The muffled sound of a knock at his apartment door brought Napoleon out of a shallow sleep. He squinted at this wristwatch...2:15 AM. Damn, he had only been in bed a little over an hour and had just gotten to sleep.
The knock at his door repeated itself, more urgently this time. “All right,” he yelled through the closed bedroom door. “I’m coming! Keep your shirt on.” He’d recognized his partner’s coded knock and wondered why Illya just didn’t use his key to let himself in or at least call on his communicator.
Napoleon checked through the peep hole before turning off his security system and unlatched the dead bolt. “Illya, this had better be g...” Before him stood his partner in his Russian uniform looking more miserable than Napoleon had ever seen him, more miserable than he had ever looked after THRUSH had had a round or two with him.
Quickly, the American cast a glance both ways down the hallway before grabbing Illya by the arm and pulled him into the apartment. “What’s going on, Illya?”
“I have come to say goodbye, my friend.”
“I am being recalled by my government. I am to fly out at 0500 on the Ambassador’s private jet.
“It’s temporary...isn’t it?”
Illya sighed heavily. “I’m afraid not, my friend. There is an “escort” posted at both the elevator and the stairwell in case I should try to take a detour while leaving. I only just found out an hour ago.” He paused and took a deep shuddering breath. I am afraid this is truly farewell, Napoleon.”
Both men stood face to face, neither knowing what to say. Napoleon broke the silence first. “Illya, is there anything I can do or say to...”
An accented voice called down the hallway from the direction of the elevator. “Comrade Captain Kuryakin! It is time!”
“I will be there in a minute!” Illya held out his hand and said softly, “It is time for me to go. Thank you, Napoleon, for your friendship. I shall never forget you and what you have meant to me.” Taking another breath, he lowered his voice even more. “Unfortunately, I may never be able to see you nor communicate from this point on as it is considered highly classified.”
Napoleon smiled grimly as he pushed his partner’s hand a side and pulled the Russian, his best friend, into a tight bear hug. “I’ll find you, Tovarisch!”
“Comrade Captain, we must leave, now!”
Illya broke the embrace. “Duty calls. Goodbye, Napoleon.” The two clapped each other on the shoulders then Illya turned and walked rapidly down the hallway.
“Good luck, Illya!”
Kuryakin stopped as Napoleon called, squared his shoulders, then kept walking without looking back.
An old friend of Illya's betrays him
“Yes, sir! Very good, Comrade Major...it shouldn’t be long before our plan will be fully engaged.” The balding uniformed man placed the phone onto its cradle with a satisfactory thump. He leaned back in his desk chair as he lifted a lit Havana cigar to his lips. Filtered sunlight found its way past the heavily curtained windows and mixed with the cigar smoke.
Lieutenant Colonel Nalaborsky looked from his cigar to the man nervously sitting in the half light across from him. “You’re in luck, Dimitri, the project has begun. Soon I will have my revenge on Illya Nicovetch Kuryakin.”
Dimitri Savinov face paled dramatically. He had just signed his childhood best friend’s death warrant. He stood up and faced the threat sitting before him. “Must you go through with this? It has been twenty years since the two of you have crossed paths. What could he possibly have done to you or do to you in the future? Please, Comrade, even as a child Illya Nicovitch saved my life and that of a dozen others during the war. How can you do this to him now?”
“Enough, Dimitri! You forget yourself. If you had not provided the information I needed you would be spending the rest of your life in the gulag. Your family would starve and maybe sent to the gulag as well. I suggest you forget about Kuryakin and go about your business as if you never knew him.”
“Yes, of course.” Dimitri Savinov swallowed nervously. “You do promise, Comrade, that from now on my family and I will be safe and left alone?”
“But of course, I am a man of my word.” He paused and studied the man in front of him. “You may go now, Dimitri.”
But Dimitri Savinov did not move. “Excuse me, comrade, but what about the money you promised me?”
“Is it not enough that I have spared your life, Dimitri? But of course, as I have said, I am a man of my word.” The Lieutenant Colonel pulled a ring of keys from his pocket and unlocked the lower right hand drawer to his desk. He reached in and withdrew a canvas bag that clinked noisily as he dropped it onto the desk top. “Here are your thirty pieces of silver, Dimitri. Now take them and go.”
Dimitri blanched at the biblical reference. “No, never mind, I don’t want it!”
“Nonsense, you’ve earned it.” He picked it up and tossed it. “Now get out.”
Dimitri caught the bag reflexively as it was tossed to him. He opened his mouth to say something, closed it and rushed out of the Lieutenant Colonel’s office.
Lt. Col. Anton Nalaborsky picked up his phone and summoned the guard stationed in the outer office. “The man who just left the office...give him a ride to the woods outside of the city and kill him.” He rose from his desk and pushed the curtain aside to view the street below. He smiled as he watched two of his men walk up beside Savinov and escorted him to a black sedan and forced him into it. There would be no danger of Dimitri Savinov ever getting hold of Kuryakin and warning him of his treachery. He turned to the credenza behind his chair and poured his best vodka into a glass. As he observed the scene being played out on the street, he raised his glass. “To you, Illya Kuryakin! Your days are numbered and may you rot in Hell.”
Captain Illya Nicovitch Kuryakin removed his great coat upon boarding the small jet. Late November was chillier than usual and had been happy to find that not only his great coat fit after six years of living in New York City, but also his old uniform as well.
Kuryakin placed his coat and hat in the overhead bin before settling in a threadbare seat next to a window. Other members of the small group also found their seats and buckled up in preparation for take off. No one had taken the time to inform him as to the reason he was so suddenly recalled by his government. Illya knew such an action was possible at any time on short notice however, after so many years he had become too comfortable and complacent in regards to his assignment with U.N.C.L.E. The fact that he wasn’t completely trusted was made clear judging by the way two security officers were never more than a few steps away and never let him out of their sight.
When the plane had reached its cruising altitude and leveled off a naval officer moved to sit next to Illya.
“Good morning, Illya.”
Kuryakin looked at the officer in surprise. It was rare to be addressed so informally by a superior officer.
“Ah, has it been so many years and have I grown so old that you do not recognize me, my friend?” He teased.
Kuryakin looked more closely. “Admiral Petrovsky! Please forgive me for not realizing who you were!. It is so good to see you. I must admit it is a relief to see a friendly face in the midst of all this secrecy and intrigue.”
“I am sorry for such secrecy, Illya, however much is at stake.” He handed Kuryakin a large manila envelope. “Here are your orders. Read them over and then come see me to get answers to any questions you might have.”
“Thank you, Comrade Admiral.”
Admiral Petrovsky nodded approvingly before rising from the seat and moving off to sit with the higher ranking officers.
Kuryakin spent an hour poring over the contents of his orders. He was to report to secret research outpost in the Arctic Circle. He had been specifically requested because his scientific background may help in finding a solution dealing with a naturally occurring problem. The location of magnetic north had changed a matter of degrees. Various predictions by respected scientists indicated the process was accelerating and continuing to move closer to Russia. To make matters more challenging it has been discovered that THRUSH was somehow involved in trying to use the naturally occurring event to find a way to feather their own nest. What and how were still unknown.
Kuryakin rose and moved down the aisle to the front of the plane where Admiral Petrovsky sat.
“Excuse me, Comrade Admiral. I have finished reading the details. However, I get the impression that all I need to know was not revealed in the orders.”
The admiral smiled and turned to the other officers. “See, I told you we had picked wisely.” He then gestured to Illya to follow him to a secluded group of seats.
After the two men had settled in their seats and had been served a round of vodka the admiral began. “Your are correct, Illya, there is more. There is an old enemy of yours that’s is in charge of the research station in question. It is Lieutenant Colonel Anton Nalaborsky.” He paused to see what Kuryakin’s reaction might be. When none but a questioning quirk of the eyebrow was given the admiral continued. “I see that the name is not familiar to you.”
“I am afraid not Comrade Admiral.”
“Well, no matter. But you should know that he is responsible for the death of your friend Dimitri Savinov and his family.” He watched as Illya’s face reddened. “He forced Dimitri to reveal your whereabouts, promising that he and his family would not be harmed. Obviously, he lied.”
Kuryakin clenched and unclenched his fists rapidly at the news about Dimitri. “I do not remember this man. What have I done to him that he holds such a hatred and resorted to killing Dimitri and his family?”
“I do not know, Illya. However, we want you to act as bait. Put yourself in the line of danger so that we may finally catch him and punish him, not only for this treachery but also other indiscretions he has committed. We are fairly sure that he is involved with THRUSH as well. However, exposing Nalaborsky as part of your mission is up to you, Illya. This could very well be a suicide mission for you. What do you say, my friend?”
Keeping his expression emotionless, Illya Kuryakin nodded. “I will do what you ask sir.”
Three hours after Illya knocked on his door to say goodbye Solo stormed into Alexander Waverly’s office demanding answers.
“Calm down, Mr. Solo! I’ve been on the phone with the Russian consulate since Mr. Kuryakin’s orders were issued. It seems that those orders are as much a mystery to the ambassador as they are to us”
“Isn’t there anything we can do, sir?”
Waverly looked at his chief agent. “Nothing. Meanwhile we need to carry on. The organization can’t come to a stand still merely because we no longer have one of our best agents available to us.
“Don’t worry. I have left standing orders for the communications department to monitor all sources for any chatter as to the whereabouts of Mr. Kuryakin.”
Three weeks! Three whole lousy, lonely weeks had passed since Illya left and Napoleon felt helpless. There had been no chatter over the lines of communication. Not a hint that Illya Kuryakin had ever existed. The lack of news was wearing on UNCLE’s CEA. He hadn’t slept worth a damn since Illya’s departure. Nor had he been eating well. He didn’t feel like socializing and he wasn’t taking very good care of his appearance. The man looked haggard and sported dark circles under his eyes. Coworkers tried to comfort him but gave up when he merely snapped at them.
Napoleon sat at his desk slowly plowing through the folders that had been piling up in his
in-box. He had just signed off on one of the files when he was called to Mr. Waverly’s office.
Lisa Rogers looked up from her work as Napoleon approached. Something in her expression told the CEA that he wasn’t going to like what Mr. Waverly had to say.
“Go on in, Napoleon. He’s expecting you.”
The pneumatic doors slid open as Napoleon approached them. Not for the first time, seeing his boss sitting at his desk surrounded by all the latest technology reminded Napoleon of a scene from the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz when the wizard was discovered, except Alexander Waverly was not a fake or sham. He was the real deal and deadly serious.
Waverly looked up from his paperwork. “Ah, Mr. Solo, please have a seat. I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
Napoleon sat in his customary chair painfully aware of the empty seat to his right. He studied the cuticles of the fingers of his left hand as he waited. Waverly finished what he was doing, picked up his pipe and spent the next minute or so getting it lit before looking up. He fixed his eyes on Napoleon.
“I have news regarding Mr. Kuryakin.”
Napoleon sat up a little straighter and leaned forward.
“Well, a friend of mine in the higher ranks of the GRU has informed me of an ongoing operation at a research station located on the polar ice cap close to the north pole. It seems that our feathered friends have found a way to infiltrate the station and influence some of the Soviet research staff.
“What does this have to do with Illya, sir?”
“Apparently, one of the senior officers involved with the research station has an axe to grind with our Mr. Kuryakin. He found out that one of Mr. Kuryakin’s childhood friends knew where your partner was located. The officer convinced a Dimitri Savinov to betray Mr. Kuryakin by threatening to kill the man’s wife and three children. After Savinov gave up the information Lieutenant Colonel Anton Nalaborsky had him and his family killed anyway.
“The Lieutenant Colonel had Mr. Kuryakin recalled and assigned to the research station using Illya’s science background and expertise in quantum mechanics as a reason. It was approved by my friend based on that recommendation and because of his knowledge of THRUSH tactics. The GRU had been keeping a close eye on the Lieutenant Colonel as he has been under suspicion for treasonous acts against the Soviet government. And the Powers That Be were certain that he was out to set Mr. Kuryakin up to be turned over to THRUSH for interrogation and then execution. Make no mistake, Mr. Kuryakin’s skills are truly needed although I’m not at liberty to say why. Apparently he was told of the danger to him. His superiors asked him to volunteer to act as bait to catch Nalaborsky and he agreed. However, his mission may well be a suicide mission.”
“Am I correct in assuming that Illya’s still alive, sir?”
“For the moment, yes.”
“What can we do, sir?”
Waverly, in a rare show of anger and frustration threw down his pipe. “For the moment, not a damn thing, Mr. Solo. Not a damn thing!. The Soviet government has asked us to stay out of it.”
Napoleon began to object but was cut off. “There is one ray of hope, Mr. Solo. The Soviets have asked that we stand by and be ready to move in case they need our help. I will continue to find out as much as I can regarding Mr. Kuryakin’s exact whereabouts. Meanwhile, continue on with your schedule. However, be prepared to drop everything and to make a trip to the Arctic.
After many hours of air travel the Russian Ambassador’s jet landed in St. Petersburg where Captain Illya Nicovitch Kuryakin transferred to a military transport plane. He was greeted as he entered the plane’s hatchway by an army lieutenant.
“Comrade Captain Kuryakin?”
“Yes.” He nodded to the lieutenant and handed him his orders and identification papers.
After checking the documents, the lieutenant stepped aside to let Illya pass through the hatchway. “Welcome aboard, Comrade Captain.” He handed a large paper wrapped parcel to Illya. “I have been informed that you have not had time to procure the usual winter uniform and survival gear. The Lieutenant Colonel has provided these for you. You have time to change before we take off.”
Illya took the bundle, nodded his thanks, and moved to the back of the plane to change. After changing into the warmer winter clothes he headed back to the front of the plane to sit next to the lieutenant. As he finished buckling his seat belt the plane’s engines increased in revolutions and the plane lurched forward towards the runway. Kuryakin turned to the man sitting beside him and spoke above the roar of the accelerating engines.
“I was told I would receive further orders after boarding.”
He was handed a thick packet of papers. The lieutenant smiled as he gave it to Illya. “Welcome to my world!”
As he read through the papers his final destination was revealed. Let us hope not too final, Illya mused. The plane was delivering him and much needed supplies to the Severnaya Zemlya or Northern Lands archipelago, the October Revolution Island to be exact. Illya had heard of the location, of course, but didn’t know much about it. The archipelago was bordered by the Kara Sea to the west and southwest, the Laptev Sea to the east, and the Arctic Basin to the north. The surrounding oceans locked the islands in ice for nine months out of the year. The October Revolution Island was home to several research and weather stations. The Soviets had been quite busy building research stations through out the archipelago since it was first charted in the early 1930’s.
Illya had a feeling that the coldest temperature in Moscow was going to seem like the tropics compared to where he was going. He turned to his seat mate. “Tell me, Comrade Lieutenant, how long have you been assigned to the research base?”
“Two long years. It is not so tedious in the summer when the sun is up for the full twenty-four hours, but this time of year wears a bit thin on one’s nerves. It is just not natural to live in twenty-four hours of darkness. Every winter we have a couple or so of the research team go quite mad. Just last week we lost a scientist who wandered off. Between the polar bears and extreme temperatures he didn’t last long. By the way, how long do you expect to be here?”
“Until my mission is completed,” Illya responded, hoping his death would not be the defining factor for determining the definition of completed.
“Well, you might as well take your time. No one will leave the island until at least March. This flight will be the last until then. The only traveling that will be authorized will be on the island by snowcat, snowmobiles, or dog sled. Not to worry though. It is generally considered too dangerous to travel beyond the boundaries of the station this time of year.”
“Well, we all must go and do as we are ordered and needed,” Illya responded. “Now, if you do not mind I think I will catch up on some much needed sleep.” He turned away from the lieutenant and using his great coat as a blanket he closed his eyes.
But Captain Illya Kuryakin did not sleep. For the first time since he left New York his thoughts turned to Napoleon. He imagined Napoleon storming into Mr. Waverly’s office demanding answers. He smiled to himself as he envisioned the Old Man’s response. He would miss Napoleon. Never would he have guessed that he would become good friends with such an egotistical, capitalistic, womanizing, stubborn American. And to his regret, he doubted that he would ever see Napoleon again.
His next thoughts turned to his mission. He knew damn well that his scientific expertise wouldn’t be, or for that matter, couldn’t be used to study the scientific anomaly that was of concern to the research base. He knew that his focus would be on THRUSH infiltrators and the traitorous lieutenant colonel.
Illya was jostled awake by the landing. When the plane came to a halt he gathered his meager belongings and headed to the hatchway. As the door opened and the stairs were wheeled up to the side of the plane the blast of cold arctic air caught him full in the face giving him a reality check as to the climate he faced at his new assignment.
“Comrade Captain, if you follow me I will take you to the senior officer and get you situated in your quarters.” The lieutenant did not wait for a response. He led Illya down the stairs and across the snow packed ground before entering a quonset hut which acted as an airlock to block the cold from the main building.
Illya was led down a long hallway to a door on the right. Both men entered and removed their hats. The lieutenant knocked on an inner door.
“Come!” came the bellowed command.
The lieutenant walked through first. “Comrade Lieutenant Colonel, may I present Captain Illya Nicovitch Kuryakin. Comrade captain, this is Comrade Lt. Col. Anton Nalaborsky.
Illya snapped to attention and saluted which Lt. Col. Nalaborsky returned. There was no hint of animosity and if he had not been forewarned, Illya would have not have guessed he was being targeted by Nalaborsky. As he stood before the man Illya tried to recall even seeing or meeting him before. He could not.
“Welcome to October Revolution Island, Comrade Captain Kuryakin. We are grateful you will be here to assist us in our research. You will begin tomorrow. Meanwhile, the lieutenant will show you your quarters and where the canteen is located. I imagine you must be famished and in need of sleep after your long journey. I will meet with you in the morning. Dismissed.”
“Yes, Comrade, Lt. Col. Nalaborsky. Thank you.” Illya took a small step back, clicked his heels and saluted before turning to leave.
The lieutenant had left the inner office to give Kuryakin and Nalaborsky some privacy. He retrieved the captain’s billet assignment and handed the paper to Kuryakin when he exited the inner office.
“I did not realize that I was in the presence of such an important VIP, comrade captain!” He gave Kuryakin a mock salute.
“What do you mean?”
“Space is at a premium here. There are usually at least four people to a room. You’ve been assigned your own room with no roommates!”
“Yes, well let’s just say that the research equipment I brought with me will occupy most of the space.”
As the lieutenant showed Illya to his quarters he pointed out the locations of the various labs, the canteen, and the store where personnel could purchase the basics for every day living.
“Here you are, comrade captain, home sweet home. “
Illya looked in and found that his “research” equipment had already been moved into the room leaving little space for him to move around. He emptied his small bag and stowed his gear before heading to the canteen for a much needed meal. Soon after, he returned to his quarters and checked it for bugs and settled in his berth in an attempt to catch up on his sleep. Sleep didn’t come easily. His mind kept replaying the conversation he had with Admiral Petrovsky regarding THRUSH and Lt. Col. Nalaborsky…and of Napoleon. Less than forty-eight hours had passed since his departure and he found he missed his partner terribly.
The next morning Illya found his way to the wing where the labs were located. He walked into the first lab where large computers, ticker tape machines, and various unrecognizable machines lined the walls and formed two columns in the room. He briefly introduced himself and explained that he was checking out all the labs and would return shortly.
The next lab, lab #2, was essentially a space weather station where balloons and small rockets were routinely released into the atmosphere, all the way to the edge of space, to measure radiation levels and the strength of solar flares and resulting solar winds. Those readings help the scientists to predict with a modicum of accuracy when the communications with the outside world would be disrupted or knocked off line completely.
Lab #3 was a weather station designed to measure both short term weather patterns and long term trends in the world’s climate, although the northern hemisphere was the subject of scrutiny.
Illya introduced himself to the personnel in each lab. Most gave a quick nod before turning back to their instruments. However, one scientist in lab #3, a medium sized brunette wearing a white lab coat approached him.
“Hello, Comrade Captain Kuryakin. My name is Natasha Morozova. I am the head scientist in this lab. I understand you have been sent here to assist us with our research on this natural anomaly.”
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Comrade Morozova, but please can we drop the formalities. Call me Illya. But, yes I have been assigned here to assist in any way I can, although I am not so sure that quantum physics will be much help in solving the problem of magnetic north drifting south towards Siberia.”
“That may be true, Illya, and please call me Natasha. Obviously there is nothing anyone can do to stop the migration of magnetic north. Geological studies show that the poles have reversed more than once in the earth’s past. It is believed the last full reversal is to have been 773,000 years ago.”
“And what impact will such a phenomenon have on Earth and its civilizations?”
“We do not know, hence the research. There are a plethora of theories and predictions. Some say the process will be so gradual that the world’s inhabitants will simply adjust. Some theorize the world climate will change drastically giving rise to larger and stronger storms or weather patterns, partly due to atmospheric changes and temperature changes to the ocean currents.
“We do know that the drift in the magnetic pole can cause havoc with transportation in both aero and oceanic shipping industries. Some even are beginning to predict a doomsday scenario and we are seeing the beginning of the end of the world!”
“And what is your take on the situation, Natasha?”
“I am not sure. Since meteorology is my specialty my focus is on the weather trends. I have seen a trend towards longer and stronger storms but that can be the result of several factors, including mankind’s impact on the environment. Although I have not pushed that theory to the powers that be as it is very unpopular among the governments of industrialized nations.”
Left with the sobering thought of what could become of the world if there was a reversal of the poles, Illya said his goodbyes and returned to lab #1.
He was met at the entrance by a young mustachioed scientist wearing metal framed glasses. The scientist’s stare bored into Illya as if looking right through him. I have finally found someone who can out glare me! he thought, giving Illya the impression that the man standing before him knew what Illya was up to.
“Hello. My name is Kazimir Yerokhin.”
“Illya Kuryakin at your service.”
“I know!” he replied bruskly. “Tell me, Comrade Kuryakin…”
“Comrade Captain Kuryakin, if you please.” Illya tapped the officer insignia on his uniform.
“Of course, Comrade Captain Kuryakin. My apologies, but tell me comrade captain Kuryakin, and please forgive my bluntness, but what the hell are you doing here?”
If Illya was taken aback by this man’s verbal challenge he didn’t show it, but merely responded, “The same thing you are Comrade Yerokhin…following orders.”
The young man backed off slightly. “Yes, of course. But I have read your file. While you are certainly well qualified in the field of quantum physics I noticed that you have had no training as a geomagnetist.”
“You are quite correct, Comrade Yerokhin. Perhaps our superiors felt that even though I am not a geomagnetist my background in physics and meteorology may allow me to be of assistance.”
“Perhaps so, comrade captain. But I must warn you that in the past we have had personnel come here to help and I am convinced that some of them came to spy on us either on behalf of our government or for those entities that would try to use our research against us. Be warned, comrade captain, I do not trust you and will be keeping my eye on you.”
“Fair enough, comrade, but distrust and suspicions work both ways.”
After his discussion with Kazimir, Illya left lab #1 to meet with Lt. Col. Nalaborsky. As he entered the outer office the lieutenant colonel’s secretary announced Illya’s presence. “He’s expecting you, comrade captain. Please go in.” Illya opened the door and approached Nalaborsky’s desk.
“Good morning comrade captain,” greeted Nalaborsky after returning Illya’s salute. “I trust you found the labs meet your expectations.”
“Yes, sir. I am impressed by the quality and quantity of the equipment, sir. However, I must admit that in some of the scientific areas of research I do feel a bit out of my league.”
“Perhaps, but with your background and reputation I am sure your assistance will be highly valued. I expect you won’t have any hardships here except enduring the darkness.”
Illya cocked his head slightly as that last statement came out of the blue. “Sir?”
Nalaborsky paused giving Illya a hard look. “Living conditions can be quite harsh here at the base, comrade captain, even dangerous.” Watching Illya’s reaction carefully, Nalaborsky continued. “But not nearly as hard as living on the streets of Moscow during the war, do you not agree?”
Illya kept his expression neutral. It appeared Nalaborsky had signaled the beginning of his campaign against Kuryakin in that seemingly innocent statement. Illya knew the man sitting before him was fishing to see if he had been recognized.
“We all faced great hardships during the Great Patriotic War, comrade lieutenant colonel, but you are correct. Conditions here at the base do not compare to those days. In those times we all persevered to survive and do what we could to help the cause. I promise you I will endeavor to do what I can here to help my country lead about and prepare for the possible problems the magnetic shift might cause.”
Nalaborsky studied Kuryakin for a long silent moment, trying to discern if there was any hidden message of threat in what the captain had said. Finally, he said, “Very good, comrade captain. I will be checking with you now and then to see how you are getting along. Meanwhile, do not hesitate to bring to my attention anything you might need or if you have concerns.”
“Thank you, comrade colonel. I shall do so.”
Before Illya stood up he surreptitiously planted a bug under the chair in which he was sitting. He saluted and left. When Illya left the office, Nalaborsky picked up the phone. “Hello? Yes, he suspects nothing. If all goes as planned I will be able to hand him over to you in a few weeks. No, don’t worry. He’s not going anywhere. He’s stuck here like the rest of us.”
As he walked down the hallway Illya couldn’t help but feel all the saluting and formalities were getting tedious. He had forgotten how much he hated military rituals. Damn he missed the more relaxed atmosphere of the west.
The next four weeks Illya worked in the labs assisting where he could. He kept to himself for the most part, interacting little with his colleagues. Some were suspicious of him while others merely attributed his lack of sociability to the environment. Kazimir Yerokhin continued to shadow Illya, making no attempt to hide his wariness. More than once he found himself at the captain’s door listening to what sounded like radio transmissions although he wasn’t sure. He did report the activity to the lieutenant colonel as a good and loyal soviet should. Natasha requested Illya’s assistance the most and he was glad to help. She had an easy going manner and was more informal than her colleagues which gave him a chance to relax and be more himself.
After a month, Illya was no closer to finding who were the THRUSH infiltrators, with the exception of Nalaborsky. He made daily reports to Admiral Petrovsky who shared his frustrations. He did ask the admiral for a background check on several people whom he thought might be suspect but each report came back exonerating the person in question.
Illya began to wonder if his mission was a waste of time. Even Nalaborsky was behaving himself.
However, Illya began to rethink his assessment as he became the target of what some might call pranks. He ended up covered in minor burns on his face and hands when someone in the canteen tripped while carrying a steaming cup of tea. Once, as he was preparing to run an experiment using data that lab #1 had provided found his computer had been sabotaged . It was an easy fix when he discovered the problem, but those cables did not cut themselves. The incidents became more serious causing Illya to end up in the infirmary for two days.
All personnel kept their arctic weight outerwear in the quonset hut. Each person was assigned their own lockers which were clearly labeled with their names. Someone had taken the insoles of Illya’s arctic boots and soaked them in lye. Illya had been outside helping with the sled dogs, a chore which he detested as they reminded him too much of the wolves that roamed the forests and ruins of bombed out towns during the war. The dogs had to be relocated every few days to a clean area. That meant that the gang line, which was a long chain staked into the snow to which fifteen dogs were fastened by shorter, lighter chains, had to be pulled up, moved, and restaked. At the same time fifteen excited dogs made the task chaotic as they tried to break loose or jump up on the nearest person, often knocking that person down.
Within a few minutes Illya noticed his feet hurt. He couldn’t do anything about it until the dogs had been taken care of. By the time the chore was completed an hour had passed. His feet were on fire and he could no longer stand. He knelt down in the snow and yelled out in pain. The crew member also working with the dogs ran over, got Kuryakin to his feet, and helped him inside.
“My feet!” He gasped. “Get my boots off. Something is wrong with my feet!” he hissed. The base doctor arrived with a gurney and wheeled the captain to the infirmary where his feet were treated with soap and water and then vinegar. An investigation showed the insoles had been soaked in lye and there was no question it was a premeditated attack. A report was submitted to Nalaborsky.
Kuryakin was released two days later. He wore slippers over his bandaged feet. The burns could have been much worse if a stronger lye solution had been used. It was clear to all that what happened was not someone’s idea of a prank. Rather, it was a clear warning that illya was a target and he had better take heed.
Nalaborsky summoned Illya as soon as he left the infirmary. “So how are you doing, Kuryakin?” The lack of formality did not escape Illya’s notice.
“I will be fine. It will be a while before I can run a marathon but I am able to perform my duties in the labs.”
“Yes, well, perhaps if you made a better effort of getting to know your colleagues and socialize a bit you would not be the subject of such foolish and sophomoric pranks.”
Illya replied frostily, “I think we both know, lieutenant colonel, that this was more than a school boy’s prank. Such activities are an endangerment to the mission here and I am compelled to make a report to our superiors.”
“Ah yes. I am aware of your daily reports to Admiral Petrovsky. I trust you haven’t had much to relay, except all is well. I do run a ‘tight ship’.”
Illya did not reply.
“I must request that no more reports be made in the near future, however, captain. The scientists in labs one and two say a solar wind is about to buffit the earth’s atmosphere. They will be running experiments to study how radio signals are affected. If you send a signal the potential for that radio frequency to skew the experiment data is great. You understand, do you not?” He looked threateningly at Illya.
Illya knew it was a lie, but he shook his head in agreement, playing the good little soldier. “Of course, comrade lieutenant colonel.”
Illya Kuryakin limped out of Nalaborsky’s office and headed towards Natasha’s lab. He needed a friendly face and the lab is one of the few places he could relax. As he made his way to the lab he ran through his options of how to proceed with dealing with Nalaborsky and whomever his contacts were. He noticed the listening bug had been removed from the chair in the lieutenant colonel’s office. No surprise there. Any good soviet knew to check for bugs. It didn’t matter as he had made recordings of all the discussions, official and unofficial, Nalaborsky had . The only problem was he had only one side of the conversations recorded so he had no idea to whom Nalaborsky had been speaking. He wished he had been able to tap the phone instead, but so far he had not had the opportunity to do so. Maybe he would get such an opportunity in the next night or two. He had decided to heed Nalaborsky’s order for no more radio transmissions., not because he was worried about the experiments but he and Admiral Petrovsky had arranged that if transmissions cease it would be time to for support troops to land on the island and move in. His sixth sense told him matters would be coming to a head soon.
Illya entered Lab #3. The room was darkened except for a dimly lit corner where the lamp on Natasha’s desk cast a halo. Natasha sat at the desk putting the finishing touches on a report. She looked up. “Illya! I haven’t seen you in a couple of days. I heard you had been injured.” She looked down at his bandaged and slippered feet. “Oh dear, are you all right?” She stood up and moved from behind her desk to give him a quick hug.
“I’ll be fine, Natasha. Someone apparently feels I do not belong here and is making it clear. I get the distinct impression he is not working alone.” Illya relaxed a bit in her arms and leaned forward to give her a chaste kiss. As he did he glanced over her shoulder at the credenza behind her desk and froze. Sitting in the umbrella of light like actors on a stage under a spotlight lay the bug that had had left in Nalaborsky’’s office as well as the small reel to reel audio tapes Illya had used to record Nalaborsky’s conversations. “What are those?” he asked feigning innocence.
The nerves in the skin along his left temple sang out their warning as the touch of cold steel made itself known. The odor of gun oil and powder clung to the barrel. Natasha chuckled. “Oh I believe you know exactly what those items are,” she crooned. “We’ve been waiting for the right time to bring you down, Illya or should I say Comrade Captain Kuryakin. No, no, I think we should address you by your most recent title, UNCLE agent Kuryakin.”
Before he could make a break to escape, five men came out of the shadows, overpowered him, and bound his arms, hands, and feet with rope and computer cables before sitting him in a chair. “Take him up to the brig. The lieutenant colonel wants him to spend a few days in it before he has a serious tête- à- tête with our spy.”
As the men left hustling Kuryakin out the door, one last figure appeared out of the shadows. “I hope I did the right thing by turning Captain Kuryakin in to you. I have been suspicious of him since the day he arrived, I just wanted to do my duty as a loyal soviet.”
“You did exactly the right thing, Comrade Yerokhin. It is people like Kuryakin who strive to bring the Soviet Republic to its knees. I would not be surprised to see you receive the ‘Hero of the Soviet Award’ for your actions over the past few weeks. Now I suggest you go about your regular duties and speak of this to no one.”
“Yes, Comrade Morozova, of course.” The man left the lab puffed up with pride that he was the person responsible for catching the evil spy Kuryakin.
Natasha Morozova smiled as she turned back to her desk, wiped down the pistol with an oil cloth and put it in the lower left drawer muttering, “I hope you die better than you spy, Illya Kuryakin.”
“Mr. Solo, Mr. Waverly would like to see you.”
“Sure, Lisa. Do I have time to finish up reading and signing off this report first?”
“He said immediately, Napoleon.”
“On my way.” Napoleon’s adrenalin had ceased spiking with every call from the Old Man’s office. At first, during the first several weeks after Illya had left, he hoped it was regarding his partner and simultaneously feared the news would be bad. As the weeks turned into over a month he had stopped anticipating such news. He put on his suit jacket, straightened his tie and headed to Waverly’s office wondering what mission he would be sent on this time.
Napoleon walked through the pneumatic doors to Mr. Waverly’s office.
“Pack your bags, Mr. Solo, and be sure to pack your fur lined underwear. You’re headed to the Arctic Circle.”
“What? You’ve heard from Illya!”
“No, Mr. Solo. I have not heard from Mr. Kuryakin. The problem is that neither have his Soviet handlers. He has missed the last four check ins. It is feared that Mr. Kuryakin has been killed or at the very least, turned over to THRUSH. Admiral Petrovsky, who assigned Kuryakin to the mission, is sending in a team. The timing couldn’t be worse. Officially, no transportation to or from the October Revolution Island is allowed until sometime in March due to the unpredictable weather. And as luck would have it, one hell of a storm is brewing off to the west of the archipelago. The plan is to go in by submarine. Much depends on the thickness of the ice in the area.
“The Soviets want you to participate due to possible THRUSH involvement and the fact that Kuryakin was your partner before his reassignment.”
“When do I leave, sir?”
“Just as soon as you’re packed. There is a helicopter waiting to transport you to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey where you will fly by an F4 Phantom fighter jet to West Berlin. From there you will cross through Check Point Charlie and meet up with Admiral Petrovsky. He will fill you in from there. Do you have any questions?”
“Ah, no …yes…no. I’m sure that any questions that can be answered will be done by Petrovsky’s people.”
“Yes, quite right. Well you better be off. The helicopter is waiting.”
“I’m already packed and ready to go.” At his boss’s questioning look, he explained, “I’ve been packed since you told me where Illya had been assigned.” With that Napoleon rose to leave. Just as he was about to cross the threshold Mr. Waverly called out to him.
“Mr. Solo, good luck! And bring Mr. Kuryakin home.”
Napoleon gave Mr. Waverly a grim smile. “Thank you, sir.” He turned and left. The doors closing silently behind him.
Alexander Waverly stood watching the doors before whispering. “Bring him home alive, Napoleon.”
The brig was a quonset hut set about 100 feet from the base’s main building. It was heated to some degree. Illya guessed it was about fifty degrees Fahrenheit, not cold enough to freeze outright but dressed, or rather scantily dressed, as he was, could subject him to hypothermia over a period of time. His slippers had been taken as well as his shirt. His bonds had been removed and replaced with a set of ankle shackles with only a ten inch long chain between the cuffs. One of the men surely must have been THRUSH as he knew where to look for all of Illya’s tools of the trade. Every item useful for escape or self defense had been taken. It was a moot point however, for an escape would have been deadly. The temperature outside was reported to be -30 degrees Fahrenheit but a high wind brought the windchill factor down to at least -60 degrees. One might be tempted to try running from the quonset hut to the main building but all outside doors were locked securely to keep foraging polar bears out. And he wouldn’t be running with the shackles. To make matters worse, a ground blizzard of blowing snow created a white out making it impossible to know which way to go. No he wasn’t going anywhere soon.
For nearly a week no one came for him except to bring some weak tea and black bread or change out the slop bucket. At least Illya thought a week had passed. There were no lights. Food was not brought regularly and when the night was twenty-four hours and no windows in the hut the measurement of time became meaningless. There was really nothing to do except sleep which was difficult because he could never get warm enough.
Kuryakin had finally drifted off in a fitful slumber when he was awakened by a bright beam shining in his face. He covered his eyes to escape the pain of them trying to adjust to light after being in the dark for so long. His hands were grabbed and he was dragged out of the hut and taken to the main building. He was taken to a small empty supply room near lab #3. A table and chair were in the center of the room. Both were bolted to the floor. Illya was made to sit with his hands chained to a metal loop on the table top. He was then left alone. His initial reaction was relief that he was finally in a warm room. His relief turned to concern when he realized that the ceiling light over the chair was actually a sunlamp, not unlike what Darcy sat under during her down time in the communications room at UNCLE headquarters. Except this lamp was much stronger and larger. The high beam shone down on his head. Within minutes he could feel his scalp burning and sweat poured off his face and neck.
The door opened and Natasha entered, a couple of men came in behind her.
“Oh, you poor thing! Are you too warm? We cannot have that. Comrades help Comrade Kuryakin cool off.”
The men lifted a large five gallon bucket filled with iced water and poured it over the prisoner’s head.
“Now isn’t that better, dear?”
Kuryakin did not answer. “Oh dear, I’m afraid we rendered him speechless. I guess you better turn the heat lamp on again. “Now, Illya, while you are warming up again I would like you to answer a few questions. First, why did UNCLE send you?”
“UNCLE did not send me. I was recalled from UNCLE. The Soviet Navy reactivated my commission. I’m here on orders from the navy. I have a question for you!”
Natasha figured she had nothing to lose. “Go ahead and ask?”
“What is THRUSH’s interest in this base? As I have no doubt that you are THRUSH.”
“To be honest, we no longer have an interest in this base. We found that there is no way to control the magnetic pole shift and that we cannot control the possible weather changes, therefore we cannot influence air travel and shipping lanes to our advantage. And we are stuck here until March.
“At least our mission is not a complete bust as we have you delivered to us thanks to Anton’s need for revenge against you. Now it is my turn. How can THRUSH get past UNCLE’s security systems in New York?”
“I do not know.” Again the radiating heat created unbearable pain.
Another bucket of ice water was dumped on him giving him instant relief before the cold took his breath away and caused him to shiver uncontrollably.
“Illya, dear, we can keep this up for days if we have to. Shall we try again? I want a detailed schematic and codes for all of New York’s security system.”
“I do not know.” Another ice bucket of water. “When I was recalled by our government I went automatically was put through a deprogramming process. I remember I worked for UNCLE, somewhat remember its mission, and I remember THRUSH but I remember nothing else.”
“You are a lying cur dog, Illya Kuryakin!” Natasha yelled. “Turn the lamp on and leave it on for twenty minutes. If he isn’t ready to talk then ice him down. I want it repeated until I comeback. Call me when he is ready to enlighten me about UNCLE.” She stomped out of the room.
Three hours later, Natasha was called back to the room. Illya was slumped over the desk, semi-conscious and babbling in several different languages. The formal UNCLE agent, as she did believe he was no longer working for UNCLE, had burned from the lamp. His skin from his scalp down to his shoulders was bright red and badly blistered. His hair, darkened by the ice baths, hung in limp straggly locks.
A doctor stood up from examining the prisoner. “If you continue this, Comrade Morozova, this man will be dead in an hour, two tops.”
She realized she wasn’t going to get any information from Kuryakin. Perhaps they did deprogram him…she knew THRUSH would do so if the leaders did not kill an agent outright.
“Take him back to the hut. Tomorrow, Nalaborsky can do what he wants with him.”
Kuryakin was taken back to the hut where he was thrown in and the door locked behind him.
Hours later, Illya woke to the pain of 2nd degree burns which covered his head and shoulders. He held still trying to collect his thoughts. Memory of the interrogation came flooding back along with one hell of a headache. He remembered that he didn’t divulge any information. Maybe Natasha believed him about the deprogramming. He was just beginning to be fully aware of his surroundings when the hut’s door slammed open. Again he was shackled and dragged to the main building. This time he was taken to Nalaborsky’s office where the lieutenant colonel sat waiting for him. The agent was brought into the office and forced to sit. The two men then stepped out of the office and stationed themselves at the door incase they were needed.
Wearily, Illya looked up as Nalaborsky stood up and came around his desk. “Relax, captain, we’re just going to have a little talk.”
Nalaborsky perched himself on the edge of his desk and leaned forward enough that his face was mere inches from Kuryakin’s. The senior officer said nothing for a moment, just stared into his prisoner’s face. What he saw was a man with nasty burns and blisters and a streak of stubbornness that should have disappeared after his torture session. With most men it would have.
“Hmmm, looks like Natasha has been using her special skills on you. You are a mess.” He stood up and folded his arms. “You have no idea who I am, Kuryakin, do you! Well, I remember you. You were the snot nosed kid who killed my family and ruined my life.”
With painfully dry eyes, Illya looked at the man. “I am sorry but I have no memory of you. No wonder, you seem to be an easily forgettable person.”
The resulting backhanded blow knocked him out of the chair. He didn’t have the energy to get off the floor so he just laid there trying to gather what little strength he had. The two guards came in without a word, picked him up off the floor and put him back into the chair before leaving.
The blow broke one of the large blisters on Illya’s face causing the fluid to drip down his face. The torn skin hung loosely on his left cheek.
Nalaborsky regained his composure. “Forgettable? Well, let me remind you.
“Think back to 1943. Do remember hanging around one of our encampments begging for food? Well, do you? Do you remember turning in a 16 year old boy to the officers? You accused him of spying. Hah! I can tell by your expression that your memory of that time is returning.”
Illya looked up at him. His eyes hard and defiant. “Yes, I do remember the circumstances. Who could forget. I just did not recognize you as the coward involved.”
Again, Illya found himself backhanded. This time he was able to maintain his seat. He continued bitterly. “You were the one watching the camp and getting chummy with the officers. I remember you would help out in the mess tent and also played cards with the men.” He balled his fists in anger. “I also remember seeing you repeatedly hike over the hills to reach the Nazis. You were pretty chummy with them, as well. I began to notice whenever you went over to their encampment our soldiers were often ambushed. Every time you visited the Nazis more of our men died!”
“So you decided to be the good little patriot and report your suspicions about me to the officer in charge who then took it to the commander. And because of that my younger brother and sister were killed!” Nalaborsky’s face turned red with anger as he conjured up the images from the past.”
“You were a spy, Nalaborsky. Your actions resulted in the death of so many men, including my uncle. I do not believe that the officers would have killed your siblings. I am sorry. But I do wonder why you were not shot.”
“How dare you! The Russians did not kill my siblings, the Nazis did. The Soviet commander decided to let nature take its course. Two of the soldiers threw me in a truck and drove north thirty miles to the wilderness and dumped me. I had no food, no water, and no weapons. They expected me to die. They wanted me to die.” Nalaborsky took a swig of vodka from a shot glass sitting on his desk before continuing. “But I survived. It took me nearly a month of walking. I slept in barns and stole food whenever I could. The Soviet camp had moved on. Good riddance! But some of the Nazis remained. I found out that when I did not return after so many days the Nazis decided I had turned tail.” His voice rose in volume and to a hysterical pitch, “So the bastards took my brother and sister, and hanged them from the steeple of an old church but not before they were tortured!” He hit Kuryakin hard. As the prisoner slumped, Nalaborsky kept him from falling and hit him repeatedly. Finally, tiring from the exertion, he stopped. In a voice that was difficult to hear he said, “I wish I had been shot.”
Illya shook off the threat of unconsciousness. “I am sorry for your family, Nalaborsky. Those days were hard for all of us. But what you did was an act of treason. You lost your siblings, I lost an uncle. Nobody escaped the heartbreak of war.
“How did you keep from being discovered when you found your way back?”
“You were not listening. The Soviet camp had moved on. No one else knew what happened. I let all think that I was dead, then I assumed a new identity and rejoined civilization as a good, loyal Soviet.”
“Apparently you could not leave well enough alone and committed treason again by joining THRUSH.”
Illya prepared for another blow as Nalaborsky raised his hand. Instead the officer lowered his hand. “THRUSH offered me any opportunity to get ahead in life. The government has done nothing to help me. When my assignment is finished here I will disappear and officially join THRUSH.”
“You are a fool, Nalaborsky! THRUSH will leave you in the dirt after they use you to get their own way. You’ll be lucky to see the official end of your time here. The Soviet government knows about your treachery. That is why they sent me.”
“Who do you think asked them to send you?”
The lieutenant colonel laughed. “Well you have done a fine job, haven’t you. No matter you will end up as another statistic. Another member of the base personnel who did not heed the weather conditions and got lost wandering around. When they find you, if they find you, you will be part of the frozen landscape.” He reached for the phone. “Comrade Natasha, please come to my office.”
Natasha Morozova entered. She smiled seeing her victim seated in the chair before him. She noticed some substantial bruising. “Oh, Anton, I see you have further decorated his face. It looks good.” She laughed at her own joke. “What can I do for you, comrade?”
“I would like you to find some men to help you load up five of the dogs and a sled into the number 2 snowcat. Have the sled packed with meteorological equipment. Comrade Kuryakin is going to make a grave mistake while out on a weather balloon launch.”
“Oh, my. Are you going to send him up into the stratosphere with a weather balloon?” She rubbed her hands gleefully.
“Natasha, you do have a sadist streak in you, but no. If his body is found there must be no hint of foul play. He will die from exposure. It’s a dangerous world out there.”
“Very well, Anton. Give me thirty minutes then bring him out to the snowcat.” She left.
The two guards came in and took Illya to the quonset hut where the arctic clothes were kept. They made him don the arctic boots over his bandages after he had dressed in the outerwear.
He hissed as the boots were forced on. The pain from the lye burns was not as bad as it had been but his feet were far from healed. Once dressed they roughly bound his hands behind him.
Illya Kuryakin was not afraid of death. He had cheated it so many times in his life. Although he’d rather go quickly than freeze to death. The skin had been abraded by his bonds from the night before. However, he wanted there to be no doubt that when his body was found that he had been beaten and tortured. The authorities in charge of the investigation should figure it out from the burns and bruises and have no doubt that he was murdered, but to make sure, he twisted his wrists hard pulling at the ropes. He did it hard enough to cause both wrists to bleed profusely. The guards notice it and gut punched him with a rifle butt to make his stop. He did. The damage was done. There would be no doubt as to what happened to him.
The snowcat pulled up in front of the main building where Morozova and Nalaborsky met it. Nalaborsky ordered that Kuryakin be thrown in the back cargo area with the dogs and sled where he was immediately covered with over friendly sled dogs smelling of wet fur. They took turns licking his sore face and sniffing his wounds. At least I will not have to worry about infection, I’ll be dead before that can happen. Actually, he had to admit that the warmth of their bodies pressing against his felt good.
As the snowcat left, no one heard over its engine the sound of surface ice cracking nor detected the dark mass of a conning tower slowly rise above the ice a mile off the shore. As the cat moved towards the back of the main building, white clad men disembarked from the submarine unnoticed.
After an hour of traveling over ice rimmed hills and ridges, the snowcat came to a halt. The wind howled across the cold surface of the snow sending eddies of snow skittering across the icy surface . The cat’s headlights dimly lit the rock pillars the area was known for, but that was all. No trees, no life, just cold endless snow and ice.
The guard dragged Illya out of the cargo area and threw him on the ground before pulling out the sled and dogs. Each time a dog was brought out the guard would stomp on Illya pushing his face into the snow. Each dog strained at its collar eager to get to the sled and run. When all five were in their traces the sled was anchored to the ground to keep the dogs from running off. The meteorological instruments were packed onto the sled. Next Kuryakin was forced to his feet and placed on the sled on top of the equipment.
“So comrade Kuryakin, just as the soldiers left me out in the wildness to die with no food, water, or weapons, so I leave you in a similar state with one exception, you will never make it back. He took a syringe that he had in his pocket and plunged it into Kuryakin’s neck. “Just a small dose of a sedative to help you sleep about thirty minutes. What I like about this is that once you wake, or die, no trace of it will be found in your blood.”
Natasha came up and kissed Illya fully on the lips. “Goodbye my sweet. We could have had so much fun.”
“Go o o toooo hel..” Illya succumbed to the drug before he could finish his sentence.
“Good! You were right, Natasha. THRUSH’s new drug acts faster than any other I’ve seen. Now, let’s get the sled turned on its side to make it look as if it had taken a tumble. Then we’ll kill the dogs with the same sedative so it looks like they died in their traces. When Kuryakin wakes he will have no way to travel back the ten miles, even if he knew which direction to travel. The wind will wipe out our tracks. He is as good as dead.”
They dumped the sled over and placed Kuryakin on the ground arranging his limbs as if he had fallen. Nalaborsky stood over the limp form. “For twenty-five years I have waited for revenge and now I finally have it.” He drew back his foot and kicked the downed man ferociously in the back.” For twenty-five years I have plotted how to repay you.” He kicked him again. “For twenty-five yea…” He jerked upright. A hole the size of a coin centered his forehead and he fell to the ground just as the report of a rifle was heard. Natasha quickly followed. Both bodies lay sprawled on the ground. The guard knelt down and clasped his mittened hands behind his head, to no avail. He was also shot dead.
An eery silence fell. Illya and the dogs were drugged and three dead bodies stared sightlessly into the sky as pools of dark blood flowed across the snow.
The sound of running footsteps approached as the team from the submarine approached. While three of the men checked the shot bodies for any signs of life, another figure approached the very still body of Illya Kuryakin. Kneeling down, he bared his hand long enough to search for a pulse at the exposed neck. Slowly, ever so slightly he felt an encouraging thump against his fingers. “He’s alive. Get him into the snowcat!” Turning back he looked down at the burned, bruised face. “Illya! What have you gotten yourself into? Don’t you dare die! Mr. Waverly ordered me to bring you back alive.”
The three Soviet soldiers that accompanied Napoleon Solo helped to load the injured agent into the snowcat. They also picked up the five dogs in hopes of saving their lives. Perhaps there was an antidote back at the labs that could be used on both Kuryakin and the dogs. The three bodies were left behind. We’ll retrieve them later, unless the polar bears get to them first! Napoleon thought. To Hell with them.
Illya Nicovetch Kuryakin awoke to the mechanical sound of engines and the harsh blaring of voices over an intercom. He had a throbbing headache and chose to keep his eyes closed. He felt an ever so slight movement, not unlike the motion of a submarine traveling submerged, like the one on which he served not so long ago. SUBMARINE! His eyes flew open and he saw cyrillic lettering on the bulkhead, and a Soviet submarine at that. He sat up quickly, or he tried to. Between being loosely restrained and his abdominal muscles rebelling in pain, he could only move a little. He blurted out in Russian to no one in particular, “Where the hell am I? How did I get here?”
He felt a warm hand gently pushing him back into bed. “Easy, Illya. You’re safe.”
Still feeling a bit muzzy he started at the touch of the hand. “Who are y…!” Napoleon? Napoleon! It is you! How did you get here? How did I get here?”
The American agent laughed with relief. His partner was going to be okay. “It’s quite a long story, partner. After you’ve had a chance to rest I’ll come back and tell you. I have permission to take the restraints off now that you are no longer under the influence of the drug Nalaborsky injected into you. As long as you promise to stay put.” Napoleon Solo was practically beaming! Everything was going to be alright. It had been touch and go. Apparently, Illya had a bad reaction to the sedative and would have died if the team had not found the antidote. But now his friend was on the mend. It would take a while to heal from the physical abuse, but he had been hurt worse before.
“Okay, you’re completely free.” Napoleon patted Illya’s hand. “Try and get some shuteye. I’ll be back later.” He turned to leave.
Illya’s hand caught Napoleon’s wrist before the American could leave. “No! Please, Napoleon, tell me what happened? I know I should be dead. Why am I not?”
Napoleon knew he would get no rest and his partner would be less likely to cooperate with the medics if he wasn’t told about the events that landed him on a Soviet submarine.
“Okay, but if you get tired tell me and we’ll finish in the morning.”
Illya nodded. “Thank you, Napoleon.”
“When Admiral Petrovsky did not hear from you for four days in a row he contacted his superiors. They all feared you were dead. It turns out one of the high ranking members of the GRU knows the Old Man and called him, asking him for assistance. They felt it would be better for public relations between them and the western world to have UNCLE help out.
“Of course, Mr. Waverly, sent me. I flew from New Jersey in a F-4 Phantom jet to West Berlin. Have you ever flown at mach 2? It was a blast! Anyway, I crossed through Check Point Charlie, met up with Admiral Petrovsky and learned more about your mission and possible circumstances. Then I was transported to this submarine. There was one hell of a storm developing making it impossible to fly. What’s funny is that once we took off in the sub the storm changed its course and veered north of the archipelago. At least the sub provided a more stealthy approach, though.”
“How did you find me?”
“When we reached the main building of the research base we had to force our way in. We found some of the more senior officers. Did you know that that Nalaborsky character had convinced everyone who was legitimate at the base that you were the Soviet traitor and you were there to destroy the base? Within a few minutes we convinced them that it was Nalaborsky and that woman, Morozova, who were the traitors attitudes quickly began to change. Someone mentioned seeing you leave in a snowcat so we commandeered another one and followed your tracks.
“We could see your snow coach had stopped so we cut our engines about a half mile back and walked, well I really should say ran, the rest of the way. We were about 100 feet away when we saw them throw you on the sled. I guess that was when he drugged you.” Napoleon paused for a second, finding it hard to go on.
Napoleon took a long drawn out breath and released it. “Damn, Illya, I thought he had killed you. I thought I was too late. Then the bastard started kicking you. I aimed my rifle to kill him but the young soldier standing next to me beat me to it. Shot Nalaborsky in the head. Then the woman and the guard were shot.
When we ran up to where you were laying we realized the dogs had been drugged as well. All but one survived after they were given the antidote. You almost didn’t. What is it about you and sedatives anyway? Turns out you’re allergic to it, damn near killed you!”
“It’s a gift, I guess.” Illya tried to lighten the mood. He hated to see Napoleon so distraught.
Napoleon smiled, fully aware of Illya’s attempt at levity. “Well, after we got you stabilized we hauled your sorry ass out to the submarine and brought you into the sickbay. That was no easy feat as you started to regain consciousness and nearly made us drop you through the hatch of the conning tower. And that’s about it.”
“What about those involved with Nalaborsky?”
“We think we’ve rounded them all up. And we have word that a Major Stanislov was arrested as well. He was the one who worked closely with Nalaborsky to get you involved.
“And Illya, I was told about your friend Dimitri and what happened to his family. I’m sorry.”
“Thank you, Napoleon,” Illya yawned loudly.
“That’s it, time for you to get your beauty rest. I’ll see you in morning.” Napoleon turned to leave sick bay but turned back. “And Illya, it’s good to see you.” He smiled. Illya had already fallen asleep.
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!”