Prologue

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin were, as usual, the last to exit the plane. It was just after noon and they had landed in JFK airport having completed their mission in Illinois the night before. Sitting at the gate waiting for them was Section III Agent Thomas Jones. He stood when he saw them come through the door into the waiting area.

"Good afternoon, Gentlemen, I hope your flight was smooth. Do we have to stop at Baggage Claim?" At their negative head shake he said, "Great. The car is parked on the terminal roof. This way, please."

As soon as they got underway he said, "Mr. Waverly wants you to report directly to him, Mister Solo."

"Understood, thank you."

Illya pulled his attention away from the window to inquire, "Am I also expected to report to him?"

Jones replied, "Negative, Mr. Kuryakin, only Mr. Solo."

"Good," the Russian responded, "I will begin the written report, Napoleon. You can handle the debriefing."

Forty minutes later, Napoleon entered Miss Rogers' office. "Afternoon, Lisa. You look luscious, as always."

Smiling in acknowledgement but, refusing to rise to his bait, she said, "You may go right in, Mr. Solo; they are expecting you."

They?, he thought as he moved to the door. As it slid open and he stepped inside, he could see Section III, Number One Slater Gray seated at the conference table. He nodded in greeting and took his usual seat. Mr. Waverly had his back to both of them though Napoleon knew he was well aware that he was in the room. He stole a look at Gray, who shrugged an I don't know why we're here either gesture.

The Old Man swiveled his chair around and grabbed a book of matches that had been in the large crystal ashtray at his left elbow. "Mr. Solo, good of you to join us," he said around puffs on his pipe. When it was properly lit, he asked, "Did you encounter any problems in Illinois?"

"Ah, yes sir, there was one glitch. THRUSH seemed to know we were going to meet our contact at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Fortunately, Ill….ah, Mr. Kuryakin noticed something was amiss and was able to neutralize the problem before it got out of hand."

"Hmmm." Mr. Waverly blew out a large cloud of smoke. "I thought as much; several teams have reported 'glitches' lately. Humboldt and Torres' mission was a complete disaster and they barely got out alive. I have come to the conclusion that we have picked up a THRUSH mole somewhere."

"In the past three months, there have been nine security breaches. At first, we in Section I thought it was bad luck on our part and good intel on theirs but, by the fourth breach, we knew it was no fluke."

Slater spoke for the first time. "During that time, we hired four support staff for Communications and received three Section III transfers from South America and one Section II loaner from Asia. I think it is one of them. I have agents assigned to work with Human Resources fulltime until this is resolved. They will go over each newbie's background with a fine tooth comb."

Napoleon spoke up, "Good. If I may suggest something, Mr. Waverly, we can dangle false information in front of the suspects as bait and see who grabs at it."

"That is exactly what I want you and Mr. Gray to do, Mr. Solo. I want the two of you to weave a web of false intel and see who becomes ensnared. If you wish to include your partner in this, Mr. Solo, you have my permission to do so. Thank you, Gentlemen."

Exiting the Section One floor, Napoleon said to Slater, "I have paperwork to catch up on; I'll tell you what: Come to my place for dinner and the three of us can brainstorm afterwards."

Slater smiled and replied, "That's not a bad idea since we don't know who the mole is but, wouldn't you prefer going to a restaurant?"

"Normally yes but, I haven't seen my apartment in five days and I'd rather be there, even for a working dinner than surrounded by strangers tonight."

The elevator stopped on Napoleon's floor and as he stepped out, Slater called, "Fine, I'll come by at 7. I eat pretty much anything so no need to fuss." The door slid shut as he waved goodbye.

Illya was typing the mission report when Napoleon entered their shared office. After the American filled him in on the meeting with Waverly and Gray, he observed, "I am surprised you invited him to your home; I was under the impression that he is not your favorite person."

Napoleon grimaced. "He isn't, actually but, he is a fellow UNCLE agent and I am a professional. Once I do the security check and set the alarms, we will be able to speak freely without worry. We have to flush out this mole before someone gets killed."

Illya yanked the report out of his typewriter and handed it over for Napoleon to peruse and sign. "I agree. From what you have told me, all the information THRUSH has gotten from this office has involved affairs. This cannot continue." He removed his glasses and stood. "I will be in the lab for the rest of the day. I will see you this evening."

Author's Note: Slater Gray is first mentioned in "Like a Phoenix from Ashes."