One of the things that Napoleon had seen to already was insuring the company of another agent. As much as he was normally confident about going alone, the severity of the consequences should he fail made him yield to the wisdom of taking along a second set of eyes. As luck or the spy gods would have it, April Dancer was in the building and available.
"Napoleon, how is he?" The dark eyes met in a wistful embrace between friends. She had an affection for the Russian that mingled with awe and fear. At times it seemed as though they might have had a romantic relationship if not for the confines of their professions. Then again, April felt that way about Napoleon as well. Only her partner Mark Slade escaped the fantasies that women are capable of spinning. Someone had to play big brother.
"He's holding his own, but it's getting serious now. Between the labs and what we might find, an antidote to this is the only thing that will save him. I can't let him down...I..." April placed her hand on the CEA's arm, a gesture of friendship and support. The team of Solo and Kuryakin had to survive this.
"He'll make it, Napoleon. We'll make sure of it. Just, let's get going, shall we. You can fill me in more on the way over".
With that they were out the doors of medical and back into the parking garage where Napoleon had left his car. While studying the paperwork on the satrap, the bogus descriptions of the so-named bacteria and the people involved, the American had decided that there would still be evidence and perhaps samples at the satrap. If the entire thing had been scripted to play out as it had, then there would be someone in charge of that. Thrush were not known for their modesty, and whoever it was would want credit, would perhaps still be there arranging the scene for the benefit of his own ego. Napoleon hoped that was the case; he hoped to find an antidote already mixed and the villain who had caused this drama to unfold. If Illya didn't survive this, he needed someone to be responsible. He needed his revenge.
It was a over a half hour drive to the building in the Bronx. The traffic was mostly cooperative, although the stops and starts were beginning to create that headache again. April watched her superior beneath a fringe of black lashes, cutting away with a deftness borne of her profession whenever he felt her eyes on him. She knew what was driving him now; it wasn't just duty and the need to catch the Thrush responsible. He had to save his partner, and she would help in the only way available to her at the moment. All of her skills and instincts would be on high alert for any sign of the person responsible, and together, hopefully, they would find what Napoleon so desperately wanted to find; what Illya so desperately needed.
They pulled up in front of the building, Napoleon no longer trying to hide the fact that he was aware of it. If anyone was inside, they might as well get ready. Fear produces mistakes, and Thrush was awash with both. Napoleon nodded to April to head for the front door. He had his gun out, and she did likewise. There were still no signs of life here, and as he reached for the doorknob, it turned easily. Unlocked. Okay, we'll play it like this. When he and Illya had been there earlier in the day, the blond had pointed out a door on the right as being the laboratory. The only reason they didn't investigate it was the lack of time, and the information they had gathered that told them the formula was in the safe, in an office at the back of the building. Had Illya not contracted the poison they would have investigated farther, but as it had happened they took the quickest course in exiting the building to get him back to medical.
Now, the lab was the first place Napoleon would visit. He motioned for April to keep an eye on the hallway as he nudged the door. Again, it was unlocked. He pushed the door open and entered the room, only to find everything in complete chaos. Tables were turned over, papers on the floor and a safe at the end of the room appeared to have been breached.
He made his way past the overturned tables and stools, wading through the paperwork and occasional implement that he recognized from the UNCLE labs. Inside the safe were empty shelves that perhaps proved the report had been accurate; the information he needed was not here. Or, someone else had done this damage in a search for the same thing he sought. But, who else except for Thrush would be here?
"Napoleon, is everything alright?" April now stood in the doorway, her head turned to survey the mess. Her face conveyed the confusion that Napoleon was feeling.
"I don't know, April. I thought sure there would be something here. But, look at it...someone else has it, or is still looking for it". He had a sinking feeling that his instincts had failed him. Thrush had left nothing, and the trap that had poisoned Illya was all that was left of the lethal plan. It had only one purpose, it seemed; to kill one or both of them.
Napoleon and April each took opposite directions and made one more inspection of the satrap. Whatever had been its purpose was no longer evident. Rooms that had held personnel, desks and typewriters...all of it was gone. Only a few scraps of paper were left as a ghostly reminder that the building had ever been used. One piece of paper caught Napoleon's eye. As he bent down to retrieve it, a bullet whizzed past his head and he slammed himself onto the floor, rolling to the wall and then rising, gun in hand, in one fluid movement. When he had fully focused on the figure in the doorway, April was holding her special to the man's head as he dropped his own weapon to the floor.
"Who are you? And, why are you shooting at me?" The usually calm demeanor was eroding beneath his worry for Illya, and the lack of success in finding what he had come for. Being shot at further decreased any desire to be charming.
"I...I thought you were one of those...I'm sorry". The poor man obviously was unaccustomed to having a gun at his temple, and the stress of being both hunter and prey was about to bring him to tears.
"Again, who are you?" Napoleon required answers, and this little man was going to provide some.
"My name is Leonard Palmeras...Dr. Leonard Palmeras. I am responsible..." April nearly gasped as she realized this man might be the answer they needed. Napoleon held his reaction in check, needing to maintain control of the situation.
"Responsible for what, Dr. Palmeras? Please, tell me all about it". Please tell me that you can cure Illya.
"You are looking for the poison, are you not? And, perhaps, the antidote..." The little man's eyebrows shot up in an inquisitive punctuation to his question. He was small and grey, just like the walls at headquarters...all grey. He had the same steely expression now, and he knew the balance of power had shifted to his advantage.
"You are Mr. Solo, aren't you? I regret what happened to your partner. Is he still...is he alive?" The question had more a scientific curiosity than a concern for a man's life. Napoleon recognized it, knew that the man was indeed Thrush. It was impossible for any of them to think outside of their own well being.
"Yes, he is alive. I'm guessing it's no thanks to you. Do you have the antidote?" What other question could there be? He needed it, had to get it back to medical...to Illya.
"Oh, he must be extremely willful, that one. Most men have not survived so long...er...well, it was tested you know. Thrush made me do it. You believe that, don't you?" Napoleon did not believe it, but right now he didn't much care.
"We're going back to UNCLE, and you're going to provide an antidote and save my partner. You believe that, don't you?" The man tried to step back as the UNCLE agent bore into the man's space, pinning him with his eyes and challenging him to object.
"Yes, I suppose we will. Thrush has abandoned this place. I hid from them you know, and they left without me. They were afraid that UNCLE would show up and take them all...it was such a daring thing to try and kill you and Kuryakin. Oh, yes we knew it would be you two...it was planned that way. Who else would UNCLE send on something this important?"
April and Napoleon listened, unsure of the man's state of mind. He seemed to be verging on a type of euphoria as he told his narrative of the events. And yet, there was a ring of truth to it. Perhaps he had gone mad, and Thrush no longer trusted him...would have done away with him had he been located.
"Do you have any of the antidote here? Can you make it?" There was only one thing worth pursuing. The antidote was everything right now. If the doctor couldn't help then he would still have valuable information.
"Oh, do you mean this?" And with that, he pulled a small vial out of his pocket and handed it to Napoleon. Shock and relief flooded the agent as he gladly accepted the proferred item. April's mouth hung open for just a second before she gathered herself and took her friend's hand, examining the vial within it.
"You mean, you've had this all along? Why didn't you say so?" Why indeed had the man hedged? Was there more to this than...
"Oh, well...I suppose it just needed to be 'in the nick of time', as they say. You friend is undoubtedly very near death at the moment". Pausing only for the shocked instant it took for him to digest that sentence, Napoleon pulled out his communicator and called in to headquarters...
"Open channel D...this is Solo..."
"Yes, Mr. Solo. Have you had any luck. Things here are..." Waverly paused just long enough to let Napoleon know that things were bad.
"things here are rather tense. Mr. Kuryakin appears to be...regretfully...dying". April choked back a gasp and Napoleon wasted no time in grabbing Dr. Palmeras' arm, pulling him towards the entrance of the building. The three of them hustled down towards the car, practically throwing the mad little man into the back seat while the two agents flung themselves into their own. Within seconds they were hurtling down the street, screeching around the same corner that Napoleon and Illya had taken on two wheels earlier that day.
"Damn you, Palmeras! What's your plan, anyway? Do you expect to be welcomed into UNCLE's arms with this stunt. If Kuryakin dies, so help me..."
"So help you what, Mr. Solo. I have given you the antidote. I designed the poison myself. Are you telling me that UNCLE won't make a place for me? You're wrong. I'm a valuable new asset, and I have information that your Mr. Waverly will be only too happy to accept, regardless of whether or not we make it back in time to save your unfortunate partner. It could just as easily have been you, you know. It only mattered that it was one of you. Thrush was never in control of this. I came up with the plan, and I provided the information on the satrap's location, and what it supposedly held. And now, with this, I can take control of the UNCLE labs and continue my research without the bungling, power hungry egos that crowd the board of Thrush Central. One day you will understand this wisdom. In the meantime, you are powerless to stop me. Science and technology...that is what UNCLE desires, just as Thrush desires it. I have simply changed my mind about those with whom I shall share my expertise and vision".
April thought she would slap the man midway through his dissertation, but Napoleon stopped her with a glance. Let him talk, as long as they got back in time...But what if they didn't.
As the car came screeching to a halt in front of the doors to UNCLE Medical, April was closing her communicator. She had called in the information, letting the doctors know that they had the antidote. The information she received she kept to herself as Napoleon hauled Palmeras out of the back. Both men were going to have surprises waiting for them inside, and April thought it best to let the scene play out as it must. The doors opened with the trademark whoosh as the three people entered the medical wing. Anxious eyes watched them as they neared Illya's room, the furtive glances they exchanged not escaping the eyes of the dark haired man whose own resolve was shaken to its core. He continued to drag the former Thrush doctor as April trailed behind. Her eyes kept low as she anticipated the coming storm. She noticed Ned Miller among the personnel at Illya's bedside and wondered how he felt now, in light of what she knew.
"Dr. Tower, Ned...I have the antidote...what's going on?" He jumped from face to face and then, as the bodies parted, to the sight of his partner. "Illya...you're..." he sucked back a cry of relief as he laid eyes on a fully awake Russian. "How...Ned, did you figure it out?" The lab tech smiled, recognizing the relief and exhaustion on the CEA's face.
"Yes, Napoleon, he figured it out". Illya's voice was barely above a whisper, but he too was relieved and exhausted. The battle with the poison had taken its toll on his body, and what he really desired was for the room to empty and so that he could just go back to sleep.
"Who, Mr. Solo, have you brought us?" Mr. Waverly gestured to Dr. Palmeras, his bushy eyebrows signaling the need for an answer from his Chief Enforcement Agent.
"Ah, yes sir. This is Dr. Leonard Palmeras. He developed the poison, and has provided the antidote, but too late to be of any use, it seems". Napoleon's learing expression made it clear to everyone in the room what he thought of Palmeras.
No doubt the man had taken his time about turning over the now unnecessary potion.
"Yes, I have no doubt that there is a wealth of information that he will be sharing with us. Mr. Solo, make certain that he is detained in interrogation. I don't believe we have need of him here at present".
With that a section three agent was on the spot to take Palmeras in tow in spite of the doctor's objections. His schemes were failing and UNCLE would not be welcoming him as he had envisioned. He had chosen his path poorly, it seemed.
"Ned...tell me all about it. What happend here? The last I heard it was...not looking good". Napoleon shuddered when he remembered what Waverly had said about Illya being near death.
"Well, you see Napoleon, we isolated the poison, and then were able to construct an antidote based on those properties, Illya's blood type and..."
"Whoa...his blood type? What did that have to do with it?" Napoleon didn't always understand what the lab guys were saying, but he'd never heard of poisons being based on blood type.
"Oh, that was the key to this poison. And, it was the key to an antidote. No matter what your Dr. Palmeras told you, there isn't just one antidote. It all depends on the blood type, and Illya's is B. It was a matter of finding the enzymes and alleles..." Napoleon blanched at the thought of enduring a chemistry lesson. Ned caught the look and found a quick resolution.
"It took a while to figure it out, but once I had it he responded immediately. It was close, but I'm happy to say we have the best lab personnel in the world". Napoleon grasped the man's hand and shook it, his smile expressing all of the gratitude that was in his heart over the excellent work done by these UNCLE technicians.
"You're right about that Ned. You guys are the best. Thank you".
April took the opportunity to grab Ned's arm and steer him towards the door. Some of the other lingering staff took the cue, leaving Napoleon and Illya alone in the room with Mr. Waverly and Dr. Tower.
"Young man, you have monopolized my day and the resources of UNCLE almost completely. I trust that you are well on your way to mending ". The old man's eyes took in the sight of his Section two second in command. Illya was propped up on two pillows, his hair in various peaks around his head. He managed to nod in response to Waverly's comment, understanding the unspoken concern; he was appreciative of how involved his superior had been during the ordeal of his near death experience.
"Sir, I shall endeavor to be out of here quickly. And, thank you". The blue eyes were sharp now, no longer hindered by the poison that had earlier tried to claim his life.
"And, what about me? I've been all over the city tracking down this mad scientist and his antidote. And you managed to get yourself cured without it. I don't know if I'll try so hard next time". He winked at his partner, both of them understanding that everytime this happened, nothing would stop either of them from moving heaven or hell for the sake of the other.
"Napoleon...' At that moment words finally failed Illya Kuryakin. He was tired, and relieved and glad to be alive. He felt grateful for all of the effort that had gone into saving him. It was humbling, but in a way that gave him a sense of belonging unlike anything prior.
"Perhaps coming so close to losing one's life is good for the soul...even a Russian soul'. He paused momentarily, a deceptively shy expression claming the blond's guileless looking face.
" Now, if you don't mind, I think I am close to falling asleep...' His eyes scanned the room, taking in each man before they began to move as one towards the door.
"Spokoi?noi? nochi druz'ya moi, i blagodaryu vas". Napoleon turned to look at his bedraggled friend, then replied for each of them...
"Good night to you also, Illya, and... you're welcome, tovarisch".