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Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 8: The Bull


Banbury Cross is not an antiquity, but was erected in the late 1850s to commemorate the marriage of the Princess Royal to the Crown Prince of Prussia. There was of course a much earlier cross – three to be exact – but the present Victorian Gothic monstrosity was placed where it is today because a local historian believed this to be the site of the ancient High Cross. Three miles to the north of Banbury, nestling by a wooded hill, lies the village of Nun’s Cross, and there is no cross on view there at all.

1859, to be exact.


Bond guided the Mulsanne Turbo through the narrow main street of Nun’s Cross, and into the yard of the coaching inn which rejoices in the name of The Bull at the Cross. Taking his overnight case from the boot, he considered the inn was probably the only going concern in the village. A beautiful Georgian building, lovingly kept, and neatly modernised, The Bull even offered ‘gourmet weekends for the discriminating’.

From the porter who took his case, Bond learned that, as far as the hotel was concerned, it was going to be a very quiet weekend, though they had been full the previous one.

At the time Bond visits, Banbury is still a very small town with little to note except for its position in that aforementioned nursery rhyme. In 1990, the M40 would open from London and make it much more accessible, allowing it to expand into a nice little market town for tourists.

The Bull is fictional, but there's an actual hotel from 1677 still in operation in the correct area, the Whately Hotel. Jonathan Swift reportedly wrote Gulliver's Travels while staying there, and King James II stayed in it in 1687.


Bond unpacked, changed into grey slacks, an open-necked shirt topped by a navy pullover and his most comfortable moccasins. He was not armed. The ASP 9mm lay comfortably clipped into its hidden compartment in the Bentley. Yet he remained alert as he went down, through the old coach yard and into the village street. His eyes were searching for a dark blue Jaguar XJ6 or a grey Mercedes- Benz saloon. The licence numbers had been committed to memory, for both cars had appeared in his mirror, exchanging places with monotonous regularity ever since he had taken to the road that morning.

He was under no illusion. For the first time since he had assumed the mantle of a disaffected former member of the Secret Service, he was being followed, almost blatantly, as though the tail wished to be seen.

The Jaguar XJ is one of the most famous British luxury car series, in continuous production from 1968 until 2019 (when a failed switch to an electric version sank it). "XJ6" indicates that the model is carrying Jaguar's inline 6-cylinder XK engine, which is competitive with but inferior to Bond's Mulsanne Turbo; 0 to 60 in 9.6 seconds in tests, with the gearing limiting it to 116 MPH.

This will not be the first time Bond faces off against a Jaguar, though...


It was too early for a lunchtime drink. Bond decided to look round this village which, if everything added up, harboured a sophisticated villain who was possibly also a traitor.

The Bull at the Cross lay almost on the crossroads at the centre of the old village, which contained a hodgepodge of mainly Georgian buildings, with a sprinkle of slightly older terraced houses that were now the village shops, leaning in on one another as though mutually dependant. Small rows of what must at one time have been labourers’ cottages now housed people who commuted into Banbury or Oxford, to labour in different fields.

Almost opposite the coach yard entrance stood the church. To the south, the main street meandered out into open country, scattered with copses and studded with larger houses, as though the more prosperous local gentry had landscaped the southern vista with their properties. Gateways and rhododendron-flanked drives gave glimpses of large, sedate Victorian mansions or glowing Hornton stone Georgian buildings.

Banbury is now a town of over 43,000 people. The business center alone is probably larger than the old village.


The third driveway past the church was walled, with heavy, high modern gates set into the original eighteenth-century stone. A small brass plate engraved with the words GUNFIRE SIMULATIONS LTD was sunk into the pillar to the right of the gates. In newer stone, carved and neatly blended with the original, was the one word, ENDOR.

A group of giant teddy bears are seen carrying a golden statue in the distance.


The drive, which turned abruptly, disappearing behind thick low trees and bushes, seemed to be neatly kept, and a strip of grey slate was only just visible some two hundred yards in the distance. Bond calculated the size of the grounds to be about a square mile. The high wall continued to his left, the boundary being a narrow dirt track neatly signposted THE SHRUBS.

After half a mile or so he turned back along the village street and on towards the northern extremity, where the cluster of old houses bordered a scrubby, wooded hill. Here sharp speculators had been at work, and a modern housing estate encroached almost on the woodland itself.

It was gone twelve when Bond ambled slowly back to the inn. A dark blue Jaguar stood not far from the Bentley but no one except the staff appeared to be about. In the private bar he found only the barman and one other guest.

‘James, darling, what a surprise to find you here, out in the sticks!’ Freddie Fortune, neat in an emerald shirt and tight jeans sat in a window seat.

Yes, what a shock that this previously mentioned character would coincidentally be in a completely random inn in the middle of nowhere in Oxfordshire!


‘The surprise is mutual, Freddie. Drinking?’

‘Vodka and tonic, darling.’

He got the drinks from a friendly barman, and carried them over to Freddie, saying loudly, ‘What brings you here, then?’

‘Oh, I adore this place. I often come down to commune with nature – and friends. Not your sort of place though, James.’ Then quietly, ‘So glad you could make it.’

Bond said he was glad too. ‘On a bit of a downer. Sorry about the other night, Freddie. Must’ve bored the pants off you . . .’

Is that your secret?


‘Oh no, darling, I wouldn’t say that,’ she murmured. ‘It was frightfully touching, actually. I felt terribly sorry for you, poor lamb.’

‘Made an rear end of myself. Forget what I said, eh?’ Bond felt unutterably foolish, putting on the style of Freddie’s London friends.

‘Forgotten already, darling.’ She took a quick sip of her vodka and tonic. ‘So you wanted to get out of the hurly-burly, yah?’

‘Yah.’ Bond almost mimicked her affected accent.

Oh, I'm gonna hate this girl, aren't I?


‘Or did you come because I asked you?’

He gave a non-committal ‘Mmmm.’

‘Or, perhaps, the possibility of work?’

‘Little of all three, Freddie.’

‘Three’s a crowd.’ She snuggled up beside him. For a second, Bond felt, strangely, that Percy was there.

They lunched together from a menu that would not have put the Connaught to shame, then walked for five miles or so across the fields and through the woodland, getting back around three-thirty.

‘Just in time for a nice quiet siesta.’

Freddie gave him the come-to-bed look, and Bond, invigorated by the walk, was in no mood to disappoint. First, though, he made an excuse to go over to the Bentley, where he retrieved the ASP 9mm and two spare clips of ammunition, keeping them well hidden when he joined Freddie in the comfort of her room.

She was lying on the bed, wearing precious little. Smiling sweetly, she said, ‘Come and bore the pants off me, darling.’

I knew it!


‘Dinner?’ Bond asked later, as they sat over tea in the residents’ lounge. The hotel had filled up, and three Spanish waiters scurried about with silver teapots, small plates of sandwiches and fancy cakes. Like Brown’s on Sunday afternoon, but without the polish, Bond thought.

Oh. That was fast. Not even a line break.


‘Oh lord, darling.’ Freddie put on her ‘devastated’ face. ‘I have a dinner date.’ Then she smiled. ‘So have you, if we play our cards right. You see, I’ve got some old friends who live here.’ She suddenly became confidential. ‘Now listen, James, they could be a godsend. You were serious about going into computers? Programming and all that sort of thing? Micros?’


‘Super. Old Jason’ll be thrilled.’


‘My friend – well friends, really. Jason and Dazzle St John-Finnes.’


Freddie gave an impatient back-flip of her hand – ‘Oh, her name’s Davide or something. Everyone calls her Dazzle. Super people. Into computers in a really big way. They’re incredibly clever and invent frightfully complicated war games.’

Oh God.


M had already briefed him about the other members of Jay Autem Holy’s entourage: the ‘wife’, Dazzle; a young expert called Peter Amadeus (‘Austrian, I think,’ Freddie now added); and the even younger Cambridge graduate, Cindy Chalmer.

‘She’s an absolute hoot.’ Freddie became expansive. ‘The locals call her Sinful Cindy, and she’s jolly popular, particularly with the men. Black, you know.’

Oh no


No, Bond said, he did not know. But he would like to find out. How did Sinful Cindy get on with Peter Amadeus?

‘Oh, darling, no woman has anything to fear – or hope for – from the Amadeus boy, if you see what I mean. Look, I’ll give Jason a bell.’ Freddie, like many of her kind, affected the London vernacular, particularly when out of town. Just to make certain they don’t mind me having you in tow.’

She disappeared for about five minutes, though Bond already knew what the answer would be. Freddie, he had to admit, was a nice little actress.

‘We’ve got a result, James,’ she said when she came back. ‘They’d absolutely adore to have you to dinner.’ Just as he knew they would, and she knew they would.

In spite of her affected accent, rather silly manner, and undeniable sexual availability, Freddie Fortune was a loyal friend, naive in her judgments, but, once committed, to cause or person, she became unshakeable. Almost certainly, in this instance, Freddie was being used, Bond thought. She probably did not even begin to understand the risks or dangers which could face him, and possibly herself.

So she's going to die, then?


Gently he questioned her in an attempt to discover how long ‘Old Jason and Dazzle’ had been such close friends. She hedged a little, but it finally transpired that she had known them for exactly two months.

They went in the Bentley.

‘I adore the smell of leather in a car. So positively sexual.’

Ma'am, please.


Freddie curled up in the large armchair-sized front passenger seat. Bond was careful to ask for directions.

‘The gates will probably be closed, but turn in and wait. Jason’s a maniac about security. He has lots of incredible electronic devices.’

‘I’ll bet,’ Bond said under his breath, but obeyed instructions, turning left where she told him and pushing the Mulsanne’s snout to within an inch of the great high metal barriers. He would have put money on their being made of steel, worked to give the impression of ornamental wrought iron. There were three great locks – and the gate-hangings were shielded behind massive stone pillars.

There had to be some kind of closed-circuit television system, for the car sat waiting only a matter of seconds before the locks clicked audibly and the gates swung back.

As Bond had already divined, Endor was a large house with about twenty rooms: classical Georgian in golden Cotswold stone, with a pillared porch and symmetrically placed sash windows. The crunch of gravel under the Bentley’s wheels was a sound that brought back many memories to him – the older cars he had once owned, and, oddly, school days when he read the books of Dornford Yates, with their adventurers riding forth to do battle in Bentleys or Rolls-Royce cars, usually to protect gorgeous ladies with very small feet.

Cecil William Mercer was a best-selling author in the interwar period, under the pen name Dornford Yates. He wrote a great many thrillers and comedies, where he often showed a fetish for big gray eyes and small feet in his heroines. Like Fleming, he was a military veteran (in this case a commissioned Second Lieutenant on the Macedonian front of World War I) from a wealthy family, an actor from Oxford with a law degree and chateau in France. Rather than alcoholism, he suffered from muscular rheumatism (what we now call fibromyalgia). After World War II, he and his wife found the new post-war France a bit too egalitarian for their liking and he spent the rest of his life in one place a white man could always be in charge: Rhodesia.


Jason St John-Finnes – Bond had to think of him by that name – stood by the open door, light shafting on to the turning circle. He had made no attempt at disguise. The decade in which he had been ‘dead’ appeared to have taken no toll, for he looked exactly like the many photographs in his file at the Regent’s Park Headquarters. Tall and slim, he was obviously in good physical condition, for he moved with grace and purpose – an athlete’s walk. The famous green eyes were just as startling as everyone maintained. By turns warm or cold, they were almost hypnotic, lively and penetrating, as though they could look deeply into a person’s heart. The nose was indeed large and hooked, a great bill, so that the combination of bright searching eyes and the big sharp nose certainly gave the impression of a bird of prey. Bond shuddered inwardly. There was something exceptionally sinister about Dr Jay Autem Holy. Yet this unsettling fact vanished the moment he started to speak.

‘Freddie!’ He approached her with a kiss. ‘How splendid to see you, and I’m so glad to meet your friend.’ He stretched out a hand. ‘Bond, isn’t it?’

The voice was low, pleasant, and full of laughter, the accent mid-Atlantic, almost Bostonian, the handshake firm, strong, warm and very friendly. It was as though a wave of goodwill and welcome were transmitted when their palms touched.

‘Ah, here’s Dazzle. Darling, this is Mr Bond.’

‘James,’ he said, already in danger of being hypnotically charmed by the man. ‘James Bond.’

I ship it.


For a few seconds his heart raced as he gazed at the tall, slim ash-blonde woman who had come out of the house. Then he realised that it was a trick of the light; but at a distance, especially as now at dusk, Dazzle could easily be taken for Percy Proud: the same hair, figure and bone structure, even the same movements.

Dazzle was as warm and welcoming as her husband. The pair had a curious effect, as though together they were able to enfold you, pulling you into some circle of enchantment. As they left the car and walked into the spacious hallway, Bond had a ridiculous desire to throw all caution to the wind, sit down and face Jason immediately, asking him what really happened on that day so long ago when he had taken off on the ill-fated flight. What was the purpose of disappearing? What was he up to now? And how did Zwingli fit into the scheme of things?

"Who picked these loving names?"


That evening, Bond had to keep a strong hold on himself not to come out into the open. Between them Jason and the vivacious Dazzle proved to be a daunting couple. Within minutes of being in their company you became almost old friends. Jason, the story went, was Canadian by birth, while Dazzle was from New York, though you would have been hard put to it to place her accent, which had more of Knightsbridge than Fifth Avenue in it.

The one subject never discussed in detail during M’s briefings had been finance, but now, seeing the house with its discreetly elegant decor (‘That’s Dazzle,’ Jason said with a laugh, ‘she has what the designers call flair’) made one aware of great riches. In the large drawing room there was a clever blend of original Georgian and comfortable modern, the antique pieces complemented by a quiet, striped wallpaper, and not clashing with the more modern pictures or the deep, comfortable armchairs and sofas. Where, Bond wondered, did the money for all this come from? Could Gunfire Simulations finance so much?

While a Filipino houseboy served the drinks the talk was almost exclusively about what a wonderful refurbishing job they had done on the house, and the local amusing scandal.

Sorry, you have a Filipino houseboy?


‘It’s what I adore about life in a village.’ Jason gave a low chuckle. ‘My work doesn’t allow me to be what you might call socially active, but we still get all the gossip – because everybody does.’

‘Except the gossip about ourselves, darling,’ Dazzle said with a grin. Bond realised that her nose was similar to Percy’s before it had been bobbed. Here was an oddity. She really was like the true Percy. Did Jay Autem know, he wondered. Had he always known what the real Percy looked like? Had he seen her since the recent transformation?

Did he just loving clone her without her permission?


‘Oh, I get the gossip about us.’ Jason’s voice was deep with humour. ‘Cindy and I are having a passionate love affair, while you’re in bed most of the time with Felix . . .’

Sorry, you can't just reuse that name in this series.


‘Much good would it do me!’ Dazzle put a hand over her mouth, mockingly. ‘Where are they, anyway, dear? Peter and Cindy, I mean.’

‘Oh, they’ll be up in a minute. They decided to play one more round of The Revolution. We’ve still got a good deal of preliminary work to do.’ He turned to Bond. ‘We’re in the computer games business . . .’

‘So Freddie mentioned.’ At last he managed to break the spell, allowing a hint of superior disapproval into his tone.

Jason caught it at once. ‘Oh, but you’re a computer programmer as well, aren’t you? Freddie told me.’

‘A little. Not games though. Not really.’ The tiny stress on the word games was calculated to give the impression that using computers to play games was anathema to him.

‘Aha.’ Jason wagged a finger. ‘But there are games and games, Mr Bond. I’m talking about complex intellectual simulations, not the whizz-bang-shoot-’em-up arcade rubbish. For whom do you work?’

Oh no, he's a grognard.


Bond admitted he worked for nobody at the moment. ‘I had my training in programming when I worked for the Foreign Office.’ He tried to sound diffident.

‘You’re that Mr Bond!’ Dazzle sounded genuinely excited.

He nodded. ‘Yes, the notorious Mr Bond. Also, the innocent Mr Bond.’

‘Of course. I read about your case.’ For the first time there was a slightly dubious note in Jason’s voice.

‘Were you really a spy?’ Dazzle tended to become almost breathlessly excited by anything that interested her.

‘I . . .’ Bond began, then put on a show of floundering, so that Jason came to his rescue: ‘I don’t think that’s the kind of question you’re meant to ask, my dear.’ At that moment, Peter Amadeus and Cindy Chalmer came into the room.

Yes, Bond is completely world-famous at this point....and still trying to work openly as an agent.


‘Ah, the amazing Doctor Amadeus.’ Jason rose.

‘And Sinful Cindy,’ said Dazzle with a laugh.

‘I’d be flattered if they called me Sinful Freddie,’ said Lady Freddie as she greeted the pair.

‘Sinful indeed!’ Cindy was not black, as Freddie had told Bond, but more of a creamy coffee shade. ‘The product of a West Indian father and a Jewish mother,’ she was later to confide in him, adding that there were a thousand racist jokes which could be made at her expense. Now she just repeated, ‘Sinful indeed; chance would be more than a fine thing.’

Ah, her skin tone is totally acceptable for romance. Carry on.


Dressed in a simple grey skirt, and white silk blouse, Cindy had the figure and legs of a dancer, and a face which reminded Bond of a very young Ella Fitzgerald.

Gardner really seems fond of just reusing celebrity appearances for his characters.


Peter was around thirty – a few years older than Cindy. Slightly built, immaculately dressed and prematurely balding, he had a precise pedantry and wit that gave a hint of his sexual predilection. Following Cindy’s remark, he helped himself to a drink, saying, ‘You’ve got plenty of chances here, Cindy. There are some great big farm boys in the village I’d fight you for . . .’

‘That’s enough, Peter!’ For the first time that night, Jason showed the steel fist.

Great job, Gardner. You've managed to shove as much outdated representation into one chapter as possible.


After the introductions (Bond wondered if he imagined it, but Cindy Chalmer appeared to give him a sharp, almost conspiratorial look when they shook hands), Dazzle suggested they go in to dinner. ‘Tomas will be furious if his cooking is spoiled.’ Tomas was the silent Filipino, who had learned to cook at the feet of Europe’s greatest chefs, by courtesy of Jason St John-Finnes.

The meal was almost a banquet: a Lombardy soup of hot consommé poured over raw eggs sprinkled with Parmesan and laid on lightly fried bread; smoked salmon mousse; venison marinated and roasted with juniper berries, wine, chopped ham and lemons: and a soufflé au Grand Marnier – ‘Specially for Lady Freddie.’

At least the food isn't weird here!


To begin with, the conversation mainly concerned the work Cindy and Peter had just been doing.

‘How did it go, then?’ Jason asked as they sat down, at a long refectory table set on bare polished boards in the dining room.

‘We’ve found two more random problems you can set into the early section. Raise the general and search strengths of the British patrols, and you get some very interesting results.’ Peter gave a lopsided smile.

‘And, to equalise, there’s a new random for the later stages,’ Cindy added. ‘We’ve put in a random card that gives the Colonial Militia more uncaptured cannon. If you draw that option the British don’t know the strength until they begin assaulting the hill.’

They're just playing Total War!


Freddie and Dazzle were chattering away about clothes, but Jason caught Bond’s interested eye. He turned to Peter and Cindy.

‘Mr Bond doesn’t approve of using such high-tech magic for mere games.’ He smiled, the comment bearing no malice.

‘Ah, come on, Mr Bond!’

‘It’s intellectual stimulation.’

Cindy and Peter leapt to Holy’s defence simultaneously. Peter continued, ‘Is chess a frivolous use of wood or ivory?’

‘I said nothing of the kind,’ said Bond, laughing. He knew that the testing time was getting close. ‘I was simply trained as a programmer in Cobol, databases and the use of graphics – for government purposes . . .’

‘Not military purposes, Mr Bond?’

‘Oh, the military use them, of course. When I was a naval officer we didn’t have the benefit of that kind of technology.’ He paused. ‘I would in fact be intrigued to hear about your work. These games – are they really games?’

‘They are games in one sense,’ Peter answered. ‘I suppose they’re also tutorials. A lot of serving military people order our products.’

‘They teach, yes.’ Jason leaned over towards Bond. ‘You cannot sit down and play one of our games unless you have some knowledge of strategy, tactics and military history. They can be taxing, and they do require intelligence. It’s a booming market, James.’ He paused, as though a thought had struck him.

‘What’s the most significant leap forward in the computer arts – in your opinion, of course?’

Bond did not hesitate. ‘Oh, without doubt the advances being made, almost by the month, in vastly increased storage of data using smaller and smaller space.'

That's literally the most generic, obvious answer.


Jason nodded. ‘Yes. Increased memory in decreased space. Millions of accessible facts, stored for all time in something no larger than a postage stamp. And, as you say, it’s advancing by the month, even by the day. In a year or so, the little home micro will be able to store almost as much information as the large mainframe computers used by banks and government departments. There is also the breakthrough that marries the laser video disk recording with computer commands – movements, actions, scale, response. At Endor we have a very sophisticated set-up. You may like to look around after dinner.’

Laserdisc-based video games actually were the seeming cutting edge of video games at the time this was written. The above Astron Belt was first previewed at a tradeshow by Sega in 1982, overlaying graphics onto film footage. Everyone probably knows Dragon's Lair from 1983, which used the laserdisc to play a game in the form of a Don Bluth animated film, with the player using a joystick and buttons to perform quick-time events to progress.

Laserdisc games would continue their popularity into the 90s. American Laser Games released 9 light gun games using laserdisc footage of both professional stuntmen and unprofessional actors flinging themselves around the screen as you shoot at them. While their games would remain popular throughout the decade in American arcades, the expense, clunky setup, and restriction to pre-filmed footage resulted in the demise of laserdisc games at the same time as the format itself.


‘Put him on The Revolution and see if a novice player comes up with anything new,’ suggested Cindy.

‘Why not?’ The bright green eyes glittered, as though some challenge were in the offing.

‘You’ve made a computer game out of what? The Russian Revolution?’

Jason laughed. ‘Not quite, James. You see, our games are vast, in a way too large for the home computer. They’re all very detailed and need a big memory. We pride ourselves on their playability as well as their high level of intellectual stimulation. In fact, we don’t like calling them games. Simulations is a better word.

‘No, we haven’t yet got a simulation of any revolution. At the moment, we have only six on the market: Crécy, Blenheim, the Battle of the Pyramids – Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition – Austerlitz, Cambrai, which is very good, because the outcome could have been very different; and Stalingrad. We’re also very well advanced with one on the Blitzkrieg of 1940. And we are preparing an interesting one on the American Revolution – you know, the final stages prior to the War of Independence: Concord, Lexington, Bunker’s Hill. September 1774 to June 1775.’

Bond is the world's first gamer spy.


‘Freddie and I are going to look at the conservatory,’ Dazzle suddenly interrupted, rather sharply. ‘It’s shop all the time. Very boring. Hope to see you later, James. Lovely meeting you.’

Jason did not even apologise, merely smiling benignly and shrugging. Freddie gave Bond a broad wink as the two ladies left the room. As he turned back to the table, he caught Cindy looking at him again, in the same almost conspiratorial way, tinged this time with jealousy. Or did he imagine it?

Jason had hardly paused. ‘Naturally, you’re conversant with flowcharting a computer program, James?’

Bond nodded, recalling the hours spent in Monaco drawing the complex charts which showed exactly what you wanted the computer to do. Once more, with the memory came that odd sense of Percy’s presence. He dragged himself back, for Jason was still speaking.

‘Before we prepare a detailed flowchart, we have to find out what we want to chart. So we begin to plan the simulation by playing it on a large table. This acts as our graphics guide, and we have counters for units, troops, ships, cannon, plus cards for the random possibilities: weather cards, epidemics, unexpected gains or losses, hazards of war.’

This book is actually contemporary with the release of Axis & Allies!


Peter took over. ‘From this we learn the scope of the program task. So, when we’ve played the campaign . . .’

‘About a million times,’ Cindy added. ‘It seems like a million, anyway.’

Peter nodded ‘. . . We’re ready to begin flowcharting the various sections. You have to be dedicated in this job.’

‘Come down to the laboratory.’ Jason’s voice became commanding. ‘We’ll show James the board we’re working on now. Who knows, he may get interested and return to battle it out with me. If you do,’ he said, looking intently at Bond, ‘make sure you have plenty of time. Campaigns cannot be fought in five minutes.’

"Make sure to have your pasta points accounted for, Mr. Bond."


Behind these seemingly pleasant words there was a hint of obsession that Bond found disturbing.

As they left the room, he was conscious of Cindy brushing against him. He felt her hand touch his right hip lightly, just where the ASP 9mm was holstered. Had that been accidental, or was she carrying out a subtle search? Whatever the answer, Cindy Chalmer, at least, knew that he was armed.

They went through the main hall, where Jason produced a bunch of keys attached to a thin gold chain, unlocking a door which, he said, had once been the way down to the cellars.

‘We’ve made a few changes, naturally.’

‘Naturally,’ responded Bond, unprepared for the nature of the alterations. Below the house there were three large, well-equipped, computer rooms, with models of all the best-known micros sitting in front of their visual display units. In a fourth room, Jason’s office, Bond’s heart leapt as he spotted a machine that looked almost exactly like the Terror Twelve now safe outside in the Bentley’s boot.

From his office Jason led the way into a long chamber, lit from above by at least thirty spotlights. The walls were covered with charts and maps and in the centre was a large table. Almost entirely covering the table and overlaid with a thick plastic grid was a detailed map of the eastern seaboard of America, centred on Boston as it was in the 1770s. The main communicating roads and natural features were clearly marked in colour. In the centre of the grid stood a rectangular framework made of black plastic, the size and shape of a large television screen, while two small easels had been placed at the far end. Two trays, on opposite sides of the table, contained packs of white three-by-five cards. There was a chair in front of each tray and a desk top to each player’s right, well-stocked with paper, maps and printed forms.

My God.

They're nerds.


Peter and Cindy began to explain the nature of the game, and how it was used to build up all the details of the simulation before anything was committed to a computer program. The black plastic frame moved both vertically and horizontally across the map.

‘That is the area a player will eventually see on his screen, when we have built the game,’ said Jason. His manner had become less warm, as though the professional had suddenly ousted the friendly side of his nature. He explained how they could slot close-ups of the terrain into the rectangle. ‘When we’ve got the game on computer, you’ll be able to scroll around this whole map, but see only one section at a time,’ he said. ‘However, there’s a zoom facility. You press the Z key, and the screen will give you a blow-up of the section you’ve moved to.’

Cindy explained that the two easels contained a calendar and the weather cards; each month’s cards were shuffled separately before play began. ‘Weather restricts or enhances movement.’ She demonstrated how the British patrols could move five spaces, on good days, but in heavy rain only three, and in snow, two.

Looking at the map, Bond tried to remember the history of that period, learned too long ago now in dusty schoolrooms. He thought of the frustration among officers of the Colonial Militia, of the British inability to protect the cities and towns, of the unrest, then rebellion and open hostility.

Then there was a general (was it General Gage?) caught between his situation on the ground and having to await orders from England. There were the patrols searching for the rebels’ arms caches, Paul Revere’s warning ride and the militia’s weapons being moved out of Concord; then the skirmishes around that town and Lexington. The British had withdrawn into Boston and fought at Bunker’s Hill, remembered as a kind of Dunkirk by the Americans, for the British garrison had won the battle, but with such terrible losses that they had to retreat by sea to Halifax.

Bond thought of these things as Jason, warming to his theme, explained the way the simulation was played, with the players taking turns to issue orders and move forces. Some of the moves could be secret, and had to be noted on paper. Later came challenging and, possibly, skirmishing.


‘The thing I find interesting is that you can alter history. I am, personally, very attached to the idea of changing history.’ Again, a hint of that obsession, verging on dangerous madness. ‘Perhaps I shall alter history,’ Jason went on in a menacing whisper. ‘A dream? Maybe, but dreams can turn into reality if one man with a brilliant mind is put to proper use. You think my spark of genius is put to proper use? No?’ He expected no answer, and his next words really concerned something far beyond the simulation. ‘Perhaps, James, we could look at this in more detail – even play a few rounds – say, tomorrow?’

Please stop being obviously evil for no reason.


Bond said he would like that, sensing more than an ordinary challenge. St John-Finnes continued to talk of revolution, change, and the complexity of war games. Cindy made an excuse to leave, nodding at Bond and remarking that she hoped they would meet again.

‘Oh, I’m certain you will.’ Jason appeared to be very sure of himself. ‘I’m inviting James to have another look. Shall we say six tomorrow evening?’

Bond accepted, noticing that Jason did not even smile.

As they left, Jason walked on ahead, but Peter lingered to the rear with Bond, taking the opportunity to whisper, ‘If you do play with him, he likes to win. Bad loser, and plays according to history. He always thinks his opponent will reenact the actual events. The man’s a paradox.’ He gave Bond a wink, making it all too clear that Peter Amadeus was not particularly fond of his boss.

Wait, he wants to change history but always plays exactly to history and gets mad if his opponent doesn't?


Upstairs, Dazzle awaited them, having driven Freddie back to the Bull. ‘She seemed very tired. Said you had dragged her all round the countryside this afternoon, Mr Bond. You really shouldn’t subject her to so much physical exercise. She’s very much a town mouse, you know.’

Bond had his own thoughts about this. He too could do with a good night’s sleep, but accepted the offer of a nightcap from his host. Cindy had gone to bed and Peter and Dazzle made their excuses, leaving the two men alone.

After a short silence, Jason raised his glass. ‘Tomorrow,’ he said, the green eyes like glass. ‘Maybe we won’t play games, James. But, I would welcome the chance of taking you on. Who knows? Computers, yes . . .’ He was away again, in some world of his own with a different time, place and set of values. ‘Computers are either the greatest tool mankind has invented, the most magnificent magic, capable of the construction of a new age,’ he laughed, one sharp rising note, ‘or they’re the best toy God has provided.’ In a couple of seconds the more familiar, benign Jason seemed to return. ‘Can I share my thoughts about you, James? I think . . .’ Jason was not waiting for Bond’s reply or consent, ‘I think that you are a small fraud, Mr Bond. That you know very little about the art of computer programming. Some, but not as much as you pretend. Am I right?’

Bond is so bad at this.


‘No.’ Bond was firm. ‘No, you’re not right, I’ve taken the standard courses they give people like me. I reckon that I’m adequate. Not in your class, maybe, but who is?’

‘Plenty of people.’ Jason’s voice was quiet. ‘Young Cindy, and Peter, to name two. It’s a young people’s profession, and future, James. Yes, I have a lot of knowledge, and some flair for strategy. But young people who are brought up with the machines acquire flair very quickly. You know the age of the biggest, richest software tycoon in the United States?’


I'm going to guess he's referring to Steve Jobs, who really was 28 when this book was written. He was worth $250 million by the age of 25, one of the youngest people to get on Forbes' list of the wealthiest Americans and one of the only ones to not have inherited wealth to do it.


‘Right. Twenty-eight years old, and some of the really advanced programmers are younger. I know it all, but it’s up to people like Cindy or Peter, to translate my ideas into reality. Brilliance, genius, requires nurturing. Programmers like my two may not really understand that they feed my great conceptions. As for you, a man with minimal training – you cannot be of real use to me. You don’t stand a chance in this field.’

Bond shrugged. ‘Not against you,’ he said, not knowing whether this was some devious wordplay, some psychological ploy.

At the door, Jason told him he looked forward to the next meeting. ‘If you feel you can take me on – at a game I mean – I’ll be happy to oblige. But maybe we’ll find something more interesting than games, eh? Six tomorrow.’

Bond could not know that the game of life itself would have changed by the time he saw Jay Autem Holy again. Nor what was really at stake in the games this curiously changeable man liked to play. He did know that Holy was a man possessed. Beneath the bonhomie and charm lay the mind of one who would play God with the world, and he found this deeply disturbing.

But not dedicated enough to playing God to actually play strategy games creatively?


When he got back to the hotel, Bond retrieved his key from a dozing night porter and went up to his room. But, on putting the key in the lock, he found the door already open. Freddie, he thought, with some irritation, for he wanted very be alone, to have time to think.

Remaining cautious, he slipped the automatic pistol from its holster, and holding it just behind his right thigh, he turned the handle and gently kicked the door open.

‘Hallo, Mr Bond.’ Cindy Chalmer smiled up at him from one of the chairs, her long legs sprawled out in front of her, like an invitation.

Quietly, Bond closed the door.

‘I bring greetings from Percy.’ Cindy’s smile broadened into a bewitching grin.

Bond remembered the looks she had given him during the evening. ‘Who’s Percy?’ he asked evenly, holding her eyes in his, trying to detect either truth or deception.


Trin Tragula
Apr 22, 2005


Dazzle St John-Finnes

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't speak Upper-Class Twit, "St John" is properly pronounced "Sin-gin". Her father uses her as a wastepaper basket and in her spare time she's a character in knockoff spy novels!


Cambrai, which is very good, because the outcome could have been very different

1917's Battle of Cambrai is usually remembered as the first truly successful use of massed tanks, and a key phase in the development of what the British Army called All Arms Battle and we now know as combined arms theory, with the Royal Flying Corps used heavily before and during the battle to attack the German gun lines and supply areas. When the Germans counter-attacked, they in turn learned valuable lessons which later contributed to the success of the Spring Offensive the next year. Like most other battles, it came to an indecisive end, with heavy casualties on both sides and strategically insignificant gains in territory.

Quite what "very different" outcome Gardner imagines is, I have no idea. A full British breakthrough was very unlikely due to bad weather, unreliability of the Mark IV tank, the usual difficulties in communication and supply after a successful advance, German preparedness, and a lack of resources to press any breakthrough after the recent Third Battle of Ypres. A significant reverse in favour of the Germans was equally unlikely due to unpreparedness for a full counter-attack, inexperience in attacking on the Western Front, and the usual difficulties.

Trin Tragula fucked around with this message at 17:58 on Apr 17, 2021

Strategic Tea
Sep 1, 2012

It's not the red form anymore.
Incidental bones can file under the greens.


Oh no, he's a grognard.

New No Time To Die leak: Bond will infiltrate the sinister business empire of eccentric millionaire Chris Roberts

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 9: Inside Endor


‘Come on, Mr Bond. Percy Proud. Persephone. We’re in cahoots.’

‘Sorry, Cindy. Nice of you to drop by, but I’ve never heard of Percy, Persephone, or Proud.’

He quietly slipped the automatic pistol back into its holster. Cindy would have to do better than this if he was going to accept her. Face value and a mention of Percy was not enough.

We’ve even infiltrated Endor, he heard Percy whisper into the echo-chamber of his mind.

‘You’re very good.’ Cindy spoke like a cheeky schoolgirl. ‘Percy said you were. She also told me that I had to mention you liked treats, and an apple for the teacher always brought great rewards.’

Bond wasn’t convinced yet. Certainly only Percy and he knew of his by-play with the apple in Monte Carlo and their jokes about rewards for pupils. But what if Percy’s cover had been blown?

‘You’re in cahoots – as you put it – with someone called Percy?’ he said, staring her out.

Cindy bobbed her head. ‘Cahoots, intrigue, in league with. We both belong to the same outfit, Mr Bond.’

It made some sense. If the American Service already had someone in the house, close to Jay Autem Holy, they would not broadcast the fact. Persephone, as a true professional, would not tell Bond either. The circle of people who knew would be confined until the last minute. So, was this the last minute?

This is the closest Bond has ever come to actually being sort of cautious with his job.


‘Tell me more.’

‘She said – Percy said – you’d know what to do with these.’ Cindy produced two hard disks encased in plastic from her shoulder bag. The thin boxes measured about five inches square and less than a quarter of an inch deep. On one side they had a hinged flap, like those on much fatter video cassettes. The boxes were brilliant blue and had small labels stuck on one corner.

Bond made no move even to touch them. ‘And what, Miss Chalmer, are those?’

‘A couple of our target’s less conventional programs. And I can’t hang on to them for long. At about four in the morning I turn into a pumpkin.’

‘I’ll get a couple of white mice to drive you home then.’

‘Seriously. I can manage to get past the security without being detected until about four. They change shifts then.’

‘We’re talking of getting back into Endor I take it?’

‘Of course we’re talking about Endor. The place is electronically buttoned like Fort Knox – you remember Fort Knox?’ Cindy gave a small, almost mocking smile. ‘Well, Endor has code and lock combinations which change with each security shift. I have to go back during the current phase, otherwise I shall be right up the proverbial creek without a paddle.’

A reminder that this is still ostensibly Fleming's Bond, so he's been world famous for years before Gardner's books thanks to his escapades like the Goldfinger incident.

And is still operating openly.


Bond asked if she did this often.

‘In the mating season, yes. That’s why I’ve cultivated a certain reputation in the village. So I have a kind of alibi if I ever get caught. But, if they cop me with these stuffed down my shirt . . . Well . . .’ She ran a finger over her throat. ‘So, Mr Bond, I’d appreciate it if you’d copy these little beauties.’

This girl's best idea for a cover was loving every man in the village.


‘How unconventional are they?’ He reached out to take the disks, feeling as though something irrevocable would happen once he laid hands on them. Even to handle the things implied that he could do as Cindy asked. If this was an attempt to put him in the frame, there could be no going back.

‘You’ll see. But please do what has to be done as quickly as you can. I have no way of copying them at the house . . .’

‘You can borrow them but not take copies? I find that difficult to believe, Miss Chalmer. Your boss told me, not long ago, that you’re a wizard with these things.’

Reminder that Bond was specifically told by Percy that Holy's code includes DRM that prevents you from just copying his stuff.


She made an irritated, spluttering noise which reminded him of M when the Head of Service became annoyed. ‘Technically, of course I can copy. But it would be far too dangerous to try it in the house. I’m never left alone long enough with the hardware. Either the great man’s around, or the Queen of the Night is fussing about . . .’

‘The who?’

‘Queen of . . . Oh, Peter. That’s my pet name for him. I think he may well be trustworthy – he certainly loathes the boss – but it’s not worth the risk. Percy wouldn’t hear of it.’

The gay man is the Queen of the Night. Fantastic.


Bond smiled inwardly. ‘Cindy?’

She raised her eyes, ready for any question.

‘How well do you know this Percy?’

‘You’re dreadfully coy, James.’ They now slipped easily into first name terms.

‘No, I’m just dreadfully careful.’

No you're not!


‘I know her quite well. Have done for the past . . . what? Eight years?’

‘Has she been hospitalised since you’ve known her? Medical operations of any kind?’

‘A nose job. Spectacular. That’s all.’

‘And you?’

‘I’ve never had one.’

‘Background, Cindy. What? Who? And why?’

And where!


‘All of it? Okay. I spent eight months in a hospital for infectious diseases after I left high school. There are medical records, doctors and nurses who remember me. I know because Old Bald Eagle’s ferrets checked them out. Only I wasn’t there. I was at the Farm, being trained. Then, surprise, I won a scholarship to Cambridge, here in England. From then on, as pure as the driven. A good, hardworking girl. I’m untouchable, fully sanitised, as we say. The Company kept me on ice. I worked for IBM, and then with Apple, before I applied for the job with Jay Autem Holy. His boys checked, double-checked and even then didn’t trust me for eighteen months.’

"The Farm" is Camp Peary, the CIA's clandestine training facility near Williamsburg, VA. Like many similar facilities, its existence is public knowledge but the US government insists on not formally acknowledging it. It's also home to an airstrip for CIA extraordinary rendition aircraft (officially owned by front companies) to base.


Bond gave a brisk nod. There were no real options left. Trust between him and the girl had to be entered into quickly, though not lightly. ‘Okay, just tell me about these two programs.’

‘Why don’t you take a look for yourself? Percy told me you had the means.’

‘You tell me, Cindy. Concisely as you can, then we’ll get on with it.’

She talked rapidly, reducing the information, telescoping her sentences to the minimum. They had games weekends at Endor – he knew about that – and some very strange people turned up along with the usual, dedicated war games freaks.

Stranger than dedicated wargames freaks?


‘There are two particular characters – Balmer and Hopcraft,’ Cindy went on after pausing to gaze intently into Bond’s eyes, ‘known to my crowd as Tigerbalm and Happy. Tigerbalm’s about as balmy as a force ten blizzard. Kill you quick as look at you; and Happy’s probably only that way when he’s raping or pillaging. Happy would have made a good Viking raider.’

Was Gardner doing the Stephen King diet when he wrote this?


Cindy explained that Gunfire Weekends, as they were called in the computer magazines, all appeared to be run with a military flavour. ‘Strict discipline. Order Groups at 09.00 hours, Lights Out at 22.30, and all that. It was what happened after Lights Out that became interesting.

‘The oddballs are detailed to rooms near one another, and always near Tigerbalm and Happy. The weekends cover three nights. The oddballs all leave looking as though they’ve been awake for a week. In fact they get very little sleep because around midnight every night they’re summoned to Old Bald Eagle’s private den, and there they stay, all night, working on their own little games, two of which I’d like to get back into their files before the dawn’s early light.’

I like how this is supposed to be suspicious when it's just what crazy wargames guys do.


Bond told her to wait in his room while he went quietly down to the car, selected the equipment he needed and brought it back to the room. It took time, but the extra minutes spent reconnoitring the car park seemed well spent.

‘Crikey!’ Cindy looked at the Terror Twelve with undisguised pleasure. ‘She certainly got it right. I only hope the circuit diagrams I provided were accurate.’

He’d buy that – Cindy monitoring the technology advances at Endor and providing Percy with all the information needed to build a computer identical to Holy’s. Maybe he was but a part of this operation, only there to get the latest programs out. After that, others could step in and clean out the stables, armed with evidence provided by himself, Percy and Cindy.

With the keyboard, and hard laser drives plugged in, Bond took the first disk and booted up. The moment the first menu came on to the screen he knew what it was about : in a series of flashing green letters it read:

Phase One – Airport to Ken High Street
A. First girl driver
B. Second girl driver
C. Advance car
D. Trail car

Oh, he just had the important files lying around!


He accessed the First girl driver and the screen showed him to be in heavy traffic, leaving Heathrow Airport and heading in to London. Ahead lay the small convoy of police and security vans. The program was obvious, and Bond flipped through the phases – Turn Off; Kensington High Street: Phase One; Kensington High Street: Phase Two; Abort; Kensington High Street: Phase Violet Smoke, and on to the getaway, passing options such as Security Teams (Electrics) and Security Teams (Way Out). He did not need to run the whole simulation to know that the disk, currently resting in his top drive, was a training program for the Kruxator robbery.

Not even halfway through and Bond has already been handed incriminating evidence that Holy is involved in this crime. I'm sure he'll report it properly.


Taking a virgin disk, Bond began to go through the careful procedure of breaking down Jay Autem Holy’s protection program in order to make a clean second copy of the original.

The process was very slow as Holy had used not only the regular, easy system of ‘scribbling’ on some sectors of the disk, but also the small routine Percy had shown Bond. In effect this was a program in itself, designed to crash the disk, making it completely useless, if anyone even attempted to copy it. Following Percy’s tuition, Bond was able first to detect the routine and then remove it, line by line. Then he matched up his virgin disk in a format to copy exactly the original. The work took over an hour, but at the end he had a true clone of Holy’s training program for the Kruxator robbery. He spent a further twenty minutes returning the protect program to the original disk.

Gardner, at least, knows when to abstract.


The second of Cindy’s disks was a similar training program, this time, they presumed, for the hijacking of an aircraft. As in fact there had been a monumental hijack of a specially chartered freight plane carrying newly printed money from the Royal Mint printers to several countries, the chances were that this was the blueprint for it.

Once more, the cloning process began, but this time with more urgency, for Cindy had become anxious about her return.

‘There is one other thing,’ she said, looking tired and concerned.

‘Yes?’ Bond grunted, not taking his eyes off the screen.

‘Something very big’s going on now. Not a robbery, I’m pretty sure of that, but a criminal, probably violent operation. There have been callers in the night, and I’ve heard several references to a special program.’

‘What kind of special program?’

‘I’ve heard the name only – they call it the Balloon Game, and there seem to be specialists involved.’



Bond was concentrating, writing back the protect program on to the hijack simulation original. ‘They’re all specialists, Cindy.’

‘No, I’ve seen some of these guys. They’re not all hoods and heavies. Some are like . . . are like pilots and parsons.’


‘Well, not exactly. Doctors and dentists, if you like. Upright. Professional.’

‘The Balloon Game?’

‘I heard Tigerbalm use the expression, and one of the others – talking to Old Bald Eagle. Will you report it, please? I think it’s something nasty.’

Bond said he would be getting the copies of these two programs to London quickly. He’d mention the Balloon Game at the same time.

Oh, he's actually doing what he needs to do! He's not just sitting on it and trying to do everything himself for no reason!


‘You think they’re using it now? Training on it?’


‘If we could get a copy . . .’

‘Not a chance. Not yet, anyway.’

He fell silent, finishing off the job in hand. Presently he rattled off a description of Rolling Joe Zwingli. ‘Ever see anyone like him around Endor?’ he asked.

‘General Zwingli. I recognise the description, and the answer’s no. I had some garbled message from Percy that he’s alive.’ She paused, adding that this seemed incredible.

Just say dialogue


Bond completed his tasks and returned the original disks to Cindy and asked about the routine at the house. Did Jason and Dazzle ever go out? Or away? How many security people did they have around?

Yes, he went away for a couple of days about once a month. Always left and returned at night. Never left the house during the day, never showed his face in the village. Cindy invariably referred to Jay Autem as the Target, or Old Bald Eagle.

‘Very cagey, our Target. Dazzle’s out and about a great deal – in the village, over to Oxford, London, taking trips abroad. I suspect she’s the liaison officer.’

‘Where abroad?’

‘Middle East, Europe. All over. Percy’s got the list. I try to keep a track, mainly from hotel book matches or flight labels. But she’s cagey as well. Gets rid of a lot of stuff before she comes home.’

As for the household, there was one Filipino boy and four security men. ‘He has six genuine sales reps who wouldn’t suspect a thing. But they’re on the outside. The four security men double as reps and staff. It’s very good cover. Would have had me fooled if I hadn’t known better. They’re all quiet, efficient guys – two cars between them, out and about a lot, managing the telephones, taking orders, distributing the genuine Gunfire Simulations packages. But two of them never leave the house. They work on the security in a strict rota. The electronics are highly sophisticated. Breakable, but clever. I mean, you have to know the system to fiddle it. What’s more, as I’ve already told you, they alter the codings for every shift. You can only get in and out if you know the numbers for a particular six-hour period. Even then, the machines have to know your voiceprint.’

The voiceprint is actually the only fully secure part of this system. As was discovered with systems like the German Enigma of World War II, constantly changing codes are only as secure as the codebook. While this is no longer the 1940s, it would be very hard for the guards to ever keep tracking of codes that change every 6 hours without having them written down somewhere.


‘Visual?’ Bond asked.

‘Quite a lot – the main gates, large areas of the walls, front and rear of the house. You can only dodge the closed-circuit stuff at the back, and then only if you know the pattern. They change that with the lock codings, so you really do need to know your six-hour period to get in or out without being detected. An intruder wouldn’t last three minutes.’

‘Ever had any?’

‘Intruders? Only a tramp, and one false alarm – at least they presume it was a false alarm.’


‘I was around when the false alarm was triggered. Yes, one of the guys on duty had a hand gun. So I’ve seen one. There are probably more. James, can I get going? I can’t afford to get caught with these disks on me. There are blanks in the cabinets . . .’

‘On your way, Cindy, and good luck. I’ll see you tonight. I’m coming for a little tournament with our Target. By the way, your friend Peter tipped me off about Jason’s style of play . . .’

‘He doesn’t like to lose,’ she said with a grin. ‘Almost pathological, like a child. It’s a matter of honour with him.’

Bond did not smile. ‘And me,’ he said softly. ‘It’s a matter of honour with me.’

One might call it.....a role of honour.


It was past three-thirty in the morning. Bond packed up the equipment and took it down to the car, locking it away in the boot. Back in his room, he put the cloned programs in a FloppiPak disk mailer, smiling wryly at the frightful nomenclature of the trade. He addressed the label to himself at a Post Office box number, then weighed the small, flat package in his hand, making an intelligent guess as to weight. He stuck on what he estimated to be sufficient postage from a folder of stamps in his briefcase. He would have liked to deliver the package in person, but he was not going to leave anything to chance.

The Speedlopes FloppiPak is a now-defunct trademark for paper and cardboard-based packaging specifically for floppy disks in Britain. It was registered in 1981, right as Gardner got his start as the new Bond author, reflecting how much the microcomputer craze had spread.


Sitting at the small dressing table, Bond next wrote a short note to Freddie on hotel paper.

Gone to Oxford for the morning. Didn’t want to wake you, but will be back for lunch. How about a return match this afternoon?


Stripping off, he ran a cold shower and stepped under it, holding his face against the stinging needle spray and gasping at the initial shock. After a minute or so, he added some warm water, soaped himself, then rubbed himself down, towelling his body briskly. Before shaving he climbed into his underwear, a pair of black Ted Lapidus cords and a black cotton rollneck. He strapped the ASP automatic, in its holster, so that it lay hard against his right hip. Last, he put on a light suede jacket and pushed his feet into the old favourite moccasins.

Okay Gardner, we don't need clothing detail to the point where you're reminding us that Bond wears underwear.

Gardner does seem to be quite willing to continue Fleming's influence in one way: personal. Bond has noticeably abandoned suits except when completely necessary in Gardner's run, instead going through a regime of casual clothing that may or may not work today. And they somehow keep lining up with photos of Gardner.


It was just getting light, the dark sky changing to grey and then that cold-washed pearl which heralds unsettled weather. With the detested FloppiPak in his briefcase, Bond went downstairs, left his key and the note for Freddie at the deserted reception and went out to the car.

I guess Gardner wasn't a fan of their packing methods.


The Bentley’s engine growled into life at the first turn of the key, and he allowed it to settle to its normal, gentle purr, fastening the seatbelt and watching the red warning lights flick off one by one.

Releasing the foot brake, he slid the selector into Drive and let the car roll forward. If he took the Oxford road, turned on to the ring road, and then headed for the M40 he could be in London in ninety minutes.

It began to rain as he reached the big roundabout on the periphery of the ring road and took the dual carriageway, heading towards London. He was a mile or so along this stretch when the white Mercedes of the day before appeared in his mirror.

Bond cursed silently, tightened his seatbelt and moved his foot smoothly down on the accelerator. The car slid forward, gathering power, the speedometer rising to 100, then 120 miles per hour.

There was little traffic as he slid neatly in and out of the stray cars and lorries, mainly keeping to the fast lane.

I feel like if Bond just drove normally and stayed around other vehicles, he'd avoid any trouble and be able to lose this car much easier in London. But hey, what do I know? Maybe the best way to respond to a tail is to drive at 120 MPH in the rain and swerve like a madman through traffic.


The white Mercedes held back, but even at speed, Bond could not throw it off altogether. Ahead the signs came up for an exit. Flicking the indicator at the last moment, he left the dual carriageway still well in excess of the 100 miles per hour mark, the Bentley responding to his light control, holding the road during the turn. The Mercedes seemed to have disappeared. He hoped that the driver had not been able to reduce speed in time to get off the main highway.

Ahead the road narrowed, fir trees shadowing either side. A lumbering heavy transporter grumbled along at fifty behind a petrol tanker. The Bentley’s speed dropped. As he rounded the next bend, Bond caught a flash of headlights, blinking on and off from a lay-by. The next time he looked there was another Mercedes hooking itself on to his tail.

They had radio contact, he thought, and probably five or six cars covering him. Taking the next left turn, he picked up the telephone and, without allowing his eyes to leave the road, punched out the numbers that would raise the Duty Officer at the Regent’s Park Headquarters on a scrambled radio line.

The road narrowed. The second Mercedes was still there when he negotiated the next turn just as the Duty Officer answered.

‘Gamesman flash for Dungeonmaster.’ Bond spoke rapidly. ‘Am being followed, south of Oxford. Important package for Dungeonmaster. Will attempt mail. Addressed myself. The Programmer is definitely involved all illegal actions as thought. Investigate Balloon Game. Speak to the Goddess.’

‘Understood,’ the Duty Officer said, and the line was closed.

This is the smartest Bond has ever been with his job, but the use of tabletop RPG lingo in the early 80s just makes it hilarious.


As he took the next bend, Bond saw a village coming up and realised he had outdistanced the Mercedes. He pumped the footbrake, slowing the Bentley dramatically, looking ahead and to the left. The car was almost out of the village before he spotted the welcome brilliant red of a post box. The Bentley slid to a halt beside it, and Bond had his seatbelt off before the car had stopped rolling.

I see Bond is inspired by another 1984 product.


It took less than twenty seconds to slip the package into the box and return to the driving seat. He did not rebuckle the belt until the Bentley was already gathering speed and the Mercedes had appeared again in his driving mirror. He passed an electric milk float doing the early rounds, then he was once more in open country. As he reached a wooded stretch, Bond caught a glimpse of a picnic area sign, then saw two other cars emerge from the trees, their bonnets coming together to form a V, blocking his path.

The milk float is a distinctly European phenomenon, especially in Britain, that is now considered quaint and outdated. Everyone knows about milkmen, but the UK pioneered battery-powered electric vehicles over the first half of the 20th century for low-speed utility purposes. They were extremely handy for replacing horse-drawn carriages or motor cars in jobs like home milk delivery, so they exploded in popularity. By 1967, the UK had more battery-powered electric vehicles than the rest of the world combined....purely on milk floats.

The milk floats had many advantages. They don't have to pay road taxes or central London congestion charges, they're free from pollution and noise, and they're extremely cheap to run. However, the expansion of refrigerated dairy storage into markets in the last few decades has led to the general demise of the milkman, and many dairies began switching to gas and diesel vans for general delivery purposes. A quaint handful are still used for milk delivery, and others have been repurposed for entertainment and tourism purposes.


‘They’re playing for keeps,’ he muttered, ramming the foot-brake, and hauling on the wheel with his left arm.

As the Bentley began to slew, broadside on, he was conscious of the white Mercedes close behind him.

The speedometer was touching sixty as the Bentley left the road, plunging in among the trees. Bond desperately guided the big car past the trunks, over bracken, zigzagging wildly and trying to negotiate a path that would bring him back to the road.

The first bullet made a grating, gouging sound on the roof, and Bond could think only of the damage it would do to the coachwork. The second hit his rear offside tyre, sending over 50001b of custom-built motor car side on into a tangle of bushes.

Slammed against the seatbelt, Bond reached simultaneously for the automatic pistol and the electric window button.

Dec 24, 2007

chitoryu12 posted:

Chapter 9: Inside Endor

Stranger than dedicated wargames freaks?


‘There are two particular characters – Balmer and Hopcraft,’ Cindy went on after pausing to gaze intently into Bond’s eyes, ‘known to my crowd as Tigerbalm and Happy. Tigerbalm’s about as balmy as a force ten blizzard. Kill you quick as look at you; and Happy’s probably only that way when he’s raping or pillaging. Happy would have made a good Viking raider.’

Was Gardner doing the Stephen King diet when he wrote this?

Ballmer, you say?

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 10: Erewhon


The ASP 9mm is a small, very lethal weapon. Essentially a scaled-down version of the Smith & Wesson Model 39, it has been in use with United States Intelligence Agencies for over a decade. With a recoil no greater than a Walther .22, it has the look of a target automatic rather than the deadly customised hand gun it really is. Armaments Systems and Procedures, the organisation which carried out the conversion, produced the weapon to exacting specifications: ease of concealment, a minimum eight-round capacity; reliability; an ammunition indicator using Lexon see-through butt grips, and an acceptance of all known 9mm ammunition.

The rounds in Bond’s magazine were particularly unpleasant – Glaser Safety Slugs. A Glaser is a pre-fragmented bullet that contains several hundred No.12 shot suspended in liquid Teflon. The velocity of these slugs, fired from the ASP, is over 1700 feet per second. They will penetrate body armour before blowing, and a hit from a Glaser on any vital area of the body is usually fatal.

Just imagine a long, deep sigh here.

1. Nobody has actually been able to verify how much US intelligence usage it had. It's known that Paris Theodore had conceived of the idea for the PPK and the Browning Hi-Power beforehand, so it's unlikely that it was commissioned for anyone like the CIA.

2. The recoil is not only not equivalent to a Walther .22, I've fired a subcompact 9mm about this size. It's godawful and the concussion of a 9x19mm round coming out of such a short barrel punches you in the face. My personal carry gun is a .380 even smaller than the ASP because it's far easier to shoot (if not easy) and modern ammunition has made .380 ACP on par with 1950s 9x19mm in penetration.

3. Glaser Safety Slugs are terrible. Despite all of their marketing, ballistic gel testing indicates that the bullet essentially shatters instantly on impact. While this is good if you're making a square hit on an unarmored target directly in the center of the torso or head, even just hitting the target's arm in front of their body (a likely possibility in a gunfight) or thick winter clothes is enough to reduce its penetration, with the resulting damage being about as good as birdshot. Against armor, frangible ammo is the worst possible option.

Where this most likely comes from is the infamous Teflon bullet scandal. In 1982, NBC ran a special report claiming that Teflon-coated bullets would have the ability to penetrate Kevlar vests, resulting in the label "cop killer bullets." These came from KTW ammunition, which used a Teflon coating early on to reduce deflection when firing through windshields, vehicle doors, and other light cover. This created a massive scare leading to many states passing laws banning them, despite the Teflon coating doing nothing at all to affect penetration through soft armor, and many films and video games mindlessly repeating the myth. Gardner seems to have fallen for it as well, believing that liquid Teflon is all it takes to get a bullet through Kevlar even if it's designed specifically to fragment on impact with anything.


Bond fired two rounds from the lowered window almost before the car had come to a halt. He kept both eyes open, looking down the revolutionary back-mounted Guttersnipe sight, its triangular yellow walls giving instant target recognition.

The guttersnipe is not so revolutionary as to be used on really any other gun, for good reason. It's incapable of precise aiming past about 10 feet, as it was designed exclusively for extremely close range use. At 10 yards, you'd be lucky to reliably hit the torso. Shooting instinctively off the front sight is sufficient for every other handgun.


Through the trees and bracken he could see several men leaving the cars. Others were trying to get the vehicles off the road. Bond’s rapid shots were aimed at the clear outline of a tall man in a dirty-white raincoat who was making for the Bentley. He did not stop to find out what happened to the target, but opened the door and rolled into the undergrowth.

Twigs and branches caught on his clothing and scratched his face, but Bond kept moving, determined to get as far away as possible from the Mulsanne Turbo. He rolled to the right, putting about twenty yards between himself and the car. Twisting round, flat on his belly, he brought the gun up and ready, his eyes constantly moving to cover a wide sweeping sight-line.

The other cars had been backed off the road and he guessed they now contained only their drivers. Two figures were visible, but almost by intuition he reckoned there had to be at least four others fanning out, moving low and trying to encircle him.

Bond lay quite still, allowing his breathing to settle. If his pursuers were methodical – and they probably were – they must eventually find him. It was even possible they could call up reinforcements. Certainly there had to be more men available. How could they have been certain of picking him up on the road, unless the Bentley had a location homer stuck on to it? Who were they? Some of Jay Autem Holy’s men? There had to be a connection, yet Holy would have had a better opportunity to deal with him that evening, at Endor. Unless . . . unless Cindy had set him up, or been caught. If the latter, a watch had been put on him very quickly. At all events, Bond decided they would find him later rather than sooner. What he needed was time to make good his escape.

Bond spends another 15 minutes lying in the damp forest, before he notices a man crouched by a tree near him.


The searcher wore olive green denim trousers and shirt, and a military-style jacket. Moving each limb about half an inch at a time, Bond began to turn. He wanted to get at least one shot in before anyone closed on him. There was another movement, this time to the right. Bond’s reflexes and intuition warned of danger, and he brought the ASP up in the direction of this new threat.

The triple yellow walls, which angle to form the Guttersnipe sight, fell automatically into their pattern, right on target, showing another figure running low between the trees, and much too close for comfort. From the corner of his eye, he saw the first man bringing his revolver up in a two-handed grip. Then he heard the unmistakable click of a revolver hammer being drawn back, very close behind him. The sharp burning cold of a muzzle touched the side of his neck gently.

‘Drop it, Mr Bond. Please don’t try anything silly. Just drop the gun.’

Bond had no desire to get himself killed at this point in his career. He tossed the ASP on to the ground.

‘Good.’ The voice was soft, slightly lilting. ‘Now, hands on the head, please.’

The two men who had been in Bond’s sights were now standing, coming forward, the one to his left with arms outstretched, holding a snub-nosed revolver in the two-handed grip, the arms steady as iron bars. His eyes never left the captive. Bond was in no doubt that two bullets would reach him fast if he made any wrong move. The other came in quickly, scooping up the fallen ASP like a predatory bird swooping on to its prey.

‘Right, now get to your feet very slowly,’ the voice continued, the gun muzzle detaching itself from just behind Bond’s ear. There was the sound of feet shuffling as the man stepped back. ‘That manoeuvre was rather good, wasn’t it? We knew roughly where you had gone to ground, so it was just a matter of showing you someone with stealth and another with speed. The lads went through that little farce three times before they found the right place. It’s the kind of fieldcraft we teach. Please turn around.’

Constantly running around Bond in a desperate attempt to get him to notice you.


‘Who teaches?’ Bond demanded as he turned and faced a tall, well-built man in his mid-thirties with tight, curly hair, dark above matching jet eyes, a square face, a large nose and full lips. Women would find him attractive, Bond thought. The dark complexion was overlaid with a hard, sunbaked tan. It was the eyes that really gave him away. They had that particular look, as if, for years, they had searched horizons for the telltale sign of dust, or the sky for a speck, or an outcrop of rock for movement, or doorways and windows for muzzle flashes. Those eyes had probably been doing that kind of thing since childhood. Nationality? Who could tell? One of the Middle Eastern countries, but whether he came from Jerusalem, Beirut or Cairo was impossible to tell. Possibly a hybrid, Bond thought.

Someone get Kingsley Amis on the case!


‘Who teaches?’ he asked again.

The young man lifted an eyebrow. ‘You might get to find out, Mr Bond. Who knows?’ The smile was not unfriendly. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘we have to move you, and I cannot be certain you’ll sit still.’ He gave a short laugh. ‘I rather think my superiors want you alive and in one piece, so would you take off your jacket and roll up your sleeve?’

Two more figures rose from the bushes as the senior man holstered his weapon, reaching into a hip pocket to bring out a hard oblong box. One of the newcomers helped remove Bond’s jacket while the other’s hands rested firmly on his shoulders. Unresisting, Bond allowed them to roll up his sleeve while the leader filled a hypodermic syringe, lifting it so that the needle pointed upwards. A tiny squirt of colourless liquid arched into the air. Bond felt a damp swab on the upper part of his arm.

‘It’s okay,’ the leader said with a smile. ‘We do want you in one piece, I assure you. As the actress said to the bishop, just a little . . . er . . . a little jab.’

Somebody gave a loud laugh, and Bond heard another say something in a language he did not recognise. He did not even feel the needle slide home.

This is just how Britain deals with anti-vaxxers in 2021.


At first he thought he was in a helicopter, lying flat on his back with the machine bucking under him. He could hear the chug of the engine turning the rotor blades. Then, far away, came the rip of automatic firing. For a time, Bond drifted away again, then the helicopter sensation returned, accompanied by a series of loud explosions near at hand.

Oh no, he's back in Vietnam!


Opening his eyes, he saw an electric fan turning slowly above his head, and became aware of white walls and the simple metal bedframe on which he lay, fully dressed.

He propped himself on one arm. Physically he felt fine: no nausea, no headache, eyes focused properly. He held out his right hand, fingers splayed. There was no tremor. The room, bare of furniture apart from the bed, had just one door and a window covered with mesh inside and bars on the outside. Sunlight appeared dimly through the aperture.

As he swung his feet on to the floor he heard another distant explosion. He stood up and found his legs steady. Halfway to the door, there came the sound of more machine-gun fire – again at a distance. The door was locked, and he could make out little through the window. The mesh on the inside was a thick papery adhesive substance, which had been applied to the panes of glass, making it impossible to get any clear view. It would also prevent fragmentation from blast. Bond was convinced he was not in England. The temperature inside the little white room, even with the fan turning round and round, was not induced by the kind of heat you ever got in England, even in the most brilliant of summers. The sounds of small arms fire, punctuated by the occasional explosion, suggested he was in some war zone.

He tried the door again, then had a look at the lock. It was solid, well-made, and more than efficient. There would almost certainly be bolts on the outside too. Methodically he went through his pockets but found nothing. They had cleaned him out. Even his watch was missing, and the metal bedframe appeared to be a one-piece affair. Given time, and some kind of lever, he might be able to force a piece of thick wire from the springs, but it would be an arduous business and he had no way of knowing how long he would be left alone.

When in doubt, do nothing, Bond thought.

Bond has never followed this advice.


He went back to the bed and stretched out, going over the events still fresh in his mind. The attempt to get away with the computer programs. Posting them. The trailing cars. The wood and his capture. The needle. He was the only one to have fired a shot. Almost certainly he had hit – probably killed – one of them. Yet, apart from their natural caution, they had been careful to make sure that he was unharmed. A connection between his visit to Jay Autem Holy and the current situation was probable, though not certain. Take nothing for granted. Wait for revelations. Expect the worst.

What? They fired two bullets at you! They shot your tire out!


Bond lay there, mentally prepared, for the best part of twenty minutes. At last there came footsteps – muffled, as though boots crunched over earth, but the tread had a decidedly military sound. Bolts were drawn back and the door to Bond’s room was unlocked and opened.

He caught a glimpse of sand, low white buildings and two armed men dressed in drab olive uniforms. A third person stepped into the room. He was the one who had administered the knock-out injection in the Oxfordshire wood. Now he wore uniform – a simple olive drab battledress, smart with no insignia or badges of rank. He had on desert boots and a revolver of high calibre holstered on the right of his webbing belt. A long sheathed knife hung from the belt on the left. His head was covered by a light brown, almost makeshift, kaffiyeh held in place by a red band. One of the men outside reached in and closed the door.

Oh, I'm sure this is going to be good.


‘Had a good sleep, Mr Bond?’ The man’s smile was almost infectious. As he looked up, Bond remembered his feelings about the eyes.

‘I’d rather have been awake.’

‘You’re all right, though? No ill effects?’

Bond shook his head.

‘Right. My name’s Simon.’ The man was crisp and businesslike, extending a hand which Bond did not take. ‘We hold no grudge over our man,’ he said after a slight pause. ‘You killed him, by the way. But he was being paid to risk his life.’ He shrugged. ‘We underestimated you, I fear. My fault. Nobody thought you’d be carrying a gun. After all, you’re not in the trade any more. I guessed that, if you were armed, it would be for old time’s sake, and nothing as lethal as that thing. It’s unfamiliar to us, incidentally. What is it exactly?’



‘My name is James Bond, formerly Commander, Royal Navy. Formerly Foreign Service. Now retired.’

Simon’s face creased into a puzzled look for a moment.

‘Oh, yes. I see. Name and rank.’ He gave a one-note laugh. ‘Sorry to disappoint you, Commander Bond, but you’re not a prisoner of war. When you outran us in that beautiful motor car there was no way to let you know we came as emissaries. In friendship. A possible job.’

‘You could have shouted. In the wood, you could have shouted, if that was the truth.’

‘And would you have believed us?’

There was silence.

‘Quite. No, I think not, Commander Bond. So we had to bring you in, alive and well, using only minimal force.’

Bond thought for a moment. ‘I demand to know where I am and who you people are.’

‘In good time. All in . . .’

‘Where am I?’ Bond snapped.

‘Erewhon.’ Simon gave a low chuckle. ‘We go in for code names, cryptonyms. For safety, security, and our peace of mind – just in case you turn down the job, or even prove to be not quite the man we want. This place is called Erewhon. Now sir, the Officer Commanding would like a word.’

Erewhon: or, Over the Range was a novel by Samuel Butler published in 1872 as a satire on Victorian society. The protagonist discovers a new land, Erewhon, where machines were banned and distrusted due to a fear that they could develop a consciousness. Butler was a devout follower of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and proposed that, if humanity could develop from more primitive primates to the level we're at now simply through natural selection, there's no reason that machines couldn't do the same. While the book was mainly intended to mock Victorian English culture (such as viewing the commission of crimes as an illness, while criminalizing ugliness and illness as a violation of your duties as law-abiding healthy citizens), it's regarded as the first work to seriously approach the concept of artificial intelligence and one of the first dystopian fiction novels. The well-educated Gardner would have undoubtedly known this when he chose the name.


Bond slowly got off the bed, reached out and grasped Simon’s left wrist, aware of the man’s other hand moving swiftly to the revolver butt.

‘Commander, I wouldn’t advise . . .’

‘Okay, I’m not going to attack you. I just don’t recall having applied for a job. Not with anybody.’

How did he not get shot right there?


‘Oh, really? No, I suppose you haven’t.’ There was mocking ingenuousness in Simon’s voice. ‘But you’re out of work, Commander Bond. That’s true, surely?’


‘And, by nature, you’re not an idle man. We wanted to – how would you say it? We wanted to put something your way.’

Bond eyed the man intently. ‘Wouldn’t it have been more civilised to make your offer by invitation in England instead of this abduction?’

‘The Officer Commanding Erewhon wishes to talk to you,’ Simon said with a winning smile, as if that explained everything.

Bond appeared to think for a moment, then he nodded. ‘I’ll see your OC, then.’


Simon rapped on the door and one of the men outside opened up. As they stepped out, the two guards took station either side of Bond. He sniffed the air. It was warm, but clear. Rare. They must be fairly high above sea level. They were also in a small depression, the flat bed of a hollow, surrounded by hills. On one side the hills were low, a curving double mound, like a woman’s breasts, but pitted with rock among the dry, sandy earth. The rest of the circle was more rugged, crests and peaks, running up several hundred feet, with outcrops of forbidding rock. The sun was high, almost directly above them. Along the flat sand bottom of the hollow was a series of low white buildings – one long rank with divisions, and another terrace with three shorter ranks at right angles, like a large letter E. Hard under the high ground there were other, similar buildings, though not so regimented. Simon led them across the five or six hundred yards towards one of these latter blocks.

Of course he would look at the hills at his place of capture and go "Heh, boobs."


Smoke drifted up from some of the smaller buildings. To Bond’s left there was a firing range, with a group in uniform preparing to use it. Towards the round-topped hills, the sound of heavy explosions and small arms fire suddenly erupted from a clutter of gutted brick houses, which looked almost European. Figures dashed between these houses as though fighting a street battle.

As he turned at the noise, Bond also caught sight of some kind of bunker dug into the rock towards the top of one of the hills. A defensive position, he thought, almost impossible to attack from the air, though helicopter-borne landings presumably would be feasible.

This is like a higher budget version of the early SPECTRE training camp scene in From Russia With Love. This depicted the least OSHA-compliant training environment in the world, with live targets leaping through flamethrowers and gunmen practicing their ridiculous 1960s quick-draw right next to people learning how to use crossbows or karate chopping blocks.


‘You like our Erewhon?’ Simon asked cheerfully.

‘Depends what you do here. You run package tours?’

‘Almost.’ Simon sounded quite amused.

They reached a building about the size of a modest bungalow. There was a notice, neatly executed, to the right of the entrance. OFFICER COMMANDING it said in several languages, including Hebrew and Arabic. The front door opened into a small, empty ante-room. Simon crossed to the one door at the far end, and knocked. A voice called out ‘Come’, and Simon gestured, smartly barking out, ‘Commander James Bond, sir.’

With everything that had been going on, and with a myriad of questions unanswered, Bond would not have been shaken to find General Zwingli on the other side of the door, but the identity of the man seated behind the folding table which dominated the large office made him catch his breath with surprise. There was certainly some connection between this man and Zwingli, for the last time Bond had seen him was in the Salles Privées at Monte Carlo.

‘Come in, Commander Bond. Come in. Welcome to Erewhon,’ said Tamil Rahani. ‘Do sit down. Get the Commander a chair, Simon.’

Nov 8, 2009

The only way to get huge fast is to insult a passing witch and hope she curses you with Beast-strength.

chitoryu12 posted:

Tamil Rahani

Sorry, who is this?

Dec 24, 2007

Is this the beginning of the Butlerian Jihad?

Apr 23, 2014

poisonpill posted:

Sorry, who is this?

He was briefly mentioned several chapters ago as possibly involved with Holy.

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 11: Terror for Hire


The room was functionally furnished: the folding table, four chairs and filing cabinet could have been found in the quartermaster’s stores of any army in the world.

Furniture-shaped furniture?


The furnishings also appeared to reflect the character of Tamil Rahani. From a distance, when Bond had seen him briefly in Monte Carlo, Rahani had looked like any other successful businessman – sleek, well-dressed, needle-sharp and confident. At close quarters, the confidence was certainly there, but that sleekness was clearly superficial. What stood out was a kind of dynamism – harnessed, and controlled. It was the air of self-discipline found in most good military leaders, a kind of quiet calm, and behind it an immense, unflinching resolve. Rahani certainly exhibited authority and a firm belief in his own ability.

As Simon brought the chair, and took one for himself, Bond quickly glanced around the office. The walls were lined with maps, charts, large posters displaying the silhouettes of aircraft, ships, tanks and other armoured vehicles. There were also year- and month-planners, their red, green and blue markers the only splashes of colour in the austere room.

Man, this villain isn't even a man of wealth and taste!


‘Don’t I know you, sir?’ Bond was careful to observe military courtesy. An aura of power and danger enveloped Rahani.

Rahani laughed, throwing his head back a little. ‘You may have seen photographs of me in the newspapers,’ Commander,’ he said with a smile. ‘We may speak about that later. At the moment I’d rather talk about you. You have been highly recommended to us.’


Rahani tapped his teeth with a pencil. The teeth were perfect – white and regular, the moustache above them neatly trimmed.

‘Let me be completely frank with you, Commander. Nobody knows whether you can be trusted or not. Everyone – and by that I mean most of the major intelligence communities of the world – knows that you have been an active officer of the British Secret Intelligence Service for a long time. You ceased to be either a member or active a short time ago. It is said that you resigned in a fit of bitterness.’ He made a small questioning noise, like a hum, in the back of his throat. ‘It is also said that nobody ever goes private from the SIS, the CIA, Mossad or the KGB. Is that the correct term? Going private?’

‘So the spy writers tell us.’ Bond maintained his attitude of indifference.

There is literally no way Bond could fool these people.


‘Well,’ Rahani continued, ‘quite a few people wanted to find out the truth. A number of agencies would have liked to approach you. One very nearly did. But they got cold feet. They decided that you would probably rediscover your loyalty once put to the test, no matter how disaffected you felt.’

There was a pause, during which Bond remained poker-faced, until the Officer Commanding spoke again.

‘You’re either an exceptional actor, Commander, working under professional instructions, or you are genuine. What is undisputed is that you’re a man of uncommon ability in your field. And you’re out of work. If there is truth in the rumours surrounding your resignation, then it seems a pity to allow you to remain unemployed. The purpose of bringing you here is to test the story, and possibly to offer you a job. You would like to work? In intelligence, of course?’

‘Depends.’ Bond’s voice was flat.

‘On what?’ Rahani said sharply, the man of authority showing through.

‘On the job.’ Bond’s face relaxed a fraction. ‘Look, sir. I don’t wish to appear rude, but I was brought here against my will. Also, my previous career is nobody else’s business but mine – and, I suppose, the people I used to work for. To be honest, I’m so fed up with the trade that I’m not at all sure I want to get mixed up in it again.’

It's also the business of all the papers, because you're loving James Bond. You got a goddamn obituary in the national papers!


‘Not even as an adviser? Not even with a very high salary? With little to do, and less danger in doing it?’

‘I just don’t know.’

‘Then would you consider a proposition?’

‘I’m always open to propositions.’

Rahani took a long breath through his nose.

‘An income in excess of a quarter of a million pounds sterling a year. The occasional trip at short notice to advise in another country. One week in every two months giving a series of lectures here.’

Okay that's actually a really good offer.


‘Where’s here?’

For the first time, Rahani’s brow puckered with displeasure. ‘In good time, Commander. As I’ve said, in good time.’

‘Advise on what? Lecture on what?’

‘Lecture on the structure and methods of the British Secret Intelligence Service, and the Security Service. Advise on the intelligence, and security aspects of certain operations.’

‘Operations carried out by whom?’

Rahani spread his hands. ‘That would depend. It would also alter from operation to operation. You see, the organisation I command bears no allegiance to any one country, group of people or ideal. We are – a much-used word, but the only one – we are apolitical.’

Ah, alt-right.


Bond waited, as though not yet prepared to commit himself.

Rahani finally gave in. ‘I am a soldier. I have been a mercenary in my time. I am also a highly successful businessman. We have certain things in common, I think, one of them being a liking for money. Some time ago, in co-operation with one or two like-minded people, I saw the possibility of earning some very profitable returns by going into the mercenary business. Being apolitical myself, owing nothing to ideologies or beliefs, it was easy. Plenty of countries and revolutionary groups need specialists. A particular man or a group of men – even a planning group, and the soldiery to carry out the plan.’

‘Rent-a-Terrorist,’ Bond said, with a touch of distaste. ‘Who does not dare, hires someone else to dare for them. A truly mercenary activity, in every sense.’

‘Well put. But you’d be surprised, Commander Bond. The terrorist organisations are not our only customers. Bona fide governments have approached us too. Anyway, as a former intelligence officer you cannot allow yourself the luxury of politics or ideals.’

‘I can allow myself the luxury of opposing certain ideals. Of disagreeing, and intensely disliking them,’ Bond put in.

‘And, if our information is to be believed, you have an intense dislike for the British and American method of intelligence – yes?’

‘Let’s just say I’m disappointed that an official organisation can call me to question after so many years of loyal service.’

"So many fuckups that I just barely made it out of through dumb luck."


‘Don’t you ever feel that revenge could be sweet?’

‘I’d be a liar if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind, but it’s never been an obsession. I don’t harbour grudges.’

‘We shall need your co-operation, and your decision. You understand what I mean?’ Rahani made the querying, humming noise again.

Bond nodded, and said he was no fool: having disclosed the existence and purpose of his organisation, Tamil Rahani was committed to making a decision about Bond. If he offered a job, and if Bond accepted, there would be no problem. If, however, he decided Bond was a risk, or his motives were in doubt, there could be only one answer.

Rahani heard him out.

‘You won’t mind if I ask a few pertinent questions, then?’

‘What do you call pertinent?’

‘I’d like to know the things you would not discuss with the Press. The real reason for your resignation, Commander Bond. An inter-department disagreement, I believe you said. Accusations, which were withdrawn, but taken most seriously by yourself.’

‘If I don’t choose to tell you?’

‘Then we have to conclude that you are not trustworthy, my friend. A conclusion which may have unpleasant consequences.’ Rahani smiled.

Bond went through the process of looking as though he was giving the situation some thought. With M and Bill Tanner he had put together a story that would hold water up to a point. To prove or disprove it would mean getting classified information from the Judicial Branch, which comprised a number of experienced barristers retained by the Service; also from three individuals working in the Registry, and from someone who had easy access to the documents held by S Department. After a few moments’ silence Bond gave a short nod. ‘Right. If you want the truth . . .’

Of course, after such an epic betrayal of the terrorists, Bond could never operate so openly again for a decade under the same author.....right?


‘Good. Tell us then, Commander Bond.’ Rahani’s voice and manner were equally bland.

He told the story, just as they had concocted it in M’s office. Over a period of some six months it had been discovered that several highly sensitive files had been taken from the Service HQ and kept out overnight. It was an old story, and one that was technically plausible, even allowing for the stringent security spot checks, and signing in and out of files. However, the system was double-checked by an electronic bar code, appended to each file, which was scanned every time the file was taken out or returned. The files went through a machine that read the code and stored the information in the Registry databank, which was examined at the end of each month. It was impossible to alter the bar codes on the files or to duplicate them. But because the information stored away on the big computer tapes was read out only at the end of each month, anyone could return a dummy file each night, putting back the original the following night. By alternating dummy and original you could examine around twenty files in a month before the tampering would be discovered. This, Bond maintained, was what had happened, though Registry had spent so much time cross-checking and looking at the data because they imagined it to be a program error in the computer, that a further week had passed before a report went up to Head of Service.

In all, only eight files had been at risk. But, on the relevant dates, James Bond had been one of those with access to the files. Five people were under suspicion, and they had hauled Bond in before anybody else.

‘Someone of my rank and experience would normally be given the courtesy of a private interview with the Head of Service,’ he said, his tone verging on anger. ‘But no. It didn’t seem to matter that the other four were junior, relatively inexperienced and without field records. It was as if I was singled out because of my position, because I had been in the field, because of my experience.’

Gardner really just learned about computers right before writing this, huh?


‘You were actually accused?’ It was Simon who asked.

Bond allowed the anger to boil up and break the surface. ‘Oh, yes. Yes, I was accused. Before they even talked to anyone else they carted in a couple of very good interrogators, and a QC. You removed these files from the headquarters building, Commander Bond. Why? Did you copy them? Who asked you to take them? It went on for two days.’

‘And did you take them from the building, Commander?’

‘No, I did not,’ Bond almost shouted. ‘And it took them another two days to haul in the other four, and then a day for Head of Registry to come back off leave and remember that special permission had been given to one officer to take the wretched files over for study by a Civil Service mandarin – adviser to the Ministry. They had left spaces in the records, just to keep the data neat. Head of Registry was supposed to put a special code into the databank. But he was off on leave, and forgot about it. Nobody had a go at him, or offered his head on a salver.’

‘So no files went missing at all. You got an apology, of course?’

‘Not immediately.’ Bond glowered, like a schoolboy. ‘And nobody seemed at all concerned about my feelings. Head of Service didn’t appear even to understand why I got annoyed.’

‘So you resigned? Just like that?’

‘More or less.’

So their cover story is that Bond threw a tantrum and quit?


‘It’s a very good story.’ Tamil Rahani looked pleased. ‘But it will be difficult to prove, if I know anything about government departments.’

‘Exceptionally difficult,’ Bond agreed.

‘Tell me, what did the files in question contain?’

‘Ah.’ Bond tried to look as charming as possible. ‘Now you’re really asking me to betray.’

‘Yes.’ Rahani was quite matter-of-fact.

‘Mainly updated material on the disposition of Eastern Bloc tactical forces. One concerned agents on the ground and their proximity to the Eastern bases.’

Rahani’s eyebrows twitched. ‘Sensitive. I see. Well, Commander, I shall make a few enquiries. In the meantime, perhaps Simon will show you around Erewhon, and we’ll continue to have little talks.’

‘You mean interrogations?’

Rahani shrugged. ‘If you like. Your future career depends on what you tell us now. Quite painless, I assure you.’

Of course.


As they reached the door, Bond turned back. ‘May I ask you a question, sir?’

‘Of course.’

‘You bear a striking resemblance to a Mr Tamil Rahani, chairman of Rahani Electronics. I believe you’ve been in Monte Carlo recently?’

Rahani’s laugh had all the genuine warmth of an angry cobra. ‘You should know, Commander. You were raising a fair amount of hell at the gaming tables on the Côte d’Azur at the time, I think.’

‘Touché, sir.’

I'm surprised Bond didn't start yelling the word "specter" at him just now.


Bond followed Simon out into the sunshine. They went first to a mess hall where about eighty people were enjoying a lunch of chicken cooked with peppers, onions, almonds and garlic. Everyone wore the same olive uniform. Some carried side arms. There were men and women, mainly young, and from many different countries. They sat in pairs or teams of four. That was how the training went, Simon explained. They worked with a partner or in teams. Sometimes two teams would be put together, if the work demanded it. Some of the pairs were training to be loners.

‘Doing what?’ Bond asked.

‘Oh, we cover the usual spectrum. Big bang merchants, take away artists, removal men, monopoly teams. You name it, we do it – electricians, mechanics, drivers, all the necessary humdrum jobs too.’

Bond identified a number of different tongues being spoken in the hall – German, French, Italian. There were also Israelis, Irish, and even English he was told. He almost immediately identified a pair of German terrorists whose names and details were on file with his Service, MI5 and at Scotland Yard.

"Even" English? You'd want a single unified language if you've got so many people from different nationalities in one organization, and English is the most universal at this time!


‘If you want anonymity, I shouldn’t use those two in Europe,’ he told Simon quietly. ‘They’ve both got star billing with our people.’

Imagine at the end of the book that it gets revealed Bond prevented these guys from being captured and they were assigned to a successful terrorist bombing elsewhere.


‘That’s good. Thank you. We prefer unknowns, and I had a feeling about that couple. Everyone has had some field work behind them when they come here, but we don’t like faces.’ Simon gave a knowing grin. ‘We do need them though. Some have to be lost, you know. It comes in handy during training.’

Throughout the afternoon, they walked around the well-equipped training area, and Bond experienced the odd sensation of having seen all this before. It took an hour or so to work out exactly what was wrong. These men and women were being trained in techniques he had seen used by the SAS, Germany’s GSG9, the French GIGN, and several other élite units dealing with anti-terrorist activities. There was one difference, however. The trainees at Erewhon were receiving expert tuition on how to counter anti-terrorist action.

Counter-counter-terrorists win.


Apart from classes in weaponry of all kinds, special attention was paid to hijacking and takeover. They even had two flight simulators in the compound. One building was devoted solely to the techniques of bargaining with authorities while holding either hostages or kidnap victims. The skills were being taught extremely thoroughly.

One of the most spectacular training aids lay around the gutted buildings Bond had noticed earlier. Here a team of four would be taught how to fight off attempted rescues employing all the known counter-terrorist techniques. It was disturbing to note that most eventualities appeared to be covered.

That night Bond slept again in the same sparsely furnished room where he had first woken. On the following day, the interrogation began. It was conducted on a classic one-to-one basis – Tamil Rahani and James Bond – with Rahani asking seemingly ordinary questions that were, in fact, attempts to ferret out highly sensitive information about Bond’s Service.

Rahani began with reasonably harmless stuff, such as organisation and channels of command. Soon, detail was being called for, and Bond had to use all his native ingenuity to give the appearance of telling everything, at the same time keeping back really vital information.

Rahani was like a terrier. Just when Bond thought he had managed to avoid giving some piece of information, Rahani would change tack, going in a circle to return to the nub of the question. It became all too obvious that once they had milked him dry, Bond would be quietly thrown to the wolves.

"This man is far too stupid to be of use to us."


On the sixth day Rahani was still hammering away at the same questions concerning details of protection for heads of state, the Prime Minister, the Queen and other members of the Royal Family. This was not part of Bond’s own work, or the work of his Service, but Rahani quite rightly assumed that Bond would know a great deal about it. He even wanted names, possible weaknesses in those assigned to such duties, and the kind of schedules they worked. At about five o’clock in the afternoon, a message was brought in. Rahani read it, then slowly folded the paper and looked at Bond.

‘Well, Commander, it seems your days here are numbered. There is a job for you back in England. Something very important is at last coming to fruition, and you are to be part of it. You are on salary as from now.’

He picked up one of his telephones and asked for Simon to come over as quickly as possible. Bond had learnt by now that they used first names at Erewhon for everyone except the Officer Commanding.

‘Commander Bond is with us,’ he told Simon. ‘There’s work for him, and he leaves for England tomorrow. You will escort him.’ An odd look passed between the two men before Rahani continued. ‘But, Simon, we have yet to see the gallant Commander in action. Would it be a good idea to put him through the Charnel House?’

‘He’d like that, I’m sure, sir.’

The Charnel House was a gallows-humour nickname for the gutted buildings they used for training against counter-terrorist forces. Simon said he would set things up, and they walked the short distance to the area, where Simon left to make the arrangements. Ten minutes later, he returned, taking Bond inside the house.

Though the place was gutted and bore the marks of many simulated battles, it had been remarkably well built. There was a large entrance hall inside the solid main door. Two short passages to left and right led to large rooms, which were uncarpeted, but contained one or two pieces of furniture. At the top of a solid staircase was a wide landing with one door. Through this a long passage ran the length of the house with doors on the facing wall leading into two rooms built directly above those on the ground floor. Simon led Bond upstairs. ‘There will be a team of four. Blank ammunition, of course, but real flash-bangs.’ Flashbangs were stun grenades, not the most pleasant thing to be near on detonation. ‘The brief is that they know you are somewhere upstairs.’ Simon pulled out the ASP 9mm. ‘Nice weapon, James. Very nice. Who would think it has the power of a .44 Magnum?’



‘You’ve been playing with my toys.’

‘Couldn’t resist it. There – one magazine of blanks, and one spare. Use your initiative, James. Good luck.’ He looked at his watch. ‘You have three minutes.’

Bond quickly reconnoitred the building and placed himself in the upper corridor, since it had no windows. He stayed close to the door which opened on to the landing, but was well shielded by the corridor wall. He was crouched against the wall when the stun grenades exploded in the hallway below – two ear-splitting crumps, followed by several bursts of automatic fire. Bullets hacked and chipped into the plaster and brickwork on the other side of the wall, while another burst almost took the door beside him off its hinges.

They were not using blanks. This was for real, and he knew with sudden shock, that it was as he had earlier deduced. He was being thrown to the wolves.

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 12: Return to Sender


Two more explosions came from below, followed by another heavy burst of fire. The second team of two men was clearing the ground floor. Bond could hear the feet of the first team on the stairs. In a few seconds there would be the dance of death on the landing – a couple of stun grenades or smoke canisters would be thrown through the door to his right, then lead would hose down the passage, taking him on that short trip into eternity.


Simon’s voice kept running in his head like a looped tape: ‘Use your initiative . . . Use your initiative . . .’ Was that a hint? A clue? There was certainly something of a nudge in the tone he had adopted.

Move. Bond was off down the corridor, making for the room to his left. He had some vague idea that he might leap from the window. Anything to remove himself from the vicious hailstorm of bullets.

He took rapid strides into the room and, trying to make as little noise as possible, closed the door, automatically sliding a small bolt above the handle. He started to cross the floor, heading for the windows, clutching the useless ASP as though his life depended on it. As he sidestepped a chair, he saw them – two ASP magazines, cutaway matt black oblongs, lying on a rickety table between the high windows. Grabbing at the first, he saw immediately that they were his own reserves, both full, loaded with Glasers.

There is a fast routine for reloading the ASP, a fluent movement that quickly jettisons an empty magazine, replacing it with a full one. Bond went through the reload procedure in a matter of five seconds, including dropping his eyes to check that a live round had entered the chamber.

The funniest part of this is that five seconds is extremely slow when you have the replacement magazine already in your hand. Someone of Bond's capabilities should easily be performing that in 2 seconds or less. Not that it matters much, seeing as Gardner is determined to make this as free of tension as possible by allowing Bond to just immediately reload with live ammo on the first page.


He performed the reloading on the move, finally positioning himself hard against the wall to the left of the door. The team would leap in after the grenades had accomplished their disorientating effect, one to the left and one right. They would be firing as they came, but Bond gambled on their first bursts going wide across the room.

While this may seem ridiculous to a modern viewer with knowledge of slicing the pie, my reading of what few 1980s tactical manuals on urban warfare are out there (such as FM 21-75 and FM 90-10) actually lack the precise room clearing techniques trained to modern SWAT and special forces. FM 90-10 even recommends that room clearing involve the first man simply spraying automatic fire across the entire room after throwing in a grenade, with subsequent rooms involving varying tactics to confuse anyone inside (such as blowing a hole in the wall to throw a grenade in).


Flattening himself against the wall, he held the powerful little weapon at arm’s length in the two-handed grip, at the same time clutching the spare magazine almost as an extension to the butt.

They were making straight for this room. As he reloaded, Bond had been conscious of the bangs and rattle of their textbook assault through the landing door. Bullets spat and splintered the woodwork to his right. A boot smashed in the handle and broke the flimsy bolt, while a pair of stun grenades hit the bare boards, making a heavy clunk, one of them rolling for a split second before detonation.

He closed his eyes, head turning slightly to avoid the worst effect – the flash that temporarily blinds – though nothing could stop the noise which seemed to explode from within his own cranium, putting his head in a vice, and ringing in his ears like a magnified bell. It blotted out all external sounds, even that of his own pistol as he fired, and the death-rattle of the submachine guns as the two-man team stepped through the lingering smoke.

Fortunately for Bond, modern stun grenades like the M84 are still a decade away. Those grenades generate a noise around 180 decibels (louder than a shotgun blast) and a flash of 6-8 million candela in a 5-foot radius. Failing to cover your ears against one of those will not just deafen you, but can cause inner ear problems that throw off your balance.


Bond acted purely by intuition. At the first movement through the door he sighted the three little yellow triangles on the dark moving shape. He squeezed the trigger twice, resighted and squeezed again. In all the four bullets were off in less than three seconds – though the whole business appeared to be frozen in time, slowed down like a cinematic trick so that everything happened with a ponderous, even clumsy, brutality.

The man nearest Bond came through, leaping to his left, the wicked little automatic weapon tucked between upper arm and ribcage, the muzzle already spitting fire as he identified and turned towards his target. Bond’s first bullet caught him in the neck, tearing through flesh, bone, arteries and sinews, hurling the man sideways, pushing him, the head lolling, as though it was being torn away from its body. The second slug entered the head, which exploded, leaving a cloud of fine pink and grey matter hanging in the air. The third and fourth bullets both caught the second man in the chest, a couple of inches below the windpipe. He was swinging outwards, and to his right, realising too late where the target was situated, the gun in his hand spraying bullets towards the window.

The impact lifted the man from his feet, knocking him back so that, for a split second he was poised in mid-air, angled at forty-five degrees to the floor, the machine-pistol still firing and ripping into the ceiling as a mushroom of blood and flesh spouted from the torn chest.

How does Gardner keep getting more gruesome?! Now the Glaser birdshot bullets are physically throwing people in the air as their heads explode!


Because of his temporary deafness, Bond felt as though he stood outside the action, as if watching a silent film. But his experience pushed him on: two down, he thought, two to go. The second team almost certainly would be covering the entrance hall, and may even be coming to the assistance of their comrades at this moment.

Bond stepped over the headless corpse of the first intruder, his foot almost slipping in the lake of blood. It always amazed Bond how there was so much blood in one man. This was something they did not show in movies, or even news film – over a gallon of blood which fountained from a human body when violently cut to pieces.

Fleming was at least subtle.


In the doorway, he paused for a second, ears straining to no effect, for his head still buzzed as though a hundred electric doorbells were ringing inside his skull.

Glancing down, he saw that the second man still had a pair of grenades tucked firmly into his belt, hooked on by the safety levers. He slid one out, removed the pin, and holding it in his left hand advanced down the corridor towards the landing door, calculating the amount of force he would need to hurl the grenade down the stairs. It had to be right, for he would not get a second chance.

He paused, just short of the landing door. Something made him turn – that sixth sense which, over the years, was now fine-tuned to most emergencies. He spun round just in time to see a figure emerging gingerly from the room, negotiating his way through the gore and shattered bodies on the far side of the door. Later, Bond reasoned they had planned some kind of pincer manoeuvre when they heard additional shots, one man scaling the wall to attack through the window, the other mounting the stairs.

Bond let off two shots at the man in the doorway, both aimed at the centre of the target, while with his left hand he lobbed the stun grenade out of the landing door in the direction of the staircase. He saw the man in the doorway spin as though caught by a whirlwind. In the same instant, he was aware of the flash from the landing.

There were only two rounds left in the first magazine. In five seconds Bond replaced it with the fully charged one. Then he took two paces through the door, firing as he went, two slugs going nowhere while he located his target.

I think it would have been prudent to take the dead men's' guns and ammo too, but what do I know?


The last man was struggling at the bottom of the stairs, for the grenade had caught him napping. From the scorch marks and his agonised beating at the smouldering cloth around his loins, it was obvious that the grenade had hit him in the groin while he was on the stairs.

I think Gardner is just enjoying this now.


Still deafened, Bond saw the man’s mouth opening and closing, his face distorted. From the top of the stairs Bond shot him once, neatly blowing off the top of his head so that he fell on to his back, moving a foot or so on impact, with his brains spilling out over the dirty entrance hall floor.

Quietly, Bond retraced his footsteps, once more stepping over the now-larger sprawl of bodies, and crossing to the window. Below, about twenty yards away, Tamil Rahani stood with Simon and half a dozen members of Erewhon’s permanent staff. They were quite still, heads held as though listening. There was no sign of an unholstered weapon, and Bond could not see a gun trained on the house from any vantage points.

He moved back from the window, not wanting to show himself, yet uncertain of the safest way to get out of the place. He had gone only two steps, when the decision was partially made for him.

‘Are you still with us, Commander Bond?’ Rahani’s voice drifted up from outside, followed by Simon calling, ‘James? Did you figure it out?’

He returned to the window, standing to one side, showing as little of his head as possible. They were all in the same place. Still there were no weapons visible. Withdrawing, Bond shouted, ‘You tried to kill me, you bastards. Let’s make it fair. I’ll take you on – one at a time.’

He dropped to the ground and snake-crawled below the window, along the wall to the next aperture. They were all looking at the first window as he fired, putting the bullet about ten yards in front of them, kicking up a great cloud of dust.

Wow, I had no idea The Hunger Games ripped of Gardner's Bond books!


‘Right, Bond.’ It was Tamil Rahani calling. ‘Nobody wanted to do you any harm. It was a test, that’s all. A test of your efficiency. Just come out now. The test is over.’

‘I want one of you, unarmed. Just one – Simon, if you like. In now. At the front. Otherwise I start taking you out, very quickly.’ Bond took a quick peep through the window. Simon was already unbuckling his belt, letting it fall to the ground as he walked forward.

Seconds later, Bond was at the top of the stairs, and Simon stood in the entrance hall, hands on his head, looking up at Bond with some admiration.

‘What’s going on exactly?’ Bond asked.

‘Nothing. You did as we expected. Everyone told us how good you were, so we sent in four expendable men. Two of them were the ones you pointed out to me the other day, the Germans you said were known faces. We have others like them. This is a standard exercise.’

I see Gardner likewise realized how much Bond hosed up.


‘Standard? Telling the victim only blank ammunition is being used?’ ‘Well, you soon discovered you had live rounds, like the others. They also thought they had blanks.’

‘But I had live ammunition only if I could find it, which I did partially by luck.’

‘Rubbish, James. You had the real thing from the word go, and there were spare magazines all over the place. Can I come up?’

Keeping his hands on his head, Simon slowly mounted the stairs, while Bond began to wonder. Fool, he said to himself. You took the man’s word for it. He said you had blanks, but . . .

Five minutes later, Simon had proved his point, first by retrieving Bond’s original magazine, which was fully loaded with Glasers, and then by showing him other full magazines on the corridor floor and in the second room upstairs, as well as on the landing. Even with live ammunition, it had been an exceptionally dangerous business. One man against four armed with, as it turned out, MP 5K submachine guns.

The Heckler & Koch MP5 is probably the greatest submachine gun of all time, and the MP5K was an attempt at creating the smallest possible form for bodyguards, intelligence agencies, and special forces. Introduced in 1976, it has a 4.5-inch barrel (the same length as many handguns) and no stock; you can tension it on a sling by thrusting it out from your body to reduce recoil, but it's still only useful at very close range. By 1991 the MP5K PDW would be released, which has a folding stock and slightly extended barrel with HK's suppressor lugs for a much more practical weapon.

The MP5K PDW (specifically a conversion kit from a semi-auto weapon, as indicated by the lack of the paddle magazine release due to how MP5 receivers are constructed for civilian and military customers in a very long story) holds the distinction of being the second firearm I ever shot and the first in full auto, because I jump into things headfirst. I'm personally not fond of them, as the extremely short barrel means that the significant muzzle blast singes your knuckles.


‘I could have been wiped out within seconds.’

‘But you weren’t, were you, James? Our information was that you would get out of this kind of challenge alive. It just shows that our informants were correct.’

They walked down the stairs and out into the warm air, which felt very good. Bond had a feeling that he was, indeed, lucky to be alive. He also wondered if his luck was merely a stay of execution.



‘And if I had died in there?’

Rahani did not smile at the question. ‘Then, Commander Bond, we would have had only one body to bury instead of four. You lived; you showed us your reputation is well-deserved. Here life and death is of equal importance, in that it is only survival that matters.’

‘And it was, as Simon said, a challenge? A test?’

‘More of a test.’

They had dined alone, the three of them. Now they sat in Tamil Rahani’s office.

‘Please believe me.’ The Officer Commanding Erewhon made an open gesture with his hands. ‘I would not have put you through this ordeal had it been up to me.’

‘It’s your organisation. You were offering me a job.’

Rahani did not look him in the eye.

‘Well,’ he said, his voice low, ‘I have to be perfectly frank with you. Yes, the founding of an organisation which rents out mercenary terrorists was originally my idea. Unhappily, as so often happens in cases like this, I needed specialist assistance. That meant taking in partners. The result is I get a large return, but . . . well, I take my orders from others.’

Oh my God, he's a subcontractor.


‘And in this case your orders were?’

‘To see if you were trustworthy and could be used, or merely an undercover plant. To obtain information from you that we could easily test, and then – if that was okayed – to put you up against a real challenge, to see if you could survive a potentially lethal situation.’

‘And I’ve passed on all points?’

‘Yes. We are well satisfied. Now, you can be returned to our planners. It was true when I said there was a job waiting for you. There has been from the word go. That is why you were brought here, where we have facilities. You see, once here, if you had turned out to be . . . what do you people say? A double? Is that right?’

Bond nodded.

‘If you had been exposed as a double, we had the facilities here for losing you. Permanently.’

I'm glad to see that they thoroughly checked through the means of "Seeing if he'd kill terrorists set on him."


‘So, what’s this job you have for me?’

‘It is a large and complex operation. But one thing I can tell you.’ Rahani looked up at Bond, his eyes blank as though made of glass. ‘What is being planned at the moment will be the terrorist coup of the decade, even the century. If things proceed normally, it will spark off the ultimate revolution. A unique and complete change in the course of world events. The beginning of a new age. And those of us taking part in it will have a privileged position in the society that will emerge.’

‘I saw the film.’

Simon rose and went over to the filing cabinet, where there were a few bottles. He poured himself a generous glass of wine, then disappeared from view.

‘Scoff, Commander Bond. But I think even you will find this to be an operation without parallel in history.’

‘And it won’t work without me?’ Bond raised an eyebrow sardonically. ‘I did not say that. But it may not work without somebody like you.’

‘Okay.’ He leaned back in his chair. ‘So tell me all about it.’

‘I’m afraid I can’t do that.’ Rahani’s cold eyes bored into him, so that, for a second or two, Bond thought the man was trying out some elementary hypnosis.



‘So, you have to be returned. You have to go back.’

‘Back? Back to where?’

Too late Bond felt Simon’s presence behind him.

‘Back where you came from, James.’

Bond was conscious of the small, sharp pinch through his shirt, on his arm just below the right shoulder.

Tamil Rahani continued to speak.

‘We’re not talking about stories dreamed up by pulp novelists. No blackmail through concealed nuclear devices hidden in the heart of great Western cities; no plots to kidnap the President, or hold the world to ransom by setting all the major currencies at naught. We’re not talking about extortion; neither . . . are . . . we . . .’ His voice slowly receded, blurred, and then stopped.

chitoryu12 fucked around with this message at 22:25 on May 2, 2021

Dec 24, 2007

chitoryu12 posted:

We’re not talking about stories dreamed up by pulp novelists. No blackmail through concealed nuclear devices hidden in the heart of great Western cities; no plots to kidnap the President, or hold the world to ransom by setting all the major currencies at naught.

Yeah none of that cheesy poo poo for James Bond! Coming right after the gruesome firefight description this feels like Gardner was trying to make 007 books "grim and gritty" but it just comes off as hilariously out of place.

Apr 23, 2014

Nothing ridiculous! No mind control ice cream! No mansions with Gyrojets and paperwork proving that a woman unironically named Lavender Peacock is a secret Scottish heir! No Nazis in secret ice bases!

Apr 23, 2014

Chapter 13: The Numbers Racket


The sky was grey, almost leaden. He could see it through the window – the sky and part of an old apple tree. That was all.

Bond had woken from what seemed to be natural sleep. He was still fully dressed, and the ASP, complete with holster and one extra clip of ammunition, lay on the bedside table. The room appeared to be a genuine English bedroom – white gloss paint on the woodwork and Laura Ashley wallpaper, with a contrasting fabric for curtains; only most of the window was bricked up, and the door would not budge when he tried to open it.

Laura Ashley was a textile design company formed in 1954 that lasted all the way until 2020 before going bankrupt. The wallpaper here is likely something very traditional as seen above.


There was a depressing sense of déjà vu. He had been along this road before, only last time it was Erewhon. Rahani had said they had accepted him, but he wondered how and why. Certainly the long interrogation sessions had been searching – M had instructed him to give away anything they could check on, even if it was highly sensitive. Fences, his Chief maintained, could be mended later. But what would be the state of play by the time they came to mend fences? At Erewhon preparations were going forward for something earth-shattering. What was it that Rahani had said – ‘A unique and complete change in the course of world events’? The dream of revolutionaries: to change history, to crush the status quo, to alter it in order to build a new society. Well, Bond thought, it had been done before, but only within countries: Russia was the prime example, though Hitler’s rise in Germany had been a revolution as well. The problem with revolutions was that the ideal usually fell short because of human frailty. M often expounded such theories.

Wow, I had no idea that James Bond was a succlib who needs to be guillotined by the accelerationist proletariat!


Rahani had told him that he, Bond, or somebody like him, would be essential to whatever was about to take place. They needed someone with the skills, the contacts and the knowledge of an experienced Secret Intelligence field officer. What part of those skills, or what special knowledge was required?

He was still pondering on these things when somebody knocked at the door and a key turned in the lock.

Cindy Chalmer looked bright and crisp. She wore a laboratory coat over jeans and shirt, and was carrying a large tray.

These characters are so uninteresting that I legitimately forgot which girl Cindy was and had to check the names again.


‘Breakfast, Mr Bond,’ she said, beaming at him.

In the background, he could see a tall, muscular man.

Bond nodded towards him. ‘Someone to watch over me?’

‘And me, I guess.’ She set the tray down on the end of the bed. ‘Can’t be too careful with hot shots like you around. Nobody knew what you’d like, so Dazzle did the full English breakfast – bacon, eggs, sausages, toast, coffee.’ She lifted the silver cover from the steaming plate, holding the inside towards Bond. There was a folded paper neatly taped to the inside.

Which immediately fell off from the massive amount of steam soaking into it?


‘That’ll do fine.’ He gave her a nod. ‘Do I call room service when I’ve finished?’

‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you,’ she said brightly. ‘We shall, Mr Bond. I gather the Professor wants to talk to you later. Good to see you feeling better. They said you had a nasty bump when you went off the road. The Professor was genuinely worried, that’s why he persuaded the hospital to let him bring you here.’

‘Very good of him.’

She lingered by the door. ‘Well, it’s nice to know we’ll all be working together.’

‘Good to have a job in these difficult times,’ Bond countered, not knowing how much Cindy knew or believed. Had they told her he’d been in a motor accident? That he was being given a job at Endor? Well, presumably the latter was more or less true.

Bond waited until the key had been pushed home in the lock. There was no other sound, no retreating footsteps, for the passage outside, like this room, was overlaid with thick carpet.

As usual, he will assume no cameras or other surveillance is present.


The paper came away easily from the inside of the lid. Cindy had filled it with small, neat writing and, in spite of the steam, the ink had not run. The note started abruptly, without any salutation.

I don’t know what’s happened. They say you’ve had a car smash, but I don’t know whether to believe them. They brought your Bentley back here, and there’s been a lot of talk about you joining the team as a programmer. I wondered if they knew you had computer equipment with you, and felt you would not want them to find it. Very difficult, but I got hold of the Bentley’s keys and cleaned out the boot. All your private stuff is now hidden in the garage and not likely to be found, unless we’re unlucky. A good thing I did it straight away, because security’s been tightened for the weekend. A lot of people are coming down, and from what I’ve heard, the game I told you about (remember the balloons?) is going to be in use. It is possible that I may be able to get hold of it. Do you wish to copy? Or is that superfluous now that you are One of Us?


So, the place was going to be crowded, the Balloon Game to be used. Bond was essential. Therefore, if the Balloon Game was a training simulation for the operation, then Bond and the Game were closely connected. QED.

He tore the message into tiny pieces, and ate them with the bacon and some toast. He could not stomach the eggs or sausage, but the coffee was good, and he drank four cupfuls, strong and black.



There was a small bathroom attached to his bedroom. Set neatly on the glass shelf above the hand-basin were his razor and his favourite cologne. Already he had seen his weekend case beside the small wardrobe. On examination he discovered his clothes had all been washed and neatly pressed.

Don’t believe it all, he told himself. On the face of it, he was trusted; his weapon, shaving kit and clothes were intact. But they kept the door locked and there was no easy way out of the window. It was possible that they only wanted him to believe he had been accepted.

He showered, shaved and changed, putting on fresh casual clothes that allowed him to move easily and fast. Even the ASP was strapped to his right hip by the time a second knock and the turning of the key announced the arrival of two muscular men whose faces were familiar from Cindy’s description - Tigerbalm Balmer and Happy Hopcraft.

Still can't get over that.


‘Mornin’, Mr Bond.’ Tigerbalm greeted him with a smile, his eyes not meeting Bond’s but sliding around the room, as though measuring it up for a

‘Hallo, James, nice ter meecher.’ Happy stuck out a hand, but Bond pretended not to notice.

‘Balmer and Hopcraft,’ Tigerbalm said. ‘At your service. The Professor wants a word.’

Behind the expensive mohair suits and the cheerful bonhomie lay a hint of menace. Just by looking at them, you could see that this pair would have your head stuffed and mounted if it suited them, or they had instructions from anyone paying them enough.

‘Well, if the Professor calls, we must answer.’ Bond looked at the key clutched in Tigerbalm’s hand. ‘That really necessary?’

‘Orders,’ Happy said.

‘Let’s go and see the Professor then.’

I eagerly look forward to them both being creatively killed in machinery.


They did not exactly crowd him as they went downstairs to the working area. There was no pushing or frogmarching, but their presence had a certain intimidating effect. Bond felt that one false move – any inclination to go in another direction – would bring about a fast, restraining action. There was no sign of Cindy or Peter. But St John-Finnes sat at his desk, the large computer keyboard in front of him and the VDU giving out a glow of colour.

‘James, it’s nice to have you back.’ He signalled with his head that Tigerbalm and Happy should leave, then gestured to an easy chair.

‘Well,’ he went on brightly when they were settled. ‘I’m sorry you were put to some inconvenience.’

‘I could have been killed quite easily.’ Bond spoke in a level, calm manner.

‘Yes. Yes, I’m sorry about that. But in the event it was you who did the killing, I gather.’

‘Only because I had to. Habits take a long time to die. I think my reactions are reasonably fast.’

The narrow, birdlike head moved up and down in comprehension. ‘Yes, the reports all say you’re rather good. You must understand that we had to be sure of you. I mean, one error and a great deal of money, and planning, would have been in jeopardy.’

The dude almost shot Rahani! It was just luck that he missed!


Bond said nothing.

‘Anyway, you passed with flying colours. I’m glad, because we need you. You’re now aware of the connection between things here at Endor, and the training camp, Erewhon?’

‘I understand you and your partner, Mr Tamil Rahani, run a rather strange enterprise, hiring mercenaries to terrorist and revolutionary groups,’ Bond stated flatly.

‘Oh, a little more than that.’ His manner was now benign, smiling and nodding. ‘We can offer complete packages. A group comes to us with an idea and we do everything else, from raising the money to performing the operation. For instance, the job you have been recruited for has been on the drawing board some time now, and we stand to gain a great deal from it.’

Bond said he realised that he had been vetted, and he knew there was a job for him within the organisation, and connected to an operation, ‘But I’ve no idea of the . . .’

‘Details? No, of course you haven’t. Just as in your old Service people work on a need-to-know basis, so we must be exceptionally careful, particularly with this current work. No one person is in possession of the full picture, with the exception of Colonel Rahani and myself, of course.’ He made a slight movement of the fingers and head, which was meant to convey modesty. It was a curiously oriental gesture, as though he wished Bond to realise that he was really unworthy to be granted the honour of knowing such plans. Bond also noted that it was now Colonel Rahani, and he wondered where that title came from.

"Curiously oriental"? Come on.


‘. . . especially careful concerning you, I fear,’ St John-Finnes was saying. ‘Our principals were very much against giving you a situation of trust, but – since Erewhon – we have made them think twice.’

‘This job? The one you’ve recruited me for . . .’ Bond started.

‘Has been in the making for a considerable time. A large amount of money was needed, and our principals were, shall we say, short of funds. This suited us. We’re packagers, Bond. So we packaged some moneymaking projects to finance the main thrust.’

‘Hence the Kruxator Collection and other high-tech robberies.’

Jay Autem Holy, alias St John-Finnes, remained icy cold. Only in his eyes could Bond detect a tiny wariness. ‘You come to interesting deductions, my dear Bond. For one who knows nothing . . .’

‘Stab in the dark.’ Bond’s face betrayed nothing. ‘After all, there have been several imaginative robberies lately – all with the same handwriting. A case of putting two and two together, and maybe coming in with the correct answer.’

Once again, Bond comes within inches of straight up screaming that he's a spy to the villain.


Holy made a noncommittal grunt. ‘I’ll accept that you’re clean, Bond. But still my orders are to segregate you. You possess knowledge and skill which we require you to use now.’


‘Well, as a former field officer of the Secret Intelligence Service, you must have a working knowledge of the diplomatic and military communications network.’


‘Tell me, then, do you know what an EPOC frequency is?’


He remained as bland as before, though the turn of the conversation was beginning to worry him. The last time Bond had heard of EPOC frequencies was when he had had to guard against aggressive signal monitoring during a visit to Europe by the President of the United States, EPOC stood for Emergency Presidential Orders Communications. An EPOC frequency was the cleared radio frequency on which emergency messages could be sent out by the President during an official tour outside the United States.

‘And what kind of signal is sent over an EPOC frequency?’

Bond paused, as though giving the matter some thought. ‘Only vital military instructions. Sometimes a response to a military problem demanding the President’s decision alone. Sometimes action inaugurated by him.’

‘And how are these orders transmitted?’

‘Usual high-speed traffic, but on a line kept permanently clear, via one of the communications satellites.’

‘No, I mean the nature of the transmissions. The form they take.’

‘Oh. A simple group of digits. Data, I suppose. The orders that can be given through the EPOC frequency are very limited. It’s rarely used you know.’

Rarely used because it's a fictional creation for the book.


‘Quite.’ Holy gave what could only be described as a knowing smile. ‘Rarely used, and very limited – but with the most far-reaching consequences?’

Bond agreed. ‘The President would use the EPOC frequency only on strong recommendation from his military advisers. The messages are usually concerned with rapid deployment of conventional troops and weapons . . .’

‘The alteration in the Readiness State of nuclear strike capacity?’

‘That’s a priority, yes.’

‘And tell me, would the instructions be obeyed? Immediately, I mean. Suppose the President were, for the sake of argument, in Venice and wished both to put NATO forces on the alert and prepare his nuclear strike forces for action. Would it be done? Without consultation?’

‘Quite possibly. The code for that kind of action is, in effect, a computer program. Once it’s fed into the system it works. In the scenario you’re suggesting, the British Prime Minister and the Commander-in-Chief NATO would consult back. But the Readiness State would continue.’

‘And if the British Prime Minister and the C-in-C NATO forces were known to be with the President at the moment of transmission?’

It was very dangerous ground. Bond felt his stomach turn over. Then he remembered Rahani’s words – ‘No blackmail . . . no plots to kidnap the President, or hold the world to ransom . . .’

Did M's plan account for Bond spilling all of this detail to the villain on purpose?


‘In those circumstances the instructions would go to all local commanders automatically. They would be fed into the mainframe computers, the program would begin to run, globally, straight away. No question.’ This was something more devious, more ingenious than some harebrained revolutionary plan to override the system and transmit presidential orders to raise the level of tension between the superpowers. ‘But surely you know all of this.’

‘Indeed I do.’ There was an almost insane tranquillity in the way in which Holy answered. ‘Oh, I know the minutiae. Just as I know who has access to the daily ciphers for use through the EPOC frequency, and who also has access to that frequency.’

‘Tell me.’ Bond gave the impression of not knowing the small print.

‘Come, Mr Bond. You know as well as I do.’

‘I’d rather hear it from you, sir.’

Nothing suspicious about requesting that at all.


‘There are only eleven ciphers that are capable of being sent via EPOC. These are seldom altered, for, as you say, they are programs, designed to be automatically set in motion while the President is out of the country. The eleventh is, incidentally, a countermand program to stop an order, returning things to the status quo. But that can be used only on a limited time scale. The frequency itself is altered at midnight every two days. Right?’

‘I believe so.’

‘The ciphers are carried by that omnipresent, and somewhat frightening official known as the Bag Man. Correct?’

‘The system has been found reliable,’ Bond agreed. ‘There was a Bag Man present in JFK’s entourage in Dallas. It’s never been changed. He’s always around – in the United States as well as when the President travels abroad. It’s the penalty for having your head of state as C-in-C Armed Forces.’

In the real world, the equivalent for this is the Presidential Emergency Satchel, or "nuclear football." This heavy briefcase serves as a mobile hub for the strategic defense system of the United States. In other words, it contains everything that the president needs to issue a nuclear strike anywhere at any time.

The contents of the football, obviously, are top secret. Warren "Bill" Gulley, the first civilian chief of the White House Military office, made a claim in his 1980 book Breaking Cover of the contents of the football that may or may not be true.

There are four things in the Football. The Black Book containing the retaliatory options, a book listing classified site locations, a manila folder with eight or ten pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Broadcast System, and a three-by-five-inch [7.5 × 13 cm] card with authentication codes. The Black Book was about 9 by 12 inches [23 × 30 cm] and had 75 loose-leaf pages printed in black and red. The book with classified site locations was about the same size as the Black Book, and was black. It contained information on sites around the country where the president could be taken in an emergency.

Obviously, as a paragraph in a mass market tell-all, this could be fake information to throw off espionage just as well. The official information is that the various authentication codes must be checked and re-checked through a strict chain of command to verify that the president is legitimately the one making the order, so nobody can simply yoink the briefcase and call down nukes even if they have the codes.

Despite this, the football's existence is highly controversial and only became even more dangerous with the unhinged presidency of Donald Trump. The chain of command is exclusively concerned with verifying that the POTUS is the one making the order, not whether he should be. In theory, if the president went insane, there's not really any legal means for others to stop him from causing the apocalypse. Boris Yeltsin tried to talk Clinton into abandoning it, but he mistakenly believed that the football prevented nuclear strikes without his authorization and refused. Both Nixon and Trump are known to have been talked down from ordering strikes on hostile nations like Iran and North Korea, but the fate of the world basically rests in the hands of a sane president or at least one person in the chain of command disobeying orders for the sake of humanity. Major Harold L. Hering was infamously kicked out of the Air Force in 1975 for questioning how he knew that the order for a nuclear strike was a lawful, sane order. Wanting to know that he wasn't bombing Moscow on the orders of a raving drunk was beyond his need to know, and he was "failure to demonstrate acceptable qualities of leadership" for daring to question the system.

Even outside this, the centralized nature of the football remains an issue despite it not being useful to anyone else; during the January 6th invasion of the Capitol, the backup football with Pence ended up within 100 feet of rioters rampaging through the building where it could have theoretically been captured and had its contents posted online.


‘The Bag Man can part with the ciphers and EPOC frequency only to the President, or the Vice-President, should anything happen,’ Holy went on. ‘Should the President meet with a fatal accident overseas, the ciphers would be immediately null and void, unless the Vice-President were with him.’


‘So, if someone – anyone – were in possession of the EPOC frequency, and the eleven ciphers, it would be possible to relay a command which would automatically begin to run?’

For the first time since they had started talking, Bond smiled, slowly shaking his head. ‘No. There is a fail safe. The EPOC frequency is a beamed satellite signal. It goes directly through one of the Defense Communications Satellite Systems, and they are very tricky little beggars. The program will run only if the satellite confirms that the signal has come directly from the area where it knows – because it has been told – the President is. You would have to be very close to him before you could beat the system.’

In real life, the Gold Codes used to authenticate a nuclear strike have a shockingly simple security feature: memorization. The card containing the codes actually has multiple dummies, with the president being required to memorize which ones are correct. Issuance of a wrong code will make it obvious that either the football has been stolen or the president is too incompetent to be dropping nukes.


‘Good.’ To Bond’s surprise, Jay Autem Holy looked quite happy. ‘Would you be surprised to learn that we already have the eleven ciphers, the programs?’

‘Nothing surprises me any more. But if you’re playing games with an Emergency Presidential Order you still have to get hold of the frequency for the forty-eight hours when you plan to operate. Then you have to get close to the President, and be able to use the frequency. I’d say the last two were the hardest parts – getting near the President with the equipment needed to transmit, and obtaining the necessary frequency.’

‘So who else knows the EPOC frequency – always? I’ll tell you, Mr Bond. The Duty Intelligence Officer at the NATO C-in-C’s Headquarters, the Duty Communications Officer at the CIA HQ Langley, the Duty Communications Officer at NSA, the corresponding senior communications officers of the US armed forces – and, Mr Bond, the senior monitoring officer at GCHQ Cheltenham. The Duty Security Officer at the British Foreign Office – who is always a member of the Secret Intelligence Service – is also in possession of the frequency. It’s quite a list, when you consider that the President himself doesn’t know the EPOC frequency until he has occasion to use it.’

‘They’re so very rarely used. Yes, as I remember it, you’ve got the list right – but for one other person.’


‘The officer who controls the ciphers and frequency at the outset. Normally a communications security officer with the National Security Agency.’

‘Who usually, Mr Bond, has forgotten the details within five minutes. What we shall need from you is the precise EPOC frequency on a particular day, which means we need it twenty-four hours in advance. All other details are taken care of.’

‘And how do you expect me to give you the EPOC frequency?’

Jay Autem Holy gave a throaty laugh. ‘You have done service as Duty Security Officer at the Foreign Office. You know the system and the routine. Someone with your background and your expertise should have no difficulty in obtaining what we require. Just put your mind to it. This is why you were the obvious candidate, Bond. Providing you’re as straight as we believe you to be. There is an old proverb: when you want something from the lions, send a lion, not a man.’

Just don't send him against fish.


‘I’ve never heard that before.’

‘No? You are the lion going to the lions. You are trusted, but if you should fail us . . . Well, we are not forgiving people, I’m afraid. Incidentally, I’m not surprised you didn’t recognise the proverb. I just invented it.’

Jay Autem Holy threw back his head in a guffaw of laughter. James Bond did not think it was at all funny.

This is like an Austin Powers bit.


‘You’ll get the frequency for us, won’t you, Bond?’ The query came out through a series of deep breaths, as he gained control of himself. ‘Think of it as your revenge. I promise you it will be used for good, and not to create havoc and disaster.’



He had no option. ‘Yes, I’ll do it. It’s only a few numbers you want, after all.’

‘That’s right. You’re in the numbers racket now. A few simple digits, Mr Bond.’ He paused, the vivid green eyes boring into Bond’s skull. ‘Did you know the Soviets use almost an identical method when the General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Committee is abroad? They call it the Panic frequency – but in Russian of course.’

‘You need access to this Panic frequency as well?’ Bond asked, his nerves on edge.

‘Oh, we already have it. You’re not the only person in the numbers racket, Mr Bond. Our principals in this operation have little money to spare but they certainly have contacts. Light on cash but heavy on information. They do not trust your judgment as we do – or have I already told you that?’

‘Ah, your principals, yes.’ Bond turned down the corners of his mouth. ‘Even though my part in all this is vital – essential – I am not allowed to know . . . ?’

‘The name of our principals? I should have thought a man like you would have guessed already. A once powerful and very rich organisation, which has fallen on bad times – mainly because they lost their last two leaders in tragic circumstances. Our principals are a group who call themselves SPECTRE. The Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. I rather like the revenge bit, don’t you?’


Nov 8, 2009

The only way to get huge fast is to insult a passing witch and hope she curses you with Beast-strength.

chitoryu12 posted:

Chapter 13: The Numbers Racket

oh come on

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