"Here! Over here!'
April Dancer ran down the darkened hall toward Illya's harsh
whisper. They met at one of the cell block's steel corners, two
shadows in strike team black, fully assembled U.N.C.L.E. Specials
in their hands. "Which cell is he in?" she whispered.
The chatter of gunfire from outside the compound punctuated Illya's
hushed reply. "Number twelve, according to the 'napping' guard's
log." He pointed with the gun's extended barrel. "That way."
The corridor stretched beyond them, nearly pitch black.
U.N.C.L.E.'s assault team had earlier knocked out the power
generators and now concentrated on keeping Thrush too busy to
restore the outage. The only light came through the occasional
small windows overhead, but at this hour, even the half-moon had
sunk too low to cast anything more than a vague grayness in the
hall. April and Illya moved together, hugging the metal wall until
they came abreast of the cells; a continuous series of vertical
bars that marched off into the black distance.
A short distance down the cell block, Illya's hand tightened on
April's arm, stopping her. "What is it?" she whispered.
Over the continued sounds of distant gunfire, she could hear
something else, something coming nearer to them in the dark halls
of the complex, an eerie, high-pitched whistle that mingled with a
Thrush infra-red rifles.
April's voice was barely audible. "Where are they?"
She heard Illya unclip something from the small arsenal attached to
his belt. "About to round the last corner we did," he said. "Get
April worked the slide on her Special before lying flat on the
floor, the gun held at ready. Above her, Kuryakin stood poised in
the darkness, waiting for the twitter of the Thrush scopes to reach
that final corner... She heard the whisper of fabric, the swift
movement of his arm as he lobbed the magnesium grenade down the
hallway. It struck the floor with a loud pop and burst into a
cloud of blinding white light. Three men in business suits threw
gloved hands up against the flash, their Thrush rifles dropping to
April and Illya's Specials both spat at the same time. Under the
onslaught of tranquilizer darts, all three men toppled, piling into
a heap under the still-glowing smoke of Illya's grenade. Eerily,
the infra-red scopes continued their grating squeal, though their
operators had ceased to care.
Another sound drew the U.N.C.L.E. agents' attention instantly back
to the cell block. A low moan, coming from inside one of the
cells. Kuryakin uttered something short and explicit in Russian.
In a moment the beam of a penlight began raking the rows of bars,
probing hastily at the numbers alongside each cubicle until it ran
across 12 and illuminated a prone figure on the floor. The
penlight instantly extinguished again, Illya moved to that cell
and, unhampered by the dim light, began expertly attaching heat
capsules to the door.
The figure on the floor inside moaned again as the flash of a
miniature explosion melted the lock and the cell door rolled open.
"Napoleon..." Illya knelt in the darkness. "Napoleon, wake up.
We're getting you out of here."
"Don' wanna go anywhere." Solo muttered inanely. "Lemme alone."
April hazarded a guess. "Sodium pentathol?"
"Knowing Thrush, it's probably something stronger. In any event,
we can hardly carry him. Help me get him up."
They pulled a weakly-protesting Solo to his feet and half dragged
him into the corridor. By the time they'd reached the fallen
Thrush riflemen, Solo was walking more or less on his own, though
he still needed their occasional support to navigate the dark
"There's an exit well with a ladder at the end of this corridor,"
Illya briefed Solo as they moved. "Our assault team is holding its
own upstairs, but there are still plenty of Thrush agents down
here. We have to be careful."
They reached the well unaccosted, and April went up the ladder
first to open a hatch that she and Illya had blown on the way in.
Kuryakin had to coax a still-confused Solo up the ladder ahead of
him. They were only half way up the rungs when two bullets whined
off the metal wall near Solo's head. Illya swung to the back side
of the ladder to return fire, back pressed to the wall. His
Special sent rapid fire darts spitting into the dark below.
Several shadows ducked.
"Go on!" he shouted to April. "Both of you, get out! I can hold
Solo, revived by the cold night air flowing down the well, turned
"Go!" As more shots were exchanged below him, an unarmed Solo
reluctantly finished the climb. He accepted the spare Special
April offered, and had aimed it back over the lip of the well to
cover Illya's escape when bullets began whining off the hatch
beside him. He and April rolled into the cover of the nearby
shrubbery, and Solo returned fire at the nameless shapes that had
materialized in the darkness.
Inside the well, Illya Kuryakin had managed to gain only one more
ladder rung between shots at his attackers. With the clip in his
Special nearly empty, and with no time to reload, his escape would
have to be now or never. He depressed the trigger and held it,
pumping a continues pattern of darts into the dark corridor. At
the same time, he climbed, one handed, toward the opening above.
He'd nearly reached the top when several things happened at once --
the Special ran abruptly out of ammunition, power came suddenly
back to life to flood the well, the halls, and the compound above
with blinding light, alarms began screaming -- and a steel mesh
grid rumbled out of some hidden niche to effectively cut off his
Four Thrush rifle barrels peeked around opposite edges of the
ladder-well's doorway. Illya lobbed another magnesium grenade at
them, then watched them jerk back out of sight as the flash of
light gave way to billowing white smoke. It was a last-ditch
effort, and Thrush would know it. He'd just exhausted his arsenal.
Gunfire echoed from outside. Illya recognized the sound of
U.N.C.L.E. Specials answering. In the hall below him, the muzzle
of something considerably larger than a Thrush rifle appeared and
made a hollow, explosive noise. Something burst against the wall
beside him, and an acrid, yellow smoke billowed out. He tried to
stop inhaling before the stuff could reach his lungs, but the
effort came too late. An acute, dizzying nausea overwhelmed him as
his grip on the ladder loosened, and he felt himself beginning to
* * *
"I won't leave." Napoleon Solo sat behind a console in the
commandeered control room of the Colorado desert Thrush complex.
"Not without Illya."
Andrew Jenner, head of the U.N.C.L.E. task force out of Denver
section, paced angrily in front of him. "We were assigned to get
you away from them. We've done that. Our mission's been
"Half accomplished," April corrected. "We were also assigned to
knock out this field base, and in case it's escaped your notice,
the bad guys have regained the upper hand. Jason Abelard is still
down in that cell block maze somewhere, and he's got Illya with
Jenner scowled, and leaned on the console to address Solo.
"Waverly's orders were that we send you home to New York to be
debriefed on the Lambert Affair A.S.A.P. Kuryakin knows nothing
about that case; he can't tell Abelard any of the things he wants
to know. They only want him as bait, my friend, to lure _you_ back
into their clutches. And you're about to let it work!" He paused,
sighing heavily. "All right, look. We've got to get you out --
orders -- but you have my word we'll do our damnedest to get
Kuryakin out of there. Fair?"
"I'm staying," Solo grated.
"Will you be reasonable and follow orders for once? We've got--"
"Jenner..." Solo, rubbing tired eyes, did not look at the other
man as he spoke. "Your dedication to the job may be admirable, but
your logic is lousy. Abelard is a top-ranking Thrush official; his
interest in our affairs is a little broader than my last
assignment. And I'm afraid there's a great deal Illya could tell
them, in time."
* * *
Jason Abelard lounged in a cushioned chair, watching the argument
between Solo and Jenner on a bank of television monitor screens.
He wore a satisfied smile on his lined face. Not far from him, a
reviving Illya Kuryakin was visible behind the glass wall of an
isolation chamber, hands shackled above his head. The Thrush
official ignored him for the moment and watched with fascination as
the conflict on his screens intensified. Napoleon Solo had risen
to confront Jenner head-on.
"I don't give a damn about your regulations," his strident voice
said over the speaker. "I'm not leaving here without Illya."
"Don't be an idiot," Jenner shouted at him. "You're endangering
this mission and going against Waverly's direct orders!"
"He's right," April said to Solo. "Let _us_ go after Illya. You
can get the first plane out of here and deliver that report to New
"No." Solo shook his head defiantly. "No deal. We may have
bungled this thing half way through, but we're going to finish it
on our feet. All of us."
"Fine." Jenner yanked a pen communicator out of his pocket, upended
the tip and slapped the device into Solo's hand. "You explain it
to Waverly, then. He's waiting on Channel D."
While the disgruntled field agent strode a few paces away, the pen
demanded a response. "Mr. Solo, is that you? What was all that
"Uh, nothing, sir. Just having a little disagreement with agent
Jenner over a small matter of... uh... policy."
"Indeed. Mr. Jenner's instructions were to send you packing for
New York the moment you were free. Yet our pilots inform me that
they remain on standby."
"Yes, sir. I'll be on my way just as soon as we clear up a little
problem here. I still have the microdot, sir. Abelard didn't find
it." At this, the Thrush official leaned forward with heightened
interest, listening as Solo went on. "The other half of the
information is in a safety deposit box in the First Consolidated
Bank of Stonetree, New Jersey. The account's in my name."
Jason Abelard produced a Baretta automatic from under his coat,
flicked off the TV monitor, and hurried out the door. From inside
the glass chamber, Illya Kuryakin silently watched the door swing
shut in the Thrush agent's wake.
* * *
Napoleon Solo had scarcely handed Jenner back his communicator when
an undetected door slid open in the wall behind them to reveal
Abelard, the Baretta in hand. "I'm afraid it's your battle but my
war, Mr. Solo," he said. "The three of you will kindly come along
"How did you-? Solo turned to stare up at the camera mounted in the
ceiling above them, a chagrined look on his face. "Oh."
"That was careless of us," April said.
"Hmph." Solo glanced at Jenner. "I think you're slipping in your
old age here, Andy ol' buddy."
Jenner shot him a murderous look as they were herded, hands up,
through the secret entrance and into the tunnel beyond. A short
walk down a sloping path brought them, moments later, to the
monitoring room with the glass booth and its single, manacled
"So, the 'carrot,' in the form of Mr. Kuryakin, has lured you back
to me even sooner than I'd hoped," Abelard gloated as he deposited
their confiscated weapons on a convenient table. He leveled the
Baretta at Solo then, and a crooked smile twisted his lips. "The
microdot, please, Mr. Solo."
The U.N.C.L.E. agent merely stared at him. "Sorry."
"Oh, come now. We can avoid the unpleasantries, can't we?" When
Solo still made no move to comply, the Baretta's muzzle swung to
point at April. "I see we can't," Abelard concluded. "Well then,
we'll begin by killing this one, then Jenner, then Kuryakin. And
lastly you. After which I shall personally dissect you until I
find that microdot."
"Napoleon..." April took an involuntary step back from the threat
of Abelard's gun.
Solo watched until it seemed the Thrush officer was about to pull
the trigger, then said quickly, "All right. The microdot is rolled
into the tip of my left shoelace."
Abelard motioned with the Baretta at April. "Get it."
She knelt slowly to examine Solo's left shoe; the laces looked
perfectly ordinary except that one had a small red speck on its
end. "Which tip?' she asked nervously.
Above her, Solo's voice said, "The one with the red dot."
April grasped the lace and pulled; the tip came away in her hand
with little resistance. When she straightened up, Abelard had his
left hand extended.
"I'll take that," he said.
She dropped the tiny object into his palm, watched him calmly tuck
it into a pocket. He began to circle his three prisoners warily
until he'd reached the room's main door.
"You're forgetting one detail," Solo reminded him as the door
opened to admit two armed Thrush guards. "That information is
useless without the other half."
"Well, that's my worry now, isn't it?" The aging Thrush agent
saluted them with the Baretta before slipping it into a pocket.
"I'm going to join a little assault force of my own, you see. In
New Jersey." He nodded to the guards. "Put them in the chamber
with the other one, then turn on the vacuum pumps. They've all
been so disgustingly heroic, I think they deserve to suffocate
together." He whisked out the door, leaving the two somber guards
to carry out his order.
The little group had barely moved toward the glass chamber when the
entrance to the tunnel rattled open again, and three figures in
U.N.C.L.E. strike team uniforms spilled out into the room. The
Thrush guards spun and fired. April heard Jenner shout something
as she and Solo dived for cover and the U.N.C.L.E. commandos
returned fire. A moment later, both Thrush gunmen were down, and
she found herself being helped off the floor by an apologetic Mark
"Sorry for the close shave, Luv," he said.
Solo and Jenner hastily gathered their weapons from the table.
"Not that we're unappreciative, Mark," Solo said hurriedly, "but
you were about 30 seconds too late to catch the head rat in the
trap. He just went out that door. Come on." He turned back to
April as the others hurried after Abelard. "We'll go," he told
her. "Stay here and release Illya. And be careful. We don't know
how many other Thrushes might still be around."
She barely had time to nod before they were gone. She moved to the
chamber with her own Special in hand, strong-armed the hatch open,
and hurried inside.
"What's going on out there?" Kuryakin demanded as soon as the door
April lay the gun down on a chair and began searching her pockets
for a set of heat capsules. "They're going after Abelard," she
explained. "Hold on, I'll have you loose in a minute."
She'd found the explosive pellets and was about to attach them to
his handcuffs when a loud grating sound came suddenly from behind
"The door!" Illya's shout of warning spurred her too late to
prevent the huge metal hatch from sliding shut. It closed with a
resounding thud, sealing them in. She rattled the inner latch to
"It must have an automatic locking mechanism," she said. "There's
no one out there."
"If you don't mind, I'd prefer not to wait around to find out what
else it has in store." Illya shook the chains above him
impatiently. She quickly affixed the thermite capsules to the lock
hinges on the cuffs, pressed the miniature control on her
wristwatch, and turned away as the tiny incendiary devices flashed
and burned through the metal. The chains rattled as Illya pulled
the cuffs free and slapped at the still-hot bracelets to knock them
away from his wrists.
The second cuff had just fallen to the floor when she became aware
of a soft hissing noise above them. "Illya, the air vents..."
They turned in a circle in the little room, staring up at the
narrow grates just below the ceiling. "Abelard mentioned a suction
pump," she recalled. "It must be taking the air out."
"No." A look of mild alarm crossed the Russian agent's face. "It's
sending something in."
April caught a whiff of the colorless gas then, and began to cough.
Kuryakin pressed a handkerchief into her hand. "Here," he said.
"Cover your mouth. And try not to breathe!"
He snatched up the assembled Special and placed that in her hand.
April watched, momentarily puzzled as he hefted the metal chair the
gun had been resting on and swung it hard at the chamber's
transparent wall. The glass only rippled at the impact.
"It must be bullet proof," she said through the handkerchief.
Kuryakin shook his head. "Even bullet proof glass," he said
between coughs, "is not unbreakable." He swung the chair again,
harder this time, and the sheet glass finally surrendered. It
exploded with a loud pop and the almost musical echo of falling
shards. He reached out to grasp her hand, and they charged through
the shattered opening together, to collapse on the floor outside,
both overcome by a fit of coughing.
Back inside the ruined isolation chamber, the gas jets quietly shut
themselves off, convinced that their shackled victim was by now
Napoleon Solo and Andrew Jenner arrived back at the monitoring
center to find April and Illya still lying on the floor just
outside the splintered remains of the glass chamber. Illya looked
up at them, breathing hard. "You came back in a hurry," he said.
"The others are still hunting for Abelard," Solo told him.
"There's a labyrinth of tunnels down here; he could've disappeared
into any one of them. Are... uh... you two having a good time?"
"Wonderful." April turned over to stare up at the ceiling, drinking
in welcome gulps of the fresh air. "You mind if I retire from any
more rescue operations for a while, though? I think it's bad for my
"And if we can't nab Abelard, what then?" Jenner asked Solo. "He's
got the microdot and he said he had a Thrush team on the way to
that bank in New Jersey."
"Then I wish him luck," Solo said, smiling. "Because all he's got
in his pocket is my miniature lock pick, and there _isn't_ any
First Consolidated Bank in Stonetree, New Jersey."
Illya and April both sat up on the floor. "How very clever of
you," Kuryakin said.
"I try. Oh, and Andy..." Solo gestured at the TV monitors.
"Thanks for the argument back there. Obviously, Abelard bought
"Sure thing. Only next time, _you_ be the bad guy. I have a
reputation to protect."
"Argument?" Illya echoed, lost. "What argument?"
"Never mind," April said. "Just be thankful it worked."
The Russian looked mildly annoyed at her. "Can't I be thankful and
curious at the same time?"
"I only hope," Jenner said, "that we can convince Mr. Waverly to be
just as thankful." Solo's face fell at the mention of his superior.
"Oh," he said in a sick voice. "Mr. Waverly."
Three heads turned in his direction. "What about him?" Illya
"You forgot to tell him..." Jenner began.
April finished. "...that there wasn't any First Consolidated Bank
in Stonetree, New Jersey."
Jenner rolled his eyes heavenward. "You sent Mr. Waverly off on a
wild goose chase? Oh, he's gonna love that!"
Solo dropped into a chair and pulled out his U.N.C.L.E.
communicator. Wearing an expression of sheer, unmitigated dread,
he upended the cap and pulled down the slender antenna.
"Open Channel D," he said meekly.
-- The End --