A happy Independence Day to my American readers!
This story, written last Fourth of July, was my very first MFU piece.
It had been a particularly trying mission. Half a dozen innocents—two women among them—had come perilously close to being killed, which was never a good thing, and, Illya knew, especially not where Napoleon was concerned. The entire affair had left him unusually quiet and withdrawn, and the two of them had barely exchanged a word or look between boarding their plane in San Francisco, and, once back in New York, parting ways for a well-earned "seventy-two hour pass"—which happened to fall over Independence Day weekend.
( Read more... )
But despite it all, Napoleon found himself surprisingly calm, and he offhandedly mentioned that fact to his partner.
“I know the feeling, my friend. Stand back.”
The Russian finished affixing his watch to the chain of the handcuffs linking their wrists. He gave the watch face a hard flick, then quickly shielded himself. A mild explosive inside the timepiece went off, and as they pulled their hands apart the chain gave way easily. Illya gave a controlled but satisfied smile.
“Much quicker than a hairpin.”
This was the result of a drabble switch with Anamary Armygram.
Three different nurses plied him with homemade cookies; another tried it with cheesecake. He gave in to none of them. Mr. Waverly’s offer of one, then two weeks extra vacation fell on deaf ears. So did the earnest pleading of several secretaries.
But when one of the doctors assured him that the new nurse on staff, the aptly named Miss Troy, would be more than happy to go out with him that very night, he broke down and gave them the exact coordinates of the hideout where Illya had retreated to avoid his annual physical.
He expected his friend to be at least miffed at being given away. But Illya had clearly heard about the circumstances under which he had been sold out, because all he did upon returning to their joint office that afternoon was smile wearily.
“Not to worry, Napoleon. I likely would have done the same thing.”
And we're off! Here's my half of this week's drabble switch with Anamary Armygram.
August 19, 1927
“...the stakes are quite high, but I’ve been offered certain enticing incentives should I decide to do it. So what do you think, dear?”
There was a dismayed sigh on the other end of the line. “I thought married agents weren’t supposed to take field assignments.”
“They aren’t, but the chief says this is a special case, and he’s willing to pull me out of ‘retirement,’ so to speak, if it will get the job done. However, he’s left the final decision up to me, and I didn’t want to give him my answer until I’d discussed the matter with you.”
There was a long silence.
She sighed again. “Alexander, I know you miss the field. And you know I’d never want to keep you from going back just on my account. But for the sake of your hair, please don’t go.”
Baffled but flattered, Waverly absently ran a hand along his part. “My hair? I always knew you were fond of it, my dear, but…”
“Not your hair, Alexander. Your heir. He’s planning on joining us around Valentine’s Day, and I wouldn’t mind so very much if you were still alive to meet him.”
Happy holidays, all!
I started writing this for a Short Affair prompt back in August and never got around to finishing it, but I had a flush of inspiration and some time to kill yesterday, so here it is.
It was nine o’clock on Monday morning, and Agent Robert Price was dead on his feet. Though pulling an all-nighter in order to finish his backed up paperwork had been unavoidable, that fact didn’t make the experience any less unpleasant. After four years in the field, he’d been in his share of tough spots, but still nothing flummoxed him so much as an endless night of cajoling his stiff fingers to strike the typewriter keys and the resulting lines blurring and doubling up before his tired eyes.
This morning, as soon as he’d gotten his badge from the secretary on duty and dropped off the offending papers, Robert had beelined for the hall coffeepot, where he stood now, just reveling in the steam floating up from his paper cup.
Another figure approached, and Robert lifted his head as Agent Marvin Dillinger drew up beside him.
( Read more... )
If Illya Kuryakin had scoffed at his alarm clock that morning, rolled over, and gone back to sleep, the universe probably would have continued peaceably on its way, seeing no reason to interfere with his life. But when the Big Ben on his bedside table went off, Illya dutifully got up, silenced it, and went about his routine, preparing to leave for headquarters much earlier than he normally did. He had work to do this morning--paperwork for the last mission was coming due, and he hadn’t done it yesterday because Napoleon had insisted that they offer to take a couple of the new secretaries out for dinner and dancing. The girls had been more than willing, and it had been fun, he had to admit. But there was no more time to put off doing the papers. So he set off for headquarters, ready to have a productive morning.
It was not to be.( Read more... )
When the car picked him up at LaGuardia, he noticed the driver’s cuticles first. They were ragged and inflamed--a few even looked like they had bled earlier.
He said nothing. He knew that over the past couple of days, there was a good chance that his partner had been forced to directly deal with particular chemicals sans gloves, which would certainly have taken its toll on immaculate hands.
But when, while stopped at a red light, he observed the man taking a furtive nibble at the nail on his left forefinger, Illya knew this was not Napoleon Solo.
Just Outside the City
“Dinner, Tovarisch?” Napoleon asked absently, gently steering the car through a curve.
“No thank you, my friend.”
After he had successfully--albeit barely--avoided running off the road in response to that, Napoleon surveyed his options before finally deciding that there was only one way to respond.
“You’re right. Let’s wait a bit. How about we have a soufflé at your place when we get back?”
“Certainly, my friend.”
The blond’s smile as he answered was not quite sadistic enough, and Napoleon gave an inner grimace. Alas, it appeared this mission was not over quite yet.
This was the result of a drabble switch with Anamary Armygram.
Gardner, Lavinia Josephine
0600: Wake Up
0615-0700: Morning Drills
0800-1000: The Handling of Firearms 102 (R)
1000-1100: The Art of Disguise 102 (R)
1100-1200: Water for Non Swimmers (R)
1300-1400: Kisses of Death: Resisting Napoleon Solo (E)
1415-1500: Afternoon Drills
1500-1700: Checkpoint C Sentry Duty
1915-2000: Evening Drills
2300: Lights Out
"It was on one of the bodies. I knew it would delight your insatiable ego."
Napoleon scanned the leaf of THRUSH Survival School stationery (from the Women's Branch--THRUSH segregated the sexes during training in order to curtail romantic attachments), a pleased look spreading ear to ear.
A moment later, his face fell.
He handed the paper to his partner, who examined it and then proffered a thoroughly confused glance.
"What about it?"
He pointed. "Next to my name--that's an 'e'. Illya, I'm only an elective!"
Another draft courses violently through the dungeon. He shivers. His partner, slumped beside him against the wall, doesn’t even stir. Though they’re both badly battered, he took the worst of it, and has yet to regain consciousness.
He has his hand around his friend’s forearm, just as he has since their assaulters left. At first, the grip was to control bleeding that was both too fast and too heavy. But now that the flow has significantly slowed, the gesture is much more for his own sake than it is for his partner’s. He’s too weak to do anything else for him, even worry, so it seems he ought to be steadfast about at least that small thing--particularly because he can feel that his friend’s fingers are still wrapped around his shoulder holster, barely laxed by unconsciousness, exactly the way they were when he was trying desperately to pull him out of the line of fire.
For once, when the rescue squad gets here, his partner won’t be leading the pack. But as far as he’s concerned, he’s already saved the day. And if they can both hold on long enough to see tomorrow, all that’s left to do is wait.
It proves to be a long night. Sleep eludes him, and as the hours wear on, the dungeon’s cold wall and floor siphon all the feeling from his body. The pain slowly ebbs away, replaced bit by bit with numbness, and fogginess subsumes his mind.
And still he knows, as if by some twinging inside of his own soul, the very moment during the night that his partner awakens, that he is alive and someday, he will be well again. But not a word is spoken. Their eyes don’t meet, and neither hand tightens its grip.
Neither needs to.
“I said no.”
“But it becomes you, Tovarisch.”
Illya looked at his partner wearily. “My friend, I have come to accept that doing your paperwork is a part of my life. That is because you have managed to neatly edge it out of yours, and I too will receive a reprimand if it is not completed. But this is different, and I am putting my foot down.”
Napoleon assumed a wounded look. “Your motives are so low, Illya. Sure, if this doesn’t get done, no one’ll blame you. No one’ll even glance your way. And that’s all that matters. Not friendship, or loyalty, or sympathy for the human condition...”
The Russian sighed. “Napoleon, you know that you are my dearest friend, and ordinarily I would not hesitate to assist you in your hour of need. But I vividly recall the headache I developed last year offering you the kind of help you are seeking. That is a world of pain I do not wish to revisit.”
“But you did a splendid job, Tovarisch!”
“It is very kind of you to say so, my friend. But I still will not be doing your taxes for you again this year.”
U.N.C.L.E. Multifunction Unit 245.1--nicknamed Jack by personnel--is truly amazing to behold. No heavier than a fencing foil, a bit thicker than a pencil, and barely two feet long, it could very well be mistaken for an elongated communicator. However, this silver wonder--thus far distributed to fifteen elite agents--is equipped to perform twenty-four highly specialized functions, including fire extinguisher, camera, tape recorder, ultraviolet light, laser microphone, gas pistol, and pastry piping bag.
Not to mention, Napoleon thought as, with one last pry, the trap door creaked open, it makes an excellent crowbar.
“This is ridiculous, Illya. Even you wouldn’t try to brave these temperatures in nothing but a suit jacket!”
“It will not be for long, my friend. And in any case, you have no choice. You cannot simply skip the meeting. They are expecting you.”
“Not me.” Napoleon countered cantankerously. “Just someone very much like me. If they were expecting me, my coat, scarf, and gloves would be out of your chilly custody and lovingly serving their master.”
Illya crossed his legs, pressing the foot of the top leg firmly against the desk drawer where he had stowed his partner’s cold weather gear.
“It is time for you to go, Napoleon. I will have a nice glass of brandy waiting for you when you return.”
“If I return.”
He received more than a few looks of pity as he walked down the hallway. The secretary who took his badge was good enough to temper hers with a whispered, “Good luck.”
After going through Del Floria’s, he mounted the outside steps, and, hitting the sidewalk, assumed a slightly stilted gait. He resisted the urge to wince as the whipping wind laid siege to his face.
I’m an android. Androids don’t get cold...
“Surely such a strong girl could climb up and loosen our ropes so we--”
The blonde looked at Napoleon pointedly. “Flattery won’t work. I’m not dumb.”
He sighed. “Sorry. I don’t think clearly when I’m bound and strung up like a ham. What if we reward you for helping us? A pretty dress, maybe? A string of pearls? Lunch at L’Ours Brun…?”
Met with a cold stare, he switched tactics.
“By doing nothing, you’re cooperating with the people who did this.”
“You know what I think, Illya?” Napoleon said, looking at his partner. “She wants to help us. She’s just too afraid to climb.”
“Are you sure?” Illya asked dully.
That was the last straw. The overalled little girl ferociously strode towards the precariously high jungle gym where some THRUSHies had left the agents hanging upside down. She scaled the rungs and was soon by Napoleon’s feet.
“That’s a girl. Now loosen…”
Napoleon didn’t finish his sentence. Somehow, the girl’s fingers had already quickly undone the knots, and she was now pulling the ropes away. He went flying, landing hard on his chin in the gravel below. A moment later, his partner flopped down beside him. The girl grinned demonically at them through the bars before scampering down and away.
“Are you injured, my friend?” Illya asked.
“Only my ego. Bargaining with a seven-year-old to get out of a THRUSH trap, and then her...er...letting us down doesn’t do us much credit.”
“I suspect it was love at first sight.”
“I hear it is not uncommon for young girls to assault their crushes as a way of demonstrating affection. The twenty and up crowd certainly seem to enjoy you--why not their younger sisters?”
They exchanged a bewildered look. Illya shook his head.
“No chance, Monsieur Solo.” Océane replied. Brandishing her weapon expertly, she fluidly slashed one of his neatly manicured hands. Napoleon swore vociferously.
Despite his alarm at the uncharacteristic outburst, and even as he interiorly winced upon realizing Océane was coming for him next, Illya’s mouth twisted into a wry smile. He had to hand it to THRUSH--using paper cuts to intimidate captured U.N.C.L.E. agents was nothing short of a stroke of genius.