DUET : Chapter Two, Part One

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The interview room is small and impersonal, and M appears decidedly uncomfortable sitting in it.

A laptop is the man’s current focus, which he has been staring at for some time, lost in thoughts Ronni knows better than to interrupt. She waits quietly, hair tied neatly in a ponytail, pale grey trouser suit not keeping body quite warm enough. There is a sense that something is wrong, they’re still here and not back in M’s office: her scores are impeccable, so there’s going to be something else that’s not been factored into the equation. The question now becomes whether they will tell her exactly what it is or, as was the case last time, she’ll simply be sent away.

Finally M shifts focus from the screen, considered appraisal and Ronni is reminded oddly of her father. It could almost be disapproval in his demeanour, but because of what?

‘Agent Ashby, these are probably the best results I’ve seen from an assessment exercise in some time. You are to be congratulated not simply for your improvement on last year’s scores but for a clear determination to be noticed as a candidate for Active Designation.’

The compliment is a sweetener, bolstering for disappointment. Ronni knows that if she wants this man to look past the numbers, she’ll need to show her strength in a one to one situation.

‘May I speak freely, Sir?’

‘You certainly don’t need to ask me for permission, Ashby.’

‘My scores were good last year, but that wasn’t enough, and I suspect by the amount of time you’ve spent trying to find a way to open this conversation tactfully you’re not seeing the results as the problem you have with me.’

‘Your perception serves you well, which should not be as much of a surprise as it is. You are a genuine asset Ashby, and I will admit that your enthusiasm to join this programme… well, at least to me it creates a quandary.’

‘May I ask why, Sir?’

‘You’re the oldest of three children, correct?’

The question is unexpected, leaving Ronni briefly scrabbling for a response.

‘Yes, Sir… I have two younger sisters. Both are married, with one pregnant. Can I ask why this is relevant?’

M’s expression shifts, impossible to read for what she’d guess is good reason. Mallory is the modern face of the Service, yet being touted as a way back to the more traditional values that made MI6 the envy of intelligence agencies worldwide. She is also well aware he has to treat her as an equal: the Civil Service has obligations that stretch far beyond the Old Boys Network of the past. However, there are still echoes of those days that remain seemingly impossible to erase…

‘Veronica, your family is clearly an important part of your life. I find myself wondering just how much you would be prepared to sacrifice in order to be placed on Active Designation as a result.’

‘With respect, sir, my family are a part of my life I would have no trouble detaching from.’

‘That’s quite an easy thing to say, but I can assure you that the reality is considerably more challenging.’

She’d never even made it to M’s office last time, it had been a woman in a suit who she couldn’t name who smiled almost sadly and relayed that there were ‘elements of this resume that required work before reapplication would be considered.’ She’d always assumed it was her physical fitness that had been in question. Now she grasps that’s the least of her problems, and understands what is being asked. Q had reinforced the point when she’d pressed him at lunch months previously, but suddenly the words need to issue from this man’s mouth.

‘Your discretion and professionalism are without question. I am well aware that absolutely no-one in your family has ever been considered as a security risk. However, Active Designation is not a world where normal rules apply, even more so should you fulfil the supplementary entrance requirements to proceed. Our best applicants are at an advantage already over you, one that would not be easy to match in your present circumstances.’

He won’t say the phrase, Ronni grasps, suppressing a smile that suddenly seems out of place considering the serious nature of the context: never having to think about the possibility in front of a potential boss before, she’d have no trouble in doing so now. The initial reaction isn’t so hard to swallow. No more weddings. An end to Christmases at home, being an Aunt to any potential nieces or nephews. Goodbye to phone calls or surprise food parcels.

No more family life ever again with her genetic parents or offspring.

Voluntary Bereavement. She’d heard the term first as a joke, in a briefing, from a Field Agent who she knows now was probably a 00, calling it ‘the best way to simplify your life.’ She grasped the irony of that statement when Q confirmed it was a mandatory requirement to proceed with her career, but never dwelt on the consequences because that’s how she’d survived until now. A simpler existence, new start. The most terrible of prices to pay.

Your life: ended, and then created again anew.

M’s discomfort remains apparent, but he continues regardless with what Ronni can’t help but feel is a pre-prepared speech for her benefit.

‘I cannot fault these scores, Ashby, they’re practically perfect. You’ve done everything that the Department has asked of you, and more, but the final reality of the journey to 00 status requires a sacrifice, that proves ultimately that you are indeed the right woman for the task. Some may consider it barbaric, but almost 60 years of metrics have proven that this method delivers the type of individual capable of surviving the rigours this position presents.’

‘Q Branch have provided me with all the requirements I’d need to fulfil in order to proceed, Sir. I am well aware of what is being asked of me.’

‘Despite what the politically correct lobby may think, there are a number of very good reasons why we have so few female applicants that have ever been placed into Active Designation. Those in secure families, with commitments and ties… we understand that this is often simply asking too much. Unless we introduce compulsory conscription to the equation, that’s not likely to change.’

‘You are of course intimating that I’d have to accept Voluntary Bereavement to proceed?’

M’s eyes widen at Ronni’s casual use of the term, correct nerve both located and hit first time. It’s really easy to understand why so many would fall at this last hurdle. Easier still to grasp why the service appealed to those with the minimum amount of personal baggage. Ronni had never fitted the profiles since Grammar School, yet here she was, ready to move forward.

She refuses to break eye contact with the older man and watches his expression alter, soften in her appraisal. I just asked you to kill me so I can take this job. I’m completely serious. Sitting here, in front of the person who would be her ultimate superior officer, the choice seems deceptively simple, but she can’t be seen to be making such a quantum shift without reasoned reflection.

Please, give me the opportunity that I crave.

‘I couldn’t possibly comment, Ms Ashby, suffice it to say I’d personally need to believe you’d considered all the options available to you before we process your application further.’

‘Theoretically, how long would I have to come to a decision to ensure I’ll be included in this cycle?’

M’s face finally breaks, slightest hint of a smile on thin lips. He must know she would be an absolute boon to the Service at 00, but still Ronni sees it: he cannot believe she’d give up her life to do so. They needed women without commitments or the desire to begin families. He didn’t like to be the sexist, but someone had to do it, something his predecessor had taught him was an inconvenient truth in the modern world. If Ronni voluntarily accepted this life, he’d be amazed. She’d make that an emotion he’d not only feel, but regret he ever considered to begin with.

‘I’d need to be told personally within forty-eight hours. In my office, in Millbank. I want proof that you’re genuinely serious. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how that is delivered.’

The man rises suddenly, and Ronni can’t be sure but thinks that maybe he’s been rattled, just a touch, by her intentions. As he leaves, she can’t help the smile she knows Q will be watching on a screen somewhere, as he always does.

The boss refuses to believe I’ll do this. We’ll have to fix that as a matter of priority.

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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.

DUET : Chapter One, Part Three

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The blonde man stares upwards watching data fill the terminal: as it filters through him there is the notion forming of why Q’s interest has been piqued. On cue the man appears, divested of duffle coat: hovering just out of view, perennially observing as details are gathered and assessed. His brief had been simple: what are Veronica Ashby’s weaknesses and should the department regard her as a suitable candidate for the job she seemed so keen to be considered for? Normally he’d baulk at the demotion to research, but this woman has a resonance with him that he’s sure Q is more than aware of.

‘This woman’s scores are ridiculous. Are you sure she didn’t cheat on the Range?’

‘Her ordinance skills are so precise she can shoot her own initials into targets. I’d like to see you try that when I test you later.’

‘I’m not a big fan of showy, Q.’

‘No, indeed, destruction is your forte. You could do well to learn from Veronica’s finesse. So 007, what do you have for me?’

Bond wants to be back in the field but knows it won’t happen, at least not yet. Quite apart from the fact he was rushed returned to fitness after his ‘death’, there’s still too many wounds that haven’t fully healed. M had used him for clean-up post-Skyfall but then asked for a step back, albeit briefly: checks and balances from the Department’s Psychologist suggest he could happily breathe for a bit, and grieve properly after the events in Scotland. Q had strongly agreed, before reminding that the new people they’d trained should be given a chance to bed in, and it might be an idea to actually let them do the job for a while. Bond can handle PR in his sleep, and may as well be: this is him doing Q a favour, giving something back to the programme. It’s another part of the service package, to help everyone heal after Silva’s rampage through Central London.

‘I spoke to Tanner: he was her handler before being promoted to Chief of Staff. He’s got nothing but good things to say about her work in Acquisitions, she’s literally not put a foot wrong for close to a decade. I’m not sure if that’s brilliant or boring.’

‘Considering how much you’ve cost the Department in the last twelve months Bond, I think I’d take the latter simply as it’s cheaper. However you are not addressing the brief, I asked for a specific assessment of weaknesses.’

‘Personally she appears to live a faultless existence. The eldest of three daughters, father is a senior executive in an Investment bank, mother works as a volunteer at a Hospice. On the surface it’s perfect, but when you start to dig… the cracks begin to show. I looked at the surveillance from her flat. There’s not a single photograph anywhere. No trinkets or nick-nacks, nothing with any sentimental value. The only concession she has is music. Oh, and she drinks everything with far too much milk, particularly coffee.’

‘I don’t think I can mark her down for her taste in beverages, Bond. Anything else?’

‘Both sisters are married, and looking at what we have for her in terms of personal relationships? There’s nothing. Veronica’s not managed a long-term anything with anyone of either sex for fifteen years. Strictly heterosexual, nothing has lasted more than a couple of months. So I went back to when she was recruited and discovered the reason. She was engaged, at 19, to Scott Christopher Redgrave. He was reading Classics at Oxford, they were expected to marry when he graduated. He died in a motorcycle accident on the M4 when he was 20 and I’m betting she never recovered.’

Bond stares sadly at the grainy photo booth strip digitized on screen, four snapshots of young love, and can imagine that it’s Vesper Lynd and him he’s staring at, understanding the terror of sudden loss is still a skill he’s learning after decades. The young woman smiling freely back has piqued curiosity: for the first time since M included this as part of his workload whether he liked it or not, there is a shaft of genuine empathy. The younger man moves in closer, staring at the screen above, taking up the story on Bond’s behalf.

‘Not strictly true, she’s wanted this life since her teens, if we believe the metrics taken when she applied to join Covert Ops. However she is very much the late bloomer, that much is apparent from the last three years’ test scores. This is never a woman who’s accepted life on anyone else’s terms but her own. Once Redgrave died, she did what many people might consider the sensible thing and pretty much gave up on the opposite sex altogether. All her energy was funnelled into her childhood dream.’

‘But Q, we both know nice girls don’t want to be secret agents.’

There is an undoubted moment of unspoken understanding between the two of them. It was a standing joke, no women as Field Agents, and had been until Eve Moneypenny had kicked the trend in the head. However she’d chosen to walk away and go back to a desk, decision under the circumstances that was completely understandable, and one for which Bond still felt relief. This did mean however a noticeable absence of female agents on the top tier, which needed to change, not simply for the sake of quotas and appearances. There was absolutely no reason why women couldn’t do this job, it was no longer a man’s world. In fact, as Q enjoyed pointing out to Bond and anyone else that would listen, the opposite sex were at a distinct advantage, because no-one would expect them to be agents to begin with. It was why the Chinese had so many in service. The British were lagging behind, and it needed to be addressed.

The problem was finding the right women to fit the job.

007 stares at the woman Veronica has become, most recent photo on screen enlarged and enhanced, and finds himself wanting to know more despite his reticence. Curiosity was a weakness he’d discovered Q was particularly adept at exploiting: he could sense the itch, at the back of his mind, need to ask how death drove every waking thought. Running from the last kill, ignoring fear, living with an understanding that every day could be your last. He’d promised himself after Vesper’s demise he’d not care again, and then Eve had undermined his control. She was never going to be his answer anyway, because she’d walked away from the job Bond knew she couldn’t cope with, but he loved.

Maybe Ronni could play the game as well as he did.

‘Do you have anything to add to your assessment, 007?’

‘With consideration, I think she’s a perfect choice. She’ll cope with the grief because she already knows how to. However, at some point she’s going to need to address what I suspect will be some intimacy issues with the opposite sex, because that’s probably the most powerful weapon she’ll ever wield.’


Q smiles, knowing Bond’s experience in the field had never been just about the mission. If he was going to tailor anyone for this particular shadowing, he couldn’t have found a more perfect fit. Looking at Ronnie’s behaviour in the last six months, the metrics told him she was ready to make the next step. With Bond as his instrument, the business of fulfilling this woman’s potential had become considerably less of a concern. Now all the young man had to do was sit and wait.

Immovable object and irresistible force would collide soon enough.

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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.

DUET : Chapter One, Part Two

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It is so cold that lungs hurt, five mile run rapidly evolving into a marathon, but Ronni locks herself away, knowing the time she must complete the course within. Whitehall Gardens are covered with a light dusting of frost, February particularly bitter and twisted, winter refusing to release London from its obsessive grip. The flag on the Ministry of Defence is at half mast, latest casualties in Afghanistan still fresh in the memory. She considers their faces, staring back from the paper over breakfast, lives taken in a war that would never be successfully concluded. She is being distracted, and this is not the time for reflection.

Stop worrying about what might be and simply focus on what can.

She travels around the Central London park with music from the wedding in her ears: classic songs from a sheltered childhood, memories of life growing up in the suburbs. Moments surface recalling Grammar school boys in packs, staring at the duckling who never got to fit in. Itchy in her own skin, braces and spots: ignored as plain, focus on prettier girls further down the station platform. Too many days were spent despising what life had become; bitterness and anguish of teenage existence out of her hands, in other people’s control. Every day was a struggle, holding herself inside, never showing the hurt at being teased. Crying in the rain so that no-one knew the truth was simply easier for everybody.

She’d been a late bloomer in every respect, still having to push to catch up.

There’d be no-one to celebrate with if this secured Active Designation, distinct lack of friends or lover to share the excitement. It would just be the knowledge she was good enough, that MI6 would then believe Agent Ashby prepared for the special assignments required to finally finish the course. It’s odd that anyone would do this at all: pondering as the last circuit begins, understanding especially with MI6’s concerted push into equal opportunities and incentive rewards. Why would you want to be a spy any more when the only way anyone would learn of your achievements would be long after your demise?

That might be true for most ranks, but not the one she aspired to.

She can see her target, wrapped up against the cold February air, standing in a duffle coat and woollen hat, and is gripped with a burst of adrenaline, excitement that this is actually the home stretch and she’s smashed the personal best. Small arms and rifle scores were as close to perfect as it was possible to get. Ronni had aced every intelligence quandary they’d thrown at her across the last two days, and knows that the psych results won’t show anything other than a woman who has her mind firmly focussed on the task.

She’s at least twenty yards past Q when it occurs to stop running.

The young man in glasses walks up with a smile, understanding she’s done enough without having to ask, even though he can’t tell her anyway. A hand emerges from coat pocket, fingerless gloves showing a manicure Ronni bets cost more than a week’s worth of her beauty products combined. He shakes his congratulations with customary vigour before hiding extremities and stopwatch away.

‘That was very impressive, Ms Ashby. I think we can reasonably assume you’ve been working hard since the last time our department’s paths crossed.’

‘Thank you Q, I am beginning to understand how hard one has to work to illicit a compliment from anyone north of the river, especially you.’

‘Let me be honest, Ms Ashby: it is easy to admire but takes a certain skill to praise a performance without your recipient being suspicious of motive. You already know how well you have performed, that much is abundantly apparent. After all, if I wasn’t supremely confident of your chances of success, you wouldn’t even be here to begin with.’

Q’s Division was the closest most normal people in MI6 ever got to the big time. The license to kill no longer officially existed, of course: if anyone asked there was the polite yet firm assertion that secret agents were a hangover from the Cold War and that a firm grasp of electronic warfare was a far more efficient and sensible use of tax-payers’ money. That’s why the Government had changed the rules and allowed them to do all the assessments, that when someone from Division came and sat at your side during a break, you were being eyed for a very special brand of consideration. After all, there’s only so much to be achieved with a computer, regardless of this impossibly young man’s assertions to the contrary. However, electronic was the future, and putting the man-management into the Quartermaster’s hands had, so far, shown a marked improvement in both productivity and success.

When Q himself sent Veronica an e-mail asking her to lunch, she knew exactly what he’d want to discuss. Previous inability had been put aside, and again came an opportunity to impress her worth.

Ronni sits quietly fifteen minutes later, Earl Grey in Q’s own Scrabble mug, ten points of warmth as the sweat still cools on a body, shivering in the horribly draughty Barracks Command Centre. Normally they’d send her away after an assessment but this time she’s been asked to stay, and it is making her increasingly nervous. A lot of Ops remained in what had been the service’s emergency HQ after the explosion that destroyed part of Millbank the previous year, because the powers that be still considered having such a public façade as asking for trouble. If she wasn’t here Ronni would have been shoved on a commercial flight to India anyway, but they sent Greg Fisher instead, and the Cambridge Scholar and Army darling was not going to screw up anything. He applied and is also short-listed for Active Designation this time around.

Fisher would be a far better fit for a field agent than she could ever be.

Q finally re-appears from his office, looking distinctly warmer than he was earlier but still wrapped against the cold, holding a memory stick in his hand, and Ronni smiles. That’s why they made her wait: there is a courier task to complete. He hands the data across almost too deliberately, as if the information had particular importance.

‘I am sorry to have kept you waiting, but I have a new member of staff this morning who I wanted to ensure was orientated to the Mainframe as a matter of priority. I think perhaps I should be looking for some new technical staff this year, assuming the budget is capable of supporting anyone else.’

‘I had assumed I was being retained for a reason, as we’ve done everything on the schedule?’

‘Indeed. This contains your results, and needs to be delivered to M. Personally.

‘I’m sorry, to whom?’

His emphasis on the last word is a surprise: Ronni knows this too is a test, and the response comes without thinking. Q takes the empty mug from her hand and points to it, creating a deliberate moment of theatre.

‘I am Q, the Quartermaster. You need to deliver this to M, which stands for-‘

‘I’m sorry, but I have no idea who you’re talking about, because the last individual that used the codename ‘M’ passed away in the 1970’s. This department no longer has one senior individual – ‘

‘It’s alright Ashby, you’re off the record.’

Ronni has to remember to breathe as M interrupts, appearing in the Barracks doorway, immaculate in a three piece Saville Row suit. There is a moment of sadness, past illuminated, before only grasped in other people’s conversations. This was the first time she’d seen the new man, not expecting to even get this close. Ronni met his predecessor once, by accident in Whitehall with a liaison in tow, and wished she’d known that M far better before she died. After all, she’d been a woman in a man’s world for a very long time.

M takes the drive from Q’s hand, who leaves without ceremony, and then turns to Ronni, regarding her appearance with what she’s pretty sure is disdain. Even in the cold, the smell of effort is unmistakeable and clearly distasteful to her potential boss.

‘Feel free to take your time in the shower, I could do with a second pot of tea on a morning this cold. We will continue this when you’re more appropriately attired.’

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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.

DUET : Chapter One, Part One

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Before you Begin:
Set in a post-‘Skyfall’ Universe, this takes a couple of liberties with the 23rd addition to the canon. Let us assume for the porpoises of this exercise that the current 007 only takes the number and the Christian name from the last fella, and that he’s the sixth person to hold that title. Knowing that, you can carry on now.


‘But of all the dead volcanoes on Earth you just happened to retch
And roll
Through mine’


Veronica Ashby’s family had thrown a lot of money at this wedding, and it showed.

A quick glance at her watch told its own story: a whisper after midnight and both bar and dance floor were packed. Ronni was one of the few people not currently glued to either, neither drinking or grooving as if lives depended on conspicuous consumption. She’d imbibed plenty of champagne and thrown enough shapes to maintain the happiness for her younger sister and new husband, dismissing with increasing frequency the comments on her being the only one of three children without a ‘secure’ future. On the journey to happy endings, in her life, it had simply become easier not to dwell. After all, this was the most content she’d been for some time.

It no longer mattered what other people saw in her, not any more. She’d finally perfected the disguise.

This whole evening had turned from inconvenience to blessing: it should provide at least a year of clear air before her mother began the disapproving phone calls, that Ronni still wasn’t seeing anyone seriously, their eldest clearly not getting any younger. At least her father wasn’t likely to give her a hard time about her staunch refusal to accept any offers from anyone who looked remotely promising from the offspring of his financial services and international banking ‘acquaintances.’ Malcolm Ashby had not spoken a word to her all day, which was probably better than the number three bridesmaid could have hoped for. Maybe he’d finally got the message that whoever he tried to set up, Ronni simply wasn’t interested. After all, once you’d slept with one investment specialist, you’d pretty much fucked them all.

Her lifestyle was never going to be conducive to a normal existence anyway.

That wasn’t stopping Russell, however, who’d been doggedly determined to score for the entire evening with little sign of flagging. He appears to her left almost by magic, two flutes of Krug in worryingly unblemished hands, slipping a little too close for comfort. Ronni considers moving but remains confident enough that there won’t be groping, at least not yet. He’ll need to be more wasted and less aware of her body language, deliberate but subtle refusal to let him into her personal space for a damn good reason.

‘Can I interest you in another glass, Veronica?’

‘Have I told you that just my parents use the full name, and normally only when I’m in trouble?’

‘Sorry, I always forget – Ronni, would you -‘

‘That’s really kind, but I think I’ve probably had enough. After all, we’ve been at this since just after lunchtime.’

‘Tell me about it, this has to be the best food and drink I’ve ever had at a Wedding. All so beautifully presented… everything’s perfect. Your family celebrates with convincing style. I think this might even be better than Alice’s.’

That was a good night, Ronni remembers with a stab of nostalgia. Everyone had assumed that her happiness that day was because she’d met someone, blissfully unaware of the truth. Finally having made the most important of work transitions, significant shift from delivery girl to analyst, World opening to her at last. That realisation resonates within her tonight: if the fates allow she’s just one step away from never having to sit behind a desk ever again. Fuck the fates, this is her choice, fully intending to grasp the future with both hands and threaten to shoot it in the head if it didn’t hand over what was required.

At times like this, absolutely the last thing she needs to be doing is telling anyone the truth.

There’d been issue over being able to be genuine with family for a time, but only until the understanding stuck, even this would make her better at the job. She doesn’t care that they don’t know, because that is no longer a part of the equation anyway. Somewhere between Alice and Emily becoming wives, destiny had been settled and accepted, at least in part.

Russell’s still talking, lubricated and blithely unaware.

‘In all that time I’ve never seen you with anybody, not a single bloke. There was a rumour in the office for a while -‘

‘That I was a lesbian, perhaps?’

‘I didn’t believe it, not for one moment, because you’re clearly far smarter than that.’

If she didn’t know it already, Russell had more than adequately confirmed not only his staggering stupidity, but a narrow-mindedness she could quite easy push off the chair and onto the expensive Axminster. However, it’s just simpler to tune him out. Frankly she’d be better off going back to the hotel room and sleeping, not simply because of the week ahead. This conversation was no longer a sensible use of her time.

‘You think you’ll ever get married, Ronni?’

‘Maybe. Would have to be someone pretty spectacular who asked.’

For a moment Ronni turns to stare at the fool, playing the lie of making him believe she’s willing with a conviction that only comes when you can deceive yourself as easily as you can anyone else. This loser genuinely believes I work for an international exports company, that I spend time when not in London travelling the world making deals for the Government. The places I go, the difference this makes: to give that up, to marry anyone would take someone unbelievable indeed. Even more so because this entire persona is a beautifully constructed conceit and if you knew what I really did, you’d probably not believe me anyway.

Women just don’t play that game.

Veronica pushes a stray lock of auburn hair behind her ear: delivering her most dazzling, distracting smile, one that best accentuates both face and eyes. She knows, at least temporarily, that Russell is believing he’s going to score, but there will be disappointment instead because in twenty minutes she will vanish like smoke and he’ll be left with nothing. She needs to be checked out by 7 am and running by nine because she’s not going to fail her Physical Assessment for a second year in a row. There is a steadfast refusal to jeopardise what is possibly the last chance at a job promotion that could really change her career prospects forever. In that respect a clock was ticking: age an issue not for motherhood, but for physical fitness.

After all, it was not every day the chance for an Active Designation was presented.

She watches him in the darkness, face rapt and eyes wide, and for the first time in her thirty-five years on the planet genuinely understands this is exactly the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter that this entire life is a lie, because she is comfortable with what it has become.

Ronni Ashby is both proud and grateful to serve on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

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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.

Poetry in Motion

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK.

So, here is a poem I wrote. because I am a writer, and however much this form scares me, when you can embrace it well, it is glorious.

The Internal Ache

I don’t deserve this care, yet you remain: wound around my heart; soft, quiet constriction.

A measured passion forms constant desires:
you won’t desert me, trapped in our affliction.
I search for those reciprocal beliefs, within the skeptic depths of my bruised soul.
You have arrived before an answer’s found: a promise bound, to make these two a whole.
Inevitable fate may yet be true: contradictions of myself in you.
I sense a shocking lack of fit response: I own no solid truth to reach or grasp,
but this is where I know that I should be.
You watch my struggle with the thing you ask:
to try and look within where words are caught, inside the heart so scared to answer back.
Your patience while I struggle gives me strength, a constance as I crave the words I lack.

I will always love you, but can’t say now: these words never enough to show you how.

Words are hard, you know.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Yesterday, I tried to stay up late to catch the SPECTRE trailer launch but singuarly failed. However, that’s what the Internet is for.

Here you go, watch away:

One frame leapt out at me in watching this, and that’s part of the ‘personal effects’ Bond gets handed from Skyfall. Particularly relevant? This frame:

So here’s a Certificate of Temporary Guardianship with Bond’s name on it (and he’s 14 at the time) and that picture? I’d assumed that the head ‘missing’ was his mother, but I know it isn’t. That’s another boy.

That’s actually the Bonds’ real son.

Brain’s been doing somersaults over this since I saw it, and I suspect I’ll need a bit of time to digest all the possibilities. I’d like to postulate at this point the following:

  • Craig’s character is not the Bonds’ biological son. This will allow the writers a gimme out of the big mistake I and many other fans feel they made in Skyfall when it was pretty much stuck in canon that he was the original owner of the name. This also frees them up for when they cast a new Bond (and they will because that’s how this franchise works) to give that person the ‘name’ and the number without consequence.
  • Christopher Wentz’ character is in fact the Bonds’ biological son. If he was presumed dead and lost with his parents in the accident that befell them (and I’m going to guess that has a link to the cabin we see Bond confront Mr White in, as that picture was clearly taken by Bond’s mother in the Alps) he’s gonna have some SERIOUS issues about his ‘brother’ being where he is. That’s probably the best ‘Motivations to become a Supervillain’ I’ve seen for some time.

I’m REALLY hoping this is what happens, because I’ve always wanted the number and name to simply be an identifier, and Skyfall was a MASSIVE disappointment in this regard.

Needless to say, Bloefeld and Bond are brothers. Because that’s just too perfect not to have happen 😀

Scattered Black and Whites

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a lot about my first year at College.

Nice legs, shame about the face.

There are pictures, of course: that’s one of them, a self-made costume that I remember being particularly proud of (Christmas Tree Fairy, before you ask ^^) I can recall watching ‘Moonlighting’ on a battered black and white TV owned by my roomate, falling off a barstool after too many cheap Pimms in a Student Bar promotion. Everything else though, not so much memory really remains. I lost a lot of it, I now know deliberately. I was arrogant and stupid and really not a good person to know back then. I don’t remember how I felt at the time either, but there were moments that I think, actually, I did the right thing.

It was also the point in my life that I can look back on now and grasp were the first days I realised something wasn’t right in my mind, but it took me a very long time to even grasp this was something I could deal with, or that it was actually a problem. In amongst those pictures and moments there was a point, probably the later part of that first year, when someone decided they knew what was wrong with my life, and tried to help me change.

They attempted to convert me to religion.

I attended a Church of England College: not because of God, but because of the course I wanted. I can remember a few details about the girl who latched onto me, because that was what it was: persistent, unending and slowing soul-destroying. The girl with sandy blonde hair, the round face and the glasses. Her politeness and friendliness, a counterpoint to my unhappiness, inability to make friends, the issues I’d have sometimes getting cross and introverted. All of this was because I could not accept God into my life.

One day, the persistent pushing came to a head: she followed me to my room, and wouldn’t leave. I got angry at her and she used it all against me: accept God into my heart and I’d feel better, everything would change, and my hatred would leave me. I got progressively more irritated: I didn’t want God, and she needed to leave. With no phone to use to call anyone, alone and now actually frightened, something altered inside me, and I found myself with a choice. How did I get her to leave without attacking her physically and making myself in my mind no better than she was by simply refusing to believe that I believed that God was a metaphor. Nobody could help you with your problems. The only person who you could rely on was yourself.

In desperation I started hitting my head against the wooden window frame, over and over, screaming at her that God wasn’t my problem but she was. She didn’t try and stop me: when presented with my anger she froze. Her God didn’t help her deal with the reaction, her assertions that she cared when in reality she was like everybody else.

When I eventually drew blood, she panicked and ran.

The following morning I couldn’t see and fell over as I got out of bed. My room-mate saw the gash to my head and took me to the Doctor, who called an ambulance. When they asked me what had happened, I lied because I was afraid of what might transpire if I told the truth. One session in A&E later I was back in my room, diagnosed with a concussion.

The round faced girl with the glasses never spoke to me again.

Happier times.

There is a ridge on the front of my head, close to the hairline, the mark worn into my skull self-inflicted, so I didn’t turn and attack her that day. It was easier to hurt myself than try and get her to understand. Her desire to do what she thought was right was a passion I’d never encountered in anyone before… yet at the crucial moment, she was as frightened as I was. If she’d have the strength to stop me, to actually show she could help, then maybe things would have been different. What I do remember, with a clarity that now surprises me, is that I challenged her to explain how a God would allow people to hurt themselves if his love was so encompassing. If he cared about everyone, he’d save those who needed him most.

Let me be very clear: if God is important to you, I will ALWAYS respect this. All I ask of people is the decency and understanding that they do the same regarding ethics and ideas that matter to me. Except, as I discover, this doesn’t happen with everybody. In fact, sometimes, people decide that the easiest thing to do in difficult situations is just to run away. This happened to me yesterday, and although unrelated I find myself wondering what has to change in some people’s minds to understand that the World is bigger than themselves.

Maybe some people never do, that’s the problem, and I should really stop worrying about the things I can do nothing about. On reflection, this is probably a good idea.

Personally, I’m glad I finally found my own way to be comfortable with what I really am.

Stars Align

Motivational Crap goes here.

Occasionally, the stars do align for me. It’s still a rare enough occurrence to have to take a step back when it happens: today is a case in point. A blog post I wrote on the gaming site was mentioned by an AOL affiliate, and (quite possibly, not sure, need to check publication times) as a result of this got dragged onto one of the de facto huge traffic websites around the game. This means, as of 6pm tonight, I’ve had more hits in twelve hours than I’d probably see in a week. Even more ironically, I’d suspect very few people have actually read the post at all. That’s one of the issues picking a subject matter which inevitably has ‘contentious’ written through it. It makes me wonder how many people might stay as a result. Time inevitably will tell.

What today did make me realise is that my website is, after nearly six years, beginning to creak from having had too much crap bolted onto it and not enough effort placed in organising it properly. As a result I suspect ALL my web content’s coming up for a merger, this site included.

I went and registered alternativechat.net as a result today, and now it is mine.

Not often, but…

I have a number of things I would like to do next year. Quite apart from doing a fair bit of dancing at gigs (Elbow, Underworld and David Arnold so far on the list) I have half a plan to review all 23 Bond Films before the the most current one comes out for my birthday (cheers for that Mr Mendes.) There is other stuff too, but a girl likes to keep stuff something of a mystery, especially when trying to make more days when stars align and everyone gets to at least see her work on’t t’internets. Needless to say, this site is likely to change this month, along with the other one, and it is probably possible there will be some kind of central portal to cover everything by the time we move into January 2015.

Consider it the first steps into a larger Universe. Or summat 😀

Nobody Does It Better

Well, there’s a title.

Anyone who knows anything about me will know just how passionate I am about the 007 Franchise. Needless to say, this morning’s announcement of the title of the new Bond movie has set a cold-infected brain buzzing. It’s no 24, and the title is a killer, before we even get to the details of the movie itself. The reason they’re using this? I suspect it has a lot to do with this one line of text you can find on Wikipedia:

‘On November 15, 2013, MGM and the McClory estate had formally settled the issue with Danjaq, LLC and MGM acquiring the full copyright rights to the characters and concepts of Blofeld and SPECTRE.’

To summarise: Kevin McClory originally adapted Bond for the big screen. In 1961 there was a row, which in 1963 resulted in Ian Fleming giving McClory the rights to Thunderball, which was subsequently remade as Never Say Never Again in 1983. The organisation SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld remained McClory’s intellectual property until… well, 2013, when MGM bought them back. The organisation is synonymous with Bond, the 60’s and countless imitations in the following half a century. The franchise famously ‘killed’ Blofeld off during the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only but you know, if they went to all this trouble to settle the dispute…

Anyway, my concern isn’t with Christoph Waltz’s character being even the possibility of a relation to Blofeld. My interest is with the addition of a new member of supporting cast.


This is Andrew Scott. He’ll be 39 when SPECTRE releases, and just about the absolute perfect age to take over from Daniel Craig. He has the looks for the part, has played Moriarty in ‘Sherlock’, possesses nearly 20 years of film credits and appears in the supporting cast in a role that I don’t think is supposed to draw attention to him at all. However, his presence is considerable. Most excitingly for me, Scott is openly gay. There has been a lot of discussion for some time concerning the possibility of Bond being played by somebody other than a straight white guy, and although I’d say I’m unlikely to see Idris Elba do it (probably too old anyway, but I’d take it) and NO WAY would Bond ever be a woman… this could be a start, at least in terms of Eon accepting that diversity exists in the 21st Century. I for one will of course be rather sad to see Daniel Craig go, but he’ll be 47 when SPECTRE is released and frankly, he was showing his age in Skyfall. It has to happen sometime, and if they’re going to introduce a 21st Century Superthreat, why not use the one synonymous with the Franchise?

Oh, and the premiere of this is on my birthday. GET IN.

What this does encourage me to do is to consider the possibility of doing a long form review of every Bond Film prior to the release, and get the piece of Fiction I wrote post-Skyfall to a state where people can read it. Because, frankly, I’m rather proud of it.

Leave that with me.

Forever and a Day

This is a Blog about Writing with a deliberate capital W.

I’ve spent a large proportion of my life trying to find a way to be creative. In the end, I finally realised that it is only with words that I am at my best, that I am the person I’ve always wanted to be and my voice, my real inner monologue, can properly be heard. I have a lot of people I have to be in an average week: mother, wife, daughter, gamer, but none of these are truly what I am. That person is here now, sitting and trying to make this first post not sound like the ramblings of a crazy person but the best way to show you my true intent, and therefore to act as a means of preventing me going utterly insane. Because when I write, I am content in a way that doesn’t come from anything else I have ever found.

This is what makes me the best person I can be.

Writing for me in the last five years has been publicly about one thing: games, and a particular one at that. If you’re coming here and aren’t aware of what my life has been up until this point, there’ll be a link in the next few days to point you back to the place where I learnt to be comfortable with my words, and where I make them work for me on a daily basis. However, this is only a small part of what I am, and what I want to become, and so I have created this site, with the same name but a different agenda, to try and find the means by which I can share my journey with you. I have many works of fiction I’d like to finish and share, plus some serious essays on other parts of life that don’t include pixels. Thanks to the small screen I’ve been able to grasp what I could be capable of, if only I could believe in myself enough to let these words go.

It is time now to find the confidence inside me, to step back, and to let them go. There’s an idea of what you will get in the headers above. There’s nothing there yet, but there will be, if your’e patient with me. I promise I’ll make it worth your effort.

This is my Writing Blog.

I hope you find something in here over time that you can share with me.

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