EX/WHI :: Part Ten

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Arrival

This place looks, fees and smells like London, but is anything but.

Looking down from Tower Hill, to the Bridge on their right, not a car is in sight. Buildings are reproduced in a detail that beggars belief, and whilst they feel very solid none can be entered. Chris had suggested trying to climb one, but Ami’s gut is telling her to remain on the ground, at least for now. Knowing every move is being assessed from above by unseen beings should feel more stressful than is currently the case, but it isn’t. They’re here on good faith, because a request was granted as another was given. As soon as the door to the Cafe closed, there was no way back in. The canteens give them water for a day, no more, and that’s about as much food as they have between them.

This has been a test since the moment they woke up.

‘I wonder if this is intended or an accident.’

Chris stands, hands in pockets, looking across to the Tower and down to the Embankment. It is time to see if they are thinking alike.

‘You mean the location, yes?’

‘The coffee bar was a lot further back into the City than we are now. When we emerged, it wasn’t at the same spot we entered.’

‘Fuck, you’re right. That’s a dry cleaners normally… we must be at least a quarter of a mile closer to the river than we were.’

‘So, the question stands. Why are we here, exactly?’

‘Well, we can’t go back to where we came, presumably that exit is now blocked for good.’

‘Agreed, and having been given equipment to travel with one presumes that’s what’s expected of us. But where do we go?’

‘We don’t know what’s been tested here, apart from our ability to be mouthy and ask for help. That’s me, by the way, not you, that speech to our captors was very impressive.’

‘You still think we’re prisoners? We’ve just been given the means to travel -’

‘Indeed but I assume this scenario is finite. So, where would you go?’

‘Where’s your hotel from here?’

‘About half a mile that way, but why -’

‘If our theory is right, that we were abducted into this scenario at different points… you said your hotel room was where it probably happened. It’s closer than where I was taken, which is a good mile an a bit in the opposite direction. Considering our water and food supplies, and because there’s no idea what might happen next, I’d examine the closer location first.’

The smile Chris gives is a genuine boost to morale: not only does he agree with the plan, it makes him happy she’s on top of this. The backpack is on and he’s already walking away, taking the lead. There’s no issue with following, or that he’s not 100% in the game.

Ami wonders, not for the first time, if their observers are happy with what they’re seeing.


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DEFAULT :: Part Ten

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

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

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

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

‘Under the circumstances it was decided – ‘

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

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

‘Moneypenny!’

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

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

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

James
x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Can I ask why?’

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

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

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


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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 Four, Part Two

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He’s not expecting her to be naked under the covers, and it phases him.

Bond uses the micro-hypodermic with unsteady hands, trying not to think, waiting for the subtle change in breathing that means the secondary drug is working correctly. He remembers this room from his journey; driven here voluntarily, no baggage to dispose of on his behalf. There is a real need for clothing because it’s just above freezing outside and frankly she needs to be covered for his sanity, but reminds himself to tell the support staff to remove it when they return her to bed. It is uncomfortable dressing the rag doll that Ronni’s now become, but if he’s going to protect on the way out of the building, this has to be done.

The agent deserves nothing less than his total respect.

As the first rays of dawn begin to push through the curtains, 007 hears the transport arriving, and scoops the woman up in his arms. He doesn’t need to be here, this could have been done by the Transition people, but the guilt that keeps building because of what has been given up to arrive here continues to taunt, drives the need to involve himself in this journey. Carrying her out the front door across to the waiting medical team he’s in Venice, moving Vesper from the wreckage of the house she died in, and he has to shut everything out, unable to look as the nurses gently strap her onto the stretcher sitting across the back seats of the helicopter. It disturbs him the number of women he’s known and never actually understood, the fact most appear to die or shut him out before he gets the chance for revelation.

Perhaps this time will be different.

‘She was naked when I drugged her,’ he tells the eldest, stern looking woman in her late fifties who gives Bond a look that he won’t hold, but knows is understood. Walking away the air moves, Medical Evac ascending into the dawn, heading almost as far north as it is possible to get. He could have taken a lift, he surmises, but doesn’t want to go home again in a hurry. The same route needs to be travelled, as he did with M, because it occurs that there are a lot of ghosts from their time together which could do with being exorcised on his own terms. He also needs to run the Aston Martin’s new engine in after they rebuilt it from the shell it had been reduced to by Silva’s helicopter gunship.

This time, the journey to Scotland is taken because he wants to.



There are birds singing outside her window, and they are becoming annoying.

Ronnie lies for a while, eyes closed, revelling in the comfort this bed affords, that feeling so safe and warm as she does is just wrong. To experience such bliss when the people that love her are in pain…

The people that love her.

There is a clock by the bed that wasn’t there before: it is 05:45. Sitting up suddenly Ronni panics: this is not the same room she went to sleep in. The new place is smaller and more homely: the bookcase has gone, in their place is a TV and laptop. She’s still naked though, which means that whoever moved her did so with such skill that she never woke: as a reflex arms are checked, searching for a hypodermic mark. If there were more drugs, she doesn’t have evidence. Perhaps it was in her food: still starving there is a look to the end of the bed, in case someone else has arrived with breakfast.

Instead of a tray, on a large wooden blanket box is a newspaper, very deliberately left opened.

Wrapping the sheet around her Veronica gets up, heart in mouth. The Telegraph’s headline covers the entire top of the broadsheet’s page three: ‘British Trade Mission’s Flight to Disaster.’ They’ve printed the picture of her as a bridesmaid at Emily’s wedding, she assumes because it will be the most recent one the family could provide. Reading the dispassionate report, body goes numb, finally the reality of what she has set in motion sinking in. She died. Greg Fisher has also gone, killed with her and two other people in the accident when their light aircraft was struck by lightning. Ronni wonders if he’s here too, somewhere in this house, reading the same newspaper.

He’s more of an Observer guy, she muses for distraction, staring at the picture of herself looking out that is blurry enough for no-one to really recognise. The date at the top right corner stops all thoughts in their tracks. Today is Monday 4th: I’ve really been asleep since Saturday night?

This pushes her to the TV: met with a selection of domestic channels and major satellite news networks, it is indeed Monday. Veronica’s discomfort makes her itch, that three days have passed since being drugged, probably twice. This could all be an elaborate deception to unsettle, but it seems an awful lot of work just for one person. She needs to have a clear head and so waking up properly would help. The palatial bath has been replaced by a far more conventional shower: standing under almost freezing water moments later, trying not to think about anything but what could be ahead.

This routine comes from habit, locking worry away, leaving it for another moment. Sitting on the bed, dressed in blue jogging bottoms and t-shirt, the clock ticks over to 6.30: there is a knock almost on cue, and Ronni is ready.

‘Come in.’

The woman who enters is also dressed in blue, tailored trousers and jacket, same electronic tag attached to the breast pocket as was standard at Millbank. She’s immaculate, hair and makeup perfect and clearly expensive, with an air of immediate authority. Ronni stands without thinking, and the woman smiles before waving her hand and shaking her head.

‘It’s fine, Special Agent Ashby, we have no need for ceremony this early in the morning.’

She added the Special there just for you.

Ronni allows the thrill to surface, understanding progress, that this is as close as she’s likely to get to a celebratory pat on the back. There’s also the inevitable air of being assessed, that this woman’s seniority isn’t just marked by age. Her boss is clearly ready for business, and pulls out a tag for Ronni to attach to the bottom of the t-shirt.

‘We have a lot to do, but I’m afraid that none of it is particularly pleasant. Sadly in these days of compliance plus Health and Safety it seems to be a lot of paperwork and fuss before anything interesting happens, but considering the investment you can see we’ve already made in your future, I’m sure you’ll not have a problem with some formalities.’

Ronni glances at the paper, suddenly conscious of what had already been put in motion to get her this far. This is Stage One proper of Active Designation: life of assessments, increased training and the certainty you’ll be expected to end a life. If you can do it twice without crumbling under pressure, the carrot at the end of the stick is a fat and juicy one indeed, reward placing you amongst a discreet pile of very select individuals.

The awarding of the 00 prefix was never, ever to be taken lightly.  


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OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER:

Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.