"A Ruse By Any Other Name"

formerly "Under the Wire"

(May 2003)

All original material © 2003, Jason Manning

Readers' reviews and comments

While Serrett becomes the centerpiece in a deadly game of
doublecross played by Section One and a new enemy, a terror
network known as Nexus, Nikita gets a lead that might bring
her one step closer to learning the truth about her father.

Section One, Munitions...
Nikita enters to find Walter at his work table. The table is laden with equipment, but Walter doesn't seem to notice. He's staring off into space.
NIKITA: Hello, Walter. How are you feeling?
WALTER, dejected: I've had better lives.
NIKITA, concerned, putting a hand on his shoulder: You've come back to work too soon, in my opinion. Take more time off.
WALTER: Time off won't cure what ails me, Sugar.
NIKITA: And what is it that ails you?
WALTER: I told Jason the truth.
NIKITA, circling the table: I see.
WALTER, peering at her: You've read the file, haven't you? You're the only one around here with access to it.
NIKITA, nodding: I've read it.
WALTER: And you haven't said a thing about it to me.
NIKITA, shrugs: Not my business. That's between you and Jason. I gather he didn't take well to the truth.
WALTER: There's an understatement. I guess I shouldn't have told him. But I...well, at the time I....
NIKITA: You thought you were dying, and that was a secret you didn't want to carry to the grave.
WALTER, grimacing: Yeah. Selfish of me, huh?
NIKITA: No. What can I do to help?
WALTER: I have no idea. What can anybody do?
NIKITA, shaking her head: Maybe all he needs is a little time. (She looks at the equipment on the table between them) Want me to assign someone to give you a hand with all this?
WALTER: Nah. Keeps me occupied.
NIKITA: And you're not dying, Walter. You'll probably outlive us all.
WALTER, bleakly: Great. I've outlived Seymour, and his mother, and Operations. I don't want to outlive you, too, Sugar.
Troubled, but hiding it with a smile, Nikita leans over the table and gives Walter a kiss on the forehead, right below the headband. His face brightens as he watches her leave Munitions.
NIKITA, over her shoulder: Briefing in five.
WALTER: Yeah, I'll be there. You know I'd never miss one of your performances.

Section One, briefing table...
Walter is the last to arrive, taking his chair between Antonio Mendez and Kate Quinn. Apart from Mendez, there are two other Level 5 team leaders present. Nikita, on the other side of the table, activates the holo-screen, revealing a map of Europe.
NIKITA: The European terrorist groups of old -- Baader-Meinhof, the Red Brigades -- have more or less faded from view. But there continue to be extreme left-wing and reactionary groups operating in the region. Due to recent high-profile terrorism in other parts of the world, they haven't gotten much attention. That's about to change, for several reasons. The nations of the former Eastern Bloc are being embraced by the European Union and NATO. Generally, their police forces are poorly equipped to deal with terrorism, so cooperation between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe on counter-terrorist measures has begun in earnest. And until recently, European nations had operated with different terrorism laws -- or none at all -- so terrorists found it relatively easy to avoid pursuit unless there was strong evidence that they had committed a crime common to all countries, like murder. Now all 15 countries are adopting a common definition of terrorist acts, and Europe-wide arrest warrants will be recognized by the law enforcement agencies of all nations.
MENDEZ: It's about time. Where I come from, the governments of Spain and France could never cooperate when it came to cracking down on the Basque separatists.
NIKITA: Reliable intel has convinced us that the terrorist groups are responding to this new era of inter-governmental cooperation by forming an alliance of their own. As yet we know precious little about this alliance, except that it has been referred to as The Nexus. We suspect that the following groups have agreed to work in concert in order to launch a new wave of terrorism across Europe -- the E.T.A. in Spain, the November 17 group in Greece, ASALA in Hungary... (As she names the groups, red lights appear on the map to indicate their focus of operations) ...Sikh extremists, the Golden Temple in Hungary, Devrimci Sol in Turkey, the Loyalist Volunteer Force and radical elements of the Irish Republican Army opposed to mediating with the British in Ireland.
WALTER, letting loose with a low whistle: Hard to believe those outfits could cooperate on crossing the street, much less with their operations.
NIKITA: Quinn?
QUINN: Our intel indicates that Nexus will serve to interface terror operations for maximum impact, and provide logistical and financial support where needed. We suspect that individuals from such groups as Baader-Meinhof and the Red Brigades -- individuals who have established a reputation in terrorist circles -- are playing a role. Their presence would lend Nexus considerable influence. We're even more concerned, however, with rumors that members of the political, military and business establishments in the various European nations are also involved with Nexus.
NIKITA: Nexus is anti-EU, anti-American, and anti-NATO. We've been asked to make a preemptive strike in hopes of crippling the network before it can fully get off the ground. We have identified several players whose removal might do the trick. (Three images, accompanied by scrolling data, appear on the holo-screen) Gerhard Brandt, Deputy Minister of Defence, primarily anti-EU and suspected of neo-Nazi connections. Sandar Fico, a major general in the Hungarian Army, notorious for his strong anti-NATO stance. And Francois Le Pon, one of the most powerful financiers in France. We believe he is the Nexus paymaster. (She looks at Mendez and the other two team leaders) Each team will target one of these men. You will grab them, transport them to a predetermined safehouse, elicit and document confessions from them. And then you will release them.
WALTER, nodding, with a sly smile: And we hand over the documentation to their governments and let them resolve the problem.
NIKITA: Details are on your panels, Transport is ready.
She turns to go. The others get up from the table, and scatter -- except for Mendez. With long strides, he catches up with Nikita.
MENDEZ: About this "Eyes Only" file on my panel....
NIKITA: What about it?
MENDEZ: Serrett has only been here for six months. Frankly, he has no business being a part of this.
NIKITA: He's a part of it if I say he is.
She keeps walking, and Mendez follows her, out of the Common Area, up two flights of metal stairs, through a short corridor and into the Perch.

Section One, The Perch...
MENDEZ: His presence puts the rest of my team in jeopardy. He isn't ready. And I don't see how he is an asset to this mission.
NIKITA: That's not your concern. You've read his evaluations, I'm sure. High scores in advanced weapons training, close-quarter combat, defensive and evasive driving techniques, demolitions, infil/exfil, SERE, surveillance, communications. Of course, that's not surprising, since he served in the Regiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine.
MENDEZ: I know. I checked it out. There's just one problem. He hasn't assimilated. He doesn't want to be here. And he might go under the wire first chance he gets.
NIKITA: I'll count on you to prevent that from happening.
MENDEZ, with a grimace: Look. I know you don't...like me. I questioned your ability to take Operations' place...
NIKITA, turning on him with a cold smile: No, I don't like you, particularly. But I don't let personal feelings interfere with my judgment. Some things around here are the same as they've always been. And one of those is that you will do what you're told.
MENDEZ: And if Serrett goes rogue?
NIKITA: Bring him back. Or kill him. You make the call. Now, if you don't mind....
Mendez nods and leaves The Perch.

SERE: Spec Ops jargon for survival, escape, resistance, and evasion.

Section One, Munitions...
Walter suppresses a grin as Mendez walks in, muttering in Spanish under his breath.
WALTER, sliding a black bag across the table at Mendez: Hey, amigo, que pasa? Here's your gear.
MENDEZ: That woman -- she has it in for me.
WALTER: Who, Nikita? Nah, you got it all wrong, Antonio.
MENDEZ: She knows I don't think she can fill Operations' shoes.
WALTER: Wrong again. I knew him and I know her, and she may have a different style, but in her own way she's just as tough.
MENDEZ, with a skeptical grunt: If she were as tough she would have had me in abeyance a long time ago.
WALTER, with a sly grin: Just go with the flow, hombre. You don't think this might have something to do with that famous Latin machismo, do you? That ol' 'a woman has no business doing a man's job' kind of thing?
MENDEZ: What? No way. I'm not like that.
WALTER: Oh, okay. Right. Well, she depends on you. Thinks you're one of the best around here. She wouldn't ask you to do anything she couldn't do herself.
The other two members of Mendez's team -- Tasker, a heavily muscled black man, and Jean-Baptiste Serrett -- arrive. Walter tosses a bag to Tasker.
TASKER, to Mendez: I checked the rig. It's in the van.
Mendeza nods and Tasker leaves.
SERRETT: I was told I wouldn't see the light of day for three years. I've been here less than six months and I'm part of a mission? What's going on?
MENDEZ: Just do what I tell you and you might come back alive. (He leaves)
SERRETT: Or I might not come back at all.
WALTER, shaking his head: Whatever you're thinking, forget it. Only two people I know of ever got out for any length of time. And you're not even in their league.
Serrett accepts his bag and departs. Walter shakes his head again, watching Serrett, then goes back to work.

A remote airfield outside Paris, at night...
A black MC-130E Combat Talon I, without markings, lands, taxis off the runway. The ramp is lowered and a Section van is disgorged from the huge cargo plane. It speeds across the largely empty airfield to a black helicopter, a MH-6J modified for silent approach. Mendez, Serrett and Tasker exit the van, loading a single trunk onto the helicopter, and then climbing aboard themselves. The van makes a tight 180 degree turn and heads back to the MC-130E while the MH-6J lifts off the ground.

silent approach: NASA's S.I.L.E.N.T. program is charged with finding the most efficient means of reducing near-field and far-field helicopter noise. The Section's modified MH-6J uses x-force control to modify the vortex plane with respect to the rotor plane, thus sharply reducing BVI (Blade Vortex Interaction) noise upon descent. It also employs advanced high-lift airfoils, modulated blade spacing and a swept Ogee blade tip design to reduce noise by 75%.

Somewhere in Paris, twelve minutes later...
The MH-6J hovers over empty streets, near a ten-story, five-star residential hotel. Tasker shines a laser beam through a darkened window..
VOICE OF QUINN, in the team's comm-sets: Okay, I'm in.

Section One, Communications...
Quinn is at a work-station, studying a three-dimensional computer model of the building on her monitor, reading the data-stream to the left and right of the model, and checking the infrared readout.
QUINN: I'm getting four warm bodies in Le Pon's suite. Our intel indicates he should be taking the lift down to the restaurant in nine minutes. He'll be accompanied by two bodyguards. There'll be two more waiting for him downstairs.

In the MH-6J...
TASKER: So he goes down for a midnight supper after the restaurant is closed. How strange is that?
VOICE OF QUINN: Whatever it is that Howard Hughes had, Le Pon has it worse. He hasn't had any contact with the general public in over a decade. Okay, Mendez -- the roof is clear.
The pilot of the helicopter, hearing this in his comm-set, swoops the "Little Bird" down to hover thirty feet above the hotel, its rotors making a muted whumping sound. A braided woolen rope is hooked to a bracket and thrown out. Before it hits the ground, Mendez is sliding down it. Serrett and Tasker are right behind him. The MH-6J copilot pulls the safety pin to release the rope from the bracket, lets it fall to the rooftop, then turns on the motorized winch and lowers the trunk, which is attached to a steel cable.

Hotel rooftop...
While Tasker and Serrett free the trunk and carry it, Mendez runs to the door of the machine room atop the roof and uses a laser to burn through the lock bolt. He enters the machine room in a crouch, sweeping it with his H&K MP5KA4. There is no one in the room. Tasker and Serrett enter with the trunk.

Section One, Communications...
VOICE OF MENDEZ, vis comm set: Blue Team at first mark.
QUINN: Good. I'm in the elevator's computer. Proceed.

The machine room...
While Serrett stands guard, Tasker opens the trunk, takes out and assembles a titanium frame for a small but powerful motorized hoist. Mendez uses the laser to burn away the bolts securing a grate in the floor near the elevator's sheave. Removing the grate, he can peer down into the shaft. Tasker places the frame over the opening, secures it to the metal floor with magnetized lockdowns and feeds some cable out of the hoist. Mendez sheds his black jacket. He is wearing a harness similar to that used by parachutists.
VOICE OF QUINN, via comm set: Ninety seconds. Tasker, I'm sending you the lift speed settings.
Mendez hooks the harness to the hoist cable while Tasker keys instructions into the hoist's computer.
TASKER: Ready.

Section One, Communications...
QUINN, watching the infrared readings on her monitor's computer replication of the hotel: I've got movement on the tenth level. That would be Le Pon and his two bodyguards.
VOICE OF MENDEZ: Roger that.

The machine room...
The control system in the corner buzzes; the gear motor kicks in, and the sheave begins to rotate. Looking down into the shaft, Mendez watches the elevator car coming up.

Tenth floor hallway...
Francois Le Pon, flanked by two bulky bodyguards, reaches the outer doors of the lift. One of the bodyguards pushes the ground floor button on the panel.

The machine room...
The elevator stops; the roof is twenty feet below Mendez. He swings out on the cable, and the hoist whirrs, lowering him without a sound onto the roof of the car.

Tenth floor hallway...
The outer doors roll aside. Le Pon and his bodyguards enter the lift. One of the bodyguards inserts a key into the panel, activates the car's express feature. The two sets of doors slide shut, and the car begins its descent.

On top of the elevator car...
The H&K slung on his back, Mendez draws an M9 Beretta with a QAD sound suppressor attached.
VOICE OF QUINN, via comm set: Le Pon is at the back of the car, both bodyguards are near the doors.
Mendez attaches a flexible wire, via a suction cup, to the top of the emergency hatch. The other end of the wire is secured to his belt. He throws open the hatch. The bodyguards whirl, crouching, looking up, reaching under their coats for weapons. Mendez fires once, twice. Both are headshots, and the bodyguards are dead before they hit the floor.
MENDEZ, via comm set: Give me some slack, Tasker.

The machine room...
Tasker keys instructions into the hoist's computer while Serrett, at the door, looks on, taking everything in.

The hotel lobby...
Two more bodyguards are standing at the elevator's outer doors, awaiting the arrival of Le Pons.

The elevator car...
Mendez drops down through the hatchway into the car. Le Pon is frozen with fear and disbelief, staring at him. Mendez hits him once -- a measured blow just below the right ear. Le Pon drops, unconscious. Kneeling, Mendez hauls Le Pon into a sitting position, letting the unconscious man's weight lean against him, and swiftly begins securing a shoulder harness to the unconscious man. He glances at the floor panel above the doors. The car has passed the fifth floor.
VOICE OF QUINN, via comm set: Twelve seconds. Shall I stop the car?
He hastily hooks a dual cable to the front and back of the harness on Le Pon, then attaches the other end of the cable to a ring on his own harness.
MENDEZ: Tasker, go.

The machine room...
Tasker keys in a code and the hoist begins to whine, taking up the cable.

The elevator car...
Mendez glances once more at the floor panel above the door. The # 2 button is lighting up. Then the cable goes taught and he is yanked up through the hatch, followed by the unconscious Le Pon. As they rise up through the shaft, the flexible wire attached to his belt goes taut, lifting the emergency hatch. The suction cup gives way and the hatch falls into place, just seconds before the car comes to a stop and the doors roll open -- and the bodyguards waiting in the lobby stare at their dead colleagues in the elevator...

The elevator shaft...
MENDEZ, via comm set as he is being hauled rapidly upward at breathtaking speed by the hoist: Target has been acquired.

Section One, Communications...
Hearing this, Quinn turns to the intercom.
QUINN: Blue Team reports target acquired.

Section One, The Perch...
Alone in The Perch, Nikita has been monitoring the audio of the Paris mission.
NIKITA: Thank you. And the other missions?
VOICE OF QUINN: Still underway.
Nikita closes the connection and continues listening intently to the Paris mission audio.

The machine room...
The hoist stops whining; Mendez dangles just below the opening in the machine room floor. He looks down the shaft at the elevator; it's still at the bottom. Tasker reaches down and grabs the cable connecting Le Pon to Mendez. As he lifts the unconscious financier up through the opening, Mendez releases the cable from his harness and breathes a sigh of relief as Le Pon's weight is taken off him. Tasker lays Le Pon out on the floor and turns back to the opening, helping Mendez up. Mendez disconnects from the hoist cable. As he turns to place the grate back over the opening, Tasker's attention is drawn to the unconscious Le Pon.
Serrett makes his move. Keying a command into the hoist's computer, he picks up the cable Mendez has just discarded, hooks it to his belt -- and bolts out the door of the machine room.
MENDEZ, turns, having replaced the grate: Serrett!
Tasker whirls, instinctively drawing his silenced M9 Beretta. Cursing, Mendez beats him to the door. Throwing it open, he raises his own Beretta -- and hesitates a second. When he does fire it's too late. Serrett has already run right off the edge of the roof. The cable goes taut, slamming into Mendez. He curses, turns back to stare at the frame holding the hoist.
MENDEZ, to Tasker: Haul him back up.
Tasker goes to the keypad.

The south side of the hotel...
Hurtling off the roof more than a hundred and fifty feet from the pavement below, Serrett's body arcs back towards the hotel; clutching the cable, he swings around and absorbs the impact against the side of the hotel with his legs.. The cable begins to lower him towards the street -- and then, with a lurch, begins to haul him back up to the roof. Serrett bends his knees and then swings away from the wall. When he swings back, it's right through a window.

The 7th floor of the hotel...
Serrett lands on his feet, the debris of the shattered window scattered across the floor. An older couple are at a nearby table, eating. They stare in frozen astonishment as Serrett draws his M9 Beretta and, holding the barrel up to the cable that is inexorably pulling him back out the window, fires three times. The high-tensile cable unravels, then snaps and flies out the window.. Serrett glances at the old couple, puts away the gun.
SERRETT: Je suis désolé. Bon appetit.
He leaves the apartment by a more traditional route -- out the door into the hallway.

The roof of the hotel...
Relieved of its weight, the cable comes whipping back to the hoist. Mendez and Tasker barely manage to avoid it.
TASKER: What do we do now?
MENDEZ: Leave everything except Le Pon. Take him to the safehouse. I'm going after Serrett.
Tasker lifts Le Pon in a fireman's carry, and Mendez follows him across the roof. A rope is thrown down from the MH-6J hovering overhead. This rope has rings woven into it at five foot intervals. Tasker secures the snap link of Le Pon's harness to one of the circles.
MENDEZ, to the helicopter crew, via comm set: Take it up.
The cable begins to rise. Tasker slips a foot into one of the rings, hooks an arm through the one above it, and, with Le Pon, is hoisted through the air to the waiting chopper. As the MH-6J veers away, Mendez heads for the fire escape door.

Section One, Communications...
VOICE OF MENDEZ: Target is airborne. Serrett has gone rogue. Request his clock code.
QUINN, via intercom, glancing across the Common Area at Nikita in the Perch: Serrett has gone under the wire and Mendez is....
VOICE OF NIKITA: I know. Give him the code.
QUINN: Should I call in a backup team?
VOICE OF NIKITA: No. Mendez can handle it.

clock code: Most Section operatives are injected with a subdermal "clock" -- or micro-transmitter. (Later in this story, Jasmine Kwong will refer to the clock as a "marker.") Each clock, or marker, has a unique code so that the signal it transmits can be identified. Mendez is asking for the code of the clock in Serrett so that he can track the latter via a GPS unit.

The roof of the hotel...
MENDEZ, as he kicks open the door, gun drawn, scans the empty stairwell: Yes, I'll get the bastard back.

Section One, The Perch...
Nikita switches off the mission audio -- and allows herself a faint smile.

Section One, Common Area...
Jason Crawford saunters in. He glances first at the Perch, and sees Nikita there. Communications and Systems are bustling with activity. Quinn is one of the first to notice him, looking up from giving instructions to a tech. A look of exasperation flashes across her face. Jason grins and veers over to her.
JASON: Hey, darlin'. Miss me?
QUINN, sardonically: Like I miss ingrown toenails. What are you doing here?
JASON, with a ne'er-do-well shrug: Beats me. I was just minding my own business, doing my thing at The Center., when they ordered me to report to One. I sure wish they'd make up their minds. Guess maybe they figured you needed some help. (Grinning more broadly) Hey, I don't mind. I'd love to help you any way I can, one professional to another...or a man to a woman...
QUINN: That will be the day. Run along, Junior, I'm busy.
JASON: That's your problem, you know? You're always busy. All work and no play makes Kate a dull girl.
QUINN, eyes hooded: Oh, I play now and then, Junior. You wouldn't believe the games I can play.
JASON, a little surprised: Well, whenever you need a playmate, you got my number.
With a smirk, Quinn returns to her duties. Jason continues across the Common Area. He glances across at Munitions -- and sees Walter, bent over his work table. Jason stops, a range of emotions playing across his face. Then, with a shake of his head, he turns away.

Section One, The Perch...
Jason enters. Nikita is at a wall terminal.
NIKITA: Hello, Jason. You must be wondering why you're back.
JASON: It's okay -- I've learned to keep my bags packed.
NIKITA: Take a look at this.
She turns to the terminal, presses a key, and a video begins to play on the monitor -- of the exchange between Section One and The Collective, in which Mr. Jones gives himself to the enemy in return for the release of Michael Samuelle's son, Adam. Jason watches as Jones is gunned down by two of the terrorists, then glances at Nikita. Her face might have been carved from stone.
JASON: Wasn't that your....
She presses another key, freezing the video on the group of Collective operatives.
NIKITA: None of these men exist.
JASON: Excuse me?
NIKITA: They're ghosts. No trace of any of them. At least none that Quinn or Walter can find.
JASON: You can't live in the world today without leaving a trail.
NIKITA, with a faint smile: I'm glad you feel that way. Because I want you to do me a favor. Track down at least one of those men. I'm giving you Class A clearance. You'll have access to any database in the world.
JASON, eyes widening: Sure. No problem. So, um, what's this all about? You want revenge, right?
NIKITA, fiercely: I want the truth.
The intercom interrupts.
VOICE OF QUINN: Both the Brandt and Fico missions have reported in. Targets acquired.
NIKITA: Thank you.
JASON: I'll get right on it.
NIKITA: Do that. Oh, and Jason -- one more thing. I know about your...situation with Walter. I depend on him. I always have. He's the best person in here, and he's been my rock.
JASON, defensively: What does that have to do with me?
NIKITA: He was given the chance to provide one of his sons with a normal life, and he took it. And he had nothing to do with your being brought back in. Imagine what it must have been like for Seymour, living his entire life in Section.
JASON: Oh I do. It must have been terrible. And spending the rest of my days here isn't exactly what I had in mind.
NIKITA: None of us want to be here. But here we are, and we have to make the best of it.If you have trouble doing that -- as I have -- you'd do well to go to Walter for help.
Jason doesn't say anything. He simply nods, and leaves.

Paris, in the dark before dawn...
Serrett turns a corner and walks with long strides down a tree-lined street with 19th-century brownstones on either side -- a quiet street between the Avenue D'iena and the Avenue Marceau. There are shops-- not yet open -- on the ground levels, flats on those above. He pauses several times, looking around to get his bearings, then bounds up the stoop of one building and checks the intercom board just outside the doors. He runs a finger across the name Sophie Gaillac. He almost pushes the button, but hesitates, then walks away, crossing the street to take a position beneath the trees there, from whence he can see the windows of the second floor flat where Sophie lives.

Paris, Sophie Gaillac's flat...
Two people, a man and a woman -- the latter is Sophie -- are asleep in a bed. A cell phone on a bedside table vibrates. The man [GRIMAUD] reaches out, picks it up, opens it and puts it to his ear.
GRIMAUD, sleepily: Yes?
GRIMAUD, suddenly wide awake: Wait.
He glances at Sophie. She is still sound asleep, her black hair in wild disarray on the pillow. The man gets slowly, silently out of bed. He is tall, handsome, with the looks of a movie star and the build to match. Naked, he catfoots it into an adjoining room, a library-office-sitting room, shutting the door behind him.
GRIMAUD: Go ahead.

Section One, Communications...
QUINN, at her station: I tried to contact you an hour ago.
VOICE GRIMAUD: Sorry. I was...in the middle of something.
QUINN, dryly: Funny, I hear that a lot from valentine ops.

Paris, Sophie Gaillac's flat...
GRIMAUD: So what has happened?
VOICE OF QUINN: The ferret has gone under the wire.
GRIMAUD: I'll be ready.
VOICE OF QUINN: Don't let her out of your sight until the ferret is caged.
The link goes dead. Grimaud looks around, then goes to the window, pulling open the blinds, and turning on a lamp on a nearby table. He turns to find Sophie standing in the doorway, black hair tousled, knuckling her eyes sleepily; she's wearing a blue robe, left negligently open.
SOPHIE: Who was that at this hour?
GRIMAUD: My partner. Good news. I don't have any meetings tomorrow. I'm completely at your disposal. We could have that picnic we've been talking about...
She moves closer to him as he speaks, and he slides his hands under the robe and around her waist.
SOPHIE: I don't know....It's supposed to rain tomorrow.
GRIMAUD: Then we'll have our picnic right here.
SOPHIE: I....I don't know. This has....it's happened so quickly. I feel guilty....
GRIMAUD, letting her go and stepping away: I understand. Maybe this was all too soon.I mean, it's only been six months since....well. I should give you more space. But that's just so difficult, Sophie. I think about you every waking moment. Want to be with you....
SOPHIE: Please, don't take what I said the wrong way. I'm very happy....
GRIMAUD, smiling: That's the important thing. And I'm sure he would have wanted you to be happy, yes?
SOPHIE, moving her body against his, embracing him: Yes, he would want that, wouldn't he? I think a picnic would be wonderful. Even if it rains.

The street below...
Serrett sees the man in the window, knows it is Sophie Galliac's flat. Then he sees Sophie, and even at this distance, he can confirm her identity. As she and the man embrace, Serrett looks like a man who's had the wind knocked out of him. Sick to his stomach and with an ache in his heart, he turns away. Hearing a car, he dives into a shadowed doorway -- just as a black Mercedes makes the corner. As the car passes, Serrett recognizes the man behind the wheel -- Mendez. Once the car has passed, Serrett slips around the corner and begins to run.

The Mercedes arrives in front of the brownstone containing Sophie Galliac's flat. Mendez takes a careful look around. Then he glances up at the lighted window, sees a man and a woman silhouetted against the light. He takes a high-powered monocular from one of the pockets of his mission jacket, checks the man. It isn't Serrett. Mendez picks the GPS scanner on the seat beside him -- amidst the glass of the shattered passenger-side window. The ignition wires dangle beneath the dash, hotwired. The GPS readout shows that Serrett is very close by. Mendez plants his foot on the accelerator, takes the next corner with a squeal of tire rubber. A short block brings him to a main thoroughfare. Spotting the Metro entrance, he jumps out of the car, runs to the top of the steps leading down to the underground maze of the Parisian subway system. Again he checks the handheld GPS scanner. It indicates Serrett is moving quickly now, southeast towards the Seine River. Mendez returns to the Mercedes.
MENDEZ: Quinn.
VOICE OF QUINN, via his comm set: Yes.
MENDEZ: He was here -- at his old girlfriend's. But he's gone now. She had company. He's using the Metro. Where else would he be likely to go?
QUINN: I'm waiting for his profile now.
MENDEZ: He has no idea he's got a clock?
QUINN: Of course not. It was injected during routine inoculations.
MENDEZ, irritated: Why is that profile taking so long?
QUINN, a withering tone of voice: We have eight missions running and the wheels have come off two of them.
MENDEZ: A runner is highest priority.
QUINN: Give me five minutes.
Exasperated, Mendez consults the GPS scanner once more, drives on.

GPS: (Global Positioning System); provides specially coded satellite signals that can be processed in a receiver, enabling the receiver to compute position, velocity and time of a targeted or signal-transmitting object.. Four GPS satellite signals are used to compute positions in three dimensions and the time offset in the receiver clock. Section One uses a 24-satellite "operational constellation" that orbit the earth every 12 hours.

Paris underground, the Metro system...
Serrett is using a phone kiosk. The platform is nearly empty, save for a tart in a very short red dress and black stockings and an old man sleeping on a bench and a pair of uniformed police. He turns his back as they pass right by him, heading for the working girl. Serrett listens to the ringing of the phone at the other end of the line.
SERRETT, an impatient murmur: Come on, Pierre. Be there.
SERRETT: Pierre....
SERRETT, hesitating: It's Jean-Baptiste.
There is a long pause.
VOICE OF DUCHENNE: What kind of joke is this?
SERRETT: Pierre, it is I.
VOICE OF DUCHENNE, after another pause: You are supposed to be dead, my old friend. Do they have phones in hell, then?
SERRETT: No. I just escaped from hell.
DUCHENNE: They always said you could get out of any tight spot.
SERRETT: I need your help, Pierre. I don't know who else to turn to....
DUCHENNE: Of course. Where are you?
SERRETT: Your phone may be monitored.
DUCHENNE: By whom?
SERRETT: Remember where we always met for lunch?
DUCHENNE: How long?
SERRETT: I'll need twenty minutes.
DUCHENNE: I'll be waiting.
Serrett hangs up. A subway train slows at the platform. The police have left the tart and moved on to the vagrant. Serrett enters the nearest car when the doors open. A moment later, the train is on the move.

Paris, dawn...
Dawn is breaking as Pierre Duchenne slows his Peuguot in front of a sidewalk cafe. Two waiters are putting out the tables and chairs for the morning business. Serrett is waiting in a doorway across the street. He crosses briskly to the car.
A black Mercedes skids to a halt at an intersection a stone's throw away. Serrett breaks into a run as Mendez takes aim through the shattered passenger-side window with the silenced Beretta. The bullet clips Serrett's jacket. Duchenne throws open the Peuguot's passenger-side door and Serrett dives inside.
SERRETT: Let's go. Hurry.
Duchenne floors the accelerator. The Pueguot leaps forward, skids into a turn and shoots down an alley, clipping a wall with its left rear panel. The black Mercedes roars past the sidewalk cafe and hits the wall too as it veers into the alley. The Pueguot turns left on an intersecting street. Mendez makes the same turn, tires screeching. Reaching a boulevard, Mendez lays rubber as he stops the Mercedes, looks left and right, and in frustration slams the palm of his hand against the steering wheel. The Pueguot is nowhere to be seen.

A few blocks away...
Still driving fast, Duchenne glances at Serrett.
DUCHENNE: It is you. Back from the dead.
SERRETT: Back among the living. (He looks behind them) The question is, for how long?
DUCHENNE: Who was that?
SERRETT: Someone who won't quit.
DUCHENNE: What happened to you?
SERRETT: Remember Dori Burns?
DUCHENNE: Your old girlfriend. Before Sophie.
SERRETT, nodding: Everything she told me about this group called Section One -- it is true. They've had me all this time.
DUCHENNE: And you escaped.
SERRETT: Yes. Tonight.
DUCHENNE: Why didn't you go to the police?
SERRETT: I wasn't sure I could trust the police. Section One has great influence. Many resources.It isn't that I object so much to their goals. But their methods....
DUCHENNE, nodding: When they said you had been killed -- a bomb in your apartment, blamed on the Union Corse -- I sometimes wondered.
SERRETT: Because you've heard of Section One before, haven't you?
DUCHENNE: As I told you the last time we met -- only rumors.
SERRETT: It exists.
DUCHENNE: Who else have you told? Sophie?
SERRETT, looking away, so that Duchenne does not see his pain: No.
DUCHENNE: What will you do?
SERRETT: Run. Be free, as long as I can. Disappear from the face of the earth, if possible. Even so, I think eventually they will find me.
DUCHENNE: I can help you. In fact, I think it is safe to say I can ensure you will disappear and never be found.
SERRETT: Thank you, my old friend.
DUCHENNE, with regret: Don't thank me yet, mon ami.
Serrett sees the gun in Duchenne's right hand -- a second before it goes off. The tranquilizer dart hits him in the neck. He lunges across at Duchenne, who pushes him back. The Peuguot veers to the left, then the right, on a narrow, empty street. Duchenne barely manages to evade a lamppost. Serrett fumbles for the door handle, but his vision is blurry, his motor skills abandoning him. Then he slumps forward, blacking out. Regaining control of the car, Duchenne pushes Serrett back so that he appears to be sleeping sitting up, and drives on.

A warehouse on the outskirts of Paris...
Duchenne drives into the fence-enclosed yard of an abandoned warehouse, using a remote to open the outer gate. As he approaches the building, he rolls down his window and looks up at a security camera mounted high above the doors. The doors are rolled aside by two men with Spectre M4s dangling from shoulder straps. Duchenne drives in, stops the Peuguot alongside a beige van bearing the name of a floral delivery company that doesn't exist. As he gets out, the doors are closed. Several men approach.
DUCHENNE: He is inside. Let's be quick.
Two men remove Serrett from the Peuguot. They strip him down, examine his body.
MAN # 1: He's clean.
DUCHENNE: There must be something. They are pursuing him.
The two men place Serrett in a black body bag, which they put in the back of the van. The third uses a scanner to check the pile of clothing. The scanner begins to beep. Using a switchblade, the man slashes open Serrett's jacket, produces a small, round, silver device no larger than a thumbnail.
MAN: Here it is.
DUCHENNE: Good. Destroy it.
The man stands, drops the tracker, and grinds it under the heel of his combat boot.
DUCHENNE: Let's get going. I will follow you.
The three men get in the van, two up front, one in the back with Serrett. The van, followed by Duchenne in the Peuguot, leaves the warehouse, the doors opened and closed again by the two armed men. Leaving the enclosure, the two vehicles turn north on the road to Amiens.
A few minutes later, Mendez stops the black Mercedes at the turnoff to the abandoned warehouse. He checks the GPS receiver.

Section One, Communications...
Quinn is at her work station.
VOICE OF MENDEZ, via comm link: He's heading north by car towards Amiens. I'm only a few klicks behind him.
QUINN: You're clear to proceed. (She switches to intercom) Mendez just reported in.

Section One, The Perch...
NIKITA: He's getting close?
QUINN: Of course, This is Antonio we're talking about. He already took a shot, but Serrett got away. I doubt Antonio will miss a second time.
NIKITA, watching a wall monitor that shows GPS tracking of Serrett across the north of France: It's too early. Contingency D.

Section One, Communications...
QUINN: Right. (A muted but insistent beeping draws her attention to a second monitor) The Center, for you.

Section One, The Perch...
NIKITA, wryly: I've been expecting that call. (She turns, as Jonathan Soto's gaunt features materialize on a wall monitor) Jonathan.
SOTO, smiling: Good morning, Nikita. I've been watching with great interest as the Nexus mission unfolds, and thought it an appropriate time to remind you that failure will have disastrous consequences -- for Section as well for yourself.
NIKITA: I'm aware of that. I take all the blame if it fails -- and I assume you'll take the credit if it succeeds.
SOTO, with a pained expression: Really, Nikita.
NIKITA: Doesn't matter. With the resources available to it, Nexus could become a serious threat. I think the risk is justified.
SOTO: Your sister certainly doesn't agree. She's doing quite well, in case you were about to ask. I expect she'll have finished the psych evaluations of command-and-control at Six within a week and be back with you.
NIKITA: I can hardly wait.
SOTO, chuckling, leaning forward conspiratorially: Don't tell her I said this, but I do hope your plan succeeds. I really would miss you, Nikita.
NIKITA, aware of the implied threat in Soto's comment: Thank you.
Still smiling, Soto's image dissolves to black.

The north of France, on the road to Amiens...
A hooded, black-clad figure lays in tall grass on high ground fifty yards east of the road, armed with an M4A1 accessorized with ACOG4x scope, QD sound suppressor, an Aimpoint COMP-M red-dot sighting system. As a black Mercedes approaches, the sniper sights in on Mendez. Then the sniper targets the right rear tire, switching on the COMP-M, drawing a bead -- and firing...

On the road to Amiens...
Mendez momentarily loses control of the sedan as the right rear tire explodes. He wrestles with the steering wheel as the Mercedes veers one way, then another, and comes, finally, to a screeching stop, turned sideways on the road. Mendez takes a deep breath, drives off onto the shoulder. He gets out, Beretta drawn, and takes a long look around before checking the tire.

Fifty yards east of the road to Amiens...
The black-clad figure slithers through the grass, down the far side of the high ground, before sitting up, pulling off the hood. It is Jasmine Kwong.
KWONG, via comm set: Target stopped.
VOICE OF QUINN: Hold your position and wait for further instructions.
Leaning back on one elbow, Kwong plucks a nearby sunflower and begins removing the petals, one at a time.

Somewhere in the north of France...
The floral delivery van, followed by the Peuguot, trundles down a dirt road flanked by thick forest, to a gate in an electrified fence. Two men armed with M4s and clad in camouflage emerge from the trees, check the drivers of both vehicles. One speaks into a handheld radio. The gate rolls aside. The van and car pass through, take a sharp curve, and slow in front of an old concrete bunker of World War II vintage, almost completely covered with vines -- a natural camouflage.

On the road to Amiens...
Mendez finishes putting the spare on the stolen Mercedes. He rises, looks around as a sound reaches his ears. A moment later, a MH-6J, black and without markings, looms over a line of trees to hover over him. He crouches, turns, and sees Jasmine Kwong sauntering towards him, an M4A1 racked over a shoulder.
MENDEZ, drily, as he puts two and two together, and kicks the flat tire: Nice shot. I'm glad they picked a marksman.
KWONG: Of course.
MENDEZ: So when do I get to know what's really going on here?
KWONG: I'll tell you everything -- once we're airborne.
A rope with rings woven into it, is lowered. Mendez takes his GPS scanner from inside the Mercedes. Then he and Kwong grab hold of the rings and are hoisted up to the helicopter.

In the bunker...
Serrett comes to, finds himself naked and bound hand and foot to a metal chair in a cavernous room. The chair is bolted to the floor. A Krieg light comes on, momentarily blinding him. Squinting, he eventually can see that a man is sitting in a high-backed armchair in front of the light, directly in front of him. All he can see of the man are his arms on the chair's armrests, and the reflection of the light on a shaved head.
OKTOBER: Guten Morgen, Herr Serrett. My name is Oktober. I am with Nexus. I am sure you have heard of us. After all, your organization dealt us several serious blows last night. Francois Le Pon in Paris. Gerhardt Brandt in Bonn. Sandar Fico in Budapest. My congratulations. A masterful operation. But it has not been a total loss
-- at least we have you.
SERRETT: You got the worst of that bargain.
OKTOBER: Perhaps. We shall see. When we are done with you, we will, I think, know much more about Section One than we do now.
Serrett hears footsteps behind him. Someone stops directly behind his chair. He doesn't look around.
DUCHENNE, standing behind the metal chair: For what it's worth, mon frere, I am sorry. But our cause is greater than the best of friendships.
SERRETT, drily: Evidently.
He winces as Duchenne jabs the syringe into the upper part of his arm.
OKTOBER: Sodium amytal, Herr Serrett. What they call "truth serum." Of course, that is a misleading term. It cannot make someone give information he does not want to give. But I think you want to tell someone about Section One, don't you.
Serrett feels a warm rush, a wave of dizziness, followed by a giddy euphoria that erases all pain, all anxieties.
OKTOBER, with a soothing voice: And why shouldn't you? Why should you display loyalty to an organization that faked your death and held you prisoner for the past six months? Relax, Herr Serrett. You will find that you really are among friends here...

In the MH-6J, in flight somewhere over northern France...
Mendez is huddled with Kwong and four other Section ops in the back of the helicopter.
KWONG: Nikita reworked your mission profile to give Serrett a window of opportunity. The sims showed a 70% chance he would take it.
MENDEZ: She wanted Serrett to escape.
KWONG: His friend, Pierre Duchenne, who's with the GIGN, the French antiterrorist group, is also a member of Nexus. Once Serrett told Duchenne he had been with Section One, it seemed likely Duchenne would take him to higher ups in the Nexus chain of command. Of course, Serrett doesn't yet know that he's been injected with a subdermal marker.
MENDEZ: Leading us to the higher ups. But how could we be sure Serrett would go to Duchenne?
KWONG: He had no one else to turn to.
MENDEZ: His fiancee. But there was a man with her last night... (He looks at Kwong suspiciously)
KWONG: One of our Valentine ops.
MENDEZ, nodding: Like a chess game. Moving the pawn into position. Someone could have told me.
KWONG, with a shrug: Your pursuit had to appear genuine. We just had to make sure you didn't get too close.
MENDEZ: Which is where you and your rifle came in.
KWONG: I wasn't worried. I knew you could handle the car.
MENDEZ, feigning disappointment: You weren't worried about me?
KWONG: No more worried than I would be about any other operative, under the circumstances.
Mendez just shakes his head, smiling ruefully.
PILOT: Five minutes from first mark.

Section One, The Perch...
VOICE OF QUINN: Red Team is five minutes from first mark.
NIKITA: Yes, I'm monitoring.
Her gaze shifts from a wall monitor that shows Serrett's static location and the movement of Red Team towards it to the entrance as Jason Crawford enters.
JASON, proudly: I've got something.
NIKITA: Already? That only took six hours.
JASON, with a shrug of false modesty: What can I say? I'm good at this sort of thing.
NIKITA: What do you have?
JASON: An I.D. on one of the men at the bridge. (He goes to a wall station, plugs in a disk. The image of a man -- short-cropped hair, green eyes, high cheekbones, severe mouth -- appears, with a data stream beside it.) He has many identities, but it appears his real name is Frank Gabriel. British, ex-SAS. He's a ghost. Not affiliated with any organization. Suspected of engaging in high-paying mercenary work. Lives alone, in a villa on the coast, near Cannes.
NIKITA, scanning the data: No connection with the Collective?
JASON: No, and it's unlikely Gabriel would have anything to do with a terror network. His wife was killed in the skies over Lockerbie. Needless to say, Gabriel doesn't like terrorists.
NIKITA: And he was at the bridge. You're sure.
JASON: Oh, absolutely, one hundred percent. He didn't do the shooting, but he was in the background.
NIKITA: How did you find him?
JASON: I've developed a little program of my own. It takes a person's image and performs a reverse age simulation. (His fingers fly over the keyboard, and a CGI simulation of a younger Gabriel appears, then an even younger image...) What the individual would have looked like five years ago, then ten years ago, then fifteen, etc. At every stage, I'd run the simulated image through all known databases. I did this for all the men at the bridge. Only one hit, and that was Gabriel, twenty years ago, when he signed up for the SAS..Once I had his real identity it was fairly easy to disassemble his aliases.
NIKITA, nodding her satisfaction: Have you confirmed his location?
JASON: You bet. He's there, alright, on the French Riviera. Lucky dog.
NIKITA: You'll be on the French Riviera yourself in about six hours. Collect everything you need to keep tabs on him. Be ready to leave in an hour.

In the bunker...
Serrett comes to. He is still strapped to the chair. His vision is blurred. He feels euphoric.
OKTOBER: Ah, Herr Serrett. You had a nice sleep. How do you feel?
SERRETT, energized by the narcosis: I feel great! Never better!
OKTOBER: Fine, fine. Now you can tell me everything you want to.
SERRETT: I don't have anything to say. I'm not talking.
OKTOBER: But I'm interested in finding out what happened to you. What Section One did to you. It was a terrible thing.
SERRETT, suddenly feeling sad: They killed her.
OKTOBER: Killed who? Who did they kill?
SERRETT: Poor Dori.
OKTOBER: Dori? Who is Dori, Herr Serrett? A friend of yours, perhaps?
SERRETT: Yes. I mean no. I'm not talking to you.
OKTOBER: But I want to be your friend. You don't have many friends that you can trust. But you can trust me. You know you cannot go back to Section. Not now. You would be killed, wouldn't you? The head of Section would have you terminated. What is his name again?
SERRETT: Yes, she would.
OKTOBER: She? What is her name?
SERRETT: No. I won't tell you.
OKTOBER: Won't you, please? I'd really like to know. Is she pretty?
SERRETT: Yes. Very pretty.... No, I mean, I'm mistaken. She's not...
OKTOBER: She's not pretty?
SERRETT, exasperated: No. I mean, yes, Nikita is pretty, but she's not head of Section....
OKTOBER, pleased: But of course she is. Now we're getting somewhere, Herr Serrett. Let's talk about....
He stops, hearing the faint stammer of automatic weapons. Duchenne bursts into the chamber.
OKTOBER: What is the meaning of this? What is going on?
DUCHENNE: We're under attack.
OKTOBER, gestures at Serrett as he moves towards the door: Bring him.

Outside the bunker...
The MH-6J, in silent approach, hovers over the bunker as Mendez, Kwong and the other four members of the team make a rapid descent on braided woolen ropes. As he descends, Mendez sees two men in camouflage running towards the bunker, firing at the team. He fires several bursts from his shoulder-slung MP5KA4. The two Nexus men go down.

When the Section team reaches the top of the bunker, the MH-6J veers off. Two metal hatches are thrown open, and more Nexus men emerge from both, trying to catch the team in a crossfire. An operative goes down in a brief but fierce firefight. Several Nexus men are killed; the rest disappear down into the bunker. Red Team hurls several concussion grenades down the hatches, followed by tear gas grenades. Pulling gas masks over their faces, they descend, with Kwong and two other ops taking one while Mendez and the third op take the other.

Section One, Communications...
Quinn is at her work station.
VOICE OF NIKITA: Do you have an infrared reading yet?
QUINN: I'm downlinking from the satellite now. And I've got the bunker schematic -- it was part of the old Maginot line. I've integrated Serrett's signal.
NIKITA: I want the upper echelon alive if possible.

Inside the bunker...
Mendez and the other op are proceeding down a narrow corridor with several steel doors along one side.
MENDEZ, via comm set: Quinn, have you located Serrett?
VOICE OF QUINN: He's almost directly below you, two levels down.
Mendez and the op run to the end of the corridor and find a stairwell there. They start down it. A door on the landing below flies open and two Nexus men appear. They get off a few rounds, but then Mendez and the op mow them down. They continue. Someone starts shooting from the bottom of the stairwell, hitting the op in the arm. Mendez drops a concussion grenade down the stairwell, crouches against the wall. The explosion is deafening. He turns to the wounded op, who gives him the thumbs up, and they proceed down the stairs and through another steel door, emerging into a cavernous room. Hydraulic doors are opening to their right. Four men are getting into a black sedan. One is Serrett, being shoved into the back seat by Duchenne. Duchenne and the driver, open fire on Mendez and the wounded op. Mendez dives left, rolls, comes up firing, taking out the driver. But the wounded op is gunned down by Duchenne, who piles into the backseat with Serrett while Oktober gets in behind the wheel. Mendez opens fire on the sedan as it races out of the bunker.
MENDEZ, via comm set: Quinn! Serrett and two hostiles are exiting in a sedan. It's bulletproof; I can't stop them.

Section One, Communications...
QUINN: Eagle One, flip the car.

In the MH-6J...
PILOT: Roger that.
The black helicopter swoops down, firing a FFAR from a 7-tube rocket pod. The rocket strikes the ground inches from the sedan, and the explosion flips the sedan over.

FFAR: Folding Fin Aerial Rocket, a 2.75-inch point target weapon that can carry a variety of special purpose warheads; effective at ranges from 100 to 750 meters.

On the ground...
Mendez runs forward. As the helicopter hovers overhead, he checks inside the overturned car. All three occupants have been rendered unconscious by the concussion of the rocket. Mendez shoulder-slings his MP5KA4 and extracts Serrett through a shattered window, checks him for injuries.
MENDEZ, via comm set: I've got Serrett and the two hostiles.
VOICE OF QUINN: Good. Kwong is mopping up inside.

Section One, Communications...
Quinn looks up, surprised, to see Nikita approaching, flanked by Jason Crawford and three bodyguards -- two of them men, the third a young woman who looks remarkably like Nikita. Nikita takes a key secured to a heavy chain from around her neck, hands it to Quinn.
NIKITA: You'll run things while I'm gone.
QUINN: Gone where?
NIKITA, already walking away: I shouldn't be more than twelve hours.

A villa on the coast, a few miles west of Cannes...
A man clad in black leather and wearing a dark-visored helmet roars up to the villa on a red Ducati 750 Sport special. He kills the engine, steps off the bike, and removes the helmet. It's Frank Gabriel. He takes a long look around. To his right, the Mediterranean extends to a hazy horizon. Seabirds call out as they soar near the cliff upon which the old villa sits. Gabriel passes through a wrought-iron gate. He bends down, picks up a broken length of very thin white cotton fibre. He glances at the villa, then approaches the door, checks the security system keypad. The red "active" light is on. He uses a swipe card to change the light to green, and enters.

The Section ops jump him from both sides of the door. Gabriel rolls one over his shoulder straight into the other. They scramble to their feet and come at him again. Gabriel blocks a roundhouse kick, launches a spinning kick of his own, and drops one. The other man drives Gabriel backwards into a wall. He throws a punch, but Gabriel is quicker, and the man's fist slams into the rough stone of the wall. Gabriel executes a kidney punch that drops the man, gasping and momentarily paralyzed, to his knees.
NIKITA: That will be enough of that.
Gabriel turns, sees Nikita standing there in a long white leather coat and wraparound sunglasses so black he cannot see her eyes. She is aiming a silver-plated M9 Beretta at him.
GABRIEL, sardonic: Well, that depends...on why you're here.
A female Section op comes up behind Gabriel, puts the barrel of his Beretta against the man's skull, and efficiently frisks him, then nods to Nikita.
NIKITA, keeping the M9 trained on Gabriel: I want to see my father. And you're going to take me to him.
Realizing who she is, Gabriel says nothing.


Characters from the television series La Femme Nikita:
Nikita, Jasmine Kwong, Walter, Jason Crawford, Quinn, Michelle

Original "Season Six" characters:
Antonio Mendez, Jean-Baptiste Serrett, Jonathan Soto, Sophie Gaillac, Pierre Duchenne, Tasker, Francois Le Pon, Oktober, Frank Gabriel