Chapter One - Internal Affairs

"Mr. Waverly?" Napoleon Solo stood at the office door.

"Ahhh" The older man closed the file he was reading, setting it with the others on the ominously large pile that occupied the right hand side of his desk. "Mr. Solo. Come in." Opening a fresh folder, he pulled out a single sheet of paper, which he passed to Napoleon. " I have a rather urgent request here. From General Strasenhaur of the Stazi.

Napoleon scanned it without expression. "They want Illya back."

"In a sense. General Strasenhaur has a situation with...well, we'll get to that later. But along with THRUSH - which is why it is an UNCLE matter - it involves both the Russian's and the British. Which means the matter may need a... delicate touch. Thus the request for a Russian agent." Waverly arched one eyebrow. "Perfectly legitimate, of course."

"Of course."

"They've suggested Mr. Kuryakin return to handle the matter." Waverly continued sotto voice. "Because of his 'prior experience'."

Napoleon said nothing - but the way he tossed the letter back on Waverly's desk spoke volumes.

"On the surface a legitimate request, Mr. Solo."

"Since when was the Stazi ever on the surface? Or legitimate, for that matter?" He stood sharply. "I assume we are to be desperately busy elsewhere. Quite unexpectedly, of course."

"Not exactly."

"You can't..." Napoleon began.

"Sit down, Mr. Solo." Waverly unearthed a folder of what were clearly briefing papers. "It is not advisable to annoy a cooperating agency without reason."

Napoleon said nothing. Nor did he take the folder.

"At the same time," Waverly continued, "I would hate to subject Mr. Kuryakin professional ethics to any undue stress."

"So?"

"So - out of concern for General Strasenhaur's 'pressing' need, I am assigning not only Mr. Kuryakin, but another senior agent as well. The Chief of Hemispheric Enforcement."

"Won't break up the set, eh?" Napoleon picked up the folder.

"The man can hardly complain when I give him more than he demands."

"Evil." Napoleon flashed his trademark smile. "Clever, but evil. I can envision Strasenhaur's face when he finds out. Those German's hate to work with anyone they don't own."

"Yes, well..." Waverly fumbled for his pipe.

"Well?"

Waverly reached for his humidor. "We must anticipate that - given the circumstances - they will try to acquire that ownership."

"Sir. You can't think..."

"I can think any number of things, Mr. Solo. And just now I think we shall let them succeed."

"Sir!"

"Be reasonable, Mr. Solo." The older man sifted out a pinch of his invariable Isle of Dogs. " The East German's will not work with you comfortably unless Strasenhaur believe he has some leverage. So he will continue to probe for a weakness until he either finds or creates one."

Napoleon glowered as Waverly made a show of tamping down his tobacco. But he didn't debate the point. Because it was all too evidently true.

"In addition to the obvious inefficiencies they is always the risk to UNCLE should he somehow succeed." Waverly picked up the discarded letter and neatly slid it back into its proper file. "No. I believe we will all be better served if the General is given a 'scandal' of our choosing."

"Very well." Napoleon shifted uneasily. "I suppose I can take the next bribe."

"Unfortunately, Mr. Solo. I rather doubt that would suffice." Striking a match, he drew on the pipe until it lit. "Your creativity with an expense account is legend - and UNCLE has not punished you yet. Besides, Strasenhaur is communist enough to believe all Westerners are openly corrupt."

"Then...?" Napoleon considered briefly. "He'll probably send a woman."

"Please. Mr. Solo." Waverly waved off that option, sending a waft of blue smoke though the room. "Your reputation there is even more legendary."

"Well," Napoleon frowned. "I don't do politics, so if we cut out money and ignore sex..."

"Oh, we can't ignore sex, Mr. Solo."

"Sir?"

"It's still his most probable channel." Waverly leaned back, clearly enjoying his pipe - and the conversation. "Just not a woman. You sleep with any woman, and no one would believe UNCLE would object. A man, on the other hand? That might raise some eyebrows. Therefore, of course, Strasenhaur might think it gave him leverage. If we can persuade him of your appropriate - or should the term be inappropriate - interest."

"Me?" The brown file cover crumpled in Napoleon's fist. "With a man?"

"I trust you can persuade him you are vulnerable. Because otherwise....?" Waverly left the rest unspoken.

Napoleon reached for his tie, which was suddenly suffocatingly tight. "Very well, sir. If duty demands."