Napoleon Solo woke up with a clanging cymbal going off in his bruised head. It was too early in the year for New Year celebrations and too late for the fourth of July…
"Buggers, I hate THRUSH drugs."
Mark came too with an identical headache, and voiced his complaint before he remembered who was in this mess with him.
"I can't say I've been able to develop a fondness for them either, Mark. Do you have any idea where we are?"
The Englishman shook his head slowly; a useful memory reminded him of the dangers of vigorous head movements at times like this.
"The last thing I remember was April with a gun to her head. I suppose that was the point, eh? Us coming to the rescue?"
Napoleon considered that, remembered wondering where April had come from and why she was there without Illya.
"Did you see what happened to her… or to Illya?"
Mark closed his eyes; the room disappeared as he visualized the last scene in which the four had all been together. Nothing came to him except April. And the gun.
"No. April isn't careless, Napoleon. There's no way she…"
"I know, Mark. I'm just concerned about them. Illya rarely makes mistakes, and letting April wander into that set up was… uncharacteristic of him. Do you have a homing device on you?"
Napoleon needed something to latch onto, some little bit of good luck or timing… anything. Without knowing what the fate of the other two agents might be, escaping was even more urgent for the CEA. He had people unaccounted for.
Mark grinned like a maniac as he realized the homing device he had worn was still in place. THRUSH had slipped up this time, and the lanky blond was still wearing the belt with the vital hardware. Just as the two were getting ready to savor a small victory, the door to their room opened.
Illya was in the midst of a reprimand, and as both taskmaster and recipient, his mood had plummeted from professional to distraught. He knew April felt responsible for the earlier foul up; in truth Illya bore the burden of senior agent and as such, it would be on his head that the proverbial hammer would fall.
April and Kuryakin rounded the last corner in the maze of old brick and ruptured asphalt. Neither of them spoke, each of them carefully picking the way out of danger. When at last Illya spotted their sedan he grabbed April's elbow and pulled her along with him, running at top speed towards escape.
A bullet pinged off of the driver side door just as Illya was reaching towards it. April had her gun in a death grip as she aimed it towards the flash. Illya flattened himself to the pavement, retrieved his Special, and hoped that April could deter the shooter for a few seconds longer.
In the midst of the attack, Illya thought back in a fury of scenes to the one that had ensued just a few hours before…
Two hours earlier…
Napoleon and Mark set up a rendezvous with a contact that would lead them to their target: Lucas Weir. This new THRUSH threat had come in the form of the seemingly wealthy and charismatic Lucas Weir. He regularly entertained in his lavish upper West Side apartment, attracting people from various backgrounds and interests. He had a rhetoric that was a New Order type of gospel; he would help people reach their dreams while they sold him their souls.
Illya had been amazed that in this modern city, amidst the American backdrop of ease and security, this Svengali had found for himself so many gullible, wealthy victims.
Weir had moved into New York with a flourish, rubbing shoulders with wealthy and influential people who had no real understanding of the larceny to which they were now in league. If Solo and Slate were successful in gaining entry to Weir's salon tonight, the next step would include April and Illya as malleable new converts to the message Weir was preaching.
That had been the plan. A casual introduction should have sufficed, after which a simple phone call would summon the attractive couple and Weir would have four new devotees. It was simple, if not foolproof.
The contact was an UNCLE agent who had successfully infiltrated the staff in Weir's apartment. Her job was simply to observe, and when the time came she would pass on to Napoleon an invitation to this evening's event. In a most unusual twist in an otherwise routine sort of affair, the girl had gotten herself enthralled with Weir and, not believing him to be the monster THRUSH normally turned out, she admitted her role to him and begged forgiveness.
The price of forgiveness was for her to do as originally planned and deliver the invitation to Solo and Slate. Telling her to not fret her pretty little head about it, Weir convinced the girl, Tammy, that he was not in any way interested in deterring UNCLE from doing good in the world. He would, in fact, very much like to meet two men whose lives were dedicated to such altruistic pursuits.
Tammy was relieved. She was also certain that, once Napoleon and Mark heard Lucas speak, they too would want to be a part of his vision.
With all of these things in play, and Illya and April waiting for the signal to join the party, Napoleon and Mark entered the swanky apartment of Lucas Weir and began what they believed would be a successful mission to unseat this newest THRUSH danger.
Weir spotted the two UNCLE agents immediately. He was well aware of Solo, and when he saw the blond man with him assumed it was Kuryakin. Excellent.
"Hello. I don't believe we've met. I am Lucas Weir."
Napoleon preened appropriately, examining the tall, aristocratic looking young man. He was not what Solo had expected.
"Napoleon Solo. And this is my associate, Mark Slate. Thank you for the invitation, we've both heard quite a lot about you. All of it good, of course."
The name Slate was unfamiliar, and for just a moment Lucas Weir showed a slight hesitation. Napoleon caught it, immediately aware of the nuances of his host's mannerisms.
"Well, I am so glad that you both are here. Please, enjoy the food and the music… above all the conversation. I shall check back with you later."
With that the elegant Weir slid effortlessly into the noisy crowd in his living room. Napoleon caught Mark's eye and indicated that they too should mingle. Perhaps it would garner them another interview with the man they sought to bring down.
To the untrained eye, it was merely a room full of noisy, enthusiastic people mostly dressed in the current mod fashions that were a favorite of April Dancer, observed her partner. This room was made for the vivacious woman, and Mark was certain that she would make the right impression on Weir. Add to that the cool conveyance of European charm that Illya could turn on or off at will, and the evening seemed destined for an UNCLE victory.
At just the right time, Napoleon asked about a telephone, hoping to gain the attention of Lucas Weir in the process. The bait worked, and soon the suave American was conversing with the equally debonair THRUSH.
"You know, I am very certain that your little soiree here would appeal greatly to some very good friends of mine. Is it too, too gauche to impose on your hospitality and invite them over. I happen to know that they are still at home right now, and…"
Weir looked pleased and entirely too accommodating. No doubt Solo was referring to Kuryakin, and getting the two of them here together was exactly what he had hoped for.
"Please, Napoleon… by all means do call your friends. The more the merrier is cliché but true, and it would be my pleasure to meet others who can share our vision and… philosophy."
Mark was observing this exchange, and the smile on Weir's face suddenly caused his hair to stand on end, or at least it felt that way. His instincts told him they should run. Duty told him to stay where he was and do whatever Napoleon said.
Music was playing in the background of the conversations in the room, and the double doors that led out to a generous balcony were opened to the moderately cool evening. With all of the bodies creating the only heat needed in the room, the gentle breeze that wafted in carried the sounds of the street below, adding to the atmosphere of anticipation and energy.
Illya and April were waiting for the phone call as they sat at a bar not far from Weir's apartment. Rather than risk traffic snarl-ups or other problems, the two had chosen to remain within walking distance of the imposing building where the party was going on. Napoleon's call was forwarded there where the bartender, an UNCLE Section III agent, was ready to hand the phone to the waiting blond.
"Illya, how are you and your darling bride?"
The blond looked at April with something like amusement before replying.
"I believe we are reasonably happy, all things considered. Do you have something new to tell us?"
"I think you two should join Mark and me, and let me introduce you to our host. How long will it take you to get here?"
April was listening in and held up her hand to indicate the minutes…
"Um… about five minutes, if you are where you told us about earlier."
Just in case someone was listening in on the conversation, an effort was made to convey the sense of the two men being friends and aware of each other's plans for the evening.
"Yes, the party I mentioned to you. So, you'll be here then?"
"Mmmm… What do you say, sweetie?'
April chimed in at that.
"Napoleon, darling, we'll see you in a few."
"There it is then, we'll be there shortly."
Napoleon hung up, his anticipation now heightened by the prospect of the team being together and in sync for the plan they had formulated. Had he known that in another room his photograph was at that moment being studied, his anticipation might have been of a different nature entirely.