A twilight awareness. Noises sounding as if they were produced in an echo chamber then cast out through a cotton swathed fog. Gunshots. Shouts. Urgent voices ordering, Get these two on board now! Through slitted eyes that refused to open completely, Illya saw shadows of men bending close to him. He tried to turn his head. Where is Napoleon? His body, now weightless, floated! His eyelids surrendered, closing as he succumbed to the blackness again.( Collapse )
“Illya! Lookout, he’s got a gun!”
Instantly, Illya woke automatically grabbing for his pistol. However even in the pitch black of the tent he could tell that no one was trying to enter. He turned to Napoleon who in a highly agitated state was staring wide-eyed at the front of the tent.
The Russian gently pushed his friend down into the sleeping bag. “Easy Napoleon, no one is there.” This was the third time that his partner had awakened him because of hallucinations.
“Are you sure? I could’ve sworn I saw him.”
“Napoleon, there is nobody here. You are hallucinating. Try and go back to sleep.” Illya tried to keep his tone of voice light, not wanting to let his frustration show. How do you rationalize something to someone who is irrational? Fortunately, the little amount of energy Solo had expended exhausted him and he fell back to sleep.
Illya checked the luminous dial on his watch. 04:45. There was no point in going back to sleep. He grabbed the walkie talkie and checked in with the rangers.
“This is Agent Kuryakin calling Lamar Ranger Station. Come in, Bob. Over.”
“Hello, Illya. How did it go last night? Over.”
“As well as can be expected. Agent Solo is showing signs of slowly warming. He has had bouts of extreme agitation and hallucinations. He is sleeping now. What time should we expect the helicopter? Over.”
“The weather has cleared some. The pilot plans to take off at sunrise, 08:15. There will be medical personnel on board. It shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes to reach you. Over.”
“All right, Bob. We will be waiting. Over. Out.”
He tucked the walkie talkie back into the sleeping bag and began planning what needed to be done in the next three hours.
Illya stayed in the sleeping bag with Napoleon another hour or so. Normally, he would have started cleaning up camp and collecting supplies immediately after the last radio check in. However, he felt it was more important to share his body heat with his friend up until the last moment.
Finally, he gently shook Napoleon awake. “Napoleon, the helicopter will be here soon. We need to get you ready.” He began putting a shirt on his partner, but the American’s limbs were too cold to maneuver without causing a considerable amount of pain. Solo gasped, crying out, “My hands and feet, Illya! Oh God, they hurt so much! Please don’t touch them.”
“Here, let me take a look at them, Napoleon.” Slowly, carefully, Illya pulled off the wool mittens. He positioned himself so that his body blocked Napoleon’s view of his hands. If they were as badly damaged as he feared it wouldn’t do for Napoleon to see them. As the mittens came off, Illya saw that his friend’s blanched fingers had formed large white blisters. “Shit!” He checked Napoleon’s feet which were in the same shape, if not worse. He didn’t realize that he had spoken out loud.
“Illya?” Napoleon whispered. “Am I going to lose my fingers or toes?” The fear was palpable. “Illya?”
Illya shook his head vigorously. He turned to face the agent keeping his tone of voice light. “No, Napoleon! You will be fine. You will still be able to count to twenty when you have your gloves and shoes off.”
“Don’t let them amputate, Illya. Please, don’t let them!”
“Napoleon, I am going to bandage your hands and feet. It is important that you do not thrash about in order to avoid any more tissue damage. I want you to lie back and relax as much as possible, my friend.”
Immediately, Illya dressed and rummaged through his rucksack, looking for the few medical supplies he had. He found gauze pads, but no wraps. He thought about using the remnants of blankets from the crash, but he was worried about how clean they were and feared they might contaminate the damaged skin and cause an infection. Choosing the lesser of two evils, Kuryakin grabbed a couple of his turtlenecks, the gauze, and a pair of scissors and knelt beside his partner.
Carefully, Illya placed gauze pads between each of Napoleon’s fingers on both hands then wrapped each hand heavily with strips of cloth from his own shirts. Then he did the same for Napoleon’s feet. As he did so he tried hard to not be affected by the cries of pain. “I am sorry, my friend, but this has to be done.”
Finally finished, the Russian agent swaddled Napoleon in the two sleeping bags. By 08:00, Illya had managed to lift his partner, still cocooned in the bags, out of the tent and get him settled onto the pulk. He placed a piece of foam that he’d salvaged from the debris under Napoleon’s head then wrapped a canvas tarp around the man, lashing him to the pulk with rope.
Illya didn’t bother striking camp. The equipment would be retrieved when recovery crews came to retrieve the bodies of the pilot and copilot. Even if that meant waiting until late spring, it was more important to get Napoleon to civilization than worrying about some inconsequential camping gear.
The pulsating sound of an approaching helicopter drew Kuryakin’s attention. He couldn’t see the ‘copter but felt a great sense of relief knowing that Napoleon’s ordeal would soon be over. “Our ride is almost here, my friend. Just a little bit longer and before you know it you will be romancing the nurses at the hospital.” He wasn’t surprised when Napoleon didn’t answer.
The sound of the approaching helicopter faded until Illya could no longer hear it. A few minutes later the walkie talkie crackled to life. “Agent Kuryakin, this is Brian Wickencamp. Over.”
“Kuryakin here, Brian. Glad to hear your voice. Are you ready to pick us up? Over.”
“We have a slight change of plans, Sir. The forest is too dense to land. There is a small clearing about a half mile as the crow flies to the southwest. Over.
Illya pulled out his topographic map and check the coordinates. “Yes, I see it on the map, although it looks as there might be some obstacles. Over.”
“Roger, that. There is a bluff that you’ll have to circumnavigate, but it shouldn’t be too bad. When we land we’ll send somebody up your direction to help. Over.”
“Okay, I am heading out now. Over. Out.”
Illya was not happy about the circumstances as he was anxious to get Napoleon out of the woods and on his way to a medical facility as soon as possible. However, there was nothing to be done so he stepped into his snowshoes, slung the rope to the pulk over his shoulder, and began the tedious task of breaking a trail through the deep snow in a southwesterly direction.
Steadily, the Russian UNCLE agent made his way through the snow drifts. There wasn’t just the matter of working his way around the bluff, but he also had to contend with a large amount of deadfall that made it impossible to travel in a straight line. There had been a wildfire through the area several years before and now the forest floor was littered with dead trees that had fallen in a jumble like match sticks dumped out of a box.
Illya stopped at the top of a small ridge to catch his breath and check on Napoleon. The brunet’s eyes were closed and he appeared to be unaware of the activities of the last half hour.
Looking through his binoculars, Illya could just make out the clearing beyond a thick stand of lodgepole pines and he could see the shape of the cockpit of the helicopter. He raised the walkie talkie to his mouth.
“Agent Kuryakin to Brian. I can see the clearing and the helicopter below us. Over.”
There was a long pause before the pilot responded. “Mr. Kuryakin, say again please. Over.”
“I said I can see the clearing and where you have landed the helicopter. Over.”
Another long pause. “Uh…we haven’t landed yet. Ov…”
The loud report of a high powered rifle shattered the silence of the forest. Snow kicked up at Illya’s feet as he dove behind a rock. Unfortunately, as he scrambled for cover, he brushed against the pulk causing it to begin to slide downhill. He watched in horror as the pulk carrying an immobilized Solo gained momentum and headed towards a ledge with a twenty foot drop off.
Illya left the cover of the boulder at a run and pounced on the rope trailing behind the pulk stopping the sled before it got to the ledge. Desparately, he pulled at the sled to get Napoleon behind some cover. As he gave the sled one last tug a searing pain raced across his chest before his brain ever registered the sound of the shot. The last thing Illya saw was the flurry of feathers from his down parka floating down on his face before his world went black.
“All right, thank you, John. Over, out.” Illya turned off the walkie talkie and slipped it into the sleeping bag to keep the batteries warm and conserve their power. He turned towards Napoleon and embraced him tightly. Napoleon immediately moved even closer seeking the warmth radiating from Illya’s body and mumbled, “Cold! So damn cold,” before falling asleep again.( Collapse )
Illya took deep breaths, working at stifling his emotions and remaining calm. Removing his snowshoes, he stepped up to the charred fuselage laying upside down in the snow and took stock of the damage. Both wings were sheared off, the tail section had separated from the cabin just aft of the rear door. He climbed over the exposed bulkhead and peered inside. The blackened interior reeked of burned fuel and chemicals released when the plastics and foam from the seats ignited. The cockpit windows were smashed, the instrument panel was completely destroyed. A large spruce bough had rammed through the side cockpit window on the copilot’s side. In spite of the horrific damage, Illya saw no corpses. Maybe they got out or were ejected.
( Collapse )
The first picture comes from the archives of Dartmouth Medical. The photo is part of an interesting and sad article regarding a plane crash in 1959. The original photo and story can be found here:
I did a slight photo manipulation to give the impression that the man with the snowshoes was Illya Kuryakin.
The second photograph was taken in 2006 during a Yellowstone Assc. photography class. The snow had been falling for three days with temperatures in the 0 degree Fahrenheit range. The coyote was traveling along the road within 10 yards of our group and decided that she needed a nap and curled up under under a tree on a ledge by the road. She kept a wary eye on us as we snapped photos from across the road.
( Collapse )
During the fifteen minutes it took to fly the NPS helicopter back to the staging area in the Lamar Valley, the snowfall returned with a vengeance causing nearly whiteout conditions. The ‘copter landed in the upper parking lot of the Lamar Buffalo Ranch joining another NPS ‘copter that had just shut down its engine.
Illya jumped down to the hard packed snow and walked over to the group of rangers standing on the edge of the landing zone. One of the men parted from the group bowing his head against the wind and the rotor wash and walked over to the UNCLE agent extending his gloved hand in greeting.
“Mr. Kuryakin, I’m glad to make your acquaintance, ‘though I wish it were under less grim circumstances. My name is Bob Murray. I’m the the one who is heading up the search and recovery operation.”( Collapse )
Author's Note: Now that the 50th Anniversary Big Bang, Halloween Challenge and DTC have passed I decided it was time to get off my arse and get this story finished. I hope to have it all finished in the next week or two. If you would like to read it from the beginning go to: http://archiveofourown.org/works/892016 or you can find it in my journal.