THE SHORT STORY AFFAIR
Touched by gold, the stars hanging over the distant mountains had begun to fade with the coming dawn. Mud and sweat caked, Illya pulled back to their spot against the partially collapsed building after estimating the time until full light. He hugged his pistol to his chest and limped back to his partner lying among the dead bodies then dropped wearily down next to him.
“Napoleon,” he said with heavy breath, shaking him in the dim light. They had been in total darkness all night save for the time bright yellow and red explosions punctuated the black surrounding them. They had huddled, shell shocked, behind this building in a last refuge amongst the dead.
“Napoleon, wake up.” The various cuts and wounds that accented Illya’s body had long stopped bleeding. Solo, however, not only had a vicious head wound, but also had a stubborn bullet hole in his shoulder that simply wouldn’t stop flowing. Illya had spent the night applying pressure and feeling the rumble of war. Now dawn was near and along with it the hope of rescue – if they could be located. He squinted into the grayness. “We have to move to the open. You hear me?”
Illya turned his attention to the dark haired agent, whose usual dapper appearance was marred by blood and dirt. He hadn’t responded. Illya checked his pulse, found it, and then checked the wound. He made sure the packing and wrappings were secure enough to stay in place during the move. Then he patted Solo’s cheek none too gently. “Come on, tovarisch, you have to wake up.”
Solo groaned and came around with a curse. “So you’re the one who knocked me out.”
Illya pulled Solo’s arm around his shoulder and struggled to a stand. “No, sadly, it wasn’t me. Now stand and help me out.” Illya steadied him. “We’re moving. Stay awake and concentrate on your big feet.”
The American obeyed but his knees wobbled dangerously. His eyes slid shut, and he sagged.
“Oh no, you don’t. Stay awake.” Illya’s injured leg screamed in pain. “Do I have to tell you a story to keep you awake?” He panted as he struggled over the bodies.
“Yeah, why don’t you.” The chatter helped Solo to focus and keep the blackness at bay.
Illya grunted. “I had to ask.” He looked east and saw that the golden sky was edged in blue. To the west he could hear artillery beginning anew. “Let’s see, something scary to get you alert.”
“Nooo, something romantic. Give me a reason to listen,” Solo mumbled. “Lots of details. Feminine details.”
“I hardly think I’m able to flesh out your perverted thoughts.” Illya tripped, wavered, and recovered. His leg throbbed bitterly. “I think that was a pun.” He gasped.
“You mean a Freudian slip.” Solo’s words were slurred, but the amused tone was clear. “So you do think of feminine flesh.”
“I’m not admitting to anything.” The blond agent estimated about 40 meters to reach the open space he had in mind. His leg began to feel dangerously fatigued.
“Come on, partner.” Solo drawled. “Keep me awake, not bored to tears.”
“Right.” Illya paused. “Once upon a time . . .”
Solo shook his head and nearly toppled the both of them. “No, no, no. A story that starts that way can’t be good. Start again.”
“Fine.” Illya puffed in annoyance and pain. “Let’s see . . . once in a galaxy far, far away . . .”
“No science fiction stuff. I don’t get it.” Solo caught his toe on a severed leg and they slewed sideways.
Illya braced his feet until they were steady again. His pounding heart caused painful throbbing in his leg. He gritted his teeth against it.
“Okay. No science fiction or fact.” He shrugged Solo’s arm in tighter. “Julius Caesar . . .”
“Good God, nothing historical.” Solo’s head rolled lazily as he tried to look where his feet were headed. “I slept through history class.”
Illya barked a short laugh. “Nothing . . . historical . . .” He measured the distance with his eyes in the dim light. How much farther? “Um . . .” he said distractedly. “Where was I?”
“ ‘She walks in the beauty of the night . . .’” Solo’s voice croaked.
Illya snorted and dragged him onward, feeling like a draft horse in collar. “Badly quoted Lord Byron isn’t a short story.”
“Not badly quoted . . .” Solo insisted drunkenly.
“It’s not ‘in the beauty of the night’, it’s ‘in beauty, like the night.”
“I said that.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Arguing with your superior?”
They were nearly there. The artillery was joined by explosions that were getting closer. Doggedly, Illya ignored everything else and locked his eyes on their destination. He hoped the air back up would be on time.
“Byron it is,” Illya gasped. “ ‘She walks in beauty,’ ”
“Nah, you’re right. It’s not a story.”
Illya’s injured leg screamed protest against the effort of supporting Solo and dodging debris. He knew that if they fell, they wouldn’t be seen amidst the background of destruction around them; they had to make it, and the responsibility was solely on him. Finally, he heard the choppers in the distance, and from somewhere deep inside he found a pool of strength - a shallow one, but there, none the less. He bore down and pushed forward with a grunt:
Solo was jerked into momentarily alertness. Illya covered the last yards in a pain filled charge, fighting unconsciousness all the way. When they reached the open space and collapsed, the rescue choppers angled toward them. Illya’s vision swam as they lay there.
“Who the hell is Sabrina Sommers?” Solo gasped.
“Sabrina Sommers,” Illya panted, “Is the most beautiful, sexy, sensual woman I’ve ever met, especially when she wore red satin and lace. Now make up your own damn story with that!”
When the crew reached the pair, Solo was wide awake and Kuryakin was out cold.