The Merlin’s going through the last of its pre-flight checks as Ronni emerges into the hanger, dressed in attire she hopes Tanner will consider low key yet smart enough to announce e-mail has been read, understanding this summons from M is to be taken seriously. No jacket, dark blue silk blouse, black trousers and high top trainers she’s pushed hard to get London to accept as better footwear than the Bally boots they’d given her after Stage Two of training. It was certainly easier to run in the Merrells, plus eight hours in these wouldn’t give blisters. The small things were changing the landscape, a step at a time, and that made this worth the trauma that came with the potential upgrade in number.
It would be that which pulled her here, quite apart from saying goodbye to LaCroix and Moneypenny. They were fit for duty: she wouldn’t get that stamp until Q emerged from his extended downtime with Alex, and the French doctor stopped shaking her head at Flemmings’ blood work. As for Bond…
Tanner’s casual too this morning, suit trousers, shirt and no tie, and there’s a second to consider lying about her presence alone that Ronni decides is probably best ignored.
‘He’s asleep, Will. I think I may have worn him out.’
The Chief of Staff almost keeps a straight face: Ronni’s eyeroll is enough to tip them both over into laughter. M is by the helipad, talking to 003 and 009, obvious pep talk before they depart for Amsterdam. Nobody has asked what she’s been doing away from official business for three days because everybody accepts that an inter-agent relationship can be acceptable as part of this job.
‘Under the circumstances I may well tell the old man the truth. Knowing him I’ll get some comment on Bond’s fitness needing re-assessment and that we can’t have him failing on existing operational parameters.’
‘He’s off the books, Will.’
‘No, just no longer part of the Section. He may have resigned but you don’t leave this job, as you well know. Right now he’s languishing in administrative limbo.’
‘Well, wherever he is I think he deserves the sleep. As his turnaround times have dropped, I suggested he take the afternoon off.’
‘The man’s not getting any younger, after all.’
Something is being held in Tanner’s hand, cream envelope passed over without ceremony, and now it’s very much not about being called here to wish people goodbye and more around what happens next.
‘He was however asked to inform you that the senior field 00 position is officially open. I’m assuming this was overlooked, with good reason. You are expected to apply.’
‘I’m assuming I wouldn’t be required to take the name, because that could make things more confusing than they need to be.’
‘Thanks to LaCroix and Moneypenny, Whitehall is officially relaxing the requirement to inherit your predecessor’s name. You just get the senior officer’s number instead. There’s more to it than that, but we’re already planning details to be discussed on your return to London.’
Their conversation is interrupted as Moneypenny appears, all smiles, Charlie not far behind.
‘You’ve exhausted him, haven’t you?’
Ronni can’t help but blush, especially considering the last private conversation over coffee, when the details of Bangkok had been revealed. However now it’s more to do with M’s arrival, and his clear satisfaction that Tanner’s begun her recruitment process.
‘I’m not sure I should comment further on the inability to show with the Boss here.’
‘Do I need to reprimand the ex-007 for failing to consistently do his duty, 004?’
M’s comment isn’t embarrassment but more laughter, sense that somewhere between London and here everything changed forever, not simply for her and James. This is family, like it or not: a group of people who care about them both as a unit and alone above the need to be entirely professional. They are stronger together, as Moneypenny and Charlie are alone. The choices made do not need to be held or imposed any more: this isn’t about being right, rather more around getting the best from disparate individuals.
‘Bond’s made Ronni happier than at any point I’ve known her. I think maybe he’s earned some downtime. Perhaps after ten years of being the best there was, we should all cut the guy a break.’
Charlie’s wisdom, undoubtedly, wins the day and closes this discussion, and then it is hugs and smiles as 004 watches her compatriots walk back to the waiting Merlin, ready to complete a mission they’d begun several months previously. She’s expecting management to stay but both are already walking away, back to the Control Centre, no more comment to be made. Ronni stands and watches the chopper lift off under LaCroix’s control and vanish from view, camouflage dome opening and closing, and stands for some time in silence, before opening the envelope that signals her transition.
The paper inside is blank, and Veronica Flemmings understands why.
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.