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Date Posted: Friday, May 05, 10:51:01pm
Author: Diane
Subject: What Price Freedom?
In reply to: JayBee and Nell 's message, "Friday Challenge: January 20, 2005" on Friday, January 20, 02:50:08pm

The pre-briefing was informal. Just Operations, Madeline and himself. A small splinter group with limited financial resources. But Operations was already laying the groundwork. Section would not be taken by surprise.

“Prepare a plan and a shadow team. We’ll need a psychological profile on all the major players.” Whatever Operations had been about to say next was forgotten.

Oh, Nikita, Michael thought. What now? The tall blonde strode through Comm as if she owned it; expression defiant, hair wild and leonine.

Nikita lifted a black plastic tote bag and emptied it on the table directly in front of Operations. Michael recognized video surveillance equipment at once. There also seemed to be a fair amount of metal piping and more than a few scraps of drywall. She had been thorough, Michael would give her that. Nikita ended her metallic tirade with a flourish, slamming the now empty bag on top of the decimated monitoring devices.

“What’s this?” Operations demanded.

“Your cameras. I’m not having them in my apartment any more.”

Oh, be careful, Nikita. Operations wasn’t exactly in an amiable mood.

“You’re not?” Operations countered, mocking her.

To Michael’s surprise, Madeline seemed amused by the entire encounter. He swore she was smiling when she turned her face away.

Nikita wasn’t giving an inch. “No. And if you don’t like it you can—“

Operations stood. How dare she speak to him in that manner. “We can what?” he baited her. Nikita's ready answer fired back before Operations had even stopped speaking.

“Cancel me, because I’d rather be dead than watched like an animal in the zoo.” From the frying pan into the fire. Had Michael saved Nikita from certain death by keeping her from running with Eric, only to have her offer herself up as a sacrifice?

“Are you sure about that?” Michael looked up. Something had changed in Operations' tone. From ire and annoyance to...not admiration. Certainly not approval. Was it?

“I’m very sure.”

Madeline’s amusement was blatantly obvious. Now that she knew Operations was back in control of the situation, she didn’t try to hide her smile. Michael wasn’t sure just what he should be doing. He hadn’t profiled a contingency for this anomaly.

Nikita turned her back and stormed out through the same door from which she had entered Comm. Her demeanor was unchanged. Rebellious. Adamant.

Operations pressed a button on his console. “Cancel surveillance on Nikita, at least for the time being.”

Michael knew better. Operations was playing the game. It amused him to do so. Nikita’s surveillance would be reinstated by the end of the week. State-of-the-art and virtually undetectable. He even had a pretty good idea as to what devices they would use. Something not unlike those Michael disabled in his own Section quarters on a regular basis; so far without reprisal. They let him do it. Let him buy into the sense of “freedom.”

Michael was no more free than Nikita. Was a roaming polar bear at the zoo, separated from the humans by a moat rather than by metal bars, really free?

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