For Sparky, who wanted a funny story based on this clever cartoon.
Another Fine Mess
They were in a stone cavern, chained back to back on some sort of platform suspended over water. The chains were wrapped around them so tightly as to make any but the smallest movement impossible. Long, dark shapes lurked, half-submerged, in the water below, watching their prey with cruel fascination.
Crocodiles, Napoleon thought to himself. Well isn't that just dandy?
He could feel Illya breathing, his slender body warm and reassuring against his back. “Illya?” he whispered, “are you awake?”
“Shhh... 's not time t' geddup...”
“Illya!” He nudged his partner with his shoulder and when that didn't work, slammed his head against the Russian's.
“Ow! That hurt!”
“Come on, tovarisch. Rise and shine.”
“Lemme 'lone. Wanna -- shleep --”
“You want a sheep?”
Illya's head sagged left, then right. “Nyet, mudak! S-leep! I -- want -- to -- sleep!”
He sighed. Knowing Illya, this was going to take awhile, and time was something they didn't have. He knocked the Russian on the head again.
“Stop it, Napoleon! You are disturbing the Swiss bell ringers inside my head.”
“I'll stop when you wake up.”
A groan. The body behind him shifted. “Fine, I am up. Another dream deferred. I hope you are satisfied.”
In spite of himself, Napoleon smiled. “'Ah, had I but world enough, and time --'”
“Tovarisch,” he said softly, “we need to find a way out of here. Now.”
Illya shook his head to clear it. “Out of where? And please, Napoleon, stop shouting. I have not had my coffee.”
“I doubt THRUSH has made provisions for your morning beverage.”
It took a heartbeat for the bad news to sink in. “We've been captured? Again?” Illya sighed. “Chyort, no wonder my head hurts.” He sat up a bit straighter, taking note of his surroundings for the first time. “Where are we?”
“In a moldy old dungeon on the outskirts of Zurich -- hence the Swiss bell ringers in your subconscious -- wrapped in chains, on a plank of plywood packed with doomsday devices, suspended by a rope above a disgusting pool of raw sewage, venomous snakes and man-eating crocodiles. Other than that, it's been a perfectly swell afternoon.”
“Oh.” Illya digested the information. “Talk about overkill,” he said finally. “I don't suppose there is any good news?”
“Not much. They've thrown every cliché in the book at us this time.”
The corners of Illya's mouth twitched. “Perhaps we should take it up with the management. Speaking of which, where are the miserable little THRUSHbirds?”
“Long gone. They've left us to our fate, it seems.”
“And to those hungry crocodiles you mentioned.”
Napoleon glanced down into the murky water. A ferocious-looking crocodile grinned up at him, exposing rows of sharp yellow teeth. “The big one looks ready for his supper, and I'm guessing we're the Blue Plate Special.”
“Let us hope they are picky eaters.”
“Let's hope they're vegetarians.”
The sound of a switch flicking on, followed by an odd whining sound. Illya's body jerked.
“You okay back there?” Napoleon tried to turn his head, but the chains were too snug to allow much movement. "What in God's name is that weird buzzing noise? Can you see anything?"
Illya mumbled something unintelligible, but Napoleon could hear him straining and grunting against his chains.
The Russian swore.
"Whatever it is, it's getting louder by the minute. It sounds like somebody's using a power tool or --" Napoleon stopped, because suddenly he knew what it was. " -- a buzz saw."
"Currently aimed at my toenails.” Illya's voice shook slightly. "It must have been on an automatic timer. I estimate less than five minutes before --"
Napoleon's mind recoiled from the image. "Plenty of time," he replied with a lightness he didn't feel.
"Tell that to my toes."
He could hear the fear in Illya's voice. "You can tell them yourself when we get out of here."
They attacked the chains with renewed desperation, trying to work an arm or a leg through one of the thick coils. The restraints, however, were impossibly tight, and after several tries, they had to admit that it seemed hopeless.
"Iron chains and buzz saws and dynamite,” Napoleon muttered in frustration. “All we need now is Little Nell tied to the railroad tracks and we'll have a silent movie."
Illya's hands stilled. "Dynamite? What dynamite?"
"Um, the uh, dynamite THRUSH left on my end of the plank. You know -- 'thanks for playing our game, too bad you lost, here's your lovely parting gift.'”
“And you did not think it worth mentioning?”
“You were busy.” Napoleon shrugged. “On the bright side, there's a nice long fuse."
"Oh good,” Illya snapped. “For a minute, I thought we were in trouble."
Napoleon leaned back, letting his partner feel the comfort of his presence. "Don't worry, tovarisch, we'll get out of this. We always do."
After a moment, he felt Illya relax. "Optimistic American."
They squirmed and twisted, but the chains refused to budge. Illya tried to shimmy through the restraints binding his chest, but his contortions only set the plank to swaying. It tilted alarmingly, thrusting his face uncomfortably close to the spinning blade. Beneath them, the crocodile opened its jaws.
“Careful,” Napoleon warned.
He leaned forward. “Maybe I can -- huff huff -- blow out -- huff huff -- the fuse on the dynamite.”
“Napoleon!” Illya gasped as the chains around his chest constricted painfully. “Hypoxic Blue is not really my color, you know.”
“Sorry.” Napoleon sat back with a sigh. “It won't work, anyway. The fuse is too far away.”
“Maybe you can snuff it out with your feet.”
“My bare feet? They took my shoes, you know. And my socks. And now you want me to step on a flaming stick of dynamite with my bare feet???”
“Your shoes are ridiculously overpriced, and your white socks deserved to die. So, unless you have a better idea --?”
Napoleon kicked out with all his might, and watched the pack of dynamite sail into the water. It landed with a splash, startling the crocodiles. The fuse hissed and went out. “Sometimes the simplest answer is best.”
“Hmm, I suppose that makes it my turn to be clever.” Illya forced his drug-fogged mind to tackle the problem. “I could allow the saw to cut through the chains surrounding my ankles. It would have to be timed just right, though. I would hate to sacrifice my toes needlessly.”
“If the chains are wrapped around your crotch the way mine are, it's not your toes you should worry about.”
“Thank you for that lingering image, Napoleon.” He stretched his feet as far apart as the chains would allow, and went still.
The circular saw spun toward him, slicing through the plywood board and sending splinters flying in every direction. Abruptly, it struck the iron links of Illya's chain, and began to screech and whine horribly. Sparks sizzled the air. The sound echoed like a banshee's scream along the stone walls of the chamber.
“It's almost through, Napoleon. Another few seconds and we'll be – K'chortu! Nyet, n-nyet -- Aaagh!”
A horrible grinding sound, and suddenly the saw stopped. The silence was terrifying.
“Illya? Illya, are you all right??” Napoleon twisted his body in a vain attempt to turn toward his friend. “Illya! Speak to me! Oh, Jesus!” Their plywood perch swung wildly from side to side.
Suddenly, Illya's head appeared over his shoulder. “Just kidding,” he grinned. “The chains are sufficiently loosened now. You should be able to slide free.”
Napoleon collapsed in relief. “Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin, if we survive this night, I swear to God I'm going to kill you!”
“I look forward to your attempt.”
A snapping sound drew their eyes upward.
“Uh-oh,” Napoleon said, “looks like the rope's starting to unravel. We'd better find a way out of here, and fast.”
“I am open to suggestions. The walls are too slippery to climb, and the water is full of crocodiles. We could have used the rope, but it is too late now that it has begun to fray.” Illya gave a long-suffering sigh. “Another fine mess you have gotten me into.”
“Me? How is this my fault?”
Illya's eyebrows rose. “Do you have to ask? For starters, who decided that the smoky-voiced torch singer in the beaded cocktail dress was a sweet young Innocent in need of protection?”
Napoleon's chin jutted out stubbornly. “Well, she could have been!”
“A blind man could see the woman was not who she claimed to be! And yet, you insisted on playing chaperone after her set ended, to make certain she 'got home alright!'”
“My mother raised me to be a gentleman --”
“Did she also raise a fool? You were so busy making out with the young lady on her doorstep that you failed to notice the syringe in her hot little hand until it was too late!”
Another strand of hemp frayed and snapped.
“Hey, who knew you could hide a syringe inside a brassiere? Anyway, where were you when all this was going on?”
“Acquiring the microchip -- which, incidentally, is inside my lower left molar, in case there is anything left of my corpse when the crocodiles have finished with it -- and chasing after my partner, who apparently was in the final stages of raptus lascivicus.”
“Showing off in Latin again, are we?”
“You say that like it's a bad thing.”
Another snap. The rope quivered like a bowstring. In the water below, the crocodiles thrashed their tails in anticipation.
“What did you mean before?” Illya asked suddenly. “About 'world enough and time?'”
Napoleon stared. “You want to talk about that now? Jesus, Illya, learn to prioritize! We need an escape plan!”
After a moment, Illya shrugged. “Well -- I suppose -- since we are desperate --”
“'Desperate' doesn't begin to cover it!”
“-- and time is of the essence --”
“Come on, tovarisch, out with it!”
“Perhaps we could do what James Bond did in that ridiculous movie you made me watch.”
“Movie? Which movie?”
“The one where he escapes from the notorious Dr. Kananga by running across the backs of a dozen crocodiles.”
Napoleon stared. “You can't be serious! That was a staged scene from a movie, for godssake! It is definitely not something a sane person would try in real life!”
“Do you have a better idea?”
“You're out of your mind, do you know that? Seriously nuts!”
“So you do not like my suggestion?”
“Not one bit!”
“Well then, you have approximately ten seconds to suggest an alternative, because what is left of the rope is about to --”
“Leapin' lizards!” Napoleon gasped, and aimed his bare feet at the back of the nearest crocodile.