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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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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.

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