Once upon a time sunlight had intruded into his life. Once upon a time there was a reason to get up and go to work because an irritating, annoying, suave, debonair, attitude on legs worked at the desk across from him, flirting with the secretaries, having flings with various opposition lovelies and generally reminding his dour partner that there were good things in life. Once upon a time did not end with happily ever after.

Illya Kuryakin looked up into a pair of startlingly blue eyes under dark eyebrows and scowled. The scowl did not appear to have any effect as the carmined mouth below curved into a smile. One immaculately manicured, equally deep red fingernail tipped hand slid a slim manila folder across his desk toward him.

He didn't sigh as he opened it, perused the few sheets inside and closed it again. "I assume Mr. Waverly sent you."


He looked up again, carefully hiding the surprise he felt and let a slight lift of his eyebrow ask the question.

"Probabilities of survival, given the number of variables involved are pretty slim, if the mission is successful. Your success rate is the highest available. The probabilities of success increases as do the probabilities of survival. I intend to survive and succeed. The best chances of doing both include you."

He felt glacial. Yet there was something in the practically insouciant stance of his visitor that tugged at him.

"Very well. Where do you want to start."

"Lunch. I'm starving and there's a restaurant about four doors down and across the street from our objective, judging by all that activity."

With a curt nod, he dismissed her, shifted the piles of folders into order and stood up to leave. If he was surprised that she had waited, it didn't show.

The restaurant was surprisingly good, although the food meant little to him beyond not being burned or otherwise difficult. There was a great deal of activity to be seen just down the street. Trucks were practically standing in line to make deliveries of items as diverse as electronic components and foodstuffs.

"If they deliver computer parts I'm going to scream," his companion commented conversationally.


"Well, if they deliver a large set of computer components, rather than basic parts, don't you think the security will be upped?"

He glared at her, wondering if she was deliberately obtuse in her mental meanderings or if there was some meaning behind the words. She looked expectant, as though he should be leaping to the same conclusion she seemed to have achieved. It dawned on him that once upon a time, he and another partner had walked through a disassembled Ultimate Computer. That was before they knew there were three of them in constant motion.

He regarded the deliveries in a new light. Headquarters? Were they setting up for a Council meeting? Here? They needed to find out and that meant going in. "You go in."

"Ya think?" was the derisive response. She stood, straightened her business-like suit, tugging the skirt to a decorous length and walked out, leaving him to continue to observe.

He noted as an after thought that she also left him to pay the bill.

Several hours later, as he was inching his way along a ledge above a cavernous room several hundred feet below street level, he mentally kicked himself for being a fool. For just a moment, he wondered how his last partner, his last real partner, would be faring in similar circumstances and ignored the upwelling of loss he felt.

He found a place to stop and take a look around. Below, a number of high-ranking, very recognizable members of THRUSH's upper echelon were milling about. His partner stood to one side, listening intently to a dapperly dressed THRUSH. She wasn't dead. She wasn't languishing in durance vile. She was … Now he had to figure out what she was doing and whether he needed to stop her or help her.