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This place used to be a nuclear bunker, sunk deep into lush rolling hills, surrounded by unassuming Home Counties farmland. Now it is home to one of the most dangerous psychopaths the British have ever incarcerated, kept alive at massive expense to the taxpayer for no other reason than the understanding that nobody wants him dead until it is certain the man refuses to talk. The Government staunchly refuses to acknowledge him as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, because to do so confirms the existence of an organisation no-one will entertain as legitimate, but which remains splashed all over every broadsheet and current affairs programme.
SPECTRE is the enemy everyone fears, but no-one can easily remove.
Ronni pushes anger aside for the umpteenth time that morning and simply concentrates as Bond brings their hastily-requisitioned Metropolitan Police chopper into position above the Facility entrance. Everything had, for a brief and glorious period, been pretty much perfect. She’d done her job for three months, and 007 had provided fringe benefits above and beyond what had been expected. Then came the day when personal effects had been recovered from Skyfall, and overnight 004’s existence had become nothing more than darkness in Bond’s shadow. It wasn’t just her either, the agent unintentionally tainting every 00 along the way, and that was ultimately something she might never forgive the man for. What Bond’s covert mission from the previous M had kick-started was a complete re-definition of the rules for everyone. Insurgency had become irrelevant, domestic uprising after the fact. SPECTRE’s reach was damning and all encompassing, from helping the Russians in Afghanistan to encouraging the Americans in both Iraq and Iran. They reached into North Korea, Africa, China and beyond. If there was a conflict going on anywhere, chances were Blofeld’s people had a hand in it.
All of this to destroy the life of one man who’d stolen love from another with the mother of all complexes.
The bigger problem right now was working out who in the security services could actually be trusted. That’s why they are here, both Walthers with the safeties set off, because MI6 was in lockdown and the South East was under a Red Terror Alert. Bond’s using the Police’s heat seeking radar to scan the area, and looks increasing perturbed at what he sees.
‘I think Blofeld wants us on the ground. I’m not seeing staff in any of the ancillary buildings. Either they’re all dead, or they’ve been taken away.’
‘How long before we’re running on empty?’
‘Tank’s close, I approve of refusing the refuel. At least this way we’re not consciously providing anyone with an escape route. I’ll wait until we stall, looking at the field at 11 o’clock as our landing site.’
004 is already strapping herself in, no need when they took off, utterly confident in Bond’s ability to fly better than she could. They’d discussed it between them: 007 drove, she’d ride shotgun, because however good a marksman he believed himself, Ronni was just better. Everyone’s scores were up since her arrival, Q assumed because competition was a natural encouragement for a group of men who’d never had, until this point, any real need to contend with each other. It was amazing it had taken a female agent to cause this, but the metrics had predicted instability, based on the last time this had happened. Sadly for Eve Moneypenny, her own shortcomings had prevented a permanent place in the 00 Section, a fact Ronni wishes wasn’t the case.
The arrival of 004 hadn’t just forced a re-assessment of roles and ability, it had fractured an institution. It was the ultimate irony therefore that the organisation’s figurehead had been nullified not by old age or injury, but by the need to pursue the most traditional of stereotypical pursuits: marriage. For 007 to give up his number so casually must make Madeline Swann something very significant indeed. Having read the file enough times to know it almost from memory, stared long and hard at the slight blonde woman who had become this man’s new mission goal, Ronni still could not grasp the motivation. Returning to the quandary, she wondered now what it would take to destroy her career for someone else.
There would never be anyone who mattered that much.
The chopper stutters, engines cough their warning that options were out and only then does Bond take the time to pull on the regulation harness. She wants to stare as the descent begins, remembering every moment of what would be their first and last mission together, because then this retention could be kept as encouragement. If this is the best in the Service, that’s what you need to improve upon. However, this remains a man whose personal actions demand to be forgotten, as a matter of priority. If you want to be the best? 007 has to retire, because only then do you stand a realistic chance of being considered as his successor.
Ronni’s mind is all too aware of the multiple ironies at play.
There is always a back way into everything.
You never build a structure without multiple exits: for every entrance well-signposted and covered, there exists an unobtrusive door built into a wall that seems to lead nowhere, but in fact represents unexpected salvation. One of the earliest lessons Ronni learned as an intelligence operative was to ascertain the way out of any location, well before one ever attempted to enter anywhere. Q had sent the schematics for this facility on the flight out, and as was often the case it was waste disposal that led to her entry. Normally, drains were the easiest way in and out, here no exception. That also meant that if she grasped the significance? Spectre would too.
The first enemy operative never sees her coming, silenced then out cold and face down in water that would have been enough to drown in, had she not tied the unconscious form to a support column. Ronni always ignored deadly force when it came to such endeavours, as it might yet be useful keeping some lackeys alive for questioning. Targets two and three are a little more of an effort, but they too are rendered mute then inactive before being secured back to back on the ladder she uses to enter the tertiary control centre. The lack of friendly bodies is a concern, likely that human shields could be part of this equation. Using the small, cramped space to access CCTV from the main area, her suspicion is confirmed as truth: all the staff have been gathered in the main refectory, closely guarded and supervised.
She watches as Bond encounters minimal resistance and is almost at the central unit, where Blofeld is being held: enemy appears aware 007 is close, already preparing themselves for the inevitable onslaught. If there is one thing Ronni detests it is the theatrical in dealing with resistance: one of her hugest objections to Bond’s methodology. What matters before anything else is to free the staff and lead them to safety, but activating rescue protocols outside are pointless and will show their hand too early. Ronni expects the boring stuff to be her job but is surprised when 007 detours away from the main containment unit to address the hostages first.
Now it is up to her to ensure their escape route is cleared.
By the time the sixth and final guard is neutralised, Ronni’s at the entrance to Central Containment. The female technician who meets her at the head of the party of liberated captives looks unharmed, and immediately grateful: Ronni uses her phone to scan the ID’s of every person who passes out of the area, inventory and double check combined to ensure Spectre weren’t planning a surprise on escape. It turns out Elizabeth Mayer’s not simply a female tech but a part of MI6’s Acquisitions team, and without a thought 004 pulls out her Walther, before disabling the palm-print activation.
The woman can’t be older than 25, on reflection, pretty and brunette but with clear strength under the white coat; she baulks when the weapon appears, yet doesn’t move away. Ronni takes the barrel in hand, turning grip to face her at waist level, inviting an open hand.
‘Agent Mayer, do you know how to use this?’
‘I’ve been trained, but I’ve never-‘
‘There is always the possibility that I didn’t deal with everyone on your way out. This therefore becomes insurance. Get used to holding it, it will give you confidence regardless. Nobody’s making you fire it, okay?’
‘You’re Ronni Flemmings, aren’t you?’
‘I started my life in Acquisitions just like you. One day, I was caught in a situation not unlike this and was given a weapon, I never had to fire mine either because the man who covered my back did his job correctly. I’ve got you covered too, get these people out of here and when you get up top wait for the Evac, I’ll make sure it’s sent as soon as we have things locked down.’
‘Thank you, and thank Bond. You are both very good at what you do.’
The lab coat is off, Mayer possessing more confidence as she leaves, as do the rest of the dozen hostages, most of whom thank her on departure. Ronni takes a moment to decide that this was the part of the job that was the most enjoyable: any fool could blow up a building and destroy collateral. It took a different kind of mindset to deal with humanity as more important than the surroundings. The remaining journey to the main control room is without incident, guards and resistance already eliminated with Bond’s no-nonsense approach. She’d not killed anyone, but all these goons are dead. Maybe one of the reasons she wasn’t taken seriously was her approach to neutralisation: Bond didn’t need to worry about unexpected surprises, because once he attacked someone they never got up.
Ronni liked her way better, even if it demanded more cleanup afterwards.
The main control room is an exposed section of metal and glass, orange segment jutting out over a large circular cell surrounded by a series of obstacles: water that could be electrified, spikes and wire, all meant as means to prevent unauthorised entry and exit. As she watches, Bond is being held as Blofeld sits in a motorised wheelchair provided as one of far too many concessions, at the expense of Her Majesty’s Government. There’s an exchange going on that Ronni could listen to, but she knows how this works: she’d read every file on Bond since 1959, in all of his incarnations. The manual was clear and intractable on this point: always attempt to extract information from a quarry before moving to neutralisation. However perilous one’s situation, it is often more useful to engage an enemy in conversation as potential distraction than simply eliminating them in cold blood. This is where Flemmings diverted with conventional wisdom yet again: given the choice, she’d skip the speeches and simply kill the person in charge.
If truth be told, there was a lot of conventional MI6 wisdom she had a problem with.
Ronni however has a more pressing concern: if Bond is being restrained, she’ll need to make an effort to rescue him too. That’s easy: already pulling out a harness and cables from a locker, using the facilities mainframe to locate the best method to leave the control centre at speed. There’s enough flammable material here to act as accelerant, all that’s required is a trigger and distraction. Her phone was due for an upgrade from Q anyway, and he’ll not get upset over her using that as an impromptu detonator, and if all else fails she can blame Bond for the damage that’s about to be wrought to prove capability. What this will also accomplish is making a point to 007, in the most spectacular fashion she can accomplish.
If she’s going to take his job when the man gets married? Her entrance skills will be everything.
Bond stares at Blofeld, considering his last comment, wondering whether the man has a point. On consideration? He’s a fucking lunatic, and that is never going to change. He’s keeping you talking to buy time for a rescue that’s not coming, because this time I was forced not to do the job alone.
‘It doesn’t matter who’s in charge, what they look like or how they play the game. As long as people like you still live and breathe, people like me will eventually kill you.’
‘And yet here I am, canary in a cage, waiting for the moment to be set free. Your Government think I am worth more alive, and so I remain, because you could not finish the task.’
‘It wasn’t my humanity that saved you. It was someone else’s.’
‘Was it really, 007? Or is all of this part of a bigger, more dangerous game?’
There is a burst of static, feedback loop from overhead speakers that is enough to unsettle both of the goons restraining Bond. It is the distraction he’s craved, allowing vital seconds to take one from standing to unconscious. Blofeld’s already turned, wheelchair surprisingly quick, and the second assailant is tossed into dirty water where he is summarily fried by the defence grid. Before there’s the opportunity to pursue quarry comes a massive crash, glass and debris from above as Ronni launches herself through the glass of the control room window. She’s used a chair as an impromptu shield, milliseconds before a massive explosion destroys the entire side of the complex, showering debris and metal over both Blofeld and his escape path. As a girder falls and catches the fleeing man, he is bodily thrown from his chair before landing in a pile of rubble. Seconds later, a support column topples and crushes him with unintentional yet deadly efficiency.
Bond stares in open mouthed amazement as the dust finally settles: Flemmings not only has the dramatic entrance aspect of the 00 designation covered, but is clearly capable of destruction of the scale required to ensure the enemy know she means business.
Ronni wasn’t expecting to cause nearly as much damage, and now understands that as a 00 perhaps theatrics only seem that way when you’re watching and not engineering them. She uses a cleaning harness attached to a dedicated ceiling strut to abseil down to ground level, walking to the remains of a now shattered and flattened wheelchair. Blofeld had been thrown clear, across the platform: he’d not expected 007 to come with backup, that much was obvious. Bond used to work alone, nobody sending the enemy a memo about those rules altering forever. The shattered remains of the observation booth are still smoking and Ronni is treading with care, moving rubble aside until her target is located. This man’s desire to stay alive and exact revenge on his nemesis had the potential to last long beyond what was, all told, an entirely accidental and unfortunate demise. Now his assertion earlier, as she had listened on CCTV, that death would only be a setback would be rigorously tested.
There is no doubt Blofeld is deceased, skull so heavily compacted there’s brains all over the support pillar which hit him. Ronni stands, staring at the man who’d held a grudge against 007 for decades and wishes his ending meant the problem was dealt with, but that wasn’t how revenge worked in the modern world. Whether he passed from old age or they engineered his demise, it didn’t matter. Bond’s existence had fuelled an entire organisation hell-bent on destroying what he stood for, and after that everyone he’d ever touched, regardless of relevance to anything else.
Losing the man in charge wouldn’t alter that long term objective one iota.