"I suppose a meeting like this was bound to happen sooner, rather than later, Bond.”
M is standing in front of her liquor cabinet, facing away from as she pours them both a healthy measure of single-malt scotch to ease the tension of the forthcoming mission debriefing. “I didn’t expect to have this conversation so early in your tenure as a Double-O, if at all.”
Bond is silent, knowing better than to interrupt - especially so early in the conversation when M was clearly just getting started. He holds out his hand to take his drink from her when she walks back and takes a seat behind her desk. He sinks a bit into his chair while sipping from the glass in an effort to quell the verbal lashing he knows he’s about to face.
“I presume your actions were more an error of enthusiasm than an act of wanton carelessness?” She leans forward in her chair and presses her fingertips together, not breaking eye contact, to emphasize her seriousness about the matter. “This mission need not have been this complicated.”
Bond opens his mouth to explain himself, but quickly closes it when M shoots him an icy glare. This was going to be one of those meetings - the type where M does most of the talking and he prays that by the end of it, he still maintains his Double-O status. His hand tightens around the glass of scotch as if it were a security blanket, and he sips slowly to prevent himself from speaking out of turn.
“I know you’ve a strong desire to prove yourself worthy of your position. It’s no secret to those of us in the 00 Section of MI6 that you assume you have a reputation to uphold because of the legacy that your number has in this organization,” she explains. “When your predecessor retired, we looked at several candidates before we settled on you, Bond. I can assure you that you were our best prospect from a select pool of candidates. A sharp-shooter, who was good on his feet, and showed a great deal of dedication to, and respect for, both MI6 and the mission assigned.”
M pauses her rant to take a sip from her glass, the scotch easing her frustration and making the words she’s about to say come more easily.
“And here you are, just a little over eighteen months and four missions into your new role. Your reckless shoot-first and ask-questions-later method has cost MI6 a very important lead. As you were briefed early-on, Miroslav Ibrahima was our best chance to bring down the Kaorustaas syndicate and their leader. Because you blew up his office building, with him inside, we are once again at a dead end with months of research and department resources wasted.”
If looks could kill, Bond is fairly certain that M would have murdered him just then. He is only able to mutter a short apology (“Sorry, ma’am” ) before he returns to his drink and lets M continue with her verbal lashing.
“Sometimes, James, I see a lot of myself in you and that frightens me. I’m a very private person, so what I’m about to disclose to you stays between us.”
It’s more of a threat than a request. Bond nods in agreement.
“Early in my career at MI6, I once sat where you’re sitting now. I foolishly felt that I, too, had to prove myself to my superiors and peers - almost at the expense of my own life,” M explains. She pauses to finish the rest of her scotch in one large gulp before relaxing back into her chair.
“As one of the first female Double-O agents in MI6, I had the notion that I must work and train twice as hard to gain any recognition from my superiors - but what I did not yet realize at the time was that I was already seen as qualified. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been given my own license to kill.
“It took only one fatal mistake for me to learn that my pride had gotten in the way of good judgment, just as you have done. I was partnered with another Double-O to resolve a weapons crisis during the Cold War,” she pauses to catch her breath, the memory clearly still haunting her. “Thinking I had all the information I needed - and without doing proper research or double-checking my leads - I ran in, guns ablaze, with nothing but my own goals in mind. I believed that I should be the one to capture the mastermind and bring him in to MI6, not my partner. Do you know what that got me?”
Bond shakes his head. “No, ma’am.”
“A dead partner.”
Bond’s eyebrow quirks up, the gesture silently urging M to continue her story.
“I only skimmed the mission brief and I thought I could improvise once we arrived on the scene. I had a penchant for destruction and disliked rules - much like yourself. This hubris lead to me making more than one foolhardy decision, and I nearly got myself killed. My partner was loyal to MI6 and the mission - but, thankfully, he was also loyal to me. He pushed me out of the way when we were ambushed and unfortunately took two bullets in the chest as his reward.
“That day still haunts me,” she says. “It was a difficult lesson for me to learn. I realized that I could not allow my emotions, nor my ambitions, control my actions when I was in the field. Since then, I’ve held myself to a higher standard than others in the department, and look where I am today.”
Bond finishes his glass of scotch and places it on her desk, finally ready to speak about the events of the ill-fated mission. “You should know I made that judgment call while working under the false assumption that Miroslav Ibrahima was no longer on the premises. I thought I saw him leave the compound, heading in the direction of Felix’s team. I detonated the charges after I received word they had captured him. It was only later that we realized that the man in our custody was a decoy, and Ibrahima had remained inside the building.”
She nods in acknowledgement of the facts, but clearly she’s already understood the circumstances. She had wanted to hear it directly from him. “As human beings, we will make errors, Bond. But as MI6 agents, we have to be better - the best we can be - because we are responsible for the security and safety of our citizens.”
M pushes back her chair, stands, and walks both empty glasses back to the bar. “Return to my office tomorrow afternoon.” She turns around to face Bond, her face relaxed and her point made. “We’re going to need another informant if we intended to take down this syndicate.”
She waves Bond goodnight and leans against the bar, debating if she wants another drink before heading home for the night.