=============== written for a List CHALLENGE ========================
Here's your scenario:
There is some type of catastrophe (accident, explosion, natural, man-made - your choice).
One, both or none of the characters is hurt but they are trapped somehow. In fact they are literally hanging on for life in an area that would better support only one of them. One is holding on to the other somehow and the other knows that it would be easier for his friend/partner to survive if he just let go. So he broaches the subject & is, of course, met with stubborn resistance.
And that is all you get. The rest is up to you...Set it up however you want & finish it in the same manner. Do they both survive? Will you go out on a limb and let one or both die? How does the other manage to convince their friend/partner to let go? What are the consequences? Oh the possibilities just seem endless!!! But most importantly have fun & write!!
I HATE SOUTH AMERICA
“I hate South America.”
Despite the pain shooting up his leg and the wretchedly high humidity soaking him with his own sweat, Napoleon Solo had to smile at the complaint from behind. His partner’s running – literally – grievances had been typical, caustic asides. The usual droll interpretations that made the Russian a bottomless pit of sarcastic commentary. Just another part of the Kuryakin charm. One of the many small reasons that the senior UNCLE agent was pleased to have Illya as his partner, and in this instance, by his side. It was especially gratifying to have his friend with him now. No one better to be on the run with than the crafty, survival-specialist Kuryakin.
“Anything specific, Illya? The rainforest? The bugs?” Solo shot back between panting breaths.
“Ugh – bugs.”
Solo tripped over a vine his injured leg had not quite cleared and for a moment it felt good to lay in the mud, not moving. Within seconds, a strong hand gripped onto his arm and pulled him up. Filthy, mud smeared, blood splotched, they looked exactly like they had come over twenty miles of bad road, bad timing and bad luck. No one could guess now that the mop of hair atop the Russian was really blond. Nor would any observer believe last night they had been at an embassy ball, resplendent in tuxedos. Today they were exhausted, wounded and running for their lives.
As soon as Solo stabilized, Kuryakin withdrew his right hand and used it to cradle the left wrist that, even under the wrappings of thick banana leaves, was swollen and crooked.
“You know,” Napoleon breathed deeply between words, “you could – go ahead.” He slapped a palm on his wounded leg. “I’m just -- slowing you down.”
“Then who would I have to complain to?”
In the distance, the echo of baying dogs turned to vigorous barking. The agents exchanged somber looks. Their pursuers were not giving up despite the rigors of the jungle. Why should they? They had the vicious tracking dogs, the weapons, and the small army of a half-dozen angry, armed guards. They were confident it was only a matter of time to capture and kill two wounded, unarmed UNCLE operatives.
Solo shook his head. “They’re getting closer.”
“I know. There’s nothing wrong with my ears.”
Making a sour face, annoyed with this particular personality trait of from his partner, Napoleon gave him a shove. “Go. I’ll keep up.”
Kuryakin pushed him back. “You stay ahead. Then I can keep an eye on you so you do not get us into any more trouble.”
“Me? Trouble? Who ran the jeep into the tree so we lost our transportation? And broke his wrist at the same time?”
Kuryakin started walking again, taking Solo by the arm, and pushing/guiding him along the thin jungle path. “Who used up ALL the exploding cuff links to take out the armored car when only two would have done the job?”
“Who thought it was a good idea to swim through the river instead of going around to find a narrow way across?”
At that, Kuryakin stopped and glared at his friend momentarily, then the expression shifted to annoyance. He breathed out a snort as he swatted and squashed a flying insect on his arm. “I had no idea there were crocodiles there,” he admitted with a huff of insult. “Nor the treacherous vines that ate my Special.”
Blind loyalty had it’s place, and had saved Solo’s hide numerous times, but Illya’s life was in danger because of this stubborn Russian show of tenacity. Crashing through the jungle, they had already covered this subject in several varying angles in their own sniping way. Of course, neither had convinced the other of the validity of their opinions, so the debate raged on as they trekked through the treacherous jungle to save their lives. Now, however, Solo was determined. Things were getting serious.
Fatigued, irritated, and hurting, Napoleon slowed down, finally wrestling his arm free of his partner’s grasp. Leaning over with hands on knees, he stopped to catch his breath. “You go on. I’ll catch up.”
“HMMPH.” From Kuryakin, the non-verbal noise was an expressive insult. “I don’t trust you.”
Affecting a wounded countenance, Napoleon straightened and placed a palm against his heart. “You wound me, Illya. Your buddy, your long-time partner –“
“A natural born liar,” he shot back mercilessly, blue eyes sharp and narrowed.
“I’m deeply insulted. I was not a born liar, I only perfected the craft when I became a spy. Now, I insist, you go first.”
“It is an old trick, tovarich, don’t you think I’ve seen you try it before? You will allow me to blaze the trail, you will fall farther and farther behind until you encounter the enemy. You will then clumsily distract them to give me a chance to get away.”
“I am trying to save your life,” Napoleon sniffed.
“In your usual inept fashion.” Stubbornly, he paced back several steps to be well behind the American. “Your hero complex grows tedious. You go first.”
Shaking his head, Solo complied, making too slow a trek through the matted jungle floor. It was insane that they argued about the details of sacrifice. Fighting about who was or was not going to give their lives for their partner. While it was sometimes an entertaining and sentimental facet of their relationship, it was, today, counter productive. Napoleon refused to be the one to slow them down and cause his friend’s death. How he was going to get them out of this one, he had no idea. By the sounds of the guards and dogs, they were losing their lead with alarming rapidity. He had to do something soon or they were going to be lunch for the vicious tracking animals or the crocs.
The trail cleared ahead to the right and Solo stepped over some fallen logs to come out on a patch of soft soil. Two paces in he realized it was sticky, suctioning mud. Another foot in and the horror struck him that this was not right. When he couldn’t take the next step – his feet glued to the gummy soil and sinking – he knew exactly what had happened. When Kuryakin placed his boot atop the logs, Solo instantly twisted around, and, barely able to reach back far enough, shoved Illya back to fall on the ground.
“Quick sand!” he shouted out. “Stay back.”
Kuryakin scrambled to his feet in a heartbeat and knelt on the log. “Give me your hand!”
The dogs behind them in the distance were whining louder now. They could distinguish the voices of the pursuing men.
“There isn’t time,” Solo hissed, his voice low. “Go!”
“I’m not leaving you behind,” Kuryakin assured through gritted teeth as he stretched across the log and tried to yank Solo free. “Come on.”
“Illya, I am ordering you to go! Save yourself. I’ll do what I can to distract them –“
“Do you really think I would leave you here like this?” he angrily snapped back.
“I think you know when there is no hope,” he seriously countered. “When it’s time for the better part of valor. The bad guys are coming! I’m ordering you to leave!”
“I am insulted you think I would obey such insanity,” the Russian shot back between gritted teeth as he yanked and pulled on his partner’s arm.
The mud was now up to Solo’s hips and he had lost all mobility of his legs. As he tried to free himself, grab onto Illya and pull himself out while his partner helped, Napoleon felt a chill course through him as a moment of destiny presented itself. As if clearly thinking with a perfect understanding of Fate and timing, he wondered if this was not the answer he had been looking for to save them – save Illya.
Allow himself to sink and his friend was free to run. His stomach rippled with illness at the thought, but then a strange calm engulfed him. Let go and end the debate? Did he have it in him to do that? To save his friend, could he let himself die? The answer was instant and without thought – an instinctive decision made a hundred times before in the heat of battle, in the quiet moments of reflection when he pondered the importance of his friend’s life over his own. Intently he wanted to live, of course, but at the sacrifice of his friend’s life? No. So the answer – could he release any chance for his future -- and surrender his life now to spare his friend? Yes, he could.
Ready to let go, he paused, taking courage, knowing Illya would hate him for this, recognizing this was his last moment on earth. Fittingly spent with his friend; appropriately used in securing of Kuryakin’s future. Then another idea struck him – a flash of inspiration born of desperation. Risky. Did he have time to try it? Hazard their lives – Illya’s only chance at safety – on a gamble? He had done it – both had done before countless times. Should he try it now?
Which choice? The sacrifice or the insane risk?
The baying hounds were close now and he could hear shouts in Spanish, could distinguish a few words. It was now or never.
“Illya,” he whispered urgently. “I have a plan. Let me go. You get out of sight.”
The Russian scoffed. “A plan, yes, it is called suicide.”
“Illya, I’m trying to save your life! Trust me!”
“Trust you –“
“Just do what I say!” He made eye contact and made sure his friend read the somber, dire desperation there. “Trust me, my friend. Do you really think I would kill myself?”
“For me? Yes,” Kuryakin truthfully retorted.
“Okay, you’re right, but I just had a brilliant idea! I DO have a plan. Let me try it,” he urged. “We are out of time! Please trust me on this, I won’t let you down.” How did he get this across to his friend? The most important argument he would have to win ever. “Please trust me.”
The stare held as Solo continued to sink and the crashing sounds of the enemy grew nearer. With the slightest of nods, Kuryakin’s eyes read acceptance, but not surrender. His jaw clenching in silent tension, he released his grip on the American. With a final, curt nod of silent farewell, he stepped back, then turned and ran into the foliage.
The foe almost upon him, Solo took the biggest gamble of his life. He let his body relax and he pushed back as far as he could to the bank where the logs fell across the quick sand. Already up to his waist in the slime, his decent accelerated. Two men crashed through the close brush of the trail and gasped, shouted, nearly tripped over the log and into the drink to join their prey. Startled, both quickly aimed their rifles at the trapped spy. When they saw he was helpless, they relaxed and dropped their weapons to their sides.
“Help me,” Solo pleaded, hands stretching out toward them. “My friend left me! I need you to get me out!”
The men laughed and joked that they could kill him on the spot. “What you Americans call a sitting duck,” one thug sneered.
Solo grabbed a loose, thick branch of the tree. “Please, grab hold of it and save me!”
He swayed it up and around and with a quick flick, swung it like a baseball bat, hitting the man in the head. Face first, the guard plunged into the pool of mud, the rifle flew atop the log. Startled, the companion took an extra moment to bring his rifle up to his shoulder to aim. Before his finger reached the trigger, he was tackled by the Russian. They rolled on the matted jungle floor until the wiry Kuryakin clubbed him with a thick piece of wood and recovered the rifle.
Returning to the clearing, he gasped when there was no sign of Solo. “Napoleon!”
“See, I told you to trust me,” Solo lightly commented as he came up from behind the log, triumphantly raising the retrieved rifle above the slime.
Illya glared coolly at him and shook his head. Tossing the rifle toward his friend, Solo grabbed onto the log. Quick sand now chest high, he held onto the secure tree.
“Now, are you going to get me out of here?”
Liberating the guards of several grenades and extra ammo, Illya rolled the guard over the log and onto the pond of melting sand. Napoleon used the bodies of both enemies as leverage. With his partner’s help, he managed to roll flat over the sinking men and onto the log, where Kuryakin could grab him.
“You could have told me your plan,” Illya said as an aside as he helped the American to his feet.
“There wasn’t time. Besides, you’re a quick study.” Disgusted, he rubbed at the icky slime. “Yuck! This will never come off!” Solo made an effort at brushing the mud off his clothes, with extreme grimaces and grunts of disgust.
Handing him a rifle, Kuryakin looked him in the eyes, his mouth quirking, suppressing a laugh. “If you really had a plan at all.”
“You saw it in action,” Solo innocently replied.
He had not been lying to his friend, he truly did have a plan. He hoped to live through it and count it as one of their many triumphs. If it had failed, however, he would go to his grave with the satisfaction of knowing he had done everything he could to save Illya’s life. The sounds of other guards and the dogs were drifting away in another direction. Perhaps they had a chance to escape now. At least they were armed. That was more than they usually needed to win in such a desperate situation.
“How do I know you didn’t lie? This has all the markings of one of your improvised schemes, Napoleon,” the Russian griped as he started on the trail.
Solo trudged slowly alongside. “I thought improvisation was a necessity for a spy,” was his wry tease, knowing Illya was just a bit miffed at the cruel shock he’d been given. “You always appreciate it when it gets us out of these nasty little situations, my brother.” Hiding behind the log had not been in the plan. There had not been much of a detailed plan, actually, as the Russian suspected. “Regardless, it all worked out.”
Stopping, Illya faced him, the muddy countenance grim, the eyes somber. “Don’t ever let it happen for real, Napoleon. You ARE my brother. You must never think I would accept the sacrifice of your life so I could live.”
“Well, you know suicide would never be an option. But, I can’t know what I might do or not do if I had to save you, Illya.”
The blue eyes searched his in earnest solemnity. “I know,” he sighed. “As you know I would take similar actions if necessary.”
“It goes without saying. One of the few things we will never agree about. But we don’t have to worry about that today, thanks to my brilliant strategy,” he concluded with a smile, patting his friend on the back, grimacing at the dirt smearing on his hand. Then he slapped him on the shoulder. “Sorry, bug.”
Kuryakin slapped another creature from his face. “Ugh – bugs! I hate South America. For many reasons.”