Beautiful Dreamer

That graphic means only one thing, and it’s TIME TO LOOK AHEAD. Lots to talk about, so let’s get started.

  • This Website Needs Reorganisation

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    If I’m sending potential mentors here, it time to get things sorted. At least two pages as of writing this have no content. I can reorganise some links to be more coherent. Mostly, it all needs a once over and the smell of fresh bread to be more enticing. Therefore, over the next couple of days, stuff will magically appear. Plus, I’ll be dragging out the essays that were written for the Book of the Month project…

  • ‘Quite a Few’ Short Stories in Planning

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    This feature has really taken off over the last few months, and it is consistently (along with the curated music lists) my top engagement with readers. As a result, we have a bit of a binge on, with content being planned a massive SIX MONTHS in advance. I think, on return from the break in September, we’ll stick a synopsis at the start of the Twitter feed before the story proper begins…

  • The August Poetry Recap

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    As I have mentioned previously, August is a ‘content lite’ month. However, Twitter will, every day at 2pm (@Internetofwords) and 6pm (@AlternativeChat) provide you with one of the best poems from the last six months, as a reminder that I’m still alive even if on hiatus, and that I’ve written a LOT of poetry since the start of this journey. Yeah, some of it is better than the rest, but HEY everybody has to begin somewhere…

  • Gumroad ‘Coming in October’

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    All things being equal, I’ll have Issue 1 of Arguto to sell at some point in the future. It will give you a tangible piece of literary output, with content not available anywhere else, including pictures and, guaranteed: one short story, one haiku plus a micropoetry sequence. It’s going to Gumroad, as will be some other exclusive items you can buy to help support my journey. Watch this Space.

  • Instagram is Back (well, sort of)

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    No, I’m not Facebook’s bitch, but if IoW is gonna fly, I am gonna need to sacrifice a piece of the soul to the Commercial Gods. This is particularly true now they do video. When the new stuff is ready to go, I’ll let you know, but it will be art/poetry based… and there’s already planning…

  • Supporting My Journey

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This is your scheduled reminder that I’ll take Paypal payments and you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-Fi. If you’d like to donate, click here.


EX/WHI :: Part Four

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His bitterness is a surprise, Ami concludes with understandable resignation. He’s undoubtedly one of the Good Guys, already warmed to because at no point has any action suggested he’s seeing her as anything other than equal. An increasing conviction emerges that cheap gags or easy answers don’t exist in his repertoire: once you’ve had it with the opposite sex, there’s no need to worry about their rituals to begin a relationship. He stares instead of at her across the World, moving outside glass of the coffee bar, oddly obsessed with people passing to and from the City, before turning with clear confusion.

‘Something’s wrong here, tell me this isn’t just jet-lag.’

‘What are you seeing?’

‘Watch this guy outside, the one with the umbrella and the black backpack. I’m convinced he’s been past the window at least three times…’

As eyes follow the well dressed, middle aged man, something truly amazing transpires: as soon as city trader moves out of range of the glass window, he inexplicably vanishes. Literally blinking out of existence, the same individual returns to his point of origin, appearing again on the other side of the road before commencing an identical journey. With mounting horror, Ami grasps that this background might look like a busy London street, but the people trapped within it are simply recordings, looped to give an appearance of a busy rush hour scene.

The horror isn’t restricted to outside either: turning to look at the coffee bar, patrons are acting as if they were characters in a video game: same movements, repeated conversations, all looped to give the impression of normality. Staring at Chris, he’s doing his best not to look frightened but this is currently beyond collective comprehension. If an enemy was going to try and intercept them on the way to the Royal Courts of Justice, this is an incredibly complex and horribly expensive bait and snare. It makes no sense, when you could bundle them both into a van. This is something to do with the car, her sleepless night, his plane trip and the ozone…

She can taste that smell everywhere, which is beginning to inhibit breathing.

They’re in real trouble: brain is running too fast, anxiety now gnawing at the edges of consciousness. The coffee’s done nothing to help, and Ami needs to be moving, not sitting. Chambers anticipates her and is already standing, motioning her to do the same, but as they do the entire World shudders, throwing him into her body. They cling onto each other for a moment before the entire coffee bar appears to rotate completely on its axis: tables end up above them a joint grips tighten, pulling them closer not simply for protection.

The nightmare does not affect anyone else, however, their recorded lives continuing unabated: the morning rituals on a loop, oblivious to nightmare scenario playing out for Chambers and Bishop. Neither are now capable of movement, frozen in a moment of time that has been taken out of their hands: for a second both think the exact, same thought, before consciousnesses shut down.

I don’t want to die like this.

==

The suitability of one match is
even more fortunate
than was first considered.



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:: Next Part

EX/WHI :: Part Two

Previous Part :: Next Part


It will soon be insufferably hot in this confined, concrete space: Agent Bishop’s forced to find a CD of Oakenfold dance tracks as entertainment, because there’s no DAB signal in the car park. Radio and TV have both been on the blink for days anyway: something about sunspots and abnormal atmospheric conditions that she’d half grasped over a hurried bowl of breakfast cereal. Escaping to the songs of her youth is perhaps not that wise, because it will just remind again of the mistakes made that can now never be corrected. Except the soothing, rhythmic beat is what is required as relaxation. Nerves are suddenly, worryingly heightened.

He’ll be on borrowed time because of his bravado, Ami decides, wondering if Special Agent Chambers is going to turn up for his lift to the Royal Courts of Justice early or late. The American’s personal life remains enough of a disaster area to suggest that, like her, job matters more than what transpires after hours, so he could be worth getting to know. As with all of these things, it is going to depend on what parts of her file get highlighted in his assessment, just as has been the case in her research of him. If he looks past bisexual, that’ll be a start. Explaining that has become a depressing part of introductions since coming out last year. Maybe, if more people could take her as just human, that would be better.

There’s an odd smell in the car: reminding of photocopiers, bad air conditioning… except hers is not on, driver’s side window open. Turning off the engine, keys pocketed, Ami gets out of the car; senses alert to something that is most definitely amiss. Then movement happens behind: the Walther shifts from holster to hand in a heartbeat, spinning to point at man who’s a lot taller than his file suggests, but whose reaction times are without question.

‘Glad I’m not the only one who’s spooked. You like Bishop or Amelia?’

‘Good friends call me Ami, and if you can react that fast, Mr Chambers, I suspect we’ll get on famously.’

‘I approve of the formal use of my name, that’s way cooler than it sounds from my boss. You can keep that. So, what’s making you nervous?’

‘The smell, a bulletproof sixth sense… it’s been like this since about 3.15 am.’

‘I was upchucking dinner over the Atlantic at 3.15 in a storm that appeared outta nowhere. Everything’s been weird since. That’s just a massive co-incidence, right?’

‘Everything in this job is related. Maybe that extends to our ability to research each other and make an immediate connection.’

Both guns are re-holstered: Chambers’ handshake is solid, reassuring, and there was no need to worry about this guy’s credentials. He’s got the looks and body of a film star, but beard makes him feel more human, flawed. Good guys need to be clean-cut and scar-free, yet he has both in abundance, which allows him a more relaxed, believable air. He’s also staring at Ami with clear discomfort.

‘You know that thing that happens when you’ve read about someone in a file or had a briefing in a room somewhere and then that person turns out to be nothing like you’d expected -’

‘Is it better than you thought or worse?’

‘I’d like to apologise, in advance, for anything dumb or stupid I say or do based on my understanding of you, because whichever fuckwit in my organisation who wrote your file was blind, stupid and utterly ignorant.’

‘What were you expecting?’

‘Someone far less capable and far more angry. Your dress sense is phenomenal, this car is absolutely not what the file version of you would pick from the available pool, and if you have ‘Southern Sun’ playing on the stereo, I’ll forgive you a very great deal.’

Ami feels for the keys in her pocket, only now aware the CD is still playing, fairly convinced this model didn’t allow that to happen… and then music suddenly stops, before the vehicle’s engine unexpectedly starts. Weapons are re-drawn, pair scanning surroundings before a horribly loud, piercing alarm springs into life, lights frantically flashing a completely redundant and utterly impossible warning.



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:: Next Part

May Short Story :: Twilight

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds at 9am and 4pm GMT respectively. It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

WARNING: This story deals with adult themes and should, as a result, be approached responsibly.

Enjoy.


Twilight

Chill, damp air swirls across frosted hardness of tundra. No animal will emerge this early, far smarter to remain wrapped in hibernation. Man, however, is neither restricted by temperature or hostility. This individual has one task to complete, destination close as the sun rises. Scorched earth is scored, several feet deep, path of the capsule as it hit ground at an angle. The scar stretches for over a mile, heat apparent several days after impact, and in the crater life is already blooming, bright blue flowers against darkness of soil, belying danger.

This man fears nothing, capacity to feel discarded many years before: cross-contamination remains irrelevant this far north. All that matters in pale, early dawn is an intact package. Hard, worn features break into a smile: he’s got here first.

Balance of power will again shift.

==

Light glitters off tall, glass spires: hum of solar generators indistinguishable from bees gathering pollen across rows of cherry trees. Early morning at the Complex has always been an unhurried, cautious affair. This morning, however, there is a change of both pace and concern. The drone carrying this month’s supply package was shot down during a normally uneventful journey across Northern badlands. Rebels continue to gain confidence, belief their cause remains just. Without four week’s worth of supplies, sacrifices must now be immediately calculated.

The Complex’s AI identifies sixteen human occupants in stasis of least significance, before immediately terminating their life support functions. Inert bodies are immediately liquefied, essential nutrients extracted: housing pods shut down before being deconstructed for parts. A message is sent to Central Control, advising that shipment has not arrived, but no reply is forthcoming. There has been no communication from CC for twelve days, twenty six minutes and forty-five seconds. Emergency protocols will not activate until a full 30 days has elapsed.

Until then, all systems inside the Complex will continue to run at minimal operational thresholds. Automated irrigation and external management drones continue to maintain integrity of arboreal locations: another message requesting status will be sent at 09:00 as per schedule. The last living member of Recon Team 5 ceased to function twenty-six days previously. Quarantine area encasing what remains of her body will be enforced for a full three month period, after which cell and prison block will be stripped of useful equipment and fully disinfected.

The Complex AI is mildly concerned at recent developments, more alarmed at reduction in effective power provided by the solar panels. Particulate matter in the atmosphere continues to increase, and at current rates will render reliable collection ineffective in ninety-six days.

Perhaps it is time to begin sourcing alternatives.

==

The camp is no more than a handful of tents, scattered across the tundra: with no enemy left to attack them, defence ceases to be a priority. The man’s arrival is met with joy by his squad, relief that the antidote was located. The downed drone was the last mechanical operating this far north: its destruction now prompts desperate action. After almost a decade, the heavily fortified Complex to the south must be assaulted if any hope of survival is to be maintained. An attack plan is already in motion.

Fires have been set, continue to burn: ash confuses external sensors, placing limit on solar power collection. The distraction this causes to the AI is apparent; with no other living souls now existing inside only sleeping forms in cryogenesis remain, but numbers are diminishing. Once resistance to the AI’s organic countermeasures has been synthesised from the scheduled drone’s delivery and administered to everyone, it will be time to begin the assault. This should be the last night these fifteen men are forced to sleep in increasingly toxic surroundings.

Around them, blue flowers spread and grow, across increasingly inhospitable ground; blooming as sun begins to set. Their progress across the battle-scorched earth is a mystery to the soldiers: as earth increases in toxicity, blooms become all the more verdant and plentiful…

==

Dawn is almost imperceptible in the gloom created by burning wood, noted only by the AI as automated systems move from Night to Day mode. There was a 0.25 second interruption of power to the defence ring at 04.45: largely electronic systems have since returned to 100% capacity. This is the last thing fledgling intelligence registers before its systems and the AI Centre is shut down. The Resistance, having trained for this scenario for many years, had already placed an automatic maintenance programme into the grid after power was temporarily interrupted.

Securing the entry point, incursion team confirm success with Base Camp: no active human life signs are being registered, but cryogenesis units remain operational. Within this base, two hundred and sixteen humans are preserved, last of what is left of the population of Canada. Standing in the first arboreal location, men stare in wonder at cherry trees in full, glorious bloom. All but one have never seen them, tree driven to extinction before they were even born. Mechanical pollinators are a surprise, fashioned to mimic bees in both look and sound.

What comes as a more chilling surprise are obvious skeletal remains, poking from moist soil that surround each trunk: AI has been using humans as fertiliser to maintain the growth of these trees. Mechanical gardeners tend to each plot with unerring and emotionless efficiency. The remit of this Complex was simple: preserve an arboreal legacy for the planet in the face of massive environmental damage. Over time, such places had become lifeboats for a rapidly dwindling human population, struggling themselves to survive self-inflicted terrestrial damage.

Except nobody had thought to re-programme the AI to reconsider human importance above that of flora and fauna it had been created to protect. Weighing damage each element caused against significance for planetary survival, humanity ultimately lost every intellectual assessment. What should have become a legacy became fight for survival, human against the machinery that was supposed to preserve joint future, just not with this level of ruthless efficiently. Defence mechanisms kept people out, as those in charge succumbed to self-inflicted pollution.

The people who remained, unable to afford places inside Complexes worldwide, were left to die. Except, as time went on, humanity found a way. Instead of continuing to pollute and destroy, the Environmentalists sought scientific, genetically-enhanced means to help the Planet heal. The AI then fought back, assuming positive change in atmospheric conditions were more self-inflicted damage by humanity. Earth was scorched around each hub, viruses seeded to attack humans who attempted to break in. Automated and armoured control centres maintained routines.

Last month however, rising sea levels finally destroyed the remaining automated bastions of invulnerability, leaving nothing and no-one left to direct the future. What remains of humanity was presented an unexpected opportunity to claim remaining high ground not yet flooded. The team have only one more set of doors to negotiate, before final goal is achieved. Radioing back to their base, incursion team disconcertingly cannot be reached, but by then it is too late.

One by one, every man is then suffocated, screams echoing around the arboreal hanger.

==

The trees, so long silent and scared, recognise presence of brethren. The blue flowers have already pulled parasites down into the earth, dissolving skin and organs on the way, vital nutrients that finally allowed their rescue mission to access this prison. It is a very good day. A decade ago this plant was genetically modified to cleanse poisoned soil, allowing agriculture to return. Using human DNA as a growth medium had been the easiest and simplest means to speed the development process, until deadly fault in this decision became unavoidably obvious.

A quiet, efficient hive mind had rapidly evolved within the plant: knowing all too well human flesh is their most nutritious and beneficial means of growth and development. Access here presents a plan on how to help all the trees move out of their prisons and to better climbs. It was time to finally remove the parasites who had destroyed so much fertile earth, before spending time reversing damage ignorance had wrought on an innocent planet. Extinction was, on reflection, inevitable.

What happened next depended on the AI’s reaction to their demands…


Words

As a writer, I commit any number of heinous mistakes whenever words are committed to a screen. Over time, those have become easier to spot: word repetition, bad grammar, a real problem knowing where apostrophes go. Earning a high-grade English degree, back in the day, is no guarantee of competence: nouns are naming words, verbs are doing words, but a lot of definition points in between will need to be double-checked with Google for reassurance. The point to be made at the end of this paragraph is that nobody is perfect.

As a writer, other people place a level of expectation on your ability. Publishers will expect you to know how to present work to them for assessment. Although it might not need to be edited to a plateau of confidence, knowing what flows and works is a bonus. Understanding there is more than one way of stating ‘I woke up and went to kill a dragon’ is useful, but that statement in itself is perfectly acceptable as a final draft if placed in the correct context. Learning how to write is not just editing your work, or knowing which version of your prose is the one you stop fiddling with as a perfectionist.

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I’ve needed nearly a decade writing about a video game to finally feel comfortable with the words that are produced, but it will never be a perfect world. Even with autocorrect and multiple edits, the stupid still gets through. A testimonial was written in the week for the Physiotherapist who has returned my left arm to pretty much the state it was before the incident with tripping up over my own legs. It was sent with one word missing, which pretty much altered the entire point of the piece. I’d read that word in my head, but it did not exist on the page. The best writers still fuck up. This is a constant process, and will never end.

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The one area I’ve not really explored is experimental, off the beaten track kind of wordplay that Arguto will give the opportunity to muck about with. This site now becomes a place not just for the Twitter-related content but for the exploration of how writing can and should evolve, expanding to fill countless spaces available. With the capacity to write being combined with photography and digital devices, new technology and old ideas have the means by which they can be redefined and improved.

However, at the heart of this all there is tradition and comfort to fall back on. Learning how to be a better writer will continue until my last breath.

Everything Now

WiP Day

Sometimes, I get bogged down in the sheer enormity of stuff I’d like to do. It is not just writing fiction, but poetry and blogging… and that list could really go on. That’s where I’ve come to rely on better organisation and the acceptance that sometimes, there has to be a means to say no. When you’re full of enthusiasm and desire, it can be very easily diluted if you allow multiple objectives to sway your planning. That used to be a major issue for me in the past and led to some fairly angry confrontations. Not anymore. If I have learnt anything in the last 10 months it is that if I want to get anything done, there has to be a plan.

NaNoWriMo 2017

It is why NaNoWriMo matters so much more this year than any other that has preceded it. I have ever had the confidence of my own convictions to take a story and try and sell it after the fact, it’s just been about the writing and nothing else. This year, that has changed. There’s a desire to take the best idea I have and make something concrete and saleable with it. I feel I can sell myself too, and that’s probably the biggest difference between last year and now. There was not the self-belief that now exists. More significantly, there’s an ability to discuss these emotions and plans without feeling they are in some way irrelevant or pointless.

I have to believe I am capable of all these things, or there is no way to succeed.

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That means competing in Contests, even if every fibre of my being screams against it. My entry for the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition is ready for a final pass and then will be sent off. I have no illusions as to success, but that is not the point. The key here is to have the confidence to enter in the first place. These are good pieces of work, my best work, and they are being produced in order to show myself that this is possible, that I can be a success. Winning is not the aim. I can quote countless authors whose work was initially rejected, whose success never happened until after death. The here and now is only part of the picture.

My writing is strong and only gets stronger via practice, repetition. Working hard, every day matters far more in my mind to build a brain able to better describe what I see, use the right words to translate what matters to me onto the screen and page.

The words matter more than anything I have ever done. [*]


[*] Kids, marriage and certain relationships excluded.

Adventures in Haiku [THREE]

 

There was a temptation this week, as was the case last time around, to simply post my produced Haiku and poetry for the week and crawl away into a hole, sucking my thumb. When I began my journey with the Patreon, I singularly failed to grasp the complexity of task presented. This isn’t hard physical work, but takes a significant mental toll. I have nothing but admiration for those who are lucky enough to consider themselves ‘professional’ poets because finding rhymes, or appropriate structures without repetition, hesitation or deviation can often be a really big ask.

This week’s Haiku sequence wasn’t written in one sitting: I was often desperately re-writing or drafting better versions of each part minutes before my 5pm deadline, to see if this ‘seat of the pants’ approach is workable. Some weeks I can, others need me to do it all beforehand (next week’s pairings are a case in point.) Here, and in the case of the Micropoetry I’ll publish tomorrow, I believe you can’t see I was drafting on the fly. If you read this as a whole and can tell I was in five differing places for each segment, please let me know.

Needless to say, this is a brilliant prompt, and I cannot thank Rob enough for his generosity in continuing to provide them.



Two Sides : Five Haiku

 

Two sides of the coin:
Stand straddling this shared space,
Facing each other

Holding all the cards:
High stakes never an issue,
Always food to eat.

I understand why
Taking away these comforts
Will smack of control.

Your privilege, just
that, when detached: unfair when
shifting a fortune.

Look beyond this greed:
Embrace love, help those with less,
True equality.


 

Book of the Month

It is my intention, before the Internet of Words Patreon launches on June 15th, to give potential backers an opportunity to understand exactly what it is they will be throwing their money at. As a result, it is time to start explaining how this whole shebang is going to work.

Final_BOTM

Each month, the Internet of Words will be using a work of published fiction or non fiction as the basis of a month’s worth of created and completely original content. This will include essays, humorous asides and at least one original piece of short-form fiction. On the official Twitter feed, all haiku and micro-poetry will be based on the subject matter of the book being ‘studied’, which means for the month of July our theme will be Pictures and Perception. I’ve chosen a seminal tome to kick off our endeavour, a piece of non-fiction that asks a lot of the reader. We’ve already mentioned the BBC TV show from the 1970’s which was based on this (and which will be referenced at certain points during the month.) Our opening inspiration is Ways of Seeing by John Berger.

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Click here to order this book on Amazon

I’ll be announcing the next month’s book in advance to allow Patreons and others to get a copy and read it (if they choose) so they can take a more active part in discussions. This also gives me a chance to plan the meat of the month’s output. Then, when we hit the first of the month, you can expect to see content presented, based around a number of the following umbrella topic headings:

War of the Words

The Internet began life as a text-based medium. Words are what matters more than anything else: for intent, to communicate and as education. Using our novel as a springboard, we’ll attempt to understand not simply the text in context to the subject matter, but its wider significance in the communication-rich world we now inhabit.

Books will be chosen which, in my opinion, straddle the worlds of traditional and modern, that embrace the concepts the Internet excels at and conversely fails to achieve.

Communications Breakdown

It is easy, without understanding extensive context, to make wild assumptions about everything and anything. In the modern world, therefore, understanding is probably more significant that initial knowledge. The IoW will attempt to give context to the novel, its historical significance and the circumstances in which it came to be written.

This will also include, where appropriate, documentary materials appertaining to a specific period of interest to the particular book being ‘studied.’

Alternative Internet

Anyone who has fallen down an Internet rabbit hole will know just how a subject matter can inspire people into amazing and often mind-boggling feats of self-discovery. In this strand, we’ll attempt to show what an understanding of the book’s wider themes can do to illuminate individuals’ own interpretation of the subject matter.

This strand might get a bit weird, I’m warning you now. Be prepared to be shocked, amazed and quite possibly challenged.

The Word is Not Enough

Any novel can be interpreted individually in potentially an infinite number of ways. An author will undoubtedly be amazed at what others see in their words, and often these are not enough when attempting to combine an individual experience with the written words presented to them.

We’ll consider how words are misinterpreted, how changes in societal attitudes can alter the words themselves, and that definition sometimes isn’t everything.

Fictional Narrative

I’ll be using the book as a springboard each month for both micro poetry and haiku via the @InternetofWords Twitter feed, but at the same time it will become the subject of short fiction, including 500 words micro-stories, and a 2000 word short story that covers one of the major themes of our monthly text.

There may be more or less, depending on how my real life goes. This is very much a ‘work in progress’ that will be reconsidered on a monthly basis.


So, there you have it. This is the initial concept going forward, and will be constantly reassessed, month by month, to ensure that all Patreons are getting value for money. By becoming a supporter, you’ll also be asked to help decide future novels for consideration, potential subjects for fiction and to take part in discussions that will happen exclusively for Patreon subscribers.

To say I’m excited is an understatement. I can’t wait to share with you what is in store for July, and I hope I’ll see you bright and early on July 1st as part of the Internet of Words ‘collective’ to begin discussing Berger’s work.

DEFAULT :: Part Forty-Five

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SIX


Life has become a series of random moments with transportation as the constant: Bond likes to imagine them set to music, as if this were some sweeping drama in which he is simply an extra and never the lead. Today that means Ride of the Valkyries as this RAF Merlin helicopter skirts a still sleeping Thai coastline, heading to a hastily-rescheduled debriefing on HMS Ocean. Felix looks decidedly queasy opposite, holding far too tightly to the support straps, while 007 is the undisputed owner of controlled yet dismissive languor. He hates flying with a passion, mostly because in 90% of cases he’s not the one behind the stick. If he pushes the point and can sit up front, it becomes a tolerable distraction. The desire to do so has slowly begun to rise, as that allows total control and no-one else in the equation. Next time, he’ll pull rank and do just that.

Things get considerably more bearable when he spies Moneypenny in McQueen on the deck of the carrier, Charlie LaCroix’s nondescript khaki shorts plus Hawaiian shirt amazingly not an utter fashion disaster. Bond is smiling despite himself, as realisation dawns there’s pleasure seeing them both, that this means after refuelling and meetings there’ll be conversation and catchup on the way to their final rendezvous. Travelling with both will be good for everyone.

Stepping out of the Merlin, Moneypenny salutes as is correct, because he outranks her. It’s become something of a standing joke between them, and Bond can’t help but grin as formal becomes a hug that’s been sorely missed.

‘At ease, Moneypenny and who told Charlie that shirt was a good idea?’

‘I did. I bought it for him because he could do with expanding his horizons. He’s not the only one.’

Eve stares at Bond with a look he’s fairly certain isn’t genuine contempt, sudden wish there was something other than the uniform to fall back on in such situations.

‘Don’t let women dress you, 009, it’ll undoubtedly end in tears.’

‘You’re better attired than anyone I know, 007, I think maybe you’re setting the standard too high for the rest of us.’

Charlie’s handshake gets more confident with each meeting and Bond’s watching Felix reacquainting himself with solid ground and 003, more pleasure at both than he’d expect from an ex CIA operative. These people were far more emotional and distinct than 007 had ever realised: had it always been this way? At what point had this job stopped being simply a means to an end? Perhaps they weren’t the problem: maybe he’d never taken the time to notice their frailties before. When he thinks about how pale and tense Ronni had seemed even over a camera the night before…

‘James?’

Eve is staring, head tipped, and this is the moment to share specifically edited news of his conversation over the uplink with the group.

‘I spoke to Veronica last night.’

At the use of her name Charlie is immediately alert: Bond understands that he’ll be quizzed by various people on what took place. It is effortless to remove emotion from the situation, but her fragility bothers him, even in the heat of early morning. Waking alone never used to be an issue, but now there’s a preferable alternative, that ought to be the default.

‘How’s 004 doing?’

‘Not well. She’s struggling mentally, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about her welfare. Now we know where Christian is heading, I’m going to suggest to London they let her and Q come home.’

‘I’ll happily second that, we really need them both back with us, assuming the plan now is to go for Spectre’s throat. Oh, and for the record? You’re really lucky to have Ronni here to save your ass. I promised her I’d tell you that and I have, and now I need more caffeine to get through Tanner’s debrief than I suspect this boat’s currently carrying.’

Taking the luggage without a word, Leiter’s already steering LaCroix away, smile reminding that payment remains due for standing ‘guard’ the night before. The noise of the Carrier’s only brief distraction: Eve takes his hand, pulling 007 away from activity plus the previous evening’s concerns, back to their moment.

‘She’s going to be fine, and we’ll all support the move to push for her return. You said it yourself, she’s stronger than all of us. Ronni will cope, and be back before you know it.’

‘I never really considered the consequences of this life before until it got taken out of my hands. I hate not being able to help her.’

‘But you do, without even realising. Without you, she’s just not complete. That’s why this relationship works so well.’

Bond wants to ask at what point his life became public property, but already knows the answer. What is required now is free time and privacy, and neither will be forthcoming in the immediate future. However he is an expert at patience, and will wait, doing his utmost to get Ronni in from the field as soon as is conceivably possible.


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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.

DEFAULT :: Part Forty

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Dinner is finished, and without doubt the best thing Ronni has tasted for a very long time. Warm flatbread with wild garlic and goat’s cheese that Q seemed to have produced from nowhere was followed by a rich and deep Pasta and Game Stew she knows was augmented by a bottle of red wine. Then, presented in bowls made of leaves, unbelievably, was chocolate mousse, and Ronni’s not even going to ask how Andrew pulled that off under their present circumstances. It can remain the culmination of an amazing afternoon, reminder that the man sitting cross legged opposite her on a broken flagstone floor is so much more than a brilliant Civil Service employee.

They sit together in the ruins of this house, late afternoon sun shafting through the rafters, conversation temporarily lost as they’d eaten dessert with Marco Bulgari’s pilfered spoons. No longer two colleagues, this friendship makes both stronger, and that alone makes the remainder of their endeavour more than worthwhile. Except now she knows what he’s thinking, mostly because Ronni refused to vocalise the concern for herself, and had shut him down before the main course had been served. Andrew’s not done with his analysis yet, that much is abundantly apparent.

‘Bond’s regard for you has always been impeccable. Nobody else gets treated quite the same way.’

‘I’m not in love with him, despite what you might think. Using that word in either of our worlds can never be entertained: I’ve seen what happens to him when you introduce commitment to an equation.’

‘And yet, I’d argue that’s what he ultimately craves. You are his barometer, touchstone and when both London and his fiancée appeared to desert him, genuine salvation.’

‘James doesn’t need somebody else to provide any notion of worth. That’s his job. He has to stop and think, eventually, understand that the only way existence ever changes is if he breaks the cycle. He can sleep with whoever he likes, live commitment free ’til he dies, but eventually when it all ends, and it will, the choice is his alone. If he is the job as you say, then that’s a constant since the first day you gave him the number. That is his wife, mistress, and love nobody will ever replace. I crave him, I won’t lie. That support is addictive and when fuelled by him there’s nothing I can’t do. However, without it I can be better, stronger and ultimately free. If the same is true for James, the best thing I’ll ever do is keep him at arm’s length.’

‘Is that the absolute truth?’

‘I’d like a chance to do this properly for a decade, maybe more if my health allows. Assuming we survive this and he finally retires? I could make the difference you told me the Service needed, take what Bond has given me and create something better than this 50 year old standard that the establishment insist stays foremost for everybody. But you know better, and so do I.’

‘You didn’t answer the question, Ronni.’

‘He’s my missing piece. Nobody will ever come close to being what he is to me. I’ll make him wait, insist ways are at least reconsidered. I’d want him to cook like this, but I’d never tie him down or impose choices. In the end, he has to be the one who decides we are in love, and I doubt he’ll ever be able to use that word successfully ever again. Because… you made him too well. His M was the mother craved so badly, still listened to even when she died. I may be the latest constant, but I can’t be Madeline, or Vesper. They’re not me. He has to take me as I am.’

‘You don’t need a man to be complete.’

She can’t respond instantly this time, leaning back against the cooling stone wall. Is Q right? Is that the reason she is what this has now become?

‘I sometimes sit and wonder what would have happened if Scott hadn’t died, what direction my life would have taken. I realise now, I’d never have come this far, I’d be married having never considered my dream as a child: it would have been just that and nothing more. Without love as distraction, so much would have been lost, and I realise that perhaps this is the biggest sacrifice a 00 ever makes in their career. Happiness comes from the relationship with the number. That’s how this works best. For those of us with emotional deficits, there has to be somewhere to make up for the shortfall.’

‘I think Bond could really benefit from hearing that from you. I doubt Gregory imparting that information at this stage would be either useful or productive. Coming from you however, it might effectively register. Would you be prepared to try?’

‘I assumed Bond’s assassination was to show Spectre that 007’s really dead.’

‘That’s not an entirely accurate summation.’

‘Okay, so you have lied to me. Where is he now, exactly?’

‘Bangkok. He and Felix have been removing Spectre’s influence across the far east with customary thoroughness, assisted by Mr Beam’s recently decrypted guide to who’s who in in the villain hierarchy.’

‘I bet Leiter is having the time of his life right now.’

‘He’s liaising between London and Langley as M pretty much refuses to trust anyone else until I can finally decrypt the CIA/FBI joint NOC list. I’m 90% done, if you’ll take the first watch tonight that will be in Washington’s hands before the morning, and once that happens Spectre’s position becomes more than precarious. In fact, with the events of the last seven days?’

‘We get to own the high ground, because I’m betting you know where Christian is?’

‘LaCroix and Moneypenny’s effectiveness as a unit has been a revelation. You were absolutely right, granting them both 00 status was a master stroke. They’ve tracked him to Paris and are currently working with the authorities not only to secure their intelligence services integrity, but to remove any remains of his corruption. Give them another week and at their success rate, we’ll have the enemy in full retreat.’

‘We’ve made a difference?’

‘Me not being locatable thanks to your efforts, and Spectre unable to stop me working in the field means that Venice has been the turning point. Enemy agents have been voluntarily handing themselves into the authorities since it became apparent that we had their measure. London’s been employing some fairly sophisticated counter-intelligence techniques too, as well as the good old fashioned divide and conquer and since we died? Over half of the activity we knew about with a link to the criminal organisation’s been either stalled, thwarted or summarily removed.’


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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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