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.


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.


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?


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.

DEFAULT :: Part Eight

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Stuck in the moment that Felix Leiter has created, Bond’s brain screams to stop Ronni at his own front door, forgetting briefly that circumstances are no longer his to control. Desperate to keep her safe, the best way for this to happen is having Ronni leave and not look back. It takes considerable willpower just to stand, watching the woman walking away, aching when she breaks into a run and vanishes into the night. This pain is horribly familiar: Vesper’s face, own hands desperately shaking closed lift gates in Venice, watching life ebb away in front of a body utterly unable to change fate, dictated by the number. Suddenly, damningly, everything has collapsed. There is nothing left but one constant that remained since the day the Section Chief in Prague had died.

All that is left to rely on is the job.

James undresses from instinct, numb and distant, knowing that the man he’d trusted to forewarn Ronni had chosen to keep her out of the loop, but it didn’t matter. M would have had his reasons for the move, and now it didn’t really matter, for the truth of this situation wouldn’t escape 004 for long. Now she was aware of disparity, understanding reality behind the decisions would soon be obvious. He wasn’t actually alone: she had become his salvation, not the woman who sleeps, kissed with a gentleness deliberate and staged. The rules have changed. Bond should have spent more time getting to know Madeline before committing himself to the relationship. There ought to have been considered reflection on what that actually meant for everybody: of all the people in the world, no-one would expect 007 to neglect the true understanding of mission goals.

Except this time he’d crucially overlooked the consequences of a single, damning action. Fortunately for Bond, fate had pulled him and Ronni back together, man she’d managed to escape from the same individual who would undoubtedly have attempted to kill him. He knows why 004 survived, that this meant he was no longer the only target in the frame. With more time there could be a warning, but that was something that they’d both run out of. Ready to play the part fate now dictates: he is pawn, not king on this board, where Flemmings’ game has already begun.

No longer the provocateur, Bond willingly succumbs as bait.

007 stares at the ceiling, before yielding to unconsciousness almost immediately: after all, sleep was always a priority when he was in the field.

Staring intently at his mobile phone Q wonders at what point his life became so inextricably linked with a designation: as it’s nearly 3am, sleeping is probably off the cards until a great deal later in the day. He’s alone in the Lab apart from the overnight skeleton staff of the Barracks, but Ronni’s latest text message means that won’t be the case for long. In fact, everybody else on the Primary Mission Team needs to be here, as a matter of priority, because of the two words now filling the tiny screen in his hand. 004 only grasps the significance of one, the other being sent by Flemmings makes life far more complicated than anyone in MI6 needed right now. However, when your enemy was everywhere?

You simply had to deal with everything at once.

As if to prove the point, the comms panel in his office flashes with a call already anticipated: Moneypenny has arrived at the location where Ronni’s real dinner date had been staying. The young man’s already predicting what she’ll find, and gut churns when the newly promoted senior agent shows him footage from the phone’s video camera: their potential business associate is dead, lying where he was shot, running away from his assailant.

‘There’s something you need to see, Q, left on his body.’

The business card is no surprise, knowing the logo he’s being shown hides a coda on its flipside. It remains abundantly obvious who Ronni ended up spending an evening with: his identity is unknown to her, but as soon as the fingerprint database has finished its search, there would be confirmation of what Q already knew. Without the need to ask, Moneypenny turns the card over in latex-covered hands. He doesn’t need a computer to match the handwriting he sees, and suddenly the last ten day’s worth of concern turns into a full blown departmental issue.


‘It was execution-style, despite the first shot. Back of the head, second to the heart. This guy isn’t screwing about.’

Q’s anger rises; emotion remains carefully controlled, focusing instead on the messages being sent to two other men. Neither of them would take kindly to being woken, but once the codeword sent was digested, both would understand the significance.

‘Are the Met Police there to deal with the body?’

‘Our coroner’s just removing the bullets, do you want me to go to the Morgue?’

‘No, I’ll send Grace over to expedite the body. You need to be back here as 004 is already inbound. I just woke up Felix and Charlie, who I suspect will not be best pleased as they’re still working on Eastern Standard Time. Would you possibly mind collecting M from his Westminster address, please, I’m instigating a Level Two Protocol.’


‘It will come as absolutely no surprise that he’s decided to bypass mission objectives and pull Ronni into the loop. Haste would be appreciated.’

‘Already on my way.’

Q is careful to omit that he began this chain of events, because what the situation doesn’t need is two agents berating him for choices already taken. As one call ends, another begins: Q switches effortlessly between frequencies and media, already in his element as Special Agent Charlie LaCroix’s face fills the screen. He looks surprisingly awake for four hours sleep, jet lag something the man will undoubtedly take in his stride. Q’s pleased that his assessment of this man following Bond’s association with him in Alaska was correct, that he’d be the first non English born individual to hold a 00 designation in his tenure, and certainly not the last.

‘You don’t do practical jokes, right? This isn’t some hazing stunt to welcome me to the party?’

‘You will be pleased to know Mr LaCroix that your contract is very clear on ethical and fair treatment of all employees, regardless of race, sex and ethnic background. Having welcomed you to the bosom of the British Secret Service, it would be unfair now to prank you before you’ve even got feet under the desk. Is Mr Leiter awake?’

‘Yeah and I won’t repeat what he called you when that happened. Am I allowed to talk on this frequency or do I need the scrambler?’

‘Under the circumstances I think I’ll leave any briefing until you’re somewhere whose security I can personally guarantee. No disrespect, you understand, but your presence here is a matter of priority.’

‘I get the British efficiency thing, we’ll be there in 15.’

No more conversation is needed, and that gives Q a chance to pick up Ronni on external CCTV, running from Bond’s flat close to Milbank through a damp and unsettled Central London. The call goes out to his best people: Walters, Frasier and Cartwright-Miller all answer within fifteen seconds and this alone fills a weary heart with joy. He brings in Lizzie Mayer too: she may only be in the Barracks on secondment, but this would be a perfect opportunity to see real field work first hand. He’d also take the young man from Comms, Emmanuel Curtis, as he’d been showing real flair in research and as Ronni was more than likely to be out in the field? A good extra pair of eyes would never go amiss.

His team is coming together, disparate parts of a puzzle that for years has been only about a dominant factor: heterosexual male success. There is the chance to make things so much more than they are, and Q’s influence and support in the organisation is growing after the failed merger with MI5. That institution remains the dinosaur, unable to evolve in the darkening winter of Spectre’s attack, whilst his department continues to not only flourish but strengthen.

Q is more than aware how much of that change rests not simply with the women in his department, most especially Veronica Flemmings. Everybody needs her to succeed, and not just for their own internal, political gains. She’s become the metaphor for progress in the Service, and the next step in that process is potentially a fraught one indeed.

Now the game’s afoot, a great deal of expectation rests with 004.

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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 Seven

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‘Are you sure this was the address, 004?’

She’d called, forgetting he was on a course, but the young man responded in less than ninety seconds. There’d been no argument either, despite the fact this was technically an evening off, or even the suggestion Ronni should go through protocol and contact Rachel instead. Q stands in the entrance of the Kensington address thirty minutes after she’d panicked with incredulity, staring at not simply an intact hallway but a completely empty flat as disquiet continues to scream in an unsettled mind. This was undoubtedly the place, or else the keys wouldn’t fit, yet there was no Richmond or sign of forced exit. There had been a distinct lack of traffic in the road when she’d left and driven round the corner, and Q’s Prius had been the only car since.

There’s nothing to suggest Christopher had even existed.

Changing in the front room as Q combs the hallway for evidence, gym gear from the car became preferable to evening dress, because once this stopped being pleasure there was no need for the costume. Plus, after her manhandling, compression leggings with shorts at least afforded a level of protection, albeit psychological. The t-shirt, ironically, is one of Bond’s: under circumstances not what she’d first choose, but there is no alternative.

‘Did he hurt you?’

Q’s appeared in the doorway, concern apparent.

‘No, as it happens it was quite the opposite for a while, right until it became obvious he’s having some trouble adjusting to his new role. I’m not 100% sure, but I’d place whoever that was quite high up the Spectre hierarchy. Is there blood on the floor?’

‘There was, but it’s been cleaned away with unexpected efficiency. I suspect this man wasn’t working alone. I can find nothing else of significance here.’

‘You check the bathroom, I’ll see if there’s a way out the back.’

The young man hands over a pair of latex gloves that are immediately used, aware that there is probably evidence here they’ll both want to keep uncontaminated if possible. Walking to the kitchen it is similarly deserted: Ronni wonders if her new quarry is going to be as theatrical with his methods as Bond. What is not anticipated is the discovery when the first eye level cupboard is opened. Staring, realisation of complicity is immediately apparent. If 004 didn’t know better, this had played almost too perfectly into the enemy’s hands. When calling her partner there is an effort not sound panicked, fairly certain the attempt fails.

‘Q? This was the house. This is a game we’re all now being made to play.’

The tone in 004’s voice is enough to set Q on alert, leaving his laptop in the bathroom to answer the call. His training day had pushed physically and yet he puts discomfort aside, knowing this turn of events mattered more than Ronni was as yet aware. Arriving in the kitchen, the older woman moves aside: inside the open oak cupboard is a single red rose, next to a glass of still sparkling champagne. However it is the business card placed against the flute’s shaft that makes Q’s blood run cold: Octopus, red ink on crisp, white card.

‘Oh my.’

The Quartermaster’s restraint is admirable; Ronni draws Walther without thinking.

‘I’m behind you, go get your bag so we can package this evidence and get out of here.’

He doesn’t need a second prompt and works on instinct, professionalism swallowing not unexpected panic as it had over three weeks ago in the Lab. She stands silent as a sample of the alcohol is taken for testing, careful not to touch the glass which is emptied down the sink, bagging and tagging all the evidence along with rose and business card. Turning it over he stops dead, and Ronni is immediately on alert.

‘We need to ID the man who you met this evening as a matter of some urgency. I also need to call 007.’

He shows it to her, written in scarlet fountain pen; beautiful calligraphy regardless, the words make eyes widen as face goes pale. She mouths the two words: Swann Lake, as if not sure there could be a relevance, but knows the agent will already be half a dozen steps ahead.

‘I’ll drop you at the Lab and go see Bond myself. I have to do it eventually, and it may as well be now.’

He could stop 004, knowing so many things she shouldn’t, at least one provided via Rachel Frasier earlier in the day. However, preventing the agent going straight to the target will make it clear there’s something wrong, and if even a fragment of that compromises 007? 004 cannot provide him with connection, not yet. Q immediately hates himself, but saying nothing is easier, because then all that is required here is honesty and not deceit. Normally this wouldn’t ever be a concern in his position but today, undoubtedly, the people above have made a wrong call. It isn’t just a feeling either, conscience has screamed since the moment deception became apparent. That’s why Q’s here, without compunction: he needed to be on duty. This had to be his call, with Rachel on standby.

He cares more about Ronni than would be admitted to anyone, especially Bond.

Q has to be her backup when the truth emerges.

007 leans back in his favourite chair, staring at the photo of Spectre’s business card on Ronni’s phone, before looking up to regard her cautiously. This flat’s become distinctly less bachelor since Maddy’s arrival, curtains and a rug the most physical concessions that the space is occupied by two. However, gun remains worn and holstered, which is a surprise, especially knowing fiancée is not a fan of their casual use. This unscheduled arrival might have forewarned potential trouble, Bond dressing appropriately, or maybe Ronni should stop jumping to conclusions. Attention returns to the screen: 004 won’t break the silence, because it has to be him that begins the conversation, especially considering how the land was left on Sunday night.

‘So, you think this is a threat?’

‘I’m not sure what it is, but spelling Swann as it does I thought you ought to at least be aware.’

‘You’ve not spoken to M?’

‘I made the decision to come here myself. I’m a big girl 007, occasionally I get to do stuff without having to discuss it with the Boss first.’

‘He may not thank you for that. What was on at the ENO this evening?’

‘Cose Fan Tutte.’

‘If I’d known, I’d have suggested we work as a team.’

‘I’d have declined, because with you marrying on Saturday-‘

‘- and this now being Tuesday… I know. I’m sorry about Sunday night. I was drunk, and I should know better.’

‘Yes, you should, considering tonight’s liaison was meant to be your target and not mine. M will be waiting at the Barracks when I get back, I’m going to suggest that they double your external security.’

‘Will that include you in my detail?’

‘Under the circumstances I would consider my placement here as inappropriate.’

‘As the senior active 00 in the field -‘

‘I should be doing that and not looking after you, 007. Not only are you more than capable of taking care of yourself -‘

‘But if I’m going to retire -‘

‘It’s a moot point. Madeline becomes your main focus, and you reciprocate for her. That’s the way it should be. That’s what it means when you fall in love and get married.’

Impressed at her own neutrality, the loss of fringe benefits might hurt right now, but will pass in time. If Ronni never found anyone else like Bond, she’d live, it would not bring her world to a stuttering halt, because grief was something already coped with daily. However, 007 had never had to learn the lesson of abstinence, because nobody had ever forced him to go hungry. Not until now.

His quite obvious disinterest in developments remains unsettling, something tickling the fringes of disquiet as had happened earlier that evening with Richmond. Now there’s the choice to stand, gaze constant, assessing as he did in the days before her designation had been earned. They’re still not truly equal, pay disparity notwithstanding. He continues to hold all the cards, always will until Ronni’s the only one with a full time job in espionage.

‘I’m not married yet, 004. It is still only Tuesday.’

‘You’re not getting cold feet, are you 007?’

‘I have to make it to Saturday alive.’

Ronni thinks perhaps it’s a joke, that Bond’s trying to inject levity into a discussion that’s already loaded, but there’s tension is his body, alert at the comment. Why on earth would Bond joke about fearing for his life, unless he already knows that’s an issue? She’d not yet told him the real reason for the 2am visit, but it shouldn’t be a stretch that it was either one of two things: business or pleasure. Now the latter was off the cards, what did Bond already know?

‘This isn’t a lame attempt to try and get me to personally protect you, is it?’

‘You shouldn’t be here with me. Us working together tonight would have been fatal.’

Now it is unmistakeable, conversation led and directed, body language and tone so unlike what would normally be present that the disconnect becomes inescapably obvious. Yet when their eyes meet, need flares so bright that Ronni can’t breathe, reflecting back from him unintentionally or otherwise. His fiancée is asleep in the next room, yet he’s here, clearly unable to join her. She didn’t get Bond out of bed at close to 2am and finally grasps why.

007 knows he’s a target, and was waiting for Richmond.

The man moves far too close for comfort, gravity unavoidable. Left thumb is at her throat, brushing the necklace she forgot to remove, fixated at the point it connects with skin. Then the same hand brushes arm, down to slip around willing fingers and there is no desire to stop the caress, tracing with a gentleness that mustn’t stop, can’t be separated from a mind’s cries of disbelief. Don’t ever marry, I’m your mistress in a heartbeat, happily destroying your sanctity, this sacred bond yet I need you gone, taken so my heart’s pain might yet heal. Mouth moves to ear, lips touching sensitive skin, breathing straight into her brain.


It is the longest second to process his coded message, means by which 00 agents could communicate when compromised. Placed this close for a reason, 004 remembers why, as her free hand goes to his face. Third week of training in Basic Survival Ops: there will come a time where it is necessary to use deception in order to communicate covertly. An embrace is a perfect means by which an agent can pass messages to a colleague without it appearing obvious or staged. Intimacy is your best weapon, Special Agent Ashby: never be afraid to grasp its possibilities.

Ronni devours a willing mouth with passion unhampered, no care that he’s betrothed to another. That would never be the prize, because no desire for family or happy endings ever existed. This job remains both of those and more, which has never really been understood by this man since they began their liaisons. His job is her destination, standing in her space defiantly refusing to give up the prize. If this were the last time they kissed? She’ll make him ache at her loss, realise the mistake made by picking the easy target and not the considered one. Sometimes it wasn’t just about the mission goal, after all. Occasionally, there needed to be a cerebration he’d never learnt and seldom assessed. If the man just stopped reacting and measured the consequences?

She was the best thing that had ever happened to him and he’d just fucked that up too.

Bond is unexpectedly breathless when she stops, raw emotion all too obvious. Mobile phone is liberated from his hand before Ronni’s turning, walking away without another word, not looking back at what has become an extremely significant mission and no longer a failed relationship. Maybe that gun isn’t to protect the woman next door if Bond’s using that particular code word to communicate, whole new slew of issues to be considered and balanced. There’s something in her pocket too, slip of paper passed as they kissed, and brain’s already overloading with possibilities. She’s grateful having changed into mission gear, chance to travel on foot from his flat to the Barracks, leaving her Jaguar safely out of danger. Running will allow some vital time to push the desire from a body that now screams at her to be satisfied. Only then will the signal from her phone be sent that will alert Q, Moneypenny and M in that order.

Whether Ronni likes it or not, it is now her move.

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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 Six

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The ENO’s production values are beyond impeccable: Ronni can’t help but get sucked into the moment as the opera presents it. Ironic that this should be ‘Così fan tutte’ on offer: Ferrando and Guglielmo expressing their certainty that Dorabella and Fiordiligi will remain faithful when they depart for war, confident their relationships are intact. It’s all well and good until Don Alfonso arrives and bets them their fiancées can be seduced, then the men are all indulgence and disguises before fooling the other’s lover they’re somebody else. On reflection Ronni understands why this might not be Bond’s first choice of evening entertainment, considering their line of work. The last time he was here had been at one of the many Royal Galas the 00 section were obliged to protect as part of the department’s long-term remit: whichever of the agents were in London would be attached to the normal Palace security services to augment the numbers.

That night she’d worn a tuxedo that was subsequently banned from use for official duties, despite being Whitehall sanctioned and manufactured. The kevlar underbust corset was worn not for protection, but because Ronni knew how much of a reaction it would provoke. It did nothing to keep anything safe but everything to arouse, a point that several senior figures were keen to point out meant the entire ensemble became counter-productive. In the end she’d been in the air and back to Turkey before 007 got the chance to release body from underwear’s seductive embrace, and part of her is sad that the last memory of them together was undoubtedly the most emotional and passionate of their trysts. Ronni loves making Bond out as the villain when it suits, but is aware that not having him to flirt with was the least of her concerns. There are more serious demons to consider, quite apart from understanding tonight is already a potential flashpoint.

Richmond appears entranced, but soon bores of the libretto: Ronni’s grasp of events is decent enough, but that’s not really required to understand the subtleties of plot. He becomes far more interested in watching her which, after a while, becomes distressingly uncomfortable. At the end of Scene Four, clearly deciding to try and attract attention he reaches out, right hand slipping around hers. Finally, past connects with present; issue at their handshake all too apparent. There is oddness on the second finger, space where a ring once was for some time and has now been removed. Image sparks recall on cue; opera suddenly irrelevant as instincts bring the real threat front and centre.

Golden octopus, striking yet insidious.

It had been a briefing the week after the Westminster Bridge ‘incident.’ Every 00 recalled, awkward introductions in the Barracks’ large briefing area. 003’s huge hands, 009’s appalling music tastes, both men now off the books for good. The sense only she and James had anything in common; the rest of these men were from a time unknown, ingrained with attitudes that only considered her as an associate and not equal. M’s speech about a threat more seductive than anything the Centre for National Security had presented. The scar on the Austrian man’s unsettling face, understanding that he’d got very close and personal in the attempt to destroy 007…

Pictures flash across a screen, random connections in a brain now aware of truth. The first time she’d seen Blofeld. His golden band, secret society kudos, second finger of the right hand. This man, trying to seduce, was the same as C. Whitehall are simply replacing one form of deception for another, you must uncover the reason. Training provides response, as a reflex. Fingers lace through his: let him believe you’re taken with the moment, remain occupied so you have time to think through options. Use seduction as a weapon.

To convince this imposter he’s succeeded body shifts closer, while a whirring mind grasps that whoever he is works for Spectre, sent to intercept Bond. What happens next depends on her charge: grateful the Walther’s in her clutch bag, impetus is now firmly back with Richmond.

Ronni will allow this notion of control, but only on her terms.

Stopping the Jaguar outside his Kensington address, Ronni commits the location to memory. Richmond’s hand remains, light pressure on leg that is a reminder power is precariously placed. Her focus remains on action: passenger door opens, walk around the front of the vehicle to the driver’s side. He’d been an impeccable gentlemen thus far, but had become increasingly jittery and nervous as the evening continued. She’s wondering if this changes now they’re on home ground: squatting on the pavement, demeanour immediately relaxes.

‘Welcome to my modest location whilst I’m in London. It’s not much, but it’s home.’

‘This has been an extremely interesting evening but I’m not sure it would be wise -‘

‘No, you don’t 004. You’re coming inside with me.’

The designation had never been mentioned, not once, and to know he is aware of it means the entire nature of this relationship changes. A determined hand takes right wrist with enough force that Ronni is aware the man could break her, and without thought the training kicks in. Neutralising is an option, but acquiescence is preferable: there might be something to be learned about motivation, allowing the belief he’s in charge. Almost pulling her out of the car and to the door of the flat, this could be also an attempt to dominate sexually, and if that were the case? Maybe this time she just let things travel to a certain point in their course. Ronni’s confident that she can disable if required, without the need for the Walther. There might be a gun inside, of course, but even then that’s not an issue.

Let the man play and pretend he’s in charge, at least for now.

As soon as they make it inside the sparsely-decorated hallway Richmond has her pushed against the wall; lean, toned body pinning and restricting. He’s either ridiculously well endowed or there’s a weapon shoved down his dress trousers, and Ronni is suddenly detaching from the moment to discover the truth. Her hand confirms equipment is long, wide and very hard and it’s difficult to separate herself from what’s being presented. You don’t expect the bad guys to be like this, they’re all supposed to be inadequate with tiny pricks and suddenly he’s kissing her with desire that temporarily blocks out reasoning. He is supremely good at it, lifting body with ease, pinning and arousing against the now closed front door as past and present disconcertingly overlap. She’s in Bond’s flat, having returned from the first assignment in Egypt. He stripped her against the wood, too desperate to make it to the bedroom, kissing every part of a willing body until he’d fixated on clitoris, pulling to the edge of orgasm before she begged to be filled. Then he’d disrobed with an efficiency that defied belief and, still in work shirt, lifted her before entering with a single, decisive stroke that made entire body shudder.

Richmond suddenly lets go, letting her fall to the ground. He’s standing back, confusion and guilt all too obvious. Ronni’s about to ask what’s going on, as hand reaches into his pocket and pulls out a battered, silver ring. The octopus is obvious, but Richmond shoves it in her face to make sure the connection is made.

‘I didn’t want it, but Number One insisted. I was named, the pressure was obvious. It’s all part of the plan, do you still not see HOW DID YOU NOT NOTICE THIS?’

The ring is hurled down the corridor with a sudden anger that puts Ronni on alert. This guy really is unstable and should be neutralised.

‘When did you work it out? At what point did 004 grasp my stupidity? It was when we shook hands, wasn’t it, you went to the bathroom and you led me on all fucking evening so you could get me to fuck you first, JUST LIKE HE WOULD. No, that’s now how this goes down. You don’t get your gratification.’

He holds up his hand, finger waved in front of her face with an immediate self consuming anger.

‘I should have known you’d see through this disguise, Flemmings, that you’d grasp I was sent to eliminate Bond and instead I got you. I think, on reflection, he’d kiss better than you do. I’ve found you a complete disappointment from start to finish.’

The man’s bouncing through emotional stages with breathtaking speed, but control is undoubtedly present. He’s also clearly attempting to upset or provoke a reaction: neither will be forthcoming from her as brain effectively shuts down.

‘In fact, I wonder what Bond actually sees in you. You’re no match for his fiancée, that’s for damn sure, and yet there is this clear misguided attachment. I’m betting you’re all sweat and need, no dominance, just acceptance. You’ll simply allow him what he wants and go along for the ride. Such a shame, you could be so much more were you not stuck inside his ego.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Your license to kill’s never been used since you dispatched Louis Kendrick. Removing him from the frame made sure we knew who you were, that you’d become a person of interest in short order. And yet you came here without a weapon. What does that say about you, 004?’

She stares at Richmond for a moment before punching to the face, as hard as possible, propelling him back into the closed hallway door at speed. He’s clearly not expecting this response and as head hits the floor there is blood plus a moment of disorientation before the man passes out. The temptation to go back to her car and stick a bullet in his head briefly is overwhelming before Ronni steps over the now unconscious body. Retrieving first house keys from jacket pocket, they’re used to pick up the Spectre ring, wrapped in her skirt to not contaminate evidence. After that, she’s leaving and locking the door, choosing not to look back. If she came back to kill him, consequences could be considerable, especially with no indicator as to who he really is. The blood on her hand will provide DNA: now he’s out cold there’s not only time to regroup, but to radio in for in reinforcements before he recovers.

Her first call arriving at the Jaguar is on instinct.

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DEFAULT :: Part Five

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Tonight’s agenda is simple: meet Christopher Richmond at the Savoy Grill, listen to his pitch, then escort to the English National Opera using discretion as to your actions.
Ronni knows what Tanner meant, that if this was Bond with a woman that might end up as an interesting diversion… except 004 had never taken advantage of such a situation. There had been occasions in the time since being given status that she could have indulged, but both men undoubtedly would have considered her easy, and it would have counted to the detriment of the final objective. Despite what 007 might think? Sex with a total stranger was, for many, a step too far.

Walking into the Hotel’s expansive, opulent lobby it occurs that the future isn’t about getting what you want, it is making sure people understand what you are. Social media and instant messaging may create the impression that the world thrives on immediacy: the true reality of emotional union undoubtedly took more time to catch up. If this were a real date, far more homework would have been conducted on this man, because otherwise she wouldn’t trust him at all. For now, Ronni anticipates a reasonably easy ride based on the details of the briefing. What is presented when the maitre’d escorts her to the pre-booked table therefore ends up as a pleasant surprise, evening suddenly far more attractive in many ways.

The man who stands and stares is both fascinating and desirable beyond initial explanation. Pale blonde, Scandinavian strength and height are all bonuses, but it is the smile that sends brain unexpectedly into defence mode. He’s also clearly confused: if expecting Bond that’s probably not as big a surprise as it should be. However, recovery is fast, maintaining eye contact the entire time.

‘You are definitely not what Whitehall had promised.’

‘Government is very good at dressing up the truth. I should now probably ask what you were expecting.’

‘Male, late forties, tuxedo.’

‘Yes, I can see why you’d feel left wanting. As it happens there is a tailor-made dinner suit, but superiors like to hold me to type.’

‘I’m imagining you’d look particularly alluring in that, probably better than me.’

‘It depends on your idea of appealing, I suppose.’

Attraction however is unmistakable, Ronni reining in desire to flirt with someone she’s not expecting to be as likeable or charismatic. The Scandinavian accent’s a bonus, making stomach flutter as he talks. Extending hand, she anticipates he’ll put it to mouth; instead it is grasped, shaken with confidence more endearing.

‘Christopher Richmond, it’s an utter pleasure.’

‘Ronni Flemmings, and I’ve been asked to extend my apologies that James -‘

‘Oh screw Bond, we’d have sat all night in silence. I think you and I will have an awful lot more to talk about. I’m also glad we’re having dinner before the performance, because it gives me a chance to impress you with what my company is hoping to provide for agents on the ground as well as your superiors.’

Richmond’s enthusiasm is infectious, Ronni at the table with more optimism than she’d ever considered could be conjured for this meeting, for that’s what this is. The man’s funny, open and honest, but something doesn’t feel right as she watches him peruse the Savoy Grill’s menu. Suddenly and without warning it is the handshake that rings alarms, adrenaline hitting like a punch; enough to make her shudder where she sits.

‘Is everything alright, Ms Flemmings?’

‘Sorry, yes, just unwinding after a particularly long day. I wonder, would you mind ordering for me whilst I quickly pop to the ladies room?’

‘Of course, you don’t have any allergies I should know about?’

‘No, I’ll eat anything, having run 15 miles today I have more than enough calories to spare.’

She stands in the bathroom moments later, staring with concern into the mirror. Aware that body’s reacting to too much alcohol and not enough sleep, there remains something unsettling about this guy that immediately has mind on the defensive. Could it be that Bond had actually poisoned outlook with the nature of their relationship that meeting anyone else would cause inevitable comparison to him? No, that was stupid and narrow minded, because nobody was going to deflect from the task in hand, that was the point. Ronni didn’t need distraction.

Yet here it was, looking almost exactly as it ought to in order to do just that.

Richmond was too perfect: not intimidated, comfortable in her presence… in fact, almost inviting the connection, challenging her. This never happened with anybody, even 007 had kept a discreet distance, with her destroying comfort zones first. This man was either the most perfect fit she’d ever met or else this was a trap. Now there is a wish to have more details, or access to the Company Intranet via phone. Ronni’s second guessing, wondering whether residual hangover’s making her self-inflate worth too much –

‘Stop it.’

Bond’s close enough to taste, and hopes she will. However much the temptation might appeal, on the other side of this pillar are many people who need to respect Flemmings, long after 007 leaves the building. She slipped out to the restaurant’s balcony, unable to stand watching any longer, desire unavoidable. Looking down to the Thames, Bond had appeared from behind; familiar pressure, before arms wrapped around her. In her ear, whisper suggested the unthinkable: back to her place, briefest of indulgences then Bond would go home. It was a Stag Night, after all. Lesser things had happened before people got married, but not on her watch.

NEVER if she was in charge.

‘You really expect me to be happy, James?’

‘I think you could at least try to maintain the illusion while I’m in the same space.’

‘This is not about having your cake and eating it, it’s not fair on Maddy. Forget for a moment that you don’t see anything wrong with what you just asked, and consider her, because I thought you possessed more respect than you obviously do.’

‘She’s not my job.’

No, she’s going to be your wife, and right now I’m not even your lover, and I’m not prepared to demean her by doing that. I’ve never been property to direct as you see fit, and you’d do well to watch yourself.’

Bond steps back, still assessing, smallest of smiles suddenly concerning. His request had been completely serious: never joking about desire, because he never did. The default was to push luck, and mostly she’d indulge. Tonight however, James was being a prick. An arrogant, drunken wanker. Ronni would not bend, registering that this was where their relationship had to end.

‘Your moral compass is unshakeable, isn’t it?’

‘I will indulge for as long as you wish if there’s nobody else in the frame. Now that’s changed -‘

‘I’m officially off limits. I’m impressed at your restraint, I genuinely am.’

‘That’s how it stays for as long as this professional relationship is viable. When you’re on the job, I have your back. The moment you’re off it?’

‘I’m no longer your problem.’

Ronni blinks, back in a moment now known to be inherently false. Her gut is sound, direction pointing not only correct, but fortified. Something about Richmond isn’t right, and until she can work out what it is? Proceed with caution. Bond protects, even in her subconscious, but a truth that comes as a surprise shakes her more. She’ll miss 007, not just because of the fringe benefits. It will be his counsel and advice that will be the biggest loss of all; nobody holds a mirror up to Ronni as well as James.

007 is still a problem, and part of the equation. This was supposed to be his detail: Richmond was expecting him and got her instead. This isn’t about a business proposition. If her mission is a fraud? Somebody is trying to get to Bond because of who he is.

Ronni’s new objective is the task of working out why.

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DEFAULT :: Part Four

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She’s been at her terminal for an hour after the briefing, poring over Walters’ last sweep of data via the Department mainframe when Tanner appears, impressively dapper in a three piece suit that wouldn’t look out of place on M. He had picked up a gun when the attack had happened, more capable than Ronni had grasped, but still appears slightly awkward with sidearm that all senior personnel were now obliged to wear on government property. The Barracks has yet to come down from Amber Alert instigated three weeks previously, drills and security now part of daily operations until Spectre’s threat is considered suitably minimised. The fact Will’s heading for her desk is a concern too, because Ronni’s not confident she can carry out an adult conversation until there’s been more Vanilla Latte than currently consumed.

‘How much still over the limit are you, 004?’

Ronni blinks at his honesty, grateful small talk’s being completely avoided. He’d been at the Restaurant last night, at least for a couple of hours, though they’d hardly had an opportunity to chat.

‘Good morning to you too, Will. Is it that obvious?’

‘I’d not have known had I not just left 007, who looks considerably worse for wear than you do.’

‘Well, that’s reassuring because he was at least three Jack Daniels ahead of me. You did the very sensible thing by leaving when you did with Q. Is there a problem?’

‘Last night’s none of my business, but this morning is very much the opposite. Bond’s just turned down a particularly significant security job, suggesting you were a better fit.’

‘Is this low or high profile?’

‘Extremely high indeed, which is why M asked for him to do it, but he just refused before suggesting that maybe these tasks should be offered to other people in the department and not simply at the poster boy.’

Ronni shifts, suppresses a smile: Bond hadn’t just been listening, he’d made the point to management, and anger dissipates in a manner that comes as something of a surprise. The fact he’d taken her words to heart at least meant ire had been understood, but it didn’t remove the source of the real tension. Eventually, that would need to be addressed. For now, she’d concentrate on the day job instead, trying to keep desire off the table.

‘I came all this way to drive you back to Whitehall for the briefing. You’ll need to dress for the Opera tonight, it’s hardly going to be taxing but you will need to keep your eyes open. However, there is one other matter I need to discuss first.’

Tanner places himself between office and her, sitting on the desk: in his hand is a USB drive that Ronni recognises immediately.

‘I have this information from Q, he tells me you’ve been putting data together in your spare time. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but can I assume this has been compiled with customary thoroughness?’

‘I could be wrong, Will. There has to be a first time, but there’s just too many co-incidences to easily ignore. I wasn’t sure, I’m still not. Please don’t be cross, I just went to the person I trust most in the Department first.’

Not wanting to be that person, it had happened regardless, the deeper Ronni had dug. As history was uncovered on Madeline Swann, the more difficult it had become to overlook holes, co-incidences in times and places, people and events. Personal feelings became impossible to reconcile: Gregory had told her that jealousy was normal, understandable when emotional affinity is tested after commitment changes. Ronni knew all the answers and the counter-objections but the niggle would not diminish. She’d just put together the data and resolved someone else could decide.

‘I’m disappointed you feel you can’t trust me.’

‘Will, I’d assumed you’d rather not get involved. How would you feel if I went and told M I thought your soon to be wife could be a sleeper agent for Spectre?’

‘I’d quite obviously consider you were jealous, because it’s apparent I’m incredibly attractive and have that effect on other women. Then I’d check the facts, and after that I’d look at my own people and berate them at length for not doing the same earlier.’

‘Will, I don’t know -‘

‘It’s okay, Ronni, I understand this dilemma more than you realise. You’ve done the right thing coming to us and not straight to 007, that I will tell you. We can talk more on the way to your meeting. I’ll get someone to make you up another coffee for the journey.’

Watching the Chief of Staff leave, Ronni wishes that she’d never been placed with Bond for her final assessment, because then none of this would ever have been an issue. However, the past was something she could never alter, however strong the desire. All that was left now was to make sure that this position was neither compromised nor damaged by somebody else failing to do their job properly.

Now that this last piece of the puzzle was passed on to the right people, 004 could move forwards.

Running back for no other reason than her Jaguar remained in the car park at home, Ronni’s happy not having to wait for a Service transport, preserving autonomy. From the grey morning, London’s afternoon is blue skies and cautious optimism, Thames shining in surprisingly warm sun. This city becomes increasingly adept at soothing her disquiet, reminder of how it has become so much more than home. This is the lover who never cheats or lies, confidant willing to find time to listen. Her flat is warm, welcoming familiarity, mess of clothes and unread mail she makes an effort to both tidy and sort before anything else is accomplished. Bond’s wedding invitation remains unopened, hidden from sight, misguided belief that ignoring the inevitability will somehow lessen pain. That’s what this is, Ronni quietly grasps in the shower, an inescapable consequence of life.

Those who we care for never remain forever.

Mission outfit is chosen on autopilot, hanging ready on the wardrobe door. Black chiffon, skimming just below the knee; heels that she can run in should the need arise. Hair and makeup can be simple yet essential because this isn’t just about making an effort, it’s the level required for a man who Whitehall want to be nice to. Then everyone forgets the bad taste of Nine Eyes, electronic duplicity from the most brilliant of Old School traitors. Instead it is time for New Money, American-born wonderkid who’s promising the moon for the right contracts and correct treatment. Ronni has no interest in these machinations, but knows that to get ahead, there will always be pawns to be played. One day there may even be no need to pretend and deceive to achieve objectives, people might simply communicate and move forward. May that time come soon, and with the minimum loss of life.

With the detective work on Ms Swann out of her hands, correctly prioritising the future should be easy.

Except it’s a lie, most obvious of untruths. Sitting upright, still wrapped in her towel, Ronni spies the necklace Bond bought her hanging on the dressing table mirror. His surprise gift on promotion, hand made in silver; implicit acknowledgement they were the same, two halves of an unbreakable whole. Yin and Yang. It was an ugly thing, genuinely surprising choice: she’d expected more, not an obvious symbol of connection, until he’d mentioned the necklace Vesper had worn, carried across the planet and finally discarded in the Kezan snow. Symbols mattered in his world, relationships fragile and fleeting. This showed permanent commitment, protecting her as important as his own life, perhaps even more so. Without her, there was no him.

Ronni has never worn it, only ever let it hang here as reminder of a relationship that does exist, stronger now than even she is prepared to admit. Because today, after you yelled at him, something changed. James is not an idiot, he cares, you know full well that’s not altering any time soon. Even when he marries this ridiculously beautiful woman you can never compete with?

You are still his missing half.

Picking up the robust silver chain, Ronni allows herself to embrace the truth, for one last night. In the morning, she’ll take off the past and put it away, before forgetting for good. That’s what 00 agents are taught to do with grief and regret, means by which they remain sane. She can apply makeup in her sleep, dress without thinking, but it is a genuine effort to place hands around neck, willing fingers to operate the clasp. His necklace sits, in the hollow of her throat, spot kissed on many occasions with a care that would send entire body into submission. It would require considerable strength to erase Bond’s intimacy from her memory, but if 004 is to finally succeed? It has to be done.

It doesn’t matter what or who is involved. The past needs to be dealt with before you move forward.

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The Love Seat

I have been playing about with Adult Fiction in the last few weeks. This will, in time, become the first of a series of erotic short stories. I like writing stuff like this and, I am told, am quite good at it. However, if you want to know why your place of work blocks this site? Here’s the reason.

This is a NSFW Story. I warned you.

Now, I’ll do it again. There was plenty of time to walk away.

WARNING: NSFW means what it says: this story deals is sexual with adult themes and should, as a result, be approached responsibly.

The Love Seat

They had known each other for just under a decade, yet this was the first time that Daniel had asked Jaimi back to his new home.

She grasped full well why this had happened, just simpler if they ended up at her place or Tim’s vast family home. The split level Docklands flat had been bought for conquests, then short-term relationships, but it was never for friends. That’s not how Daniel worked, since the horrendously acrimonious divorce six years previously. Married at 21, the man had been devoted for a decade before being cuckolded, then just went the other way. The last four years had seen him sleep with pretty much everyone Jaimi knew from the magazine, but never had he once tried it on with her. In many ways that was a blessing, because knowing Dan as she did, Jaimi was pretty certain it would only end in tears.

The three of them had been friends since secondary school: this picture on the large, darkwood dresser is one she’d forgotten was taken, but there they are: Timothy Christopher Abbot, Jaimi Green and Daniel Nathan Crosswell, standing together in the school blazers of St Clemens Sixth Form College. The frame’s a light beech, soft under fingers that have begun to numb, last Tequila Slammer already regretted after a deadline that had pushed everyone to the limit. The pressure and release of publication was something she was beginning to resent, that maybe working in coffee table publishing wasn’t the way the rest of her life should be spent. These other pictures are eclectic, unusual: Daniel’s daughter Tess as a Dalek, beautiful woman she knows is his mother and another unrecognised, faded black and white from somewhere in her friend’s unspoken, indistinct past.

‘That’s great aunt Jane. She worked for the Resistance in France in the 1940’s. Great uncle Mark used to tell me stories about her.’

‘I bet she was an amazing spy. If anything like you, she’d have men eating out of her hand.’

‘Her real power was discretion. I’ve never grasped the skill of keeping my mouth shut.’

There’s something odd about Crosswell tonight, pronounced since they left the Mexican restaurant and fell into their favourite bar. His normal bravado has slipped, almost cautious around her, with none of the normal demonstrative extroversion that made this tall, slim man seemingly irresistible to anyone who passed his orbit. Come to think of it, they’d spent a lot of time with each other of late, since the last girlfriend left. That pneumatic blonde had complained he wouldn’t commit, too dedicated to work and friends. Jaimi didn’t see a problem; these women didn’t understand that some men needed more space than others to function correctly.

She turns from the dresser, taking in a large, open-plan living space, before staring with disbelief at the large piece of furniture placed by the spiral staircase that leads up to the bedroom. It sits by the floor to ceiling window, ideal place to watch the world below, yet obscured from prying eyes with clever use of exterior foliage. Jaimi thinks at first it might be a solo recliner, but the width is all wrong, curves far too smooth and intentional for something that might be pretending to be artistic. Then her brain makes the connection, back a year to the special insert they produced on innovative British designers, and the penny drops.

‘This is Chase Barker’s Love Seat, isn’t it?’

Dan blushes, surprising for a man for whom pretty much anything went, given half a chance.

‘I knew you’d remember. It isn’t the original, but one of the second edition pieces he’s made. When they went into commercial production I knew I needed one.’

The item had caused major ripples when they’d featured it, that ‘Spaces’ architecture and furniture magazine was not the place to pedal items for sexual pleasure, but Dan had stuck to his guns and she’d felt compelled to back such passion. The whole was beautifully produced and manufactured: so what if its soul purpose was allow you to fuck someone in all manner of interesting ways? The thought of this piece of wood and high quality upholstery in an almost shameful deep purple, allowing her to be penetrated whilst perfectly supported in any number of positions, made Jaimi shiver. Amazed that Dan is staring wide eyed as she walks to it, a big deal is made of letting hand skim the top of the fabric, enjoying the feeling attention gives.

‘I have to ask: what’s it like to use?’

‘I have no idea. I’ve not christened it yet.’

Their tension is now unmistakeable; Dan can’t look at her directly, and Jaimi wonders at the merit of allowing alcohol to dictate her actions. Normally when drunk she’d sleep on Tim’s sofa and drive back out of town the next day, but with both his kids suffering from chickenpox, they’d decided not to add to the stress. Jaimi’s flatmate had her boyfriend over from Dublin, and so it seemed only fair to push Dan for a place to stay, considering how close he lived to the bar they’d ended up in. Except now, all she could think about was being naked, splayed face down on the soft, warm purple upholstery, being slowly fucked from behind. You’ll destroy the best male friendship you’ve ever had, it’s not worth the pleasure reminds an increasingly uncertain conscience, instead allowing the chair to act as support and nothing else.

Sinking into the soft yet firm padding, her body begins to shudder, amazed that common sense is ignoring everything except increasing arousal. Maybe, in the morning, if she still felt the frisson, there might be some consideration of consequence, but for now relaxation mattered more, right up until the moment when Dan’s eyes finally met hers. His need is almost painfully apparent, and a flick of gaze to the front of his jeans confirms she’s not imagining the tension. One of the reasons why this man was never short of a partner was the fact he provided both depth and girth, a fact that Tim had been jealous of since their teens. Jaimi laughs, nervous giggle of wonder, that she needs to be filled confidently by him without remorse.

‘Will you let me sleep here tonight?’

‘Is that where you want to stay, J?’

‘Absolutely, in fact I don’t think I want to move ever again. This thing is more comfortable than the original, it’s almost unreal.’

Only now does Dan break her gaze, and she’s aching at the loss. He almost runs away to make coffee and there’s no conversation at all, which is never the way this works. It’s been at least three months since the senior designer turned up at work with anyone, now Jaimi comes to think about it, and she has to ask what’s going on.

‘So, who’s going to be the lucky woman who breaks this thing in?’

‘I was hoping that might be you.’

‘Excuse me?’

Two cups of his favourite dark roast are on the low wooden table by the window and Dan comes to squat beside the chair, none of the confidence that would normally be expected this close. In fact, much of the recent behaviour suddenly makes sense seeing him almost kneeling, supplicant to her languor. No recent conquests, lack of sexual innuendo… and hands, which would have reassured by now but instead are placed behind his back.

‘I’ve been thinking a lot about what I am. I miss being in a stable relationship. Looking at Tim’s kids, knowing I might want try and do the family thing again… and then I don’t know what matters. Until you walk in a room, and everything just stops dead.’

She had never considered herself a looker or terribly smart, letting art become both signature and personality, and that’s how Jaimi lived her life. Hair colour changed almost weekly, makeup undoubtedly an afterthought, living in jeans and a small pile of t-shirts since forever. Dan never told her anything but the absolute truth: hearing him almost whisper the admission in growing twilight makes her entire body shudder. It would end in tears because she’d wanted sex with him since the graphic art job was landed, and always thought the last thing he ever thought about was her body, so it had never really mattered.

‘You’re not fucking with me, are you Dan?’

‘That’s all I’ve wanted to do for the best part of a year, I just never knew how to broach it.’

Her laugh is sultry, possibilities blossoming below the waist. He’d needed alcohol to lose inhibition; the chair had been enough for her. Watching him straddle the width of the frame and her hips with a care that is as erotic as it is warming, Jaimi gives into the moment.

‘I don’t want to push you into anything you don’t want to do -‘

Sitting upright, pulling body to her before mind can be changed, uncertainty is kissed away. The sudden swell of need within consumes both rationality and common sense, lost to this first contact and better than she could ever have hoped for. His mouth’s warmth is glorious, tequila-flavoured and cigarette tainted and then they’re both horizontal, his weight a welcome restriction and liberation combined. Jaimi’s body simply melts, passion leeching into nimble hands as he’s stripping her, removing clothing with a speed that’s impressive, considering the amount that’s been drunk.

‘You’re absolutely sure you’re okay with this J?’

‘All I want now is to know how it feels to orgasm on this chair. You’d better be as good as I suspect you are. Fill me and then fuck me, please.

Expecting clothing to be shed Dan doesn’t, instead turning chair away from the window, before Jaimi feels herself begin to rise. In less than twenty seconds horizontal becomes a forty five degree angle, yet she remains on her back. This chair’s a step up from the original: that one didn’t have motors, or this non-slip material, preventing a dangerously aroused body from heading for the floor. Presented at Dan’s eye level, completely naked, she is surprisingly without embarrassment or inhibition.

‘I want to make sure you’ve come before I do. I have no idea how long I’ll last, and this has to matter.’

His honesty had often been a shortcoming, but Jaimi’s grateful, as he kisses first one breast and then the other, before sucking on both nipples in turn. That’s all that happens for what seems like forever, repetition making crotch begin to sing, waves of pleasure she has no problem in losing herself within. The moans, which would normally be restrained during the first time with a guy, are allowed to issue unbridled: one hand slips to left hip, the other vanishes, before there is the unmistakable sense of vibration where her behind is cushioned. The lower half of her body is being stimulated, arse cheeks gently massaged: now she’s close to an orgasm without even contact with her sex.

Feeling chest begin to heat, shudders down a tense back, Dan’s tongue’s at her clit, flicking with a skill that means an explosion’s inevitable: sweet bliss spreading through her entire body which is extended, accentuated by the vibrations beneath. Jaimi screams into the now dark room, unbridled pleasure emphasised by alcohol plus long-suppressed desire. She knows that’s not it, however, that inside her body is a bigger prize waiting to be claimed if he’ll only undress faster, and the chair shifts down, returning to a near horizontal position. His mouth is at her ear, words fuelled with a need understood only too well.

‘You want to turn over J?’

‘Oh fuck, you know I do.’

‘That was the reason I bought this. When you lay down on the original and stuck your arse in the air to piss off Alice Taylor? I knew then I ‘d want to fuck you that way first.’

She recalls the look of horror from the Finance Director, offset by Tim’s cheeky wink as she had climbed off that Love Seat. This chair is still vibrating as she scrambles, turning front to back, and settling into place clit’s suddenly re-stimulated, this time by the furniture itself. She can hear the last clothing shed, rip of condom packet, gorgeous hands on her hips, pressure against cunt that is as joyous as she’d anticipated until the shove inside, one thrust to fill completely. Then he stops and she knows why, because this might all be over instantly and that would be a shame.

‘I can feel the chair. Through you. Fuck me that’s good.

The grip is exquisite, firmness in hands she’s always found attractive, powerful until there’s a stroke, confidence built, thrust at a time. With no desperation to complete, instead desire drives, to enjoy the vibration that joins them, slow arousal of her internal muscles that becomes hypnotic, addictive. Mostly sex and alcohol meant dangerous and needy, but Jaimi’s happy at the slow, steady pace Dan keeps, the way whole body begins to heat again under repetitive friction. Sobriety is mixing with the edge of lost inhibition and somehow this makes his movements harder, stronger as the chair and her become indivisible. He’s lasted far longer than expected and now there’s a moan, and another, breathless as she pushes up and back to meet him, and the internal spasm happens without warning, sudden and joyous. As she comes his rhythm falters and then it’s a shudder, and again, gasp of a man who’s earned his reward for patience and honesty.

Jaimi’s mind slowly returns to the moment, chair still quietly buzzing until a hand moves to silence the motor, before pulling out and away. The blissful post coital hum is stronger than she can ever remember, listening as he pads across hardwood floor to dispose of the condom, then pick up the coffee mugs, before breaking the silence.

‘That’s the best six grand I ever spent. Your coffee’s still warm: I have straws somewhere from the last time Tess was here, if you like you can stay put and I’ll feed you.’

Now there’s a laugh, from deep inside, before she moves to face her new lover. Naked he looks even better than imagined, and with no work until Monday there would be plenty of time to explore him at leisure, but for now the coffee is taken from a willing hand and drunk in one hit, before returning the cup with a grin. Now her thought isn’t just need, but something deeper, and the decision to listen to reason remarkably ends up as being wrong.

‘Why did it take you so long to suggest this, Dan?’

‘Maybe I was just scared, perhaps I was just waiting for the right piece of furniture. You were the only person who supported me in getting the original into the magazine, who didn’t get offended when it was apparent what you used it for. I suppose that was when I grasped you and I were more alike than I’d ever realised. I may not be the fastest when it comes to understanding what I want, but I got here eventually.’

Jaimi rises, amazed at her own need to fuck again so soon, coming to stand beside him as everything else suddenly is of secondary importance. This was the best way she could possibly have hoped to have started her weekend. As their mouths fuse, there is no regret in any of her actions.

Normally she’d want to spend two days in bed after a deadline, but this chair gave her other ideas.

DEFAULT :: Part Three

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She wakes, face down on the L-shaped sofa, immediately regretting consciousness. Mouth is sandpaper rough and dry, headache sudden persistent ache: everything smells of cigar smoke, tastes of whiskey. It takes far too long to recall why she’s fully clothed, not in bed, eyes painful above everything else. Then sparks the memory of anger, incandescent and brutal, giving way to disappointment and despair in short order. Walking home from the restaurant in bare feet, after bitter yet passionate argument on the restaurant balcony. Pushing his luck on of all things, his own Stag Night, and her temper had finally shattered.

Bond was marrying Madeline Swann in under a week, yet Ronni was who he wanted more.

Maybe James was just damaged goods and it would be sensible for everyone to just have 007 gone, erased from both history and memory. Except deep within, something had shifted. Ronni would miss him. There was a sounder point, making her itch with uncomfortable truth she didn’t want to grasp. They were indivisible, less than a whole without the other. She’d pushed, trying to force the admission that he loved his fiancée, but he wouldn’t, couldn’t use the word. Bond was unable to commit, and in a moment of revelation had admitted that perhaps there was regret in the decision to marry.

He still needed her to feel alive.

004 didn’t have time for this, not with the entire intelligence community on high alert. His argument, however seductive, wasn’t the answer either needed or craved. If he was about to leave, little doubt he’d be finished as a 00 with a wedding ring, that should be the end to it. Except he’d faltered, tried to convince one last night together would be enough, but when pushed? Bond’s happy ending was a sham. There was no need for her to ever experience a fairytale, because that’s what this job was supposed to have been, but with him as 007, he’d become the villain instead. His actions had condemned, her life as second fiddle, and now needed to be gone to allow at least the chance to take centre stage. A drunken Bond had watched with increasing horror as she’d laid it out and knew, as long as he remained 007, she’d never get the life so badly craved.

Moving gingerly from lying to sitting, Ronni remembers the entire performance: alcohol fuelled, through tears that had become increasingly bitter. She’d watched Bond grasp reality, future perennially in his thrall. As long as 007 remained the benchmark? They’d never give her a fucking chance. Ronni isn’t sure this is the actual truth, but that’s how it has felt since attaining 00 status. There’d been a distinct lack of opportunity to shine, or even extend her remit outside the normal run of contentious situations. It was almost as if Whitehall had no idea what to do with her, or indeed any of the other 00’s because when Bond walked into theatre, rules went out of the window and the world literally revolved around him. The whole Spectre ‘incident’ was proof that the criminal world saw 007 as their primary threat… and he’d proved it in spades.

There is no more time to debate this with herself. Ronni needs to be at work in an hour, and right now is certainly not legally capable of driving. Instead she will shower, take painkillers, run along The Embankment and hope nobody asks anything significant from her until a great deal of caffeine has been consumed. Stripping to start her Monday, memory surfaces that she wants to ignore but can’t. Their hands interlaced, attempt to prevent an enraged exit that failed.

‘Please, don’t leave like this. Never sleep angry, it erodes what we are.’

Ronni’s not sure 007 even understands what a proper relationship entails, and maybe that’s part of the larger problem, right up until the moment she fails to register her own gym bag in the bedroom. Tripping over first it and then her own legs, landing face first on a bed it would have been preferable to have slept in the night before, the laugh begins and consumes her entire body. She’s in tears of amusement: not only still drunk, but the previous night’s performance wasn’t anything except desperate. He tried his luck and failed. It was going to happen eventually, after all.

The sooner 007 is married, the better it will be for everybody.

She breaks her personal best, running past the Thames under unsettled March skies, reminded of just over a year previously when the application for Active Consideration had been accepted. That system had been put on hold, requirement to lose your life summarily scrapped when it became apparent that personas did not matter as much as numbers. MI6 desperately needed more people on the ground, and the system couldn’t support turn around times any more. Suitable candidates were being permed from the military, increasing number of civilians being targeted as potential employees to confront an enemy who didn’t follow a rule book, or even care about anything except themselves. London had already lost too much to terror, skyline permanently tainted by Millbank’s unscheduled destruction. Government wanted to build a monument on the site, yet no-one could decide what form it should take.

004 doesn’t care for memorials or history, unless they prevent the same events repeating in perpetuity. All those mausoleums and monuments to casualties would never preclude men being violent to each other, freedom remaining the commodity everyone craved but no-one could ever guarantee. Flemmings gave up life and name to defend this status quo, such as it remains, and that today allows an acceptance of inevitably. Focussing on your own battles, like it or not, was often preferable to changing the World. In this case, at the start of a new day, fresh opportunity will be considered as acceptable: there had been hope for better, but between Carnagie and here, she’d not failed her objective. It refused to accept her as being what it either wanted or needed right now, and that might still be the way tomorrow if things were allowed to continue as was. MI6 needs to publicly acknowledge she is their future: that meant never stopping, always pushing, and refusing to concede an inch.

Rachel Frasier is waiting for Flemmings after she’s showered, dressed in her favourite grey trouser suit, in the newly-requisitioned female-only changing area. The imposing brunette waits quietly in Westwood, tablet in hand, and 004 knows that she’s doing Q’s job for the day. The man himself is on a training course, small arms and munitions, result of the incident almost a month ago. No longer can the Service afford to have anyone without basic self defence and survival training in any key position, just because there was no indication when the next attack could happen, and it would. Spectre’s de facto leader might now be cremated, but from his ashes rose a chilling warning: MI6 was at war. The hunters would become hunted, their casualties would be numerous. Internet rhetoric and social media sabre rattling aside, Whitehall was not taking any chances.

The two women could not be more different in both background and outlook, but their connection was considerable. Of everyone here, Rachel understood best what it meant to make the most of what you had, and to exploit that potential to the fullest.

‘Good morning Ronni, you look better than everyone else I’ve seen from last night.’

‘I’m still surprised M sanctioned Bond’s request, considering the circumstances.’

‘I think the idea is not to let the enemy know you’re being persecuted by the rhetoric. Things carry on as normal despite the threats, so everything remains as it should…’

‘ – despite the fact it is anything but. On reflection, I think maybe I should have stayed at home.’

‘You can’t blame Bond for playing to type until the end. He is at least pushing the stereotype to its natural limit.’

That answered Ronni’s first question: their drunken exchange had not exactly been inconspicuous. She’s expecting more vitriol from Frasier, who has never been backwards in her condemnation of 007, but this morning there is a reserve to the woman Ronni finds a surprise, and she is compelled to ask why.

‘Wouldn’t you normally be giving Bond a far harder time than you are?’

‘I’ve never been in love enough with someone to suggest marriage, 004. One assumes that the process isn’t normally entered into lightly, but when you look at divorce rates… I may not necessarily agree with how 007 does his work, but when he cares about someone…’

‘You think he really loves her?’

At the direct challenge Rachel stops, looking at Ronni oddly and making the woman feel distinctly uncomfortable.

‘I think Bond’s beginning to realise there are consequences even he might not have considered with relevance to his recent choices. After a decade, understanding research is valuable before one fully commits to a mission might finally have begun to register. However, we have more pressing things to consider, especially in reference to your recent placement in Turkey. Once you’ve had another Vanilla Latte I’ll show you what Naomi has turned up from the latest round of satellite passes.’

Discomfort is forgotten, put aside at the thought of the three person team she’d left in Ankara, affinity to them suddenly more important than her individual feelings for one man. She can’t change her fate with Bond, but there are many things in the world that she can alter: given the choice? Take the difference, not the desire. Q’s words from training work their magic, as Ronni follows Frasier out of the changing area, to the large, rectangular briefing space where Agent Walters stands waiting. These women and her boss have done a remarkable job of helping her cope not only with disappointment, but have fostered the notion of team spirit that has only fortified after the attack in their midst.

Grace Cartwright-Miller has taken a full-time role in training, given her own staff and a remit to re-educate existing agents on issues including diversity and sexuality. The changes Q began when Ronni became 004 are already having significant ramifications, and this makes her happy beyond words. Even the Barracks itself has undergone alteration: this communal area for showers and changing just the beginning: privacy guaranteed for interviews and assessments that had never previously been considered as relevant.

The changes might be glacial in pace, but it was undoubtedly better than nothing.

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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 Two

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This place used to be a nuclear bunker, sunk deep into lush rolling hills, surrounded by unassuming Home Counties farmland. Now it is home to one of the most dangerous psychopaths the British have ever incarcerated, kept alive at massive expense to the taxpayer for no other reason than the understanding that nobody wants him dead until it is certain the man refuses to talk. The Government staunchly refuses to acknowledge him as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, because to do so confirms the existence of an organisation no-one will entertain as legitimate, but which remains splashed all over every broadsheet and current affairs programme.

SPECTRE is the enemy everyone fears, but no-one can easily remove.

Ronni pushes anger aside for the umpteenth time that morning and simply concentrates as Bond brings their hastily-requisitioned Metropolitan Police chopper into position above the Facility entrance. Everything had, for a brief and glorious period, been pretty much perfect. She’d done her job for three months, and 007 had provided fringe benefits above and beyond what had been expected. Then came the day when personal effects had been recovered from Skyfall, and overnight 004’s existence had become nothing more than darkness in Bond’s shadow. It wasn’t just her either, the agent unintentionally tainting every 00 along the way, and that was ultimately something she might never forgive the man for. What Bond’s covert mission from the previous M had kick-started was a complete re-definition of the rules for everyone. Insurgency had become irrelevant, domestic uprising after the fact. SPECTRE’s reach was damning and all encompassing, from helping the Russians in Afghanistan to encouraging the Americans in both Iraq and Iran. They reached into North Korea, Africa, China and beyond. If there was a conflict going on anywhere, chances were Blofeld’s people had a hand in it.

All of this to destroy the life of one man who’d stolen love from another with the mother of all complexes.

The bigger problem right now was working out who in the security services could actually be trusted. That’s why they are here, both Walthers with the safeties set off, because MI6 was in lockdown and the South East was under a Red Terror Alert. Bond’s using the Police’s heat seeking radar to scan the area, and looks increasing perturbed at what he sees.

‘I think Blofeld wants us on the ground. I’m not seeing staff in any of the ancillary buildings. Either they’re all dead, or they’ve been taken away.’

‘How long before we’re running on empty?’

‘Tank’s close, I approve of refusing the refuel. At least this way we’re not consciously providing anyone with an escape route. I’ll wait until we stall, looking at the field at 11 o’clock as our landing site.’

004 is already strapping herself in, no need when they took off, utterly confident in Bond’s ability to fly better than she could. They’d discussed it between them: 007 drove, she’d ride shotgun, because however good a marksman he believed himself, Ronni was just better. Everyone’s scores were up since her arrival, Q assumed because competition was a natural encouragement for a group of men who’d never had, until this point, any real need to contend with each other. It was amazing it had taken a female agent to cause this, but the metrics had predicted instability, based on the last time this had happened. Sadly for Eve Moneypenny, her own shortcomings had prevented a permanent place in the 00 Section, a fact Ronni wishes wasn’t the case.

The arrival of 004 hadn’t just forced a re-assessment of roles and ability, it had fractured an institution. It was the ultimate irony therefore that the organisation’s figurehead had been nullified not by old age or injury, but by the need to pursue the most traditional of stereotypical pursuits: marriage. For 007 to give up his number so casually must make Madeline Swann something very significant indeed. Having read the file enough times to know it almost from memory, stared long and hard at the slight blonde woman who had become this man’s new mission goal, Ronni still could not grasp the motivation. Returning to the quandary, she wondered now what it would take to destroy her career for someone else.

There would never be anyone who mattered that much.

The chopper stutters, engines cough their warning that options were out and only then does Bond take the time to pull on the regulation harness. She wants to stare as the descent begins, remembering every moment of what would be their first and last mission together, because then this retention could be kept as encouragement. If this is the best in the Service, that’s what you need to improve upon. However, this remains a man whose personal actions demand to be forgotten, as a matter of priority. If you want to be the best? 007 has to retire, because only then do you stand a realistic chance of being considered as his successor.

Ronni’s mind is all too aware of the multiple ironies at play.

There is always a back way into everything.

You never build a structure without multiple exits: for every entrance well-signposted and covered, there exists an unobtrusive door built into a wall that seems to lead nowhere, but in fact represents unexpected salvation. One of the earliest lessons Ronni learned as an intelligence operative was to ascertain the way out of any location, well before one ever attempted to enter anywhere. Q had sent the schematics for this facility on the flight out, and as was often the case it was waste disposal that led to her entry. Normally, drains were the easiest way in and out, here no exception. That also meant that if she grasped the significance? Spectre would too.

The first enemy operative never sees her coming, silenced then out cold and face down in water that would have been enough to drown in, had she not tied the unconscious form to a support column. Ronni always ignored deadly force when it came to such endeavours, as it might yet be useful keeping some lackeys alive for questioning. Targets two and three are a little more of an effort, but they too are rendered mute then inactive before being secured back to back on the ladder she uses to enter the tertiary control centre. The lack of friendly bodies is a concern, likely that human shields could be part of this equation. Using the small, cramped space to access CCTV from the main area, her suspicion is confirmed as truth: all the staff have been gathered in the main refectory, closely guarded and supervised.

She watches as Bond encounters minimal resistance and is almost at the central unit, where Blofeld is being held: enemy appears aware 007 is close, already preparing themselves for the inevitable onslaught. If there is one thing Ronni detests it is the theatrical in dealing with resistance: one of her hugest objections to Bond’s methodology. What matters before anything else is to free the staff and lead them to safety, but activating rescue protocols outside are pointless and will show their hand too early. Ronni expects the boring stuff to be her job but is surprised when 007 detours away from the main containment unit to address the hostages first.

Now it is up to her to ensure their escape route is cleared.

By the time the sixth and final guard is neutralised, Ronni’s at the entrance to Central Containment. The female technician who meets her at the head of the party of liberated captives looks unharmed, and immediately grateful: Ronni uses her phone to scan the ID’s of every person who passes out of the area, inventory and double check combined to ensure Spectre weren’t planning a surprise on escape. It turns out Elizabeth Mayer’s not simply a female tech but a part of MI6’s Acquisitions team, and without a thought 004 pulls out her Walther, before disabling the palm-print activation.

The woman can’t be older than 25, on reflection, pretty and brunette but with clear strength under the white coat; she baulks when the weapon appears, yet doesn’t move away. Ronni takes the barrel in hand, turning grip to face her at waist level, inviting an open hand.

‘Agent Mayer, do you know how to use this?’

‘I’ve been trained, but I’ve never-‘

‘There is always the possibility that I didn’t deal with everyone on your way out. This therefore becomes insurance. Get used to holding it, it will give you confidence regardless. Nobody’s making you fire it, okay?’

‘You’re Ronni Flemmings, aren’t you?’

‘I started my life in Acquisitions just like you. One day, I was caught in a situation not unlike this and was given a weapon, I never had to fire mine either because the man who covered my back did his job correctly. I’ve got you covered too, get these people out of here and when you get up top wait for the Evac, I’ll make sure it’s sent as soon as we have things locked down.’

‘Thank you, and thank Bond. You are both very good at what you do.’

The lab coat is off, Mayer possessing more confidence as she leaves, as do the rest of the dozen hostages, most of whom thank her on departure. Ronni takes a moment to decide that this was the part of the job that was the most enjoyable: any fool could blow up a building and destroy collateral. It took a different kind of mindset to deal with humanity as more important than the surroundings. The remaining journey to the main control room is without incident, guards and resistance already eliminated with Bond’s no-nonsense approach. She’d not killed anyone, but all these goons are dead. Maybe one of the reasons she wasn’t taken seriously was her approach to neutralisation: Bond didn’t need to worry about unexpected surprises, because once he attacked someone they never got up.

Ronni liked her way better, even if it demanded more cleanup afterwards.

The main control room is an exposed section of metal and glass, orange segment jutting out over a large circular cell surrounded by a series of obstacles: water that could be electrified, spikes and wire, all meant as means to prevent unauthorised entry and exit. As she watches, Bond is being held as Blofeld sits in a motorised wheelchair provided as one of far too many concessions, at the expense of Her Majesty’s Government. There’s an exchange going on that Ronni could listen to, but she knows how this works: she’d read every file on Bond since 1959, in all of his incarnations. The manual was clear and intractable on this point: always attempt to extract information from a quarry before moving to neutralisation. However perilous one’s situation, it is often more useful to engage an enemy in conversation as potential distraction than simply eliminating them in cold blood. This is where Flemmings diverted with conventional wisdom yet again: given the choice, she’d skip the speeches and simply kill the person in charge.

If truth be told, there was a lot of conventional MI6 wisdom she had a problem with.

Ronni however has a more pressing concern: if Bond is being restrained, she’ll need to make an effort to rescue him too. That’s easy: already pulling out a harness and cables from a locker, using the facilities mainframe to locate the best method to leave the control centre at speed. There’s enough flammable material here to act as accelerant, all that’s required is a trigger and distraction. Her phone was due for an upgrade from Q anyway, and he’ll not get upset over her using that as an impromptu detonator, and if all else fails she can blame Bond for the damage that’s about to be wrought to prove capability. What this will also accomplish is making a point to 007, in the most spectacular fashion she can accomplish.

If she’s going to take his job when the man gets married? Her entrance skills will be everything.

Bond stares at Blofeld, considering his last comment, wondering whether the man has a point. On consideration? He’s a fucking lunatic, and that is never going to change. He’s keeping you talking to buy time for a rescue that’s not coming, because this time I was forced not to do the job alone.

‘It doesn’t matter who’s in charge, what they look like or how they play the game. As long as people like you still live and breathe, people like me will eventually kill you.’

‘And yet here I am, canary in a cage, waiting for the moment to be set free. Your Government think I am worth more alive, and so I remain, because you could not finish the task.’

‘It wasn’t my humanity that saved you. It was someone else’s.’

‘Was it really, 007? Or is all of this part of a bigger, more dangerous game?’

There is a burst of static, feedback loop from overhead speakers that is enough to unsettle both of the goons restraining Bond. It is the distraction he’s craved, allowing vital seconds to take one from standing to unconscious. Blofeld’s already turned, wheelchair surprisingly quick, and the second assailant is tossed into dirty water where he is summarily fried by the defence grid. Before there’s the opportunity to pursue quarry comes a massive crash, glass and debris from above as Ronni launches herself through the glass of the control room window. She’s used a chair as an impromptu shield, milliseconds before a massive explosion destroys the entire side of the complex, showering debris and metal over both Blofeld and his escape path. As a girder falls and catches the fleeing man, he is bodily thrown from his chair before landing in a pile of rubble. Seconds later, a support column topples and crushes him with unintentional yet deadly efficiency.

Bond stares in open mouthed amazement as the dust finally settles: Flemmings not only has the dramatic entrance aspect of the 00 designation covered, but is clearly capable of destruction of the scale required to ensure the enemy know she means business.

Ronni wasn’t expecting to cause nearly as much damage, and now understands that as a 00 perhaps theatrics only seem that way when you’re watching and not engineering them. She uses a cleaning harness attached to a dedicated ceiling strut to abseil down to ground level, walking to the remains of a now shattered and flattened wheelchair. Blofeld had been thrown clear, across the platform: he’d not expected 007 to come with backup, that much was obvious. Bond used to work alone, nobody sending the enemy a memo about those rules altering forever. The shattered remains of the observation booth are still smoking and Ronni is treading with care, moving rubble aside until her target is located. This man’s desire to stay alive and exact revenge on his nemesis had the potential to last long beyond what was, all told, an entirely accidental and unfortunate demise. Now his assertion earlier, as she had listened on CCTV, that death would only be a setback would be rigorously tested.

There is no doubt Blofeld is deceased, skull so heavily compacted there’s brains all over the support pillar which hit him. Ronni stands, staring at the man who’d held a grudge against 007 for decades and wishes his ending meant the problem was dealt with, but that wasn’t how revenge worked in the modern world. Whether he passed from old age or they engineered his demise, it didn’t matter. Bond’s existence had fuelled an entire organisation hell-bent on destroying what he stood for, and after that everyone he’d ever touched, regardless of relevance to anything else.

Losing the man in charge wouldn’t alter that long term objective one iota.

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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 One

Before you begin: this fiction assumes you’ve seen Spectre, that you know who Madeline Swann is, and that Blofeld was taken into custody at the end of the movie, before 007 drove off into the sunset in his DB5. This then begins about three months after the events in the 24th Bond movie, and involves the ‘cast’ of my first story, Duet. I’d suggest you read that first, before you start here.


It slipped my mind
And for a time
I felt completely free…

The Pre-Credits Sequence

004 and 007 exit the Barracks at a run, guns still drawn.

James Bond is not a great fan of pressure, despite the fact he thrives within its embrace, and at this moment is grateful that the keys in jacket pocket belong to 009’s vehicle and not his. His impromptu partner for the morning pressed them into his hands as he lay on the Barracks floor with an emergency triage team, and were it not for the woman keeping pace with him, that man would be dead. In fact, had Ronni Flemmings not returned the previous day from her assignment in Turkey, far more fatalities would be left in the wake of the attack that just hit MI6’s Central London Training HQ.

Even one death wasn’t acceptable under any circumstances, especially not now.

Ronni’s Walther is holstered, jacket off as she almost throws herself into the Mercedes AMG-GT, sticking phone into a special slot provided in the central console as Bond swings the car out into Westminster traffic. The blue lights inside the front grille activate automatically, sirens deployed as early morning London rush hour parts to the alert with surprising speed. This city’s still jittery, memory of the helicopter crash and impromptu demolition of the now defunct MI6 HQ still far too fresh in the memory. It’s a good minute before the car’s dedicated comms system springs into life, and Bond knows why. This attack had one aim, to blind them all. The fact that the only man capable of resisting such efforts to disable the Intelligence Service remained from where they’d escaped unharmed was something everyone should be grateful for in hindsight. As face appears on the phone’s screen, even his normal unflappable resolve is strained.

‘Q, talk to me.’

‘Patience please, 007, let me place us to audio only on the scrambler first. As the coffee machine remains on fire I may be working slightly below capacity.’

If the Quartermaster can joke then there’s a chance they’ll still catch their quarry, Bond decides, knowing all too well how effortlessly this young man performs in the field. This is as close to combat as he’s ever been, picking up a gun to support his tech team without a thought. Ronni’s scores won’t be beaten any time soon, yet at least two targets were hit with confidence.

‘On reflection, maybe you shouldn’t have done the noble thing and just killed Blofeld when you had the chance.’

Bond then wants to chide the agent beside him on the sanctity of process, but even he’s beginning to think Flemmings has a point. Two hours ago, in bed with a woman who wouldn’t be alive unless the Spectre leader had been thwarted, there’d been no thought of lives in danger because of this same threat. His newly-caged nemesis was presumed safe in a specially-built Hertfordshire installation, but even that’s now somewhat doubtful.

‘Is Blofeld’s facility still secure, Q?’

‘I honestly can’t tell you, 007, our systems are a mess, no reliable comms outside of Central London. Moneypenny’s mobile signal is more dependable and we’re using that to try and phone HSC1 for confirmation. I would suggest you assume that containment has been breached and act accordingly. I’d anticipate an airbound exit would be the most sensible form of extraction by Spectre’s people.’

‘East London Heliport’s five minutes away with our lights on, is there anything there we can use?’

‘That’s a very good question 004, that I might be able to answer shortly. Catch up with each other while you wait.’

Flemmings stares at Bond, before turning away to focus anywhere but at him. Her silence is awkward, and James isn’t sure what to do as correction. She was in Ankara yesterday morning, returning from a long period of solo undercover work, and this is the first time since arriving in the Barracks that they’ve even managed to speak. It could just be she’d gotten used to being silent, but Bond knows better. He’s in trouble, probably with good reason. Maybe if he tries just being polite…

‘Q tells me you managed to shut down both supply lines for the rebels. That’s pretty good going.’

‘I can’t discuss active assignments 007 and don’t think I’ve finished being angry at you.’

‘This is not the place to restart this argument.’

‘Your utterly inappropriate behaviour is why this whole fucking mess exists to begin with. You want me to be happy you trashed the best job I’ve ever had because you insist on thinking with your prick?’

The anger had been noticeably apparent since she’d ran back into his life, but now it’s personal and inescapable. His arrogance wasn’t the issue, and neither was professionalism. She’s right, its the need to be wanted that screwed them both, in the end. Bond had not spared a thought for anything except himself or Madeline, and that was his biggest regret of all. The silence is painful, uncomfortable regret he’s not sure will ever be totally repaired. She’d refused his calls since Blofeld’s arrest, previous warmth notably absent. Maybe he’d misjudged her too, it wouldn’t be the first time that had happened.

With an audible sigh, shake of the head more in resignation that judgement, Ronni smiles at him for the first time that morning.

‘Amazingly, you’re right and I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. I have no idea what this must be like.’

‘Which ‘this’ are you referring to?’

‘All of them. Finding out you’re the victim of the most obsessive of stalkers. Discovering life’s been engineered for decades. Falling in love for the first time since you lost someone who meant everything and more. You’ve pretty much exceeded most people’s limits for ridiculous circumstance in the last three months. Lesser mortals would be dead by now, yet here you are, planning a wedding. I’m not sure if I should be jealous or staggered.’

Bond is taken aback: she knows more than anyone else in the Department, even Tanner isn’t aware of his intent, and yet here she is, holding all the cards. He shouldn’t but steals a glance back, satisfaction at this woman who by rights would now be the most qualified agent on the books after him, but who remains very much the undisclosed quantity. There’s nothing but disappointment that Whitehall’s not done more with Ronni’s potential, despite what transpired with Nine Eyes. However, considering the scene they’re now leaving? Perhaps it’s not as much of a surprise as first appears.

Maybe when all this was concluded, her legacy could be established unhindered.

‘Assuming we both survive the day, I’d like you to finally meet Maddy, if you’re willing?’

‘After we survive the day, there’s a good chance I’ll be back to fledgling insurgency before the dust can settle. Time and revolution wait for no woman.’

Bond knows what this is, quiet and deliberate rebuttal. If he’s stepping down, their extra-curricular relationship is likely at an end anyway, because the last thing she’ll want is emotional baggage for the rest of her life as one of MI6’s new order of professional free agents. He’s staggered that their minds can do the future, when this present is suddenly hugely more dangerous than it began when waking with Maddy at 6am. If there were anyone to ensure their hastily-concocted mission were to succeed, it would be Ronni. This would be the first time since becoming 004 that they’d officially worked together. Bond would make damn sure that they both escaped to tell the tale.

For the first time since ensuring Blofeld was captured and not killed, 007 feels a pang of regret for the choice. Should they get close enough, it was a decision that would be corrected with customary thoroughness.

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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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