"Are you telling me that Enrique Cebollero actually went out in public in that mess? He is a social icon, a member of the Spanish royal family. How on earth…"

Illya scowled at his partner's rant on the fashion scene. Well dressed was fine and good, but his socialist conscience would not allow him to dwell on such nonsense. It was embarrassing to be so concerned about the man's suit.

"Don't' give me that look. Illya. Something is not right when a man of his standing and fashion sense arrives at a world class function in…'

Words failed him, so he resorted to simply pointing at the offending picture.

The newspaper article was describing a social event at which several heads of state as well as celebrities were in attendance. The occasion had been a reception for the king and queen of Wildemar, a small little principality that traded on goodwill from the United States in exchange for a key logistical site housing several intelligence and military personnel. The details were not widely known, but part of the niceties included a White House event that had dazzled all of those in attendance. The current administration had attained its own type of dazzle that attracted celebrities like a hot option on a bestseller.

Featured in this particular article was a photograph of the man Napoleon was scolding for his lack of fashion sense; Enrique Cebollero would not seem to be a man of much global consequence, as the Spanish throne had devolved primarily into one of posturing rather than real political clout, and Cebollero was rather far down the line. Socially, however, he was a bit of a celebrity among the rich and famous; his good looks and adventurous living the stuff of tabloids and female fantasies. Among those "in the know", as was Mr. Solo, he was a real presence on the scene of international design and trends. To have your work seen on the back of Senor Cebollero could mean millions in the bank, not to mention the prestige of the larger fashion houses.

Illya was still growling beneath his breath, always conscious of the number of people whose lives depended on just a few dollars a day in contrast to men like Cebollero, who spent on one suit what many would take a year to earn. He had no regard for this folly, and admitted to a thread of resentment that his friend and partner gave heed to it.

"Napoleon, can you give me one good reason why this should alarm you so? It is clothing, nothing more. I am not completely ignorant, you know, concerning fashion. I merely choose to not let it dictate what I do and what I wear."

He added that last as Napoleon looked up from the paper, regarding his longhaired, turtleneck-wearing partner as though he were a child pleading his case for breaking curfew. It was hard to believe, sometimes, that this man had come from the Soviet Union. He looked more like a member of some rock group…

"Illya, I'm looking at this, and commenting on it because it is completely out of character for this man to wear something so entirely…off the rack, as it were. It is, to me, a signal of something more than just the clothing. He has been influenced, by someone or something, to come out in public like this."

The eyebrows on the blond shot up, partly in exasperation but yielding slightly to the notion that his partner could be on to something sinister. As ludicrous as it seemed to him, if Napoleon found it noteworthy, then he would have to listen to the theory.

"All right. How, who, what and why? Those are the first questions for you to answer."

Napoleon smirked a half satisfied expression, then asked…

"Not where? Why did you leave that out?"

Illya's own smirk appeared, lightened by the sparkle in his blue eyes.

"I imagine that will be answered when we get the call…"

At that instant, the phone rang in Napoleon's office. Both men looked at each other, grins appearing in full now, the absurdity that Napoleon might be right not lost on either of them.

"Hello…yes, we'll be right there."