"What did you say?" The colorist was an authority in her field of endeavor, and had been carefully selected from among a select few professionals. What she had before her now was the most challenging of her career, however, and there had been a few discreet warnings about her 'client'.
"Mr. Kuryakin, we are going to bleach your hair and eyebrows...and body hair. In order to make this look completely authentic, you will need to loose every bit of color. I thought you knew". She could tell that he did not understand completely, or at least not before this moment of explanation. She hated dealing with people who weren't fully commited to the change in their appearance. The faint of heart were a nuisance.
"I was not aware of the...complete procedure. Did you say body hair?" Illya Kuryakin had been disguised, dismantled and generally disarrayed on a number of occasions. He had never before been bleached. The insinuation of what body hair meant was troubling, not that he was a prude or particularly modest concerning his body. He did not, however, relish submitting to chemical substances in certain areas ...
"I assure you, Mr. Kuryakin..." He stopped her, placing a finger on her lips and smiling gingerly, his eyes cloyingly blue beneath the lashes...
"Illya. My name is Illya, and considering how intimately you are going to know me, I think first names are in order".
She returned his smile and took his hand in hers, lowering it so that it was held waist high.
"Illya, I am a professional. I assure you that your privacy is of utmost concern to me, and I will take every precaution to ensure that...uh...nothing...is damaged'. He blushed at that, as did she.
"And my name is Alison". Such a delicate sounding name for someone who was going to do what she had in mind. He sighed, resigned to yet another bout of transformation in the pursuit of something at times so vaccuous as to appear without resolution. He wondered if being a Soviet in the land of conspicuous consumption and material decadence had pointed him in the direction of this continual reinvention that he endured. What other agent would go through a process such as this? He couldn't think of any other UNCLE agent who regularly underwent such drastic procedures. Perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps he just dreaded this one.
"Are you going to...down there, I mean...that as well?" He indicated his groin and shuddered internally at the thought of what might occur if she were to...well she would have to wouldn't she. Indeed, only the Soviet was targeted for this type of assignment. It was conspiratorial to subject only him to this humiliation.
"Illya, we can...well, you can be sedated. You needn't be awake for all of this. We'll do it in stages". The woman had a real compassion for what he must be feeling. Certainly she wouldn't like to undergo something like this, and at the hands of a man. She was pretty sure, however, that he wouldn't want a man doing this either. Better her delicate and...appreciative touch, than some other less admiring individual.
His obvious concern was how his body would react to being...handled in that area. He would no doubt have an erection, and in this circumstance the thought of it made him miserable. Plus, the caustic nature of bleach...just how dangerous was this mission that he had to be prepared for this much examination? Why couldn't Solo be made into an albino? Of course, that wouldn't work. He realized that he was, indeed, the perfect choice. The situation called for his language skills, his fair appearance. The need to recreate the image of albinism had pointed to him. There seemed to be no other agents at UNCLE who could fit the role quite so well as he did...as was so often the case.
He supposed it was not a conspiracy, rather another instance of his suitability for the job at hand.
"I believe a sedative will work nicely. I appreciate your sensitivity to this...this situation". He meant it. She was kind and she was a professional. It was merely a job, and like him she would do it without prejudice or inappropriate comments or actions. He felt he could trust her.
"I'll call medical and get someone up here. Believe it or not, I have done this before, and you are in good hands". As she prepped her station with the proper elements, she was aware of the responsibility of her skills and mastery of the products she would be utilizing for this task. His life might depend on her ability to transform his appearance, and his dignity would rest in her hands as well. Oh, my...dignity was one way of putting it.
Sometimes she loved her job.
When Illya emerged finally, after many hours and a nice nap, from the salon room at UNCLE headquarters, he was nearly unrecognizeable. His hair,all of it, was completely colorless. His eyes stood out like two stray gems, noticeably lighter looking within the pale canvas of his skin and bleached hair and eyebrows. Even the hair on his arms and legs had been lightened; and of course the delicate areas for which he had gladly gone under sedation were equally colorless now; something he hoped no one would be privy to. His eyelashes had been painted white. It was too risky to use chemicals, but the paint would remain on for hours, and he could reapply it, like mascara, whenever needed.
He donned a new wardrobe to complete the change, exchanging his normal black attire for beige trousers and a pale blue sweater; something that seemed to cause his eyes to appear lighter even than normal. The effect was mesmerizing, and as he passed by several women in the hallway, he felt their eyes following him, not certain at first who he was. Once or twice he heard a gasp of recognition and then wondered if one of them hadn't fainted from the sight of him. His mouth twitched into a half smile at that as he headed for Mr. Waverly's office to submit to his careful examination. The swishing doors that led into the large room marked his entrance, and the effect he had on both Waverly and Napoleon was palpable. He imagined their impressions to be favorable, considering the importance of this assignment. He was unprepared for their inability to speak.
When at last they did, he had become self-conscious in their presence, wondering if it wasn't quite right, or if he wouldn't do for this part after all. He had no idea really, considering their reluctance to make any comments.
When at last one of them spoke, it was Mr. Waverly, regaining his words and reaching for the always elusive yet ever present pipe. He touched it gingerly, then began to let his hands roam the surface of the desk in search of a match, keeping his eyes on Illya and still not quite sure what to say.
"Mr. ..uh...Kuryakin...this transformation is...well, I am nearly speechless. You are an entirely different creature, it seems. Have you seen yourself? This really is quite remarkable". It was only bleach, but the woman was an artist. There wasn't a single flaw. The time frame for this mission was short, however. Regrowth would occur and be visible within 10 days, at the most. They had to be in and out...He had to be in and out.
"Illya, I can't believe that this made such a difference. You look...". Napoleon was still in shock at the sight of his partner looking like this. He couldn't decide if it was anemic or erotic, and found himself slightly shocked at his reaction.
"Yes, Mr. Waverly, in answer to your question. I have seen the results. They are, as you say, quite remarkable. I assume that I will be leaving immediately, as we are of a necessity on a tight schedule". He was now feeling a little uncomfortable, and self-conscious. He wasn't normally sensitive about these things, but they were staring at him, and Napoleon had a look on his face that was a bit disturbing. He suddenly thought of Alison's hands on him, touchng him...it made him blush slightly and he hurried to his seat, unwilling to stand at the moment.
"I would like to take another look at the file, if you please, sir. Perhaps we should review the dossier on this individual I am replacing".
It broke the mood among the three men, getting their attention back on the mission and off of the Russian.
The mission was straightforward enough. Illya would be replacing a courier whom they had intercepted and interrogated only yesterday. He was on his way to Paris with a packet of information that was intended for a Thrush intermediary there, the content of which proved to be headed ultimately for Thrush Central. Rather than replace it, Section One had decided to send along one of their own agents in the courier's place. In addition to the original information, bogus intel was being planted in the packet. If acted upon, Thrush would find itself mired in some decidedly hazardous situations as well as financial jeapardy. It would be up to Kuryakin to make sure that all was thought to be genuine and without compromise. He looked enough like the captured courier to pull it off. The man was, like Illya, a Russian national. He also spoke French and German, common enough. He was stymied by the UNCLE agent when they first met. Their similarities alerted the man that they may try to impersonate him. Under the influence of truth syrums, he was unable to repress any pertinent information, although he did try. The only difficulty had been the man's decidedly albinist appearance. The man wasn't completely colorless, however the required alterations to Illya's appearance had been necessary and, it seemed, exactly right for the subtrefuge. He would most probably pass through this without any impediments to success.
Napoleon would be close by, his role as a businessman abroad an easy affect for the suave and clever agent. He could keep an eye on his partner and still have reason to be in some of the same places. The designated meeting place for the courier was near the Eiffel Tower, in a very public venue. It was a lucky choice and better to avoid complications, to UNCLE's way of thinking.
The courier's ticket and hotel accomodations were part of the information they had retrieved from his packet of information. All of this was now in the possession of Illya as he boarded the plane with his solitary satchel, the very one the authentic courier had carried. He would be staying, hopefully, only a few days. Anything longer would suggest trouble, and he was hoping to avoid that at all costs. Napoleon had made arrangements to stay in the same hotel, and they would be able to be in contact easily by assuming a casual acquaintanceship during the trip to France. Except for the ordeal of Illya's color changes, the plan assumed no complications. It should be easy.
The first thing to go wrong was being met at the gate by Thrush representatives. They had changed their minds and decided to be at the airport and greet the courier first hand and first thing. Illya was stunned but maintained his demeanor, cool as ever, when the two men approached him as he deplaned. Solo was close behind, careful to maintain a distance however, in case they were also expecting him. The greeting that the Russian received was friendly enough, however they removed the case from his wrist immediately, gathered him between themselves and ushered him through the busy teminal and out to a waiting Renault sedan. Napoleon hurried through with as much speed and nonchalance as he could muster, always keeping the three men in sight as they headed through the building. He was able to catch a taxi and speed along behind the Renault, following as closely as was safe to do so. When he realized where they were heading, he groaned inwardly as he realized the need for a change in plans. He removed his communicator and called in the news:
"Open channel D...overseas relay, priority..."
"Yes, Mr. Solo. What do you have to report?" Waverly's voice, always steady and always on duty.
"Sir, it seems that the plans have changed. Two men picked up Illya at the airport and have brought him to a train station. I'm going to follow them, try to get on board the same train and keep him within view, hopefully".
"Try, Mr. Solo? I suggest you succeed. We can't lose him now, and we can't afford for Thrush to undo our ruse of information. I am confident you will succeed. Waverly out". Ah, yes...confidence. The CEA sighed as he replaced the communicator in his pocket and dug out his fare for the taxi driver. "Merci, monsieur". Passing the taxi driver his fare without letting Illya out of his sight, he swiftly ascertained the direction in which he and the men were heading, and followed suit. This was no ordinary courier assignment. Illya might be in real danger now, because it appeared that he was supposed to be in possession of something more than the packet he carried. Just once it would be nice if things went as they were supposed to go.
Illya was straining to keep his arms from going numb, the pressure these two men were exerting on him was becoming almost unbearable. He had a bad feeling about all of this, and it didn't help that they hadn't said a word to him since they accosted him and carried him out of the airport betwen them. He had attempted to speak, but they had indicated he was better off silent, so he had obeyed the unspoken dictum. Now, with the train station in sight, he realized he wouldn't be staying at that hotel, and hoped Napoleon had been able to follow them. He foresaw the need of a rescue in the near future. Some things just never changed.
The train station was full of people carrying luggage, small children and, in some cases, baskets of food. Illya knew their destination: the Loire Valley. He hadn't a clue as to where exactly, but the trip would be two hours, more or less, by train. The two men who were escorting him spoke French only between them, and now he attempted to converse with them, interjecting his objection to being manhandled like this since, he was Thrush, after all. What were their intentions?
They didn't answer, of course. One of them, a blond, punched him from behind, directly into his kidney he reckoned, and he somehow managed to not go down onto the ground. It helped that the other grunt was holding him up, lest he falter too badly. That was the last attempt at conversation.
Napoleon could see them up ahead, and thought he saw one of the Thrush level a blow at Illya's back. That probably hurt, and now he had real concerns for his partner's safety. This wasn't how it was supposed to go down. It was a courier run, for god's sake...he couldn't lose them. Being a quick thinker, the UNCLE CEA decided to simply inquire at the ticket booth where the other party of men were headed , and so it was that he bought passage to Tours. Once there, he would have to improvise yet again. The area was known for it's castles, so he assumed that Thrush might have a satrap of some sort under the guise of a tourist attraction. Americans, especially, loved to visit European castles, and now he would be among them.
The trip was uneventful; Illya managed to nap as was his usual habit when traveling. No point in exerting himself now, he'd need some energy later he was certain. Escape wasn't in order, since his job was to infiltrate the Thrush contingent in the guise of the courier. The fact that they had changed the agenda was of no consequence to completing the mission. He would sleep now and worry about things later. Napoleon, on the other hand, was watching from the back of the car in which they all rode. He had a seat next to an elderly woman and, he assumed, her grandson. He involved himself in conversation with her and the boy, hoping to remain unnoticed since he looked to be traveling with them. The train rolled across lush landscapes after leaving Paris, the allure of France returning once again to the worldwise agent. He did love it here, and could imagine retiring among the vineyards and the castles. That would come later...someday. For now, he had his partner to watch out for.
As the train pulled into the station in Tours, the two Thrush and Illya readied themselves to disembark and were greeted by another dark suited man who ushered them to a waiting vehicle. This time a turquoise colored Citroen DS was to be their ride, and all four men crowded into the car. Illya was in the back with the blond who had punched him, while his cohort occupied the passenger front seat. As they were loading into the car, Napoleon was negotiating a ride with a taxi driver, wishing he'd had time to rent a car. At this juncture, the best he would be able to do was follow them, and then come back to town for the night. He would contact UNCLE Paris and have them bring him a car. If the process was started now, in a few hours he would be able to return and check out the place Illya was bound for.
The drive out of Tours was not long, and Illya noted the remaining destruction in areas that had not been repaired since the devastation of the war. Some were lobbying to rebuild by tearing down all of the old structures. That would be a pity, but the city wasn't near completion in the effort to regain it's former appearance and appeal. They passed the white houses topped by the region's trademark blue slate roofs. He wondered where they were headed, and in the same instant was confronted by a hood that was being shoved over his head as they wound out into the countryside. It appeared he would not be allowed to know the pathway to their destination. That was a good sign; it suggested that he would be making a trip out of wherever they were heading to now.