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Ghost in the Machine

Chapter Text

James Bond had long wanted to see the Día de Muertos festivities in Mexico City for himself. There was something entrancing about such a vibrant celebration of life and death, the idea that the dead could rejoin the living in feast and dance, if only for three days each year. He would have liked, however, if the reason for his visit wasn’t literally a matter of life and death. It rather took the fun out of the party.

“Where are you going?” the gorgeous woman he’d seduced just for access to her hotel room asked as he prepared to exit said hotel room via the window. He hadn’t strictly needed to seduce her – he could have accomplished the same objective with a bit of B&E – but M was insistent that Bond be particularly adherent to the ‘secret’ part of secret agent for this mission, which meant drawing as little attention to his activities as possible. Hence, seduction over destruction.

“I won’t be long,” he said, and stepped out onto the roof. Was it a lie if it could potentially be true? It would certainly be nice if everything went smoothly for once, and he could be on a flight back to London in a few hours so he could do to Q all the things he’d promised the woman back in that hotel room he’d do to her. Q had said it as a joke originally: he was perfectly fine with the more salacious aspects of Bond's job, as long as Q got quid pro quo when Bond was back on domestic soil. “One for them, one for me,” he’d murmured teasingly against Bond’s lips. Bond had thought it was a pretty good idea.

Speak of the devil. “Shall I have the hotel send her up a bottle of champagne from you?” Q’s voice hummed over his earpiece.

“That would be awfully considerate of me,” Bond said, advancing along the thin strip of rooftop and preparing his compact sniper rifle for action along the way. Despite Q’s insistence that he wouldn’t show Bond any special treatment just because they were seeing each other, his presents had gotten considerably more fun.

“Mm. Why did you take off the skeleton suit? I liked it,” Q said. It was late in London, Q’s staff would have all gone home. In other words, no one else was listening.

“It wasn’t exactly practical,” Bond answered as he leapt across onto the next roof.

“Oh, and Tom Ford is practical,” Q drawled.

“How did you know I took it off?”

Q chuckled in a rather sinister fashion. “Big Brother is watching.”

Bond hadn’t even seen a camera. It really was a bloody good thing Q was on their side. He crouched down behind one of the gables at the edge of the roof, and soon had the window across from him in his sights. With the flick of a small switch on his earpiece, he could hear the conversation in the room. He followed the Spanish with ease as the men exchanged greetings. When his target – Marco Sciarra – entered the room, he flashed a silver ring on his right hand for the others to see.

“Sciarra’s got a ring – might identify him as part of the organisation,” Bond muttered. M – his M – had known only that the assassin had ties to a much larger organisation. She hadn’t been able to determine its nature or its name. But the recording she had left Bond was the only lead they had after weeks of searching.

“Well then you’ll probably want to take it from his corpse,” Q responded. Bond smiled. The rare times when he and Q settled upon the same solution to a problem were ones to savour.

He listened as the men discussed the logistics for bombing the stadium later in the evening, the briefcase full of explosives on the table between them. It made a tempting target. “And the flight out of here?” Sciarra’s contact was asking.

“All arranged,” Sciarra replied.

“And then what?”

“Then I visit the Pale King.”

“A toast, my friend. To death!”

“To death,” Sciarra echoed, standing and raising his glass. Finally, Bond had a decent shot. And then Sciarra had to cock it up by blowing smoke from his cigar, which reflected Bond’s laser sight. With the men tipped off to his presence, he had to take out the ones with guns as Sciarra fled the room. One of them made the unfortunate mistake of taking cover behind the briefcase.

“Don’t shoot the bomb, 007!” Q shouted frantically in his ear.

Bond winced as his earpiece rang with the sudden volume, but he took the shot. The whole side of the building blew out, and Bond had to duck back down behind the gable to avoid the rubble. “Sorry, Q,” he said, “couldn’t hear you over the sound of the explosion.”

Q made an inarticulate sound of fury as the rest of the old building began to crumble and fall, necessitating a hasty retreat. Unfortunately for Bond, Q never stayed speechless for long. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? You’re supposed to be working under the radar!” he snapped as Bond dodged and slid down pieces of falling building, landing finally on a preposterously convenient sofa.

“Couldn’t be helped, Q,” he said, straightening himself out. “Do you have eyes on Sciarra?”

“He hasn’t gotten far. Your next right.” Q still sounded cross, but he wouldn’t jeopardise the mission just to chew Bond’s ear off. Around the corner, Bond saw Sciarra, blood staining his white suit, stumbling through the falling ash.

“I’m on him.” He chased Sciarra through crowds of the living dead, skeletons and calaveras like the one Silva had used watching from either side. The crowds only grew denser as they approached the square, along with the drums and dancers in the parade. If not for the music and the noise of the crowd, Bond would have heard the helicopter approaching sooner. It was going to land in the square, he realised. If Bond had stepped out of the shadows, he had dragged his foes with him into the daylight.

“What on earth is he thinking?” Q muttered. “The two of you deserve each other, you really do.”

“Do you have anything helpful to add, Q?” Bond grunted as he took out one of the pilots and leapt onto the helicopter after Sciarra.

“I’ve blacked out cellular data in the area – hopefully that’ll keep you off Instagram.”

“That’s very helpful,” Bond growled, throttling the remaining pilot as the helicopter tilted and swirled out of control above the square.

“It may not help you now, but it might keep M from skinning you alive when you get back.”

Sciarra leapt at him then, occupying all of Bond’s attention as they struggled, half in and half out of the helicopter, a hundred feet in the air. He did have the presence of mind to note that Q had said “when you get back.”

Finally, Bond had Sciarra pinned down, and he pulled the ring, slick with blood, from the man’s middle finger. The helicopter bucked and wheeled through the air as the pilot attempted to shake Bond off of Sciarra. He only succeeded in giving Bond the opportunity to kick Sciarra out of the door. This was a learning opportunity, Bond thought. He hadn’t known a helicopter could do so many barrel rolls without falling out of the sky. He did know how high one could go in a vertical climb until the rotors stalled, however. So he pulled harshly back on the cyclic as he struggled once more with the pilot, taking them even higher into the air, and after a stomach-churning flip, into free fall. As they fell, Bond finally got the upper hand on the pilot, and tossed him out the door after Sciarra. Q was conspicuously silent as Bond took over the controls of the plummeting helicopter.

As the ground rushed closer on the other side of the windshield, Bond struggled to pull back on the cyclic, just managing to tilt the helicopter back before it sheared off the heads of festival goers below. With a measured exhale, he began to pilot the thankfully no longer smoking machine out of the city. Near death experiences that didn’t land him in Medical for a week always gave Bond something of a new lease on life, so he took the scenic route past the downtown area, the setting sun glinting off towers of rose gold windows.

Q finally spoke up. “I think M might still have your hide when you get back.”

“And you, Quartermaster?” Bond asked.

Q hummed in mock contemplation, and Bond could hear the smirk in his voice when he answered, “I might, as well. Safe travels, 007.”

Yes, sometimes life could still be good to James Bond. Usually right before everything went to shit.