Bond stepped out of the elevator and glanced around, checking that this floor of the office block was really abandoned. Whatever company had been here before had clearly gone bankrupt, been evicted and had everything of any value cleared out by bailiffs: there were still all sorts of things plastered on the walls from organisation charts to motivational posters. A whiteboard hanging from a single stubborn screw still kept track of the sales targets people obviously hadn't managed to meet.
They would probably have still been a going concern if they'd been willing to compromise on the address, Bond thought.
He tapped his earpiece and said, "Clear."
The line clicked. "Have you checked full-spectrum?"
"Ah, Agent Hill, I have so enjoyed working with you these last few days. Your dulcet voice in my ear every morning--"
"Have you checked full-spectrum?" she asked again.
"No," said Bond wearily. "Because I don't want to look like I'm going to a 3D film in the 1950s."
"There's no one there to see you."
Bond sighed and put on the slim multi-coloured goggles. "Nothing on infrared," he said after a perfunctory re-inspection of the room. He flicked the switch on the side and looked again. "No radio or microwave emissions from cybernetics." And again, quicker and quicker as the possibilities he was checking for became more and more outlandish. "No gamma, no X-rays, no UV signature of Pym particles..."
"Then you may proceed to the window," Hill said, knowing full well that Bond was already half-way there.
"When did we have to start worrying about people who can turn invisible anyway?" he asked her as he reached the position and cut a small, precise circle in the glass. "Or shrink to the size of an ant? Or turn into a giant green rage monster at the slightest provocation?"
"Welcome to my world," Hill said.
"And more to the point," Bond said as he put down the case he was carrying in front of some ex-employee's Star Wars poster, "aren't all those people I just talked about supposed to be on our side?"
"Welcome to my world," Hill said again, emphatically.
"I'm still not 100% clear on why I was sent here, you know," he said, as he opened the case and began to carefully unpack and assemble the sniper rifle within. "Since we're nearly at the end of the mission, I think I'm entitled to some sort of explanation."
"Plausible deniability," Hill said. "With everything that's happened over the last few years, the new, improved 100%-Hydra-free SHIELD really can't afford to be caught tracking US citizens."
Bond held up the special bullet, with its payload of nanobots that would insinuate themselves into the target and allow them to be permanently traced. "But if we do it with your help and tell you everything we find out, that's just fine and dandy?" He put the bullet in the chamber and rested the rifle on its mount. "Oh, and I'm in position by the way."
"Roger that." Hill was silent for a moment. "So we've covered the unflattering reasons why we want you here. But I'm not sure why the famous M sent you to us."
"The British government is always very keen on fostering closer international cooperation," Bond recited sardonically as he settled into position, leaning into the sight and moving it slowly back and forth across the crowd in Times Square below. "We are an outward-looking society, fully engaged with the 21st Century world."
"You want to steal all our secrets."
"Well, Agent Hill," Bond said. "The funny thing is, I am a spy."
Bond heard something then that he hadn't before, and wasn't sure he was likely to again: Maria Hill having to stifle a laugh.
"More seriously, this whole metahuman business--"
"We prefer to say 'enhanced' or 'gifted'," Hill interrupted. "I had to read a memo about it and everything."
Bond rolled his eyes. "It's bound to cross the pond sooner or later on a permanent basis, not just you chaps popping abroad for a bit of variety in your destructive rampages. M wants me to learn about how you deal with it."
"Learning from the best?"
"I was thinking more that we'd do the exact opposite," Bond said. "I do have a friend in London who'll be very interested in those silly glasses, though."
"You must realise we can't let you keep them."
"You must realise I've already sent my friend all the relevant technical specs through an untraceable channel." Bond spotted the target and began to track him in the crosshairs, waiting for a clear shot. "I'm hoping he'll be able to make something a bit more stylish, though. Oh, and, er, target acquired."
"Make sure you don't miss," Hill said. "The contents of that bullet are going to be transmitting back to you for the next century. You don't want to put it on someone boring."
Bond continued to track the target through the crowd. He stopped at a falafel cart; this was the moment. As he began to squeeze the trigger, Hill said, "So when are you going to seduce me, 007?"
He took the shot, watched through the scope as a moment later the target slapped his neck. He looked around himself comically for the insect that he assumed must have stung him. "You'll be pleased to know that your attempt to put me off failed," he said.
"Mission accomplished, then," Hill said. "But what are you talking about, putting you off?"
"You know perfectly well what I meant," said Bond as he began to strip the rifle and put it away again.
"It was a perfectly sincere question," Hill protested. "After all, Fury warned me all about you."
"Ah, of course he did."
"So I have to admit I'm rather disappointed that you haven't yet. After all, I've been whispering in your ear for days now. Wouldn't you like me to do it in person?"
"It is a very tempting offer, Agent Hill." Bond picked up his case and walked away from the window. "The trouble is that I'm under very strict instructions from my superiors not to overstep the proper jurisdictional boundaries between our two agencies."
"Nice try," Hill said. "But if I've figured out anything about you these last few days, it's that you hate to follow instructions."
"Ah," said Bond as he stepped into the elevator. "You ... er, noticed that, did you?"
"Proceed to the roof," Hill said, just as he was about to press the button to return to the basement where he had been "doing some routine maintenance on the elevator" in the first place.
"I'm sorry, could you repeat that?"
"Proceed to the roof. Extraction plan's changed," Hill said matter-of-factly.
"But there's no viable exit from the roof. Unless you've packed me one of those ridiculous wing-suits without telling me."
"Press the damned button, James."
Bond thumbed the top button on the panel and waited. Hill -- Maria, he allowed himself to think of her, since the mission was nearly over, and she had just called him "James" -- had suddenly gone silent on the comm line.
When he reached the roof, he realised why. The helicarrier was hovering in the air directly in front of him, its rear ramp lowered, with Maria Hill standing on it. "I told you!" she shouted over the din of the engines. "Extraction plan's changed! Now get on board!"
Bond shrugged and jumped on. Once the ramp had closed and they could hear anything below a yell, he told her, "I don't think you've quite grasped the meaning of a secret mission."
"New York's used to seeing helicarriers overhead," Maria said. "The eight million people down below don't know exactly what's going on."
"Well, then, that makes eight million and one of us," Bond said. "What is going on here, exactly?"
"Simple," Maria said as she led him into a corridor. "I'm picking you up for our date."
"I didn't realise we had one."
"Funny thing about that 21st Century world you stuffy Brits are oh-so-engaged with," Maria said. "Sometimes the girls make the first move."