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London positively rejoices in the understanding that not only has Summer arrived, but it intends to remain firmly in charge of the city for as long as possible. Ronni owns no qualms over sitting in traffic either, windows open in the DB5 which was her only concession to keep as the new Poster Girl. She could have ridden the bike in, or even free run, but had worked late last night pouring over paperwork and assessments in bed. Her flat’s due for redecoration early next month, changes she’d wanted to make but never gotten around to implement, and now with the hike in salary? She could move, but there’s no point. The original accommodation that came with the promotion’s got a squatter who refuses to leave, and who’ll own the deeds outright anyway come the Autumn. Once her tenure’s done, and assuming nothing changes? She’ll just move down the river a bit and spend extremely long weekends in Scotland. Ronni’s beginning to warm to the idea of holidays in the north, especially as she can be flown there and back with the minimum of fuss.
The future, as it stands, is packed with possibilities that make her vibrate with excitement.
It’s the first time she’s been back to the Barracks since the refit was completed, and the place looks particularly well packaged with fresh paint and understated signage. Ronni parks in her space and stands, looking at the rectangle of tarmac that remains the only external concession to what she has now become. Being the first woman to hold the 007 designation might sound like the amazing made real, but in truth there’s only a few people who’ll ever get the relevance. To everybody else, she’s just the female in the suit.
That’s all she’s ever wanted to be: anonymous, yet useful.
She signs in without ceremony, new receptionist giving her scant attention. He’s more interested in social media on his phone, until registering sign-in details illuminating on screen. Then Q’s now standard issue custom unit is almost dropped in surprise; Alistair Greer is staring at her, Ronni waiting for brain to catch up with understanding.
‘Good Morning Ms Flemmings. I’m sorry, we weren’t expecting you until 10am: I have internal mail and messages for you, one moment please.’
They’d offered her full name back, but Ronni’s not bothered. The question of using Bond’s had been raised, then dismissed, because as Tanner pointed out keeping that legacy associated with the number is not anything a sane person would get involved in. Instead this is just what it always was, except the designation’s increased by three. This morning’s schedule should include a Senior Staff meeting, routine small arms assessment and then lunch with Q, because they now make the time to go to expensive London restaurants to spend their Civil Service wages on things that matter to them both. He’s standing, looking at her with amusement, wearing a Spencer Hart suit that would have been off the radar a year ago. There’s gym time too, on the quiet, she knows because the man wants to be ready for her next mission, whatever and whenever that might be.
Any chance they have to work together from now on will be seized with customary thoroughness.
‘Good morning 007. I’m going to keep referring to you by designation because I think it really does suit you. I assume you don’t have an objection?’
‘Q, you’re still in charge, so who am I to ever contradict?’
He hugs her as the receptionist returns with a file and some envelopes, handing them over with what probably passes for starstruck awe in MI6. The Quartermaster accompanies her into the large open-plan reception area, all stripped chrome and live news feeds, world running its course as they pass. Emmanuel is at his station, smiling as she acknowledges his presence, watching the growing team in Data Encryption standing front and centre, defending the country electronically. The future however is him with a gun, because she’s seen his scores and is well aware that prestigious talent won’t ever go to waste here again, not while Andrew holds the reins. Rachel dominates the whole left side of the Facility now, Lizzie her ultra efficient PA, pretending to be in charge of one thing but instead owning so much more. Her demeanour and enthusiasm is brilliant, carried with the confidence of a woman who finally found, embraced and beat the hell out of her true calling in what many would consider the twilight of her career.
Finally, they turn the corner to where M now resides full time, as he maintained that you didn’t keep the man in charge away from where the action happened. He’d sensibly given up the 1950’s for good, but this area’s less chrome and more wood and warmth. The office is still obscured, but instead of fake padding and Whitehall veneer the dividing wall is a living, breathing representation of London itself, permed from the range of security footage the Department keeps tabs on across the capital. It is an ever-changing collage of the city, alive and vibrant in an early June morning, and Ronni is temporarily distracted by the beauty of montage.
‘This wall is beyond impressive, Q. I could stand and watch for hours.’
‘I’ll do the same with the view from here.’
Bond is staring from his desk, smile her immediate reward. She’s not seen him since Friday morning, as he’d insisted on spending time acquainting himself properly with Q’s new technology suite. The glasses are a surprise too: she knew he’d been never be truly comfortable with the contacts. If he wasn’t a field agent, then it didn’t matter, besides they make him look… distracting. There is the lightest of touches to her hand and Q is gone, leaving her to wait while he goes and gets M for the Staff Meeting, and Ronni approaches one of many new mission briefs. James looks oddly comfortable sitting with his effective demotion, and that’s a surprise that will take some getting used to.
‘Good morning, 007.’
‘Bond. I approve of the eye wear.’
‘I thought you might, I’m just grateful to not have to do contacts ever again.’
‘Who knew you’d be squeamish?’
‘You live and learn, as I have in the last three days. Been a long time since I pushed myself into something new. I’m looking forward to being the unchallenged geek in this relationship.’
‘You shouldn’t do labels, they’re divisive.’
‘Knowing what you are is useful, a label helps other people understand the context. That’s why when I call you 007, everyone knows that’s their benchmark. I approve that you finally became the metaphor. I feel that, more than anything else, makes all this worthwhile.’
He makes her blush, warming body in ways that are continuing to prove both surprising and fruitful. The long-term plan is that he becomes her handler, but requires a measure of training first. He’ll also keep the desk occupied that used to be Moneypenny’s because he thought the juxtaposition sent exactly the right message to anyone in the building who didn’t grasp exactly what had changed between Spectre’s unmasking and their eventual downfall. This is the new world order not just for the Secret Service, but beyond. It is no longer about an outdated methodology or ancient beliefs: anybody, regardless of their ethnic and sexual background, was capable of doing any job.
Bond stands on cue as M appears from his office, Q at his arm, smiling with a warmth Ronni’s not seen in him before, extending hand to shake hers.
‘Good morning 007, I trust you’re comfortable with your new working space?’
‘I am sir, Q’s done a fabulous job of integrating old and new, and I am looking forward to being an operational part of process as well as in the field. I’ve taken a look at the applications for Active Consideration you sent at the weekend, there’s a lot of good to be considered in the selections.’
‘Indeed, this is possibly the best group of individuals we’ve seen for close to a decade, present company excluded. Bond, I’d also appreciate your insight on this. You can redirect calls back to reception while we’re occupied.’
Ronni’s predecessor is already two steps ahead of the boss, tablet in hand, stenography skills surprisingly adept for a man who couldn’t type with more than two fingers a month ago. That had always been his problem, serially overachieving had become something of an advantage when it came to keeping up with organisational requirements. In fact, nobody did competence now quite as efficiently or stylishly as he did.
No-one understood the importance of Secret Service evolution quite like James Bond.
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