Not to Talk
Napoleon made his way through the satrap, corridors all alike, sneaking his way where he could, not hesitating to shoot when he couldn’t. He was in search of the research laboratory, but it hadn’t been where his intelligence gathering had placed it, and was now methodically going through the rest of the building. He didn’t have a lot of time to spare, but he couldn’t stop now or the machine would be moved.
Down another level. Two guards standing by a door, bored, but responding quickly to his presence. Not quickly enough.
After they were down, Napoleon went to the door. Anything that was being guarded was of interest to him now. No window, locked, and the guards didn’t hold keys. He got a bit of explosive, stuffed it into the lock, and lit the fuse. Lock blown, Napoleon eased the door open, gun in hand.
Inside was a mostly empty small room, the only object a figure hanging from shackles on the wall.
Napoleon knew that figure. Slight but wiry, with an extra helping of gauntness at the moment. Wearing the clothes he’d probably had on when he went missing two weeks ago, dirty and filthy, a smell pervading the small room of neglect and untreated wounds. Blonde hair turned to brown with the dirt and dark. No face to be seen, but Napoleon knew that figure, no matter what. He drew in a sharp breath, his heart giving an extra thump.
“Illya?” Napoleon took a step forward. Then he stopped. There was a stillness to the figure on the wall. In their jobs, there were variations to stillness. Sleeping, unconscious, wounded, awake but holding ready,... Napoleon didn’t like this particular quality of stillness.
But there were guards at the door. Napoleon tried to reassure himself.
Guards who had no keys. They wouldn’t have been checking on their prisoner.
Breathing in again, Napoleon closed his eyes, then opened them in determination. He stepped forward, a step, another, only a couple more needed in that small room. His hand wavered only slightly as he reached out to touch.
The skin was still warm and soft, though cooler than it should be. No response from the touch. Napoleon shifted his fingers on the neck and held them steady.
There. Napoleon let out his breath. Thin, too fast, but there. He moved his hand up to Illya’s mouth, touching the cold lips and hovering his palm there until he felt slight puffs of air. Too slow, but there.
Two weeks of the unknown, waiting and waiting for word. Waverly wouldn’t even tell him what mission Illya had been on when he’d dropped out of contact, but then, Solo had been in the middle of his own mission, with distractions that could have been fatal for more than just himself. Now, though...
Napoleon stepped close, bracing Illya with his body while he reached up to the shackles, testing. They weren’t locked, Thrush apparently relying on the weakness of the body to keep him in. Unfortunately correct, but in this case also helping as they were easy to remove.
Illya’s full weight rested on him. It was less, much less, than it should be. Barely there. Two weeks shouldn’t have made so much of a difference. Napoleon eased Illya down to the ground, going down as well until he was kneeling, his friend laying across his knees.
His clothes were torn, scrapes and wounds showing through the layers of dried blood and dirt. The pain of having his arms released from overhead would normally have roused most people, but all the man-handling had done nothing to wake him.
As filthy and wounded as Illya was, he should have been running a fever. That he wasn’t hot but was instead cool to the touch was worrisome. Fevers were a sign that the body was fighting, sending warriors to defend against the invasion. But the body could only fight for so long, no matter how much one wanted it to continue on. Eventually, the blood cooled, with nothing left to send.
“Illya.” Napoleon rested his hand upon his friend’s cheek, gazing at the gaunt features.
Two weeks of worry, teetering between emotions. The intense relief that had flooded through him when he opened the door and saw the figure he knew so well. The pain of recognizing the stillness. The hope threading through his being at feeling a pulse and breaths. The knowledge that it may not be enough.
Napoleon bowed his head and closed his eyes.
It was their job. They never spoke of it, they never said it. Only the occasional joke was allowed, and quips for when they were safe, or even not so safe. They had faced it so many times before, each on their own side and often together as well. It was their job, it was what they did, it was part of life and living the way they did, always knowing it was there and never acknowledging it openly.
They worked together, they worked separately, they faced the enemy and won. Or sometimes lost, but only battles, never the war. They’d seen companions fall, lost to them and mourned but moving on. They’d come close to falling themselves, but always pulled themselves up from the brink, either through their own sheer fingertips and willpower, or the other stepping in to give a hand. Napoleon couldn’t even count the number of times it had been too close. They didn’t. They never counted, they never said, they never acknowledged it, for it simply was.
Freeing a hand, Napoleon got out his communicator and fumbled one-handed until he could turn it on, refusing to let go of Illya with his other, though it would have made it easier. If a helicopter could come quickly, perhaps a system flush, transfusions, antibiotics... something modern medicine could do. They were always improving, learning new things. It was amazing, what medicine could do now that it couldn’t twenty years ago.
But no. The communicator wasn’t picking up any signal, still blocked by the incredibly efficient jamming device that Thrush had invented. Or somebody had invented and Thrush had stolen. It was what Napoleon was after. Orders to retrieve if possible, destroy if not.
There was still the mission to complete.
The mission. Always a mission. Their jobs, their devotion. World peace was not just a saying when you worked for UNCLE, and you didn’t work for UNCLE unless you believed in it. It was why they were willing to do what they did, with all the risks involved.
Napoleon shifted Illya to the ground and took off his backpack. Taking out the explosives and putting them to one side, he dug out the blanket at the bottom. He hesitated. There were other rooms in the hallway, not locked, without guards in front of them. One of them was surely better than this unhealthy cell.
After he’d gotten Illya situated in another room, the blanket tucked around him, Napoleon’s jacket under his head, canteen and supplies beside him, Napoleon went back to searching the halls.
He would find the machine, locate the research papers on it. Then...
His orders were to retrieve if possible, destroy if not. He had the explosives for the second possibility. He had a friend downstairs. The second possibility was looming close, no matter what Thrush did at this point.
Illya would kill him if he knew what Napoleon was thinking.
Napoleon grinned. The two of them would always be able to find humor in any situation, no matter what it was.
Illya would want him to keep going, to keep working, to continue on. However, it wasn’t Illya’s choice. It was his. Though Illya did still have a say in the matter.
So. Napoleon would do his duty, find the machine, locate the research. Then he would go back downstairs to a certain room, and he would see.
See if there was hope, or no hope. See whether there was a chance, or no chances.
Napoleon wouldn’t give up until the last. Not while there was still breath in his body, not while there was still some in another.
Yet, for all that, he was a realist as well. At some point, the chances stopped, and the hope was gone. He would cling to the hope until there was no more. But... but if it wasn’t there, then there was always the second option.
Illya really would be disappointed in him.
Napoleon shot a few more Thrush agents and finally found the lab. Not anywhere where it was supposed to be, but the machine looked like it should.
One part completed. Next part... to be determined.