Alex was in the best physical shape of her young life. Every day she worked out and fought against her demons and every day she grew stronger and her resolve grew larger. For many of the recruits, the cement walls and fluorescent lights were an oppressive and constant reminder of their lack of freedom. Their rooms were nothing more than an extra large prison cell and the facility was only an inescapable fortress, but not for Alex. Division wasn't a prison, it was three meals a day, clean clothes, a clean bed and a clean body, but more than that, it was an opportunity. She may have been playing with fire to align herself with Nikita, but she wasn't afraid, in fact the prospects of getting burned only bolstered her courage.
She thought she was tough as nails and believed she could withstand the pressures of going undercover until the camaraderie among the recruits connected her with Thom. Up until now, the men in Alex's life had used her in malicious ways or were co-dependent junkies, Thom's presence was neither and it forced her to recognize how alone she really was.
When she had hugged him and he had kissed her that first time, it filled her with confusion and self doubt. Children grow into adults from their experiences, but Alex had never had this lesson. When she kissed him the second time, it was meant to be a diversion to help Nikita, but it had caused a spark to ignite in her and for the first time in her life, she felt her shell of isolation had been cracked.
Nikita had warned Alex, just as Michael had warned Nikita, emotional attachments inside Division walls will only lead to heartache and ultimately, your undoing. Alex understood this and she believed it, but like others before her, she didn't care, because the kindness and attention Thom showed her, gave her a new kind of high called hope. This optimism could be interpreted as a weakness by people like Percy, but for Alex it added another dimension to her life, called purpose.
And now that she had this lesson, she no longer feared the risks love brings, but the follow up lesson was one taught by Percy. She would likely learn that Division nurtures that which separates us, and the pain associated with it exists to fill in the cracks that she had mistakenly thought were unrepairable.
clara1: hey! how r u? missed u last few days
callme007: i missed u 2, n e fun stories 4 me?
clara1: no but i wanted 2 let u know i m leavin
clara1: usa! fiance visa
callme007: wtf marriage?
clara1: no - a way out
clara1: may b i get 2 meet u when I come 2 usa
callme007: may b
clara1: u think i m kidin u but i m not
callme007: this is RL not sum tv show
clara1: lol i come find u fo sure
callme007: java - movie?
clara1: may b more?
callme007: u stay n touch
clara1: i care
callme007: me 2
Birkhoff had been on this information highway before, meeting girls on-line, paying for cyber sex and then finding out the blinking cursor wasn't a video sex game, but a person. It usually ended the same way, but some day it might not, someday he might actually meet a girl like Clara and she would... he shrugged to himself.
Sometimes, when he looked at his reflection in a mirror, he didn't know the person looking back. Division had erased his identity, scrubbed his past and was working on taking his soul. Maybe that's why he insisted on keeping his hair long, wearing his sloppily layered clothes and keeping his attitude "gnarly." It was the only aspect of his old life he had held on to.
When he was at the University, he'd spent more hours fixed in front of his computer than outside in the real world. The death of his adopted parents had left the boy-genius alone and he retreated to a reality he could control and his brain understood. He knew numbers and coding and hardware, they were his first fantasy. The girls he encountered were like alien creatures, he couldn't understand their language or what they wanted or why they wanted it. By the time Division had plucked him from prison for hacking into the DoD's mainframe, he had all of one sexual defeat under his belt.
The female recruits were off limits to him and the female agents rarely acknowledged him. Even Amanda who seemed to have placed her brand on everyone in Division left him alone after one disastrous encounter. She was a reminder of his failure with women, until Michael had told him, she wasn't a woman but a psychopathic robot in a female body. That made him feel a little better.
Like all young nerdy computer geeks, they eventually grow into old nerdy computer geeks and Birkhoff knew who he was. He never entertained the idea that he would have a life outside of Division and in many ways he had grown to be happy here. He had an important role and a daily adrenaline rush, it was something he would never find in the outside world. He watched the lives of his fellow operatives unfold around him, some of it was hot and exciting and some of it was cold and bleak. Best to live for today was his mantra, until Nikita got out and went rogue. Her exit from Division marked his entrance into the belief that a future might actually exist.
Amanda referred to him as a late bloomer, Michael referred to him as a warrior with a keyboard and Percy referred to him as indispensable material. Maybe that's why they let him deal with his isolation in the video conferencing room with the girls of Amsterdam.
"Come in, don't be afraid, I won't bite."
The young recruit walked into the room, it was softly lit and unlike most of Division the floor had plush carpeting and the smell of expensive perfume lingered in the air. Amanda looked at the young man standing in front of her and circled around him, examining him like a piece of livestock. Under other circumstances he might have been amused and flattered, his ego fed, but today he felt intimidated.
"Your name is Andrew?" She smiled at him and took the tip of her finger and tapped him on the chest.
"Please, call me Amanda." She cocked her head and looked him in the eye. "Andrew, here's a little something for you to always remember. Most women, including teachers, doctors and grandmothers don't enjoy being called ma'am. It's not a flattering term."
His eyes widened when she reached out and stroked his arm, he felt his heartbeat quicken and his skin prickle.
Amanda dropped her hand, before she continued talking. "There are many types of situations you might encounter as a Division agent, and I'd like to tutor you in one of them." She took his hand and led him to an alcove further into her room where her bed was piled high with black satin covered pillows.
"There may come a time when you may be called on to gain the confidence of a woman and to make her believe she is very special to you. Remember, it's all a matter of attention, the art of seduction isn't all that complicated." She gave him a wicked smile.
Andrew stifled his fear. After all, he had been hand picked by Amanda and he didn't want to offend her. If he had been a little older and wiser, he might have recognized to what extent he was being manipulated and used.
"I can see you are quite fit." She planted herself in front of him. "Your body can be used for many things, it can be a highly effective tool, an incentive, if you will, it's been proven over and over again." She smirked as she fingered the zipper pull on her dress, and then she licked her lips and slowly lowered the fastener. The garment split open down the middle and she let it drop off her shoulders and pool around her ankles. She stepped out of it and stood before him with nothing on but her stiletto heeled shoes and a set of bangle bracelets.
"I think we're ready to start our first lesson." She whispered the words seductively and closed in on him, tugging his shirt over his head and looking pleased at the hard defined muscles in his chest and abdomen. The power she felt was exhilarating and bedding a man twenty years her junior fed her already fat ego. Amanda relished this aspect of her life, being a true narcissist, she never felt isolated or alone, she had herself.
She took her knee and nudged his thighs apart and stood between them and with her hands splayed on the back of his head, she urged him toward her breasts. He groaned with pleasure and simpered with fear and she laughed to herself and looked straight into the video camera that pointed at them with salacious amusement.
Amanda was like a bird of prey and the recruit was like a small animal. His shoes and socks came off, next his pants and when he was completely naked, she urged him to move to the center of her bed. She straddled his hips and bent over to devour him with her body.
It was evening in Division, a shift change had taken place in Operations and a calm had settled in for the night. Behind the locked door of his office, Percy relaxed with a glass of bourbon in his hand. He had discarded his tie and suit vest and leaned back against the cushions of his brown leather couch, enjoying the burn of the aged drink as it slowly settled down into his system.
He came from a generation of men who used women to their advantage. They were a means to an end and occasionally to be enjoyed, but never trusted. Over the years, as the role of women changed and the belief that their gender should have equal rights encroached upon his principles, he saw it as a smokescreen. A way of clouding the issue of power and he refused to accept it and would never succumb to it.
When Division had been passed on to him, it came with Amanda holding the torch. At first he resented and resisted, but over time she had become an ally and although he would never fully trust her and her twisted ways, they had developed an understanding. Among them was dealing with the isolation that Division imposed upon them. They were beyond romance and sentiment and each had found their own tactic for dealing with it.
Percy leaned forward with keen interest as he watched Amanda and her new boy toy on his flat screen TV. He gave a little chuckle to himself when he caught her looking into the camera, she was so blatantly depraved. When the young recruit's hunger for her became evident and his sexual prowess took control, he flipped her onto her back, Percy let his eyes lead his mind into another place as he watched Amanda urge him on.
This, they discovered, was a kind of marriage, between exhibitionist and voyeur. A perfect symbiotic relationship.
She was young, beautiful, well-dressed and confident, but for a few moments she wondered if she hadn't knocked on the wrong hotel suite door. At first she thought it was a lack of approval, but when he stepped back to allow her entrance, she realized it was a lack of enthusiasm.
"Would you like a drink?" Michael spoke politely, his low voice was just above a whisper. He gestured to the couch offering her a seat.
"White wine, otherwise water is fine." She sat down and crossed her legs and her short skirt rode up exposing more of her well toned legs. Her smooth dark hair was silky and her dark brown eyes shone in the light of his hotel room, but he hardly noticed.
He handed her a wine glass and stood over her. "You're name is…?"
"Kiko." She replied and took the glass from him. "This is a very nice hotel, you must have a great job." She sipped from the glass and smiled at him seductively. "You should know, Tina told me what you like, I know you have a thing for Asian women."
Michael stared at her and a familiar feeling of self-loathing settled over him. "Kiko, I'd like to make a request." He tried to keep the scowl on his face in check and to soften his tone. "Please, no small talk, I'm not very good at it."
She shrugged her shoulders but nodded to him amiably. "Okay."
He turned back to the bar and poured himself another drink. He was a little annoyed that after consuming half a bottle of Black Label, he still felt… annoyed. He finished the glass of liquor in one gulp and when he turned back to her, she was reaching down and taking the hem of her scant dress in her hands and peeling it off over her head. Kiko wore a black strapless bra and panties and a knowing look on her face. Michael stared at her vacantly, but guided her to the bedroom with a nod of his head.
Maybe she was here because it wasn't normal for a man like Michael to suppress his libido or perhaps it was because he thought it would help him forget. The truth was, she was here because vengeance, betrayal and manipulation makes you lonely.
The bedroom had dark mahogany colored furniture and taupe colored walls, the king sized bed floated in the midst of the large room and faced a wall of picture windows that showcased a view of twinkling city lights below them and out into the distance. Michael turned the lights in the room down further and let the city night illuminate Kiko as she stood at the edge of his bed.
Instinctively, she took his hand and drew him to her, she wrapped her arms around his neck and she kissed him deeply and passionately. When she stopped and pushed back, a dark and haunting look on his face met hers, she might have been frightened, but he closed his eyes and whispered. "Don't be afraid, I won't harm you."
She knew, this was the time to pull out a few trade secrets and she did her best to please him, but it was only toward the end of their lovemaking that he had come alive. Something lit a fire under him and it triggered an onslaught of emotion and passion to course through him. She had to wonder what or who was running through his mind at that very moment, because she knew he wasn't with her in the present.
Afterward, both of them seemed ambivalent about their encounter, Michael had climbed out of bed and thrown on a pair of jeans and pulled a t-shirt on over his head. She had politely excused herself to use the bathroom and a few minutes later she joined him in the living room. She wore her black undergarments and picked up her dress and shimmied it on over her head before taking a small compact and lipstick out of her purse and applying it in one steady motion.
He looked at her with dull eyes, but he forced a small smile. "Thank you. You're very lovely."
She looked back at Michael, he was so sexy, dangerously handsome and mysterious, but she felt sorry for him, the expression in his eyes was that of isolation and torment, and she knew it had nothing to do with her.
Kiko picked up the envelope of cash he had left on the table, she walked up to him and kissed his cheek and before she left, she said under her breath. "She's very lucky, I hope she comes back to you."
When she could no longer tolerate searching for snippets of information on her computer, she would leave her sanctuary to find a sparring partner amongst the illegal aliens who had created underground boxing rings. These men and an occasional woman from the far east helped keep her skills honed and her mind ready. No one asked questions, they only offered respect to the woman whose discipline was unmatchable.
When she could no longer stand being alone, she ran for miles on end, the pounding in her footsteps, her racing heart, the shortness of breath and the eventual burn mellowed her anxiousness. The endorphins spiked her mood. Nikita needed this respite, running gave her balance from the intensity of her martial arts training and from the all consuming obsession of taking down Percy and Division.
And when she could no longer focus on the anger she refused to let go of, she slept and she dreamed. Sometimes her dreams freed her from the dark spirits that kept her prisoner and she found redemption for the wrongs she had committed. Other times she dreamed of the shackles that still held her to Division and the truth that she had never really left, that her life was still inside being controlled by Percy.
When she dreamed of Daniel, it bordered on a nightmare. The loss of a good and decent man and the injustice that she had brought down on him, she could still see his face, but she could no longer see his eyes. She would wake feeling sad and guilty. When she dreamed of Owen, they became one in the same, lost souls who had found a link in others, only to find the lifeline they had thought was real, was in fact a broken cord. And, when she dreamed of Alex, she was filled with concern for reeling her out of one damned life and depositing her in another, not once but twice.
It was only when Michael crept into her dreams that she never felt conflicted or isolated. Her subconscious was filled with memories of how it felt when they touched one another in times of crisis or a moment of mutual need. She dreamed about the lies he told to protect her and why he told them. She dreamed about the sadness in his eyes, the hurt in his soul and the swell of her heart when she realized she was the only one to share it.
And sometimes, she made love to him in her dreams. It would start with a simple kiss and she would want more and he would want the same. She would dream about tangled up arms and legs, the sounds of desire with each breath they took and their hearts beating in sync. She could feel his hard body against hers, taste his passion in their kisses and smell the eroticism of his intentions, but most of all she could see him clearly without a filter of reality to cloud her vision. And, in her dreams, when her own fervor would take hold of her, she would escalate with him and they would struggle to find the precipice before tumbling down the slope of ecstasy together.
Nikita would wake with a start, her mind and body spent and trembling. When she finally deciphered her thoughts and calmed herself down, she wondered if she and Michael would ever share themselves with each other, or if this would always be just a dream.
We all find ways of coping with loneliness and loss, and sometimes it brings us peace of mind. But when you're part of an organization that exists only in the lies it tells, don't be disappointed, the chances are, it won't.