2011 06 25: Walking on Eggshells

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Mission Name: Walking on Eggshells
Date of Mission: June 25, 2011
Locale: Club Diablo — Lower East Side - Manhattan

An unlikely old acquaintance turns up with a couple of even less likely stories.

Thomas Nikita

It's already been a long day for Thomas. The usual drudgery at the electronics job - meetings, paperwork, visiting a supplier, confirming that another one should get bent - followed by some early surveillance on the Pakistani consulate, laying groundwork for a covert visit in the near future. Barely time for some crappy fast food, even. At least the bartender was kind enough to cover his first round tonight; he leans back and surveys the dance floor as he lets the tension start to ease off.

It's never easy to track another agent. Nikita's search has been mostly visual. That, and she called in a favour or two. Still, there was no guarantee that she'd spot her target here tonight. So when she does catch sight of him from the far side of the room, she breathes a sigh of relief. A nice, public place is always a good spot for a risky meeting.

She's dressed in a black halter dress with a low back and a knee-length skirt flared enough to facilitate movement. Her hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail. She doesn't make a direct run for him. Instead, she comes on a vertical course and leans on the bar a few feet down from him. "Dirty gin martini, two olives."

There are a lot of people milling around; if it's hard to spot someone when you're specifically looking for them, it's even harder to do so when you aren't, and when you haven't seen them for a few years besides. As Thomas turns back around, he looks right at Nikita for a split second, but it's only when he overhears her order - the same one as last time - that it all clicks for him. "Put that on my tab, would you?" he pipes up, waving a hand to make sure he catches the bartender's attention.

Nikita smiles ever so faintly and inclines her head towards him. "You always were a gentleman." When he drink arrives, she sips it. "Surprised to see me?"

Of course he was; it opens a lot of doors that brute force doesn't. And it allows brute force to come as a surprise when it does get used. "I wasn't expecting it," Thomas admits, finishing up his glass (80 proof something with a generous dose of lemon) and turning to face her. "Been keeping yourself out of trouble?"

There's a brief laugh that tumbles past Nikita's lips, then her expression schools into something more controlled. "That's the opposite of what I've been doing." Is there a hint of bitterness in her tone? Maybe. Though it's always hard to tell how much is actually an honest reaction with spy-types like them.

Thomas shakes his head. "Only ever two answers to that question, 'no' and 'badly'." At least with types like them, and it's a fair bet that her dropping by is neither coincidence nor a social call. "So what type of interesting rocks you been poking lately?"

"First question. How well-informed are you, Thomas?" Read: does he know she's no longer, well, 'employed' by Division. She sips from her drink and makes a cursory glance around the room that seems casual, but is anything but.

Well, that's an awfully generic question, at least on the surface. What's it meant to imply? "Probably not well enough," Thomas murmurs, flagging the bartender down again, this time for a refill. "I may have to have a talk with my informants about cutting their salaries."

That would explain the reception she's getting, then. Nikita raises her glass to her lips and starts to speak before it touches them. "Let's just say I've…" and she sips, swallows, "…left the reservation."

Seeing and hearing her again was merely surprising; hearing that news is outright shocking, and Thomas doesn't bother to conceal it. "That's a hell of a trick," he replies. "You sneak out or they kick you out?" The latter seems the less likely of the two options, given that the severance package didn't include unidentified remains washing up along the East River.

"Oh come on, Thomas." Nikita levels a gaze at him that very clearly communicates she's not going to dignify that question with an answer. "I'm surprised you haven't heard. My leaving is their dirty little secret. Before me, they had such a sterling reputation." Sarcastic, that.

Thomas shakes his head. "No, that's exactly why I wouldn't have heard. Your leaving and getting away with it is their real secret." Her surviving, that is. "And if they can't silence you… they'd at least want to silence anyone you tell about it." His tone of voice remains the same, but his expression abruptly turns stony. "I hope you got a good reason to be telling me about it."

"Relax." Nikita flashes a smile. "It won't be long before it's not a secret anymore. The only reason they've been able to keep the news under wraps is because I've kept my head down. Besides, why would you go telling them you spoke to me? Your bosses and my former ones aren't exactly best friends." She looks around and then pushes off the bar. "Get us a table and I'll tell you what this is all about."

Mmm, she'd better be right about that. He hasn't seen her screw up before— but he hasn't seen Division screw up before, either. There's a first time for everything. "Look forward to it," Thomas mutters, gentlemanly attitude dissipating as he rises to his feet. Now he's switched to wondering about his own cover: how well-informed is she about who his bosses really are?

Nikita puts in an order for another drink before she waits for him to move a step ahead to choose from one of the few empty tables in the room. She settles onto one of the seats and crosses her legs, martini in hand. "I need you to pass on a message. Division is trying to recruit someone with ties to your people. And you know what recruitment means."

Again, 'your people' is irritatingly generic— but Thomas can't think of a way to question it without giving away his own hand, so he doesn't try. It can remain up in the air from now. "I can make some guesses," he answers, flopping own across from Nikita and eyeing her expression closely. "I take it this is a specific someone?"

Nikita is watching him closely. Not because she suspects anything - just out of habit. To anyone passing by, it might look like romantic interest. But he has to know better - especially because of that calculating glint in her eyes. "Yes. A young man. Very talented, but unstable. If Division gets their hands on him, they will break him. Besides, Percy doesn't know what I know. If he did, they might think twice. Or not. Percy's arrogant like that." She lifts a shoulder and pulls one of the olives off the end of the toothpick with her teeth.

"Well, we don't want anyone to wind up broken," says Thomas, shaking his head. "If you can tell me some more about this fellow… I'd be happy to talk with him, convince him that this is not good for his career." And maybe that joining Gogol is— but if Division would break him, then they probably would, too. Keeping him neutral might be the best they can manage.

"That would be a bad idea. Division hasn't gone after him yet. But they're going to set it up so he ends up dead, at least officially. You try and talk to him, and he's going to think you're a nutjob conspiracy theorist." Nikita eats the second olive and then tosses the toothpick into the empty glass. "What I want you to do is to tell your bosses so they can put pressure on Percy."

Since when does anyone put pressure on Percy? Well, he can tell them and they can respond as they see fit, anyway. More accurately, he can respond, seeing as he'll be their eyes and ears. "All right, I'll pass the word along. Get me what you've got on him— and make damn sure the news about you really does get around quickly, before Division thinks they can contain it. You can find me here again if anything else comes up."

"I don't think this kid is a big enough potential asset to risk pissing off the wrong people over." Nikita regards him levelly. "His name is Freddie Richmond. He's the stepson of one of your undercover operatives." How she knows /that/ is a mystery all on its own. She's a resourceful gal.

Another good question, and another one that stays on the passive-observation list. Nikita is no fool - she knows that he thinks about these things - but as long as he doesn't say anything out loud and force her to respond, they can both keep pretending and moving forward. "Family connection, good. That's something we can work with." To cajole? To threaten? One or the other ought to do.

"I know what you're thinking." Because Nikita would be thinking the same thing if their situations were reversed. "This kid needs psychiatric care and a quiet environment. His mental control is hanging on by a thread. Intensive training would break him. Permanently. I say this from Division's point of view, where they break people and rebuild them daily."

"Then we'd better make sure that doesn't happen." Because Gogol trusts the judgment of a Division agent, even a former one. Still, she's not necessarily wrong - it's worth following up on, one way or another - and any former Division agent is worth trading favors with. "Well," muses Thomas, lifting his newly full glass, "it's good to have a chance to work with you again. Hopefully not the last time."

"If Frankie ends up in Gogol's hands, it will be the last time." Nikita's tone is measured. She doesn't really need to threaten outright, just imply a threat. Of course, she's leaving out the part where Frankie is a computer genius.

To his credit, Thomas's expression doesn't waver. Maybe it's the drink papering over things. Motherfucker, he thinks to himself. Well, what can you do? "Hands off the kid, got it." Neutrals can still be resources, though, and he must be useful for something or else Division wouldn't bother.

"/If/ Frankie keeps on living life like black ops agencies are the stuff of movies, then I owe you one." If not? Well, he can use his imagination. Nikita gets to her feet. "I should let you enjoy your evening." Her tone is suddenly pleasant and polite, like they really /were/ just old friends catching up.

A smile crosses Thomas's lips. It doesn't reach his eyes, but no one except Nikita is watching that, and she'd expect it anyway. "And I'm sure you have a hot date to go wait for." He's got one lined up himself, but meanwhile, he's got a message to pass along the grapevine.

"I can't remember the last time I had a date where I didn't have ulterior motives. And I bet if you thought about it, you could say the same." Nikita smooths out her dress and tosses her ponytail over her shoulder. "I'll be seeing you." Then, she turns to start making her way through the crowd.

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