Napoleon leaned back in his seat, surveying the area as he waited for his partner to finish getting his own lunch and come back to the table.
The past two days had been hectic; Illya had spent most of his time at the library, researching current events and technological changes, while Napoleon had been touring the city and looking for old associates of theirs from U.N.C.L.E. And then, when they'd found April, they'd discovered that she had been kidnapped by Thrush...
The two of them had agreed that the first thing they would need to do was to get some equipment; skilled they might be, but it would be difficult to mount a rescue operation against Thrush with only themselves and their guns - each of which had only two clips available. After a bit of discussion, they'd finally settled on going to one of the large shopping malls. They'd done about an hour's worth of shopping - Illya had written up a list of common items that would be useful - and then stopped for lunch at this 'food court'.
As Illya came back to the table, Napoleon glanced at his friend's tray, and his eyebrows went up in surprise at the contents.
Illya shrugged, flipping open the New York Times as he sat down. "It was reasonably priced, and I do not believe that it will be that bad," he answered the unspoken question. "And I do need to eat."
Napoleon nodded reluctantly as he unwrapped his sandwich. "I just wish--" he began, and then stopped as he saw Illya stiffen and raise the newspaper to shield his face. "What is it?" he asked quietly, recognizing the intense expression of focused interest.
"Remember that we have come forward 21 years," Illya replied, meeting his eyes, "and then turn around and tell me who that woman in front of the electronics store is."
Shifting in his seat, Napoleon glanced unobstrusively around, and then froze for a moment as he caught sight of the woman Illya had mentioned. Aside from the fact that her hair was now silver, she hadn't changed; she was still as beautiful as ever.
He turned back to Illya, feeling stunned. "Angelique."
Illya nodded. "And if Angelique is here in Manhattan..."
"...And we know that Thrush kidnapped April..."
"...Then it's likely that Angelique can lead us to where April is," Illya finished.
They looked at each other, sharing a sudden feeling of anticipation.
"Do you have everything you think we'll need?" Napoleon inquired, gesturing at the plastic bags strewn around their feet.
"If Angelique leads us to the Thrush base," his partner returned, "then yes - they will get us in, and then we will be able to use what resources are available there for the rescue. It would mean that we will not have to concern ourselves just yet with finding another source of ammunition for the Specials."
Napoleon grinned, his expression predatory. "Sounds like a plan to me," he replied.
Ten minutes later, as Angelique walked out of the mall and toward the silver Ferrari parked on the second level of the lot, she didn't notice the two men that trailed along after her. Nor did she see the trunk lid of her car rise several inches and then shut again as she paid the parking attendant. And as she drove out of the parking lot, she was oblivious to the fact that the weight of the items in the trunk had more than tripled.
Control slumped in the couch as the tape continued; the guarded expression on his face made it obvious that he wasn't entirely happy with the fact that Mickey and McCall were hearing it.
As the tape hissed, indicating that the recorded conversation was over, he reached out to press the 'stop' button.
"Well?" McCall said pointedly. "Are you going to tell us why these people seem to believe that U.N.C.L.E. is still active?"
"What makes you think I know that?" Control demanded.
"Perhaps it's the fact that they also seem to believe that U.N.C.L.E. has possession of the microdot," Mickey suggested from his position against the kitchen counter. "The one that Schwartz passed to me, and that I gave to you. They sounded fairly certain about it. And the two men were definitely worried that U.N.C.L.E. could pose a threat to them."
"So what you're suggesting is that I gave the microdot to U.N.C.L.E. - assuming the organization still exists, of course," Control added.
"Well, you were the one who had the microdot," McCall replied. "And the question of whether U.N.C.L.E. still exists is one that I would like an answer to."
Control looked at McCall for a minute. His eyes flickered to Mickey, and then went back to his friend, decision made. "Yes, U.N.C.L.E. still exists," he said slowly, taking a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh. "Aside from U.N.C.L.E. agents - and now, it seems, Thrush - you are only the eighth and ninth people in the world to discover this information. It must remain a secret."
"Why is that?" McCall demanded.
"Because U.N.C.L.E.'s mandate has never changed. They've got people infiltrated into almost every intelligence organization in the world; which means that the result of people - of governments - discovering this information could be absolute chaos. That's something that none of us can afford, Robert, especially with the political climate the way it is today. With the Cold War ending, and the definite possibility of the Communists going out of power in the Soviet Union, U.N.C.L.E. is needed now more than ever."
"So why didn't you just tell us about U.N.C.L.E. on Saturday, then?" Mickey asked. "You know, it would have been nice to have some backup at the warehouse, just in case things went sour."
"But they didn't," Control pointed out.
"They could have. If those three," Mickey gestured to the tape, "had been just a bit more careful in looking around, they might have spotted me. And if they had, I would have appreciated someone to help me get my butt out of there."
"Look, I shouldn't have even told you what I have," Control snapped out. "There are reasons why so few people know about U.N.C.L.E., and Section One likes it kept that way."
"I think it's reasonable that we should know," McCall countered, leaning back in his chair and taking a sip of his coffee. "After all, we're the ones who have found out where Thrush is hiding at the moment."
"Like I said, Robert, Section One believes very firmly in the policy that the less people who know that they exist, the better. Those of us who do know have been sworn to secrecy, and undergone conditioning; the only reason I'm able to confirm it is that this tape has essentially already told you."
McCall blinked in surprise. "You? You've undergone conditioning?" he exclaimed.
Control nodded. "I agreed with the necessity. I didn't like it, but as I said, there were some very sound reasons." He looked at McCall and Mickey.
"There's still the problem of the U.N.C.L.E. agents Thrush has captured," he continued. "Miss Dancer... that would be April."
Mickey started, taking a step forward. "April?" he repeated in surprise. "You mean April in the Soviet counter-intelligence division? That April?"
"Yes, that April." Control frowned. "I knew that she was an U.N.C.L.E. agent; I didn't realize that she was in Section One, however...
"And as for Mr. Slate... Mark Slate is Number Three of Section One - the second highest ranking U.N.C.L.E. official in the western hemisphere. They both have to be rescued; we simply cannot afford to let them stay in Thrush's hands."
"And I suppose that you expect us to rescue them?" McCall put in.
Control looked at them. "It shouldn't be as hard as you might think," he returned. "You've both worked with April; you know that she's field-rated. All you'll need to do is get her out of wherever they've got her and put a gun in her hands; she'll be able to help you from there."
"Assuming they haven't done anything to her, or to Mr. Slate," Mickey pointed out. "It's still long odds, Control. We don't even know how many people they've got in that warehouse; I only saw five cars, but that doesn't necessarily meant that there's only five to ten people there. I'd much prefer to get a better idea of the numbers before trying to pull this off."
For the first time in quite a while, McCall and Mickey saw Control's cool slip. "We don't have the time for that, Kostmayer! I'll put in a call to U.N.C.L.E. and try to get you some backup, but we need to rescue April and Slate ASAP. And the two of you have the best chance of anyone I know of pulling it off!"
McCall and Mickey exchanged a look.
"Not much choice, is there," Mickey commented. He raised his coffee mug in an ironic toast. "Here's to impossible thing #2," he added.
McCall shook his head, and then both men turned to look back at Control. "Well, I guess we do a rescue mission," McCall said.
In the parking lot of the warehouse, the video camera that Mickey had left running in the building across the street was the only thing that saw the lid of the Ferrari's trunk open. There was no other movement for a minute or two, while the men lying inside the trunk waited to see if the action had been noticed. When it became clear that no one was coming to investigate, the lid was pushed all the way up and Solo and Kuryakin climbed out.
"Either Angelique - and Thrush - are getting careless, or we're in more trouble than we think," Napoleon commented, looking around for any signs of a guard.
"Or, quite possibly, they have become overconfident," Illya suggested. "After all, as far as they are aware, no one knows that they still exist."
"Let's hope that that's it," Napoleon said. "I'll take the right, you take the left; we'll meet up in front."
Illya nodded in agreement, and they both started for the warehouse.
Five minutes later, Illya peered warily around the corner of the building, and a grim smile crossed his face. As they'd suspected, the warehouse's entrance was guarded; two Thrush agents, dressed in the familiar uniforms, were standing by the door. Both of them looked bored.
That won't last much longer, Illya thought to himself, a wicked grin crossing his face momentarily as he reached into one pocket of his jeans and pulled out a small plastic ball. By now, Napoleon would be in position...
Shooting another glance around the corner, he hefted the ball, and threw it onto the pavement just in front of the guards. The plastic broke, and clouds of smoke billowed out.
While the guards were distracted by the smoke, Illya crept up behind them, not surprised to see his partner doing the same thing from the other side. It took only a moment to knock them out, and Illya found himself battling a strange sense of déjà vu as he struggled into one of the uniforms. This was exactly how their last affair had started, knocking out a pair of guards and sneaking disguised into a Thrush base.
Looking up, he found Solo's brown eyes fixed on him; Napoleon was thinking the same thing.
"This time, let's make sure that they can't wake up and go running for security," his friend suggested.
Illya grinned as Napoleon motioned to the guards' feet, and the partners trussed the guards securely before gagging them with their own socks.
"Terrible hygiene," Illya commented, as he opened the door.
"Yes; they really should take the time to wash more often," Napoleon agreed, grinning. "Come on, let's go."
Neither of them thought that they'd be able to stay unnoticed for long, despite taking the precaution of tying the guards up; the best they could hope for was that no one would spot them before they actually freed April. They would have to move fast.
Just inside the door was a bank of security monitors, with another guard watching them; Napoleon shot him with a sleep dart before he even realized that they were there.
While Napoleon dragged the unconscious guard outside, Illya studied the security console, trying to figure out where April was being held.
It didn't take too much work; one of the monitors was labeled 'Cells', and was presently showing a small room occupied by two people: April, and a grey-haired man... Mark Slate!
"Napoleon!" he called softly.
"Find her?" his friend asked, coming back in.
"Found them," Illya replied, gesturing to the monitor. "Mark's there as well."
"Well, this is going to be quite the reunion... Where are the cells?"
"There's a set of stairs just around the corner," Illya said, pointing at the map displayed on one of the monitors. "We go up a flight, and they're just through the second door on the left."
"Right, then, let's get moving," Napoleon said, tossing Illya one of the guns he'd taken from the guards they'd knocked out. "We probably won't have that much time before someone learns that these guys aren't on duty any more..."
Illya raised his eyebrow, already starting for the stairs. "Then why are you standing around talking?" he inquired innocently.
They took the stairs at a careful run, but the Solo luck ran out as soon as they exited the stairwell. Peering along the corridor, Napoleon held up one hand to tell Illya to stay where he was.
"What is it?" Illya whispered, worried.
"There are two guards at the end of the corridor," his partner said quietly, over his shoulder. "They seem to be concerned about something."
Illya crept up next to him, and looked around the door.
As Napoleon had said, there were two guards in Thrush uniforms at the end of the corridor, standing in front of a security console that appeared to be a match for the one by the entrance - which meant that either way, they were going to have to be taken out. Then, as he listened for a moment, he heard what had alarmed Napoleon.
"Have any of the alarms been set off?" one of the guards was saying.
"No... but something's definitely wrong with the upper-level cameras," came the reply. "They seem to be on the fritz."
Upper-level? But we came in on the ground floor... Illya thought, confused. He frowned and looked at Napoleon, who appeared just as puzzled as he did. Could there be someone else here as well?
However, they didn't have time to worry about that. They hadn't yet been noticed, but that safety wouldn't last for more than another minute or two at most - and they would need to take as much advantage of that time-margin as possible.
Solo's eyes flickered around the corridor, and then he looked back at Illya. With the peculiar ability that had made them U.N.C.L.E.'s best field team, Illya knew exactly what his partner was thinking. I'll distract them; you get Mark and April out.
He gave Napoleon a quick nod of acknowledgment, and then, crouching low, made a run for the door leading to the cells.
He had gotten halfway there when one of the guards turned around and saw him. Yelling for his companion to sound the alarm, the guard started to raise his rifle to fire, and then fell back, dead, as Napoleon got him first. However, the time it took for Napoleon to fire was enough for the other guard to press whatever button triggered the alarm, and Illya muttered a Russian curse under his breath as he shoved open the door and hurried in, his gun drawn.
Unable to get back to sleep after their lunch - which neither had touched - had been delivered, April and Mark had resorted to playing a game called Botticelli that Napoleon and Illya had taught them.
Mark had won the last round and was leaning against the wall by his cot, whistling tunelessly, as April tried to decide on her next question. She was just opening her mouth to ask if he had written "Piano Man", hoping the popular music question would stump him, when they suddenly heard a muted burst of gunfire.
A second later, an alarm started ringing, and the door to the main room burst open, admitting another Thrush guard.
As he approached, April found herself frowning. The uniform beret, combined with the fact that she could only see him at an angle, managed to hide his features; but something about the way he moved seemed familiar - very familiar.
Their guard - Brathe, his name was - stood up as the other approached. "What's going on?" he demanded.
"It's time for a prisoner transfer," came the reply, in a sardonic tone.
April saw Mark's head jerk up at the voice, even as she stared in disbelief. It can't be... he's dead! Mr. Waverly declared them dead...
"Wha--?" Brathe started, and then collapsed as the other man shot him in the chest.
Bending down, the second man grabbed the keys from Brathe's belt, and then hurried toward their cell. "Come on," he said, shoving a key in the lock and absently pushing back the Thrush beret he wore, "we've got to get you out of here."
April sank down to her cot, staring at the man in front of her. "Oh my god..."
"Now, April!" snapped Illya Kuryakin, looking much the same as he had the last time she had seen him - 21-1/2 years ago. "I promise, you'll both get an explanation; but it's a long story, and Napoleon can't hold off everyone in this base alone. Move!"
He tossed Brathe's gun to Mark, who looked as shocked as April felt, and started for the door, only to stop as it opened and another man dressed in a Thrush uniform backed in, firing out into the corridor. Shoving the door closed, he spun around. "I hope you noticed another way out of here, Illya," Napoleon Solo said. He also looked no older than he had 21 years ago. "If not, we're going to be in real trouble. Hello, April, Mark," he added casually, nodding to them before turning back to his partner. "Well?"
"I'm afraid not, Napoleon; I haven't had the chance to look around yet."
Solo turned to look at the still staring Section One agents. "April? Mark? Did either of you happen to notice a way out of here? We may only have a moment or two before they get the idea of breaking the door down..."
April and Mark looked at each other for a moment. That's it; no doubt about it, April concluded. I've definitely gone through the Looking Glass... What happened to them? Then, pushing the thought out of her mind for the present, she gestured to the far end of the room of cells. Just visible from their position was a crack in the wall - most likely from a door. "Our lunch was brought in from that direction," she said.
"Good girl," Solo commented. "Come on, let's move; it would be rather embarrassing for the rescuers to need rescuing, don't you agree?"
"Definitely," Kuryakin replied, giving April a gentle push in the direction of the back door. They hurried down to the first floor.
Glancing out the door, Solo relaxed slightly. "Well, this corridor is empty," he murmured over his shoulder, and gestured for them to follow him out. "With luck, they haven't found the guards yet..."
"But we'd better hurry," Kuryakin continued, and April and Mark glanced at each other again. "The alarm is still going."
"Right... April, Mark, can you pretend to be prisoners for a few minutes? If anyone confronts us before we get out, we'll just tell them we're taking you to see Angelique," Solo suggested.
"How did you know--" Mark began.
"She gave us a drive here in her trunk," Solo replied.
"And she's got our guns and communicators somewhere around here," April added, shooting a pointed look at Mark. "We can't let Thrush keep the communicators - they're set to Section One frequencies."
This time, it was Napoleon and Illya who exchanged looks - April and Mark both recognized the familiar signs of the silent communication the other two agents had always shared. "Section One, huh?" Napoleon commented, one eyebrow going up. "Well, where do you think she would've hidden them? We really don't have much time before this place is crawling with guards, remember."
"I don't know," April replied, with a helpless shrug.
"Probably somewhere upstairs," Mark said at the same time. "She'd want to know if someone tried to contact us, and I got the impression when April was brought in that the second floor is where the main command area is."
Kuryakin nodded in agreement. "According to the map we saw at the security station by the entrance, you're right," he declared. "I'll meet you back down here in a few minutes."
Solo didn't look too pleased at that, but nodded. "All right... we'll start toward the entrance. And Illya... be careful," he added quietly, as the Russian went back into the stairwell. Then he turned back to April and Mark. "Well, there goes that plan; we'd better hurry, before they realize where we are."
April nodded in agreement. "Where is the entrance?" she asked quietly.
"Based on the way we came in, around that corner, down the corridor, and around another corner," Napoleon replied, pointing down the hall to their right. "Let's get going."
Illya dashed up the stairs as quickly as he could. They were really starting to run on borrowed time now; and he had the uncomfortable feeling - supported by an itch between his shoulderblades - that their rescue was going to be calling a great deal of attention to it shortly, if it hadn't already. After all, the alarm was still blaring...
Hoping for a goodly dose of his partner's famous luck, Illya carefully opened the door to the second floor.
Well, if anyone came in to check the cell area, they've been and gone, he decided, relieved that no one else was there.
Now, where would Angelique have put the communicators? Somehow, he doubted that they would be in the control centre itself; even if they'd disabled the homing signal - which had most likely been the first thing they had done, knowing Angelique - she wouldn't have wanted them that close to Thrush communications equipment, especially when it was unlikely that Thrush had a good idea of how sophisticated the communicators might have become.
The guard station. Of course.
Illya carefully opened the door leading to the corridor - and frowned when the action wasn't greeted with a hail of bullets. In fact, none of the Thrushes they'd been fighting were left there, except the ones they'd killed.
Which means that they're somewhere else - downstairs, most likely, Illya concluded. Which, in turn, means that I'm going to have to really hurry...
Darting out the door, he hurried over to the guard station, paying only enough attention to the bodies sprawled around to make certain that he didn't trip over them, and that they were indeed dead.
It took only a moment or two to find April and Mark's communicators - the silver pens were resting on top of one of the monitors. And their guns were sitting in an open drawer, which he found rather amusing. Illya grabbed them and hurried back to the stairs leading down from the cells - the sooner they got out of here, the better.
As soon as he entered the stairwell, he could hear the sound of gunfire from below. His guess had obviously been correct - Napoleon and the others were being attacked.
He took the stairs at a run, shoving the communicators into his pocket and swinging the Thrush rifle onto his shoulder as he cocked Mark's gun. Whoever had taken him had left the full clip in it - Thrush was getting careless.
Opening the door, Illya peered out and saw Napoleon and the others pressed up against the wall to his right. As he watched, Napoleon peered around the corner, firing his Thrush rifle, and then ducked back as a hail of bullets answered him.
Illya closed the stairwell door quietly and hurried over to the three of them. "How many?" he asked quietly.
"About twenty," Napoleon replied. "And they're right in the way of our escape route."
Illya sighed. "How do you always manage to get me into these messes?" he demanded, even as he handed Mark and April their Specials.
"It must be my charm," Napoleon returned. He ignored Illya's muttered, "What charm?" as he looked at the others. "We're going to have to think of something fast, partner," he added, returning his attention to the fight and firing another burst around the corner. "We don't want to end up surrounded."
Mickey parked the van in front of the building he'd been using as a surveillance post, and twisted around in the seat, frowning. "The silver Ferrari - the one that woman Angelique was driving - is back," he said.
Control, who was along under protest, frowned in irritation. "Angelique - I know I've heard that name before. Robert?"
McCall shrugged. "I don't remember anyone by that name," he replied. "And never mind that for now. We've got work to do. And Control... remember, you're supposed to call U.N.C.L.E. and get us some backup."
"I know, I know," Control grumbled - he sounded more irritated than usual, Mickey noticed with amusement. "And as you said, Robert, the two of you have work to do."
McCall and Mickey glanced at each other, and then McCall nodded and pulled a metal box containing their guns out from under his seat.
The phone repair van Mickey had mentioned - which was still parked in the warehouse lot across from the Ferrari - had given McCall an idea; the two of them were dressed as electricians. The warehouse wasn't owned by Thrush; a quick call before they had come out here had revealed that it was owned by a company called Anderson Manufacturing Ltd., and was presently being rented out. If they were seen, the idea was to pretend that they had been sent by Anderson Manufacturing to check out some possible electrical problems.
There were guards at the front door of the warehouse; Mickey had seen them when he had been driving back to McCall's apartment. As a result, their plan involved going in the back - through a third floor window.
Getting out of the van, Mickey pulled another metal case out from under his own seat - this one containing electronic scrambling devices, courtesy of Control, as well as a map of the warehouse itself. Hefting the case, he couldn't help but remember Control's warning that if any of the devices got damaged, it would be coming out of his paycheck. He had the feeling that Control was actually irritated enough to mean it.
Taking an expandable ladder from the back of the van, the two of them started casually toward the warehouse, keeping their eyes open for any sign of Thrush guards. Along with the case containing their guns, McCall carried a clipboard containing illegible sheets of paper that they could claim to be their orders, in case they were spotted and stopped.
However, no one appeared to challenge them - something that made McCall feel rather uneasy. If Thrush was as big a threat as Control claimed that it was, why wasn't the warehouse more carefully guarded? Did they really believe that U.N.C.L.E. was powerless against them at the moment?
Mickey leaned the ladder carefully against the warehouse, wincing slightly as it scraped against the ledge of the window he was aiming for. Giving the ladder an uneasy look* as Mickey got it steadied, McCall gritted his teeth and started climbing.
Control watched as McCall and Mickey slipped in through the third-storey window. Then, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket, he dialled rapidly.
After two rings, the phone was answered.
"International Marketing Corporation; how may I help you?" came a polite female voice.
Control took a deep breath. "I need to speak with your executive officer," he stated.
There was a pause, and then the woman said, "And whom may I say is calling?"
"Tell him it's Control. About Drossel."
That seemed to reach the woman. "Just one moment, please," she said rapidly.
Control heard a click, and then the head of U.N.C.L.E. came on the line. "You have something for me, Control?" he demanded instantly, not bothering with small talk.
"Yes. First of all, I'm not certain whether you're aware of this or not, but April Dancer and Mark Slate have been abducted by Thrush--"
"Yes, I know," came the reply. "We received that information two hours ago - we have contacts in the New York PD, Control. What I would like to know is how you discovered this, however."
"That's the other piece of information I need to tell you," Control replied, moving into the driver's seat of the van - just in case a quick getaway was needed. No telling what might happen in the warehouse over the next couple of minutes. "I set some of my... people to looking for Thrush; they found the base that Thrush is using, and one of them managed to overhear and tape a conversation between three high-level people. They mentioned both U.N.C.L.E. - which is how my people found out that your organization still exists - and your captured agents, by name. My people are now in the process of entering the Thrush base, in an effort to free your agents."
The man on the other end of the line paused momentarily before replying. "I see..." he said slowly. "Control, just how many of your people are there doing this?"
"Two," Control replied calmly.
"And where precisely is this base?"
"In Manhattan, near the docks. It's a three-storey warehouse owned by Anderson Manufacturing Limited, rented out to an organization that establishes and supports bird sanctuaries," Control explained.
There was a heavy sigh on the other end of the line. "Ah, yes, a perfect cover," the head of U.N.C.L.E. muttered sourly. "I assume you feel that they may need backup?"
"That might be a good assumption, yes," Control replied. He peered out the window, but couldn't see any sign of what might be happening in the warehouse. "We aren't really sure how many people are in the base right at the mo--"
Control broke off as a siren wail split the air. It was coming from the warehouse - which definitely didn't bode well.
"An alarm," Control replied, frowning as he studied the scene in front of him. There was still no sign of what was going on inside, aside from the earsplitting wail. "It sounds as though they've been spotted."
Mickey and McCall had just finished putting the electronic scramblers into place and activating them when the alarm went off.
Mickey glanced apprehensively at McCall. "Did we do something?"
McCall frowned. "I don't know. But if we tripped some sort of alarm, why is no one coming?"
Mickey glanced around, and then cocked his head slightly as he heard something else. "Do you hear that, McCall?" he demanded.
The older man nodded. "Gunfire."
After about a minute, the sound stopped - but they'd had enough time to identify where it was coming from: one of the lower floors.
The two men exchanged looks. "I guess it wasn't something we did after all," Mickey commented quietly. "Come on, let's go see what's going on."
McCall grabbed his arm. "Wait for a moment, Mickey," he returned. "We don't know what we'll be walking into."
Mickey blinked. "Has that ever stopped us before? Come on, let's head for the stairs, at least. That way, we won't be surprised if these Thrush guys come rushing up them. And besides, we've been all over this floor - they're not holding April and Mr. Slate up here."
McCall sighed as he acknowledged the younger man's point.
It didn't take more than a moment for them to decide that they would cover the back set of stairs - it was closer to their escape route, and so the chances of them getting cut off were much less than if they took the front stairs.
As they reached the stairs, Mickey carefully opened the door, keeping his gun ready. There didn't appear to be anyone there.
A moment later, however, they heard another door open below them, and then the sound of someone hurrying down the stairs. Another door opened - presumably the one on the first floor - and the sounds of more gunfire drifted up to the two men.
"Well, either our two targets have managed to rescue themselves, or there's a hell of a power struggle going on," McCall said thoughtfully.
"Well, we both know how good April is; it may be that she's managed to escape," Mickey agreed. "But if so, it sounds as though she could use a little help, don't you think?"
McCall nodded. "Yes, Mickey, I agree," he replied. "Shall we?"
They headed carefully down the stairs, keeping an ear and an eye open for any sign that they were about to be discovered. The sound of gunfire grew louder as they got closer to the first floor, but no one else appeared in the stairwell.
Mickey carefully advanced toward the door, pushed it slightly open, and peered out. His eyes widened in surprise at what he saw.
Standing against the wall to the right of the door were four people; three men and a woman. Mickey recognized the woman as April Dancer; she and the older of the three men were both dressed in business suits that looked a little the worse for wear.
The two younger men with them, however, were dressed in the same type of jumpsuit as the man in Paris, the one who'd killed Rudolf Schwartz.
Leaning over his shoulder, McCall also looked out. "What's going on?" he asked quietly.
"I'm not sure," Mickey replied, shrugging. "But the two guys by the corner," he added, motioning to the two younger men, "are wearing the same jumpsuits as the assassin in Paris."
McCall frowned. "Are you sure, Mickey?"
"Quite sure. They're also the same as the uniforms the guards on the main door of this place are wearing."
"Well--" McCall began.
"Napoleon, do you have a plan yet?" one of the younger men - the blond one - asked impatiently. Mickey cocked his head; the man had an accent, but it was one he couldn't quite place.
"I'm working on it; be patient!" the other uniformed man returned, pausing to shoot a burst of gunfire around the corner. A hail of bullets answered.
"Well, I suggest you hurry up. We're almost out of ammunition," the blond declared, taking his own turn at firing.
"There's got to be some kind of a back door. Thrush always has a back door. I think it's in their contract or something," the other replied. "If we can get there before they surround us..."
"While it's wonderful to hear the two of you bantering like this, we do need to get out of here," the older man - the one in the business suit - interrupted.
Looking at each other, McCall and Mickey silently agreed that this was the perfect cue.
"Perhaps we could be of some assistance," McCall said calmly, opening the stairwell door completely.
The two men wearing the Thrush uniforms immediately spun around, their guns coming up to cover Mickey and McCall. Before either of them could say anything, however, April stepped forward, staring at the two agents in surprise.
"McCall? Kostmayer? What are the two of you doing here?" she demanded.
"Rescuing you and Mr. Slate," Mickey replied, a grin crooking the corner of his mouth. "But it looks like you started without us."
"I presume that one of you," McCall added, looking at the three men, "is Mr. Mark Slate?"
"That would be me," the man in the business suit replied, stepping forward.
The man the blond had called 'Napoleon' - who appeared to be the leader - interrupted. "Let's save the introductions until we're out of here, all right, Mark?" Then, turning to McCall, he continued, "How did you get in here? And can we get out the same way before we're surrounded?"
"We climbed through a window on the third floor," McCall answered.
"Well," the blond said from his position back at the corner, "that would explain the upper-level cameras being on the fritz..." He paused to fire another volley around the corner.
He's Russian! Mickey realized suddenly, placing the light accent that flavoured the blond's words. Just who are these guys? They're obviously not Thrush agents, although they're dressed like them...
"Well, then," the leader said, "that's how we'll get out. Give them another burst, Illya, so they don't rush this position immediately, and let's run."
The blond Russian nodded, and started to raise the gun again.
"Oh, and Illya - do you have any of those smoke bombs left?"
The two men grinned at each other for a moment, in perfect understanding, and then the Russian pulled a plastic ball filled with some sort of white liquid from a pocket of his jumpsuit. "On your mark, Napoleon..."
Before McCall - or any of the others - could protest the plan, they were being urged back into the stairwell by the Napoleon guy. Mickey lagged behind, wanting to act as rearguard - Just in case, he told himself, still not certain about these two - and watched as the Russian poked his head around the corner, threw the ball, and then fired into the resultant billows of smoke.
Then he was running for the stairs, grabbing Mickey's arm and pulling him along as he went. "We have to hurry - that won't hold them for long," he declared.
"Will it hold them at all?" Mickey questioned, as they raced up the stairs.
"It will take them at least a minute or two to realize that we are not coming through the smoke," was the calm reply. "They will then decide that we must have fled by another way - but I am uncertain which one they will check first."
By this time they'd made it to the third floor, and the others heard the tail-end of what the Russian had been saying.
"Best to assume the worst in this case," the leader pointed out as McCall led them to their exit. "After all, these are Angeliqueıs people. And even considering the carelessness they've demonstrated so far, it's better not to take any chances.
"And speaking of Angelique..." he added thoughtfully. "Illya, have you seen any sign of her since we got here?"
"No," the Russian replied, a faint frown crossing his face. "I haven't. In fact, I believe the only ones we have encountered so far are lower level guards - no signs of anyone higher up in the hierarchy. April, Mark--"
"Here we are," McCall interrupted, as they arrived at the window. "The ladder, Mickey?"
Mickey nodded, opened a small supply closet on the opposite wall, and pulled out the folded ladder. They'd placed it there as soon as they'd gotten in, so as to avoid attracting attention from outside the warehouse.
"I'll go out first," McCall said, as Mickey unfolded the ladder and stuck it out the window. It would serve as a signal to Control that they were coming out. "April, you and Mr. Slate come next; then your friends; then Mickey."
"Right," the dark-haired young man said in acknowledgement.
McCall climbed out the window, and Mickey gave him a reassuring grin before splitting his attention between April's friends and the corridor leading to the stairwell, preparing himself for an attack from either direction.
"April, just who are these guys?" Napoleon asked quietly as they waited for the older man to reach the ground.
"They're CIA," April replied. "That's where I've been working for the past twenty years. Or, at least, Kostmayer," she gestured to the younger of the pair, who was keeping an eye on them as well as watching the hall, "is CIA. McCall used to be, but he got out and now he... um... helps the people of New York, essentially. He still does the occasional job for the Company, though."
Illya didn't appear overly happy at this news, but Napoleon could hardly blame him. The CIA had never cared for Illya, especially since U.N.C.L.E. had used its influence to get him dual citizenship - Soviet and American. And most of the Company agents the two of them had worked with had made a point of making their dislike of the situation very clear.
"Don't worry," April said quietly, glancing from one to the other. "Kostmayer is a bit of a loose cannon, but both he and Robert are good people. Not necessarily U.N.C.L.E. material, but good people nonetheless."
Illya looked only slightly reassured by her comment.
"It'll be fine, Illya," she repeated.
"April," Mark called from the window. "C'mon. It's time to get out of here."
"Right," she replied, heading over. Mark held the top of the ladder for her as she swung out the window.
Napoleon watched her for a moment before returning his attention to the corridor and the man April had called 'Kostmayer'.
He looked a bit scruffy, with light brown hair that was a bit too long, wearing jeans, an old green jacket, and a ski-cap; but his stance and the way he held the gun in his hand made it obvious that he was a professional, as did the fact that he continued to keep an eye on Napoleon and Illya as well as the corridor. In fact, appearance-wise, Kostmayer reminded Napoleon a bit of his partner.
"Napoleon, it is your turn," Illya interrupted his thoughts quietly. "I suggest you hurry - it is unlikely that they will stay away for much longer."
"Right, tovarisch," Napoleon replied, slinging the Thrush rifle onto his shoulder and heading for the window.
Mickey watched as the dark-haired man slipped carefully out the window, and then looked back at the blond, who was facing him and frowning.
"Something wrong?" he inquired.
"I think we are about to have another fight on our hands," came the calm reply. "I-- Look out!"
Just as the Russian shouted, Mickey felt a bullet pass right by his cheek. He flung himself to the ground, turning around to face in the direction the bullet had come from.
Obviously, the bad guys hadn't taken the back stairs.
Luckily, they appeared reluctant to provide Mickey and the Russian with targets, and so were firing around the corner at them.
"Go on," the Russian hissed, jerking his head toward the window. "I'll follow you."
Mickey frowned, reluctant to leave the other man there alone - he still wasn't sure that he trusted the two strangers.
Mickey shot a quick glare at the other man. "No, you go; McCall told me to go last... and Control will kill me if we lose our rescuees before they are properly rescued!"
"Control?" the Russian repeated, sounding puzzled, as he fired a burst toward the end of the hall.
"My boss," Mickey snapped. "Now go; we don't have time to argue! Do you want them to skin me alive for not doing my job?"
As if to back up his statement about not having the time, one of the Thrush agents, apparently feeling braver than the rest of them, came around the corner and started firing aimed bursts. Mickey raised his gun to return fire, but before he could press the trigger, the man fell back, dead.
"Thanks," he said quietly. "Now go! You're closer, damnit! And don't be surprised when I pass you on the way down!"
There was a pause, and then Mickey saw the other man glide over to the window, ducking under a new barrage of bullets, and slip out, cat-like. As soon as the blond head disappeared from view, Mickey started backing carefully toward the window himself, still firing at the far end of the corridor.
He had clambered out the window and gotten his feet placed on the ladder's rungs, and was just about to start climbing down when he heard the sound of a heavy door opening - the door to the back stairs, Mickey realized instantly.
Glancing down, he was relieved to see that the Russian had made it to the ground - it would have been unpleasant to bump into him. Taking a deep breath, he took his feet off the rungs and hooked them around the sides. Then, very thankful for the fact that it was November and he was therefore wearing gloves, he slid rapidly down the ladder.
McCall didn't waste any time; once Mickey's feet touched the ground, the older man hustled them all toward the van. Which was undoubtedly a good thing, since a moment later, someone began firing out the window at them.
The older man - McCall - led them to a large van idling on the street facing the warehouse parking lot as they dodged the bullets being fired at them. Whoever was firing was evidently not a good shot - Not Angelique, obviously, Napoleon thought - but even amateurs could get lucky sometimes.
Upon reaching the van, McCall pulled open the double doors at the back, and urged them all to get in and sit down around the surveillance equipment that filled the space.
"Get us out of here," he snapped at the driver, as he slipped into the passenger seat.
"Where are we going?" the driver demanded.
Napoleon saw April blink in surprise. "Control?" she exclaimed. Then, quickly re-focusing, she added, "I should have known it was you when McCall and Kostmayer showed up. Umm... I guess you had better take us to U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters; there's a lot we need to do."
"U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters?" McCall repeated, turning around in his seat as the van started moving. "Where is that?"
Napoleon took the opportunity afforded by the start of the conversation to lean over and touch his partner gently on the shoulder. When Illya looked at him, Napoleon murmured, "Where were you hit?"
Illya didn't question how he had known - there was no need to. "My right thigh, and just below my ribcage, left side," he replied, just as quietly. "They are only flesh wounds, however - I will need a bandage or two, but that is all."
"Let me look," Napoleon demanded.
Illya's eyes narrowed slightly - for the Russian, it was the equivalent of an angry glare. "That is completely unnecessary, Napoleon. I will have them seen to when we reach Headquarters."
Napoleon frowned, but didn't argue - it wasn't worth it, not here. If the wounds were serious, Illya would have told him about them immediately, rather than waiting until he asked. Then, abruptly, another thought occurred to him.
"Illya... we might want to get out of these things," he said, gesturing to the Thrush uniforms they still wore. "After all, walking into Headquarters with them on..." Is hardly the wisest thing in the world to do when we might not be recognized, he finished silently.
Illya nodded in understanding and agreement, already unzipping the front of his jumpsuit.
As they wriggled out of the Thrush uniforms, Napoleon listened with half an ear as McCall and Kostmayer filled the driver of the van in on what had happened in the warehouse. Judging from the way they were interacting, the driver - what had April called him? Control? - was their superior - or Kostmayer's, at least.
Suddenly Mark, who was sitting on the floor opposite them, leaned forward, looking alarmed as his eyes fixed on the bloody hole in Illya's jeans. "Wait a minute... Illya, you've been shot!"
Instantly, everyone - except the driver - turned to the two of them, their expressions concerned.
Illya rolled his eyes. "Of course I have been shot," he stated impatiently. "I always get shot, Mark - remember? There is no need for concern, however; it is only a flesh wound - nothing serious.
"Just once, Napoleon," he continued, turning back to his partner, "I would like to go on an assignment where I am not the one who gets shot, burned, knocked unconscious, drugged, captured, bombed, tortured, or otherwise injured. It would be a pleasant vacation."
Mickey had to grin at that. The litany was familiar; practically every agent he knew had a variation on it. Which brings me to my next question...
"Look, I know that we're apparently on the same side, but we're out of there, so I think it's time for those introductions you mentioned," he said, looking to the dark-haired man - a fellow American, judging from his accent. "So, exactly who are you, and what were you doing wearing those uniforms?"
"The uniforms?" the dark-haired leader said, and then glanced down at the jumpsuit he had tossed on the floor. "Oh, right... They got us in there and up to the cells where they were holding April and Mark unnoticed until the last moment. And our plan for getting out - before we got interrupted on the first floor - was to pretend we had orders to take them to Angelique - she's the apparent leader of this satrapy - and just walk straight out."
"Satrapy?" McCall inquired.
"Oh, sorry... a satrap is a Thrush cell," the American replied. "Anyway, we got the uniforms by knocking out the guards out front." He shook his head, turning to April and Mr. Slate. "You should have seen them - they were unbelievably careless. Illya used one of those smoke bombs he concocted, and we rushed them - they hadn't even raised their guns by the time we knocked them out."
Both April and Slate looked surprised. "That doesn't sound like Angelique," April said slowly. "They certainly weren't careless when they grabbed me!"
"In fact, they were careless," the blond Russian commented, leaning against the recording equipment. "A rifle and a beret were dropped at the scene, both carrying the Thrush symbol."
"That could have been lack of time," April countered. "I hit one of them with a sleep dart before Angelique snuck up on me - by the time she shot me, I could already hear sirens. They would have needed to get out of there quickly."
"Excuse me for interrupting," Mickey said firmly, "but let's not get sidetracked, okay? I still don't know who you guys are."
The two men looked at each other for a moment, and Mickey got the impression that some form of silent communication passed between them. Then the dark-haired man turned back to Mickey. "My name is Napoleon Solo," he said calmly. "My partner is Illya Kuryakin."
"O-kay," Mickey said slowly. Not that that tells us anything, he thought to himself - except for confirming his guess about the blondıs nationality. He shot a quick glance at McCall, and then turned back to Solo and Kuryakin. "So, how do you know April and Mr. Slate? And how did you know that they were in that warehouse?"
"We..." the American hesitated for a moment, and then continued, "Illya and I work for U.N.C.L.E. And as for how we knew... well, we knew that April had been kidnapped. We were planning on how to rescue her when Illya happened to spot Angelique - we figured that she was probably involved and followed her."
"In the trunk of her car, as Napoleon said earlier," Kuryakin added.
Slate blinked. "And she didn't spot you?"
"No," Kuryakin said calmly.
"That really doesn't sound like Angelique," April said, frowning. "I mean, I know that she could hardly have been expecting the two of you to show up, everything considered, but it really isn't like her to be that lax."
"Overconfidence, perhaps?" Solo suggested. "I mean, she obviously knew that U.N.C.L.E. was still around, but she may have believed that the Network had gotten lax."
April shrugged. "I don't know; we haven't exactly been following Angelique since Thrush supposedly disappeared. It's been twenty years; she may have changed - she may not have."
Solo grinned. "Angelique - ever the mystery," he said, chuckling.
Kuryakin snorted. "She's a highly venomous black widow - there's nothing mysterious about that."
"Illya, Illya, Illya," Solo said, shaking his head. "She isn't that bad."
"And just how many times has she tried to kill you at last count? I think it was up to about thirty-four or so--" Kuryakin countered.
"Guys, guys," April interrupted. "We can figure out what's going on with Angelique later--"
Before she could continue, Control stopped the van. "We're here."
As they climbed out of the van, Illya gave Napoleon an uncertain look. They'd managed to deflect the barrage of questions that April and Mark undoubtedly had concerning their sudden appearance for the moment, but that wouldn't last for long. And they still hadn't had the opportunity to discuss exactly how to go about explaining the entire thing - especially now that more people were involved.
Napoleon gave him a slight shrug in response, a silent 'let's wait and see'.
That helps a great deal, Napoleon, Illya thought sardonically, but he couldn't argue. They had no idea of the conditions at Headquarters, nor what the reactions to their presence would be. April and Mark appeared to have taken their sudden reappearance very much in stride, but there was no guarantee that would continue once they had a chance to think about it; nor did their reaction give any hints as to what the rest of U.N.C.L.E. might think.
After all, they'd disappeared for over twenty years, and their reappearance apparently coincided with that of Thrush. If it had happened to someone else, Illya knew that he would be extremely suspicious of them.
"Relax," Napoleon said quietly as they followed April and Mark through the parking garage. "Everything will work out, I'm sure."
"How can you be so certain of that?" Illya demanded, keeping his own voice just as soft. No point in alerting the CIA men - whom he still distrusted, despite April's reassurances - that there was something unusual about the situation. "We return at the same time as Thrush - it does not sound entirely coincidental to me, and I am certain it will not to Section One."
"It'll all work out," Napoleon repeated confidently. He then frowned slightly. "How're your leg and ribs?"
Illya sighed silently. While he appreciated Napoleon's concern, it could be wearying at times. "As I said, they are merely grazes," he replied. "In fact, they have both stopped bleeding. I most likely will not require a trip to the infirmary after all."
Napoleon's frown deepened. "Illya..."
The younger man met his partner's eyes. "I promise you, Napoleon - if they get worse, I will go. At the moment, it is unnecessary, and might end up wasting valuable time."
Napoleon sighed and studied him for a moment, obviously trying to decide whether or not Illya was actually telling him the truth. Apparently satisfied, he returned to the previous topic of conversation. "Seriously, Illya, things will be fine. Everything's gone well so far, hasn't it?"
"Only if you consider April and Mark getting abducted by Thrush 'going well'," Illya returned.
"No, I don't, but we did manage to rescue them before Thrush could question them," Napoleon countered.
"And that in itself could be considered suspicious." Particularly in view of Thrush's unusual carelessness, Illya thought suddenly. Could they have wanted April and Mark to get rescued?
Before he could pursue that thought to its conclusion, April stopped in front of a section of cement wall and placed her hand against it. Illya watched McCall and Kostmayer's eyes widen with a certain amount of amusement as a section of the wall swung out, revealing a room behind it. He felt himself begin to relax at the familiar appearance of the U.N.C.L.E. entrance room, which looked no different from the security entrance accessible through Del Floria's - except for the fact that the receptionist was male, rather than female. Illya felt a touch of amusement at Napoleon's obvious - to him - surprise at that fact.
Mickey stared in surprise as a section of the cement wall swung open, revealing a metal room behind it, with a man seated at a desk. McCall, he noticed, appeared just as surprised as he felt, but everyone else, including Control, seemed to take it in stride - although he saw Solo do a double-take at the man behind the desk.
Well, guess it's down the rabbit-hole, he thought wryly, as he followed April in.
April nodded at the man seated at the metal desk. "I need five high-level visitor's badges," she told him, as the man reached up to pin a yellow triangular badge on her blouse. "Numbers two and eleven, and three others."
"Of course, Ms. Dancer," the man replied, as he pinned another badge on Slate's suit jacket.
"Badges?" Mickey asked Control quietly.
"An element of U.N.C.L.E.'s internal security system," Control replied. "If anyone without a badge enters the complex itself, it sets off the alarms. I don't know all the details, but that's why everyone who comes in here gets a badge."
"Here we go," the man at the desk said, pulling out five other yellow badges. He ran his fingers over them*, and then handed them to April. "Two, eleven, and three others."
"Thanks, Mike," April replied, and then turned to the rest of them. "Here you go, Napoleon, Illya," she said, handing a badge to each man. 11 and 2, Mickey noticed - the badges April had specifically requested.
But she called them 'visitor badges', Mickey realized suddenly. I thought Solo said that they work for U.N.C.L.E.!
Well, maybe they don't work out of New York...
Well, maybe they don't work out of New York...
Then she gave the rest of the badges to Mickey, McCall and Control. "Pin these on, and make sure you don't take them off," she ordered Mickey and McCall. "The last thing we need to have at the moment is a set of false alarms."
"Come on, April; the old man will be waiting to see us," Slate said, standing by a door on the other side of the desk.
April nodded, and the rest of them trailed after the two U.N.C.L.E. agents, through the door and into the main U.N.C.L.E. complex.
The entire complex seemed to be made of metal, Mickey noticed, as they walked through the halls. And for a supposedly dead organization, U.N.C.L.E. certainly had a lot of agents. There were a number of other people walking through the halls, their ages varying - he estimated - between mid-twenties and late fifties, all of them dressed in business clothes, and all of them with guns. And a number of the older ones, Mickey noted, seemed to be paying an inordinate amount of attention to their group.
Wondering why, Mickey glanced at the others. Maybe it was April and Mr. Slate; Control had said that U.N.C.L.E. knew they had been abducted. But if so, why was it only the older agents, the ones Mickey figured were in their forties and fifties, who were doing the staring? Why weren't the younger ones? And the same argument applied to the question of whether it was the fact that the U.N.C.L.E. agents had brought visitors that was causing the stares.
Which left Mickey feeling more confused than ever.
Then, from behind him, he heard Solo and Kuryakin speaking to each other softly. He was only able to catch a few words, but what he did hear was enough to worry him.
"...definitely being recognized..." Kuryakin murmured.
"More familiar faces... thought there would be," Solo returned quietly.
"This... awkward... can't explain..."
Solo's response to that was whispered, and Mickey missed it as Slate led the group through another door, into what appeared to be an anteroom. A woman who looked a bit older than April was there, and she raised her head to look at them as they came in
"Mark, April! You're all right?" she exclaimed.
"Aside from a nasty headache," Slate replied, smiling. "We'll be stopping by the labs after to see if they left us any nasty surprises while we were out, but we need to see the boss first."
"Of course," the woman replied. "Just--" She broke off with a gasp, her eyes widening in shock as she stared at the two men who had entered the room behind Mickey.
"Told you," Kuryakin muttered.
Solo ignored him, heading straight over to the woman and giving her a kiss on her cheek. "It's a long story, Heather - a very long one. For the moment, let's just say that we have quite a report for Mr. Waverly."
"And that's the other reason we came straight here, instead of going to the labs first," April added.
"Well, you'd definitely better head in, then," the woman declared, visibly pulling herself together. "I can't wait to hear it, Napoleon," she added.
"Neither can I," Kuryakin said, rolling his eyes.
Mickey looked between them, frowning. What's going on here? he wondered. The stares in the halls - had those been for Solo and Kuryakin? And why? Did it have anything to do with the badges?
The door opened as Slate approached it, and they walked into yet another metal room. I assume none of these guys are claustrophobic, Mickey thought, glaring at the walls. It was starting to get to be a bit much for him, and they'd only been here for about five minutes.
At least this room wasn't all metal; there was a round, thick wooden table in the center, and off to one side was a desk, also wooden.
Seated at the round table was an older man - Mickey estimated that he was probably in his seventies or eighties - smoking a pipe. He looked up as they entered, his expression one of casual interest.
"Ah, there you are. Have a seat, Control," the man said, gesturing to one of the chairs opposite his. "Miss Dancer, Mr. Slate, have you stopped by the labs yet?"
Slate shook his head. "No, sir, not yet..." he began.
"Well, then, I suggest you do so immediately," came the response. "No telling what sort of surprises Thrush might have left for you."
"Of course, sir," April replied. "However..."
The man ignored her, turning slightly to face the rest of them. "Welcome back, Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin," he continued. "I must say, your timing is impeccable, as always."
Out of the corner of his eye, Mickey saw April and Slate look at each other with identical expressions of shocked surprise on their faces.
Okay... something really weird is going on...
He turned back to Solo and Kuryakin in time to catch the half-surprised, half-resigned look they gave each other.
Solo turned back to the man at the table with a smile. "We do our best, sir," he replied.
Kuryakin sighed. "Napoleon..." he muttered, his tone one of exasperation.
"Miss Dancer, Mr. Slate," the man said, looking pointedly at the two older agents, who were still standing to one side of the door. "The labs, please.
"Now, do sit down, gentlemen," he added to the group at large, gesturing with the stem of his pipe toward the other chairs around the table. Control was already sitting in the chair the man had waved him to a minute ago.
Solo and Kuryakin were the first ones to move, taking the chairs on either side of the elderly man; Solo to his right, and Kuryakin to his left.
Mickey glanced at McCall, feeling unexpectedly uncertain as April and Slate left the room. He wasn't too sure he liked this situation - particularly as he had no idea what was going on. But McCall nodded, and - imitating Solo and Kuryakin - they sat down on either side of Control.
"Well, Control, I assume that these are your two agents, the ones you mentioned in our phone conversation," the man continued, as soon as they were all seated.
"Yes. Robert McCall, and Mickey Kostmayer; two of my best," Control replied.
His best, huh? Mickey thought, filing the comment away in the back of his mind. It might just prove useful in getting a raise.
Beside him, Control winced slightly, and Mickey couldn't help but grin when he realized that his superior must have suddenly had the same thought.
"Robert, Kostmayer," Control continued, "this is Alexander Waverly, the head of U.N.C.L.E."
Waverly nodded, taking a puff of his pipe, and then leaned back in his chair. "Perhaps, Control, Mr. McCall, Mr. Kostmayer, you could tell me how you located Thrush's current headquarters, and your part in the rescue of Mr. Slate and Miss Dancer."
As the door to Waverly's office slid shut behind them, April and Mark exchanged glances. Their superior's reaction to the more... unusual aspects of this affair - namely, Napoleon and Illya's unusual reappearance - had been interesting, to say the least. He hadn't been the slightest bit surprised at the fact that the two agents looked the same as they had when they had disappeared over twenty-one years ago. Which meant that he had expected the possibility.
Noting a number of the sideways glances they were getting as they headed toward the labs, Mark sighed. "The rumour mill must be going nuts," he commented softly.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised," April concurred. "I mean, if there's one pair that all the old crew will recognize, whether they ever met them or not, it's Napoleon and Illya. And they haven't changed a bit..."
Mark nodded slightly, acknowledging the fact that April had finally spoken aloud the one thought that had been dominating their minds since they had first seen Illya in the warehouse. "I wonder what it has to do with that last assignment," he said thoughtfully.
All they knew about the affair Napoleon and Illya had been assigned to when they disappeared was that it involved the destruction of a Thrush lab in the middle of the Catskills. As soon as it had been confirmed that the lab had been destroyed - and that there was no sign whatsoever of Napoleon or Illya - Waverly had removed all files pertaining to that affair from U.N.C.L.E.'s records. Or, at least, from all records that April and Mark had access to - Mark had checked, when he'd been promoted to Section One. So there was no way of knowing what about the affair had resulted in the present... unusual situation.
Before they could start to speculate out loud, though, the partners arrived at the labs, and were greeted by Dr. Gary Powers, the head of the Technical Division of Section Five.
"Is it true?" he demanded, as he led them into the lab.
Mark and April glanced at each other in resignation - they had a fairly good idea what the question was about.
"Is what true?" April stalled.
"That Solo and Kuryakin are back," Dr. Iris Mantrell, U.N.C.L.E.-New York's Chief Medical Officer, put in as she walked toward them, a needle in one hand.
April gave a dramatic wince at the sight of the needle, and then nodded. "Yeah, they are. They rescued us, in fact."
"Is it really them, though?" Powers countered. "I mean, we all know that Thrush has some pretty sophisticated capabilities..."
"Waverly believes it's them," Mark replied.
That seemed to settle the matter, and Powers picked a frequency scanner off his lab table. "Okay, Mark, we'll start with you - shirt, please."
Mark pulled off his shirt with a sigh and handed it to Powers as he watched Iris take a blood sample from April. It looked like the next few hours were going to be long ones.
Mickey didn't pay much attention as Control and McCall explained their part in the rescue of April and Slate to Mr. Waverly. He was too busy watching the other three men in the room.
Alexander Waverly had an open file in front of him, and was writing something - presumably notes on Control's explanations - on the top sheet. In between that and taking puffs of his pipe, he asked questions to help clarify the explanation. It wasn't exactly the sort of debriefing Mickey was used to, but there could be no doubt that a debriefing was exactly what this was.
Solo and Kuryakin, on the other hand, were taking the seemingly casual atmosphere completely in stride. They had pushed their chairs back a bit from the table, and judging by the way that they kept looking at each other behind Waverly's back, they were carrying on a silent conversation about something.
What is it they're hiding? Mickey wondered. They were definitely hiding something, he knew; between the reactions the two men had gotten and the bits of conversation he'd overheard, that much was certain. And then, of course, there was Slate and April's surprise at the way Waverly had reacted to them...
The problem was that he didn't know enough to be able to even guess at what their secret was.
"Thank you, Control, Mr. McCall," Mr. Waverly said, interrupting his thoughts. "Now, Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin, perhaps you would be so good as to inform me how you located Thrush's present headquarters."
"It was Angelique, sir," Solo replied, as he and Kuryakin moved their chairs back to the table.
Mr. Waverly blinked - the first sign of surprise that Mickey had seen from the man since they'd walked into the room. "Angelique?" he repeated. "I presume that you mean Miss DuChien?"
"Did she see you?" Waverly demanded.
"Not as far as we are aware, sir," Kuryakin replied. "I doubt that she would have taken us directly to their headquarters - unimprisoned - if she had."
Waverly nodded slowly. "Well, that is good, at least."
Control shook his head. "Angelique... I swear I've heard that name before," he muttered, frowning.
"1972," Waverly put in. "Miss DuChien was responsible for helping Evan Mitchell escape your operation."
Control's expression darkened noticeably, and Mickey looked at him curiously, wondering what that was about. However, the look in his superior's eyes told him quite clearly not to ask.
"Was there any sign of her at the warehouse itself?" Waverly continued.
Solo shook his head. "No. And that's something that puzzles me. The alarms started ringing approximately fifteen minutes after she would have entered, and her car was still there when we left. But she would have responded to the alarm, and we saw no sign of her."
Before Waverly could continue his questions, there was a beep from the table. As Mickey watched in astonishment, the wooden section in front of Waverly slid in toward the centre of the table, revealing the metallic gleam of an inlaid console.
"Ingenious," Kuryakin murmured, a hint of interest in his expression.
"You may examine the mechanism later, Mr. Kuryakin," Waverly said calmly. Then he pushed a button on the console. "Yes, Dr. Powers?"
"We've completed the examination of Dancer and Slate," came a voice. "Both guns contained homing devices, and Slate has a minor headache from the attack."
"Anything else?" Waverly demanded.
"How powerful are these homing devices?"
"They have an estimated range of two hundred miles, and are exceedingly powerful. However, the signals cannot penetrate the shielding on this building," came the response. "If Thrush has been monitoring the signals from the time Dancer and Slate escaped, it's probable that they know at least our general location. However, I think it highly unlikely that they were able to get a specific fix before the signals were smothered by the shielding."
"Thank you, Doctor. Please have Mr. Slate and Miss Dancer report to my office for debriefing." Not waiting for an answer, he flicked a small switch near the edge of the console, and the section of wood slid back, concealing the metal completely.
"Now, back to the matter of Miss DuChien..."
Angelique stepped carefully out of the limousine and looked around with a frown. There was nothing obvious that she could see, but she knew that something was wrong.
Eric Varner, the current head of Thrush's New York Satrapy, stepped out behind her and echoed her frown. "Where are the guards?" he demanded, his eyes focused on the main entrance.
That was it - there were no guards visible. Or, at least, that was part of it, Angelique thought, but there was something else. Something more. Her instincts were suddenly alert in a way that they hadn't been in years, not since the last time she had been seriously challenged.
It was a feeling that was both exciting and irritating. Exciting in that it meant that there was someone out there who could challenge her, really challenge her, not like the pitiful excuses for agents most countries had these days; and irritating, because it meant that it was unlikely that Dancer and Slate were still in their cell.
"Come on," she said firmly, striding toward the doors. Varner followed her timidly, and Angelique sneered silently at his reaction. It wasn't only the agents of various countries that had gotten soft; there were too many like Varner in Thrush these days, men - and women - who had been given higher rankings because of 'seniority', rather than skill.
Assuming I'm right, and Slate and Dancer have escaped, it's likely that that won't last, the silver-haired woman assured herself. Between the microdot and the two Section One agents, U.N.C.L.E. would be on high alert; and they would do a good job at pruning away the deadwood before they were defeated. It was almost enough to make her pleased that Schwartz had intercepted the 'dot.
Pushing open the door, Angelique walked in, and then stopped, looking around in disgust.
There were traces of smoke in the air, and over by the security station, Angelique could see the two door guards and the man who had been stationed at the station, bound and gagged - and unconscious. The door guards were dressed only in shirts and boxers; whoever had been responsible for this had stolen their uniforms.
U.N.C.L.E., Angelique thought in resignation. Probably some of the older agents; from what they'd been able to observe of U.N.C.L.E.'s younger agents, the ones recruited since both U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush had gone underground, this wasn't their style. They were more direct, less clever. Less flexible.
A noise came from around the corner, and Angelique's gun was instantly in her hand. It was possible that the U.N.C.L.E. agents were still here...
However, the man who came around the corner, his own gun held carefully in one hand, was not an U.N.C.L.E. agent. It was Victor Andreas, the head of security for this base. In Angelique's opinion, he wasn't all that much better than Varner.
Seeing Angelique and Varner, Andreas put the gun down with a sigh of relief. Angelique sneered again. Idiots, all of them.
"Where is everyone?" Varner demanded, coming out from behind Angelique, where he'd been hiding. Angelique was amused by the disgust on Andreas' face - after all, the security officer wasn't much better.
"Most of them are dead," the man replied.
"Why? What happened?"
"We were attacked--"
Incompetents, the both of them. We don't have time for this; whoever attacked will be able to lead U.N.C.L.E. right back here... "That much is obvious," Angelique said coldly. "Who was it, and did they rescue Slate and Dancer?"
"Yes, they did," Andreas replied. "We're not sure who it was; it was a two-prong attack, apparently..."
"'Apparently'? What do you mean, 'apparently'?" Angelique demanded.
"Well, one group came in here, as you can see, and stole the guards' uniforms; another group came in through a window on the third floor. We think the group that came in here were U.N.C.L.E. agents; the group on the third floor were from the CIA - we assume - since we've managed to find some of the devices that were used to disable the third floor cameras, and they seem to be CIA-issue."
Angelique glared narrowly at him, her eyes cold. "You 'think'? You 'assume'? They 'seem'? Don't you know anything?"
Andreas squirmed under her glare. "Well..."
"Have you thought to check the second and first floor security cameras?" Angelique continued mercilessly. "Whoever they were, they must have been on the second floor in order to free Slate and Dancer."
Andreas glanced hopefully toward Varner, but the other man wasn't about to interfere - smart of him, Angelique reflected. Pretty much the only thing he was smart about.
"Well, why don't we check them, hmm?" she suggested icily. "And show me the devices used on the third floor cameras," she added.
"Here," Andreas said, taking a small black box out of his pocket and handing it to Angelique. "And I'll go set things up to review the tapes..."
"Yes, do that," Angelique replied, as she studied the box.
At least Andreas wasn't a complete idiot; the device was indeed CIA-issue. Angelique had tangled with CIA agents enough to recognize their equipment when she saw it. So, U.N.C.L.E. is getting help from the Company... there should be a way to use that fact to my advantage. I'll have to get our mole in the DDO's* office to do some digging...
Andreas was fiddling with the security station console as Angelique turned to Varner. "Call Thrush Central," she ordered. "Inform them that Slate and Dancer have managed to escape... Andreas!"
"Did the U.N.C.L.E. agents at least take their guns with them when they escaped?" she demanded.
"Yes, Ma'am. We managed to track them for about twenty minutes, and then the signals dropped off the scanners."
"You did make a note of their location when the signal disappeared, I hope," Angelique said.
Andreas just nodded.
Angelique turned back to Varner. "And add that we have located the general area of the new U.N.C.L.E.-New York Headquarters," she ordered.
Varner nodded and hurried away.
Incompetent idiot... Let him deal with Thrush Central's reaction, Angelique thought scornfully. After all, this is his satrap...
"The tapes are ready," Andreas interrupted her thoughts.
"Good." Angelique walked over to the security station, ignoring the still-unconscious agents. "Let's see them."
Andreas pushed a button on the console, and one of the screens lit up, showing the view of Slate and Dancer's cell. The time-stamp at the bottom read 1:20 pm.
Dancer and Slate were sitting on the cots, chatting desultorily, when suddenly the sound of gunfire came clearly through the microphones. Both U.N.C.L.E. agents abruptly sat up, staring in the direction of the door.
A moment later, Angelique heard the voice of the guard who'd been set to watch them. "What's going on?"
The next voice caused her to frown as she tried to remember where she'd heard it before - it was familiar, but not instantly recognizable.
"Itıs time for a prisoner transfer."
On the screen, Dancer and Slate stared, their expressions shocked, as the intruder evidently shot the guard. Then he appeared on-screen, at the door of their cell, and as he spoke to them, he shoved off the beret he wore, revealing a shock of white-blond hair.
Angelique pressed the pause button, staring at the man on the screen in shocked disbelief. It can't be...
"Ma'am?" Andreas asked, his tone one of confusion.
Angelique stared at the screen for another moment, and then released the pause button, letting the tape continue.
A moment later, another man appeared, this one with dark hair, and Angelique stared, slamming down the pause button again. It's impossible...
"Ma'am?" Andreas repeated.
Angelique's eyes were fixed on the screen. It's impossible, but it is them... "Get a print of this," she ordered. "Send it to Thrush Central immediately."
"Do it!" she snapped. Things had just taken a definite turn for the worse.
Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin... alive.