The Brain Game Affair
Napoleon Solo, Chief Law Enforcement Agent of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, rolled over on the blanket covering the sagging bedbug ridden cot. The chains that bound his hands and feet to the the head and foot rails severely limited his range of motion yet he was willing to try anything to relieve the pressure points on his buttocks and shoulder blades. He had lost track as to how long he had lain on the mattress, his head resting on an equally dirty pillow black and slick from the hair oil of countless prisoners who had been unfortunate guests of Dr. Pierre Boucher over the years.
Dr. Boucher, aptly named for his surname meant butcher, was well known among national and international law enforcement entities and the criminal elements, as well. He was a self proclaimed scientist and neurological expert specializing in experimentation on control of the human brain. As a matter of fact, that was why Napoleon and his Russian partner, Illya Kuryakin, had traveled to Litchfield, Connecticut. The location was the perfect location for Boucher to carry out his experiments, allowing him to hide in plain sight. He ran an asylum for the mentally ill. What better place to find his subjects for his experiments. Unfortunately, someone from UNCLE had leaked information to the doctor and Solo and Kuryakin were captured immediately.
Napoleon had not seen his partner since their capture. He didn’t know where Illya had been taken as they were split up and dragged off in different directions. He ended up tossed into the cell, chained up, and had been, more or less, left alone. Guards brought him meals on an irregular basis and allowed him to relieve himself at those times before being chained again to the bed. Each time the guards stretched him a little tighter reminding him of the time the Partridges had him on the rack in their dungeon.
On what Napoleon guessed to be the third day, Dr. Boucher paid him a visit. “Ah, Mr. Solo, how are you fairing as our special guest?” The old man’s shrill voice echoed loudly against the cell walls, reminding Napoleon of the days in high school when he and others found it fun to run their fingernails down the slate blackboards.
“I can’t say I think much of your accommodations. The housekeepers haven’t been in to freshen up my bed since I’ve arrived and the food leaves much to be desired,” came the dry retort. “But, I’ve been in worse, I guess. Maybe a bit bored.”
“Well, I guess you just don’t know how to appreciate the finer things in life, hmmmm, Mr. Solo. I mean you have been provided free accommodations and food for the past four days. Don’t you think you’re being a bit picky?”
It did not escape Napoleon’s attention that the doctor had just provided him with information telling him how long he had been cooped up in the cell. “Well, doctor, I only hope that you are providing my partner with at least as good accommodations as you have me. Where is my partner, by the way?”
Dr. Boucher cackled, “Oh, you need not worry about Mr. Kuryakin. He and I have been spending quite a bit of quality time together. Are you aware that he has an extremely high threshold for pain? Why most of my subjects haven’t lasted more than half a day before they succumb and die.” The doctor squealed with delight, rubbing his hands in excitement. “And here we are on day four and the man is still among the living!”
Napoleon jerked at his chains, trying to turn on the bed to face the doctor better. “You son of a bitch, what have you done to him?”
“Oh, dear, you mustn’t get yourself into such a state!” The doctor sneered. “It is in my best interest to keep Mr. Kuryakin alive. You see, I’ve been testing him and have found that his intellectual capacity is quite high. Did you know he is a borderline genius?” The man started pacing the cell nearly exploding with glee. “Why he is the best specimen I have procured yet. Oh yes, he’s perfect for my experiments!” He clapped his hands together, rubbing them back and forth.
Napoleon’s chest tightened with fear for his friend. “What kind of experiments?” He asked, his voice tight with rage.
Dr. Boucher stopped his frenetic pacing and turned to face Solo. “I have several important guests with me, today. They are here to see my success which will result in more funding and your partner is going to help me. You see, Mr. Solo, your partner is a magnificent specimen. Not only is he very intelligent, but his brain is larger than most mens’ and that means that he, and it, should be able to endure what lays ahead in my neurological studies.”
“You bastard! I want to see him, now,” Napoleon demanded. “Let me see him, now!”
“Now, now, Mr. Solo. I don’t think you are in any position to make demands. As a matter of fact, I really don’t need you, you see. While you have an IQ on a high average level, your brain is of no use to me. So,”...his voice lowered and hardened, “if you don’t stop your belly aching immediately I’ll have you killed and let my assistants dissect you to see what makes you tick. I understand that you are quite the ladies’ man. Maybe we’ll dissect your brain and compare your hippocampus to that of a patient who has little sex drive. Yes, that would be very interesting to see.” He looked sharply at his captive. “So, I suggest you shut up and settle down before you find yourself on my operating table.” He glared and then his expression changed. He turned to one of the guards and mumbled some instructions. The guard left immediately.
“You mentioned, my dear man, that you were bored. Well, I think we can make things a little more entertaining for you. How would you like to watch a little television?” On cue, the guard returned with a television. He plugged it into an outlet just outside the cell and positioned it so that it could be watched from the cell without actually being inside it.
Napoleon became suspicious. “Ah, no thanks. I appreciate the offer but I’m really not one to watch daytime soaps.”
“Oh, you’ll find this far more entertaining than a soap opera,” The doctor giggled. Again he turned to the guard. “Tighten his chains up another link or two on each end. We don’t want our guest to thrash around from too much excitement as he enjoys the show.”
The guard snickered and did as he was ordered. Napoleon’s limbs had already taken about as much abuse as a person could stand. He bit his lips to keep from screaming as they were stretched further, but he couldn’t keep his eyes from tearing up and emitted a soft groan as sharp pains stabbed like lightning at his shoulders and hips.
The doctor, seeing the discomfort on his prisoner’s face, chuckled. “Yes, Mr. Kuryakin’s pain threshold is definitely much higher than yours,” he observed. He spun on his heels and left the cell. The door slammed shut and Napoleon heard the audible click of a lock being turned.
“Guard, the show should be starting in about 15 minutes. Turn the TV on in 10 minutes, please. We don’t want Mr. Solo to miss the beginning of the program.” He laughed and disappeared down the corridor.
Napoleon closed his eyes, determined to not watch anything on the television. He refused to play the mad doctor’s macabre game. Instead, he concentrated on ignoring the pain in his muscles which were cramping from being stretched beyond their limits. He heard the guard turn on the television. “Hey, Solo, wake up, your show is on!”
“Go to hell!” He squeezed his eyes more tightly.
However, the guard responded saying, “Well, if you ain’t going to watch you can at least listen.”
And he turned up the volume to the loudest setting.
The sound of a scuffle reached Solo’s ears. Then came the unmistakable sound of a tortured scream from his partner. “That will teach you, you Russian bastard to try to resist,” came the unmistakable voice of Dr. Boucher. “Guard, if he tries that again shoot him in one of his kneecaps.”
“With pleasure, sir.”
“What do you intend to do with me?” Kuryakin’s voice was weak yet still defiant.
“Why, brain surgery, Mr. Kuryakin. I’m going to have you strapped down on this table, open up your skull, and then ever so carefully remove your brain.”
“What? Why?” Illya‘s voice trembled. From fear or pain, Napoleon couldn’t tell. Maybe both. His eyes opened and his attention was fixed on the screen of the television. It was hard to see from his position, but he could see enough of the scene to send chills through him.
His partner was dragged to the operating table and strapped down. Heavy leather cuffs and straps held him tightly at each ankle, above the knees, and the hips. More straps tightly restrained his upper torso and arms. The last straps to be applied were to his throat, tight enough to impede his breathing drastically, and to his forehead. Napoleon could hear the buckles pulling the straps tightly and the sound of his friend’s breathing.
Dr. Boucher approached his subject. “Mr. Kuryakin, you might want to look into that camera,” he pointed, “and say goodbye to Mr. Solo.”
Napoleon watched as Illya’s eyes scanned the direction at which the madman pointed and caught sight of the lens. He didn’t say anything, yet he communicated all he could with his expression. The television picture jumped, faded, and blacked out for a brief second. As the picture returned Napoleon watch as Dr. Boucher snapped his fingers. An assistant came forward with a ball gag and strap as well as a surgical tray.
“Why the gag?” Napoleon heard Kuryakin ask.
“Well, you see, my dear fellow, you have shown such an amazing tolerance for pain that I want to see how you react while I perform the surgery without anesthesia. My assistant will record your reactions with a camera and with the ekg. It should be quite interesting and educational. It will advance my research by months if not years. I imagine it will also provide a bit of entertainment for our important visitors.”
Napoleon jerked at his bonds. “No! No! You can’t do this! Stop! You son of a bitch, stop!”
Apparently there was a microphone in the cell for he could hear his own voice reverberate through the television. Both the doctor and Illya cast their eyes in the direction of the camera. Napoleon heard his partner’s raspy voice. “Doctor, please don’t make my friend watch this. If you had any shred of decency you would not do that to him.”
Dr. Boucher cackled. “But you see I don’t and I think Mr. Solo will find this quite fascinating.” And with those words, he began stuffing the ball gag in the Russian’s mouth and tightening the strap that would keep it from being pushed out.
Napoleon couldn’t keep his eyes off the screen. He watched as the doctor picked up a pair of old electric shears and began shaving Illya’s head. The blades must have been dull because Napoleon could see Illya flinch each time the clippers snagged his hair. After about fifteen minutes the doctor had shaved his friend completely bald.
The television screen flickered and the picture faded temporarily before brightening and stabilizing just as Dr. Boucher approached Kuryakin with a scalpel and began his first cut along Illya’s forehead.
Solo heard his friend scream. It came deep from his throat as the sound tried to reach past the ball gag.
“NO!” Solo shouted as he fought against his bonds. “I’ll kill you, Boucher. Do you hear me? I’ll kill you, if it’s the last thing I do.” He heard a high squeaky cackle just as the television flicked once more before going black. This time the picture did not return.
Solo slowly came to awareness. He realized that he was no longer shackled and his arm were no longer stretched above his head. His shoulders hurt like hell. He looked towards his feet and realized that they, too, were no longer shackled. He didn’t know how long he had been unconscious. The last thing he vaguely remembered was the guard entering the cell with a syringe and injecting him with an unknown substance.
Something else niggled at him, something horrible. Illya! Oh god, Illya! The memory of his partner lying on the operating table, being operated on without anesthesia came rushing back and Napoleon was physically sick. As he cleaned himself up at the small stained porcelain sink, Napoleon heard the keys jingling in the lock. He turned to see Boucher enter.
“You filthy, murdering monster! You killed him.” Solo lunged at Boucher intent on killing the madman. Unfortunately, the stress on his joints from being stretched, caused the agent to fall. His hips screaming with pain. Boucher laughed as the guard caught Solo and kicked him for good measure before throwing him on the bed.
“You jump to conclusions readily, don’t you, Mr. Solo. Guard, bring him down to the operating theater.”
As Solo approached the doors to the operating theater, he found his pace slowing. He didn’t want to enter. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but he knew he didn’t want to find out what had transpired in there once the television had gone blank. The guard pushed him through the door. His eyes had been cast downward but after being pushed, Napoleon was forced to look up to keep from falling.
The scene before him stopped him him in his tracks. Illya! Sitting stiffly in a ladder back chair was Illya Kuryakin, his head heavily wrapped in bandages. “Illya! Are you all right?” The man sitting before him didn’t respond. His pale eyes looked straight ahead, the pupils nearly disappeared in the sea of blue. Napoleon strode over to the chair and knelt down next to Kuryakin. The man was definitely his friend and partner, yet he wasn’t.
The American agent turned Boucher. “What’s the matter with him?”
“Mr. Kuryakin, say hello to your partner.”
Kuryakin’s mouth didn’t move. The expressionless eyes didn’t blink or look in Napoleon’s direction. Napoleon had heard him quite clearly from a loud speaker mounted on the wall. It was Illya’s voice but it sounded slightly robotic. The CEA looked his friend over more closely. Behind Illya was a mass of very fine wires trailing from the bandaged head down his back and across the floor where they were spliced into two huge ten gauge cables which, in turn, were hooked up to a large 5 gallon glass jar bathed in an eerie green light. Solo gasped and was nearly sick again, for in the jar was a human brain. From his viewpoint, he saw five probes sticking into various regions of the brain. Attached to the probes were more wires that ran to the lid and the thick cables.
Napoleon spun around. “Is...is that Illya’s brain?”
“Yes,” Dr. Boucher replied. “Yes, it is! Isn’t it wonderful? I have successfully taken Mr. Kuryakin’s brain from his bone and skin vessel and moved it to the jar you see.”
Napoleon rushed towards Boucher intent upon killing the mad man.
Napoleon, stop! He will only kill you. Please, you must stay alive, Napoleon.
Boucher cackled. “Surely, Mr. Solo, you must realize that if you kill me Mr. Kuryakin will die as well. Only I know the correct ingredients of the medium his brain in which his brain is floating. And that needs to be replaced daily.”
“What are you going to do with it?” Napoleon couldn’t quite bring himself to say “him” when referring to the brain.
“I have many plans. I am going to use its thought processes to plan ways to dominate the world. Eventually, the body will fail, however by then I will have complete control over the electrical patterns that make the brain function.”
Napoleon kill me. Kill me now. Do let him succeed. Kill my brain. Once it is dead, then you must kill my body. Please, I beg you. Kill me!
Boucher was also able to hear Illya as well. He approached the control panel and pushed a button sending a current of electricity through the brain causing it to writhe, its tissues expanding and contracting. Illya’s body fell to the floor as it also convulsed in pain.
“Stop it! Stop it, Boucher!” Solo yelled.
Boucher stopped pressing the button. As he did so, lights came on in the glassed-in observation room above the operating theater. Napoleon could see five men standing close to the glass wall. He was sure he recognized at least two of them as THRUSH bigwigs.
One of the men activated an intercom. “Very impressive, Dr. Boucher. Very impressive indeed. THRUSH Central will be glad to continue funding your projects. If you have more successes like today, imagine what we could do with the minds of world leaders. Why we could replace them with doppelgängers and use the captured brains to do our planning and bidding.”
As everyone’s attention was focused on the men in the observation room, Napoleon surreptitiously edged to a nearby instrument tray and palmed a scalpel.
“That’s wonderful!” Dr. Boucher said, rubbing his hands gleefully. “What you would you like me to do with Mr. Kuryakin’s brain?”
“Keep experimenting with it. See how it responds to different stimuli and how much you can control it.”
“Yes, yes, of course. What do you want me to do with Mr. Solo?” “We will send a helicopter tomorrow to transport him to Central. Having UNCLE’s best agent to interrogate will be quite a coup! Do you think you can keep him out of trouble until then, doctor?”
“Yes, of course. I’ll have him ready for you when you arrive. Good day, gentlemen.”
The lights in the observation room dimmed and then blinked off as the five THRUSH officials left. Five minutes later, one of the guards came in and announced that they had left the property.
“Very good. Now please strap Mr. Solo into the chair next to Mr. Kuryakin. I think I will let him stew a bit before taking him back to his cell.”
After the guard had strapped Solo in the chair, Boucher told him and the other guards to leave. “I’ll be just fine,” the doctor said when one of the guards expressed concern. “I going to do a little experimenting with Mr. Kuryakin, while his friend watches. I think he will find it quite fascinating.”
Boucher turned towards the jar holding the brain. “Now let’s see what I can make you do.” He pulled a device out of the pocket of his lab coat and placed it on the control panel near the brain. He applied current to one of the probes then pressed the button on the device. The brain and Illya’s body convulsed as one. Solo watched as Illya’s eyes rolled to the top of their sockets and he let out a silent scream before collapsing in his chair.
“Stop it! Please, you’re torturing him.”
Boucher ignored him and continued applying stimulus to different probes, pushing the button and watching the responses from both the brain and the body. Napoleon, using the purloined scalpel, began cutting through his bonds. He grimaced every time he saw his friend react to whatever Boucher did to the brain, but he stopped yelling at the doctor. His only chance of getting loose was if the doctor became so absorbed in his experiments that he forgot about the other man in the room.
With one last desperate slashing cut, he freed himself and charged the doctor. All of the anger and rage he felt added strength to the karate chop to the doctor’s neck. The doctor fell and was still. Napoleon turned towards the brain. He raised his hand in despair as he had no idea what to do.
“I...I can’t do it, Illya. I can’t just murder you!”
It will not be murder, my friend, it will be an act of mercy...please. Kill the brain and my body. Napoleon knew his friend was right. If their roles had been reversed it would have been him begging Illya to kill him. Slowly, he turned off the current to the brain and lifted the lid to the jar. He stood for what seemed like an eternity before raising the scalpel. “Forgive me, my friend.” With one swift movement he plunged the scalpel into the brain. He cried out as he saw the brain slowly stop it’s pulsing and become still. Still carrying the scalpel, the life giving medium dripping from his hand, Napoleon ran over to Illya. He grabbed the body into his arms determined to stay with it until it, too, succumbed to death.
He didn’t see the doctor returning to consciousness. He didn’t see the madman reach for the gun, nor did he see the gun point in his direction or the doctor pull the trigger. The bullet ripped into Napoleon’s left shoulder. As it did so, the agent let go of his friend’s body and spun. He threw the scalpel at the doctor which embedded itself in the man’s heart, killing him instantly. Napoleon gasped at the pain and collapsed, darkness descended upon his him. The last thing he saw was Illya’s body lying next to him, eyes open staring yet unseeing.
Light kept trying to force itself past his eyelids. Finally, Napoleon Solo opened his eyes. As he took in his surroundings he realized he was in UNCLE’s medical unit. How? A rescue team must have invaded the asylum and found him.
He turned his head as he heard the door open. Nurse Roberts, a pretty redhead whom Napoleon knew intimately, came in to check on her patient. She noticed that he was finally awake.
“Well hello, handsome! It’s about time I got to see your baby brown eyes! How are you feeling?”
Napoleon didn’t answer her. Instead he said, “I need to see Mr. Waverly, immediately. I need to tell him what happened.” The memory of the affair came rushing back. His voice quavered, “I need to tell him about Mr. Kuryakin.”
“It’s going to be okay, Napoleon. I’ll call him. He is quite eager to speak with you.” Nurse Roberts patted his shoulder and left.
Alexander Waverly, Chief of U.N.C.L.E. Northwest arrived fifteen minutes later. “Hello, Mr. Solo. I’m glad to see you awake. We were beginning to worry about you!”
“How long have I been here, sir?”
“About seven days. The bullet missed important structures, but you had developed quite an infection. The doct...”
“Sir,” Napoleon interrupted with a slight sob. “I, uh, I killed Illya. I killed my best friend...” his voice faltered.
“Ah, yes, quite. We’ll talk about that when you come back to active duty. Meanwhile I have an agent under orders to take you home and stay with you until you’re on the mend.”
“Sir, did you hear what I said? I killed Il...”
“And I will deal with that later. Now gather your belongings. The agent will be down to collect you in a few minutes.” The Old Man turned and left.
Napoleon couldn’t believe his ears. How could his boss be so cavalier about Illya’s death and the fact that he, the Russian’s partner, was the one who killed him?”
True to the Old Man’s word, Napoleon heard the door open. He was gathering his belongings from the closet made cumbersome with his left arm in a sling and did not see the agent come in. “I’ll be just a minute,” he called over his shoulder.
“Take all the time you need. Do you need assistance?” Replied the softly accented voice.
Napoleon froze. He was going mad, that’s it. The stress of the last affair had gotten to him. “Napoleon, are you alright?” That voice! It could only belong to one person. Napoleon spun around. Standing before him was Illya Kuryakin. His head covered by a baseball cap, slightly paler than usual, but it was Illya nonetheless. Napoleon walked up to his partner and gave him a huge one armed bear hug before stepping back to look him over.
Illya Kuryakin chuckled. “It’s a long story my friend. Let’s get you home before all the children start walking the streets then I’ll tell you all I know.” Chuckling again at Napoleon’s confused expression he said, “It’s Halloween, my friend. The streets and sidewalks will be filled with ghosts, goblins, and witches.”
The next hour found the two men sitting quietly in Napoleon’s living room. Each held a drink. Napoleon, much to his disappointment, drank a Coke, as the medicine he was taking prevented him from drinking alcohol. Illya held his usual vodka.
Staring at the condensation building on his glass, Napoleon finally asked, “So what happened, Illya?”
The Russian took a deep breath. “It wasn’t my brain, Napoleon. The whole thing was a sham to impress the THRUSH officials so they would continue funding his research.”
“But I saw what he did! I saw him shave your head and make the incision.”
Illya removed the cap he was wearing then rubbed the baby soft blond hair that was beginning to grow back. A thin scar stretched across his forehead from temple to temple. “Yes, remember the television went black as the incision was made? Well, according to one of the captured guards, both you and the THRUSH officials were watching the procedure on close circuit tv. Boucher purposely had the feed cut so none of you could see that he did not follow through with the surgery. I was lucky on several accounts, Napoleon. First, he really was a good surgeon. The incision he made was right on one of my brow lines. His cut was precise enough that our doctors believe that I will heal with minimal scarring. The pain was excruciating causing me to black out so I was unaware that he did not complete the surgery. He then drugged me so I was unaware of my surroundings.”
“You said lucky on several accounts, Illya. How else were you lucky?”
Illya laughed. “Mr. Waverly saw how I looked bald and made the comment that he actually preferred me with the length of hair I usually have. He will not be bothering me about my hair being too long anymore.”
That comment drew a smile from Napoleon. “Well just don’t push it too far, my friend. If you start growing sideburns and getting too shaggy he may change his mind.” He paused, taking a drink from his glass. Then asked, “Illya, if you were drugged and unresponsive, how did I hear your voice asking me to kill you? I did hear you didn’t I?”
The Russian sighed. “You did. While he was torturing me during the first few days, he recorded everything I said. He then expertly spliced the tape so that he could make it sound like I said many things, then he played them back for you to hear them. The rescue team found the tapes. He wanted you to kill me so non
“I thought I had, you know. Killed you that is,” Napoleon whispered. “I was almost glad that he shot me so I could die with you. I don’t think that I could have lived knowing what I did, especially now that we know it was a hoax.”
“Napoleon, it would have been the right thing to do if Boucher had been successful. What man would want to have his disembodied brain kept alive merely to serve as entertainment for a madman?”
“Illya, how did our people know when and where to find us?”
“After you killed Boucher, apparently you loss consciousness. Meanwhile the concoction Boucher had injected in me had finally worn off. When I came to myself I saw you on the floor bleeding out. I unwrapped the bandages from my head and used them to stop you from bleeding.
“I discovered that the wires leading from my head to the electric current and supposedly to the brain were merely attached to me by tape. The doctor had a remote control that every time he pressed a button it would make me convulse. It was how he made it look like that whatever he did to the brain was also affecting my body.”
Both men fell silent, contemplating just how close Illya came to a fate truly worse than death and then death itself.
The silence was broken by the insistent ringing of the doorbell. Illya got up, grabbing the bowl of Halloween candy as he did. Looking through the peep hole he saw a group of six kids in costume. He opened the door and invited them in. Each child waited patiently for their turn at the candy bowl. Illya, now used to the routine after living so many years in the US, dutifully admired all of the costumes. Two were dressed as football players, one witch, one devil, and a princess. Illya knew he had counted six. The sixth child shyly stepped over the threshold holding tightly to a bag. “Tell me about your costume?” Illya asked. “It looks like you are a doctor.”
“Oh yeah. I’m a surgeon...a neuro...neura...something ologist. I don’t remember the name. Wanna see what’s in the bag?”
The boy reached into the bag. Napoleon saw his partner straighten up and the blood drain from his face. He quickly handed the boy the whole bowl of candy, ushered him out the door, lock it, and turned off the hall light before sliding down the wall and sitting on the floors. As the child left Napoleon could see that the boy held a sticky, slimy lump that looked exactly like a brain.