Tanner’s nervous, staring at his team in the cold Mess Hall: he can’t help but wish someone else was in charge of motivational speeches. M had told him, politely yet firmly, that there came a time in every politician’s life where you had to grasp the nettle: enough people could be inspired only once your own rhetoric was believed. Then Will understood the problem: he didn’t enjoy exploitation. After that he’d politely asked his boss that if they needed speeches before major missions, then it was probably an idea to employ someone who could lie better than he could. Nervous beyond expectation, struggling with his French to communicate quickly with the base’s employees, the Chief of Staff hasn’t had nearly enough coffee to stand here and do anything convincingly at 6.45am.
At the back of the stark, functional room, M leans next to stacks of unused chrome chairs, watching with what could easily be amusement as their disparate teams stand waiting. The youngsters are furiously comparing notes like there’s no tomorrow, Emmanuel able to watch and type on a tablet without breaking eye contact, Lizzie Mayer using an old style pad and paper. The three wise women are together as a group, Naomi the designated stenographer as Rachel converses quietly with Grace. Then, off to one side are the 00’s, except Bond who stands at distance, overseeing the entire group. What started as a dispassionate attitude seems to be altering, evolving into an understanding that someone other than management needs to get the ball rolling. It is him who makes eye contact, purposefully approaching Will with a look that he’s pretty certain 007’s never used in his presence.
If Tanner didn’t know better, he’d say there’s more than a measure of sympathy in Bond’s regard.
‘I have an idea for the briefing, and you look distinctly uncomfortable having to do this.’
‘I’m certainly not Q, that much is certain.’
‘Permission to take over and direct the floor, Sir.’
‘Granted, 007, and I’m suddenly interested where this is going.’
As the Chief of Staff stands aside he’s summarily deafened: Bond puts fingers in mouth and whistles with a volume that brings everyone’s attention to him. Without a word, 007’s managed more than Tanner could hope for: offering the floor providing welcome means to an end.
‘This isn’t going to work. Teams don’t form cliques, that’s what we have here. Everybody around this table, please.’
Nine pairs of eyes stare with a range of responses, but nobody argues. The largest space is filled in short order and when everyone is settled, Tanner stands well back, reinforcing acquiescence. Bond then turns to him and stares, before asking a question a very long way from what is expected.
‘We’ve had a love hate relationship over the years, you say that’s a fair assessment, Tanner?’
‘007… this is… yes, we have.’
‘You find me frustrating, don’t you? Self absorbed, unable to do as I’m told?’
‘What’s your point, Bond?’
‘Sometimes it takes someone to come along and shake up the world view for everyone to instigate real change. Q did that for me to begin with, made me look outside what I did and how I acted, and then when Veronica slammed into everybody’s lives, it redefined how a lot of this stuff actually functioned. In fact, if you’re honest with yourselves, nobody here would be sitting in this briefing with exception of the senior management were it not for 004.’
Regarding the room, nods and body language confirm that Bond’s comment has touched a nerve. The use of Flemmings as catalyst is already having the required effect.
‘We’d all like Q up here to confirm what needs to be done this morning but it’s unnecessary, because he’s taught everyone so well that you’re already ahead of the game. Handlers understand their targets, Comms grasp what needs to be done on the ground. Tanner here would be delivering you a speech I’m betting he’d feel uncomfortable giving because in his mind, that’s not his job anyway, it belongs to the man we need to make sure gets back to base safely with his 00 shadow in tow.’
He’s not using Ronni as the focus, Will realises with satisfaction: Bond’s taken Q to make the point with. 007 is being really rather clever, because then it’s not just about his personal investment in this situation. The room’s energised, more focused than he’d ever manage, and M nods in appreciation of effort thus far.
‘Without 004 and Q, we’d not be in a position to finally bring Spectre to its knees. We owe it to them both and their work in the field to make sure this operation is conducted and completed flawlessly. Most importantly, only as a cohesive unit can everyone fulfil their duty successfully. Once upon a time the 00 section thought it could operate without support, but this is no longer either acceptable or fair. To survive in the modern world, everyone matters, team more significant than one man’s ability.’
Then Bond stops, staring at the group as they radiate anticipation. Will knows this look, but has not seen it for some time. It was 007’s response when the old M would chastise, normally with good reason over his reckless, individual behaviour. She was one of the few people capable of holding a mirror up to the flaws: the other’s in a car on a French motorway with the Quartermaster beside her. Except now Flemmings doesn’t even need to be in the room.
This man has changed because of her, that much is abundantly obvious.
‘With Rachel in charge, you people know what to do. I, however, have a lot to learn.’
The room sits quietly stunned as Bond turns and heads for the exit, jacket removed and tie being loosened. He’s off to put on a flight suit and command a helicopter, despite his hatred of the task, with a focus and drive just gifted to the rest of the room. Will stands, open mouthed with amazement, knowing without doubt that this isn’t the same man that left London in a body bag. As the room bursts into chatter it is Frasier who instantly stands: cementing her position as team leader, acknowledged by 007. Almost effortlessly, this new dynamic is both reinforced and insoluble.
More importantly, the lone wolf that 007 was knows there are issues to address, a point M’s considering as he strolls to Will’s side.
‘I think, once this 007 is officially inactive, we might be well advised offering him a job at the Barracks. He’s a changed man: perhaps finally Bond’s decided on a set of priorities for the future that don’t involve him remaining solo.’
‘I sense a lot of his decisions may depend on what state 004 is in on her return.’
‘Indeed, Tanner. Let’s hope for everybody’s sake that Flemmings and her partner survive the morning.’
Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.