The Pendragon Affair, Act III
The Pendragon Affair
-a Man from UNCLE slash fanfic by Taylor Dancinghands
Pairing: Napoleon Solo/Illya Kuryakin
Characters: Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin, various O/Cs
Genre: slash, h/c, A/U: Sentinels and Guides, Sentinels are a known institution
Warnings: m/m romance, intimacy, period terminology for African Americans (but not the n- word), tropes and themes lifted freely from The Sentinel tv show, episode 1, season 4 (Sentinel Too, pt 2).
Rating: Mature/PG 17
Length: 19,351 words
Disclaimer: I'm old, but still not old enough to be any of the creators or owners of the Man from UNCLE intellectual property. I swear, my own twisted musings are not costing those people a dime, and I won't be making a penny myself.
Summary: Napoleon and Illya are called in when airport officials in San Francisco are threatened with a laser attack on northbound passenger planes and UNCLE thinks it looks like a Thrush operation. Chasing down the villain's probable base on Mt Tam, our heroes discover that this affair involves Sentinel business too, for Mt Tam hides its own secrets —a forgotten shrine, sacred to Sentinels, which is also imperiled.
Act III: "Unless you can think of a better plan?"
The reaction of the other Sentinels and Guides inside the shelter ranged from momentarily alarmed to suspicious, but Henry recognized him right away.
"Sheriff Richardson!" he cried, running up to greet him. "It's a good thing you're here! We have to stop Mr Artos!"
"I heard about the ultimatum," the sheriff said as he settled on the floor with the others. "We've still got men out combing the woods for this young man, but they knew they're to keep an eye out for the Pendragon operation."
"Then their time is doubly wasted," Ayisha declared. "We have the boy and we know where Pendragon is, hiding in plain sight."
Richardson shook his head."I'm still having a hard time believing that Artos is a criminal extortionist," he said."I've known him for years. He organizes an annual fundraiser for our department.He's even on the County Arts Commission."
"Thus do rich white men seek to disguise the evil in their hearts," said James."So that their evil grows like a cancer while all around them are blind to it all."
"That a quote from that Malcolm X fellow?" Richardson retorted. James shrugged.
"It's a quote from me," James said. "Though it's possible he said something similar."
"It's true, Sheriff," Henry piped up now. "All the kids think Mr Artos is a great guy; I thought so too, but I know what I saw last night. I don't know what a laser gun looks like, but why would he take that big piece of equipment on a camping trip, and then never take it out in the daytime when we were all awake?"
"Sentinel Richardson," Napoleon offered, "there are two other Guides as well as myself here, who can attest to this young man's honesty, and if your own Guide were here, she would say the same. Every minute you delay action against this villain puts a plane full of innocent people at greater risk."
Richardson shook his head. "Dot always said there was something a little 'off' about Artos, but I couldn't see any reason for it."
All three Guides in the room frowned slightly, and Illya could practically feel them each refraining from admonishing Richardson for ignoring his own Guide. It was Illya who finally broke the silence.
"Sentinel Deangelo and his pride have offered to go in and quietly evacuate the campers under cover of darkness," he said. "Once they are out of harm's way, your men can move in on Artos."
"Now wait a minute," the sheriff objected. "Even if Artos is Pendragon, how am I going to explain to the parents that I had a gang of negros come roust their boys out of their tents in the dead of night?"
"Well you might begin by explaining that you were very fortunate to have the assistance of a Pride of Sentinels and Guides," Napoleon said pointedly.
Even Illya could see the profound discomfort practically radiating from the sheriff, and the disapproval of the three Guides in the room was equally palpable. Without a word spoken, James and Ayisha stepped away from the entrance, lest the outnumbered Sentinel feel trapped, resulting in a feral response. Then the tension was broken, by the chirp of Napoleon's communicator.
"Solo here," Napoleon said as he uncapped the device and the sheriff watched in astonishment.
"We've turned up some additional information concerning your 'Mr Artos'," Waverly's voice could be heard by all. "He was born Jeffrey Bainbridge, of Hammond, Indiana, and was regarded by his teachers as being very bright but possibly troubled, having come from a broken home. He was a rising star in the graduate Engineering program at Northwestern, but was expelled in his second year, for selling test keys to undergraduate students. He fell into the arms of Thrush at about that time, and was probably among the handful of technicians who escaped when we raided the Chicago Satrap that was hijacking cargo ships on Lake Erie with a submarine, about eight years ago. He resurfaced as "Leroy Artos" in Marin County soon afterwards."
"Christ Almighty!" Richardson moaned after a moment."You mean that this man has been a career criminal the whole time?"
"That's the local sheriff, Sentinel Nathan Richardson," Napoleon explained to Waverly. "And yes," he replied to the sheriff. "He has. You really need to pay more attention to your Guide, when she says someone feels 'off'."
"We're coordinating between the sheriff and a local Pride," Illya took the communicator from Napoleon to report. "We'll have a plan of action shortly, and will contact you again once we have concluded the operation."
Waverly signed off with a 'Good Hunting', and Illya closed the communicator, handing it back to Napoleon.
"So," Richardson said after a long pause. "Your plan his to have this group of Sentinels evacuate the campers in secret, so that we can send a force of uniforms in afterwards and take Artos without any hostages in play."
"Unless you can think of a better plan?" Illya replied. The question was followed by a moment of fraught silence.
"No, I can't," the sheriff with a sigh, at last. "We need to start by getting Henry down to the parking lot, where someone can take him home to his dad. I can call my people back from the search as well, and assemble them in preparation for taking Artos. Can this laser weapon he has be used on targets other than airplanes?"
"Theoretically," Illya answered, "but it strikes a very small target. If his apparatus is set to aim it at distant objects, hitting things at close range will probably be rather difficult."
"Very well," the sheriff said, standing to head out. The others made to do likewise. Once they were all standing outside the shelter, he pulled his walkie talkie from his belt and called for Kendall.
"Good news, Gabe," he began."We've found the boy and I'm bringing him down to the parking lot now. If you can coordinate bringing the searchers in, please have them assemble there as well. I'll be apprising them of another issue we need to deal with tonight. I'll also be handing my radio over to the UNCLE agents, so I'll be off radio for a few minutes. Richardson out."
Illya took the radio, turned it off and slipped it into his jacket pocket. "We'll need absolute silence while we're evacuating the campers," he said. "But we'll turn it back on and let you know as soon as all the boys are safe."
Richardson nodded, then pulled out a flashlight and handed it to Henry. "We need to wait to turn it on till the rest of the Sentinels are out of sight," he instructed. "You ready to go home, young man?"
"Yes sir!" the boy replied. James and his pride were already melting into the shadowy forest and Illya and Napoleon soon followed in their wake. Glancing over his shoulder, Napoleon spotted the beam of the flashlight flicker on, pointed down the slope towards the base of the mountain. He and Illya were headed up, returning to the summit, where the campers would be just now preparing for bed. They had no idea their lives were in the hands of the group of outcast Sentinels heading their way, but better hands, in the current situation, they could not wish for.
They more or less retraced young Henry's steps on the way up, though much more expediently. Soon the eight of them stood in the fringes of forest just beyond the campground, scanning over the site. The last embers of the evening campfire still glowed at the center, but no one moved among the tents. Here and there a tent was illuminated from within by a flashlight, and a few giggles and snippets of conversation could be heard from among them.
Across the the campground could be seen the hulking shadow of Artos' camper and trailer. The man himself sat beside it, smoking a pipe. The dim glow and pungent scent of the burning tobacco identified him clearly.
"We're going to have to wait for a bit," Napoleon said quietly. "It's only 9:30."
"How will he know if the money has or hasn't been paid?" Ayisha asked.
"He probably has a radiophone in the trailer," Illya replied. "He will be able to call his Swiss banker, to find out if any funds have arrived."
"Then he will have to go inside to make the call?" Tam speculated.
"Most likely," Illya answered. "While we wait, we should use the time to get into position—encircle the tents so that each pair can evacuate a different section."
This they agreed upon immediately, with the two senior pairs taking the two quarters flanking Artos' camper. Then they split up, moving away as silently as they had arrived, and soon Napoleon and Illya were standing next to a rock outcropping, just beyond the camper. They watched as Artos fiddled with his pipe, then tapped it against his boot, to empty the ashes. That done, he turned and mounted the steps into his camper.
"He is making a call," Illya said in a hushed voice a little while later. "I can hear him." Napoleon nodded, hunkering down next to Illya as they waited.
"He has thrown something," Illya said after a moment. "A coffee cup, I think. Apparently, he was not pleased with what he heard."
Napoleon shook his head. "Seems he wanted the money more than the mayhem," he speculated.
As in any other stakeout, they passed the time patiently. Illya watched the moon cross the sky as one by one the flashlights in the tents went out and the last murmurs of conversation faded to silence. A little after eleven, Illya heard someone else succumb to Morpheus' charms, as the faint sound of snoring issued from within the camper.
He rose silently, Napoleon following like a shadow, and made his way to the first tent at the edge of the encampment. He stood back to let Napoleon wake the sleepers, which he did by simply untying the flaps of the canvas pup tent, so that the cool night breeze entered.
"Sshhh," he heard Napoleon admonish gently. "Sorry to wake you, but we have an emergency evacuation order. A dangerous criminal was spotted near the campground, and we need to get everyone out as quietly as possible. Grab a sweater and your sneakers, and follow me."
It took a moment for the boys to get moving, but soon they were standing at the doorway of their tent, sleepy and confused, but compliant. Illya and Napoleon led them down to the trailhead where the sheriff's men were now waiting, then jogged back up to the campground. They passed 'Mundo and Tam with another couple of boys as they went and exchanged a silent greeting.
They intercepted a boy headed towards the latrines as they approached the tents, and sent him over to join the group they'd just passed. Then Napoleon was opening another tent and giving the same speech again. It seemed like slow going at first, but as more boys were guided away, it became possible to simply direct some newly awaken pairs to follow the others which could be seen crossing the meadow towards the trailhead.
"At least Artos seems to have trained them to follow directions well," Napoleon murmured as they handed off another pair to Esperanza and Lwazi.
"I am just as glad they will not be following his orders any more," Illya said, following the sound of sleeping campers' breathing to one of the few still occupied tents near the center of the encampment. Napoleon was just crouching down to wake them when a nearby voice broke the silence.
"I ain't goin' with you! You're one of them criminal Black Panthers! You get away from me!"
"Silence child!" Ayish'a Guide Voice cut the boy's cries short. "The police are waiting over there," she pointed across the moonlit meadow. "If we are criminals, then I welcome you to take us to them."
It was one of the older boys, of course. Napoleon passed a sorrowful glance towards Ayisha, then returned to waking the boys in his tent.
"I wonder where Frankie is," he said later, as he and Illya led his pair plus the older boys which Ayisha had waked over to the trailhead.
"His tent's up by Mr Artos' camper," one of their charges volunteered.
"Thanks," Napoleon replied. "We'll make sure he gets out safe."
When they returned to the campground, however, they found James and the rest of his pride waiting at the periphery. "The tents are all empty," he reported.
"So they are," Illya confirmed. "Unfortunately, we are still missing a boy. Frankie was not among the boys at the trailhead,"
"I was afraid of that," Napoleon said. "He's going to try to protect Artos, at any cost."
Illya nodded gravely. "Someone needs to let the sheriff and his people know that we've completed the evacuation with one exception, and explain the situation with Frankie.The rest of us need to try and find Frankie and stop him from doing something stupid."
Without another word, they split up, one pair headed down the hill to the trailhead where the police were waiting, and the rest fanning out among the tents, senses open in search for the young, nascent Guide. Illya found his tent, just where they'd been told, but it was empty. Uneasy, Illya made his way towards the camper, Napoleon close at his side.
He sensed the others, spread out in a circle around the camper but invisible to the mundane eye. He stood in silence for a long moment, then turned to Napoleon, silently pointing out the shadowed clump of bushes besides the camper's door. There Frankie's too rapid heartbeat gave him away.
"Frankie," Napoleon stepped into the moonlight, speaking softly. "You need to come with us. Mr Artos isn't who you think he is. He's a dangerous man, and you need to get away from him now."
"No! You're lying!" the boy cried, stumbling out from the bushes. "He's a good man! He's loyal to us and I'm loyal to him!"
Napoleon shook his head sadly. "Frankie, you know I'm not lying. And you know that what he's doing isn't right. You've seen the thing he's hiding in that trailer. He's going to use that thing to kill hundreds of innocent people tonight if we don't stop him."
"No! No! It's not true! I won't let you get him!" Frankie insisted, and suddenly he was brandishing a knife, the six inch blade glinting in the moonlight. Seeing it, Illya's protective instincts flared to life with equal suddenness and he strode forward, wanting to put himself between Napoleon and the deranged boy. He paused, however, as Napoleon gestured him back.
"Frankie, you've got to listen to me," Napoleon implored, the compelling resonances of his Guide Voice pitched to soothe the most violent criminal. Alas, Frankie's ears were attuned to another voice—the only voice he would heed in a crisis, and now that very voice intruded on the scene.
"What's going on here?" Artos demanded, emerging onto the the front stoop of his camper.
As if he had stepped onto a stage, Artos was now suddenly illuminated in the beams of a half dozen powerful flashlights, and the sheriff's voice shattered the quiet.
"Leroy Artos. You are under arrest! Come out with your hands up!"
Artos froze, but Frankie sprang into frantic action. With an anguished cry, he flew at Napoleon, knife upraised. Napoleon had no time to do anything but block the attack with his forearms, but Illya was upon him barely a second later. Seizing the boy by the collar, he ripped the knife out of his hands and threw him onto the ground, none too gently.
"You attack a Sentinel's bonded Guide, you forfeit your life!" he whispered harshly into the boy's ear. "You have no idea how close you have just come to death." Almost instantly, Illya caught the unmistakable odor of urine, as the boy pissed himself and his body went limp on the ground as he fainted dead away.
Rising, Illya glanced over at his Guide to see him regarding his arms beneath his shredded jacket sleeves with a pained expression."I'll be fine," Napoleon said. "Probably need a few stitches, but that's it."
Illya knew that his partner wasn't understating his injuries. That was a lesson they'd learned early on. Glancing up to the stoop where Artos had been a moment ago, Illya was not surprised to see that the man had used Frankie's distraction to make his escape. Already, the sheriff and his men were surging forward to try and follow, muddying his scent trail impossibly.
"I doubt he'll get far," Napoleon commented. "He's probably heading into the woods."
Illya agreed. "Let's get there ahead of him," he said. "My senses will be of much more use away from all these people."
Napoleon bid him lead the way, and so he did. Illya could not say what impulse drew him to follow the course he did into the dark, looming redwoods, but his feet seemed to be carrying him on a path he could not sense.
When they'd gone beyond the sounds and smells of the pursuing deputies and police, Illya paused, and noted that Napoleon had fallen a little behind. He looked back to see him leaning against a tree.
"Damn," Napoleon said, in a voice that sparked all kinds of alarm bells. "I think that little punk poisoned his knife."
"What?!" Illya strode back towards his partner, just as Napoleon's legs gave way.
He leapt to his partner's side just in time to catch him, and the moment he held Napoleon in his arms he could feel that something was badly amiss.
"I'm guessing it's a neurotoxin," Napoleon speculated idly."Curare maybe, or hemlock…"
"I'll radio the sheriff," Illya said, reaching for the walkie-talkie in his jacket pocket. "He can get a helicopter here…" Napoleon's hand on his arm stopped him.
"Illya… lyubov," he murmured. "It won't get here soon enough."
For a moment Illya felt a surge of panic, like an upwelling of white noise blocking out all his senses. "No," he whispered, eyes shut tight, wanting to will away the truth of it, even as he heard Napoleon's faltering heart beat, felt his waning strength.
"No… It can't be." He found himself shaking with horror and despair, kneeling on the mossy ground next to his partner, lover and Guide and feeling his very life force slipping away. "It cannot be."
"Sentinel Kuryakin." The voice belonged to Ayisha, James' Guide, though he had not heard her approach. Reluctant as he was to tear his eyes away from Napoleon, Illya looked back to see the pair of them, gazing down sorrowfully.
"He is dying," was all that Illya could manage to say. He might well have said, 'I am dying,' for it came to much the same thing.
James nodded, and Ayisha came to kneel beside him.
"All hope is not lost, Sentinel," she said. "You can yet save your Guide."
This could not possibly be true, but Illya could only ask, "How?"
"The Holy Place is not far," she said. "Find it, pass the ordeals, and you will be given the strength to save him."
Illya stared at her, wanting to refuse the hope she offered, but unable to. "How do I find this Holy Place?" he asked.
"Your heart knows the way," she said, reaching across to touch him there. "The deepest instincts of your Sentinel know the way. Follow where they lead."
Illya glanced back at Napoleon, who nodded, reaching with fading strength to touch his Sentinel's face. Illya took his resolve from this, gathered his Guide in his arms and stood. With Napoleon's head resting over his heart, Illya let his feet guide him, and in only a moment they had set off.
"We will protect your trail, Alpha," he heard James call as he plunged into the dark forest. Then he left them behind, and soon they were utterly alone.
Overhead, the half moon glimmered between the tree branches, sending the occasional finger of moonbeam to fall like a signpost ahead of them. With Napoleon in his arms, Illya could not see his feet, but they wove their way between the ferns and fallen logs as if they had their own eyes, or as if the very forest was clearing a path for him. His only sense of passing time was the gradual slowing of Napoleon's heart beat, and his diminishing breaths.
When he saw a brighter glimmer ahead, Illya thought at first that it was just more moonlight, but then he heard the incongruous cry of a hunting falcon—his own Spirit Guide. Then he was stumbling down a sudden steep slope and passing between a pair of massive sequoias, standing like a gateway. He stopped, to find himself in a hidden grotto, surrounded by a low palisades of stone, at the center of which was a strangely glowing pool. It seemed as much some sort of liquid moonlight as natural water, but there could be no doubt that Illya had found the place he sought. He laid Napoleon down gently at the foot of one of the great sentinel sequoias and turned back to the pool.
"I am here," he said, "to save my Guide."