DEFAULT :: Part Twenty-Eight

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Bond’s consciousness is fighting the battle with induced drunkenness and winning. He’s aware of what Christian had done, that it could have been so much worse had the man decided to get sexual, but he was long gone and his fiancée’s death would soon be sending shock waves through Spectre’s hierarchy. If a hangover and two lungs full of dirty water was all the indignity he suffered, that would be a small price against what 004 had now managed to achieve. He still can’t believe they’d pulled off his rescue, had partly reconciled that this could have been his final mission. The last thing remembered is her swimming downwards, ethereally beautiful, redeeming water sprite reaching to pull him from oblivion. Ronni had, in a small way, closed the cycle of regret he’d carried with him since he’d failed to save another’s life in the same place.

His wrist is vibrating, a moment to work out why. When she rescued him and kissed a grateful forehead, there was the foresight to leave comms. Q’s prototype smart watch is really rather brilliant, and now it is trying to talk to him. Felix is staring out of the evac chopper window, nurses intent on other tasks while they wait for permission to take off, so Bond can steal a glimpse at the device. Even inebriated, he registers the code word on the face and understands that she’s now alone, in charge of the most important person the Service possesses. Whether he likes it or not, they need more people like Q in active ranks, those that understand the future of encryption and hacking. Brute force and destruction have had their day. Somewhere, the truth is between both points, wrapped in a female form that now makes him begin to shake with its thought. Ronni has the most important package the Service has ever collected, and needs to protect it at any cost.

She is about to sacrifice two lives to keep MI6 in the game.

Felix is staring, trying to hold him down as he struggles to get up, because there is still time to find Veronica and protect before it is too late. The nurses are restraining too, almost strong enough to escape them all until the sedative is in his system, then there’s nothing to do but sleep.


‘Ground zero confirms package is delivered, we have green on all missions.’

MI6’s Ops Centre is at full stretch, multiple operations simultaneously in full swing. These people are the next generation, mission specialists in the field making a palpable difference in new and interesting ways. Having a 75 year old ex 00 paired with a man forty years her junior seemed fairly audacious on paper, but the combination of Grace with Acquisitions wunderkind Anton Wiltshire was only one of many revelations that had emerged. Moneypenny, LaCroix and all the others are in theatre, across two continents, and about to deliver a body blow to Spectre as revenge for damage done to their organisation. Tanner’s grateful for Q’s insights into everyone, that metrics and assessments have transformed the space he lives and works in over such a short space of time.

Left wrist unexpectedly vibrates: this means no good, especially at such a crucial juncture.

The man’s been practising the art of glancing casually for the time, when instead he can take in the messages Q is sending: when he sees the word it takes a second to make a connection. The code isn’t from the Quartermaster either but 004, particular use sending a chill through his soul.

VESPER.

She picked it as, in her words, this perfectly encapsulated the set of circumstances that would have to transpire to make her use it to begin with. Compromised and without alternative, Ronni needed to die. With the exception of 007, going dark wasn’t something any agent should need to do to begin with, but if Bond was unable to assist their escape? Q had even broached the possibility before leaving for Venice: with Beam’s information secured, travelling with it would be fraught with danger, especially with the bounty now placed on both their heads. It was probably best for everybody if they go to ground and are thought to have been lost. If Ronni knew they’d not get out of Venice without a fight, this would be the default response. Q would never consciously place himself in danger unless he was completely aware of what was at stake, and to agree to this meant the stakes were even higher than anticipated.

Tanner watches the room around him vanish to background noise, taking in the consequences one word set in motion. Everyone here would need to believe the fiction, without exception, or else the chances of decrypting Beam’s data would be lost. Despite the continued issues with extraction, Bond would not be safe at Como and would need to be treated there and then flown back to the UK immediately. Other 00 operatives would need to be directly and comprehensively briefed… but the bigger issue remains how 004 and Q would remove themselves from theatre. If Ronni plays to type, there would be at least nod to Bond in execution…

Fire suddenly consumes the video feed from Venice: Q’s ‘electrified’ area outside Spectre’s HQ is burning, blue flames from broken beer barrels causing fresh panic amongst the emergency services attempting to approach the building. As people run from this new threat, the waterside base of operations for Spectre unexpectedly erupts in a sudden and all-consuming fireball. Tanner stares with horror, knowing now what he has to do. The junior handlers already grasp something is terribly wrong, comms with Q having unexpectedly vanished with the explosion, and Rachel is desperately trying to re-establish connection. The Chief of Staff picks a spot to stare at outside the Ops Room, towards the ancient vending machine, remembering the time Ronni had consoled him there after the loss of her predecessor.

‘Tanner!’

Frasier is desperate, screaming with tears barely contained, bypassing protocols he no longer cares about, and Will briefly hates himself. Now he must deceive a woman who really doesn’t deserve the grief about to be inflicted on her, plus every other person in this room. What worries most is if Bond knows or not, if he is in on the fiction. This is the part of the job Tanner utterly detests, but is the most powerful weapon of all. Lying for your country has always come with consequences.

‘004 and Q have been compromised.’

M appears, standing opposite, staring ashen faced, as Will Tanner begins to cry on cue.


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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.

DUET: Chapter Eight, Part Six

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The locker at Kings Cross Railway Station has a small envelope in it, inside which are concise instructions and a car key. Ronni’s destination is an anonymous industrial estate off the M4, where she’s to go and retrieve the contents of another locker from a self-storage company. There’s also a picture: Ronni realises with a stab of horror that hard work was finally going to reap a real and tangible benefit, one she’d assured Q she was capable of providing.

She is to kill Louis Kendrick.

Ronni had until 3.15 that afternoon to get to the spot, across from his apartment on the river, to set herself up in the harness and then wait. One shot to the head was all it needed, so he’d be dead before hitting the balcony floor… but as it was Friday, he’d not be alone. There’d be a call girl there too, and Ronni can’t help but think that Q is playing on multiple fears simultaneously, all meticulously anticipated. Thank God for a glorious day and no wind, the British weather could so easily have scuppered her at the eleventh hour. The man is due to return to Dubai the following week, and clearly MI6 had decided he was better off never boarding the Airbus.

This triumph will show 007 he’s wrong, in the most spectacular style possible, or she falls from an unrecoverable height.

Ronni doesn’t know how she gets to the storage bay, watching the owner opening the big purple door, wondering if Bond made it back on the books. He’d told the story of the Section Chief and his contact, that he’d been on a military transport before there was even time to grasp what transpired, that their joint demises still haunted him on difficult days. The Texan remained anonymous, and because she didn’t know a name the entire experience was somehow less personal, easier to rationalise, but this guy was amongst other things a trafficker of women, embodiment of many things Ronni found physically repulsive.

This had been made intentionally personal for a very good reason.

There’s a guitar case in the storage space and nothing else. Ronni is ready with an explanation but doesn’t need it.

‘Your boyfriend said he’d left you something, but if you want any of the other stuff you’ll need to talk to his lawyers.’

The man walks away, and Veronica approaches the case, noticing a piece of paper stuck to its lid. She can’t help but smile, despite the terror inside, because it means her back is covered from this moment until the day she has to be forcibly made to retire.

‘I can’t do this, but you can.’

Inside will be a telescopic rifle, plus climbing equipment. I have to kill a man, in broad daylight, hanging off the side of a building. If anyone wanted a genuine test of her abilities, then this would provide it in spades.


Bond’s drunk more water of late than he ever did before: undoubtedly her influence, quite apart from finally purchasing a music player and spending hours at night recalling moments from his youth to download. Bond finishes the latest bottle and leans back, checking clock on the live feed above his head: 15.12. Q was about to use only the second woman to successfully negotiate Active Consideration this century to send a message to the country’s enemies: British Intelligence was back in the game. Raoul Silva’s destructive influence is a distant memory, and the scum and villainy that exists in the country’s own Capital would soon be officially on notice.

No one screwed the system on MI6’s doorstep and got away with it.

He has a front seat for her debut performance, but Bond can’t shake the nerves. Q might joke about Ronni, that she’s almost too perfect, but he knows enough about how to wear a facade to understand what could be buried beneath. She would be nervous, scared, conflicts of interest that she’d spend hours, even weeks arguing with herself about afterwards…

‘Feet off the equipment, Bond, show some respect.’

M appears at his shoulder, Tanner not far behind, and 007 is surprised to see Eve is in tow, impeccable as always. She makes a bee line for him and he gets up to offer the seat, which is politely declined: Moneypenny staring just a little longer than necessary.

‘There’s no need James, but thank you. I’m here to learn, not to watch. Shooting people in broad daylight is something I could use practice at, I think Ashby’s about to teach everyone a lesson.’

‘You’re regretting not taking me out properly when you had the chance?’

‘If I had, Veronica wouldn’t be here. I think everyone benefits from my inability to follow orders.’

Bond doesn’t stare at Eve either, and she’ll know why. Ronni makes things interesting, for all manner of reasons. It’s the first time Eve’s joked about that moment in Istanbul too, so her time with Gregory is at least producing some benefit. M and Tanner come to stand by him, deep in conversation over the execution of the shot, and Bond simply tunes everything out except the screen. She’ll be there now, attached to the platform, waiting for the moment.

Nothing matters now except the kill.

Almost on cue, at 15.15 Kendrick appears, with a conservative woman by his standards in tow. There’s a cocktail in his hand, gaudy umbrellas and too much fruit: if Bond was doing this, he’d wait until the man tried to drink and deny the final pleasure. M turns, directing his conversation finally at 007.

‘How long do you-‘

Kendrick suddenly crumples, woman falling with him, trapped under his now lifeless corpse, screaming silently: everyone in the room is stunned into silence. Except Bond.

‘You were right Q. I’ll never be as good as that.’

Q scrabbles for rewind on the feed and returns the picture on screen to the moment Kendrick turns and his face is clearly visible, frame after frame as a clear red dot appears between his eyes, a second before a bullet ends life with clinical precision. They’d come for a show, expecting a tense wait for the moment, and she’d just turned up and done the job, exactly as had been the case since first hired.

‘Nobody else with the designation’s as good as that.’

Eve’s praise is genuine, and Bond happily loses the bet he made with Q when Ronni lay unconscious on the Millbank floor, day of acceptance into Active Consideration. He knew. She is more than a worthy successor for what would have been Eve’s job.

M is clearly impressed, watching as the video moves backwards and forwards from the second of impact, unexpected smile mirrored by Tanner. Bond also knows he’ll be pleased Ronni finally stepped up and did what she’d always wanted, and stopped caring about what other people thought.

‘She was an excellent choice, Sir. Ashby’s never been anything other than efficient.’

‘Well, without yours and Bond’s recommendation, Tanner, she wouldn’t be here. I think however Veronica wanted this more than any of us realised. Particularly me. Every day is a school day.’

Bond feels for the tin in his jacket pocket, and knows he’ll have plenty of time to deliver his package on the way to the City Airport. If he’s lucky, the assignment he has will be finished in a week, just as Ronni is done with her inaugural mission. He has to try his luck, the pleasure that results from knowing someone’s interests match your own. Flirting with ex-field agents is all well and good, but he liked variety in hobbies: anything that kept things interesting.

Anyone that forced him out of his comfort zone.

‘Indeed, everybody should learn from this. Even you could take notes, 007.’

M comes and stands, clearly waiting for a response but Bond doesn’t take the comeback, or the clever one liner.

James knows he’s already been educated.


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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.