Reinvigorate your minds, your bodies and your spirits. Come up into the atmosphere where everything is clear.
The mantra kept repeating as the room full of devotees chanted the refrain over and over again. Illya rolled his eyes at the redundancy of it all, and the mindlessness of the people he was infiltrating.
The Russian looked the part, dressed in linen pants and a strange fitting, gauzy shirt of a thing. He hadn't quite figured it out, but all of the men wore them, while the women were covered completely in another version of the linen clothing. For some reason he felt oddly exposed in the outfit, and the women seemed to be leering at him from behind the layers of veils that they wore.
Napoleon would have loved it.
Illya had managed to sneak out of the large meeting room and was making his way down a corridor lined with statues and vegetation: marijuana plants. He had learned early on that part of the process here was to get high and then enter into the rituals and recitations. He hadn't inhaled, but the room was full of the stuff and it had been difficult to stay completely level headed. Fortunately for him, the training he had received at the hands of his Soviet masters was of some use here.
Clear headed and purposeful, the blond made his way towards the office, the inner sanctum as it was called, of the top man. Thomas Emory had changed his name to Mano Dieum, an oblique reference, however illiterate it was, to a type of diety that he was pretending to be. At first, UNCLE's information gatherers had thought it might be a THRUSH operation, but closer inspection yielded no such connection. When it was discovered that several teenagers had been kidnapped, all of whom were connected to world leaders, a plea was made to Alexander Waverly to help restore the children to their families, and to shut down the Brawan Children cult. The room Illya had left was full of people under the age of twenty, and a few who looked, as he did, to be in their mid twenties. Once again his youthfulness and his shaggy blond hair had netted him an undercover role that required him to blend in with the youth culture.
Thus far, Illya had determined the purpose of this cult was an age old one, to obtain as much money as possible for its leaders. The brainwashing was careful and successful, attested to by the voices resonating from the central meeting room. Illya wondered what kind of process would be necessary to undo the programming these kids had received after coming here. He saw the blank expressions, the drug induced haze in which most of them spent their days.
Something caught Illya's eye as he thumbed through the records in Emory's office. in several instances the victims of kidnapping were related to heads of state. If blackmail was involved, and it seemed to be, the object seemed to be clear: gain power through intimidation. If this were successful, Emory would have access to more than one nation's arsenal and treasury. These young people were being used as bait, and the payoff was global in scope.
Illya needed to alert the support team stationed outside the walls of the compound. He had enough information now to legally charge Thomas Emory with kidnapping; the details of each abduction were clearly outlined, as though a record of the deed made the accomplishment that much more satisfying.
Illya reached inside of his thin trousers and withdrew his communicator. He had sewn in a pocket from some scrap material and hidden the instrument there. One of the advantages he had here was that there were no detection devices to foil his efforts.
"Open Channel D, this is Kuryakin."
"Mister Kuryakin, do you have the necessary documents?"
"Yes sir, and I suggest that the team make an appearance immediately. Emory, or Mono Dieum as he calls himself, is preparing to move the camp to another location very soon. We don't have much time before…"
Illya didn't finish the sentence. A large man dressed in black appeared out of nowhere, or so it seemed. Illya hadn't seen or heard anything, and yet here was a man nearly twice his size and seeming intent on doing him great harm. Illya took up a defensive posture, hopeful but not overly confident.
The man in black lunged towards the smaller man, grabbing his shirt and ripping it from Illya's body. In the process he plunged a knife into the agent's side, sending Illya down on one knee as he gasped in pain. The communicator was still open and outside, sitting in a concealed place, Napoleon heard the skirmish and the sound of his partner's exclamation of surprise and pain.
"In, now! Storm the gates and don't let anyone get past you." Napoleon felt the adrenaline surge as he leapt from his position and ran in through the opening made for him by two of the other men in his command.
The corridors were empty except for two armed guards, both of whom were quickly put down with sleep darts. Napoleon had a map of the compound seared into his memory, and he knew where to find his partner. He ran, jumping over the two downed guards, and arrived to find Illya slumped against a rattan chair, blood pooling beneath his linen garb. The other man down before he knew what hit him, a single dart and its fast acting serum perfectly planted in his neck.
"Illya, how bad is it?" The Russian grunted out something and then passed out. Bad, that's how it was. Napoleon gathered him up and carried him over his shoulder, out of the compound and to a waiting car. His team were rounding up everyone, securing the office where the records were kept and trying to keep the young people calm as all hell broke lose. In the end it would end in UNCLE's favor, but in the meantime Illya needed a hospital.
Napoleon drove like a madman, but his destination was a helicopter waiting for him in a clearing about a half mile farther down the road. He got there and motioned for the pilot to start his engine, then carried Illya to the chopper and placed him on the back seat.
"Get him to a hospital and radio Waverly what his condition is. I'll get the information myself as soon as I finish up at the site. Take care of him, he's my partner." With that Napoleon slapped twice at the hull of the chopper, watching as it rose in the air and headed towards help for the wounded Russian.
Within hours the scene at the compound had gained order, all of the conspirators were rounded up and detained for the authorities. The young people who had been kidnapped or lured there with promises of spiritual enlightenment were treated first to a physical exam and then sent, one by one, back to their respective families. A few strays were given shelter until further help could be obtained.
Napoleon finally made his way to the hospital where his partner was recovering from the knife attack. Nothing vital was hit, so the loss of blood turned out to be the primary injury. Illya was already insisting that he be released as Napoleon walked through the door.
"What? You're already troubling these people? Illya, what makes you think you're getting out of here tonight?" Napoleon had to laugh at his partner, always ready to bolt from the confinement of a hospital bed.
"As it happens, I have plans." Illya looked serious, but Napoleon wasn't buying it.
"Really? What sort of plans could you possibly have. You were on assignment."
"And the assignment was nearly over. I made plans." He wasn't budging from the story.
"With whom?" Napoleon wasn't going to just let it go. Illya sighed and leaned back against the pillow. He was suddenly tired, and as the color drained slightly from his face, Napoleon understood that the fight was going out of his friend.
"With what, actually. I have been eating nothing but vegetables for a week. I need a steak, or a roasted chicken. Anything that isn't orange or green." That was a legitimate reason for leaving the hospital. They weren't in New York, but Napoleon was pretty sure he could find a good steak dinner somewhere close by. After all, they were in Texas.
Illya, if you'll just rest, I'm going to go find you the best steak in Amarillo. Deal?"
Illya nodded, a smile beginning to break across his face.
"Deal. Oh, and don't forget the salad, with bleu cheese dressing."
"I thought you were tired of eating vegetables." Napoleon wanted to make sure he got this right, and a salad seemed… wrong.
"Oh, well I am. But somehow eating a steak without a salad is just… well, just make sure you add the salad. Please." The smile was enough to convince Napoleon that Illya did indeed want a salad with his steak.
"Okay. Steak and salad. And a baked potato, right?"
"Right. Lots of butter. And some dessert too, maybe chocolate cake." That did it.
"Just get up and get dressed Illya. I'm not going to try and bring all of this back here for you to eat. Just, just… get dressed. I'll be waiting outside. Here's the change of clothes. Crazy Russian…"
Napoleon walked away mumbling beneath his breath, but inside he was glad that Illya felt good enough to go out for a meal. Sometimes a close call was just too close for comfort. This time was another close call, but it hadn't been the one that could end everything.
Dinner was definitely on him tonight.