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‘If I wanted to make sure the World was watching, this is where I’d pick for a final showdown.’

The rotors of the EC-135 come to a stop, next to the low brick building that is the most recent construction on this part of the site. Ronni nods at Bond’s comment, before looking up to Versailles, beautiful in early afternoon sunshine. Tourists are being evacuated away and back towards the French town that gave the palace its name, no attempt by MI6 or Gendamerie to cover this very public entrance. Joint British and French operations were in full swing: because Spectre never did anything by halves, this was the plain sight Swann had been hiding in for the last 36 hours, Marie Antoinette’s favourite Summer House buried away on one of the many adjuncts to the main estate. Beneath the modest 16th century building was a bunker, and intelligence was confident that’s where Christian remained, with only minimal staff as accompaniment. He‘d been expecting Ronni to arrive alone.

Except 004 wasn’t in the mood for games.

The French Government had only okayed the operation because London had promised there’d be no damage to any historical building. That’s why the chopper was parked here, and would be left open. Nobody was going anywhere near Christian either, and that was why the recently completed and opened Visitor’s Centre was their only destination. Ronni had suggested during the briefing that this wouldn’t just be about Swann’s final stand, he’d want to reinforce the point that was wasn’t sufficiently made back in Monte Carlo. The satellite footage taken the previous evening had backed this up, showing the building being ransacked after the public had left site, that something had been set for 004 to find. As the four man team step inside the now wrecked modern lobby, that piece of theatre is apparent: the entire wall of the building has been stripped bare so that Swann can create a new mural to greet his nemesis.

The montage this time, is of Bond.

The words are messy, almost an afterthought: just images are meant to disturb and Ronni shuts down emotion immediately. There are pictures taken by Christian at the London warehouse where it is apparent Bond is under a considerable amount of duress, then pain, mixed with footage from his flat. However there is a third location, which 004 assumes is the Monte Carlo safe house, and it is these that are the most brutal of all. She switches off at intimacy presented as torture, taking everything in with dispassionate strength. James was a Pawn, Fool, and perhaps even a Liar when all was said and done, but that was part of the job and accepted as such. The word Unprofessional however causes pause, print-out of an e-mail buried in pictures from his flat that piques curiosity. Bond had resigned from the 00 section, early in his career. This isn’t a flag on his file, because Ronni knows that even better than she can recite her own history. When all is done, the Ops people need to pick over this collage as they did with the others and ensure nothing has been compromised at London’s end.

Christian’s public violation of 007 is meant to make her angry, deflecting from the path. Intent is obvious: she’ll react, lose professionalism in the face of such abhorrent revilement, but it won’t happen. Instead, the spray can of paint she’d bought from the Tour is taken from her mission bag, anticipating such a scenario would play out in the field. Without thinking she goes across to the pictures, blocking out images with her own word written across the wall. This is not a game Swann will ever win, because Ronni is stronger; intimidation and abuse never acceptable as weapons.

‘Liberation, very apt. How totally European of you, 004.’

Swann’s voice echoes around the Visitor Centre but nobody is phased, especially Bond who remains staring at the wall with total relaxation. Vibration from Ronni’s wrist confirms Charlie’s now in position, point man to call incoming; only when he does will there then be need to move.

‘I’m disappointed the World has changed, Ms Flemmings. Progress is seldom a good thing. I had hoped you and I might be able to discuss our concerns in more intimate surroundings, but as you brought your friends? I suspect not.’

‘I didn’t come here to negotiate with terrorists.’

He’s expecting her to talk, she’s ready for him to die, and there need be no more words of acknowledgement, especially as that’s what’s expected. Instead the spray can is dropped and from the mission bag comes her Walther, which is pointed at each security camera in turn before destroying them with a bullet. She shoots the PA not simply for good measure, but to ensure he doesn’t get the last word, and that’s all the closure that is required.

‘We have inbound, 6 and 9 o’clock, be ready.’

Charlie’s in her ear, and the scenario is perfect. Intelligence from Rachel, watching from the French Security HQ, has played exactly as she’d read. Knowing this wasn’t a fight he could win, Christian would now attempt to escape using his goons as distraction, chopper conveniently provided by the British as his exit. What he wouldn’t be expecting or anticipating was that the 00 section had flown here in a massive bomb. Bond’s already slipped the detonator into her hand, weapons from the mission bag handed to Moneypenny and loaded himself. They’ll provide cover, all 004 has to do is make it back to the landing site.

‘You know we’ve got this.’

003’s smile is enough, no more confirmation needed, and Ronni is out of the Visitor Centre as two Spectre guards appear from the Summer House’s front doorway. Both have bullets in them before she reaches the large privet fence, gunfire behind easily recognisable by type. It was probably unhealthy she could recognise weaponry by sound, perhaps time to get some more interests apart from munitions and explosive types, but it’s a moot point. Focus is set, sprint back up to the storage building almost effortless, where their trap has captured not one, but two rodents. Christian’s already in the chopper, woman she recognises from the East London warehouse climbing into the pilot’s seat.

Then comes an unexpected moment of regret: not that Swann’s life is about to end but that this woman should know better. Ronni can never judge on sex or race, only via loyalty. The people that matter will be with you whatever happens, good or bad, strength and dedication until their last breath. That’s what this woman was for Swann, last person he could trust, and by eliminating them both the bonds of control and dominance would finally be destroyed for good. This time they’ve absolutely left Spectre with the back door, and there won’t be time for the soon to be ex-Number One to do anything other than get airborne, and by then it will be too late. The best theatre, after all, was that which was meticulously planned to the last detail, where audience thought they knew the plot but in the end, it was a lie. Now he’s inside, accomplice powering up his own death sentence, and nothing else matters because as soon as they’re airborne, it’s checkmate.

Swann looks across from his seat and their eyes meet, and that’s all Ronni needs.

There’s no need for a pithy one-liner or another blow to his face: detonator is depressed on instinct, no time for anyone to think. She however, has three seconds to take cover, and runs as the fireball consumes helicopter and passengers with utter destructive force. Everything is noise, heat and the smell of fuel plus burning flesh: nothing else matters except lying still until everything stops. As dust settles, the sirens begin; one after the other, pre-primed emergency services swinging into terrorism alert. Ronni carefully picks herself up, brushing dust off fatigues, realising that given a choice you should always eliminate the people in charge if all they ever do is sacrifice others to save themselves.

Staring at the inferno both chopper and building have become, 004 feels nothing at all.

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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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