Illya was awake and sitting up in bed when Napoleon came into the sick bay the next morning. “Hey, partner, how are you feeling?”
“Somewhat better, thank you.”
Napoleon wasn’t so sure about that. What he saw was his friend covered from head to shoulders with moist compresses applied to the second degree burns that covered Illya’s face.
Illya saw his expression. “Really, my friend, I am quite fine, especially considering the circumstances.”
“Good. We’ll be coming into their naval base soon. There is a navy hospital there where you’ll get thoroughly checked out. Then we…” He noticed the look of despair in Illya’s eyes before he turned his gaze away from Napoleon. “Illya, what’s wrong?”
Illya turned his bandaged face to him. “Napoleon, you forget. I have been recalled. When we get to the hospital you will be sent back to New York and I will remain here in the Soviet Union. It has been good to see you again, my friend, but our time together will be short lived.”
Napoleon’s expression changed. He had been so happy to find Illya and get him to safety. It had felt like old times to be together again. “Damn, I hadn’t thought about that.” His mood dampened by thought of not going home with Illya. “I’m sorry, Illya. Well, at least we have nearly twelve hours before we reach the base. So we can spend some time together.”
“Napoleon, do you mind? I am feeling tired. Come back later, if you do not mind, after I get some more sleep.” He didn’t want to deal with the emotions of having Napoleon close by only to see him leave for New York without him.
“What? Yeah, sure Illya. You get some rest. I’ll come back in a little while.” Clearly disappointed he patted Illya’s leg before turning to leave. “I’ll catch you later.”
But Napoleon didn’t return.
When the submarine reached its base, Illya was immediately taken to the hospital. He had hoped Napoleon would go with him but his friend was nowhere to be seen. How could you blame him after the way you brushed him off? He spent several days there where the doctors tended to his burns. Not once did Napoleon show up. Illya supposed that his friend must have already returned to New York.
Feeling quite sorry for himself, Illya prepared to be discharged. A new uniform was brought to him. Just as he finished dressing Admiral Petrovsky, Napoleon Solo, and Alexander Waverly entered the ward. Illya snapped to attention.
“Comrade Kuryakin,” the Admiral spoke gruffly (Illya noticed his rank had not been mentioned). “What are you doing in uniform?”
“I…I…” he stammered at a loss as what to say.
“Well, as soon as we leave you will dress in civilian clothes. You are no longer in the navy.”
“I do not understand, Comrade Admiral.”
Mr. Waverly spoke up. “Mr. Solo and I have been in conference with the admiral, several high ranking members of both the GRU and politburo. We explained how important you are to UNCLE and therefore global security and that we would like to have you return to New York.”
Illya just stared at Mr. Waverly as if had lost his mind, yet he felt his heart pounding in his chest as a spark of hope entered his mind.
Admiral Petrovsky spoke up, “It has been decided that you shall be permanently discharged from all military duties and Soviet intelligence agencies as long as you stay with UNCLE. There is one consequence Comrade Kuryakin…Illya…you must surrender your Soviet citizenship. Which means, of course, if you decide to accept this offer you will not be able to cross our borders without express permission from the high command.”
“That means that I would have no country to call my own. A man without a country is lost!” His gaze fixed on all three men. While he wanted to go to New York, Illya did not necessarily want to give up the country of his ancestors.
“The offer only lasts for forty-eight hours. You must make a decision soon. Illya, I do not pass judgement on you which ever way you choose, but choose wisely. I will leave you, now to give you time to ponder your future.” Petrovsky leaned forward and gave Illya a kiss on both cheeks before taking his hand and shaking it. “Young man, it has been a pleasure to know you over the last two decades.” Then he whispered in Illya’s ear, “Goodbye, my friend.” Then he abruptly turned and left the sick bay.
After the admiral left, Illya lifted his hand to see a slip of paper had been put into it. He looked at both Napoleon and Mr. Waverly with a raised eyebrow before unfolding the note. It contained four words, LEAVE WHILE YOU CAN.
Before he could say anything, Mr. Waverly stepped forward. “I have been in touch with the American Ambassador. He has been authorized to provide you with papers of citizenship and a US passport if you are inclined to accept the offer. No strings attached.”
Illya looked from Napoleon to Mr. Waverly. He spoke solemnly, “While I will miss the country of my youth, I think it would be best to accept yours and the United States’ offer. Thank you, sir.”
Mr. Waverly shook the agent’s hand. “Very well. I will go make the travel arrangements for all three of us. I’ll meet you boys in a couple of hours. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Kuryakin.”
Napoleon stepped up to Illya. “Let’s get you into some civilian clothes and get out of here.”
“Napoleon, I need to ask your forgiveness.” In answer to Napoleon’s unspoken question he continued, “When I did not see you after our talk on the submarine, I thought perhaps I had angered you thus causing you to leave without saying goodbye. I had never felt more lonely in my life.”
“Ah, yeah sorry about that, partner. From the moment I left until we just came in I had been on the horn with Mr. Waverly. Who, in turn, contacted people in the Soviet Union who owed him favors. We have been negotiating for the past three and half days.”
“Thank you for everything, Napoleon. I am glad to have such a good friend.”
After Illya finished dressing, both men left to find Mr. Waverly. Within two hours they all were on UNCLE’s private jet flying to New York with a refueling stop in Iceland. Illya had not slept at all on the flight back. The plane finally landed at UNCLE’s private airfield. Mr. Waverly disembarked first followed by his two best agents. As Illya stepped off the stairs, Napoleon turned to him and gave him a big hug. “Welcome home, Illya!”