For All Intents and Purposes, Dead

For all intents and purposes, you are dead. No one knows you are here. No one will be coming to rescue you. Your continued survival depends on how well you are able to put your skills to work for Division.

How many men saw death coming for them, and then were surprised to find out it was not the end after all? Maybe those other men had a miraculous recovery, sent back from heaven for some great purpose. Ryan didn't have that luxury. His death had been faked. He snorted softly and shook his head. It had certainly seemed real enough to him. He had felt the life leave him as the drug coursed through his body. He had held on as long as he could, grasping at life until the darkness claimed him. He wanted to help Nikita with his dying breath. But the white lights he found upon awakening did not signal his eternal reward. Instead, he found himself tied to a chair in an empty room. It wasn't an angel who came into that room- far from it. He refused Amanda's offer, and expected death (a real one this time) or torture. But Amanda had other plans.

She moved him to a cell, not unlike the one he had been in for the last five months in Leavenworth. Three walls of cement, the last one bars from floor to ceiling. The contents of the cell were simple- a cot, a toilet, and a sink. When he looked out the bars, there was a small room with a metal table in the middle that had straps on it halfway down and at the end of the table. There was a chair close to the wall that also had straps. And the TV. The TV was bolted up high in the corner of the room and it was always on. CNN had become background noise for Ryan because it was never turned off or even turned down.

He glanced down at the pile of magazines and newspapers that had accumulated in the corner of his cell by the door. Every few hours, the same man came to bring more. Ryan had tried to talk to the man, but the delivery man seemed focused on his one task, and nothing more. Even though the man had given him nothing but reading material, Ryan had begun to piece together Amanda's plan. She could have tried to get intel from him, and the prisoner had to rationally admit that everyone eventually breaks, even him. But the information he knew, Nikita knew. Anything Amanda got from him would put her level with Nikita. That wasn't enough for the new head of Division. She needed to one up the rogue agent. She needed information that Nikita didn't have yet. That meant allowing Ryan to gather more information. Hence, the TV and pile of printed materials.

Ryan Fletcher held no hopes of rescue. Like Amanda said, no one knew he was alive, with the exception of the delivery drone, the Cleaner who faked his death, and Amanda herself. But he refused to just give in. Even if Division claimed to have noble motives, he had seen enough of their evil to distrust them. Chile came to mind as an example.

He rested on his cot, hands clasped under his head. Trying not to think was like trying not to breathe. His mind went from his brother, to his mom, to Nikita. How would his mother cope with losing another son? Would Nikita fulfill her mission to bring down Division and Oversight, and bring those murderers to justice? He didn't worry much about how Nikita would handle his supposed death. They were friends only, and Nikita had dealt with losing people close to her before. She had Michael to rely on for support and comfort. She was resourceful. She could find other sources of intel. All Ryan had to do was refuse to give Division any information, and that would be one last way he could help Nikita with her mission before he died.

Dead men don't eat.

Three days went by since his second life began, according to the TV and the newspapers that continued to be delivered. No food came during that time, but the drone brought him a bottle of water with each delivery of magazines. Ryan had ignored the water at first, but death by dehydration was difficult to achieve with water sitting tantalizingly within reach. When he finally broke down and went to the water, Ryan made sure to carefully examine the bottle for any signs of tampering. He didn't put anything past Division.

The water took the edge of his hunger, but there was little to take the edge of his boredom. He planned possible escapes. He thought about how to get a message to Nikita. He even considered suicide to keep Amanda from being able to use him. But each passing hour made it harder and harder to distract himself. Ryan noticed that his eyes kept glancing at the pile by the cell door. He paced back and forth, counting the steps. One hundred. One thousand. Three thousand steps. Each time his gaze fell on the newspapers, he reminded himself of Nikita. The newscaster on CNN broke through his thoughts.

"In other news, there are signs of genocide in Rwanda. UN Peacekeepers are being sent in, along with American troops. The Red Cross is raising money for a relief fund for the people being affected. Donations are being collected …." Ryan listened without appearing too. What if someone could steal money from this relief fund? What if someone made it look like there was genocide so the donations would come flooding in? He was halfway to the pile of newspapers before he could stop himself. He cursed himself aloud and went back to his cot. If anyone was watching him, which he was sure someone was, they would be having a good laugh at his expense. His own curiosity would be his undoing.

Ryan closed his eyes and counted prime numbers. He was at 683 when he remembered another genocide in Africa two years earlier. He couldn't stand it anymore. He went to the papers and sorted through them, looking for the oldest paper. Three weeks prior to his "death." He almost walked away, but then a caption caught his eye. He promised himself that he would only read for five minutes, just to break up the monotony, but five minutes turned into hours. Ryan was still reading when the next delivery came. The prisoner looked up guiltily from where he was sitting cross-legged. The man stopped several feet from the cell door. Ryan didn't move, and neither did the other man. "Move," the man finally said. Ryan was temporarily shocked that the man did, in fact, talk.

"No," he answered defiantly, and then waited to see what would happen.

The other man blinked, as if he hadn't prepared for this outcome. "Move now," he tried.

Ryan stood. "Make me," he said, his heart thudding with excitement. If the man opened the cell door, Ryan could attack him and get out of this room. If he was fast enough, maybe he could find a way out of Division.

The other man waivered for a moment, then threw the bundle of printed materials so they landed against the bars. He set the water bottle on the table and left the room. Ryan felt exhilarated at the confrontation. Division couldn't make him do anything. He went back to reading, occasionally ripping out pages or articles that caught his eye. Knowing that Division would eventually confiscate those pages, he made sure to rip out a few red herrings as well. He was fairly sure that Division wouldn't be able to see the patterns he did, even with the correct pages, but paranoia was his friend.

The next time the door opened, the delivery man was not alone. Behind him walked the Cleaner that had drugged him in the prison hospital. Ryan felt his anger rise up inside him. He stood, but made no move away from the bars. The Cleaner looked at him. "Move," he said in a voice that suggested he didn't repeat himself.

"No," Ryan replied. The Cleaner pulled out a gun and nodded to the other man to unlock the door. The Cleaner stepped in the cell and advanced on Ryan. The younger man changed his plan quickly. There was no way he would be able to take down an armed assassin. But he could force the man's hand and make the Cleaner kill him. He stood his ground. When his enemy raised his weapon, Ryan realized that what he thought was a gun was actually a Tazer. The Cleaner fired, and Ryan went down. As the assassin moved forward, he was reminded once again of the prison hospital where he had struggled ineffectively against this man. He hated feeling helpless like this.

The Cleaner just stood over him, staring at him as if ending Ryan's life would come to him as simply as squashing a bug. Then he removed the Tazer probes and left the cell. The other man must have dropped off his parcels at some point, because when Ryan turned his head to watch the two men leave, the delivery man's arms were empty.

Ryan allowed himself to lie on the ground for several minutes. A couple of weeks ago, he would have been able to shake the effects of the Tazer more quickly, but food deprivation had weakened him. He finally forced himself into a sitting position only to see that no water had been left for him. Ryan insulted the men quietly and then struggled to his feet. He abandoned his reading in favor of his bed. He collapsed on the cot and fell unconscious almost immediately.

Dead men don't breathe.

Amanda came in the next day. Ryan had ignored the newspapers and magazines since the incident with the Tazer. He had simply stayed on his cot, sleeping or pretending to sleep. When he was awake, however, the analyst listened carefully to the television, so he could glean information without his captors knowing. He didn't bother to open his eyes when he heard the door open and the click-clack of the woman's heels across the floor. He listened as the steps came closer, and finally stopped outside his cell. He kept his breathing even, but somehow Amanda knew he was awake.

"Come now, Ryan. I brought you a present." He didn't move. He waited as long seconds passed, but apparently Amanda was willing to outwait him. Ryan finally opened his eyes.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"I thought you might be hungry," she said, dangling a granola bar from her fingers.

"I'm not," he lied, and turned to face the wall.

"No strings attached," Amanda coaxed.

"There are always strings with you people. Or hidden razorblades," he retorted.

Amanda tsked. "Really, you have grown so cynical."

Ryan sat up and faced her. "Do you blame me?"

Amanda walked slowly, tracing her fingers on the bars. "I think we started off on the wrong foot. I am here to make you an offer. You don't have to live like this."

"I don't have to live at all."

She ignored his comment. "We have much nicer rooms. Rooms that come with a full menu and minibar."

"And all I have to do is work for the bad guys."

"We aren't the bad guys, Ryan. Division has done so much good for this country-"

"And so much evil," he interrupted. "I won't help you."
"Fine," Amanda sniffed disdainfully. "I thought you might have come around." She looked down at the granola bar in her hands, as if considering what to do with it. Ryan looked at it as well, trying hard not to imagine what it would taste like. Amanda caught him staring at the granola bar and smiled, as if winning a major victory. His face flushed and he turned away. "We don't have to be enemies," Amanda told him. Ryan heard something fall, but he waited until she was gone to look. She had left the granola bar behind.

Ryan couldn't remember the last time he had been faced with a decision like this. It was one thing to stare up defiantly and dare someone to kill you, but this was a death by degrees. He waited on his cot as long as he could, but eventually he couldn't stand it anymore. He ate the granola bar.

It was a few hours later when Amanda returned. "Have you reconsidered?"

"I'm not helping you," he said.

She looked at the floor and smiled when she saw the granola bar was not there. "Enjoy your meal?" Ryan had regretted his moment of weakness as soon as he had eaten it, and the shame came back now. "I can arrange for more food, you know."

"I told you, I'm not going to help you."

Amanda frowned and went back to the door. She opened it to reveal the white haired Cleaner. "You remember Roan," she said offhandedly. The assassin followed her into the room. Amanda opened the cell door, and Roan walked in silently. Ryan backed away, and when there was no room left to retreat, he raised his fists in defense. The assassin didn't hesitate. His blow connected solidly on the prisoner's jaw. Ryan fell to his knees, half-slumped on the cot, but he was quickly jerked upright by the older man. Roan twisted one of Ryan's arms behind his back and put his other arm across the prisoner's throat.

He forced the prisoner out of the cell and over to the table. Ryan struggled vainly as his captors strapped down his wrists and ankles. When he was secured, Amanda went to the door and brought in a rolling cart from the hallway. The cart had several half gallon jugs of water and a few cloths. Amanda handed a cloth to Roan, who folded it in half and positioned his hands on either side. She unscrewed one of the jugs of water. Ryan watched fearfully as realization set in. Waterboarding. He took deep breaths to calm himself. "Last chance," Amanda told him. Ryan took one last deep breath and shook his head.

Roan stretched the cloth over the lower half of the prisoner's face, while Amanda poured the water slowly. Ryan held his breath as long as he could but eventually he had to exhale. Then he immediately breathed in, inhaling water through his nose. That caused an instinctive urge to open his mouth and cough the water out. Now the water was everywhere and Ryan was drowning. He jerked his head to the side but he couldn't escape the constant flow of water. The water that he didn't inhale ran over his face and pooled on the table beneath him.

Finally, Amanda turned the jug upright and Roan removed the cloth. Ryan coughed hard, trying to rid himself of the water that he still imagined tickled his throat. Amanda nodded to Roan, and the process began again. Each time, Ryan felt the terror as the water filled his lungs. Amanda made sure to stop before her captive passed out, but she didn't give him much time to get his bearings before beginning again.

Ryan couldn't keep track of how long this went on. After awhile, his whole universe boiled down to surviving between gasps of air. Hold breath, breathe in, choke, gasp for air. At one point, Amanda stopped to ask him to give her information, but he was having a hard enough time breathing that talking was out of the question.

When she finally finished, Amanda brushed back his hair fondly and put her hand against his cheek. "I find no pleasure in hurting you, Ryan. I want to help you. We share a common enemy. Help me take down Oversight. It's what you want."

"It's what you want," Ryan managed to say. "I want to take down Division and Oversight."

"Then help me," Amanda coaxed. She smiled benevolently at him. Ryan thought absentmindedly how interesting it was that she could go from torturing him to being sweet so quickly.

"I told you before. Just kill me. I won't give you anything."

Amanda shook her head regretfully. Roan started to put the cloth over Ryan's face again, but she stopped him. "No, he's had enough for now. We'll be back later."

Amanda walked out with the cart, trusting that Roan would follow her. The Cleaner stared at Ryan for several long seconds. He said, "It will only get worse," and then left the room as well.

Ryan wished for the escape of unconsciousness, but it eluded his grasp. The metal table was cold underneath him, and he was colder still from his soggy shirt. He started trembling. The newscaster reported solemnly that the genocide was still ongoing, but that the viewers at home could help out by donating. He caught a name- Madeline Pierce- who was supporting the man who was creating the peacekeeping task force that would be sent to Africa. "Gemini," he whispered. If she was involved, then maybe another member of Oversight was, too. One more piece of the puzzle. He was almost there.

Dead men don't feel pain.

They left him bound on the table like that for hours. Ryan slept fitfully. Nightmares plagued his sleep. Every time he woke up, he found that he was shaking. The news reports filtered through his subconscious, so his nightmares featured genocide and corruption as well as drowning. Amanda also made cameo appearances in his night terrors, so when she came into the small room, Ryan wasn't sure at first if she was real or imagined.

"Should I ask if you have changed your mind?" she asked. He shook his head. Amanda looked at him as if he was her star pupil and he had just let her down. "Roan," she called and the assassin entered the room behind her. "I think it's time for the chair." Roan handed Amanda a small electronic box with wires attached and then he began unfastening the straps.

"Get up," Roan commanded, but Ryan was too tired to move. The assassin dragged him from the table and over to the chair. The young man tried to get his feet under him, but the best he could was to keep his legs from being stepped on. The operative forced him into the chair and fastened the leather straps around his wrists. Ryan closed his eyes and wondered if this was just another nightmare. Roan punched him in the face and the question was answered. Definitely real. He opened his eyes and saw Amanda attach the wires to his arms. This was not going to be good.

He started to close his eyes again when he felt the woman's hand under his chin. "It doesn't have to be like this," she said. "We can work together to fight a common enemy."

"Broken record," Ryan said, then wondered if that had been in his head or aloud.

"I don't want to hurt you, Ryan."

"Liar." He was rewarded with another blow from Roan. Amanda stepped away from the chair and raised a remote.

"I press this button and electricity will course through your body," she informed him.

The analyst was too tired to be defiant. He just shook his head and focused his gaze on a point on the floor. The first jolt of electricity was worse than any pain he had ever felt before. He cried out, and before he could feel shame, there was another jolt of pain. "Stop, stop it!" he called out.

"Give me something and I'll stop," she answered.

"I can't…." Screams cut off the rest of his sentence. "Please-"

"Tell me something and I'll stop," she repeated.

Ryan shook his bowed head, tears dripping from his face to his white scrubs. Another jolt, another scream. "Stop, stop," he begged.

"You know how to get it to stop. I need information."

The reporter on the TV had to talk loudly to be heard over the background noise of the fighting. "As you can see, the fighting has only intensified here. We can only hope that peacekeeping forces come quickly to this broken country. Back to you, Laura."

"Thank you, Beth. It's not too late for you to donate. The first few days are the most crucial. If UN forces can get to the conflict area quickly, then there is a good chance of casualties being minimal. Craig Keir has raised over ten thousand dollars for relief already. If you would like to help out, send money to online or via snail mail…."

Ryan began laughing. That was it. It all fit together. If only he could get a message to Nikita.

The assassin viewed him dispassionately. "He's cracked."

Amanda watched the young man carefully, then looked up at the TV. "No. I think he got something." She bent down beside him. "Tell me, Ryan. What did you figure out?"

He ignored her and shook his head, still laughing. Amanda grew angry. She backed away from him and pressed the remote again. Ryan cried out, but when his scream faded, he went back to laughing drunkenly.

"Tell me! Tell me what you figured out!" Amanda ordered. "Or I won't stop until there's nothing left of you."

He looked at the remote and thought quickly. If he said nothing, Amanda would be true to her word. She would keep going until she had broken him, and there would be no way for Ryan to control the information she got out of him. But if he gave her something to work with, it would keep her away from him while he had time to develop a plan. And if she did succeed in taking down Oversight, then that would help Nikita by eliminating one of her enemies, freeing her to focus on Division. Ryan looked up at Amanda and smiled.

"I can tell you something. I'll tell you about Hades."

-End -