Disclaimer: Nikita is so not my property. As a matter of fact, none of these characters are. I just take them out to play once in awhile and put them back where I found them.

Spoilers: Nothing beyond the first episode - this is set during Nikita's two years of training before she went on her first mission.

Archiving: Sure, just let me know. Nikitangel@hotmail.com

Feedback: Any and all, even the bad stuff, but keep it constructive, would you? Please review - I always return the favor if you have fic on a series that I know.

Notes: This is one of many fics exploring this time period in Nikita's life.

A definitive stillness greeted Nikita as she nudged open the door of her apartment with her foot. She stood there at the threshold for a moment, gazing at her surroundings, then entered with a sigh. She deposited the groceries on the counter, watching a loaf of bread slide out of a bag and into the sink. She left it there.

She shed her heavy coat slowly, tucking her gloves in the pockets and hanging it in the closet. She carefully shut the closet door and turned once again to her stark living quarters. The whiteness stared back at her and she turned away.

There had been nothing about today's particular mission to inspire this lassitude. Same profiles, same objectives, same egress - she had gone through the motions of the mission successfully. One of the greener ops had made a comment in the van that had given Nikita pause.

"Some Christmas. All we need is the Grinch."

Nikita frowned. Christmas had never been a very big deal in her small family -- even when her mother was sober enough to realize what day it was, there was nothing to be done about it -- but Nikita had never actually forgotten the day entirely. Still, here it was. December 25th, and the thought hadn't even crossed her mind.

Nikita crossed the room to the balcony and stepped out onto it. Snow swirled around her, piling in small drifts on her balcony. A small smile quirked the corner of her mouth as she remembered a Christmas several years back.

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

--Fourteen months after Nikita's recruitment --

Nikita's heart was pounding. Palms sweating, she crouched in her hiding spot and held her breath. The footsteps passed and she sighed in relief. Slowly she peered around the corner and scanned the area. Clear. She unfolded her limbs and climbed out of the H6 container, keeping an eye on her surroundings. She tiptoed to the door and searched the hallway for her opponent. Finding it empty, she held her breath and made a dash for Comm.

"Birkoff!"

The young man jumped. "Nikita! What are you doing here?"

She glanced over her shoulder. "Shhh! I need a favor. Have you seen Mark around here?"

Birkoff stared at her in confusion. "Yeah, a couple minutes ago. Why?"

"Which way did he go?"

"I don't remember. I'm kind of busy here," he remarked pointedly, cringing a little when she paused in her perusal of the area to narrow her eyes at him. "Um, why do you want to know?"

"He's It," she hissed before dropping to the floor under his workstation. Birkoff furrowed his brow, turning around to see Mark strolling towards him.

"Hey, Birkoff, you seen Nikita around here lately?"

"Uh -" Birkoff was assisted in his reply by the pinch at his ankle. "Uh, no, not really. Maybe, uh, maybe you should try Storage." The operative nodded and headed toward Munitions. Nikita crawled out moments later.

"Thanks, Birkoff." She flashed him a quick grin and swiped a piece of licorice. "Now, I need a location on Anthony."

Birkoff opened his mouth and closed it. "Nikita - what are you doing?"

"Never played Hide'n'Seek before, Birkoff?"

His eyes widened. "In here? Nikita, are you crazy?"

She rolled her eyes. "Birkoff, get a grip. It's just for fun. No one can work all the time." She eyed his rumpled clothing dubiously. "Well, most people can't. Now, " she leaned over his shoulder watching the monitor. "Can you run a trace on Anthony for me?"

Birkoff shook his head. "Nikita, I have work to do. This isn't the place for games."

She skimmed the info on the screen. "Birkoff, this is a simple 467Back-Sim. You can do this in your sleep. My guess is you're waiting on confirmation on the Tekyev mission." She raised an eyebrow at his look of surprise. "I do listen some of the time Birkoff. Now, please, just find Anthony for me."

He sighed and began the search. "Isn't this against the rules of Hide'n'Seek?"

"Hey, I'm seeking. I'm just doing it very resourcefully." A series of beeps from the computer signaled the results of the search. "That cheater! We were supposed to stay on this level."

Birkoff smirked. "He's hiding. He's just doing it very re-" Nikita placed a hand over his mouth, effectively ending the comment.

"Thank you, Birkoff." She gave him a peck on the cheek and took off, glancing over her shoulder as she went.

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

The hallway was silent as she stepped off the elevator. Nikita quickly made her way towards the cafeteria, carrying her boots to silence her footsteps. The room was empty, not unusual at this time of the morning. Most in-Section recruits were sleeping, and most full operatives preferred not to stay in Section any longer than they had to. She peeked through the long window to the kitchen and barely caught a glimpse of Anthony before he turned in her direction. She ducked down and dove for a nearby table. All she had to do was tag him with the tracker, but she preferred the element of surprise.

Nikita scooted between the table and the wall and started crawling on her hands and knees, under the window. She made slow progress towards the kitchen door, pausing at intervals to listen for Anthony's footsteps. So focused was she on the other side of the wall that it wasn't until she crawled around the corner and right into a pair of legs that she looked up.

"Michael!"

He remained standing as she scrambled to her feet.

"Um, hi. What are you doing up here?"

"What were you doing?" he asked, ignoring her question.

"Um ... crawling."

"Why?"

Nikita thought for a moment. "It's personal, Michael."

He stared at her. "You should get some rest."

"Yeah, I couldn't sleep. Thought I'd - walk around a bit, crawl ... you know." She trailed off, watching to see if he was going to push this. His eyes flickered as he glanced at the boots lying on the floor beside her. "Oh, that. My feet were, um ... hot. My feet were hot." She flushed, angry with herself for being embarrassed in front of him. "Michael, I'm kind of tired, so if you don't mind I'll just ..." She gestured toward the exit.

He nodded. She scooped up her boots and hurried to the door, skidding a bit in her socks. He caught a movement to his left out of the corner of his eye and saw one of the newer recruits, Roberts, duck behind a countertop in the kitchen. He deliberated whether to confront the boy but was more interested in following Nikita to what he was fairly sure were not her living quarters.

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

The elevator doors slid open and Nikita poked a cautious head out before exiting. Good. She could hop down the hallway and catch the stairs back up, hopefully before Anthony was discovered by Michael. Michael - Nikita bit her lip. He certainly hadn't bought her lame excuses and she wondered what kind of follow-up he was planning. Well, nothing to be done about it now. It certainly wasn't the first time she had been caught unawares by him and nothing horrible had resulted yet.

Still immersed in her thoughts, Nikita was nearly to the end of the hallway when the elevator behind her chimed. She made a dash for the corner and slid out of sight behind a support just in time to avoid a run-in with ... Operations. She wrinkled her nose as she peeked around the support and identified the man. Close call.

The sound of footsteps at the end of the corridor caught her attention and Nikita glanced up to see Mark heading her way. A quick look in the other direction confirmed Operations' continued progress toward her. She dug her nails into her hands and leaned her head back, willing herself invisible and mentally cringing in anticipation of confrontation.

"Uh- s-sir!" Mark stuttered, taking a half-step back. "Um, good evening sir."

Cool blue eyes looked him up and down. "Good morning."

Mark grabbed a quick glance at his watch. "Uh, yeah - yeah, good morning. Sir."

"Is there a reason you're in a prohibited area at an unsanctioned hour?"

Sweat broke out over his face. "A reason?" He looked around frantically. His eyes landed on a flash of blue near the wall and widened fractionally. He immediately schooled his features but not before his adversary caught it. Operations turned and waited.

"Show yourself," he finally said, impatient.

Nikita gritted her teeth and emerged from her sanctuary. She briefly considered keeping her eyes lowered but a spark of stubbornness raised them to meet the eyes of her opponent.

"Nikita." The name sank in the air between the two of them. "Why am I not surprised?"

The muscles in her jaw tightened.

"What is this - the third infraction this week?"

She bristled at his condescending tone but said nothing. Monday's 'discussion' had led to the addition to her schedule of fifteen extra history lessons and sometime in the middle of the seventh she had vowed to keep quiet during her next run-in with Operations. The man had purposefully checked her file to find the most distasteful activity he could think of.

"It seems you two have an excess of downtime. I'm sure we could arrange something for that - report to Systems, one hour."

Mark bobbed his head and backed away, nearly stumbling over his feet. Nikita stood her ground for a moment before turning her back to Operations and heading for the stairwell.

"Mr. Walsh."

The two paused and Mark turned, but the older man kept his eyes on Nikita's back as he spoke. "I'd be more cautious in choosing my associates in the future, Mr. Walsh."

Mark swallowed and nodded.

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

We have our rights! Join today!

Operations was momentarily speechless as he read through the flyer posted on the wall. A union. A damn union. In Section One. His head started pounding again.

"Birkoff!"

Birkoff jumped at the shout and automatically looked up to the empty Perch. "Umm .. sir?" He gazed disbelievingly at the Comm link in his hand.

"Birkoff!"

His forehead creased as he scanned his desk for another comm unit. "Sir?"

"Birkoff, get in here."

"Uh, yes, sir, right away." Birkoff rubbed his forehead and stood up, still searching his desk for the source of the voice.

"What is the meaning of this?"

Birkoff exhaled in relief as he spotted Operations in the hallway and hurried over. "What is it?"

"It's a flyer. Calling for the formation of a union." Operations' words were clipped. "What the hell is going on?"

Birkoff stared in disbelief. "I'm sure it was just a joke, sir," he finally stuttered.

"Of course it was a joke, Birkoff. Since when do we allow jokes in Section?"

Birkoff licked his lips, noting with some internal amusement that all of the phone numbers at the bottom of the flyer had already been ripped off. "It's, ah, it's not really my area."

Operations turned to him. "You find the surveillance files for this hallway and you find out who is responsible. One hour." His hand reached out and tore the sheet of brightly colored paper off the wall, crushing it as he held Birkoff's gaze.

Birkoff, with some effort, controlled the twitch at the corner of his mouth and turned toward the Archive.

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

"Hey, Walter."

The older man looked up from the intricate entanglement of wires in his hands. "Hey, Sugar, what are you doing here?"

Nikita threw a defiant look towards the Perch. "I can take a walk if I feel like it."

Walter followed her gaze. "Sugar, you know as well as I do - it is not a good idea for you to be wandering around here. You want to run into him again?" He jerked a thumb in Operations' direction.

Nikita made a face. Her last encounter with the growling man had been quite an incident, talked about for days by those who had seen it. The animosity between the two was no secret, and neither was the reason for Nikita's continued survival. Many a speculative glance had been thrown at the closed door of Michael's office.

"It's not my fault he doesn't like me. I never did anything to him." She toyed with the pliers on Walter's desk as she avoided his gaze. He raised his eyebrows and waited. "All right, so I don't always follow all the 'rules.'" She lifted her eyes to meet his and found him grinning.

"Sugar, you provide 98% of the entertainment around here -- the other 2% is Birkoff when he's out of candy. Wasn't for you, we'd all live lives of boredom." He winked at her and returned to the stereo setup he was working on.

"Right, with nothing to keep you all awake but training to kill people and defuse bombs."

He shrugged and started turning the dials on the explosive disguised as a radio. The thing actually had to work as a radio first. Scattered static filtered through the speakers, making Nikita wince. He finally settled on a station and the southern drawl of a country song soon filled the work area. Walter smiled in satisfaction. Nikita rolled her eyes.

"Please. There's gotta be something better than that." She pounced on the radio controls, her eyes lighting up as she hit upon a familiar piano intro. Walter grinned again, amused by her selection. She winked back at him and grabbed a nearby flashlight.

"First I was afraid ..." She dropped her head.

"I was petrified ..." She threw her head back and threw her hands wide.

"Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side." Brought the flashlight back up to her lips and gazed imploringly at Walter as she sang.

"But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong, and I grew strong. I learned how to get along!" Her voice gathered strength and two operatives peeked into Munitions at the sound.

"And so you're back from outer space! I just walked in to find you here without that look upon your face." The operatives joined Walter as three more leaned back in their chairs at Comm.

"I should have changed that stupid lock, I should have made you leave your key if I'd have known for just one second you'd be back to bother me!" Nikita was moving around now, putting heart and soul into the performance, glancing up occasionally to flash a grin at her growing audience.

"Oh, now go! Walk out the door! Just turn around now, cause you're not welcome anymore!" She wagged a finger in Walter's face. "Weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye? You think I'd crumble? You think I'd lay down and die? Oh, no, not I!"

She planted her feet and shoved a fist in the air. "I will survive! Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll be alive." She crossed her hands over her heart. "I've got all my life to live, I've got all my love to give! I'll survive, I will survive!"

She spun around the room, dancing and whirling to the music. She was still spinning when she crashed into Operations' chest. The music and the performance came to an abrupt halt.

Nikita bounced back and brushed the sweaty hair out of her face, resisting the urge to wipe off the parts of her that had come in contact with Operations. The room stood in silence as the spectators tried to melt away unobtrusively. Operations clenched his jaw and glared at Nikita.

"Finished with those extra sims already?"

"Yes, sir," she replied, her smile too smug to be sweet.

He paused at her answer, then went on. "I know I've said it before, but you seem to be having trouble getting this. This sort of behavior is unacceptable."

"What rule have I broken?" She met his eyes defiantly.

"There seems to be a problem in Surveillance," Operations continued, ignoring her question. "Seems that a disc from yesterday has been tampered with - a disc recording the posting of an advertisement for a union."

Nikita's gaze remained steady.

"I'm sure you know nothing about that."

She lifted her eyebrows innocently.

"Well, you may have coerced Mr. Birkoff into helping you this time but I wonder how he feels about the revocation of downtime he's earned." At that, Nikita's fa├žade cracked and her eyes lowered. She hadn't asked for his help, but it was on her shoulders all the same. She'd have to make it up to him.

Operations looked on the bowed head before him with disgust. She was so predictable. Even the minute part of him that respected her courage was repulsed by her weak follow-throughs concerning those involved.

"Nikita."

Her head snapped up at Michael's voice and she turned to see him enter Munitions.

"Dojo. Five minutes." His gaze barely flicked over Operations.

Nikita hurried past him, relieved to leave the scene behind her. Michael met Operations' gaze, looked away again, then took a step backward and turned to follow his material.

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

Nikita met Michael on the mat with some trepidation. She knew he had rescued her - again - and disliked feeling indebted to him. Help from Birkoff was one thing, but owing Michael was another. She focused on her stretching but watched Michael out of the corner of her eye, waiting for him to raise the topic.

He stood impassively, reviewing her movements with a practiced eye. Nikita looked up at him, then down again, reaching over her long limbs. She bit her tongue, determined to wait him out. After a few silent minutes, she finally huffed a breath that lifted the bangs from her forehead.

"All right, Michael. What's the deal? Why do you keep covering for me?"

His eyes merely landed on the other students in the dojo before returning to hers. She rolled her eyes.

"Fine." To Michael's surprise, Nikita unfurled her legs and rose to her feet. She stood face to face with him, giving up any pretense of stretching. "Now they're all watching."

He maintained his silence.

Inches from his face, she continued, her voice low, "Michael, you know as well as I do they can't hear us right now. There's too much background noise for any meaningful pickup and the architectural scheme is all wrong for a Leisel Surveillance procedure."

He felt a brief flare of pride immediately followed by a stab of annoyance at her feigned disinterest during his Leisel instruction. He studied her face, her chin slightly raised in mutiny. "I don't cover for you."

Her eyes darkened. "Really."

"Yes."

An idea sparked inside of her and her eyes widened. "You fixed that disc, didn't you? Birkoff would never have done it on his own." She drew back from him. "It was you," she repeated, almost to herself.

Michael looked away. "If the disc had been found, it would have been grounds for abeyance. You can't afford it on your record."

"What do you care about my record?"

"You're my material. It would reflect poorly on me as a trainer."

Nikita studied his face intently. "That's not it."

His gaze swiftly returned to hers. "The subject is closed, Nikita. Get to work."

She nodded slowly and lowered herself back to the mat. Michael stood behind her for a moment before leaving to get some targets. Nikita leaned her chin to her knee and smiled to herself.

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

"Michael."

His movement arrested at the smooth tone. He turned to find Madeline standing behind him, smiling.

"How are things going with Nikita?" Her eyes were warm, a hint of amusement in their depths.

"Fine."

She raised an eyebrow. "No further incidents since her performance?"

"No."

"Good," she nodded her head. "And Operations still doesn't know about the disc?"

Michael's breathing stopped, as she had intended. "What do you mean?"

"Well, he hasn't mentioned it to me. Birkoff seemed somewhat upset, but I think he caught on fairly quickly." Madeline waited for the effects of her statements, still amused at this new weakness of his.

Michael held her gaze, opening his mouth and pausing before he spoke. "Operations seems satisfied with the outcome of the situation," he answered carefully.

"I'm glad to hear it. You'll keep me apprised of any future developments?" Her smile remained warm, but took on an edge.

"Of course," Michael assented, acknowledging the warning without any intention of heeding it. With a slight nod to her, he stepped back and turned to leave.

Madeline watched his retreating form with interest. This was a situation to keep aware of.

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

"Hey, Sugar, what's up? We're not scheduled today, are we?" Walter kept his concentration on the mass of wires on his desk as Nikita sidled up behind him.

She smiled and lowered her chin over his shoulder, dropping a kiss on his cheek. "No, I just dropped by to thank you for fixing my telly."

While the "I Will Survive" incident was not officially against any regulations, Nikita had still subsequently found the television in her quarters to be out of order for the next week. It was not the first time Operations had found some unofficial way to make her miserable.

Walter grunted in appreciation and reached a hand back to pull her closer. "Mmm, no problem. I accept all forms of payment, you know," he added, not letting go as she tried to pull away. She laughed again, twisting away from him.

"See you around, Walter."

"Bye, Sugar. Keep an eye out."

"I will."

Nikita made her way towards her quarters, taking a small detour to avoid coming into view of the Perch. She paused at the hallway entrance and turned to glance over her shoulder at the hated structure. Everything about it was detestable, serving only to emphasize Operations' omniscience. 'Probably necessary to keep his inflated ego intact,' she thought spitefully. She continued on her way, leaving the Perch and its growling inhabitant behind her.

She reached her quarters and quickly keyed in her code. The glow of a dozen strings of Christmas lights greeted her inside and she smiled. Maybe she would keep those up all year. She flicked the television on with one hand and flopped onto her bed platform.

Fa hoo forays, da hoo dorays

Welcome Christmas, bring your light!

Fa hoo forays, da hoo dorays

Welcome in the cold dark night!

Welcome Christmas, fa hoo ramoos

Welcome Christmas, da hoo damoos

Welcome Christmas while we stand,

Heart to heart and hand in hand

Trim up the tree with Christmas stuff

Like bingol balls and hoo foo fluff!

Trim up the tree with goo goo gums

And bizzel-binks at once!

Nikita's forehead wrinkled as she watched the swirl of color and cartoons flash over the screen. The nonsense-song continued as the little creatures dashed back and forth, decorating for Christmas. Nikita smiled as she watched, flipping the Closed Captioning on to catch some of the silly words. The song soon faded away, though, and the music turned ominous.

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot

But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville,

Did not.

Nikita's smile grew as an image of the Perch, 'just north of Whoville' popped into her head.

The Grinch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season

Now please don't ask why, no one quite knows the reason

It could be perhaps, that his shoes were too tight

It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his heart

Was two sizes, too small

But whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes

He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos

Staring down from his cave With a sour, Grinchy frown

At the warm lighted windows below in their town

The movie continued and Nikita sat enthralled. She'd never heard of Dr. Seuss as a kid and his magic charmed her now. She followed the adventures of 'the old Grinchy Claus', wincing as he slid down the chimney --

a rather tight pinch

But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch

He got stuck only once, for a minute or two

Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue

Where the little Who stockings all hung in a row

"These stockings," he grinched, "are the first things to go"

By the time the movie was over, the wheels were turning in Nikita's head. She got an idea. An awful idea. Nikita got a wonderful, awful idea.

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

CODEWARRIOR says: About 6'5''. How about you?

LILSOOZY says: Wow! :-) can't believe you played for Harvard!

CODEWARRIOR says: Tried to keep in shape since then. Did I send you my

"Hey, Birkoff!"

Birkoff's fingers slammed against the keyboard as he hastened to minimize the window. "Uh, hey Nikita."

She looked at his red face curiously before continuing. "Do me a favor?"

"Last favor I did for you cost me two days downtime - and I didn't even do it," he muttered.

"Come on, Birkoff, it'll be fun. You know, fun? Smiling, laughing, ha ha ha?"

Birkoff stared exasperated at her. "Nikita, your kind of fun gets people in trouble."

"Yeah, but at least it's something, something that remotely resembles a life."

He sighed and glanced around. "What is it?"

Nikita smiled.

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

Please enter your security code now

Anthony looked around nervously and quickly punched the keys on the pad. The door slid open and he slipped inside gratefully. The briefing room was nearly full of recruits - he'd never seen so many people in this secondary room at once. Nikita was standing at the front, her eye on a monitor sweeping the hallway outside. She was messing around with the briefing table, striking keys on the remote every once in awhile.

"Okay, okay, everybody got a seat?" With a few final taps at the keyboard, Nikita turned to her audience. "All right. Thank you all for coming -"

"Wouldn't miss it, Nikita baby," a burly recruit in the back called out.

"Keep calling me 'baby' and you'll be missing a few parts, McCaffrey," she answered with a smile. "Welcome to Movie Night," she addressed the room as a whole. "I'm your host, Nikita, and we are here courtesy of Section One. Operations, out of the kindness of his heart, is currently being distracted in Systems by one very generous Mr. Heath Jordan. Let's all think of Heath while he's stuck in retraining with the formidable Ms. Hudson. You wouldn't be here without him." A smatter of applause broke out over the room.

Nikita grinned and continued. "Our selection tonight: How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Now, now," she admonished her doubtful spectators. "Give it a chance, all right? When will you ever have another chance to see this on a big screen? Well," she paused, gesturing towards the briefing table, "it's sort of a screen."

With that, Nikita turned to the table and activated the remote. A bluish hologram appeared with a chime, and soon snowflakes began falling over the 'screen.' A by-now familiar song played in the background and Nikita sighed in relief. Birkoff had been having some trouble with the color schemes, but he must have gotten it in the end. She perused the room, still amused that the young genius had refused to attend the event, consenting only to anonymously make it possible.

The movie played on, and the viewers were surprisingly engrossed. Some had seen it as children while others had lived Nikita's childhood. More than one significant look had been exchanged as a particular Grinch comment struck a chord.

He slithered and slunk with a smile most unpleasant

Nikita nearly shuddered as she contemplated the line. Operations was Grinch all over, of course, but something about that line always brought Madeline to mind. Nikita couldn't shake the feeling.

She took in the faces of those around her, criminals and street rats like herself, straining against the confines of Section life. Most were grateful for her spirit, participating in her activities with caution but eager to rebel in some way. It was only after they went on their first missions that Nikita lost them. It changed them, somehow, and she was never able to reach them again. Many a former cohort-come-operative had passed her in the hallway with an unidentifiable look on his face. Pity, perhaps. Curiosity, that she should still be endeavoring to hold on to herself. She grieved for lost companions in her fight against Section.

And the one speck of food that he left in the house

Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse

Then the Grinch did the same to the other Whos' houses

Leaving crumbs much too small for the other Whos' mouses

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

Operations slowly made his way back up to the Perch. That Jordan recruit was ridiculously incompetent. He must have wasted nearly an hour righting the mess in Systems. Madeline had impressed on him the importance of the recruit's Valentine skills, but this was asking too much.

He was just reaching for the control to darken the window when he heard a faint click, followed by a familiar voice.

Merry Christmas from your favorite recruit! Just doing my part to spread your holiday cheer.

Nikita! Damn the girl. There was a short silence before the first strains flowed into the room.

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch

You really are a heel

You're as cuddly as a cactus,

you're as charming as an eel

Mr. Grinch, you're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!'

It was coming in over his intercom. He fumbled with the controls, the strange song growing louder.

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch

Your heart's an empty hole

Your brain is full of spiders, you've got garlic in your soul,

Mr. Grinch -- I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole!

"Birkoff!"

"Sir?"

"What the hell is going on?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Who is tapped into this line of communication?"

"Ahh - I'll check it out."

You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch

You have termites in your smile

You have all the tender sweetness of seasick crocodile

Mr. Grinch -- Given the choice between the two of you, I'd take the seasick crocodile!

This was unacceptable. Nikita had absolutely no sense of what Section was.

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch

You're the king of sinful sots

Your heart's a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots

Mr. Grinch -- You're a-

"It's under control, sir. Shouldn't be any further problems."

"There shouldn't have been a problem in the first place. If you can't keep better control over your area, perhaps we should find someone who can," Operations growled.

" ... yes, sir."

Control. That was the problem. This recruit, Nikita - she didn't respond to any of the usual methods. She had been punished in as many ways as he could think of - had even been stuck on bathroom detail for two weeks. How could she possibly still have the desire to cause trouble? What the hell kind of operative would she make in five years? If she survived that long at all. There was something in her, something that had yet to be crushed out by Section. She managed to hold on to it, to keep it just out of his grasp, and Operations was at a loss to understand it.

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

And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice-cold in the snow

Stood puzzling and puzzling, "How could it be so?