The concrete walls whizzed by, it seemed; the force of their eviction from the sedan into another smaller vehicle was a blur of activity to the two agents. They remained shackled together, and Illya felt the effects of their speedy departure from the car down this oddly efficient rail system in the back of his head. The pain was beginning to travel much like they were, with precision and speed.
Napoleon nudged his partner, and realized that the man's slowed responses were a result of whatever Von Etske's men had shot into him. He was not having a similar reaction, and began to wonder if there had been two versions of the sedative. He couldn't imagine why, at this point, but nothing was ever outside the realm of possibility with these types of villain.
Conversation was not really possible now. Von Etske sat in the front next to a driver, the UNCLE agents in the back. The little cart that carried them was on a track, similar to an electric train track. Napoleon could see a set of doors up ahead, and with that he felt the vehicle begin to slow, decelerating until they stood in front of them. Marshall Gurnius and Von Etske had certainly not skimped on the details when they built this, and much like their large planetarium inspired compound in San Rico, he imagined this one was also equipped with various means of torture.
"You, Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin, please come with me. I'm afraid the best part of your visit is just about over. It is now my turn to administer my own brand of justice. The deaths of Marshall Gurnius and young Nexor will be avenged, and by your own blood, I assure you."
Von Etske definitely had that deranged affect in his voice; the announcement of his dastardly deeds was almost as much a part of his plan as was the plan itself. Napoleon braced for the worst as Illya maintained his stoic expression. Behind the wall of indifference his head was pounding out a beat that announced an impending battle. If it didn't stop soon, torture would almost be a relief.
The corridor beyond the doors through which they passed was almost identical to the one they had left behind, except there were not tracks upon which to carry another car. Periodically a door would appear, but along the length of it was mostly more concrete wall. Illya spotted their destination before his partner did. Double doors marked Labor-Mitarbeiter Nur (Lab Technicians Only) were pushed open by the little scientist, and held as the captives were pushed in from behind by the still present driver.
"Oh, gee…what a nice place you have here. I suppose you've already made our reservations."
Napoleon's smug remark brought an equally smug smile to Von Etske's lips. He understood false bravado. His years of research and discovery during the war years had exposed him to many forms of it. Most of it was useless, as would be this man's attempts.
"Yes, Mr. Solo. You and Mr. Kuryakin have been expected. I assure you, all of my details are worked out, and ready to implement. You will see soon enough."
As Von Etske spoke, Illya began to heave violently, his body unable to remain passive any longer. He fell to his knees, retching and convulsing to the horror of the doctor. The scientist motioned for his man to hold on to the blond even as Napoleon was reaching for him, still attached by the handcuffs they wore.
Whatever was wrong with the man, it wasn't going to spoil this moment of triumph. Napoleon's obvious concern was all it took for the madman to make up his mind to a course of action.
"Take him! Unfasten the handcuffs and separate them. Get him ready, he will soon forget this misery."
He laughed at the sight of the stricken agent being hauled to an unseen destination. Napoleon tried to follow, but two more men had joined the scene and were forcefully holding him back.
"What? What is it you're going to do, Von Etske? You aren't going to get away with this, you know. UNCLE knows where we are, what you're doing."
It was an empty threat, a bit of bluff in the midst of this crazy scenario. He didn't know what was wrong with Illya, but the presence of a headache and nausea indicated a bad reaction to whatever he'd been shot up with. If the Russian could recover, just a little, before they were able to… do what? He didn't know, didn't want to have to find out.
"You are naïve, young man, to think you can stop me. Everything is already in place. All that I require is to send my lovely daughter into the places she is already accepted; government functions and society gatherings. It is all too perfect, and incredibly easy. She will do whatever I ask of her, and never even realize the deeds that are done as a result of it. Brilliant, if I do say so myself. And, I do."
That smug look again. Napoleon was prepared to wipe it off his face. Just a tiny opening was all that he needed.
It came suddenly, that opening he had asked for. In the distance there was a loud 'bang', and then the wailing of a man as something crashed to the floor. Von Etske looked alarmed, his previous gloating demeanor now wiped clean as he listened to something like Armageddon in the next room. The two thugs holding onto Napoleon hesitated just long enough for him to thrust his elbows backwards and low, into their abdomens. They both doubled in unison, allowing Napoleon to make a quick turn and hammer both of their necks with a precise karate chop. Both of them fell, unconscious but alive, onto the concrete floors as Von Etske watched in horror.
How could this be happening again?
Illya came through the doors like a locomotive, a vapor following him that looked incredibly like smoke. It was smoke, and the room behind him was engulfed in flames. The effects of his earlier discomfort seemed to have been overcome; rather quickly, if Napoleon had time to consider it, which he didn't.
"I suggest we hurry. There will be a series of explosions very soon upon us, and this will be more like the floor of a volcano I'm afraid."
He was slightly breathless, but the message wasn't lost by his lack of volume. Napoleon was on Von Etske immediately, demanding to know where Agnès had been taken.
"Tell us now, Von Etske. She's your daughter, and I can't believe that even you will let her die for this demented dream of yours!"
Another explosion sounded from the room in the distance. More smoke, and the smell of chemicals, was beginning to invade what mirage of safety was left in the atmosphere of this room.
The doctor blanched, his body slumping into a near collapse as he realized the end of his vendetta and the loss of his ultimate conquest. He wouldn't go back to prison, but he would not allow his only child, no matter their estrangement, to die in an inferno.
"She is in the cottage… up above. Go, get her and take her to safety. But I will remain here, in my glorious accomplishment!"
Without warning, he pulled a small revolver from the pocket of his labcoat and shoved it in his mouth. Neither Illya nor Napoleon could reach him in time, and the pop from the gun thrust the little man backwards to the wall; blood splatterings behind the now excavated skull competed with smoke emitted by the open mouth, much to the agent's repulsion.
"Go, Napoleon. We can't stand here and eulogize the man. We must get to Agnès before the building erupts completely."
The two agents ran at breakneck speed back down the corridor they only recently traveled. They burst through the double door at the edge of their runway, and headed back to where they had left the sedan; they searched for the controls, not instantly aware of the way to exit this concrete tomb. If they didn't find it soon…
"Here! It's over here, Illya!"
Napoleon was pressing buttons, waiting for the opening to appear, motioning for them to be ready to head up and into the night air. As the ceiling above them receded and they saw their escape route, the roar of another explosion was followed by the appearance of flames licking at the concrete and chasing a lone man as he fled from its death hunt.
Just as Napoleon would have reached back to help the terrified man, Illya was pulling him upwards, not willing to sacrifice his partner for someone so recently intent on doing them harm. Watching the secret entrance close for the last time, both agents were aware of the close call; Illya even more aware that he had created it.
They didn't waste time on speculation or guilt. They had to get to Agnès before the entire site blew up, and the cottage was at risk right now. One of Von Etske's men burst out of the door, and another was pushing the doctor's daughter ahead of him as smoke started spilling from behind them.
Napoleon was behind the wheel of a car; the two men who had been left behind in Paris had made it here, only to be witness to the destruction of their employer's dream. Now he had the engine running as Illya pulled Agnès from their grasp and shoved her into the waiting vehicle. They left the others behind, on the ground trying to recover from the smoke and fumes as the car hurtled away from the remains of what was and still threatened to be.
A thundering explosion rocked the countryside as the three people were speeding away, leaving little doubt as to the fate of those in its wake.
"I thought you were really sick when you started shaking and…"
The look on Illya's face told Napoleon that it had been real.
"How…how did you get over it so quickly? I didn't think you'd have been able to stand up by yourself after the way you looked out in that corridor."
Illya's lapse of facial expression had been brief. He had been sick, wretchedly so. But, after expelling all of the toxins the effect of the drug had simply disappeared. The headache was gone, and with a few minutes to regain some strength, adrenaline had kicked in and it was business as usual.
"I had rather serious objections to being hooked up to the machine to which they were leading me. It reminded me a little too much of San Rico…"
"Ah. Yes, I can see where you wouldn't want…"
"Yes. I imagined you would understand."
Amazingly, that was about as much as had ever been said regarding that unpleasant encounter. The understanding that passed between them was eloquent, at least to each other.
Agnès was seated with them in the little café, sipping her wine and feeling very fortunate to be with these two handsome men. She had very little memory of what had transpired, but was content to believe them when told she was now safe and still in possession of her great wealth.
"Gentlemen, you have been so wonderful to me, and seem to have encountered such great peril on my behalf. I do not think it possible to ever thank you adequately.'
She took, by turns, each man's face, accompanying her demurely spoken 'Merci' with a delicate kiss on two nearly perfect pair of lips.
Her smile was, once again, intoxicating to Napoleon as he began to search for the perfect way in which to invite her for a late supper. Illya was well aware of this moment, and hoped to usurp the opportunity and ask her out himself; he fancied that she had actually preferred him to his overly confident partner.
"Oh, and here is someone I wish for you to meet. Henri, mon amor…"
As she reached out for the elegant man, he took her hand and kissed it and then her mouth, fully and completely, to both agent's dismay.
As the two exchanged looks of acknowledgement to their failed bid at romance, they greeted the newcomer and politely excused themselves, claiming the need to return to headquarters. As they walked away, the sound of two lovers cooing and adoring one another reached their ears.
"So, are you going to call that stewardess whose number you collected the other day?"
"Hmmm…oh. Oh, her? No, I am not quite up to it, I think. And you?"
"No, I don't have any plans. Say, I bet we could still catch a ferry across the channel and go see a show in London. I hear…"
And so the two friends walked back into the sights and smells of Paris, happy at evening's end with some food and wine, and the contentment of their fraternité.