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Written By: NappiFan

Napoleon Solo sighed and leaned back into his office chair. His chin rested on one hand while the other threw stacks of papers carelessly on the desk. He sat alone; tie hanging loosely on a wrinkled white shirt with rolled up sleeves, his jacket thrown carelessly over a computer. Four agents. Four men. Four operatives of Section Two had been killed on affairs throughout North America in the last 16 months.

Napoleon had been through everything he could think of to try to explain it. He had reviewed every fatality report with UNCLE’s critical incident debriefing team. He met with each of the surviving partners for hours, asking questions, reviewing procedures, pressing the agents to recall the smallest details. Everything had been done by the book. He had personally evaluated Section II’s in-house training on mission procedures, physical conditioning, marksmanship, weaponry and tactics, interrogation resistance, communications, and intelligence briefings. Napoleon could find no deficiencies in training at UNCLE headquarters.

His mind drifted, partly out of fatigue and partly out of frustration. He didn’t notice the door to his office sliding open.

“Napoleon, what in the world are you doing here? It’s after 10:00. Surely you can find something more entertaining to do on a Saturday night than study reports?” Illya Kuryakin said as he sat down across the desk from Napoleon. Illya swung his feet up on the desk and rested his hands behind his head, observing his partner closely.

“Aaaaaaaah, well” Napoleon paused, “I don’t think I could say the same for you. Have you been rooting around all evening doing your mad scientist routine? Come up with any new gizmos with the boys in the lab?”

Illya removed his glasses and replied, “Perhaps. But you are changing the subject, my friend. How was your trip to the Pacific? Were you able to detect any problems with Survival School training?

“Not a one” replied Solo. “Your friend Mr. Cutter and I went through everything with a fine tooth comb. Things appear to be running better there than ever.”

“Then perhaps you are looking for a problem where none exists.” said the Russian, running a hand through his rumpled blond hair.

“I wouldn’t call 4 deaths in 16 months nothing, Illya.” Napoleon replied leaning forward moving both arms onto the desk.

Kuryakin noticed the edge in his partner’s voice. Illya had observed Napoleon’s typically affable demeanor change in recent weeks. He knew more than others how the rash of deaths weighed on his friend’s mind.

As UNCLE’s Chief Enforcement Agent, Napoleon was responsible for the readiness and effectiveness of 125 highly trained agents in the region. Prior to the past 16 months, UNCLE had lost 1 agent in 4 years. There had to be a reason and Napoleon had to find it. With the last death, Solo sensed a level of discomfort in the corridors of UNCLE that was almost palpable. Agents no longer seemed untouchable, a quality Napoleon himself seemed to exude to his fellow enforcement agents.

“You’re right, of course Napoleon.” Illya said. “I meant only that there are always anomalies to statistics. Statistics are simply quantitative measurements of data which use probablility to estimate the possible parameters of agent fatalities.”

“Hmmmmmmmmmm,” Solo mumbled, “Probability.” He rubbed his forehead then rested his head in his hands without looking up, his jaw slack. “We’re missing something, Illya. I can’t put my finger on it but I know there’s something missing. I just don’t….I can’t explain it.”

“Well you’re not going to put your finger on it tonight, Napoleon. Not after an 18 hour flight and 72 hours on duty. A bit of rest might yield the answers you are searching for, don’t you think?” asked Illya.

“Probably.” Solo admitted. “But I think I’ll grab a bunk here and catch some sleep. I’ve got to finish up the Survival School report tonight and have it ready for Mr. Waverly first thing in the morning.”

“Fine” Illya sighed. “I’ll swing by your apartment and pick up a fresh suit for you in the morning before I come in. We can’t have you pacing the halls of UNCLE looking rumpled now, can we?”

Napoleon didn’t hear his partner’s last comment. He had already turned back to the business of writing his report.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Kuryakin arrived precisely at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning in Mr. Waverly’s office as previously requested. He was surprised to see Napoleon and their superior deep in conversation at the conference table when he came in. Napoleon was leaning forward with an animated tone to his voice to match his clenched fists. Mr. Waverly listened to his top agent’s report without comment. When Solo finished his briefing, the old man sat back in his chair and continued to draw from his pipe. Waverly’s demeanor was anything but concerned.

“Very well, Mr. Solo. I’m pleased to hear that your trip to the Pacific was uneventful. I expected as much.”

“Yes sir. But we’re really not any closer to…..” Solo started.

“Yes, I understand, Mr. Solo,” Waverly cut in. “But it seems we have another matter of considerable importance to attend to. Please sit down Mr. Kuryakin."

Illya made a point of passing by Napoleon on his way to a seat at the large conference room. He briefly patted the shoulder of his partner reassuringly as the lights dimmed and the screen in front of them illuminated. Napoleon grinned as he recognized the city map before them.

“Ah, tres bien…la ville magnificent de Quebec.”

“Quite right, Mr. Solo.” Waverly said. “Our friends to the north are in need of some assistance it seems”

“Something the UNCLE office there can’t handle, sir?” asked Illya.

“In part, Mr. Kuryakin. You’ll be working together with Arnaud Gaudet at our Quebec headquarters. I take it you’re both familiar with Agent Gaudet?”

“Ah, yes sir” answered Solo. “I believe Arnaud and Mr. Kuryakin share the same fondness for explosives.” Solo winked at Illya.

The three agents had collaborated several times before with very successful results. It would be a pleasure to work with agent Gaudet again.

“Take a look at this, gentleman. What do you make of it?” Waverly asked.

An overhead picture of a large metropolitan area appeared on screen. An island on the map was highlighted.

“That would be the Ile d’Orleans, sir” Napoleon offered. “Originally French settled, important historically to Quebec itself…maybe 3 kilometers east of downtown Quebec on the St. Lawrence River.”

“Very good, Mr. Solo.” Waverly answered. “Mr. Kuryakin?”

“There appears to be a rather large building, somewhat industrial in nature, on the northwest side of the island next to the river. Rather out of place on an island like that. Is it some kind of munitions or chemical plant, sir?” asked Illya.

“Nothing quite so sinister that we know of, Mr. Kuryakin. It is, however, currently occupied by a large contingency of Thrush men, hence, our concern. Early intelligence indicates the building is filled with unusual amounts of furniture varnish.”

“I take it you don’t believe Thrush is entering the antiques market, sir” asked Napoleon. “What are our little birdie friends up to this time?”

“That is your assignment, gentleman.” Waverly spun the table around where two airline tickets to Quebec stopped in front of his agents. “You’ll leave this afternoon and meet with Mr. Gaudet tonight. Find out what is going on on Ile d’Orleans and report back immediately. Whatever Thrush is up to, I can guarantee you it’s no good. Off you go, then.”

“Avec plaisier, monsieur,” Napoleon quipped as both agents rose to depart.

“Good luck, gentleman” Waverly said as he waved a hand dismissively.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Illya……Napoleon! My friends….welcome!” Arnaud Gaudet exclaimed as he bear hugged both agents in the Quebec airport. “I am so glad to see you both; we have much to talk about, yes?”

“Arnaud. It is good to see you my friend.” Said Illya. “How do the wars go?”

“One battle at a time, my brother” replied Arnaud referring to their shared motto during survival school training.

Gaudet and Kuryakin were assigned quarters together throughout survival school and the Canadian was credited with helping the mercurial Russian negotiate the interpersonal land mines he often experienced with his peers. Kuryakin had been somewhat a loner, and found himself often isolated…a situation that was eased with Gaudet’s jovial persona.

Arnaud became rather protective of the Russian and initially worried about his pairing with UNCLE’s CEA, Napoleon Solo. Through the years however, Arnaud came to appreciate the complementary nature of their partnership, their effectiveness as a team, and the trusted bond that helped them know each other’s moves often before they happened. Clearly they were UNCLE’s top team. Of Napoleon, he had great respect and admiration, as most agents did. The American had been hand selected and mentored by the legendary Nathan Woods and lived up to, or exceeded, every expectation that the leadership of UNCLE held for him. Smooth, diplomatic, but deadly when he needed to be, his fierce loyalty to UNCLE and Kuryakin was fabled.

“Come on, I have a car waiting outside.” said Arnaud. “We have an appointment at the university. We have some leads on what might be happening on Ile d’Orleans. You will find it interesting, I think.”

“Lead on,” Napoleon replied with a slight bow, straightening his jacket and drawing his coat around him.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The agents made their way through the concourse and moved outside into slightly blustery weather, typical of the historic city. They wound through the old part of the city and arrived at the university where Arnaud led them inside a building marked “Ingenierie Chimique et Recherche.”

“Wonderful….chemical engineering.” said Napoleon with a sigh. “Can we attend lectures on the Binomial Theorem of 19th Century Germany next?”

“I’m afraid not tonight, Napoleon. But I do have a wonderful textbook on the subject I’d be glad to loan you tonight for some light reading if you wish,” Agent Gaudet deadpanned.

Illya added with a smile, “Yes Napoleon. Perhaps afterwards we could discuss the algebraic expansion of binomials?”

”Ah…..well..,” Napoleon sarcastically replied with hands in his pockets. “Thank you gentlemen, but I envisioned partaking of some of your delightful Canadian Ice wine with an old acquaintance later this evening. Perhaps a rain check?”

The three were interrupted by the appearance of a rather serious looking, balding middle-aged professor who entered the room carrying several notebooks, loose files, test tubes, and beakers of liquid. He spread them out on a laboratory table and looked up, pushing up his glasses from where they had slid down his nose, to greet his guests.

“Ah….Monsieur Gaudet. Welcome, welcome. I am happy to see you again.” said Professor Gabriel Rouchard.

“Merci, Dr. Rouchard. These are the men I told you about, Mr. Napoleon Solo and Mr. Illya Kuryakin from UNCLE’s New York headquarters. They arrived just this afternoon.”

“Very happy to meet you gentleman. Thank you for coming. I have some laboratory results that I must say, have surprised and alarmed me regarding the building on Ile d’Orleans that Arnaud asked me to investigate. Please….please, sit down.”

The three agents sat on the lab stools around the table which held the professors materials, eagerly anticipating some insight into why they were here. Dr. Rouchard began in earnest.

“I have here samples of Quebec’s tap water taken from every borough in the city over a period of one year. This coincides with the appearance of your storage warehouse on Ile d’Orleans. Through chemical analysis, we can see that the water supply for the entire region now contains elevated amounts of the metal, manganese.” explained the professor.

“Certainly not a problem in trace amounts I would think,” Illya commented thumbing through the files and reports strewn across the table.

“Oui, this is true. However, in larger amounts, there is quite a different effect. Large amounts of manganese ingested can lead to a….shall we say…an erosion of intellectual functioning in humans.” Rouchard said, lowering his eyes as the impact of his statement sunk in to the agents.

The three UNCLE men exchanged shocked looks among each other. Thrush had created an incredibly simple way to erode human intelligence in mass numbers. The implications were frightening. Control of such a population of people would be simple, complete, and uncontested.

“Doctor Rouchard,” Napoleon said leaning forward, “Do we know if these effects are permanent? What about filters for the water supply? Have the local authorities been contacted?”

“We can not say for sure, Mr. Solo, but some experiments we have conducted here at the university suggest initially that the effects are temporary and as soon as the metal is removed from the source, intellectual capacity returns to original levels in a matter of weeks.”

Agent Gaudet added, “And as far as the authorities go, they do not want this knowledge released to citizens until the board of governors decides how to proceed. They have been working on this for 6 months and as yet, still do not have a plan. I do not believe we can count on their assistance.”

Illya said, “Looks like this is our problem to solve. About the furniture varnish…this is a cover I assume?”

"Somewhat, Monsieur Kuryakin.” the professor replied. “As you may know, furniture varnish comes from manganese resinate. In original form, this is a light, tan powder and apparently your adversaries have learned to extract the manganese from this product. This has allowed them to build up large amounts of the metal from a seemingly harmless product without suspicion. But let me caution you, manganese resinate is highly toxic, highly flammable, and can ignite spontaneously under the right conditions.

Agent Gaudet whistled softly and turned to face his UNCLE colleagues. “Les grand grondement, eh?”

Napoleon nodded and summed up the situation succinctly, “The big boom.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next evening, 50 agents gathered at UNCLE’s Quebec office attending a briefing on the Ile d’Orleans mission. Alexander Waverly had sent 25 enforcement agents from the New York office to assist the Section II operatives from Quebec.

Napoleon Solo conducted the final briefing, clearing his throat to get the rooms attention. “All right ladies and gentlemen, I think we’re clear on assignments. Most of you will be taking out the Thrush personnel on the outside perimeter and then gearing up in hazmat suits for fire control. Make sure you have eye protection and check your oxygen levels before you do anything else. This stuff is deadly and getting a good whiff of it could put you six feet under, toute de suite.” Solo instructed.

He struck a more casual pose, grinned and pointed a wagging finger in the air saying, “And I don’t think our local officials will take kindly to UNCLE burning down the entire city tomorrow night.”

The room relaxed as Solo did. As CEA, Napoleon set the tone for enforcement agents and even though each agent individually was a highly skilled, seasoned operative, Solo knew they still looked for leadership and direction. He wanted the men prepared and informed, but not operating on a tight wire.

The briefing continued. “Arnaud and Javier will approach the target from the north and Illya and another agent, from the south. At the designated time, small explosives will be detonated near the manganese resonate, hopefully to burn inward and destroy Thrush’s magnesium supply and the warehouse itself.”

At this, there was a slight murmur in the room. Illya glanced briefly towards Napoleon, startled at this development. He assumed he and Napoleon would be working together as usual. Kuryakin was wise enough to know this was not the time to voice concern however. His face remained impassive.

Solo ignored the slight rustle in the room and finished up the briefing. “On scene your agents in charge are Kuryakin and Gaudet. That’s all ladies and gentlemen. Be ready to go tomorrow night.” Napoleon stacked his papers on the lectern, turned, and walked out of the room.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Illya Kuryakin approached the door to Napoleon’s suite and knocked softly. When no answer came, he knocked again and checked for lights in the room as well as sounds that might reveal Napoleon was perhaps entertaining. There were none. He sighed and headed downstairs to take a walk.

Solo’s briefing had caught him off guard and he needed to talk to his friend and partner. As he headed through the deserted lobby of the hotel, his eye caught a glimpse of a familiar figure sitting alone at the bar. Kuryakin strode into the bar and found Napoleon nursing a single malt scotch, seemingly lost in thought.

“Good evening, Napoleon,” said Illya. “Don’t tell me you were stood up by your “acquaintance?”

“No, no, not at all” replied his friend. “I didn’t feel like the best company tonight, Illya. Sit down….have a drink.”

Kuryakin slid onto the bar stool next to Napoleon and ordered vodka on the rocks. “You surprised me tonight, Napoleon. I’ve never known you to take yourself out of a mission. You’re the first one in and the last one out. I know you. Was this an order from Mr. Waverly?” Illya asked gently.

“No, Illya, it wasn’t” said Napoleon sipping his drink. “When I talked with him this afternoon, he sounded just the same as every other affair we’ve been on over the years.” Solo replied.

“But for you, this is not every other affair, is it, Napoleon?” the Russian probed. “Is this about the loss of agents we talked about in New York?”

Napoleon nodded silently.

Illya said, “I don’t see how taking yourself out of the action would prevent an incident, Napoleon. If anything, you are needed more in the field than staying behind at headquarters. You are much too valuable to sit this one out. Besides, what will I do if I don’t have to pull you out of some kind of trouble you’ve gotten yourself into?” Illya teased, hoping to lighten Solo’s mood.

“Oh I’ll be there. I just need to look at this from the outside. How can I fix what is wrong if I’m inside playing cowboy with you while you get your jollies blowing up the entire island?” Solo replied with a grin.

“Have you considered the effect this might have on the other agents” Illya asked. “You heard the reaction tonight….not exactly inspired confidence.”

“They’ll be fine. The problem is not with the mental focus of our agents, Illya. It’s not with their training and it’s not with policies and procedures. I don’t know what it is, but I have to find out.” Solo paused then continued, “If I can’t, I won’t continue on as Section II’s CEA.”

“You’ve got to be kidding, Napoleon,“ Illya blurted out. “Somehow you think the loss of those 4 agents is your responsibility? You weren’t even there. You had no input or control over the actions of those 4 agents.” Illya’s eyes practically pleaded with his friend.

“Look. Illya,” Solo turned to face his partner. “All I know is that I’m missing something. Every instinct that I have tells me that. These men and women…these agents…they put their lives on the line every time they go out there. It is my responsibility to make sure they are prepared in every way to accomplish their mission and then get the hell home safely. If I can’t do that, I don’t deserve to be in the position of CEA.” Napoleon explained. “I’ve worked for this position all my life, Illya, but that doesn’t mean I’m beyond reproach when……”

His voice trailed off.

Illya studied Napoleon’s face and knew better than to try to change his mind. He trusted his partner implicitly and although he would miss Napoleon by his side, Illya knew that his own personal wishes could not take precedent over the larger concerns of the mission. Still, he longed to find a way to reassure Napoleon. Illya could not imagine anyone else fulfilling the CEA role as Solo had.

“Very well, Napoleon. You’ve made up your mind” The Russian conceded. “Will you answer just one more question for me?”

Solo nodded to him by way of reply. “If my temporary partner works out tomorrow night, may I get rid of you and request a permanent change?” Kuryakin asked innocently.

Napoleon laughed perhaps his first genuine laugh in weeks. “Not a chance, partner.” He said clapping Illya on the shoulder. “Not a chance.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

With a bird’s eye view of the entire operation, Napoleon sat gazing through binoculars and surveying the action as it unfolded. UNCLE agents around the warehouse overcame the Thrush men guarding the building with very little resistance and had donned their sleek, form-fitting black hazmat suits ready for fire control after the planned explosions soon to come.

Illya had selected a promising 2nd year agent to assist him on the mission. The young man was clearly in awe of the Russian and couldn’t hide the eagerness he felt as well as delight for his good fortune in assignments. Kuryakin checked the young agent’s gear carefully and rolled his eyes at Napoleon discreetly as he discovered his temporary partner had not turned on his oxygen. They disappeared into the night and slipped into the building.

From the north, a series of noises drew Solo’s attention and he saw flames igniting slowly accompanied by heavy smoke. Too soon, Solo thought, and not typical of the explosives the agents were to use. Within seconds, a chain reaction of explosions echoed across the island and flames burst high into the night sky, literally shaking the ground. Kuryakin and his partner scurried out of the building and headed towards the operation center where Solo had started making a mental checklist of agents.

Solo looked to the north and saw Gaudet’s partner staggering from the building, coughing, with his hazmat suit smoldering slightly. Napoleon watched and slowly stood up letting his binoculars and radio microphone fall to the floor with a thud. He stared intently, without moving, as an agent ran to the fallen man and assisted him to operations center.

“Javier, what happened?” Solo asked quickly but calmly.

Breathing hard, the UNCLE agent gasped, “Sir, we moved a couch across some carpet to get to the detonation spot. I guess the static electricity sparked an explosion before we knew what was happening.”

“….. .. Gaudet?” Solo almost whispered.

“He….he ordered me out of the building, Mr. Solo. I thought he was right behind me” replied the operative looking around desperately for his partner.

Solo stood frozen as Kuryakin reached for the dropped microphone and urgently contacted Quebec headquarters. Illya ordered the mobile decontamination unit forward to their location and requested medical staff be on alert for their arrival back to UNCLE. Kuryakin then directed agents to gently remove Javier’s hazmat suit and begin irrigating his eyes with water. He grabbed a spare oxygen bottle and shoved a regulator into the agent’s mouth. Satisfied that medical treatment had been initiated, he stood to further assess the situation. He gasped at what he saw.

“Oh God, Napoleon…!” Kuryakin shouted.

Fifty pairs of eyes turned to see UNCLE’s Chief Enforcement Agent sprinting directly into an inferno.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Three fateful minutes can be a lifetime. In the dangerous world occupied by the men and women of UNCLE, life can literally turn on a dime. Uncertainty. Fate. A lucky turn in the morning could lead to a fatal, freak accident that same night. None of these things can be known or predicted, yet they are the reality that every agent accepts and in fact embraces as they begin their work with UNCLE.

Never had time passed so slowly for Illya Kuryakin as the two minutes he waited for his partner and closest friend to hopefully emerge from the smoke filled warehouse. With flames extinguished and the building saturated with fire-killing foam, a single bright beam of light shone towards the entrance into which Solo had disappeared. Two helicopters stood by with medical crews poised, equally prepared to treat…. or recover bodies.

Napoleon Solo emerged, half dragging, half carrying the unconscious agent, Arnaud Gaudet. And then Illya saw something incredible….something not seen in all his years as an agent.

Spontaneously, the entire cadre of UNCLE agents ran towards the two men to assist. They literally swarmed upon the two men relieving Solo of his burden and rushing Gaudet to a helicopter. They caught their CEA as he stumbled forward while grabbing his eyes and fighting continuous spasms of coughing. As they hustled Solo towards the other helicopter, he called out for Kuryakin. The agents immediately made way for Illya to reach his partner.

“Illya…….are we secure?” Solo spat out. He grabbed Illya’s sleeve tightly as he struggled to breath.

“We are Napoleon. We’re officially on stand down and are heading back to headquarters. I’ll meet up with you in medical. You know you’re an idiot, don’t you?” the Russian said reaching out gently with his hand to touch Solo’s temple.

Napoleon was quickly swallowed by the medical crews putting protective dressings on his eyes and adjusting an oxygen mask over his head. In seconds the helicopter lifted off into the night towards the safety of UNCLE headquarters. Kuryakin watched as agents dispersed to put away gear, load up Thrush prisoners, and wrap up the successful affair. He scanned the scene and marveled as spirited agents smiled, embraced, and shook their heads with amazement at what they had seen that night.

Tonight, UNCLE’s CEA had found the answers he so desperately needed to find. Napoleon’s actions reminded them above all, it is the heart and the soul of each UNCLE enforcement agent that matters most. It was something not accounted for on training fields, strategy sessions, meeting rooms, or especially in rule books. The nature of a man’s heart goes largely unspoken yet reveals itself in the actions of every agent. Tonight they were shown that, more than anything, UNCLE is a brotherhood of the heart. A brotherhood that takes care of its own, through an unwritten code that demands no one, ever, be left behind.

Illya looked skyward to the helicopter which was now only slightly visible in the night, nodded, and smiled.

“Well done, Napoleon.” he said softly.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The door to UNCLE’s medical section slid open and Kuryakin strode in to find a flurry of activity. Both Napoleon and Arnaud had been stripped and were horizontally submerged up to their chins in warm, shallow, water circulation units. Nurses scrubbed every inch of each agent’s body vigorously with soap and water as the tub continuously drained and fresh water flowed in. Kuryakin was happy to see both men conscious, seemingly alert, and breathing deeply from their oxygen masks.

Illya observed two doctors applying eye ointment on gauze and carefully putting the pads over Solo’s eyes. They finished by wrapping a longer bandage around his head to keep the gauze in place and providing him pain medication which he reluctantly took on doctor’s orders.

“Nothing to worry about, here Monsieur Solo.” said Dr. Bechone. “Keep this bandage on overnight and you should be good as new tomorrow. We need another ½ hour on the body scrub to decontaminate you and if you promise to stay on oxygen tonight, we’ll cut you loose into Mr. Kuryakin’s good care.”

While medical was thorough in their treatment, it was common knowledge that Section II agents were extremely difficult patients who generally recovered far better when released from the unit as soon as possible. Quite simply, enforcement agents were a pain.

Solo pulled his mask off to greet Kuryakin. Before he could speak, a no-nonsense nurse snapped it back into place and glared at him, ready to take action should the agent dare to interrupt the treatment being administered. Napoleon did his best to look boyishly innocent but the nurse was not having any of it.

“Don’t worry, Napoleon.” offered Illya, trying to defuse the situation. “I’ll spring you out of here as soon as they’re done scrubbing the skin off you. I would wager you haven’t been this clean since your mother scrubbed your little bottom!”

The nurse smiled, put her hands on her hips, and marched away to check Agent Gaudet’s treatment.

Kuryakin continued, “Mr. Waverly arrived about an hour ago and would like to meet with us tomorrow morning promptly at 8:00. I briefed him on the affair and offered to finish the reports tonight, but he said he preferred to talk with us in person first. A little unusual, don’t you think?”

Solo relaxed as his pain started to subside. He started to enjoy the warm, soothing water rushing over his body but sighed deeply as he digested the news about his boss. He had a feeling that he knew what was coming.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Alexander Waverly had a commanding presence no matter what room he occupied. His three agents knew enough to arrive on time and stood respectfully silent, waiting for Mr. Waverly to turn his attention to them. Napoleon was flanked on either side by Illya and Arnaud and he occasionally dabbed his still sensitive, watering eyes with a handkerchief while they waited. He had slept well….in fact, unusually well. He felt more relaxed than he had in months and was quite prepared for why they had been summoned. Waverly did not invite them to sit down.

“Well, gentlemen, I presume Mr. Solo is quite aware of why we are meeting this morning,” he said glaring. “Would that be correct, Mr. Solo?”

“Yes, sir.” Solo replied, his hands clasped behind his back.

Mr.Waverly pulled out a thick notebook with UNCLE’s logo on the front and slammed it on the table in front of him. It slid towards the three agents.

“Is this recognizable to you, Mr. Solo?” Waverly demanded.

He directed his comments only to Napoleon. It was obvious that Kuryakin and Gaudet had been ordered to the meeting specifically to make Solo’s trip to the woodshed a public one. However uncomfortable they were, they understood their role at this meeting and remained silent.

“Yes, sir.” Solo answered.

He knew this could best be endured by direct and simple responses without elaboration and definitely without argument.

“Yes, I imagine you are very familiar with this document. Very familiar indeed. It contains the policies and procedures for Section II Enforcement Agents in the field and was recently revised, I believe, one year ago. Would that be correct, Mr. Solo?” Waverly inquired.

“Yes, sir.”

“And the author of this document?.” Waverly asked, letting the question hang in the air.

All of them were perfectly aware who had compiled the information contained in the notebook. Kuryakin had to push, shove, and cajole Napoleon for 5 months to get the manual completed by Waverly’s deadline. It had been a beast of a job.

“That would be me, sir.” Solo said, keeping his voice even.

“Yes, that would be you. Mr. Solo, I assume you to be an intelligent man perfectly capable of understanding and complying with the policies that you wrote in this document. Am I in error?” Waverly had no intention of letting the CEA off lightly.

“No, sir.”

“Then what the devil were you thinking? I’m growing rather weary of your shenanigans, young man. Your habitual impulsiveness, recklessness, and the ease at which you ignore regulations designed to keep our agents safe is very disturbing, Mr. Solo. Very disturbing. You are expected to be a leader and role model as Chief Enforcement Agent, not some excitable beginner just out of survival school seeking to make a name for himself. Fifty agents were there to witness your foolishness last night, Mr. Solo. I’m shudder to think of the ideas put in their head by your actions."

“I apologize, sir.” Solo said simply.

“Hmmmmmm, I should think so.” Waverly responded curtly.

The room was silent as the UNCLE Chief lit his pipe and let Solo wait for the dressing down to continue. Instead, Waverly suddenly switched gears and addressed the three of them.

“Mr. Kuryakin, you and Mr. Solo will be departing tonight for Lisbon. There is a relatively simple matter, I hope, for you to clear up there. Please read the briefings and pick up your travel documents from Section IV. Let’s try very hard not to make a mess of this one, shall we? Good day.”

The three agents turned and walked crisply towards the door that had automatically opened before them.

“Ah…..Mr. Solo, a moment please.” Waverly called out.

Illya nodded sympathetically and quickly pointed down the hall indicating he would wait for Napoleon there. He imagined his partner would be consuming liberal quantities of alcohol on their overseas flight that evening.

Inside, Mr. Waverly motioned Solo to a chair directly next to his and turned away giving his attention to several overseas relays that needed to be handled. Napoleon sat perplexed and waited for UNCLE’s Chief to finish his communications. All the time, Solo wondered to himself…what next?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Napoleon could never have prepared for what was about to happen. When Mr. Waverly turned to face him his whole demeanor had changed. His face had softened in a way Solo had not quite ever seen. Waverly relaxed back into his chair and sighed. In this relaxed state, he seemed to age before Solo’s very eyes.

“I spoke with Dr. Bechone this morning.” Waverly started. “You are due for some respiratory therapy in half an hour. See that you make that appointment, Mr. Solo.”

“Of course, Mr. Waverly. Thank you for…ah….checking.” Solo said uncertainly.

“This next matter is to remain only between you and me. You have had a rather difficult time of it in recent months with the loss of our agents.” his boss declared. Solo nodded, unsure about where all this was headed.

Mr. Waverly continued, “I decided early on to let you work this out on your own…”

Solo interrupted, “Wait a minute…you mean you knew the problem….why didn’t you fix …..”

“Because I knew you could.” Waverly cut him off. “Mr. Solo, one day you will occupy this seat where I am now. Of that I have no doubt. There are complexities to this position that you can only imagine and you will struggle, at times, to know what to do. But listen carefully Napoleon, and don’t ever forget what you are about to hear. You have every tool needed to succeed. You have diplomacy, judgment, strength, intuition, and the respect of everyone in this organization, including me. You will not fail.”

Napoleon swallowed hard and felt emotion swelling in his body. He was stunned by the use of his given name by Waverly. Never before had he heard such words from UNCLE’s chief. Waverly paused and reached into the breast pocket of his jacket, pulling out something Solo couldn’t quite see.

“I have something I’ve been meaning to pass along to you, but I have been waiting for the appropriate moment.” Waverly said slowly.

The old man paused looking down at the object in his hands and was silent. He seemed to drift off to another place as if recalling someone or something important from his past. When at last he stirred from his reverie, he cleared his throat.

“Nathan Woods was very important to you.” Waverly stated simply.

“Nathan….what…what does he have to…..? Napoleon stumbled, and then composed himself. “He was my brother.”

Waverly smiled slightly. “I’ve heard that very word several times in the corridors today.”

“What does Nathan……?” Solo started.

Waverly held up his hand, asking for silence. Waverly knew Solo would understand soon enough and he needed just the right words for what he was about to do.

“Nathan came to me four months before he was killed. I wonder if he somehow knew…… he had great instincts, you know…. much the way you do. He asked me to keep something for you. He said there would come a time when you would need it. I’ve kept it for five years now.” Waverly put the object in his hand gently on the table, revealing it to Napoleon.

“My God…..Nathan….Oh God….” Solo was stunned.

His eyes widened and he could barely catch his breath. His heart pounded and hands trembled as he recognized the small, tarnished medal in front of him. It was in the shape of a faded white maltese cross with a wreath of green laurie behind it. There were a few shreds of tattered red material hanging on to it.

Nathan had been awarded the revered Legion d’Honneur for his work with the French Resistance during WWII. It was his most treasured possession and a good luck piece he was never without. Napoleon rested his elbows on the table and covered his eyes with one hand. He had never felt so overcome with emotion.

Alexander Waverly reached out and put his hand on Napoleon’s arm and spoke softly. “The inscription on the back…..Coeur D’un Guerrier….”

“Yes.” Napoleon Solo replied looking up, moist eyes shining. “Heart of a Warrior.”

Waverly patted Solo’s arm much the way a father would. “And so you have.”


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soloforever Great story! I love Napoleon! 0 Aug 18 2011, 6:33 PM EDT by soloforever
Thread started: Aug 18 2011, 6:33 PM EDT  Watch
I love this Napoleon's character as CEA, brave, cool,and respected, loved by everybody
Very moving story. I would like to read more please!!!
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