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Ronni stares, not able to comprehend what Q is suggesting, and this disbelief must be apparent because the man gets up, going to retrieve a laptop which must have been liberated from Bulgari’s compound. Obviously prepared for this eventuality, Andrew comes to sit beside her.

‘I did wonder if you’d grasp the significance of what’s happened since our enforced extraction from the real world. I’ve been able to keep up to date with progress as I’ve worked, but you’ve had little or no exposure to what I’ve seen. I think now however, this is the moment to change that. Let me show you what’s been going on since we died.’

Q’s skill with a computer does not just cover the technical: as she’s seen at the Barracks, it also includes an innate ability to use skills to tell stories using the vastness of media the Internet presents. On the screen is constructed a timeline, begun at the moment of the explosion in Venice: Italian authorities denouncing Spectre publicly, high-profile arrests of leading mob bosses, prompting French and German governments to follow suit. There’s the Prime Minister, visibly upset, attacking Spectre by name in an address at the United Nations, vowing that the British people would never be shattered by ‘maniacs, lunatics and fanatical power-crazed warmongers.’ Then there is the funeral, and Ronni has to struggle to remain impassive as she watches Bond gunned down in such public view. MI6 use the moment as their spark, urging the rest of the World to accept the existence of Spectre and to join their fight to eradicate the organisation once and for all.

It is M however who moves her to tears, speech to awaiting press as he flies to France to consult with security services, a man who blames the death of his predecessor on the criminal organisation with an anger she’s never encountered before. Then there is the quiet and brutal promise that ‘nothing will be compromised to ensure that the man in charge is located and then bought to justice.’ Overnight, Christian Swann becomes as notorious a criminal as the World had seen: when the US President cancels her vacation forty eight hours after M’s speech to pledge support to the UK’s efforts, the entire landscape irrevocably changes. Q’s pride that he was part of the process is apparent even without the evidence to support it, but that doesn’t stop him making the point.

‘You’ll note that this shift from the US was in direct response to the data I provided London on key Spectre operatives within the President’s own party, the NRA and number of major US Pharmaceutical companies. Once they realised how dangerous the potential was for chaos amongst the faithful? A female Republican Commander in Chief has enough to worry about without being divided and conquered from within.’

‘It was hard enough for her to get there to begin with. I’d understand the desire to throw weight behind anyone wanting to remove corruption from anywhere.’

‘Getting the Americans to admit anything has never been easy, 004. Providing a truth that cannot be ignored, as you demonstrated during training, is by far the most effective approach to making a point.’

Everything since is a procession of news reports, newspaper headlines and You Tube sound bites from local news organisations: Spectre thwarted at every turn, notable members taking their own lives rather than be captured, turned in by friends and in a couple of cases lovers. From Washington DC to Madrid, Edinburgh to Marseilles, the stories are the same: the first step away from oppression brings freedom, and unexpected consequences. Ronni notes the headline in Le Monde that recruitment to the French Armed Forces is up, that this trend may well be repeated elsewhere. There’s also several stories on a joint British-French security treaty which rings vague bells from a briefing after the capture of Bloefeld. The Gendarmerie had something big up their elegantly tailored sleeves, which MI5 had considerable interest in…

The truth however is inescapable: even if she’d not seen it, the World had changed whilst Ronni had been dead, so much to the better. The sense of calm this instils is the most pleasant of surprises, and far more needed than perhaps at first grasped. This isn’t doing the job and having simple satisfaction in the consequences: life would no longer be the same for millions of people. It would be better: less drama and hardship, oppression and tyranny put on notice. This wasn’t just rhetoric or empty promises either. They’d promised to send a message, and that cry to action was echoing around the planet.

‘You’re weren’t lying to bolster my spirits.’

‘Or indeed to assuage my ego. As you can see, this is the honest truth. We have made considerably more than a difference, and yet nobody will ever know it was us.’

Ronni can’t help but smile at the man next to her, not just because he could conjure up a chocolate mousse out of thin air when she needed it most. It had felt like a fight, place to place, no way of knowing they were changing the course of a campaign that stretched across the globe. To have made such a difference was significant, but there was still much left that qualified as unknown.

‘You said ‘what we know about’ and that means what, exactly?’

‘There’s a great deal on Beam’s hard drive that as yet makes no sense, and I suspect I may need Felix for context. I’m waiting to be advised by London as to what happens next. However, as of about an hour ago, there’s a video on You Tube produced by MI6 that announces a raft of significant changes to the Service. After my death, London have formally announced Rachel Frasier’s been appointed as my very public successor, which is not a total fabrication. What it means is that the cover’s again secure, and the pressure on us is lifted. With Frasier taking centre stage for Quartermaster activity, I can continue my work when we return under far less scrutiny.’

‘Which is what you should be doing and not taking to me.’

‘I liberated a fair few items from Mr Bulgari’s home, including this second machine and some extremely efficient solar power cells. I can work all night should I need to, and it means I’ll be able to expedite the last portion of my mission with far greater speed. However, I have one more birthday gift to offer, should you desire it.’

‘Why am I suddenly nervous, Q?’

‘There’s a US intelligence satellite that passes over us at 21:00 CET which I have an access code for. That will make it 04:00 in Bangkok and I can guarantee Bond won’t be asleep. You could at least say hello, and he gets to wish you Happy Birthday.’

Q’s already getting up, preparing to work for the evening, and Ronni knows how well she’ll sleep before then with a full meal inside her. There’s no argument either: she’ll take the 21:00 watch, and make the decision on whether to talk to Bond or not when the time comes.

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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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