The Barracks is in chaos, but this time as part of a larger plan.
With the site of Milbank now scheduled for redevelopment as both park and outdoor theatre, celebrating the previous M’s love of Shakespeare, there is a need to upgrade a building that has remained largely untouched structurally since the late 1970’s. Money was approved without even a whimper from Westminster, mostly due to the French offering considerable assistance and long-term investment, including a permanent secondment of senior technical director Alex Dubois to a new European Security Taskforce. Q’s happy to share Sundays with someone other than his cats, and the improvement of his demeanour means everybody gets an easier ride. Life continues apace as construction moves forward, Ronni happy to lose herself in process and at Bond’s flat.
No-one presses the issue of promotion until the day after 004’s passed fit for active duty.
Up until that point she’d been assessed daily, passing everything thrown at her with a confidence that never existed before. The psyche scores remained as impeccable as range cards, and Andrew doesn’t ask why she stopped shooting 7’s and replaced them with Q’s. Lizzie maintains a constant narrative on Eve and Charlie’s progress as they mop up Spectre hotspots across Europe, and Emmanuel spends an hour with her at lunchtimes learning Yoga. She alternates sleeping between Docklands and Pimlico, and were it not for the fact this is treading water, everything would be perfect.
On Friday morning there’s another envelope, sticking up between the rows of her keyboard, and the decision becomes inescapable. With a heavy heart Ronni walks to Q’s temporary office and knocks, unsurprised to find M already there with a mug of coffee. He too has a Scrabble letter, gift from Moneypenny on her ‘retirement’ as his PA, and it is good to know the man has softened to his task as well as the Quartermaster. Tanner’s mug sits on a pile of files but the man himself is absent, and that’s all Ronni needs to know. The inevitable can no longer be avoided. Senior Staff has called her here for an answer she still isn’t comfortable giving.
‘Good morning Sir, Q.’
‘We still don’t have an application, Flemmings. Was Andrew wrong about you?’
‘No, Sir, he wasn’t. I knew you’d ask eventually, I just wasn’t sure when. Now you have, I can admit there’s one more problem left for me to solve.’
‘At no point since you asked me to apply have I spoken to the previous 007 about how he feels concerning my potential promotion. Whenever I try and broach it, something always comes up.’
M doesn’t break stride, Q the undisputed queen of impassivity. Ronni knows the banter remains part of her remit: however, should she accept the top job, that’s a situation which will require alteration going forward. On reflection, that’s the first thing that changes. No more innuendo, instead focus on compassion over sexuality. That she can keep for theatre as a last resort, where her first response will always remain a shot to the groin if threatened.
‘We had anticipated this might be the reason, and asked Bond to be here this morning as a result. I’d expected you to come together -‘
‘- until I reminded Gareth there was a good chance you were allowing the man to enjoy his retirement, away from both expectations and innuendo. Rest assured, 004, this will be the last time you’ll be assessed on your ability to out double-entendre your superior officer.’
‘Thank Christ for that, this I will agree is a bloody stupid metric. Who do we have to blame for it?’
‘One has to go back three M’s, if memory serves. The 1970’s were so very depressing, and not simply for the fashion choices. So you see, Gareth, we have a lot more to change than simply ordinance supervision and time management standards.’
Watching these two bicker over protocol is oddly reassuring, and as Tanner appears Ronni’s almost comfortable with the possibility of taking the number. Except there’s a regret that hasn’t yet been vocalised, that she’ll really need James here to discuss. As the younger and older man continue their exchange, Tanner comes to put a hand to her arm, quietly steering them both out of the office.
‘It’s been like this since Q opened Pandora’s Box and told Whitehall half their metric frameworks would have to be scrapped. Needless to say whatever happens, nothing gets to be the same any more now Andrew’s decided to drag everyone into the future. Bond’s on his way, take all the time you need. I think this senior staff meeting’s running all the way to lunchtime.’
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.