm gonna need a password." He sat back in his chair, thinking. What kind of password would Operations or Madeline come up with? Something devious. Something ambiguous. Something misleading. Something so obscure that no one would ever figure it out.

Taking a wild guess, he typed 'password'.

"It worked!" he cried. Then when he saw the contents of the file, his jaw dropped in jaw-droppingly awestruck awe. "Oh, my God, Walter. This is the Cubic Zirconium file! The one with all the secrets! We’ve hit the mother lode!"

He scrolled through the contents, unsure where to begin reading. 'Marilyn Monroe's Role in Kennedy Assassination' said one entry. 'Whereabouts of Elvis' said another. 'Area 51 Autopsy Results and Bowling Tournament Scores' said yet another.

"There!" said Walter, looking over Birkoff's shoulder. "The entry that says 'Diabolically Evil Plan to Keep Michael and Nikita Apart for No Good Reason Other Than Our Own Sick Amusement'."

Birkoff clicked his mouse on the entry and scanned through the results. "This is terrible! First, they’re subliminally conditioning Nikita so that she cares about chocolate and shopping more than she does about having sex. But even worse, they're going to slip sedatives into Michael's coffee to make him groggy, weak, sleepy, and -"

"Unable to perform!" Walter finished, gaping in horror.

************

Davenport wriggled uncomfortably and tugged at the bodice of the hot pink waitress uniform that squeezed his waist just a teensy bit too tightly. He glanced at the restaurant's staff and customers who lay bound and gagged on the floor, and then, with a sigh, brushed a stray hair of the platinum blonde wig he was wearing out of his face. When were Michael and Nikita going to show up at Michael's favourite coffee hangout? Davenport had already been waiting for hours, and he wasn't sure that he could take wearing nylons for much longer.

No one told me they'd be so hot! he thought angrily.

Of course, it was his own fault he was wearing the nylons, after all. His instructions had clearly called for one of his female team members to don the waitress disguise, but Davenport had ignored the profile. You see, Davenport had something to prove.

I can outwit Michael, he thought to himself. I know I can do it! No one believes me anymore, but I know I can!

Hearing the door to the restaurant squeal on its hinges as it opened, he peered anxiously out into the dining area. God, he hoped it wasn't another innocent bystander that he was going to have to subdue and drag into the kitchen. The last one had given him a nasty run in his hose.

Seeing the new arrivals, he relaxed. Ahhh, Michael and Nikita, taking their usual booth. Finally!

He started out toward them with his normal, manly swagger, but then remembered his disguise and switched to a dainty sashay.

Do waitresses sashay? Or are they too busy? he wondered. Oh, well, no time to think about it.

"Hello, there," he greeted them in his best falsetto, batting his eyelashes at Michael flirtatiously. "What'll ya have today?"

"Coffee. Two." Michael was so entranced with Nikita, and with twirling a lock of Nikita's silky hair in his brawny but sensitive fingers, that he didn't even look up at Davenport. Davenport felt strangely...hurt.

"With cream?" he asked breathlessly.

"Black," said Michael, still not looking up.

"Alrighty then," Davenport said, and sashayed back to the kitchen.

He poured two cups of coffee and took out the bottle of liquid that Madeline had given him. Okay, he thought, frowning in concentration. Now, I'm supposed to pour the liquid from the bottle into Michael's coffee. He turned the bottle upside-down over one of the cups and then frowned even harder. Why isn't this stuff pouring out? Hmm, maybe this bottle top thingy is in the way somehow....

"Idiot!" came an exasperated voice behind him. "Let me do zees since you are too stupide!"

He turned to see a thin woman with spiky red hair glaring at him. "Hey," he said, "I know you! Aren't you Andrea?"

She continued to glare at him balefully, her hands perched on her hips.

"Wait a minute... you’re dead!" he said, frowning.

"Mon Dieu!" She rolled her eyes. "Don't you know, zees eez LFN? No one dies - we merely deesappear for a while unteel we come back in a new form - like a long-lost seebleeng or a dangerously-misprogrammed hologram!"

He cocked his head in bewilderment. "But...you're not in a new form. You've come back as yourself!"

"Well, tie me down and brand my pretty little ass," she said, switching into an appalling imitation of a Texas twang. "Okay, okay, I'm not Andrea, I'm her clone, Luandrea. Luandrea from Lubbock. Is that better?"

"I guess so...."

But then she pursed her lips in thought and switched back to her French accent. "But wait. Errol Sparks came back from zee dead as eemself. Eef eet eez good enough for eem, eet eez good enough for me! Forget zees clone nonsense."

"Man," he said, shaking his head, "make up your mind."

Her eyes flashed in fury. "Enough! I must ave my revenge! Give me zat bottle so I can drug Michel!"

"No!" he cried, holding the bottle above his head. "I'm going to do it. I have to prove that I can do it without screwing up!"

Andrea began leaping in the air to try to snatch the bottle away, as Davenport ran frantically away from her - and straight into a table. The bottle flew from his hand and smashed into a wall, its contents spilling out irretrievably.

"Look what you ave done now, imbecile!" Andrea shrieked.

"Ohhhhh, you are in such trouble now, Madeline is gonna be so pissed with you," Davenport breathed in a sexy husky whisper as he unconsciously reverted to his role as a beautiful waitress.

"Wiz me! It waz you, you imbeeezzilee!" roared Andrea, her accent becoming even more gutteral as her rage increased. "But wait, maybeee we can subzitute zomezing else. I know, I ave ere in my utility belt zat I borrowed from ze set of zat ozer show Weetchblade. It containz two azprin, three ticky-tacs, and a chamomile tea bag." She continued on excitedly, "It will not take me too long to whip up a little subzitute now that will work just az well." And off she went to make her evil concoction for our poor unsuspecting heroes.

By this time, Davenport had lost interest in what she was doing, having caught a glimpse of himself in a shiny coffee pot and realised that his lipstick shade was all wrong. Cherry Red clashed something awful with Hot Pink! And so he rushed off to his handy make-up bag for a suitable replacement.

************

Madeline paced her office restlessly, which was no mean feat as she was wearing her bestest, highest, most uncomfortable CFM pumps today. Oh, how she longed for the comfort and softness of her pink bunny slippers! But she needed the added height today. It was so much fun when she was taller than Operations, it gave her a little edge of power, and it thrilled her as well cause he didn't like it when she was taller than him. And besides - the big CFM pumps showed up so well on the cameras.

She stopped her pacing to stand motionless in front of her plants. Just staring at them. Looking hard at them. Really looking at them, and she frowned when she realised that there were a series of little black dots on them. She gasped in horror and then counted to ten and then to twenty to hold in her anger when she recognised what it was. It was subliminal messages! Somebody had played a reverse psychology trick on her! She grabbed a magnifying glass that she had saved from that time she was looking for Leon and stared hard at the leaves.

It seemed that the words were random thoughts directed entirely at her. Trying to influence her decisions, and that wasn't good. Icy rage settled in her blood stream as the words came into focus.

Hey man, Michael and Nikita are just living. A bond between two operatives doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Walter is a love god and you will be his slave

Operations is a bad, bad boy and needs to see you in the Tower to be punished.

Birkoff had nothing to do with this at all it was all Walter's idea.

Madeline is a chocoholic.

Just then, the door to her office slid open.

"Your order, madam," said Christopher as he made his way carefully down the steps, balancing an enormous covered tray - so enormous, in fact, that it almost didn't fit through the door.

"My order?" asked Madeline with a puzzled frown. "What order?"

"Why, my special Triple Chocolate Rum Fudge Chocolate Cream Espresso Super Duper Dark Chocolate Decadence Cake," he said, as he set the tray on her desk and removed the shiny metal lid with a flourish. "Or rather, three of my special Triple Chocolate Rum Fudge Chocolate Cream Espresso Super Duper Dark Chocolate Decadence Cakes." He beamed with pride. "I had no idea you appreciated them so much."

She shook her head. "Christopher, I'm sorry. But I didn't order these, and there's no way I'll be able to eat them. You know I don't eat sweets."

Her words seemed to strike him like physical blows, as his smile vanished, his eyes filled with tears, and the corner of his mouth began to tremble uncontrollably. "You mean this is just some sort of sick joke? You sent in an order, got me excited over something challenging to do, made me work and slave for hours to get these utterly perfect, and all for nothing? Just to test me? The way you test everyone else? I thought I was different - that I had earned a certain level of respect. But apparently not. Apparently not." He shook his head angrily, disappointedly.

"But Christopher--" she started, about to explain that she wasn't the one who had sent the order, that both of them were the victims of this nasty little prank - but then she saw the tears rolling freely down the man's face and hesitated.

He started to sob. "It's not fair! I'm a chef, a real chef - I went to the best schools, apprenticed in the finest restaurants, mastered the art with my own tears and blood - and look what I’ve been reduced to! Every night, Operations orders the same thing. Coq au vin, coq au vin, coq au bloody vin! And you! How much creative satisfaction do you think I get from cutting up fruit slices and celery sticks day after day?"

"But--"

"Just once," he gasped, "just once I thought someone finally appreciated my talents! But no. It was too much to hope for." He collapsed into her chair, hid his face in his hands, and started to bawl like a baby.

She regarded his crumpled form with increasing alarm. For a moment, she considered taking out her gun and cancelling him on the spot - if only to stop the ear-piercing wails that echoed harshly off the cold, sterile walls of her office. But no, that wouldn't do. Operations liked his coq au vin - really, really liked his coq au vin - and would be quite difficult to work with if he were to be deprived of it.

She placed a comforting hand on Christopher's shoulder. "Christopher," she said quietly.

He looked up, tears staining his cheeks.

"Would it make you feel better if I took just one bite?"

He nodded, sniffing softly.

She picked up the fork, dug into the side of one of the towering pastries, and swallowed a mouthful of Christopher's piece de resistance.

Velvety chocolate smoothness. Creamy swirls of delectable sweetness, balanced with a biting hint of rum-and-espresso-aggression. Chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, chocolate hunks - rivers and streams and pools and waterfalls and lakes and oceans of luscious, sinful chocolate. Stars combusted, solar systems whirled, galaxies spun - all throughout that dark chocolate ribbon known as the universe. She closed her eyes and held her breath as she was overpowered by a shudderingly rich fudge-ecstasy and swept away into a bittersweet cocoa paradise.

As she fainted dead away, Christopher leapt just in time to catch her.

Back in Comm, Birkoff and Walter huddled in front of Birkoff's computer, watching the scene in Madeline's office unfold.

"Okay," said Birkoff. "One down, one to go. Let's just hope the tobacco substitute you rolled into Operations' cigarettes is just as effective."

************

Meanwhile, back in the Perch, Operations paced slowly around, taking long slow drags of another of his endless cigarettes. Perhaps paced wasn't quite the right description. He danced...no, not quite right either. He languidly looped loiteringly...still not right. He floated, yeah that was it, floated around his office. He could fly! Another one of his before-unknown hidden talents was finally emerging, and like, man, I mean like, it was so rad!

And the walls, oh, the walls were, like, I mean, like totally pretty - awesomely pretty, actually, as he flew towards them to caress them with his hand. Ohhhhh, his hand was just so cool! It was suddenly almost transparent and he could see the blood and veins and all that icky, yucky stuff oozing around. Oh My God - his eyes were turning into x-ray eyes! How cool was that - another talent. He contemplated that thought for another mili-second and then a brilliant flash of light appeared above his head in the shape of a light bulb! Of course, now that he had this x-ray eyes thingy coming to him, he should be able to perve on the sweet delectable form of his darling secret love Maddy!

Oh yes, that was the idea, he would be able to feast his fill from his eyes on her gorgeous body without her knowing - that'll be fun. Taking another long, slow toke of his ciggie, he grinned evilly at that thought. But then, hey - wow man - there was like all these like really awesome little dots on his wall. And man, they were moving and changing colour and everything. Like, oh wow it was so cool; they were changing into little hearts. Little red hearts with words printed in them. Maddy and Paul. Paul and Maddy. And a little arrow through them all. And like awesome man, they were floating all around him. Like love around him. Like love was in the air. And, like all of a sudden it was like a huge symphony with drums and stuff and a song was blasting through his mind. The music reached a crescendo as the song blared from his mind-speakers.

'Love is in the Air,
Everywhere I look around.
Love is in the Air,
Every sight and every sound
And I don't know if I'm being foolish Don't know if I'm being wise
But it's something that I must believe in
And it's there when I look in your eyes…'

He shook his head to rid it of that god-awful song. But hey man, like, it was so beautiful up where he was. Like so, hey, like who really cared. He floated towards the walls once again as the little black dots seemed to form words, words that seemed to leap out and grab him. Which they were, cause they were also talking to him. Man - it was just so cool that another hidden power was that he could talk wall. It was, like, a really, really hard language to learn, and like, he knew it really, really easily. Wow man, the words were so...profound!

Operations is a big fat mama's boy!

Madeline likes to spank.

The Tower, the Tower, my kingdom for an hour with Madeline in the Tower!

Michael and Nikita are the goodies.

George is the big giant head.

Oh, his head started to ache. So many rules - so little time to care. He then smiled evilly to himself once again as his x-ray eyes kicked in again. Floating towards his Perch exit, he flew his way towards Madeline's office. She'd be really impressed with his new secret powers.

************

"Michael," said Nikita petulantly, "I think that waitress forgot our order."

"It's possible," he agreed, still twirling a lock of her golden hair so that it shone mesmerisingly in the cheerful fluorescent light of the restaurant.

"Well?" she asked. "Aren't you going to do something? We can't wait here forever."

He considered her statement. For him, entranced with her gleaming locks, captured by the azure blue of her oh-so-innocent eyes, a prisoner of the shocking exquisiteness of her ivory skin and ruby lips, there was no such thing as the passage of time. He could wait forever, if forever held such bliss. What was time, after all, in the face of the eternity of their love?

But then his phone beeped. Actually, it had been beeping repeatedly, but he had ignored it, content to let the world go by as he gazed at the face of Beauty. This time, reluctantly, he flipped it open.

"Oui," he answered softly.

"Michael, thank God!" Birkoff cried. "I've been trying to call you for hours. I thought you'd never answer!"

He half listened to the telephone and half admired Ni-ki-ta as she played with the sugar packets at their table, building a little sugar-packet pyramid. A pyramid, fit for the temptress of the Nile that she was. Not that she was from the Nile, or had ever even been there, but my she was a temptress --

"Helloooooooo, Michael, are you still there?" Birkoff demanded.

"Yes," he said softly.

"Look, Walter and I have created an opportunity for you, if you know what I mean. For the next few hours, certain, um, people here at Section are going to be too distracted with other things to be bothering you, if you know what I mean. Do you know what I mean?"

"I know what you mean," said Michael, and hung up.

He stood, held his hand out to Nikita, and helped her out of the booth. "No time for coffee. Let's go."

************

Greg Hillinger smiled to himself as he listened, secretly, to Seymour's conversation with Michael. Oh, Seymour, Seymour, Seymour - what a moron he was. Not like him - Greg - the genius to beat all geniuses. While Seymour and that old geezer Walter were busy playing Cupid for Michael and Nikita, he, Greg, had taken advantage of Seymour's handy decoding of the password to the Cubic Zirconium file. Not to read the boring stuff like how Madeline and Operations were going to drive Michael and Nikita apart, then slowly force them back together, then drive them apart again, then force them back together really fast, then drive them back apart, et cetera. No. Who cared about that kind of stupid crap? No, Greg had been reading the good stuff. Finding the skeletons in the closet, the dirt swept under the carpet, the cobwebs hidden behind the curtains - yeah, the stuff that mattered. The stuff that George was going to reward him for finding - big time.

He salivated a bit as he pictured himself driving his cool new Jag, babes aplenty in the passenger seat next to him. Yep, George was going to have to pony up for this intel, that's for sure. Greg had hit the jackpot. Because you see, Greg had discovered Section One's deepest, darkest secret. The secret that Operations and Madeline had been hiding desperately from George.

No, no, not that Adrian had been turned into a human Popsicle up in the freezer on Level whatever-it-was. No - the real secret. The secret to end all secrets. The secretest secret of all the secret secrets that had to be kept secret.

Section One didn't fight terrorists.

Not even occasionally.

There was no such organization as Red Cell. Or Bright Star. Or Glass Curtain, the Freedom League, or any of the other absurdly named organizations that Section One claimed to be fighting. They were all frauds. Invented for the sole purpose of justifying Section One's continued existence. The 'missions' that Section One's operatives went on were, in actuality, elaborate hoaxes, with the same 'terrorists' showing up, again and again, pretending to be killed while Section One's operatives fired blanks at them. Not that the operatives realized this - no, most of them were so stupid that they didn't realize that the scruffy-looking bad guys that they killed, week after week, were always the same people each time.

But now, Greg knew. He knew that it was all a huge set-up. Operations and Madeline pulled the wool over George's eyes so that they could continue receiving a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on whatever they wanted.

At first, Greg had considered blackmailing them - to get just a tiny little share of that illicit funding for himself. But then he had continued reading the Cubic Zirconium file, and came to the entry marked: 'Jurgen, Explosion Of.' Hmmmmm. Blackmail didn't seem to be such a good idea after all. So instead, he was going to rat them out to Georgie Porgie, and collect his ample reward.

Now, if he could just decide how he was going to spend it. Would he look better driving a Jag or a Porsche?

************

"My-kol, where are we goin, what are ya doin, why are we runnin. Jeez, me arm's bein ripped outta its bloody socket!" Nikita whined as Michael raced her back to her apartment. The quickness of their steps had caused Nikita to revert back to her native accent, the one that Section One had tried so hard to exterminate. But deep down, deep, deep, Deep down she had never really lost it. And in times of stress, or too much physical exertion, she reverted back to the nasal twangs of her Aussie drawl. Michael wished that he could say that the twangs were music to his ears, but that would be a lie, a lie that he would no longer be able to perpetrate. He had decided that no longer would he lie to his precious love. His beauty. His all-encompassing-one-true-light-of-his-life. His soul mate. His eternal flame. The one who made his days seem brighter, his nights seem lighter. The one who put a smile on his face. The one who was the other half of him. The one who....

"My-kol! Whaddayathinkyadoin? I'm gonna break me flamin' neck any goddamn minute, if ya don't bloody-well slow down!" Nikita stopped abruptly where she was, crossing her arms across her body as she looked at him. Really looked at him. God he was so beautiful! The sun shining from behind him made it seem as though he had a halo - a halo of golden shining light. Like a picture of Michelangelo, the perfect man. His green eyes twinkled in the sunlight and seemed to look right into her very soul. His beautifully chiselled jaw, his pouting sensuous lips, and his body. Oh lordy, lordy, lordy - that body! It was just absolute perfection! A gorgeous torso, made up of sinewy muscles that were all, well, sinewy. Glorious pectoral muscles and strong manly shoulders, leading to well-muscled arms that led to really sensuous hands, with long, long, long fingers.

And what he could do with those fingers! Oh, he could create such ecstasy in her body, playing her like his cello. She looked up and down him again, and stared at his hips and crotch. Oh, such firm hips that led to a nice tight little butt, with nice tight little buns of steel. Well, not that she could see his butt from the angle she was looking at him from, but she knew where it was. Nikita continued to stare at his crotch, knowing exactly what the zipper of his jeans concealed and a little smile crossed her lips at that thought. Her reverie was interrupted as Michael finally answered her.

"Ni-ki-taaa, I have just received valuable Intel that will save the world as we know it, but it seems that we will have to go dark for a few hours, and the only place that we can go dark is your apartment," Michael answered, gazing at her intently and holding out his hand for her to take.

"Oh, well, in that case, lead on!" And taking his hand once again and entwining her own fingers in his long, long, long fingers, she walked beside him on their way back to her apartment to go dark, which, it seems, they could only do in her apartment. Go figure.

************

Back at Section One, the operatives milled about worriedly, forming little clustered groups here and there, murmuring anxiously to each other, and then breaking up and reforming in different little clustered groups to repeat the same process. The rumours coming out of Medlab were disturbing, worrisome, frightening - Madeline in a coma, kept alive only with a respirator; Operations in a straightjacket, cackling maniacally and snapping at invisible flies with his mouth; and, worst of all, Michael nowhere to be found, no longer even answering his phone. Which left...whom in charge?

"Well, I've got seniority," Walter pointed out.

"But I know our systems better than anyone," countered Birkoff.

"According to Protocol 87(e)(iii)(P), we're in charge," announced a reedy voice behind them.

They turned to see Frick and Frack standing shoulder to shoulder, their usual blank expressions replaced with a subtle - but bloodthirsty - glee. The female torture twin stiffly held out Section's rulebook for Birkoff to inspect. Hands trembling, Birkoff read.

"Oh, my God - they're right! They're next in the chain of command right after Michael!"

Frick and Frack whirled about in perfect unison and began to march in synchronous perfection across the floor, barking out shrill orders. Before them, like a parting wave, the clusters of operatives broke apart and scattered in every direction, shrieks of terror echoing off the hard walls.

Walter scratched his chin in thought. "I think we might have miscalculated a bit here, amigo."

"We've got to get a hold of Michael!" Birkoff's voice was high-pitched in panic.

"Uh," said Walter, shaking his head, "I don't think Michael's going to be reachable for a while. And by that time, I don't think there’s going to be anyone here with all of their body parts left."

"Well, then, what do we do?" Birkoff's glasses steamed up in fear, as he began hyperventilating.

"We're gonna have to bring back Operations and Madeline."

"How?" Birkoff seized Walter by the arms. "How?"

"Well, whipping up an antidote for the LSD-laced cigarettes shouldn't be too hard, but as for the overdose of chocolate, I dunno. But I'd better think of something quick. Otherwise," he gulped, looking over at Frick and Frack as they snagged a slow-moving operative by the collar and started to drag him, kicking and clawing, down toward the White Room, "we're all gonna be in trouble."

************

George's face turned white, then red, and then purple with fury. "You're telling me what?!?!?!?!" he exploded.

"Section One's been pulling your leg, old man," said Greg, smiling triumphantly. "Running a big-ass scam."

George stared at him for nearly a full minute, his eyes bugging and his eyebrow twitching. Just when Greg thought he was about to keel over in a stroke, George stood up and started waving his arms angrily.

"You idiot! Of course these groups exist! I'm a member - I mean, I monitor them myself!"

Greg frowned. "Well, not according to this little file, they don't." He whipped out a CD and held it up to the light.

"Give me that!" snapped George, snatching the disk and inserting it into his computer. Sitting down again, he scanned the file for a few moments and then sighed. He turned back to Greg, glowering ominously. "Did you notice the name of this file, by any chance?"

"Yeah. Cubic Zirconium. What about it?"

"Do you know what Cubic Zirconium is?"

"It's that stuff you see on those home shopping channels. You know, the fake jewellery."

"It's a fake gemstone, to be exact," George hissed.

"Huh?"

"You moron! This is a plant! A fake file, meant to lead us off the track of the real thing! The real secrets are in the Gemstone file - which I recall asking you to get for me, by the way. Everything in here is made up!"

"You mean, the President of the United States isn't really a vampire?"

"No!"

"Elvis isn't leading a secret expedition to Mars?"

"No!!"

"Operations doesn't really have 666 tattooed on his ass?"

"Not that I know of. Although I haven't looked," George admitted with a shudder. But then focusing his attention back on Greg, he leaned forward menacingly. "I thought you were the wave of the future. But you disappoint me, Gregory."

"No, please, Uncle George, just listen to me. I can find the file I know I can. I am better than Birkoff; I know I am I just know it! I am the mostest brilliant computer hacker/programmer in the whole wide world. Please, just listen!" Greg pleaded pitifully. He thought about adding some real tears as well, but hung off until he saw how his pleading was going.

George pulled himself up to his full height, which compared to the rest of the Section's operatives was quite miniscule actually. George was only 5 foot 4 inches, which would explain why he was such a grumpy old bugger - he was obviously suffering from that age-old phobia Small Man Syndrome. So he pulled himself up to his full height which looked even bigger cause he was standing on a wooden Oversight-issued crate, glaring down at Greg ominously, his face turning red, then scarlet, then purple and then really ugly blotchy like with rage as he managed to spew out venomously "JUST WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?"

"Uncle George," Greg answered nervously. Swallowing against the lump in his throat he continued, "That's what it said in The Cubic Zirconium file. That you were my uncle, George."

"You stupid moron!" George bellowed. "I have just got through telling you that the file is a complete fake - and let me just explain it to you one more time. If the whole file is a fake, then that means that everything in it is a lie. And I am not related to you in any way. You're still disappointing me Gregory - and I don't like to be disappointed."

"So I guess that the whole section in that file that explains how you and Adrian are Nikita's real parents was a plant too," Greg continued whiningly.

"WHAT!!!" And with that exclamation, George fainted dead away.

************

Meanwhile, back at Nikita's apartment, our stunningly beautiful heroic couple were oblivious to all the drama and tension unfolding at Section One. And if they did know the truth, they wouldn't have cared at the moment, cause they were both lost in each other's eyes. Green eyes stared soulfully at the blue eyes. And the blue eyes stared soulfully back into the green eyes as they stood in Nikita's living room. It seemed that while they were away, the door had repaired itself miracuously, as things were wont to do in the continuing universe of LFN. Continuity be damned!

But there they both stood, gazing soulfully into the other's eyes. Green eyes gazed soulfully at blue eyes. And blue eyes gazed soulfully at green eyes. Then suddenly Michael moved, slowly, slowly, slowly raising his hand to softly, gently, worshipfully, caress Nikita's check as he brought his other hand into play, continuing that hand-dance thingy that he had started before. The soft strands of the Hokey Pokey could be heard softly in the background, emanating from Michael's nose again. Another of Michael's hidden talents was that he was also able to throw his voice, or his nose music.

You put your right hand in
You put your right hand out
In, out, in, out
And shake it all about…

"Come, Nikita, let us take a long, sensuous, luxurious bath together," invited Michael.

"Ooooh, Michael, that sounds delicious," she agreed.

He took her hand and led her, slowly and sensuously, to the bathroom, which had miraculously expanded to the size of a small theatre. In the centre of the room stood an enormous Jacuzzi, full of steaming, swirling water. Odd. She didn’t remember having a Jacuzzi. Oh, well - Section had been redecorating again, obviously. At least a Jacuzzi was better than the scary artwork they kept hanging on her walls.

"Last one in's a rotten egg!" she cried. Running toward the Jacuzzi, she began stripping off her clothes until she saw movement in the water - not the normal swirls, but strange, bursting bubbles. She stopped dead in her tracks as a woman suddenly emerged from beneath the bubbles, wet and glistening.

"Are you ready for a rematch?" asked Aurora in a sultry voice.

Nikita screamed in horror and fury. "How did you get into my bathroom?!" she demanded.

"Well," admitted Michael, "I invited her. I thought it might be interesting, my sweet."

"You depraved pervert! How dare you!"

"I am not depraved, Nikita," said Michael. "I am French. There is a difference."

At that, Nikita slapped him across the face and ran from the room sobbing.

"Wait!" Michael cried, following her. "I will send her away! Don't leave!"

************

"If someone doesn't let me out of the %$#*%& straightjacket this instant, the entire #@$%#*&%% Section is getting cancelled!" bellowed Operations from the small room where he had been restrained.

"I think the LSD antidote has kicked in," said Walter as he waved smelling salts in front of Madeline to no avail. "You'd better go let him loose."

"Why me?" asked Birkoff. "Why can’t you go?"

"Because I'm busy," answered Walter, setting aside the smelling salts and picking up a stun gun.

Birkoff, reluctantly, slunk off, leaving Walter to his work.

Bzzzzzzt! went the stun gun. No reaction.

Bzzzzzt! again. Nothing!

Damn! The stun gun didn’t wake her up either - she seemed impervious to everything! What next?

Maybe some really loud, really annoying music, he thought, reaching to switch on a CD player on a nearby table.

'At the Copa/Copacabana/The hottest spot North of Havana....'

Just as Walter covered his ears so he wouldn't have to listen to any more of that tune, the music switched abruptly off.

"Let me take care of this," said Operations grimly. He marched over to Madeline's bedside, grasped her hand, and caressed her cheek tenderly. "Madeline," he whispered, "listen to me. The POS numbers have slipped .00000000000000003 percent."

She didn't wake, but stirred slightly.

"Attrition levels in Housekeeping have jumped a full point," he added.

She moaned softly, frowning.

Concentrating and clasping her hand harder, Operations continued. "And we have personnel redundancies in twelve departments. We're becoming bogged down with deadwood."

Her eyes snapped open. "Deadwood? Where?"

************

"Ohhhhhhh," groaned George as Greg slapped him on the face to bring him to. "How could they know?" he moaned. "They can't know - no one does. It must have just been a lucky guess."

"Know what?" Greg asked, helping George back to his feet.

"Nikita really is my and Adrian's daughter. But no one must know about this - especially Mr. Jones."

"Why?"

George sighed. "Because Jones thinks that Nikita is his daughter. That's why he had her recruited, that's why he's going to promote her to the leadership one day. Little does he know that it's really my daughter he's promoting."

Greg made a face of disgust. "You mean Adrian and Jones had an affair at the same time you and Adrian were having an affair? Damn, this place really is a soap opera."

"No, no, no," George said, shaking his head. "Jones and Roberta Wirth had a daughter at the same time Adrian and I did. But we..." he hesitated, and lowered his voice, "arranged for the babies to be switched at the hospital. That way our daughter would be able to take over everything!"

"What happened to Jones' real daughter?"

"Oh," said George, laughing, "she works for us, too. A computer specialist named Kate Quinn."

************

As Nikita ran sobbing from the room, Michael realised that he had made a fatal mistake with his beloved. How could he have been so stupid? How had he misjudged Nikita so badly? Didn't he know her at all? The chasm of dark filled pain that opened up in his chest at the thought of how he had hurt his one, his only, was an aching pain that was a big chasm of dark filled pain. He had to make it right. He had to get her back, to apologise, to get her back so that he could show her just how much she really meant to him. To worship her body with his body as the temple of adoration that she was. She mattered, oh god how she mattered, to him. He loved her, adored her, worshipped her, cherished her, idolised her, beloved her, longed for her, was awed by her - besides he was getting really, really horny!

Grabbing a bath mat from the gold-plated heated towel rack, he made his way to the Jacuzzi, where Aurora waited nervously. Reaching down his hand in a gentlemanly gesture - he was, after all, a French gentleman - Michael helped her rise from the tub. Holding out the bath mat for her to step into and cover herself, Michael said, "Please, dry yourself off and leave this room. I have made a grave error in judgement. If you wait in Nikita's living area, I will fetch Nikita and explain that I have made a mistake and we will try and free you."

Aurora looked at him, perplexed. "Free me? What do you mean free me? Listen buster, I work for myself now and I don't care just what happened here! I will be paid my scheduled fee of $15000 US dollars in gold latinum, wet or dry. Is that understood? Now, I suggest you go find Nikita and work this out and I will wait for you, cause I'm not going anywhere without my money!" And with that, she flounced out of the room, muttering dark gypsy curses under her breath.

Michael wasted no further time thinking about Aurora, he had to find Nikita. His love. His one. His only. Oh, he was a cold heartless bastard to hurt her so, that delicate flower of womanhood. The light of his life. The one that he would forever adore, until the sun would no longer shine and the stars no longer sparkle and twinkle in the night sky. But where would she go? How far would she run from him to escape the pain that he had caused his exquisite beauty? Who could she turn to in her dismay? He knew that it couldn't be her old best friend Carla who used to live close by - cause she was dead. Killed at the end of the second season. And as far as he knew, TPTB hadn't had time or a plotline planned to bring her back. Not that that made any sort of difference to the continuity of LFN. So whom else could she turn to? Who else that she knows lives nearby? And then, like a bolt of lightening from the heavens above, he knew. He knew just whom it was that she would run to. Steeling his lips in a grimace of grim determination, Michael made his way stoically towards the one place that Nikita could be.

Mick Schtoppel's apartment.

************

When Nikita had run crying from her apartment after slapping Michael, she had only one thought in mind 'I need some comfort' and she knew that there was only one person who could give her this comfort apart from Walter, who was stuck in Section One and it was too far to run in her 12 inch spiked heel CFM boots with the gold lame faux fur trim in hot fluoro blue. So she turned and ran to the only person who was close enough to her, cause her feet were really starting to hurt. And that one person was Mick Schtoppel. Oh sure, he was a slimy, greasy, queasy, English git, but he was all she had at the moment.

So she stumbled, with her tear-stained eyes, which were making it really hard to see, towards Mick's door and threw herself upon it, prostrate with grief at how cruelly Michael had once again treated her. She knocked on the door with her open palm as tears once again blocked her eyes from seeing too clearly. But she was gratified to see that Mick answered her door in a few short moments and she didn't have to stand there in her prostrate with grief position for too long. Cause it really wasn't that comfortable.

Suddenly, the door opened, and Mick took one look at Nikita prostrate with grief and exclaimed, "Why, my little marshmallow-creamed centre chocolate-nut bunny, whatever is the matter?"

************

"So, Walter, Birkoff, what do you have to say for yourselves?" asked Operations, aiming a steely stare at the two trembling operatives.

"We're so sorry!" they cried in unison, dropping to their knees in fear. "Please don't cancel us! It'll never happen again!"

"Of course it won't happen again," said Madeline, deliberately sending mixed signals to screw with their minds by crossing her arms and yet smiling warmly. "We accept your apology. Now, please go."

With a look of confusion that turned to relief when they realised they weren't being punished, but then turned to fear because they figured the punishment would just be drawn out over a period of months in countless horrible ways, they scrambled up and fled the Perch, shoving each other aside in their desperation to get out of the room first.

Operations turned to Madeline with a look of annoyance. "Why did you let them go like that? I wanted them punished in some vile, humiliating, unspeakable manner!"

"Occasionally," she answered with a mysterious smile, "we have to let them off the hook for no reason whatsoever. That way we appear arbitrary and omnipotent."

"Ahhhh, of course!" he said with an approving nod. "Now let's go stand by the windows and look out over the floor menacingly while we tell knock-knock jokes."

Meow