Rain was pouring down as two men crouched in the relatively dry remains of a bombed out building. It had been two days since either of them had eaten, and the weariness produced by their journey was beginning to finally show.
The blond one was hindered in his movements by a bandage of sorts that wrapped around his torso, taking in his right shoulder and arm. Dried blood spotted the now soiled cloth, and he was fairly certain of infection beneath it. To lie down and sleep seemed an inevitability that would most likely lead to death.
Napoleon Solo was neither in good shape nor good spirits. His partner was badly wounded, they had nothing to eat and apparently were still too far from the border of this God forsaken little country to even hope for help. Stranded as they were within the interior of the war torn region, the symbolism conjured up by their current setting and the pounding rain did little to encourage a man who lived from one bit of good luck to the next.
The American looked around at the debris in their flimsy shelter and wondered how they were going to get out of this situation. What had begun as a routine mission had ended badly when a rival in the power struggle that was tearing this little country apart murdered their primary contact. Now, both he and Illya were dehydrated and tired, suffering from either gunshot or physical beatings or, in his partner's case, both.
Napoleon had endured a round of torture that had included a dose of truth serum intended to make men not only talk, but shriek, yell and hallucinate horrors that were suggested by the interrogator. The UNCLE agent had held his own until it was suggested that alligators had eaten his partner. Napoleon became enraged, breaking free of his ineffective bindings and nearly killing the man who had spoken the unfortunate lie.
Illya was, in fact, in another room watching the display. To say that their captors were amateurs was kind. The absurdity of Solo and Kuryakin having been detained by them was something the two men would not share willingly when they returned to New York.
When Illya saw his partner attack the man, he took the opportunity to stage his own version of an uprising, crashing into the lone guard in his room. The man went down easily, surprised and overpowered by the Russian. Instinctively, Napoleon knew that his partner was in action; instinct and a large disruption that caused alarms to ring and men in uniform to dash in different directions; whether into action or away from it was hard to discern.
Within a few minutes Illya had thrown open the door to Napoleon's cell and was helping to destroy the remaining equipment in that room. Both men liberated firearms from the fallen guards and, with no plan but an intensity that was common to them, ran from the scene of their incarceration towards what appeared to be a door to the outside.
It was while on this course that an otherwise cowardly member of the quickly disintegrating junta fired a random shot that buried itself in Illya's back, missing his right scapula. His shoulder was on fire from the lead, causing him to miss a step and fall into the wall. Napoleon caught him before he went down completely, dragging him forward as they bolted out of the door. A jeep was conveniently, or luckily depending on one's point of view, located near that door and equipped with a key. It had been intended for the head of this group of armed malcontents, but was now put into service of the U.N.C.L.E. as its two top agents fled into the jungle and away from danger.
Or so they thought.
Napoleon put at least one hundred miles behind them before he was satisfied that no one was chasing them. It never paid to be too sure of anything, and with these types of villains, uncertainty was guaranteed. Between the two of them, Napoleon was the senior agent, and as such he was responsible not only for the mission, but for Illya's well being; unfortunately, Illya didn't look well.
The Russian had lapsed into unconsciousness after the first fifty miles of flight. Now, as Napoleon looked over at him, he was concerned by the man's pallor. They had stopped about seventy miles back to wrap a piece of torn canvas around Illya's shoulder and upper body. The bullet was entrenched in the muscle, and there wasn't any time to try and remove it. It was the best that could be done, and from the looks of it, no town or village was within sight down this road they traveled.
By the time another fifty miles had been added to the trek, things were going very wrong. The engine began to stutter with the tell tale signs of an empty gas tank. Napoleon pulled the vehicle off of the road and into the trees that were growing at the edge. Illya grunted as the jeep bumped along the uneven ground, his reflexes causing his arm to reach for some support. But it was his right arm that the blond tried to move and that action brought forth a stream of expletives in two or three languages, after which Illya fell back into the seat exhausted from both the pain and the outburst.
The two men had set out on foot after that, eventually finding themselves in the ramshackle abode that was currently keeping them dry. Illya's stolen gun had been lost somewhere in the trip, and to Napoleon's dismay he had discovered the one he absconded with had no ammunition. They were unarmed in addition to being physically damaged.
And, there had been no food, unless you counted a few bananas. Illya had eaten only one or two in spite of knowing that he needed anything at all that would count as fuel for his increasingly weak body. Napoleon didn't think bananas were enough to live on under the best of circumstances, something not remotely describing their plight.
The discovery of this old building had been lucky, although not much more than being stuck up in a tree.
Illya was so sleepy, and the rain on the old metal roof was comforting somehow; and so he relented to whatever was going to ease his weariness and pain. Sleep or death, somehow it didn't seem to matter to him as darkness overwhelmed him and the utter relief of being unaware took control.
Napoleon had taken up residence inside an alcove and was huddled against the rutted wall. He watched Illya from that vantage point, wondering how they would conquer this latest disaster. It wasn't often that Napoleon Solo left his position of optimism. He was unaccustomed to not being able to figure out a solution; this time he really didn't know what to do.
Little by little, Napoleon drifted off to sleep. He was startled awake by the sound of engines; it was most unlikely that anyone would be out in this direction unless…
"They're looking for us,"
Illya's voice sounded strained, the richness of it no longer discernable beneath the layers of pain and fatigue. He had been sleeping in an abandoned bathtub, the edge of which had served as a firm but welcome resting place for his head that aided his breathing. As the blood loss had turned to infection, his respiration had begun to deteriorate in this humid environment. It was all bad, there was nothing redemptive as far as the Russian could perceive.
The engine noise continued to approach and each man imagined the worst. Napoleon was up and searching for anything that might serve as a weapon. To his amazement he located what appeared to be an old knife blade. More than a knife, perhaps, it was longer than his forearm.
"Hey, Illya, look what I've found…'
Napoleon held it up for his suffering friend to observe. He thought there was a glimmer of some sort in the blue eyes; maybe there was hope after all.
"I bet this would hurt like hell going in."
Illya agreed, and hoped he could use on someone. Somehow he could imagine that it would be an antidote to the pain.
"Let me have it while you search for more weaponry. We can only hope now that whoever that is stops here to inspect this place."
Illya moved, using his left arm to help him sit up in the too small space of the tub. At least it provided a way for him to leverage himself into an upright position and then, holding onto the edges, a way out of it.
Napoleon handed the blade to his partner, wondering what good it would do a man whose arm was in a sling. It made no difference, and he continued his search in this room, lifting up anything that might hide a weapon or the makings of a weapon.
The cessation of noise caused both men to stop and listen. The engines had pulled up close, and the sound of crunching leaves and muffled conversation meant approaching visitors outside. Illya was standing to one side of the doorway, and Napoleon had taken a position opposite the Russian; he signaled to him to wait.
It sounded as though there were two men, speaking Spanish. One was calling the other by name, Alberto. Napoleon wasn't fluent in Spanish, but Illya mouthed the words to him…
'They're coming inside'…
As the two agents prepared for a battle that neither of them was physically able to win, their experience and training told them they could overpower whoever came through that doorway.
Closer, they were nearing the doorway.
The conversation came to a halt as one man stepped into the remains of the rain soaked building. He had a gun drawn as he bolted through the opening, turning to face the two men who flanked it.
"Aha, you are caught hombres.'
The man yelled to his partner…
He didn't finish the sentence, however, and as Diego was coming through the doorway, Illya sent the rusted blade in a true path into the heart of the first one, presumably Alberto. Napoleon reached him in time to grab his gun and fire at Diego, never allowing the surprised man an opportunity to gain an advantage.
The two UNCLE agents stood staring at the suddenly dead pursuers. Illya was succumbing now to the drop in adrenaline; he backed up into the doorframe and then without warning dropped to his knees. Exhaustion framed his features as Napoleon reached to help him back up, and he walked him out to the jeep that was conveniently (or luckily) standing ready with the keys in the ignition.
As Napoleon climbed into the driver's seat, he considered what had just occurred, at the luck involved and his timely discovery of that knife blade.
"Illya, that was a very lucky thing that just happened, throwing as you did and hitting with such accuracy."
Illya managed a frown in spite of his fading attention span. Why must Napoleon always question him?
"It wasn't luck, Napoleon. I was simply using my good left arm. I am mostly ambidextrous, after all."
Napoleon nodded, chiding himself internally for ever thinking that there were limits to his partner's abilities.
"Your good left arm… hmmm… okay. So, is that different from your bad left arm?"
Illya snorted, and rolled his eyes.
"One in the same, my friend. But today, it was especially good."
Yes, it was. Illya put his head back and closed his eyes, not even the lousy road could keep him from going to sleep. Napoleon, his eyes on the road ahead and ears open for pursuit, let the scene replay itself as he watched his partner straighten up and throw the blade with his left hand. The victim, Alberto, had been completely surprised and when he fell it was his left hand grabbing the knife in an attempt to pull it out, just as he gasped his last breath.
Left handed, left field, left behind…
But the Russian was asleep, which meant that Napoleon was the only one left to wonder about life and living on the edge. In his musings he thought of left-handed pitchers and …
Saying it aloud caused Illya to stir.
"Hmmm? What are you saying, Napoleon?"
"Oh, nothing much, just thinking about baseball."
With the jungle whizzing past and night fast approaching, Illya hoped that they would make it to civilization before the ride killed him.
"Just get me back to New York, Napoleon."
And then he was asleep again, the Southpaw of Kiev dreaming of tossing stars into the night.