"And in the lower left-hand corner you can see U.N.C.L.E. headquarters." Illya was attempting to direct the Colonels attention to the surrounding New York sights as he pointed the telescope towards the UNCLE building, losing eye contact with his VIP for mere seconds. It was in that flash of time that the seemingly distracted Col. Acevedo covered the necessary steps to take him to the unguarded railing at the highest observation deck of the Empire State Building, climb to the top and jump. The stunned agent grasped at the descending figure futily, his efforts too late to make a difference.
Standing at the top, looking as the visiting leader fell the 102 floors to his certain death, the Russian felt his own heart sink miserably at his failure to protect the man. His speculation on reporting this to Mr. Waverly created an immediate and irreversible dread.
In spite of the dawning realization that this had been part of a Thrush mind altering treatment, Col. Acevedo's death weighed heavily on Illya Kuryakin. He had been responsible for the man, in charge of keeping him safe in addition to acting as a tour guide. While the latter part of that role was not something for which he was ideally suited, protection should havae been. He had not used good judgement in taking his attention away from the man, especially when his instincts had suggested that something was not quite right with the man. He had failed not only to protect him, but to save him when the time came. Adding to the Russian's malaise was the memory of being kidnapped and drugged by that lunatic Valandros, almost losing his mind to the insidious formulas they'd pumped into his veins. The past months had been emotionally erratic, and physically he felt as though there were not enough hours for sleeping. Whether that might prove to be an escapist technique, he wasn't certain. He did know for a fact, however, that listening to Mr. Waverly brief them on their assignment to track down the culprits of what was becoming a trending horror, he wished it wasn't his duty to go. The very real fear of facing yet another failure was daunting; it distracted him now.
Alexander Waverly was aware of his agent's distress over losing Acevedo. It was understandable, although not productive in gaining the needed advantage on this next mission. Kuryakin would have to gather his resources and act from a position of experience and resolve. There was no room for unbridled emotions at this juncture.
Napoleon saw it as well. He voiced his concerns after Illya left his two superiors in the shooting range.
"I have some concerns about Illya right now, sir. Do you think he's really prepared for this...mentally, I mean?"
Waverly didn't hesitate. The relationship shared by these two men hinged on obsession, sometimes. He had no doubt that Napoleon would sacrifice the objective if he feared for the well being of his partner. Someone had to stand firm, and it was always left to him, as protector and guardian of UNCLE, to play the devil's advocate.
"Do you think he will fail, then, Mr. Solo? Do you consider him at risk?" The question was to the point. Solo had his own work to do, and worrying about Mr. Kuryakin would only hinder his effectiveness.
"I...he seems distracted, is all. He's been through quite a bit in the past few months, and this...the death of Col. Acevedo was a blow. I think he might be vulnerable". Napoleon hated to think what might happen if Thrush got Illya into their clutches right now. He had a feeling...Perhaps it was a premonition, for lack of a better word.
"Mr. Solo, you have your assignment, and Mr. Kuryakin has his. We have no alternative but to carry on. I have no doubt that your partner will have success in tracking down the source of this...device or whatever it is Thrush is utilizing for their barbaric schemes. I, for one, have every confidence in Mr. Kuryakin's ability to rise above his...unfortunate incidents..." What should he label those events? The Russian seemed plagued by some insidiously bad luck, to be sure.
"Yes sir. I'm sure you're correct. I'll get on this immediately". Solo resignedly sighed as he exited the room, knowing full well that his partner wasn't fine, and that it was almost a certainty that something bad was about to happen.