Authors: Spikesgirl58 and Avery11
Genre: Gen Crossover with The Prisoner
Spikesgirl58 will recount Illya's experiences, and Avery11 will handle Napoleon's perspective.
Many, many thanks to sparky955 for her most excellent Beta skills.
Begin reading Chapters 1 - 4 HERE
The Prisoner Of the Mind Affair
Whoever was running the show didn’t seem to be worried about Illya attempting to escape. It was as if they’d lost interest. That in itself was a red flag for him. It told him this wasn’t THRUSH. They weren’t this… casual, if that was the right word, about their captives. There was something very odd about the whole arrangement.
When he'd first gotten mobile enough, Illya had gone through every inch of the room. He’d checked for loose tiles, hidden panels, ceiling or vent access, but the room was escape proof. He’d not run into one of those for a very long time. In short, Illya was rapidly running out of ideas.
After the man’s last visit, books had started showing up in his room. At first Illya was delighted, but then he began to wonder if there was some meaning in them. He started studying the titles, the authors, any part of the book for a clue. But there was nothing. They were just books, some fiction and some non-fiction. They topics ranged from cerebral to the banal. It was as if they were trying to distract him, but from what? And why now?
Illya got up off the bed and walked to the window. It was eerily dark outside. He’d never seen a place without at least some ambient light escaping from a window whose curtain didn’t quite close. When evening fell here, it was as if a blanket was draped over the place, rendering it invisible from view.
Whoever was in charge of this place didn’t want it to be seen at night, and Illya had to guess there were similar features in place during the day. In short, he was locked in an escape-proof cell in an invisible village. Illya sensed his goose might finally be cooked.
He turned and was shocked to see that the door to his cell was wide open.
That was too inviting. He sat down resolutely and crossed his arms. He half expected the door to shut, but it didn’t.
There was something going on outside. It was dark and he couldn’t really tell. Then he saw it - a large white object oscillating across the shore and out into the water. There was a noise.
“It’s too late.”
Illya turned. The man was there. “What’s too late?”
“They have him. We’ve failed. You’ve failed.”
“Then we’ll rescue him.” Illya took a step towards the open door, stopping at the splayed hand across his chest.
“What are your feelings towards your partner?”
“I don’t understand. He’s my partner.”
“Would you die for him?”
“If need be.”
“And he you?”
“What would you do to save him?”
“I just told you, anything.”
“Would you betray your employer?”
Illya edged away from the man, eying him warily. “Never and neither would Napoleon.”
“Then you both have a problem.”
Napoleon woke to the sound of birds singing.
Robin, he thought idly. That's a robin. Robin redbreast. He recalled a snatch of nursery rhyme...'The north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow, and what will poor robin do then, poor thing...'
He rubbed his eyes to clear the cobwebs from them. His body ached from the climb.
He bolted upright.
He was home, in his own bed! The room in which he had slept was his own! The bed, his own! The fine silk sheets, his own! No, that wasn't right. He was supposed to be --
“How did I get here?” he wondered aloud. He felt dizzy, disoriented.
He remembered the island, the search for Illya. Jumping from the helicopter, bruising his hip on landing. Scaling the cliff, the long hike down the mountain in the dark. He remembered the oddly silent forest, and the –
In his mind's eye he saw the white orb barreling toward him, enveloping him, consuming him. The sensation of airlessness and desperation. The burning in his lungs as he tried to suck in oxygen, and failed.
No, that can't be real! I was dreaming, that's all. It was a dream, and Illya's safe and –
But Illya wasn't safe. Illya was dead.
Or was he? Wasn't that what he'd been doing in Wales with April and Mark? Trying to find him? Christ, why was everything so muddled this morning?
He threw back the covers, and rose a bit unsteadily, wincing at the pain in his hip.
He rolled down the waistband of his pajamas, and gasped at the ugly purple bruise blossoming across his thigh and buttocks.
It did happen! I didn't dream it! “What the hell is going on?”
On an impulse, he stepped to the window, and opened the curtains. His eyes widened in shock.
The village, the one they'd spotted from the chopper! He wasn't in New York at all!
The phone began to ring. Napoleon stared at it. Finally, he picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Ah, you're awake, Number Eleven. I hope you slept well.”
“Who is this?”
“We've a great deal to talk about. Come 'round to my place, why don't you? We'll have a chat over breakfast.”
“Talk to me now.”
“Just follow the signs. Number Two, the green dome.” The line went dead.
What now? He searched the apartment, but his Walther and communicator were gone. Gone too were his exploding cufflinks, and the rucksack, along with all the equipment he'd brought. Whoever his captors were, they'd been thorough.
Napoleon decided to play along for the moment. He needed to find Illya, and it seemed that the only way to go about it was to play their game – whoever “they” were. He showered and dressed, donning one of the hand-tailored suits waiting for him in the closet. It fit perfectly, down to the smallest detail. Remarkable, Napoleon thought. Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to perpetrate this bizarre sham. Time to go see who was behind it.
The front door opened of its own accord, startling him. He recovered quickly, and stepped out into the bright sunshine. As if on cue, music began blaring from the loudspeakers, a trumpet voluntary that reminded him of something out of Camelot. Within a matter of seconds, a crowd of people filled the square. They were dressed uniformly, in brightly colored attire; many wore capes and carried umbrellas, which they twirled in time to the music. They chatted with one another as they passed, ignoring Napoleon as though he were invisible.
A golf cart pulled up, its striped awning flapping gently in the breeze. “Destination?” the driver inquired with a smile.
“Number Two's residence.”
“Certainly, Number Eleven. Hop in.”
Napoleon climbed aboard, and the little cart sped off down the road, past the General Store, an old fashioned bandstand, and a checkered lawn where a group of people played a gigantic game of chess.
He remembered the last time he'd seen a match like that. Could Alexander the Greater be behind all this? he wondered.
Moments later, the cart stopped at the foot of an ornate, green-domed building. “Number Two's residence,” the driver announced cheerfully. “That'll be two credits.”
“Bill me,” Napoleon snapped, and headed up the stairs. He pulled the bell pull, and the door opened. He gasped. “You!”
It was the odd little man from the airport in Key West, the one who'd been standing in line just ahead of him – only now he was dressed as a butler. They've been watching me the whole time, Napoleon realized. An even more troubling thought followed upon the heels of the first. What about the psychic? Was Esmeralda part of their plan, too? And if so, was she lying about Illya being alive? He had to know, even if it meant walking into their trap.
“Napoleon Solo to see Number Two,” he said.
The man nodded, silent as ever, and gestured for him to follow. They passed through a small but elegant foyer, complete with marble fireplace and the requisite urn of fresh-cut flowers, their scent cloying in the enclosed space. At the far end of the foyer was an imposing set of iron doors. They slid open at his approach, revealing a circular, ultramodern control room. The room was empty, but for a single black, spherical chair and its occupant.
“Ah, Number Eleven,” the man said, rising. “So good of you to come.”
“Visconti,” Napoleon breathed. “So you're the one behind this farce. I might have known.” He stepped into the room, and the door slid closed behind him.
“Let''s not stand on ceremony,” Visconti smiled. “Call me Number Two.”
“Who's Number One?”
“That would be telling.” He gestured toward a tray. “Breakfast?”
Napoleon ignored the question. “Why have I been brought here? And where's Illya?”
Visconti laughed. “So many questions! Do sit down, Number Eleven, and I'll give you all the answers you wish.”
A second chair emerged from a panel in the floor. Napoleon hesitated.
“It won't eat you, Number Eleven. Only Emory Partridge's chairs do that.”
After a moment, Napoleon sat down, keeping well away from the arm rests, just in case.
“Coffee?” Visconti lifted a silver urn.
“No. Where's Illya?”
“Tsk, tsk. We're going to have to do something about your manners while you're here, Number Eleven.”
“Don't worry. I won't be staying long.” Napoleon leaned forward,. “Once again – Where. Is. Illya?”
“Number Twenty-Two, you mean? Oh, he's around here somewhere, dear fellow. Quite unharmed – for the moment.”
Napoleon's world righted itself. Illya, alive. “I want to see him.”
A laugh. “We all want something.”
The price. “What do you want?”
Visconti sipped his coffee. “Information, of course. The knowledge you two possess is priceless to a number of interested parties. You're really a salable commodity, you know.”
“Is it?” He seemed to find the thought funny. “Let me be blunt, Number Eleven. You have a choice: tell us what we want to know voluntarily, or we'll be forced to take it from you, using somewhat more –invasive methods. You might survive the experience, but your friend is terribly weak –”
“I thought you said he was fine.”
“Well, perhaps I did exaggerate, just a bit.” Visconti steepled his fingers before him. “He's been – through a lot recently, what with dying and all. He may not have the necessary stamina to survive our coarser methods. You wouldn't want to lose him again now, would you?”
And there it was, thought Napoleon. Visconti's plan. Make me suffer through Illya's “death” so I would know the pain, and the cost. “I want to see him.”
“Certainly.” He pushed a button on the console, and Illya's image appeared on a wide, elevated screen. He was lying atop a bed, apparently asleep. He looked pale and thin, and there were dark circles under his eyes. His legs were encased in plaster casts. “There, see?”
It was all Napoleon could do to retain his composure. “Tapes can be doctored,” he replied coolly. “I want to see Illya in person.”
“Regrettably, Number Twenty-Two is unable to receive visitors at this time. Perhaps later, after you and I have had the chance to get to know one another better.”
“It seems we're at an impasse.” Napoleon stood. “I'll find Illya myself – with or without your cooperation.”
Visconti cocked his head, clearly amused. “Hmm, yes. I heard you were stubborn.”
“You don't know the half of it.”
“Well –” He toyed with the fringe on the striped scarf he wore. “I can't promise anything definite, Number Eleven, but I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, please feel free to enjoy the hospitality of our little Village. There's something for everyone here. Given time, I think you'll feel very much at home.”
Napoleon turned and made his way back up the ramp. “I doubt it,” he said as the iron doors closed behind him.
For a long time, Illya sat on his bed, his arms crossed, staring at the open door. It seemed funny that only this morning, he’d attacked the door with his razor blade. All he’d gotten for his efforts was a nicked finger and more frustration.
However, he’d not become an UNCLE agent by being impulsive. And charging out a previously secured door seemed very impulsive to him. Even when his friend tried to lure him out, Illya refused until the man finally walked away in disgust. He still didn’t entirely trust that man either.
Illya’s stomach growled, and he smirked. Perhaps they thought they could starve him out. That would be a good trick as well. He looked over at the window. Morning was starting to brighten the sky.
There was a noise in the hall, and Illya immediately returned his attention to the door. There was a man standing there. Granted he was only three feet tall but a man none the less. He was wearing a traditional English butler's outfit, and he was holding a tray. He set the tray on the floor and pushed it towards Illya.
Illya leaned back, and that’s when he saw a hint of gold. Without wanting to, he got up and approached the door warily, as if a gang of guerrilla fighters lurked just behind the butler. He knelt down, and tried to keep his hand from trembling as he reached for Napoleon’s I.D. card.
A gust of gas hit him and he choked. He tried to fight it, but it was impossible and then he was falling into a deep well.
He hit bottom and moaned from the impact. Illya rolled over and managed to get one eye open. He was in his apartment. Outside he could hear the sounds of a restless New York as its inhabitants rushed from here to there.
What the hell? Illya looked around. Everything was as it should be, down to the magazine he’d dropped when he’d gotten the call from headquarters that sent him and Napoleon to London to bug Bram Visconti's townhouse. It felt like a year had passed since that assignment.
Illya blinked. The name bubbled out of nowhere. He’d remembered the mission, but only in bits and pieces. Oh well, a quick glance at the report at HQ would fix that.
Illya sat up and jumped as he knocked an empty bottle of vodka to the floor. He wondered what had happened to make him tie one on. A quick check of his watch told him he had just enough of time left to shower, shave, and change.
He was amazed that there was hot water; the super usually turned off the hot water after nine. Illya really did need to move into a better building, but he liked the ambiance here. It was filled with ex-pats like himself, and that made it seem more comfortable.
Illya pulled on a gray polo shirt and his favorite black slacks. Strapping on his gun, a familiar and reassuring presence once again, he walked quickly to his front door. He’d have to grab something in the Canteen once he checked in. He opened the door and gasped.
A small town of brightly colored buildings stretched out to either side, and Illya realized that he wasn’t in New York. He was still in the Village.
Another one of the little golf carts met Napoleon at the bottom of the stairs. “Destination?” the driver inquired pleasantly.
Napoleon thought. “Can you take me to Number Twenty-Two's residence?”
The driver grinned. “I can take you anywhere in The Village, Number Eleven. Hop in.” The little cart sped away down the lane. “A friend of Number Twenty-Two's, are you?” he asked as they passed by the Town Pool.
Napoleon didn't bother to answer, his attention focused on on memorizing the layout of the village, and assessing possible escape routes.
“Haven't seen much of Twenty-Two. I hear he's not well. Been in and out of Hospital ever since he arrived.”
Was Illya ill? Injured? Napoleon fought to quell his growing concern.
They passed a pub called The Cat & Mouse, an arts and crafts guild hall, and something called The Labour Exchange. The trip was over in a matter of minutes. “Two credits,” the driver declared, holding out his hand.
“I'm, uh, new here.”
“No problem, Number Eleven. Things are always a bit confusing at first. Don't worry – they'll get you sorted out in due course. Pay me when you can. Be seeing you.” The driver gave an odd little salute and drove off.
Cottage Number Twenty-Two was in a pretty, wooded area next to The Village Hospital. Napoleon was reasonably sure its proximity to a medical center wasn't a good sign for Illya. Assuming that this creepy, Twilight Zone of a place was, in reality, some sort of bizarre mind-bending facility, he would have bet dollars to donuts that most of the mind bending occurred in that hospital, away from prying eyes.
The door to Number Twenty-Two was wide open. “Illya?”
He stepped across the threshold.
The place was a perfect replica of Illya's New York apartment. A second-hand sofa was littered with books and magazines on a wide variety of subjects from the Hoare quicksort algorithm to women's rights in Equatorial Africa. A half-eaten pizza sat open on the dinette table. Jazz records were strewn across the top of the kitchen counter. A copy of the latest issue of the American Journal of Physics lay open on the carpet, the pages crumpled. An empty bottle of Stolichnaya lay beside it, and a broken table lamp. In the bathroom, the shower ran unattended, the water ice cold.
But where was Illya?
The sausage pizza on the dinette table was hours old. Had Illya ordered it? Where did you order pizza in a place like this, anyway?
His eye was drawn to the jazz records again. Illya would never have treated his precious recordings like that. He looked more closely. The arrangement of the albums appeared random, but –
Herbie Hancock. Ornette Coleman. Sam Rivers. Pharoah Sanders. Ira Sullivan. Tina Brooks. Albert Ayler. Lee Konitz.
Something there, but what? And then he had it.
But what did it mean? Had Illya been taken to the hospital? Or had he gone there on his own to investigate?
Napoleon knew he had only one option, and that was to follow in Illya's footsteps. Before he left, however, he added one more record to the pile on the counter – Kai Winding's Solo. If Illya came back, he'd know his partner had been there, had seen and understood.
With a final glance at the apartment that reminded him so much of his friend, Napoleon shut the front door, and crossed the street to the hospital.
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