Amanda came to the doorway of Alex's small room and tapped lightly on the door frame. Alex turned and stood. "Amanda, always a pleasure."
The other woman's lips curled elegantly. "Alexandra, I do believe your manners are improving. You've become quite adept with the pleasantly delivered untruth."
"Thank you," Alex responded with a smile. Strangely enough it was Amanda's honeyed venom that more often got her respect these days. She would likely have to slit this woman's throat, but she would respect her as she became another statistic in her war over her father's death.
Amanda stepped into the room and picked up the book that Alex had been reading as she came in. "It's been what... five years?" She carefully replaced the tome on archaic weapons.
Amanda turned to watch her face. "You are a native speaker of... probably Russian. Certainly a speaker of some Cyrillic tongue. It would take about five years to get your American English to this point. Your accent is wonderful. Your dipthongs are quite good." She saw Alex's face freeze and she raised a hand. "Former sex slave, expired student visa, it really doesn't matter to me. You have chosen to reinvent yourself. That is what the butterfly tattoo is, isn't it? A symbol of transformation? It little matters where you came from Alexandra. It is where you are going. You, my dear are going on to become a wonderful asset. A passibly American, native Russian speaker?" She smiled and stepped over to slide her arm through Alex's. "Alexandra, you are a treasure. Let's go look at some beautiful dresses together." Amanda guided her toward her workspace with a brilliant smile.
Alex ran her fingers over first one dress then another. Amanda ran fingers over her shoulder. "Any of these would look lovely on you Alexandra, but I believe you would not be amiss to begin with the one on the end. You have a small mission to begin with, we want you to look your best."
Amanda smiled and drew the dress out holding it before the younger woman. Her ice chip eyes sparked at the lovely image. "You will simply be getting close to someone of interest. That's the extent at this point."
Alex went to the dressing room and began to change. She drew her fingers over the fabric remembering a far different dress...
Fedya sipped at a tumbler full of vodka as he scowled out the window. "I love my country, Alexandra. I do not love my country's fondness for smokestacks on either side of what should be a calming ride into the city." He looked past the expensive appointments that made the bus more of a travelling apartment toward the open door to the driver's compartment. "How long Viktor?" he barked.
Alex smiled. Fedya was a horrible passenger. "You still haven't told me who it is we're meeting." She sat back and twirled the pen that had been given to her by Fedya's daughter before she died. She would be laughing at Fedya's scowl, if she were still with them.
Fedya snarled as he caught Viktor's hand sign. "You are the only one who could get away with that Viktor," he shouted. Swivelling his chair toward the young woman his scarred face creased into a smile. "You are going to meet your next teacher."
Alex's curiousity soared as she watched Fedya guide a tall man in a pinstriped suit on board. "Peter, meet Alexandra. Alexandra, Peter. You want a sherry or whatever fruity drink you quasi Italian types favor?"
Peter barked a laugh as he gripped Alex's hand. "A pleasure." He barked "Beer," at Fedya in his highly accented Russian before sitting close to her. "I take debts..." he hesitated, trying to remember the Russian word "seriously. I owe Fedya, he says help you. I say with what. He tells me you want to ... " his face creased in thought, "get close to an American group. I can do this. How is your English?"
Alex swallowed. "I am still learning," she replied, her accent showing itself like a dragon.
Peter shrugged. Switching to English he thanked Fedya and turned back to the young woman. "Fedya and I have worked together in the past. There are some businesses we have little to do with. Even we bad guys can have scruples. I will take you to America where we will begin intensive training in how to be American. There is very little chance you will get close enough if you stand out too much." He frowned. "There is one part of Fedya's plan that I have difficulty with."
"And that is?"
"He says this organization you wish to fuck with is very well connected. That it could push past most bullshit back stories. He thinks that the best way to throw them off the scent is to provide a back story that no one would bother to push past. He said when I am done training you, I am to ship you back so he can renew acquaintances with one of those low rent slave trade types and have you shipped to America in a cargo container."
Alexandra smiled at the Italian American mobster. "It was my plan."
Peter turned and looked at Fedya who nodded. He turned back. "You realize the dangers?"
"I can take care of myself." She stood and moved to the bar to get another juice. "I need to be a nonperson. If I do hit their radar, and they push past the first layers of my identity, I need to be nobody from nowhere. What better way than to let them assume I was a sex slave?"
Peter nodded. "Let's begin by finding you a dress Alexandra. There is no faster way to integrate yourself into the beating heart of American culture than with a pretty dress in a dance club. Our plane will leave for New York in six hours." He slid a passport onto a small table near her chair. "Welcome to America... Alexandra Bragin."
Amanda walked with her after she tried on the dress. Alex's blue eyes followed an upset looking Nikita for a moment before she stepped into the room with Michael. She sat as he laid a file on the table. She leafed through it. "So I just need to be next to this guy?" she asked.
He nodded. "Simple as that. Birkhoff will get you close. It is on you to stay close until you are told otherwise."
Her brow knit briefly. "Why?"
Michael shook his head. "Not cleared for that question Alex. Just get in with him and hang on."
She flipped him a snarky looking salute. "On my way to see the Wizard then. Birkhoff would be geeking in his usual Captain Kirk chair?"
He nodded scowling. She flashed a smile and walked off.
Alex pulled up short as Nikita stalked from the cross hall. Alex brushed her bare arm with her fingers. "Nikita?" she asked quietly.
Nikita turned. Her face was an impassive mask but Alex's long road to revenge had taught her a thing or three about reading eyes. Nikita's eyes were all about pain, but this was pain she was trying not to show. Alex squeezed her forearm gently.
"Don't let the bastards see you sweat and don't ever let them get you down," she said quietly before pulling back. Nikita stared at her long moments before nodding and going on her way.
Alex soon stood beside Birkhoff looking at the dating website. She was deeply doubtful of these things before, but seeing as the Super-geek manipulated her into a spot next to the Ultimate Code Warrior made her think the program was all about someone's jollies, and not the daters.
She moved into the dance club, sliding between dancers like a zephyr. She made her way to the VIP area and smiled at her date. Dragging him onto the dance floor she soon realized that he was hopelessness itself as the music pounded. Desperate to get the connection Division wanted she slid her arms around him and began slow dancing. The change in the contour of the front of his tailored pants told her that she was making an impression.
She looked at him startled as he pulled back. "I really want to kiss you," was barely heard over the bass. She smiled and moved forward slightly as she suddenly remembered Birkhoff's caution. He told her a true geek would be suspicious of a woman who just falls into a relationship with them.
Alex stepped back slightly. "I need to use the restroom." She smiled and squeezed his hand before moving toward the restroom.
Alexandra stood near the large bathroom mirror adjusting her hair as a black haired woman stumbled in. Her eyes widened a moment before she tightened her expression. Alex caught the woman before she fell. "Are you alright?"
"No," the woman responded with a heavy Russian accent. "I am high." She giggled and looked at herself in the mirror. "I'm Irina." She looked at her companion in the mirror. "Do I know you?" Her arctic eyes narrowed.
Alex shook her head and strode out, her heart aching. She went back to her date and preceded to go through the motions of being everything he could want in a woman even as her heart and mind were elsewhere...
The light barely came in from the top of the shipping container. Air was not much better. Twelve women huddled in the dim container, struggling with fear, seasickness and claustrophobia. They whispered in Russian back and forth though being one of what might be hundreds of other identical containers in the middle of an enormous ship meant that the odds of anyone hearing them were almost precisely zero.
Irina slid her knees over the slight splinters in the plywood floor to touch a brunette who huddled, eyes closed in the corner. She curled arms around her. "We will be ok," Irina said quietly, trying to bolster her own courage as much as the other woman's.
Alex stiffened before wrapping arms around this stranger trying to comfort her. "Yes, we will," she whispered. For a few brief moments she allowed herself to dream that these were the arms of her first love... Helina.
She closed her eyes against the memories of the foul monsters Fedya entrusted her to. Fedya cried the night before as he drank his way through a bottle. He had argued for days against going through with this. As much as he had respected Nikolai, as much as he wanted her to get her revenge, the thought of sending or losing a young woman he loved as he had his own daughter to the drug and sex hell of the trades killed him, cover or not.
He had her bound in the back of his van and in the darkness she was handed over to Vlad the sex trader, told that she would be going to a special order customer in America. They manhandled her and threw her in a container. A man came and told them to stay quiet, stay obedient and they would have new lives in America. He told them they just had to pay off their debts. He never told them that their debts would never end.
Alex pulled back slightly. "I'm Sasha," she whispered.
The black haired girl smiled tremulously. "Irina."
Alex laid her head on her companion's shoulder. Ocean travel would be slow. Better to paint a picture of weakness from the start. When this trip was over she would use the misconception to free herself. She felt the small hand circle on her back. She would free this woman too, she decided. Irina hummed an old lullaby as fumes of diesel wafted through.
Alexandra entered the packed nightclub again. The date was over, and she hoped to find the girl from the restroom. This time she would find out what had gone so utterly wrong. Why had her plan failed? She found Irina, barely holding herself up, by the bar. Her fingers tightened on the black haired woman's wrist. Irina turned unsteadily and looked blearily at her face. She smiled. "Sasha," she greeted. "I knew it was you."
"I got you out, what the hell are you doing here?" Alex asked.
Irina wrapped her arms around Alex's waist and nibbled her jaw. "Sasha," she purred.
Alex smiled and getting serious she pushed Irina slightly back. "We need to get you out of here." There would be time for questions later.
The other Russian nodded. "Yes. Meet me out back in 15." She caressed Alex's cheek. "So good to see you again Sasha." She wobbled away.
Alex stuffed her hands into her jacket pockets and walked out into the cold New York winter. She didn't know why Irina was still addicted and in the sex business, but she was determined to get her clean and off the streets. She smiled before she walked toward the onyx haired girl in the ally. Irina's eyes widened and she swallowed hard, as Vlad stepped into the ally way with his men behind Sasha. What had she done? The sound of the gun cocking sent Alex spinning toward Vlad. She had walked right into a trap she never saw coming. She found herself hours later in a dog cage in trade master Vlad's office warehouse. She snarled. How did she get herself into this?
Michael cursed a blue streak. "What?" Nikita asked.
"One of the agents has gone missing."
"Making a run for it?" she asked. She was feeling a desire to run as well since her fiance died a day and change ago, and at the request of Percy. The man who was almost like a father to her. 'Was' and 'almost' being the key in her mind now.
Michael shook his head. "I don't think so. Alex isn't like that," he said half to himself. He stared at the surveillance footage of the club like it would tell him something new.
"Wait, Alex?" Nikita frowned and her mind tumbled over the young woman who just butted on into her world.
His eyes shot up. "Do not tell Percy. He is just dying to pull the trigger on some unsuspecting recruit."
"Not going to happen." Her eyes tracked right. "What are you staring at nerd? Find her."
Birkhoff swivelled back to the monitors and squeezed the data until he could point them toward the Russian. He swivelled back. "So we're thinking Russian stable master, but I can't find anything more."
"I have a Russian underworld connection locally. Let's see if he knows of an operator who might fit the bill."
Nikita chewed her lip. "I'm going with you."
"We both don't need to catch hell if-"
"I am going with you," she reiterated firmly.
He nodded. "Out front in ten. I need to get that ugly fucking tie he sent me."
She watched him leave. "Nerd? Need you to get me something a bit... specialized from stores and I would prefer not to have it noticed."
Birkhoff's eyes widened as he swiveled back and prepared to do the sexy lethal woman's bidding.
Michael and Nikita strode into the bath house. After hooking up with the head of security his lips curled slightly. Nikita rolled her eyes at his cocky walk. They walked into a room filled with old Russian men who should have been wearing something a hell of a lot less revealing than white towels.
"Mischa," came from a rounded man in the middle of the pack.
"Long time no see." He smiled as Nikita walked to a towel cart nearby. "I was just wondering if you could help me out with finding a friend of mine. She seems to have run afoul of a Russian stable master near the Bonhomie Nightclub."
The Russian mobster shook his head. "Mischa, Mischa, Mischa. You are my friend. I would like to help my friend but this is about business."
Nikita cleared her throat and moved the towel cart nearer as she turned it. "700 steel ball bearings says that this could fall under business too."
The smiles faded all around the room. "What is that?" the apoplectic mobster shouted.
"Claymore," Nikita responded brightly. "And its pointed at you." She frowned. "Damn these sweat rooms. Makes the trigger hand all slippery."
Michael ground his teeth as the Russians whispered. "Claymore?" he asked tightly.
"Do you know what happens to women the sex traders snatch?" she snapped at him.
"Vlad is not worth this. He has a basement in storage building on fourteenth." The mobster growled and waved at them. "Go and take your claymore."
Three security goons came in and saw Nikita's bomb. They rushed her. One received a boot to the jaw sending him toward Michael who laid him out with a trio of fast punches. Nikita kicked high at another's hand before wrapping the claymore trigger wire around the third's neck. The second brought his gun down and fired before realizing his fellow guard was being used as a shield. Nikita pulled the trigger cord hard to the right throwing the guard to the side and quickly eliminated the last. She turned and smiled at the half naked men. "Taking my toy with me." she announced before Michael grabbed her free arm and dragged her out.
"You burned my contact."
"Honestly? After Percy killed Daniel, you should be pleased that my reactions are so civil." She smiled and jumped into the car to busy herself disarming the claymore as Michael drove.
Vlad smiled as he turned on the camera after tossing the empty needle he injected her with. "You are worth a lot of money." He looked to Irina who looked ill in the corner. "Did you know we're in the presence of royalty?" Irina shook her head as she watched an angry Alex.
Alexandra's head nodded as she tried desperately to snap out of the drug's effect. She shook her head. "You've lost your mind Vlad," she snapped, her fingers gripping at the cage door.
"You are Alexandra Udinov, daughter of the oligarch Nikolai Udinov, one of the new tsars." He turned and smiled triumphantly.
"Completely nuts!" Tears pooled in her blue eyes.
He adjusted the camera. "Now you will admit to your identity on this camera so that I can collect the rather large bounty on your head."
Alexandra flailed her arm at Irina. "Make Irina say it. You might as well sic them on her."
"She is not the Zetrov heir." He held up a golden watch. "You really shouldn't have given your father's watch to her to pay for a new life. She is a junkie and would sell her own mother for a speed-ball. Now, Alexandra, tell me what I want to hear. I will give you another shot, and we will leave to collect my reward...ready? Action."
Alex looked over at the other woman who closed her eyes and turned away with guilt and remorse. Vlad picked up his phone as it rang. "What?" he shouted as gunfire suddenly erupted from the hall. He grabbed his weapon accidentally knocking over his camera. Not stopping to right it he ran out.
Alexandra looked over. "Irina," she called quietly. "Open the cage."
"I want to... but Vlad... I just wanted you back."
"Irina, the people out there will kill you if they find me inside this cage and you standing over me. I am the only one who wants to save your life... let me out... now."
Irina looked around fearfully. She unlocked the cage. "I'm so sorry Sasha," she said just as the door exploded inwards. Vlad pushed Irina into the wall with a crash. He snarled and Alex hit him with a nearby chair. She grabbed his gun and stood over him. "For the record... I am Alexandra Udinov, daughter of Nikolai Udinov... and this is your reward."
She shot him three times before dropping the gun, as her adrenaline withdrew leaving her with nothing but the lassitude caused by the injection he gave her earlier. She started crumpling as Michael came rushing in and got his arms around her. "I got you Alex."
Her eyes tracked back to the fallen tripod the camera was no longer there. Where did it go? Alex thought. Nikita stood nearby, looking down at Vlad. She looked up at the exhausted Russian woman. "Let's get you home."