‘Sleep with me.’ Bond’s voice crackled over the microphone.
‘What?’ Q snapped with shock.
‘You heard me. Sleep with me. Lie with me. Give me your body. Let me make love to you. Make love to me. Let me run my hands over your skin. Let me-‘
‘Bond, you are on live feed!’
‘I’m aware of that.’
Q could feel the electricity in the atmosphere of the control room around him. Ears straining to hear what was going on over the loud speakers, even more than they had been before, during the car chase that had put Bond into his current situation, holed up in the Samarkand souk. They could hear him refilling the clip of his pistol with fresh rounds, hear the laboured hiss of his breathing from exertion. Q could feel Tanner and Mallory standing behind him, hanging on every word. He wished, at that moment, that the old M had been there. She had the capacity to calm a situation just by raising an eyebrow. Legend had it that Tanner had once called her ‘the evil Queen of Numbers’ to her face, but he thought that would probably have amused her more than anything else. She had been so much more than that anyway.
‘Answer me, you smug little sod!’
More ragged breath, something else going on, a clank of metal, something Q couldn’t identify.
‘Bond, you’re, well-‘
‘Oh, come on, you know about the legend!’
Yes he did. He lived under one himself. They all did. ‘Legend’ was the term used for the personalities they each adopted when they ascended to rank within the service. Q’s own was that of Geoffrey Boothroyd, who had once been a real person, a Major in the Royal Engineers seconded to Q branch during the Second World War, by way of SOE. It was ridiculous, really. He could never have passed for an army man, but the service persisted with the game regardless. So he lived as Major Boothroyd to the outside world, and Q to his colleagues. It often made him think of Doctor Who, though. The major players within MI6 didn’t retire or die; they simply regenerated. They became someone else with the same name and history.
Bond’s own legend was legend indeed, the illustrious name and life that every field agent aspired to. Q had actually met one of his predecessors in the persona, a suave, handsome, dark-haired man who came to give a talk to the hopefuls at Sarratt, where all MI6 personnel went for their training. He had been witty and sensual, and rumour suggested that he had not ‘gone down into that dark night’ easily. After all, why would you want to retire from professional womanising?
The thing about legends, especially for field agents, is that they must be lived to the letter. The person you were before you became the legend had to be wiped out entirely. You never deviated from your lines. Whoever Bond had been before he became Bond would have to be obliterated as soon as he took on the role of the womaniser, the assassin, the adrenaline junkie, the loner.
So why would a man like Bond, or the man underneath Bond, break cover now?
‘How badly injured are you?’
‘Q-‘ Mallory began, but Bond cut in.
‘Clever boy. But you still haven’t answered my question.’
Everyone in the room was waiting on his answer now. And you can’t say no to a potentially dying man.
‘Bond, get back to your car so we can assess your condition,’ Mallory snapped. Q knew M couldn’t afford to lose an asset like Bond.
‘Negative, sir,’ Bond rasped back, his voice hitching. Now he knew what was happening, Q could hear the pain in every syllable. ‘I’m too close to the mark now to risk pulling out.’ They heard the slide on his pistol click into place, as if to cement his determination.
‘Bond, that is an order!’
‘Sorry, sir, never was much good at taking orders.’ Q could hear the smile in his voice. ‘I’d be grateful if you could arrange a prompt extraction, though. I think I may have a date when I get home, isn’t that right, Q?’
Mallory glared at Q
‘Er, er, yes, I mean, yes, I suppose so-‘
‘Good, that’s settled.
There was a crackle on the line and Q knew, just knew, that Bond was about to dump the connection.
‘Come back. Okay?’
There was an agonising pause, and then Bond spoke.
‘I like sushi. Do you? I know this great little sushi place.’
And then the line went dead.