There were two priority items on Napoleon Solo's list when he touched down at UNCLE headquarters: get Illya into medical, get Duvall into the building for an intensive interrogation.

On the flight back the Thrush chief had awakened, slowly at first and then in a panic when he realized his predicament.

"Where are we going?" His eyes were wild as he shouted above the noise in the chopper.

"We are taking you to UNCLE headquarters, Mr. Duvall. That's where you're going to tell us all about Miss Lucas…and whatever else you can offer". Napoleon's eyes were cold, his intentions obvious.

"I can't go there…we shouldn't…" Duvall had a vision of the devastation to come and shuddered to think of being caught in it. He had to escape, get out of the helicopter…and then he realized he hadn't a chance of doing so. His desire to live made decision making easy as he rolled over his options. At this point, with this man he knew there was only one.

"Mr. Solo, there's going to be a disaster of far reaching proportions, and it's going to happen in…' He looked at his watch, counting the hours…"in five hours. And it will happen at UNCLE headquarters". Napoleon blanched at the thought of what Thrush may have planted, and of the lives that could be lost. His mind was racing through the possible scenarios as he grabbed Duvall by his suit lapel and shouted back at him.

"What kind of disaster, Duvall? What have you done?" The Thrush just glared at his captor, the ingenuity of his plan now the conduit for his own destruction.

"It was planted by Marianne Lucas. She is the only one who knows where it's hidden. And she will be boarding a flight for London in four hours".

The UNCLE helicopter was landing as the conversation came to this disturbing juncture. Napoleon leapt onto the helipad as medics appeared to take away the wounded, Illya among them. As much as the CEA wanted to escort his partner and be certain of his condition, he knew that the only acceptable action at this point was to take Duvall downstairs and get all of the information he could in order to apprehend Marianne. She had become the most important person for everyone in the building.

"Mr. Solo'…Alexander Waverly appeared only slightly more worn than usual, his bushy eyebrows actively punctuating his speech… "We must evacuate the building of all non-essential personnel. That is the first order of business. Please see to that as soon as we are concluded here with…Mr. Duvall". He cast his eyes upon the man from Thrush, his expression only mildly devoid of his utter contempt.

"Where is Miss Lucas? Unless you yourself are willing to die for this scheme of yours, you will tell us where we shall find her. I assure you it will be easy enough to evacuate this building and let it fall before us. You, however, will not be so fortunate as to be among us. Do I make myself clear?" It seemed he did, for Duvall began to talk a steady stream of information concerning the woman's location and schedule. Within a few minutes Napoleon had the address of the Thrush safe house where she was waiting, and the number of her flight and time of departure. It appeared that Deacon Duvall would rather live at any cost when confronted with his own mortality. Life meant having another chance, and it was an easy choice to count on his ability to reinvent himself another day.

In another part of the building, Larry Neville sat in a holding cell he had been calling home for the past nineteen hours; ever since the end of his interrogation. The longer he sat there, the more he hoped he had killed the Soviet s.o.b., because if he was going to jail for the rest of his life it oughta be because he'd done something right. So it was with great animosity that he received the news of Kuryakin's return to headquarters down in medical.

"He's alive, that little bastard". He said it aloud, not caring who heard him. Here he sat, a trained UNCLE agent, albeit still section three, all because of that commie friend of Solo's. At that very moment, he began to plan an escape.

From Waverly's office Napoleon had begun to make the plans for retrieving Marianne Lucas from the Long Island safe house. He would lead the mission, not trusting it to anyone else because of the dire consequences of failure. He would assume that responsibility as Chief Enforcement Agent. He assembled a team and led them to the helicopter after Duvall had been securely retained in Interrogation Room 1. For this one time, he trusted a Thrush to tell him the truth. Facing death did have an effect on even the most hardcore criminals.

The flight was quick, the assault a complete surprise to the unaware Thrush. Marianne Lucas had her bags packed and a limo waiting for the ride to Kennedy International. It was still three hours until her flight, but they had only managed to arrive with minutes to spare before her planned departure from the Long Island house. She knew immediately upon hearing the gunfire that they had come for her. Why else attack a safe house at six in the morning? She wouldn't take that suicide pill; better to be a prisoner than a memory.

Napoleon found her waiting, seated on her stack of suitcases as though she expected the chauffeur instead of an angry UNCLE agent.

"Mr. Solo, I see you've found me. Is there something I can do for you?" It wasn't a smirk, but the smile did elicit a less than polite response from the handsome intruder. He wasted no time gathering her up in a rough handed manner and escorting her at a quick pace back to the helicopter. There was no time for charm or wit this time. He had a deadline to meet, and this woman held the key to saving headquarters and lives.

"You're coming back to UNCLE, and you're going to show us where you've planted your bomb. I suspect that being there will help you to cooperate". He returned the smirk now; advantage Solo.

The medical unit had given Illya a going over and rewrapped his chest, administering pain killers and an oral sedative. Tricky Russian that he was, he didn't swallow the sleeping pill, but held it in his cheek until the nurse had turned her back. He spit it out and slipped it beneath his pillow, waiting for an opportunity to ease out of the bed and get dressed. All he had was the trousers he'd confiscated from the Thrush doctor, so he pulled them on, as well as the shoes, and retrieved the lab coat once again. He hated hospital gowns, perhaps more than intrusive doctors. He would simply go upstairs to Mr. Waverly's office and wait there. He couldn't remain in medical while all of this action was taking place. He'd overheard part of the conversation between Duvall and Napoleon, so he was aware of some danger that still remained. He needed to know what it was and, if possible, help contain it.

Marianne was easily persuaded to give up the location and nature of the "bomb". She had no desire to perish along with the UNCLE staff, and realized that there was no alternative to it if she didn't cooperate. The bomb she had planted was more than just immediate destruction. Within the explosive had been planted radioactive waste elements that, when ignited would produce a long lasting contamination and imminent death to anyone who survived the actual demolition of the building. UNCLE New York would cease to exist, and the long aftermath of regaining personnel and records would set the organization back years, if not decades.

This would have been a magnificent accomplishment. Now, with the threat of her own demise, she willingly gave them the location; it was in the lab inside of Kuryakin's desk drawer. How delicious would that have been when they revealed to him the means of destruction to his beloved organization and UNCLE comrades. The entire plan had revolved around getting Kuryakin alive, and convincing him that he was wanted as a convert to the dogma of Thrush. Of course, they hadn't counted on Neville using real bullets on the Russian. He was supposed to have loaded sleep darts, but his own mean ambitions and prejudices had nearly spoiled their plan before it got off the ground. Stupid man.

The man in question was, at that moment, complaining loudly of a physical ailment for which he said medical treatment was required. Rather than call in a physician, the man on duty yielded to a blinding sympathy with his imprisoned co-worker and unlocked the door in order to take him up to the medical unit. Unwittingly, he also let the other agent overpower him, take his gun and leave him locked in the cell. Neville congratulated himself that he was, indeed, section II material. 'Now we'll see about Kuryakin', and with that thought he made his way to confront his imagined nemesis.

Illya had made it all the way upstairs to Waverly's office, only to be restrained by a section III agent who immediately took it upon himself to escort the injured man back to medical. Without checking with his superior, the man assumed that Kuryakin was still a suspect and not to be admitted to whatever high level meeting was in progress. He had neglected to ascertain the latest information regarding the Russian, and like a few others, had suspicions about the man that dated back to when he had first been made aware of him. UNCLE didn't need his kind, and he was only too willing to return him to a restricted area. Illya was trying to talk to the man, pulling away in an effort that challenged the broken sternum. Lisa Rogers was just coming from her boss' office when she saw the back of the section III agent with the smaller blond in tow.

"Hey, Baker, who do you have there?" She didn't waste any time approaching the two men, and was shocked that Mr. Kuryakin was being treated in such an offhand manner.

"Take your hands off of him. Illya, are you alright?" She observed his less than fit appearance, and felt silly for asking the question. She reached for her intercom and alerted Mr. Waverly that his recently returned agent was outside and appeared to want to see him.

"Yes, Miss Rogers, show him in please…gently".

"Ah, Mr. Kuryakin, you are just in time to witness the removal of the bomb that was planted in your lab desk for the purpose of destroying our headquarters. Mr. Solo is currently in charge of disposing of this most heinous device'…he observed his agent, noting the dark circles that punctuated his features like a mask. His posture further indicated the obvious discomfort from what he had learned was a cracked breastbone. The ability to survive the most outlandish circumstances was a continual source of amazement to the old man. He did not yearn for his own youthful adventures just now…

"It appears that there was never an actual mole, per se. You were the object of their ambitions; to strip you of all information regarding UNCLE and of the Soviets. Why they thought you would have current intelligence from that quarter is still a mystery. They are, at times, most deficient in common sense". Illya could only imagine how it might have turned out had they not been able to capture Duvall and Marianne. As he watched his partner on the closed screen image, he momentarily wished he was carrying out the task; his expertise with explosives did exceed Napoleon's, making him a better choice for the dangerous assignment. It was an unnecessary concern, however, as he knew the man to be exceptionally capable and that his success was not in doubt.

The bomb was transported to their containment center in the basement of the building. Because of the radioactive elements, there would be special precautions taken to safely handle the completely disarmed device. Napoleon left it with their explosives team and some section VIII personnel. This would be gone over with a fine tooth comb, and he would himself want to take a look at it eventually.

"So, Mr. Kuryakin, it appears that the worst of it is over. Perhaps now you can be persuaded to return to medical. You don't look particularly well, I have to say". Illya didn't feel particularly well, and he was willing to go and lie down; he planned on going home though…soon.

"Yes sir, I will go back and check in. I would like, however, to wait here for Napoleon, if you don't mind". He wanted to see his partner and get the details first hand, but not in medical. He needed to be alert, and lying down in a bed would ruin him for that.

"Certainly, that will do. He should be returning soon…" And just then UNCLE's top agent walked through the swishing doors and settled into his chair, relief plastered on his face.

"Illya, what are you doing up here? You're supposed to be…"

"Yes, I know where I'm supposed to be; right here, waiting to hear your report on the night's activities. I seem to have missed some of the details". It was almost too good to believe; they had all survived and were here to talk about it. Another dastardly deed was filed away, another win for the good guys.

"Okay, I understand that. But, you look like…' He remembered where he was and toned down his observation…

"You look like you could use some sleep, my friend. How about I walk you back downstairs and we go over this tomorrow, after you've gotten some rest". Illya was fading, and he recognized it. To remain here and harass his partner would be pointless. He might as well submit.

"Perhaps you're right, Napoleon. Mr. Waverly, can you persuade the doctors to release me to my own home?" His face took on the look of that wide eyed boy who had fought his way through Germans and Soviets, waiting for a reprieve from another man in authority. Waverly relented, wishing for all the world that the battles they fought were no longer necessary.

"Yes, Mr. Kuryakin, I will take care of that. Now go and get yourself some rest. Oh, and...well done, both of you.". With that pronouncement the tweedy old gentleman turned his back and prepared to light his pipe.

Napoleon and Illya headed for the elevator, both of them weary from the past 40 hours of violence and intrigue; ready for some well deserved rest from the chaos and mayhem that Duvall's scheme had produced. Some answers would have to wait until both agents were refreshed and alert, and they were promising each other full disclosure of all the pertinent facts.

The doors opened on the floor to medical, and as they prepared to exit the elevator, oblivious to any hint of danger, an enraged Larry Neville was waiting for them. He had locked the doctors and nurses in an exam room, and he alone was in the lobby to greet the unsuspecting partners as they emerged from the elevator.

"Stop right there! This time I won't miss, Kuryakin. Solo, get out of the way, I don't have any grudge with you". His eyes were wild with hate as he leveled the Special at Illya's midsection. The blond agent was pushing his friend away from him, trying to shield him from the unsteady man who faced them. With as much intent as his partner, Napoleon tried to reach towards Neville and dissuade him from what he was attempting.

"Larry, you don't want to do this. We can write off the other night to Thrush, you can get counseling. You didn't kill anyone, and I'm certain we can work something out…"

"I don't want to work anything out Solo. I want the commie bastard dead. He's ruining everything. He's a traitor, he's dirty…" His emotional outburst created a surge of adrenaline and he pulled the trigger, hitting his target dead on. Napoleon leapt towards him, tackling him and gaining possession of the gun, but Illya was down. Blood was seeping across the fabric of the white coat he wore, his eyes rolled back in his head as he lost vision and then consciousness.

"You bastard, you damned stupid bastard!" Napoleon rushed over to his friend, picking him up and carrying him down the hall to a room with a vacant bed. He released the medical personnel from their temporary prison, watched as they went into overdrive to tend to his dying partner. With an unbridled fury, he ran back to reception and tore into the stunned Neville, battering him nearly to a pulp before the arrival of more agents spared him the additional torment of actually killing the man.

Unbearable minutes dragged on as both Napoleon and Mr. Waverly waited for some word on the stricken Russian. Why, at the very end of this nightmare, did this happen? The shock to both men was palpable; their anger at what had motivated the crazed agent into attempting once again to assassinate Illya more overwhelming than they cared to admit. Napoleon would have gladly murdered the man, and if Illya didn't survive, he might still do it. He felt physically sick at the memory of watching Neville, of Illya falling once again into a heap because of him.

There was an investigation pending concerning his escape from that cell. Were it up to the CEA, he would require a psych test for every employee. How ironic was that, to wish a visit to the shrink on everyone at UNCLE?

There had to be more like Neville among them; blind with prejudice and hate. Enough hate to try and murder his friend, his tovarisch.

God, Illya couldn't die.

It was over an hour later that Dr. Morton came out and gave them the good, if not guarded news that Mr. Kuryakin would live. The bullet had done some internal damage, but the bleeding had been stopped and he was, at present, stable.

"Can I see him?" Napoleon knew he would stay here, by his partner's side. They all knew it, the standard practice for these two; for all partners who really had a connection.

"Yes, you can go in. He's better than he looks, actually. Just so you know. And, why don't you get some sleep in there as well, Napoleon. You look like you could use it". Wise doctor.

Sometime around midnight, forty eight hours from the time this nightmare had started, Illya woke up in the dim lights of a hospital room…again. He could see the figure in the next bed and knew it was his partner. He didn't call out to him, decided to let the man sleep as he knew they both should.

'We survived it, my friend. My reputation is still intact and we have lived to fight another day'.

The thought was some comfort. Of more value was the knowledge that his friend had trusted him, and their bond would remain unbroken.

With that firmly rooted conviction, Illya Kuryakin drifted back to sleep.