Two people walking down a dark alleyway were hoping to remain unseen. The woman was willowy and young; her companion seemed younger than he was, and a fringe of blond beneath his cap contrasted sharply to her dark auburn hair.

Two other members of this team had been expected earlier, but something had delayed them. Something like a man with a gun.

Now, creeping along the filthy pavement strewn with trash and refuse from the broken down buildings around it, April Dancer and Illya Kuryakin were the targets of a search by the same man who had captured their fellow agents, Napoleon Solo and Mark Slate. April was feeling her way through this assignment alongside the cool Russian. Her initial foray into the field alongside UNCLE's two top agents had yielded this unhappy circumstance: Solo and Slate, her own partner, were now in the hands of a THRUSH chief by the name of Lucas Weir. Kuryakin had remained professional and detached in the wake of his partner being captured, but April knew that eventually he would address her part it in.

She was not looking forward to that.

24 Hours Earlier…

UNCLE Headquarters in New York City was bustling as usual; secretaries and support staff were each involved in carrying our their duties, all of it integral to the success of the organization. The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement was not, as some thought, a one man operation. Although the iconic head of the Northwest Section, Alexander Waverly, reigned as the head of the top five chiefs, it was the work of the entire network that insured its success.

One key element to that success was, of course, the enforcement agents who went out into the world battling the forces of evil that repeatedly attempted to thwart good intentions and legitimate governments in an effort to subvert power into their own hands. THRUSH was the principal foe of UNCLE, a supranational entity that set its sights on subjugating the world for a supposed doctrine of superiority. That characteristic had never been recognized nor supported by the actions of its members and minions. Waverly detested the Hierarchy, and his purpose in life rested on successfully putting it out of business. Permanently.

This day found Alexander Waverly in his spacious office, the round table he reckoned was a modern day nod to the famous knights of King Arthur waited for his own warriors to attend. One more mission, four more opportunities among them for bravery and possibly sacrifice, none of which would ever be recognized outside of this room.

The Old Man's concentration was interrupted with the swooshing sound of the pneumatic doors and the entry into his council room of the four agents he would send out today on this affair.

Napoleon Solo was the Chief Enforcement Agent of the Northwest Region. Handsome and intelligent, suave and irresistible to women on multiple continents and small islands, the man exuded a confidence that bordered on arrogance but never reached it. He was, very simply, the best of UNCLE.

Illya Kuryakin was number two in this elite Section II ranking. Nearly a polar opposite to his partner, the Russian elicited none of the frenzied sexual attraction that followed the American. Women dared not throw themselves in Kuryakin's path; much like King Xerxes of the Old Testament, one waited to be summoned rather than risk exile, or worse. Besides all of that, the man was lethal and smart. THRUSH dreaded to see him coming.

Mark Slate was a British agent whose affable personality and quick mind had set him on a road marked by successful missions and ready commendations from those around him. He was a good looking man, possessing talent and charm, as well as the ability to get himself out of trouble… repeatedly. He was also the first man in the organization to be paired with, not surprisingly, the first female agent.

April Dancer. She was a stunning auburn haired woman with a seemingly endless supply of vitality and wit. She had braved Survival School and overcome it with surprising results, and having gained the attention of Alexander Waverly, the young woman was assigned to New York and the advantages of being groomed for success by the Man himself. She was the first of many who would follow in her well clad footsteps.

Now all four of these agents sat around the big table, each with a file folder ready for perusal. Agents Slate and Dancer had, on previous occasions, been involved with a mission that also included the two top men, Solo and Kuryakin. Dancer and Solo had completed one affair in which one might say, stranger things have happened, but not lately. Mother Muffin was not something either of them wished to re-visit.

Kuryakin and Slate had also worked together, although on different aspects of the same mission. Theirs was a friendly relationship, although none of the four had spent much time together in the ensuing months after these affairs were completed. Such was life in the Command.

Napoleon and Illya read the file, mentally checking details and visualizing scenarios as they might occur. April and Mark had a trill of excitement over the prospect of being paired again with the other two agents; this time they would all be working together, and that was a vote of confidence for them. Solo and Kuryakin commanded the best.

Waverly shuffled some papers, put his hands on a favorite pipe and fumbled in his pocket for a match. He was aware of the measured breathing of each person in the room, the anticipation of what he would say to them. He smiled inwardly about his ability to inspire and, when necessary, instill fear.

"Ahemm… Gentlemen… uh, Miss Dancer…'

And so it began.