It was definitely the beginning of the Christmas season, Q decided, as he shuffled into MI6 one cold, dreary, Thursday morning. Not only was it frigid enough to be the middle of the arctic, it also appeared someone had taken the initiative to storm his private office and morph it from it’s typical concrete-gray walls and dark columns into something simply horrendous, and he found himself squinting to see around the hundreds of twinkling lights that were wound around all of his desks and chairs, even being so daring as to hang the distasteful things from the rafters. On top of it all, someone had had the audacity to set up a tree. Right next to his desk. Where everyone knew he liked to keep his hacking equipment.
Q closed his eyes and took an exaggerated sip of tea. It was going to be a long day.
Saying a silent prayer of thanks that there was no music blaring out of his new high-tech speakers, he soundlessly made his way across the room and took a seat in his favorite rolling chair, setting his Scrabble Q mug filled with steaming hot Earl Gray onto the table and promptly opening his laptop to begin where he’d left off only hours before…decoding an anonymous tip from an undisclosed location. He’d made little headway and he shivered slightly, knowing Mallory—M—would be asking for an update in an hour and he needed good news to give him.
He set to work, painfully aware that the only sound in the underground lair was the clacking of keys as he typed away at the code. The silence was, as always, a welcome friend. But it also got lonely. He remembered when Q-branch had been out in the open. Back when he’d been R and had constantly been bombarded by the teasing cracks about his age and how Boothroyd—the former Q—had, quite literally, picked him off of the streets. The old man had been the only one to know his secret, to know who he really was. Yet, he never once thought about it effecting his proficiency at work. Never worried a sudden panic attack could send him into—as Boothroyd had liked to call it—'hissertia’ and jeopardize the lives of the 00s. The minions, the double-ohs, and M knew nothing about the truth. They all assumed he’d been selected right out of college for his extremely high IQ. They would never believe that he was actually a gamble, a chance that no one had expected to work out,
After sorting through a bunch of jumble and lettering that did absolutely nothing, Q pressed the enter button and sat back to take a drink before his tea got cold. The monitor beeped to alert him that the program had finished running. Smirking slightly at the simplicity of the operation, he spun back to face the screen. And then, reading the words projected on the laptop, Q froze. His mug slipped from his hand and smashed against the concrete, but he didn’t seem to notice. He stared at the words that were unscrambling on the monitor before his eyes.
I know what you are.
Q felt the panic take hold and the fear squeeze at his heart. Surely, surely, this had to be some kind of ill-mannered prank. Surely, he couldn’t have been found out. Not like this. Not so easily. Not when he’d managed to hide it from his co-workers for this long…
Quick, hard footsteps interrupted his horrified thoughts. He didn’t need to turn to know who would be standing behind him. There was the distinguishable smell of smoke and alcohol, mixed with the metallic odor of blood and a distinguishable limp. Without looking up, Q smashed his laptop closed, let out his irritation in one fell swoop, and snapped, “Have you tried turning it off and back on?”
His hiss of annoyance became clearly audible, however, as he looked from his computers at the heart-wrenching crash of mangled metal hitting his desk. The dark and looming shadow of the double-oh covered everything in sight and the Quartermaster couldn’t bite back his irritation as he laid eyes on the heap of incinerated junk he assumed had once been a perfectly functioning glock. He pushed it away absentmindedly with a pencil. “Bond…” he began in a low threatening growl.
“Q,” came 007’s icy voice, intentionally mocking the younger man’s tone. And then he noticed the shattered mug. “Q,” he repeated more firmly. “Are you all right?”
Q frowned, giving him a steely glare over the top of his lenses. “Bond,” he repeated firmly, prodding the unfortunate piece of metal. “Do I need to remind you of the policies for returning your weapons? Preferably functional.”
Bond smirked, not looking at all apologetic as he folded his arms and rocked back and forth on his balls of his feet. “You know as well as I that I’m not always at fault for everything that happens. Somethings are just out of my control.”
Q snorted in disbelief but stuffed the remains into his desk anyway. “I don’t understand how you can destroy so much equipment,” he grumbled loud enough for the older man to hear. Bond, wisely, said nothing, and merely raised his eyebrows as though daring the Quartermaster to go on. “But, somehow,” Q obliged, sliding his rolling chair across the room to one of his minions’ desks and setting a stack of folders on top of an already teetering pile. “I don’t think I really want to know.” He came back over more slowly, placing his hands back on the keyboard to return to work. He had hardly completed a line of coding before he paused, realizing Bond was still there. Slowly, he looked up. “Is there something else?” he added, his tone a bit sharper than he’d intended it to be.
Bond shrugged. “No. That’s all.” He didn’t seem to notice the flux in the hacker’s tone. Even if he did, he said nothing. Q coughed it off awkwardly.
“In that case, good day, 007.” The Quartermaster gestured for Bond to shoo. The agent snorted in amusement before turning sharply on his heel and disappearing back into the elevator.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Q quickly turned back to the task at hand, opening his screen once more, mortified to find more words scrambling onto his screen.
You aren’t as safe as you think you are.
Thinking quickly, Q decided to try and back-hack the source of the messages, maybe find an IP address. No such luck. There was a faint ping as one final message cropped up on his screen.
Identities built on lies will get you killed.
Q frowned and continued his back trace.
His phone began to ring. Groaning, he quickly drew it from his pocket. The ID read 007. With a grudging sigh, he answered. “Bond, if there was something you needed you could have just—”
His snide remark was cut off by the earth-shaking explosion that followed and this caused him to react almost on instinct, throwing himself behind his desk before the flames could reach him and covering his head protectively with his arms. Which was a bit of a disappointment, if he were being honest. He’d thought the quip up pretty quickly and had been looking forward to using it. The force of the blast enveloped his desk and charred his laptop.
His body felt like it was on fire. His ears rang. His lungs burned. His hands burned. But, somehow, he was still alive. The bomb that had clearly been intended for him had missed by mere centimeters.
His brief moment of relief was lost however, at furious shouting from the tunnels and the wild gunshots that ensued. Q, knowing that could mean only one thing, frantically scanned the empty catacombs for something to use as a weapon, or, better yet, a place to hide. It was only then that he realized 007’s voice had been yelling through the speaker for the past minute.
“Q? Q! Answer me! What’s happening?”
“Hostiles in Q-branch!” Q gasped out, finally deciding to stand up and start toward the door. This was a mistake, as he immediately realized, finding himself staring down the barrel of a cocked gun. And the man holding it was not one of his.
“Q! Hold on!” Bond was shouting. “I’m coming to you now! Hunker down until I get there! Do not engage! I repeat, DO NOT—”
“Drop it,” the man snarled, gesturing vaguely to the phone with the gun before centering the weapon squarely against Q’s chest. “Or I put a bullet through you. Now, drop it!”
Q did as he was told, while simultaneously raising his hands into the air in a show of surrender. The man chuckled, a terrible sound. Already, Q could feel the terror welling up inside of him. His hands were shaking, and his brain was shutting down. He was losing control. He knew it. And there was nothing he could do. The thin threads of sanity were slipping out from between his fingers like water. He had mere seconds before it happened. His heart began to beat more rapidly as he struggled to regain control, gripping the edges of his desk and beginning to inhale and exhale deeply. A brief moment of fear jarred his body as he realized that the urge was too strong, and that, this time, he wasn’t going to be able to keep it together. Quietly, he reminded himself. Be inconspicuous.
Even as the change washed over him, he heard the storming footsteps of the double-oh rushing down the hall behind the intruders and the frantic sounds of gun fire. But it was too late. The panic was out. There was no way to stop it. He swore he saw a flash of color and concerned blue eyes reach him just as the last of his strength left him and he fell to the floor. “Bond…” he whispered.
“Q! Hold on! We’ve got you! We’re going to get you out! Tanner! Call Medical! No, I don’t care what time it is! Call them! This is an emergency!”
“007…” Q hissed once more, trying desperately to gain his agent’s attention. Bond turned to face him. He opened his mouth to say something.
And then Q closed his eyes and blacked out.