BENDING THE TRUTH
ROUND ROBIN PART II: BENDING REALITYOn the red eye to New York, the agents contacted Waverly to give him the precis – omitting, of course, any information rated “mature.”
“How did Angelique end up with this?” Napoleon asked after describing the exchange – well, her end of it, so to speak.
Waverly harrumphed in his “we screwed up” tone. “That’s rather a long story, involving some difficulties in Cairo and a few deaths in Tangiers. I’m pleased you’ve gotten it back. Though I must admit I’m puzzled.”
“So are we,” Illya put in. “We had UNCLE Madrid go over it, of course, to ensure there wasn’t anything immediately fatal at hand. They didn’t open the case, but the scan ensured there are no explosives or detectable poison gases inside. Further examination will be for Section III New York.”
“I’d like you to lead that examination, Mr. Kuryakin,” Waverly said. “This is a Trojan horse we’d be wise to examine very thoroughly. When you arrive take it immediately to the Section III Hazardous Materials Section. Then report to me.”
“Yes sir,” Napoleon said crisply. “ETA 6:30 a.m. Out.”
“Trojan horse,” Illya muttered, pretending to be dozing off. “Appropriate image. At least, so I hope for your sake – everything about that creature is poisonous.”
Napoleon settled in as well, saying out of the side of his mouth, “Jealous.”
~*~*~Dr. Sanji (His real name was longer, but Napoleon wasn’t the only one who could never remember it) Gupta hardly glanced at the agents when they brought the box in.
“Yes, yes, I was told our stolen toy was coming back to us…” He took the box eagerly from Illya’s hands and placed it on a metal table. “I don’t know how you got it back but I’m glad to see it again. We’re working on range, bandwidth, and miniaturization, you know –” He glanced at Napoleon – “Well, Mr Kuryakin knows—” His fingers never stilled as he spoke, poking, prodding, delicately working at the boxy device – ” and this was our prototype.”
Illya said, “We don’t expect it to blow up, but that’s all we’re sure of, so please handle it with care. I’ll be back shortly to assist.
~*~*~“Take a seat gentlemen.” Waverly indicated the other side of the table and, without fanfare, dropped a folder on it to spin toward his top agents.
Napoleon got it first and opened it between them. The information there was mostly news to him – he only kept up with the labs on a cursory level – and he whistled as he read.
“Yes,” Waverly responded. “That remote communication device will – one day – revolutionize communication. We’re working on narrowband coded transmissions with the hope of being able to communicate with our agents the world over without having to resort to hard wiring or bulky walky-talkies. Our communicator pens are a version of this device, but for voice only – this medium, once perfected, will be able to deliver data at a staggering rate.”
Napoleon shoved the folder to Illya, who simply closed it. Smart Russian. “Are we to assume THRUSH now has knowledge of the technologies that went into that prototype? And will now be looking at ways to both coopt, and subvert, them?”
“Precisely, Mr. Solo. Your lady friend—”
Predictably, Illya snorted.
Waverly scowled. “Your lady friend from THRUSH was obviously doing us no favors in returning the device – clearly THRUSH was done with it – but there was intent there, and we must decipher that intent.” He leaned back in his chair for a moment and blinked, slowly. “I would suggest, first …”
Napoleon and Illya waited.
“… a nap.” Waverly slid down in his padded chair, crossed his arms over his stomach, and closed his eyes. He took one long, deep, sighing breath. Then began to snore softly.
The agents looked at one another. And grinned.
“That does sound like a good idea,” Napoleon admitted.
Illya yawned. “I agree.”
The two agents each took a half of the L-shaped couch in the corner of their chief’s office, removed their suitcoats and shoes and loosened their ties, settled themselves, listened to Mr. Waverly’s gentle snores for a few moments, and dozed off.
Napoleon was wakened by an insistent whisper.
He opened his own eyes to see blue ones inches above his face.
“Napoleon. Wake up.”
“I just did.”
Illya backed off and Napoleon sat up. His stomach was rumbling. “Me too.” He grinned. “What are you in the mood for?”
Illya looked at Waverly, still napping, his head tilted gently to one side.
“Hot dogs,” he said abruptly, though if there was a connection, it escaped his partner.
Napoleon brightened further. “There’s a stand on the corner – their dogs are excellent!”
Illya scowled at him, shaking a finger. “No catsup.”
Napoleon drew himself upright, affronted. “On a hot dog? Commie. Mustard. Relish. Chili.”
Illya jumped off the couch. “What are we waiting for?”
Napoleon got up. He felt good. Rested, peaceful, happy. He glanced at Waverly. “What about Mr. Waverly?”
“We’ll bring him back one,” Illya said, bouncing toward the door. “Come on. I’m starving.”
They smiled at everyone they met as they walked through UNCLE HQ, and everyone they met smiled back except those who were still napping, or deeply engrossed in flirtations, or comic books.
The reached the Del Floria’s exit.
“We’re going for hot dogs,” Illya told the girl at the desk.
“Oh, bring me back one too,” she said. Her high-heel-clad feet were on her desk and she was filing her nails. “Relish, no mustard.”
Mr. Del Floria was nowhere in sight, but since he had no customers at the moment, that was just fine. Everything, Napoleon thought, was just fine – even the little bell over the door was chiming the perfect note. What a wonderful day to be alive, with his best pal and partner, about to eat a great hot dog.
He threw a companionable arm around Illya’s shoulders and together they climbed the steps to the pavement. The sky was overcast, though the day was warm, grey clouds more hinting at rain than threatening it.
“You know what goes great with hotdogs? Root—” Napoleon stopped.
Blinked. Looked at his partner, who was doing the same.
“What … what just happened?” They both looked around them as if for enemies, but saw none.
“What the hell just happened?” Napoleon pressed. His memory of the last few minutes was crystal clear – and alarming. Someone or something had been messing with his mind, and he was angry.
Illya’s face twisted briefly. “That suka.”
Though inclined to agree in the moment – it seemed highly likely that Angelique’s little gift was the cause – Napoleon protested. “The lady is a class act.”
~*~*~“As long as the class is steerage,” Illya snarled. He had never liked Angelique, and this little trick was unlikely to improve his opinion of her.
“We need to get rid of … whatever it is she did.” Napoleon trotted down the steps to the forecourt of Del Floria’s. There he slowed. Stopped. When he turned, beaming, Illya saw that his pupils were enlarged.
“We forgot the hot dogs!” Napoleon drawled. Illya grabbed him and yanked him back up to the pavement, watching in fascination as Napoleon’s pupils and manner returned to normal.
After describing to his increasingly irritated partner exactly what had happened, Illya said with confidence:
“That’s no gas. It’s some kind of … beam or something. A transmission.”
“Then how the hell do we get in there to turn it off?” Napoleon pulled out his communicator. “Open Channel D.”
“Open Channel D.”
More crackling. More silence.
“Open Channel D, damn it.”
Napoleon tried other channels and received confirmation that other UNCLE offices around the nation and the world were fine. That was some comfort, but it still left them unable to communicate with the people in a position to isolate or destroy Angelique’s Trojan Phone.
~*~*~Napoleon tucked away the pen, briefly pondering the benefits and drawbacks of giving that little blonde THRUSH a tongue-lashing. “Now what?”
Illya considered. “We need to establish a perimeter. We’re fine, here, and we can’t be more than a few hundred feet from the device in Dr Gupta’s office, so the range isn’t great.”
“It’s great enough to keep us away.”
Illya was scowling. “We could try to focus – try to just march in there and get to it.”
Napoleon laughed wryly. “All I could think about was naps, hot dogs, and what a great pal you are. So I was clearly demented. Maybe that’s not the best option.”
Ignoring Napoleon’s jibe because it would be juvenile to stick his tongue out at him – although, he mused, the day wasn’t over yet – Illya pondered.
“Let’s establish a perimeter first,” he said. “See if the other entrances to HQ are inside or outside the range of this thing.”
“How will that help?”
Illya opened his mouth. Closed it. “It will give us time to think of something useful to do.”
Napoleon shrugged. “Well, if I had any better ideas I’d’ve offered them up. Let’s see how far the goofy ray extends.”
“Hang on—” Illya caught his arm. “One thing first.”
Napoleon drew back, examining his partner closely. His pupils seemed normal. “Are you ..?”
“I’m hungry, Napoleon, and he’s right there. Come on.”
~*~*~Angelique leaned back in her first class seat and sipped her martini. She had considered her part of the affair concluded. However, the man at her side seemed to think they should both fly to New York to be prepared for the next step in THRUSH’s plan. He hadn’t told her what that was – she still didn’t know what had been done to the little prototype phone she’d delivered to Napoleon – but he had told her she had still a role to play.
Angelique smiled. She always enjoyed her little encounters with Napoleon. And a girl had to make a living. She just wished she knew more about the man who was running this. He had sat silent beside her on the plane to New York for three hours now, drinking nothing, reading nothing, positively emanating brainwaves.
He was tall and lanky, though his suit was impeccably tailored to his form. Black-haired and black-eyed, his hard, saturnine face spoke of a heart attuned to suffering – the suffering of others, that is. His name was Gustav Reuter, and he was someone important with THRUSH. She just didn’t know how important, or in what way. He had said one thing to her when she was placed under his command.
“My professional goal is to end UNCLE. I know you share that goal. However, I have also a personal goal. The elimination of Napoleon Solo. I always achieve my personal goals. I hope you do too.”
Unnerved, she had of course given the answer that would keep her useful, hence alive.