DEFAULT :: Part Seventeen

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Ronni knows what it is now, undoubted feeling of terror hadn’t been at the situation, but firmly around Bond. Having to leave, even knowing how competent the man was, caused an ache in a manner she could only recall having felt when far, far younger. Despite all the best intentions, he’d not just gotten under her skin. This was something far more concerning and absolutely the wrong moment for all of it to surface, at the time when 004 needs to be at the most professional and focused. The fear that grips a disbelieving heart, sudden and unavoidable, isn’t around ability, or 007’s situation. With abrupt and inescapable amazement, Veronica registers it is not agent that matters here, but person.

James is funny, almost achingly so, and clever beyond words. A perpetual observer, yet seldom boring. The addictive personality understands danger in both alcohol and drugs, often unable to avoid their allure when pressured. Fools are never suffered, honesty welcomed and ultimately, desire embraced with enthusiasm never found the like of with anyone else… Ronni lets everything fall away until the basic truth remained: complete the mission. Locate Beam, save Bond, then worry about everything else. If you let emotion cloud even one step, the end may never be reached. Never forget what he is, however, under the 00 veneer. This man lives and breathes, makes you hurt with absence…

There is then, perhaps unsurprisingly, a knock at the bathroom door.

With no idea of how long she’s been lost in thought, Ronni’s professionalism snaps instantly back into place before getting up, opening the door and expecting Eve, certainly not anticipating Q. He holds a large mug in his hand plus an inescapably concerned look.

‘Moneypenny thought you might find it easier talking to me, so I’ve left her with Curtis now his clearances are organised. You should give Eve credit, she understands you have a lot to learn about each other. I also think 003 may have embarrassed herself by second guessing your professionalism.’

Ronni takes the drink as offered: hot milk, with a delicate, vanilla smell. There are dark spots she’ll guess are real seeds in the liquid: staring at the man with amazement, confusion is not only expected but immediately assuaged.

‘The last thing you need now is more caffeine. I’m here to help you relax, and this is not my proven method… but 007’s. Thanks to him I have vanilla pods in my bottom drawer. Tell me how you feel.’

‘Honestly, it’s like somebody’s kicked me in the chest.’

‘I can only imagine how hard it is to watch someone you care about be attacked and have to stand by helpless. Bond however is more than capable of the task Felix has asked of him, and this entire operation will hinge around all three of you being able not only to fulfil but exceed potential.’

Leading them both out of the bathroom and back to the cot, Q sits and talks whilst Ronni does the same and drinks, amazed at how much better this combination is making her feel. It isn’t just that, on reflection, but the implication behind it that is soothing a troubled soul. James’ care is beyond reproach, when everything else is stripped away. Quiet concern and genuine compassion, if you know how to expose it. As the milk works its magic, their plan moving forward is explained.

‘Let us assume for the sake of argument that the Swanns are expecting you to be sent as rescue, so if we’re going to show our hand, there will be the requirement to strike first and with force. Also, as Bond’s life is undoubtedly part of this equation? We’ll need to at least attempt inserting you to theatre with some measure of subtlety. If Monaco is where they’re heading, it will presumably co-incide with some kind of meeting, as these people also seem to like to celebrate their success in committee. I’ll set up a video link with the French as a matter of urgency. I also need to issue you with suitable field equipment, and as I’m not entirely sure I can trust our contact on the ground under current circumstances? I have a friend inside the Gendamerie. That kind of friend. I think it may be the right moment to call in a favour.’

Ronni stares as Q goes a quite delicate shade of pink. Of everyone she’d worked with, he just never mentioned any personal life out of turn. In fact, the only time there was memory of doing so was in the last days of her training. The Quartermaster’s life outside of the Barracks was subject to tighter security than most Eyes Only assignments, and 004’s curious to know more.

‘Q, I’m genuinely impressed. I always thought you were the type who never discussed their conquests.’

‘Alex was hardly a conquest. In fact, if truth be told, I was very much the submissive partner. However, I must have done something right with him, as we still talk at least once a week.’

‘Please tell me you don’t have a network of friends stretched across Europe for just such emergencies?’

‘I’ll have you know I’m the model of professionalism and decorum, but only about 90 per cent of the time. Nobody ever used to talk about sex in this place until you turned up, it was all just reward for the 00’s and then quickly forgotten. Considering my particular desires, I rather like the revolution you’ve wrought in that regard, and long may it continue. I know your professionalism is assured, trust me when I say the same for myself.’

‘The boss knew about Bond and I being intimate. Was it discussed in committee?’

Q’s not expecting this question, and spends a moment composing a response.

‘I made a call, Flemmings. As it transpires it may well have saved Bond’s life, because your influence on him has seen a marked improvement in communications. He’s the only agent currently not actively tracked too, thanks to Spectre. I was forced to deactivate his system at M’s request, and we never got around to reversing the situation. If you’d not have positively impacted his outlook-‘

‘He’d not have had the foresight to call me.’

‘I will gather further intelligence, 004, and we will hold a briefing at 1500 hours. I would suggest as you’re likely to be in the field sooner rather than later that you attempt some more sleep in the meantime. You may not have Bond here in body, but you can be most assured he remains very much in spirit.’

The man is gone and Ronni stares into the mug, suddenly aware of the depth of her task.


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OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER:

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Sixteen

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Ronni lies in the Barracks cot, staring at the ceiling, understanding now why 007 never slept off the clock. Even in the relative quiet her mind’s far too noisy, multiple scenarios bouncing in a troubled brain. Mostly the image of Bond’s bloodied face is a concern, that even though she knows where they’ll send her, there needs to be more context than currently exists. There is three weeks of intelligence on Maddy to catch up with for starters, and the understanding that a lot of internal politics had been missed whilst undercover…

‘You’re supposed to be resting, Flemmings, and are not trying hard enough.’

Moneypenny stands in the doorway, dark blue McQueen trouser suit a recent addition to the wardrobe. Ronni doesn’t move because finally, she’s comfortable and it would be sad to lose at least the notion of relaxation.

‘We keep meeting back here, do you think there’s a reason?’

‘Normally at least one of us is on the back foot. Last time it was me. I should thank you for sharing the responsibility.’

Ronni expects to have to move but Eve comes to sit on the cot’s edge, staring down at her.

‘I wanted you to know I’ve made sure Bond’s ring’s in M’s safe until such time as you can hand it back to him. I don’t think you need worry too much about anyone stealing it.’

‘Thank you Eve, I appreciate the thought. I presume you took a look?’

‘Indeed, it’s truly beautiful. Would you wear it?’

There it was, Moneypenny not messing about as was always the case, straight to the point and no deception. Ronni often wondered how she made it through Basic Training being so blunt, and maybe when Gregory came down from Whitehall shortly for his briefing, she could ask.

‘No, I wouldn’t. I don’t want to marry him either. The thought has never crossed my mind.’

Eve knows this is Ronni’s honesty at play, and is taken aback.

‘All the work you did on Maddy-‘

‘- was because I saw her as a genuine threat. Why is your disbelief not surprising?’

‘I’d assumed because James cancelled the wedding -‘

‘ – I suspect as a result of what he knew was coming and not because of me. Of course, I can’t find out and I’d bet it wouldn’t be on the agenda the next time we meet, but really, truthfully-‘

‘I’m sorry. On top of everything else, I just assumed you were the reason.’

It’s obvious the entire conversation isn’t going as Moneypenny had hoped: expecting the woman to get up and leave, when she stands there is clear indecision and Ronni’s immediately curious. Eve could have waited for the briefing to talk to her, and didn’t. That means the real reason she is here will be personal. For the first time since they’ve known each other there is confusion and uncertainty in the woman’s features. Eve’s mask has slipped, perhaps even removed for a reason.

‘I know you told Q you thought I was being wasted at the desk, and Tanner’s told me what happened after Blofeld’s arrest, when the previous 009 suggested I wasn’t capable of taking responsibility. You didn’t need to defend me but you did, and when Bond called and urged me to accept the promotion at the weekend it was a surprise. Between the two of you, this is a second chance at a designation I’d pretty much accepted was lost. I still can’t entirely believe I’ve made it here.’

Now Ronni moves to sitting, because this is important. It’s the longest she’s ever heard Eve talk, and it deserves nothing less than her full attention.

‘I know what Q’s done, that Charlie’s been picked as a partner for me because we’re a good fit, but I’m not sure how this works. How do I do this job when I can’t be sure I’m capable?’

‘That’s just not true, and you know it. The organisation can be done in your sleep, that’s never going to be an issue. I found really quickly that if you trust the training, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. Mostly, it is about faith in yourself. Everything else will come eventually.’

Once upon a time they’d been wary of each other, uncertain, but this isn’t the same Eve from Ronni’s training days. The attack on the Barracks had changed her, added a level of determination to the demeanour that had previously been missing, blown away the myth of an inability to shoot under pressure. When the circumstances had called for her to just step up and be a 00? She’d not even stopped to think. The journey to make it here, via Istanbul and regret had finally been forgotten. Confidence was established, she just wanted reassurance. Ronni knows that feeling only too well.

‘I’m sorry I assumed things about you and Bond. I just thought that if he’d given you the ring-‘

‘I don’t know what to think, Eve. I wish I did. All I know is that I have to save him. I can’t trust anybody else. When I’ve done that?’

Suddenly Ronni wants to be somewhere, anywhere else, and without another word is up and heading for the small bathroom opposite the cots. Being sure that if she cried Moneypenny would be both supportive and understanding, the reassurance isn’t needed. If all this emotion spills out now, she won’t cope for the rest of the day, and this is the time for the training that Gregory gave her concerning stressful situations and dealing with consequence. Standing moments later, back against the hastily-shut bathroom door, 004 sinks to the floor and tries to clear a troubled mind.

Being unable to save Bond had ripped open her heart.


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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.

DEFAULT :: Part Fifteen

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The Barracks hum on their return, breakfast laid out in the briefing area with thoroughness that suggested Q was making sure everyone on the primary mission team were properly rewarded. Charlie needs no encouragement to take two bacon sandwiches and a bucket of Brazilian Roast but Ronni’s appetite is less forthcoming. There needs to be food eventually, because with no certain idea how life will adapt or change, eating and drinking whenever freely available remains top priority. A wholemeal bacon sandwich and vanilla latte is taken, but away from the centre of activity. There needs to be somewhere to think, alone, chance to process what’s just transpired at her own pace.

Sitting in the changing area, Ronni can’t erase the image of Bond from her mind, lying on the concrete, certainty unwavering. Felix had his word, and that meant nobody stopped until Beam was located and his ‘package’ collected. However, right now there was absolutely no indicator as to where the Swanns were going, distinct lack of indicators towards intent. The tracker meant they had a fighting chance of an interception, but Q was not prepared to show their hand too early, and so this became cat and mouse time. Ronni hated not having an advantage, and they should. That’s what 007 had taught, admitted he failed at more often than not, remaining an area for personal improvement.

If Bond had known where they were going, he would have found some way to pass this on.

Only now does Ronni grasp she’s not alone.

The young black man stands, looking slightly uncomfortable, a second to put face to name. This is Emmanuel Curtis, recruit from the Army Fast Track scheme. He was a prodigious talent but needed work on both self confidence and communication. His tie’s also a little too tight and that shirt could use an iron across it, plus 004’s pretty certain he shouldn’t be here either as the area had been recently designated as women only.

You only broke the rules if it was important, to complete your mission…

‘I know I’m not supposed to be here ma’am but Q said that should we discover anything I’d need to find you as a matter of priority.’

‘Is this to do with 007?’

‘It is ma’am, I have something I think the senior team has overlooked.’

Almost dropping the tablet he’s holding and then his glasses in short order, Ronni can’t help but take pity on the man, bending down and reaching across to hand them back. The smile is genuine yet guarded, and only then does it occur to Ronni he might have a problem with her seniority. That would never do, and was easily fixed.

‘Tell you what, Emmanuel, let’s both sit down while you take a second to grasp that you’re holding all the cards.’

‘I … I am?’

‘You’re the one with the information. Without your input, I don’t have anything to work on.’

‘I’m sorry, You’re just -‘

‘100% human, just like you. There’s no difference between us, age and rank are irrelevant. If you’ve picked up something the senior team have overlooked? I’d like to hear about it. Take your time, there’s no rush, until we know where 007 is being taken – ‘

‘That’s the thing. There’s a message in your Inbox, on the internal phone exchange. It was sent at 04.45 am and as you’re now on priority it’s our job to check for anything unusual. There’s no message and as it sounds like a dead line the senior team overlooked it, but I know they missed something.’

Ronni’s heart soars: had Bond finally begun thinking ahead?

There is a confidence to this conviction that is immediately exciting, prompting the young man to present his case. Curtis plays the sound file from his tablet and Ronni listens, initially unaware of what she’s hearing. It is obvious why the tech team would overlook this, right until the moment it is apparent there is indeed something hidden in the static.

‘Start it again and turn up the treble, please.’

At the request the young man smiles because he knows she’s grasped the discovery. Embedded inside this noise is a message, dots and dashes that she begins to translate out loud. Morse code, lost and obsolete from communications except when you learnt your trade in the armed forces as James had.

‘Domino… break. Halfway… between… Germany… and… Portugal… break. Trusting… only… you… end.

‘Bond sent this knowing only you would understand the relevance, correct?’

‘Indeed he did, Mr Curtis.’

Q’s standing in the doorway as the young man almost jumps to attention. The Quartermaster has changed between early morning and now, tie and jumper over standard issue shirt and trousers. Considering the message, there is quiet contemplation before he speaks.

‘It’s okay Emmanuel, I’ll overlook the lapse in protocol, because now I’d like 004 to tell me where Bond is heading and as you don’t have the clearance as yet to be on the team who’ll now deal with this, I need you to go to wait for me in Ops so I can change that. Suddenly your skills have become indispensable, and I intend to make as full a use of them as it is possible during your shifts.’

When the young man is gone, Q comes to sit at Ronni’s side, clearly concerned with what he has heard.

‘My geography’s pretty sound, and I know where the Bonds wanted to go for their honeymoon. I assume that is what 007 is implying?’

‘They had a week arranged in Monte Carlo, Madeline had never been there. The safe house just outside the town had been put aside from Saturday on M’s orders -‘

‘I’m not going to ask how you know this especially when I turned down the request.’

‘I used Moneypenny’s login details, please don’t tell her. M authorised the request off the books, she confirmed the arrangements. It seems everybody has a soft spot for 007 except you.’

‘If I told you why I refused to arrange the safe house, you must promise not to tell anyone else. I objected to Bond’s choice. I thought he was being unfair.’

‘What, by using Government property without paying for it?’

‘No, I thought he was being unfair to you. That’s why I didn’t stay past the cheese board on Sunday. I decided his decision was misguided, and now I’ve been proved correct.’

Ronni stares at Q in amazement: he judged Bond. Of all the people in the building expected to do this, he was probably on the bottom of the list. There’d been gossip, of course, but it didn’t matter, all that concerned her was doing the job. To have him admit this with a straight face?

‘What Bond does in his time outside the office is nothing to do with me, Q.’

‘I know that, and so do you. I find it depressing and disappointing however how much protocol and procedure 007 ignores, normally for his own unspecified ends. This, at least for me, was a step too far. Fortunately for him, you seem to care sufficiently to have not only covered his arse but have inspired others to do the same. I doubt Emmanuel would have had the nerve to approach Bond under current circumstances: you do at least present an accommodating and charming front. I doubt he’d have been as thorough either, and so in that regard?’

‘Bond could end up owing me his life on multiple levels.’

‘Indeed. I need to arrange Curtis’ clearances, and you are looking tired. Go take thirty minutes in the temporary accommodation I’ve organised. I need to get Gregory down here to brief you on Madeline anyway, it will give time to organise myself.’

As he stands to leave, Ronni is compelled to reach for his hand, surprised at the need to acknowledge concern. She expects him to simply receive the gesture and isn’t ready for him not only grasp, but squeeze in reciprocation.

‘I know only too well what you’re capable of, and what you may now need to do in order to retrieve 007 from the Swanns. Go and rest, you’ll need it.’


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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.

DEFAULT :: Part Fourteen

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On the ground Ronni waits, poised, listening to discussion taking place mere feet behind her. Only a corrugated metal garage door separates body from the Swanns, temptation to wander in gun blazing beyond compelling. However, Bond is on the ground, and she won’t risk compromising any hostage, for that’s what he now is. 007’s strong enough to survive considerable torture, Ronni all too aware of his level of fitness, but if he’s been drugged or mentally compromised, Felix’s plan could be in jeopardy. She’s wedged less than a foot from the front end of the means by which the stolen DB10 will be removed from site: impressive custom-built horse transport, with a compartment at the rear to protect the super-car. If this goes to type, they’ll load Bond inside too and vanish surreptitiously into the sunrise. Before that happens, 004 has to know he’s still capable of self-preservation.

What concerns more is the conversation she’s become eavesdropper to, no choice but to overhear. This is far more personal than expected, apparent that Madeline’s love for Bond was genuine, at least for a time. What’s less obvious is whose benefit this part of the show’s being performed for.

‘I know you cared, for a while. I still don’t understand why you can’t tell me the truth.’

Ronni really doesn’t need this but there is no choice: Bond might already suspect they’re here, but with the tracking on his car intentionally disabled it is just as likely he went blind to keep them away. The reply takes time, because 007’s been incapacitated in a manner he’s become used to from the women he sleeps with. Spectre clearly got the memo about hitting where it hurts.

‘Things changed. This isn’t the same relationship any more.’

‘You are the man who cannot commit to any future, and yet this is my fault?’

‘I freely offered my life, away from the number, and it wasn’t enough.’

‘That’s not the truth either. I watched her kiss you, how you stared longingly when she left. The moment you knew what I really was, it wasn’t about love any more, but loyalty. Not to me or her, but to the job and country. You could never knowingly betray England, James. It is too much of what you are.’

‘I’m not a company man any more. I gave that up, would have married you if you’d admitted the truth about who you really worked for. The moment you lied, it was over.’

There is a slap, and Ronni closes her eyes. Bond’s restrained, wouldn’t attack her anyway. He’ll allow the hand to his face as punishment, fair penance for what Maddy’s been put through. This woman’s supposed to be a psychologist, specialist in trauma and rehabilitation, yet seems totally incapable of seeing the fault in her own life. Ronni wonders how much of that story is a lie as was the case with her half brother.

‘If you really cared, James, what I did wouldn’t matter.’

‘If I was anyone else, perhaps, but this is all a lie to exact revenge. So are you.’

This time a punch lands, hard and crunching; bone plus flesh sickeningly rended before the thud of body impacting concrete. Expecting more Ronni waits, taking the anger inside, allowing disgust at this pair to evaporate into the rapidly lightening morning.

‘There is no point in discussion, he will not tell you what you want, any more than his friends will allow him to escape unhindered. We have company on the roof. It’s time to leave.’

Ronni imagines 007 lying lifelessly on the ground, blood streaming from mouth and nose, understanding the brutal truth behind why the wedding would have been cancelled. He had been used, in the most damning manner possible, by a woman who is walking from him towards the open warehouse door…

A single shot rings out from the roof; Charlie’s attempting to cause a diversion, enough so she could move in to pull 007 out if she chose. Shifting position to the opened door next to the roll-up shutter Bond’s in view, awake and staring straight at her before mouthing a single word: ‘NO.’ Felix was right, he is playing dead, well aware what’s at stake if they’re ever going to destroy Spectre’s presence. With the woman he used to care about exposed as a fraud? He just went back to the job. That never hurt him, or lied, or tried to push into something unsavoury. Everything was on the man’s terms, in Bond’s hands, and 004 couldn’t in good conscience second guess that, though every cell of her body screams to mount a rescue.

She mouths ‘OK’ in response before making a break to the back of the warehouse where the DB10 waits to be loaded, before slipping a tracker under the car’s rear wheel arch and ducking away, melting into darkness on the other side of the unit. A young dark haired accomplice arrives to complete the loading process, dressed in surprisingly conservative black trousers and white blouse. This is new: none of the Spectre personnel who’d been captured at Bloefeld’s demise were female, yet this one wore not one but twin Berettas. Maybe diversity wasn’t simply an MI6 objective.

Ronni’s wrist vibrates as a message illuminates in darkness: ‘Bond or DB6?’ For a moment she wants to scrub the mission, forget the bigger picture. Instead the letters C A R are drawn on the face of her watch with a shaking hand, expecting Charlie to object, until it occurs this just confirmed Felix’s call. As the senior 00, that’s what she did, allowing these people to escape thinking they’d at least partly achieved their objective. If the position on the ground is revealed they’d know to sweep the transport for transmitters: remaining hidden at least gives an upper hand in the short term. The gunfire continues and finally there is a shout, followed seconds later by a delicate jangling of metal on concrete. That’s a grenade pin. Quick and dirty, enough to throw a wrench in her partner’s attack plan if he doesn’t know its inbound.

Ronni’s palm hits the watch face with enough force to ensure Charlie’s wrist will shudder, loss of audio plus vibration sufficient notice that he needs to move and fast. Hands over ears, the explosion is still deafening and shakes the entire unit, dust falling into hair and eyes. Several seconds later the watch confirms her message was received: ‘Still alive, Calvary inc.’ The explosion blows the Swanns’ cover open and the Met will be rolling the anti-Terror bandwagon out with all due diligence. They’re out of time, as the garage door begins to automatically ascend and personnel files in.

The DB10 is loaded, custom-built container for the purpose, and for the first time Ronni catches a glimpse of Maddy and Christian together. She’s made a great mess of his face, 004 notes with some satisfaction, point that is likely to be recalled when they next meet. His hand rests not protectively on shoulder or waist, but disconcertingly on his sisters’ arse, making alarm bells ring. Perhaps there’s more at play here than was immediately apparent. Bond remains ‘unconscious’, dragged to the back of the transport before being secured inside by handcuffs that won’t keep him restrained for long.

There is a silent prayer that he’ll remain capable at least long enough to keep his back covered, so this isn’t over before it begins. As the back of the vehicle closes automatically, blue eyes open, meeting her concerned gaze with confidence that unexpectedly galvanises. How did Bond know where to look? Because you’re where he’d be standing for the best view. 007 might be physically broken, but mentally he’s stronger than ever, lessons taught well. It worries Ronni sometimes how much alike they think, that they could almost be each other in both outlook and problem solving.

Once loaded, the trailer swings out of the yard and away into the morning. Only when it’s quiet does Ronni emerge, to see the DB6 intact, shining in the early East London sun. There’s a smoking hole where the second warehouse used to, as Charlie athletically drops off the adjoining building before walking over to stand, staring at the pool of blood that is all 007 has left in his wake.

‘You get the transmitter fixed?’

‘Yes, I’ll let Q decide when he activates it. They’ll make a stop and shift the car to something else now they know their cover’s blown. At least this means I might get some sleep before we intercept.’

‘Bond’s really up for this?’

‘I know he is. He was married to this job long before Maddy came along, it’s always given him something better to do when the world failed him. It’s the only constant he feels comfortable grasping.’

‘And you?’

We need to rescue him so he can finally retire and then everybody gets to do their jobs without his legacy constantly acting as distraction.’

Ronni intentionally pluralises the sentence, because Charlie has to be in on this, plus Moneypenny too and indeed everybody else to drag the Service into the 21st century, once and for all. Like it or not, Bond’s legacy is a liability: expensive, narrow minded and outdated celebration of a time that no longer exists and a way of life nobody really wants to remember.

Using him as bait could yet be the best outcome for everyone concerned.


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DEFAULT :: Part Thirteen

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THREE


His first day at MI6 has been more than ever reasonably anticipated, and now at 5am Charlie LaCroix is keeping pace with a woman who he’ll freely admit scares the crap outta him on multiple levels. Ronni can handle a motorbike with an ease seldom seem from anyone of either sex: keeping pace is proving an exercise in nausea. She corners almost at 90 degrees, and how she’s not come off the bike in such wet conditions is still a mystery. They stop several blocks away from where the DB10 is now reported to have stopped, grey and anonymous industrial estate near the railway, mix of modern concrete and Victorian brickwork.

The new 009 is having to think on the run, and is enjoying the freedom he’s been afforded. He’s similarly amazed that his partner takes time to padlock the bikes together with a Service-provided chain, before looking for a way to approach their target from above. Walking in the front door is hardly practical, and Charlie’s immediately alert, staring skywards for fire escapes and buildings as ladders. He’s watched enough videos of the guys who free run this city to know that there’s a whole different climb and jump game above ground level, if you know where to start.

She’s spotted a fire escape, down the side of a disused brick building: 004 is waiting, ready to give him a boost, so he can grab bottom rung and pull himself up. Arms complain until feet are firmly established, and only then does he think how she will cover the gap: turning back to look down, Ronni’s sprinting across the road, jumping up to the bottom rung by using an adjoining wall as a springboard before grabbing it with balletic ease. Flemmings’ parkour skills make Charlie grasp he needed more time watching You Tube as a matter of priority.

Yeah, I shouldn’t be surprised at anything this woman can do.

They cover the last block on the edge of roofs, skipping from building to building, cat like grace in the early morning calm. Ahead there is the sound of an argument, voices in dissonance that become clearer and more strident, and then what is undoubtedly a gunshot. The Walther’s in Charlie’s hand from instinct, not as comfortable as the SIG he’s used to, but no matter. He’s ready, dropping behind a concrete balustrade as Ronni moves past, crouching to his left.

‘Set your watch to Comms, let’s see if I can make it to ground level for a better view.’

There’s not been much time to check out the smart watch that Q issued him with, but because he’s a good boy and has read all the briefing documents on the transport from DC, it’s already making sense. This thing makes commercial efforts to create a truly interactive companion to his phone appear to be designed by fools: Q’s ability to shove everything and anything he might need onto his wrist and make it easy to access is nigh on astounding. Mostly, it’s the fact he can draw on the face for Comms Mode and a series of symbols activates all manner of clever trickery on his, and in this case Ronni’s paired unit. This connection allows the almost seamless switch to eavesdropping away from distorted speech up on the roof down to the clarity of 004’s wrist, which will now conveniently become microphone to his earpiece.

She’s close, managing to get within range of the altercation below. There’s a voice in his ear recognised from an initial briefing on the flight to London: strident, French-accented and surprisingly seductive.

‘I’m sorry, Christian. I only did what I thought would be for the best.’

‘I apologise for getting mad. It is frustrating knowing we’ve lost our advantage because of my failure and this dinosaur. I’m still not sure why I don’t kill him now.’

That has to be Christian, because only a Spectre bad guy’s gonna talk about not eliminating Bond. The fact the man’s silent is a brief worry to LaCroix: who had the shot been at?

‘Because nobody makes your sister as happy as I do.’

Bond is very much still in the game, although doesn’t sound utterly in control: the thump that follows is undoubtedly a punch to somewhere, and Charlie’s fairly certain by the cry he hears that’s not his stomach.

‘You won’t fuck anyone for quite some time, Mr Bond, I will personally make sure of that. That was never my primary focus of interest, you only remain alive thanks to my sister’s assertion you’re worth more as collateral. I find it especially depressing how clearly devoted your prodigy appears to be, after tonight’s performance at your flat. That you would let her do such a thing whilst your lover slept? It is both depressing and utterly predictable. Flemmings was impossible to seduce, yet you make these things look so easy. I fully intend to ensure she’s captured alive so I can make you watch me enjoy her at my leisure.’

Christian’s a psychopathic douche, and I need a better vantage point, Charlie concludes, searching for a spot where there’s a chance of at least a shot at the pair, to reinforce his presence and plant the belief there’s a plan to eliminate them. Felix had been clear: everybody needs to leave, but it needed to look as if the reasoning for intercepting them still isn’t obvious. LaCroix can think of many places on either Swann that he could stick a bullet and still allow them escape reasonably unhindered. That would be his aim.

Make them bleed, at least for a while.


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DEFAULT :: Part Twelve

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Moneypenny appears, concern obvious, and M is up without a word. Ronni doesn’t want to let go of either box or letter, slipping both and her hand into jacket pocket before following back to the lab, where Q is in a state of considerable dudgeon.

‘Bond’s security systems have been compromised: everything from front door to fridge. I’m also not getting any telemetry from the DB6, it has an always on system -‘

‘Do we know where he is?’

‘No, Sir, and that is a genuine concern, because the CCTV I can access showed his car leaving the secured parking area next to his flat five minutes ago.’

Moneypenny moves to a second terminal without prompting, augmenting the video that Q is replaying as the younger man begins the process of trying to track Bond’s movements. Grainy footage shows it is most definitely not 007 in the driver’s seat however, and that Madeline is at the wheel, a fact that suggests that maybe there’s a reason for the deactivation. Ronni’s already thinking aloud, as Charlie goes to watch the two agents at the screens.

‘Maybe it wasn’t Bond who disabled the systems. It could well have been Maddy.’

‘That’s a distinct possibility as we’ve had reports of a break in at the Aston Martin dealership at Marble Arch.’

Tanner’s almost running into the by now fairly crowded briefing area, overcoat still on; coming to stand at Moneypenny’s shoulder, pulling up footage from social media as the woman works. He shouldn’t be here: married with two girls, he’s not subject to the same rules and restrictions as anyone else in the room, and yet he’s clearly keen to be included as part of the team. There’s a third set of pictures to view: Christian Swann can be seen, blood on his dress shirt, attaching a large, circular device to the large window of the car showroom. Seconds later it shatters the glass in one massive action, before he approaches a vehicle out of shot of the shaky amateur footage.

‘Fairly audacious, even though it’s 4am, but the other DB10 prototype’s been stolen and the Met are attempting to track it now. That footage is pretty damning: at least we now know where Spectre’s heir apparent went after Kensington. I think it’s a decent bet Madeline may be on her way to meet him.’

‘No, he’s going to meet her. If you’ve kept me out of the loop for this long? My research was right, you knew it well before I told you and had planted someone willing on the inside to exploit this.’

All eyes are on 004: Ronni finally has the confidence to take theory that’s been weeks in the making and present it as truth. M’s suggestion: Bond could now be bait for her, when that was the plan all along. Her own sixth sense, jangling uncontrollably since the first time she opened and read Madeline’s file. The business cards and theatrical overtones… this was a dance, possibly even a contest. Siblings loved to compete, after all, Spectre made rivalry part of career progression. Considering the mark left on Christian’s finger, his ring had been worn for several years. If, for the sake of argument, Madeline was indeed an intentional plant, sleeper placed by Blofeld himself to entrap Bond? Knowing that MI6 had finally seen the deception would call for drastic and damning action…

She’d never trusted Madeline from the word go. Trying not to consider it jealousy, she’d buried the feelings, but the conclusions she’d recovered simply refused to go away. There’d been a lot of time whilst undercover in Ankara to think, and with one of her particular skills in research? She had to dig, and unsurprisingly those conclusions weren’t news to anybody else in the room.

‘I suggested privately that Ms Swann could have been compromised in the two year period she vanished before working for Médecins Sans Frontières‎. She was in Uganda at the same time both her father and Le Chiffre were known to be working there, and again in Bolivia at the same time both Green and Beam operated. It doesn’t take a genius to put the pieces together. I didn’t want to suggest it publicly because I know what it would have looked like, that it could be construed by some that I resented 007 being happy. I think this is the coda Blofeld had decided to put in place so that if Bond survived and he died, there’d still be the opportunity to exact revenge from beyond the grave.’

Tanner’s nod confirms the suspicion: her research is the truth. Turning to Felix, she smiles with the understanding that if he was here and had said nothing, keeping quiet through all of this would have been for a reason, to allow her to get to this point alone.

‘Mr Leiter, can I assume therefore that your presence here means you’re hoping that either of the Swanns might yet give you a lead on Gregory Beam’s whereabouts?’

‘This is what I like so much about you Flemmings, cut the bullshit and straight to the chase. Yeah, we were hoping that Madeline might shed light on his location, but so far no dice. Right now, using a plant is our next best option.’

‘So, if this is a conscious break for the border now Christian intentionally or otherwise blew his own cover? You’d like to keep the bait on the hook?’

The implication makes Moneypenny bristle, but that’s not unexpected. Bond could have walked out of his flat with her this evening, but he chose to remain. In fact, Ronni will bet her Civil Service pension he’s already promised Felix to get as close to Beam as he possibly can, and that now that agreement has her included as additional backup.

‘James and I go back a long way. Still my favourite poker player, best guy I know at playing dead when it suits. He knows what’s at risk here. If he’s cool, he’ll stay in the game.’

The room is expectant: there’s a flashpoint coming, and were Bond here he’d already be planning the next move. Ronni’s instinct has already kicked in: you’re the senior 00, take the initiative. Moneypenny’s the best handler you’ll find, but she might resent being picked over La Croix unless you can provide a solid reason to take the Canadian, and that’s easy. Just present the plan, and see what happens.

‘Permission to take 009 as his face won’t be known to either target to intercept the flock, Sir? We need to ensure Bond is still in the game.’

‘Granted. You’ll need a handler -‘

‘I’ve got you both, already tracking the DB10 into East London. Charlie’s going to need a weapon.’

Moneypenny’s in her element, instantly co-ordinating with Tanner as he loses both overcoat and jacket. LaCroix is quickly following a focussed Q out of the office for a sidearm and suddenly this stopped being discussion and supposition. 004 is the senior agent, and in charge. Stakes are very personal indeed and Ronni’s standing, trying to work whether she’s pleased that suddenly the rules are hers to dictate. Spectre’s modus operandi had been built on the tenets of revenge and division: playing sides against the other, using weaknesses as strengths to exploit. To them, it wouldn’t matter she was a woman, simply a piece in the larger game. Except now, the pawn was a queen, finally placed in a position of potential power, backed up by considerable firepower and solid defence.

Whatever she’d find when they located Bond, Ronni was ready.


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DEFAULT :: Part Eleven

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Ronni hands M the paper from her pocket, one word scrawled upon it clearly not a surprise.

‘What’s BEAM, Sir? Is it an acronym?’

‘No he’s a person. Gregory Beam. CIA Section Chief for South America from 2008 to 2015, at the same time that 007 came into contact with a certain Dominic Green.’

‘Quantum senior agent, subsequently confirmed to be a subsidiary of Spectre. I am aware of the mission, Sir.’

‘It appears Mr Beam was working as a double agent for Spectre up until about six weeks ago, when he vanished on a routine trip from Los Angeles to Washington. This would not be of particular concern to us were he not carrying a significant amount of very important information at the time.’

‘For the American government?’

‘No, for Spectre. From what we have learnt concerning Christian Swann, Beam had been trusted with the location and activity of a great many senior Spectre figures in the US, Canada and South America, with remits that reached all the way into Asia. Clearly this is information we’d love to own, and with the death of the only Spectre member we held in custody…’

‘You learned this from who, exactly?’

‘Mr Swann’s half sister. She admitted to Bond after Blofeld’s death that she was aware of him and his position, that her father had placed him inside the organisation when it became apparent that she had no interest in following him into the family business. After consultation with Bond, we offered a deal: full immunity, safety in return for anything she could offer to help trace her brother’s whereabouts and activities. What we didn’t anticipate -‘

‘- was the effect it would ultimately have on Bond’s relationship.’

From M’s pocket comes a box, clearly very old, and Ronni has to work quite hard not to shake as the older man hands it to her.

‘007 gave me the letter and this, and I promised that I’d pass on both when a suitable opportunity arose. His respect and trust of you is abundantly obvious and he’s right, we haven’t given you the opportunities we should have in the last few months. Now we can be fairly confident Bond’s actively at risk himself, or else I doubt he’d have provided the means to expose the back-story when you visited earlier. However, there is more to it, which involves Felix Leiter’s position here.’

She is trembling as the ring box is opened, staring at the Bonds’ wedding band. Diamonds stud the filigree, pattern of what look like twigs, leaves with the stones as blossoms. James’s father had impeccable taste, and this was a rare and unique piece of jewellery. The box is clearly fire damaged; the effects from Skyfall, amongst so much else.

‘He knew you’d take care of it, and it has finally convinced that you need to be in the loop. Of course, this is the first chance I’ve had to speak to you -‘

‘- and I just confirmed that you did exactly the right thing by withholding the information with my emotional overreaction.’

‘When I was 22, I met a woman I fell in love with almost overnight. She was brilliant, and funny, and had a smile as warm as summer sun. But I was in the Army, and my career was beginning to take off, so I made a choice. I took the future over a relationship that, had I chosen it, would have completely altered the direction of my life. 007 is at the end of his career. He admitted as much himself today, and knows that whatever now happens in his life, he can’t reasonably expect you to be any part of it.’

Ronni stares at her boss with amazement: this conversation’s taken a turn she’d have never seen coming in a million years.

‘He actually said that?’

‘I’m not a fool, 004. I understand how this has worked between you two since the first time you crossed paths at Carnagie. Your final assessment before Active Consideration was sanctioned for a reason, and there was always a risk there would be consequences. Ironically, you were never the concern. The problem here, unsurprisingly, is Bond, and now we have him in a situation that we’d not immediately anticipated, which needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Q quite logically suggested that because Swann didn’t attack, you have also become a part of this equation, that he might use the fact that Bond’s called off the wedding…’

‘I could become a target too?’

‘No, you’re missing the earlier point. There was a communication after Bloefeld’s death, addressed directly to me, that we believed had been sent by Spectre. Because it was hand-written, it was initially dismissed, but thanks to the two business cards recovered this evening we can now confirm that Swann himself was the author. The organisation holds you personally responsible for the death of their leader. Bond’s weakness in retiring, leaving the service means that they consider you as the senior 00 in the field, and their current primary target. After tonight, Bond has become bait to guarantee your involvement. Knowing this was a possibility? It meant the plan moving forward was to make sure 007 could exploit that position without compromising you.’

Ronni doesn’t want to consider the possibility. Christian’s comments to her earlier made it obvious he was probably quite high up the command chain, but to have him in charge seemed impossible: however, if he wasn’t the whole story…

‘Sir, we have a problem.’


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DEFAULT :: Part Ten

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‘How long have you known Madeline wasn’t an only child?’

‘We decided it would be wise to keep that information on a need to know basis.’

M won’t break the look and Ronni can feel anger rising unprompted, because a man was now dead as a result. This was what Q had meant, why Bond had mentioned the boss in conversation.

‘Had I known this we could have prevented an innocent man’s untimely demise this evening, Sir, because that information would have been freely available – ‘

‘Under the circumstances it was decided – ‘

‘I assume by the same people who deemed Blofeld’s life of sufficient value to keep him alive even though it was abundantly apparent he would never willingly volunteer anything to us or anyone else?’

‘Sir, I think 004 should be made aware of the letter you intercepted this morning.’

‘Moneypenny!’

It is Q who’s instantly indignant, throwing the other woman a look that indicates only too well that a line was crossed that wasn’t hers to traverse. There is no regret from Eve, almost defiant with arms folded, and Ronni’s really rather pleased that the man’s ex-PA’s on the same playing field as her at last. Rachel quickly makes herself scarce and Charlie plus Felix are keeping well out of the fray: M considers, before reaching inside his jacket, passing an envelope to 004 on which her designation is written by hand. Opening the letter, Bond’s handwriting is both surprise and shock combined.

I’m sorry we fought, it’s the last thing I ever want to do. Your significance in my life is only now beginning to become apparent, and I know you were right, I don’t want to lose what we have any more than you wish to be separated from your future. The wedding’s been put on hold, while I sort out what needs to happen next.

Please, try and understand I’m only trying to be your friend.

James
x

In her stomach she feels sick, knowing that M had not only opened it but held onto this without her knowledge, for most of the day. Anger is now burning out of control, consuming a body working on far too little sleep and an excess of caffeine, and instead of keeping quiet, it is time to go on the offensive.

‘You didn’t trust that I’d be professional enough not to act on this?’

‘It occurred to me that you might have an emotional reaction -‘

‘Well I have, Sir. I’m staggered that you made an arbitrary decision based on how you decided I would respond, that you intercepted a private communication that was none of your damn business, and that you’d then try and justify your actions for the good of a mission. The fact everybody else present knew about this is enough to make me wonder why I’m even being briefed in the first place.’

Nobody says a word as she walks out of the room and Ronni knows why: at least something in that impromptu outburst hit the target. Kept out of the loop because they’d assumed she’d have gone to Bond to ask why the wedding was off: nobody took her fucking seriously, even after everything that has happened. For every step forward, she was intentionally held back. Even Moneypenny was better briefed, only promoted the previous day… but they were right. These people understood her better than Ronni realised. If she’d have picked up the letter this morning it might have saved a life tonight, but could well have jeopardised Bond’s position.

It doesn’t stop her being angry though, and that’s no bad thing.

She won’t stop until inside the Barracks sleeping quarters, familiar spot in the corner of the stables, bed already made up because somebody will have anticipated this turn of events, probably Q. The ire boils, and she wants to pick up something to throw: instead hands are placed on the wall, focusing anger into the brickwork with a measure of success. There’s still a part of this that’s not making sense, that might have something to do with LaCroix and Leiter being here largely unannounced. The piece of paper in her pocket, pulled out and stared at, is the element missing from this equation.

‘You have every right to be angry, Flemmings.’

Turning, M stands in the doorway and Ronni has to scrabble for composure, because confronting the boss twice in less than 15 minutes wasn’t really acceptable under any circumstances: he made a call that on reflection was spot on. In fact, she is the one who should apologise as a matter of urgency.

‘I’m sorry, Sir. With consideration I can entirely understand why you will have kept me out of the loop.’

‘Do you really, 004? Or do I think that I should have told you what was going on with Madeline Swann as soon as it became apparent?’

‘If you had, I would probably have considered it inappropriate.’

‘Can I ask why?’

‘Because, whether I like it or not, what happens in 007’s personal life is absolutely nothing to do with me.’

As is often the case, M’s regard reminds briefly of her father: less judgemental, gaze far more benign. He motions her to the cot to sit, taking a seat on the one opposite. Ronni’s briefly nauseous, unable to process so much emotional consequence simultaneously, so just shoves it all away to deal with later.

‘I am aware of how much of a Boys Club you still think this place is, and you would not be far off the truth, but your influence is beginning to have an effect in the most unexpected of places. However, Rome was not built in a day, and we have many considerations apart from the obvious need to open to diversity. Spectre, as you are now aware, have their ears to too many walls, and we must proceed with caution. The rules are changing so fast, snap decisions are having to be made. There’s a part of this equation that you don’t yet know, and I think under the circumstances I should tell you myself.’


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DEFAULT :: Part Nine

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Trafalgar Square shines: rain soaked pavements reflect the lights of street lamps and the constant flow of traffic, even this early. The city may not be insomniac as New York, vibrant as Istanbul, but London is all too aware of the pain in Ronni’s heart. Each stride is a way to think, arrange the evening in context. However, what might have happened if she’d stayed at Bond’s flat makes her ache, events a world away from the drama dropped in her lap. Doing the crossword when he returned with takeaway, naked except for his shirt. Legs tangled, early dawn embrace, first time they’d woken together. It will be some time before that part of her comfort is assuaged, time to lock everything dangerous and distracting away, hidden deep so it can’t cloud judgement. Bond’s own precarious position highlights the damage a misplaced emotional connection can make, not a mistake she’s either willing or prepared to repeat.

The city feels this pain and sings comfort beneath tired feet, each step pulling her closer to the point where professionalism becomes all-consuming, mission the primary goal.

She is not prepared however to walk into the Barracks at 3.30am and find it completely staffed. In fact, the number of people here further fuel the fire that’s now burning healthily in her mind: this is big, and Bond knew she was in trouble at the Opera without the need to explain. Thinking back on what he said, niggle remains that M should have been spoken to before James, and had she done so there was a good chance he’d have in turn prevented contact at all. Too many pieces of this puzzle have been kept from her, and there needs to be urgent understanding of why.

Q wouldn’t have allowed a visit if there had been a problem, so why is he approaching her at speed before she can make it to the control room where M will be waiting?

‘Ronni, we need to talk.’

‘You screwed up, didn’t you?’

The man’s features harden at the suggestion, and for a second she thinks Q will snap in response, as was often the case when people were either very stupid or thoughtless.

‘I could say… I didn’t think of consequence, but that would be erroneous. I didn’t lie, I was simply economical with the truth. For a moment, I put myself in Bond’s shoes.’

This isn’t the response expected, and she’s lost for an appropriate comeback. Q stares, defensive stance relaxing, before he puts a hand to her arm.

‘You two are a considerable force when combined, and you have been chronically wasted since your promotion. I know this, and so do you. That’s why this situation will now require something extraordinary in order to salvage anything. As you will soon discover, you are very much on your own, but I will do everything in my power to support you. If you want to blame anyone?’

‘I’ll blame James, because if he had trusted me to begin with, we could have fixed whatever this is far earlier. I also suspect I have the boss to thank for a warning I never received.’

Her hand wraps around Q’s, sudden closeness to a man who reminds her there’s still a sizeable mountain to climb with certain senior staff. Leaving him she’s determined to find M, and certainly isn’t expecting to encounter the African-American guy plus the very attractive Canadian blonde who are in the briefing area, coffee mugs in hands. When the older man sees her his eyes light up, rush to go and hug, long and hard, joy at reconnecting after absence. La Croix starts with a handshake but ends up in an embrace, which dissolves into laughter.

‘So the vending machine rumours were indeed correct; however, should I be concerned, Charlie that both you and Felix are here?’

‘Agent LaCroix signed his contract yesterday and was confirmed actively 00 at 17.00 hours, but won’t be required to take his predecessor’s name, simply the number. Mr Leiter is our recently promoted European Liaison for the joint FBI/CIA Taskforce set up after Spectre’s existence was confirmed.’

M’s appeared from the back of the room: impeccable in dark blue Burberry and in full exposition mode, there’s the sense he’s not relishing being awake this early, regardless of the situation. However, even he manages a smile as Felix shakes his hand, apparent the boss has not seen these two since they came in from Washington. Charlie’s enthusiasm is infectious, thrown around liberally and gratefully received before dawn.

‘I have to say, Sir, this was an offer I think both Felix and I would have been foolish to turn down.’

‘I’m also pleased to see that when called to action you responded with the promptness we’d expect, 009.’

This section of Whitehall had finally come out of the 1950’s, casting their net beyond the normal remit of applications. There had been rumours whilst Ronni was last undercover that basic procedures were being revised, in an attempt to prevent someone like Bond going off alone in the future and potentially jeopardising the long-term sanctity of the programme. She also knows Moneypenny’s desk job is vacant as of the same moment LaCroix became 009, being covered by a male agent from Acquisitions.

The woman’s outside, striding into the frame with Rachel in tow, dressed in a manner that makes 004 think that perhaps Charlie isn’t the only new top tier on the books. She’d been responsible for at least one of the three enemy fatalities after the initial attack on the Barracks: had Whitehall decided to count this as her second kill and finally award the designation? There is one way to find out, and to ask the question of her directly.

‘Good morning Moneypenny, I’m going to guess congratulations are in order?’

There’s no humour towards Ronni’s greeting, only quiet determination: all business in a clear attempt to not allow the moment to overtake.

‘My first task as 003 was to confirm your intended dinner guest for the evening was executed, 004, and is now lying in the Metropolitan Police’s morgue.’

Ronni takes the plastic bag she is presented, inside which is another business card. Turning it over, anger begins to rise that needs to be channelled and dissipated, and so focus is moved back to the matter in her hand.

‘So Q, I’m going to suggest that whoever it was I took to the ENO tonight was the man responsible for shooting the real Mr Richmond. Would I be correct?’

Q’s reappeared, quietly slipping into the empty terminal space in the open-plan briefing area, calling up details that illuminate on order above him as he talks.

‘I was able to lift a fingerprint off the wine glass, from your opera guest, and identified residue on the business card’s surface which suggests he’d handled a firearm in the last twelve hours. Who you thought was Christopher James Richmond can now be correctly identified as Christian Alexi Swann.’

A familiar image fills the screen that’s now acting as the focus for this impromptu briefing, and suddenly the resemblance between this man and Madeline is unmistakeable.

‘Same mother, different father?’

‘No, the other way around. It seems her father had an affair sometime before Madeline was born. Christian didn’t effectively exist either until his early 20’s. There’s no education records, pictures, he appears at the Sorbonne in 1994 almost by magic. The man has lived a charmed life ever since and I only have his fingerprints because they were voluntarily offered to the French Police two years ago, when his electronics company signed a contract with them to supply tagging and monitoring equipment. Bond’s codeword was your clue, comparing DNA…’

‘I am assuming Domino refers to Domino Vitali, who was involved in Operation Thunderball in 1965. Her brother was responsible for the hijack of two NATO-owned nuclear warheads, which the 007 at that time subsequently located and recovered. So knowing this I’m betting Madeline having a half brother isn’t news to Bond. Did I miss a briefing?’

There’s a moment of discomfort in the room: Ronni remembers a feeling, past making present awkward. It would be the same acute discomfort she’d experience when made the butt of a joke at school, or outside the privy of some piece of gossip or scandal. Of everyone that surrounds her, only M has the balls to make eye contact, and so 004 decides to start there.


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Writing as Therapy :: Shut Up

This is only the second time I’ve used that song title for a Blog Post. I’ll take that as a minor triumph. I’m also aware that I owe you another post on Depression, but this is more important, because when I open my mouth and words come out, there are often all manner of unintended consequences I don’t consider. Take today, for instance.

Sometimes I write stuff and know I’m putting myself up for potential issues. This comes down to an understanding not only of the place I work in, but a grasp of the people who ‘live here’, many of whom I never communicate with unless they want something from me. I know the people who just say ‘hi’ and are happy to chat and normally come with a cuppa or a snack when they do. Then there are those people who’ll ask the occasional favour of me (normally reading shit) and for them, I will drop everything. Then there are those whom I know just read my post and need to point out their perceived injustice: typos, meaning, you name it I get the need to pop up, because you guys care too and that’s utterly cool.

Then I look at the people who don’t say anything at all right up until the moment they think they’re being ignored. I’ve written about this subset before, for various reasons, but today I had an epiphany of the like I’ve not experienced before. I am the agent of my own demise: because I choose to stand up and be critical, often that’s all that is needed to start a fight, often from a place where one doesn’t even exist. It goes back to the ‘popular’ opinion Tweet up top. Saying someone is X, even when X is an obvious truth to you just isn’t useful sometimes, because that doesn’t mean stuff gets better. What you really need is someone who ignores the bad and simply focuses on good in order to effect real and palpable change. 

I, in effect, really am the problem because I can’t look at the world 100% positively all of the time.

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Depression makes me want to fight everybody: the world, other people, myself. When I see something wrong I have to try and fix it right away, and only today did I work out why. It came from the most innocuous of conversations too: my daughter saw a meme I made yesterday about my 5 favourite chocolate bars, and went to the shops to buy them for me. When she asked me what I’d eaten while she was at school, I told her I’d gone for the #1 option. The conversation went as follows:

HER – That’s weird, I’d have gone for the number five and built up to the best.

ME – But what if I died today and then I was only on number 5, I’d have missed the chance to appreciate my favourite first.

HER – Wow Mum, way to make this far more serious than it needed ever to be…

This is my problem. Even the mundane matters, far more than it ever does to anyone else. Twice in recent memory I’ve been asked by friends how I feel, and on both times have replied ‘well if I died tomorrow this is the happiest I’ve ever been’ reducing both to a level of incoherence I’d not quite grasped could be possible. I do look at every day as my last, and have done for as long as I can remember, because death sits with me far more comfortably than I realise is the case with others. When you drift close enough to something, it loses grip on you. I don’t care sometimes what consequences I create for myself, mostly because part of the joy now of being alive is to fight for everything, just so you can feel vital and not this terrible, horrific nothing that depression creates inside your soul.

If you’ve never felt how utterly damning that can be, I have no way I can make you understand, but trust me: your entire existence pivots around it, often whether you like it or not.

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Maybe this doesn’t make me the best advocate for building communities as a result. Perhaps people like me really should keep quiet, but sometimes rainbows aren’t the answer. Grabbing your own lapels and physically pulling yourself up to standing is all that works, because all those rainbow colours bleed into a grey, watery mess. You want joy but you can’t, even though your enthusiasm can be infectious. Only at the highest point will you ever see everything? Try being at the bottom and then look up. Your reference point is different, but the place is the same. Which matters more?

Should you try and make a difference, or is it best to leave it to the people who don’t work in the extremes?

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Some days, I wonder if I make the right choices. Today is one of them, mostly because what I love matters above all else, but others don’t see me well enough to understand what I’m trying to do. That’s when I understand that maybe, if I explained myself better, that might change.

So, maybe that is the place I ought to start.

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