I'm really sorry this has taken so long. I hope someone still remembers it. Truthfully, it's been about ninety percent finished since last year, but I've finally got myself together enough to finish it.
The tracker stopped moving soon after, to Napoleon's relief, and even on foot he managed to catch up within twenty minutes. With any luck THRUSH still hadn't figured out that Kuryakin wasn't Hurwicz. If that was the case, they'd be keeping him alive and – relatively – unharmed.
Apparently THRUSH was hiding out in a small amusement arcade. Hmmm. He looked at the people spilling in and out of the wide open entrance way. Families with their children, young couples...a man on his own, dressed like he was, would stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. And the guy on the door was looking at each person going in – casually, maybe, but Napoleon knew a THRUSH guard when he saw one. There wasn't much chance of him sneaking in without being noticed.
Keeping his distance on the other side of the street, he pulled out his communicator and called Randolph. "Are you back yet?"
"No, not quite," Randolph said, sounding distracted. "The traffic is a nightmare this time of day."
He was alert immediately. "Not normally. Look around, does it seem as though anyone is following you?"
"No." The answer came too quickly, followed by an awkward pause. "I...we ran into some roadworks. The ones that Kuryakin told us about, I guess."
Ah. He carefully refrained from making any comment. "Alright. Do you think you're going to make it back okay?"
"Trust me," Randolph said with a sigh.
He smiled. "Just being careful."
"Right." He could picture the head shake. "Well, just make sure you're careful with THRUSH."
He had every intention of it.
Satisfied that the real Hurwicz was safely away at least, he turned his attention back to the arcade. So, he couldn't just waltz in there without being spotted, not on his own anyway. He was going to need some other way in...and that looked like it right over there.
He sauntered over to the gaggle of young women spilling out of the park down the block, a careless smile already easily in place. "Good morning," he said, taking careful note of the soft giggles, the exchanged glances of interest. "My name is Napoleon Solo, and I work for UNCLE." He showed his ID card quickly, pleased to see that they clearly recognised it.
Another murmur of interest and intrigue and they shifted around until one of them- a beautiful blonde in a short red skirt - was seemingly appointed leader. "And what can we do for you, Mr Solo?"
"Nothing too strenuous," he smiled, dividing his attention evenly between them. "I just need an escort into that building down there, so I can slip in unnoticed."
"How exciting!" the short brunette exclaimed, clapping her hands together. "Is it full of criminals?"
"I hope not," he said. "But there are people there who I don't want to notice me. Not right away, anyway."
"Of course we'll help," the blonde told him. "Just stick close to us, Mr Solo, you'll see."
"It's going to be an adventure," the brunette said breathily.
He slung his arms over her and the blonde, and the others thronged around them, walking round the street with much excited giggling. Well, he very much doubted this looked suspicious, and as they walked into the arcade, he saw the guard's eyes slide over them like they were irrelevant. Perfect.
"Alright," he said in a low voice, charming his cover with a smile. "Thank you. Let's go and try out a game or two and then I'll slip away." The blonde nodded, her eyes wide, a hushed smile of exhilaration hovering around her lips and he felt his smile grow more intimate, just for her. "I didn't ask your name."
"Mary Stevens," she told him.
"Maybe I'll see you after, Mary?" he suggested.
"Maybe you will," she said flirtatiously, and that was enough. For the moment, anyway.
As far as he could tell, the arcade itself was legitimate enough. Simply a cover for whatever was hidden. Of course, the trick here was to avoid looking like he was looking for anything. Hmm. There was a door near the back, with what looked like another guard on it. Now, to get closer.
The indoor shooting range was right next to it, so he linked arms with Mary and pulled her closer, picking up the gun and shooting five paper ducks as they flew jerkily across the backdrop. To a casual observer, it would look like that was taking all his attention. Really, his eyes were on the guard.
The man was too much in the open for Napoleon to be willing to risk any direct action against him. No, what was needed here was some kind of distraction. The guard might be on the door, but his eyes were sweeping over the arcade floor, and he doubted he was solely looking for UNCLE agents. Probably any kind of disturbance would have him acting as security. For a second or two, he contemplated asking Mary and the others to provide one, but there was too much chance that drawing attention to the group he had been part of would backfire.
Taking the teddy bear he'd won in the shooting game, he passed it to Mary with a smile. "This is where I leave you, I'm afraid," he said in a low voice. "Spend another five minutes or so in here before you leave. And thank you for all your assistance."
"Mister Solo, you're the most interesting thing on Coney Island," she said and his smile widened.
Business before pleasure, he reminded himself – not for the first time. Alright. He stepped away from the girls fractionally and looked around, quickly spotting a group of college-aged boys around a foosball table, loud and raucous enough that he was pretty sure they'd already been drinking. Looked like the guard already had some of his attention on them as well – which should make it easier.
Very casually, he walked past them, picking up a bunch of unattended prize tickets from one, and carefully placing them half-hidden under another's bag. Then he stepped back towards the door and simply waited.
It didn't take long. "Hey, man, where are my tickets?"
"I had a whole bunch of...hey! You stole my tickets you jerk!"
Immediately, the two were right up in each other's faces, pushing and posturing, and the guard took a few steps forwards, snapping out a warning, and that was all the time Napoleon needed to silently sneak through the door and leave the arcade behind.
There was a concrete staircase and he kept close to the wall as he crept down, finding himself standing in an underground complex, which was kind of a relief. It would have been mildly embarrassing if he'd just ended up in the arcade storeroom or something. Anyway, now to find Kuryakin. Hmm. If anyone had told him even just a few weeks ago that he'd be busy trying to rescue a Soviet, he'd have been extremely doubtful. Funny how things worked out.
Silently, he moved down the corridor on the left, keeping an ear out, and it was a relief when he heard the voices coming from somewhere below him.
"Come, now, my little spy. Where is the real Doctor Hurwicz?"
"I would not tell you even if I knew."
There was a loud smacking sound and he winced. Apparently they had already figured out that Illya had lied. Time to move. There were tiny windows set into the wall, looking down onto a cell block and he saw Illya there, tied to a chair, three thrushies standing over him – he recognised Marlin and Keynes, Marlin's boss. Great. He'd had a run in with Keynes a few months back, when he'd been working with Andersen. The man was not his biggest fan.
It was Keynes that was speaking. "You must know. Your friend took him away; where would they have gone? A safe house?"
"I have no idea," Illya said, sounding bored. "I am fresh off boat. They do not trust me. I do not know their plans."
Mmm. He knew that was a lie – Illya would have guessed that they would be taking Hurwicz straight back to headquarters – but he felt uneasy at everything the lie betrayed. They do not trust me. That was the story that Illya had felt would be most easily believed and, after all, it was a standard part of any spy's training that a little truth salted among your lies would make them go so much further.
"Make him talk," Keynes ordered Marlin. "And call me when he does." At the sound of footsteps, Napoleon flattened himself against the wall, waiting breathless as a door opened just down the corridor and Keynes strode off in the opposite direction.
And that left two in the room. He could do this, if he was quick.
He gave it a few moments, time enough for them to distract themselves with Illya, and then he flung the door wide, his gun already in his hand, and he shot the THRUSH guard with a sleep dart, and moved quickly before Marlin could turn, rolling to the side. He caught a glimpse of him standing there, over Illya, the blood already covering his fellow agent's face, and he raised his gun and fired before Marlin could.
The THRUSH man fell to the ground and Napoleon ignored him, hurrying over to Kuryakin. "Illya!"
There was a groan and Illya raised his head slowly. "Solo? What...what are you doing here?"
He checked him over quickly. Seemed he had been beaten pretty thoroughly, but there was nothing life-threatening. "I came to get you," he said, as he untied the ropes and tried to help him to his feet.
Kuryakin shrugged his hand away suspiciously. "You should have stayed with Hurwicz."
"Randolph has him," he answered patiently. "He's fine. You shouldn't have stepped in for him. You can't just go off and do your own thing, you need to communicate. We don't have any time for rogue agents."
The frustration was all-too-evident in his voice, and he wasn't surprised when he was answered with a scowl. "I saw an opportunity and I took it. I did not see you coming up with any better ideas."
His reply was blunt. "You didn't give me a chance."
"There was no time," Kuryakin argued. "They were right there, I could not risk - "
" - checking to see if I had any ideas?" he snapped, hackles raised, and it wasn't so much that Kuryakin's plan had been reckless, it was that he didn't like knowing that it hadn't even occurred to him to seek Napoleon's opinion. He was used to being relied on, and used to being the one who came up with the last minute ideas...and this was probably exactly how Randolph - and Stephen and Edgar before him – felt trying to deal with him. He grimaced. "Sorry. It worked, that's the main thing. And I'm glad you're alright...relatively speaking."
There was a pause, and Illya looked at him, brow furrowed, just as guarded and closed off as he had been when they had first met. "You should not have come after me,"he said, leaning on the chair with all his weight, his knuckles white. "I had a plan."
He raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?" he asked, looking round the cell pointedly. "A plan?"
"I would have thought of something," Illya snapped. "I do not need you."
There was something desperate and defensive in his tone – enough to give Napoleon pause, and he bit back on his automatic response and smiled wryly. "You're welcome."
To his surprise and relief, Illya hesitated a moment and then cautiously returned the smile. "I...yes. Thank you. I was not expecting to see you."
Of course. He had a feeling that Illya was mostly used to working on his own. And after all, no one liked having to be rescued. He nodded briskly. "Alright. Let's get out of here."
"No," Illya shook his head. "No, there is a complication."
Of course there was. Because no assignment ever went smoothly. "What is it?"
"They might have been looking for Dr Hurwicz, but apparently they were already well aware of his work," Illya said grimly.
He felt a trickle of dread down his spine. "Don't tell me - "
" - they are already building a missile," Illya confirmed. "Marlin showed me before Keane told him I was not Hurwicz. I don't know how far along the radar project they are, but the missiles themselves appeared almost complete."
"And they'll probably use them if they realise they've been discovered," he agreed. And he knew two things; one, headquarters would probably be the prime target; and two, if they escaped now, Keane would know he'd be discovered and he'd be more than likely to use the missiles before he came back. "We're going to need to take them down now."
"Obviously," Kuryakin said crisply. "Come on. Follow me."
"After you," he said ironically to Kuryakin's retreating back. He took note of the way the other agent was limping and shook his head. Could this guy be any more stubborn?
Evidently Kuryakin remembered exactly where he was going from when he'd been taken here initially. Unfortunately there was only one door in and out. Not much chance of them scoring the element of surprise.
There was a glass panel in the door and he looked through it quickly, taking in the contents of the room in a split second. There were five people there – two scientists working on a missile lying open on a workbench, wires and circuitry exposed, and three guards standing around the walls, one on the left hand side and two on the right. No sign of Keane. Okay.
He ducked back down to the left, glancing over to where Kuryakin had taken up position on the other side, and he held up three fingers then two, and he waited as Kuryakin nodded in acknowledgement, before he pointed right and held up two fingers again, then left and held up one.
The understanding in Kuryakin's eyes was immediate, and he gestured towards himself and then through the door to the right, and then Napoleon and to the left.
Right. He shook his head, looking pointedly at the leg Illya had been limping on. This wasn't the time to prove a point. Illya glared at him for a second then grudgingly nodded and the two of them quickly swapped places.
They kept eye contact and Napoleon silently counted down. Three, two, one, and Illya kicked the door open, allowing Napoleon to burst through, shooting one of the guards on the right easily, while the other reacted quickly, ducking down behind a computer bank.
In the heat of the fight, as one of the scientists with more bravery than sense rushed him, he lost track of what was happening with Kuryakin. He managed to knock the scientist out with the butt of his gun and carried on exchanging shots with the other guard. The man wasn't a great shot, but he was very good at staying out of sight. Napoleon grimaced and edged forwards along the computer banks, making sure that all the bullets that were flying his way were well away from the missile. He managed to get to a point just before where the guard was crouched, and waited until he heard the pause as the guy reloaded his gun, before he quickly swung past the last computer bank and darted him right in the chest.
"Don't move, Solo."
Keane's voice. Damn. He hadn't been watching his back. He turned round slowly, his hands raised, and saw Keane standing a few feet away, directly in front of one of the missiles, pointing a gun straight at him.
"Who'd have thought you'd walk straight into my hands?" he smirked. "After you shut down my operation three months ago I've been hoping to see you again. I think that I'm going to enjoy the thought of you dying in fire, trying to - "
A wrench came flying through the air and knocked straight into Keane's outstretched arm, and he screamed as his arm dropped like a stone, obviously broken, the gun flying out of his hand.
Napoleon didn't hesitate, stepping forwards immediately and punching him squarely into the jaw. He fell to the ground, unconscious, and Napoleon looked across the room. Illya was leaning heavily on the tool bench beside the dismantled missile, a small, crooked smile of smugness apparent on his lips.
"Nice throw," he said.
"I despise monologuing," Illya said seriously, and Napoleon found himself smiling.
"Alright," he said, the smile fading as he moved up to the missile Keane had been working on. He hadn't liked the sound of that 'dying in fire' bit, but the missile was clearly in no position to be fired. For a moment he breathed a sigh of relief...until he noticed the innocently blinking light.
A string of Russian fell from Illya's mouth, and Napoleon didn't need to understand to understand.
"What?" he asked, the dread already settling into the pit of his stomach.
"He has primed the missile for detonation," Illya confirmed. "No doubt he was planning to use it to cover his escape. The payload is enough to destroy a building far larger than this one, and the attached incendiaries will see to it that fire quickly spreads to the surrounding buildings as well."
He nodded grimly, his mind already on the arcade upstairs, full of innocents. "Alright. We'll need to start evacuating."
"There will be no time," Illya said quickly, already removing the cover from the missile. "I believe – yes – if I can remove the detonator and the warhead I will be able to control the explosion."
"Are you sure?" he asked involuntarily, hesitating at the sight of explosives and rocket fuel laid bare before them.
Illya looked up. "Trust me," he said, and it was practically a plea.
Napoleon held his gaze for a long second. "Yes."
He witnessed a brief smile and then Illya was bent over the missile working quickly, carefully, and Napoleon found himself holding his breath as the cone was gently eased free of the shell.
"Take cover," Illya said sharply, drawing back his arm and throwing the cone into the far corner of the room. The second it left his hand, Napoleon grabbed his arm, pulling them both down behind a filing cabinet.
The ensuing explosion was small and most definitely controlled. The whole thing had taken less than a minute.
"You did it," he said unnecessarily.
"Try not to sound so surprised," Illya told him dryly.
He shook his head, smiling. "I'm not surprised. But I am impressed."
"I...thank you," Illya said awkwardly, blinking and seemingly caught off guard. "You have your moments as well."
More than moments. "Well, if we've finished this self-congratulation, perhaps we'd better call for some backup to take care of these prisoners, hmmm? And you could probably use some time in medical."
Illya sighed huffily. "I do not need medical, I need some dinner. It has been a very long afternoon."
It hadn't even been three hours since he'd watched Illya demolish his lunch in the diner. "Well, if you go to medical and do what the doctors tell you, maybe I'll buy you a hotdog."
To his amusement, Illya appeared to consider it.
Later, back at headquarters and after circumspectly explaining his actions to Mr Waverly and Peterson – not too difficult in this case, since his so-called recklessness had led to he and Illya capturing Keane and putting a stop to THRUSH's missile plans – Napoleon found his feet carrying him down towards medical.
"Napoleon!" Randolph caught up with him in the corridor. "Glad to see you back in one piece."
He offered a smile. "Was there ever any doubt?" he asked rhetorically. "Is Hurwicz being cooperative?"
"Settled in with Section VIII and busy drawing pictures over blackboards," Randolph said promptly. "I have no idea what any of it means, but the labcoats seemed excited."
"Good," he said absently, glancing down towards medical. "That's good."
"Are you finished here?" Randolph asked. "I was thinking of heading to Lucidores. Nancy and a group of the girls from communications are going to be there. Including Rachel. She was asking after you."
Hmmm. He couldn't deny that was tempting. "I was going to look in on Kuryakin."
"Oh. Right." Randolph blinked. "Well, yeah, fair enough. He did well today. I'll maybe see you in Lucidores when you're done?"
"Maybe," he agreed. "See you later, Randolph." There would be plenty of other nights of wine, women and song. There was nothing remarkable about that.
He walked into medical to find Illya sitting on the edge of a bed, shirtless and looking grumpily at the nurses. "I am quite capable of dressing myself and finding my own way home. There is no need for any of this."
"Causing trouble, pal?" he asked cheerfully, approaching the visibly fuming man.
"Napoleon." Illya blinked, apparently once again surprised to see him. "I am just attempting to get out of here."
"Uh huh." He regarded him seriously. "How are you doing?"
"I am perfectly fit," Illya said crossly. "And I would be far fitter were I able to go home and recuperate in my own bed." He said the last bit while glaring at the nurses, who looked mildly intimidated and decidedly stubborn.
Napoleon glanced over at one of the nurses – Amanda – who gave him a quick, half-despairing nod. "Well, why don't I give you a ride home then," he offered. "We can even stop off and pick up some Chinese food along the way if you like."
Illya brightened immediately, before his expression smoothed out. "Thank you," he said formally. "I would be grateful."
"That's settled then. Grab your stuff," he said, and as Illya did so he added "It was good to work with you today, Illya."
Pausing in the middle of putting his shirt on, Illya paused. "For me as well," he said with a nod. "I hope we get the chance to work together again some time."
Yes. Napoleon found he did too.
So what did you think? All comments gratefully received.