The Yellowstone Affair
Napoleon Solo suppressed a yawn as he looked out of the UNCLE jet’s window. Already the first snowflakes of a promised storm beat against the Plexiglas pane as the small jet taxied into position of the runway. He was glad the plane was taking off before the weather could ground it. It would be good to get some shut eye after his whirlwind trip across the country earlier that day.
The CEA of UNCLE Northwest and two other Section 2 agents flew to Spokane, Washington, to replace a team of couriers sidelined by injuries when they were intercepted by a squad of THRUSH goons. The microchips each UNCLE agent was carrying were safe, but Mr. Waverly did not want to wait until the original couriers had recovered and was anxious to have the chips delivered to New York headquarters as expediently as possible.
“Mr. Solo, those microchips hold vital information which could lead us to break THRUSH’s security codes. If our Intel resources are correct, the chips will enable us to be several steps ahead of their latest projects. It is imperative that we have that information as soon as possible!”
“Ah, yes sir. Will Mr. Kuryakin be part of my team?”
“No, Mr. Solo. Mr. Kuryakin won’t have returned from his assignment in Berlin until after your flight departs. Also, there is no ‘team’ per se. Once you and agents Petri and Cohen arrive in Spokane you will each retrieve a microchip at which time, for extra security, you will split up and return to New York on three different flights. All three of you will be returning this evening, each to a different airport.”
“Yes, sir. Anything else?”
“One more bit of information that you should know…and only you, Mr. Solo. Of the three microchips, only one is authentic. Neither you nor your agents will know who is carrying a decoy, or as you Americans often say, the real McCoy. Only I will which chip is authentic when it is turned over to me. Because of the extreme importance of the information, if one of you is taken down and you are only carrying a decoy there will be no immediate, if any, rescue. Instead, our resources will focus on the agent with the authentic chip to bring it in safely.”
It did not escape Napoleon’s attention that Mr. Waverly mentioned bringing “it” back safely with no comment about bringing the agent back safely.
“Here is the file on the assignment. You have just enough time to review it before the helicopter leaves for the airport.”
Mr. Waverly looked away from his CEA and concentrated on his briar pipe while turning his attention to a new file. Napoleon recognized the signs of dismissal. He picked up the file from the revolving table and left the Old Man’s office to meet Agents Petri and Cohen and brief them on the assignment.
The pick-up in Spokane was successful with no sign of THRUSH interference, however, the seasoned agents knew not to let their guard down. Each agent left from a different regional airport on an unmarked chartered jet.
“Hi, Ted. How are you?”
“Just fine. Hey, I would like you to meet Sammy Andersen. He is my copilot on this junket.”
Napoleon reached out his hand and shook Sammy’s. “Pleased to meet you. You must be pretty good to be flying with the likes of Ted, here.”
Sammy nodded his greeting and returned his attention to the clipboard he was holding.
“Yeah, Napoleon, you’re in good hands with us,” Ted teased. “We’d better finish our preflight check. We want to get out of here before we’re socked in by the snowstorm. Make yourself at home, Napoleon. We should be airborne in about fifteen minutes.”
Mfu mfu mfu mfu
Illya Kuryakin longed to be in his own bed after his long flight and debriefing, but when the Old Man calls an agent back to headquarters there is no choice but to respond. His foot falls echoed along the steel corridors at the late hour, or early hour depending on one’s viewpoint. It was 02:30.
Overhead florescent lights, dimmed for the evening shift, cast shadows across the planes of his face enhancing the shadows made by his wide brow and deep set eyes. He saw no one else as he made his way to Mr. Waverly’s office. Not many people wandered the halls of UNCLE headquarters at this early hour of the morning.
He entered the large office quietly and stood before the large circular desk until his chief was ready to acknowledge him.
Alexander Waverly briefly looked up from the stack of international communiques laid out before him. It was in the late hours of the evening that he caught up with the huge amount of daily paperwork that passed over his desk.
“Mr. Kuryakin, I appreciate you coming back to the office at such a late hour.”
“Yes, sir. Is there a problem?”
Without a word, Mr. Waverly picked up one of the papers from the smallest stack and handed it to his number 2 field agent. He watched his agent closely for a reaction. For the briefest moment, he saw a flicker of what might have been disbelief? Despair? Whatever it was passed within a second. When Illya looked up his expression was one of a professional; emotionless, all business.
“Sir, has this been confirmed?”
“Unfortunately, yes, Mr. Kuryakin.” Waverly sighed deeply as he fumbled for his pipe. “Mr. Solo’s plane last known location was over Missoula, Montana, heading southeast before dropping off the radar screens. It is believed that it went down in the mountains of the northwest corner of Wyoming near the Montana border.”
“Sir, I would like to head the search and rescue team. We could gather our equipment and be at the airport within two hours. I know that Mr. Slate is avail…”
“There will be no rescue team, Mr. Kuryakin.” Waverly’s voice was so soft that Illya wasn’t sure he had heard his superior correctly.
“Excuse me, sir?”
Alexander Waverly ceased fiddling with his pipe and looked directly at his agent. “There won’t be any rescue mission,” he repeated.
“But, sir!” Illya’s voice incredulous, his accent thickening, “You cannot just abandon Napoleon! He could still be alive! He would not stand a chance alone in the high country. You must let me…”
“That is enough, Mr. Kuryakin! You forget yourself. You are perilously close to being written up for insubordination.” Waverly’s gray eyes snapped with anger. He watched as Kuryakin started to say something then abruptly closed his mouth. The chief of UNCLE northeast expression softened slightly as he handed his agent another communique. “I need you for another mission.
“Mr. Kuryakin, according to this report there appears to be THRUSH activity near Yellowstone National Park. It is believed they have developed a new weapon based on laser technology and is using the remote area to hide their activities. I would like you to catch a chartered flight to Bozeman, Montana, and investigate this report. It will be a solo mission because I cannot spare any other agents at this time. Your cold weather skills as well as your expertise with explosives will be invaluable for this mission. You’d best get down to supplies and pick up what you will need. An UNCLE jet is warming up on the tarmac waiting for your arrival.”
Illya Kuryakin acknowledged his orders with a stiffly polite ‘yes, sir’ and turned to leave. As he reached the threshold of the pneumatic doors his boss called out.
“Oh, Mr. Kuryakin, if you happen to run across Mr. Solo in your travels, by all means bring him home. I don’t have time or the funds to train a new CEA.”
The agent’s eyes met Mr. Waverly’s. With a slight nod of his head he said softly, “Thank you, sir.” He turned and ran to the elevators.
Mfu mfu mfu mfu
A muffled sound wormed its way through the layers of consciousness, niggling at the still form, prodding him to wakefulness. Napoleon Solo opened his eye to darkness. His legs and arms seemed to have a mind of their own, dangling below him. He made an attempt to move only to have a wave of pain travel from his neck to his legs. The pain was so severe it was hard to think clearly, making it easy to slip back into the comfortable darkness of unconsciousness.
Napoleon must have dozed off for a brief moment. When he opened his eyes again he felt heat where there had been a chill, and the muffled sounds that had teased the edge of awareness earlier had transformed into loud snaps and pops accompanied by thick acrid smoke. Coughing violently, Napoleon began seeking a way out of the plane. The glow of flames was enough for him to see the plane’s fuselage had landed on its back and the front of the plane was fully engulfed by fire. He prayed that Ted and Sammy had already escaped.
The trapped agent pulled frantically at the seatbelt that still held him fast to his seat. With a quick yank of the buckle, he dropped from his seat onto the ceiling of the plane with a thud. A cry of agony escaped from him as the fall jarred his legs and back. Again unconsciousness threatened to overpower him. Napoleon shook his head fighting the gray haze that threatened to change to darkness. He knew that if he lost consciousness now he would perish in the fire. Painfully, he pulled himself in the direction of the cabin’s rear door, not giving any thought as to how he would be able to push it open in his weakened state.
Napoleon had always thought that drowning was his greatest fear. However, as he wrestled with the hot handle of the cabin’s door, mindful of the searing heat on his face as the flames approached, he realized that being burned alive was much worse. The flames had spread to the wings where the fuel tanks were located. With a cry of despair, he pushed once more against the door to no avail. The heat of the fire had expanded the metal of the door against the plane’s frame causing the door to jam. Sweat poured down the desperate man’s face as the blast of flames advanced.
Napoleon Solo had run out of time. He refused to die by fire! Grabbing his Special from his holster, he placed the muzzle in his mouth. His fingers tensed on the trigger as the flames raced towards him, golden blue tongues of fire licked at the interior of the fuselage. As he watched the flames with morbid fascination he thought of Illya. Illya would understand the choice Napoleon made. His finger tightened further on the trigger.
The body of the CEA of UNCLE northwest dropped from the burning jet and rolled about fifty feet down a steep slope before coming to rest against a half buried boulder. Churned up snow resettled against his body as it came to rest. The same heat from the flames that caused the door to jam, also melted the snow around the plane causing the plane to shift. The stress of the shifting fuselage caused the already weakened tail section to break off, throwing Napoleon out of the plane and into the snow before he could pull the trigger of his special. Solo’s luck indeed!