Chapter 1 - The Crash
August 10, 1967 - Somewhere in the high desert of Arizona - midmorning
Shouts of warning. Metal crunching against rock. A falling sensation. Glass shattering. Cries of pain. Darkness. Silence.
The smell of gasoline permeated the site covering it in layers like a blanket mixing with the dust stirred up by the crash of the out of control vehicle, settling down once again in the dry bed of the arroyo. It was the first sense of awareness that Illya Kuryakin knew after kareening over the edge of the 20 foot embankment just off of a two lane desert road. Then he felt the pain, incredible pain coupled with the sensation of a tremendous weight pressing on his back and legs. With great difficultly and discomfort he lifted his head turning it, spitting sand out and then laying it back down with his right cheek pressing into the sand savoring the coolness, a respite from the intense heat of the Arizona sun. He lifted his left arm to wipe the sand out of his nose, or he tried to do so, but he found his arm was immobile caught under his torso. His right arm was free and after some awkward attempts was able to reach up over his ear, reaching from behind to brush most of the coarse grains from his nostrils.
For the moment Illya could not remember what happened, where he was, or fathom why he was pinned down. He heard a low groan and tried to locate its source until he realized it was from him.
"Illya, are you okay? Oh God." The voice came from behind him and Illya didn't have the strength to turn his head to search for its owner.
"Illya, are you hurt badly?" The owner of the voice moved into Illya's line of sight.
A fuzzy silhouette appeared. The blond agent peered through half closed lids to see an anxious visage with brown hair and eyes.
"Napoleon?" Relief! Napoleon will find a way to get him the help he needs. "Napoleon," he gasped finding it difficult to breathe, "I... I can't feel my legs."
"No, Illya, it's me, Stephen."
"Stephen? I don't know..." Confusion clouded Illya' eyes.
"Stephen Kessler, Illya, we were transporting a prisoner when we were forced off the road. Do you remember?"
Agent Kessler knelt in the loose sand laying a hand on Illya's left shoulder while he assessed the injuries his senior agent might have. It didn't look good. No, it didn't look good at all. The slight built blond agent had been thrown from the car as it rolled down the steep embankment overturning at least once before landing on its roof on top of him. All Kessler could see of his partner was his head and shoulders and his right arm. He could tell that Kuryakin was having a hard time breathing by the shallow gasps he made when trying to talk. The fact that the man was still alive was a mystery. The only thing Kessler could surmise is that the soft sand in the arroyo cushioned the impact.
Kessler, himself, had escaped serious injury. His arm was possibly broken and he felt as every muscle in his body was badly sprained, but he was alive and he was mobile.
Gradually Illya's head cleared allowing him to remember the events that led up to the crash. "Stephen, what about... our prisoner. Is he okay?"
"He didn't make it, sir. His neck was broken when he was ejected from the car. Not that I think it made a difference but there was no way he could break his fall with his hands cuffed behind him."
"What hap...happened to the other car?" He was referring to the car full of THRUSH goons that chased them down the road, bent on stopping the U.N.C.L.E. agents from successfully nabbing their scientist from the Satrapy just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.
"I don't know, Illya, I haven't seen them since the crash. Right now I'm more worried about you."
"I'm okay, I just...just can't seem to...catch my breath."
"No,you are not okay." Napoleon Solo, his Chief Enforcement Agent of Section 2, had warned Stephen about the Russian's stubbornness. "You have a laceration of your scalp, your trapped under a car, having trouble breathing...other than that your just freakin' fine!"
Kessler studied his partner's face, growing more concerned at the blue tinge to Illya's lips. He had to do something soon to relieve the pressure on the senior agent's back and lungs or he would suffocate. He pushed against the car to see if it would budge, causing Kuryakin to cry out it pain.
"I'm sorry, Illya, I've got to get this off of you." There was no response, Kuryakin had lost consciousness.
The rookie agent sat back on his heels. He had to do something soon. The sandy wash was only twenty feet below the road, but it would be a difficult climb back up. Sandy...wait that's it...sand! Sand is easy to dig! Kessler immediately began collecting large rocks. If only he could wedge the rocks under the part of the car covering Illya's back...
Fifteen minutes later, after frantically digging one handed in the sand and placing the rocks in the holes, he turned back to the Russian. Illya's lips were still blue and his face was beginning to turn blue as well. Panic welled up in his chest when he couldn't see any sign of breathing. Quickly and with silent prayer he raised Illya's left eyelid and saw that it was still reacting to light. Next his hand searched out the carotid artery and could discern the rapid fluttering of a weak pulse.
"Hang in there, Illya. Just hang on," he whispered his voice laden with guilt. Kessler began scooping out a shallow depression under Illya's upper chest trying to give it room to expand with a drawn breath. He was able to clear a two inch space. Once again he chanced a glance at Kuryakin's face. It did seem less blue. Now if the rocks would keep the car from pressing his partner further into the ground. As he wiped the sand off of his pants, Stephen organized his thoughts. Now that Illya could breathe more easily the junior agent searched his inside breast pocket for his communicator.
"Open Channel D, this is agent Stephen Kessler. We have an agent down. Open Channel D, please respond." Static was his only response. Either the communicator was damaged or, more likely, the signal was blocked by the sandstone canyon walls. He used his handkerchief to mop the sweat pouring of his forehead and looked up at the sun which was directly overhead. It was about noon. Looking back at Illya, Stephen realized that he needed to get some shade over Illya's head. Using four two foot long dried mesquite and white thorn branches, Kessler drove them into the ground with a rock, two on either side of Kuryakin's head then draped his suit jacket over them to provide a canopy providing shade for the unconscious agent.
Exhausted, he moved into the shadow of a mesquite bush to regain his strength. For a moment there was nothing to do but wait to see if his efforts worked. The accident and energy expended had taken a toll on the young man and without intending to, Kessler drifted off to sleep. Ten yards away, the senior agent he had been so wary of, so in awe of, lay helpless as the sun beat down and the temperature rose.