A/N: Continuation of Beginning with a Single Step. This is a two-parter by the way
Really, there were worse places to be heading on a crisp fall morning than Coney Island. But with the air of injured silence in the car, apparently Napoleon was the only one who thought so.
The brief was simple enough - make contact with Dr Hurwicz, a Polish scientist who was apparently being pursued by THRUSH, and bring him in for protection and debriefing. Nothing too difficult, but Randolph was sulking because instead of just the two of them taking care of it, Mr Waverly had instructed Kuryakin to go along as well. Which actually made sense to Napoleon, as Kuryakin apparently spoke both Polish and...science...but he knew from experience that once Randolph got an idea in his head, it was difficult to change his mind. It probably didn't help that Kuryakin had then gone on to insist that, really, he could handle the rendezvous on his own with no need for Napoleon or Randolph to trouble themselves. That was almost certainly true, of course, but Kuryakin had only been working in the New York office for two weeks, and the accepted policy was that all transferring Section II agents worked with more senior teams until they were assigned a permanent partner.
For once, it seemed, Napoleon was the only one not being chastised for having problems working with others. He was going to revel in that as long as possible.
In the meantime Randolph was fiddling obsessively with the radio, and Kuryakin was stretched out on the back seat, gazing out the window abstractedly, and Napoleon was getting bored.
He hadn't seen that much of Kuryakin since his first day and the night out at O'Malley's after. He and Randolph had been sent out to Mexico City for most of last week, and when they'd got back, Kuryakin had been with Curtis and Laing in Atlanta. He'd been keeping an ear out though, for news, people's impressions - exactly as he would do for any new Section II agent. They needed to know how he was working out, it had nothing to do with his nationality. Nothing at all.
Most of what he'd heard was mixed - everyone seemed to agree that Kuryakin was an excellent agent, but they also said he was cold, aloof or even downright moody. The only dissenting voice was Harvey Sim, who had raved about the demolition job Kuryakin had done in Sacramento and since Harvey was the acknowledged expert in the North West, that was certainly something that had Napoleon curious.
But that was what he'd heard professionally. The unofficial whispers were more troubling. There was a lot of mistrust going around – a lot of people who claimed that Kuryakin's every little move was suspect. He didn't much appreciate it.
He glanced in the rear view mirror. "So, how are you finding New York?" he asked.
Illya looked round at him as if surprised. "Loud," he said, after a moment's consideration. "And full of people. Who are loud."
"Right." He shook his head, amused. "I suppose that about sums it up."
"You should turn left here," Illya said, leaning forwards and pointing.
"The fastest way is straight on," Randolph said shortly. That was the first thing he'd said since they'd got in the car, and that was strange in many ways. Normally Randolph was extremely talkative when he was working with other agents, always wanting to swap stories and talk about where they'd been travelling to lately. With Kuryakin, he evidently didn't want to say a word.
"There are road works for the next week," Illya told them with a yawn.
"How do you know that?" Randolph demanded. "You're fresh off the boat."
"Actually I came here by plane," Illya said, and Napoleon honestly couldn't tell if he'd genuinely misunderstood the idiom or if he was just being annoying. "And I was driving this way three days ago. There were signs."
"Okay then," Napoleon said, taking a sharp left where Illya had indicated. It wasn't much of a diversion anyway; they were almost there.
"What are you doing driving around here anyway?" Randolph asked, in a tone that wasn't quite suspicious.
Illya raised an eyebrow. "I was familiarising myself with the city. What else does one do when one moves to a new place?"
Certainly. So why did he think Kuryakin was deflecting right now? You didn't get to see the city as 'loud' simply by driving around. "Looking for the authentic New York experience?"
There was silence. He caught sight of Illya blinking slowly in the rear view mirror.
"Have you been to the Statue of Liberty yet?" he asked innocently.
"Not precisely an authentic American experience," Illya replied. "I believe the statue was gifted to your nation by the French government." He resumed looking out the window again, and Napoleon shook his head.
Randolph grinned darkly. "You sure you're not trying to pick out the best place to build your summer house after the glorious victory of the Red Army? " he asked sarcastically.
"In the event of a war between our countries it is unlikely that New York would survive more than twenty minutes," Kuryakin commented calmly. "Hardly a good option to build any kind of house."
He blinked and exchanged an incredulous look with Randolph. That...wasn't something that people normally made jokes about. He could see the disapproval on Randolph's face – even at O'Malley's, Randolph hadn't exactly warmed up to Kuryakin, though the Russian had been perfectly polite and even genial. Quiet, sure, but Napoleon had seen enough to be sure that was just the man's personality. He'd listened to the other agents' stories, smiling occasionally, and contributing the occasional tale of his own, and Napoleon had the feeling if he wasn't holding back, he'd have had more than a few sarcastic remarks to make.
The meeting point was a small nondescript coffee shop. As they pulled up in front of it and got out the car, the sound of screaming filled the air.
Napoleon quickly reached out a restraining hand and grabbed Illya's arm, stopping him from reaching for his gun. "Steeplechase Park is just over there," he smiled, pointing over to where they could just see top of the rides. "That's the sound of people enjoying the Parachute Jump."
"Not used to people screaming in fun?" Randolph said with a laugh, and Napoleon shot him an exasperated look.
But Illya was looking across at the amusement park with an expression of mild interest. "No. They did not have such things when I was a child. In Gorky Park there is a..." His brow furrowed. "колесо обозрения?" He described a circle in the air with his hand. "Like a wheel with carriages."
"Ferris wheel," he supplied, and he smiled as Illya nodded gratefully. "Yeah, they've got one of those here too."
"Visiting Coney Island was always the best part of summer when I was a kid," Randolph said.
"I remember my parents took me here before the war," Napoleon remembered fondly. "The rides, the people, the noise, and then chowing down on a hotdog from Nathan's Famous."
"That's the American experience right there," Randolph cut in, with a look at Kuryakin that was almost challenging.
And of course Kuryakin didn't disappoint. "I believe hot dog sausages – or Frankfurters – were originally a German food."
Napoleon cleared his throat pointedly. "Are we going to stand around and talk about food, or are we going to get on?" he invited, gesturing towards the shop.
Kuryakin nodded curtly and immediately stepped round to the left of the building, checking the perimeter. Napoleon lingered casually by the car, gazing inside through the glass window, looking for anyone who might be looking back with too much interest."You want to lay off him?" he murmured pointedly towards Randolph. "Remember he's on our side. You said you were going to give him a chance."
To his credit Randolph looked abashed. "I know, I know," he muttered. "I swear, there's just something about him that rubs me up the wrong way. He's too calm. I just keep thinking if I can provoke him into acting a little more human..." He shrugged. "And you've heard what Hewitt's been saying."
Unfortunately not, but this wasn't the time to discuss it. It still irritated him though to know the gossip was there and malicious. And also, he rather liked Kuryakin's sang froid. There was something amusing about it. "Just try a bit harder. Please."
"It's never going to work, you know," Randolph said seriously. "Even if the guy is for real, he doesn't fit in here. He doesn't belong in the organisation and he never will. Him being here is just the old man's experiment in Soviet relations, and it's going to fail. I know this is an international organisation, but really, the principles are all American and that's something he'll never understand. Even the oath we swear says 'under God' - "
" - actually, the oath I took had no mention of a god," Kuryakin remarked, reappearing suddenly. "I believe there are several different versions to accommodate different religions. Fitting, since our organisation is more open than you evidently think."
"Huh," he said, intrigued. He actually hadn't known that. Although it certainly made sense. "Are we clear?"
"Yes," Kuryakin nodded, apparently as happy as he was to leave the conversation behind.
"Right, it doesn't look like our man has arrived yet. Randolph, you wait out here in case of trouble." It was the most logical arrangement. And still Randolph didn't look pleased. With a sigh, he followed Illya inside.
As he'd thought, there was no sign of Dr Hurwicz inside the coffee shop. Actually, they were the only customers. Still, he ordered a coffee, knowing they'd better blend in, amused to see that Illya had also ordered a coffee...along with a sandwich, and a large slice of cherry pie. "Hungry?" he asked, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"I have not had lunch," Illya said with dignity.
"It's eleven o'clock," Napoleon pointed out slowly.
He was answered with a shrug. "I'm hungry."
"You should have gone with apple pie," Napoleon told him as they paid. "For the authentic American experience."
"I prefer cherry," Illya said. He waited a beat. "And apples are not indigenous to the Americas."
He grinned. "Introduced by the French or the Germans?"
Was he imagining that glint of a smile...? No, he didn't think he was. "The British, I believe."
They took the table near the window as Hurwicz had requested. It left him feeling exposed, and he saw Illya's eyes flicked regularly towards the upper windows on the buildings around them. Looking for snipers. Good, paranoia was a positive trait in their line of work.
After a couple of minutes sitting in comfortable silence while Illya ate, Randolph alerted them through the communicator that he'd spotted their man on the way in. He walked into the shop dressed in a trench coat with a trilby pulled down over his face. Very inconspicuous, he was sure.
"Dr Hurwicz?" he said in a low voice, standing up and briefly flashing his ID. "Please take a seat."
"Thank you," Hurwicz said in heavily accented English.
"So I understand you have some information for us?" he asked, once they were all seated.
Hurwicz just looked at him blankly.
Right. "I guess you're up," he said to Kuryakin and sat back, waiting impatiently at the rapid fire exchange in Polish.
It was obvious almost immediately that it wasn't going well. As soon as Kuryakin started speaking, Hurwicz's expression shifted to something wary, maybe even a little frightened.
"What's the problem?" he asked in an undertone when Kuryakin paused.
"My accent," he admitted with a grimace. "Apparently it is too Russian. He thinks I am a Soviet spy."
Yeah. Him and half of headquarters. And he had sympathy with the chagrin on Illya's face.
Illya glanced sidelong at him. "I think perhaps it would be better were I simply your translator," he said, carefully making it a question and an almost meek one, as though he were awaiting orders.
Practicality before pride. Napoleon could respect that. "Alright," he said authoritatively. "So what does he have for us?" He turned to look at Hurwicz as Illya began talking again, to make it appear more certain that he was asking the questions.
This time the answers seemed a little more forthcoming.
"He was working on a new kind of missile," Illya said after a moment. "One specially designed to get past radar systems."
Not something THRUSH could be allowed to have. "Did he say if they already have his notes?"
Another short discussion. "He has been on the run but he is afraid they are close to finding him. I think - "
They were interrupted by a car roaring past the shop, the doors open, and he barely caught sight of the man hanging out the back seat before he saw the grenade flying towards them.
He didn't even look at Illya; instinctively they moved together, both grabbing Hurwicz and physically throwing him down behind the counter, Illya covering him while Napoleon grabbed the server and pulled her down too.
The explosion hit a second later. Everything shook, dust and debris falling around them, and when Napoleon looked back at the table they had been sitting at, it had gone.
"Sorry," he muttered as he rolled off the server. She was staring around wide-eyed and shocked, and he wished he had time to reassure her. Illya was checking on Hurwicz, but he looked alright as far as Napoleon could see; just a bit dazed.
A second later, three figures came striding through the swirling dust. Apparently THRUSH had finally found Hurwicz. They were caught in the open here, no time to get to cover, no real chance of defending him. This was going to take some quick thinking...
"Play wounded," Illya told him in a whisper.
What? Alright, so they didn't have time to discuss it, but he had no idea what Kuryakin was planning. And, truthfully, he didn't like being the one following blindly. Still, the THRUSH goons were right on top of them, and he grabbed his arm and groaned convincingly.
"Hurwicz?" the leader demanded menacingly. Napoleon recognised him from a briefing a couple of months ago; his name was Marlin.
"I am Hurwicz," Illya said immediately, his accent thick and authentically Polish-sounding to Napoleon's ears.
This was a hell of a risk and one he didn't like. All it would take was for them to have seen a photograph, or even have had the barest description. Kuryakin should have waited, followed his lead instead, but now they were committed.
"Dr Hurwicz, don't," he gasped, playing up his imaginary injury. The real Hurwicz sat behind Illya, eyes wide and frozen, and Napoleon signalled for him to stay down.
"You're Hurwicz?" Marlin sounded doubtful, and he nodded to one of his henchmen. "Search him."
They dragged Illya to his feet and searched him roughly, and to Napoleon's hidden astonishment, rather than coming up with gun or communicator or UNCLE identity card, they pulled out a wallet and some papers in Polish. Huh. He hadn't even spotted Illya doing that. Impressive.
"Alright, let's get out of here," Marlin said, pointing his gun at them while his henchmen hauled Illya towards the door. "You there, stay down. It's your lucky day." Illya met his eyes for a second, but what message he was trying to convey, Napoleon really wasn't sure. He stayed down in front of Hurwicz.
Randolph came running in a moment later, holstering his gun. "They got away," he said grimly. "And they took Kuryakin...?" Confusion showed in his voice. "I got a tracer on the car though."
Napoleon reached out and helped Hurwicz to his feet. "He convinced them he was Dr Hurwicz."
"Huh." Randolph looked vaguely impressed. "Well, at least he doesn't lack for guts."
"Right," he agreed. "Dr Hurwicz? Are you alright?"
He thought the answer was vaguely affirmative Too bad they'd just lost their Polish interpreter.
"It's not going to be long before they figure out they've got the wrong man," Randolph said, looking round warily.
Right. And after that would come the torture and likely execution Not a good start to anyone's time in America. "We need to get Hurwicz back to headquarters as quickly as possible," he said. "Illya's bought us a while at least." He kept the discomfort hidden from his voice. Of course, this was hardly the first time he'd been forced to leave a man behind. It didn't mean he ever got used to it. Certainly it didn't mean he liked it.
"Dr Hurwicz?" Randolph began slowly, loudly gesturing out towards the car. "Come with us. We'll keep you safe."
Hurwicz nodded slowly, apparently understanding enough to agree and he and Randolph headed quickly for the door. Napoleon hesitated for a moment, looking back to the server, now standing against the counter, gazing around herself in shock.
"My boss will contact you soon to pay for the damages," he told her, showing her his ID. "I'm sorry about this."
She nodded rapidly but didn't say a word.
He followed the others out to the car and glanced at the tracker Randolph had left on the dash. Looked like they were still moving. Not that far away either. It would take an hour or so to get back to headquarters. Really, it was unlikely that THRUSH would have any chance of catching them at this stage.
Without even really thinking about it, he opened the car door and started to get out. "You can drive Dr Hurwicz back," he said.
Randolph looked vaguely alarmed. "And what are you going to do? "
"I'm going to go and get Illya back," he said, lifting the tracer.
"Really?" Randolph stared at him. "You sure that's wise? What do you think the old man's going to say?"
He smiled broadly, somehow convinced he was making the right decision. "Well, I'd hate to have to go back and tell him we lost his Soviet experiment already. Wouldn't you?"
A/N: Thanks for reading, what do you think so far?