Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Man (and Woman) from U.N.C.L.E. on Vacation - Illya and Gaby Return to Rome

A few days ago while changing my Man from U.N.C.L.E. doll/character figure display for summer I thought of a very short story, a vignette actually, featuring Illya Kuryakin and Gaby Teller from last year's Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie.  So, here it is.  Hope you enjoy it.

Almost a year after the Vinciguerra Affair, Illya Kuryakin and Gaby Teller return to Rome as tourists.  In the time since we met Gaby and she became an agent in the  new U.N.C.L.E. organization, she has embraced life in the West.  Illya Kuryakin, not so much.

The Man (and Woman) from U.N.C.L.E. on Vacation - Illya and Gaby Return to Rome

July 1964
Rome, Italy

 Gaby Teller (GT):  Wasn't it kind of Mr. Waverly to allow us to take our summer holiday during the same week?

Illya Kuryakin (IK):  Yes, it was.  Rome is a beautiful city.  Now we have time to see it and be tourists.  So let's start sightseeing!

GT:  Well, we need to make one stop first - to a men's clothing shop.

IK:  What?  Why?  My clothes are fine.  This is what I always wear.

GT:  Illya, I'm concerned for your health.  If you don't change into cooler summer clothes I'm afraid you may pass out from heat exhaustion.  I saw a men's clothing shop a few blocks from the hotel.  Please?  I worry about you.

IK:  Alright, but I hope this doesn't take long.  And no three piece suits like Napoleon!

GT:  Good!  This time I can pick your wardrobe.

Men's Clothing Shop, nearby

 GT:  Those linen trousers look nice on you and are very appropriate for summer.

GT:  I found some shirts while you were trying on the trousers.  What do you think of this one?  Paisley is so popular in London now.

IK:  No, the print is too busy.

GT:  How about this?  Americans like to wear them on tropical vacations.

IK:  I'm not an American in the tropics.

GT:  Well, surely you can't object to this shirt.

IK:  No, this one is fine, a nice stripe and sleeves I can roll up or down.

IK:  So are we finished?  (thinking)  I hope so.  This is so boring!

GT:  Almost.  You need a pair of shoes that will be comfortable for sightseeing.  Which of these do you like best?

IK:  The white canvas ones will get my feet soaking wet if it rains.  And - I - will - not - wear - sandals!  So that leaves the brown "loafers".  What an odd name for shoes, but they are OK; they'll do.

GT:  And finally, one more thing - something to shade your eyes.  Try on this hat.

GT:  (with a little laugh) Now you look like the cowboy instead of Napoleon.

IK:  No, this will not do.

GT:  Then try these sunglasses.

GT:  Oh, yes, these I like!

IK:  Yes, I agree.  They're fine.

One more quick stop back to the hotel to drop off Illya's cold weather clothes and their first day of sightseeing really begins.

IK: (thinking)  The things I do for my little chop shop girl!

And he smiled.


Copyright 2016 Marianne Triplett Smith 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The White Swan Affair

Here is my newest doll photo story based on the 1964-68 TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which starred Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. This one is considerably shorter than my last story with Napoleon featured much more than any previous story. I hope you enjoy it.

 The White Swan Affair


Early December 1966
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A lone man leans against the railing of a pedestrian bridge, lost in thought, the only light the glowing end of his cigarette. (thinking) Tomorrow...finally – freedom! It's really happening after so many years of pain...and loss. He turns away from the railing: What was that?

A short distance away in the deep shadows near the bridge entrance someone watches the man, careful to stay well hidden. (pzippth! pzippth! - the sound of a gun silencer, followed by running footsteps) On the bridge the man contemplating his freedom now lies sprawled on the pavement.

Act I – Grand Adage

Illya Kuryakin's Apt., New York
2 Days Later, 6 AM

(sound of his U.N.C.L.E. communicator)

Illya Kuryakin (IK): Kuryakin here. Yes, sir, understood. I'll be right in.

Tatyana Petrova (TP): What was that about?

IK: I have to go in to work.

TP: At 6 in the morning? On a Saturday??

IK: I'm sorry, but that's the nature of my work.

TP: I know, but I was hoping we'd be able to have a nice weekend together without any interruptions.

IK: I guess that's not meant to be this week. (tenderly) Now, stop tempting me and go get dressed. I'm making us some tea and toast. I've got to leave very soon.

JFK Airport, New York
later that morning

Napoleon Solo (NS): You got a call this morning too?

IK: Yes, I did. I didn't expect to see you here. Body guard assignment?

NS: Yeah, mine's a ballerina defecting from Warsaw. What's yours?

IK: Mine is a Russian author on the next flight from Amsterdam.

NS: The ballerina is on the flight coming in from Paris, one gate over from your Russian author. I'd better head over there. They'll both be here soon. Talk to you later.

IK: Evgeny Kuznetsov?

Evgeny Kuznetsov (EK): Yes.

IK: I'm Illya Kuryakin from the U.N.C.L.E. I'll be handling your security here in New York for a few weeks until we can be sure there will be no further attempts on your life.

EK: I'm happy to meet you, Mr. Kuryakin. Even though I want to practice my English, it is nice to hear a familiar accent.

IK: Please call me Illya. There is no need for formality. You are a writer?

EK: Yes, but my point of view is very unpopular with the government at home. That is why I have been trying to come here for many years. (pointing to his crutch) It seems that someone didn't want me to make it here.

IK: We have a safe apartment ready for you. As soon as we get your luggage, we'll go there.

NS: Pardon me miss, are you Milena Janowicz?

Milena Janowicz (MJ): Yes, I am. And you are?

NS: Napoleon Solo, at your service. I'm from the U.N.C.L.E. I will be providing security for you until you are settled here in New York. Another person coming here recently in similar circumstances was assaulted before leaving Europe and we want to make sure you're safe.

MJ: Oh, my, how awful! Are you sure I will be safe here?

NS: I will guard you with my life, Miss Janowicz. I understand that arrangements have been made for you to stay with several dancers from the ballet company at their apartment.

MJ: Yes, that is correct. Please get my luggage and take me there.

ACT II - Danseuse

2 days later, the ballerinas' apartment
7 AM

NS: Good morning, ladies! Is Milena ready to go?

Roommate #1: She left for the ballet studio about a half hour ago. Took a cab; said she needed to get to rehearsal early. And she has a costume fitting today too.

NS: (surprised and frustrated) I've already discussed this with her. It's too soon for her to be taking off on her own like that. Have either of you seen anyone or anything unusual around the building or the neighborhood since Milena came?

Roommate #2: Yeah, yesterday I saw a guy on the sidewalk and in the alley who looked like he was watching our building. I'd never seen him around before.

NS: Can you describe him?

Roommate #2: Tall, blond, that's about all I could tell.

NS: OK, thanks.

NS: Excuse me, can you tell me where Milena Janowicz might be?

Ballerina: I think she's in the costume department on the third floor for a fitting. You can't miss it.

MJ: Good morning, Napoleon! Well, what do you think? Will I make a beautiful white swan?

NS: Yes, of course, but you must take your safety seriously, Milena. I can't protect you if you won't cooperate. You shouldn't have come here on your own this morning. Have you noticed a tall, blond man in the building who doesn't work here?

MJ: No, should I?

NS: Just let me know right away if you do.

MJ: I will. Napoleon, I appreciate you taking my safety so seriously, but, really, I think you're too concerned. I'll be fine. I need to get to rehearsal now. Don't worry, I'll be sure that you take me home tonight.

Napoleon leaves the costume department and heads for the stairwell at the end of the hall. He hears a rehearsal room door open and sees a man also going to the nearby stairwell door – a tall, blond man trying to keep his face hidden by his coat collar! As the man reaches the stairs and the door closes, Napoleon breaks into a run to try to catch up with him. Even though he's moving so fast down the stairs his feet barely touch the steps, he hears the ground floor stairwell door close seconds before he gets there. He sees the alley door at the end of the hall open with only the man's leg and foot still visible. By the time Solo is in the alley, the man is long gone.

NS: (thinking) I better go to that newsstand down the block and get plenty of reading material. It'll give me something to do after I re-check the ballet company building. I'm going to need to stay close to Milena. That man must have been the one her roommate saw yesterday.

IK: Are you getting settled here in New York, Evgeny?

EK: Oh, yes, it is like a dream come true. Illya, you don't know how long I've waited for this – this freedom!

IK: Well, you've only been here a few days. Don't forget you were shot less than a week ago. I'll be guarding you for the next two weeks, until we can feel certain you're safe.

EK: That is fine. I enjoy the companionship of someone from home. It is only the government at home that I disagree with, not the country, not the people. I hope that someday I can go home. But for now, everything is going so well for me here. New York University has asked me to read selections from my most recent book at the campus in two weeks. And, I was told if all goes well, I will be offered a position as a visiting professor!

IK: Pozdravlyayu! (Congratulations!)

Act III - Danseur

U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters, New York
2 weeks later

IK: Last day for protection detail, Napoleon. How has yours gone?

NS: Very quietly, nothing out of the ordinary since the initial concern about a man watching Milena and her apartment a few weeks ago. I've learned more about ballet productions than I ever thought I would though. How have things been with the author?

IK: Very quiet as well. My security detail officially ends tonight after I see that he gets to his apartment safely after he has his reading at NYU.

NS: I'm taking Milena out for a nice dinner tonight to celebrate her freedom and ask her if I can see her again now that I won't be guarding her.

IK: Napoleon, I don't think it's a good idea to become emotionally involved with a woman you've been guarding. I speak from personal experience. Remember the woman I was guarding two years ago?

NS: Yes, but I don't think Milena and I will turn out like that. It's too late anyway. I already care a lot about her.

NYU Lecture Hall
7 PM

EK: Good evening. I am Evgeny Kuznetsov. I have recently left my homeland so that I may have the freedom to write without fear of retribution for my ideas. I love my country and its people, but not the current government. Maybe someday I will be able to return. When I arrived in New York I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my books are quite popular here. New York University asked me if I would be willing to read selected excerpts from my most recent book and have a discussion about it with an audience. I am very pleased to do this, so let's get started!

A very nice, cozy restaurant near NYU
7 PM

NS: I'm glad your roommate recommended this restaurant, Milena. It's very nice; I've never eaten here before. Would you like for me to order some wine while we look at the menu?

MJ: (a bit nervously) Yes, that would nice, Napoleon.

NS: (with a warm smile) The time I've been your bodyguard has gone by quickly. I've certainly learned more about ballet than I ever expected I would. I've enjoyed getting to know you too – I really don't want it to end. Now that my assignment guarding you is over, may I see you socially, on a date, as we say here?

MJ: (smiling)Yes, I'd like that very much. I've become very fond of you, Napoleon.

NS: I'm glad to hear that. With the holidays coming up so soon, maybe we can get together tomorrow, look at the decorations around the city, go ice skating, something like that. I could come by your apartment and help you and your roommates put up a Christmas tree.

Milena tries to hide her face from Napoleon as she starts to cry quietly.

NS: Milena, what's wrong? Did I say something that upset you?

MJ:, Napoleon. I was just suddenly feeling – how do you say in America? - homesick. This will be my first holiday away from my family in Poland and I miss them so much. I'm OK now. Please excuse me. I need to go to the ladies room to freshen up.

NS: Of course.

Act IV - Coda

EK: Yes, the gentleman five rows back on the end – what's your question?

Suddenly there is the sound of the heavy door at the back of the lecture hall opening and three gunshots in rapid succession. Just as quickly, the shooter is gone. As pandemonium breaks out in the room, Illya makes a quick check that no one was hit and runs out into the hall. The only person he sees is a woman running, turning at the next hallway. By the time he reaches the hall leading to the entrance of the building, he sees the woman running out the door. It's Milena! He shouts her name, but in her panic she doesn't hear him and continues running out of the building, into the street. As she runs into the street, she glances over her shoulder to see if Illya has caught up to her. She doesn't see the car barreling toward her. The driver, laughing and talking to his passengers, doesn't see her either.

In the nearby restaurant, Napoleon could hear all the commotion going on outside. He rushes out to the street where he sees there's been an accident. And Illya is already there – why? He quickly makes his way through the gathering crowd.

NS: Milena!! NO....NO!!!

IK: I'm so sorry, Napoleon.

NS: How could this happen? What's going on?

IK: I don't know everything, but I can tell you what led up to this. Let's go over here, away from the crowd, so we can talk.

U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters
Mr. Waverly's Office
3 days later

Alexander Waverly (AW): Mr. Solo, I'm terribly sorry your assignment ended so tragically. We've gathered a good deal more information in the last few days to help us piece everything together. Milena Janowicz was a Polish ballerina, but not an actual defector. Mr. Kuznetsov's government has been trying for years to keep him from leaving their country. When they realized that he was going to make it to the US, they decided to silence him once and for all.

Working with Miss Janowicz's government, they recruited her to assassinate him by threatening her family in Poland. The tall, blond man you and her roommate saw a few weeks ago was her handler, sent to the US to see that she didn't lose her nerve to go through with the assignment. She was also the one who shot Mr. Kuznetsov on the pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam a few days before they came to the US. Rather than her roommate, she picked out the restaurant you took her to Friday night specifically because it was close to NYU. She probably felt that Mr. Kuznetsov's talk at NYU that evening was her best chance to shoot him again.

Mr. Solo, I understand you will be taking some vacation time during the upcoming holidays. I hope it will be a restorative break for you. If you gentlemen will excuse me, I have a meeting at the United Nations this afternoon and should be leaving soon.

NS: What happened Friday night shouldn't have happened at all. I could have stopped it. I could have seen that her family made it to a safe place. Why didn't she tell me? She'd still be alive!

IK: She was afraid, Napoleon, mostly for her family back in Poland. She had no idea how much influence U.N.C.L.E. has around the world. She didn't know you could help.

Have you decided where you're going?

NS: No, just far away, someplace that won't remind me of Milena or ballet or security details.

IK: I'm sorry things turned out like this. I hope you'll be starting to feel better in January.


Post Script: In keeping with the ballet theme, the act titles in this story are taken from the parts of a grand pas de deux ballet. Illya's girlfriend, Tatyana Petrova, was introduced in the first story on my blog, Liaison With the Past (11/20/08). And, yes, Tatyana is being played by a different doll this time.
©Marianne T. Smith

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Save the Earth Affair

Here is my new Man from U.N.C.L.E. fan fiction, written as an episode of the show and illustrated with 16 inch – 17 inch dolls. This time Illya is on assignment by himself. It's my most ambitious effort yet. I hope you enjoy it.  (Click on the photos to see a larger version of them.)

The Save the Earth Affair

Act I: India's Hidden Treasure

September 1967
University of Maryland Campus

Striding across the University of Maryland campus on the way to the Science Building, Illya Kuryakin notices a student demonstration going on outside the Administration Building. A change from the type of demonstration that had been seen so often in recent years, these students are involved with the new ecology movement.

Once in the Science Building, Illya finds his way to the office of the professor who will tell him about his next assignment.

Illya knocks on the office door. From inside he hears a woman's voice.

Dr. Margaret Scully (DMS): Yes – come in!

Illya Kuryakin (IK) (standing at the threshold): Prof. Scully?

DMS: Yes, I'm Margaret Scully. Please come in; I've been expecting you.

IK (entering the office): I'm Illya Kuryakin from the U.N.C.L.E. I was told you would be giving me the details of my next assignment.

DMS: Yes, that's right. You may have noticed the demonstration going on outside the Administration Building when you came on campus. Although the ecology movement has been overshadowed by many other causes in recent years, it's vitally important. Pollution in both the air and water are starting to reach critical levels in many parts of the world. For the past several years the Botany department here at the university has been doing field studies in India to find rare orchid species before they are wiped out due to forest clearing. One species in particular has come as a pleasant surprise to us. Last week I received test results from our lab confirming that this orchid contains a naturally occurring chemical that can eliminate many pollutants from water. If this chemical can be synthesized in large quantities, and we believe it can, it will be a great asset in the struggle against water pollution.

In the best of circumstances we have problems reaching the mountainous temperate forests where these orchids grow and finding as many of them as possible. But now there is a bigger challenge. The only area where these grow is a remote region in the northwest part of India that will be flooded and dammed next week to make a reservoir for a new hydro-electric plant. This orchid species will be wiped out in the flood.

The university has already contacted the Indian government, explained the potential importance of the orchid, and asked that the flooding of the area be delayed. But government officials have said, no, the hydro-electric plant is too important to the region economically to do that. This leaves us with no choice but to return to India, save as many of the orchid plants as can be found, and have them shipped back to the lab here at the university before the area is flooded next week.

We also have a preliminary agreement with the United Nations that it will provide the water pollution control chemical, once it's synthesized, at low cost to any nation that needs it. I've recently learned, though, that other people have been asking about this rare orchid in the region where it grows. These people work for companies that also want to synthesize the pollution control chemical, but charge so much for it that many countries that desperately need it won't be able to afford it.

This is why the U.N.C.L.E. has been asked to help. I want to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible on this last trip, with no problems from poachers for the scientist gathering the orchids.

At this point there is a knock on the professor's office door.

DMS: Yes, come in.

Jessica Matthews (JM): Dr. Scully, here are the lab reports you wanted.

DMS: Thanks, Jessica. Perfect timing – I'd like you to meet Illya Kuryakin of the U.N.C.L.E.

Jessica and Illya exchange smiles and “hello”.

DMS (to IK) : Because of the unexpected timing of this trip to India, I won't be going. Jessica is a doctoral candidate in biochemistry here and has been my primary assistant on previous research trips I've made to this region. So, she will be in charge of collecting the orchids and getting them shipped to the U.S. I hope this will be an easy assignment for you, Mr. Kuryakin. Maybe there won't be any problems, but I'm not willing to take the chance. All arrangements for the trip have been made. Here are the plane tickets for both of you. Your flight leaves tonight at 11.

DMS (to JM): When you reach New Delhi, you need to see Mr. Kapoor first for transportation to get you to the mountains.

JM: OK, I remember where his office is. Mr. Kuryakin, I suppose we'll get acquainted on that long flight to India. I'll meet you tonight at 10:30 at the gate for the flight.

IK (nodding, with a smile): All right, I'll see you then.

DMS: I hope you have a productive, safe trip. I'll see you both next week.

Act II: East to India

New Delhi, India
Indian Government Office
The next day, 4PM

Soon after their arrival in New Delhi, India, Illya and Jessica meet with Dhimant Kapoor in the lobby of the Indian government office where he is in charge of affairs concerning the Uttarakhand state.

Dhimant Kapoor (DK): Thank you for coming here so quickly after your arrival in India. I hope you had a pleasant flight.

JM: Yes, the flight was fine, but I'm not much of an international traveler. It's difficult for me to sleep on the plane.
DK: And you, Mr. Kuryakin?

IK: I travel internationally so often it's not a problem for me. I can sleep just about anywhere.

JM: Time is so short to save the orchids, Mr. Kapoor. Dr. Scully said I should contact you about transportation to this orchid's region as soon as we arrived in India.

DK: When I was contacted about your trip, I arranged for the pilot of a small private plane to take you to the region, at least as far as a plane can go and find a flat place to land. That area is so mountainous you'll need to drive the rest of the way, about 110 km (68 mi.) which will take close to 2 hours, considering the roads there. On Dr. Scully's recommendation, I contacted the U.N.C.L.E. office here in New Delhi to secure a Jeep for you. A man from the local U.N.C.L.E. office will drive a Jeep, including the camping supplies, and rendezvous with you where the plane lands in Dehradun. This should save you a considerable amount of time. The pilot's name is Joe Parsons. He'll be meeting you tomorrow morning at 6AM in the lobby of your hotel.

JM: It sounds like you've thought of everything, Mr. Kapoor. Thank you.

DK: I'm happy to do anything I can to help. I realize that the new hydro-electric plant and its dam are important for the progress of that region, but losing these species of rare plants is so disheartening. I'm very glad that your university in America is making an effort to save them.

New Delhi, India
Hotel Lobby
Second day in India, 6AM

“Texas Joe” Parsons (TJP): Mr. Kur-y-akin, Miss Matthews?

IK: Yes, that's us. You must be Joe Parsons.

TJP: That's right, Texas Joe at your service. I see y'all packed light. That's good 'cause there won't be a lotta room in my plane for the three of us and much luggage. The camping gear gonna be with the Jeep?

IK: Yes, that's what we were told.

TJP: Well then, let's head over to my plane and get started. It won't take long to drive to the airfield from here.

Dehradun, India
Two hours later, 8AM

TJP: That's all your stuff from the plane. I'll be back right here in six days. Want to get in the air to New Delhi by the time they start flooding the valley. Don't know what kinda commotion that's gonna cause.

IK: The flooding is due to start at 1PM that day. So, we'll see you then.

TJP: OK, sounds good.

As soon as Texas Joe left, Illya turned his attention to the young probationary U.N.C.L.E. agent who had driven the Jeep and camping gear from New Delhi to the small airfield in Dehradun.

IK: Is everything set to go?

Probationary U.N.C.L.E. Agent (PUA): Yes, sir. The Jeep has been checked out by the motor pool and has new equipment installed that could be helpful going to an isolated area - an auxiliary gas tank and run-flat tires.

IK: Good. I'm glad the New Delhi office thought of adding those. I suppose you heard the pilot. We'll be back here in six days to drop off the Jeep.

PUA: Yes, sir, I heard. I'll be here.

By this time Jessica has put their luggage in the back of the Jeep and they start driving to the isolated Indian village that is closest to the where the rare orchids grow. There they will meet with Medha Singh, the matriarch of a prominent family in the village. She has been very helpful to Dr. Scully on previous trips to the region to research rare plants there.

Isolated Indian Village
Home of Medha Singh
Two hours later, 10AM

Medha Singh (MS) (palms together, slight bow): Namaste, Mr. Kuryakin, Jessica.

IK and JM (each has their palms together, giving a slight bow): Namaste.

MS: Welcome to my home! Jessica, it is so nice to see you again. Would you both care for tea?

IK and JM: Yes, thank you.

MS: Jessica, how is Margaret Scully? Well, I hope.

JM: Yes, she's fine. This trip was planned so quickly she couldn't change her schedule to come. She put me in charge this time since she knew I was familiar with the area and the project.

MS: I am sure you will do quite well. I am so dismayed at the thought of our valley being flooded for the new dam. My family has lived in this area for many generations. To know that so much of our history, our land will be under water in a few days is very disturbing. I know I am fortunate that this town will not be flooded and the government tells us this hydro-electric plant will help the region, but it still saddens me.

The only bright spot I see is that your university will keep our orchids from being lost forever. In her most recent letter Dr. Scully told me these orchids contain a very useful chemical that may help rid the world of pollution. This is wonderful news. Those plants will be this area's legacy. There is a song in this area: "Maatu hamru, paani hamru, hamra hi chhan yi baun bhi... Pitron na lagai baun, hamunahi ta bachon bhi" It means, “Soil ours, water ours, ours are these forests. Our forefathers raised them, it’s we who must protect them.”*

I will not keep you any longer. I know you and Mr. Kuryakin have much work to do. I must warn you, though, recently some strangers have come through the village asking for directions to where the orchids grow. Dr. Scully asked that no one here let these people know where to find the orchids and we have not. But that's not to say they won't be able find them anyway. Please be careful.

IK: Thank you for the warning. We'll remain alert while we're in this area.

After sharing the traditional parting of “namaste”, Illya and Jessica leave Mrs. Singh's home to buy their provisions for the week at a nearby store. By early afternoon, their camp is set up and Jessica is gathering orchids in the forest that will be packed and shipped by truck to Dehradun for air shipment to the U.S.

Act III: Five Days of Boredom, Five Hours of Terror

Camp in India
Five days later, midday

IK (smiling): I believe this has been the most relaxing U.N.C.L.E. assignment I've ever had. Except for carrying the orchids from the forest and packing them for the trucks to take to Dehradun, I've had time to catch up on my reading. And you're an excellent chess player as well. So I'm certainly not complaining. It's been a nice change of pace, really. I enjoy the outdoors. Now, the only way my colleague, Napoleon, would enjoy this assignment would be if this were a luxury resort instead of a back country camp.

JM: Well, we leave for home tomorrow. Let's hope your assignment stays relaxing. I still have one section of the forest I need to check for plants this afternoon. I noticed when we finished lunch we're out of some food we'll need for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. Could you go to the village this afternoon and get these things?

IK: OK, what do we need?

JM: We need some basmati rice, madua (buck wheat), apples, ghee, and tea.

IK: Please be alert out in the forest this afternoon. We've been lucky so far, but there could still be trouble.

JM: I will. I only have one more area to cover.

After buying their needed supplies at the village store, Illya heads back to the Jeep that he parked on a nearby side street. He gets in, turns the ignition and – nothing. “Great! Now what?,” he thinks.

As soon as he checks under the hood, he finds the problem. The distributor cap is gone – one of the oldest and easiest ways to disable a vehicle. Fortunately, Medha Singh lives near here.

MS: I sent my neighbor's son to bring a mechanic here to repair your Jeep.

IK: Thank you. I appreciate your help.

MS: It is very unfortunate this happened, but I am glad it has given me the opportunity to speak with you today. I learned a few hours ago that one of the villagers told the strangers where the orchids grow. They had threatened to burn down his house if he did not tell them and he was very frightened. I know that you and Jessica are leaving tomorrow, but, in the meantime, you must be extra vigilant. I fear the damage to your vehicle was caused by one of these men.

(looking out her window) I see the boy has returned with the mechanic. I hope there will be no more trouble and you and Jessica have a safe journey home. (palms together, slight bow) Namaste.

JM: Illya, what happened? What took so long? Are you all right?

IK: Yes, yes, I'm fine. Someone stole the distributor cap off the Jeep while I was in the store. I walked to Mrs. Singh's home and she was able to get a mechanic who, fortunately, had a distributor cap that fit the Jeep. If he hadn't had one, we'd be in a bad situation. Have you seen anything or anyone unusual around camp or in the forest?

JM: No.

IK: Mrs. Singh told me that a villager was threatened and told the poachers where the orchids grow. I'm glad you're finished with the project and we're leaving tomorrow.

JM: I wanted to talk to you about that. This afternoon in the forest I came across a variety of orchid I've never seen before. I didn't take time to examine it closely because it was late and I was already heading back to camp. I know we have to be out of here before the flooding starts tomorrow, but I want to get up early, go back to those orchids, and see if they're something I should take back to the university.

IK: Jessica, I don't like that idea. It could be dangerous.

JM: Oh, I doubt it. I think we're the only ones still in the area that's going to be flooded. Everyone else has already left. The poachers probably feel like they've run out of time. Even if they know where the orchids grew, we've shipped most of them back to the university. Look, for tonight, let's just eat, get a good night's sleep, and talk about this more in the morning, OK?

IK (hesitantly): OK.

The first gray light of dawn seemed to arrive quickly the next morning for the U.N.C.L.E. agent and the biochemist. Much needs to be done before they can head to the rendezvous with Texas Joe and his plane. During breakfast Jessica again made her case for going back to the forest just one more time.

JM: Really, Illya, I'm sure I'll be fine. I think we're the only ones left out here. I don't even hear the usual birds in the forest this morning. Everything must be sensing that something's up. This is the only chance to save a plant species that has never been recorded before. It'll be wiped out this afternoon. I know exactly where I saw it yesterday evening. I'll put it in the gunnysack and be right back in plenty of time to leave. You can start breaking camp and I'll be back before you finish, I promise.

IK: I still don't feel good about this, Jessica, and it goes against my better judgment, but all right - go. You must come back as soon as you get that plant, though. There's no time for further research.

IK: Be back by 9:30 or I'll come looking for you!

JM: I'll be back way before then. Don't be such a worrywart!

Jessica didn't have any trouble finding the rare, unknown orchid she saw on her way back to camp yesterday evening. While she was in the forest collecting these last few plants to save them from extinction, Illya was busy breaking camp.

9:30 AM

IK (to himself): Camp's broken, everything packed and ready to go. Now, where's Jessica? She said she'd be back by now - “way before” now in her words. Hope she's all right and just lost track of the time. I shouldn't have let her go. But going back to get that last rare plant was so important to her, I hated to disappoint her. I hope my indulgent decision hasn't put her in harm's way. I need to look for her.

Illya sets off into the forest in the direction Jessica headed when she left camp. About every 30 seconds he calls out, “Jessica! Jess!” No response. In fact, he hears nothing; the forest is eerily quiet, like Jessica said this morning. About a mile into the woods he sees an old abandoned shack. It must have been someone's home long ago. This time when he calls out Jessica's name he hears a very muffled voice, “Mmffh!..mmffh!!...mmffh!!!”, getting louder and more urgent. The voice was coming from the shack. Illya made his way through the thick underbrush to the old abandoned building. When he looked through the window, he saw Jessica alone, tied up, sitting on the floor, her hands tied behind her back, a gag in her mouth. Then everything went black.

While Illya was temporarily distracted looking at Jessica through the window, the poacher sneaked up behind him and hit him on the head with a small log from the forest, knocking him out. When he woke up, dazed and with a bad headache, he was in the shack. The poacher had almost finished tying him to Jessica arm–to-arm, back-to-back on the floor.

Poacher: Wish I had more rope. This'll have to do. Didn't think anybody would be left out here. And you, sir, don't get a gag. No matter – you can yell all you want. There's nobody left to hear you. Besides, you and the lady will drown in a few hours when this whole forest floods. Ha, ha, ha!

The poacher then leaves the shack, barring the door outside as he goes. Illya waited until he was sure the poacher had left before he spoke.

IK: Jessica, are you OK?

Jessica nods yes.

IK: I think I know a way for us to get out of this. We're going to stand up together first. We'll bend our knees and push our backs against each other in unison. When I count to three, push against my back and try to stand up; I'll do the same. OK, ready... one...two...three!!

The deep tread on the soles of their heavy boots gave both of them the traction they needed to stand up on the rough, worn floor of the shack.

IK: OK, now we move between the table and the window over there. You face the window. I'm going to brace myself against the table. And I'm going to lift you off the floor onto my back. When your feet are even with the window, kick the glass as hard as you can. Give it all you've got! Let's see what those gigantic tall boots of yours can do.

Once Jessica's feet were even with the window, she put her left foot on the wall for support so she could kick harder with her right foot. Between her heavy boot and all the adrenaline coursing through her body, the glass broke out of the window after only a few kicks.

IK: All right! Now we need to move as close as we can to that window frame that held the glass. It looks like it's quite sharp.

After carefully maneuvering their tied arms against the window frame, quickly moving the rope up and down on the sharp edge had them free in a matter of minutes. Finally without her gag Jessica could speak.

JM: Are you OK? That was a nasty hit to your head.

IK: Yes, I'm fine now. The dizziness has stopped and the headache is going away.

JM: Illya, I'm so sorry you had to come out here to rescue me. I feel so foolish. I shouldn't have bothered to get that rare orchid.

IK: It's OK, Jessica. That's what I'm here for.

JM: The good news is I was able to get the orchids I came out here for and the poacher didn't find them. I had just finished hiding the gunnysack with the plants in it a few minutes before he showed up. I was taking one last look at the area when he grabbed me from behind and immediately gagged me.

IK: I'm glad you got the plants, but the bad news is we're running very late. We've got to get out of here and on the road.

JM: OK, but I know exactly where I hid the gunnysack and it's right on the way back to camp. So it'll only take me a minute to get it.

JM: See, that didn't take long at all. How late are we?

IK: We're more than an hour late. I don't know how long Joe will wait for us, but if we're too late, we'll miss our flight in New Delhi back to the U.S. this evening.

JM: Yikes!

12:30 PM

At the camp site everything appeared as Illya had left it in the morning when he set out to find Jessica. They hurried to the Jeep and got in. Illya turned the key in the ignition and, again - nothing! For the second time in less than a day, the distributor cap was gone.

JM (with fear and desperation in her voice): Now what do we do?

IK: We think like the poacher. He must have come by here after tying us up in the shack. He decided to take the distributor cap off again just for good measure on the chance we managed to get loose. But I don't think he would bother to take it with him. You search for it in the underbrush on that side of camp and I'll look over here. Hurry, we've got to get out of here!

12:45 PM

JM: I found it!

1 PM

Illya and Jessica have been on the road for a few minutes, but they are so far behind schedule now, there is no way to make up the lost time. Texas Joe had told them he was concerned there might lots of small planes trying to leave Dehradun that day due to the planned flooding, making it difficult for him to get them to New Delhi in time for their flight to the U.S.

But an even bigger problem for them is the flood starting to cover the valley behind them. In the distance, they hear the sound of a rushing wall of water as it covers the forest and campsite where they've spent the last week.

Glancing over her shoulder, Jessica is startled by how rapidly the water is rising and how fast it's moving.

JM: Illya, quick! The turn-off for the mountain road is just ahead. The water's less than a mile behind us!

Illya takes a quick look in the rear view mirror that confirms Jessica's assessment of the situation and floors the Jeep's gas pedal. Fortunately, the turn-off to the mountain is more of a fork that rises rapidly from the valley road rather than a true turn. He takes the right side fork with only seconds to spare as they watch the valley road on the left below them wash out in a deluge, obliterating it.

Before going very far up the mountain, Illya and Jessica can still see much of the flood's devastation out the driver's window in the Jeep.

Whole villages submerged.

Gentle small rivers now turned into raging torrents on their way to swallowing up entire towns.

Driving the mountain road was slower going than the flat road in the valley. Illya pushed the Jeep to its limits, but no vehicle could maintain a high speed on a road that gained so much altitude every mile.

Dehradun, India

Finally, they reached the rendezvous point not far from Texas Joe's plane at the small airfield. A fuming Joe and the probationary U.N.C.L.E. agent were waiting for them. As Jessica started to take their bags out of the Jeep, the young Indian U.N.C.L.E. agent walked over to Illya to get the Jeep key.

IK: Everything is accounted for. Here's the key.

PUA: Very good, sir. Any problems with the Jeep?

IK: No, but you need to tell the guys in the motor pool in New Delhi that they need to install hood locks on these vehicles.

PUA: Yes, sir, I will. Let me call our headquarters to tell them I will be arriving back there later than scheduled. I will return shortly.

The Indian agent leaves to find a phone and Texas Joe comes over to Illya.

TJP: Kury-a-kin, where in blazes have you been?! You're almost two hours late! I was fixin' to leave without you. It's been a madhouse around here today. If it wasn't for the lady here, I'd be giving you a piece of my mind.

IK: Sorry, Joe, it's a long story. Let's get our bags on the plane and get in the air. I'll tell you about it and you can chew me out all the way to New Delhi, if you want.

New Delhi, India
Hotel Lobby
2 hours later

TJP: Listen, Illya, sorry I blew my top at you back there in Dehradun. From what you said on the flight here, sounds like you two had a mighty excitin' last couple a days.

IK (chuckle): Yes, you could say that. I'm just glad you didn't leave without us.

TJP: I didn't want to leave y'all stranded out there. Well, I best be goin'. Hope y'all have a safe trip home.

With that, Texas Joe shakes Illya's hand and then turns to Jessica, saying, “Miss” politely, with a nod of his head and a tip of his hat.

Act IV: How do you translate Kuryakin into Latin botanical nomenclature?

University of Maryland
Three days later, 1 PM

As Illya approaches Dr. Scully's office door, he hears the voice of a young child. “That's odd”, he thinks to himself, “why would a little child be here?” He knocks on the door.

DMS: Come in!

DMS: Mr. Kuryakin, come in, meet my daughter. This is Dana. Dana, can you tell Mr. Kuryakin hello?

Dana Scully (DS) (shyly): Hi.

IK (smiling): Hello, Dana. You can call me Illya. Kuryakin is a bit hard to say.

DMS: I'm glad you stopped by when you did. Dana is going to Prof. Thompson's daughter's birthday party today and I'm taking the afternoon off to take her.

IK (to Dana): That sounds like fun. Will you have birthday cake and ice cream at the party?

DS (happily): Yes!

IK: How old are you, Dana?

DS: Three and a half!

DMS: Dana, will you go over there and read your book we brought from home while I talk to Illya?


IK: Read?

DMS: Well, not really, but her father and I want to do everything we can to encourage her education. And she is starting to recognize some words.

IK: I'm going back to headquarters in New York later today and thought I would check on the project.

DMS: The plants you shipped to the university by truck and air freight have started arriving. They've all made it through the trip in excellent condition. But the most exciting news is you and Jessica discovered a new orchid species! The plants Jessica went back for the day you left India had never been seen before. We hope they will have the same pollution control properties as the species you went to India to save, but even if they don't, it's a wonderful discovery. And, since you two were able to save them from the flooding, you very likely saved them from extinction as well.

Since Jessica had them with her when she returned, we were able to examine them carefully here in our lab and confirm that they are indeed a new species. I hope that makes all the trouble you went through that last day seem a bit more worthwhile. Jessica told me about the escape from the shack and that nerve-wracking drive out of the valley as it was flooding. Quite the adventure, I take it?

IK (smiling): Yes, it did quicken the pulse a bit.

DMS: Because the orchids Jessica found the last day are a new species, she gets the honor of naming it. She said without your help she wouldn't have made it out of India alive, much less discover a new species. So she would like for the orchid's name to incorporate both of your last names.

IK: That's very kind of her and I feel honored, but, no, she's the scientist who discovered the plant. It should be named after her alone. As well as the fact my name wouldn't lend itself to Latin scientific nomenclature easily. It would be quite cumbersome.

I really should be going now. Please give Jessica my best regards when you see her.

DMS: Yes, I will. She'll be disappointed she missed seeing you today. Dana and I should be leaving for the party too. It's been a pleasure working with you, Illya. My report to the U.N.C.L.E. will reflect that.

IK: Thank you. The pleasure was all mine.

Having just given up the opportunity to be immortalized in the world of botany, Illya Kuryakin leaves Dr. Scully's office to return to New York and the U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, ready for a new assignment.


*Uttarakhand (Indian state) Wikipedia entry

Post Script: My surprise guest star in this episode, Dana Scully as a young girl, was played by a Tulah doll from Kish and Company. Thought I'd put her in for all the X-Files fans (including myself). According to the Dana Scully character page on IMDb, the time frame for her age fits this story, her mother's name was Margaret, she grew up in Maryland, and got a degree in Physics from the University of Maryland.

I'm often surprised when writing or editing these stories how current events can have relevance to my story. I wanted this one to take place in India in a region with similar topography to my own temperate forest mountain area for realistic outdoor photos. The Uttarakhand state in northern India fit my criteria. I had already outlined much of the flood theme when I discovered that the Uttarakhand state had suffered massive, deadly floods in 2010 and again in September this year in part because hydro-electric plant dams put in place to control the rivers in the mountains had failed to do that. The second flood photo in my story is from the September 2010 flood and the third flood photo is from the one this year. On a more positive note related to my story, Uttarakhand is home to many sanctuaries and reserves for rare plant and animal species and well known for its environmental consciousness.

Closer to home, while working on this story, Russell Train died on Sept. 17 at 92. He was the first chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and instrumental in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. He later became the second Administrator of the EPA.

A little less than two weeks later, Dr. Barry Commoner died on Sept. 30 at 95. His obituary in Time magazine read in part: “His work on the dangers of atmospheric radiation helped spur the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and he was a key figure in the first Earth Day, in 1970....he helped create the modern environmental movement....”

And, finally, when my October issue of Harper's Bazaar arrived, I saw the page below in one of the fashion articles. Looks like my escape plan wasn't too far fetched after all.