Admiral Bruce Cavil was a powerful man with many secrets. As a member of Oversight, he understood what it meant to have plausible deniability and for the most part, he respected the rules of the committee. But as a military man he knew to always have a contingency plan. So he kept tapes, audio visual proof of the pedestrian meetings—meetings that more often than not, lead to explosive consequences. When he died an untimely death, the tapes disappeared, but Nikita always had a knack for finding lost people and lost things.
"One of our own?" Percy's skeptical voice asked.
"He's doing too good of a job. We have certain budget expectations and there are defense contracts waiting to be renewed. The war needs to continue, and this is an opportunity to kill two birds. Eliminating this naval intelligence officer can also help to get one of our men on the inside."
Percy peered into his drink, full of golden ramifications. At the impatient rustling of the members, he finally looked up, above the edge of his crystal tumbler, beyond all that he held in his hand. "Your call."
"Michael is supposed to be dead."
"And I'm supposed to be on vacation," Percy groused. "Look, Kasim got in, and now I've someone who knows how to get the job done without asking too many questions. What's the problem here?"
The members glanced at each other, their shared concern unspoken but projecting loudly.
"You killed his family," the Senator spoke, artfully delegating responsibility.
"Yes, I'm the one who killed his family," Percy regurgitated as they wished. "Then I saved his life, giving him a purpose." He chuckled at such benevolence.
The Senator glared at him, unamused.
"Of course, they all grow up to be ungrateful and angry in the end, don't they, Senator? Don't worry too much about me though, I've got a plan." Percy smiled sharply.
Michael was suddenly very tired of keeping score.
Nikita appeared behind him, fresh from her shower, gingerly flexing her injured arm. "Alex's still angry," she muttered with a weary smile.
His skin prickled. Michael found himself unavailable to offer the shoulder Nikita was asking for.
"I saved her life," Nikita added stoically. But her voice wavered in a frequency that only he could hear—and it would be a cold day in hell before he turned a deaf ear to that again. Michael rose and took Nikita into his arms with familiar ease. Her returned embrace was tighter than usual. Yet, despite their cumulative body heat, he was cold.
"This path she's taking. Giving her a purpose…was all I could do to keep her alive," Nikita murmured ruefully.
He held her closer, masking the flinch as he stared at the still image of Percy on the screen. Even in its frozen state, Percy's shadowed gaze was full of ready drawn trajectories, the ways and means to be free of his gilded reins.
"You did what you could."