DEFAULT :: Part Forty-Eight

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Waking with a start, SIG P226 already in hand, Ronni’s fallen asleep on watch. It’s almost dawn, grey light rapidly diminishing, humidity a clear sign they’d have another uncomfortable day travelling. There is the sound of a vehicle, far distance, possibly a truck. It’s perhaps just early morning traffic this high up the mountain, but 004 wants to be sure. As she moves to standing her leg vibrates: Q’s awake, texting from his tent, aware of the noise and keeping silent.

As she turns to look back at the camp, alert rapidly evolves into surprise; no more need to remain silent

‘You can come out Q, make sure you the bring the laptop. We appear to have had an overnight delivery.’

There’s the sounds of him dressing, trousers and shirt, boots slipped on unlaced as he emerges into the dawn clearly still half asleep: computer under his arm as he scrabbles for glasses, to be sure there’s no mistake.

‘Maybe it’s a late birthday gift?’

‘Well it’s a little early for Christmas, wouldn’t you say?’

Ronni stares at the Arctic White Renault Megane that’s appeared by magic, sitting outside their makeshift camp site on the outskirts of the forest. There’s just enough dirt on the paintwork to disguise the car as not new, mud on chrome hubcaps where it had obviously made the journey up the hillside in darkness. Q’s already sitting on a convenient tree stump, firing up his Laptop, early morning sun enough to power solar cells for the satellite uplink. He’ll be checking the registration, I’ll pack up the tents. Ronni’s working on instinct after two months, no need to even second guess her partner’s thought processes. They’ve become that well attuned now that often communication is unnecessary.

‘That’s our transport organised: this car’s registered to a very specific address in Paris. The Palais du Justice, which means it should be a French secret service vehicle. If it is genuine, you’ll find the keys hidden in a special space on the driver’s side wheel arch.’

Going to check Q is indeed correct, inside the small space are keys and a folded piece of paper, on which co-ordinates are scribbled. Handing the communication over, her partner’s three steps ahead of her, and smiles as a map of Europe fills the battered Laptop’s screen.

‘I find it reassuring that even after all this time the right people are still playing by the rules, 004. I guessed where we’re going and I was right: all the way north, co-ordinates are for a town called Mauchamp south of Paris on the N20.’

‘Anything changed between last night and today?’

‘News media this morning doesn’t show anything untoward, there’s not been a major incident for the best part of a week – hold on, what on Earth’s this?’

Ronni comes to squat by the screen, suddenly curious as to what has caught Q’s attention. He’s called up the BBC News website, on which is featured an article from the French newspaper Le Monde. At its head is a stylised cartoon of a woman and man, both holding a European flag aloft. The Internet had been gripped by reports of these two impromptu vigilantes intervening in situations, saving lives and breaking apart known centres of criminal activity from as far away as Venice.

‘La Femme et le Fils. Oh my. Is that cartoon supposed to be-‘

‘Us. Yes, I believe so. That’s what Charlie Hebdo does best. Satire and political comment.’

Ronni suppresses a laugh, reading the report. Their efforts to destabilise Spectre had gone anything but unnoticed in the previous months: the French press seizing on their subversion with enthusiasm. Reports of their actions to save lives and not take them, acting with kindness over violence. Grainy CCTV footage that existed but was never good enough to offer a positive identification. There was even video from Marc, who described the liberation of his gear as a life-changing occurrence, that Ronni’s arrival and intervention had made him consider his choices and had prompted a radical change in outlook.

‘We weren’t that obvious, were we?’

‘Absolutely not, Q. This will be intentionally engineered by London, co-ordinating with the French authorities. They’re using us as propaganda, a metaphor, and not just our actions either. These mentions of similar acts of defiance from south east Asia to eastern Europe, starting in Bangkok.’

‘007, 003 and 009’s efforts, all similarly glamorised.’

‘You see the author of this report in Le Monde?’

‘Danielle Barras. Why is that name familiar?’

‘Because your predecessor created her, she’s a cover, coded message. The initials DB stand for-?’

‘Deuxième Bureau, the old name for the French Secret Service. This is the communication system the Americans use in covert ops, I wonder if -‘

‘This is a risky move, Q. We’re very much in plain sight again. That means -‘

‘Spectre will also be aware the deception is at an end. Let’s hope that we’ve been suitably prepared for that eventuality.’

Q takes the keys from Ronni’s hand, puts down the laptop and goes to the back of the Megane, popping the boot without a thought. He stares for a moment and then smiles, broader than she’s seen in many weeks. Reaching in, from the car is pulled a large flask, which he unscrews without a thought, sniffing the still steaming contents with a look of unmitigated pleasure.

‘Colombian Roast, Vanilla essence. I’m more than prepared to be a target with a decent cup of coffee in me, Flemmings.’

004 walks to the back of the car, and stares in mounting joy at their supplies: fresh food and water, plus replacement clothing. The Walther illuminates in her grip immediately, and is all the confirmation needed, London wanted them back in the game. Hidden beneath the clothing is an impressive amount of field equipment, plus two very compact and clearly powerful sub automatic weapons. She hands Q a fresh Beretta, pulling him briefly from his coffee. The displeasure this causes raises a laugh, despite herself.

‘Can a civil servant at least have a decent breakfast and find a roadside shower before you start arming him, Ronni?’

‘I’m sorry, Q. Old habits die hard.’

‘I know, and without you I’d be dead many times over. However, just this once, let’s pretend we’re not secret agents and just have breakfast.’

This morning, there is no argument with the suggestion.

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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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