Title: "Incident in a Stairwell"
Author: Debra Hicks
Format: short story, second in a three-part series, gen &/or pre-slash
Universes: crossover between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Professionals.
Year Published: unknown
Availability: Archived at The Circuit Archive, along with its prequel ("The Waiting Room Affair") and sequel ("People Bending Broken Rules"). The latter only is slash.
If memory serves, "Incident in a Stairwell" is the short story that first introduced me to The Professionals and inspired me to explore that universe further. (At that time I was already a fan of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) It is the second of three in a series, but it stands on its own quite well, though of course the bookending tales are quite nice in their own right. "Incident," however, stands out to me as a particularly sterling example of what crossover fan fiction can accomplish.
Set in the CI5 headquarters of The Professionals' era, the tale follows the dire events of a morning on which a prisoner has escaped and opened fire on agents and innocents alike. It just so happens that Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are there on a recruiting mission for U.N.C.L.E. that same morning. (Guess which two men they wish to recruit?) The teams are separated during the confusion. A worried Solo and Bodie, along with George Cowley, are left to apprehend the prisoner before it is too late for their wounded partners, who are at the criminal's mercy.
In a fast-paced and action-packed story, Debra Hicks does many things well. The characters' voices are spot on, and the opportunity to see each man through the others' eyes leads to satisfying moments of character exploration. The implicit comparisons between Solo and Bodie, Kuryakin and Doyle are well drawn, as is the often wry portrait of the aging U.N.C.L.E. operatives. The relationships between both sets of partners are likewise explored with effective, poignant restraint. Perhaps most importantly, each of the four characters contributes a key ingredient to the successful resolution of the affair: without any one of them, the day would not be won. It is rare to see such balance, such obvious affection and respect for all of the players in a story. Hicks has fun with her dialogue and her in-jokes, and by allowing each man to supply a critical piece of the action she gives credit to both partnerships and the universes they represent. The two cultures, the two generations, play quite nicely together, and the reader can only imagine how future collaborations between the two pairs might change their worlds, and the world at large, for the better.
Solo started stripping off his jacket. Bodie and Cowley turned toward him. He proceeded to the tie. "I'll go."
"Why you?" Bodie demanded.
"He doesn't know me. And the fact that I'm older makes me look harmless." Moving the .38 from under his arm to behind his back as he said it gave a certain ironic note to the statement.
Two older pairs of eyes meet. Whatever Cowley saw there he trusted. Nodding to the American agent he raised the R/T again. "Jax, get the aid kit down here, and a white coat from the lab. Fast."
"What do you know about gunshot wounds?" Bodie asked lowly.
Napoleon cocked an eyebrow at him. "More than I care to." He meet the blue eyes. "I'll take care of them."
"Get Doyle into a sitting position, if you can." Cowley told him. Jax emerged from the stairs, joined them, passing over the large medical kit.
Slipping the coat on Napoleon opened the kit and checked it. "What about a weapon?"
The Scot frowned. "If you think either of them can handle it, and if you can get it to them..."
"Unseen." Napoleon finished. He snapped the case closed. "Ready."
"Hoffman, he's coming up." Cowley shouted.
Bodie touched the other man's arm as he started past. "Luck, mate."
The smile that answered him was feral, for the first time showing the cold agent lurking under the smooth exterior. "Luck is my specialty."