The creature who called himself Q stirred his tea in a non-descript coffee shop in London, watching the rain clatter against the windowpane of the shop. Condensation formed on the inside of the window, revealing a small smiley face which the previous occupant of Q’s table had drawn as if the symbol would invoke an emotion of happiness upon the next viewer.
Well, Q thought, taking another sip of his tea, I’ve only ever been in my Homeworld until now. Humans would be simple compared to the Faey.
Q winced as the tea burnt his tongue. He still wasn’t used to this Skin, it had a far more sensitive taste sense than the previous one he had worn. However, it was good to be out of that previous Skin, it had been the first one he acquired in the human realm and it had been a poor fit.
Q placed the teacup back on the saucer, old bones of his Skin creaking with the effort.
A younger Skin next time would be an advantage, Q thought irritably, one more athletic, especially for chasing humans.
However, Q was no fool. Whilst it slowed him down, the aged Skin allowed him to be invisible to the humans. After all, he needed to be invisible to hunt for the one Fate had chosen for him to kill, it wouldn’t do for his human to run off before Q could harvest it’s ather for his own. Without the ather he would not be able to connect to the Earth, and become one of the Guardians. It was a position for only a chosen few, and Fate had chosen Q.
He certainly wasn’t going to give up his one moment of glory over a mere human running away from him.
The door to the café opened, the small bell above the doorframe clanging loudly and catching Q’s attention. A small family of three shuffled into the café, the mother shaking the very wet umbrella on the mat, holding her child with her other hand. Tucking the umbrella under her arm, she ushered her child in front of her, who seemed more interest in the lollipop in his mouth than the chiding words from his mother.
Q twisted his fingers around the handle of his mug. The Rage curled up inside him, the unspoken fury of the Faey race which drove his mind past conscious thought and into a frenzy of blood. Only those chosen to come to the Human realm had the Rage awakened within them, an honour that seemed like a double edged sword. Once, Q had dreamed of having his Rage awoken in the gilded halls of Queen Penelope, now he wasn’t so sure. He might have mastered his control over the Rage, after all he would have been able to survive for longer than a few days in the human realm without it, but it still felt more like a sickness than a gift, eating away at Q’s mind until he killed the human Fate had chosen for him.
Three months in the human realm. Q was pretty sure that it was the longest time a Faey had lasted outside the Homeworld.
I’ve waited long enough to come here, Q thought darkly. He had always wanted to be different, and never wanting to do what he was supposed to do. Whilst the other Faey were locked in their fights and anger, Q had wondered about the other races that existed in the universe, the Elves, Dragons and all manners of wondrous celestial beings. He had spent his first few days in the human just admiring how the humans’ bodies were able to cope with the drastic changes in mood they went through. Q had always thought his mind had been much stronger than his body, and finally now he was able to use it when analysing the small movements that marked a member of the human race. It was the small touches that made using a Skin a proper diversion, and Q was an expert in learning the small touches to a disguise.
The blond child who had entered the cafe mere moments before came careering in Q's direction, his small feet were back peddling furiously. However, much to Q's amusement, the smooth floor did not provide the child with much grip, sending him head over heels and straight into Q’s table.
At which point the child promptly started crying.
The Rage filled Q in an instant. He bolted to his feet, throwing the tea over the white table cloth which stained the pure white to an ugly brown colour. Sucking in each breath, Q fought to regain his control over the Rage, steadying his shaking hands as he placed the cup back onto the saucer again.
Silence fell over the café, punctuated with the occasional wail of the human child at his feet. Q ignored the stares from the other customers, focussing totally on trying to control the Rage. It coursed through him, making his head spin and almost making him vomit his food over the table.
Q barely managed to a smile as the boy’s mother, a slight woman with a hint of an accent Q had not heard among the humans he had been around the past few days, rushed over and apologised profusely. It wouldn’t do him any good to simply kill the child in full view of an entire cafe. Discretion was advised greatly, the existence of the Faey was to be kept secret all cost. The names of those who had tried to do otherwise had been drilled into Q’s mind since birth, a warning of those who had failed the gift of the Rage.
Their bodies had been returned by the Witches, who had been disgusted at being forced to clear up the Faey’s mess.
“James,” the mother said to her child, as Q regulated his breathing, “apologise,”
The boy, James, stuck out his bottom lip in a way only a child could manage, looking up at Q with his big blue eyes. Q clenched his jaw tightly, trying to retain the force which was screaming through his body to lash out and kill the child.
“Sorry,” the boy muttered despondently.
This child? Q questioned Fate, anger flaring along with the Rage, you chose this child for me to kill?
James whimpered quietly as he expected Q to give him an outburst for hitting his table. Q struggled to produce a faint smile, a growing determination to refuse to be controlled. There was a certain brightness in the child’s eyes that he deserved to keep, at least for now.
“Try not to run into things too fast,” Q said, handing James one of the biscuits which had come with his cup of tea. James took the proffered biscuit with a shaking hand.
“What do you say?” James’ mother asked the boy.
“Thank you,” James mumbled, sticking the biscuit into his mouth. James’ mother looked at Q with a thankful expression.
“It’s fine,” Q mumbled, before the mother could throw any more thanks onto him, “he’s only little,”
The mother smiled, steering James away from Q’s table, must to his relief. He sat down heavily, taking one of the paper napkins from the corner of the table and mopping up the spill to keep his hands busy. The paper disintegrated in his hand on contact with the liquid.
For all their technological advances, humans seemed to fail at being able to create an adequate absorption material.
Q looked over to James who was quietly sitting with his parents eating the biscuit Q had given him, shoulders hunched over in sadness. That small human was the one Q had to kill to gain his ather.
Q gestured to one of the passing human waitresses to fetch his bill. His money was running out; the first Skin he had stolen had been rich but not enough to fund all his exploits. He would need to get some money somehow, as he was going to be in the human world for far longer than intended.
Long enough until James was of an age to kill.
The waitress brought the bill over, and Q handed over the requisite amount of money. He had been schooled in the basics of human interactions before had come, lest he reveal to the humans he was not of their kind. Fate might choose his victim for him, but Q was dammed if he was going to kill a child.
I’m growing too soft, Q thought, wincing as his back twinged in pain as he stood up, and I’ve only been in this realm for a few months. What will happen to me if I stay longer?
Q grabbed his walking stick from the side of the table, clutching the polished wood like a lifeline.
He needed a walk.
Humans segmented their time into tiny digits, as if they were trying to add value to their short lives by defining each passing moment.
Time, Q found, didn’t define him anymore.
It merely showed him how long he had left.
Ticking down until he had to kill James.
Q breathed out heavily, fighting the urge to move his shoulders to get the Skin to fit better. It still felt a little tight, like a jacket that didn’t quite fit across the shoulders. The prickly heather stuck into his stomach where he lay, shrouding him in a dull purple colour.
One week ago, he had found out about the death of James’ parents.
His hand had been forced, and he couldn’t give up this perfect opportunity to get another look at his prey. The boy was still too young to kill, but it wouldn’t hurt to know a little more about James as he grew up. It wasn’t stalking, just keeping tabs on his prey. After all, Q figured he didn’t want James running off out of his reach. He wanted that boy’s ather for his own.
Scotland was bleak, although full of a silent beauty. The landscape made Q feel small, as if the grand sweeping lines of the mountains and hills placed his meagre existence into perspective. The sky fitted the sombre mood of the occasion, as if it too was mourning the passing of James’ parents. Q had watched the diggers struggling with the tough, frozen ground, to prepare the graves before the funeral started. Why on earth the humans considered it right to sacrifice their dead to the Mother Earth in this way still bemused Q, but then humans were a quaint race. They should be allowed their eccentricities on occasion.
Q picked up the binoculars hanging around his neck, pulling them level with his eyes. The open ground had forced him to hide in the fern and mossy slopes which bordered the valley where James’ house was situation. The binoculars were a clever human invention Q had to admit, as his Faey sight would not be able to pick out the details of the mourning party from this distance.
The doors to the church slowly opened. Q’s fingers twisted the dials on the binoculars, focussing on the emerging mourning party, looking for the small blond mop of hair. Q assumed the outside section of the humans’ procession would be short to account for the cold. An emotionless ending for a cold day, it was all rather fitting really. The Rage was quieter today, a gentle murmur instead of the red hot acid it usually was, as if it too recognised the sombre mood of the valley. Q could still feel the echo of it though, a gentle warm glow in the back of his mind.
Twisting the dials again, Q spotted the top of James’ small head peek out from the mass of people who swarmed around the coffins. He wore a suit that looked a few sizes too big, the clothing caught around his ankles as he was ushered next to the side of his parent’s graves. It was frustrating how poorly the humans reacted to death, as if they had never considered the concept existed until their own small lives were teetering on the abyss of that same black void.
A bird perched higher in the hills let out a sharp cry across the otherwise silent valley.
Q’s breath misted the front of the binoculars, yet his gaze was not taken off the mourners. His knowledge about the complexities of human society grew by the day, and yet they still puzzled him greatly. Why was it, that some of the humans were openly crying whereas others were not? Surely if they all were experiencing the same emotion, grief, they should be expressing it in the same way. Q would have loved to have been closer to analyse the individual reactions.
James, to his credit, stood stoically next to the adults as the coffins were lowered in to the ground. It was clear from the stiff stance James wore that the childlike glee which Q had seen years before had been quickly and efficiently killed by the cruelty of reality.
I’ll give him until he is an adult, Q thought, lowering the binoculars. He hadn’t come here to kill James, only to scout the boy out. Yet the bravery which James displayed by standing at his parent’s graves reminded him of his own struggles when his Carers had been killed in the Uprising of 652, when he had first been introduced to the bloodier side of the Faey world.
In human terms, Q would have only been 13 years old.
Some in the Faey world would consider Q weak for such empathy towards humans. After all, it was a well recorded fact that humans were a lesser race, to be used only as a link for those chosen Faey to gain the title of Guardian of Mother Earth herself.
Well, Q thought, I have never been one to follow the popular trail of thought.
Q paused for a few more moments, watching the small black dots in the valley begin to trail back towards the manor, before scrambling back up the slope he was perched on and back towards the abandoned trail. It would take him a good few hours running at his fastest pace, which humans would not be able to match without the aid of one of their metal monsters they called cars, to reach the nearest human settlement.
He deserves a life of sorts before I kill him.
The Rage quivered quietly in the back of his mind, a warning of what would happen to Q if he failed to kill James.
Time continued to pass, as it always did. Q settled further into the human life than he ever thought it was possible.
He took a library membership when James joined the navy. A ticket to knowledge, and knowledge according to one philosophical human figure was power.
And Q needed all the power he could get.
Venice was a city “renowned for its beauty in both architecture and artworks…,” according to the tourist guide which fluttered in the wind on Q’s table. The rest of the sentence was lost from where Q had wedged it under the saucer of his tea so he could study the map of the city better whilst he waited for James to come out of the building on the waterfront. Even though the café Q sat in was a good way down one of the side roads, he could get to James within five minutes from this position.
London had been Q’s home for his entire stay in the human realm. Even on James’ previous missions, after he had just joined MI6, Q had not followed his charge abroad. Humans were a difficult race to stay hidden within; he had enough trouble trying to stay hidden in London, a place he had lived in for over thirty years. He knew every backstreet and corner, which areas to avoid and which areas to go to seek solitude.
Maybe that was why I was chosen, Q thought, taking a sip of his tea, because I can learn about their realm. It had certainly been a surprise to be chosen from amongst the hundreds of his Generation, picked to walk into the human world. It was odd how, even after his extended stay in the human realm, he was not longing for his own realm.
His knowledge of the human world had come in useful to fake the documentation. A few days with late night spent pouring over the confusing paperwork he was to forge had been hard. Yet he had managed it. The destination had been a little harder, but a few minutes attacking the servers of MI6 had soon spilled numerous secrets to Q’s laptop.
Most importantly, he had found that James had dropped off the grid. A few hours chasing through reams of information on the internet had allowed him to find James buying champagne under a false alias in Venice.
I knew those programming manuals would come in handy, Q remarked silently. It was lucky that his Faey mind worked far faster than the mind of a human. He had not been idle whilst he had waited for James to grow older, developing his skills to the point that he was easily one of the best hackers in the world.
A spike of pain shot through his head. Q grabbed the side of his head as the pain pulsed for a few beats before disappearing again. It was the premonition, a warning from his Faey magic that this mission James was on would be different. Q could feel his biology slowly preparing itself for the final attack, like a predator tensing its muscles before it pounced on its prey. His leg kept shaking in his excitement, the nervous energy pummelling through his body.
The teacup rattled in its saucer.
Q paused, lowering his hand and stilling the cup. It wouldn’t normally do that, the laws of the human realm would deny the cup such movement. Alas, against logic’s better judgement, it kept shaking under Q’s touch, the tea slopping over the edges of the cup and into the saucer.
Then there was screaming.
Q looked down the street, towards the riverside. People flooded the street, all running in Q’s direction, screams growing louder as the wave of people closed in on Q. He placed his hands over his ears, but it was to no avail. The screams became a roar that almost knocked him from his chair as the crowd surged past, hundreds of feet all pounding at the pavement.
The screams were joined by a deeper, booming sound which reverberated down the streets. The sound waves smashed windows, glass raining down from up on high onto the fleeing crowds. Q dived under his table, watching the scene unfold before him in horror and confusion as the rawest human emotion, panic, consumed the street. Some humans fell, hit by the falling debris that fell from the surrounding buildings, pots and plants which were knocked off their precious footing, tumbling down into the streets below.
Q jumped out from under his table, pushing people out of his way as he ran. The Rage beat inside his skull like wardrums, driving him onwards as he succumbed to his basic Faey instincts that he had bottled up for far too long. His feet pounded the ground as he sped down towards the waterfront. The buildings rattled around him. Q continued to run, faster, faster, faster.
Then he saw James.
A guttural growl escaped Q’s throat, although it was drowned out by the screamed of the fleeing humans which flowed around him like a river parting around a boulder. The building which James had entered an hour or so before was now gone, sunken into the water where its foundations had been ripped apart by the explosion. James had managed to drag himself out of the water, with the human female. Q’s mind reeled as he realised it was the one from the Treasury, the one who had been sent on the mission with James.
Q’s run became a walk as he smiled at James. The Rage was loud now, cutting out everything. To Q, there was only James and the Rage, drumming away inside him. He snarled, tongue running across his teeth in the expectation of his kill, taking of his jacket and letting it drop it on the pavement.
It would only hinder his movement when he finally ripped James’ head from his shoulders and took the human’s ather for his own.
Now, Q thought, as hands bent themselves into rigid claw-like grips that were shaking with anticipation to wrap themselves around the human’s throat. He hadn’t tasted blood in a while, that juicy, salty taste his Faey side craved so much. The Rage was shaking him, whispering attack, attack, attack, with every beat of his heart-
Then James turned around.
The Rage quivered.
James’ eyes were red from crying, his lips set in one of agonising pain. The woman lay limp in his arms, head thrown back and black hair fanning her face like a halo. Q shook, his body wanting to attack James, but something in his mind stopped him. Q held James’ cold, dead, gaze. This man, this boy that Q had followed for most of the human’s living existence, looked at Q with desperation in his eyes.
This was a human on the edge. This was a human who was broken. This was a human who needed help.
“C'è un dottore?” the human croaked, voice thick with pain and emotion. Q stood, staring at the human, no James’ pleading eyes.
“C'è un dottore?” James cried, his body shaking from the anger. Q looked around him, panicking, not knowing what to do.
What do you do when you realise that you can’t kill someone you’re supposed to?
“A doctor!” Q cried, shaking himself out of stillness. The Rage quivered in the back of his mind, like an angry wolf that was denied its meal. Q ignored it, trying to focus on the look James had given him moments before.
“Un dottore!,” Q shouted, this time using the correct language, as humans in uniform came hurtling around the corner, guns drawn. They began to shout at Q in angry Italian, waiving their guns in his direction. Q’s body visibly shook, the adrenaline from the human Skin and the remnants of the Rage in his blood stream making him unable to move. The words were far too fast, Q hadn’t had long to try and learn the language. Instead he just sat, numb whilst the humans grappled him to the ground, and Q did not resist. His mind was somewhere else, replaying that same desperate look on James’ face again, and again, and again.
He couldn’t kill James Bond.