DEFAULT :: Part Thirty

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Bond’s sober, conscious and instantly nauseous; sudden need to vomit whilst disorientated in the darkness, until there’s a hand gently holding head, medical container under mouth. He doesn’t remember the last time there was food yet the bowl is full, blood and dirt obvious amongst the yellow liquid. Too many seconds pass before the woman next to him stops being a stranger, smell and touch suddenly familiar…

‘Moneypenny!’

‘Oh, James…’

His compatriot is dirty, soot on face and arms, cut to dark forehead as disbelief morphs into recognition. He’d expected to wake up at Como but this undoubtedly Lynam, Secret Service medical unit that sits out of sight of the world. For a second he cannot grasp why 003 would look like this, until memory finally provides context. Eve’s returned from her first field mission: the guy taking your vomit away while she hugs you is 009.

‘Bond.’

‘Charlie.’

He doesn’t like his surname used, Bond recalls, doing his best to show more awareness than might be expected. Their first meeting was almost yesterday, crossing paths on the tarmac outside this place as he flew to Alaska, LaCroix on the way for debriefing at the Barracks. Coalescing awareness registers dressings on face and hands, dull pain in the left lower back he knows is a historical injury and not new. Without any idea of time frames and contexts there’s uncertainy as to how this game’s being played, and so keeping quiet is probably wise. However, there are no tears, only grim determination in Eve’s features. When Charlie returns, Bond decides to hand his colleagues the initiative.

‘What did I miss?’

The pair exchange an uncertain glance, LaCroix who speaks first.

‘Doctor was very clear, we can’t tell you anything, has to be recalled by yourself, because there’s a concussion, probably several. That’s gonna cause a problem, I suspect, because you’re hoping we tell you what we know first.’

‘Excellent idea: why don’t you tell me what I should know.’

‘Charlie and I shut down an entire Spectre operation in northern Holland with minimal casualties, nearly sixty people have been detained as a result. Local law enforcement were struggling to cope when we left.’

Moneypenny’s pride is obvious, Bond grinning at the woman who finally stopped caring what people said, just as had been the case with the agent who’d inspired them all. Veronica. Her mouth’s on his, salt tears falling onto disbelieving features, gentle pressure of lips to a grateful forehead. She’d used his joke about just passing, finally bettered his abdominals, abundantly apparent under that dress, plastered to a perfect body as everything comes back to him in a rush. Having sacrificed himself to Maddy, refusing to continue their intimacy, James knew there’d been a chance he’d become nothing more than a condemned man. However, as the end rose up to swallow him, 004 had materialised as ultimate redemption.

Bond detaches from reality, simply nodding along to an animated recount of the Dutch attack, factory running as a front for drug distribution plus people trafficking. Letting their revelations exist alongside undoubtedly joint joy at this completed mission, Bond is impressed that Q got the metrics on both utterly spot on. There’s already respect from Charlie as Eve tells her side of the tale, clear admiration and joy in the young woman’s face when narrative switches to LaCroix. James grasps enough about body language to place desire existing between them both, but this is early days, and maybe the rest of humanity doesn’t work on the same motivation that he does.

‘This is clearly a fantastic job from you both. However, it still doesn’t explain what happened to me.’

‘Perhaps you should just ask the question and see where that gets you.’

M, it appears, has been sitting in the room the entire time but Bond never registered, realising that his eyesight’s not exactly as brilliant as first thought. The revelation’s a surprise, staring at the large dark blurred space where sound came from before hazarding a response.

‘Where’s 004 right now?’

There is no flicker of response from anyone in the room, before M stands, conveniently moving into Bond’s focus.

‘003 was correct, we can’t provide you with that answer. You need to do it for yourself. The truth please, 007.’

‘Once she’d rescued me, I was left with her smart watch, and shortly afterwards was sent a codeword. She and Q are dead.’

‘Indeed they are, both were incinerated in the explosion that destroyed the building in Venice we now know was Spectre’s Northern Italian HQ.’

M stares, no emotion on grim features. Moneypenny is a mask, Charlie impassive, and Bond loves that British Intelligence does everything by the book. Each person in this room grasps full well that he just lied through his teeth, will play the conviction of truth with a skill they’ve all been trained for. In any situation where communication could be compromised, codewords will be used to reinforce intent. When a 00 agent goes dark, all others on the roster are on a need to know basis, which will be defined by the current senior officer.

‘I am very sorry to report that your fiancée is also dead, and we’re now pursuing leads to locate Christian Swann, who was responsible for her demise. Any help you can give with this would be greatly appreciated, 007. However, for now you need to rest, and the medical team allowed to complete their work. La Croix and Moneypenny, we need to commence your debriefing. Until later, Bond. We’ll allow appropriate space to grieve this terrible double loss.’

As soon as they’re gone, 007 drags his complaining body out of bed, testing levels of fitness. There is undoubtedly disorientation and nausea, but still ability to make the bathroom with IV in tow to deposit the last stomach contents in the en suite’s sink. Looking critically in the bathroom mirror, face is a mess, far more than he ever remembers at any point in the tenure. Everything will heal if he allows, but there simply isn’t time. There’d been a point where rest would have been appreciated but now? There is a game to be played that holds far greater significance, and that’s already making him irritable. Grieving for absence will be easy: he’ll just be more angry than usual and use his frustration at being unable to rescue Ronni as fuel for the journey.

Maddy’s death however, prompts a fury that is surprising. The woman did nothing to deserve the abuse and manipulation levelled from her half brother, becoming unwitting pawn in both father’s and sibling’s game. This loss therefore could not be allowed to be forgotten without some form of organised and decisive retaliation. Her death would be mourned, then dissected at length with Gregory, so that Bond could categorically assure himself to never allow the same set of circumstances to consume existence ever again. After that’s done, 007 needs to be out of Hospital and back into theatre as soon as humanly possible.

As it transpires, he’s still not done with the designation.


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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.

DEFAULT :: Part Twenty-Nine

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FIVE


The first time both fugitives stop is just before dawn.

They’ve said nothing since leaving Venice; simply walked, keeping away from civilisation whenever possible. Q hasn’t complained about the rucksack carried, but slowing in his pace tells Ronni rest would be appreciated, plus perhaps some sleep. She’s found an abandoned building far enough away from the beaten track for them to have some respite, but ideally they need to be further away from the centre of their handiwork before there is time to truly relax. Spectre’s regional HQ was stripped of everything valuable, before they’d destroyed it to send a message: we will die for our ideal, without a thought. Bond’s salt blood intoxication remains all that Ronni can taste; memory must be buried deeper than a sleep-deprived brain is capable.

She stands at the front of the house alone, guarding Q as he relieves himself, conscious of only one clip of ammunition for the SIG which might not be enough, when it becomes apparent she’s being stared at. This is not the place to talk, and so the man is ushered inside, conscious of anywhere that might be seen with a long lens or via satellite. Only then is rucksack removed, slump of shoulders telling 004 all that is needed. The Quartermaster is exhausted, food and fluids required before any attempt is made to travel further: if his level of dudgeon is any indicator, there’ll also need to be some verbal reassurance mixed in.

‘Honestly, Veronica, I will just require a moment.’

‘You can take all the time you need, it is absolutely fine.’

‘All I can smell is burnt electrical wiring, I assume that passes in time?’

‘Could be worse, there are far less pleasant things to fixate on.’

‘Would you like me to boot up the laptop and see how Bond is -‘

‘It’s better I don’t know. In fact, it’s sensible just to keep moving, but I know how tired you are. As far away from prying eyes as possible while the world still sleeps. Then when it’s awake? We can rest.’

‘I did write this briefing document, remember. Never thought I’d actually have to follow it.’

She hands over a banana which Q eats, bottle of water afterwards that is quickly finished. They move to sit on a solid wooden table, surrounded by decay and damp, still shell shocked at their sudden change of situation. Ronni has already died once: the numbness will, she knows, pass in time. Suddenly this young man is the unknown quantity, both in mental and physical fitness: conscious of circumstance they need to be moving, and before it becomes an issue he’s shifted back to standing.

‘I am also aware of my status as your liability.’

‘There are many words I would use to describe you Q, but liability will never be one of them. Brilliant, strong, determined and focussed are better, and I’ll use them instead. You came all this way knowing full well what the consequences could be. Lesser mortals would have run. I have your back, because I know just how important you are. Not to Country or mission, but to me.’

The man blinks, briefly embarrassed at the regard. In the Barracks he was in charge but this is Ronni’s world, a fact that won’t need reinforcing. Having never seen him deal with this level of stress, remaining aware of what was at stake, perhaps making this overtly personal wasn’t the right answer. However, this was 004’s method: Bond made people want to assist using charisma and sexuality: honesty and warmth seemed to her better bets, ostensibly because that was just easier under pressure. Only now it appears has Q grasped this difference: there is a conscious shift in body language, normally detached curiosity aware and then surprised at what her words had meant.

‘That was a genuine compliment.’

‘Is this the moment when I remind you that I’m not 007 and there’s no need to alter the terms of our relationship?’

‘Your honesty was always refreshing in training, but I’d always considered it dangerous in the field because of the potential issues it might cause. However, hearing it now? That’s exactly what the scared, confused and frightened boy I now am wanted to hear.’

‘You do yourself a disservice, Q. You may be frightened but I guarantee once safe and secure, you’ll grasp what an adventure this has the potential to be.’

‘Is that your reasoning, 004?’

‘Every time I remember what I’ve become there’s a double take, disbelief at this opportunity I’ve been given and that must always be taken seriously. It’s amazing, yet humbling. Thank you for believing I was capable when there were moments I believed failure was inevitable.’

The words are doing their work, both energy and confidence in the young man’s stance. Then he sits back down, closing the distance between them for a reason. There is an admission coming, as the Quartermaster’s voice drops.

‘When I agreed to go dark, I was utterly cognisant of consequence. Your foresight, in that regard, has been remarkable: I wouldn’t have considered many items as essential equipment, would have questioned your need to walk in wet clothing until I thought through your reasoning. I have staggeringly misjudged your organisational acumen, and it chastens me greatly. Of all the people in the World I would want to be on the run with? I would pick you, in a breath, every single time. I won’t disappoint you, and I will make sure I’m always strong and determined. Of that, you have my word.’

A hand rests on Ronni’s leg, brief squeeze from now dirty hands before they’re both standing. Rucksacks are secured, the laptop grasped across Q’s chest, and 004 will keep them both moving until they can’t any longer. With what was pillaged from Venice, they can set up a decent camp somewhere, anywhere, and then her superior can sleep for as long as is required.


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Warm Sound

I’ve stolen a header from the Personal Blog this morning, and I’m here to explain that the bi-daily serialisation of the Bond that I managed and succeeded in doing whilst away is taking a break until Friday. You’ll then get another episode on Saturday before we go back to the normal scheduled times (Mon/Wed/Fri.) This isn’t due to a lack of content, but as a thanks to my husband who’s been dutifully reading everything as I complete the editing process. He’s got a lot on post holiday, and deserves a break, and so I’m giving him some much needed breathing space.

This also gives me an opportunity to detail what happens when the Bond is done. Several people have asked if I’ll publish both Duet and Default as complete novels: if you know anything about copyright, you’ll understand the there is absolutely no way on the planet I ever make money with other people’s canon, and I’d be utterly foolish to try. However, there will be the means when we’re done by which you can download a complete version of both ‘stories’ in a format that will fit onto your tablet/reading device of choice. When this happens, there is the very real chance that a donation button will appear on the site. If you enjoy what I write?

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After THAT? Things get a bit nebulous on the serialisation front, but I fully intend to keep working on online content whilst my first novel is finished. The Sayers remains a project I am fully committed to, and with the improvements in my writing/editing skills I fully intend to return to that and complete the work, with means for you to ‘purchase’ a complete version when I’m done. I also suspect the Erotica project will go the same way, dependant on personal commitments. Needless to say, you can expect to see some kind of newsletter/e-mail notification system being implemented in the Autumn which will keep you up to date on what the fuck is going on here. I’ll give you plenty of warning when it goes live.

Starting September 1st, there’ll also be more than just the writing to keep you company. Having made a decision to go full-time into this project? I like to go large or go home, and so expect stuff. Much stuff, with added gubbins for good measure.

Needless to say, these are exciting times ahead.

 

DEFAULT :: Part Twenty-Eight

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Bond’s consciousness is fighting the battle with induced drunkenness and winning. He’s aware of what Christian had done, that it could have been so much worse had the man decided to get sexual, but he was long gone and his fiancée’s death would soon be sending shock waves through Spectre’s hierarchy. If a hangover and two lungs full of dirty water was all the indignity he suffered, that would be a small price against what 004 had now managed to achieve. He still can’t believe they’d pulled off his rescue, had partly reconciled that this could have been his final mission. The last thing remembered is her swimming downwards, ethereally beautiful, redeeming water sprite reaching to pull him from oblivion. Ronni had, in a small way, closed the cycle of regret he’d carried with him since he’d failed to save another’s life in the same place.

His wrist is vibrating, a moment to work out why. When she rescued him and kissed a grateful forehead, there was the foresight to leave comms. Q’s prototype smart watch is really rather brilliant, and now it is trying to talk to him. Felix is staring out of the evac chopper window, nurses intent on other tasks while they wait for permission to take off, so Bond can steal a glimpse at the device. Even inebriated, he registers the code word on the face and understands that she’s now alone, in charge of the most important person the Service possesses. Whether he likes it or not, they need more people like Q in active ranks, those that understand the future of encryption and hacking. Brute force and destruction have had their day. Somewhere, the truth is between both points, wrapped in a female form that now makes him begin to shake with its thought. Ronni has the most important package the Service has ever collected, and needs to protect it at any cost.

She is about to sacrifice two lives to keep MI6 in the game.

Felix is staring, trying to hold him down as he struggles to get up, because there is still time to find Veronica and protect before it is too late. The nurses are restraining too, almost strong enough to escape them all until the sedative is in his system, then there’s nothing to do but sleep.


‘Ground zero confirms package is delivered, we have green on all missions.’

MI6’s Ops Centre is at full stretch, multiple operations simultaneously in full swing. These people are the next generation, mission specialists in the field making a palpable difference in new and interesting ways. Having a 75 year old ex 00 paired with a man forty years her junior seemed fairly audacious on paper, but the combination of Grace with Acquisitions wunderkind Anton Wiltshire was only one of many revelations that had emerged. Moneypenny, LaCroix and all the others are in theatre, across two continents, and about to deliver a body blow to Spectre as revenge for damage done to their organisation. Tanner’s grateful for Q’s insights into everyone, that metrics and assessments have transformed the space he lives and works in over such a short space of time.

Left wrist unexpectedly vibrates: this means no good, especially at such a crucial juncture.

The man’s been practising the art of glancing casually for the time, when instead he can take in the messages Q is sending: when he sees the word it takes a second to make a connection. The code isn’t from the Quartermaster either but 004, particular use sending a chill through his soul.

VESPER.

She picked it as, in her words, this perfectly encapsulated the set of circumstances that would have to transpire to make her use it to begin with. Compromised and without alternative, Ronni needed to die. With the exception of 007, going dark wasn’t something any agent should need to do to begin with, but if Bond was unable to assist their escape? Q had even broached the possibility before leaving for Venice: with Beam’s information secured, travelling with it would be fraught with danger, especially with the bounty now placed on both their heads. It was probably best for everybody if they go to ground and are thought to have been lost. If Ronni knew they’d not get out of Venice without a fight, this would be the default response. Q would never consciously place himself in danger unless he was completely aware of what was at stake, and to agree to this meant the stakes were even higher than anticipated.

Tanner watches the room around him vanish to background noise, taking in the consequences one word set in motion. Everyone here would need to believe the fiction, without exception, or else the chances of decrypting Beam’s data would be lost. Despite the continued issues with extraction, Bond would not be safe at Como and would need to be treated there and then flown back to the UK immediately. Other 00 operatives would need to be directly and comprehensively briefed… but the bigger issue remains how 004 and Q would remove themselves from theatre. If Ronni plays to type, there would be at least nod to Bond in execution…

Fire suddenly consumes the video feed from Venice: Q’s ‘electrified’ area outside Spectre’s HQ is burning, blue flames from broken beer barrels causing fresh panic amongst the emergency services attempting to approach the building. As people run from this new threat, the waterside base of operations for Spectre unexpectedly erupts in a sudden and all-consuming fireball. Tanner stares with horror, knowing now what he has to do. The junior handlers already grasp something is terribly wrong, comms with Q having unexpectedly vanished with the explosion, and Rachel is desperately trying to re-establish connection. The Chief of Staff picks a spot to stare at outside the Ops Room, towards the ancient vending machine, remembering the time Ronni had consoled him there after the loss of her predecessor.

‘Tanner!’

Frasier is desperate, screaming with tears barely contained, bypassing protocols he no longer cares about, and Will briefly hates himself. Now he must deceive a woman who really doesn’t deserve the grief about to be inflicted on her, plus every other person in this room. What worries most is if Bond knows or not, if he is in on the fiction. This is the part of the job Tanner utterly detests, but is the most powerful weapon of all. Lying for your country has always come with consequences.

‘004 and Q have been compromised.’

M appears, standing opposite, staring ashen faced, as Will Tanner begins to cry on cue.


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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.

DEFAULT :: Part Twenty-Seven

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The last of Beam’s data has been safely transposed to his own portable drive, and Q spends a moment to check the integrity of the information. At the same time his laptop’s more than 90% complete with the task of hacking Spectre’s own mainframe, and once that is done London will proceed with the retaliation plan he’d created and agreed first from a British Airways flight and then from a restaurant basement in Venice. It had been a snap decision, intentionally light on planning, but this at least proved the point that the man could work on instinct if required. At the sound of movement from behind him the Beretta is in his hand, only relaxing when he sees Ronni, soggy wreck of her previous immaculate self.

‘Is everything alright?’

‘All sorted, Bond was just out of his depth.’

She deadpans the one-liner this time with a skill that makes Q laugh, despite himself.

‘You can do this now without thinking, can’t you?’

‘No, I’ve just become incredibly adept at ignoring everything except the mission brief. Bond did a remarkable job at manipulating Maddy, cutting Beam out of the equation. We need to make sure that Christian’s overriding desire to save himself gets exploited as comprehensively as possible.’

He can’t help but stare, beauty unthinkingly bedraggled to complete the task, knowing she’s cried between 007 and here, and hand goes to her arm, because suddenly there’s the need to reassure.

‘Was he able to talk?’

‘No, so I left Felix with my watch: if we need to communicate he’s in the loop, because apart from you and Bond he remains the only person I’m trusting in this town.’

‘Considering how many dead we now know have resulted from this spot, that’s very sound indeed. I’m also beginning to suspect that all our operations in Northern Italy may have been compromised. Spectre are almost as thorough as you are, but not quite. You were right, 004, tonight we fly.’

He uses her own code phrase, final acquiescence to the plan they’d hatched before Felix had met them under the restaurant. Now hands intertwine briefly, shared strength as the pact between them is cemented. Without 007 capable to be her shadow, Q had agreed to do the job. It would mean a different set of issues for them both, but their dedication was already unshakeable. It might frighten him now, but in the end reward would far outweigh risk.

‘How long do we have?’

‘I’ll be into Spectre’s system in less than 10 minutes. Nobody as yet is aware of our presence, though that is likely to change as soon as we deliver the mail. You might want to consider a change of clothing.’

Q was aware of how audacious this plan remains: half a dozen hastily picked Spectre locations, the cream of remaining 00 agents and Field experts from Army and Air Force pulled together in less than eight hours, relying on him and the woman to his left who reeks of marine diesel and sweat. As she goes to change, he ignores what could yet go wrong, simply focussing on the things done best.


The packed briefing room at the Barracks goes silent, all eyes watching as M arrives at the desk that would normally be Q’s. Tanner stands off to one side, quietly impressed with everyone he sees: most were working on limited sleep and an excess of caffeine, yet all were immaculate. The new team that included Emmanuel and Elizabeth had lost their initial nervousness, now all quietly standing and watching as their boss took off his coat, handing it to the young Asian man who now acted as his PR. To his right was Rachel, looking unbelievable on only a handful of hours rest, her team from Acquisitions and Expedition with tablets already out, prepared to take notes if required.

Tanner remains pleased and proud to work for Her Majesty’s Secret Service, most particularly at moments like this. They stand at a crossroads: key Spectre locations in the UK and Northern Europe ready to be attacked and shut down. Q had provided their impetus, it is now up to this team to make that plan a reality.

M stands, surveying the room with increasing satisfaction, before he speaks.

‘When I was offered this job, the world was a very different place to the one we now inhabit. It is staggering to think how much has changed in such a short space of time, but undoubtedly this future remains one not only worth fighting for, but that everyone in this room has a chance of improving. Each and every one of you brings a unique perspective to the landscape we all now travel together, and I realise just how narrow-minded my predecessors have been in thinking that by excluding certain elements, we’d somehow survive better in the modern world. Nothing is further from the truth. It is only by inclusion that we can become stronger.

The 00 Section has, for a long time, been the dinosaur in the room. With Veronica Flemmings and Eve Moneypenny’s promotions, Q’s acceptance of a field role and his efforts to diversify Q Section overall, the evolution of many other departments has become not just a priority, but an expectation. Metrics and organisation have their place, but not at the expense of free thinking and spontaneity. Q may not be here in body, but that man’s drive, passion and enthusiasm for the job regardless of the dangers lives in every single one of us, myself included. We have the chance to hit back at Spectre, but to begin a symptematic process of eradication and redefinition that will finally turn the tide in this new conflict, and return both sanctity and belief to thousands of men and women who’s fight for freedom is a daily struggle worldwide.

I don’t need to tell you to do your best, because everyone here already is. You make me proud, and long may this continue. To your stations, and let luck no longer be a factor in anything we do.’

As the room breaks into spontaneous applause, M knows that the advantage has moved decisively into London’s hands.


Showered and changed, Ronni still can’t remove the taste of Bond from her mouth, and knows why. They’re partners now, truly indivisible, doesn’t want it any other way. He’ll never be distraction, simply strength that will be needed in the days that follow, weeks to come. Now the path is set? Nothing remains but the execution of a plan that, if she and Q do it right, really does give her superiors all the chips to gamble with as they please.

The report that fills the screen in the security room is damning: Q and her are marked as priority targets for immediate execution by any and all Spectre agents. Capturing them alive also rewarded a million US dollars or equivalent. The bounty is ridiculous, but considering the damage the pair of them have caused to Spectre’s infrastructure since their arrival, it seems both appropriate and acceptable. The automated software suite sends the screen above her back to London, as she notes with interest that Christian’s on his way to Geneva, still blissfully unaware of their efforts. However, it would not be long before the truth reached Spectre’s new defacto leader with authorities already on the scene.

It is time to go to the basement, down narrow steps to the crude jail cell, to find Gregory Beam virtually pressed to the bars waiting for redemption. At her arrival he’s clearly keen to have hands untied, gag removed, but Ronni’s glad of the silence and doesn’t have time for conversation. The only thing needed now is for this man to be out of the equation, with a salutatory warning over both his arrogance and its consequences.

‘Mr Beam, considering the number of deaths you have caused today I should shoot you in the head. However, as this would be a criminal waste of ammunition, I would suggest you start running until you hit civilisation and don’t look back.’

She leads him up the stairs and to a side door, watching as the man bolts away into the Venetian night. As soon as their present to Spectre’s worldwide intelligence mainframe was delivered the power would be lost, their position vulnerable, and that was entirely unacceptable. Before then there was a lot to pack, plus more to consider.

Planning ahead also afforded enough time to send a message to the two people who mattered most.


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DEFAULT :: Part Twenty-Six

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Twenty six seconds into heart massage comes a spasm, water spurting from lungs mixed with vomit and the all-pervading stench of medical alcohol: Bond’s alive, gasping air and looking around in terror. Ronni falls back, shoulders hitting solid stone, staring as he readjusts; another one of nine lives summarily consumed. There’ll be an insistence Felix travels back to Como with him because that remains a safe haven, and this time James can get better without falling in love with anyone. Only now does it register: he’s staring, fully conscious and wide-eyed, yet completely incapable of speech. Bond’s expecting a comeback from the dead, and all Ronni can be grateful for is survival.

‘You’re welcome.’

007’s trying to move; shifting body, staring with what Ronni’s fairly confident is amazement. His tears are a surprise before there’s retching again: blood with the vomit prompts the immediate need to move him to the Recovery position. If this wasn’t SPECTRE there’d be another acronym to deal with, different bunch of random nutters with no discernible agenda except chaos. You never eliminated bad guys, they just evolved into something more insidious and the only conclusive manner of eradicating evil was with the good in the hearts of people like 007, because that’s what he was, a fucking hero.

Ronni might often disagree with methods, but the heart’s purity she just restarted was without question. James cared about what was right, stopping bad from becoming the norm, and that alone was worth saving. A shaking hand reaches out, slipping around hers: pulling them together yet conscious of crowding as a pulse is taken. He’s built like an ox, resting heart rate almost stupidly unaffected by the fact he just died. Only now does the Spectre chopper register, climbing above the water, that Christian’s escape is only being allowed because that way MI6 has time to destroy everything he stands for in front of the world.

There’s movement behind her eyeline: Leiter’s arrived, dropping down the set of stairs that lead back up to the main quayside. Because they’ve forced Swann into retreat, it is absolutely the moment to press an advantage.

‘Q has the data, everything’s set, leave Jim with me.’

Bond is clearly capable of understanding Leiter’s presence but not intent, and as 007 remains her partner, Ronni knows this plan needs explanation. Leaning into a shaking body, her own shudders in response, amazement that instinct pushes to lay down and protect until he recovers. Yet again, time has run out. All that is left now is the mission, compulsion to complete this game-changing objective.

‘You’re never going to believe this, but I was the one just passing. I need to be somewhere else so that we can wipe these guys off the map for good. I’ll leave you with Felix: I promise to find you when I’m done.’

Bond understands, despite being incapable of response, nodding assent. Felix stares with what only now registers is awe: truly understanding she means business, very much in charge of the fight back. Spectre had been given notice, already condemned to destruction in the most damning way possible, and if anyone got in the way? She would destroy them, because now was summarily grasped the true value of revenge. It was no use to you on the back foot: the only way forward was to own the concept from first breath until your last.

‘You said you wanted to get Swann…’

‘I must be prepared to go all the way. Because they’re not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.’

She can’t help herself, knowing how they both loved quoting classics. Leiter stares at the mess her body undoubtedly resembles with smile already forming, nodding at the use of the classic movie scene with approval.

‘They pull a knife… ‘

‘- you pull a gun.’

‘He sends one of yours to the hospital… ‘

‘- you send one of his to the morgue.’

Their hug is instant and solid, allowing opportunity to pass him the smartwatch, ensuring both will remain in the loop. As Felix pulls away his smile is the widest she’s ever seen: 004 really hopes in future to watch movies and drink beer with this guy whilst concluding that real life is not nearly as dramatic as the big screen would have you believe. In many ways, this will be the more solid relationship than with Charlie, because Ronni has so much more in common with Leiter than first realised.

‘You got this, Ron. Go make Spectre bleed.’

Leaving Bond is almost impossible, however; there has to be closure of sorts. Planting a kiss to his forehead with all the emotion within, willing into an addled brain to stay safe until the medical team arrived, they are both again forced to work alone. Above come shrill sirens, emergency services arriving in response to their actions and if Ronni didn’t know already it is the cue to complete this mission. The taste of blood in won’t vanish as she sprints up the canal wall stairs, two at a time, trying to erase memory of James as a wreck, literally dead in the water.

Now she understands how 007 must have felt when Vesper died.


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OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER:

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Twenty-Five

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Ronni drops to the ground, shadows across canal’s sheltered side, apparent her weapon would not be needed regardless of preparation. She’d encountered no resistance at all since the explosions, watched Spectre guards eventually run for their lives rather than stand and defend posts. The attack on the majority had produced exactly the level of panic and disorientation that Q had predicted, and had forced the Swanns to call for evacuation far earlier than expected. A chopper’s powering down in the large, open courtyard opposite her vantage point: Felix is in place, overlooking the same spot on other side of the waterway. Now, it would be time to wait for their targets to emerge, and react as became necessary depending on Bond’s current situation.

Christian suddenly strides from a side exit, expecting some kind of attack with gun already drawn, seeming genuinely disappointed when it doesn’t materialise. Behind follow a brace of senior members of what probably passes for the current Spectre inner circle, two of them dragging what is undoubtedly a genuinely unconscious Bond. This time there are absolutely no theatrics and this is a man who’s incapable of helping anyone, including himself. The men drop 007 dangerously close to the side of the canal, as 004 moves quietly to water level, already confident of the quickest way across to his position. Maddy almost runs from the building, already heading straight for the helicopter when she registers her brother’s almost flagrant need to stand in the open.

‘What are you doing?’

‘I’m waiting for Flemmings, what does it look like?’

‘Their intent tonight was to eliminate as many Spectre members as possible, they’ve done that conclusively: the longer we stay here the more likely it is we too will end up as casualties.’

‘I know how much Bond matters to you, but that’s nothing compared with how Flemmings -‘

‘She’s not coming! Don’t you understand, Blofeld is dead and Bond is impotent, this game has no relevance any more. It was played only for him, entire world revolving around a past that is now pointless and obsolete. Our days are numbered, and those of this organisation, unless we adapt and evolve as the Secret Service is. I have told the Council this until I am hoarse, and yet nobody listens. The game is over, Christian.’

‘Flemmings loves this man unconditionally. Why would she not try to save him?’

‘Because she loves her job more! Bond is fleeting, simple pleasure that is possible from any number of sources. Women have never required men to be complete. You’ve been fucked by the one thing you’ve never understood and refused to embrace.’

Ronni slips into the water, surprisingly warm considering, swimming quietly closer to the courtyard. Maddy’s argument isn’t the entire truth, but close enough to conclude that when all is said and done, she’s the far larger long term threat over her brother. Bond remains face down on the concrete, unmoving since dropped there, and there is real fear that if he hits the water, 007 will drown. 004 needs to be ready to react, and closer to the action. As if on cue there’s a voice in her ear, reassurance that the real reason for this operation is still the priority.

‘Felix is in position. Electrification remains at 100%. Am deploying disruption virus now.’

She morses OK to Q on the watch and then continues onwards, listening to the power struggle playing out opposite. Christian is becoming increasingly agitated, and only now does it register that Maddy isn’t trying to reason. This is an attempt to keep him calm, because if he loses his temper…

‘We can change things together. You and me, mon frere, make this organisation fit for purpose, better than it is, to ensure the intelligence community is ours to manipulate and dictate for decades to come.’

‘Your future is weak, just as you are. Seduced by a fool, misguidedly bargaining with his life. He’s only here now because you see humanity within him. I know what you’re doing. How stupid do you think I am?’

‘But if you stop and think, to include everyone makes far more sense. You must understand this.’

‘I’ve outgrown this stupid charade, and have no need to be lectured by my family.’

Christian lifts the gun, points directly at his sister’s head and pulls the trigger: Madeline is dead before hitting the ground. Ronni ducks under the nearest pier, already confident over what happens next, preparing to dive, because Bond is about to be sacrificed for the cause. The command is given, then splash as a body hits the canal: on cue there is gunfire from Leiter, enough as distraction, at least three bullets sounding as if they hit targets before the unmistakeable start up whine of the commercial chopper drowns out everything else.

The assumption was sound: Bond’s unconscious and dropping like a stone, and that means the only way he gets out of filthy Venetian water is with Ronni’s help. Breathing’s already stopped by the time they’re back at the surface but there’s still time, knowing how good she is at lifesaving. James does not get to check out like this, nobody chooses how this life ends except him. That will be the ultimate gift: not only the one who listened, but the person who returned destiny to his own hands. Dragging the lifeless form to safety, out of sight of the carnage, almost throwing his body on to a small jetty, Ronni starts CPR on instinct.

SPECTRE never gets to win, not until both of them are dead.


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OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER:

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.