Three hours and twenty eight minutes later both of his parents were dead.
Bond sat quietly as the police explained what had happened. There was some ice on the bridge, they said. It was an accident, they said. You have our sympathies, they said, and Bond hardly cared about any of it. He was angry, an anger that seemed to sink into his very bones, and suddenly Bond no longer wanted anything to do with the real world. He was eleven years old and wanted to shut himself up in the house for the rest of his life. Kincade would not let that happen and he chastised Bond the moment that he thought about it out loud. His parents wanted him to go out into the world, to succeed, and that meant leaving the house. Kincade gave him two weeks to mourn before kicking him out of the house and back to school.
Bond hated the way people seemed to tiptoe around him. His parents were dead but he was not made of glass. He did not need for people to watch what they said around him. The first time someone cut off a story about their parents Bond snapped in a truly amazing way. He broke the boy’s nose and laughed until his stomach hurt when he walked away with nothing but a slap on the wrist. Bond hated the way that he was just like every other kid that had lost his parents, he hated the way he was angry, and there was nothing he could do to make that anger go away. Kincade did his best and Bond did not resent him for a second. If anything Bond appreciated the way Kincade let a lot of this play out as if he knew that Bond needed time to get all of this anger out of his system.
Throughout adolescence Bond continued to practice with a gun. It was something that he just could not let go. It was a good way to release some of that anger and Bond even entered himself in a few competitions. There were not many but his accuracy was stupidly high. He kept himself in top condition and went on a lot of runs. He worked out whenever he was not working on schoolwork and target practice and when he graduated Bond had to set aside some time to think about what his next step was going to be.
"You told your parents you wanted to join the Navy," Kincade said after dinner one evening. The rest of the servants and cleaning staff had already gone to bed for the evening. Bond hated to be waited on and had sent most of the staff home. He could do his own dishes.
"I know I did," Bond replied. Kincade stared at him and seemed to be waiting for a longer answer. He felt like he was being scrutinized under the gaze. "I don't know."
"They would be lucky to have you," Kincade said which was not really an answer one way or another. In some way Bond wanted Kincade to tell him to join up much like how Kincade had kicked him back to school all those years ago. Kincade seemed to know that Bond was waiting for someone to tell him what to do and fixed him with a hard stare. "I can't tell you what to do, boy, you need to figure it out for yourself."
Bond scowled and went back to his dinner. That night Bond went out for a nighttime run and tried to think. There were a lot of opportunities for him if he should decide to join the Navy but at the same time Bond did not want to deal with authority. Deep down he knew he was still an angry little boy and there were certain things he needed to get over before he could join something like the military.
Bond told Kincade that he had some things to sort out before he could think about furthering his career or education. Kincade did not seem surprised by this development which suggested that he knew Bond much better than Bond gave him credit for. That day Bond told the staff at the house that they could all go home and they did not need to come back. He was leaving and he was not sure when or if he would be back. There were a lot of things that needed to be taken care of but Kincade waved him off.
"I can finish up things here," he said. "I can tell you want to leave so just leave. This place will be here when you get things sorted out."
"Thank you," Bond said though it was not just for taking care of the house. It was for raising him after his parents died and making sure he went back to school. It was for the patience and skill that came with trying to keep an angry boy from losing it on the rest of the world. There were plenty of things that Bond should have said but they died on his tongue. Instead he nodded, got into his car, and drove away from Skyfall without looking back.
Bond traveled, he took in the sights of the world around him, and learned new things. He saw the rest of Europe, Asia, some of Africa, and now was in the Americas. He was twenty-two years old and itching to fire a gun. It had been some time since he had been to a range and the Americans wasn’t as strict with gun control as his native England. Bond was not even sure what state he was in but that did not matter. He found a local range and was more than happy when they let him take his pick of guns.
He was only an hour into his session when Bond felt someone join him. He glanced over his shoulder and saw a man in a nice suit watching him carefully. Bond emptied the magazine and set the piece down; he was not in the mood to make friends.
"You're very good," the man said.
"I'm aware, can I help you?" Bond asked.
"Maybe you can. I'm looking for someone who is good with a weapon to do some work for me. The pay will be very good and you look like the perfect man for the job." The man smiled and Bond looked him over. The suit was nicer than Bond had originally thought, worth a few thousand American dollars at least, and the way this man was talking about this job in vague terms made Bond narrow his eyes. This was not a strictly legal operation. "You look very bored, Mr. Bond," the man said because of course he knew Bond's name from the information at the range. "Maybe even a little lost. Perhaps I can give you some direction." Bond thought of his parents and the way his father had smiled when Bond told him that he wanted to join the Navy. He thought about Kincade and the house back in Scotland.
"Tell me more about this job," Bond said and the man smiled.
"Assassinations aren't really my forte," Bond said as he made himself another martini. His flat in London was one of his favorites and was probably the place he considered 'home' at the end of the day.
"I understand that, Mr. Bond, but I need the best for this task," the voice on the other end of the line said. Bond did not recognize them and they were not giving him any names either. Normally he hated working with someone who wasn't willing to meet with him in person. However, recently he had had to get out of the Middle East without being spotted and it had cost him a lot more money than Bond had expected. He was not poor by any means but there was not nearly enough in his savings for Bond to feel truly comfortable. This man was offering a truly insane amount of money for Bond to find and kill one man. It seemed silly to turn down the job despite what his gut was saying.
"Contrary to popular belief flattery won't get you everywhere," Bond replied. "However, I'm willing to look into this job. Are you sure you want me to just shoot this guy? No information extraction?"
"First you say that you aren't an assassin and now you're offering torture? You have an odd set of morals, Mr. Bond," the voice said and Bond hated the way this man kept saying his name.
"I wouldn't be very good at my job if my morals weren't flexible."
"Very true. I just want you to kill this man. Any information he has will not be of any use to me but alive he is dangerous. Take care of him and you will be paid the sum of money we agreed upon," the man said.
"Time table?" Bond asked. If he needed to put down the martini and get to work now he was going to be a little annoyed.
"Consider it an 'open job.' You have to find him first and that is going to be quite a challenge. Just let me know when you plan on finishing the job so we can arrange payment," he said. "I've just sent you the information that I already have. Use it if you wish."
"I’ll be in contact then," Bond said. The man hummed in agreement and hung up. Bond heard his computer ping with the alert of a new email. For a moment he debated ignoring it until the morning but there was something to be said about curiosity. Bond wanted to see who he was being paid to kill, who was so dangerous. And why his employer was letting him have as much time as he wanted to complete the job. Bond opened the email and frowned because there was only one sentence in the email.
He goes by Q.
"Who the hell are you?" Bond asked the silence of his flat after two weeks. It was annoying but it looked like he was going to have to call in a few favors. Bond hated calling in favors for something as basic as this but there really did not seem to be any other options. He was chasing a ghost and he needed something to go on.
Vesper Lynd was the one woman Bond thought he could have loved but it had turned out that she was not as keen on the idea as he was. Vesper had been his partner for a job and after a mind blowing week together she had run off with his share of the money and left him a post it with a kiss in red lipstick stuck to his forehead. If nothing else Bond appreciated Vesper's style and with that style she knew a lot of people. She was also in town so it seemed like as good a time as any to meet for drinks and get her to return the favor she owed him. The favor being that Bond didn't shoot her between the eyes for robbing him blind. She was drinking a glass of red wine when Bond joined her in the corner booth in a small Irish pub. There was a football match on so everyone was cheering loud and proud and paying them no attention at all.
"James, how lovely to see you again," Vesper said.
"Vesper, you look radiant as always." Bond was nothing if not a gentleman to his former flings. Most of the time anyway.
"Of course I do," Vesper replied without hesitation. "I must say that I was a little surprised to hear from you and even more surprised to hear that you need my help."
"I've been given a job to kill a ghost," Bond replied. He slid the few pieces of information on Q that he had been able to find to Vesper and got himself a martini. She was frowning deeply when he returned.
"I see what you mean," she said softly. "The infamous Q." Vesper closed the file and sat back in the booth. "I suppose you've realized that he's not going to make it easy for you to find him."
"Obviously and that's why I need you. You have a tendency to meet all of the big name players in our world and if there is anyone that can get me information on Q it would be you. So here I am." Bond took a drink of his martini and waited. If Vesper was going to help him she would say so now and would not string him along, not again, and not when there was nothing on the line for her.
"Q is a ghost," Vesper said. She set her wine glass on the table, folded her hands, and leaned forward. "There are maybe five other people in the world that could match his skills in hacking and even then no one is better at remaining invisible. People don't hire Q; he comes to you looking for work. There is no contact, no number, no email, no way for you to contact him. If he wants to talk to you then he'll find you. No one speaks to him in person or even over the phone. The most you'll ever get is a live chat session if you're lucky. If you try to track him he'll burn your system and make sure the police have a reason to knock on your door within twenty minutes. He's thorough and rarely leaves a trace."
"My employer wants him dead, so how do I find him?" Bond asked.
"There is a rumor that a job is going on in the next few days. Something about a major company that is going public overseas and there are investors here in London who want details and a timetable on the move. You'll want to look here if you're going to find anything." Vesper picked up her wine and finished the glass. "I'll ask around and see if anyone knows anything and you should do the same."
"Find me a location and I'll consider us even, Vesper," Bond said.
"Lovely. That means if you see me again you can put a bullet in me and not feel guilty," Vesper replied sweetly.
"I know you wouldn’t hesitate to shoot me back," Bond replied and he smiled when she laughed. Vesper didn't linger much longer and instead pulled out her phone as she strolled from the pub. The crowd of men at the bar erupted into cheers and Bond finished his drink.
"We couldn't have that now could we," Bond said as he finished writing down the last address.
"Of course not," Vesper replied. "Do let me know if one of those locations pans out. I'd love to know if I need to start looking over my shoulder again."
"You mean to tell me you don't do that already?" Bond asked incredulously.
"Good luck, James," Vesper said and hung up on him. Bond grinned at his phone and looked at the three locations. He used some of the basic hacking that he had picked up over the years to get information on the buildings. If Q was using one of these as some sort of home base that meant he would need electricity. All three of the buildings had working power but one was using significantly less than the other two. Bond set that one aside but as he looked over the other two locations his eyes kept being drawn to the one he should have discarded. All of the buildings were virtually the same in size and layout yet there seemed to be no reason why one building was using almost no electricity compared to the other two.
"Unless you're trying to hide that you're using power from other sources," Bond said to himself. He began to look up the power usage of the surrounding area and in the last week or so all of them had gone up just a little. That little turned into a lot of power being rerouted somewhere and now Bond had a good idea where. The company was going public at nine in the morning Eastern Standard Time so at 14:00 for him. It wasn't ideal to do this in the middle of the afternoon but the only time Bond could guarantee that Q would be there was going to be the hours leading up to the company going public. Bond called his employer and did not have to wait long for someone to answer.
"Mr. Bond, I trust you have some good news," the man said.
"I believe I have a location and I'll be moving in on the target in the next twenty-four hours," Bond replied.
"Excellent. I will start putting your payment together. Good luck, Mr. Bond." His employer hung up and for some reason hearing Vesper's words echo from his employer made Bond's stomach turn a little sour. He wanted to know who he was working for but he also knew that asking questions was a good way for someone to decide a liability wasn't worth it or tell his friends that the hired gun got nosy. Bond shook off his insecurities and decided to get some sleep before gathering his supplies. In a few hours he was going to shoot a man that he did not know and Bond fell asleep easily.
From his post across the street Bond could see a security camera. It had a blind spot and he had to run for his life to get past the camera and into the building. Bond pulled off his jacket and put the silencer on his gun. Bond heard the blaring horns of the afternoon traffic and he hoped that the horns combined with the silencer would keep people from noticing anything. Bond began to slip through the building and he saw one set of footprints in the dust. He shot out a dozen more security cameras as he made his way to the top of the building. Someone was here and they were being extra careful. Bond made sure he didn’t shoot the cameras out in a straight line. He would loop down one hallway and around another so it was never really clear where he was.
He saw a door at the end of a dark hallway and Bond could see the light shining from underneath. One shot was all he needed and he could put this annoying job behind him. Bond crept silently down the hallway and saw that the door was not locked. He kept his gun in hand and kicked the door open.
The room was brightly lit and there were three computers on a desk in front of him and someone standing in front of them. He was a young man, in his late twenties, with dark hair and glasses. He looked like a student in a cardigan and button down shirt. He typed at a computer with one hand and had a gun pointed directly at Bond's head with the other. He had not even flinched or faltered when Bond kicked the door open.
"It would be wise to put the gun down," the young man said. Something was happening on one of the computer screens and the other had pictures of the building, cameras that Bond had not even seen. Bond contemplated shooting first but the man fired and Bond felt the bullet graze his shoulder. He turned and they made eye contact for the first time. "Please put the gun down, Mr. Bond."
"You must be Q," Bond said as he put his hands up and slowly put his gun on the ground.
"Correct. And you were sent here to kill me," Q replied as if they were discussing the weather. Bond was not about to tell his mark anything though. "I don't need your confirmation since I already know it but I have to ask: how were you able to find me?"
"I knew where to look," Bond replied.
"No, you didn't. No one did save for the people I'm working for; no one knew where I am. If someone leaked my whereabouts then logically it must be the person who hired me" Q said. "I'm afraid we've both been set up." Q sounded angry and he gestured to the cameras. Bond could barely contain his surprise as he watched a small army circle the building. Q hit a key on the keyboard and Bond could hear a sound.
"You all know the plan," a voice said and Bond realized that Q was hacked into their frequency. "Shoot to kill; the boss wants both of them both dead. No loose ends"
"They mean to kill us both." Q reached behind him and hit another button on the keyboard; the computers made terrible noises and began to fade to black. "I hate being betrayed and I'm going to assume you do too so you have a choice; we can leave here together and agree to put this whole stupid thing behind us or you can take a chance in a firefight with those men." Bond was not an idiot and he knew Q wasn't one either. There were far too many men to fight on his own.
"Do I get my gun back?" Bond asked. Q smiled sharply and holstered his own gun clearly trusting Bond enough not to blow his brains out. Bond was not going to do that; he was far too angry at his employer for deciding that killing them both was a far better idea than letting Bond do his job. Bond picked up his gun and watched as Q packed a laptop, a tablet, and a phone into a rucksack.
"Follow me," Q said. Bond had his gun in hand as Q opened a side door and began to jog down the hallway. He could hear men saying things like 'clear' and 'I see bullet holes this way' and they were gaining on them.
"We're not going to outrun them like this," Bond said.
"I have no intention out of outrunning them," Q replied as he typed on his phone. Something in the building clicked and Bond heard echoing screams. It sounded like the floor collapsing.
"Booby traps?" Bond asked.
"Of course," Q said. He rounded a corner as he continued typing on his phone, clearly not worried that he might turn and find a gun in his face. It annoyed Bond and he stopped Q from making another turn.
"If you're too busy to watch where you're going you could have just said so," Bond snapped. "We're heading for the North exit, right?"
"Yes," Q said. He heard another click and this time the screams were cut short by deadly silence. Bond was not sure he wanted to know what had just happened. "If you know the way, by all means." Bond chose to ignore the sarcasm as they walked through the building. Every now and then Q would trigger another trap; they were everywhere. Unfortunately, it seemed that they had not been clever enough because someone yelled 'there they are!' and Bond and Q both took off running toward the exit. A bullet bounced off the wall near Bond's head but he ignored it. Q hit something on his phone and pocketed it. They were only a few steps out into the afternoon sun when the entire building shook and the floors began to collapse. Bond pulled his jacket out of his pack, holstered his gun, and tried to look like someone who was on an afternoon run. They kept running until they reached the street and stood among the other bystanders watching the building collapse into itself. Bond glanced at Q who turned and bolted down the street.
For some reason Bond chased after him but Q was fast. He wasn't even Bond's target anymore and yet he was chasing Q down. Bond turned a corner and ran headlong into a large group of university students filing out of an art house theater. Q vanished into the crowd of young people and Bond could only stare. There were too many people in sweaters with floppy hair and glasses to pick just one. Q had given him the slip and Bond laughed softly to himself; he was impressed and intrigued.
“I heard a funny story about a bunch of wanted fugitives getting buried under a building,” Vesper said as she sipped on red wine.
“That better not be the bottle of wine from the back of the cupboard or we will have words,” Bond replied. Vesper smiled sharply and swirled the wine in the glass.
“I was right about the locations then. Did you kill him?” she asked.
“He got away.” Bond frowned deeply when Vesper chuckled. “He’s a clever kid and he got away.”
“A boy you say?” Vesper asked clearly interested. “Maybe I should go and look for this boy then. Maybe someone will pay me a pretty penny.”
“The person that employed me tried to kill us both. As far as I’m concerned the job on Q is off,” Bond deadpanned. Vesper’s smile slowly faded as she folded her hands in her lap. Bond decided that it was probably a good idea to ignore Vesper as he put away the rest of his things. It wasn't like he couldn't make her leave but he really wasn't in the mood. She seemed to materialize at his side when Bond took off his jacket and she could see the wound on his shoulder. She didn't ask who had hit him or if he was okay. She was just there with the first aid kit ready to patch him up. It was a shame that he couldn't trust her because they had made a good team when they weren't trying to kill or betray each other.
"What are you going to do now?" Vesper asked as she put a bandage on his arm.
"He managed to shoot me and get away," Bond said. It wasn't really an answer but Vesper knew what he meant. She had also managed to outsmart him and he had searched for her as well. It was like he had some sort of disease that made dangerous people fascinating.
"Be careful," she said. Vesper didn't stay much longer after that but she really didn't need to. There wasn't anything else to say between them and there was no way she could talk him out of looking for Q. Bond went to put his guns away.
A week later and it was once again like Q was a ghost. Bond sat at his computer in his living room and tried to see if Q's face was in any missing persons databases. It was a long shot but if he had a real name to go on, or any sort of name other than one letter, then he could use it to track something of note down. His vision was beginning to blur from staring at a screen for too long but at this point Bond was determined.
The first time his screen flickered he thought he was hallucinating but then it did it again. Bond tried to close out of the database thinking that someone had caught him snooping around but the screen froze and then turned black with a cursor in the corner. If his computer was dead Bond was going to be extremely annoyed. He was just about to power down when a sentence began to type across the black screen.
Why are you looking for me?
There was only one person that could be and the thought that Q knew Bond was looking for him made him smile just a little.
I'm curious, Bond typed back.
In what capacity? came the instant reply.
Professional and personal. We should meet in person in a public place and talk it over.
For a moment Bond thought he had offended Q and this was going to be the last he would ever hear from him because a response didn't come for a long time. The computer sat there with the black screen with their conversation staring back at him.
I will send you a location and time. Mere seconds after the response the screen turned black and his normal computer screen flickered back into existence. A moment or two passed before there was a ping on his phone with an address and a time; Bond was not surprised that Q knew his number. The message was only there for a moment before it vanished as if it hadn’t been there in the first place. The address was to a back alley bar where no one would bother them. It was probably in bad taste to show up to a meeting armed but the wound on his arm was still healing from their last encounter.
Bond walked in an hour early and immediately spotted Q reading in a corner booth. He wasn't really surprised that Q was waiting for him despite being an hour early. Bond got himself a drink and sat down across from Q. He was dressed like a student again with a sweater and messy hair but there was a certain level of maturity that only came with being an adult coming from him as well. Q looked over the edge of his book as soon as Bond sat down and smirked.
"Punctual," he said. Q closed his book and looked Bond over with a careful eye. "And armed too."
"You did shoot me last time we saw each other so you can't really blame me for that," Bond replied.
"And yet you were still trying to find me again. You know you're not going to get paid, right?" Q picked up his beer from the table and took a long drink.
"You're interesting so I'm interested. Those traps and hidden cameras were very impressive. I was looking and I didn't see them," Bond said.
"Of course you didn't." Q tilted his head and narrowed his eyes as if he was trying to get a read on him. Bond knew that Q wasn't going to get anything off of him though. If there was one thing that Bond knew he was good at it was hiding his tells. "I did some reading on you as well. You're very good at what you do."
"So we're both very good at what we do then." Bond had a feeling he knew where this was going but he wanted Q to say it because at the end of the day Q was the one that had contacted him. Bond had been getting nowhere finding Q on his own and it would have been easy to keep it that way yet here they were.
"Yes and I find myself in need of a partner for a job I was offered," Q said. "Most of the time I can do my job from my laptop but in this case a trigger needs to be pulled. We'll split the earnings 50/50 and go our separate ways." Bond thought about the way that Q had taken care of the small army that had been coming to kill them and how he had let Bond walk through all of those traps willingly. There was also the small matter of money and how he didn't really have enough of it. He thought about how Q had pointed a gun at his head and only grazed his arm.
"Tell me more about this job," Bond replied and Q smiled sharply.
The location was an apartment that rented by the month and took cash. There was a bedroom off to the side but it did not look like that was where Q was staying. There was a desk in the middle of the room with various computers spread out and Q did not even look up when Bond walked in.
"There is a key and a new phone on the table," Q said.
"And why do I need a new phone?" Bond asked as he added the key to his ring and turned the phone over in his hand.
"The one you have is worryingly easy to break into. Are you aware that a woman named Vesper Lynd has been monitoring your calls and text messages for just under six months now?" Q asked.
"I can't say it surprises me," Bond replied. He sent off a quick message to Vesper that just said 'that's very rude' and turned the phone off. "I need the layout to the building so I can start planning my entrance and exit strategies." Q looked up from his computer for the first time and blinked once. "I don't just kick a door down and start shooting people. I do have some strategy."
"I'm aware," Q said. He stood up, gathered some papers, and put them down on the empty desk next to the computers. Bond joined him and found himself looking at exact layout copies of the office building that the information was being kept in. "I don't have the exact location of all of the cameras yet but I will before we go in."
"These will work for now," Bond said. Q nodded and went back to work while Bond began to look over the blueprints.
They had three weeks to complete the job and Bond caught himself smiling to himself the more he worked with Q. As it turned out Q was not as young as Bond thought though he was still fairly convinced he was working with a student. Q could also drink to a rather impressive degree considering how slim he was. There were times that Bond was convinced Q was typing so fast that his fingers started to blur. He had a dry and sarcastic sense of humor and didn't respond to needling half as well as Bond wanted him to. All in all Bond was fascinated though that did not stop them from fighting. The first fight happened within the first week.
“I’m not doing that,” Q said.
“It can’t be me because I’m the one that’s going to be breaking in. They could see my face if you don’t cut all of the security cameras. We can’t cut the power more than once so if I go in now someone will see me. Someone needs to go in there and get a feel for the place and it can’t be me.” Bond said standing up a little taller. This was not an argument he was willing to lose.
“And I’m telling you that it’s not an issue. I’ll take care of security and no one is going to see your face.” Q might be smaller in frame but he made up for it with plenty of gusto.
“I’m the one that’s going to get shot if I get caught. You’ll be the one hiding behind a computer screen,” Bond snapped which was the wrong thing to say because Q reacted like someone had slapped him. For half a moment Bond thought he was going to throw a punch and that was going to be the end of their partnership. Instead Q narrowed his eyes and tilted his head like he was trying to get a read on him.
“I stay hidden because that’s what keeps me alive. As you can attest there are plenty of people that want me dead and are willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get the job done. So just because I’m not in the thick of things doesn’t mean my neck isn’t on the line either,” Q said. “You’ll have your layout one way or another.” That seemed to be the end of the argument and within forty eight hours Bond had a complete visual tour of the building. He wasn’t sure how Q had gotten that information though it looked like he had somehow bugged a person that was walking around the building.
Bond felt confident by the night of the job. Despite the fact that over the last three weeks he and Q had argued and traded sarcastic barbs nonstop the planning seemed to be going perfectly. Bond knew exactly where he was going and how he was going to get to the computer that had all of the information that he needed. Q had the location of every camera in the building and could take control of them.
“Bond,” Q said in his ear. They were linked via a blue tooth set. Q was staying behind in the apartment while Bond was on his way to the building. It was nearly four in the morning and the shift change would happen in a few minutes. This was the best time for Q to take over their security system.
“Yes, Q?” Bond said.
“Look up and to your left.” Bond looked and watched a camera swing away from him.
“Stop showing off, don’t we have a job to do?” Bond chastised and now he felt like a grumpy old man yelling at the kids to get off of his lawn.
“Stop being such a grumpy old man,” Q said. “The guard shift change is in three minutes so you might want to walk a little faster. And don’t you dare complain about me not letting you take a cab.” Bond picked up the pace and did not argue about the cab again. He crept around the office building and watched as the shift change security guards chatted each other up.
“Do you have control of the security system?” Bond asked.
“Just a moment.” Bond could hear Q typing over the blue tooth. “Yes, but it looks like I’m going to have to guide you to the room. I can’t control the entire system but I can alter one camera at a time.”
“Clear the path for me,” Bond summarized. Q hummed in agreement as Bond made his way across the street and through a backdoor. He had a gun in hand but the plan was to not use it. It would be better if the person they were stealing from did not know anything was missing until the morning. It gave them enough of a head start if they needed to get out of town. Q calmly told him where to go, when to turn, when to wait for a moment or two; it was very thorough and everything seemed to be going well. Which meant that Bond was more than ready when Q made an unhappy sound. “What’s going on?”
“The guards are on their way up to you though they don’t seem to know that you’re here. Take the next right,” Q replied. Bond knew where he was now so he let Q focus on slowing down the elevator and making it error out to give him more time. Bond put the flash drive into the computer and let it download everything while systematically wiping the entire system clear.
“How much longer do I have?” Bond asked as the files continued to download.
“I can take care of them. If there’s going to be trouble I’ll let you know,” Q replied. The files finished downloading and immediately the power to the entire building shut off. “I figured this was easiest to keep them in the elevator.” If Q sounded extremely smug Bond was not about to call him on it just yet. Instead he followed the emergency lights down to the street level. As he opened the door the power clicked back on and there wasn’t any indication law enforcement were on their way. Bond thought about hailing a cab just to make Q angry but that did not seem like the best idea. Instead he jogged back to the apartment building where Q was waiting.
“That went well,” Bond said as Q arranged the transfer for the information.
“That it did,” Q replied. Q wiped his computers clean of any evidence of the job. Bond, meanwhile, tossed the few pieces of physical evidence they had into the fireplace. As Bond was digging through the apartment to make sure that he got everything he found a bottle of scotch hidden in the back of a pantry. When Q saw it he shrugged and found two glasses in a box. They decided to split the bottle to celebrate a job well done. Bond pulled out his old phone and started it up again. There was a text from Vesper that was just a smiley face which he chose to ignore and a voice mail. It was from one of his contacts offering him a job in the Americas.
“I just got another job offer,” Bond said as he hung up his phone. “And since we worked so well together perhaps we could extend this arrangement for one more job.” Q watched him carefully but smiled a little to himself.
“One more job couldn’t hurt,” Q said. Bond grinned and they clinked glasses.
Eve Moneypenny was absolutely not nervous, not at all. She was only getting her first assignment as a 00 agent today, no big deal. At least that was the mantra that Eve repeated to herself over and over again as she waited for M to call her into her office. Something was happening because everyone seemed a little on edge. Eve had no idea what it was because some people in MI6 did not seem to acknowledge that she had clearance to almost everything in MI6 now. Idly Eve wondered where M was going to send her. There was only so much she could do as a normal field agent but now she was a 00. That meant that all of the dangerous and fun missions went to her. Eve wanted to see the whole world and leave a trail of broken hearts in her wake.
"007, please come in," a voice said through the cracked office door. Eve stood up and walked into the office with her head held high. She knew that M was the reason that she had this job now and she wanted to thank M for that. Judging from the deep frown that M wore this did not seem to be the best time.
"Do you have an assignment for me, ma’am?" Eve asked. M waved for Eve to take a seat and handed Eve a file.
"Over the last two weeks someone has been skirting around our firewalls," M explained. Sure enough all of the attacks were labeled with times, dates, and how close the hacker was to breaking into their system.
"The more they attack the closer they're getting to breaking into the system," Eve concluded.
"Yes," M said nodding. "And I don't think I need to explain what would happen if someone got a hold of MI6's secure files. I've had a few field agents on the case but I think it's time to put this in more capable hands."
"What do we know so far?" Eve asked as she looked over the file.
"We believe that this is the work of a hacker called Q. No one knows their real name, what they look like, even whether Q is a male or female. They're a ghost and they have been around for a long time," M explained. Around for a long time was sort of an understatement. Q was amongst the first elite hackers back when the internet was not as widely used. If all of the cases listed were indeed done by the same person then Q was responsible for many major leaks and millions of dollars going missing. "Three years ago something changed,” M said and Eve blinked back into focus. "Q went from never touching another person to a body count."
"Do you think the title moved onto someone else? Maybe someone else that's a little more trigger happy than the original Q?" Eve asked though it was more to herself than to M.
"Perhaps but we don't know for sure." M folded her hands on her desk and stared Eve down. "This is your first assignment, 007. We need to find the hacker that is trying to break into our systems and if it is this Q you are to capture him."
"He seems dangerous and I would think eliminating him would be better but he could be useful," Eve said. A hint of a smile curved at M's lips but it faded as soon as it was there.
"Find this hacker before they make it past our firewalls." Eve took that as the dismissal that it was and walked out of M's office file in hand. This was not the job she had been expecting when M said she was being promoted to 00 status. This was glorified desk duty and the last thing she wanted.. In a way Eve knew that this was an important case she was being tasked with, even if it was a little passive for her tastes.
"Who are you, Q?" Eve asked the string of code that had tried to break into MI6 twenty four hours earlier. "And what do you want?"
The real problem was that Q never got boring the way other people seemed to. He was young but stodgy that there was no going back. At the same time Q would get giddy like a kid at Christmas at the prospect of hacking certain things and when his gadgets seemed to work. He had a slender frame and while he could not match Bond drink for drink entirely Q could consume an astonishing amount of liquor. Hidden strength was another thing that Q buried behind his thin frame and university student attire. Q seemed to delight in finding new and interesting ways to hide more weapons on Bond in places that no one would think to check. It got to the point where Q was calling him over at such weird times that Bond decided it would be easier to just stay. Now he's definitely going to become boring, Bond had thought, but after the first week it seemed that Q was once again exceeding Bond's expectations.
"He's quite adorable," Vesper commented over dinner three years after Bond had met Q and a year and a half into basic cohabitation. Bond wasn’t sure why he decided to have dinner with Vesper; she was dangerous and there was no telling when she would sell him out again. Yet Vesper, much like Q, was one of those people that Bond didn’t find dull so he continued to indulge her when she called and asked him to meet her for dinner.
"Fairly certain he would shoot you if he heard you describe him like that," Bond replied. Vesper had never seen Q before and he ignored any conversation her and Bond would have on the phone. Vesper shrugged like the prospect of getting shot did not bother her that much. It probably didn't. "Why are you here?"
"Imagine my surprise when I went to your flat and found someone who is not you living there," she said. "And imagine how surprised I was to find out that you're living with someone else. Not just anyone, mind you, but the infamous Q. He does know you were hired to kill him, right?"
“Yes, Vesper, he’s aware of that,” Bond replied. “We work well together so we decided it would be best to continue working together.”
“Are you sleeping with him?” Vesper asked just as Bond took a sip of his drink because of course that’s when she would ask that. This was not the first time Bond had been asked a strange personal question out of the blue and he could react accordingly. Or not react which Vesper looked very disappointed about.
“No, I’m not,” Bond replied simply because it was none of her business. Vesper had lost the right to care who he slept with the moment she decided that money was worth more than whatever they were building. Vesper nodded and they talked shop for the rest of the evening. It was late by the time Bond walked through the door and he was fairly sure that Q had not moved in the last six hours or so.
“I don’t trust her,” Q said as soon as Bond walked through the door.
“I’d be worried if you did,” Bond replied. “I don’t trust her either but she can be useful.” Q hummed in agreement and walked over to his computer. He had long since given up telling Bond to go away while he was working so he said nothing when Bond stood behind the chair and watched him. “You’re trying to hack MI6?”
“Yes,” Q replied easily. “Think of it as an extra credit project. One of my rivals is making himself known again. We need to deal with him but I’m not entirely sure how.”
“Is he wanted in any countries?” Bond asked after a moment of silence. Q nodded as he worked on the computer. “I say we push the authorities in the right direction. If they catch him then that is one less rival we need to deal with.” Q stopped typing for a moment and smiled to himself. Bond knew that smile and it usually only happened when Q found some way to make something that was not normally a weapon into a weapon. “Why are you trying to hack into MI6?”
“It’s not important,” Q replied waving him off. Bond doubted that but decided it was probably best not to push it at the moment.
Eve sat down and began to look through everything they had on Q which was not a lot. In fact there was worryingly little solid information. After three hours Eve knew that she was going to need help. She made a quick call on her mobile as she read a police report on a crime they thought Q was responsible for.
"This is Tanner.”.
"Tanner, it's Eve, are you busy?" she asked.
"Not at the moment, what do you need?"
Eve told him which room she was in and a few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Tanner walked in, took one look at the table, and raised an eyebrow. "First assignment?"
"Something like that," Eve replied. Tanner, fortunately, had the same security clearance that she did so there was no need to censor any of the information. Tanner listened carefully as Eve explained everything she knew so far. There was something about this case that felt like it was already underneath her skin. The thought that someone was trying to someone was trying to break into MI6 and compromise their nation’s security made her furious. Tanner tapped his pen as he listened and leaned back in the chair when she finished.
"So you're chasing a ghost," he said.
"Basically. This guy is very good at covering his tracks but in the case of CCTV and security I can't believe that there isn't a picture of this guys face somewhere. We just need to find it," Eve replied. "This would go a lot faster if I had some help."
"This is a big job and it'll require a lot of time and dedication. You should really ask someone who doesn't already have things to do," Tanner said.
"Yes, I could, but we work well together. You and I understand why M put this in a 00’s hands and why it's so important," Eve explained. "I need someone who is willing to put forth the effort needed to catch this guy and that's you."
"Fine, I'll work with you, but my other duties come first." Tanner pulled up a chair and began to look over the files. Eve smiled to herself and pulled up a search of all the major databases. It was going to be a long night.
It was the start of many long nights. Eve knew that hackers were hard to catch because they could be half a world away from what they were trying to hack but this was ridiculous. There was no information about Q save for whispers about how talented he was and how he was not someone you wanted to make angry. A few messages mentioned a 'pet' but that did not seem relevant currently. Right now Eve had to focus on finding Q. The attacks slowed down and they went three months without anyone trying to break through their security. Everyone else seemed relieved but Eve knew that this was far from over. If there was one thing she had been able to learn about Q it was that he was stubborn. If he wanted into MI6 he would find a way.
Over the course of six months Eve poured every resource she had into finding anything about Q. Every time there seemed to be some sort of lead it turned out to be a dead end. It was like Q knew every path that people looking for him would take and made sure to cover it. There was no mention or hint of what his real name was, his country of origin, though intercepted messages online always used male pronouns so she was able to confirm that Q was indeed a man.
"Just because the messages use a male pronoun doesn't mean Q is actually a guy," Tanner said as they ate takeout in what had become 'the Q room.' "Would you really put it past this guy to make sure everyone used the wrong pronoun to throw people off his tracks?"
"I wouldn't," Eve replied. Her eyes felt heavy and there was a tremor to her hands that came with too much caffeine and too little sleep. "But I have to think that we've found something in these last six months." M was not happy by the lack of progress but after everyone was able to confirm that Q had not taken any information in his last attack three months ago she had relaxed a little. It was Eve who could not relax. This case was her obsession now, but she also knew that she was not going to fail on her first assignment. Tanner rubbed his temples and closed his eyes; Eve could not thank him enough for his help in this but she could tell he was getting frustrated by the lack of progress. She understood the sentiment.
"I need sleep and so do you," Tanner said. He gathered his things to leave and when he saw that she had not moved he fixed her with a hard stare.
"I know and I will. Let me just go over these last few messages and I'll go home," Eve lied shamelessly. Tanner probably knew that she was lying but he did not call her out on it. Instead he nodded and left the room. Eve looked over the information and tried to form a picture in her head. Q was nearly perfect at everything he did and he rarely left fingerprints on anything. When he did they seemed to be in the form of taunting the person or persons that he was stealing from. Up until almost four years ago none of his jobs had resulted in any deaths but that had suddenly changed. He had started leaving a body count in the form of armed security and thugs. Every person that had died during one of Q's jobs had been a criminal and he had never involved civilians.
"You have something of a moral code and a flare for mischief," Eve said out loud as she wrote things down on the whiteboard she had stolen from R&D weeks ago. "You like what you do. I don't think you do it for the money. You have some other reasons for why you do this. You only kill if someone was going to hurt you." Eve took a step back and looked at her list. From what she knew about Q there was no reason for him to hack into MI6. He did not seem like the type that would sell out undercover agents or aid terrorism. The more she looked over his attacks the more it looked like he was tearing down their walls only to build them back up again. There was something else going on here and Eve intended to find out what.
Despite the late hour and the fact that MI6 should be empty save for people working communications Eve did not jump when the door opened. What did surprise her was seeing M walk through the door.
"How are things proceeding?" M asked. Ages ago, when Eve had only been three months into her investigation and M had asked for a report. When Eve had had little or nothing to report M had yelled at her, asking why one of her top agents couldn't find one hacker. Halfway through and Eve was already trying to figure out a way to keep working should M decide to suspend her. Tanner had come to her rescue and explained everything that was going on and was probably the reason she had not gotten suspended. Now M seemed to understand that this task was much harder than they had originally thought.
"He didn't get through our security though I'm beginning to believe that's on purpose," Eve explained.
"Keep me posted," M replied. There was a file in her hand but she made no move to give it to Eve. "At the moment we have agents moving in on another well known hacker. Once we’ve captured him perhaps he can tell us about Q and what he wants." M set the file on the desk and still said nothing about it. While there was a chance it was not meant for her M would stop her if she wasn't meant to look at it. Eve opened the file and frowned at the blurry picture. He was a man, blond, in his late thirties or early forties, and the picture was blurry enough that Eve could only make out some distinguishing characteristics. The name on the file said 'Bond, James' and that was not a name she recognized.
"What is this about?" Eve asked but when she looked up M was gone. Whatever this was it couldn't be that important if M wasn't willing to stay and explain it. Eve closed the file and continued to search for any hints to Q's location. If she couldn't find a face perhaps she could narrow down where he was hiding.
The trace was far from complete and Q must have realized that right away. However, they had managed to trace Q to the United Kingdom and that was much more than Eve had found in months. It was enough to make her giddy with excitement because this was something she could work with. She was so excited that she nearly missed the third thing that someone handed her which was a memo from M telling her to report to her office right away. Eve hoped that M was going to give her some more people to work with so they could find out where in the UK Q was hiding. The moment she walked into the office though Eve knew that she was about to get bad news.
"Agent Moneypenny, thank you for coming on such short notice," M said.
"This is my assignment and I plan on finishing it," Eve replied.
"I know it is but this isn't about the cyber attack," M said. Eve frowned deeply and sat down in the chair in front of M's desk. "Do you remember the file I gave you about a man named James Bond?"
"Yes, I do, but I didn't see how it was relevant to my assignment so I didn't give it much thought." Eve was fairly sure she had not even looked over the entire file because the Q case was her assignment.
"He's been spotted in the London area and he's extremely dangerous. I need you to go into the field and track him down," M said.
"Tracking down a hired gun instead of focusing on the man that's trying to break into our secure files? We've narrowed Q's location down to the United Kingdom. I don't see why we couldn't do it again. What is so important about this Bond character?" Eve asked. M narrowed her eyes and Eve realized a bit too late that she was talking back to her superior. "I apologize, ma’am, I didn't mean to speak out."
"Q is a priority but Bond is considered armed and dangerous." M pushed a file forward and Eve looked it over. It was similar to the one M had given her a week prior but there were some new things. "We had our eye on James Bond and we were planning on recruiting him out of the Navy. As you can see he was a crack shot and someone that would do well in MI6. However, he ended up not going into the Navy like he had planned. Instead he fell off the radar and began to travel. I still thought he was promising, however, and kept an eye on him. While he was in the Americas he was approached by some men to be a bodyguard. From then on he has worked as a hired gun in the criminal underworld. He's been linked to the deaths of fifteen people though there are considerably more that we cannot prove."
"You want me to take care of him, ma’am?" Eve asked.
"Yes," M replied. "The Q assignment is still yours but I need you to focus on Bond. If you can capture him that would be ideal but we have reason to believe that he'll go down fighting. Eliminate him if you must."
Eve wanted to argue but managed to hold her tongue. She was being put in the field, which is what she wanted when she got her promotion, yet here she was about to argue about it. Eve knew she was obsessed with the Q case. She needed distance from it, some time away, so she could look at it with fresh eyes.
A block down the street from the flat that he shared with Q, Bond realized that the woman was indeed following him. He knew he was wanted for various different crimes but he also knew that Q had done a very good job of keeping his face hidden. There were not many things he could do in this situation. There was no telling if this woman was a member of the police or military or an assassin sent by one of the many people around the world that wanted him dead. Just shooting her could lead to an international incident that he really was not in the mood to deal with. Bond turned a corner and did what he did best when violence was not an option: he ran.
Bond considered himself in good shape ('for your age' Q's voice in his head tactfully reminded him) so he was a little surprised to see the woman keeping up with him. Bond ducked through the crowded streets and she raced after him. He could see her talking to someone so there was a chance she was calling for backup. Bond eased through a crowd of shoppers most of whom chastised him for being rude. The woman continued to follow him through the busy streets, ducking underneath anything he managed to knock over to try and stop her. Bond pulled out his phone and speed dialed Q.
"Where the hell are you?" Q asked.
"Running from someone that might want to kill me," Bond said into his earpiece.
"Fantastic, location?" Q asked. Bond told him the street he was coming up to and waited. There was a tracker in the phone and Q could hack a few of the CCTV's if he wanted to. "Ah, there you are."
"Yes, Q, I know where I am, now I need a distraction," Bond said. He took another sharp left and ran toward a busy intersection. He was about to turn down a side street when Q's voice stopped him.
"No, keep going, I'll handle this," Q said. "And don't argue with me, Bond. just run through the intersection."
"If I get hit by a car you're going to like me significantly less," Bond warned as the lights changed.
"I'm not sure how that's possible," Q said. Bond ran through the intersection and as soon as his feet touched the sidewalk he heard the screeching of tires. Bond turned and saw that the lights in the intersection had suddenly changed, causing an accident. "Take a left at the next intersection. I'll bring you back." Bond turned and ran down the street without looking back.
What she was not expecting was complete chaos.
All around her people were running back and forth, yelling at each other, trading pieces of paper, and generally looking like the entire world was about to end. Eve managed to grab the nearest interns arm for two seconds to tell her what was going on.
"Q's breached our systems," he said. Eve let him go and went straight to M's office. The door was open and she did not bother to knock. M glanced up at her but turned her attention back to her computer. Tanner stood nearby wincing like something was physically harming him.
"How bad is it?" Eve asked.
"We're trying to stop him but he's deleting information from our servers and then deleting the backups and the backups for our backups. All of the information we have on him is vanishing and we can't do anything to stop it," M explained. She sounded calm but Eve could recognize the hard edge to M's voice when she was truly furious. Eve could only watch as months of work and research vanished from the database. The possible location, the tracking, all of the messages she had managed to catch, all of it was gone in the blink of an eye. Q knew that they were onto him and now he was taking steps to ensure that no one ever caught him.
Eve walked back to her desk and was not surprised to find that her hard copies of her files were gone as well. Q had someone on the inside of MI6 and had managed to get everything. He was watching them much more closely than anyone had ever thought. For all Eve knew Q had access to the security cameras and was watching her right now. She glanced up at the camera and narrowed her eyes. All footage from the last day would be gone, that was a guarantee, and if they questioned anyone she was sure everyone would say the same thing. 'I didn't notice anyone different, I didn't see anything strange,' Eve could already hear all of the denials. It was not that she didn't trust her co-workers; it was more that she knew that everything had been set up in such a way that no one would have thought twice about a person lurking around her desk. Eve kept an eye on the camera as she moved her hand into her drawer. Hidden under various objects was a single flash drive. Eve picked it up, just a sleight of hand, and no one saw it vanish into her pants pocket.
“Have a nice walk?” Q asked.
“Considering you were following me most of the way you know how it went,” Bond replied. He joined Q at Q’s desk and watched as files and information began to vanish before his eyes. That was when he noticed Q logged onto another network.
“MI6 won’t be a problem,” Q said answering Bond’s question that he never actually voiced about what was going on. “They’re going to be so busy dealing with this fallout that they’re going to forget about us for awhile. By the time they focus on us again I’ll have our trail completely erased.” Q hit enter and disconnected from the MI6 network, apparently done with wreaking havoc for the night.
“So when do we leave the country and wait for things to calm down?” Bond asked.
“We could leave the country,” Q replied. He turned around and they were nearly nose to nose and very much in each other’s space. It made a lump form in Bond’s throat that he tried to ignore. “Or we could break into one of the most secure apartments in the city to steal secrets and jewels worth several million pounds from a private collector.” That sounded like an interesting prospect and one that Bond was not exactly willing to ignore. Q leaned back and Bond put his hands on the desk, boxing Q in.
“Sounds difficult,” Bond said.
“Sounds fun,” Q corrected.
“And what’s the percentage that we get off these jewels should we steal them?” Bond asked.
“Fifty.” That number was enough to convince Bond.
“So when do we begin?” Bond said and when Q smiled it was all teeth.
"Eve," Tanner said. Eve looked up from her report as Tanner walked over to her. He looked strangely excited about something. "M wanted me to tell you that Interpol just dropped off a prisoner that we will be holding for the next month or so. Records show that he was born Tiago Rodriguez but goes by Raoul Silva now." Eve knew that name because Silva was one of the most notorious hackers in the world next to Q. If there was anyone that could give her new information on Q it would be Silva.
"I want to speak with him," Eve said.
"M also sent me down here to tell you not yet. They still need to fill out some more paperwork and clear him for interrogation," Tanner replied.
"So M sent you down here to tell me not to go and talk to the prisoner who could have information on the man that tore down our security and deleted all of our files?" Eve knew that it was not Tanner's fault and it was unfair to get angry at him but this was important.
"As soon as you're clear to talk to him I'll let you know. M says that's an order." Tanner must have known that she was going to get angry because he turned and left without another word. This was so stupid that Eve could barely contain her rage. Silva could have a link to her case, to Q, and they were denying her access because of paperwork. Eve closed her eyes and took a few steadying breaths to try and calm herself down but apparently that was not going to happen. Instead she stood up and decided that some rules were made to be broken.
Eve already knew the schedule for security and how to sneak through it. She knew the layout of the cameras and the blind spots that would last for a second or two. There was not much she could do once she got to the cell but Silva was not considered dangerous. There were whispers that he had been involved in some overseas terrorist attacks but nothing solid linked back to him. Using the skills that made her an excellent 00 agent Eve managed to get to the cell without anyone seeing her. Silva was an older man with bleached blond hair and the second she walked into the room he smiled. The cell was a small six by six cage with concrete on three walls and bars on the fourth. Silva sat in a chair completely relaxed and Eve considered herself a seasoned agent but there was something about that smile that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
"Agent Moneypenny, how nice to finally meet you. I was wondering when you were going to come down and see me," Silva said.
"You know who I am?" Eve asked carefully.
"Everyone knows who you are. You're quite the talk of our community these days what with trying to hunt down Q," Silva said. "With people like Q and I in the world there's no such thing as secret information these days. You were able to lock him down to a continent though and that's closer than any other government has gotten. I'm impressed and I'm sure he is as well."
"Do you know where I could find Q, Mr. Silva?" Eve said.
"Perhaps but it's not just Q you're looking for these days, is it? You're looking for James Bond as well. CCTV let me see quite the show the other day." Silva grinned, stood, and folded his hands behind his back. "You're in luck, Agent Moneypenny, because you're looking for two people that are in the same place."
"Bond and Q work together?" Eve asked after a moment. It made sense; somewhere along the line Q had gone from never firing a gun to having a body count. Granted they were all criminals and people that would have probably turned on the people they hired to complete a job. It also explained why Bond's records were gone from the database as well. The other people that Q had deleted were just hiding why Bond's records were important.
"I see that you're putting it all together in that lovely head of yours. Bond and Q are here for a job currently," Silva said, "However, I don't know what that job is. There have been some rumors about a robbery of something important but I wasn't able to glean what before your friends in Interpol picked me up."
"What are you trying to say, Mr. Silva?" Eve asked because she was not in the mood to play into this man's theatrics.
"Give me access to a laptop and I can find out why Bond and Q are here. Then you can intercept and capture them," Silva replied evenly.
"And why would you do that?" Eve said.
"Because Q and Bond think they're untouchable. They're the best but they can be very smug little shits. If I have to sit behind bars then they have to as well." Silva sat back down and the door opened to reveal Tanner and M. M looked like she was debating how important Eve's life was.
"Agent Moneypenny, I need to speak with you immediately." M turned and walked away from the door, and Eve chose to ignore Silva's chuckle as she joined her superior in the hallway. Tanner closed the door and refused to look at either of them.
"I should have figured you wouldn't listen to the rules, 007, but I have to say I was expecting you to wait a little longer before defying orders," M snapped though she did not sound quite as angry as much as resigned. "What did you find out?"
"Silva says Q and Bond are working together to steal something. If we give him a computer he says he can find out what they are trying to steal and we can intercept them," Eve replied.
"If we kept him closely monitored we might be able to use him. Perhaps offer a lighter punishment," M said. "He is not to be alone with a computer at any time. I want someone watching him and everything he does. If there is any indication that he is doing something else you are to put him in solitary confinement, do you understand, Agent Moneypenny?"
"Yes, ma’am," Eve replied.
"Good. If this works out in our favor I'll be willing to overlook your disregard for my orders." M turned and walked away. Tanner lingered and watched her go.
"This seems like a bad idea," he said.
"It is but it's the only chance we have of catching them," Eve agreed. "We still don't know what other information Q could have stolen from us."
"I'll have the department get a computer ready for him," Tanner said. He nodded to Eve briefly and walked in the opposite direction. Eve took a steadying breath and walked back into the room.
"So when do we begin, Agent Moneypenny?" Silva asked grinning.
"The building is guarded all hours of the day," Q explained, pointing to the various displays he had set up on his desk. Bond leaned forward to get a better look at the men.
"Each guard is armed; some with multiple weapons," Bond said.
"Agreed, and considering the last time someone tried to break in they shot him they aren't afraid to pull the trigger." Q hit a few buttons and pulled up a blueprint of the building. "There is security in all of the elevators and stairwells. I might be able to override it but only if I could get to their mainframe directly which is locked behind a steel reinforced door."
"So I need to find another way up," Bond said.
"Yes, and once you get to the top of the building you need to get into the flat. There is a complex security system that triggers the moment someone tries to pick a lock. That alarm will send all of those armed guards to your location. After you get into the flat the safe is located in the back of the closet in the bedroom. If the wrong sequence of five numbers is typed in three times the safe automatically locks and cannot be re-opened for twenty four hours." Q turned in his chair so they were facing each other.
"I need to get past armed guards, somehow get to the top of a ten story building without using the elevators or stairways, break into a flat where I cannot pick the lock, and break into a safe where I have three tries to guess five numbers," Bond repeated.
"I told you it was going to be fun," Q said smirking.
"Fun indeed. Let's get to work."
After a week Bond was seriously reconsidering what Q defined as 'fun' because the more they worked the more roadblocks they seemed to run into. Bond would wake up after falling asleep at a desk or on the couch to find Q swearing at his computer. It took some pestering to get Q to sleep during normal jobs but one as difficult as this and Bond was debating drugging his partner’s Earl Grey. Two weeks into their planning, Bond walked in from recon and found Q passed out over his keyboard. Bond set his things down and walked slowly over to Q. He did not want to surprise Q and get stabbed with a pen or something sharper but Q seemed to be deeply asleep. He barely stirred when Bond placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Unless I'm being actively murdered I don't care," Q grumbled.
"Noted, how about some sleep in an actual bed?" Bond suggested. Q grunted which was all the confirmation Bond needed to throw one of Q's arms over his shoulder and half walk half carry Q to his room.
"I almost have this worked out," Q said. Bond nodded as he tried to guide Q onto his bed but Q was all long limbs and uncoordinated when he was half asleep. Q somehow managed to trip over Bond's feet and sent them both tumbling onto the bed, Bond had to put his hands out to keep from crushing Q completely but Bond was still lying on Q. It was an awkward moment and Q's eyes finally opened completely. They were nearly nose to nose and Bond could feel Q breathing beneath him.
"You'll get it sorted," Bond said because as smooth as he was with every other person in his life there was something about Q that made his silver tongue turn to lead. Q nodded, slowly, and that seemed like a good of a time as ever to move. By the time Bond was out of the room Q was asleep again. The next morning Q did not mention the rather uncomfortable moment on the bed and Bond was not going to bring it up either. Instead, with a full night’s sleep, Q threw himself back into his work.
A week later Q set up his base of operations in a 'pay by the month' flat several miles from the building they were going to break into. That involved moving most of his computer across town but Q did not like to run the job from where they were sleeping. It made him nervous and Bond did not blame him. They had everything more or less worked out now and it was time to make their move. More time was not going to make a difference at this point and their employer was beginning to get impatient. Bond stood in front of the building and watched as the armed guards talked amongst themselves.
"They aren't going to vanish if you glare at them hard enough," Q said in his ear. Bond resisted the temptation to glare at the CCTV camera he knew was pointed directly at him.
"I'm well aware, Q, thank you," Bond deadpanned.
"I can give you two minutes of black out before the backup generators turn on," Q continued as if Bond had not spoken. "If you're not in the elevator shaft by the time the power comes back the guards will more than likely shoot you on the spot."
"Sounds terrific." Bond walked away from the main entrance of the building and made sure to stay a full half block from the building. Q was going to knock out half the block and it was the middle of the night. He hoped that meant it would be dark enough to conceal him but there was always a chance it would not. Mentally, Bond prepared himself for a gunshot wound somewhere painful though he hoped not somewhere fatal. "I'm ready."
"Thirty seconds and counting," Q said. Bond hated wearing ski masks because it felt so cliche but he needed to keep himself as hidden as possible in the darkness. "Fifteen seconds." It was another cliche that he hated but Bond put on the night vision goggles as well. Bond could feel the heavy weight of his guns, one on his ankle and another attached to his hip along with several extra mags, and they were comforting. Q said that the guards had been hired from a private security firm that actively sought out people with violent pasts. "Five seconds, four, three, two, one, good luck." Every light around Bond flickered once and then went dark.
Bond raced across the empty streets and dodged past flashlights that the guards were frantically shining around. The door to the building was unlocked due to the flood of extra guards that came outside to see what was going on. Fortunately, Bond judged that most of them would go for the main entrance and not watch a side door as closely. Bond got through the now unlocked door and he was in the pitch dark building. The staff entrance had a few emergency lights but he was still well hidden amongst the red light.
"One minute until the power is back on," Q said. There were two guards between him and the elevator but they seemed disoriented by the emergency lights and the power outage. It was easy to sneak up on each of them and choke them into silent submission. Then he locked them in a closet with their hands and feet zip tied and a cloth in their mouths. "Thirty seconds until the power is back on." His muscles strained as he struggled to pull the elevator doors open and he was just slipping through as Q made his ten second countdown. The doors closed and the power switched back on. "Clear?"
"All clear," Bond said. He could rappel all ten stories but when he looked down he saw that the elevator was beneath him. This was a stroke of luck since there was a chance that it would be above him and make things more difficult. "Q, is there any way you could get the maintenance elevator to go to the ninth floor?"
"You want to hitch a ride instead of climbing? Your old age catching up to you, Bond?" Q asked.
"I should throttle you for that," Bond said darkly and ignored the way Q laughed in his ear.
"You'd be lost without me," Q replied which Bond could not deny. "I can't hack into their security system but I can give someone an excuse to investigate the ninth floor. One moment please." Bond could hear Q typing over their line and he even said a few words out loud that did not make any sense in context. The elevator beneath him began to move up and Bond gently dropped down on it. "Security is on their way to examine the disturbance I just called in on the ninth floor. You have your ride."
"Much obliged," Bond replied and the elevator began its trek to the ninth floor. He had to attach some scaling materials to the wall very quickly and slowly made his way up to the tenth floor. There was a camera at the end of the hallway that he was going to have to take out. Bond opened the elevator door just a few centimeters and set down the small network device that Q had designed. It was true that he could not break into their security system but if he had a direct wireless connection he could take care of one camera. "Device is on." Q hummed in agreement and there was some more vigorous typing. Bond was not about to come out until he was sure Q had control of that camera.
"Shit, this is much more difficult than I thought it would be," Q muttered.
"If you can't control this camera I can't get into the room," Bond said.
"I said 'difficult' not 'impossible,'" Q snapped. Another moment or so passed and Bond watched the elevator move up and down suspiciously. There was only one room on the top floor and the owner was not in town. There was no reason anyone should want to come to the top floor but it could make things complicated if someone did while he was still in the elevator shaft. "I’ve got it." Bond opened the elevator doors and slipped into the hallway. There were no alarms so Q must have control of the camera. He had essentially recorded several seconds of empty hallway and was now looping it back in the system. Bond put a clamp on the elevator doors so even if someone came up the doors would not open. Then he locked the door leading to the stairs and turned to the flat he was breaking into. "You have one try to get this right."
"I can do this," Bond said. Q had managed to find out what type of lock the apartment used and they had bought one for Bond to practice on. If he got the lock just right there was a way to pick it on the first try. The key locks were different but the design was essentially the same. Bond knelt in front of the door and pulled out his tools. "Do I have any company on the way?"
"They don't seem to suspect anything on your floor. From their radios all I hear them talking about is the power outage and resetting quote 'every bloody clock in the building'," Q replied. Bond shook his head and began to work on the lock. While he had one try at this it was still a slow going process. Q remained blissfully silent in his ear as Bond worked on the lock. He knew what happened when the lock malfunctioned and auto locked down and he did not hear that sound. Instead Bond turned his tools and heard a promising 'click.' Slowly, he pulled out his tools and tried to open the door. The knob turned easily.
"I'm in," Bond said and smiled to himself when he heard Q sigh with relief.
"You got your chance to show off so now it's mine," Q said. Bond shook his head as he made his way through the extremely well to do flat. The safe was in the bedroom closet like he had thought it would be and Bond pulled out the small device Q had designed specifically for this safe. Apparently, Q had some friends in the technology business that did not know what he did for a living and let him play with expensive safes. They hired him because he was the best at cracking them or coming up with devices that could crack safes. While Bond had been practicing picking a lock Q had been designing a device to break into the safe.
To a normal person it looked like a cell phone but when Bond placed it against the safe it flared to life like something out of a sci fi movie. Immediately it began to run calculations and it gave him four possible sets of numbers instead of three or less like it should have.
"Shit," Q said loudly. "I need you to call me on your cell phone and use the video chat. I have to see that keypad right now." Bond did not second guess Q because he sounded angry. Bond turned the camera on his phone to the keypad and waited. Q muttered things about code and machines under his breath and once snapped at Bond to hold the phone steady. Nearly three minutes passed and that was much longer than Bond wanted to be in this apartment.
"Q, I need something here," Bond said. The longer they waited the harder it was going to be to get out of the building.
"The second set of numbers," Q said after a moment of silence. "The last number is a five and that looks like the key that someone pressed last." Q did not sound sure which worried Bond but he did not have time to question it now. He typed in the second sequence of numbers and held his breath as he waited. The safe clicked and Bond grinned.
"We're in," he said. Bond pulled out his small bag that he was planning on lining with several million Euros worth of jewels and bank account numbers but the grin slipped away as soon as he saw that there was nothing in the safe but a file. "Q? You said there were jewels in here as well as documents, correct?"
"There's only a file in here," Bond said. He pulled out the file and began to look through it because these were not bank account numbers or locations of dirty money but plans. "There are plans in here with some sort of chemical compound."
"Dial me again so I can--" Q cut himself off.
"Q?" Bond asked as he slipped the file into his pocket.
"Shit," Q said. "Shit, James, I'm being surrounded." That was enough to gets Bond's attention because Q never called him James unless something terrible was about to happen. He stood up and completely ignored the safe; he did not even bother to close it. "You are too. The entire security team just turned and went into the building in a rush."
"We were set up again," Bond said.
"We need to run. Now," Q said and Bond heard the distinctive sound of breaking in the background. Bond knew that sound; Q was frying his entire system. That meant that he no longer had control of the camera in the hallway. Bond did not really care though. The guards knew he was here, might have known he was here the entire time, and now they were coming to finish the job. Bond walked toward the exit of the flat, gun in hand, as he listened to Q frantically gather things together. There was a brief moment where he thought they had lost communication and Bond hated the way he panicked. "I switched to bluetooth," Q said as if he knew he needed to reassure Bond that he was okay though it sounded like he was running. "Get out of there, James, now."
"Be careful," Bond said. If Q had anything else to say Bond did not get a chance to hear it because the second he walked out of the room he could hear people banging against the stairwell door. The elevator was out of the question as was rappelling down. He had to face the guards and fight his way down. Bond shot out the lights in his hallway just as the guards broke down the door. He could see them and they could not quite see him in the dark. Bond fired and took down five men quickly. He needed to get out of here and find Q. They were unstoppable together.
Bond raced down the stairs and ducked from bullets that were meant to take off his head. He felt no remorse as he shot guard after guard. He ignored the blood on his hands when he had to break the neck of a guard that snuck up on him from behind. None of it mattered because he could hear Q running on the other end of the line.
"I'm on the streets but I'm being chased," Q said. He was a little breathless but Q was in excellent shape and could outrun most people.
"I'm almost to the ground as well," Bond said as he shot one of the guards between the eyes. A bullet had grazed his side but it was not deep and easy to ignore. "We'll meet at the safe house." The safe house was a flat bought under assumed names several kilometers from both of their locations. There was money, passports, and plenty of weapons so they could get out of the country. Bond shot two more men and burst out onto the street. All he needed to do was get to Q's location and get them both to the safe house. Someone was chasing him but he had a decent lead and was losing them fairly easily. Q, it seemed, was not as lucky.
"They're gaining on me," Q said and for the first time he sounded a little panicked. "I can't seem to lose them."
"I'm coming to you, where's your location?" Bond asked as he ran in what he hoped was the right direction. Q named the street he was running down and Bond picked up the pace. Over the line there was a gunshot and Q swore again. "I managed to lost sight of you in a crowd, you can lose them, Q." Bond was not sure who he was trying to reassure but that didn't matter because he heard another gunshot and a grunt of pain. "Q? Q, are you there? Answer me." Silence followed and it made his stomach drop. "Q, answer me, where are you?" There was nothing but dead air and Bond wished he knew exactly where Q was and not just a general idea. His muscles burned as he ran and he finally heard movement on the other end of the line. "Q?"
"Mr. Bond," an unfamiliar voice said and Bond stopped dead in his tracks. "You are going to surrender or I'm going to start breaking fingers." Bond was about to ask who was speaking when he heard an all too familiar grunt. Someone was hitting Q, and that just would not stand. Instantly Bond knew he was going to surrender because the thought of someone breaking Q's fingers was enough to make Bond want to bun the world down
"I need your location," Bond said trying to keep his voice as even as possible. The man chuckled and told Bond where they were.
"And you should hurry. I don't have much in the way of patience at the moment." The line went dead to the sound of someone being punched. Q was only three blocks away, they were so close, and they were only five blocks from the safe house. Bond turned the corner and went down the dark alley. He had abandoned his gun already but he wished he still had it when he turned the corner. A large man with various scars on his arms and face had a gun pressed under Q's chin. His bright blond hair was cut short but underneath the obscene muscles and all the scars the man looked almost familiar. Q was struggling and despite a split lip and bloody nose he did not look hurt. If anything he looked angrier than Bond had ever seen him. "How nice of you to join us, Mr. Bond."
"I'm unarmed," Bond said. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement but no one approached him directly.
"I can see that," the man said but he jammed the gun underneath Q's chin a little harder. "You should tell him to stop struggling before I shoot you in the kneecap." Q stilled instantly which made the man laugh. "I'm sure neither of you recognize me but then again you didn't get a good look at my face before dropping a building on me nearly four years ago."
"They found all of your bodies," Q said through his teeth.
"The boss is going to be so pleased to finally meet both of you," the man said. He pushed Q away only long enough to hit him over the head. Q crumpled to the ground like nothing was holding him up. Bond moved without thinking, only wanting to punch this man's teeth in, but in his haste two more guards grabbed him. He struggled for only a moment until someone hit him hard enough that Bond nearly bit through his tongue. As he fell to the ground Bond heard the man laugh at how easy it was to use them against each other. It seemed like something Bond should have read into but the entire world faded to black.
Now she was standing in the middle of a flat with the doors wide open. There were bodies all over the building from the various forms of security that had been chasing whoever had been here. Eve could only assume it was Bond and Q because Q was the only one who could have figured out a way to get past all of the security. Something had gone wrong and they had had to go out shooting.
"The plans are gone," Tanner said as he joined Eve in the flat’s living room. The owner, a chemical engineer, was still out of the country but on his way home. When they had informed him of what was stolen he had been suddenly much more eager to jump on a plane. "We have a dozen corpses around here and no idea where they ran off to."
"So we have nothing," Eve said. There was something about this entire scenario that did not sit right for her. The camera in the hallway had been shot and that would be an easy way to get attention. Bond and Q liked to go in and out with everyone none the wiser. This seemed too risky and too outlandish even for them.
"That seems to be it." Tanner crossed his arms and frowned deeply. "If that bomb design is as bad as everyone is making it sound we might need to plan for a full scale terrorist attack." Eve hummed in agreement though she was not really paying attention. Instead her mobile rang and she answered it on the first ring.
"Agent Moneypenny," she said.
"We appear to have a problem, Agent," M said and that was odd because M rarely made personal phone calls to anyone in the field.
"I'm aware the plans were stolen, ma’am, I'm working on it," Eve replied.
"No, that is our main problem, but it appears that we have another. While half the department was out chasing a dead end Silva managed to escape." M sounded annoyed but she did not sound terribly worried. "As of right now Silva is not our priority. Bond and Q have plans to a deadly bomb that could end the lives of many people. That needs to be taken care of immediately." Eve had lots of things she wanted to say. She wanted to tell M that something about this felt wrong and that Silva escaping could not be a coincidence. She wanted to argue that no one knew more about Bond and Q than she did and they were not the type to blow up the city.
"I understand, ma’am," Eve said slowly. "What are your orders?"
"Find the targets and eliminate them on sight. Any information they might know is not worth the lives of anyone in this city." M paused and for a moment Eve thought that the call had dropped. "And 007, that is indeed an order and not a request."
"Yes, m’am." Eve hung up and tapped her mobile against her lips. She had her orders and she had to follow them. As far as she knew two extremely dangerous men now had access to a bomb that posed a serious threat. Her instincts were screaming at her that something was wrong and she had not survived this long by ignoring them.
"What are our orders?" Tanner asked.
"Start looking for any indication as to where they went," Eve replied. Her instincts were going to have to wait for the time being.
"I don't want to talk about it," Q grumbled.
"I think this situation merits a conversation," Bond said calmly. Q cracked an eye open and picked his glasses up from the under the bed. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, relatively," Q said. "You've been asleep longer. The man with the scars said you were the dangerous one so he gave you a sedative. I've been awake for a few hours longer."
"And what did you do when he said that I was the dangerous one?"
"I broke two of his fingers." Q smirked but it faded almost instantly. "There is a camera in the corner and the door to this room is sealed. There are no windows and the vents are small and line the ceiling." That meant that there was not much of a chance for them to escape without walking out the door. Anything they said or did could be used against them. Bond hated being watched by someone that wasn't Q.
"What do we know?" Bond asked.
"We know we were set up." Q glared at the camera. "We know that the plans were the primary target of whoever took us. We know that they aren't working alone and they are working with the same person that hired you to kill me three years ago."
"If the plans were the primary objective then why are we here? Why keep us alive?" Bond asked. As if on cue the door opened. Bond put himself between the door and Q instinctively despite the fact that he knew it would annoy Q.
"If you start slow clapping because you think we're so clever I'm going to laugh," Q said.
"Oh I wouldn't do that," a voice said. An older man with longish blond hair and a fake smile sauntered into the room as if he did not have a care in the world. The voice was familiar; it was the same person that had hired him to kill Q. "Nice to finally meet you in person, Q. Could you tell your guard dog to step aside so we can have a conversation?"
"This isn't how I wanted to meet, Silva," Q replied. Bond felt a hand on his arm but Q stood next to him and not in front of him. "And I don't need anyone to guard me."
"Yes, Mr. White isn't very happy that you broke his fingers. He's eager to return the favor," Silva said. Bond knew the name Silva from conversations with Q over the years. He was a hacker ("Not nearly as good as me") that was willing to do anything to make a penny. He didn’t have any morals and he was their biggest rival. As far as Bond knew Interpol had had him in custody. "At least you're asking the right questions," Silva continued. "I'm afraid that I'm in need of some help. The current bomb design is good but not good enough and I need someone to plant it as well."
"We're thieves, not terrorists," Bond said catching on immediately.
"I'm aware," Silva said grinning. "You two have some sort of moral code you're not willing to break. Bond can justify his murders if the men he's gunning down are 'bad men'. That principle doesn't work in this day and age. No one has clean hands anymore; everyone is guilty of something."
"We are thieves, not terrorists," Q repeated.
"Yes, Q, I heard you the first time, but here's the funny thing. Mr. White told me about how he had you in custody but Mr. Bond was still on the run. Mr. White told me that all he had to do was make some vague threats and Mr. Bond surrendered." There was a manic look in Silva's eyes that made the hairs on the back of Bond's neck stand up. "He then went on to explain how Q got very compliant when he threatened to shoot Mr. Bond in the knees." Q tensed and it looked like he was about to shove Bond out of the way and go after Silva with his bare hands. Bond was ready to pull him back if he did. "I think you can figure out where this is going. Unless Q improves my bomb I'll make Mr. Bond's life very miserable and if Mr. Bond refuses to plant said bomb I'll put a bullet in Q's head right in front of him." Silva smiled like a man who held all the aces in the deck. "Someone will be in later to give you some food and water. I need you both in top form. Have a lovely night." Silva turned and walked out of the room. The door slammed and Bond listened as various locks slid into place.
"This is my fault," Q said. He was so angry he was practically vibrating. "Silva has this stupid rivalry with me and I got you caught up in it."
"I stayed because I wanted to stay. You didn't force me to do anything I didn't want to," Bond replied. Q glanced at him and for the first time in a long time Bond noticed how young Q was. They were partners, friends, and Silva knew that. Bond knew he would do anything for Q.
"I won't let him hurt you," Q said fiercely as if reading Bond's mind.
"Me too." A beat of silence passed and Bond wished that a camera wasn't recording this as something to hold over their heads later. Q sat down against a wall and folded his hands in his lap. He was planning, like he often did when they had a job, and Bond knew he needed some time to think. Bond joined him on the floor just close enough that their shoulders touched. Some time passed and Q eventually fell asleep on Bond's shoulder. It was another thing that Silva would hold against them and pretty much cement the fact that they were each other’s weakness. However, Q had dark circles under his eyes and looked exhausted so Bond found that he really did not care.
"Sorry," Q mumbled.
"It's fine," Bond replied. The door opened a few minutes later and Mr. White walked in with a tray of food. On the plate was an egg, two pieces of toast, and a water bottle. The pointer and middle fingers of his left hand were wrapped in medical tape.
"Eat up; you have work to do," White said. Bond glared and didn't spare much thought about whether the food was drugged or poisoned. Silva needed them both alive and attentive or he would have killed them by now. White spent the entire time they ate glaring at Q and Bond knew that look. He'd seen it over the years with the many enforcers that he had had to work with. That was the look of a man that wanted to hurt. If he remained compliant then White would have no reason to lash out at Q for breaking his fingers. White kicked the tray aside and they both left the half full water bottles in their room.
There were two more guards waiting for them outside who shoved guns into their backs. "Lace your hands behind your heads and walk." Bond glanced at Q who shrugged and did as he was told. The barrel of the gun was on his spinal cord and Bond didn't want to think about what kind of damage that could entail. He put his hands behind his head and walked.
Wherever they were it was a fairly large building. There was no way they were out of the country already so they were still in the United Kingdom. In terms of casualties for a bomb London would be the most obvious target and the chemical fallout could touch the entire city. Even armed with all of that knowledge Bond still had no idea where they were. They walked into a large room and White took Q's arm and pulled him roughly toward a computer and desk with Silva sitting in the chair.
"Good morning, Q, how are you feeling today?" Silva asked smiling.
"Peachy," Q replied flatly. White did not release Q's arm and that made Bond a little nervous.
"Indeed. I'll need Mr. Bond to kneel down while you work. We need to make sure that you're productive." Silva nodded and the guard pushed Bond down to his knees. Silva stood up and White practically threw Q into the chair. "You two are infamous, you know. All of MI6 is running around trying to find you two now that you have the plans for the bomb and you're planning on setting it off."
"You're framing us," Bond stated.
"Indeed and that pretty 00 Agent is going to put a bullet in both of you. She won't hesitate to pull the trigger because those are her orders," Silva explained. "Now, Q, I need you to work on this bomb. I want the fireworks to go off in two days so you need to work quickly. If you fail to do as I ask Mr. Bond will end up with a broken bone somewhere on his body. Do you understand the terms of our agreement?" Q stared at the computer screen and remained silent. White shoved his head roughly and Q scowled.
"I understand," Q said.
"Very well. We'll be monitoring you so no funny business." Silva nodded to White who took a few steps back but kept his hand far too close to his gun for Bond's liking.
Q rolled his shoulders, cracked his neck, and began to type. He was far enough away that Bond could not see what he was working on and even if he could most of what Q did was over his head. He could make out the vague lines of the blueprints but there was something else going on. There was a blink and then it was gone. It was so fast that Bond was sure he was imagining it yet an hour later the same thing happened.
Q didn't say a word or look up from the computer for nearly five hours. By then Silva had taken pity on Bond's arms and knees and let him sit on the ground while Q worked. It was silent save for the typing at the computer. The window flashed a third time and Silva's phone beeped. Silva looked at his phone and his smug expression faded into one of pure fury.
"What are you doing?" he asked. Q didn't look up, didn't hesitate, if anything he began to type faster. Silva looked at White who reacted immediately. He took Q by the collar of his shirt and tried to yank him back but Q was faster. He slammed White's broken fingers into the desk and kept typing. The guard behind Bond pressed the gun to his head but they needed him to pull the trigger on the bomb so he knew the guard wasn't going to kill him. Silva and White both approached Q; however, this time White managed to pull Q away from the computer but not before Q hit enter one more time. White slammed Q into the wall and held him there by his neck as Silva typed furiously at the computer. "What did you do?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Q replied evenly and were it not for the gun to his head Bond would have broken White's neck for squeezing Q's throat like that.
"I'll find what you did; you're not such a clever boy," Silva sneered. "I expected something like this from Bond’s irrational mind but not from yours, Q. I know you're smarter than this and I know you said you wouldn't let me hurt Bond. That was a poor way of keeping your promise." Q tried to speak but White's hands were so tight that Q could barely catch a breath. Q's face was turning red as he struggled to breathe and that was all Bond could stand of that. Bond elbowed back into his guard, knocking the wind out of him and rushing toward White and Q with every intention of enjoying the sound of White's neck snapping.
Bond realized he must not have hit his guard as hard as he thought because the next thing he felt was a bullet tearing through his shoulder. It made him stumble enough for two men to swarm and pin him down. Q's eyes were wide as he struggled against White's hand.
"That's enough, Mr. White," Silva said. White looked like he was not happy about that but released Q and threw him down to the ground. Q coughed and tried to breathe deep; there were going to be finger shaped bruises on his throat. They were three feet from each other but it might as well have been the moon for how much help Bond could do now. "That's the type of thing I expected from Mr. Bond. Now I suppose you're even as far as stupid things."
"I didn't want to tarnish my irrational persona," Bond spat out. His shoulder wound was bleeding freely but the bullet had at least passed right through. Silva sighed as if they were making his life extremely difficult. He walked over to the computer and began to look at the work that Q had done.
"You do good work if nothing else Q," Silva said. "I told you that if one of you should act up the other was going to be punished for it. Since you both decided to be idiots you're both going to suffer for it. Mr. White?"
"Yes, sir?" White said though he was smiling like he knew where this was going.
"I believe you deserve some retribution for those broken fingers, correct? Please escort Q somewhere else and deal with him as you please." Silva said. "Oh but don't kill him. I still need Mr. Bond to cooperate when planting the bomb." White grinned like a shark and pulled Q to his feet. Q struggled but as strong as Q was White had the weight and muscle advantage. He twisted Q's arm painfully behind his back until Q had to stop fighting or risk a broken arm. White pushed Q toward another door and for a brief moment Q looked back and they made eye contact. Bond wasn't sure what Q saw in him but what he saw in Q's eyes was fear. It was not fear for himself but fear for what they were going to do to him. Bond wanted to tell Q to be safe, that they were going to be okay, comfort him somehow, but Q hated being coddled and the door slammed shut before he could say anything.
"If you damage him there won't be a deserted island where I won't find you," Bond said. Silva rolled his eyes and stepped on his injured shoulder. The pain intensified and it almost made him black out.
"Your lives belong to me now and I don't mind a little damage to my projects," Silva said. The two guards forced Bond to his feet so Silva could stare him down. "You know, Mr. Bond, the underground loves to gossip about you and Q. Us hackers and criminals just love to gossip like a bunch of primary school girls." Silva reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. "The gossip surrounding you two is so interesting because, for once, the rumors are true."
"And what rumor would that be?" Bond snapped.
"Why the rumor that you love each other, of course." Bond heard Silva's words but they didn't make sense in his head. The thought that he was in love with Q was ridiculous. They were partners and they were friends. They lived together and sometime slept on the same couch or bed. They invaded each other’s space as if it wasn't a big deal but that didn't mean they were in love. "I see the thought hasn't even dawned on you. That's too bad." Silva nodded and one of the guards released Bond's arm and took the knife from him. "If I work the rest of the day and most of the night I'll have the bomb ready tomorrow instead of in two days. I have a feeling sooner will be better than later. You have until then to figure out if you want to tell him how you feel. Otherwise you won't get a chance."
Bond was still trying to get his mind around the fact that he and Q were apparently in love and he didn't see the first hit coming. The guard, fortunately, had not stabbed him but the blow still hurt. With his wounded shoulder Bond couldn't defend himself as the guard hit him over and over again until the world blurred over. Just to spite Silva Bond spit blood onto his shoes but Silva just tsk-ed him like he was a small child. The guard pressed the tip of the knife into the skin above his heart and Bond froze. One wrong move and the knife would go through his heart. He thought about Q and how Silva would make sure he died slowly. Bond stilled as Silva smiled as if he knew what had forced Bond to comply. It was insane how easy it was to manipulate him and Bond hated himself for it. Silva placed some bandages in Bond's jacket pocket and looked at him sadly.
"Tomorrow you're going to commit an act of terrorism and you’ll both die at the hands of MI6. Such a waste of good talent." Silva stood up and nodded. As the guards dragged him back to his room Bond wondered who Silva was talking about. His guards shoved him into the room and locked the door. The rest of his injuries were superficial but the bullet wound needed to be tended to. Bond took the tip of his blanket, some of the water he had left, and cleaned it the best he could. He probably needed stitches but a bandage was going to have to do for now. Once it was taken care of the best he could Bond began to pace as he waited for Q to return.
It could have been hours, it could have been minutes, time seemed to blur together until the door opened and White shoved Q into the room. Q stumbled and fell to his knees breathing hard but all Bond could see was the blood on White's shirt and the knuckles of his good hand.
"Sleep well, gentlemen," White said cheerfully and he slammed the door shut. Bond was at Q's side in a second but Q tried to shove him away. Q's lip was split again but it looked worse, there was dried blood under his nose, one of his eyes was already starting to blacken and when Q stood up he favored his left side a little.
"I'm okay," Q said though his voice was hoarse like he'd been screaming. "Your shoulder?"
"I'll live," Bond replied. He kept a hand out to catch Q if he stumbled but Q managed to sit down on the small bed. Bond sat down on his own bed so they were across from each other and watched Q carefully. He wanted to ask what Q had done to make Silva so mad but they were being watched still. It felt like someone had dropped something heavy into the pit of his stomach as he looked at Q's injuries. "Silva said he's making the bomb today so we can set it off tomorrow night."
"I figured he would," Q said as he adjusted his glasses. One of the lenses was cracked but at least they were intact so Q could see. "So we're going to die tomorrow." Bond nodded and he thought about what Silva had said about them being in love. How this is might be his only chance to tell Q how important he was to him. Q glanced up and immediately Bond knew that Q had figured this out long before he had.
"How long have you known?" Bond asked feeling a little stupid.
"Thirteen months," Q replied. Bond thought back to over a year ago; that was the last time he had picked up a woman from a bar and slept with her. Q had seemed angry the rest of the day and Bond had decided that one night stands weren't worth making Q angry. In retrospect it was obvious but it hadn’t been at the time.
"I'm an idiot," Bond said.
"You're getting slow in your old age," Q said smiling despite the fact that it must have hurt with his lip. Q stood up very slowly and carefully climbed into Bond's lap. It jarred his injuries and it looked like it hurt like hell for Q too but Bond ignored it. It was worth it when Q kissed him for the first time. It was soft, barely there, unlike any other kiss Bond had ever shared with the various men and women he'd seduced in the past. He wanted to taste Q but they were both far too injured. Instead Bond helped Q off of his lap and arranged them both on the small bed so they were curled up close together. Q was planning something, he always was, and he whispered the words as they traded slow kisses: 'we'll go down fighting.' Bond nodded as they both relaxed on the bed. Silva was not going to make them into terrorists and take the best thing in Bond's life without bloodshed.
Eve opened her drawer and pulled out the thumb drive. Ever since Q had wiped the system she had not touched it out of fear that someone would see. No one knew that she had backed up her information onto this drive and the fact that it wasn't missing was indication enough to her that Q did not know either. Eve had a feeling that Q had better things to do right now than spy on her so she put the drive into her computer and began to look through her files.
There were comments all over the criminal world about Q and Bond. They were not good men by any stretch of the word but they had always tried to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. The things they had stolen were similar, personal information, money or something of value. The bomb plans they had stolen this time were nothing like anything they had ever done before. All of MI6 seemed convinced that Bond and Q were behind this but every time Eve tried to put the facts together in her head they didn’t fit.
There were so many things that Q and Bond could tell them about the criminal underworld if they caught them alive. Eve had spent too much time knowing everything about these two men to pull the trigger without asking them some basic questions. It was not like she could go against orders though, not without risking severe punishment, and there were still plans for a bomb out there that could kill tens of thousands of people. That should be her priority but her mind kept drifting back to these files. There had to be something here that she had missed, something that could point her in the right direction, because if she acted fast enough maybe she could stop anyone from dying.
The screen on her computer flickered and Eve blinked because the power had not gone out. The screen blinked again then turned completely black. She swore, loudly, because of course her computer chose this moment to die on her. She was about to try resetting it when words began to appear on the black screen in stark white text.
Agent Moneypenny. This message is the only form of communication I'll be able to have with you. James Bond and I have been taken prisoner by the escaped hacker Silva. He is the one that tricked us into stealing those plans and he is planning on framing us for the bombing. The explosion will go off in two days. Silva expects you to kill us. You have no reason to believe me in this but I know how much you've been learning about us. Here is our location. Q.
A set of coordinates followed and Eve scrambled to find a piece of paper to write them on. Mere seconds after she wrote down the last number the text vanished and her screen turned back to normal. The message was gone as if it had never existed. If there was anyone in the world that could make anything vanish on computers it was Q.
Eve clenched her fists as she thought about how Silva must have played her. She hated when someone tried to use her for their own whims. Eve stared at the coordinates before her. If she got MI6 involved they would storm the building and kill everyone in sight. They would be playing into Silva's hand. She would not be manipulated again but there was also the chance that Q could be manipulating her as well.
Eve stared at the coordinates before her and had no idea what to do.
"Did you sleep at all?" Bond asked quietly.
"No," Q replied. Bond smiled to himself because Q was so lost in his own head at the moment that he wasn't even startled by the sudden conversation. Hours had passed, Bond could tell by how dark his bruises were now, and that meant that Silva could have the bomb ready at any moment. As much as Bond didn't want to get framed for being a terrorist he wanted people in this city to die even less. He decided, in that moment, that if he had to die then he was going to die stopping that bomb. Q let his hands fall to the bed with a thump and he sighed. When he looked over at Bond he frowned like he was trying to figure something out. They really should have invented some sort of code to communicate with. Q was brilliant though, the smartest person Bond had ever met, and perhaps he could catch on fast enough.
"It's not going to happen," Bond said. It was vague enough that it could mean any number of things and Silva had no way of figuring out which one. Bond wanted to add more, to try and push Q in the right direction so they could have this discussion, but the locks on the door began to turn. Q was on his feet in seconds and he helped Bond to his as well. Q's hands were steady and Bond had never seen him look more dangerous than he did in this moment. The door opened and White stepped in.
"Time to start getting ready, gentlemen," he said grinning. Bond glanced at Q and nodded; this was the moment where they were going to fight their way out of here one way or another. Q dropped his shoulder and threw his entire body weight into White's torso. It knocked the wind out of him but not nearly enough to knock him out. Bond punched White with his good arm hard enough that his entire arm went numb briefly. White hit the ground like a stack of bricks and four more security guards charged into the room.
There were too many of them and Bond’s shoulder made him slow. He watched Q break a guard’s wrist and kick him down to the floor before turning his attention to the other one. Bond punched another guard in the stomach and when he leaned forward on instinct Bond threw his knee into the guard’s nose. Q used his smaller frame to his advantage and basically side stepped a guard to let the man plow straight into the wall just as Bond broke the fourth guard’s neck. The sound of the safety coming off two guns made his blood run cold. Bond turned slowly to see White standing near the open door a gun in each hand and blood in his mouth.
"Silva didn't say either of you needed your kneecaps," White spit out. If they couldn't walk they had no chance of escape. White grinned and aimed at their legs. Suddenly, White's eyes went wide and he collapsed to the ground. A woman with dark skin and curly black hair stood behind him and Bond recognized her as the Agent that had chased him across London.
"Pleasure to meet you in person, 007. I see you got my message," Q said. That explained what Q had been doing on Silva's computer. Eve fired a shot over their shoulders and into the camera stationed in the corner. "Bond, this is Agent Eve Moneypenny of MI6."
"I can't tell if you're exactly what I expected or not," Eve said as she looked Q up and down. "There are more of them so we need to get out of here now."
"No," Bond said as Q and Eve both turned to look at him. "We need to stop Silva and that bomb before we can leave." Eve stared at him as if she was trying to get a read on him. She must have seen something because she expertly flicked the safety on one of White's guns and tossed it to him.
"I won't have you at my back," she said.
"I wouldn't either," Bond replied. Q knelt down and began to go through White's pockets. He tossed Bond an extra mag and found a key card.
"I have most of the layout memorized so I believe I know where the bomb is being built," Q said. "Let's go." Eve stopped Q and Bond had to resist every instinct to protect him.
"If this is a set up I won't hesitate to put a bullet in either of you," she warned and Bond believed her.
"Understood," Bond said. With that settled Q led them through the giant building at a quick pace. They ran into a few guards here and there but after the first one took a lethal shot at Eve she returned fire without hesitation. She had quickly realized that there was not going to be any warning shot. Bond watched her snap the neck of a guard that got past her gun and shoot another with a grace he had never seen in a fighter before. He was impressed if nothing else.
Q stopped in front of a key card locked door and pressed an ear to it. Whatever he heard on the other side must have been reassuring because he nodded.
"If Silva was going to make a bomb it would be in here," Q said. Q went to unlock the door but Bond snatched his wrist and stopped him.
"I'll take point," Bond said. "Agent Moneypenny, will you cover my back?"
"If I must," Eve replied easily. He was just going to have to trust that she wouldn't shoot him in the back. Bond nodded to Q and Eve and kicked the door open. The room was large with high ceilings and a walkway across the top. It was the perfect place for someone to hide but there wasn't any time to check everywhere. Not that Q was willing to give him the time. As soon as they were through the door Q jogged over to a table. Bond recognized an incomplete bomb right away and breathed a sigh of relief. Silva hadn't finished the bomb.
"I can neutralize the chemical he would have added to this," Q said.
"A dirty bomb? I can't believe they refused to prioritize this man," Eve snapped.
"Well they were confident that James and I were the problem." Q mixed a few chemicals together and added them to a large flask. The chemical bubbled and turned clear. Q grinned and Bond was about to say that it was time to go when a single gunshot rang out in the room. Bond and Eve both turned toward the shot, guns raised, but Bond could see the red staining Q's shirt. He put a hand on the wound and collapsed to his knees. There was nothing Bond could do for Q now and at least Q had cover from the table.
"Pity. I was aiming for his heart," Silva said from one of the dark corners. "Bleeding out is such a slow way to go."
"Come out into the light with your hands in the air and I will let you live," Eve called out. Even if he was not well versed in people he knew Eve was lying.
"I don't think so, Agent Moneypenny. Imagine MI6's reaction when they find you with the two terrorists. Treason is not something they take lightly," Silva said as an explosion went off. "Then again you'll be buried under a building so I don't think it will matter much!" Bond could hear Silva laughing as a series of small explosions rocked the building. Bond was not going to let Silva get away. Despite the smoke and the building being on fire Bond could make out a shadow racing across the catwalk. He would have one shot for this but as he raised his arm to fire his hand was not steady. The shot went wide. Bond was about to take another shot when Eve fired. She hit Silva in the back and his gun flew from his hands. Silva screamed in pain and Bond could hear him swearing loudly. Bond glanced at her but Eve's expression gave away nothing.
"I thought you were supposed to be the best," Eve said. Bond was about to defend himself when another explosion shook the building. Eve didn't seem to care about Silva's screaming and raced over to Q. Bond wanted to put a bullet in Silva's head but Q was hurt and the building was about to come down around them. Eve helped Q to his feet but passed Q off to Bond without a word.
"I'm all right," Q said through his teeth though he was turning white from blood loss.
"We need to get out of here, now," Eve said. "You two bring up the front; I’ll watch our backs." Bond wasn't about to question the woman that was saving their lives.
The smoke grew thicker the more they pressed through the building. An explosion knocked a huge section of ceiling and Bond narrowly missed getting hit with debris. He turned and saw that the debris was blocking Eve's escape. The logical thing, the thing that could ultimately make their lives easier, was to leave her behind. Yet Bond did not hesitate for a moment to set Q on his feet and start to move the heavy chunk of wall. He and Eve were not enough and the building. Q stumbled over and put a hand on the concrete.
"On three," he said. "One, two, three." All three of them pushed the piece of concrete as hard as they could. Q looked like he was about to pass out but he didn't stop. The slab moved enough for Eve to slip through. Bond offered her a hand and helped her land on her feet.
"Thank you," she said. Eve seemed surprised that they had stayed to help at all. Bond nodded, put one of Q's arms around his neck, and they hurried through the rest of the building.
The burst of cool air when they finally got outside was like heaven. It hurt a little to breathe and Q was coughing like it was the most painful thing in the world. They were alive though and that was all that mattered. The roof caved in just as they got enough distance from the building. Q needed a hospital and Bond was mentally making a list of any doctors that owed them any favors. Within seconds dozens of SUV's swarmed the area. Of course MI6 was here. They had orders to shoot to kill. Bond kept an arm around Q but linked their hands. If they were going to die then they would die together. This was always going to be their fates, they both knew that, but that didn't make staring down the barrel of a gun any easier.
"Hold your fire!" Eve said and just like that no one pulled a trigger. Eve raced over and talked to an older woman with white hair. Whatever she said must have been convincing because the next thing one of the Agents said was, "Drop your weapons." Bond glanced at Q who managed a smile. Bond smiled back as they tossed their guns to the ground.
“It’s not that they aren’t dangerous,” Tanner said three days later. Q was still in medical recovering from his gunshot wound. Bond also had a gunshot wound on his shoulder but after the doctors made sure that it was properly stitched and would not get infected they locked him in a cell. Eve heard the guards talking about Bond as the more dangerous of the two of them but Eve knew that Q had plenty of sharp edges that you could cut yourself on. “They’re a different type of dangerous. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say they have a basic moral fiber but they did go back to stop that bomb.”
“No one has basic moral fibers anymore,” Eve replied. Tanner hummed in agreement and they both walked to M’s office. As soon as the door closed M looked up from the files that were spread across her desk. Eve wasn’t sure she had slept in the last seventy-two hours as she dealt with the building collapse and corpse retrieval.
“Agent Moneypenny, Mr. Bond has requested the chance to see Q and I would like your opinion on whether or not you believe that is wise,” M said.
“I think if we’re going to keep both of them cooperating with us then we should let them see each other,” Eve said. She thought about the look on Bond’s face when he had seen the amount of blood on Q’s clothes. She thought about how they had stood in front of an army ready to die together. Whatever type of connection they had it was a strong one and they could both cause problems if they didn’t remain complacent. M nodded and sat back in her chair.
“I’ll have Mr. Tanner collect Bond, and Agent Moneypenny, I would like you to make sure Q is up for visitors,” M said. She looked back down at the paperwork and Eve took that for the dismissal that it was. Eve made her way through medical easily and she was not surprised to see two guards standing outside Q’s door.
“Good evening, Agent Moneypenny,” Q said as soon as she walked in the door. There was some color in his cheeks and he was reading a book with one hand though he looked up when she walked in. Q set the book on the bed and rolled his wrist. “Difficult to read with one hand.” He shook his other hand, handcuffed to the railing of the bed.
“They’re doing their jobs. How are you feeling?” Eve asked.
“Superficial wounds that will heal eventually,” Q replied. He tilted his head to the side, narrowed his eyes, like she was something that confused him. “May I ask you a question, Agent Moneypenny?”
“You certainly can but that doesn’t mean I’ll answer,” Eve replied easily.
“Fair enough. MI6 could have dropped a small bomb on the building or stormed the doors and killed everyone inside. I gave you our location and all you had was my word that Silva was the one trying to frame us. I could have easily lied, so why did you believe me?” Q asked.
“You know how long I’ve been trying to catch you, Q,” Eve began and he nodded. “Well you can’t chase someone as long as I did without finding out a few things about them. You and James Bond, your hands are far from clean, but you seem to follow your own set of rules. Silva’s plan didn’t follow those rules. No one deserves to die for something they didn’t do.”
“James and I should die for the things we are guilty of,” Q said but he was smiling.
“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.” There was a brief knock and the door opened to reveal Tanner and Bond. Eve knew that Bond and Q were both trying to hide any sort of reaction from her and Tanner but she could see the weight ease off their shoulders.
“You have five minutes and Agent Moneypenny will watch you,” Tanner explained. “Please don’t make us tear gas the entire room.”
“Well that seems a little extreme,” Bond said sitting down on the edge of Q’s bed. Tanner glanced at Eve and left but Bond did not seem to notice or care. “Prognosis?”
“I’ll be fine,” Q said. “I’m more worried about your shoulder. You’re useless to me if you can’t shoot straight.”
“No major damage so I’ll be fine. I’ll just need some time to recover,” Bond replied. Q studied him and Eve wondered how anyone could tolerate that kind of scrutiny on a regular basis. It felt like Q was peeling back entire layers looking for lies. They were both silent for a long time until Q took Bond by the collar and kissed him. Eve did not avert her eyes, not because she didn’t care that she was intruding, but because she didn’t trust them. Not together. Her files on Q and Bond said they were dangerous before they met but now that she had a time line Eve knew that they were deadly together. They pulled apart the moment Tanner opened the door and Bond didn’t resist when the cuffs were put on.
“Eve, I need you to take him back to his cell. M needs me for something,” Tanner said.
“Of course.” Eve took Bond by the arm and walked with him through the hallways of MI6. She was armed and confident that she could incapacitate him if need be but he never once tried to fight her. “Your skills are very impressive, Mr. Bond.”
“As are yours, Agent Moneypenny,” Bond replied.
“M has been willing to overlook many things if she believes a person has great potential to be an Agent.” It was true too. There were plenty of them that came from the military but also those with less than perfect backgrounds. Bond could be one of the best Agents ever but he chuckled like she had made a joke.
“I’m not so keen on serving Queen and Country,” Bond replied smiling to himself, “and I’ve been reliably informed that I don’t play well with others. There’s only one person I can work with.”
“Well I’ve been reliably informed that we could use some improvements in our security. Q would do very well here and it’s not uncommon for an Agent to have someone behind them to watch their back.” Over dark nights Eve and M had discussed this in harsh whispers and this was something that they both agreed on.
“You keep an eye on us while we work for you is what you mean,” Bond said.
“More or less,” she replied because there was no use lying to him. Eve opened Bond’s cell and let him walk in. He put his hands through the slot and Eve removed the cuffs. Bond rubbed his wrists and watched her carefully.
“I’m afraid we must respectfully decline, Agent Moneypenny. Q and I are not for sale.” Eve was about to argue with him, say that they weren’t trying to buy them and how this was a better option than the charges they were facing, but she already knew that they had made up their minds. There would be no swaying Bond or Q to their side. “After all, there’s no honor among thieves, correct?”
“I will see you at your trial, Mr. Bond,” Eve said without indulging him because Bond and Q had honor and loyalty, it was just only to one person. He nodded politely as Eve walked away from his cell.
“Let me see,” she said. Eve already knew what had happened. Q had brought down their entire security system, yet again, and managed to break out of the handcuffs. While the system was in chaos he had easily made his way through the compound and released Bond. None of the security was up yet the cameras turned on to reveal the two of them looking at a camera near the door. Q had a phone in hand and he was smirking like he had purposely turned the system back on so they could stare directly into the camera. Bond saluted the camera with two fingers, Q nodded politely, and they both walked out of MI6’s front door.
“At least the camera caught what exit they used,” Tanner said.
“Only because Q wanted us to see,” M replied. “007, why did they do that?” Eve looked down at the footage, at Q and Bond as they both smiled up at her, and she knew exactly why they had done that. The message was clear and Eve laughed softly.
“They’re saying ‘come find us,’” Eve said. M and Tanner began to talk to each other about making sure that Bond and Q didn’t get out of the country but Eve knew it was far too late for that. They were long gone, they would fall completely off the grid, to try and heal from what had happened. ‘Come and find us’ you say, Eve thought as she watched Q and Bond walk out of MI6 like they didn’t have a care in the world. I intend to.