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#1 chrisno1



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Posted 15 January 2013 - 04:52 PM

Chris Stacey























This novel is 100% unofficial and has been written for the James Bond fan community at www.commanderbond.net. The author acknowledges all copyrights for products mentioned in the document and for the James Bond character as created by Ian Fleming. The official James Bond books are copyright Glidrose/Ian Fleming Publications Ltd and are available to purchase. The motion pictures are created by EON productions/MGM. For further information please visit the official James Bond website at www.jamesbond.com.


All characters and situations in this novel are fictional. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely co-incidental.


This novel is the intellectual property of Chris Stacey, whose personal details are listed on the CommanderBond.net website under the member ship name “chrisno1.”


© Chris Stacey Esq 2012





I would like to thank all those who have encouraged me in my writing and helped me in the production of this novel, especially Simon, Gordon and Steve. Thanks, guys.


Many thanks must go to Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins, Michael G. Wilson, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Dick Clement, Ian Le Frenais, John Gardner, Alistair MacLean, Dan Streib, James Mayo and Malcolm Hulke whose ideas and treatments have been the inspiration for Gulfstream.





While I have taken great strides to ensure factual accuracy in this work, I have on several occasions embellished the truth. For instance there is no Club Spa El Sol, there is no Caldera Herradura, there is no Building 1467, Triple S Program or a hidden nuclear shelter beneath a French chateau. None the less, I hope you enjoy the realm of my fantasy. CS.





Icebreaker (A screen treatment of John Gardner’s 1983 novel)

The Steel Wolf (A short story)

The Humming Bird

The Blink of an Eye

Those Who the Gods Love Die Young

Past Times (A short Story)

O.H.M.S.S. ’67

Never Kiss a Stranger

Apollo’s Tears (A Short Story)











     3:    LOKI


     5:    ACE OF DIAMONDS

     6:    THE WAR ROOM

     7:    SABATINI

     8:    STRANGE FACES

     9:    DEATH AT ANY PACE

     10:  SAN JUAN  

     11:  CLUB SPA EL SOL 


     13:  THE SUN CHASER

     14:  FAST RIDES

     15:  SEA WORLD

     16:  GABI

     17:  ANGEL OF DEATH

     18:  BLOOD ALLEY



     21:  FIRE AND ICE























The net of golden hair stretched across the pillow and framed the girl’s sleeping face. A tiny bead of sweat had formed on her upper lip and it trickled to the corner where her tongue involuntarily licked it away.


James Bond slipped out of bed and took a moment to admire the gorgeous body before drawing over the single cotton sheet.


The soft peaks of her bosom rose and fell with her breath. Her flawless skin glowed with the love she had just been making. The shallow dip to her belly fluttered. The button was pierced and there was another ring even lower down, beneath the single line of curls that told him she was naturally blonde. The legs were long and strong. She wasn’t a slim girl, more the athletic type. She certainly had plenty of energy when it came to the bedroom.


Bond dressed.


He’d met her earlier in the evening as he nursed a vodka martini in the casino and tried to forget the rotten, bloody business which brought him to Kiev. Ulia was a cocktail waitress and she’d just mixed him his favourite drink with an immaculate touch. Bond complimented her skill and she flashed him a smile which was wide and brilliant white between full blossoming lips.


She was certainly an attractive girl, but it was the smile which worked wonders. He’d noted, rather guiltily, that she had a gap between her front teeth; a sign a girl wasn’t to be trusted. It was an old wives’ tale his Aunt had taught him. Bond wasn’t superstitious, but the thought rankled, until, out of idle curiosity, he engaged the girl in conversation, simply to see if there was anything remotely suspicious about her.


There wasn’t. Ulia was a college graduate who, like many students, simply couldn’t find a job suited to her talents. Bond considered her talent for vodka martinis more than useful.


It took him five more drinks and two hours to seduce her. When her shift finished Bond took her to Kozachok where they ate oseledets followed by lamb varenyky laced with minted crème fraiche. They drank a velvety cagors from Massandra.


Bond enjoyed the seduction.


It had been some time since he’d been involved with a new partner. After Sylvia, after Amy, he’d drifted into a relationship with Monica, a Polish model with whom he’d shared an on-off friendship for a number of years. She was a party girl, lively and sexy, but he’d found her clingy and demanding. The affair was doomed. It had none of the comforts Bond required and none of the excitement he craved. Despite her spirit, her outgoing personality, her frivolity, Monica wanted a stability Bond simply couldn’t give her. He knew she wanted engagements, weddings, children, love, and not necessarily in that order. The prospect appalled him. He avoided the awkward conversations, until, forced into a corner, he agreed to share a Christmas holiday. It had been a disaster. The life of the domestic, the trials of permanently living with another person, did not appeal. They had little in direct common and their differences irked each other. Relieved, Bond called a halt to the affair in January. It had been a prickly few minutes. He told it plainly.


“It’s not working, Monica, we simply don’t fit. I can’t see myself marrying you or even living with you. I’m sorry.”


As she cried, Bond abandoned Monica in the Bermondsey apartment and got drunk to hide his own disappointment. No, relationships didn’t work for him. Not the sort of domesticated relationships that survived for most people. The best girlfriends had always been torn, damaged, he thought by something in their past, something in their present. He enjoyed healing the wound. It gave him a purpose. It was different to the destruction his hands usually wielded.


The guilt still rankled and he tried, for a while, to at least stay friends. It had been an unfulfilling effort and he stopped seeing her permanently. Never go back to the past, James, he later told himself. There had been another dalliance, a dancer in a show, but she too wanted things to move faster than he desired. When a routine observational assignment came up in Cuba, Bond gratefully took his leave.


So now here was Ulia, a blonde cocktail waitress who mixed perfect vodka martinis and had the brightest smile in Kiev. As they sat in the back of the taxi, he detected her scent, not musk, but her own intangible perfume, the erotic promise of love.


The little flat was no more than two rooms. He kissed her outside, a peck on the neck as the girl twisted the key in the lock. Inside she closed the door and dabbed his face with delicate little kisses, her tongue lapping at his mouth. The love making had been furious at first and then tender. Even by Bond’s standards she was an exceptional gymnast. After the third time she finally drifted into sleep.


Bond bent over and lightly brushed his lips on her cheek. He didn’t want to wake her. Before he left Bond took six notes from his wallet, a thousand hryvnias each, and placed the money under the alarm clock. He didn’t think she’d have asked for it, he didn’t really think she was that sort of a girl, but Ulia had more than earned her reward.


He shut the door gently.


A girl that could mix perfect vodka martinis and make wonderful love: I could just about marry a girl like that, thought Bond, even with a gap in her teeth.




#2 chrisno1



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Posted 16 January 2013 - 03:51 PM




Two days earlier at nine-sixteen, the 20:45 Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna finally allowed its passengers to disembark and James Bond, tired and irritable, walked across the tarmac to the arrivals hall at Boryspil Airport.


While he filled in the immigration form and wrote his name as ‘David Somerset’, his employer as ‘Universal Exports’ and his profession as ‘Audit Investigator’, Bond took a few surreptitious glances about the crammed concourse. Four armed policemen watched the crowd of foreign travellers stunned by the old-fashioned nature of the terminal. The locals, well used to the chaos, shifted in a disorderly queue towards passport control. Bond joined the line which pointed to ‘Other Nationalities’ and craved a cigarette.


Outside in the busy foyer, Bond scanned the rows of faces, fat relatives waiting expectantly, taxi drivers hovering, illegal busboys, scrawny, scruffy men who looked as if they belonged anywhere but here. An unshaven stocky man held a small placard on which was scribbled ‘Universal Exports’ in Russian.


Bond nodded, kept hold of his one item of luggage, a light weight holdall, and followed the man outside to a surprisingly plush Limousine.


The journey traversed the one main dual carriageway between the airport and the city. It was an uncomfortable, rocky trip, the driver avoiding all but the worst pot holes. The state of the road hinted at the country’s desolate economic condition. Illuminated in the arc of the headlights, Bond saw an abandoned car, missing a wheel and slung at an angle across the hard shoulder and the roadside ditch. Progress, the accident seemed to suggest, was already being swallowed by the past.


Bond turned his head a little and caught the reflectors from the car behind, the same one that had followed them for the last fifteen minutes. There was a growl from the chauffeur.


“Police,” he mumbled.


Bond shrugged and settled into the soft furnishings, watching the dark world of shadows outside. Thick forests lined the route. It was already night time and the temperature was tipping towards zero. Autumn had dived quickly into an early winter. It started to drizzle and the fat drops made patterns on the window panes. Bond stared back through the tears and watched the sleeping city creep up on the car.


They passed through near empty streets bathed in a buttery glow from the overhead lights, the fresh pools of rainwater acting like mirrors, flashing white and yellow and red, head lights, stop lights, traffic lights, street lights. They waited at a junction and the police car pulled alongside. It was an unmarked saloon, black like the shadows. Two men sat inside, but they appeared uninterested in the Limousine. Never the less, the hair on Bond’s neck seemed to rise with unexplainable fear, a sense of something not being quite right. Bond stifled the fluttering emotion, folding it and hiding it, like a scratchy blanket. Fear always lived with you. It was how an agent controlled his fear that separated the very best, the Double-O’s, men like Bond, from the pen pushers and the administrators, the management class. Often Bond wondered how long it would be before he stopped being able to control the phobias, how long it would be before terror took over and he failed to react, failed to decide, failed to pull the trigger.


One after another, the two cars crossed the wide, sloth-like Dnieper and through the riverside districts where the old cobbled streets and terraces of big town houses looked as though they hadn’t changed since the days of the Tsar. They drove in a wide uphill circuit, touching the borders of Podil before heading past St Sophia’s and Shevchenko Park. The chauffeur pulled into the kerb. Seconds later the saloon edged slowly past and disappeared down the hill towards Maidan Square.


The chauffeur was already out and unlocking the street door with a latch key. He gave the door a hefty shove and it swung open with a creak. Bond followed into the half-light. A single unshaded bulb hung on a wire from the ceiling four stories above them. It stretched only to the second floor. The lobby was bare except for a table littered with post which no one seemed willing to take ownership of. The men’s shoes made deep rattling echoes as they ascended uncarpeted stairs. The chauffeur pulled out his mobile and made a call. He said nothing, simply let it ring. There were four doors on the third floor landing. One of them was already open.


After bypassing the washroom and kitchen, Bond entered a surprisingly smart flat, a rectangular space flanked by windows on the right hand side, which overlooked Khreschatyk, the gold statue of Berehynia, the earth mother, winking at the summit of the central column. To the left hand side was an internal wall banked with pine cabinets stuffed with books surrounding an ornate fireplace. Bond noted the photograph on the mantelpiece. A husband and wife and two sons. It looked recent, but this was not an apartment made for children. A flat screen television was bolted to the wall above the photo and the night’s Champions League football match was playing. A door at the far end of the room probably led to a bedroom. There were two slightly battered sofas facing the television and a bespectacled, broad, bulky grey haired man was standing next to one, the remote control in his hand. He pressed mute.


“Lebanov,” said Bond. It wasn’t a question.


The man pushed the glasses onto his forehead where they rested tucked on his hairline like a pauper’s crown.


“Mister Bond, it is good to meet you.”


“Likewise,” Bond crossed to the windows and looked down. The Limousine was unattended. “We were followed.”


“The police,” said the chauffeur.


Lebanov nodded. He pulled a crumpled packet of cigarettes from his cardigan pocket and offered them to his visitors. Bond declined. He took in Head of Station KV Kiev with a second quick glance. His first instinct had been that the man was lax, but now, as the fingers cracked the match and the cigarette burned and the tails of smoke erupted from his mouth, Bond saw the strength that rested in the aging features, the nothingness that resided in his eyes and fanned out, like a gentle wave, across his body, protecting him, an armour of steely silence. This was a man who had known terror under the Soviets, when one word out of place might have resulted in a trip to Siberia, one way.


After the so called Orange Revolution, Lebanov had opened a strip club on Evropeiska, exploiting the teenage girls who wanted to make money fast or seduce that rich foreign visitor, any means to escape the forsaken city. One strip club had become thirty seven. He branched into alcohol distribution, forming a nationwide cartel that controlled the supply of beer and spirits to the majority of clubs and bars. He was paid handsomely for the privilege, but never called it a protection racket. He exercised his muscle when he needed to. Rumour had it that one of his rivals was still manacled somewhere in the catacombs beneath the Pechersk Lavra. The attentions of a police car wouldn’t trouble him.


“I expected as much,” said Lebanov, making a dismissive gesture with his hand, “It is like a cosy family here in Kiev. They watch us. We watch them.”


The chauffeur retreated out of the room and Bond heard the door close. He waited for the man to reappear below and take up his position in the driver’s seat of the car. Behind, Bond could hear the hiss of tobacco and the gentle rasp of breath as Lebanov exhaled. The sound was like an alarm ticking. He came away from the window.


“Am I safe?”


“Your identity is David Somerset, Audit Investigator, Universal Exports,” Lebanov placed the cigarette in his mouth and continued to smoke as he walked to the writing desk, tucked inconspicuously in the corner. He lifted a small brown buff envelope from the top drawer. “You are checking on the corporate tax returns filed against the Magnate Beer Corporation. We export several brands to the United Kingdom through your consortium. The report is in there. Don’t lose it.”


Lebanov held out the envelope.


Inside was a 1G memory stick, stamped with the words ‘Universal Exports’. Bond offered the hint of a smile as he tucked it into his pocket.


“Your external operations don’t concern me, Lebanov. You’ve done very well for yourself, whatever your methods. My superiors know that and they don’t care; so neither do I.”


“I am glad.”


“So let’s get to the point.”


Lebanov offered Bond a seat. He took one, but didn’t remove his overcoat.


“There is a local man here, a man by the name of Leonid Krylov,” began Lebanov, easing himself into the seat opposite. While he talked his eyes remained fixed on the televised football match, “He has his own export business, mostly shipping cured meat to the Black Sea states. But recently he has become a very busy man, Mister Bond. He owns the lease on several warehouses in Petrovsky where his container ships dock. My contacts have identified one warehouse, number 376, which needs our immediate attention - or rather your attention.”


“Go on.”


“I can’t be seen to be involved, Mister Bond, it might cause, how shall we say, a reaction. That could be bad for everyone’s business. Otherwise I would have carried out an operation with my own men. I can’t afford to be caught.”


“Neither can I.”


“Then I trust you to complete the operation as agreed.”


“No. You expect it,” replied Bond, “What’s in the warehouse?”


He already knew the answer. The question was designed to get the conversation over with quickly.


“I am informed Krylov has been stockpiling heroin for the Bratva, the Ukrainian Mafia. The heroin is bound for your country.”


“Can you guarantee that?”




There was a long pause.


“Do you want to take the chance?” the Ukrainian lit a second cigarette and once again the long pall of smoke escaped from between his lips, “It is already late September. The Dnieper will be frozen over soon and the dockyard will be unnavigable. Krylov intends to ship the heroin before then, first to Albania and then on to London and Manchester. Your government can’t afford to have a quarter of a billion dollars of class one drugs landing on its shores. I can’t afford to lose face. The money Krylov stands to earn would make my position untenable. His operation is getting too big. Soon we estimate he’ll be the major controlling supplier of drugs in the Crimea. And heroin is only the start; human trafficking, money laundering, protection, prostitution, he’s starting to cut into new territory.”


“Especially yours,” nodded Bond, “And the strip clubs you use to supply your own clientele.”


“I do not deny it. Life is not getting easier in Kiev. Sometimes I wish the Soviets were back in power. At least with the Communists you understood how to play the game and survive. These Mafia types, Mister Bond, are not the brotherhood they claim to be. They are like stray dogs. We need to clip their bastard heels and stop them scavenging.”


“All right,” replied Bond, “I don’t need lessons in social history.”


Lebanov sat forward. Someone had scored a goal. For a brief moment his eyes, which had been dull and fixed in that strange empty stare, sparkled, before he sat back and sucked on the fag.


“You might as well know it, Lebanov, I don’t like you,” stated Bond, “I dislike your methods and your business. You’re not a man I’d have as a Station Head. But I don’t make those decisions, I simply follow orders. And since I’m here on orders we have to get along. At least as far as government business is concerned.”


He expected a reaction from the man, but got none. The glassy eyes seemed transfixed by the football match.


“I’ve a room at the Riviera,” continued Bond, “Tomorrow at nine, we’ll have a breakfast meeting, a corporate meeting. Then we’ll retire to the hotel’s executive suite and discuss our real business. You can give me a full briefing then.”


Bond stood up to go. Lebanov remained sitting and gave the same dismissive gesture he’d offered his chauffeur.



*****              *****              *****



At exactly six minutes to midnight the next day a small fire started in Warehouse 376, to the north west of Petrovsky Port, an outcrop of industrial land ring fenced by the railway. The fire spread quickly. The TH3 had exploded exactly as Bond had expected.


There had been three guards in the warehouse, but they were lazy, playing cards and drinking in the office at the far end. The only illumination came through the office windows, a cloud of ghost light stretching no more than twenty metres into the storage areas. The rest of the place was in darkness. Bond ran his electronic pulse detector across the alarm system, discovered it wasn’t activated, and entered through a skylight, cutting through the frame and then dropping soundlessly to the warehouse floor. Using night vision goggles, he located the nine pallets of heroin. The drugs were packed in cloth wrapped bricks and stacked five feet high. He only had six incendiary devices and he carefully spaced them for maximum effect. Bond was using a miniature version of a fougasse, devised by the Quartermaster’s Branch of the S.I.S. It contained a magnesium fuse, activated from Bond’s cell phone, and a small amount of Thermite TH3. When activated, the casements would burst open under pressure of the explosion, the thermite core igniting everything in the immediate vicinity, primarily the top layer of heroin. The fires would catch fast and spread swiftly. Bond’s aim was, as far as possible, to make the fire look like an accident. The incendiaries would be discovered eventually, but by then Bond would be out of the country. The aftermath would be Lebanov’s trouble.


Having planted the devices, Bond skirted the walls of the warehouse, heading for the lobby. He cautiously inched closer to the office windows. The door was ajar and Bond could hear the men talking. A chair scraped. Someone needed a nature break. Bond flattened himself to the floor, behind a row of fork lift trucks.


The man took almost ten minutes to return. When he did, he shut the door completely. Quickly Bond crawled past the office windows, keeping one ear tuned for sounds of movement from inside. The floor plan Lebanov had procured from the maintenance company indicated there was fuse board in the lobby. It was in a large cupboard set into the wall and operated by an alum key. Bond produced his own key. The board was very old and wouldn’t have passed any British safety requirements. He removed the fuse controlling the sprinkler system. As an afterthought, on his slow return, he spent several minutes slicing through every extinguisher hose he could find, rendering them useless.


Lastly, he climbed the elastic rope, retrieved it and closed the skylight. He was one mile away when he dialed the activation number and the tiny receivers, each no bigger than his thumb nail, switched on, the static igniting the fuses.


Bond wasn’t sure how long it would take for the fire to properly take hold. He didn’t want to destroy the whole building, only the heroin, but sometimes, he knew, accidents happened. Bond surmised the guards would escape once they saw the futility of the situation. He wondered how long it would be before they called the police or the fire services.  The first call, he was certain, would be to Leonid Krylov, seeking instructions. You didn’t after all want the police called to investigate nine pallets of burning Class A drugs.


It had been easier than expected. Bond flipped open his Siemen’s and dialled.


“It’s done,” he said and didn’t wait for an acknowledgement.


Bond walked along Olenivska, a residential street packed with low cost buildings which once housed the dockers and sailors but now was more likely to be a home for students, the unemployed and young poor families, the people who struggled on the lowest rung of life. As he walked Bond could already smell the fire. It was much more effective than he imagined. He made a mental note to congratulate the boffins at the armoury.


There was one taxi outside Tapaca Metro, its service light on. The driver was staring at the dark orange flames that were starting to balloon into the sky. He cast one curious look at Bond’s close fitting black lycra outfit and the empty shoulder bag which he now carried like a holdall, then clicked open the door.


Back at the Riviera Hotel, Bond stripped and showered. Refreshed, he folded the lycra gear and the rubber soled shoes into the holdall. It was the sort of bag which could pass as hand luggage and was the only item Bond had travelled with. He’d not needed to bring any equipment into the country. Q Branch had supplied everything necessary at source. Bond chose a clean shirt, slipped on the light weight charcoal grey Scott & Taylor suit, the same one he’d worn on arrival, and tied a dark blue necktie. Lastly he pulled on the overcoat. It was time to check out. He had no intention of staying in the hotel. His flight wasn’t until seven-twenty in the morning. He had six hours to remain out of sight.


Bond stepped into the street. The Riviera was a corner hotel facing Postrova Square and the Dnieper River beyond. It was lit with the same burnt buttery gold that illuminated the domes of the city churches, only this light represented a new religion, the one which ran alone, the one called money. The square itself harked back to more traditional times and the buildings seemed to glow angelic white, fending off that encroaching atheist theology. Bond headed past them, the holdall clasped in his hand.


A thin man was walking towards him, trying to light a cigarette. Bond slowed. The man’s gait was familiar. Hadn’t he seen him somewhere before? The scruffy clothes, maybe. He wasn’t certain. The man’s direction and purpose were not in doubt.


As they leveled, the man stepped across and raised the cigarette in his left hand.


Bond’s senses tingled. Hairs lifted on his neck. Fear rippled up his spine. His shoulders tensed and then, as if someone had turned a switch, he relaxed, completely at ease, in full appreciation of the situation, of the moment that was about to occur and how best to tackle it. No longer afraid, he seemed to take in everything at once: the height of the man, the faded leather jacket, the denims, the vodka breath, the woodbine smell, the scar beneath his eye, the fact that there was no lighter. Most important of all, he’d spoken in English. It was the thin man’s biggest mistake.


“Light, sir?”


Bond didn’t wait. He dropped the holdall and stepped sideways as the four inch blade swept out from under the assassin’s jacket. Bond blocked the thrust with his left arm and brought his right hand over sharp, the fingers taut like an arrow head. They plunged high into the man’s throat, exploding his vocal cord with one blow. Suddenly breathless, suddenly soundless, the man took a desperate swipe at Bond, who caught the wrist and twisted the assailant’s arm backwards until the bones broke. The fingers opened and the knife clattered to the ground.


Still holding the man’s arm against his back, Bond took a quick look up and down the street. Empty, thank god. They were a few feet from an alley. Bond hauled the wheezing figure into the passage. Three large red skips, overflowing with refuse, lined one side. An emergency exit door was propped open and the pinching smell of pork fat emanated from a restaurant kitchen. The man elbowed backwards. With a kick, Bond took away his legs and bundled him over, left hand still clamped onto the busted arm, knees dropping onto the man’s thighs, keeping them steady, stopping any reflex. The man groaned. Bond thrust down with his right hand. His fingers found the neck, squeezed about the throat, feeling for the trachea, the last gift of air, the last refuse of life for the soul who struggled beneath him. It was over in less than thirty seconds.


Bond loosened his grip.


The body already seemed stiff. The scarred eye stared at him. It was one of the scruffy men who had been hanging around the airport. So, he’d been marked from entry. Bond grimaced. Krylov must have his spies out. Meeting this man was too much of a coincidence. Whoever he was, whether under orders or working on his initiative, it proved his presence in the city was known. It did not bode well for Lebanov either. Burning the warehouse may spark a gang war. The Ukrainian would have his hands full now. Perhaps it was time he was removed as Head of Station KV. He might recommend it to M on his return to London - if he got there.


It was time to disappear, considered Bond, time to blend into the crowds and become another ordinary every day face, except there were no crowds at one in the morning. He gave the problem only a few seconds thought.


Bond hauled the dead man between two of the skips. Using a handkerchief he picked up the knife and placed it next to the body. Bond returned to his bag. The corpse was nicely shielded from the road, you could hardly see it and if anyone did, they’d think it a tramp or a drunk or both. Bond walked quickly to the next corner and was lucky to find a taxi idling up to the junction.


“Split Casino.”


It wasn’t a good night for gambling. After the fight, after the death, Bond’s heart wasn’t in it. The single scarred eye seemed to inhabit everyone’s faces. The man’s death could have been avoided. Bond could have ordered a taxi from the hotel and not walked the streets. Even during the fight, he’d not needed to kill. The man was disabled. He couldn’t speak. He would have been unconscious for a few hours. It would have been far simpler than a killing. But the instinct, the years of training that developed the dread inner nature which existed deep within him, had taken Bond over and in those few precious seconds, Bond decided it would be his life and the man’s death. It had been an ugly moment and the memory of that single unflinching eye would haunt him for days and nights until another wondrous sight, beast or beauty, came to wash it away.


Bond was hardly focused on the cards and having lost consistently for half an hour, even at such a crass game as black jack, he cashed his remaining chips and retreated to the cigar lounge. He intended to stay here until the early hours, anticipating Krylov would be too preoccupied with the warehouse fire, its aftermath and those likely recriminations, to concern himself with finding the real culprit. So far he’d been proved correct and it was the best gamble Bond played all night. At least so far.


The lounge was all leather and sandalwood. There was an old fashioned feel to the place, but there was nothing old fashioned about the blonde cocktail waitress who stood behind the bar. She was outfitted in the tightest smallest skirt. Even at distance, Bond could see she was exceptionally pretty. He took a seat in front of her, lit one of his Morlands and ordered a vodka martini.


“I prefer it shaken,” he said.


“Certainly, sir,” she trilled in a lilting accent that purred with feminine, feline grace.


Bond watched the girl smother a dozen ice cubes with vermouth, shake them twice and then discard the liquid before adding two shots of Absolut Vodka. She shook it again, her gaze never leaving Bond. The cocktail slid into the chilled glass and she added a curl of lime peel impaled on a tiny green cocktail stick. The drink came with a wide and wonderful smile. For a moment, the dead man’s unclosed eye ceased to exist.


Bond sipped.


“Thank you, that tastes wonderful. It’s just what I needed.”


Bond set up a tab and, after a few false starts, they started to talk. It wasn’t busy. There were three other barmen and Ulia appeared to have plenty of time on her hands. Her hesitancy bothered him. Bond wondered if she was a plant, if Krylov had alerted her. There was after all a gap in her teeth.


Ulia offered him a second drink and her fingers gently scratched his as she took the empty glass from his hand. Bond smiled warmly. Bugger his superstitious Aunt. No, she’d be wrong about the teeth. Generally he didn’t believe in them, but this surely was nothing but a beautiful coincidence.


“How long have you been working here, Ulia?”


“Six months. It is hard to find proper work. I’m a qualified pharmacist.”


“Perhaps you should move abroad.”


“I plan to, James, but to do that you need money. So here I am.”


“I can’t fault your ambition. I expect you get quite a few tips.”


“Not much. It isn’t usual in Ukraine. And the tourists, well, there are not so many these days. Not in the winter months. And when they are, they are often rude.”


Ulia’s gaze shifted sideways to a table at the far side of the lounge.


Bond followed her stare. An expensively dressed man sat at the corner table. A straight greying moustache decorated his swarthy face and the dark hair was slicked into a left-right parting that gave him an extra, debonair look. Bond took him to be an army man, of the officer class perhaps, for he sat upright, in a solid manner. He was accompanied by a startlingly attractive woman, whose legs seemed to reach her armpits and whose platinum blonde hair hung in waves about her face and shoulders, like Marilyn Monroe. The man, despite his orderliness, was quite drunk. He was constantly pouring champagne, refilling his glass after every mouthful.


“What’s he done?” asked Bond.


“It isn’t him,” replied Ulia, “It is her! She’s so mean. She does not even say please or thank you. She looks at you as if she is a snake. I don’t know why he tolerates it.”


“I expect there are compensations.”


Ulia snorted.


“You cannot train a snake, James; you can only beat them with sticks.”


“That’s melodramatic, Ulia, who told you that?”


“My mother. She knows many things.”


“Your mother enjoys old wives tales,” Bond said, “A bit like my aunt.”


He took another glance at the mismatched couple. He couldn’t quite catch the words, but despite heavy accents, he thought both were talking in English. The blonde seemed to be berating the man and he seemed to be complaining, but very weakly. The words hardly left the poor man’s mouth before she was hissing at him in low, vicious tones. Mean indeed.


Bond returned to the excellent martini and to Ulia’s dreamy smile.


An idea was forming in his mind and it involved the Kozachok Restaurant on Tsentralina, which he knew never closed, and lamb varenky and a night of love. He probably just had time before his flight departed. Bond didn’t give the couple a second thought, until several weeks later when he reflected, almost with a chuckle, on how coincidences really do happen.




#3 chrisno1



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Posted 18 January 2013 - 05:40 PM




He was only known as Loki.


The god of mischief. A two faced person.


Loki revelled in the moniker.


He sat on the throne, gold and ivory and purple velvet, and stroked his thin, platinum grey Van Dyke beard and surveyed the assembly before him.


Three hundred and eighty five men and women, head of their conglomerates, experts in their fields, investors, bankers, strategists, theorists, scientists, militarists, cardinals and bishops, mullahs, politicians, economists, agitators, even a few celebrities. Some, the men and women who hung like leeches to the exterior seats, the rows in brief shadow, were above even the law, people too powerful to be prosecuted, people who ran countries or ran companies bigger than countries. Others, who inhabited sheepishly the seats at the rear, were below the law, the killers, the leaders of the underworld, men known as Mafioso, Bratvas, Le eMe or Maroons.


They had entered alike, through the steel blast door hidden beneath the dungeon chamber of the Queen’s Tower of Chateau d’Annecy.


The castle over looked the pretty idyllic town, considered one of the most romantic destinations in France. Once the property of the Kings of Savoy, founded a millennia ago by the Counts of Geneva, Annecy had a sleepy, Ruritanian feel to it. Gabled houses lined twisting streets, cobbled markets competed with taverns and cafes for the tourists and the inland waterway reflected the visage of historic houses that crowded the banksides. During the winter the Aiguille du Midi cable car ferried skiers to Chamonix; in the summer it was packed with walkers and sightseers. Grand restaurants and hotels nestled next to the cheap and dusty boarding houses. Chalets tucked themselves into every nook and cranny of every lane. Everywhere was a happy mess of style and colour. Through the centre ran the Thiou, the Grand Canal, and on the canal rested Le Palais de l’Isle, a triangular mansion that once housed Dukes and Counts, its waterborne walls still shaped like the prow of a royal galley. Perched as it was on the northern tip of Le Lac d’Annecy, surrounded by mountain peaks and crisscrossed by winding canals, the town had all too easily become known as the Venice of the Alps.


They hadn’t come to admire the town.


The road they took ascended the escarpment to the restored chateau. They came slowly, warily, car by car, chauffeur driven. The night watchmen, specially paid to allow entry onto the esplanade, specially paid to avert their eyes and turn off the security cameras, had directed the souls through the great 14th century arches and into the majestic baroque hall where, one at a time, the head steward had led them into the Queen’s Tower, isolated by walls four metres thick, and down to the dungeon and the revolving fireplace. They’d descended the long hidden stairway, some with trepidation, some with fortitude, all with intrigue, their footfalls illuminated by the haze of blue bulbs which led them further underground to the caverns far beneath the mountains.


Here they had been provided a moment to admire the sleek metal lined design of the outer bunker, the corridors that stretched north and south, east and west, for over three miles, each passageway lined with doors to rooms, places of work, of play, of eat, of sleep, of survival. And then, when the green light flashed, each guest was allowed entry into the kessel, the grand cauldron beneath Le Mont Veyrier, once fed by underground rivers, now only an ancient crater, studded with massive thousand year stalactites, a remnant of seismic movement from eons ago when the world was still forming and the Alps were still being forced into the sky by the crush of tectonic plates.


Now the blue lamps floated ghostlike on the cavern walls, the light converging to a black apex, a stage set at the far end of the kessel where only shadows remained. There was no sound in the great space except the echo of footstep after footstep or the occasional intake of breath or the scrape of a chair hastily sat upon. No one dared to speak. They feared revealing their voices. Silence proved they did not participate, should the question ever be asked by a newspaperman, the police or the courts. Silence was the great protector.  


And it was here, in this mute monument to the earth’s power, this place of solitude that Loki chose to give his address.   


He studied them from the black empty stage. To Loki all people were alike. They were children with hungry, greedy mouths to feed. These children had achieved much in their lives, yet there was still more to be gained: power. Power gained not through accumulation of wealth or influence, but through destruction.


Loki watched as the last visitors took their places. One by one, the lamps were extinguished, their light replaced by looming anticipation. It seemed to fill the huge space. He could feel the audience tensing. He could almost taste the breath of his guests as it burrowed forward through the dark atmosphere. Yes indeed: the beautiful succulent taste of avarice, that unspoken lust called greed. How he lived for it.


Cunningly, Loki allowed the silence to continue. It would belittle his audience. These were people who had never been kept waiting their entire lives. They would wait for him. And in waiting, they surrendered control to him. The moment ceased to be theirs and became his.


“Good evening.”


The words echoed through the eerie black pit. They came from everywhere and nowhere, an omnipresence that demanded obedience.


The single white spotlight illuminated him from behind. He sat on the throne, his hands on the arms of the chair, one leg crossed over the other, his face obscured by the shadow. He was dressed in brilliant white silk. A double breasted suit, cuffed with white gold links, buttoned once. A straight collared shirt and a tie. Soft leather sandals. His right hand scratched at his beard and then returned to the chair.


He felt like an emperor before his court. The sense of power over his subjects excited Loki and he took a long breath, deeply inhaling the scent of potent stifling air.


“Please excuse the ominous atmosphere of our meeting hall,” he continued, “And the inconveniences many of you have shared to arrive here. Soon you will be rewarded for your patience.”


Loki smiled at the flattery. He knew many of these people personally. He’d fought them in boardrooms, in courts, in the press; he’d pandered to them through the same institutions. He’d been to parties at their houses. They’d attended his own feasts, orgies of extravagance only the truly impervious rich could aspire to, where champagne flowed all night and caviar was consumed in buckets. He won them over with unrestrained consumption.


They called him a billionaire playboy, but he was richer than that and women had never interested him and neither had men, not in the sexual sense. He was older now. The silver white hair that framed his cracked face hinted at a life drawing to a close, but he had never felt more alive and more vibrant than he did at this moment, than he had over the last years when he’d decided to enact his dream. It had taken its toll. Friends and family had vanished. He worked and lived alone, with his charges, in his big mansions, isolated from society. He only ventured into reality when it benefitted him financially. People would not be allowed to invade his world and Loki was not ready to take charge of the massed populace outside. Not yet.


Behind his back, he knew they said he had inherited his wealth. An old family, an old business, old money, and in part it was true. But behind the façade was a ruthless financier, a power baron, who had made money when others lost it, who invested in cruel regimes and reaped the rewards, whose sole motivation for business was profit, the Dollar, the Pound, the Euro, the Renminbi. He cast aside without sentiment the men who helped him achieve his position. He cast new men and women in their mould and dispatched them equally swiftly. He built alliances carefully, choosing allies only when they could give and not take. And year by year he accumulated the success and the position he had so craved from an early age. A time he had almost forgotten.


History had no meaning for Loki anymore. He lived only in the present and the future. What was past was forever done. The future. The golden future was all.   


“Your presence here tonight shows that you agree to the formation of our secret cartel. For that I thank you, for you have taken a great risk in coming to the kessel. You have all chanced exposure for the salvation of the world.”


The statement was met with hush. Loki took a moment to survey the rows of silhouettes that stretched before him. Still no one uttered a word. The last sentence had salved the conscience of the assembly. Great leaders, ruthless or benign, evil or good, always preferred to cloak the most self-serving acts in claims of selflessness.


“Tonight you will hear one thing.”


Again he made them wait: “A shibboleth.”


He liked the word and it had the expected response. A brief audible hum. Most people wouldn’t recognize the old Hebrew word for custom or practice. The Jews used it when referring to the principles of a particular religious or social sect. Here godly religion meant nought and the rules of society were meaningless. Here, today, the assembly would learn the Doctrine of Loki.


He let them squirm in their seats, let the darkness close over them again, let them shiver in the unheated chamber, an ark as chilly as a mausoleum.


“You and I, my friends, have entered the Realm of the Golden Age. Operations commenced nineteen months ago, guided by the estimable scientists and professors under my employ; the very same experts you each recommended to me: the men who will change our world.”


He listened. A sharp intake of breath carried to him from scattered points in the vast cavern. They all understood his intention. When he talked of his fears, when he described what he wanted to create and who he wanted to rule what he made, Loki had sensed within them an arrogant, ceaseless thirst for glory.


It was always power and success first. Men built lives on those twin goals. But once they had the power, once they tasted the success, once they had subjugated and ruled, there was nothing left to achieve. Only the glory remained.


They had all sounded so strong when he sent out the first communiques. They had all responded with a stunned, childlike enthusiasm for the awe inspiring plot. He had, over the course of years, brainwashed them into believing his aims. He’d found the susceptible ones first, the environmentalists, the do-gooders, the men and women whose natural response was to follow and not to lead. They were easy prey to his mesmeric tones. Later he sought the oligarchs, the strong men whose conceit made them ideal subjects for latent hypnotism, the tool which allowed Loki to imprint his ideas into their mind. They all left enthralled as their subconscious asserted itself over their conscious, as the hidden evil within broke out from the dormant exterior shell.


Loki took a single shallow calming breath. Now he knew they would run if they had the chance. It was the pivotal moment. When he spoke, the pitch of his voice exactly matched the droning, soothing, repetitive notes he’d used before.


“Phase One of our operation was to build this shelter, expanded from ancient caves which adjoined the original nuclear blast shelter. It is now fully equipped and supplied with the comforts of home. You will all find here enough provisions to last the time of trial. I have estimated on an incubation period of four hundred days. During those four hundred days, the earth as you know it will cease to exist. If you wish to remain outside, you risk death or deprivation. The only way to maintain your lifestyle and your riches is to enter the kessel and live underneath the darkness.


“Phase Two of the operation is currently being implemented by my esteemed Number One, an agent who has my full confidence, who shares my aims and my desires. He remains in complete control of the scientific project and field operation we have dubbed ‘Golden Age’. He is assisted by a small army of dedicated technicians. They have access to the most modern technical equipment, much of which has been supplied through your own generosity. Every member of the Implementation Team is committed to the project. Failure is not an option. I have demanded it and they have accepted it.


“Phase Three will commence in two hundred and fifty two hours, exactly ten and a half days. This phase will result in the midair hijacking of a Trident III nuclear missile. This prototype missile, launched from a Vanguard Class submarine of the British Navy, is to be flight tested during a simulated war game in the Atlantic. It was our informant at the British Atomic Weapons Establishment who first alerted us to the possibility of obtaining such high powered explosives. The removal of the need to purchase and manufacture our own Uranium 235 weapon has allowed us to move the target date for ‘Golden Age’ forward by a number of months. Under the leadership and guidance of my trusted aide Number Five, a specialist agent will infiltrate the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment and will be in place to procure the weapons. They will be delivered intact to Number One by 21:00 GMT on 23rd October.


“We are aware this act of piracy will alert the authorities in the United Kingdom, the United States, the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance and probably, as the situation will not be resolved, the United Nations Security Council. We are confident however that the missing Trident missile will be considered to have malfunctioned for long enough to prevent effective recovery allowing our own plans to be facilitated. This will leave Number One and the Implementation Team seven days to perfect the final phase of ‘Golden Age’.


“Phase Four has already been in operation for nine months. Three drilling platforms have been established and disguised effectively. Many of you present have contributed towards the construction of these installations and your efforts are not forgotten. Under the name ‘Sea World’ these installations have raised only minor enquiry from the local authorities. The blanket of scientific jargon provided by Number One and his publicity machine has provided the Implementation Team with a sufficiently robust alibi. The belief among the scientific community is that Explorazione Professionale is conducting deep ocean seismic measurements.


“The Ultimate Phase will begin on 30th October. Three atomic warheads, each capable of delivering 950 kilotons of explosive, will be positioned and primed for activation at each of the installation sites. At 12:00 hours GMT I will issue the single command, the shibboleth, ‘Golden Age’ and you will have exactly twelve hours to reach the safety of the kessel. Consider yourselves pre-warned. The timing will not alter. I have been preparing for this moment. I can do no more now than offer my gratitude to you for your support and my prayers to Number One and the Implementation Team.


“Thank you all.”


The spotlight should have extinguished and Loki should have vanished, but there was a few seconds delay. Someone stood up. Loki heard the chair scrape on the stony floor. A voice shot out of the darkness.


“Hey, now, one moment,” the voice was an American one, the tone was agitated, “You promised us -”


Loki took one glance across the cavern and raised his chin an inch. As he did so, a spotlight hidden high in the ceiling of stalactites shone down on the speaker.




The man ducked. His hands came up to his face. He’d been seen. Desperately he glanced about him, but the people were craning away.


Loki raised a hand from the throne and snapped his fingers once.


“Silence!” he hissed, “You have been pre-warned. You have a choice to make. Remember the pledge you made to me. Remember the secrecy which now binds us until the death of the world. I will not issue a second warning.”


The stage turned black.


Slowly the ghostly blue lights flickered on. The American returned to his seat. Already he could hear the sound of his unseen associates moving away. He recognized his mistake. He’d questioned Loki. He’d spoken in defiance when no one else had. Others had heard his voice and would know it. He was marked. He was alone in the dark.


Loki watched the dissenter leave. The shoulders were hunched where once they would have been straight. He’d only caught a fleeting glimpse. It was enough. It was the Texan: the oil baron, a man who was nothing but a throwback to the days when America owned real oil. He’d made his money and was extravagantly living off the proceeds. Soon there’d be nothing left of his fortune for his extended family of step sons and daughters, divorcees and lovers. The man was one of Loki’s less valuable assets. He’d bled him solely for the drilling equipment. He didn’t need him anymore.


Loki turned to the closest of his lieutenants, Number Three.


“Kill him.”




#4 chrisno1



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Posted 23 January 2013 - 06:34 PM




The rolling waves burst apart with a furious cloud of steam. The blue-black nose cone of the Trident III nuclear warhead rose through the mist and spray. Behind it was the thirteen metre long bullet casing, brilliant white against the grey of the evening sky. A tongue of yellow flame surrounded by boiling smoke and fumes erupted from the base of the missile, propelling the massive projectile out of the water and into the heavens at 17000 mph. The stream of fire lit up the twilight and for a few brief seconds there seemed to be two suns.


The launch of the Trident III missile occurred below the ocean surface. The mid-section of the Vanguard Class submarine H.M.S. Vigilant holds a self-contained storage and automated loading facility. When the Triple S computer received the coded R.A.L.P. signal from the host mainframe, a mechanical hoist located and loaded the appropriate fairing cone: dummy or live warheads, primed or unprimed. The fairing cone was screwed into place on the adaptor section which contained all the electronic and guidance equipment. The casing cavity was rapidly pumped full of pressurized nitrogen to prevent the intrusion of water into the rocket structure which could destabilize the launch process. Finally the missile was lifted upright and slotted into one of the firing tubes and the chamber was closed and sealed. This process can normally be achieved in less than five minutes. This time the chamber door closed on Trident III after eight minutes. The delay was caused by the receipt of a second coded signal countermanding the first.    


The missile was ejected from its firing tube by igniting an explosive charge in a separate container. The energy from the blast was directed into a water tank. The water instantly vapourised into steam. The subsequent sudden pressure spike was strong enough to eject the missile out of the tube with enough momentum to reach and clear the ocean surface.


Motion sensors were activated upon launch. As soon as the sensors detected downward acceleration after being blown out of the water, the first stage engine fired. The boost phase had begun. The first and second stage rockets were deployed and released within two minutes. At this point the third stage engine ignited and the missile slowed, but was still travelling at almost 14000 mph.


A few minutes after launch, Trident III attained a low altitude orbit. The Triple S Receiver inside the nose cone accepted four latitude and longitude coordinates, one for each of its individual warheads. At this point the missile was in exoatmospheric flight and had already instigated the Star Sighting System to establish its position and correct its trajectory. Unlike a satellite, the stars do not move in orbit and are a far more reliable point of reference for navigation. The Flap Steering System altered course towards the target. Having initiated the guidance system, Trident III now worked off a Global Positioning System, fixing its position through military guidance locators.


Half way to the target and only seven minutes into flight, the Triple S Receiver decoded a second signal. The targets had changed. The coordinates were relayed to the GPS and the Flap System made the adjustment. The missile’s trajectory flattened out. As before, the coordinates were translated to the individual warheads. The four MRIVs, each one packed with almost a megaton of atomic power, received their new target, the Star Sight and GPS recalculated the position and the Flaps recalibrated accordingly.


Twelve seconds later, the cone split apart and the final rockets fired, propelling the warheads down through the earth’s atmosphere towards their new objective.



*****              *****              *****



The Atomic Weapons Establishment is responsible for the design, manufacture and support of warheads for the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent. A.W.E. is based at Aldermaston in Hampshire on the site of a former World War II R.A.F. airfield.  The establishment was originally formed in 1950 and has been managed by a variety of public and private consortiums such as British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, until in 1987 Aldermaston was combined with research facilities at Burghfield and Cardiff to form the Atomic Weapons Establishment, a new company established and part owned by the Ministry of Defence. A.W.E. is tasked to help the United Kingdom maintain a credible and effective minimum nuclear deterrent by maintaining existing Trident warheads and developing the skills, technologies and techniques to underpin future nuclear development in line with prospective arms limitation treaties and test bans. A.W.E. also takes responsibility for the dismantling and disposal of redundant nuclear warheads. Day-to-day operations at Aldermaston are well documented. While it is a facility subject to secrecy, it is not as restricted as one may expect. Visitors are common, signed in and out, accompanied and escorted. Security clearance is no stricter than that for numerous government, intelligence and military positions. The facility has even come in for public criticism regarding its safety record and has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.


Tucked on a pyramid of land near the village of Tadbury, A.W.E. comprises a host of office buildings, research blocks, decommissioning chambers, staff quarters and several miles of road. Escorted visitors can enter most areas. Employees are subject to some restrictions, but given the appropriate level of security clearance, they have a virtual ‘right to roam’. There are some facilities however to which only the most trusted will be allowed access. One of these is an S-shaped building on the eastern perimeter road which occupies the site of the old US Air Force quarters. It is unmarked but registered as No.1467 after the number Aldermaston was allocated by the USAAF during the war. The purpose of 1467 is to design and maintain the future capabilities of the United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal. Under such instruction, it has been working for several years in silence. 1467 was charged by the British Government with ensuring the smooth and rapid development of a successor to Trident.


The building is split into three sections: the central lobby, from which all offices, conference rooms and communal space are accessed, and two development wings, the scientific, human resource and public relations departments in one and the engineering, mechanical and software departments in another. The building appears to be only three stories high, but descends via a series of elevators eight levels below ground. Much of the science wing is encased in lead lined concrete and separated from the rest of 1467 by interlocking air tight doors, designed to avoid the risk of plutonium poisoning.


Commodore Adam Goldberg wasn’t rostered for work on Tuesday 23rd October. He’d been allocated sick leave. However, having recovered from a nasty bout of flu, he decided to attend the land based enterprise of Operation Jutland, as he was keen to observe his colleague, Flight Lieutenant Jack Stoddard, who was taking part in the test launch of the prototype missile Trident III. That was his story, anyway.


Goldberg and Stoddard were two of three men each entrusted with a personal and unique series of coded signals needed to remotely activate Trident III. The signals were arranged in nine sets of five, indicating individual Vanguard Class submarines, dummy warheads, live primed warheads, live unprimed warheads and targeting. The signals were changed on a daily basis and rotated randomly through the nine different sets of codes. At a time of nuclear crisis, any one of the three officers could be called to 1467 on the understanding that on command they would input the day’s signals into the Triple S communication system thus activating Trident. It was a chain of command that currently, under test conditions started with Rear Admiral Haines, the Commander in the Field, went direct to A.W.E. under the nominal control of Professor Wheatley, whose civilian rank was a Principal Officer, and lastly to Flight Lieutenant Stoddard.


Adam Goldberg was an unimposing man. If it wasn’t for his navy connections, he might always have been lost in the crowd. He stood straight, had short dark hair, greying at his temples and a clipped moustache, also turning grey. On site he was always dressed in his Navy uniform; at home he always wore suits. It had been one of the reasons his wife had left him. He never relaxed. She’d told him in that thick, sexy, Sicilian accent. Goldberg remembered what he’d been told. I never relax.


Today he carried his leather briefcase which to the incurious contained a few papers he’d grabbed from his home and a copy of The Times, crossword half completed. It was identical to the case he brought to work every day. His security pass hung from a neck strap but was clipped to the left hand breast pocket of his uniform. The image wasn’t half as good as he’d expected.


When entering A.W.E., Goldberg had merely flashed the pass at the security gate, but this guard, decked in a white shirt and blue jumper, the sleeves stitched with the Group 4 logo, stretched out a bored hand.


“Long day?” queried Goldberg as he handed over the pass and had it swiped, “Shift change soon isn’t it?”


“An hour or so; I’m hoping to get off early. There’s a quiz at the Bull,” the guard raised his eyebrows as he inspected the pass, “Wasn’t expecting to see you this evening, Sir. Everything’s been ultra-tight today.”


“I’m aware of that,” clipped Goldberg, “Lieutenant Stoddard asked for my attendance.”      


For a moment Goldberg thought that was too sharp a reply. The guard almost reacted. His eyes flashed, squinted, but he chose to hand back the pass.


“Good luck at the quiz,” Goldberg said hastily.


“Thanks, Sir.”


Relieved, Goldberg breathed out and headed for his second floor office. Once there he locked the door, sat down and relaxed. As he did so, his features soothed and a miraculous transformation occurred.


Adam Goldberg, a fifty something navy officer with worry lines, a straight jaw and a ramrod spine, became Cartouche, a slightly hunched, spikey looking man with small eyes and fidgety hands. Cartouche heaved some long breaths. It was very difficult to maintain a subject’s posture for so long. He would have to be careful. He didn’t want to crumble in front of anyone. Despite his natural concern, Cartouche was pleased he’d negotiated the main gate and the access to 1467 so easily. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a difficult task after all. It would be over quickly and then he could dream. For a moment Cartouche dreamt of all the money this would earn him. He smiled and gave a long low whistle. Quickly he stopped himself. Goldberg wasn’t given to moments of leisure. Watch yourself, Cartouche.


Quickly, he opened the briefcase and prised apart the second compartment, which contained a pressed Group 4 uniform. Slowly he peeled the moustache away from his upper lip.


Almost an hour later, Cartouche, now dressed as a member of the country’s leading private security service, strode towards the Group 4 control centre. It was located at the rear of the lobby and usually only contained one or two guards. At switch over, there were always a few conversations going on, men exchanging pleasantries and spending less time attending to their day job. That’s what he’d been told. He could already see there was no one at the duty officer’s desk. There was an advantage he hadn’t anticipated! Cartouche entered the centre quietly. The closed circuit monitoring station was in a separate room at the end of a short passage. He made his way down the corridor, past the holding room, the toilet and the canteen, where he heard the voices of three men and the obnoxious noise of a reality television show. There was a swipe control for the door. Adam Goldberg had Type One clearance. In theory, he had access throughout 1467, but you never knew. Cartouche swiped the security pass. The red light switched to green. The imposter slipped into the small stuffy room and closed the door.


He switched on the light. There was a stack of hard drives against the wall. There were no monitors in the room. It was purely a collection centre where the hard drives recorded the data from each of the four hundred and eighty six cameras inside building 1467. Cartouche located the master drive and extracted his portable storage device. He inserted the slim stick into the base tower and waited.


The screen flickered into life, revealing a series of icons on the right hand side and a task bar along the bottom. A bubble appeared stating ‘New software detected’. Cartouche clicked on the icon and a Run Window replaced it. He accepted the program and the virus started to load. It wasn’t a disabling virus. As far as the security system at 1467 was concerned it was accepting an upgrade. Unfortunately while the upgrade was taking place, although the real time images were transmitted and could be viewed, the recording program would be switched off.


Nervous, Cartouche waited five minutes. He had been told to wait ten, but he was worried the guards might start to move around the security centre. The virus had completed three percent of its total upgrade. As long as the sabotage wasn’t discovered, he had over three hours.


Cartouche checked his watch. 19:17. Jutland was an eight hour operation. It had started at 12:50 hours. The launch program would commence in an hour. There was plenty of leeway as long as there were no changes to the schedule. The unknown quantity for Cartouche was the Rear Admiral, who at any moment could alter the command schedules. He opened the door, saw the empty corridor and made his way back along it.


There were only two men in the canteen, glued to the TV set. Cartouche smiled. Clockwork soldiers. The third man must have been the relief for the bored lobby guard. His fingers pressed the door handle.


“You all right, mate?”


Cartouche turned.


The man was standing, sipping a cup of tea. It was the same guard who had let him into the building. He’d been replaced early, just as he said.


“I thought I heard someone.”


“I’m fine,” replied Cartouche with a slurry Scots brogue, “Juss wannid ta borra yer khasi.”


“Gerard let you in?” the man was hardly bothered.


Cartouche nodded. Sweat formed on his palms. His eye started to weep.


“No problem, mate,” the guard half-turned away. He blinked, inspecting the person in front of him. The man could be Scottish. He had that battered air to him. He had a pass, hanging loose around his neck. His face was creased. But the nose, the eyes, they seemed oddly familiar. Hadn’t he just -


“Too weeks relief,” continued Cartouche, “Ay’ve juss bin poss’d farm Ness. Hell o’ a lang troop yesserdi. Cameron’s ta name.”


“Herb,” he answered, “I guess I’ll see you around. Where’re you posted?”


“78,” Cartouche plucked one of his memorized building numbers, blurred the words on his tongue.


“Decommission Centre,” chewed the guard, “Good luck with that, mate.”


“Thanks,” Cartouche said, struggling to grin. He pushed weakly at the door. What was it he ought to say? What had they trained him to say? “Pal.”


“No worries.”


Cartouche pushed harder, felt the door open and exited the centre. His arms and legs were like jelly. He almost fell over. He leant against the wall. A few seconds, a few breaths. He felt his face starting to crease. Keep it up. Keep it up. The pain. It stuck on his jaw, hurt his brow. He ducked his head, hiding the features that were beginning to fade. Cartouche took another deep breath, forced his legs to work and headed for the stairway.


Back inside Adam Goldberg’s office, he stripped off the Group 4 uniform, scrunched it into the sealed compartment of his case and tried to control his jammering fingers. Get a hold of yourself, Cartouche. Calm down. It’s no worse than performing for princes and presidents. You’ve done that before and for a lot less reward. Think of all that money sitting in your new Swiss account. Think of all those zeros.


Steady now, he carefully pulled out a mirror and a tiny make up kit and started to retouch his face, marking the eyebrows grey, faking a worry line below his left ear. He removed the contact lenses. Finally he picked up the moustache and started to apply it back onto his upper lip.


Twenty five minutes later, the satchel in his left hand, his right tucked into his trouser pocket, Cartouche was making his way to the lower levels of the Science Wing. The elevator hissed open and two homebound technicians, lab coats over their arms, shuffled past him, deep in conversation.


Cartouche stepped in and pressed for Level -7. The descent was smooth. There was a security camera in the corner of the lift, one of those all-seeing-eye globes. He smiled at the knowledge that the evidence of his journey would last no longer than it could be seen.


During a nuclear crisis, Commodore Adam Goldberg would have headed directly to the nerve centre of operations, Control Station One. There he would find banks of satellite monitoring equipment, each one providing up the minute information on the movements of the UK’s Vanguard submarines as well as the positioning of other nations’ nuclear and non-nuclear arsenals.


Currently, Professor Wheatley was conducting the surveillance on the identified enemy patrols, old defunct unarmed ships that were being routed and sunk by Royal Navy destroyers as part of the test exercise. Anchored on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a hundred miles from the Azores, was a quartet of transport ferries, once of Ramsgate to Oostende, flying colours stating they were enemy submarines armed with nuclear capacity. This folly represented the target for the Trident prototype. Wheatley knew its coordinates; he was waiting for a sighting from the fleet.


Cartouche walked down the long straight corridor which backed onto Control Station One. A series of windows looked out over the hub and he could see a multitude of televisual displays, flashing lights on consoles and digital information scrolling up or down screens. It meant nothing to him. His destination was further on. He’d almost turned the corner when he heard a cry of excitement.


“That’s it,” said the Professor at the top his voice, so loud it was almost a screech, “They’ve spotted the target. Vigilant has been ordered to attain launch depth.”


Cartouche paused, intrigued. So, the order was less than a minute in coming.


“Enemy confirmed: submarine with nuclear capability,” the Admiral’s voice, relayed long distance, was as shaky as Cartouche’s insides, but unmistakably clear, “Commence R.A.L.P.”


The Professor clapped once loudly. He turned, but by then the imposter had gone. Cartouche’s instructions were also clear.


The locked room was only marked with three silver S-shapes. It was unguarded. There was a swipe pad next to the door. Cartouche walked straight past it and further up the corridor to the small canteen, a basic room with a coffee making machine. As he waited, Cartouche pressed for a cup of espresso. He counted the seconds. He heard the footfalls then the whoosh of the coffee machine covered any sound. Did he hear the lock click? Did he hear the door swish open? The coffee was still dripping out of its filter. The time passed longer than he expected. The man seemed to be inside for at least two to three minutes. He checked his watch. No; it had hardly been sixty seconds. After sixty nine seconds, exactly as he’d been ordered, Cartouche strode out of the canteen and back towards the door marked ‘SSS’.


He was half way towards it when the door slid back. He almost stumbled. Waiting for the door to close was Flight Lieutenant Jack Stoddard.


The two men stared at each other. Cartouche nodded.


Stoddard’s mouth was about to open, when he suddenly realized who he was looking at. Instead he returned the silent greeting and retreated down the passage to Control Station One.


Cartouche swiped his key card and entered Room SSS. It was bathed in a green glow from a single overhead strip light. A set of mainframe hard drives were locked inside a see-through companionway. Air conditioning hummed, trying to maintain a constant temperature. A single desk was positioned to one side and on it was the keyboard and LCD for the Triple S program.


Cartouche sat at the desk and switched it on.




Cartouche swiped his card along the slot. There was a long pause. Five seconds the photographic verification was meant to take. It took almost twice as long. The screen dissolved into an expensive looking animation, something that resembled the spiral of a gun barrel. The spiral increased in size until its blue centre point filled the screen.




Cartouche tapped out Goldberg’s password.


A series of icons appeared, littering the screen. He found the one marked RALP and clicked on it.




There were two boxes: CONTINUE and ABORT.


He clicked the latter.




He clicked YES and waited. After a minute, the abort order was confirmed and the screen reverted to the screensaver, the icons spread around the picture. Again Cartouche clicked on the RALP icon.




Again he accepted. This time the wait was a little shorter. A large instruction bubble appeared. Cartouche didn’t read it. He’d been told not to. Instead he clicked OK and waited for Triple S to respond.




Cartouche tapped in the thirty two digit code he’d committed to memory.






Cartouche hit YES to both questions.




Cartouche paused. This was the moment where he had to be exact. There was no fail safe. If he answered ‘no’ four armed and primed nuclear bombs would be loaded and set to detonate. His hand shook. He clicked YES, let out a sigh and watched as the Triple S program relayed its new signals to H.M.S. Vigilant. Task completed, he shut down the mainframe and exited Room SSS.


He was breathing heavily now. He hoped to God there was no one outside the door. It hissed open. The passage was empty.


Cartouche strolled into the canteen, fighting the urge his brain was sending to his legs to move faster and faster. Slow down, slow down. Time to wait once more. This time he didn’t make any noise. He sipped the disgusting coffee and prayed no one would enter the canteen. His mind was a whirl. Had they noticed the delay? The questions came to him quick. Had they realized a change had taken place? Was it recorded somewhere? Did they monitor the Vanguard sub? He had no answers to these questions. All Cartouche knew was that desperate men were paying him a life time’s money. His hands started to shake again. He could feel the perspiration dripping down his neck. He bit his lip to control his nerves. Damn it, this was taking forever; something was going wrong. He had a sudden urge to pee. Nerves, nerves, you fool.


It took eight minutes before he heard the pip of the key lock and the hiss of the door. Was it time? He checked his watch. It had to be. Wait for it. Yes, there it was again. The door slid open, the footfalls. Cartouche threw away the empty plastic cup.


This time he did not meet Jack Stoddard. This time he was identified by Triple S in three seconds. This time he countermanded the original coordinates, thereby preserving for another year four rusty old ferryboats. This time he input another series of fresh figures. It took him no longer than thirty seconds. Once again he waited for Triple S to respond. He shut down the mainframe, content that the computer would now delete the record of instruction. The only way to prevent the quartet of armed warheads from reaching their new destination was for Jack Stoddard to input another set of coordinates or abort the program.


On his way back to the elevator, Cartouche passed the gentleman’s washroom. He gave the flicker of a relieved smile.


Inside the convenience, he knew, Jack Stoddard was already occupying one of the stalls and would stay there for at least ten minutes. It had been something he ate.



*****              *****              *****



Number One knew the storm was coming and he was glad.


The cloud cover was moving fast, an iron grey blanket that seemed to roll like the waves beneath it. In the last hour, as the sun died, the great benign waters had turned into a chopping billowing black wake. The sea heaved up waves as high as three metres. The spray reduced visibility even further. The big white yacht, which had eased uninterrupted to the impact zone, was now struggling against its anchor, against the rocking swell and foaming white horses of a force eight gale. It wasn’t quite a hurricane, that storm was still a hundred miles east, but the bad weather clung to Winifred’s skirts and was washing the feet of the archipelago.


The yacht was anchored off the Sand Spits, a collection of keys and cays south east of the Turks and Caicos Islands. They were uninhabited islets, some little more than a strip of beach or coral rising a few feet out of the ocean. They rested on a sand bar formed by massive tidal movements thousands of years ago and solidified over the centuries by the binding crust of lime which formed the outer skeleton of a reef. 


Number One threw away the stub of his cigar. It fizzled to nothing as it spiraled into the murky sea. He was anxious. They’d not located the missiles yet. It was six minutes past estimated arrival. Had something gone wrong, he wondered. It was always a possibility. You always had to plan for the unexpected. Yet the Leader was clear and very definite. The operation would be a success because it was not designed to falter. Plan well, plan thorough, trust your personnel and deliver.  Failure was not an option.


The com-link flickered. Number One stepped over and flipped the switch.




“We’ve got them. A hundred miles out; but there are not slowing. There’ll be an almighty splash.”


“No one will notice in this squall.”


Number One heaved a big breath, his broad shoulders arching slightly, his muscled belly momentarily contracting. He changed channel to speak to the men in the hold.


“We are ready?” he asked. When he got an affirmative answer, Number One grunted his pleasure, “Good. You can depart the ship as soon as I have confirmed the splashdown. Remember, the currents will be strong on the surface, but lower down you should find conditions more acceptable. The storm is coming, but we have more than enough time to complete the recovery.”


He’d hardly finished talking when he heard a low whistle. Number One stood by the deck rail, staring into the twilight. The whistle increased in volume until it became a shriek, a wail of supersonic sound, one single roar that didn’t start or didn’t end. Beneath the rocket’s scream, he could just make out the second whistle, and then a third. So he could hear them, but where were they?


They were no more than a dark flash. The first black warhead scythed out of the cloud, like a bird of prey seeking its victim. On its tail fumes appeared the second warhead and on that the third. They seemed joined by an invisible force, each one cutting the air so hard the vibrations made his chest quake. The first warhead crashed through the surface of the sea, causing no more than a small indefinable splash. The second, third and fourth warheads dove down in a similar fashion, entering the water at a seventy degree angle.


Their impact zone was a shelf of coral and sand stretching between three tiny atolls. Travelling at such a speed, the warheads would be stuck deep; he hoped no deeper than the calculations suggested. The theory was that the resistance of the water would slow them, but by God, they travelled fast.


Number One flicked the com-link.


“Go,” was all he said.


Underneath him, underneath the surface of the waters, the great doors at the bow of the yacht were opening. In a moment the recovery team would be dispatched. The sixteen men had been chosen because they each had experience in undersea drilling and excavation. Who knew how buried those warheads were? Each diver was equipped with a propulsion devise, torches, hand held drilling equipment and plenty of spare oxygen. Behind them would follow two of his crew in the new submersible. This manta shaped vehicle had sleds capable of carrying a warhead on each wing. Two trips would suffice. Then each warhead would be placed on a cradle inside the hold and fastened securely for their next journey. 


Two trips, he checked his watch and stared again at the bleak sky, and six hours. No more.

Edited by chrisno1, 28 January 2013 - 01:18 PM.

#5 chrisno1



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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:06 PM




The ace of diamonds flicked across the green baize and halted two inches from his fingers.

James Bond paused for a moment, letting the tension reach its apex.

Years ago the arena would have been filled with cigar smoke, a fug of diseased air which passed in and out of everybody’s lungs, infecting them with that slovenly attitude called ‘money lust’. Necks would crane forward to see the play, to watch the spatula stretch out and flip, to see the piles of chips tossed in, to watch a greedy hand scoop the winnings, all through a haze of nicotine which would hang like a cloud across the table, throughout the gaming room, brushed only by inconsequential fans that tossed the misty grey as if dawn was rising from the battle ground called chemin de fer.  


Now the Clermont was boringly anodyne. Politicians, the patriarchs of money lust, seemed to have taken away almost every public absorption until only alcohol remained. The tumbler of single malt, the vanilla tinged Glen Garioch was all that stayed at Bond’s side to remind him of the days when life was less complicated, less rigid, less goddamn dull.

Bond had started the evening cautiously, but as his winnings upped and downed, flat-lining for the night, he’d sunk a seventh double and decided to go for broke. If anything was going to break the malaise, a big win at the tables was it.

The banker had won several common hands, which Bond had participated in, but he’d not been the lead stake holder and watched as others played and lost. His own pile of chips had decreased from an early high when he’d held the bank himself for two hands, removing the complete stake of a weary Kuwaiti.

Now the bank sat at twenty six and a half thousand. The banker had made it past the third banco more by luck than judgement. After this hand, the table had become scared of him. He was a lonely man, a business man, Bond suspected, British, but not English, although there was no accent to detect. He was a dedicated, sharp player, who treated the gaming table as an extension of his working life. You play, you work, to win. Success was the ultimate glory. But Bond had measured him. He was certainly canny, but he had a flamboyance that suggested complacency. When the businessman had accepted the bank, from a deluded pink rinse granny, Bond had stayed clear of the early pitfalls, ignoring the exuberance which had sucked others to the fall. He waited instead for the moment the six stacked packs started to turn. The pack always turned, it was a question of when and estimating when.

The nervousness on the fifth banco alerted him. Something about the man’s index finger, the way it twitched. It hadn’t moved before. Now it jabbered up and down rapidly as the cards folded. Tension: Bond sensed it how the wolf detects the nervous lamb. That incontestable sixth sense.

Bond heard himself say, “Banco.”

There was a startled hush across the table. If the cigarette smoke had still existed, Bond would have expected to see it being sucked back into people’s mouths. As it was he made do with the thrill of surprise.


He’d caught the businessman unawares. The man’s eyebrows raised and he sat back with an almost resigned air, as if he understood his fate. Sometimes, thought Bond, gambling was like life and death. You enjoyed the good times to the utmost, drank and talked and loved; when the bad came you accepted defeat with a shake of a head, with a sigh, a submission. Just like Bond, the banker knew his evening was coming to an abrupt close.


The croupier waited, spatula extended.

The banker seemed to want to drag the agony out. A masochistic streak, pondered Bond, or did he know something? Had he been counting through the packs? Had the winning numbers passed him by? Bond wasn’t a counter. He played on instinct, on a natural, innate belief in human reaction. Sometimes he played the percentages. They brought steady results. But his biggest wins, the unexpected beautiful ones that made you want to dance, always came when he trusted his gut, his eyes, his feelings, his intuition, all the illogical presentiments. He couldn’t explain it. It simply was.  

The hands, manicured and clean, slapped onto the lip of the shoe and dealt four cards. The croupier lifted Bond’s pair and deposited them by his left hand. Bond peeled the edge of each card. Club six and heart nine. A total of fifteen; taking the right digit of the total, Bond had an impossible five.

The banker did not immediately turn his cards, so he held less than eight. A conservative banker would always stick on a total of six or seven, the onus being on his opponent to gamble and win. The odds at that point were stacked against the punter. If he held less than five, an intuitive banker might attempt to hoodwink his opponent into a gamble by bluffing, refusing the extra card in an attempt to mask his poor hand. For a punter, for Bond, the accepted wisdom was to always draw below five and to stick on six or seven, to force the banker into making a move which could cost him. Five was the marginal number. Instinct usually told him to refuse and return the doubt to the banker.


Bond waited for the index finger to twitch.

It stayed static. The man must have six or seven. Bond’s insides turned. He was risking a huge stake, nearly half a year’s wage, on saying ‘carte’.

Bond was about to revert to type and stick. He had to ride out the fall. It was simply a matter of accepting the fate of the cards. He’d had a good run tonight. He’d built up a hefty thirty grand and was about to lose almost every penny, but he’d still be a thousand up on his opening gambit.

The finger tapped.

Bond almost snapped upright in his seat. The banker was bluffing. He had five.

It was still a risk. After such a long game, such a long turn of the shoe, Bond knew the odds were against him, that the best cards had probably been swept out of the wooden box already, that he could just as easily pull a king as a four. Then he reminded himself: the bank had had its run. The businessman had held the shoe for a dozen hands, commons and bancos together, and it was turning.


The right hand seemed to spasm. The fingers curled on the tab of red, spun it and shot the card across the table. The croupier didn’t need to touch it. The card ended up shy of Bond’s hand.

It was an ace of diamonds.

Bond paused, turned his pair and declared, “Six.”

The banker swept out his own card, more in desperation. It was a club ten. His pair only matched Bond’s, with a king and a five. The banker was stuck on five. He’d lost the hand and the bank and twenty six thousand pounds.

There was a curl of excitement around the table. An occasion like this was still rare. Certainly in the private rooms millions were lost on the turn of the cards or the roll of the roulette wheel, but on the public tables such stakes were considered unusual. The businessman offered a shake of the head and then acknowledged the play with a raised hand, a tiny wave of defeat. He said nothing.

The shoe passed counter clockwise and Bond excused himself for the bar, only half joking, declaring, “I need another drink after that.”

It was nearly two o’clock on Wednesday morning. Bond was pleasantly intoxicated. He’d pulled the weekend shift the previous week and this was his reward, two days off, a Chianti infused meal at Cappuccetto’s and a long lazy night at the Clermont. The big win had just made the whole night more than worthwhile.

He took no pleasure in the beating. The emotion was more one of relief. He’d made the coup and escaped by the width of a card. The aim had been achieved, the long journey had ended, the locked door of promises breached. Now it was time to sway in the stupor of life, to seek the riches and the refinements, the luxury, time to pamper oneself, recline and forget, like the lotus eaters, the world outside his realm.

It was a similar sensation to the one he experienced when he’d succeeded in an operation. It was all over. He didn’t have to tense, to coil, to prepare for every minute, every second, as if it would be his last. When a mission was over his body invariably collapsed and surrendered to temporary apathy. He would sleep, eat, sleep, love and sleep until the anxieties dispersed. It wasn’t only the physical. Mentally too, he stalled, as his mind recovered from the intenseness of thought, of decision making. For the duration, he lived in an ether world, safe, coddled, antiseptic. It wasn’t merely relaxation, it was catharsis.

With that in mind, Bond ordered a quart of vintage Dom Perignon, the ’73.

He’d only taken his second sip, savouring the strawberry tinged bubbles as they rippled over his tongue, when his mobile, set to silent, vibrated in his jacket pocket.

Bond pulled it out. It was Penelope, his S.A., the beautiful blonde he shared with OO9. 

“Penny,” he said pleasantly, “This is unexpected.”

“You bet it is. Thank god I’ve got your personal number.”

There was an edge to her voice that made Bond’s spine straighten. Suddenly the sting of the whisky, the pile of blue chips, the sparkling bubbly, the satisfaction of victory seemed far away, as far away as the kingdom of the lotus. 

“Is this a personal call?”

Now there was agitation in her voice. This was clearly not the time for games, “Whatever plans you’ve got, James, you’d better cancel them.”

“What is it?”

“White Lightning. Ultra Hush.”

Bond gripped the Nokia, but said nothing. Christ!

“Every available Double-O’s been called in,” continued Penelope, her words almost in a rush, “There’s a full briefing in the War Room at 0600. I don’t know where you are or who you’re with, but you’ve got to make tracks fast.”

Bond looked at the champagne. Like his diamond victory, it suddenly tasted hollow. He needed something else to brighten the palette.

“Believe it or not, Penny, I’m actually having an early breakfast. I’ll see you at six.”

Bond cut off the phone and beckoned to the waiter.

“Beluga caviar for one, with toast; quickly, please.”


*****              *****              *****



Cartouche drove very fast through the night.

He wasn’t used to subterfuge and deceit. It was completely alien to him. He thought he’d coped very well, under the circumstances. But even as he’d strolled past the new guard and exited 1467, he had shaken with the fear of discovery. His stomach had turned circles. It was hardly less settled now and to add to it, he had a headache and he needed a drink. If this was what the high rollers called stress, they could keep it. He’d had his fill.

Nothing could replace what he’d lost. He was an entertainer, a man who lived for the smiles and laughter and adoration of the crowd. The solitary life did not suit him and he’d become remote, morose. His employers had noticed it and sought ways to reassure him, moments when he could be released from the bubble of learning. The impersonation was the least of his concerns. It had been the other training, the physical exercises, the scientific terminology, the military information, the family and social histories. He’d had to absorb it all, locked away with those so called ‘experts’, the men who briefed him, set him exams and fed back all his rights and wrongs. It went on for months. And it was all so negative. Even the good days, when they’d praised his performance or his responses, had felt like an endurance test. Yes, that was it: a trial or tribulation, something to be outlasted. They’d allowed him respite eventually, days off when he could spend some of the money they paid him. It was a vast sum, more than he’d ever dreamed. And he had women. And he’d eaten in the very best restaurants. He’d even gambled and won. But where was the joy? There was no fun in this deception. Money did not replace happiness. What had happened that he’d sunk so low?

The rear lamps of the slower cars grew large. Cartouche indicted to overtake. He only had two hours to reach Heathrow and his outward flight. He took the car straight out of A.W.E., down Tadley Hill and on towards Basingstoke and the motorway. He probably activated a few speed cameras. He saw the flashes but he didn’t care.

He wasn’t used to driving at such speeds. The thrill was a potion of sorts. He clung to the wheel, hunched forward in the seat, feet planted on clutch and accelerator in anticipation of gear changes. The BMW seemed to suck up the road and spit it out behind him, the white centre lines zipping beneath the chassis, the cat’s eyes winking.

The M3 took a long curve as it approached the Fleet interchange. The headlamps on the opposite carriageway glowered at him as they peeped over the crash barriers, seeming to mock his situation, obtuse spotlights illuminating an escape.

Cartouche checked his rear mirror as he pulled back across the lanes. From out of the glimmer of receding lights, the cars he’d passed with such ease topping a hundred and ten, he saw a single yellow beam tracking him. It was moving faster than the BMW. It would be up with him in seconds. Cartouche gently turned the wheel, moving to the near side, allowing the motorcycle a free ride down the centre lane.

Damn! The bloody thing was still tracking him. The cyclist must need to take the exit. Well, he wasn’t going to accelerate or pull over again just to please some speed demon. His pursuer would have to wait for half a mile. The yellow light still came on.

Jesus God!

Annoyed, Cartouche eased his foot off the gas pedal, expecting the impatient cyclist to overtake and pull across. Instead the yellow light sat behind, filling the rear view mirror. The mad man was right on his backside, almost touching the fender. What the hell was this? Almost in a panic, Cartouche stepped hard on the accelerator, felt the engine reply, the tarmac seeming to give a little, as if he was flying, about to take off from the runway.

They shot past the exit, the turn vanishing to black woodland. Cartouche breathed out. At last the yellow beacon dropped back. A quick glance in his mirror. Yes, it was a good fifty yards behind. The idiot, thought Cartouche. Even as he cursed, he saw the red sight line flickering inside the yellow haze. His eyes no longer watched the road ahead. They were drawn to the tiny single flickering red dot.

It was the last thing Cartouche would see.

The back of his head exploded and the memory of entertaining children, parents, politicians and nobles faded as instantly as if the spotlights had been suddenly switched off. 

The emergency services found what remained of the body after they managed to extinguish the fire. There wasn’t very much left of the BMW Seven Series either. Other cars had slowed down and one or two stopped to make emergency calls. The police made some immediate enquiries with the drivers who had waited. No one seemed to know how the crash happened or how the fire started and no one seemed to have noticed the motorcyclist who exited the scene at almost double the speed limit.   

Edited by chrisno1, 02 February 2013 - 02:39 PM.

#6 chrisno1



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Posted 07 February 2013 - 02:16 PM



“Gentlemen, we have a crisis,” announced M.


The War Room was far beneath the basement of Vauxhall Cross. It was designed to allow the service to function even if London was destroyed. Farfetched, Bond had always assumed; the Cold War was long dead.


There were in fact twenty five rooms, excluding emergency living space, but the main chamber was the most impressive. It was a large briefing hall that flashed with hi-tech wizardry. The walls were reinforced steel, polished until they shone, and the floor was tiled slate. Each wall carried four huge LCD screens, linked to the computer operator’s position, a lonely desk set at an angle to one corner. The screens were conspicuously blank. Down the middle of the room stretched a long glass table lined by sixteen leather chairs. Flat screen PC monitors and touch pad controls were fixed in front of each seat. The centre of the table featured a hologram projector.


M sat at the head. He was dressed in a three piece suit, the tie slightly askew. Oddly Bond noted it strayed to the side of his face that was paraylsed. M’s expression was grim. He sipped at a glass of water letting his words sunk in.

Next to M sat the Defence Minister, a burdened man who seemed to be too young for the job. Bond preferred his politicians old. The people in charge of the country these days didn’t seem much older than him. There was something dispiriting about being lectured at by a contemporary. They made the same mistakes as the older generations, but you respected them less. Inside Bond gave a twisted grin. No, that wasn’t right; you forgave old Parliamentarians their mistakes because they’d earned your leniency through endeavour, often in business or in war or in service. These career politicians hadn’t a clue how the world turned. It was a numbers game to them. All different kinds of numbers.


Beside the Minister, resplendent with medals, his cap on the table in front of him, was the straight backed First Sea Lord, representative of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. He was armed with an adjutant, a pale worrisome man, and a civilian who kept cleaning his glasses and stroking his fuzzy beard. Lastly the large, comfortable figure of the Head of MI5, the home intelligence service, sat playing absently with a pen. It was unusual for MI5 to be asked into the hallowed halls of foreign intelligence. Things must be bad. The taut faces of all five strangers revealed the depth of the crisis before it had even been uttered.

On the other faces, Bond detected anticipation. Tariq Nijjar, OO9, sat opposite him. OO’s 8, 12 and 3 were also present, all new men, not long in the field. Next to Bond were the two Senior Administrators, Penelope and her colleague, the rather fetching Louisa. They didn’t call the lower ranks secretaries anymore and they couldn’t be referred to as ‘personal’ even if they wanted to be. There was also a representative from Q Branch, one of the computer engineers, who looked a bit bewildered as he walked to the corner desk.

Only Bill Tanner, the Chief of Staff, an ex-military man who was only ruffled when he fluffed golf shots, and M’s Personal Secretary, Miss Brodie, stayed expressionless. She was tapping into an electronic stenograph, the same glacial pinch to her spinster face as Bond saw when he met her in the canteen. Tanner, as always, watched and waited.

M was speaking again.

“We are meeting in the War Room because the information we are about to impart to you all is Priority One Top Secret. I don’t need to remind you about the Official Secrets Act or the contract each of you undertook on joining the Secret Intelligence Service.”

Bond looked across at Tanner for any clue. The face was as inscrutable as ever. Bond knew different. You didn’t remind members of the Service of their legal obligations. It was a given. For M to impress it could only mean very bad news.

“Nothing discussed today must be imparted outside of the immediate corps. As events unfold, other parties may need to be briefed appropriately. You must ensure all persons have my personal official clearance before revealing any of the facts you learn. Understood?”


It wasn’t a question requiring an answer.


M paused to let the order sink in, “Good,” he turned slightly to his left, “Minister?”

The Defence Minister leaned forward, his hands clasped together on the table top. There was perspiration between the folds of his knuckles.

“Gentlemen, are you familiar with Operation Jutland?”


Bond didn’t want to take anyone’s thunder. He let one of the new bloods handle it. OO12 raised a finger a few inches.

“Jutland took place yesterday. It was a War Game held by the Royal Navy in the mid-Atlantic. I haven’t seen any domestic reports, but the initial NATO observations were very complimentary.”


“So they would be,” replied the Minister, “We asked them to put up a smokescreen.”


The dramatic pause didn’t seem necessary. Tariq shuffled in his seat. Bond caught his querying look.

“Since 2008 the Atomic Weapons Establishment has been heavily and secretly involved in the development of Trident III. In conjunction with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, A.W.E. has carried out a series of theoretical subcritical tests at the Nevada underground test sites. These experiments confirm that the weapons capability of Trident III will be exceptional. However some of the other technologies, such as the guidance system, the automated loading and locking system and mid-air targeting have proved difficult to assess outside of laboratory conditions. We needed to test Trident III in external conditions. Jutland was a War Game in name only. The true purpose of the operation was for the Royal Navy to test the prototype missile.”

As the Minister continued, the hologram projector flickered into life, displaying the Navy’s filmed footage of the war game. His tone became disparaging. Here was a man, considered Bond, who wanted to apportion blame. He wanted ready answers for when he stood at the despatch box. 

“In a moment I’ll ask the Sea Lord to explain the situation in depth. As I understand it, as it has been reported to me, Jutland proceeded as planned, including the launch of the Trident, loaded with four dummy warheads. Fifteen minutes into the flight, Trident was lost,” another long pause, “While efforts were being made to locate the missile, A.W.E. received data from our Vanguard Class submarine Vigilant, that Trident III was fired with four genuine warheads, unprimed, but certainly real.”

The Minister opened his hands in a vague signal to the military representatives next to him, “The ‘how’ and the ‘where’ of this situation is tremendously concerning. Not only has it made the Navy and A.W.E. appear inept it could bring the government into conflict with the anti-nuclear wing again, at a time when atomic power is being reconsidered as a long term solution to the country’s future energy shortages. We can’t afford to be slipshod. The electorate expects the military to be professional and secure -”

“We understand the urgency, Minister,” M interrupted, a hand gently touching the Minister’s Saville Row clad elbow, “Perhaps if the Sea Lord could elaborate.”

Point scoring, thought Bond. Bloody numbers. He was watching the repeating holographic film of the war game. Six destroyers and two submarines; a pincer movement; seven old wrecks destroyed; the launch of the Trident, a blistering moment of flame and smoke and vital energy. It rose slowly at first, breaking the surface only under propulsion fired from the submarine, and then, as the rockets kicked in, the missile gained momentum and altitude at a sickeningly rapid rate, leaving a trail of charcoal coloured smoke and a burst of vivid yellow flame.

The Sea Lord didn’t waste any time on preliminaries.

“Gentlemen, as you can observe from the footage in front of you, Jutland was a daytime operation. It was a success until the  launch of the prototype missile at 20:17. Briefly, Trident III is a fully automated missile. H.M.S. Vigilant has been temporarily fitted to accommodate the experimental loading and launching system and the experimental computer targeting process. We have already established that both systems have been breached and breached from within the Atomic Weapons Establishment.”

The Sea Lord left a long enough gap for Tariq to interject, “So we have a suspect?”

“Not exactly, OO9,” answered M, “The suspect is dead. His body was identified last night. It looks like murder. A professional hit.”

“Who was it?”


“Commodore Adam Goldberg,” answered the man from MI5, “Good record, fifty six years old, divorced, family abroad, spotless. We’re still waiting for a full forensic report on the body and the car which crashed on the M3 Monday night. Our earliest prognosis is he was shot in the back of the head.”

“Assassination,” stated OO12.


“It would appear so,” replied Five, “Not confirmed.”

M raised his eyebrows at the cautious tone of his opposite number, “As good as. What’s the capability of Trident III, Sir?”


“Professor Wheatley,” prompted the Sea Lord.

The civilian stood up, realised that was inappropriate and sat down again.

“I believe I have a series of slides prepared,” he said quietly, “If I could have them on the screen.”

M made a gesture over his shoulder to the man at the computer desk. Immediately the repeating Jutland footage was replaced by straight forward two-dimensional slides, which rotated to allow the whole table a view. The pictures were specification diagrams of the prototype missile.

“Trident III is a primary function Strategic Nuclear Deterrence,” continued the Professor, “It’s a multinational project; contractors include Lockheed Missiles, Hercules, Golis and Aerospace. The estimated unit cost of each missile would be roughly £26 million, excluding the individually costed interchangeable warheads. Trident III is exactly 12.9 metres high, that’s a shade smaller than its predecessor, but retains the 1.85 diametre and the three stage rocket propulsion system. The estimated weight is 60,000kg. It has an optimum range of 11,000 miles or 6000 nautical miles. The warheads are thermonuclear MIRVs, that’s Multiple Independently Targetable Re-Entry Vehicles.


“The development differences for Trident III are the reduction of warheads from eight to four. We use 950 kiloton warheads, a shade under one megaton, and each capable of individual targeting and separation in flight. The size of these warheads was considered both as an economic measure - it’s cheaper to build fewer large warheads than many small ones - and as a strategic one. This reflects modern technology’s ability to locate and destroy smaller targets through GPS identification. The consensus is that most military installations can now be eliminated through precision bombing. The scope for a weapon like Trident III would only be necessary to inflict damage during legitimate full scale war; for instance, to render obsolete an enemy’s nuclear facilities or to counter the attack of massed mobile artillery divisions.


“As modern warfare often involves sudden strategic decisions based on up to the second data, the ability to alter a target mid-flight was insisted upon by prominent military theorists. The current Trident II only features an inertial targeting system protected by a shield to prevent jamming. However this was considered unsatisfactory, both for modern military strategy which demands faster response times with minimal collateral damage, and for security, due to the high potential of virus software, or hacking, which would be more prevalent during 21st century wartime, for computer technology is fast becoming a legitimate aggressive weapon. At A.W.E. scientists have been experimenting with the latest Star-Sighting gyroscopes and also with a new scrambled code sequence by which the MIRVs would be able to receive targeting coordinates without the possibility of interception. We called this multi-functional program The Sight and Scatter System, or The Triple S.”

Professor Wheatley seemed rather pleased with his acronym, but no one else was sharing his joke. Flustered, he carried on.    

“The concept is to initialize the warhead’s guidance system during separation of the third stage rocket. We would be able to apply a GPS update at any point from reentry to less than one minute before contact. Let’s not forget the missile is travelling at over 14000 miles an hour. We don’t have much time to alter targets, but the benefit is we don’t need to program any target until the missile has been launched. No foreign interceptor will be able to assess the missile’s ultimate destination. An extension of the Triple S is the Remote Automatic Launch Program, an automated loading and firing system. Currently R.A.L.P. is controlled from A.W.E., but the intention would be to roll this out to the Joint Heads of Staff.”

“I can’t imagine a naval captain being happy about relinquishing control of his on board weaponry,” Bond said blithely.  

“They aren’t,” interjected the Sea Lord, “But war is rarely fought in the field anymore. During a state of conflict the Navy’s submarine fleet would be on full alert, often for days or weeks at a time. All our Vanguard class ships enact simulations for that very possibility. Commanders are trained to sustain marine based strategic positions. Under R.A.L.P. orders would only be given to rise to launch depth. Launching a missile with the potential to inflict death on thousands or millions can’t be left to the men in the field. Terrible errors could occur. Automating the chain of command, removing it, if you like, will also remove that percentage of error.”

Bond raised an eyebrow. He didn’t think the percentage would change from submarine to flagship to Naval HQ. None-the-less he bit his tongue. You didn’t argue with a Sea Lord. Instead he flicked a hand at the images revolving in front of him.

“So what went wrong?”


“Jutland was an eight hour war game. During the final hour Captain Picard was ordered to rise to launch depth in preparation for firing the prototype. The remote command was issued from A.W.E. to H.M.S. Vigilant at 20:16 hours. The loading process took eight minutes, longer than estimated. It was only when, under his own intuition, Captain Picard investigated the delay that we became aware the coded sequence had been incorrectly transferred.”

“Coded sequence?” queried Tanner a split second before Bond.  

“The codes are altered on a daily basis,” explained Professor Wheatley, “They’re created and stored on computer in a separate key controlled room. Only three members of A.W.E. staff have access to the computer. They’re all military personnel, one from the navy, one from the army, one from the air force. When Trident III was loaded, the wrong code was entered.”

“Surely that’s a man-made error?” said Bond.

“It would be,” said the Sea Lord, “Except the original code sequence was changed.”

“The security system deletes itself immediately after launch,” continued the Professor, “To prevent the code from being reused. We had to dismantle the computer’s hard drive to reach the relevant file. Naturally it’s been very well hidden.”

“Naturally,” repeated Bond, “And I expect you have a similar system in place for the Triple S?”

“It’s the same console. Multifunctional. Saves money.”

Wheatley sounded a bit too pleased with himself. Bond had taken an instant dislike to him. He wondered idly if it was because, on a civilian level, the man out-ranked him.

“Breached as well, Professor?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“I don’t suppose,” ventured OO3, “There was a guard on this Triple S thingy?”

“Certainly not,” Wheatley sounded almost indignant, “That would only draw attention to it.”

Bond was irritated. A typical amateurish set-up. Why did these hash ups keep happening and why did the S.I.S. have to keep sorting them out? Lost files, stolen secrets, bungled support invasions, dodgy arms deals and now a whole nuclear missile. He bit back on his bile. It’s work, James; this is what you’re paid for remember. You’re the last turn of the card - the ace of bloody diamonds.

“But you’ve recovered the information,” Bond snapped, making an assumption. He saw a nod and carried on, “So at least we know where the MRIVs came down.”

“We thought we did,” answered the Sea Lord, “But they’re not there. The recovered coordinates are the same for each MIRV, 21°33’N 70°45’W, that’s east of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”


The revolving hologram switched to a map of the eastern Caribbean, highlighting the landing point. As the assembly watched, the ordnance dissolved into a weather map, showing two massive high pressure systems.

“Hurricanes Winifred and Xander,” stated the Sea Lord, “We couldn’t get close nor could the US Coastguard. We’ve only just been able to complete an initial reconnaissance. We’ve been considering three possibilities. One, the missiles may have been blown off course; two, the missiles came down but the currents created by the hurricanes have dragged it significantly far from the target location; three, someone has stolen it.”

“You’re joking?” chuckled OO3.

“I’m afraid we’re not.”

There was a tiny roll of surprised voices. M held up a hand, “All right, that’s enough. Let’s hear from MI5, shall we.”

“Thank you, M,” Five sat forward, relieved to take the stage properly at last, “Initially the Joint Chiefs of Staff contacted us as they thought this may be a case of homeland sabotage, a rogue terrorist hacking into A.W.E.s computers. However the War Game and the launch test itself was a Priority One Top Secret. Even the NATO representatives were unaware of the intended operation. There was no requirement to inform other governments of the test launch as the missile wasn’t expected to be armed. Outside of the development team at A.W.E. and Rear Admiral Haines, Jutland’s commander in chief, the only people aware of the launch were the Captain and crew of Vigilant and even Picard had strict orders to instruct his crew only minutes before the commencement of Jutland. Of course, the Minister and the PM had to be informed and some senior civil servants would subsequently have been party to the barest of information, but I need to stress this was not an open secret. The Royal Navy is very sensitive to national and international preconceptions. As a matter of routine we’ve checked and double checked all the names provided to us, as well as relatives and associates. There are a few bad eggs of course, but nothing which would suggest terrorist activity of this sort.


“No, our main focus of enquiry settled on the three men with access to the R.A.L.P. and Triple S systems. Flight Lieutenant Jack Stoddard, seconded from the Air Force, entered both coded sequences as instructed. To do so he had to receive a direct order from Rear Admiral Haines and was present at A.W.E. Control Station One to do so. We questioned Stoddard for six hours but his story never faltered or changed. It was only when the computer boffins finally cracked open the deleted files that we realized we had been questioning the wrong man. Commodore Adam Goldberg, who was not officially on duty, had gained access to the computer and altered the code.”

“Wasn’t there CCTV inside the room?” asked Tanner, “Or outside?”

“Of a sort,” Five didn’t sound impressed, “A.W.E. has several interlinked surveillance systems. Control Station One is situated underground inside Building No.1467. Security is considered so tight around the Trident project that 1467 has an independent surveillance system. Its security centre has a main frame computer which controls all internal and external cameras. However while the cameras appeared to be in full working order, the mainframe was not recording the images. They’d been deactivated by a virus disguised as a software upgrade. They were down for only two hours, long enough for the Triple S to be sabotaged. Luckily, there’s a failsafe camera located inside the computers, which was how we found Adam Goldberg’s image.”

“Was he scheduled to work at all that day?” asked OO8.

“No. In fact Goldberg had been signed off sick for ten days. We did manage to speak to the guards at Group 4 and one of them remembers the Commodore entering the building. We actually have the footage.”

Bond glanced up at the hologram. A Navy Officer was handing over his ID pass to be checked. Five stumbled over his words. This had to be the embarrassing part. Group 4 again, thought Bond; when will politicians ever learn that private companies simply don’t cut it in the public domain? 

“The same guard reports he also spoke to a new contractor about an hour later. He’d not seen him before and assumed his relief had allowed the man access. This person referred to himself as Cameron, but we have no details of him entering the building. He did however use Goldberg’s Priority One clearance to access the CCTV mainframe. The two persons appear to have been working together. The problem, gentlemen, is that by the time we’d obtained all this information, Adam Goldberg was already dead, killed, initially we thought in a car accident. Once we discovered the bullet hole in his skull, we realized this wasn’t a man working alone. Whoever killed him knew what he’d done and why he’d done it. We’re still conducting enquires at A.W.E., including holding the duty security team, however we, along with the Joint Chiefs and the Minister, thought it prudent to include your department, M, in case this hijacking involves a foreign perpetrator.”

“Thank you, Five,” said M gravely, “Gentlemen, I cannot stress enough: this operation is a matter of national and international security. We’ve prepared a dossier for the investigation. Codename: Gulfstream.”


Bond’s LCD flickered into life. It was loading a PDF document.

“Gulfstream will have two concerns,” started M, “Firstly to discover the location of the warheads and if possible invoke a recovery; secondly to seek who is responsible. The document presented to you contains close analysis and detail of the summaries provided by the Sea Lord, the Professor and Five.”

Bond had already clicked past the title page and was scrolling through the appendixes.

“What were Goldberg’s recent movements?” Tariq asked, “Has he been out of the country, stayed in a hotel, anything untoward?”

“Not that we can tell,” replied Five, “We’re still making enquiries.”

“It says he has a daughter; is she in the UK?”

“Unfortunately not,” M said, “Goldberg’s ex-wife was Sicilian. She died a number of years ago. The daughter lives in Italy.”

“I’ll get a location fix on her. She could have been used for coercion.”

Bond found what he wanted, Goldberg’s Navy file. Immediately Bond sat back in his seat. The first page showed a picture of a dark haired man, minute flecks of grey appearing at his ears. It was a formal shot in close up. The tips of the collar of his Navy uniform were just visible. He had dark eyes. The description said hazel, Bond thought more walnut. The skin was lightly tanned. He might have come back from a holiday. The jaw was straight, the nose thin, the moustache beneath it clipped and straight. Thoughtfully, Bond rubbed his chin, flicked on a couple of pages and then returned to the main picture. The conversation had carried on around him, but he hadn’t paid it any attention.

“Sir,” he ventured, “Did you say Goldberg hasn’t been out of the country recently?”

“That’s correct.”

Bond manipulated the keypad and transferred the image of Goldberg onto the over-table hologram.

“This is Goldberg, isn’t it?”


“I saw this man three weeks ago, Sir, in Kiev.”

There was a sudden hush around the conference room.

“It’s a devilish coincidence, I know, but when I was last in the Ukraine I spent an hour or two in a casino, lying low,” Bond paused, noting M’s exasperated shake of the head, “And I saw this man. He was with a very expensive looking woman.”

“Goldberg definitely didn’t leave the country,” repeated Five, “I’d stake my career on it.”


“I’m not suggesting he did,” Bond said carefully, “Is it possible some sort of plastic surgery could have been used? A foreign agent could have infiltrated A.W.E. After all, Goldberg is dead. It would be unfortunate for any terror organization to have the real Adam Goldberg alive.”

“It’s certainly worth considering,” Tanner responded.

The Defence Minister looked aghast, “You’ve been watching too many spy movies,” he declared, shuffling back in his seat, “This is just a flight of fancy. Let’s get down to more practical details.”

Bond clicked off the hologram. Now the floating image of Adam Goldberg had been removed, he could see M studying him carefully from the far end of the table. The lopsided face twitched and the half-smile which Bond knew meant M was pleased started to crack across the face.


A few seconds later a personal message clicked on his LCD. Bond opened it. The message was from M: ‘Tell me.’


Quickly, Bond started to type.




#7 chrisno1



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Posted 10 February 2013 - 12:15 AM




Marcelo Sabatini lit a cigar.


It was starting to rain. That hurricane, he thought to himself, what a blessed surprise. Sometimes, he wondered, even when you are a man capable of great sin, God will still smile at you. He almost offered a prayer.


Sabatini stepped back inside the lounge and watched as the raindrops, once only a few sprinkles, became a tumult, peppering the deck of his yacht, juddering the hot steamy air and forming a dull curtain which cut off his view of the coastline.

He glanced at his watch. It was past one. The evening had been a success. He’d spoken with the Marine Society and entertained them with his stories. They were pleased that he showed such an interest in the declining fish stocks. Sabatini had waved a hand in the air and generously suggested that Explorazione Professionale could attempt to fund a program of gradual re-habitation. There was nothing more important to him and to his company than the renewal of the earth’s vital and natural resources.


It hadn’t always been so, he reflected, blowing a cloud of smoke from between his teeth. The Marine Society knew it, but they only understood the public story, how a once mighty campaigner for the oil industry, a man who sought nothing but wealth through the abstraction of fossil fuels, who had made his fortune capping and tapping the Kuwaiti oil fields after the First Gulf War, had suddenly reached an epiphany, a moment when his past life seemed to mean naught. They said it was his new woman, the beautiful slim young dark haired companion who was always obediently by his side. They liked how she soothed his rough edges. They always assumed it was a woman’s doing, that only love could change a man’s heart.

They forgot about power.

Sabatini poured himself a large brandy from the crystal decanter and swilled the amber around the bowl until it coated the sides. He sipped it. The warm sharp tang bit at his throat. Power, he wondered. What had power cost him?

His left eye, certainly. Sabatini momentarily touched the patch. How often did he want to tear it aside and show the world what power had done to him? The anger swelled. He remembered the day he fought Lorenz, the day that brutal big bastard gouged him and threw him out of Palermo’s union.

And then he remembered the sweetness of revenge. How he slipped into Lorenz’s house and kidnapped his daughter, how he humiliated Lorenz for three months with the sickening ransom notes and how he denied each new offer.

Sabatini grinned as he remembered the girl’s soft plump flesh, how she had fought him at first and then surrendered to his will. After he finally received what he wanted from Lorenz, he returned the daughter, a broken doll of flesh, minus the little finger on each hand and plus an unborn child.

Sabatini’s fingers gripped the glass tight. The salacious memory swept over him. Yes, the sad misguided girl had been a good pupil. The union boss was mad with rage, but he had already sworn to give Sabatini the respect and the position he wanted. The feud simmered. Sabatini allowed what he had done to be an open secret among the dockyards. He ensured his supporters made it so. Lorenz went to the police. They did nothing. This wasn’t an affair they wanted a part of: “Mafioso to Mafioso?” they said, “No, no, no and no.”

The daughter died giving premature birth to Sabatini’s son. Lorenz’s grandchild breathed for only a few hours. Had he lived the boy could have been the solution, by dying he became the catalyst for war. It lasted three years and at the end of it Marcelo Sabatini ran the union and Gilberto Lorenz was dead. They said it was a suicide. Sabatini had laughed as his men administered the fatal dose of heroin. As the dust settled on the years of violence, he offered Lorenz’s lieutenants roles in his ‘Unione’. It was always best to assimilate your enemies. It was easy to watch them when they were close. It was when they drifted that they became a danger.

It was only later that the men from Napoli came to see him, men with expensive suits and neat finger nails who smelled of cologne. They had a proposition for him, if he was interested. There was a business man in Syracuse, a wealthy business man, who had insulted the Family. Could Signore Sabatini help them right this wrong?

The men in suits were very complimentary. They sat at his dining table as he cooked pasta in the galley kitchen of his villa. Sabatini, they said, was deeply respected for the manner in which he had disposed of Gilberto Lorenz, the troublesome arrogant upstart unloved by the traditional Mafia. He was deeply respected for his background, for his father who fought with the banditos of Salvatore Giuliano, for his mother, the daughter of old Gambici, and for her grandfather, Paulo, the priest who hid Favara’s icons during the war. If anyone could, they knew Signore Sabatini could provide them with a solution.

Sabatini had watched their eyes as they told him of the slur. These were not the eyes of insulted men. He saw greed. He saw money. He saw power.

Sabatini was cutting slices of garlic sausage with a large carving knife. The slices got thinner and thinner as the story continued. The blade shaved the top layer of skin from his knuckle and then he stopped carving and stopped the men from talking.

“I will tell you what I will do,” he announced, “I will rid you of this businessman, even though he has done me no wrong. I will let you seize his assets. That is what you want. I know you can do it. You have done it before. I know you have a man on the board of his company, the accountant, Luigi Rossi. I know of these things, gentlemen. I know what you want. Now, listen very closely. This is what I want.”

When Federico Vannichi, the founder of Explorazione Professionale, drowned, it was assumed to be a tragic accident. He had fallen from his yacht, they said, because he was drunk. Marcelo Sabatini had laughed as he watched them pour the grappa down the squealing man’s throat.

He had laughed again when he took his position at the head of the boardroom for the First Annual General Meeting for the shareholders of Explorazione Professionale. He was the only man present and he granted himself a pay rise. Marcelo Sabatini was soon to become a very rich and prosperous man and at last he was away from the shackles of Sicily, so far away from the life of murder and blackmail, he was to become respectable.

And yet power still seduced. Now his violent instincts could no longer be satisfied, Sabatini discovered a different kind of war: corporate war. His battlegrounds became boardrooms, his weapons financial muscle, his victories stocks, shares, takeovers and contracts and millions upon millions of lira. His army was a tribe of lawyers, a union of scientists and geologists, a crack commando of riggers and drillers, danger men who risked their lives for Signore Sabatini and helped him forge a life away from the Mafioso.


But the men in expensive suits who hid behind mansion gates and bullet proof windows did not forget him and one day, after years of success, after years of living to excess, of taking what and who he wanted, one of those splendidly dressed men came back to Sabatini and asked him to change his views about power.

The man was different now. Sabatini remembered him as middle aged with flowing hair. He was by birth a Baron, he remembered, a man whose history tied him to the ancient Kingdom of Sicily, whose family lands had once encompassed most of the heel of Italy. Yet he was one of the new breed of Mafioso, a man less interested in crime than in corruption and business. He extorted from the weak and he stole from the strong. It was the man’s control of all wealth and all power that made him a prophet to be feared.

He spoke to Sabatini for three hours, almost non-stop and as he spoke the man explained, slowly, carefully and compellingly how great power annihilated everything and everyone.

“Do you, Signore Sabatini, want to taste that power?”


He was unable to reply. His whole life at the point felt empty, his achievements insignificant, his soul unfulfilled. What was life without real power? What was life without the knowledge that presidents and popes, kings and princes, the hierarchy of the world, the men of commerce, the men of land, the oligarchs and computer giants, would one day look at you and know that you held sway over their realm?

The thought excited him. Once again he felt the waves of onrushing instinctive violence. He hadn’t forgotten the feeling, but it had lain dormant, like a volcano, like Stromboli, and now it erupted. That night he raped, twice, and he enjoyed it.

Power allowed you to maim and hurt and soil. Power allowed you to control. And it was control he wanted. Control over everyone.

Sabatini swallowed the brandy.


The rain still cannoned against the windows. He walked to the intercom and flicked the switch, “Captain Nordraak, I’m going below. Don’t disturb me.”


He took the brandy and the glass with him, the cigar chomped between his lips. He walked along the passageway to the state bedroom, took hold of the handle and thrust open the door.

The room was sumptuous. Behind the left and right of the entrance was an en suite, twinned with a dressing room, the doors beech wood panels and varnished to the skin of an ant’s kneecap, glistening in the golden glow from the bedside lamps. The walls were lined with porphyry columns buttressing four big oval windows, a pair each side, thick nets blocking the moonlight. He turned the switch. The room’s centre piece was a huge crystal chandelier, made to order by Swarovski.

Sabatini closed the door. He walked past the couches and coffee tables towards the enormous bed, which seemed to occupy the whole of the far end of the room, and was shaped into a broad oval. It was big enough, he once boasted, for five people.

The girl was sleeping. He licked his lips lasciviously, reached over and yanked away the sheet. She was in the fetal position, naked, curled like a baby, her slim shoulders turned away from him, the slender buttocks taut.

The girl stirred.

Sabatini put down the drink and the cigar and removed his clothes. He knelt beside the girl. She looked small and defenseless. Sabatini’s bulk seemed to dwarf her as he loomed over the sleepy figure.

“My darling,” he whispered, but it came out hoarse and growly, “It’s Marcelo.”

“Hmmm,” she murmured, hardly awake, “What do you want?”

“You know what I want.”


He took the girl’s hand and placed it on his loins.


Sabatini didn’t wait. He reached down, turned the half-roused girl onto her belly and spread her legs, the heart shaped backside rising to meet him as he positioned himself. She whimpered as he thrust forward hard. There was always a tiny resistance when he entered her and Sabatini enjoyed the thrill of conquest the girl gave him. It was always the same, from the very first time he had taken her. She had shrunk from him at first, scared of his size. Now she accepted the punishment and after each initial fight, she became pliant and submitted to the ravishing. An animal creature she even seemed to enjoy the bestial act and encouraged him in his lusts. He didn’t know if she loved him or not, he didn’t care. She fulfilled his needs.

As the moment arrived, the girl’s breasts became hard at the tips and he reached under her, grabbed at the nipples and pinched them until the girl wailed for him to stop. He didn’t stop but screwed his hand tighter as his thrusts matched hers, becoming even more forceful and urgent.

When it was over he tossed the girl aside and relit the cigar.

After a minute or two, when he knew she wanted caresses and sweetness, but she knew he wasn’t going to offer it, the girl rolled out of bed and took a shower. When she returned, he had poured himself a big brandy, dropped ice into it and was reclining against the pillows, sated.

The girl draped herself across him.

“Must we always do it this way?”

“I like it this way. So do you.”

She gripped him a bit tighter, “Sometimes it would be nice to be gentle.”


Sabatini scoffed and took a swig of brandy.

“Please, Marcelo, maybe just once.”

“For what?” he scolded and pushed the girl away, “You forget what I want you for.”

“Sometimes I wonder.”

Sabatini’s eyes, hooked like a vulture’s, scanned her face. Occasionally he found her whining an encumbrance. His hand shot out and snapped across her cheek with a loud crack.


“Don’t be insolent. You like the good life. I can take it from you in a second.”

As he said so, Sabatini clicked his fingers, the movement inches from the girl’s shocked face.

“Don’t forget it.”




#8 chrisno1



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Posted 16 February 2013 - 02:31 PM




Kiev. Again.


Bond looked out at the white and grey landscape rushing up towards him as the Boeing 737, one of the old ones, made its rattling approach to Boryspol Airport. He’d seized the first available flight, courtesy of Penny’s quick reactions. She’d stolen a glance at Bond’s LCD. His reservation had been made while he was still outlining his thoughts to M via the War Room computers. She called it woman’s intuition. Bond called it a miracle worth an expensive dinner. Penny preferred him to come back alive. A fair exchange, he considered.


There was no one to meet him at the airport this time. Bond inspected the mean looking row of taxis, whose drivers stood smoking by their cabs, hats pulled over heads. He took the first one who looked at him. It raised angry voices. Bond threw his luggage onto the back seat of the man’s battered Hyundai and joined it. The car wasn’t metered.


“Khreschatyk, bud’laska.”


The man knew an Englishman when he saw one.


“Three hundred.”

“Two. No more.”


With a shrug, the driver pulled away from the airport, making gestures to his partners in fleecing. He drove like crazy, with no care for the slippery snowy roads, and chose to ignore all but the most vital signals. Bond gripped the door handle as they spun around another corner, convinced an accident might be only a few moments away. They overtook a police car on Pivdennyi Bridge, but it did nothing.


The driver finally yanked the hand brake at the top end of the street. Receding below were the jagged town houses, some boarded, some decrepit, some immaculate. Bond paid, snatched his suitcase and walked to number seventy-nine.


There was no indication which bell rang Lebanov’s flat. Bond worked out the numbers and pressed.


If he expected surprise, there was none.


The slow tones of the part time agent, part time gangster, reverberated through the intercom.


“Mister Bond, please come up.”


The lock clicked open and Bond once again entered the hallway. The light bulb had finally given up its fight and the lobby was in darkness. Bond stepped carefully to the foot of the stairs, took hold of the bannister, and warily made his way up. Lebanov would have good reason to distrust him. M was sure to have filtered back the detail of Bond’s report on the Krylov affair.

The door wasn’t open this time. Bond had to knock. It eased away from the jamb a crack. The bespectacled, gruff man looked at him. Behind the glasses, Bond saw the sharp eyes.


The door was thrust open and Lebanov shoved his cigarette back into his mouth. He was dressed in a crumpled suit. The previously immaculate flat now passed for disheveled. The pressure of gang warfare was telling. Two empty bottles sat on the coffee table. Dust as thick as an ant’s kneecap surrounded them. The once empty desk was littered with papers, scrawled over in ink. A gun, a Vector, was abandoned on the sofa, next to the dip where the big man had sat. The television was loud. It was playing soaps not football.


“So, what do you want?” said the Ukrainian, his back turned, his hand in his pocket.


Previously, Bond recalled, Lebanov was dressed in casuals. He held back.


“Don’t think about it, Lebanov,” he said, cautiously, “We’re still on the same side.”


“Are we?”


Lebanov spun, hand still fixed in a useless fist in his pocket. Bond saw the friction, the intensity. For a moment, he saw too the pain and agony of betrayal. He tried to shake it, but it rested in the blunt eyes and haunted him, like a dead man.


“Of course we are,” he began, “M told you what I need. Can you help or do I have to work alone, in your territory, treading on the toes of your friend Krylov? I’m sure you don’t want me to rub him the wrong way again.”


There was a long silence. If the television hadn’t been so loud, Bond might have heard the man breathing, heard the cigarette sizzle, heard the snowflakes drift off the window sill. Lebanov picked up the remote and cut the sound.

“Go on.”

“I’m sorry if your life’s become difficult, Lebanov. That wasn’t my intention. I did what you asked. One of Krylov’s goons got to me and I killed him. I’d apologise, but the bastard is dead and deserved it. If I hadn’t done it, some other son of a bitch would have - maybe one of your own bastards. Krylov isn’t a fool and you know it. He’d had me tagged from go.” 


Lebanov lifted his fist out of the pocket and extended it, palm stretching empty and open, “You think I don’t know that, Bond?”


Bond took the hand.


“Life is full of surprises,” continued Lebanov wearily, “I am now engaged in a war, yes. As you say, my little plot has exploded badly. I could make a war with you also. It is easy to make an enemy of someone you know. But it is harder to kill them. Now however the unknown faces are problem enough for me. Besides, you may just have succeeded in helping me expand my business, eventually, and I don’t intend to let the opportunity slip by.”


He paused and Bond thought he almost sighed, “Yet the casualties - the casualties hurt.”


Bond checked. Perhaps Lebanov didn’t know about his report. Perhaps M had chosen not to take action. It wasn’t betrayal he’d seen, only loss. Close colleagues, fighters, trusted men, put to the bullet. Now Bond saw why the man drank, why he blotted out life with the television. Eradication, erosion: Lebanov’s mechanism to cope was to bury it under rubbish, the stuff of modern life, disposable, forgettable, like the corpses of the screaming dead.


Bond almost shivered at the ordinariness of the man.


Lebanov sat down.


“So tell me, what do you need?”


“CCTV,” said Bond, taking the same chair he occupied before, “From Split Casino. When I was here a few weeks ago, I saw a man there. He was drunk. A bit extravagant. But I’m certain it was Commodore Adam Goldberg.”


“The dead attaché.”

“The same.”

“And what exactly would that prove?”

“I want to match the digital images.”

“Plastic surgery?” 



“How will you tell?” Lebanov was sceptical. He stood up and went to his desk, pulled out a file and tossed it like a discus to Bond. He caught it before it tipped his knees. Lebanov poured another drink, paused and then poured another for his visitor, “They don’t leave scars like they used to, Bond, and the man had a moustache.”

Bond took the vodka, downed it and opened the file. It was a replica of the pdf he’d seen in London. Stamped over it, in Cyrillic, was the moniker ‘Gulfstream’. Uninterested, he shut the file, tied it and tossed it back. Lebanov let it fall to the floor before he reached down and placed it on the coffee table.

“I’m surprised you still use paper,” said Bond.

“Easier to burn.”

“It’s still on your hard drive.”

“Ah. Too many passwords, too many encryptions; my wife does it. She’s quite an expert. I like to read pieces of paper,” Lebanov raised his spectacles a tad from his nose, “My eyes.”

“Exactly my point,” said Bond, “We may not notice the difference with our eyes, but what about someone else’s?”


“The physiognomist.”

Lebanov’s brows almost rose past the rim of his spectacles.

“The man who reads faces, who reads expressions,” said Bond, “The man who can tell the scared from the confident, the rich from the poor, the good from the bad, the drunk, the crazy, the troublemaker: the man who watches everyone in the casino.”



*****              *****              *****



Ernst was a shrill looking man. He shuffled uneasily in the chair, unused to attention.

This was a man who spent his whole working life glued to a monitor, watching people enter the lobby, watching as they lost, watching as they left. He’d worked for Split Casino since the Orange Revolution, when he’d moved from a brothel in the country, a job that didn’t pay or compensate well. Split was much more comfortable. The last years had been fine. He had a nice flat. He had a fancy woman of his own, when she was desperate, and he ate and drank better than he’d ever have imagined. The only thing that disturbed him was when the police or the gangsters came to ask questions. It was usually the gangsters. But these two strangers were different. They were not Bratva. Cautiously, as his experience and skills allowed, Ernst inspected their faces.

He was vaguely aware of the man in glasses, the slightly hulking, bearlike man whose beard showed signs of age. The man’s picture had been in the papers. A scandal. He remembered it; a shipment of weapons, a murder, a cover up, payments, corruption. The man was not to be trusted, not to be spoken to, he was a man you alerted security about.

The other person was not so easy to read. His manner was almost elegant. There was an economy of movement that suggested stealth, keen intelligence, sudden anger and concealed violence. The shoulders seemed bunched, ready for action. He trod like a lion on the balls of his feet, stalking his prey, mute, patient. Yet he never once appeared nervous. He was at ease, as if where he walked was his environment and his alone. He wasn’t as tall as the Ukrainian, perhaps a shade over six foot, but his presence was magnified by something intangible, a mysterious hidden psyche, something that hid behind the straight laced expression, behind the cut of the jaw, the scar, the parting with the flop of entangled hair, behind the steel blue eyes.

Ernst peered without noticeably squinting. Yes; the eyes had it. They moved separate from the face. They moved alone, shifting across the room, across him, across the Duty Manager, around the walls, searching for danger, as if it lurked everywhere and in everyone. They did it fast, in seconds, and then returned to fall on the poor physiognomist.

“Monsieur Ernst,” said the second man, the Englishman, “I am told you are phenomenal.”

He used the French form of address, which still persisted in the very best casinos, but spoke in dull Russian, good enough to the ear, but lacking the facial expression.


“It is a gift,” stammered Ernst, “I cannot take credit for a gift.”


“I like you already, Monsieur. Listen for a moment. I am trying to find a man. I believe he visited the casino recently. I need you to identify him for me.”

“Of course, Monsieur, anything,” Ernst was glad the task was so simple.

The Englishman handed over two printed A4 pages. The first was a colour digital image, caught from a security camera. It showed a man in a Navy uniform, minus the hat. He was walking towards a security desk. He had a long stride. He was in his mid-fifties, good looking without being particularly noticeable, a few grey hairs and a clipped moustache. He appeared relaxed, slightly bent at the knee and the back, which surprised Ernst, given he was a military man. The image was of only fair quality, but there was something strange about the face. He couldn’t quite pick it. He shook his head and looked at the second sheet.

It was another picture, this one a formal head shot, possibly one for a passport or identity card. Like the first man, this one too was dark haired, dark eyed and moustachioed. The beard was beginning to sport flecks of distinguished grey.

Ernst flipped back between the pictures very fast for a couple of seconds.

“No,” he declared.


“But he was here,” repeated the Englishman.


“I assure you they were not.”



“Yes. These are two different people.”

“No, they are the same man.”


“Forgive me, Monsieur, the images are very poor, but there are two.”


The visitors looked at each other. They talked in English for a moment before the big man, turned to the Duty Manager.

“Could we have the CCTV loop set up? We want to see this man on the camera.”


The Duty Manager hesitated. The big hand came out and grasped the Manager’s shoulder.


“You know it makes sense, Dmitri,” he growled, “Do it for us, please.”


The Englishman had taken back the pictures and was studying them, “Have you seen either of these men?”

“The first one, perhaps, he is familiar, I’m not certain,” Ernst didn’t want to disappoint the visitors, “The image, you understand.”

“Of course.”


The Duty Manager was fiddling with his CCTV monitor, a flat screen positioned on a desk separate to his own. It was split into four images, each one rotating to various points in the casino, gaming tables, the lobby, the lounge, the washrooms. He accessed the library and the screen blanked, showing all but a file list marked with months and years. He clicked on September and searched for the date.

“Where do you want to view it?” he asked.

“I was in the cigar lounge at three a.m. The man was there, with a woman.”

The Manager located the relevant camera and input the time. It took no more than three seconds for the drive to produce a clear, almost cinematic, image of the lounge. Ernst studied it. There was a man sat at the bar. It was definately the Englishman. The two men, real and image, shared the same physique, except for the hair: it was slightly longer on the CCTV. Obviously he’d recently had it cut. In one of the booths sat a couple; a well-dressed gentleman, who was drinking heavily, and a blonde woman. The Englishman pointed to them.

“Can we zoom in?”

The Duty Manager refocused, using the mouse to specify the quarter-frame, and magnified. The image, only slightly blurry, showed the face of the man. Ernst nodded and a broad smile passed across his lips.


“Oh, yes, I see it now. I remember this man. I know him very well. He is quite famous. What do you want with him?”

“Famous?” echoed the Englishman, “Who is he?”

“Cartouche,” announced Ernst proudly, “The mimic.”

“A mimic of voices?”

“And faces. He’s a contortionist, a most remarkable man. Before the Circus closed, he was a big draw. He would impersonate anyone in the audience. He would study them for a few seconds, and then within a moment he would, well, alter himself. It was amazing to watch. Don’t you remember? Cartouche the Chameleon.”

The big man gave a slow nod, “Vaguely.”


“Tell me,” continued the Englishman, “You say this man could impersonate anybody?”

“Not women, or children, obviously, but most men with a similar build and facial structure, yes. He is an undoubted freak of nature. It must take amazing physical strength and muscle control to manipulate one’s face for even a short time. When he arrived that night, I almost didn’t recognize him, it was only later that I recognized who it was. Occasionally his shoulders hunched. It was a very obvious slip, but quite minor if you are not used to seeing these things. He was very drunk when he left, but the face he wore was still the same. I thought he must be doing it to impress the girl. He was speaking English. It was a triumph, even if it was only for love.”

“It wasn’t only for love,” said the visitor grimly. He held out the two pictures, “Which one is he?”


Ernst pointed to the full length picture.

“That man is Cartouche. The other man I have never seen before in my life.”

#9 chrisno1



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Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:49 AM




Bond could see the tip of the high cross on Andriyivska Tserkva from the street outside the apartment building. Down the hill to his right was the funicular, which endlessly ferried people into Podil. Behind him was the reconstructed monastery of St. Michael, its golden domes shining in the hastening evening. The first snowflakes of the night had started to fall, big white balls of ice cold fur. Bond pulled his coat tight as he got out of the chauffeur driven Limousine and followed Lebanov across the street.


It had taken the Ukrainian less than an hour to discover the address of Cartouche. It was no surprise to find he lived in the artistic district. The apartment was one of the newer buildings, Soviet in architecture, a block of unkind stone and cement, stained black by pollution. The windows were equally dark, thick curtains drawn to the frozen air, hardly a grime of light behind them. Lebanov didn’t have a key; he simply rang on each bell until someone answered.


“Gas,” he said in Ukrainian. There was an exchange of crackly conversation. The door buzzed and the two men entered.


Bond removed his thinsulate hat and put it in his pocket. His ears tingled with the change of temperature.


Lebanov ran his finger down the names on the post boxes.


“He’s on the fourth floor,” he said and led the way to the old fashioned elevator, one with manual operated doors. Before he entered, he slipped on a pair of thin plastic medical gloves and handed a second pair to Bond.


“What are you expecting to find?” he asked.


“Something to do with whoever’s employed him. I’m fishing, nothing more.”


“Fishing in a very big lake,” grumbled Lebanov, “You really think you will find clues here?”


“Not really, but it’s as good a place to start as any.”


The lift came to an unsteady halt. The Ukrainian opened the door with a clang of concertinaed iron. He led the way along the dim gallery which surrounded the lift and the stairs. Bond automatically took a brief look over the parapet. There was a shadow cutting across the tiled floor. Someone else had entered the downstairs lobby.


Lebanov was fiddling with the lock. Bond quickly produced his Q-branch key fob, the one containing a series of master keys that  opened 90% of the world’s latch locks.

“Try this.”

“Thank you.”

Lebanov made three attempts before he found the key which fitted. Bond waited. The lift made its slow descent to the ground floor. As the gears started to turn and the cubicle to rise, the two men passed inside the apartment and shut the door. They didn’t turn on the light.

The place had an obscene musty smell. Several small insects jumped from the floor and buzzed angrily at the intrusion.

“Cold for flies,” muttered Lebanov.

“Outside maybe, but it’s bloody hot in here,” replied Bond, “The heating must be right up.”

The place was much larger than Bond had anticipated. Three big living rooms were interconnected, each one looking out towards the street. The walls were paneled with pine boards, varnished until they shone deep chocolate. Behind them ran a kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. These had windows that stared across the Dnieper. There was a computer in the farthest room, a square abode lined on two sides with antique dressers covered in glass ornaments, trinkets from the places Cartouche had visited, the venues he’d starred at. Bond went straight to the computer and turned it on, inserting his USB, the one which contained a code breaker system, a virus by any other name, which could hack into any poorly secured PC. While he let the virus do its work, Bond walked through the other rooms.


Lebanov was flashing a pencil torch along the wall, admiring a series of photographs. Each one showed Cartouche posing as a different person, the real man beside him. Some were famous, he even recognized Dynamo’s star striker, others merely oddballs, people whose faces were curious to look at, a challenge for the mimic.


Bond opened the door to the main bedroom and nearly baulked. The stench hit him first. He flicked on the light.


“Jesus Christ.”


Like the rest of the flat, the room was neat and tidy, except the bed had not been made and a corpse, in a putrid state of decomposition, rested on the sheets. A small mist of flies hung over the sack of rank flesh.  

Lebanov appeared at Bond’s side. He raised a hand to his face in effort to blot the smell. Both men made a cautious journey forwards. The body had been dead a few days, but the hot atmosphere inside the flat had already rotted the skin.


“Cartouche?” queried Bond.


“Goldberg?” asked Lebanov in reply.

Both men shrugged.

“What do you think?”

“I’m no expert,” said Lebanov, “He’s been dead a few days. Identifying features removed. No obvious signs of torture. He was probably poisoned.”


The body was in a terrible state, naked, tied up and crawling with lice and worms. The man’s faeces smothered the bottom of the bed. His hands had been shorn of their finger prints. His teeth had been removed. The nose and eyes gouged out. There wasn’t much else left of the face now. The insects had eaten it. Hiding his revulsion, controlling his gagging reflexes, Bond rifled through the wardrobes, found nothing of interest and turned instead to the dressing table. There were lots of make-up materials on the table top. Men’s and women’s he noted. There was also a packet of contraceptives, unused, and a bottle of musk, Maroussia. Idly, he depressed the plunger and caught a whiff of orange and bergamot. It was a heady flavor that seemed to match the dank atmosphere of the homemade mausoleum. When he was alive, Cartouche obviously preferred his women to smell of orchards.

Lebanov called to him from the living room. The USB had finished cracking the passwords. Bond needed Lebanov’s help to decipher the Cyrillic.


The two men spent several minutes perusing some files, mostly containing promotional materials and family photographs.

“Shall we look at his email?” asked Lebanov.


“Yes. Log in, the USB will hack his password.”

“Can you close that door? The smell is upsetting my stomach.”

Bond shut the door to death and returned to the computer.


“Look at this,” said Lebanov.


Bond leaned over, “What is it?”


“His credit card statement. He runs it online with the F.C.U. Our little impersonator was certainly spending money.”


“Has he used it in the U.K.?”


“I don’t think those charges have come through yet. But he’s been using the card for expensive restaurants, hire cars, prostitutes; look, there’s even one of my establishments listed. Strange; I thought the circus had closed. Cartouche wasn’t working, was he?”

“So either he had a big slush fund or someone was paying him,” reiterated Bond, “For something else.”


“We’ll make enquiries with Federal Credit.”

“It’ll be quicker to hack his current account. Is that online too?”


“I haven’t found it. Of course if my wife was here, she might know what to look for. Women’s intuition, you understand?”

“I’ll take your word for that,” Bond smiled grimly, “What about his other emails?”


“It looks fairly ordinary. He hasn’t hidden anything away. Let me see what I can do.”

Bond went to the window. The twilight had tapered to black. The snow was falling heavy now, white cyclones in the streetlamps, forming blankets on the pavement. Bond noticed a black motorcycle parked askew, its seat now cushioned pearly white. People scurried along the road desperate to get home before the temperature dropped. The apartment block opposite was older than this one, more baroque in style, although it appeared to have been remodeled, possibly after war damage. Bond pressed his hand to the window pane. It was freezing already. A dune of snow was building on the fat sill. There was movement opposite. Bond ducked into the shadows of the floor to ceiling curtain. Cautiously he peered out, aware the glare from the computer screen was illuminating the interior of the room.

Yes, there was someone spying on them, huddled in a big cloak, in a darkened room. Bond could just make out the shape of a head and shoulders caught in brief flickers of aurora. Was that a fleck of blonde hair? Was someone being covered by a blanket against the cold - a child, maybe? It was certainly a long way from the window.

“Any luck?” he asked Lebanov.



Bond said nothing, his eyes focusing on the silhouette across the street. As he watched, cloud cover passed across the moon and the figure disappeared into the blackness of the interior.

“No, wait, here’s something,” Lebanov beckoned, “Six months ago he received payments from a Swiss account; thousands, hundreds of thousands.”

“Get me the number.”

Bond crossed to the computer. He was aware, almost without seeing it, that he was walking toward a single shaft of red light. A digital tracer for an assault rifle. Hell! The huddling shadow, the heavy coat, the blonde head. Bond stopped, half turned, his eyes squinting into the gloom outside, trying to see through the black of the night and the white of the snowfall, trying to see inside the apartment directly opposite, trying to see the assassin.

The armoured bullets exploded through the windows and walls before he’d even seen the lightning explosion of the opposite window shattering. The dull rattle of the gun echoed after the slugs. Bond was diving already, his palms out to break his fall. His chin thumped on the carpet and he slid two or three feet before coming to a halt inches from Lebanov’s boot.

The boot was twitching. The big man was gargling. He’d taken a full salvo in the back. The last throes of life were jerking out of him.


There was no more than three seconds pause and then the bullets came again. Bond shifted a little, edging backwards. Another pause. Another salvo. Damn it to hell.

The bullets kept coming in bursts, an echoing cacophony of snapping bangs, reverberating and shimmering with deadly metallic glee. The computer screen had been shattered. The furniture was splintering, the walls disintegrating. The windows had completely disappeared. Slivers of glass and masonry were flying around the room. Snow swamped in through the big jagged holes in the walls. The wasp sting of the bullets zipped around Bond’s head and legs. He tried to make himself as thin a target as possible, but it was clear the assailant wasn’t interested in targets. This was an exercise in simple destruction. It could have been carried out by a bomb or by fire or even theft. Today the chosen method was an OSV-96.

Used in Chechnya and firing five armoured piercing rounds from a gas propelled barrel this was as deadly as a sniper rifle got. It wasn’t normally used at close quarters. The barrel was designed for long distance precision work. Its fold away design allowed it  to be carried easily in remote terrains. The high penetration bullets spat death at one hundred metres, spat death at five hundred, spat as good as deadly at six hundred. The OSV-96 was a killing machine. Death at any pace.

Bond stretched out a hand. His fingers grasped the electric lead to the PC. He tugged at it and the tower fell over. Bond started to yank it towards him. If he could get the hard drive back to Q Branch and get it analysed, he might just be onto something. If he could get it and if he could get out of this savage little wing-ding.


The chaos continued around him, getting more and more urgent and seeming to kick closer and closer. Bond rolled over, his hand still grasping the wires. Bullets were thudding into the back wall, tearing the pine from its moorings. Wood splinters from the panels dug into the air around him. The big sofa had collapsed into pieces. The photographs were falling from their hooks. Dust, upholstery and snow were forming a billowing cloud, whipped around by the non-stop stream of bullets that poured into the apartment. Bond scrambled through the interconnecting bedroom doorway, shoved the futon onto its side and sheltered behind it. The bullets weren’t penetrating here. The second wall formed a strong enough shield. Bond pulled on the wire. The computer tower inched its way to the corner. It stuck on something. Damn it.

The rolling clapping sound of gunfire continued for a few moments longer. After it came silence. Bond could hear the wind, a gentle whistle, and the cars outside, the engines mulling over. Had the driver’s stopped, frightened by the chaos above or was someone waiting to escape? Bond slipped out from his hiding place and made for the hard drive. He snatched at it just as he heard the double crump of a launcher. An incendiary device was being fired across the short expanse of open space. It looped through the gash in the external wall and rolled towards his feet. It wasn’t even ticking.

Bond abandoned the hard drive tower, took two steps and leapt over the remains of the sofa, throwing himself towards the doorway to the next room. The explosion tore at the air, pummeled the dividing wall and turned everything vivid white. Angry phosphorous flared through the doorway, scorching Bond’s hand as he rolled away. Bond kept moving. He headed for the exit in a fast crouch, half expecting bullets to zing around him. Instead he heard the crackle of rapid flames as the inferno streaked across the carpets, along the walls, the woodchip panels, the paintwork. Everything combustible was catching alight. The place was turning into a bloody incinerator.

Bond crashed against the front door, whipped it open and the closed it, smoke already pouring between the frames. He could hear screams from the other apartments. Someone’s door was open, a person half-out, half-in. Bond made for the stairs, passing the elevator, its concertina iron work propped open.

Instinctively he spun aside, tugging at the Walther P99 in the hip holster. The figure had been standing dead still, but now moved forward into the dim light.

Bond ought to be dead, but the man was hesitating. The gun hand wavered. The eyes were wide with surprise. He hadn’t expected anyone to escape the deluge of smoke and fire.

Bond’s gun arm came out and he squeezed the trigger twice. The man spun back into the lift. Bond joined him, slammed the door shut and hit the buttons. The back-up man was dead. As the lift made its stuttering descent, Bond rifled through the man’s pockets. It was the chauffeur, the short stocky man who drove Lebanov everywhere. He’d had strict instructions to stay in the car. What the hell was he doing toting a gun? Goddamn! There was a mobile phone. Bond flipped it open, read the menu, the call log: Krylov.

The man hadn’t been here for Bond. He wanted Lebanov. It was Krylov’s doing. The Bratva had got to the heart of Lebanov’s operation. The big Ukrainian let his guard down and now he was dead. Station KV was finished. Krylov was triumphant. And Bond had no clues. Or did he? The shoot up of Cartouche’s apartment was too premeditated for Krylov. The friend in the elevator, a concealed gun, was much more the Bratva style. The two incidents weren’t related. It was another blessed coincidence.

The lift ground to a halt. Bond found the keys to the Limousine and left the corpse in the cubicle. He walked through the lobby to the rear of the building. There was an exit. He forced the door and found himself in a car port, a dozen battered vehicles badly parked. Keeping to the shade and his back to the wall, Bond crabbed down the alley and peered around the corner of the building.


A small crowd had formed in the street staring up at the broken fourth floor apartment. The fire would spread. Some people were shouting for the inhabitants of the other flats to get out. Mobile phones were in use. There was a mixture of disbelief and panic. No one knew what to do or how to help. Over the sound of the fire, Bond could hear the unmistakable wail of sirens. He glanced at the building opposite, up at the dark fourth storey window and the assassin’s lair. He had to get inside.

Bond was about to make his way across the street when a figure emerged from the front door, clad in a short bulky blood red coat, the hood up. A back pack, shaped something like a tennis racket, was strapped to the man’s shoulders. The man made his way to the parked motorcycle. For a moment Bond lost him behind the bodies and the snow and the ash. The man had pulled out a helmet from the rear luggage rack. The hood was unzipped and through the melee, Bond saw blonde hair. The helmet came down.


Bond started for Lebanov’s car. He jumped in and inserted the key. The motorcyclist was already away heading for the twisting roads of Andrew’s Descent.


The Limo roared into life. Above the street there was a deafening thunderclap. The whole area in front of Bond became bathed in orange and yellow. Bangs and fizzes continued to echo. Masonry rained down on the street, bounced off the car’s bodywork. Flames were streaking skywards out of the fourth floor, and not only from Cartouche’s apartment, the whole storey was alight. A huge hole had been ruptured in the wall and now the fifth and sixth floors were starting to crumble. Gas! Dear God!

Bond stamped on the accelerator and ploughed past the terrified crowd, which was staggering away from the raw heat of the flames. Wheels kicked snow and grit in the air.

He could see the single red light at the rear of the motor cycle as it shot past the old church and dipped onto the cobbled streets of Uzviz, the winding road leading to Podil. By day this road was littered with artists selling paintings and sculptures, musicians playing for tips, art, craft and knitted clothes stalls, still life artists and food stalls: the perfect place for a mime artist such as Cartouche to learn and ply his trade. The man’s head had been turned from these quaint rainbow colours to the grey of greed. By night the place was as dark as the man’s dead soul.

Bond felt the back end of the Limo slide as he took the first turn. The motorcyclist was still some way ahead. Bond couldn’t see any way of catching him. The steep descent would be too tight for the big car. Bond slowed to keep control of the wheels on the slippery surface. Some people were walking the lanes, arm in arm, huddled together. Alerted by the bike, they watched as the Limo slewed past them, mouths open, curses uttered. Bond flipped the wipers to full. The snowflakes didn’t want to be brushed away and left dirty smears on the glass. Bond struggled to see ahead. Where was the motorbike?

Bond pulled the P99 free and held it loosely in his right hand, one finger through the hand-guard, the others grabbing the steering wheel. He stepped on the gas pedal. The straight was long and downhill. No sign of the bike. Damn. Art galleries sat to the left, frontage illuminated, gates locked. There were alleys, little alcoves, hiding places. Bond’s head switched right and left. Nothing. Nothing to see. He was almost into the turn. He braked, changed into second at the last, took it one handed and felt the car slide. Now, into the straight and into the wind. The snow rushed up to him like big white bullets.

Then it was there. As if from nowhere. Just yards behind to the Limo. The motorbike and rider. Everything happened in a second. He saw movement from the motorcyclist, saw the black snub nosed cylinder on the stanchion between the handlebars and instinctively ducked.

The rear windshield shattered. The tiny machine pistol was blazing. Bond heard the whip crack of the shells as they scythed past his cheek. Deflected by the Limo’s bodywork, the missiles cannoned around the cabin and buried themselves in anything. Bond breathed out a heavy gasp when the cracking, thumping stopped.

His foot slammed on the brake and the Limo swerved dangerously. Bond had no clue about direction. Huddled across the passenger seat, he was unsighted. The car stalled. Bond yanked up the brake. He could hear the boom of the motorbike as it sped past him and fled downhill. He righted himself. The car was sat crosswise over the street. Bond turned the ignition and quickly manoeuvred, yanking at the wheel. 

Whoever the assassin was, they were not merely a competent professional. The OSV had been adapted to take more than the standard five bullet box and had been fitted with a laser sight. The sniper had access to incendiaries and a launcher to fire them. He even had a gadget laden motor bike, not unlike the sort of thing Q Branch kept dreaming up. It stank of another secret service, Russia’s F.S.U., perhaps.

This might be his only opportunity to find out. He heard the engine complain as he shifted up the gears, ignored the scrubby road and powered up to sixty, seventy, god-knows, in an attempt to catch the assassin. The Limo burst onto Borchiv, almost colliding with a bus. There! There he was! As Bond closed in, the bike spun, coming to a standstill facing the oncoming Limousine.

Bond let out an expletive. He knew exactly what was about to happen and had no way of avoiding it. He tore at the wheel. Too late. The bullets ripped into the front wheels. The rubber exploded, the car buckled into the tarmac, grated, stuck fast and heaved over, jackknifing. Bond felt the Limo jerk in mid-air, as if changing its mind about where to fall. The car slammed down on its  driver side. Legs caught in the foot-well, Bond tried to clamber out. He pushed the open the passenger door, felt the Limo totter to and fro. He pulled himself up and out of the car, using the seats as a makeshift ladder.

The assassin was watching him. As Bond raised the P99 to shoot, the man casually steered aside, setting the bike up hill, disappearing between bushes and fences. Bond jumped onto the pavement and sprinted after the bike. He found himself at the entrance to the funicular. The carriage was making its ascent. Alongside it, on the maintenance stairway, Bond could see the motorcycle and rider, the red rear light winking as it bumped up and over the steps, a stairway to safety.

Bond shoved his gun back in its holster. He was aware strangers were starting to stare. He pulled his coat tight and walked up the street. He hailed the first available taxi and asked to be taken to Khreschatyk. He had to get back to Lebanov’s apartment and quick. Who knew what might await him there if Krylov, or the Russians, or whoever, was onto him.

He took one quick look behind him. The sky glowed orange from the destruction of the apartment on Desiatynna. The last few minutes had passed in a blur. The only certainty was Cartouche’s involvement. That and a now incinerated unidentifiable dead body. Bond thought back to the computer, the credit card records and the few extra seconds he might have needed to rescue the drive. The only information he had would need to be processed back at Vauxhall Cross, but that would mean battling against red tape, both British and Ukrainian.

Bond’s mood couldn’t have been blacker. The taxi may as well have been part of a funeral cortege. He’d found nothing in Kiev, nothing he couldn’t have discovered back at MI6 HQ. Now there was only one link left to follow - if M would let him take it.

#10 chrisno1



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Posted 26 February 2013 - 02:07 PM




The emerald pearl of Puerto Rico seemed to stretch out of the sapphire sea. The little sister of the fabled Greater Antilles, those hulking islands which spread away from the Florida Keys, Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola, Puerto Rico matched them for dramatic beauty and exotic wildlife for like all the islands of the Caribbean Basin, she owed her existence to volcanic events. The slow build of lava and igneous rock created a land of mountains framed by forests and coastal plains. Along its heart, rising like a dragon’s spine, is a ridge of dense green rolling peaks, the lungs of the island, almost untouched by humans, one of the world’s last great wildernesses. Bond could just make out the tips of the Cordellia Central as the Airbus 3000 made its approach turn towards Luis Muñoz Marin Airport.


By the time he disembarked, it was a balmy early evening and the sky was already streaked with the oil flames of sunset. As an American dependency, Puerto Rico shared open borders with the United States, so there were no customs. Bond had suffered all those histrionics at Miami International. He collected his luggage, freshly purchased from Duty Free at Madrid and made his way to the arrivals lounge.


Bond scanned the array of faces. He spotted the barrel chested man almost immediately. He was standing apart from the main crowd, chewing on a take-out apple pie and sipping coffee.


Bond breathed in a sigh as he approached the man.


“I’ve been told the weather’s good at this time of year,” he said.


“Only if you like hurricanes.”


“Thunderstorms don’t frighten me.”


“I’m glad to hear it,” the man said as he tossed the pie into a bin and wiped his lips and hands on a serviette, “Michael Camacho. My friends call me Mucho.”


Bond took the surprisingly small hand and shook it.


“James Bond.”


“Good to be working with you, James, welcome to Puerto Rico.”


Mucho didn’t ask for Bond’s luggage. Instead he led the way straight to the taxi rank, where his car, a Wrangler Jeep was parked. He popped the boot and Bond threw his case inside.


“I have a special permit,” explained Mucho, “It’s called bribery.”


Already Bond felt relaxed. He had an undisclosed love affair with the Caribbean. Whenever he was close to the islands, he instantly felt at peace. The bottle green palms, the white acres of beach, the expanse of vast unspoilt sea, the heat of the shores, the cool of the mountains, the twitter of exotic birds, the pungent tang of the hibiscus bushes; all conjured that obscure emotion called apathy, when the senses became over stimulated and the body gave in to the swell of laxity. Here, Bond didn’t need to look at his watch. He didn’t need to exercise. He didn’t need to be tense, to stay on edge, to plan and proceed. He could holiday in tranquility, sleep when he wanted, swim where he liked, eat hot spicy food and drink cheap easy liquor until it hurt.


He’d done so many times. This journey would be different. Bond had to catch himself as he opened the passenger door. Already the atmosphere was bewitching him.


It was humid certainly, but the sweet air only made him perspire gently. It was never uncomfortable. It wasn’t the sticky animal heat of a desert, more one of those sea borne zephyrs, a light purifying breeze that refreshed and warmed. Like the air, the pleasant sound of Spanish vowels buffeted him. Somewhere he thought he heard a young girl laughing. Overhead, another jet plane made its approach, the roar of the engines disturbing Utopia.


Bond sat in and shut the door to the fantasy.


There was work to be done.


Mucho had a big smiling character that matched his bulk. The man clearly enjoyed his food, although his weight and shape looked more to do with hereditary genes than anything he ate. He wasn’t exactly fat, the arms and shoulders and legs were clearly in proportion and the man was as tall as Bond, touching six foot, but he carried a large rotund belly and chest, one that slanted angrily away from his throat and hung several inches over his waist. His complexion was the same ruddy brown as the island’s Latino population and was accented by a thick squab of black hair.


Mucho’s homely, conciliatory façade hardly lasted longer than a few minutes into the drive along Highway 52. As soon as the first car cut him up, Mucho barked on the horn and yelled: “Cabron!”


He turned to Bond, grinning, “It means ‘son of a bitch’. Puerto Ricans are terrible drivers. You think we’d learn. After all, we don’t walk if we can drive.”


“Not at all?”


“From the car to the beach,” he smiled again, “If you walk it’s a sign that you’re poor and no one wants to be poor, especially not in San Juan. You’ll see. Nobody walks anywhere in Puerto Rico.”


Witnessing the buildup of traffic, Bond believed it. He settled into the bucket seat and let Mucho handle the madness, his thoughts only interrupted by “Cabron!”


Bond was lucky to be here at all.


Twenty or so hours earlier, he’d made a two minute stop at Lebanov’s apartment and collected his bag. The television was still on. He’d made the taxi wait and the grateful driver, who’d not had a decent fare all day, took him to the airport. Bond spent a few minutes in the washroom, straightening his clothes and his grime covered face, and then paid for the first available seat on a flight out of Kiev. It was an Aeroflot and by chance it was heading to Madrid.


Gaining time travelling west, Bond rested on the flight. Once safely at Barajas Airport, he found a secluded corner of the check-in concourse, turned on his Siemens and called the emergency line. He was through to Tanner in less than a minute.


“What the devil’s gone on, James?”


“You’ve heard then?”


“M’s apoplectic. What happened?”


“We were set up. Twice. First by Lebanov’s nemesis, Krylov, and second by someone else. I don’t know who, but they were an expert. I was lucky to get out unscathed.”


“I suppose it’s too much to ask if you found out anything useful?”


“Yes; too much. Put me onto M, Bill, I have to ask a big favour.”


“He’s not in a kind mood.”


“Nor am I,” cut Bond, “I almost got killed a few hours ago.”


There was a brief pause as the secure network was patched in. Bond assumed M was still in the War Room, surrounded by numerous heads of department, perhaps even the Defence Minister, champing for his attention. Bond imagined the good side of M’s face twitching.


“OO7,” was the rasping welcome.




“I understand you’ve been in the wars,” the voice was tinny. Yes, he was on a speaker phone. It was definitely the War Room, “What are you doing in Madrid?”


They’d traced him through his passport. It wasn’t his own, this one called him James Stock, but every time he used it, or any of his other six aliases, Bond was immediately informing his superiors of his whereabouts.


“I needed to get out of Kiev fast. I take it you know Lebanov’s dead?”


“Yes. Of course we’ve denied any knowledge to the SZRU,” there was a pause, “Looks like you got your wish.”


The retort was designed to sting.


“I was wrong about Lebanov,” replied Bond flatly, “Nobody deserves to die like that, Sir. I wouldn’t call him a decent man, but he was thorough and he didn’t bear grudges, except against the Bratva and that’s what killed him.”


“Go on.”


“Krylov had infiltrated Station KV. The chauffeur, Lebanov’s right hand man, was the intended assassin. Unfortunately some else got to Lebanov first. Instead, the chauffeur nearly killed me. I recommend we close down Station KV immediately.”


“Noted, but too late,” savaged M, “It’s already been done. Q Branch remotely copied and erased his computer files. His wife has been ordered to the safe house. We’re arranging a pick up from there, probably via Krakow. You should have phoned this through from Kiev.”


“I didn’t consider it safe in Kiev, Sir.” 

“Nowhere is safe anymore, Bond. What sort of world do you think you’re living in? You should have called a priority code and got out through the standard operating channels. That would have been safer than taking a traceable flight to Madrid.”


“Sorry, Sir, I considered it the best option at the time. The other assassin was an unknown quantity.”


“Details, OO7.”


Swiftly, succinctly, Bond outlined what he knew of the shooter. The report took no more than a minute. When he finished, M sniffed, “What are you thinking?”


“The Russians,” answered Bond, “The FSB has been snooting around our defence program for some time. I remember we had to clear up that mess at Reflex Galileo Systems and we know Trident III is considered as an aggressive step by the Kremlin.”


“Don’t be ridiculous, Bond.”


This was from the Defence Minister, who as Bond suspected was still holding court at the War Room. His presence during what amounted to a disciplinary interview would be profoundly upsetting to M, who liked to keep his public slate clean.


“Hijacking a nuclear weapon would be a clear breach of national sovereignty,” the Minister continued, “It’d be close to a declaration of war.”


“They may not have been primarily responsible, Minister,” Bond said slowly, “The assassin could have been employed by a terrorist organization - for a fee. It would defer blame and provide confusion when we need clarity.”




“What do you mean, OO7?” urged M.


“I haven’t told you about our dead friend Adam Goldberg.”


Bond wanted to see his superior’s expression. Caught off guard, no doubt. Bond didn’t want to rub his nose in it, but the assassin, whatever his nationality, wasn’t important. He knew it; they needed to understand it.


“What did you find out?” M’s tone rose a note, intrigue humming through the enquiry.


“Goldberg’s got a double, a doppelganger. I’ve seen the photographs. The two men do look remarkably similar.”


“Who is this man?”


“A rather brilliant mimic called Cartouche the Chameleon.”


Away from the speaker, Bond could hear Tanner calling out for information on anyone called Cartouche.


“Lebanov and I were searching his apartment when we were attacked. Someone was very keen for us not to get access to his computer and they pretty much succeeded. We know he’s accepted huge fees from a Swiss account. I don’t have the numbers, we didn’t have the time,” - more words and instructions rattled - “But Cartouche was clearly identified to us as the man in the CCTV footage from A.W.E. It was the mimic who died in the car crash. Goldberg was killed in the Ukraine.”


“Are you sure of that?”


“I can’t be 100% certain, Sir, because I can’t get the evidence now. There was something else in the apartment: a dead body. I didn’t see any natural identification marks, because the fingerprints and teeth had been removed to prevent it. None-the-less, I think it was Goldberg.”


“How do you suggest he got there?”


“Goldberg was conveniently sick, remember. He could have been smuggled in and out of the UK using Cartouche’s legitimate passport. We know Trident III couldn’t have been reloaded without the security signals and it looks like someone extracted the codes from him. Whoever organized the hijack used the doppelganger to breach A.W.E. and change those codes.”


“But if Goldberg wasn’t the man on the inside,” interrupted the Minister, “If he wasn’t a double agent or idealist, some sort of terrorist, then why betray the codes?”


“He isn’t trained against torture, Minister,” answered M.


“Or they might have used leverage,” continued Bond, “Blackmail, for instance.”


There was a pause. In the back ground, Bond heard Tanner say it: “Gabriella Martelli.”


“His daughter,” reiterated Bond, urgently, “Do we know where she is?”


“We checked that earlier,” now Tanner’s voice was loud, “She’s in Puerto Rico. Nothing untoward there.”


“We don’t know that,” stated Bond, “Sir?”


“Yes?” M caught his query.


“I’d like to follow her. She’s our only tangible link to Goldberg. It’s a long shot, I know, but it’s the only avenue we’ve got.”


“You said that about Kiev.”


“Yes, Sir, but I’m not usually wrong twice.”


There was an even longer pause. Bond could hear low voices and the tip tap of keyboards. M came back, his tone hardly cheerful, “I don’t like it, OO7, whether you’re right or wrong, your intuition isn’t as reliable as hard data. We can’t afford any more fire fights.”


“Then put me in with the good guys,” said Bond, “The CIA have a presence in San Juan. I’ll work under their jurisdiction.”


M’s expression probably crumbled. Shacking up with the CIA was tantamount to admitting the S.I.S. wasn’t up to scratch. Bond could hear mutterings. His boss was receiving instructions.


“It makes sense, I’ll give you that,” M’s reply was forced, “We’ll book you on a flight to San Juan via Miami. I’ll speak to Langley.”


“Any instructions, Sir?”


“Don’t miss the flight. We’ll leave contact details for you at M.I.A.”



*****              *****              *****


Bond had picked up the sealed envelope when he confirmed his transfer seat to San Juan. The girl at the American Airlines desk gave him a wide smile as she handed it across the counter. Bond opened it, read it, tore it and flushed it down a toilet bowl. The recognition code had been all it contained, plus a brief description of the CIA’s man in Puerto Rico: a big man with a grin, half Balinese, half American and an apple pie in his hand.


It had been easy to spot Michael Camacho.


Bond knew the Central Intelligence Agency ran a number of stations around the world. It was standard procedure for most secret service organisations. Some operated covertly through an Embassy, utilizing members of the visa, imigration and asylum departments; others were not directly affiliated to the agency and worked outside of official lines, much like Lebanov had done. As Puerto Rico was virtually a US state, there was no embassy or consulate on the island, so Bond assumed Mucho would manage a solo operation, although his station was probably known to the police.


Mucho angled the Wrangler Jeep across the traffic and entered Ashford Avenue, the main drag of San Juan, a street that wound lazily past hotels and restaurants and apartment blocks, each one staring out at the deep Atlantic surf. The city and its districts spread away from the airport along the north shore trapping three lagoons and marching on towards Puerta de Tierra, the peninsula where the old town had its roots. Here at its apex sat El Morro, that grand castle edifice of Spanish colonialism, an impregnable fortress that once repelled the might of the Royal Navy, but was now engaged only in a fight against the elements. As they drove into the hotel district of Condado it started to rain.


“You just missed a hurricane,” said Mucho, “This’ll be the last of the tail. It’ll pass over in a few hours.”


“Was it close?”


“No. They downgraded it to a tropical storm and she pretty much blew herself out over the Atlantic. It took a few days. Touch and go for a while.”


“I expect you get used to it.”


“You don’t. It’s always a shock.”


Bond wanted to change the subject. He hated talking about the weather. It was such an English thing to do. “Where are we heading?”


“The Marriott,” Mucho answered, “You need to freshen up. I booked you a suite on the sixteenth floor. You’ll like it.”


“Is it courtesy of the CIA?”


“No. I invoiced your boss.”


“He won’t like that.”


“I couldn’t risk it,” said Mucho before shouting a vicious “Cabron!” He grinned, “My boss isn’t too hot on you being here, James; says it’s a goddamn imposition.”


“And what do you say?”


“I say it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened here in eight years.”


“How long have you been stationed here?”


“Eight years.”


“You know what, Mucho?” Bond announced cheerfully, “I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble working together.”


The Marriott was a block of unfriendly stone twenty flights high, but Bond couldn’t fault the service. The reception was impeccable from start to finish. Bond had a three room suite, bedroom, bathroom and lounge, with a sea view balcony. Everything was in neutral colours. It was exactly what he’d expect from a large chain hotel, functional, clean and unexciting. Bond deposited his bag, stripped and took a two minute shower.


Dressed in slacks and a clean shirt, he met Mucho in the Residents Bar, which backed onto the beach. A dripping wet bottle of El Presidente was sitting at the bar waiting to be drunk.


They took a seat under the awning and watched the big drops of rain arrow straight down, hissing as they impacted on the hot surf. The waves rolled along the beach, the white breakers visible only when caught in the shadow of light. Beyond it Bond saw nothing but darkness except for the blurred outline of a yacht, anchored about a mile or so offshore.


“So what did your boss tell you?” said Bond, lighting a cigarette. He offered them to Mucho, but the big man declined.


“Keating was all heart as usual,” scoffed Mucho, “Of course I already knew about the missing Trident. It came through as a Priority One Top Secret. I’d been asked to put some feelers out, in case any of the local fishermen had seen anything, or any of the cruise passengers, but I hadn’t turned up a thing. I was kind of surprised when Keating’s call came through. He doesn’t usually cooperate with anyone.”


“It falls under NATO security. He probably couldn’t turn the request down.”


“Sure, but he did it with his teeth and his ass clenched,” Mucho glugged half his beer in one swallow, “Anyway, I had a chance to look at the reports London sent me. I wasn’t interested in the Goldberg angle. If he’s alive, he’s probably in cohorts with these terrorists anyway. If he’s dead -” Mucho left the sentence unfinished.


“What about the Martelli girl? Do you think we can track her down?”


“I can do better than that,” grinned Mucho, “I’ve already found her.”


“You have?” Bond was startled. This was better than he hoped. “Where is she?”


“Right there,” Mucho pointed with his half empty bottle.


Bond followed the glass finger. It was directed towards the yacht.


“She’s on a boat?”


“That’s right.”


“Whose boat is it?”


“It’s called The Sun Chaser,” started Mucho, “And it’s owned by Marcelo Sabatini, Head of Explorazione Professionale. I’m sure you’ve heard of them: one of the world’s biggest oil and gas exploration companies, major holdings in Central Asia and the Gulf of Mexico. The firm upset the stock markets a couple of years ago by deciding to go green. Now ExPro spends most of its energies researching geothermal power. Sabatini himself is multimillionaire, possibly a billionaire. He’s a playboy, a gambler, a good cause enthusiast, all the usual trappings of wealth, good clothes, good food, wine and women.”


“Or woman.”


“Precisely. When I first saw the girl’s name it didn’t register at all. But when I saw the picture I immediately recognized her. She's stayed out here most of the summer, went to plenty of parties and functions, usually with Sabatini. I couldn’t comment on their exact relationship. I guess they’re an item of some sort.”


“What’s Sabatini doing here?”


“Well, he has this geothermal research establishment called Sea World, it’s all a bit hush-hush, but he talks a lot to the press about saving the planet for future generations. It sounds like a gimmick to me. His company’s been polluting the earth for years and he’s never given a damn before.”


“Maybe he’s developed a guilty conscience.”


“Maybe he smells money,” Mucho finished his beer, “You know what these corporate bastards are like, they give with one hand and take with the other.”


Bond was enjoying the conversation. He’d already taken a liking to Mucho, but his cynicism moved the man up a few notches by his estimation. This was no sleeper agent. He knew the landscape of where he lived, understood the society and the people who occupied it. Bond offered to buy another beer and they sat watching the rain ease. Gradually the grey shape of The Sun Chaser was revealed, illuminated at its bow and stern and along the line of port holes. She looked to be a sleek, modern affair, but she sat very low in the water. The Sun Chaser was designed for speed as well as comfort.


“That’s one of the reasons I booked you into the Marriott, James,” said Mucho, “You can watch her from your suite.”


“Very thoughtful. Is the girl on board right now?”


“I think so. I’ll check with Maritza. She’s my assistant. I’ve had her watching the boat since we found her.”


Mucho made a call and spoke in rapid Spanish. There had been no movement from the yacht.


“Tell her to stand down,” said Bond, “We’ll start a proper watch in the morning. As long as the boat doesn’t move, Gabriella Martelli isn’t going anywhere.”


“Okay, that’s fine,” replied Mucho, “Do you want to eat?”




“Great, I know a place. We can meet there. You’ll like Maritza.”


It was called Via Appia and was a clapboard eatery and bar with cold beer and a short unfussy menu. Mucho seemed to be on first name terms with the proprietor and most of the diners. He waved across the dining hall and the couple at the far table waved back. Mucho led Bond to the terrace which backed into a small garden overhung with big palms to keep the last of the rain off their heads. They’d only just sat when a voice called out for Mucho in Spanish.


He half stood. A curvy, attractive woman was dodging tables and making her way towards them. She had ash blonde hair, cut to a swirl at her long neck, and a fine figure, the original hourglass, bosomy, thin at the waist, full at the hips and long legs which this evening she hid beneath jeans.Her belly flashed as her blouse fluttered.


“This is Maritza Dominguez, my assistant,” introduced Mucho, “Maritza; James Bond.” 


“Hola, Maritza, como estas?”


“Ah, muy bien, but we can speak English, Mister Bond.”


“It’s James.”


Three beers came, Medallia Light this time, and they ordered pizza. They talked about travel, about the differences between Britain and Puerto Rico, and America and Puerto Rico, and Cuba and Puerto Rico. Maritza was eager to talk. She spoke in quick snappy sentences, her accent a mix of Latino and Southern States. Bond discovered she’d attended college in Louisiana.


“Why did you come back?” he asked.


“You can’t forget your country. This is a lovely island. I had a business degree. I wanted to give something back. Then I met Mucho and he offered me a job as his secretary. I guess I got distracted.”


“There’s still time to use that degree,” said Bond, “What about you, Mucho? How did you end up here?”


“A failed romance,” he said, spreading his arms, “I followed a beautiful woman here from Bali. She worked the cruise ships. I worked in a bar for a while. I was a teacher for a while. Then I was a surfer. I was a beach bum. I was a drunk too. But I knew everyone and everybody knew me. People like me, James, and I like people. I was perfect for the Agency. I didn’t even have to apply. They came knocking at my door.”


The food arrived, huge 14” deep pans smothered in local mozzarella and tomatoes, drizzled with smoked ham, red hot jalapenos and olive oil, decorated with a single sprig of basil. It was extremely filling and totally delicious.


“Outside of Italy, this is probably the best pizza I’ve ever eaten,” complimented Bond, “All it needs is a bottle of Chianti.”


“Wine is expensive here,” chirped Maritza, “You must keep drinking beer, James. All men drink beer or spirits in Puerto Rico. You wouldn’t be considered a man otherwise.”


“That may work for the locals, but I’m English. Anyway, luckily, I’m rather partial to spirits.”


“You like rum? We have some excellent Puerto Rican rum. Try Don Q Cristal.”


“I prefer vodka or scotch. I’ll drink bourbon at a push.”


“You are not going to blend in if you don’t try to act at least a little bit like the locals,” Maritza looked disappointed, “You must try, James, at least a little.”


“Maritza wants you to stay up late and party like she does,” laughed Mucho.


Bond caught a look of reflection in the cheerful eyes. Maritza merely smiled. They were a well matched team. Bond liked them both. They acted as if they knew each other very well, too well, but other than the brief kiss of greeting, they never touched each other. Bond tried not to think on it. They were his team now, his back up, his local eyes and ears. Tomorrow there would be work to do and he wanted to be fresh and revitalized.


Bond pushed his plate away. The final piece of pizza had beaten him.




#11 chrisno1



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Posted 28 February 2013 - 12:51 PM




Bond woke early and headed straight to the balcony. He pulled the pajama coat over his naked body and stared out at the flat silver sea and the white yacht that sat astride it. So close, so big, he wanted to reach out and touch it. Bond already felt frustrated. He’d gone over possible scenarios in his head, each one a different way to introduce himself to Gabriella Martelli. They all seemed horribly fascile. He needed a moment of serendipity.


Bond showered and shaved. When he returned to the bedroom the sun had made its journey over the horizon and the first hot pangs of the day were tickling the air. He returned to the long windows, only for a cursory look, when he thought he saw a movement on the yacht. Someone was walking along the starboard gangway to the forward deck.


Quickly Bond grabbed his Siemens from the bedside cabinet and switched on the camera, moving it to zoom. Courtesy of Q Branch, the close up was far more powerful than any conventional mobile. On the digital display he had a clear magnification of the boat. He’d been correct. Bond breathed in.


She was naked.


She walked confidently, either because she knew she was alone or because she knew she was being watched and didn’t care. Bond blinked and rescanned the rest of the boat. It was the former. He couldn’t see another soul on deck. Oddly, he wondered if they had security cameras on board, but dismissed the thought as an irrelevancy. If the girl wanted to expose herself, that was her choice. He zoomed even closer.

Her skin was like melted butter, in the moment just before it burns in the pan, when it turns dark, caramel and mysterious. She looked flawless, she wasn’t even breaking sweat. There were no distinguishing marks, no tattoos, no scars, not even a BCG mark. She wore a slim bracelet on her right wrist, a clasp of interwoven gold and silver. She walked with a gentle sway, as if she wore heels, the hips gyrating to her footfalls, the shoulders in time with the hips so the breasts, proud, up right and beautifully sculpted, moved with them. The tight backside showed hardly an ounce of fat and dovetailed to the long athletic legs. She had lustrous black hair, shiny in the sun, and as it fluttered with the breeze, she made no attempt to brush it away.   

The girl carried a large beach towel that obscured her. As Bond watched she dropped it beside the plunge pool and for a brief tantalizing few seconds he saw her revealed. The buttery skin continued hairless to her plump sex. Bond exhaled long and hard. The moment was gone and the girl stepped into the pool. She did no more than tread water, a few lazy breast strokes, before the swim seemed to bore her. She jumped out and sat on the edge of the pool, her hands behind, palms down and her body facing the sun.


Now Bond could only see her side on, but he sensed the first unmistakable twinge of lust. His breathing became heavy. His heart was beating harder and faster. A single bead of sweat formed under his fringe and slowly, gently trickled its way down his cheek to his freshly shaved chin. Her natural behaviour, simple among the exotic, was profoundly arousing. 

After fifteen minutes the girl picked up her towel and wrapped it around her body, tucking it into her cleavage, and disappeared inside the main deck. Bond tried to follow her using the camera, but he couldn’t trace her movements. He sat down on a chair, almost shaking with excitement. She was more gorgeous in real life than in the pictures.

This wasn’t going to be easy. Women as spectacular as that were prey to stalkers and chancers. If he wanted to make an approach he had to do it warily, not too cheekily. He had to find some common ground, an interest they shared. Swimming, he thought, or food maybe, or Italy. Yes, she was half Italian, perhaps that was it.

Bond stared back at The Sun Chaser, wishing she would reappear, clothed or not, so he could have one final look at her before they ceased to be alone. God, she was beautiful.


*****              *****              *****



Mucho and Maritza paid him a visit before breakfast. They arrived with a laptop and a suitcase full of equipment, tripods, a shade, a digital camera and day-night vision binoculars. While Mucho busily erected the kit on the balcony, Maritza made coffee and toyed with her twirl of blonde hair.


“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, thank you,” Bond answered, “I had rather an interesting wake up call.”

He told them about the girl’s naked swim, neglecting to mention she was naked.

“You could hardly fail to recognize her,” he concluded, “She looks and moves like a model. What do we know about this girl?”

“Bits and pieces,” answered Mucho, “Date of birth, education, nothing much. She’s been living in Sicily since her parent’s divorce.”


“Do we know how she met Sabatini?”

“Well, she wasn’t a model,” answered Maritza, “I expect I could find out, given time.”

“What do we know about her movements, I mean generally?” continued Bond, “You said she was here all summer?”

“I can’t say,” replied Mucho, “Do you want Maritza to look into that too?”

“Sure why not. Listen, I’m hungry. Mucho, why don’t you take the first watch and I’ll treat Maritza to the Marriott’s breakfast.”

“Go on,” teased Maritza, half an hour later as she bit into honeyed toast, “What do you really think of Miss Martelli?”

“I’ll tell you when I meet her,” replied Bond, “I’ve been thinking, Maritza, there must be some way I can introduce myself. If you were a rich bored young woman of leisure, what would you do with your time?”


“I’d probably buy a stable of horses, though I guess most women like to shop. There’re two malls, Plaza Las Americas and Plaza Carolina. If you want to be really exclusive, the Galería Botello sells brand new works of art. But I’ll tell you what most of the -rich bitches do in this town. They go to Club Spa El Sol and get pampered. Massages, waxes, hair, nails, facial scrubs, there’s even tanning beds, although God knows most girls are brown enough already.”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s in Miramar, Avenue Ponce de Leon,” smiled Maritza, “You may have some trouble getting in though.”

“Why’s that?”

“It’s for women only.”

“I’ll remember that.”

He sent Maritza back to Mucho’s HQ and returned to his suite where Mucho was already tucking into a plate of sandwiches.

“Did you get those from room service?” asked Bond.


“I hope my expense account’s going to stretch to this. Which reminds me: I’d best update London on progress.”

Bond used the lap top and fired off a rapid communique, explaining Gabriella Martelli was a guest of Marcelo Sabatini and was staying on his yacht. He asked for any appropriate equipment to be forwarded by Q Branch.

They watched all morning and into lunch, using their own eyesight mostly and only resorting to the binoculars when they saw a new character appear on deck. It was a slow process. They took photographs, downloaded them and ran identification checks. Remarkably, the crew appeared to be a bona fide crew, without a scratch to their name. Bond didn’t believe it for a minute. His general experience of sailors, born from his years in the Royal Navy, told him that all sea dogs had something to hide. That was  often why they’d taken to the ocean in the first place.

Easily bored, Bond left Mucho to it mid-morning and organized a hire car, a Chrysler Sebring soft-top convertible. It was expensive, he knew, but its big 3L Mitsubishi engine coupled with the soft suspension, allowed a driver to shift effortlessly through the five-speed gear box. He’d enjoy driving it. The car was delivered to him within the hour. He gave it a brief  inspection, tested the retractable top and signed the chit.


Back in the suite Bond was still intrigued by The Sun Chaser herself. It seemed such a waste to tie up so beautiful a yacht. Most millionaires would be showing her off.

“What do we know about this yacht? How long has she been moored here?”

“She’s been here over a year, on and off,” answered Mucho, his eyes glued to the binoculars, a sandwich in his hand, “She weighs anchor every so often to take trips around the Caribbean, probably to the Sea World site. But she always comes back, usually after a couple of days.”


“Can I get a list of her reported movements?”

“Do you think Sabatini’s involved in this?”

“The girl’s been with him all summer. If someone was blackmailing Goldberg, he’d be the perfect candidate.”

“And he could do it without her even noticing.”

“My thoughts exactly,” said Bond, “She acted like she hadn’t a care in the world this morning. Either she’s unaware of what’s happening or she’s in it up to her neck.”

“You don’t just think it’s an unfortunate coincidence?”

“I’ve had a few of those recently, Mucho, none of them are unfortunate.”

Suddenly Mucho waved his sandwich arm.

“Wait, James, something’s happening.”

Bond picked up the extra pair of field glasses, “Where?”

“See, by the lounge, the girl’s come out; looks like she’s dressed to go somewhere.”

Bond saw. She wore a pair of tight pants, flared at the ankle, and a cropped lycra top, short of her belly but high at the neck, sunglasses rested in her hair. Sabatini was escorting her, a big hand on her back. It was the first time Bond had seen the man. He was a big, square shouldered specimen. Even at distance Bond could clearly make out his distinctive gait, proud like a gladiator. The sun flashed on the dome of his skull.

The girl stepped to the pontoon deck and was helped into a motor launch by a crew man. Bond had seen this man a few times already, a pug-faced, bald, tough looking cuss. The motor launch began its approach. As they watched, Bond got the impression it wasn’t heading to the main harbour. That would have meant rounding the peninsula. It seemed to be making for a section of the coast a little further west.

“Where are they going?” asked Bond.

“Probably the Plaza Hotel,” said Mucho, “There’s a private beach with a jetty.”

“How do I get there?” Bond snatched the keys to his car.

“Straight up Ashford Avenue. There’s no quick way, its jammed most of the time.”

Bond had already gone. He was sprinting out the door and down the corridor. He made it to the Chrysler in two minutes, but it felt like twenty. In the elevator he’d punched in Mucho’s number.

“I need you to be my eyes, Mucho, tell me what she’s doing?”

“She’s still in the boat. Where are you?”

“Car port,” Bond roared out of the Marriott’s drive and headed up Ashford Avenue. Mucho was right, it was a straight road and the Plaza Hotel sat big and bold at its end, just before the bridge over the Condado Lagoon. Bond could see it almost as soon as he turned out of the drive. The double lane avenue was a crawl. Bond indicated to cut in.



“I see you’re getting the hang of the local driving techniques,” chuckled Mucho, “The boat just docked, James. She’s getting out, having a set to with the crewman. He’s pointing at his watch. They must be on a time schedule.”

Bond skipped a red light, raised his hands in mock apology and shouted “English!” while accelerating to gain time and places.

“Where’s she going, Mucho?”

“Can’t see, she’s disappeared behind the hotel,” Mucho paused, “I’m switching to CCTV, I’ve got a live link with the hotels. They don’t know about it of course.”

“I should hope not.”

“I use it to spot movie stars.”

“Of course you do,” Bond slammed into third and powered through another changing light, “Well?”

“One moment, let’s see, Plaza Hotel, lobby cam, bar cam, car park, lobby 2. Got her, James, she’s heading outside. I can only see  her back. She’s walking to a car. I think it’s a Honda, one of the new ones.”

“Give me the number.”

“Can’t see it; it’s a light blue convertible.”

Bond cursed. He was still shy of the Plaza. The road was lifting, heading for the bridge. There, did he see it - a light blue car, a small sports version, turning out of the hotel’s approach way? Bond could only edge forward towards the hotel. He was too late.

“I think I lost her,” he told Mucho, “I’ll be in touch.”

Resigned to failure, Bond pulled down his sunglasses. Casually he looked at the buildings left and right, the small apartments and supermarkets. He almost didn’t notice it. The light blue Honda, the top down, a girl with black hair driving, expensive shades pushed on her nose. She was heading in the opposite direction! Dammit! Bond made a U-turn as soon as he could, making the locals angry again as he staunchly refused to obey road sense. He thought he was fitting in quite well; Mucho would be proud. 

Bond couldn’t see the car and he wasn’t sure where he was going, but instinct told him to follow the signs for Miramar. Absently he flicked on the app for his phone’s GPS and punched in Club Spa El Sol. Sound down, he followed the route indicated, sweeping him onto Luisa, under Highway 26 and onto Avenue Ponce de Leon.

The spa was set back from the road. It looked more like an unfashionable restaurant, all red brick and tinted windows, hidden behind palms and the sign illuminated in blue neon lights. Bond drove through the open gate and parked. A satisfied grin passed over his lips. There sat a cobalt blue Honda Jazz, what the American’s called a Fit. It was the sports version, the rare convertible, low slung, wider wheels. The top was still down.

There was a terrace surrounding the left hand side of the building. One solitary woman was reclined on a wicker armchair, waving a Chinese fan. Her eyes followed Bond as he strode to the front entrance and through the door.


He was in a clinically clean reception room which smelt of lavender and sea salts. The walls were peppered with photographs showing the various treatments carried out past the double doors marked ‘Welcome’ in several languages. There was a neat see-through desk and a young man sat behind it, tapping idly at a keypad and gazing at a LCD. He wore a starched white smock and slacks. His name tag read ‘Craig’.


“Hello, Craig.”

The young man almost jumped, but he recovered himself quickly, “Good afternoon, Sir, may I be of assistance?”

“I hope so, Craig. I was wondering if you had a guest membership policy. I’ve only just arrived in San Juan and I want to be pampered.”

The young man stood up. He was willowy and stick thin, with no backside. Bond nearly took a defensive step back.

“Well, Sir, I’m afraid there is rather a big problem,” Craig’s eyes seemed to measure Bond in inches rather than feet, “You appear to be a man.”

Bond had forgotten Maritza’s warning.


Craig felt it necessary to elaborate, “And this is a women’s only spa.”

“But you’re a man.”

“But I’m not that sort of man.”

“I see. Does this mean we’ve reached an impasse?”

Craig considered the problem. He was a spotty lad, Bond noted, still kicking adolescence out of his system. Bond wondered if he ever used any of the spa’s beauty treatments.

“I’d be very disappointed,” started Bond, “You see El Sol was recommended to me,” he paused, “By Miss Martelli.”

“Oh, Gabi!” cooed the youngster, “She’s delicious! Are you friends?”

“We will be. Can I see her?”

“Well, now gosh, I don’t know if I should, oh gosh,” Craig was suddenly all fingers and thumbs and exclamations, “Well, if you like, I could let you into the lounge, if you really want, but not the spa itself; that really wouldn’t do. The lounge, yes, the lounge would be fine.”

He fiddled with the register, “I will need you to sign in, please, Mister, ah?”

“James Bond.”

“What a delightfully cute name!” Craig gushed. He seemed to love a conspiracy, “Is there anything I can get you? Do you want coffee? I can get you some herbal tea? We do a very good tisane.”

“Coffee would be fine. Black, please.”

“Strong and black?”

“Yes. Strong and black; thank you, Craig.”

“Thank you, Mister Bond; you just wait inside, through there. When Gabi’s through with her session, I’ll send her out to you. Oh this is so exciting!”

Bond forced a smile and passed into the lounge. It was in the same anodyne white, even down to the cups and saucers and the cutlery. There was group of middle aged women in the lounge, five of them, drinking sweet smelling fruit tea and gossiping. Their chat came to an abrupt halt as Bond entered and almost as one the immaculate coiffured heads and Botox lips turned to gauge him. One of them, he thought, might have gasped. When he did no more than remove his sunglasses and tuck them into the top pocket of his shirt, they turned away, but their voices became almost inaudible. Bond took a seat at a free table in the centre of the room.


Craig came back in a few minutes with a steaming cup on a tray.

“Coffee, Mister Bond, and mints for your breath,” he declared, “Always good to stay fresh. Is there anything I else can get you? We have magazines and a portfolio, if you’re interested.”

Hearing the staff address him personally seemed to instill confidence in the women and their conversation returned to its normal volume.

“Tell me, Craig, how long has the Club been open?”

“Six years.”

“I understand business is very good. You have a very exclusive clientele.”

The remark wasn’t lost on the chattering women. One of them huffed.

“We pride ourselves on offering the client total privacy,” Craig said, “It’s so important to a lady these days. The expectations upon her are so much greater now. Most ladies like to keep their beauty secrets secret.”

“I’ll take your word for that. How long has Miss Martelli been coming here?”

“All through the summer,” he chimed, “Every day except Sundays, we’re closed Sundays. She’s one of my favourite clients, although I have lots of favourites -” that was for the women, surmised Bond, “- she’s simply so nice! She always makes you feel so welcome. Gosh! And that’s my job!”

Craig twittered on until Bond raised a restraining finger.

“Don’t forget about your client’s privacy.”

“Oh, I do gossip, listen, you enjoy the coffee. You’ll have a good wait, but I’ll let her know you’re here. You’re so much nicer  than that terrible Mister Sabatini.”

“Really - what’s wrong with him?”

Craig gave a mock shudder, spun around and exited, leaving Bond alone with the harridans.

He flicked through a copy of US Vogue, read about Kate Moss, who was still getting tipsy at her own launch parties, naughty girl, and saw the women leave one at a time, each casting him a long curious glance as they passed his table. Their brief intrigue was the only excitement in the place. It was so dull as to be soporific. A young expensively dressed Thai woman entered and took tea. Craig fussed about her as if she was royalty. Bond asked for another coffee.

Before it arrived, and as Bond was grimacing at the latest creations by Karl Lagerfeld, his pallid state was suddenly aroused.

“Who the hell are you?”

The voice cut through the air.

She had a thick, gorgeous accent. The vowels seemed to roll over the tongue. Even angry there was a hint of seduction in the resonance.

He started to rise.

“My name’s James.”

“I don’t care. What are you doing here?”

“Well it’s rather embarrassing.”

“You are not the type to be embarrassed.”

“I’m a friend of your father’s, Adam Goldberg.”

“Really?” she cocked her head to one side. A hand was on her hip and in it was clutched her sunglasses, the Christian Dior logo prominent on the lens. Over her other shoulder rested a patterned Fendi bag. Her hair, which had surely been blown about in the car, was neatly straightened and washed clean. It had bounce, enveloping her shoulders. Her eyebrows were quite prominent, scrupulously plucked but thick, like the lashes around her deep walnut eyes. Similarly, her nose and mouth looked too large, but the high cheek bones allowed her face to straighten rather than grow wide at the jaw. He thought she looked like a very young Sophia Loren. She had the temper for it.


“I saw you driving down the street,” Bond said, “I wasn’t sure. I’ve only seen you in pictures, at Adam’s flat.”

She said nothing. The glasses tapped against her thigh.

“I’m sorry,” Bond made to leave, “I’m being impertinent.”

He was almost past her when he detected a tiny sigh.

“How is Papie?”

“Adam?” Bond stopped, staring directly at her, “He’s very well. He misses you.”

He saw the brown eyes inspecting his face. Bond deliberately closed his and looked down, pausing, a little play with his cuffs, “When did you last see him?”

“Two years, no maybe three.”

“It’s a long time.”

“Do you have children, Mister -?”

“Bond. James Bond. No, I don’t.”

“Then how do you know?”

“I lost my parents when I was young. I wouldn’t want any child to lose their mother or father.”

“In a way I have lost both too, so we have something in common.”

“Adam was right about you.”

“What right?”

“He said you were an intelligent, perceptive woman and quite a challenge.”

“I am a challenge?”

“You certainly make an impression. I’m not sure many men would cope with the pressure of keeping up with you.”

“You make that sound like a compliment,” the girl brushed her hair away from her sultry cheek, “I’m not sure it is.”

Bond’s mouth twitched half a smile only and the girl’s flicked in response.

“I’m sorry if my visit here has upset you,” he said, “I feel I ought to make it up to you. Perhaps I could buy us lunch?”

“I see you don’t feel the pressure, Mister Bond,” the girl answered, “No. It’s too late for lunch. But you could buy me coffee.”

Bond caught Craig’s eye. The aide had been gawping at the scene from the door way. He gave one jerk of the neck and disappeared to fetch more coffee and mints and a bigger tray.

Bond offered his seat, but the girl shook her head and headed outside. She sat under one of the wide white parasols, facing the sun and pulled her shades on. From her shoulder bag she produced a packet of Camel cigarettes, shook one out and dug for her lighter. Bond offered his Ronson.

“There’s an irony, smoking at a health spa.”

“I come here for the sauna and the skin treatments.”

“Probably wise; sunlight and nicotine both prematurely age the skin,” he pulled out his gun metal case and showed her his Morland’s, the special ones, a mixture of Turkish and Balkan tobacco, “These have an exceptionally low tar content, but my tobacconist ensures the flavour still packs a punch.”

“You’re cigarettes are made to order?”

“Yes. Old fashioned, I know, but quaint and rather endearing.”

“To old maids perhaps.”

Bond lit his own smoke and sat back in the chair.

“So what do I tell Adam when I see him?”

“Tell him whatever you want,” she answered, “Tell him his daughter is a nicotine addict who spends too much time in the sun.”

“Anything pleasant?”

The coffee arrived and the girl stirred her cup for almost a whole minute before attempting a reply.

“All right, that wasn’t fair. I haven’t seen Papie for years, Mister Bond, as a father he may as well not exist anymore. That is the world for me today. I have other men to worry of.”

“Oh,” Bond feigned surprise, “Are you married?”

“No. I have a partner, if you like, a man who cares for me.”

She chose the words too daintily, thought Bond. He pressed a little harder, “In Puerto Rico?”

“Yes. I am lucky. He is a very rich man. Marcelo Sabatini. You may have heard of him.”

“I’m sorry,” Bond shook his head, “I’m not sure I have. Isn’t he something to do with the oil industry?”

“Very good,” she teased, “You are of much intelligence too, Mister Bond.”

“I probably read his name in the papers. I had no idea he was from Puerto Rico.”

“He isn’t. We are here on his yacht.”

“He has a yacht? Where?”

“You can’t miss it,” she breathed out her last lung full of tobacco, “The big white one in the bay, The Sun Chaser.”

“You live on that?” Bond expressed surprise, “That must be a fantasy come true. She looks tremendous. I can see her from my hotel.”

He paused a moment to drink his coffee. Suddenly that moment of serendipity had just been engineered.


“It’s quite a coincidence,” he explained glibly, “I design boats for a living, you see. I’m island hopping scouting for new design ideas. The firm wants something stylishly classic. That boat’s exactly the sort of specification they’d be interested in franchising.”

“If you want to talk of the boat, you will have to meet Marcelo,” the girl gave a slightly disappointed smile, “It is his yacht, remember.” 

“All right,” replied Bond, “How do I meet him?”

The girl considered for a moment. Her lips pursed and she raised the glasses back onto her forehead.

“Give me one of your cigarettes,” she said abruptly. He opened the case and she took one and lit it, sucking the flavours deep into her chest, “You are right. It has a very strong taste. Is that what you like, Mister Bond, strong tastes?”

“Not always,” he murmured, looking straight into her eyes, “Just sometimes.”

“Tonight, Isla Verde, The Water Club Hotel,” announced the girl, “Marcelo has a charity, the Sea World Foundation. They have organised a fund raising event. If you can get a ticket, Marcelo will be there.”


“I’ll be there,” said Bond, “Will you?”

“Of course,” the girl stood up and smiled at him again, “I owe you a cigarette.”





Edited by chrisno1, 01 March 2013 - 03:38 PM.

#12 chrisno1



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Posted 09 March 2013 - 03:19 PM





Isla Verde was a triangular spit of land trapped between the western sprawl of San Juan, the lagoons and the international airport. The Water Club was the city’s only true boutique hotel, resting on the prow of a shallow sandbank overlooking the wide scimitar bay that stretched from Las Marias in the west to El Media in the east, the twin points that frame the massive salt-sandy beach.


It was heavy work leaving Condado. Mucho had not been exaggerating when he said nobody walked in Puerto Rico. During the day Bond had found the heat and humidity mixed with the exhaust discharge of thousands of vehicles stifling, yet at night, when the moist air clung to the land and even the ocean breeze couldn’t shift the pall, it was almost unbearable. The only lucky break was that he was heading out of the city and not into it. By nine o’clock most of the populace seemed to be heading for the squares of Miramar and Old San Juan.


“It’s Halloween weekend,” said Maritza, “You’re lucky to be here for it. We celebrate Halloween as if it’s Christmas. There are parties and festivals, lots of dressing up. Last year Mucho and I went as punks.”




“You know, rings through our noses, ripped jeans and scummy leather jackets. I even had my hair dyed bright pink.”


“I take it this party could be themed then,” mused Bond.


“I don’t think Sabatini is that sort of host. I can’t imagine him dressed up as a witch or even a punk.”


“I suppose I should be thankful I only need to pass muster as a yacht designer.”


To do so, Bond wore a tuxedo, adapted by Q Branch to provide plenty of hidden pockets, which fitted like a soft glove. The labels, if there were any, had been removed, but he thought it might be Armani.


The traffic gradually petered out as they left Carolina and entered the exclusive square mile of hotels and resorts that was Isla Verde. Palms lined the roads and every other building seemed to be a hotel or restaurant, cocktail bar or casino. Here no one was on the streets and there was a plentiful supply of taxis, jockeying for the best business.


From the main road, Bond could hardly see the hotel, but when Maritza directed him off the main drag towards the seafront, the ten storeys of white stone and marble, radiating under soft azure lamps, seemed to spring out of the ground, a man made water fountain of blue light.   


There were a lot of big expensive cars in the drive, but Maritza assured him everyone had big expensive cars in San Juan. An attentive maître d’ was holding court outside the lobby, his hands tapping at a computerized lectern. They didn’t have tickets, but Maritza gave Mucho’s name and they were graciously ticked off the electronic list.


Bond took Maritza’s arm. She’d dressed well for the occasion and he liked that. The little black dress, hair at her neck, sensible heels; she looked efficient, but still pretty, just how a personal secretary should. She even smelled of paper, the pine essence in her perfume. 


Mucho said the hotel had been fitted out specifically for the charity ball and subsequently there was a curious mixture of styles, the jazzy, avant-garde look of the chic original coupled with the morbid Halloween decorations. The ground floor lobby and restaurant had been cleared for dancing and a small fashion show. The inside areas still retained the sub-aquatic feel its architect intended, the dancing ripples on the wall, the cascade waterfalls, the illuminated floor and the ocean surface simulated on the ceiling. The seaward bay windows had been thrown open and decking laid outside, allowing the party to extend onto the beach. Here the mock horror show came into its own. A thin stage had been set and catwalk models were parading up and down it, their fashions linked to the theme of the evening. Gas flames lined the stage throwing strange blue and yellow reflections over the model’s slim figures and flawless skins. Halloween hung about the corners of the place. Fake cobwebs, furry toy spiders, skeletons and table lanterns cut out from pumpkins were all in evidence. Even the punch bowl contained a glutinous mixture of something that smelled sweetly of alcohol but looked sickly like blood. Underneath a small cabana, decorated with bones and witches, a band was playing mambo tunes. Already some people were dancing alongside the catwalk. It was the young crowd mostly, the sort who wore dresses too short and insisted on wearing designer sunglasses at night.


“That’s apt,” hummed Maritza.


“What is?”


Bond’s eye was distracted by the appearance of a tall, pale woman, not quite pink, not quite white. Either she hadn’t been in the country long or she didn’t like the sun. Her face was surrounded by a throne of auburn hair, more red than brown. She was dressed in a long blood coloured evening gown, slit on both sides exposing acres of leg. The woman stared at them for several seconds before turning back inside the hotel. A prickle of alarm ran down Bond’s spine. There was something about her walk.


“The mambo,” Maritza tugged on his arm, “Most people think it’s just a Cuban dance, but in Haiti the high priestess of voodoo is called a Mambo.”


“A witch by any other name,” pondered Bond.


“If you like,” Maritza huffed.


“Come on, let’s find Mucho.”


The first floor Banquet Rooms were given over to the buffet, interconnecting walls slid back. It was more sedate here, the clientele was slightly older, and waiters paraded with trays of champagne. Bond took two glasses and handed one to Maritza. It was here they found Mucho. As good as his name and size, the big man was munching on a chicken leg smothered in chili sauce.


“Your girl’s next door in the casino, James, with her employer,” Mucho said the words with some distaste, “I’ve been watching them, on and off. He’s on a winning roll.”


“Thanks, Mucho, watch my back.”


“Sure, I’ll follow you in a minute. No sense in us entering together.”


It was a sound precaution. Bond took Maritza’s arm and led her into the gaming room. There were a dozen tables, all occupied, busy with outsiders cramming for a view of the play. The place glittered under the coral white and ocean blue décor, but even here an effort had been made to provide a haunting atmosphere. Cloths were black instead of green. The lighting was fiery orange instead of white. Spider’s webs were strung from corner to corner and hung from the chandeliers. A life-size waxwork of a witch stood to attention at the door. Opposite her a water fountain hissed and bubbled and tropical fish swam in the glass pool now resplendent with two illuminated skulls flickering green and red. The circular windows at the far end were open, looking out across the starry night, allowing the gentle Caribbean sloth to enter and the rhythmic sounds of the Latin band to rise from the decking below. The sound of casino talk, the croupiers calling for bets, the anguished cries of the beaten, the giggles of delight of the women, the damnations, the joys, buried the music as they moved inside. 


Bond saw the girl. She was sitting at the baccarat table looking bored and smoking Camel Filters. Her long black hair was pinned in a chignon, exposing the tall swan neck, and her shoulders were bare except for the cotton-thin silver strands of elastic supporting the sheer cocktail dress, which finished at the knee. He suspected matching Manolo’s, six inch one’s probably, were strapped to her feet. She wasn’t playing.


Next to her and in prime position, the shoe buried beneath his huge left hand, was a bulky broad shouldered desperado. The man was probably in his mid-fifties. His skin was deeply tanned, from birth and then from constant exposure to the sun. His facial expressions switched from almost callous delight to anger. There seemed to be no benign median. He laughed with big expressive gulps. He scowled when something displeased him. A fat Havana cigar was occasionally raised to his mouth. He bit on it, sucked in the smoky tang and would watch as the tip glowed red, matching his one good eye. The black patch clung to his left eye, but the right was alert and cunning, constantly on the move, looking for danger, for threats, for salvation. Above the strong jaw and the Roman nose was a receding domed pate, the stubble, showing black in some places but age and the sun had turned it predominantly grey. His face was lined with the weathered cracks of life. While his facial appearance may have been like that of a bandit, his external elegance was not in doubt. He was dressed immaculately in a tailored tuxedo which seemed to bulge with muscle. There was one item of jewelry, a signet ring, a circle of gold with an inverted triangle inscribed in ebony, the pagan symbol for the earth.


Bond didn’t need Maritza to whisper, “That’s Sabatini.”


Marcelo Sabatini was in complete control of the table. He had just scored another coup and was puffing on the cigar, a flat grin sitting behind the wall of smoke.


Someone got up from the table - cleared out and shot down. 


Without thinking, Bond sat in the empty seat, and said, “Banco.”


The one eye slid across the horizon of heads and came to rest on Bond. The cigar lowered and a cloud of ash grey smoke whistled from between the teeth. The red pupil glimmered with intrigue.


“So, what do we have here?” said Sabatini.


The accent was thick Italian. No, Bond thought, too simple. It was Sicilian, the island of pirates and gangsters. Yes, that would be it; the same country as the girl, the same society, the same trusts. The accent told Bond more about their relationship than he’d learned from the whole strained conversation at the spa.


“I hope you have money enough for your stake, Mister, ah?”


“Bond. James Bond.”


The girl’s head jerked up on hearing Bond’s name. She inclined her head, squinted at him and the curve of a smile penetrated the corner of her mouth, but didn’t break open the lips.


“Mister Bond,” repeated Sabatini, “The bank sits at thirty seven thousand dollars. You have the funds?”


“My credit is good,” Bond answered, aware that he was staking more than the twenty six grand he’d won two nights ago, “My personal assistant will take care of the finances.”


Bond turned to Maritza and handed her the pre-written card, “See to it will you, my dear. I have a game to play.”  


There was a brief pause as Sabatini seemed to reassess his new opponent.


“I don’t think we have been introduced,” he said slowly, “I am Sabatini, oil magnate and entrepreneur.”


Bond was amused that the man only introduced himself with his surname, as if it alone carried weight, but he refrained from laughing.


“I’m familiar with your reputation: Marcelo Sabatini, founder of ExPro, one of Europe’s largest deep sea oil and gas exploration companies, and now a spokesman for green energy and renewable fuels.”


“So you know something of me, Mister Bond, but I know nothing of you,” Sabatini replied.


The girl leaned forward and touched his elbow. “This is the man I told you about, Marcelo, from the spa,” she murmured, her eyes still fixed on Bond.


“Ah, yes, I remember now. Mister Bond,” he said it anew, with curiosity. He smiled, but it had no warmth, only disdain, “The yacht designer.”


“Miss Martelli was good enough to invite me to your charity event,” Bond flipped open his gunmetal case and extracted one of his personal emblazoned Morlands, “I hope that was all right.”


Bond lit the cigarette and asked for an ash tray. The expensive, indulgent touch of the three golden bands on the filter often allowed him entry to circles where ordinary men would not be permitted. Sabatini also recognized the personal logo. His head nodded slowly, a great rhinoceros movement, the hawk nose like an ivory horn, bent for a brutal charge.


Maritza returned with a pile of blue and yellow plaques.


Bond arranged them carefully on the table in two neat piles.


“Are we ready?” asked Sabatini. He seemed to be amused by the display.


Bond noted that the girl, from being uninterested in the proceedings, had sat straighter and put out her cigarette. Something, someone, had pricked her interest. It was difficult not to smile. There was clearly insurrection inside that beautiful obedient body.


“I’m ready,” stated Bond. There was quite a buzz around the table now. The other punters were

intrigued by the stranger, the apparently rich Englishman who had interrupted the flow of Sabatini’s winning patter. Who, they wondered, was he and where did he come from? The girl, Bond expected, had similar questions to ask.


The bear’s paw slapped down on the shoe and ripped the four cards from the tongue. It was a rough, impulsive display.


The cards slithered across the fresh baize. Bond waited as Sabatini inspected his pair. The girl was peering over his shoulder. Bond hadn’t had the time to watch Sabatini’s play. The man was a totally unknown quantity to him. All the little nervous ticks, the flourishes and hand movements, which Bond would normally use to determine whether an opponent was bluffing or confident, were non-existent.


Except for one: the girl.


Sabatini would not want to lose while she sat at the table, at his right elbow, his trophy, her champion. But what did she think? Bond saw her eyelids flutter as she turned her head up to stare at him.


Bond reached out and turned the corner of each card. Two nines. He turned them instantly, “Eight.”


Sabatini spun his pair. He had a club three and a spade eight, a score of only one. He shoveled out a third card, face up, and growled. It was a six of clubs. Bond had won by a pip. The exhilaration flowed down his spine. Bond sucked on his cigarette to control himself. Christ, he’d be walking away with almost eighty thousand dollars. For a second he thought of new Aston Martins and a case or two of vintage champagne. Then he caught sight of the girl, her lips straining not to smile. She almost pouted. What was the sign she’d given him earlier? Had he really noticed or was it his imagination?


The effect on the table was equally surprising. For a moment there was silence and then they joined with Sabatini as he gave that big laugh.


“They say the English can pull anything out of a shoe,” he said, “I should have been more careful. It seems I must pass you the bank.”


Bond held up his hand. He didn’t want to stay at the table. He might lose the lot on the next banco or become embroiled in a long winded set of common hands. No, Sabatini could keep the bank. He withdrew his stake. “Passé.”


“Do you joke with me, Mister Bond?” exclaimed Sabatini, “The cards have turned. Do you mean to destroy me?”


“No. Let’s just say I’m testing your patience.”




The croupier removed the used cards and called the stake at thirty seven thousand.


“Banco,” said Bond.


“What?” Sabatini was almost aghast, “What rules do you play by?”


“My own usually.”


“I see,” Sabatini placed the cigar in his mouth and took a long inward breath, “Perhaps I should fight you on those terms.” He swiveled to face the girl, “What do you say, my dear, is Mister Bond a law unto himself? Will I beat him this time, playing by his rules?”


“I think Mister Bond is a man who doesn’t understand any rules.”


The girl lit another cigarette as she spoke, but her gaze never once shifted from Bond’s face. Sabatini saw it and turned back to the table. The eye looked quickly across at this new devil. The lid shut down once slowly then rose.


“Where I come from, Mister Bond, we have many rules. We win and lose according to those rules. You understand?”


Sabatini extended his right hand, the first and little finger protruding from the fist like a fork. He prodded forward, a moment of histrionics for the crowd. There was more to it for Bond. He felt the underlying menace, the malevolent hatred which was suddenly smoldering under the surface, burning inevitably like the tip of the cigar.


“Let us play, Mister Bond.”


The cards were thrust out again. Bond took them up. A ten and a seven. Normally he’d hold. Seven was a percentage winner. But behind Sabatini’s shoulder he saw the girl’s face twitch, the eyes cast down as she took a breath. The bank had a good hand. He was certain of it. But every hand was beatable, Bond considered, and anyway, he never really played percentages. 




Sabatini rushed out the third card, as if hastening Bond’s departure.


It was an ace of diamonds.


Eight. Bond now scored eight and Sabatini hadn’t turned his pair which meant he was probably stuck on six or seven. Slowly Bond revealed his full hand and there was a chesty snarl from Sabatini. His eye almost seemed to bulge. His rough skinned fingers grabbed at the extra card. A knave. He flipped his pair. A four and a three. He was still stuck on seven.


An audible, stunned buzz carried around the table. It was an amazing piece of luck from the Englishman. You never drew on seven. What had the girl said about defeat? The Englishman didn’t know it. She was certainly right.


Sabatini emitted another big laugh, covering his embarrassment. “It appears I must win back my losses, Mister Bond. You have made an indecent amount of money from me. What do you intend to do with it?”


Bond stubbed out his cigarette and went to pick up the gold plaques. “I don’t think I’ll do anything with it. Winning was enough. I’ll donate the money to the Sea World Foundation. The only prize I’d like is to buy your beautiful companion a drink.”


Sabatini’s gaze shifted from his tormentor to his escort. She almost smiled.


“Very good,” he replied, “As you wish. Gabriella, go with Mister Bond, see if you can find out anything about this mysterious Englishman. I will need more ammunition if we are ever to meet again.”


It was said as a jest, but once more, Bond detected the hidden latent anger that lay beneath the words. He handed the plaques to Maritza, asked her to deal with the finances and made his way towards the girl. Gabi was already on her feet.


Bond turned back to Sabatini one last time before he left. “Until next time then,” he said without a smile.


“Be careful, Mister Bond. Our Gabriella has very expensive tastes.”


The girl seemed eager to leave the table. Bond left Sabatini to his game and followed Gabi out of the casino. He caught sight of Mucho, feigning interest in roulette, but the Puerto Rican’s eyes had shifted elsewhere.


They took the elevator. As soon as the lift began its ascent, the glass wall behind them started to move. It was a self-contained waterfall, rippling down the inside surface. Above, through a blue tinted ceiling, they could see the cables and pulleys operating. For all the machinery on display it was a soundless ride. Bond thought it so quiet he didn’t want to interrupt it with words. The girl however didn’t want to wait longer than the seventh floor.


“He’ll be impossible until he gets his money back.”


“Sabatini?” enquired Bond mildly, “I thought he had money to burn. Look at what he’s done to this place. It must have cost a fortune.”


“Not really. He charged it to the Foundation.”


“Really?” Bond was surprised, “That’s hardly a representative act of charity. There’s more to Mister Sabatini than meets the eye.”


“Was that a joke?”


“I’m not sure; was it funny?”


The girl started to giggle. The lift drew to a silent stop and the doors hissed open. They were in a tiny lobby. She led the way onto the roof terrace, bathed in deep warm blue, which weaved its way around a raised cocktail bar and a sunken swimming pool. The skyline of Isla Verde bent away from them, hugging the dark coast. The white surf could be seen lapping at the beach, just visible in the light from the surrounding hotels. Beyond that trickle of movement the supine ocean reflected the night sky, a panorama bathed in tiny stars. Somewhere there was a horizon, but the two, sea and sky, had melted together.


They sat near the pool in the lea of the balustrade on one of the comfy day beds, plumped up with warm cushions. The girl deftly sat cross legged, hands in her lap, preserving her modesty as the skirt rode up her thighs.


Bond called over the waiter, “Champagne - the best. We’re celebrating.”


“What are we celebrating?” asked the girl.      


“Our continued friendship,” he replied and sat down, perching sideways on the sofa, one ankle lodged under a knee, “That’s assuming we are friends.”


“I don’t have many friends. But I would wish to have you as a friend, Mister Bond. You interest me.”


“That’s good because you interest me.”


She dismissed his comment, “Men often say that or something similar. It happens to a girl,” she looked down at her fingernails, “A girl like me.”


“What sort of girl are you?”


“I don’t know what you’d call me these days: a secretary or a companion? An escort, perhaps, or a whore; I am Sabatini’s woman, that is enough to frighten most men.”


“He doesn’t pay you much attention.”


“I am window dressing. And I am other things, you understand.”




“You are not shocked?”


“No. I think there are worse ways to live a life. Of course, I’m extremely jealous. Of Sabatini, I mean.”


The girl offered the flicker of a smile. The waiter returned with the champagne, a Kristal, the brand of choice for affluent Americans. Bond hated it, but didn’t want the fuss of returning the bottle. The finer things in life could wait.


When they got their glasses, Bond lifted his in a toast, “Friends?”


“Friends,” she repeated, “So tell me, Mister Bond, where do you practice making yachts?”


“Is this is the part where you pretend to carry out Sabatini’s orders?” teased Bond.


“Something like it. But I am not interested in asking questions today. Just tell me the littlest thing and I will make up the rest.”


“I work in London, Mortlake, for Andrew Finch,” he said. It was a good ruse. Finch was ex-Naval Intelligence and the cover had been in place for several years. “I’m still interested in Sabatini’s yacht. It’s got very curious lines. Do you think he’d let me visit it?”


“I could ask, if that’s what you want.”


“I do. And it would give me a chance to see you again.”


The girl almost blushed, “You sound like a school boy. But I would like that. You are a very charming man, Mister Bond.”


“You can call me James, as we’re now friends.”


“And you must call me Gabi. It’s what my Papie calls me. Gabriella is too much, he would say, two syllables is more than enough for any name.”


“Do you miss him?”


“Not often. He and Mama separated when I was twelve. I took Mama’s maiden name. That was ten years ago. When Mama died, I was sixteen. That was when I learnt to fend for myself. Two years ago I found Marcelo. It was easier, you understand, than begging.”


“Didn’t Adam want to support you?”


“You know he has a military career, James, the Royal Navy. He has to live in Britain. I couldn’t live there. I visited of course, but it is not the country for me. It’s so cold, so grey. There is no life in London.”


“I agree with you,” Bond held out his lighter to her cigarette and lit one of his own, “I could name a dozen cities more thrilling than London.”


The girl sipped her champagne and mixed it with a lug of tobacco. When she spoke, she seemed to be talking of another place, another time, “Commodore Adam Goldberg. He’s my hero, I guess, although he’s never been to war. I had a picture of him, in his uniform, clean, upright, handsome. How all father’s should be. I expect all girls look up to their father’s, don’t they?”


“Why did he separate from your mother?”


“He was never there for us. He was always working. It was a strange marriage. Mother hated England as much as I do. I think I inherited that as well as her dark hair. It was bad to be alone in a strange country. She never adapted. When I was ten she took me home to Castelferrato.”


The girl shifted back on her haunches, resting against the heavy cushions.


“I loved Sicily, James. It was heaven to be back amongst my people, in the centre of the Mediterranean, where the earth is a deep rich brown, the grasses tinged with gold and the seas as clear as the sky. Everything in Sicily is pure, intense: we live life the way others can only describe. It is hard, it is poor, yet it is as rich as heaven. We are proud people who do not forget our past. We look after one another. Every village, every town is like a huge extended family, and when we returned, the families all helped us.”


“You make it sound romantic and very beautiful.”


“It is. You must come and visit me. I will go home when Marcelo tires of me.”


“Was Sabatini part of those families?”


“I know what you are thinking,” she gave a half smile, “Mafioso. But he is not. Marcelo is a gangster, of a kind. He is ruthless in business, yes, but he is not Mafia. We met by chance in Palermo. I was working in a hotel, making cocktails, and he took dinner there. He was rich, good looking. The rest is the same story the world over.”


“And he brought you here?”


“Yes. I think he cannot live without a woman. I expect I will cease to interest him once he has finished with business in Puerto Rico.”


“What business is that?”


“Haven’t you heard? He’s carrying out geothermal tests at the Herradura Caldera.”


“Where’s that?”


“It’s a sunken volcano crater, near the Puerto Rico Trench, he’s got a whole research centre organized out there.”


“Odd that he doesn’t spend more time there,” mused Bond.


“He is always visiting the installation, that’s why we have the yacht.”


“Do you go with him?”


“Sometimes, but less so now; the last trip, I stayed at the Plaza.”


“When was that?”


“Tuesday,” she said indifferently.


Bond’s heart almost skipped. Just after a mid-air missile hijack.


“Tell me, is ExPro financing the operation?”


“I don’t know,” the girl said diffidently, “You really must stop asking questions. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.”


Bond poured more champagne.


“I’m sorry, Gabi, I’m getting carried away. Being here with you, this setting, tonight, it’s making me turn corners.”


“What a strange expression,” she said, “As if you are searching for something you can’t find. What are you searching for, Mister Bond, James Bond?”


He was about to reply when a shadow fell across them and the girl inclined her chin an inch.


Bond turned to look at the figure which interrupted them. He was expecting it to be a man, but it wasn’t. It was the tall, red headed woman he’d noticed earlier. Up close she was almost an apparition. Her mouth and eyes were painted the same shade of crimson as the dress and her blusher, while not actually white, certainly gave her a ghostly appearance.


“Gabriella,” the woman announced, “Kazacs is looking for you.”


“Oh,” replied the girl, “Has Marcelo won back his money?”


“Not yet, but he wants you on the boat tonight. He has investors to entertain later.”


Bond felt the jarring eyes linger over him then the mysterious spectral woman turned away. As she left, Bond followed her frame, the buttocks moving in time to the mambo.


The girl sighed and prepared to leave.


“It seems Marcelo doesn’t want me to enjoy myself at all tonight.”


“You mean you haven’t enjoyed any of the evening?”


“I was hasty,” she corrected, “Of course there are some moments to remember.”


Bond leant forward, as if to stand, but the girl pressed a hand to his chest and stopped him, “Don’t follow me; Kazacs is waiting. And don’t follow that woman either. She’s not as warm as she seems.”


“She was warm?”


“They call her Angel, but I don’t think it’s her real name. She’s an associate of Marcelo’s or something.”


“She’s certainly something.”


“Stop it,” said the girl earnestly, “Or it will be me who will go to bed jealous.”


Bond watched her leave. The bodyguard was the tough looking bald man, whose heavy black eyebrows gave him a bullish, brooding appearance. He was standing beside the ghost-woman, but he said nothing just waited patiently for Gabi to return. He nodded once at her arrival and escorted her back to the lobby. Bond sipped the champagne and inclined his glass towards the red haired woman. She was familiar. Once again the hairs on the nape of his neck stretched, alert to something he couldn’t define.


Something about the witchy woman prickled him; her backside, the sway, he couldn’t quite - no, forget it, James, she’s just a strange, but very striking woman.


None the less, she returned his gesture before turning aside and making her own way off the cocktail terrace. 




#13 chrisno1



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Posted 14 March 2013 - 04:02 PM




Bond waited a few minutes, discarding the insipid Kristal and lighting another cigarette. Beneath him, from the promenade deck that extended along the beach and into the sea, Bond saw Gabi and her minder, Kazacs. They settled into a motor launch. The bow beams switched on and the boat sped away into the deep blue night, a trailing fan of silver bubbles in its wake.


He shrugged and made his way back downstairs to find Mucho and Maritza. It was past midnight. The party seemed to be just starting; things were certainly lively in the lobby.


“There’s no need for us all to keep tabs on Sabatini,” instructed Bond, “He’s going back to his yacht soon. Apparently there’s a private party taking place tonight.”


“So the grand benefactor deserts his cause,” Mucho scoffed.


Maritza hooked herself onto Bond’s arm, “It makes you wonder if it’s all a front.”


“Yes, I wondered that too,” said Bond, feeling the brush of her hip against his, “Listen, Maritza and I’ll stay here for a while and then we’ll keep an eye on the yacht. Mucho, can you look into this Sea World Foundation?”


“Sure,” he sounded only too pleased, “There’s something spooky about this set up.”


“You mean the cobwebs?”


“And the crowds of goons prowling this place,” Mucho replied, lifting a sausage to his mouth, “There’s over a dozen strong arm guys here. Some are carrying, some are just watching. It’s like eagle eye. You can’t move without someone seeing you.”


“Do you think they’re watching us?”


“Can’t tell. There’s the bald headed guy who left with your precious cargo, he’s the ringmaster; and then there’s a tattooed fella who seems to be everywhere,” Mucho gave a jerk of the head and made as if he was laughing, “By the water feature. Eyes like stalks.”


Bond saw the man, a six foot sinewy piece of muscle, cross armed, a blue and red tattoo running down one side of his face. He looked distinctly threatening.


“We’d better give him something to look at,” Bond led Maritza towards the dance floor, calling “Don’t wait up, Mucho.”


They shared three dances, a samba, a merengue and a Cuban salsa. He wasn’t an expert and neither was she, but they spun well together, their hips swaying, their knees bending, shoulders gyrating, hands touching but never holding, eyes rarely apart. They exited with smiles and Bond seized another pair of champagne flutes.


“That was fun,” exclaimed Maritza, “I wish all assignments were like this.”


“Yes, it was,” agreed Bond, “Cheers.”


They drank. Bond saw movement at the entrance to the lobby. Sabatini was on his way, shaking hands, asking his guests to continue to abuse his hospitality. Once again his countenance was bright, effervescent, garrulous. The contrast with the sharp eyed bandito of the baccarat table was palpable. Others were easily taken in by the act, as rough as bad Shakespeare, but convincing because the words had deeper meaning. Bond knew better. Deliberately, he moved closer, until Sabatini couldn’t help but see him.


The big hand extended.


“Ah, Mister Bond, it was fun tonight, yes?”


Bond took the paw. It crushed his fingers. He didn’t flinch.


“Indeed. Thank you.”


“No, thank you, the Sea World Foundation would be empty without your donation,” Sabatini released the hand and clicked his fingers for attention, “Gabriella tells me you wish to visit my yacht. Are you hunting for clues, Mister Bond?”




“For future designs.”


The tattooed man appeared with Sabatini’s cloak and placed it on his shoulders. A fresh cigar was already being lit.


The Sun Chaser is world class, Mister Bond, unique, you could learn much. Come tomorrow lunch time. Kazacs will pick you up at the Plaza jetty. Shall we say twelve?”


“I’ll look forward to it.”


“So will I. It will be a pleasure.”


The last word was said with no warmth.


Bond watched the Sicilian make his way to the jetty. The band was playing another merengue, “Time for one more spin, Maritza.”


After the host departed in his motor launch, Bond ended the dance and made his way to the lobby entrance. Maritza followed. The valet brought their car and Bond slammed it into gear and drove as fast as he could through the tumbling traffic. It hadn’t eased even though midnight had long passed.


Back at the Marriott, Bond strode straight across the lounge of his suite, pausing only to throw off his dinner jacket. Maritza closed the door after him. He was already out on the balcony, the binoculars pressed to his eyes, focused on the big white yacht which lay in the harbour.


“What’s happening?” she asked.


“There’s some sort of gathering going on,” Bond said, “But it’s hardly a rip-roaring party.”


He handed her the glasses. She could see the illuminated deck, but only a few people were outside drinking. As she watched another motor launch returned. Sabatini appeared, the cigar still stuck between his teeth, and exchanged greeting kisses with a red haired woman in a slinky red evening gown.


“Who’s the woman?”


“The woman in red?” asked Bond, “Someone called Angel. I’ve no idea about her. Can you run an identity check in the morning?”


“Of course.”


“Can you see the girl?”


“No. Perhaps she’s below. No, wait, there she is, mixing cocktails. Sabatini’s talking to her. Doesn’t look like she’s enjoying it. You must have had quite an effect.”


Bond shrugged and took up the camera with the long zoom lens. They watched and took photographs for almost an hour and two double bourbons. Two more boats arrived full with fresh guests and departed half empty with tired ones. The party wasn’t the most exciting of gatherings. After another hour, the boat departed for the final time and the staterooms, lights still on, became conspicuously empty. Except for the occasional crewman patrolling the deck, the boat was as good as dead.


“There’s nothing happening,” announced Maritza after her third stint with the glasses.


“Or it is happening but we can’t see it,” replied Bond, “I could be wrong, Maritza, but something’s not right about Sabatini. What did you make of him?”


“Something of a rogue. No surprises there.”


“I’ll be interested in visiting The Sun Chaser tomorrow. Do you fancy coming?”


“I suppose I should. You did introduce me as your private secretary.”


Maritza laboured the word ‘private.’ Cheeky girl, Bond thought. He glanced across at her over the rim of his glass. Maritza was an attractive woman, with her fine ash blonde hair cut short and her womanly figure contained in the tight pencil slim skirt, which if anything put too much emphasis on her bust and her backside. He liked that. Bond downed his Jack Daniels.




Maritza shook the ice around the glass and then took a long pull. She looked him in the eye, straight and confident, and handed over the glass.


“Hmm, please.”


Bond made them fresh drinks. In the mirror he could see Maritza smoothing her dress, adjusting her posture. Her breasts were high, upright and firm. There wasn’t a bra to support them. The straps on her dress indiscreetly slipped off her shoulders. He smiled. It was almost two in the morning. Out loud, he wondered if they ought to report back to Mucho.


“I shouldn’t worry, James, he’ll be asleep.”


“Tell me, Maritza, it’s rather quiet in San Juan, what exactly does he keep you on the payroll for?”


“That’s a little indelicate, James, but not entirely untrue. We had a relationship once.”


Bond handed over the drink.


“And now?”


“And now, James, let’s just say Mucho isn’t a jealous man.”




She smiled and Bond’s mouth came quickly down onto hers.


Early in the morning, Maritza prised herself out of Bond’s sleepy embrace and spent a moment inspecting his hard, muscular torso. Now he gently slumbered, but just minutes before that firm body had woken her and they had again made wild animal love and she had given herself fully to Bond’s possession. Maritza’s body still tingled from the multiple sensations that had rippled through her. She slipped out of bed and took a shower.


When she returned, Bond’s naked silhouette stood outside on the balcony. He was watching the boat again, a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Still naked herself, Maritza joined him and draped an arm over his shoulder. Bond put down the glasses, offered her one of his Morlands and lit it. They stood smoking in silence watching the first streaks of gorgeous golden sun peek over the outline of The Sun Chaser.   


“That was beautiful,” she murmured.


“So are you. Mucho has impeccable taste.”


Bond kissed her forehead and she curled herself around him. Bond took their half smoked cigarettes and tossed them over the balcony. He stroked her plump buttocks, squeezing the flesh. She wriggled, trying to escape his clasp. She reached down and knew he was ready to love her again. The idea thrilled her.


“Don’t we have work to do today?” she whispered.


“Sabatini said lunch time,” Bond breathed in the tropical air, the hot Caribbean breeze, the indigo sky above and the wonderful scent of this fragrant sensual creature. Casually he turned Maritza around and told her to bend over. Obediently she rested her arms on the balcony rail, her posterior raised temptingly towards him.


“I want to have breakfast first,” said Bond and ruthlessly thrust forward.



*****              *****              *****



Bond drove them to Mucho’s Station HQ, which was the basement of his beach side apartment in Santurce. It was a dusty place surrounded by similar wood and stone condos but it faced the San Jose Lagoon and despite being big was inconspicuous beside its even larger neighbours.


Mucho was eating a pastry and tapping out messages on his laptop. He made no comment at their slightly ragged appearance. Maritza was wearing a pair of Bond’s shorts, pulled tight with a belt, and one of his sports singlet’s, which barely concealed her breasts.


“I need to get changed,” she said, “Where do we meet?”


“The jetty. Twelve o’clock.”


Maritza took the keys from Bond and abducted the Chrysler.


Mucho made him a coffee, “You look like you need it. She’s good isn’t she?”


“Very efficient.”


“You know what I mean.”


“I can safely say she’s the best Puerto Rican girl I’ve ever slept with.”


“How many have you slept with?”




Mucho grinned and sipped his coffee, “We had a communication from London this morning. They want an update on progress.”


“Tell them I’ve made contact with the girl.”


“Is that all?”


“It’s the truth, Mucho. What do we know about Marcelo Sabatini?”


“Glad you asked,” Mucho had been busy. Turning his lap top to Bond he opened a zip folder which contained over a dozen press articles and biographies. Bond started to flick through them, skimming the details.


“Unusual career” muttered Bond, “Built up Explorazione Professionale into a world wide business during the eighties, was instrumental in sealing the oil fields after the Kuwait crisis which made his name and fortune. Deep sea exploratory drilling, especially in the Artic and the Gulf of Mexico , playboy, man about the city, several mistresses, contacts with the Rome government, houses in Sicily and Piedmont, has a passion for power yachts.”


“But where did his money come from?”


“I wondered about that. Perhaps he had a benefactor. It’s happened before.”


“You’re thinking the Mafia?”


“The girl says not, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Someone funded him, at least at the start,” Bond ran his finger over the touch pad, opening another document, “See here: raised in La Kalsa, Palermo, that’s one of the poorest districts. It’s pretty notorious. He was working on the dockyards from the age of fourteen. The man’s completely self-taught. He’s either a genius or a front.”


“And where has this sudden interest in green fuels come from?”


“Indeed. That’s a question I’d like to ask him.”


Mucho walked over to a locked metal cabinet. He opened it to reveal a host of mechanical equipment, “I’d better get you kitted out before you start asking too many questions.”


Bond nodded. Mucho off loaded a barrage of equipment, only some of which Bond considered useful. From the standard kit he gratefully accepted a fresh Walther P99 and a set of camera-binoculars fitted with night and underwater vision. He declined the two Sykes Fairburn daggers for being difficult to conceal. The non-standard appliances were a mixed bag, for he already carried the excellent Seimens, which in addition to the camera also came with a touchscreen document reader, and the gadget enhanced Ronson. Bond took the Omega Sea Master which normally only contained an explosive charge, but this one was also kitted with a Geiger counter in the sweep, the ultra-bright pen torch and the leather belt, its buckle fitted with a GPS receiver.


“All flown out by UPS from London, James,” said Mucho, “Amazing what brown can do.”


Lastly he handed Bond a slim pouch, no bigger than a spectacles case.




“Oxygen re-breather. Keep it with you in case you’re going to drown.”


“I thought this sort of thing went out with the sixties,” chuckled Bond.


Mucho closed the cabinet with a shake of the head. “It’s nearly twelve. I’ll drive you.” 


Maritza was waiting. She’d dressed in a cream pant suit. A scarf covered her throat and she wore shades. They walked along the quay, trying to show an interest in the power boats which lined the bulwark. Bond could already make out the small white motor craft that had departed The Sun Chaser’s stern and was skiffing rapidly toward the shore.


The boat came to a slow stop at the quay’s end. Kazacs, dressed in black trousers and shirt, his bald head glistening, was securing the line. Bond tried to sound cheerful, but his greeting was met with barely a nod. Maritza climbed in first, followed by Bond and lastly the coxswain.


The journey was silent and swift. The white edifice of the cabin cruiser, almost fifty metres of her, looked even more impressive close up. She was a sleek powerful yacht. Bond estimated she’d carry about 300 tons fully laden and probably ran close on twenty five knots. Bond liked that she sat low in the water on a broad her monohull. She wasn’t built up, featuring only two staggered decks and a bridge. The cabins were all below decks, two rows of oval portholes, the differing sizes suggesting the various importance of each room. Once again he was struck by the cut-off nature of the ship’s bow. For a power cruiser, the bow and possibly the flat keel, would create a lot of drag. He’d have expected to see a slimmer, knife-edge design.


The boat sidled to the rear pontoon deck and slotted neatly into the free berth. The bald man secured the launch before leading the visitors up the chrome steps and onto the rear outer deck. White PVC arm chairs surrounded fixed low chunky tables. Bond ran his hand over one. It was cool, like marble; porphyry, the imperial purple stone, the rarest of minerals found in only a tiny corner of eastern Egypt. The mega-rich Signore Sabatini had Roman delusions, like Napoleon, himself entombed forever in a sarcophagus of imperial stone. The glass concertina doors had been folded back and the deck led straight into the plush lounge. Bond’s feet got sucked into the deep pile carpet. The décor was the same off-white as the chairs, with chrome finishing and porphyry table tops, but everything shared the sleek, minimalist finish. Every joint, every screw head was hidden, cupboards lacked handles, doors were pitted glass, corners and edges were flat, sharp, common. It lacked glamour. The Sun Chaser was beautiful, but in a functional, brutal way.


At the far end of the lounge, tucked in one corner, was a cocktail bar and Gabi was already dropping ice cubes into a shaker. She wore a bikini underneath a long shirt, a man’s, which was clearly too big and she’d knotted it around her waist. It had to be one of Sabatini’s. He was showing who possessed her. The girl’s mouth twitched at the edges as they entered.


“Mister Bond,” Sabatini’s big bellow echoed to them as he appeared from the next room. He was dressed in a loose fitting silk shirt, split to the belly, and sensible long shorts. Sandals seemed lost on his meat sized feet. “Welcome aboard.”


“Good afternoon. May I introduce my secretary, Miss Dominguez?”


“Of course, welcome, welcome,” Sabatini spread his arms in a gesture of hospitality, but the friendship act was draining from his face already, “A drink, Mister Bond? Gabriella mixes an excellent cocktail.”


“Does she?” Bond detected a smile beneath the girl’s eyes, “I’d better have a vodka martini, then; shaken, not stirred.”


“And for Miss Dominguez?” asked the girl.


“Just a Coca-Cola, please.”


“As you wish.”


“Good, good,” said Sabatini, “Come let us enjoy the sun. My caterers will provide lunch soon. I like to eat early. I am not a breakfast man, Mister Bond, lunch is when I feast. I hope you have a healthy appetite?”


“I’m sure we’ll manage.”


They sat on the comfy chairs and Sabatini lit one of his Havana’s. Bond offered Maritza a Morlands and took one himself. Gabi returned with the drinks, including a Campari for Sabatini. She sat a little away from them, legs crossed, and studied her finger nails while they talked. Once again Bond had the impression Sabatini and his surroundings bored her.


“How was the party?” enquired Bond. He tasted the martini. It was indeed excellent.


“Party,” repeated Sabatini puffing on the cigar.


“Last night,” continued Bond, “You said you were having a private party on board.”


“Oh, a small gathering,” he seemed to recover himself, “My associates mainly. I think it went well, wouldn’t you say, my dear?” This was said to the girl and she gave a disinterested shrug, “Gabriella does not always find business amusing. She is a creature of the night and day, but not alas of the mind.”


“That’s a trifle unfair -” started Bond.


“It’s all right, James,” she said, “Marcelo teases me. He can be the most arrogant bore.”


“She has much spirit,” Sabatini laughed in short wicked snorts, “From her mother, I expect; Rosa was a Sicilian like me, wasn’t she?”


“I am Sicilian also.”


“Half Sicilian.”


Bond detected the undercurrent of an argument, a long standing one. They were bickering like lovers, only the affection was missing. He thought it prudent to change the subject.


“Thank you for inviting me to The Sun Chaser. I saw her from my hotel. She’s a beautiful yacht. Who designed her?”


“I thought a man in your profession would already know,” Sabatini said blandly, “She’s a one-off design, the 147 from Luca Brenta.”


“I should have recognised from the low draft.”


“Yes. They make slim, sexy boats, boats like women. She runs off two Caterpillar C18 engines and gives me 27 knots on an open throttle and an empty hold. She needs two engines because the beam is a little wide for her length.”


“I noticed that. I’m surprised you have a hold. What do you keep there?”


“Specialist diving equipment, Mister Bond, I am as you know an authority on off-shore drilling. You never know when an opportunity for exploration arises. The Sun Chaser allows me to roam freely and, how would you put it, catch the opposition cold.”


Bond nodded, “I’d like to see more of her, if I could.”


“We’ll see,” Sabatini’s head lolled forward once and the cigar went to his mouth. Two check-coated waiters emerged from the port deck each carrying a tray brimming with fruits de la mer. “Ah, food, now we’ll eat.”


Bond could see octopus and baby squid fried en ascabeche, chilled with wine vinegar, oil and spices, sea bass fillets were laced with capers, baked land crabs shelled and ladled with herb butter, huge lobster tails, swordfish topped with the piquant mojo isleño and a scattering of tiny shellfish, mussels and oysters. The waiters returned with an enormous bowl of salted potato chips and a magnum of Moet, the rosé. The feast was over-the-top extravagant. Bond was suddenly glad he’d not eaten breakfast either. At least not exactly.


Sabatini said little as they ate, which gave Bond and Maritza time to gently interrogate the girl. Bond asked questions about life on board and Maritza asked about the Sea World Foundation. The girl appeared quite knowledgeable of its aims, without showing any particular interest, as if she’d learnt it parrot fashion.


Occasionally the hungry churlish Sicilian would make a remark, or a gesture, to show his disdain for something she said. Gabi remained aloof to it all, which was, Bond considered, probably a defence mechanism. She ate little, just a few chips and one of the sea bass fillets.


After he’d finished his second plate, Sabatini sat back and wiped his mouth with a napkin. He took a mouthful of rosé and relit the cigar.


“So, Mister Bond, what else can I interest you in?”


“I’m rather intrigued by your geothermal scheme,” stated Bond mildly, “It’s not my line of work of course, but what with the environment as it is and fuel prices being what they are.”


He tailed off as Sabatini nodded enthusiastically, “Yes, yes, I understand entirely, Mister Bond, a worthy interest for any man. I myself am concerned by what terror man has brought to the world. Genuses, species and sub-species are all dying; they have been for centuries. The ice caps are melting, the deserts are expanding, the trade winds are shifting. Man has become the prey, Mister Bond, nature, as she has always been, is once more the true hunter. Politicians and even scientists refuse to believe it. But look at the evidence: tropical storms are more virulent, drought lasts longer than plenty, rivers flood, seas rise, crops fail to pollenate because the bees and insects are being wiped out. This isn’t always a direct result of pollution and mismanagement. Man himself is to blame for many of the worst offenses. The human population has increased in age and in number. Soon we will be swamping the earth, living in places not fit for habitation.


“Nature’s resources are dying, Mister Bond, as man becomes ever more material. His greed is destroying his environment. Look at the devastation caused by earthquakes. Even this can be attributed to man’s greed, as he continues to build where he should desist. Of course there are agencies interested in what the journalists call ‘Global Warming’, but it is no longer enough to be concerned about one aspect of man’s potential destruction: we need to appreciate what the future must hold and how we can alter it. Geothermal power is one way. My history in oil exploration is well suited to the study of geothermal pressures. New Zealand and Iceland are the world leaders in these techniques and I have poached some of their greatest living technicians to ensure my experiments are successful.”


Bond lit a cigarette.


“You make a tough case, Sabatini,” he said, “I’m not entirely in agreement, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.”


“It isn’t only enthusiasm, Mister Bond. It’s as good as a religion.”


“Is that why you wear the ring?”


Sabatini twirled his hand to look at the amber signet with the upside down triangle.


“You noticed that?” he growled, “It is a trifle. I recognise the symbol of course, but I am not a pagan. Like all good Sicilians I am a Catholic. Although, also like many Sicilians, I have ceased to practice.”


He inclined his head towards the girl as he said this. The red eye was goading her again, but the reaction never came.


“I’m sure it’s a fascinating project,” Bond soothed, “Perhaps I could visit that too.”


“I doubt that, Mister Bond. The facility is closed to non-technical personnel.”


“But, Marcelo,” interrupted the girl, a spark of mischief crossing her expression, “The observatory isn’t out of bounds.”


Sabatini missed her reaction. He puffed on the cigar. “I’d be too busy. So would Professor Méndez.”


“Then let me show Mister Bond the observatory. We’ll stay out of the Professor’s way, I promise. I have nothing to do these days, Marcelo, it’s so boring here.”


Sabatini rolled the smouldering cigar and stroked his chin. The weathered face considered the proposition and the glaring eye turned to Bond.


“I expect it wouldn’t hurt,” he said gradually, “But I must ensure Mister Bond doesn’t try to steal you from me. You shouldn’t take up all of his time. I’m sure he is a busy man too.”


“My secretary is quite capable of taking care of my business,” said Bond. He felt Maritza’s stare bore into him and ignored it, “In fact, she can take care of it now while you show me your wonderful ship.”


“All right,” Sabatini grunted and stood up, “This way, Mister Bond.”


They started in the lounge and passed through the back into the state dining room, awash with chandeliers and a marble fireplace. There was a forward swim deck, which featured the ten metre plunge pool and a Jacuzzi. Bond walked to the very tip of the deck. He was right about the prow. It was too flat, providing only the thinnest of bow lines. It reminded him of a transport ferry.


Reached by a set of polished steps, the top flight was an isolated sun deck, the only shadow cast by the satellite dishes and radar columns. Just below was a smaller lounge that led directly on to the bridge. Bond was introduced to the captain, Nordraak, a Norwegian who looked to be one of those efficient sailor types, the kind who was married to the water before he could walk and talk. Bond found his manner chilly. When he asked questions about the boat’s performance, its speed and power, Nordraak became increasingly defensive until he eventually made an excuse to leave.


“Forgive him,” apologised Sabatini as he ran his unkind fingers across the control desk, “He isn’t used to people asking questions about his baby.”


Below decks Bond found gorgeous suite after gorgeous suite. After the guest bedrooms, of which there were eight, four each side, the passage turned into a lobby stretching from port to starboard. In its centre was a spiral staircase descending to the lower deck, the crew quarters and the engine room. The screw controlling the rudder post probably ran through its centre.


Bond made a move aft, intending to visit the engine rooms, but Sabatini blocked him with an exaggerated motion of the arm. Instead Bond was faced with the only remaining door. It was marked with a name rather than a number.


“Unione Suite,” read Bond.


“My private quarters,” declared Sabatini.


“Of course,” Bond’s fingers swept across the plaque, “A memorial to your past.”


Sabatini ignored the comment, but Bond thought for a second the eye blinked. It happened fast, like an eagle’s, and then was steady. He led Bond into the suite, which unlike the others was untidy. The door to the dressing room was open and the girl’s clothes were scattered on the floor. The bed was unmade. Bond wrinkled his nose. There was the unmistakable whiff of sweat in the air. Sabatini was laying his spoor. He wanted Bond to know whose property he was visiting. The unspoken warning did not relate to The Sun Chaser.


“It’s splendid,” Bond said cautiously, “Do you sleep on board?”


“Most nights. If I should ever need to leave urgently I can aweigh anchor with ease.”


“Is that why you’re moored off shore rather than in the harbour?”


“Why do you ask?” Sabatini twitched, “We haven’t left San Juan.”  


“Really?” mused Bond, the lie coming easily, “I understood The Sun Chaser vacated the shore a few nights ago. I’m sure Gabi mentioned it in the spa the other day.”


“She was confused,” said Sabatini roughly, the bite slipping through his bark, “We have been to many resorts this summer.”


“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”


“Come,” he said, more conciliatory, “You have reminded me. It is time for Gabriella to visit the spa. She goes

every afternoon. She and Kazacs can take you back to shore.”


On deck, the girls were pointing out which hotels lined the beach and comparing opinions. Sabatini told Gabi to change and the girl obediently disappeared inside.


“I hope your visit has been illuminating,” said the Sicilian with a fixed smile, “It has certainly interested me.”


“I don’t understand.”


“I feel I have a competitor, Mister Bond,” Sabatini jabbed the cigar at Bond’s chest. The ash dropped off the tip and fell on Bond’s plimsolls. “Remember: I don’t like to lose.”


“I’ll remember.”


The bald headed man returned, flanked by the tall tattooed heavy from the casino. Sabatini’s eye swivelled to them and a smirk crossed the gash of a mouth.


“Let me introduce you to Mister Kazacs and Mister Priest,” he said, “They say nothing, but they have many talents. Kazacs is an expert with his hands, Mister Bond, nothing he touches ever stays alive. He is, if you like, the opposite of a faith healer. Priest was once a saint, a holy man who lived in a deconsecrated church in Armenia. God sometimes works wonderful miracles, doesn’t he, Priest?”


The tattooed man didn’t smile. Instead he turned his head. Now Bond could make out the tattoo clearly. It ran from his forehead, over his right cheek, down his neck and spread across his shoulder and chest. It was an elaborate cartoon. If it had been painted on a wall it would be an exquisite but frightening mural. Here, etched onto the man’s skin it was a living horror show. The tattoo told the story of Revelation, Chapter 12: ‘Michael and the angels fought the dragon and the dragon was thrown out of heaven and hurtled to earth, where, as that serpent called Satan, he and his angels led the world astray.’


Gabi returned to break the uneasy truce which held all four men in check. Maritza was particularly pleased to see her.


Bond bade his host farewell, took Maritza’s arm and followed Kazacs and Gabi down to the pontoon deck. The journey back to the jetty was fragmented with snippets of awkward conversation, as if both girls sensed the tension that existed between Bond and Sabatini and seemed to continue to rise through the silent presence of Kazacs.


Eventually Gabi said, “I’ll arrange for you to visit Sea World tomorrow. Come to the Villa Marina, Puerta de Fajardo. Ten o’clock. I’ll take you in my boat.”


“You have a boat?”


“Uh-huh, Marcelo bought it for me. You’ll like her. She’s very quaint, very English.”


At the jetty, Bond, relieved to be away from the brooding Kazacs, helped the girls out.


“Until tomorrow then,” he called as Gabi walked down the quay, waving as she went. Bond turned to watch the motor launch return to the mother ship. Squinting into the sharp Caribbean sun, Bond wished he’d brought those binoculars.



*****              *****              *****



Standing inside the lounge, Number One lowered the miniscule eye-glass and forced a smile. He picked up the satellite phone and dialled.


Number Five was waiting for the call. She placed the high resolution binoculars on the table, exited the balcony and picked up the handset.


“You’ve lost her,” she said, “You know that don’t you?”


“I haven’t lost her yet.”


“You should never have brought her here,” Number Five scolded, “Your vices are irrelevant to the success of Golden Age.”


“Are you questioning my judgement, Number Five?”


“No,” she said after a pause. Carefully she stepped back onto the balcony. The three figures were still walking down the jetty, “I was mistaken. I should have recognised him before. It was dark when I saw him, but it is the man, the British spy. What do you want me to do?”


“I’ll have Kazacs watch them. When the time is right, you can kill him.”


“And the girl?” queried Number Five, licking her lips in hopeful anticipation.


“No. You’d enjoy it too much. I’ll deal with Gabriella.”




#14 chrisno1



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Posted 22 March 2013 - 05:54 PM




The sand bank shelved steeply about thirty metres from the shore. Bond kept going down, panning out a few inches above the bottom of the sea bed. He was in a good easy rhythm, his feet and flippers doing most of the work, his hands by his sides. Through the roof of waves, pale moonlight vibrated. The luminous glow hardly penetrated the forty foot watery grave. Blurry white shadows, the last vestiges of natural illumination, surrounded Bond, refracted by the water. Sea flowers reacting to the moon glow, eased out of their sandy holes, and then retreated as the dark form passed over them. Bond kept his steady pace, carefully watching the night world of the sea, his natural curiosity holding his nerves in check, keeping his mind focused, unconcerned with the task ahead.


It was almost 2230. After the long lunch on The Sun Chaser, Bond and Maritza had returned to Mucho’s HQ and embarked on several hours’ online research. Bond wanted to know as much about Sabatini as he could. He wanted company accounts, tax returns, business contacts, legal and criminal history, family history. He asked about the red haired woman, Angel, and ran an identity check on her. It drew a blank. The known names Angelo, Angelicus, Archangel were all men. There was a vague reference to God’s Angel’s, a terror cell based in Haiti, but the details from that closed-off country were sketchy, and since the earthquake a few years ago, obtaining reliable records always proved difficult. Having drawn a blank, Bond turned his attention to obtaining the original designs of The Sun Chaser.


By five o’clock, and with little progress to show, he was tired and irritable. On board ship, he’d surreptitiously activated the sweep on the Omega. The Geiger counter had provided a few negligible readings. He was more intrigued by the lower levels of the ship and the locked bow section.


“I know they’re sleeping aboard,” said Bond, “But do you think they’ll come ashore at any time?”


“I should think so,” said Maritza, “Sabatini’s got an engagement tonight - at La Fortaleza.”


“He has?”


“Don’t you listen to anything?” Maritza chided, “It’s in today’s San Juan Star. I found it on the net,” she pulled the page from user history and clicked on it and read: “‘Eight thirty, reception, dinner and address given by Marcelo Sabatini on the great preservation strides taken by the Sea World Foundation.’ Gabi told us about it, but you were too busy complimenting the chef on his shelled crabs.”


“They were excellent crabs,” commented Bond.


Once he explained his plan, Bond returned to the hotel. While he slept, Mucho watched The Sun Chaser from the balcony of the suite. He woke Bond at seven thirty.


“They’re on their way; Sabatini, the girl and the two goons.”


“How long do you think the reception will last?”


“Three maybe four hours. How many men do you think are on the boat?”


“A boat like that probably crews nine or ten. I only saw the captain and two chefs, but there must be an engineer, possibly two, a boson and a mate, so six if I’m lucky.”


“And if you’re unlucky?”


“More than six.”


They gave until nine-thirty. Mucho drove to one of the old quays on Puerta de Tierra. Hugging the shadows, Bond pulled on the wet suit and Mucho lifted the single aqualung onto his back. Bond started checking the weights on his webbing belt and making sure he’d got all the right equipment in his waterproof kitbag, a plastic holdall that strapped to his chest. He spat in the mask to prevent steaming, adjusted the valve on the breathing apparatus and felt for the scuba knife at his waist. Finally, Bond waddled alongside the quay, wading deeper until the water supported him. When it was up to his ears, he submerged and launched himself forward into the Atlantic swell.


Now Bond checked his luminous compass. He was heading straight for The Sun Chaser. To his left Bond could make out the spidery remains of a sunken ship, half covered in coral and grasses, the planks sticking out at odd angles, the hiss of moonbeams giving it a spectral appearance, like dozens of waving humans, twisted like Munch’s screaming figures. A lone octopus shunted away from the interloper, its long brown tentacles weaving patterns in the water, and went to hide in the half buried hull.


Part of Bond’s mind was concentrating on the swim, part of him was thinking about the girl, Gabi, and her dead father. How exactly did they fit into the saga? She’d been honest about her role as Sabatini’s mistress and it made sense that Adam Goldberg wouldn’t know of it. But did Sabatini know of her father’s pivotal position at A.W.E.? The connection surely could be no coincidence. Just like the facial contortionist from Kiev, this wasn’t a case of simple serendipity. The only problem Bond had was in trying to fathom a relationship between Sabatini and the missing Trident. The girl had told him the boat had left San Juan on Tuesday. Assuming she was back on board the next night, that was a whole day out of harbour. That was plenty of time for a boat the size of The Sun Chaser to locate and hide four warheads.


The other burning question was why? The only oddity about Sabatini, even excusing a rise to fame and fortune shrouded in mystery, was his charity work, the Sea World Foundation, a global ecological fund seeming to contradict his personal history. Or was there something else? He’d been most vehement regarding the fate of the world, of over population and human greed. It had almost been a prepared speech. He’d referred to his ecological beliefs as a religion, litany and liturgy in one, and he’d spoken with the zeal of the converted. And that pagan ring, Bond wondered; did it have any significance? Yet for all those oddities, it still didn’t equate him with nuclear terrorism. The questions piled on top of each other.


Gradually they receded from Bond’s mind. The watery moonscape altered again. A meadow of purple sea grass spread away from him. In the languid current it waved back and forth like soft deep fur. Slanting into the centre of the thicket was an interlocked chain. Bond swam to the anchor and began his ascent towards the grey hull above.


Initially he was heading for the forestay. The lights from the state rooms lit the surface of the water and penetrated the first few metres, turning the sea into a misty milky explosion. Along the sides of the hull, toward the rear, the great hydrofoil propellers were folded like arrows against the stark Zeppelin curve. As Bond reached the apex of the chain he drew in a breath. There it was.


Bond scrabbled for the camera-binoculars, switched them to night vision, and pointed them at the flat bow. There was a ridge of metal, only an inch or so, running on both sides from the bow of the yacht to about twenty feet down the hull. An underwater hatch. Bond took several photographs and then swam deftly aft, staying completely beneath the hull.


Reaching the pontoon deck, he stared up through his bubbles and the gleam of light. Making out no one on deck and careful to remain on the seaward side, Bond quietly broke the surface of the water. He listened for a few moments, his ears adjusting to the sound of the open air, no longer fogged by the pressure of the water. He heard them. Footsteps.


Bond slipped back under the pontoon, just for a minute, all the while staring through the ripples at the hazy light above. When no silhouettes split the white, he resurfaced, and listened again. Satisfied, Bond climbed the ladder, kicked off the flippers and removed the aqualung and mask. He laid them out of sight in the spare motor launch ready for his return. For a few moments he stood quiet, half expecting to be interrupted. He was wearing one of the new quick dry lycra outfits and while he waited his suit virtually dried.


Bond went up the steps to the rear deck.


The internal lights of the lounge were on and the glass doors shut. Bond kept to a crouch. Above him the bridge was illuminated. Captain Nordraak was probably cooing to his controls, rocking his baby to sleep.


Bond crossed to the doors, found them unlocked and slipped inside. He was half way across the room, when he heard voices. Damn it! Bond curled behind the cocktail bar. Two men entered the lounge. Bond wasn’t sure but thought it might be the chefs. They passed straight through the room and outside. Cautiously Bond raised his brow above the parapet, his head half hidden by a bowl of fresh fruit. He couldn’t see the men. Bond took a seedless grape and popped it into his mouth.


Between the two state rooms was the internal spiral stairway descending like a screw from the bridge to the engineering deck. He took it and went all the way down. He could hear the low throb of the electricity generator. At the end of a short passage, Bond could see an airlock door. He headed for it. The door was the furthest hatch forward in the focsle. Traditionally this would be where the sailors slept and it intrigued Bond that this was a sealed door.


Quickly he spun the wheel, felt the bolts slide back and swung open the heavy door. Beyond it was a second airlock. Bond closed the first before he opened the second. He stepped onto a metal platform. As Bond suspected he now stood in what Sabatini had termed ‘the hold’. It was much deeper than he expected. Almost two floors high, the hold sank down to the keel of the ship, the walls curving inwards at the base. A steep ladder led from the platform to the storage areas. A massive water tank encompassed the far end of the hold and inside it Bond could just discern the outline of the hatchway. Above the tank hung a winch and around the walls were stored various items of aquatic machinery, from jet skis and shark guns to aqualungs and water sleds. There was even a mini two man submersible.


Bond closed the second airlock and descended the ladder. Under the platform was a decompression chamber, suggesting whatever aquatic activities Sabatini was engaged in, they went on at some depth. Bond considered for a moment and opened the circular door. Sitting inside the chamber were two metal cradles. Each one looked to be about two metres in length. The height of a MIRV warhead. Bond activated the Geiger counter sweep and dropped his watch inside. The warning light flashed instantly. So, something radioactive had definitely been inside the chamber. Two warheads maybe, or four, two at a time? Bond retrieved the watch. Quickly he took out the camera-binoculars and loosed off a few shots of the equipment, the cradles and the hold. What he didn’t see was any evidence of heavy drilling equipment. There were some tools suitable for hand drilling and digging, more for excavation work than industrial exploration. Exactly how then did Sabatini perform his spur-of-the-moment geological tests without the right equipment? Maybe he never did. Bond’s thought were interrupted by the sound of the airlock bolts rolling open.


Soundlessly, he slipped into the water tank, took a deep breath and pressed himself against the darkest wall, sinking as low as he could. Vaguely he could hear voices, muffled by the water. They sounded urgent and angry. His scuba gear must have been discovered. This wasn’t looking good. He heard the clang of steps on the ladder. Then someone was prowling the hold. He could hear the machinery being moved in a rapid search. Bond’s lungs started to ache. How long had he been down here? A minute, maybe more. He scrabbled for the plastic pouch and the lungs of the re-breather.


More clangs, someone shouted, more words and the airlock thumped shut. Bond pushed up to the surface and gulped in a huge lungful of air.


But the airlock wasn’t shut.


Startled, the man conducting the search whirled away from the decompression chamber, his hands still on the lever, locking it. Bond was already moving, the hand gripping the five-finger-hole hilt of the scuba knife, pulling it from the scabbard. The man shouted. Bond’s arm went back, forward and the dagger suddenly projected out of the broad chest. It wasn’t a fatal blow, but the shock of the impact, the depth of the wound, stunned the guard. He staggered back against the door and slid down, his legs akimbo.


Bond was out of the water like a salmon, reached him in two strides and knocked him out with two blows, one to each temple. He yanked the dagger out of the man’s chest. This trip was going from bad to worse. Did he risk going back through the ship? Hell, no way.


Bond located the control for the undersea hatch, conveniently labeled, and switched it. There was a grind of machinery and the floor of the tank began to separate as the two twelve foot doors swung open. Bond slipped the camera into his body pouch, pulled out the re-breather and placed it over his nostrils and into his mouth. Here’s hoping, he prayed and once more slipped into the murky night time waters.


He swam down first of all and then struck out, his arms and legs kicking quickly to get him clear of the yacht and its lamplights. He’d hardly gone more than twenty metres when the sea became bathed in white. Someone had switched on a searchlight. He was a sitting duck. Bond dived deeper, feeling his ears pop under the pressure. His eyes stung with the salt water. His only hope was that he was far enough away, far enough down to out-swim the beam. Around him shoals of frightened fish hurried away from the strobe of light, tails flapping urgently. Bond saw a man-sized tarpon, almost eight massive feet of bony silver, twist onto its side and make a full 360° turn, confused by the sudden appearance of day during night. Scared, it slunk down to the safety of the seabed. There was no such reprise for Bond.


Above him he suddenly felt the push of the water, a bow wave crashing into the small of his back. Stunned, Bond spun onto his side, his head turning to look back at the ship. A two pronged foil jet, wings half retracted, was heading straight for him, its forward light blazing, a helmeted man hunched behind the handle bars. Bond kicked sideways, squirming, and felt the rush of the jet as the foil sped past, missing him by inches. The craft rose, the wings extending, until it broke the surface becoming foil borne like a normal jet ski. Bond was left reeling in its choppy wake.


It was one of those new-fangled MR1s. A cross between a jet ski and a motocross bike, except instead of wheels, two beams struck out from the mainframe. They could be raised or lowered and powerful electric motors were fitted to the rear wing, lifting or sinking the craft depending on the trajectory of the beams. The crew had picked them for pursuit because they were fast and had the ability to speed underwater in short bursts.


To his left a second foil jet made its dive. Bond twisted, kicking in a demented back stroke to escape the fiberglass wings as they scythed towards him. The water rush shoved him backwards. As the foil jet ascended, Bond trod water, assessing his situation. The two craft were circling; it wouldn’t be long before one of them dived again. Did he try to use the knife? Too slow in the water. Did he try to escape, to flee? Madness. There seemed to be only one possibility. He had to kidnap one of the foil jets himself.


The halo of light shot down towards him. Bond moved early, saw the handlebars twist to follow him. The craft passed over his head, shock waves buffeted him. Disorientated, Bond rolled over in time to see the second craft heading directly for him. Instinct made him duck. It was painfully slow. The front leg of the craft brushed his shoulder. Pain shot through his arm. It was like being hit by a sledgehammer. The engines were virtually silent. Bond had no aural sensation, no extra senses to judge where the next attack would come. He could only to use his eyes.


Still treading water, head flicking left and right, he glanced the foaming ivory circle over his left shoulder. This time he avoided the scooter by less than a foot. As the foil jet zipped by, an effervescent cloud following it, Bond stretched out a hand through the bubbles and gripped the rear pillion. Shocked, the rider half turned. The craft still rose at speed. Bond clung on, his legs bruised by the feedback from the engines. They broke water, emerging into the night with a fountain of spray, Bond’s body flopping wildly to and fro. The jet skated across the waves, bumping, leaping, skiing, its rider desperately trying to throw his passenger off. Bond was whipped in every direction. He gritted his teeth, managed to get his other hand on the finger hold, brought his feet up and planted them on the top of the hot agitated engine case. He felt the MR1 begin to drag.


At first he thought it was his body weight doing the damage. Then he realized the craft was shaping to dive. The front foil angled down, the engines whirred and suddenly Bond was pulled below the surface, the cold water colliding with his face and chest as he was yanked behind the rapidly sinking jet. He was going so fast, his neck muscles might explode. The sheer force of water was terrifying. Keep your face straight down. Don’t look up. If you do, your head will be ripped from your shoulders.


Suddenly the craft began to climb, as fast as it fell - no, faster, steeper. The MR1 crashed through the surf and Bond’s feet lost grip.


The machine took off, leaping dolphin-like several feet in the air, Bond’s torso flailing helpless behind it. As the beams smacked down, Bond’s chest hit the water with an almighty splash. Vaguely he was aware of the second foil jet moving along side. Very close.


Desperate, he released his right hand and clawed for the scuba knife. Both jets were turning into another of those ever decreasing circles. The companion ski was only feet away. Bond freed the shaft of metal. His other hand was slipping. The figure was nothing more than a blur, black against black, nothing to aim at. Bond launched the dagger across the divide, saw it glint in the haze. It struck sideways on, impaled into the man’s side, below his elbow, probably took out a kidney. Machine and man separated. The rider was bundled unceremoniously into the water, legs twirling, and the MR1 crashed over his body and scooted a few metres until it lay idling on the surface.


Bond let go the pillion and swam to the stricken machine. The wounded rider was making a similar move. Bond got there first and righted the craft. The struggling man reached out. Bond didn’t wait. Still half in the water, he twisted the throttle. The jet dived, carrying him with it. The surf kicked up at the injured man, spinning him around like a cork.


Bond clung sideways onto the bodywork, one arm and one leg clutched to the beams. Twenty feet down he eased up on the dive, allowing the craft to taper. There was a metallic shadow wading above, the eye of the headlight blazing. Bond could make out the hazy silhouette of the second rider as he leant over, circling, inspecting the prone body of his colleague.


Bond mounted his drifting jet ski. He thrust the engines into drive, angled the front foil and felt a surge of power as the craft shot through the sea. He smashed out of the waves in a shallow arc. The wings almost knocked the distracted rider off his scooter. Bond landed in a shower of black and white bubbles, turned sharply and headed vaguely along the shoreline. Behind him he heard the engine spurt with anger. The other MR1 was not about to surrender the chase.


Bond glanced back and saw the white light coming for him. He twisted the throttle and silently urged his own machine to plough faster through the surf. The two jets leapt over the waves, skimming the surface, their riders standing three feet clear of the sea, bouncing, hopping, skiing on the ocean. Vaguely Bond wondered if anyone had noticed the conflict, the helter-skelter of the headlamps as they dove and rose, as they crashed through big inbound breakers, the legs and body of the MR1s vanishing beneath the waves, to appear dripping wet, always straight on.


It had become a sprint, a chicken run; who would buckle first? The machine was trembling under the pressure. Bond didn’t know how fast these things went. Twenty, thirty mph? It felt like fifty. The engine whined under protest. Bond wasn’t losing his antagonist. It was time for unexpected actions. Bond spun into an arc and cut the drive.


Angling down, Bond dived deep into the baleful vortex. 


Would the man follow? Yes, there he was, trying to stay focused on his quarry, to not lose sight. It was his mistake for Bond was still arching round, making his circle tighter and tighter with each degree of turn.


He caught sight of the foil jet dead on and hit the thrusters. With horrifying speed Bond’s craft shot towards the other, the water boiling around him. The cascade of bubbles, the machine buried within it, collided with the man’s upper body. There was a loud clunk which penetrated past the fury of the water and the crowing engines. As he cut to the surface, Bond was aware of the second foil jet madly cogging, the rider unconscious at its centre, thrown about in the vicious whirlpool. He didn’t wait for results.


Bond ripped the re-breather from his mouth and slipped it into his shorts. Getting a bearing he headed away from the city and The Sun Chaser. The yacht was now no more than a low-lying halo on the horizon, but he didn’t fancy his chances of returning anywhere near San Juan with a stolen foil jet. He sped over the rollers and eventually turned towards the sandy beaches and spike pines that lined Piñones. As he neared the shore, Bond could make out the famous battered shacks, food stalls and makeshift bars that lined the beach. He drove the MR1 straight onto the sand, ditching it when the front foil lodged.


There was some sort of beach party in progress right along the whole stretch. Crowds of people were milling about, drinking and dancing. Disco music hung in the air and the waft of fresh cooking mixed with the salt smell of the surf.


Bond stripped off the wetsuit and tossed it over the seat of the jet-ski. Underneath he wore a pair of speedo trunks, a little too short. He strode up the beach, stole a beer bottle from a busy stall and smiled at a clutch of bikini-clad made-up girls who giggled at his state of undress. As he walked through the melee, Bond saw an abandoned shirt lying over the back of chair. It had something to do with the semi-nude couple who were necking on the next recliner.


He picked it up and pulled it on. It was the woman’s floral blouse. He shrugged and headed for the main road and the bus stop, body pouch in hand.


He’d waited ten minutes, drying in the warm midnight breeze, when an off-white convertible Mustang, the V6, screamed to a halt at the kerb. Eyeing him curiously from the driver’s seat was a woman. She beckoned with her finger. Bond stepped across to the car.


She was fiery red under a long chiffon scarf which covered her hair, neck and shoulders. The scarf was swan white, but she was dressed in black leather, a two piece zippered outfit which fitted closer than a glove. He thought she smelt of oranges.


“Going somewhere, Mister Bond?”


“Hopefully my hotel,” he replied, “Have we met before?”


“Last night,” she said, “At the Water Club. Can I give you a lift?”


“Thank you,” Bond sat in. At last he recognized her. It was the mystery woman who had called Gabi away. She was as strikingly attractive as he remembered. But just as he’d queried her presence then, Bond asked himself again: what was Angel doing here?


“I’m staying at the Marriott,” was all he said.


“What a coincidence,” Angel slid the car into gear and in seconds had accelerated to sixty, “That’s my hotel too.”


“Aren’t you staying on The Sun Chaser?”


“No,” she hummed, changing gear and over revving as she sped past a column of traffic, “The beds are so uncomfortable.”


“But you do work for Sabatini, don’t you?”


“I work with him, if that answers your question?”


“It does. I can’t honestly imagine you working for anybody. You’re much too free spirited.”


She laughed, undertook, and stamped on the accelerator. The street lamps purred past, other cars moved aside as if she was commanding a Roman chariot and she was the empress with her captive. The analogy amused him, but Bond didn’t say so. He was more interested in the ring she wore, an amber amulet inlaid with a black pagan triangle, the earth symbol.


“You share some of that spirit, I think, Mister Bond,” Angel flicked a painted nail at his colourful apparel, “Are you trying to get in touch with your feminine side?”


“I was swimming.”


“And did the mermaids rescue you?”


“Something like that.”


The car zoomed down the hard shoulder of the highway. Indignant headlamps flashed. Bond could feel the warm rugged Caribbean air sculpting his face. His hair was blown. The shirt almost ripped from his chest. She burst through a stop light, tyres screaming, and narrowly avoided a side on collision. Horns blared, but the ghost girl ignored the chaos and drove on.


“Do you always drive this fast?”


“If I need to be somewhere in a hurry.”


“And are you?”




“In a hurry.”


“I wouldn’t want you catch cold. You’re soaking.”


As they hit the outskirts of Condado, Angel pulled off the main road. She knew the side streets, but kept up her crazy speed, the klaxon matching the abuse she received as she took insane risks with the little sports car, the flashing extra spots warning everyone she was coming and coming very fast. Within minutes they were snaking onto Ashford Avenue and into the ebb of local traffic. They hit the Marriott’s approachway with a bump, Angel stopping directly by the anterior of the hotel.    


Bond breathed a sigh of relief. Angel, unconcerned, dangled the key at the valet.


“Did you enjoy the ride, Mister Bond?”


“Of course,” he replied, steadily, “There’s nothing I like more than a fast ride.”

#15 chrisno1



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Posted 28 March 2013 - 07:36 PM




Where the hell had she come from? Bond asked the question over and over as the elevator took them to the upper floors. Angel got out on the ninth.


“Good night, Mister Bond,” she said and he watched her slink away up the corridor.


Bond pressed for his floor. Back in his suite he immediately contacted Mucho.


“Where are you, James?” He’d seen some of the action from his hidden vantage point, “What the hell’s going on?”


“I’m having a restless night. Come back to the hotel, we’ve got some photos to view.”


Mucho was at the Marriott in ten minutes. Showered, changed and refreshed, Bond met him outside and they spent an hour back at the HQ studying the digital pictures of the hatch and the aquatic equipment. Maritza was still there, burning the midnight oil on research.


“I’d love to know if that hatch was on the original spec,” said Bond.


“Does it matter?”


“Not really, but it might be an extra link in the chain; Sabatini might not be the kingpin of this operation. If he isn’t, any clue to the real perpetrator would be useful.”


“Shall I send these off to Washington?”


Bond thought for a second, “No. Wait until we have those blue prints. If I know your boss, he’ll have us charging in with a battalion of commandos before I can say ‘Gulfstream’ - not a good idea.”


Mucho stored the pictures and Bond’s long evening was done. He returned to the hotel and collapsed on his bed, his mind spinning with underwater worlds and out of control jet skis.


He awoke at seven, ordered coffee, yoghurt and papaya from room service and soaked in a bath, easing the tired muscles from the previous night. There was a bruise where the foil jet had whacked him, but other than that he looked in good nick. Shaving in the mirror he suddenly found himself paying particular attention to his appearance and started plucking hair from his ears and eyebrows. What was he doing? This wasn’t a date. This wasn’t a girl he had to impress. It was a mission. She was a human target. He needed to get to the girl. Gabi was still his only tangible link to Adam Goldberg, to Trident, maybe to Sabatini. He couldn’t let any other notions sway him. Yet there was an obscure, unfathomable, attraction. She was certainly beautiful, but many women were that. There was another quality. Beneath her sheen of flawless skin and fine bones, there was some secret pith to her flesh, something that drew him. Was it that she was trapped, a compliant animal enslaved to the raw aggression of the hunter, or was it that she had fended alone, almost an orphan, abandoned to the horrors of an avaricious world, the same world she now bestrode as a siren?


Damn it, James. The razor skimmed a bobble on his chin, cut it. Concentrate. It isn’t about her. But goddamn, she’s gorgeous.  


Bond drove at good speed along the coastal road, the 187, before cutting across the eastern tip of the island, around the tropical forests of El Yunque, and down towards Fajardo.


As he made the final few turns, following the GPS satnav with its annoying southern states accent, a car horn beeped at him. It was the girl’s cobalt blue Honda Jazz. A hand stuck out over the windshield and waved. His spine tingled. Bond chanced a proper look over his shoulder. The sun reflected off the glass, but he knew she was smiling. Bond slowed to the next junction and pulled up at the red light. Gabi stopped alongside, lifted her Dior shades.


“Sorry, I’m late,” she called, “Race you!”


“No, thanks.”


“Ah, do I frighten you, James?”


“No, accidents do.”


“Some accidents are happy ones.”


She beamed a smile, one that started at her eyes and finished somewhere in the space between her lips and his. It was a good twelve foot, but Bond felt the closeness.


The lights changed and the Honda sprang away from the stop line. Bond let her go.


The Villa Marina wasn’t the most exclusive harbour in the town, but it was probably the biggest. In addition to the water bound charges which lined the eight quays, there were rows of iron scaffolds on which motor launches were propped, three high and two deep. A big fork lift eased the girl’s speed boat from one of the racks and deposited it on an empty berth close to the main quay.


The girl handed Bond a charge card.


“Go and buy some provisions, James, water and sandwiches. Don’t bring beer; we can’t drink on this trip.”


Bond went to what passed for a supermarket, an odd-and-sods place which sold fishing and sailing accessories as well as food and drink. Bond bought water and fruit juice, a pack of ice and four rounds of curling sandwiches. When he returned the girl was on the quay supervising the refueling.


“She’s called The Rosa,” noted Bond, “After you’re mother.”


“You remembered.”


He did listen sometimes. The Rosa was a Maxum 1750SR, one of those sleek fiberglass bayliner’s whose little touches of opulence made one sigh: the high wrap-round windshield, the cream leather seats, the silver accents on the dash, the single stern drive, its 30mph cruising speed and its top mark of 42mph. Bond liked her immediately; she was small, compact and uncomplicated, a bit like her mistress.


“Did you buy her?”


“Goodness, no, she’s really Marcelo’s. He gave her to me. I expect she was called something else,” her tone became melancholy, “And probably used by someone else; but for now, she’s all mine.”


“How often do you get to use her?”


“Not as often as I like. We were here for all winter last year, but I’ve spent most of summer in Italy. Marcelo and I would fly out for a week at a time and then fly back. Sometimes he came alone. This year has been so different.”


“Different how?”


“I don’t know,” the girl said, then lowered the sunglasses onto her nose as if to close the conversation, “He seems preoccupied.”


The moment passed. Gabi paid for the fuel and hopped into the starboard skipper’s seat. She reached into the glove box, pulled out a captain’s hat and placed it on her head.


“Step aboard, James,” she said cheerfully, “We’re good to go.”


She was wearing a sailor suit, the sort of thing you might buy from Tommy Hilfiger, knee length turned up shorts and a striped blouse with epaulettes, white and navy blue, including a neckerchief. With the hat, Bond thought she looked oddly childish, while clearly a woman. Her curves filled the outfit, the body moving as a single living entity, a stage apart from the brilliant smile, black hair and deep brown eyes. The bed of butterscotch skin seemed wrapped in virginal, tempting white.


Bond took up a position next to her, felt the sway of the water beneath him and steadied himself as the girl manoeuvred the motor boat out of the marina, past the wind break and into the sounds and passages which split Puerto Rico from its eastern islands, a low lying range of rivets which punctured a forty mile arc in the ocean between the mainland and the Virgin Islands.


The inland sea was benign. Sheltered by the near isles, the channel was easily navigable. The 1750 hardly gave a shudder, skimming the water like oil on glass. Bond could see the palm infested islands, given over to tourism, unique beaches for the rich day-tripper and havens for big game fishermen. A ferry, probably on its way to Culebra or Vieques, blasted its warning hooter as Gabi passed too close. She was heading out fast now, free of the busy inshore sea lanes, and heading for Los Palominos, another secluded luxury outpost.


“They want to turn all these islands into proper hotels,” remarked the girl, “But there are plenty of objections. Boats make regular trips already from Fajardo. The ferries and the tourists spoil the natural habitat. The Sea World Foundation is one of the prime campaigners against it.”


“That sounds worthy,” replied Bond, “I had no idea Sabatini was so charitable.”


“I think he does it for the kudos.”


The girl expertly guided The Rosa away from the outlying reefs and finally pushed the throttle. The speeder hit full tilt, cutting across the swell and making rapid diagonal progress eastwards.


Bond grabbed the handrail for support, feeling his sea legs wobble with the thunderous acceleration. The girl hardly noticed, the cap squashed onto her head, her hair blowing behind it. There was a broad smile on her face and the cheeks blossomed. Occasionally she gave him a sly glance, just enough to check he wasn’t feeling ill. Reassured, she laughed.


“What’s so funny?”


“For a boat designer, you don’t look very comfortable at sea.”


“I don’t usually travel this fast,” he said, “It seems to be becoming a habit recently. I prefer sail boats.”


“Ah,” she said it as if that explained everything, “Next you’ll tell me you don’t swim.”


“I do. And very well,” he replied, “How far are we going?”


“Almost to the U.S. Virgin Islands, about thirty eight miles, give or take.”


The open water was choppy and the 1750 finally started to bounce as bigger waves, the breakers which swept from across the Atlantic, came unhindered by land. For a time they were completely isolated, only the sun and the sea and the needle of a compass to guide them.


“When did you learn to navigate, Cap’n?” asked Bond.


The girl laughed and tossed the hat aside, shaking loose her hair, turning it into a wild black mane. “Marcelo taught me. He wanted to teach me lots of things, at the start. It’s funny, isn’t it, how people change?”




“James, you are looking serious again. Please stop it, at least for today.”


They’d been out for just over an hour when Bond noted the flat horizon changing. It was peppered with little green hills, gradually growing as The Rosa neared. They were one side of the fan of a horseshoe shaped archipelago of tiny islands. The biggest of them rose up almost sixty metres, a grey and green escarpment which tapered off as it dug down to the water’s edge. The beach was nothing more than a rocky plain littered with massive granite boulders, all on top of each other, forming weird shapes and half sunken grottos. Shore birds circled and nested among the crevasses. It was the classic steep sided sunken caldera. The only evidence of the once destructive force which had created it was the wallowing lagoon.


“This is Caldera Herradura,” stated the girl, decelerating, “The volcano blew itself to pieces thousands of years ago. There’s almost nothing left of its walls above the surface.”


“It’s magnificent,” Bond was trying to calculate distances. The farthest islands were over four miles apart, but they clearly didn’t encompass even a quarter of the volcano’s original shape. “It must be enormous.”


“The scientists say it’s one of the world’s biggest super-volcanoes. Or was, I guess.”


“Let’s hope so.”


Gabi directed the boat around the tail of the main island, “And that’s the research centre.”


Past the farthest outcrop squatting over the ocean, was a drilling platform. It was as big and brutish as an oil rig, the size of a football pitch, and was supported by eight vast pillars, anchored to the submerged rocks of the caldera. In the centre was the iron lattice of the mast head, its travel block counter balancing the force of the drill. Beneath it was the open expanse of drilling floor surrounded by the working quarters. Bond could see two engineers in the monkey board half way up the mast, probably making minute adjustments to the drill. Beneath it was the substructure, the open expanse of the drill floor, fuel tanks, boilers and supply stores. Around the platform were the living quarters, a bank of steel condos, housings which looked like painted building blocks, interlinked by open air walkways and stepped, with different levels hanging further over the edge of the rig. A quay surrounded three sides of the platform. Along the longest side a container ship was docked. Excess sand and slurry from the shaft was being disgorged into its open hold. Where an observer might have expected a helipad was instead a communications centre, identifiable by the rooftop packed with satellite dishes and radio masts.


Gabi switched on the ship-to-shore and lifted the receiver.


“We need to let them know we’re here. Security has been tightened up.”


“Why’s that?”


“There was an incident on The Sun Chaser last night,” she explained, “Someone boarded her and attacked the crew. One of them died - lost at sea - and another was wounded. It’s shocking, you wouldn’t think that sort of thing goes on. Marcelo says they were industrial spies.”


“You don’t appear very worried.”


“Why should I? You’re not a spy.”


Bond smiled and picked up the hat. He placed it on her head, deliberately askew.


“Would it matter if I was, Cap’n?”


“Don’t be ridiculous!”


She laughed and clicked on the receiver, “Hey there; this is The Beautiful Rosa calling, permission to dock?” The reply was crackled. The radio operator was clearly not amused, “When are you going to learn the proper terminology, Gabi?”




“I was waiting for your call. I saw you on the radar. Signore Sabatini warned us you were coming. He said to expect trouble.”


The girl giggled, “When do I ever cause trouble, Fisk?”


“All the time,” the radio operator hardly sounded impressed and signed off.


They gently crossed the caldera, dodging a circle of yellow buoys that bobbed on the waves. On each one Bond could make out a centre column topped by a transmitter. The buoys themselves held watertight containers, which Bond took to be electrical equipment.


As they got close to the rig, Bond could feel the vibrations of the pumps, muffled by the water, but still distinctive. They had a slow steady rhythm.  Now he could see the finer details on the rig, the massed reels of steel wire, the stacks of drilling pipes, the boxed in electric cables, the tracing running all over the drill floor. Lower down, there was a pump house and a large fuel tank. Bond wasn’t familiar with oil and gas extraction, but something bothered him. He couldn’t finger it, not yet.  


Gabi was distracting him, telling him to throw the line as she eased The Rosa into the docking bay beneath the platform. An engineer was on hand to secure the 1750. Bond picked up the provisions, stepped out and turned to take her hand. For a moment she paused, then took it and joined him. She didn’t let go the hand and they walked along the wharf to the entrance door. The shock of her cool palm sent a shiver down his spine. It was the first time Bond had touched the girl. They didn’t surrender hands until they entered the building block.


Bond’s first impression was that he had just entered a cargo container. The first room was a simple reception lobby, bordered with settees for comfort. Where a secretary or administrator might have sat was an empty desk. The walls were dull steel, undecorated, broken only by the occasional window. Lights blazed from the ceiling. It was a hot, sweaty place. A single fan spun and gave little or no relief. From the main passage Bond could hear the tell-tale buzz and tick of machinery. He itched to head that direction, but checked himself.


Gabi was heading down a different passage, making straight for the radio room. Bond followed. A chummy, bearded man, a middle aged schoolteacher type, was idly manning the airwaves.


“This is Fisk,” said Gabi, offering her cheek for kiss, “Radio operator, aquanaut, biologist, scuba instructor, chef and all round busy body. This is James.”


Bond said hello. His eyes shifted quickly across the banks of monitors. Satellite positioning, weather monitors, radar, short wave radio, standard pick up, air conditioning sensors (clearly broken), undersea cameras and wave radar. It was an extremely sophisticated set up. Much more guarded than he would have expected. Bond wondered where they kept the armoury, for God’s sake.


Fisk treated Gabi like a child. Yes; he definitely had that scolding manner to him.


“I’m surprised you’re here,” he said, “You know we’re very busy right now.”


“Spoilsport!” she teased, “Marcelo said it was all right.”


This seemed to placate Fisk. He offered a shrug.


“Is Nautilus ready?” asked the girl.


“She is. I got Caldwell to check her over for you. ”


“We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”


“Okay. And remember to be careful this time, Gabi, she’s an expensive piece of kit. Please, take it slow.”


“I will,” she flashed a grin at Bond; “My passenger doesn’t like fast girls.”


“Don’t frighten the fish either.”


They entered the cafeteria. Half a dozen men were eating a lunch of fish stew and soda bread. They all appeared to be technicians, although it was hard to tell, for it was so hot they’d dispensed with lab coats and wore slacks and short sleeves. The men didn’t appear happy to see her. They shared the same, slightly off-hand manner as Fisk. Gabi appeared uncomfortable, as if this wasn’t the reception she expected. She managed to pass Bond a reassuring smile.


“Come and meet Professor Méndez,” she said enthusiastically, “He won the Nobel Prize.”


The Professor was a balding man, all spectacles, moustaches and white coats. He looked very tired. He turned his eyes to Gabi and for a moment they smiled. When he saw Bond the smile faded.


“Hello, Professor.”


“Gabi,” the mouth moved but the word only seemed to slip out, “What have I told you about bringing visitors to the facility?”


“Oh we’re only going to visit the observatory,” answered the girl, “Don’t fuss, Marcelo knows we’re here.”


“Does he?” Méndez’s moustache almost bristled, “Well, perhaps you can tell him that at such a delicate time I’d appreciate a less cavalier attitude.”


Bond felt the girl stiffen at the rebuke. He leaned over, extending his hand.


“I’m sorry, Professor, it’s really my fault. I promise we won’t interfere in your work, whatever it is.”


“It is vital work, vital preparation,” the Professor said, automatically taking the hand and shaking it. The palm was wet. Bond noted the ring on the finger. He held the hand longer than necessary, turning it slightly to inspect the amber insignia. The movement disturbed the Professor and he stood up, muttering in Spanish, and headed for the exit.


“He’s not usually so grumpy,” said the girl, distracted, “It’s usually much nicer here. Never mind. Come on, let’s find Nautilus.”


Bond looked after the scientist. The name hadn’t registered when he’d heard it yesterday, but now the face did. It had been on the cover of Time; some controversy or other, Bond couldn’t quite recall.


Nautilus was on the far side of the wharf, tended by an efficient looking technician. She was a double hulled surface powerboat with a central sealed canopy containing seating for four passengers plus the pilot. It was a hybrid design, thirty feet long with twin inboard engines fitted into the titanium proofed catamaran hulls.


“She’s a Hyper-Sub,” elaborated Gabi, “That’s short for Hyper-Submersible Powerboat Design. Nautilus can run both on water and below. I think it was supposed to be designed for the US navy. Have a look while I get changed.”


Bond hopped onto the boards and peered into the cockpit. He’d seen pictures and diagrams of Hyper-Subs in dispatches. He’d expected it to be a cluttered affair, but the interior was much like an estate car, even down to the size of the steering wheel. It was remarkably plush, upholstered in leather and wood grain. He noted the speedometer went up to fifty knots. Nautilus wasn’t slow, even underwater.


“How deep does she go?” he asked.


“About seventy five,” replied the technician, “But you won’t be going so far down. The observatory is only fifty metres into the caldera.”


“What happens if we get lost?”


“GPS, even underwater,” he explained, “Radar, autopilot, VHF radio and even a satellite phone. She’s quite a beauty.”


Gabi returned, freshly alluring, kitted into a figure hugging wet suit, the short-legged design. Bond tried to resist a smile, but failed. “I can see that.”


She was carrying another suit for him. “You’re turn. I hope it isn’t too small.”


Bond went to change and when he returned, Gabi was already in the central bucket seat.


“You can pilot this thing?”


“Of course; Fisk taught me. I’m quite good - just a bit fast.”


Bond clambered into the cabin and took the seat behind Gabi to her left. The girl activated the electronic canopy. It slid over them and sealed tight with a squelch. The atmosphere was no different to being outside. Strapped into the seat next to him was the cool bag.


“I’ve never had a picnic underwater before,” he commented.


Gabi slipped the reverse throttle and Nautilus gently eased away from the dock. They slowly curved around the research platform and out towards the centre of the huge sunken caldera. 


Gabi opened the ballasts and the hyper-sub started to sink through the foaming sea. Within less than a minute they were completely immersed and gliding effortlessly through the turquoise maya. The ocean was beautifully crisp. Turning his head left, Bond could see the green sided caldera sinking slowly beneath them, its surface peppered with more of those great grey boulders. To the right was the open undersea kingdom, stretching away to the Atlantic, blue fading into a misty grey and then a deep fog of nothingness and everything. Fish of great shapes and small came swirling out of the void, cautiously assessing the new monster that had arrived uninvited into their world. A nursery of silky sharks edged away from them, the mother’s bug eyes wary, powerful tail swishing slowly so as not to suggest panic. This was a predator not used to being ousted from its territory by larger hunters, but today she seemed not to wish a confrontation. Mother and family slunk deeper into the corals and grasses.


As they nosed down, shoals of tiny brightly coloured amphibians, squirrel fish, damsels and yellow saddles, swished across their path. Suddenly alerted to the purring metal beast, they spun away, their tails seeming to form rainbows in the water. A hulking eagle ray swam with them for a while, wings extended, oscillating, as subtle as a butterfly and as unconcerned. Recognizing in Nautilus a fellow monster, it loped above, then beside, finally lost interest and went to bury itself in the sand.


They were almost on bed rock themselves. Bond could make out the sandy plain dotted with rocks, fat waves of algae and pools of unbroken sand. The girl made a broad sweep of the area, disturbing the ground, kicking it into clouds of white, frightening marine crabs and spiny lobsters, who scuttled through the undergrowth to hide.


“Oops,” she giggled, “Too low.”


She maneuvered Nautilus higher and headed for a particularly rocky patch of ground.


“Look there, James,” she said, pointing to starboard, “You see on the surface. Fumaroles, hot springs from the volcano.”


“You mean it’s still active?”


“I don’t think so. But there are plenty of earthquakes around here. I guess the pressure has to escape somewhere.”


“I suppose,” Bond took a long look at the fountains of dislocated heat, hyper thermal vents, the water boiling at the centre, but dissipating further up the column. The sea bed was a gigantic volcanic plug. And underneath the plug, which could be hundreds of meters, even miles deep, the physical world was angry. What did Bond know of the region’s geography? Two ugly tectonic plates, the North American and the Caribbean, fought with each other on a daily basis, forcing the latter to rise and form the gorgeous rugged arc of the Antilles, but also creating an unstable crust, one that splintered and ruptured causing tremors and mini-tsunamis on an annual basis. A great subterranean power was hiding beneath the seafloor, a destructive force which couldn’t be tampered with. Wasn’t that what Professor Méndez had advocated? Tapping thermal power directly from volcanoes? He was jerked from his thoughts by an orange light, far to starboard. 


“What’s that?” he asked.


“That’s the real Sea World.”


As Nautilus passed over the fumaroles, Bond began to see what the light was attached to. Spread along the edge of the sunken caldera sat a dozen barnacle crusted metal pods. They all shared the same truncated size and shape, the distinctive mid-section curve of a submarine. The pods were joined by interconnecting links, rubber corridors above solid buffers, like Jacob’s bogies on trains. Welded together the pods formed a rough circle. They didn’t rest directly on the sea floor, but on an extended support frame of steel girders and pillars. Portholes showed ghostly white against the grime of the barnacles. Bond could see a couple of figures moving inside one of the tanks. Umbilical cords stretched up to the surface, supplying air and power from the support platforms, those yellow buoys he’d noticed earlier. One of the pods featured a raised observation bubble, radiating iridescent tangerine. Bond drew in a breath. The Americans had an installation like this near Miami operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They called it Atlantis, but the NOAA only had one small pod. This was an altogether more ambitious project. There had to be space to live, eat, sleep and work. The only thing lacking would be sunlight. It was an undersea world indeed.





#16 chrisno1



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Posted 30 March 2013 - 11:53 AM




Gabi steered the hyper-sub to the largest pod. Situated at a right-angle to the others, the end of this pod was open to the sea. A rectangular entrance had been cut in the metal and Bond could make out a landing platform and airlock door perched against the internal wall.


Nautilus nudged her way gently inside the mouth of the dock. Gabi flicked a switch on the console and slowly a steel hatch panel slid into place behind them. They were in darkness except for the instrument panels. There was a rumble as the sluices kicked in. The waters frothed around the sub and gradually began to recede. When Nautilus was more or less level with the landing platform the sluices shut off and a bank of ceiling lights flickered on.


“Brilliant, isn’t it?” said the girl.


“Very swish,” muttered Bond, “Every back garden should have one.”


“You’re not funny, you know,” she answered sweetly, with the same grin she gave when laughing, “Come on, James; help me tie up.”


Gabi released the canopy and climbed out. There were leash ropes supplied, covered in sticky aqua scum, which they tied. Behind them someone was opening the airlock.


It was another bearded man, another scientist Bond reckoned. He gave a warm smile and address Gabi as Miss Martelli. The girl called him Ralph and he was English. There was genuine warmth between them. The frostiness Bond had noted at the main installation was completely absent.


“What brings you down here, Miss Martelli?” asked Ralph as he locked the safety door.


“I came to show James the observation dome. I don’t want to disturb you.”


“Not at all, go ahead. Do you want tea?”


“Coffee,” they said together and broke into spontaneous laughter.


“Coffee it is,” said Ralph, leading the way, “What’s in the bag - presents?”


“Lunch,” said the girl, “Sorry.”


Bond paused to look out of one of the big portholes. The caldera floor eased away from them, the churned sand settling, marine life returning to normal.


“What exactly are you doing down here, Ralph?” he asked.


“Sea World was originally designed for subspecies marine research and aqua-nautical experiments,” said the scientist, grabbing a kettle and filling it from a fresh water butt, “You know, for the government. But that’s all petered out now. When ExPro took us over, we started doing geothermal tests.”


“So you’re linked directly with the drilling operation above.”


“That’s right. We do all the seismic monitoring.”


“Really?” replied Bond, “I thought that was what the drill was for?”


“No, they’re cutting a bore shaft. Diamond heads and all that,” he paused, “Didn’t you know?”


The girl squeezed Bond’s arm.


“James is an interested observer,” she said, “Like me.”


“Oh, I see,” Ralph turned back to the kettle.


Bond thought the man was blushing.


“I’m really here for the fish,” he said, “But the project looks fascinating. I met Professor Méndez. He seems very intense. How do you get on with him?”


“He’s a bit of a challenge.”


“I saw some of that. He seemed very jumpy today.”


“That’s hardly fair, James,” replied the girl, “He’s been under a lot of pressure recently. He’s a genius, you



“Most Nobel recipients are. I understood he’s a bit of a maverick.”


“He used to work in Mexico,” said Ralph, “But he upset the scientific community with his theories on seismic activity. He was so discredited he had to quit the university.”


“Is that when Sabatini employed him?”


“I expect so,” the scientist suddenly paused. His colleague had entered the room and was leaning on the door jamb. He was rougher, thicker set, and he inspected Bond with lean suspicious eyes. “This is Willie Becker.”


The new man nodded and took a seat at the table, “Guten tag.”


“Hello,” Bond extended a hand. It wasn’t accepted.


“Really, Willie,” Gabi shook her head in a silent admonishment, “You’re impossible.”


“Sugar?” asked Ralph.


“No, thanks, and black, please,” answered Bond. He took the proffered mug, “Do you believe in the professor’s theories?”


“It’s unsound work,” Ralph started cautiously, “But all great theories have been debunked before they were heralded.”


“What’s the theory?” Bond sipped the coffee and took a seat opposite Willie Becker. The German’s eyes still bore into him. The frostiness was returning.


“Earthquake prediction, volcanic activity, that sort of thing,” answered the scientist hesitantly, “The caldera is alive with geothermal fountains and he wants to tap their energy source.”


“That still sounds controversial.”


“ExPro has put a lot of faith in him. They’ve launched his techniques across the whole estate. The sad thing is we have to keep his involvement a secret or else we might lose a lot of the Foundation’s funding.”


“You said ‘whole estate’ - is there more than one Sea World?”




Ralph suddenly stopped. He was looking at his colleague. Willie Becker hadn’t said anything, but Bond had caught the movement, the inclination of the head, gesturing to the next pod. Ralph was talking too much and the scant bat-eared Becker wanted to stop him.


Bond watched the two men, felt the animosity, and reigned in his most pressing questions.


“How long do you stay down here?” he asked instead.


“No more than three days. We’re on our last stint as it happens.”


Willie Becker started talking in his native tongue. Bond’s German was good and understood every word, although he didn’t need any language skills to know an order when he heard one. None-the-less, the choice of words surprised him.


“Stop it. He’s not one of us. Stop talking before you say too much.”


Bond took another swig of the coffee. The news about the second and third Sea World centres bothered him. How the hell had he missed that? It must have been in the research. Maritza was right: he wasn’t paying enough attention. It was all these damn women.


On cue, Gabi squeezed his arm, “Come on, James, they’re being all secretive again. Let’s go to the observatory. We can have lunch and watch the fish.”


She pulled him away from Becker’s animus gaze. They went through the next two pods, which both seemed to be sleeping quarters, and into the experimentation areas. Bond wanted to pause and take in his surroundings, but the girl seemed in a hurry and pulled him quickly through the cavities. She was almost oblivious, he thought, to what was around her, either by design or by nature. But he didn’t stop her. The pull of her hand in his was too great to resist.


The seventh pod they came to contained nothing but a steep metal ladder which led up to a second floor through a sealed hatch in the ceiling. The girl stepped up it and levered the hatch open. Bond followed, his eyes not moving from the beautiful backside as it ascended into the hole above.


As his head came over the parapet, he was met by the low orange glow of the lights which surrounded the base of the reinforced glass dome. Outside the window, Bond could make out anew the caldera and the wildlife that roamed the warm water garden: bright tropical fish, thick rakes of sea grass, crustaceans, slithery eels and schools of silvery striped cavallas. Intrigued by the light, a baby octopus crept its way across the dome, before deciding the task was pointless and it backstroked away to seek other entertainment.


“What do you think?” said the girl, her hands out-raised.    


“It’s beautiful,” replied Bond and took the hands in his own.


“I like to come here,” she said, turning with him, so they stared out at their reflections bathed among the water

world, “I can be alone here.”


“Away from Sabatini?” he hedged.


“I didn’t used to mind, but now, things have changed.”


“And not just for you, it seems,” said Bond, “What’s really going on here, Gabi? Why all the big secrets?”


“I don’t know, James. When I first met Marcelo, he said the Sea World Foundation was for the good of the earth. He was very idealistic about it. Whatever his faults, he genuinely wants to help the environment. It doesn’t mean so much to me. I told him so once and he became very angry. I was scared, James. It was bad and I hated him for being like that. Afterwards everything was fine, as if it had never happened. He isn’t always like that, but he is impatient. He wants things right away, without question. And sometimes, I can’t, you know.”


Her face turned to his. Bond understood. She didn’t need to explain or be plain. Sabatini, with his hawk eyes, his brute presence, was merely an animal, hunting, feeding, digesting and spitting out the waste. When the lion has had his fill, he discards the carcass and leaves it to the scavengers. Sabatini was abandoning the girl. She was becoming part of the left overs. Looking out, Bond could see the girl’s reflection. The beautiful wide mouth parted. The teeth gleamed. The tongue almost poked out, then retreated.


He bent over and kissed the mouth, quickly, lightly, and then harder, until their lips hurt.


Finally Gabi broke the embrace, her hands on his arm, failing to restrain him, her craving heart pounding on his ribcage. One single hot gasp escaped from her chest.


Slowly deliberately, the girl moved to the hatch, closed it and locked it.


“I don’t want us to be disturbed, James.”


As she walked back to him, Gabi unzipped the wet suit and shrugged it off her shoulders.


A while later, Bond was drinking sparkling water and eating one of the pastrami sandwiches he’d bought.  He was sitting on one of two metal benches, the only furniture in the place, his back to the dome. The girl was tickling his feet with her nails. Earlier they’d made a slow, silent love as she sat astride him, hands on the glass, hair draped across his face like a curtain, hiding their faces from each other, as if they were still strangers and the mystery was to be revealed.


She looked a stranger to him now, the bikini back in place, but the sight and scent of love still with her. No longer was Gabi another cog in the wheel of his investigation. Perhaps she’d ceased to be that even earlier. Bond wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure of himself any more. There had been Maritza, just a day or so ago, but she had been a dalliance, a release of his sexual energy. Gabi was different. Available and yet unobtainable. He’d wanted her from the first sight. Now he had his wish, but it was tainted with regret. He’d stepped over the invisible line between business and pleasure. When mixed, in his life, one or the other was bound to fail.


Bond slid down next to her and fed her half the sandwich. Gabi looked as if the world had brightened, but Bond couldn’t share the joy. He had other fears, facts he couldn’t say and suspicions he couldn’t prove. He knew, sooner or later, he would have to tell Gabi some of those facts and in telling her, he would hurt her, hurt her worse than anything Sabatini had done. Bond’s expression, his being, became sorrowful. Why did he always fall for girls he couldn’t hope to make happy? Why did it always end in tears and anger? He’d been impetuous. She’d offered an opportunity, but he ought never to have succumbed to it.


“What’s the matter, James?”


“I’m not sure,” he said slowly, “I feel I ought to apologise. I should have made us wait. This wasn’t the right moment.”


“Because of Sabatini?”


“No,” he said. He couldn’t tell her why. His throat closed up, “Just because.”


“Don’t be sorry.”


“I wanted it to be different.”


“You mean with flowers and wine?”


“Perhaps. Perhaps not. I didn’t want to steal you from Sabatini. I wanted you to leave.”


“I suppose I have, at least in my mind.”


“I was worried,” started Bond, brushing a strand of hair from her face as if that would remove the problem, “You

might be falling in love with me.”


“I thought the same about you,” she murmured.


“Perhaps we should both walk away now.”  


“It’s gone too far for that.”


“What do you want to do?”


“I don’t know.”


“You must tell him.”


As soon as he said it, Bond knew it was wrong. He was putting his personal feelings first. The mission could go to hell. The girl mattered more to him than Trident missiles and dead navy captains. Sitting beside him was someone soft and real, and yet magical; a woman who could spirit away all the troubles of his world and wrap them in a frivolous Pandora’s Box, bury them, never to be seen again. You didn’t let someone as charmed as that disappear. And yet, he knew, soon, she would do just that and he would once more be alone to face the cursed world.


“It won’t be easy,” continued the girl, “He’s been working towards something, something very important. I feel he needs me.”


Envy burned. Despite what he thought, Bond couldn’t help the anger.


“Sabatini’s got nothing to do with it,” his words were fierce, spat out through gritted teeth, “You need me, Gabi; I need you.”


“I know, James,” her fingers pressed against his lips for silence, “That’s why it’s so hard.”


He placed his arm around her. The girl’s head rested on his shoulder. He could feel her breath on his chest. It was the sweetest breath of air. They sat like that for a long time, listening to each other live. Finally the girl moved.


“We have to go,” she declared.


“All right,” agreed Bond.


Back in the pods, Willie Becker had clearly won the argument between the two scientists. Ralph was tongue-tied and nervous. Bond pretended to be interested in the work stations, the computer graphics of thermal monitors, depth gauges and earth tremors, seismic readings from the earth’s crust. The science was lost on him and he wasn’t offered an explanation. What intrigued him most was the sudden change in Sea World’s commission. Like the drilling rig, like the appearance of Professor Méndez, everything was slightly unreal, slightly unlikely. The longer he stayed around the set-up, the less he believed it.


They took Nautilus back to the drilling platform. The girl wanted to say goodbye to Fisk, so Bond stayed outside, soaking up the sun as it bellowed onto the archipelago. Walking to the edge of the wharf, he shaded his eyes and stared up at the rig. Suddenly he realized what it was that had bothered him.


Two men were still on the monkey board. They were directing the fixing of another drill bit, a massive circular saw packed with diamonds designed to push ever deeper into the crater below. The scientific data may have confused him, but the fundamentals didn’t. The set up was completely wrong for seismic or geothermal testing. You didn’t need to drill into the rock crust to produce such results. If you did, you used tiny drills, ones that wouldn’t disturb the fragile earth below. Ralph had accidently hinted so earlier. The seismic experiments were done from the pods on the seabed. That didn’t explain the oversize piping, the enormous drill bits and the mountain of waste disgorged into the slurry vessel. Everything was on too great a scale. This was no scientific test. It was a bore hole. Méndez was trying to prove his madcap theories. He was burrowing into the untamed terra ingognita. It was dangerous, potentially deadly, potentially catastrophic. No wonder Sabatini wanted to keep Méndez’s involvement a secret.  




#17 chrisno1



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Posted 31 March 2013 - 09:31 PM




The girl dropped Bond back at the marina. He sat in the stern seat watching her manipulate the controls, easing The Rosa through the tidal breaks, her strong legs strutted apart for balance, her black hair played out in the wind rush. All the time he wanted to reach out and touch her, comfort her, tell her what he knew and suspected, but it was too early. The time wasn’t right. The evidence wasn’t there. Despite what he felt, what he’d said, he had to deceive her a while longer. It hurt him, but there it was. He felt duty hang heavy on his shoulders.


The girl noticed it too.


“You look sad,” she said, as they walked back to the cars, “There’s no reason for that, James. We shared a beautiful day and beautiful love. What more do we need?”


Trust, honesty, Bond wanted to say. Instead he murmured, “You’re right, Gabi; but perhaps I shouldn’t have said what I did.”


“You still sound like that schoolboy,” she gave the tiniest giggle and ran her fingers down his cheek, “Don’t be ashamed, James, it doesn’t suit you.”


Bond held her hand, but she withdrew it. Suddenly she was all proper.


“Now, James, tonight, you must come to the Halloween party at La Placita. It’s very informal. During the day the square is a big market, but at night the vendors sell cooked meat and fish and beer and spirits and DJ’s compete to see who can make the most noise. They don’t usually open up on a Sunday, but it’s the last day of Halloween weekend. There’ll be costumes and street entertainers and all sorts. It’s quite an event. Even Marcelo enjoys it.”


“All right. It sounds like fun.”


“It is,” she smiled, “Don’t come before nine.”


They separated. Bond watched her drive away. Gabriella Martelli, he pondered, what a superb girl. The sort you wanted to look after and be looked after by. He settled into the Sebring and let out a long low whistle. Yes, he thought, I could just about -  


What was that? A movement in the driver’s mirror.


Bond twisted, saw nothing. He waited in case the shadow reappeared. When it didn’t he slipped on his Persol’s, shifted the car into gear and was off. He wasn’t thinking straight. The girl had got to him. He was getting jumpy.


The drive back to Condado was framed by the dying sun. Night came fast in Puerto Rico. Every evening at around seven the great hot disc made its rapid descent and the sky blue turned indigo black and the gold and silver lights of San Juan flickered on and the nether world came alive, the one of love and hate, secrets and lies, the hot unspeakable truths. Bond saw the first of the party goers, women with short skirts and shawls, men with colourful tops, the ubiquitous shades. Cars full of revellers were pulling into the streets. The traffic was starting to snarl.


Bond gave Mucho a call.


“Any news on The Sun Chaser?” he asked.


“I hope you’ve had better luck than me, James. Italy seems to close down at weekends. I had to get London to pull a few strings. The architects from Luca Brenta are emailing me blue prints. Apparently. What about you?”


“Sea World’s certainly impressive. So’s the girl.”


“Don’t tell Maritza.”


“No fear. I need you to do more research for me. That drilling platform ExPro has erected on the Caldera Herradura. What’s it supposed to be for? Can we find out? They must have lodged planning permissions and obtained drilling rights. Gabi reckoned it was to do with seismic testing, but it looks way too big an operation for that.”


“Sure. What are you up to now?”


“I’ve just got myself invited to La Placita. What’s it like?”


“Lively,” Mucho laughed, “Is Maritza going with you?”


“Probably not a good idea,” Bond said, “Is she with you?”


“No. I haven’t seen her since lunch.”


“Say hello if you do.”


“I will. Catch you tomorrow. Don’t drink too much.”


Bond flipped the phone shut. The Marriott was on his right and he pulled into the drive, past the rows of neatly parked cars. Bond left his keys with the valet and made his way straight to the elevator.


He paused outside the door to his suite. He could hear music from inside. The mambo. He smiled. It must be Maritza hoping to surprise him.


Bond entered.


The music was loud. The bed was still made up. The remote was sitting on the edge. He picked it up and lowered the volume.




His nose twitched. There was a light fragrance in the air. Not from the fresh flowers, but a deeper scent, orange blossom, bergamot, perhaps some vanilla. It was musk. And a woman’s fragrance too, an aroma he’d caught a whiff of the previous night. Bond could hear a gentle sound of splashing water. Someone was taking a bath. The door was ajar. Bond tapped.


A female voice asked: “Who is it?”


Bond pushed the door open with his foot and stood on the threshold. He leant against the frame and was aware a quizzical look must be crossing his face. 


“Well, this is a surprise.”


“For me too, Mister Bond,” replied Angel.


She was reclining in the bath. Soap suds covered her. The long auburn hair was tied in a bun on her head.


Despite what she said, Angel did not look shocked at Bond’s appearance.


“And why is that?”


“I didn’t expect any visitors.”


“Neither did I; after all, this is my suite.”


“It is?” she asked sweetly, “Then there must be a mistake. I was definitely given this room key.”


“I thought your room was on the ninth floor?”


“It wasn’t up to standard.”


“You surprise me. What was wrong with it?”


“The bed. So uncomfortable.”


She continued to wash while Bond watched. The display reminded him of an exotic dancer, or perhaps more accurately a burlesque girl. She used the sponge and the soap suds to cover her intimates from his gaze. Every so often a tantalising glimpse of a breast would be revealed or a new freshly rinsed shaft of flesh would be flaunted. She cast him furtive, sizzling glances. Occasionally her tongue poked out and seemed to lick her lips. Bond said nothing. He found the display profoundly erotic. It was impossible for the earliest stirrings of lust not to form.


After a few minutes Angel smiled at Bond. She indicated towards the towel rack.


“Hand me one of those.”


Bond took a large bathing towel and held it open for her. Unabashed, she stood up, the soapy water slipping down the curves of her body. She looked magnificent, even covered in bubbles. He wrapped her in the towel and gently started to rub her dry. Angel sighed.


“It really is quite a coincidence us bumping into each other like this.”


“Yes, isn’t it,” mused Bond, his hands sliding down the soft towelling, manipulating the flesh beneath.


“I was hoping we might meet again,” Angel turned around. Her breasts rested on Bond’s chest and he could feel the nipples were hard, “We have much to talk about.”


“Fast cars?” he enquired.


“And other things.”


“What other things?”


She reached up around his neck and planted a kiss on his lips. Bond accepted it. Then he returned it, hard. His hands pulled the towel away and she stood naked in his arms, one leg nestling between his thighs. He was excited by her. Despite everything he’d done that day, or perhaps because of it, Bond’s ardour was high.


“What do you think?” she said and led him into the bedroom.


An hour later, Bond was admiring Angel’s naked body as she lay propped up on one elbow smoking a cigarette. The love had been earthy, fiery. There had been an unexpected unquenchable passion beneath the pale skin. Her breasts, which lolled onto her arm, were full and blessed with fat pink nipples which, even now after making love, stayed erect, like pins. Lower down she was flushed from the loving. The smell of her, even after the sex, was still candied.


“So what exactly is it you do for Sabatini?” he asked.


“I am his right hand.”


“That usually means you get to do all the dirty jobs.”


“Perhaps I enjoy all the dirty jobs.”


She offered him the cigarette. Bond took a lungful and handed it back.


“Am I one of those dirty jobs?”




“Because of the girl?”


“Marcelo Sabatini doesn’t like to lose. I thought you’d learnt that from the casino.”


“You were there?” Bond said, “I didn’t see you.”


“I’ve been watching you for a long time, Mister Bond. I know you do not design yachts.”


“That makes things even,” Bond reached out and twiddled the ring on her finger, the one with the triangle insignia, the pagan symbol for the earth, “I don’t think Sabatini is remotely interested in geothermal power and I don’t believe you find beds remotely uncomfortable.”


She blew a long plume of smoke into the air. Her eyes never once left his face, never moved.


Still holding the cigarette, Angel leaned over and with her other hand she traced the features of his face, her fingertips dancing on his skin.


“Shh,” she whispered and her tongue flicked out and lapped at his mouth, “I don’t think we have anything else to talk about, Mister Bond.”


Bond’s aching muscles rejuvenated. He reached for her, caressing the soft flesh, the hard pointy nipples. He stroked his fingers lower, to the raw heat of her desire.


“No,” he replied, “There’s nothing else to talk about.”      


Their lips met in a vicious kiss.


Half an hour later, Bond, dressed in a Scott and Taylor suit, was fixing his tie. Behind his reflection he saw Angel appear from the dressing room. She was wearing a black satin and chiffon dress, flared from the waist, the top half close fitting, low cut. A string of pearls decorated her neck. The hair was hanging straight and long about her shoulders. She carried a matching crocodile skin handbag.


“Are you ready?” she asked, “We don’t want to keep our hosts waiting.”


“Certainly not,” Bond turned around, “Although I’m in no hurry.”


A quizzical look passed her face.


“You see, I’m more interested in you than you think,” continued Bond, “I’d like to know where we’ve met before.”


“Before?” she questioned, her face scrunched into a frown, “Only twice, Mister Bond, at the Water Club and then last night in my car; have you forgotten already?”


“No. I meant before that. I should have realised earlier. Your perfume is quite distinctive,” he lifted the claret coloured bottle from the dresser, “Maroussia. I’ve detected that scent before - in Kiev. You had blonde hair then.”


“You disappoint me, Mister Bond. I thought it would take you much less time.”


“None the less, I do know that you killed Adam Goldberg.”


She stood still. Bond sensed the tension in her body. It was contorting, waiting to strike him, if he gave her the chance.


“And I expect you also disposed of the mimic, Cartouche, or at least you had some part in it. Are those the dirty jobs you do for Sabatini?”


Angel took two paces towards him until they stood face to face, her head raised to his height by the extra inches of her heels. Pouting aggressively, she rearranged his tie.


“Are you wearing your Walther P99, Mister Bond?” she asked sweetly, “I didn’t see you slip it on. You dress very fast. I hope you don’t want to use it. You wouldn’t hurt a defenceless woman would you?”


“Are you defenceless?”


“No. I could kill you with my bare hands,” she pouted.


He believed it.


“Marcelo wants you out of the way, Mister Bond, and I promised I would do it. But not here, that would be too messy. There are three men outside this room. Everyone will think we are going to La Placita, Mister Bond. You, unfortunately, are drunk already.”


“But I’m not.”


With one swift movement, Angel took the perfume bottle from his hand, stepped back and sprayed the potion directly into his face.


Bond flinched, unavoidably breathing in. It tasted sickly sweet. A concentrated dose of nitros oxide and isoflurane. Knock out juice. Damn it. As he toppled backwards, half conscious, Bond was aware the door had opened and three big men had come into the room. They grabbed at his arms and shoulders. Disorientated, he tried to fight them off, but half his mind was concerned with fighting the drug. A few seconds later Bond felt a second spray. His eyes shut down and he gave up both struggles. His last thought was to make sure he fell on his hands.  



*****              *****              *****



When Bond came around he was in the back of a big grey Lincoln, sandwiched between two of the burly minders. Angel sat in the passenger seat, directing the driver through the winding streets.


They were in La Perla, the shanty town that clung to the escarpment beneath Old San Juan. A warren of terraced, whitewashed and pastel houses, La Perla was home to the dispossessed, the ruffians, the drug addicts and prostitutes, the people who lived in poverty, who survived by wit and crime. By day the place resembled a multi-coloured maze of tiny buildings, the turbulent turquoise, glinting greens and foamy browns seeming to be pulled straight from the ocean. By night it was a steamy, inky black, littered with gas lamps. Dark shadows loomed over the streets and the lawless breeds scuttled between brothels and bars and opium houses, making deals with pushers, hatching plans with partners, roughing up enemies. Others stayed still, just sitting in doorways, drinking from bottles, watching, waiting, but for what you couldn’t tell. Just sitting.


The Lincoln stopped short of one of these houses, a crude windowless affair constructed of wood and metal, its walls patched by sheets of rusting corrugated iron. A mother sat on the makeshift veranda, crammed into a homemade pine chair, her potbellied child sucking on her bosom. Bond was pulled out of the car and the group, led by Angel, poured through the open door.


They went through what passed for a living space and entered a damp, dingy back room illuminated by a single oil lamp hanging from the ceiling. The place stank of cooking fat and burnt fried chickens, hundreds of them. Bond was thrown into a wicker chair. His two bodyguards flanked him while the driver manned the door. Bond was able to take them in properly. They didn’t wear suits. They looked slightly unkempt, rough and ready. These were men of the streets.


Opposite Bond was another chair and another figure was slumped in it.




He didn’t need to be told she was dead.


Angel slapped the contents of Bond’s pockets onto the table top, the gun, mobile, pen and lighter. Disinterestedly she picked up the pen-torch, flicked it on and gave a grim smile, “Boys toys, Mister Bond?”


He gave a shrug. She turned around, perched her backside against the table and idly tossed the Walther between her hands.


“You know we’re all under permanent surveillance?” started Bond wearily.


“I doubt that,” replied Angel, “If you were, any foreign agency, any decent half-arsed espionage outfit would be able to track your movements. And your friend, Miss Dominguez, wouldn’t have tried to escape if she had been traceable.”


She moved over to the corpse and stroked a finger down the blue cheek.


“She was a most troublesome creature. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, poor thing. It was quite an effort to remove her from your suite. My men were disappointed they had to kill her. They said she was, what is the word, lively.”


Bond grimaced at the distasteful compliment.


“She seemed to have formed quite an attachment to you, Mister Bond,” Angel seemed to slither across the floor towards Bond. She rested her palms on his knees, her lips inches form his, “Is that what you do best? Try to make a girl love you so she’ll always comply with your whim and fancy, always stay on the side of truth and justice. It must be ever such an exhausting business. It’s a wonder you have time to do any proper intelligence work.”


“I manage.”


“No you don’t,” she scoffed, “You fish in the dark, trying to make connections, but you can’t hook it every time, Mister Bond. Sometimes you need to lose.”


“Will this be one of those times?”


“I expect so.”


“In which case it won’t do any harm to tell me where those warheads are.”


Angel laughed until she shook.


“You don’t seriously expect me to tell you that?”


“Not really, but it would save me trouble later,” Bond was weighing up odds and chances. He knew what he needed was time. It was a question of getting it. He was pleased not to be tied down. This she-devil was too confident. He needed to keep her that way, keep playing it stupid, “Of course, I’ll find out eventually, or somebody will. I already understand the significance of your signet ring.”


“Do you? Do you really?” Angel stood before him, brandishing the gun loosely in her hand, “Mister Bond, you continue to play a game of bluff. The shibboleth of Golden Age is known only to those who need to know.”


“What custom is that? Killing girls and circus clowns?”


The gun hand whipped out and crashed into the side of his face. Bond rolled with the blow.


“Golden Age is the tip of an iceberg, Mister Bond, the start of the biggest change to the environment since the last ice age. Global warming is nothing compared to Golden Age. Our Leader has determined we will change the world. At midnight tomorrow the Ultimate Phase will commence. It will take twelve hours, Mister Bond, twelve hours and change it we will.”


Bond recognised she was a fanatic. Throughout the rant, her immaculate face had changed from soft pink, touched with rouge, to a blotchy mottled pink and white, raw meat. Her throat strained, the sinews on edge, seeming to pop over the clasp of pearls at her neck. The demonic display encouraged him. The woman was unhinged.


“Sabatini?” said Bond, deliberately brusque, “Hardly an inspiring choice.”


She checked herself. Had she said too much?


“You’re still fishing, Mister Bond.”


“I know about Sabatini’s yacht,” said Bond, still clutching at straws, still distracting the woman and the guards with his docile dumb act, “I know about the girl’s father.”


“Oh but you don’t know everything, Mister Bond,” she mocked, stepping around the chair, leaning over so her hair brushed his face, “Commodore Adam Goldberg, an outstanding citizen, an outstanding officer, but a man like you, Mister Bond, a man who could not resist the lure of soft flesh.”


“But you killed him.”


“I had to,” she whispered, a hand snaking across and down his shoulders, “He was easy to seduce. A chance encounter in a restaurant, a purse dropped at his feet, a moment of sudden love and then regular phials of temazapan, enough to make him compliant.”


“So you could get him out of the country and import Cartouche.”


“Very good, Mister Bond.”


“What about the Triple S signals? Did he tell you those too?”


“Not at first. You don’t know how he struggled. You don’t know how he pleaded for us not to hurt his beautiful daughter. You don’t know how good it was to watch him die.”


Angel placed the stock of the P99 against Bond’s cheek and slowly dragged it up and down his face.


“So that’s what you are,” responded Bond, “A sort of psychotic black widow. Tell me, what kind of sick thrill do you get out of it?”


“It makes me feel alive!” she hissed.


“Personally, I found your performance a trifle mechanical.”


“Bastard!” she spat, “You are as bad a liar as you are a lover.”


Angel stood upright, the point of the gun lifting Bond’s chin. When she spoke it was controlled and calm.


“What do you know about life for a girl in God’s Pearl? I wanted you to see it before you die, Mister Bond. You live in a world incubated from the abyss of hell. I was born here. I was raised with a whip on my hide and a fist to my face. I had nothing. And when you have nothing, you take everything. My father only knew how to fight and steal and kill. He taught me well. When I was twelve, I was raped, just like my mother, and sent to the brothel to work. I lived in that dungeon for ten years, Mister Bond, a decade of ugly men and disease and unwanted babies. But I broke the cycle of miserable life. One night I slept with a drug dealer. I killed him and stole his heroin. I took over his business. It was a start. Soon, I was admired and feared in La Perla. Within eighteen months I’d raised my own band of angels, changed my name and moved my operation to Haiti. They like me there. I even work for the government.”  


La Perla, God’s Pearl, God’s Angels, Angel. It had all been there, in the report, but he’d missed it.


“And now you hire yourself out to the highest bidder,” said Bond, “So you’re still a whore, whichever way you dress it.”


“And you’re still going to die,” Angel spun away, flashing her calves, and tossed the gun onto the table. She rifled through the handbag.  


“Do you have keepsakes, Mister Bond?” she asked, “Memories of the people you have loved? I do. I have twenty seven of them. I carry them on a bangle. Look.”


She pulled out the ornament. It was littered with rings, charms and medallions. Angel picked one item and held it so Bond could see. It was an ivory and silver brooch, the cameo a clear likeness of Gabi.


“He wore it on a chain, next to his heart,” she declared, “For a while.”


Angel slipped the bangle onto her wrist and held it up to the oil lamp, twirling, so all the trinkets of gold and silver and precious stone twinkled.


“So, Mister Bond, what do you have that I can take as my reward?”





#18 chrisno1



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Posted 06 April 2013 - 09:39 AM




Before Bond could reply, there was a startled cry from outside. The baby squealed and the woman came bundling through the door. Everyone turned towards the deafening roar which rushed into the room.


Suddenly the front of the house collapsed inwards. Clouds of dust and earth exploded into the air, nails spun loose within, buckled from the iron. Four blazing white lights penetrated the gloom. The man who stood by the door was knocked over by the toppling walls. He yelled as his leg got trapped underneath black rubber.


Bond made a dive for his Walther which was sliding across the tipped up table. He caught it in one hand, rolled onto his back and released the safety. The hefty bodies moved towards him. Bond took aim and fired twice at the closest one. Other shots rang out. The two men dropped simultaneously, heads and chests ripped apart by the crossfire of slugs.


Bond rose to one knee.




“James!” came the reply from behind the open door of the Wrangler Jeep, “You okay?”


“Yes, thank god,” Bond replied looking around the devastation.


The mother and child were standing in the far corner. The baby was screaming but the woman made no noise. The sight and sound of gunfire was common to her. The oil lamp had spilled and a tiny fire was forming on the dust and ashes of the floor. There was no sign of Angel.


“Where’s the woman?” shouted Bond at the mother. There was no reply. “Where’s the woman?” he repeated, forcing the nozzle of the P99 under her chin.


A hand snaked out, indicating the opposite corner. At last Bond saw the trap door. He didn’t like it. Angel was probably armed. He’d be a sitting duck in a fox hole.


“Where does it lead?”


“Magdalena de Pazzis.”






Bond swept up his other belongings from the floor and scrambled over the debris towards the jeep. Mucho was already reversing. Bond pulled open the passenger door and leapt into the seat.


“The cemetery, Mucho, quick!”


“What the hell for?”


“It’s where the woman’s headed. Angel,” Bond paused and placed a hand on Mucho’s arm, “She killed Maritza.”


Mucho blinked. “S***,” was all he said.


The jeep was already moving downhill. The street bottomed out and Mucho swung left. Bond could see the Atlantic surf crashing onto the beach head twenty feet below. They must be on the farthest ridge of La Perla, the tail of the fish shape before it petered out against the moats and turrets of Fuerte San Cristóbal. The cemetery was to the west, hugging the north walls of Old San Juan. Bond could see them even now, the massive brick fortifications stretching from El Morro along both sides of the esplanade and around the town centre. They sprang as if from the rocky ground, at some points almost fifty feet high, and seemed to blanket the skyline, a brooding menace of stone jutting aggressively over the headland.


“Mucho,” said Bond, “I never said thanks.”


“You don’t have to.”


There was anger on his face. Not at Bond, but at himself, for getting her mixed up in his crazy life.


Bond knew his thanks weren’t enough right now. He also knew the time for sentiment was later. Maritza was dead. Angel had done her work. The tracer fitted to his belt buckle had done its work. Mucho had done his. Now it was time for Bond to go to work.


It wasn’t possible to drive really fast. The street was littered with obstacles. Over turned crates, abandoned rubbish bags, drunks, addicts, people hanging on the kerbs, peering suspiciously at the spanking sparkling Wrangler. Someone stepped out. Mucho braked, swerved to avoid him, smashed a hand on the horn. As he did so there was a crack. Something had been thrown at the vehicle. Another shadow moved out, this one brandishing a baseball bat.


“They know!” shouted Mucho, “They know!”


Yes, that was why Angel had brought him to this cess pit. The people were her friends. This was where she’d formed God’s Angels, where she’d run a drug cartel, where her evil origins lay. She’d escaped her bastard brethren and returned, welcomed like an uncrowned queen. The ruffians here were not Sabatini’s kind. They were rough unshaven ghouls, demons of the streets. Yes, Bond saw it now, the devil had returned to her own version of hell, the only one she knew and understood. A fallen angel if ever he’d see one.


Mucho braked again.


The man brought the bat slamming down onto the bonnet. More figures came from the forest of doorways, some armed, some not. There were shouts. Fingers pointed. Mucho eased forward. The baseball bat cracked a door panel. The glass split into a spider’s web.


“Don’t stop, Mucho!”


He tried to accelerate, but the press of bodies had already become too great. The extra weight seemed to slow them. They had been surrounded in seconds. The heat of the night became an oven. People climbed onto the roof. Someone snapped the aerial. Glass shattered. More slams and crashes. Bond turned. The hatchback was broken into. Someone was scrabbling through, cutting their elbows and hands on the splinters.


Bond aimed the revolver. The man’s eyes stared back at him. Drunken eyes. Mad eyes. His mouth opened, sickly teeth bared. Bond fired into the mouth and the body jerked backwards, up and out of the broken window.


The shot had an immediate response on the crowd. One second’s pause.


Mucho shifted into reverse. The jeep’s wheels spun on the loose gravel. Already the bodies were coming back, renewed in their frenzy. The windshield shattered in one corner. Cracks shot like lightning across the glass. Hands and faces and arms clambered onto the fender. Bond fired straight through the maze. Someone rolled backwards. Mucho stamped on the accelerator. The automatic gear jumped in, shifting up fast. Bodies flew out from the front. There was a scream. The wheels crashed over a leg, an arm, gun shots rang out. Metal shards cannoned into the cabin. But they were clear, jetting along the weed covered ground, horn blaring, going at speed past the shacks and the rubble, the only accompaniment the crash of the Atlantic waves and the bleak shadows.


The street led directly to the cemetery. The gates were locked.


“Drive up to the wall,” instructed Bond, “I’ll climb over.”


Mucho got as close as he could. Bond clambered out. Behind him he could see the angry mob making their way up the winding street.


“Jesus Christ,” he said, stepping onto the wheel arch, then the bonnet, “Get the hell out of here, Mucho.”


“What are you going to do?”


“I need to get something. Meet me at La Placita.”


“Are you going to make it?”


“If I don’t, you’d better contact London.”


Bond scrambled up the roof of the jeep and stepped onto the cemetery wall. Luckily there was a square of open ground below him. He jumped. The rows of graves, centuries old, stretched away from him, static stony silhouettes. Where the hell would Angel appear? Bond made his way up the central spoke, heading for the small circular chapel at the centre, scanning left and right, hoping to catch a sudden movement among the graves. There was nothing.


He slowed to a walking pace, thinking. If you were tunnelling under the ground, under a city, what would be the quickest and easiest way to construct a usable network? You burrowed into a disused sewer system. Did San Juan have one? Bond didn’t know. The city was over six hundred years old. That didn’t mean its hygiene standards were so ancient. And did La Perla have any kind of sewer? Frankly he doubted it.


The first angry citizens were arriving at the gate. Bond had to make a decision fast. It suddenly occurred to him that the bitch might not be planning to exit the tunnel at all. She could probably stay hidden indefinitely. He recced the chapel. It was a stark classical design, but the entrance was locked and barred. He trod carefully around the walls, still scanning the gravestones.


Nothing. He could hear the baying crowd. It was hopeless. He checked for an escape route. There was only one: the coastal wall. If he had to, he could make a run for it and climb over. It might be his only chance. If those bastards started to follow him, the consequences looked bad. Bond peeped around a stone flange. The gate was being breached. Hell. It was the coastal wall or nothing.


He was about to sprint for it when something gave underfoot.


He’d been walking on flagstones, big ones almost a full metre across. One of them rocked. Bond stepped on it again. It wasn’t loose by chance, but by design. Hidden under moss and weed he could make out rusted hinges. Old European churches often featured external entrances into the crypt. Was this something similar? Bond grabbed at the edge of the stone. It was almost four inches deep and tremendously heavy. Panic spurred him on and he raised it far enough to get his bent shoulder beneath. Pushing up with all his weight, the stone fell back on its hinge.


A rickety wooden ladder led down. To what Bond didn’t yet know, but he wasn’t going to argue with himself. He took the ladder. An iron hoop was fixed to the underside of the stone, a frayed rope dangling. Bond yanked on it and the trap door crashed shut.   


It was pitch black. The smell was one of earth and grime. His feet rested in damp soil. He felt the wall. The ground was held back by mouldy planking. This wasn’t a crypt. Something was scurrying away from his feet. Bond dug in his jacket pocket for the pen-torch and realised he didn’t have it. He must have left it in that bloody shack. Instead he took out the Ronson and flicked it. The flame burst. Orange light flared for a second. Brown creatures fled along the tunnel in both directions. Tar and filth lined everything. It was blacker than hell. Bond held up his hand and clicked the lighter again. There was a rusty iron bolt on the underside of the trap. Reaching for it in the dark, he slammed it across and prayed it would hold off the hordes. For good measure he kicked the ladder away and heard furry bodies scamper from its fall. Somewhere ahead, far down the rabbit warren, he caught a glimmer of white. A pencil thin torch beam fanned the tunnel.


Bond set off into the darkness, taking shallow breaths from the stale atmosphere. It was his own pen-torch he’d seen. The bitch had pocketed it in the melee. Bond stayed close enough to keep the faded beam in sight. He’d been lucky. She must have passed beneath the church while he was reconnoitring the cemetery. A minute or so earlier he’d have dropped on top of her. Much later and she would have been too far gone. Grimly satisfied, he pursued her up the tunnel, fully aware she was probably alive to his movements. It was immaterial. This was the opportunity he needed. He had to take it: now or not at all.


The tunnel walls seemed to close in on him. Dusty cobwebs, dead ones, where the mother spider had long expired, crossed his path; already dented by Angel’s flight they hung like looms in his unseeing face. His shoulders started to scrape the edges. He heard something tear. As the shadowy light retreated, the rats piled down towards him, ankle deep, some took a nibble and he kicked them off. They skated up the walls, jumped on his elbows and bounced away. There was hardly any room for him, let alone the rats. Damn, it was a bad place for a confrontation. He couldn’t even turn around.


Which meant neither could Angel.


Decision made, Bond raised his gun and aimed at the light. He fired once.


The light didn’t dim. There was a startled cry and the beam shone straight down the alley. He was caught. A flash. A simultaneous bang. Bond threw himself down. A bullet whistled away. He fired again. Directly into the spotlight. It disappeared. He heard something rattle and fall. He kept firing. There was a gasp. Something dropped. It clanged like metal. There was movement. Crouching, Bond ran forward. Apart from his panting, he heard nothing. Even the rats had stopped running. Everything had gone still. Too still.


Bond slid to a halt.


He flipped on the Ronson. The flame caught her flush.


Angel was straddling the tunnel. Her left shoulder was covered in blood where the bullet struck. She’d been waiting for him. The foot kicked out and caught Bond on the arm. Darkness caved in. The second kick landed in his stomach. He felt invisible hands gripping him, pulling him over. He couldn’t raise the gun. The space was too confined. Angel slammed him into the sodden ground. Her shoe connected with his neck, missing his face by an inch. She couldn’t see him, but instinctively knew where he lay. Another blow slammed down. Bond twisted, loosened off a shot. The echo cannoned in the tiny space. The flash illuminated her for a second. He squeezed the trigger again, saw the recoil and flinched. Her gut was sawn open by the bullet. Angel kicked. A desperate reaction, but this time she connected with the gun and it spun away into the void. Bond grabbed at her, caught only the necklace and burst it loose. Pearls rained on his face. She was running and lashed out with her heel, hard. It caught his chest. Despite the terrible wounds she was still agile, still strong. Bond dropped, puffing hard in the close atmosphere.


He’d lost her. Damn it. Wheezing, Bond struggled to his knees and hunted for the fallen gun. He couldn’t find it. No matter. She was disarmed now too. He didn’t have time to try the lighter again. He could hear her moving rapidly down the tunnel. Loud baleful snorts accompanied her every limp. Bond followed. It was getting ever tighter, the walls cramming in, height only four feet now. But Angel knew where the tunnel led, he reasoned, she wouldn’t be leading him to a dead end.


Soon he was crawling on hands and knees, so low was the ceiling. The tunnel seemed to be taking a wide curve. It also started on a downward trajectory. Nervous he was heading deeper underground, Bond felt his way forward. He didn’t hurry. There was no escape for the wounded woman. He would catch up with her, alive or dead, where ever this tunnel reached. She must have enormous strength, a resilience he could hardly comprehend, to keep moving, to keep crawling and running, breathing even, when she was so horribly injured. He was starting to think he’d be crawling forever, when, imperceptibly at first, then quite definitely, the tunnel started to widen. Things suddenly seemed brighter, as if -


Was it his imagination or were his eyes adjusting to the darkness? He could definitely make out the tunnel walls. And there ahead, clearly outlined, was the slumped, scrabbling figure of Angel, the flared dress, the red streak of hair. Yet beyond her Bond could make out a different darkness, the purple hue of a moonlit sky, split by a crisscross of silver wire.


It was a grille. Where ever they were, the tunnel was originally meant for entry from this end. Bond had images of pirates or smugglers using the hole to hide contraband or maybe the army had dug it as an old siege tunnel. His thoughts were interrupted as he realised Angel was stuck. She was pushing at the grille, punching it, but the barrier was fixed tight.


Bond came on, rising from his knees to a running crouch. She sensed him coming, turned and pulled herself upright. The bloody wounds coated her, but she ignored whatever agony there was and went into a fighting stance. She made one move, a fist flailing out, before Bond rushed her. The two bodies slammed together, crashed against the grille and tore it from its mounting. Everything tumbled through the aperture.


They were rolling, tossing and turning, out of control down the shaved flint rocks of the El Morro escarpment. They’d tunnelled straight across the castle esplanade, under the fort itself, and out of the lower wall just above the castle spur, where the fortifications flared out towards the sea. They landed, still in a warring embrace, on a spit of sand and rock littered with tidal pools. The shock of the fall momentarily stunned them both. Bond groaned. The first cold wave washed in.  


He felt the hands grasp his neck. She was already on her knees, the sweet orange scent rasping out of her mouth. He reached up, over her breasts, up the line of her dress, to the collar, to her hair, scraggy now, to her throat. The two figures, man and woman, wrestled, hands locked on each other’s throats, blocking the air, the breath of life.


Another wave crashed over them. Angel gasped, lost her footing, and slipped into a shallow pool, dragging Bond with her. The grip on his throat lessened. He took his own hands away and ripped her fingers free from his neck. She wailed and tried to claw back at him. Bond punched out, once, twice. Woman or not, she was a beast, a feral, vicious creature. He tried to get out of the water, but she made a grab for his belt, clung on. Bond found purchase, then slipped again. His fingers curled around something moulded, something sharp. Her shoe! A six inch stiletto heel. She’d lost it falling into the water.


Bond grabbed it tight in his hand. She was climbing up his body. He tried to wriggle free, half dragging her with him. They both lay heaving, legs dangling in the whirl pool. Bond raised his hand and brought the shoe down on the woman’s face with full force.


She screamed as the stiletto struck home, piercing her skin like a dagger. She rolled away. The banshee cries, the demented electric spasms didn’t stop for several seconds and then she was suddenly quiet. Hesitantly, Bond touched her.




She was still breathing. Blood bubbled out of her mouth.


“Tell me about Golden Age,” he said.


“If I do, they’d kill me.”


“I’ll kill you if you don’t.”


“You don’t have to kill me, James,” she whimpered.


“Yes, I do.”


Bond smashed the stiletto into her throat. It stuck fast. There was a disgusting, animal gurgle. Her neck twitched. Her mouth tried to find the last succour of air. She failed.


Bond found the bangle and yanked it free of the wrist. For a moment he looked at the beautiful bloody body. He took one long deep breath and rolled it into the shallow pool. A wave crashed over the rocks and the body was sucked down and then thrown out into the sea.



*****              *****              *****



Bond had some trouble getting back to the Marriott. He skirted El Morro, finding the footpath and eventually materialising near the main harbour, where the cruise ships docked. He looked a sight, ripped up, blood splattered and dirty. He couldn’t get a taxi and ended up jogging around the marina and up to the Plaza Colon. He was about to duck into a restaurant to clean up, when a Suzuki Swift, one of the small ones, screeched to halt next to him.


“Mister Bond?”


Wary, he stepped back, “Yes?”


“Craig, from the spa, you remember.”


“Craig,” he did, vaguely, “Can you get me to the Marriott?”


“Sure, Mister Bond,” the spotty young man tugged open the rear door and Bond slid gratefully in, “Oh my god! You look like S***.”


“You don’t know the half of it.”


The boy was a good driver. He took short cuts down back streets and they reached the hotel in half the time. Bond wondered if the lad had missed his vocation.


“Wait here, Craig, I need to freshen up,” he still had his wallet on him and slipped the boy a twenty, “Can you get me to La Placita?”


“Are you sure you’re fit for that?”


“There’s another twenty for you if you do.”


“Well, gosh, how to turn it down? Of course I’ll do it. You just mention me to Miss Martelli. I miss her already!”


Bond stripped, showered and re-dressed, more casual this time. He was back in the little car in twelve minutes. He caught his reflection in the mirrors. He still looked haunted, but at least the blood and grime and sweat had gone.


La Placita was just how Gabi described: two adjoining squares and a host of narrow interconnecting lanes packed with revellers, drunk or getting drunk. Every shop front seemed to be open, trestle tables outside, till trays bulging with notes and coins, ice boxes full of beer bottles, spirits lonely on bare shelves. The music pumped from door to door, a mixture of hip hop and bomba or their bastard child reggaeton. People were dancing, falling, some in fancy dress, some dressed fancy, the rest casual or worse. Bond felt quite at home. He deposited ten dollars at a makeshift bar and seized two Medallia Lights. The beer was soft and cool.


Mucho was at the next corner. Bond tapped the bottle against the man’s arm.


“Jesus, James, I didn’t think you’d make it,” he said, taking the bottle and swigging, “There was a fire in La Perla tonight. It’s big news. What happened to Angel?”


“Washed away,” Bond said, drinking, “Where’s Gabi?”


“Over there,” Mucho raised the bottle towards one of the bigger establishments, a sticks-and-stone nightclub called The Voodoo Lounge, suitably decked in vibrant Halloween garb. Outside the inelegant frontage were busy tables and an open fired barbeque, “Captain Hook’s in attendance.”


“Now, now.”


Bond went over, Mucho tagging a pace behind. The girl was sitting at a metal fold out table. In front of her was a half-eaten burger on a cardboard plate. Sabatini was sitting next to Gabi, regaling a story to someone else. The girl appeared not to be listening. Bond could see the two heavies, Kazacs and Priest, hovering nearby. As Bond approached, Priest touched his boss on the shoulder and Sabatini’s good eye focussed first on his aide then on Bond. His voice was as expansive as always.


“Mister Bond, a welcome surprise,” he crowed, “Gabriella was beginning to believe you had abandoned her.”


The girl only inclined her head, but Bond saw the life spring into her face. Her lips parted, the teeth showed in a tiny effervescent smile, her cheeks blushed.


“I’m sorry, I was delayed,” Bond intoned, “Business can be quite deathly these days.”


Sabatini raised a half smoked Havana to his lips. He seemed to consider the comment. As the haze of smoke slid from his mouth he laughed, dismissed it and offered to buy a drink.


Bond waved his bottle.


“You have come just in time, Mister Bond,” declared Sabatini, “The fire eaters are about to perform.”


As he spoke, a troupe of half a dozen men and one woman poured out of the nightclub, burning torches raised in their hands. The men were all stripped to loincloths, chests glistening with sweat and oil. The woman was a tall dark haired beauty, voluptuous, her skin the colour of treacle, her eyes painted like Cleopatra’s death mask. She wore a series of black, white and red veils pinned to her neck by a thick gold chain.


The crowd backed away to give the dancers room. The men began to gyrate wildly, skipping and leaping around the solitary woman, whose body vibrated to the music, the veils splitting as she moved revealing a thigh here, an arm there. As the beat got faster and rougher, the men moved toward her and picked at her hair and dress.


Encouraged by the baying, clapping crowd, the men systematically shed the woman’s clothes, tossing the strips of silk into the audience. The music seemed to be reaching a pitch until suddenly, with a bang of drums, the last veil was torn away and she stood in the silent arena, just her hips shaking, a shining shimmering figure, naked except for the curls of hair at her apex. There was an audible sigh as the crowd took in her flagrant sensuality. The beat kicked in again and the men moved forward once more, this time smothering her skin with oil, caressing and moulding the juice across her muscles, her bosom, her intimate places. The woman’s movements became jerky, almost robotic, erotic and trance-like. As she danced, her buttocks jiggled, her breasts swayed, the nipples became hard and pointy, dripping oil.


Sabatini’s eye seemed to blaze as hot as the torches. Laughing, he seized his drink and swallowed it in one. Bond saw the beast manifest itself, exactly as the girl had described, hot-blooded, vicious and feral. A man without morals or scruples, a man for who pleasure was in taking, not giving.


The first dancer jumped forward, rolled his torch across the woman’s throbbing torso and yelled as she went into spasm, before raising the tip to his lips and blowing flame and smoke high into the air. Trick done, he danced away to the far side of the ring and was replaced by another, who ran his torch down the woman’s buttocks to a roar from the excited sweaty audience. The third man danced with the woman, their hips seeming to glue together, grinding in an act of sexual satisfaction. He planted a fiery kiss on her lips and, meshed together, the pair of mouths blew twin flames six feet into the air, an ejaculation as spectacular as any sex act.


Bond thought the performance tasteless, but curiously compelling. Each time the yellow torches blazed across the woman’s body, dark turned to light, secrets were revealed, her energy, her life force seemed renewed.


For a moment Bond forgot about death and blood and gore and missiles and he too became lost in the mad hypnotic music, the sexual sway of the bodies, the heat and passion of the dancing.


And then Gabi was at his side and reality touched him once more.


“I must see you,” she whispered urgently, “Marcelo says we are leaving tomorrow night.”


“Leaving for where?”


“I don’t know, James,” she tugged at his arm, “But I must see you. Tomorrow lunchtime - it might be our last chance.”


Bond smiled down at her. He thought of the bangle that sat snugly in his pocket and the story it would tell.


Yes. It might be their last chance.




“All right,” he said, torn between reluctance and necessity, “Tell me where.”

#19 chrisno1



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Posted 13 April 2013 - 08:26 PM




Bond took the route Gabi described, turning off Highway 987, and taking the road into Las Cabezas, the National Park which filled most of El Faro, a peninsula of mangrove lagoons and sandy beaches. 


He parked the Chrysler in the layby. Between the palms Bond could see the arc of white sand that was Sonda Grove and the brilliant azure blue of the Caribbean beyond. He walked through the undergrowth and onto the deserted, sheltered beach. There was no sign of the girl, but further along the shore, anchored in about twenty feet of water was The Rosa.


Bond stripped to his shorts, kicked off his deck shoes, and tied the clothes inside his shirt before wading and then swimming out to the little launch. The girl wasn’t there but she’d left a neat pile of clothes and spare scuba equipment. Bond pulled on the tank and flippers, wetted the lightweight mask, checked the oxygen gauge and dove backwards into the warm water.


The first sensation of being underwater was always one of surprise. The clarity of his vision, the softness of the surrounding aqua, the almost perfect suspension, and the silence, the soundlessness, except for the gentle gurgle of his own air bubbles as they fanned past him. Bond kicked lightly with his flippers, scanning left and right, trying to spot Gabi. It wasn’t considered safe practice to dive alone and Bond entertained a sharp pang of fear for the girl, in case she was in some sort of trouble. He assumed she would stick fairly close to the motor launch, so Bond began a series of widening circles around the hull, admiring the array of colours in the coral, rocks and sea sponges. He flutter kicked through a canyon of sea grass, following a shoal of tiny multicoloured tropical fish, the butterflies of the ocean.


A big grey barracuda finned past, the tail swishing slowly. Its angry tiger’s eye focused for a second on Bond and then turned away. It was unusual to see one so close to the shore. Bond knew to keep a distance. This predator hunted for sport. But he also knew the barracuda rarely attacked large moving objects. It was a scavenger and preferred its prey young, maimed or old, struggling with life. A human fish wouldn’t do. Dinner would have to wait.


Bond continued on his own swim. Ten feet below, he saw a fat Moray eel, maybe six or seven feet long, retreat into its rock crevice, twisting so the wide mouth, its sharp teeth protruding, was all that remained, waiting to grab fresh prey, naive fish or a stray diver’s hand. Bond ignored the eel.


It was cooler lower down. He was maybe at forty feet. The sandy bed carpeted in lush miniature forests of undersea plants seemed to rise up to meet him. He padded on the heels of his flippers and the sand billowed around his feet. He was drifting, enjoying the undersea kingdom, trying to clear his mind for the task he had to perform, the reason he had made this appointment with Gabi, the story he had to tell and the nightmare request he had to make.


A quick flash of pink filtered through the light. Too big for a fish. Bond swam towards the apparition. It was pink and slender and a long tail fanned out along the spine, long beautiful black hair.




Bond worked his arms and feet faster, his ankles patting through the water. She looked over her shoulder and saw him. Behind the mouthpiece, Bond saw her grin and she dovetailed aside, playing a game of catch. What was that? Bond involuntarily sucked in a long breath. Had the refraction played tricks on him? The mirrored rippling light of the depths could distort limbs and faces, make the beautiful grotesque, turn the truth into secrets, scuba tanks gave everyone a hunchbacked, cumbersome appearance and flippers made the legs seem bulky and slow moving.


Yet, even at distance, and closing fast, Bond could clearly see why the girl wanted to play chase. He could make out the lithe strong legs, the arch of the small of her back, the shape of her breasts underneath her arms, the cleft of her buttocks, clenching as she swam. What he saw gave him the same giddy feeling he’d experienced when he first set eyes on her through the camera phone, strolling carefree along the deck of the yacht, when he first realized how effortlessly beautiful she was.


Bond saw it clearly because other than the scuba tank and the weighted diving belt, the girl was completely naked. She didn’t make it hard to be caught.


Bond tapped the girl’s ankle and she rolled over, a mass of bubbles erupting around her as she giggled. Bond couldn’t help but smile. They gently came together, their masks touching as their eyes sought each other. They joined hands, the fingers interlocking. Bond felt her soft breasts brush his chest, the tips hard in the cool water, and she bumped against him until she sat provocatively astride his knee. His enjoyment of the chase was heightened and she knew it. The girl giggled again and blew a cascade of bubbles around them. Then infuriatingly, she swam away and Bond had to chase her once more.


For a moment, as he twisted to follow, Bond thought he saw a ray, that large grey shadow of the seas, but it was high above them and his alarm subsided. His focus was on catching the girl, who was darting between two banks of weed covered rocks. This time he caught her hand. Bond couldn’t resist keeping her close. Too often, he considered, desire struck at awkward times. This was one of those times. He hadn’t considered love to be on today’s menu. He’d anticipated much sadness and some tears. But now Gabi was teasing him, at ease with herself, as if all the things she’d told him of Sabatini, all the things she hated, were forgotten. Bond didn’t want to bring them back, not yet. He’d wait for the right moment. For now, Gabi could have her fun and he’d share it with her. It was the least he could do before the shock he would need to impart.


The girl clasped him close. Her hands stroked down his body. She was grinning like a greedy cat. Bond playfully gave her a push.


It was the push which saved their lives.


The spear flashed lightning fast between them.


Bond took in the situation immediately. A spasm of fear ran up his spine. There were three of them, garbed in black. The closest man was struggling to fix another spear into his gun. The second diver was still descending. The third one had only just entered the water, the bubbling splash was still evident forty feet above them, at the hull of the grey shape, the shape Bond had thought was a stingray, but was the keel of a motor boat.


Gabi’s eyes were shot open, wide with terror. Having recognized the danger, she spun and dived deeper into the canyon. The first man, still reloading, headed after her. Bond didn’t know how long she could out swim him, but he had to take a chance she would. He had more immediate concerns.


The beautiful underwater realm had suddenly turned into a milky churned up world of foaming bubbles and kicked sand. Under the obscurity, Bond retrieved the spear from the sea bed, and kicked upwards, faster than they recommended, his ears popping under the pressure, his intention to meet the second man head on.


They came together with a sickening thud, Bond’s left arm extended, the spear rigid in his fist, aiming for the face mask. The jagged point missed its target by an inch and dug into the man’s cheek. The skin and bone seemed to peel away from the face in slow motion and a cloud of blood erupted out of the wound. The man pulled away, bringing his own spear gun to bear. Tough bastard. Bond yanked his weapon free, but it came loose with agonizing slowness. He batted at the man’s gun, grabbed a hold with his right hand and together the two men spiraled, grappling among a furious eruption of ploughed water and bubbles and blood. Half of Bond’s mind was on Gabi and the other assassin. She’d never tackle the bastard alone. Bond had to get to her and fast.


Bond fought himself free of the diver and was about to make a second stabbing lunge when the body suddenly shot towards him as if propelled by a grenade. Something huge curled away, bits of the man’s arm and shoulder hanging out of its broad, cutlass mouth. The barracuda! Jesus Christ!


Bond stiffened, stunned by the ferocity of the attack. Disabled, the diver tried to swim to the surface. Bond saw a second barracuda urgently cutting through the water. The bastard wasn’t going to make it. The jaw, packed full of razor sharp teeth clamped down on the ailing figure. The chest seemed to burst open, blood pouring out of the new wound. The two brutal hunters carved through the entrails, lunging wildly at the corpse. Thank god. One down.


Vaguely Bond was aware of the third assassin skirting the killing ground. Somewhere in the deep blue, Bond could make out the pursuit below, flashes of pink and black. He made a twisting turn and dived. Thirty, forty, fifty feet, deeper and deeper still. The water became murky, the light hardly penetrated the depths. Bond streamlined himself, cutting through the water as fast as he could, faster than he should. They were all going down too fast. He could feel it in his ears.


The girl was a blur now, almost hidden in the shadowy canyon. The diver, black against black, was only visible by his silver scuba tank. He’d been cautious in the chase, equalizing pressures as he descended. The brief enforced stops had saved the girl. 


It did nothing for the assassin. Bond stuck to him like a leech, a hand grabbing an ankle, hauling at the leg. The man twisted, the spear gun leveled. Bond was still armed only with the single arrow. He thrust forward, stunned by how slowly everything moved. The attack was enough to disturb the man’s aim. With a burst of bubbles the spear shot out of the gun and zipped past Bond’s head. He could almost hear the water sing as it shot through the turbulence. Bond was on him now, climbing up the body. He yanked at the man’s breathing apparatus, pulling the mouthpiece loose. Shocked and scared, the man fought to retain his life line. Bond jabbed down with the spear, piercing the man’s throat. It stuck fast in a swirl of blood and gore. With an effort, Bond wrenched the spear free, then plunged it back, ripping the serrated barbs across the man’s exposed neck. Instantly he ceased to struggle. Bond grabbed at the knife and scabbard strapped to the dead man’s thigh. Taking hold of the knife he shoved the body aside and it floated aimlessly away, more carrion for the barracudas.


Bond swam towards the blur of pink which he knew was the girl. She seemed to be in trouble, checking her air supply gauge and making a motion that she was almost all out. Her lungs had to be working hard to drain the last vestige of air out of the scuba tanks. Damn that descent! Too bloody fast. A suicidal escape. And there was still one more of the bastard assassins down here. 


Bond just had time to check his own supply. Suddenly there was an explosion by his shoulder and a silver streak of metal shot past. The fleece of the arrow grazed his skin. Christ, if he hadn’t moved his wrist to check the gauge. Bond hurtled back, spinning, making an impossible target. He was glad it was so dark in the canyon, glad too of the trails of inky red that buried his movements. He came out of the blood stream and met the man head on, stabbing at the gun arm. The diver violently twisted, kicked and tried to bring the gun around again. Bond recognized the bald head, the close knit brows, the brutal face. An expert with his hands. Nothing the bastard touched stayed alive. Except this time, decided, Bond.


He lashed out with the knife for the throat. The deflection of the water stopped it short. The man tried to parry and again the blade cut into the forearm. Sliced almost in two the limb became useless and the spear gun fell. As the man jerked aside, Bond lost his grip on the knife and it too disappeared. They joined at close quarters, a whirling dance among streaming bubbles, strings of gore making whirlpools around them. The dead arm hardly mattered to the hulking brute. Dumb courage was stretched across his face. Agony contorted with the pleasure and thrill of violence. He was struggling to free his knife.


The girl saw it and bravely joined the fight, making a play for the man’s good hand, keeping it away from the knife. Bond used the distraction to reach out for the face mask. Panic hit the diver. Bond didn’t hesitate. He ripped it free. The eyes bulged under the impact of salt water. Disorientated, blinded, he writhed in Bond’s grip. One knee landed solid in his solar plexus and the man opened his mouth, loosening the regulator. Bond grabbed it and passed it to the girl, who put it to her own mouth and started to breathe.


They waited for the inevitable.


His good arm pinned, the condemned man wrangled, tried to shout, to beg for a last gasp of air. His mouth was open. His lungs were filling with water. Air bubbles were shooting out of his nose. He continued to toss, lurch and thrash, each movement becoming pathetically weaker as each second passed. Bond watched the mute face without pity. It could only have been seconds but the wait for death seemed like hours.


At last Bond could feel life had seeped from the body. A gruesome exchange of equipment started. Bond filled the girl’s original tanks with water, strapped them on the corpse and let it sink. The last they saw of the bald man was his mouth open in a silent scream.


They took their time ascending, Bond restraining her when she wanted to rise too fast. They avoided the feasting barracudas. Bond was cautious as they broke the last few feet to the surface, uncertain that the men were alone. Although their motor launch was there, it was abandoned.


The girl ripped off her mask and mouthpiece and gasped.


“My god!” she shouted, “Did you see who it was?”




Bond had almost expected it. He’d had the sensation of being watched several times when in Gabi’s company, but had rubbed it off as nerves, prickled by his attraction to the beautiful young girl.


The girl was ranting, saying things in Italian and English, a combination which came so fast Bond couldn’t catch. He reached out and grabbed her upper arms.


“Gabi,” he said, “Gabi, let’s get out of the water and get away from the cove - now!”


Bond’s sudden earnestness seemed to bring the nightmare last few minutes back to the girl. She stared at him anew.


“On my God, you killed him, them,” she uttered, the shock hit hard.


“We killed them,” corrected Bond. He wouldn’t ever have admitted it in court. The three deaths were his responsibility, but the girl had helped when it mattered, when her own life was about to slip away. “It was Kazacs or you. I think you made the right decision.”


The girl gave an indistinct nod of the head.


“Come on,” Bond said, “Let’s find The Rosa and get out of here.”


They could see the little motor boat still anchored and swaying on the waves. The Rosa looked just as Bond had first seen her, an enticement to joy, as if the violence below had never happened. They swam over and Bond helped the girl onto the launch. She pulled on the barest of clothes while Bond started the engine and lifted the anchor. He directed the boat away from the shore, heading south, back to Fajardo.


The girl didn’t say anything. For a moment Bond thought she might want to cry, but instead she stared at him, a vacant, almost passionless expression on her face. Bond knew what she was thinking: that she’d swapped one monstrous man for another. He held out his hand. Cautiously she took it and he gently pulled her to him. She smelt of the sea, all the good things about it, not the horror, but the beauty.


“God, James.”


“Yes, I know, Gabi. You must think I’m a lying bastard.”


“I don’t know what to think, not anymore.”


“Everything I told you yesterday is true, perhaps more so now.”


Bond cut the engine. They were some distance from the shore. One of the big American cruise liners was striding the horizon, on the way to its one night stopover at San Juan. Bond wanted to tell the girl to take the boat, take an empty berth and sail away from him. But he couldn’t. The words passed through his mind and then he shut the sentiment away. Gabi was his link to Sabatini and to the drilling platform. It pained him to admit, but he needed her, he needed to use her. He wasn’t sure which it was.


The girl bit her lip.


“You want to tell me something,” she sensed the pensiveness. “It’s something horrible, isn’t it?”


“It isn’t good news.”


“You are going away. You are a gangster like Marcelo. Did you come to kill him?”


“No, at least I’m not sure. It isn’t quite like that. Sit down, Gabi,” Bond directed her to the rear seat. He dug into his bundle of clothes and pulled out the brooch, the one with her cameo engraved into it. Gently he placed it in the girl’s hands.


Her mouth opened as if to say something, but no sound emerged. It was as if she was echoing her own silent scream, one of anguish, one of anger, one of fear. Instead of a scream, the tears came, only half a dozen of them, but they were big sobs and they shone on her dark skin as the sun caught them. Bond wiped the last away with his finger and the girl grabbed his hand and held it tight.


“What is it?”


“It’s a long story,” started Bond, “I’m afraid I’m not a yacht designer, Gabi. I guess you’ve figured that. I’m a police man, a special agent, and I’ve been investigating your friend Sabatini. To be honest, I’m not sure I understand half of it myself, but I do know that a lot of people are planning something terrible and your father died trying to prevent it.”


“What happened to Papie?”


“He was kidnapped and tortured by an organization called Golden Age. They wanted to obtain the security codes to breach a nuclear facility in Britain. The Royal Navy was testing a new missile called Trident III. It was supposed to be carrying dummy warheads, but instead your father’s access codes allowed Golden Age to reprogram the submarine. The missile carried real warheads. It disappeared, about one hundred miles north of Puerto Rico.”


“How long have you known this?”


“I only became certain last night. That’s why I was late to La Placita. The person who killed your father showed me this. You may as well know I killed her.”


“Then I don’t have to,” she said after a pause, simply and coldly, “And do you think my affair with Marcelo was, what would you say, convenient, because of my father?”


“Possibly. I came to look for you in case you knew something. I didn’t expect to, well, with you,” he stopped for a second, tried to carry on but couldn’t.


The girl’s fingers played with the souvenir. “So that is why you said you were sorry when you made love to me. You already knew Papie was dead.”


“Yes, pretty much.”


“Bastard,” she said it quietly, but it wasn’t said with any malice, it was merely a fact as she saw it, “You are all bastards.”


“I understand you’re angry, Gabi, but I need you to listen. I don’t have a lot of time. I need your help.”


“Why should I help you now?”


“Because Sabatini is still planning something terrible, something involving those bombs,” urged Bond, “Your father knew it, maybe not all of it, but enough to be die for it. Listen, I’ve seen the equipment on Sabatini’s yacht. There’s an underwater hatch to allow the hyper-sub in and out. Sabatini’s got a ton of deep sea salvage equipment. Not the sort of gear you’d need to drill for seismic tests. You told me The Sun Chaser left San Juan for one day. That was the exact day the missile vanished and we know it can travel fast enough to reach and return to the splash down site. We also know Nautilus can easily reach Herradura from San Juan. It’s well within range. Gabi, we think Sabatini’s got the warheads at Sea World.”


“No, no,” the girl shook her head, “That’s just not possible.”


“It’s the only explanation. Your father’s killer, she said Golden Age would start in twenty four hours. I don’t have much time to stop it. If my hunch is correct, I have to get to Sea World tonight. Without being discovered.”

The girl put a hand out and rested it on his chest feeling his heartbeat. She understood, “You want me to distract Fisk.”


“Yes. He likes you. I know it is asking a lot. Can you do it?”


“Yes. I think so.”


Her voice was firm. He’d never heard her so frozen. The passion seemed to have drained from her in minutes. The joyful, naked diving girl had vanished and been replaced by only the ghost of beauty. Bond lifted her chin so he could look her in the eyes.


“None of this is pleasant, Gabi. If there was any other way I’d take it.”


“But there isn’t any other way.”


“I know it will mean going back to Sabatini. I know it won’t be easy.”


“Don’t worry, James, I am Sicilian, remember. Revenge is in our blood,” the girl’s voice was steady, the hand hot and the eyes two cool pools that flashed with solemn concealed hatred, “And it will taste sweet.”





#20 chrisno1



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Posted 19 April 2013 - 11:08 PM




The sun was still high above them as the girl returned the motor launch to the marina. Bond was already looking for unlikely faces on the quay or in the harbour office, in case more of Sabatini’s goons were lurking. He didn’t see any one suspect.


Bond kissed the girl lightly on the lips. She had agreed to what he asked without flinching. He knew he was expecting too much of her. She was an ingénue, naïve in the nature of spies and villains; all he had to rely on was her sense of justice and her novice stealth, hints to which he’d imparted during the trip back to the marina. The kiss felt like one of goodbye. It was formal and polite. She squeezed his lower arm and was gone, striding towards the Honda. She didn’t look back once. Her mind was elsewhere. Bond knew it and understood it.


He didn’t bother to retrieve his car from Sonda Grove. Instead he ordered a taxi from the harbour office and arranged to meet Mucho at the HQ.


“The quicker the better,” was the reply.


Bond sensed trouble. When he reached Santurce, the basement office was packed full of strange faces, men in anonymous suits, two of whom refused to remove their expensive shades. Bond recognised untactful, uncooperative espionage.


The Puerto Rican had been busy with the police. The local constabulary had recovered and identified Maritza’s body and Mucho had difficulty smoothing things over. Eventually he’d had to call on his superiors to back up his story.


There had been angry conversations between Washington and London, specifically about why the British operative sent to Puerto Rico was taking action without proper consultation. While the CIA understood Gulfstream was a British operation, they felt any search and recovery of Trident III from San Juan could and should have been managed from the American side. The debate was still in flow across the network.


The laptop was split into two HD cam screens. One showed an irate CIA official who seemed to wallow in his big leather chair almost embraced by the logo of his institution that hung on the wall behind him. Bond recognised Keating. He had recently taken over responsibility for communications between the US and NATO European countries. Bond had met him once. Once was enough.


The other showed a strung out M, suddenly looking older than his years. He was seated in the War Room and looked terribly isolated. Bond felt a twinge of sympathy. It must have hurt M to have received this sort of update from the mouths of others. He sensed his superior’s eyes stalking him as he crossed through the camera lens.


“Good evening, sir.”


“OO7,” the voice was taut, cat gut stretched to breaking, “We appear to have a problem.”


Mucho introduced his visitors. Bond went to shake the hand of the third CIA man, Carter, the one without shades, but the bruising, dragon toothed Special Agent hardly acknowledged him.


“I sense our cousins are restless,” stated Bond.


“Damn right we’re restless!” cut in Keating, his small mouth snapping open and shut like a trap door, “What in God’s name are you up to down there, Bond? Conducting your own little war or something?”


“Our investigations have taken a somewhat nasty turn,” he said mildly. Bond turned his head, as if he was addressing M’s camera, “Let’s not forget, sir, that for every action of mine, there has been a violent reaction. Sabatini isn’t your typical multimillionaire. He’s fooled a lot of people here with his charitable acts and grand speeches. And I daresay he’s got some political clout, certainly the scientific community and the green lobby listen to him. He gave an address here just two nights ago and the papers were fawning all over him. But he’s hiding his true intentions. I’m certain of it.”


“Sabatini’s been making these speeches for years, Bond,” answered Keating, “We’ve had him marked as a crackpot.”


“Which surely makes him deserving of surveillance,” stated Bond.


M raised his eyes to the ceiling, “Your point, OO7?”


“Sir,” he addressed M again, “I’ll tell you what I know, what I think is happening. If I’m right it’s a human catastrophe on a massive scale.”


When Bond had returned from his visit to Sea World, when the nightmare of La Perla had ended, when he’d managed to delicately remove himself from La Placita, he and Mucho had spent most of the night and the following morning researching everything they’d discovered and tried to match it with Maritza’s diligent cataloguing.


Satellite images showed The Sun Chaser had indeed left San Juan on the afternoon of the 23rd. The yacht could clearly be tracked sailing for the Sea World Installation at Herradura. She stopped there for less than an hour before continuing her journey, swinging out into the Atlantic, over the Puerto Rico Trench and back towards the Turk and Caicos Islands. Tracing her movements hadn’t been easy as heavy cloud cover from Hurricane Winifred constantly masked her route. Finally, she appeared to moor close to one of the hundreds of outlying coral atolls which surround the Turks. There was documented contact with the coastguard. But The Sun Chaser’s night time activities remained obscured. Satellite images proved she was still there in the morning, anchored, static, dowsed lights, peaceful. Yet the Turk Islands were the closest inhabited land to the Trident’s altered co-ordinate settings and the splashdown was well with range of The Sun Chaser.


Bond and Mucho had studied the images closely. They were seven hours apart. It wasn’t clear at first, but they’d expanded the shots, refined the pixels and zoom-measured. Almost two miles away from The Sun Chaser the coral reef had split into three enormous craters. They could easily have been interpreted as typhoon damage, the effects of an undersea tsunami, but that didn’t correlate with the weather reports, which suggested the hurricane was moving away from the atolls not towards them. There had to be another reason for the damage. Mucho recalculated the ordinance position, based on the water refracting, drifting and realigning the warheads’ final resting place. There was a radius of almost five hundred metres, which brought the damaged reef well inside the possible landing area.


So the coral damage had to be symptomatic of the impact zone. But Bond still had more questions. If The Sun Chaser had been involved in a salvage operation, if Sabatini was in possession of the Trident and if they’d run the gauntlet of luck with the cloud cover, where had the warheads gone? The yacht had not returned to Sea World, which was Bond’s immediate conclusion. The morning of the 24th, the day after Trident III’s abortive test, Sabatini’s yacht had sailed back to Puerto Rico and taken up her former position one mile off the beaches at Condado.


The blue prints had finally arrived from the boat builders, Luca Brenta. They revealed The Sun Chaser had been specifically designed with the underwater access hatch. While that in itself wasn’t unusual, the additional information that arrived was startling. Brenta claimed that the commission had also included the design and construction of a hyper-sub, one adapted for deep water and cargo that could be stored in the hold of the yacht. The blue print provided clearly matched Nautilus. Bond kicked himself for not activating the Geiger counter while he’d been in the hyper-sub. He’d been distracted by the girl. It had been a stupid error, one he couldn’t now correct. The warheads might well have been recovered from the sea by the salvage equipment Bond had photographed inside her hold, and they may well have been stored there, but they’d been transported by the hyper-sub all the way back to Herradura.


“You’ve got no evidence of that, Bond,” crowed Keating.


“I appreciate that,” replied Bond, “It was an over sight on my part. When I visited Sea World, I had other things to concern myself with, like what a discredited scientist like Professor Oscar Ruiz Méndez is doing working there. Now there’s a crackpot, sir.”


M offered a wan smile, “That’s enough cheek, OO7. What’s Sea World?”


Bond offered a brief explanation.


“We checked on the container vessels which left with the slurry. The last one to leave didn’t take its ordinary route. It went first to the other two Sea World centres, one in Montserrat and the other in Trinidad. Both are replica installations, perched right on the edge of dormant volcanos, just like the one at Herradura.”


“I don’t like where this is going,” muttered Carter.


“Unfortunately, unless we get moving, it’s all circumstantial,” said Bond, “What we do know is the enemy is getting jumpy. When I visited Sea World, I learnt next to nothing from the people there. They had instructions not to talk to me, at least as far as I could tell. The girl I was with, Goldberg’s daughter, seemed quite surprised by their attitude. Sabatini could have stopped me from visiting Herradura, but he didn’t because he’d arranged for my disposal back in San Juan. His associate, a female assassin called Angel, tried to kill me last night. She’d already killed Maritza. And she’d already tortured, interrogated and killed Adam Goldberg. The woman clearly believed I was also going to die and became indiscreet. She mentioned a code word ‘Golden Age’.”


There was no response from either M or Keating. Bond carried on.


“She said it was time to change the world and that it would start to change at midnight tonight. She was obviously a fanatic, probably brainwashed, but it’s hard to tell these days. Whatever Golden Age is, whatever this group is planning, whether it’s Sabatini or anyone else, it’s big, very big, and we’ve got less than six hours before it starts and less than twelve before its conclusion.”


“I don’t suppose this woman is alive?” M commented drily.


“Sorry, sir.”


“No matter. I think we can take it from here, OO7. Keating, can we count on your co-operation?”


“Of course,” the CIA man leapt at the opportunity to flex the agency’s muscle, “I propose a First Strike; Rapid; Marines.”


“One moment,” interjected Bond, “They still have four nuclear warheads. If we rush into an all-out attack, the order could be given to detonate those bombs immediately.”


“It’s a risk worth taking.”


“Hardly,” Bond was brusque, “Let me explain.”


“Go on,” M said quickly, cutting over Keating’s riposte.


“Gabi,” Bond paused and corrected himself, “Gabriella Martelli, Goldberg’s daughter, has been manipulated by Sabatini from the start. She was used as bait, as leverage, to get the access codes from her father. She’s still with him, but she’s on our side. I’ve told her who killed her father and why. I know it was a risk, but she’s a strong woman; I’ve gained as much information out of her as from all this equipment and technology. Sabatini’s been operating the three Sea World Installations for the last couple of years. It’s been a long project. An obsession. Almost a religion. But he’s been getting restless and foolish. Sabatini’s leaving San Juan tonight for Herradura and he’s taking the girl with him. Miss Martelli has agreed to act as my decoy.  If you all agree, I want permission to infiltrate Sabatini’s operation tonight and sabotage the installation before the midnight deadline.”


“That’s absurd, Bond,” chastised M, “You’re likely to get yourself and an innocent girl killed.”


“Innocent people will be killed regardless,” replied Bond firmly. He stared at the two stern figures, both turned toward each other, as if they shared the same room not sat thousands of miles apart. He had to show confidence. He had to be rational. Clear headed. The next words hurt him, but he had to say them. The girl wasn’t important, he told himself. The bombs were. People were. He understood it. She understood it. He had to make these two patriarchs understand.


“Better one than millions.”



*****              *****              *****



The night waters were cold.


The illuminated LCD on the Sea-Bob told him he was twenty five metres down, in a chilly 9°C, had half his battery power left and was making steady progress at 19mph.


Bond had chosen the 4.12 because it had the longest range, about thirty miles, give or take, and was virtually silent even when operating at full speed. The hand held sled was propelled by a single E-Jet, which sucked in water through a rotating propeller and forced it out under high pressure giving Bond a maximum thrust of just over 20mph. The twelve batteries rested in a watertight accumulator box nestled in the sled’s cone.


Forty minutes ago Bond had been dropped from the rented high powered fishing boat. The sky was a deep blue peppered with tiny stars. The sea looked blacker than the earth. Just visible in the moonlight, flanked by the jutting tower of the drill mast, was the bump of the Herradura Caldera.


“I still don’t get what you’re trying to do,” said Carter, who’d insisted on accompanying them as some sort of observer.


“Sabotage, Carter.”


“James,” started Mucho, concern etched across his normally placid face, “Remember Keating only gave you until 04:00. After that, whether your bombs are set or detonated or not, the marines are primed to go.”


“I haven’t forgotten,” replied Bond, strapping on the chest pack. This was loaded with four tubes of C4 plastic explosive and two detonators. Bond was taking the littlest amount of gear to increase his speed.


“It’ll take me forty minutes to get close enough to dive. Once underwater I’ll be using more battery power. The last stretch will have to be done using an aqualung. That’s when I’ll pray Gabi’s done her work.”


Mucho lowered the Sea-Bob into the water, “What if the girl doesn’t come through?”     


“I haven’t thought about that. I’ll tell you when I find out.”


Bond took hold of the sled, grasped both power grips, his elbows stretched on the rest plates and felt the E-Jet begin to whirr. By each thumb was a sensor button, green on starboard to accelerate and red to port for deceleration. Bond didn’t have time to argue. He sensed rather than saw Mucho’s agitated expression.


On the journey to the drop zone, the Puerto Rican had made one last attempt to talk him out of the night swim. It would be easier to storm the caldera, he argued. Bond was still concerned that would send an easy message to the other Sea World centres. Carter too had assured him squadrons of marines were waiting for the green light to launch assaults on those centres, but Bond had been adamant: Sabatini was the lynch pin of ‘Golden Age’, whatever it was, and the route to success was to eliminate him.


“Remove the corner stone,” he said, “And the whole building tumbles.”


“We aren’t dealing with Lego, Bond,” swinged Carter.   


Bond had ignored the jibe. Now he ignored the clawing feeling that Mucho, or Carter, or both, might be right. Perhaps he ought to leave the job to the marines. Let the army have the glory. He’d done his bit. He’d found the target. He’d killed for the privilege. Yes, someone else could lead the valiant. Except Bond had promised the girl, a few short hours ago, as she sat weeping her single tear. What had M called it? A bloody minded balls-up of a plan. Now, as he sprinted away from the fishing craft, head crouched behind the control console, he wondered if obstinacy was such a worthwhile attribute.


Forty minutes into the sprint, Bond gripped the regulator between his teeth, and took the Sea-Bob into a shallow dive. The water was dark. Even with the forward light, he could see no more than a few metres. Instead, he used the underwater compass to direct the sled, touched the red sensor to slow his progress.


Bond had timed the swim to the minute. It was almost eleven. Exactly the time Gabi was to distract Fisk, or whoever sat in that radio room. He knew what she would attempt to do, how she would use that beautiful, desirous body. He even suspected her charms might be required simply to leave the yacht. But Bond was also certain she would do it. Her steely expression told him. It was that determined gaze he fixed in his mind, the one where she’d stared at him, the eyes clear, the mouth slightly parted as if afraid to speak, the jaw perfectly still, not even a tremble. She could have been polished stone. The girl was suddenly irrevocably consumed with hate, with revenge, with death. It had stalked her once and now it was time for the vendetta to be repaid.


God, what had he done to her?


Bond brushed the thought aside. Concentrate, James. The sled powered on, churning only the slightest wake in the water. If the girl hadn’t done her work, the vibration would be picked up on the powerful underwater radar, as clear as if he’d been a ship or a submarine. He’d dived to avoid being detected by the surface radar. Beneath the waves his chances were even. If the girl did her work they were better than that. Maybe.


As an extra precaution, Bond switched off the forward light, pitching him into almost total deep blue. He saw flashes of colour left and right as the moon glow shimmered through the currents. Fish made swirls in and out of the halos. They seemed harmless, but in the dark their beauty and colour took on a different shape and form, becoming phantoms gently skiing beside him, only to vanish then reappear at will. Other than the presence of the undersea creatures, Bond felt completely isolated. It was like swimming in a primeval soup, the mist of life, the very beginnings of creation, seemed to crush him. Despite the cool water, he started to feel warm, as if those volcanic fumaroles were reaching up and piercing his wet suit, burning him. His muscles strained to keep moving, the ankles to keep kicking, the mind to keep working. It was tension. It was goddamn fear.


Ahead Bond detected something big. He felt it in the currents which started to brush around his body, pushing him slightly off course. The grassed banks of the main island appeared as if from nowhere, shutting out even the moonshine. Bond angled the sled and traversed the slope. As the arm tapered away, the base of the caldera came into view, indistinct, but there, flickering in the light. It was time to ditch the Sea-Bob.


Bond released his grip and the E-Jet immediately cut off. The yellow sled dropped like a stone. Bond struck out in a lazy crawl, heading along the chain of islets. He could make out the superstructure of the drilling rig as it cut into the sea bed. There was more light here, radiating from the tower and the drill platform. Bond stuck close to the jutting rocks that interlinked the islands below the surface, swimming, almost hopping from outcrop to outcrop. Deep below him on the sea bed he could make out the cool orange glow of the observation dome. Bond thought back to that day with Gabi and how gorgeous the undersea kingdom had seemed. Now the whole ugly night time arena, littered with giant pumice rocks, wreaths of pearly coral and tremulous sea grass, shared an eerie, alien quality, of the earth but not part of it. 


Bond was closing in on his target, the slurry vessel. Using the ship as cover, he intended to ditch his equipment, mount the external braces of the super structure and plant the explosives near the central mast. Now the great flat hull was straight ahead, shafts of light radiating around it and the constant vibration of the pumps carrying through the water.


What was that? Something plopped into the sea twenty or so metres away. There was a rush of bubbles as the thing broke the surface. Slowly the object started to sink. It was almost impossible to tell what it was.


Bond swam closer, intrigued, worried. It was a man’s body. It was stripped and trussed, like meat ready for roasting, except for the long wavy hair and full beard. The scientist! Ralph! The man was lacerated, bleeding at the throat. There could only be one reason the body was here.


For a moment Bond didn’t register the danger. Suddenly he baulked. They were to his left, lots of them, silver grey and coming at him very fast. Silky sharks. It was the same family he’d seen the other day, a mother hunting with her brood, searching for quick, tasty, easy meals. Did they hunt live prey? He didn’t know. It didn’t matter. He was too close to the damn body.  


The first shark went for the cadaver and hardly paused as it bit a chunk out of the leg. Bond swam backwards to escape the vicinity. Another big shape twisted over him, the tail swiping at his aqualung, heading for the feast. Bond wanted to get away. How long would it take before they finished the meal, before they wanted dessert? Four, five sharks from the nursery were gobbling at the dead man. His legs had gone. The chest was gaping. Blood was hanging like a red drapes across the cauldron, fanned by the rush of bodies as they joined the hunt. Half a shoulder disappeared into a shark’s mouth. The monster shook the joint, spat it out, teeth still crammed with gore. The big bastard had spied the other black shape, the two tailed fish that swam upright. This looked more appetising.


All Bond’s instincts told him to turn and swim like hell. He fought them, his stomach churning with terror. The grey behemoth ploughed through the water at frightening speed. Bond felt his body contract, his muscles going rigid, as if he wanted to make a smaller, immovable object. The big sickle mouth opened. Bond saw the huge teeth, the pink gums, the human remains. At the last moment, as the shark flipped and the jaw descended on his legs, Bond kicked out and back. His heel knocked the stunted nose and the teeth clamped harmlessly shut. The shark spun aside, momentarily stunned, angry. Bond made to escape.


They hunted in packs. The others were busy finishing off the scientist. But how long before they searched for other food? Their appetite would only be provoked.


Bond tugged out his scuba knife and started for the hull of the ship. Perhaps the light would deter them. The light! Jesus! Were they watching the blood lust? He peered through the swampy water. The chaos at sea would hide the bubbles from his aqualung. A few more strokes, soon he’d be in the clear, too close to the shore for an attack.


Too late. Another of the bastards swept out of the melee. Bond watched the brute scything forward. He swung wildly with the knife. So slow. Everything was in slow motion except the shark. The glint of steel disturbed the animal, scared it. The shark twisted mid-lunge, spun over and came at him again. Bond jerked aside and swung the blade at the big torso, cutting wildly at the flapping gills. The shark reared up, tail slashing, and caught him full on the chest. It crushed like a sledgehammer. Bond rolled away, ribs pounding, and headed madly for the surface.


He didn’t feel the rush, only the impact.


A powerful vice slammed onto his upper arm, near the left clavicle. Bond jabbed back with the knife, felt the blade sink into tough hide. The shark swooped away, the knife still jammed in its snout. The teeth ripped loose. Part of Bond’s rubber suit, his flesh and agony went with them.


Bond yelled, even though this meant releasing the regulator. He took on water. Panic stricken, unable to think clearly, he headed straight for the surface. His arm was a dead weight. The shock had turned it numb. His chest was pulsating. His lungs took on heaving gulps of salt water. Shaking, shouting, Bond’s head and shoulders broke the waves.


His cries alerted the men standing beneath the drill platform.


As he struggled up the steep incline, one hand clinging to the rocks, the men came over. Bond spat out the sea water, made incoherent noises and fell at their feet.


Marcelo Sabatini bent down and lifted Bond’s chin.


“Mister Bond, it’s so nice of you to swim by.”







#21 chrisno1



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Posted 25 April 2013 - 01:50 PM




Gabi hardly registered James Bond was there. They’d kissed. She remembered it, a touch of the lips; how a man would kiss his mother or a woman who had once been his lover. The two, she considered were inseparable.




The bastard Sicilian occupied her thoughts.


To think she’d given herself to him, to his whim, his fancy, his fantasy, his animal instinct. The thought of him, his hard, unflinching, uncompromising body on top of her, behind her, inside her, repulsed her. Murderer, liar, monster; there were other words, she couldn’t count them.


When she drove away from darkening Fajardo, she felt nothing. The only thought which filled her mind was that her father was dead. Life ceased to have importance. The riches, the parties, diamonds and pearls, meant naught. There was nothing but a black hole where her heart had once been. However dulled, it had once fluttered with emotion. Now it was wounded and beating a sporadic, sickly tone.


Gabi returned the Honda to the parking bay at the Plaza, breathed one large mouthful of honest air, and walked along the quayside. She was surprised to find the launch wasn’t waiting for her, as it did every time she went ashore. The events of the last hours finally started to hit. She shook. It was her hands first, and then a quivering at her solar plexus, where all those nerves and muscles conjoined, lastly her legs turned to jelly. She had to sit. She felt sick. It was a fight to keep the bile down. God, what was she doing? Run, you little idiot, run, like a rabbit from a hound, go underground, hide, get away.


Gabi’s hand reached into her handbag, the big patterned one from Fendi, and pulled out her mobile. She dialed The Sun Chaser.


“Where’s Kazacs?”




It was Captain Nordraak. His voice wavered. So it was true. The bastards.


“Kazacs is ashore. We’ll send someone out to you, Gabi. One moment.”


Gabi waited, propped on the balustrade, the sun sinking, her mind drifting. When had she last seen her father? Three, four years ago: before the job at the bar, before the job at the hotel, before Sabatini - after Mama. She cursed herself for not seeing him more. Her hero indeed. A man she looked up to, but hardly understood or hardly knew. Those childhood memories, of days in the sand or camping, when the grass tickled your toes and the sand itched your knees, when the sea tasted sweet and the picnic sandwiches were sour, when the cola was flat and the orange juice hot. Those lazy, daft summer holidays which Mama smiled through and Papie always made good with his humour, his patience and his love. Was there ever three more heroic virtues? What were her principles now that Mama and Papie were gone? Money, passion, hate, life at all costs, for free. A waste. She curled her scarf in her hands. Sabatini had bought it for her. A trip to Milan. A mad sudden weekend. She’d felt desired then, beautiful, the centre of her world and the centre of someone else’s. It had been good. Her heart, she remembered had swelled, she’d felt it beating so hard against her skin when he touched her, as if that touch would never be forgotten, never replaced, never end.


Until James Bond.


Gabi boarded the launch at dusk. Another crew member assisted her. He was as silent as Kazacs had been and now would always be.


As she mounted the steps to the rear deck, Gabi once again forced the sickness down. Sabatini was there to greet her, his head dipping to her cheek, his bearlike hands taking her shoulders and squeezing. The weight of his fingers as they dug in, a pinch she once would have enjoyed made her recoil. He noticed and drew away from the kiss.


“Is everything all right, my dear?”


“I am a little tired. Please, can I go to bed, just for a while?”


“As you wish,” he said, “We will be leaving at eight.”


“For Sea World?”


She said it in hope he might say ‘no’ and disprove James Bond’s story.


“Of course,” was the reply, “There is much to attend to. Professor Méndez’s work is nearly complete. I wish to be there to witness it.”


“Oh, I see,” she immediately regretted the almost wordless answer, turned her head an inch to avoid his piercing eye.


“Gabriella,” started Sabatini, releasing her shoulders, “Have you seen Kazacs?”


“No. Not since he dropped me at the quay,” Gabi tried to sound uninterested, “Why?”


“I have been worried about you, my dear,” Sabatini said, teeth hardly separating the words, “Kazacs was asked to look after you.”


Gabi stepped away, her cheeks flushing with anger, “What am I now - a child?”


“It was a precaution.”


“I don’t need to be looked after, Marcello, my father taught me that.”


For a moment the Sicilian’s solo orb burned. His jaw tensed, as if the fight excited him. She expected a rebuke or even a slap, the sort of response he had offered in the past when she displeased him, but it never came. Sabatini walked to the big table, where his cigar smouldered. He picked it up.


“As you wish.”


Gabi strode past him through the sun lounge and down to the bedrooms. The state room with the massive circular bed and the mirrors along the walls seemed to swallow her. Gabi slammed the door shut and threw herself under the covers. It was no refuge. Once it had been warm and cuddling, soft and welcome. Now it was like a diseased corpse, embracing her in its arms, pulling her into its black coffin, until she suffocated from the dirt and the agonies.


The long minutes stretched over the hour. Gabi stayed immobile, her fists balled up in the sheets, her face buried in the downy pillow, tasting her shallow forced breaths. Images ran through her mind. The good memories intermingled with the bad. Memories that had once meant much became insignificant, the smaller details became huge, words and pictures suddenly had two, three or four meanings, the past became a lie, only the future was real, history was forgotten and love became hate.


She felt the yacht start to sail and the movement jerked her back to the present.


Gabi stripped and showered, scrubbing hard with the soap as if the action itself could wash away the dirt that lay beneath her skin. Dressing, normally a pleasure, was like pulling on a suit of armour. She dressed in a pair of tight trousers, short to the ankle, and a blue V-neck. She appeared just as Sabatini was dismissing Priest. The tattooed man retreated from the lounge and vanished into the darkness outside. Sabatini lit another cigar. The vanilla smell of the Havana’s had become a stench and she wrinkled her nose at the cloud of offence nicotine wafting towards her.


“Ah, Gabriella, a Campari,” he declared.


“Yes,” she said it simply, started to mix the drink and asked, “Are we dining aboard tonight, Marcelo?”


“I thought so, why?”


“I thought you might want to be with the Professor.”


Sabatini’s eye flickered once and was still. He seemed to stare even through the black patch.


“Later, yes.”


She wanted to be out of his presence, but it wasn’t possible. Not for almost four hours. James would be on the move at eleven o’clock. She wished the time was closer. She urged the clock hands to spin faster. Luckily Sabatini had other things on his mind. He took the drink and went to join the Captain on the bridge. She stood by the rail watching the bright pebble of Puerto Rico retreat behind their wake, a life finished, her mind fixed on what lay ahead.


They anchored shy of Herradura, off the main island, in the lee of its steep sides. As promised, dinner was served in the lounge. Gabi noticed that for once Sabatini restricted his alcohol intake. She only took a few tentative sips at the wine. They hardly spoke. Something indeed had crept between them. Gabi could feel his resistance. She forced down a few mouthfuls of red meat. It tasted salty. He continued to watch her. She felt his anger rise as her indifference to the meal, to his company, mounted. The mutual feelings, once buried under passionate instincts, were surfacing; their differences, now launched on a tide of her loathing, were boiling at the edges.


In the end, she leant forward, stretched out a hand and stroked his knee, “You seem tense, Marcelo. Do you want a massage tonight?”


“Not tonight.”


“Then perhaps I could come with you. It will be nice to see the Professor again before we leave. We are

leaving aren’t we?”


“Yes,” Sabatini’s answer was slow in coming, “Yes, you are right. That is an excellent idea. We shall visit the Professor together.”


Gabi patted his knee and returned to her food.


“I wondered,” she started, “When we return to Europe, if I could visit England, to see my father.”


“No,” Sabatini didn’t hesitate. He shoveled in an extra mouthful of food, “I don’t think you should do that. Your mother wouldn’t have wanted it.”


The reply stung. It proved what James had told her. Sabatini had never been so cruel to use her mother as blackmail. Suddenly, as he sat there chewing, Gabi saw the Sicilian in a fresh light, a picture of latent evil. Curiously the revelation didn’t shock her. It suited his demeanour and Gabi wondered why she’d never noticed it before. The man was heartless. Obsessive about what mattered to him and he alone, Sabatini had ceased to have a soul. He would even hurt those close to him.


She said nothing more and when dinner was done she immediately went to wash again, as if his malevolent sinful presence had soiled her.


Later they sat next to each other, but apart, as the motor launch skied across the dark waters towards the bright tower of the installation. Gabi let the breeze catch her hair, let herself relax for a few minutes before the inevitable tension. Already she was shaking inside. She’d been sick before the journey, as she thought of what she had to do, of why she was doing it, of who she was doing it for. Not for James Bond, but for her father, the late Commodore Adam Goldberg. When she thought of him, of his lonely death, she felt the sorrow, but resisted the tears. There would be a time for weeping, a time for emotion, but not tonight. Now there must be strength and cunning and fortitude.


When they arrived and were ushered up the wharf to the lobby, Gabi cracked. Nothing could keep the nausea down and she vomited over the edge of the parapet. Sabatini looked mildly surprised.


“Are you not feeling well, my dear?”


“Perhaps I ate too much. I ought to lie down.”


“Yes, of course. I’ll have someone see you to the sickbay.”


He gave her his pocket handkerchief. Gabi sniffed and wiped her mouth on the silk. Her stomach was still somersaulting, but her mind suddenly cleared. Inadvertently she’d opened a doorway of opportunity, for in the sickbay, she wouldn’t be observed.


Anders, the nominal medic, gave her a glass of water mixed with milk of magnesia to drink, and left her with the lights dimmed. Gabi poured the concoction down the sink and sat upright, watching the luminous digital clock, the numbers an eerie green. Restless, she peered through the window blind. The sea could have been the sky. Everything was deep succulent blue, scattered with ripples of light. Somewhere out in that sleepy ocean was James Bond.




Gabi ran a finger over her lips and with a purposeful grin, turned back to the room. Her luck had just doubled.


The time passed quicker than she expected. No one came to bother her, except Anders, who poked his head around the door once and asked after her health.


“Much better, thank you,” she smiled at him, “How’s Marcelo? Will he be long?”


“Sometime perhaps; you stay rested.”


“All right.”


That would put them at ease and she knew it. For effect she curled back under the sheet. After several minutes, satisfied the first visit was the last, she went to the medical cabinet. Like everything at the research centre, it was open. She rummaged through the drawers and shelves. She knew it was here. She’d heard the boys talking about it. They worked hard and played hard - sometimes at the wrong times. To keep their body clocks in time, if they needed to, they used a pill to sleep. Now what was it called? Zimmermann? She kept looking. Zamfir? There is was. Zimovane. The name, printed in tiny black letters, leapt out at her. She read the label; the tablets contained Zopiclone, a highly effective drug, one that induced sleep half an hour after ingestion. Gabi secreted two of the pills into her jeans pocket and replaced the bottle.


She waited until it was almost ten. Gabi slipped off the bunk and stepped to the door, listening. Someone was walking up the corridor. The footfalls rang on the metal floor. She’d heard similar sounds all evening. Gathering her resolve, she waited until the person outside had disappeared and gently turned the door handle. The passage was empty. Gabi slipped down the corridor towards the main lobby, her rubber soled deck shoes silencing her steps.


On the way she paused by a window. Outside on the drilling platform she could see Sabatini bathed in the spotlights. He was directing operations, the frail figure of Professor Méndez almost dwarfed beside him. The two made an odd pair, but a very deliberate one. Gabi could see how they talked, animated, almost as one, as if the scientist knew exactly what the gangster would say and vice versa. How strange she hadn’t noticed it before. The two men had so much in common: the love of the fragile ecology, the fear of its awesome destructive power, a hatred of the modern environment, one they only utilized instead of developed, all of it born from a belief in man’s ability to overpopulate, to annihilate and to self-destruct. Perhaps she ought to have seen it earlier. They were obviously alike, sharing a zeal, a belief, an almost religious fervour.


Gabi shivered. The idea startled and scared her. If a man as placid as the Professor could hold views the same as Sabatini, what could his real motives be? How enthralled was he to the Sicilian? Did he share the monster’s aims? Did he know of the bombs? She daren’t think. Put it aside, Gabi told herself, you only have to think of James. It’s him you need to think about.


There was no one in the mess. The whole building seemed empty of life - except the radio room. The door was open and light emitted from it. She could see the armrest of the swivel chair and on it lounged the long sleeved shirt with the cufflinks. It was Fisk’s arm. Gabi returned to the mess and made coffee, sweet and frothy, just how he liked it. She crushed the pills, praying for more good fortune, and stirred them into the brew.


“Fisk,” she cooed as she walked gingerly up the corridor, trying not to spill the mugs.


“You’ve brought coffee,” he grinned, “You darling, thank you.”


Fisk took his and offered her a seat. “I heard you’d gone sick. You look better now.”


“Maybe it was the journey. The water was very choppy tonight.”


“Was it?” Fisk was immediately alerted and began to check his instruments, the weather ones, “I don’t see any high winds.”


“You know how it is, Fisk, the breeze picks up across the lagoon.”


“I suppose.”


They drank for a while.


“Why is everywhere so empty, Fisk? What’s happening?”


“Sea World’s closing down. Didn’t the boss tell you?”


“No. Why is it closing down?”


“Because there’s nothing more to do here.”


“I don’t understand. What about Sea World? What about the Professor’s work?” Gabi asked the questions urgently, not because she was ignorant, but because she had a feeling Fisk was about to tell her something important. Of course they were going to close down the installation, they had to evacuate before the bomb exploded. But would Fisk tell her that?


“Everything’s finished, Gabi. Today’s the last day. We’ve been signed off and paid up. Of course we won’t need the money where we’re going, but all the same.”


“Where are you, we, going?”


“You mean you don’t know?”




Fisk drank his coffee to the bottom of the mug and swung the chair side to side.


“I’m sorry,” he said gradually, “I didn’t know.”


“When Marcelo said we were going away, I thought he just meant us and The Sun Chaser. I didn’t understand,” Gabi considered a moment. How long did the potion need to take effect? Did it depend on the constitution of the patient? Her eyes passed over the clock. The hands inched around the sweep. Keep him talking. “Is it something to do with Golden Age?”


“So you do know about it,” Fisk sounded relieved, “I thought you must. Everyone’s moving on together. Us here, Signore Sabatini, you; it’s going to be fine.”


“But where are we going?”


“The kessel. Didn’t Signore Sabatini tell you?”


“No. I don’t really know anything.”


“Well, it won’t be as nice as this place, but safer, I guess,” he tailed off, as if not able to find the words.


“I’m sure it will be fine where ever we go.”


“Maybe,” he said, with a yawn, “Okay, probably. Is it hot in here?”


“No. Don’t you feel well?”


“I feel rather sleepy.”


“It’s been a long day for you. How long have you working?”


“Twelve, maybe fourteen hours.”


“You need to rest.”


The idea didn’t appeal. He sat upright, trying to fight the urge to recline in the leather seat, “Mustn’t rest, Gabi, it’s important to keep awake, for Golden Age.”


“What is Golden Age, Fisk?”


“The Signore hasn’t told you?”




“Golden Age is the big plan,” he said with another yawn, “It’s what this is all about, all this drilling. It’ll change the world, you know -”


Fisk tried to raise the mug to his lips again, but it stopped halfway and he tipped it so the dregs spilt. He hardly noticed.


“Damn,” he muttered and slid back into the bucket of the seat, his legs cranked at angles, his head lolling onto his shoulder. The mug slipped from his fingers and bounced on the floor making a tinny, ringing cry. For a moment his eyes were open, staring at Gabi. She couldn’t look at him.


“Damn you, girl,” Fisk said.


The eyelids squeezed shut. Fisk slumped into a limp concave shell.


Gabi bit her lip. She waited a minute before touching the prone body. Fisk was asleep. She’d probably given him too many pills. They’d worked ever so fast. Gabi moved the chair aside, out of view from the passage. The clock hadn’t reached eleven. James had told her to be out of the centre by eleven, but there was still well over half an hour to go. Gabi wondered if she ought to hide, in case someone returned and saw Fisk, saw the radar and raised an alarm. She baulked. The vomit was rising again, but she gulped it down. No. Whatever James said, it was better to escape now. They’d arranged a rendezvous point: the grottos on the big island. She’d try to aqualung there. Sabatini, the Professor and the others were wrapped up in their world, this mysterious Golden Age, she could surly escape unnoticed.


Gabi left the radio room and gently closed the door. The equipment store was at the far end of the passage, back past the lobby and the medical centre. Gabi took it at a run, the lightness of her feet surprising even her. She eased open the door, heart pounding, breathless, and sighed with relief to see the racks of wet suits and aqualungs. Quickly she stripped off her outfit, hid it, and pulled on one of the all-in-one rubber suits.


As she checked the air tanks, Gabi became aware of a commotion in the centre. God, they’d found him! The unconscious Fisk had just betrayed her. Quickly, she yanked on the tank and waddled to the outer door, the one which led straight to the sea.


Gabi never made it. The moment her hand pressed down on the handle bar, she heard the inner door crash open. The mask was over her face already. She could have jumped. Yet she was frozen. Fear had finally beaten her. One spiny hand encircled her upper arm and pulled her back from the ledge. It was Priest. He said nothing. The wiry, skeletal claw hauled her across the fitting room. She struggled, but Priest held her like a vice. He ripped the mask from her face. Gabi gasped. The hand slapped down. It stung. It reminded her of Sabatini. The games he liked to play. But this was no game.


Priest wasn’t alone. The two other men removed the aqualung and flippers. They paused. Priest offered an unintelligible grunt and they tore off the wet suit, cutting it loose with knives. She stood in her panties, taking huge breaths, trying to calm herself. Involuntarily her knees gave. It was only the shoulder of one of the men that stopped her falling. Gabi was dragged out of the room and back down the corridor. They threw her into the sick bay.


For a minute, Gabi sobbed, trying to regain her composure, trying to focus on anything other than the immediate future. It didn’t look good. Not anymore. She’d made a mistake. Or perhaps it was never meant to be. Fate: the curse of Fortuna: whatever will be.


The door slammed open.


It was Sabatini, angry, bristling, yet strangely calm. He shut the door quietly and sat next to her. His hand stretched out. His fingers dabbed at her calf, felt their way up her thigh to the elastic of her knickers. The touch repulsed her. Gabi wanted to struggle, to kick out, but she was paralysed, not she thought from fear, but from indecision. Did she fight, fly or die? At that moment only her tears moved.


“You appear to want to leave me,” he said.


“Because you’re a monster,” Gabi couldn’t help herself. The vitriol came out of her mouth like a hurricane, all languages at once, “Bastard! You killed my father!”


“You are mistaken, Gabriella,” Sabatini offered a long sigh, “Angel killed your father.”


“You ordered it!”


“Who told you that? Mister Bond?”


“It doesn’t matter who told me. I know it is true.”


“As I know it is true you have been plotting against me,” he stroked her cheek with one fat finger, poked the tip into the dimple, “You disappoint me, Gabriella.”


She spat. The stream of gunk hit him square on the chin. Sabatini lashed out with the back of his hand, caught her flush over the jaw. His hands came down, encircling her wrists. Gabi struggled. Another punch landed somewhere. He was smothering her. The big hands surrounded her throat. The curses echoed in her mind. His elbows and knees acted like missiles, damaging her. She tasted his breath as he bent over, that hot smoky unctuous odour. The one red eye was blazing. Gurgling, she thought her time was over.


And then it stopped. She felt his heart beating hard on her breast, a drum, thudding. His hands slowly came away from her neck and he sat upright. His face was like stone. She thought of the great marble busts of the Caesars, how alive they appeared on the outside and yet how dead they truly were. Sabatini had transformed himself. He was now the god-king, alive and dead at the same time, in the world but not of it, a man caught in limbo, a man waiting for the boat to cross the river into the realm of Satan. He looked, she thought, as if death had taken him already.


Slowly, deliberately, Sabatini stretched out a hand and removed her underwear, snapping the elastic. Petrified, Gabi could only watch.    


He lit a cigar, turned a glass beaker on its side for a makeshift ashtray and left the cigar inside it. Silently he crossed the room and lifted the CO2 fire extinguisher from the wall. He placed it between her feet, the nozzle aimed at her elongated body. Sabatini reached for the Havana and took one long puff.


“I remember when we first met, Gabriella,” said Sabatini, cigar smoke wrapping his face, “You were stubborn. You had to be broken like a wild horse and I enjoyed the breaking. Now, it seems, you must be broken again.”


He released the pin. It dropped against the canister, the tinkle a gunshot in the enclosed space.


“But first a science lesson: solid carbon dioxide remains at -78°C, even at room temperature. It is so cold merely touching it for a few seconds can cause blisters, even severe frostbite, to sensitive areas of the skin. This is a carbon dioxide extinguisher. The gas released from the cylinder will cause similar damage to anyone directly in its path. In a moment, my dear, I will activate it. When you are cold, I will sting you with this,” Sabatini tapped ash from the end of the cigar so the embers glowed, “And you will tell me what I want to know.”


Gabi flinched.


Sabatini wrenched down on the plunger. The CO2 exploded out of the nozzle. Gabi gasped and choked. Instantly she felt the chill. She tasted the sickly ozone, retched and tried uselessly to protect herself. White water vapour erupted with the gas, burying her inside a freezing cloud. It was like being wrapped in ice. The soft layers of skin, her extremities, the feet and hands, her lips, her cheeks, her breasts, the vital parts, charred as if burnt, crinkling, fusing. Within seconds she went numb.


Slowly, as she shivered, the cloud dispersed. Sabatini was blowing down the cigar, reigniting it. His eye, as hot and red as the fiery tip, fixed on her taut bosom. The burning point came down hard and jabbed home.


Gabi screamed.



****                *****              *****



Number One took his seat at the head of the conference table. His one good eye wept. It was not a tear of sorrow, but exertion. The torture had thrilled him. It had been a most enjoyable fifteen minutes. The girl had resisted at first, but he had swept her defiance aside. Fire and ice had revealed the truth.


“Gentlemen,” he began, lighting another cigar and exhaling elaborately so the nearest of his colleagues became enveloped in the smog, “There is a minor problem. It appears the British spy, James Bond, has decided to sabotage Golden Age. The girl has told me this. I know what he will attempt to do and how he intends to do it. Luckily I have discovered the truth quickly. We will be waiting for him. There is nothing to fear. The operation will proceed as planned.”


His gaze looped around the table, inspecting the faces, young men or old, men of vision, men of greed, men of faith, men of value or men of nothing. He detected opposition. He’d felt it as soon as he walked into the room. The atmosphere had been toxic. Hot. Quarrelsome. It was like his days with the union in Palermo, when he asserted his muscle in the most vicious manner. If a threat would not work, a fist or a boot could prove decisive. It was the way of hard men. It was the law of the arena, the gladiator, men who understood what it was like to live and die, men who stared death in the face every day and still went home to Mama and kissed her plump cheek and said ‘I love you’ as if the world had never changed. It is a brutal, beautiful world, thought Number One.


The Professor was the one who spoke. Surprised, Number One raised his eyebrows as the shaking man buried his nervous hands into his apron pocket.


“I take it this means the girl will be disposed of also,” he said slowly, a slight stammer distorting his words, “She has been a nuisance since she arrived. She would be better out of the way.”


“She stays,” replied Number One. He didn’t offer an explanation. It wasn’t necessary.


“Why?” asked the indignant scientist, “It was she who brought Bond here. He should have been kept well away. Number Five should have dealt with him.”


“Number Five is dead.”


“Yes - killed by this man Bond. She waited too long and so are you.”


Number One examined the end of his cigar. The tip burnt a deep orange. He wanted to stub it out on the Professor’s skin, watch him squirm like the girl. Not yet. It could wait.


“She may still be of use to me,” he said emphatically, “As leverage.”


“Is she going to die?”


This call came from a different corner, the bearded marine biologist. Number One had never been certain of this man, a callow youth with too much sentiment in his heart.


“What is it to you?”




It was a lie. Number One knew it.


“I have spoken to Becker,” he announced with a single flick of his hand, the two fingers jutting out, “You said too much. It was your idle talk that led to Bond’s suspicions being aroused. It is time for you to leave us, Mister Walcott, before you do any more damage.”


“Leave?” the man was confused, “How? Where?”


The strong arms reached around Ralph Walcott. Two fists rose before him. Taut between them was the needle sharp length of steel twine. Ralph’s eyes widened in horror as Priest pulled the garrote across his throat. 

Edited by chrisno1, 28 April 2013 - 01:35 AM.

#22 chrisno1



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Posted 30 April 2013 - 04:26 PM




Bond passed out from the agony.


When he came to, everything was a blur. He had vague memories: being dragged up the rocks, the bright lights of a medical room, stinging antiseptics, someone stitching his shoulder, the hazy drowsy night time world of the ocean.


Initially he couldn’t understand where he was. The floor was cold. He was lying on bare metal. There was no sound. His eyes creased open. The light was a dull orange. Beyond it was endless Stygian gloom. His arm and shoulder were roughly patched up. Gently he moved it and was relieved to find it still worked. However deep the shark’s teeth had gone, they hadn’t torn the tendons. He still had two arms, if still in need of repair.


He was dressed in the diving suit, although the top half had been cut away at the waist by whoever dealt with his injuries. Bond rolled over, allowing his thighs to rub each other. He felt the reassuring bump along the inside right leg. That was interesting. They hadn’t searched him.


Bond dragged himself into a sitting position and raised his head, the eyes finally taking in exactly where he was. The dark world outside was the sea, held back by the egg shaped observation dome. He was in the observatory, sitting on top of the dormant Herradura volcano. Sitting with him, hands on his knees, his legs like tree trunks was Sabatini. Behind the metal bench stood Priest, arms folded, eyes alert, a revolver in one hand.


“Mister Bond,” began Sabatini, “You run the risk of boring me.”


“It wasn’t my intention.”


“I agree. And yet you do. What is this adventure you are engaged in? A treasure hunt, perhaps, or a vendetta? Maybe the pursuit of a woman you cannot have?”


“Nuclear warheads, Sabatini,” replied Bond, “Don’t play ignorant. You know why I’m here. Angel would have told you.”


“Indeed she did. I find it remarkable that a country as supposedly great as Britain could only afford to send one insignificant agent to confront me. I wouldn’t have expected an army, but really, just you?”


“You’ll find I’m more than capable.”


“What would you call it? A thorn in the side. That is all you have been. I intend to remove the thorn.”


“You’d better get on with it.”


“Hasty words, Mister Bond,” Sabatini reflected, “I could kill you now. I could have killed you when I pulled you out of the sea. But where would be the lesson in that? You, Mister Bond, have one more lesson to learn before you die. You must learn the rules of my game.”


Sabatini stood up and walked to the side of the dome, staring out into the murky ink of the sea. The fish, attracted by the light, squirrelled around, making pretty patterns in the tangerine glow. His mirror image stared back, hard, callous, piratical. Bond saw the single eyelid close. It opened and Sabatini spread his arms towards the ocean deep.


“Why have I brought you here, Mister Bond? Why have I brought you to the bottom of the sea?” he announced, “Life, as you are no doubt aware, began in the oceans. The amoebas, the micro-life, the tiniest creatures a God could ever make, they all lived here, in waters like these. They lived, they procreated, they died and they evolved. They became fishes. Fishes became lizards. The cycle was started. Birds, reptiles, dinosaurs, creatures the world has forgotten, millions of years of evolution culminated in primitive man. Our ancestors were not even born one million years ago. Mankind is merely a scratch on the history of earth. And yet here we are, living in a world that is no longer evolving, but is dying. And mankind has killed it.


“We need to redress the balance, Mister Bond. The cycle has been broken. Man has become too powerful. His thirst for knowledge, his thirst for industrial might, has not been tempered. We have thieved the minerals. We have polluted the atmosphere. We have destroyed the jungles and forests, the beautiful lush lungs of the planet. We have exterminated species after species. We have taken and taken and taken again. When will mankind give back to the earth what he has stolen?”


Sabatini began to pace the chamber. His face was almost in rapture. He was glistening, his cheeks slightly red, his mouth opening wide, pronouncing the words loudly, prominently. His voice boomed in the chamber. The echo added mystical depth to the speech, as if he was God himself, or a Roman Emperor, made to be God. Bond remembered all that porphyry on The Sun Chaser. His first thought when he saw it was how it indicated wealth and vanity and crushing ambition.


Sabatini continued speaking.


“That time, Mister Bond, is now. Operation Golden Age is the culmination of years of detailed work, years of collaboration, years of recruitment and cooperation. We number many hundreds. We are men and women from all areas of society, all with influence and power. We have gained our wealth, our riches and position through the ugliest of means. Yet now we understand that the world cannot support its enormous population. Now we understand that nations are not equipped to manage the protection of the earth. Governments are not able to make ecological decisions. They can only envisage the future in the shortest terms. It will take a monstrous event, Mister Bond, to shake these impotent judges from their lethargy. Golden Age will do exactly that.”


“How exactly?” questioned Bond.


“You are aware of my charity, the Sea World Foundation? It is a rather clever duplicity. I set up the organization specifically for aquatic ecological and geothermal research. However, when it was decided that the world needed to change, the esteemed Professor Méndez highlighted three sites of special geological interest. Three sites, Mister Bond, which will alter man’s existence as we know it. Professor Méndez and his colleagues have been drilling three bore holes twelve miles into the earth’s crust. That is twice as deep as the ill-fated Deep Water Horizon drill. There is one platform here at Herradura, a second platform at Soufriere Hills in Montserrat and a third in the Columbus Channel, Trinidad. I’m sure you are aware of the importance of these sites?”


“They’re all dormant volcanos.”


“Precisely,” Sabatini said with some relish. He moved back to the seat, dragged it forward and sat down, his face only a few inches from Bond’s, “We are drilling into one of the world’s most unstable fissures, Mister Bond. The Caribbean Plate and the North American Plate are constantly at war. While the islands rise, the Puerto Rico Trench, on the edge of which we sit, sinks. The fissure ruptures almost every day. We have recorded earth tremors of Magnitude 1 almost every hour. There are quakes as high as Magnitude 3 weekly. These don’t affect the day to day lives of the islanders. A few small inconvenient tidal waves, broken paving stones, building foundations will crack, perhaps a landslip or two. And yet what will happen if the fissure is torn apart, Mister Bond? What catastrophe will occur?”


“There could be a massive earthquake,” stated Bond.


“Oh, no, there will be.”


“You can’t be certain of that.”


“Oh, but we are. Professor Méndez is a quite brilliant scientist. His findings are simply too brilliant for the establishment to accept. Luckily, Golden Age will vindicate his work.”


“The scientific community thinks he’s a lunatic,” said Bond, clutching at any straw to ire Sabatini, to throw him off guard, “His work is discredited as unfeasible”


“Unfeasible to produce raw energy, raw power - power that mankind can use to provide heat and electricity, but not if he wishes to use that power to destroy,” Sabatini sat back, the challenge crossing his face, “Two decades ago the Chinese blew up Potan Mountain in Guangdong Province. They used twelve thousand tons of dynamite to flatten 4.9 million cubic metres of earth, rock and soil. The Chinese News Agency reported the detonation resulted in an earthquake of 2.5 on the Richter scale. This seems very unlikely. Hong Kong seismologists measured a quake of 3.5 and they are stationed over sixty miles away.


“Remember your history, Mister Bond; the Hiroshima atomic explosion, man’s very first fission bomb, only had the equivalent capacity of 10700 tons of TNT. The last underground nuclear test carried out by the Chinese had the equivalent power of 660,000 tons of TNT. Tremors were felt over two hundred miles away. Similar earthquakes were experienced during the development and testing of the forty-mega-ton fission bombs created by the USSR and the USA. And it isn’t only the military that cause tremors. Collapsed diamond mines in South Africa, gas wells in Colorado and Alaskan fracking are all examples of man’s inability to control nature. We delve into her secrets, Mister Bond, but we cannot control what we unleash. Mankind may boast of being able to match nature in creating the force of earthquakes, but he still remains virtually impotent.


“Professor Méndez always wanted to protect the planet and to help mankind; that was his primary interest in tapping geothermal vents. Now, he, like us, agrees that the way forward is only through action. We will use his research to lower atomic weapons into the fissures to what is known as the Mohorovicic Discontinuity, the division between the outer crust and the hot, softer mantle. We will set off a series of underground nuclear explosions along the fault line of the Puerto Rican Trench directly above the magma chambers. The Discontinuity will crack - it is after all, fragile, even for rock - and puncture a hole directly into the magma chamber. There will be enormous earthquakes, yes; there will also be volcanic eruptions of the like the world has never seen.”


Bond wanted to keep him talking. He could see Sabatini was transposed, the anger was fuelling his diatribe, the madness was peppering his speech.


“I don’t understand.”


“You have heard of the Super Volcano, yes?” answered Sabatini with a flourish, “Such as the sinking caldera the whole of Mexico City is constructed on or the plug that is Yellowstone National Park? Imagine what would happen to the world if those long dormant volcanos suddenly erupted? Imagine if the tectonic plates moved so far, so fast, that the earth’s crust was fractured again, directly above these ancient chimneys? Disaster, Mister Bond, death, disease, extinction, ash clouds would encircle the globe, earthquakes would rupture the plain, crops would fail, day would turn to night. Imagine it! The world would become as sickening and as dark as Hades itself.


“You may remember, Mister Bond, how the Icelandic volcano Eyjafallajokull caused chaos to world travel and had an effect on weather systems, sunlight and rain fall. Only a few miles from Eyjafjallajokull is Katla, a crater ten times the size and primed to explode once every one hundred years. She is overdue. In 1991, in the Philippines, Mount Pinatulo erupted after six hundred years. She destroyed a mountain and spewed ash and steam over twenty five miles up into the atmosphere. And these are small craters. It is easy to forget what lies beneath us. The pressure below a super volcano is unimaginable. The earth’s mantle, that seething mass of molten rock, gas and minerals, is trapped under the tremendous weight of the earth’s crust, bearing down inch by inch. When even a tiny shaft, nothing but an air vent, is opened by the shifting tectonic plates, the magma will rise. It will force its way out of the chamber, expand the crack into a fissure, an open sore on the skin of the world, and explode. The power of the earth is unforgiving, Mister Bond. Imagine what chaos she will invoke when three dormant super volcanos erupt?”


“Mankind will recover, we always do.”


“Not without massive loss of life, starvation, endless night time. There will be revolutions, there will be war. It will be an inferno.”


“I thought you wanted to save the world?” queried Bond, “Why are you aiming to destroy it?”


“It is the scientist’s dream, is it not - the ultimate achievement, the destruction of the world, the dream of extreme power? Nobody will ever replicate what we are about to accomplish. It will be a once and only event.”


“Why do you say that?”


“We have a plan. There will be strong survivors. There will be a future for mankind.”


“But if the survivors are all people like you, it’ll make a pretty grim version of mankind.”


Sabatini struck like a viper. The hand snapped out and slapped across a cheek. Bond forced a smile.


“Is that why you all wear the amulet?” he asked, “That insignia is a heathen symbol. Have you abandoned your God as well as you senses?”


The next blow was a fist. The ring cut his lip. Bond brushed away the blood.


“We are all dedicated to the cause of Golden Age and to Our Leader,” declared Sabatini, “The end of the world as we know it is inevitable. We are merely hastening the approach. And when the dust and ashes have settled, we will emerge and retake what is left. The world will be crying out for the guidance and the leadership we can offer them. The world, at last, will listen.”


Bond shivered. It was glory. The man wanted power, certainly, but he also wanted recognition. It was odd, thought Bond, that while Sabatini may have been a corrupt businessman, his aims were essentially well intentioned. Yet the corrupting influences never left him. Whatever his altruistic ideas, whatever the ideals of Golden Age and its Leader were, they’d moved on from pure ecological issues.


“So you and your ‘Leader’ want to make the world a better place?” started Bond, “I don’t believe anyone will thank you for killing millions of innocent people. Your new world, however it turns out, will just as sad and bitter as the current one.”


“We will see. There is much you do not know of Golden Age.”   


“I’m beginning to learn. Tell me, Sabatini, who is this mysterious ‘Leader’?”


“He is a great thinker, a man of great resource, a man who expects loyalty and receives it.”


“And without loyalty?”


“You die.”


“So where does that leave people like Gabi? Do you think she’ll be happy sharing your dream?”


“Gabriella will accept the terms of her employ,” Sabatini said blandly, “As she has always done. Without her I would never have found out your plan. You have had quite an effect. The girl showed more spirit than usual.”


“You ordered her father murdered,” Bond grimaced, “She won’t forgive you that.”


“The unfortunate outcome of a fortunate coincidence,” said Sabatini, “When I met Gabriella, I saw our relationship as nothing more than pleasure. Only when I wished her to accompany me did I make enquiries into her family background. Imagine my surprise to find the role Adam Goldberg performed for the Royal Navy. Suddenly a new, faster option was available to Golden Age. We no longer needed to manufacture a nuclear bomb. We could steal one.”


“Coincidences,” repeated Bond bitterly.


“Indeed. We tried to turn him. It would have been much easier. Instead we had to use the mimic. I must say he was very good. That’s what Jack Stoddard told us.”


“The flight lieutenant,” muttered Bond, “You had to protect your inside man.”


The big head gave a single nod.


“One more thing, Sabatini: you only have three Sea World installations, but you have four warheads. Where’s the other one?”


“It’s on my yacht.”


“What do you want it for?”


“Insurance,” Sabatini said thoughtfully, “After all, you never know exactly what the womb of life holds. You however have a less optimistic futuristic.”


He stood up, dug into his pocket and pulled out Bond’s Omega Sea Master.


“Let me see,” he said, “The oxygen supply to the observatory has been switched off. You have enough air in this chamber to last you several hours. I wouldn’t waste it. I suggest you sleep for a while. The main event will not occur until twelve noon. At that moment the nuclear warhead lowered into the fissure beneath us will be activated and you will go,” he paused and then clicked his finger once loudly, “Poof!”


“And so will everyone else on Herradura.”


“We’ll be miles away, Mister Bond. We have hours to escape,” Sabatini twiddled with the dial, “Here, let me set the alarm on your watch. I’d hate you to miss the end of the world.”


Sabatini handed Bond the Sea Master. He gave a half smile and turned back to the hatch. He was down it in seconds. Priest, the revolver steady in his hand followed. The airlock door crunched shut and Bond heard the wheel spin and the lock clang. He tried it straight away, just in case, but the door was locked shut.


Bond stared at the watch. Strange, he thought, how these things work out. No coincidences here. This was an error of judgement born out of complacency. Sabatini’s sense of superiority had blinded him to the knowledge Angel had imparted. Yes, he was a spy. Yes, he was only one man, but he was one man with a few tricks to play.


Bond watched as the shadow of the hyper-sub scooted away from pods and vanished into the eerie stillness. It was almost one-thirty. The US Special Forces wouldn’t be arriving for nearly three hours. Assuming they won any confrontation, they may not even think of looking down here. And Bond couldn’t rely on anyone from Golden Age to tell them. He could stay down here and die whether the bloody volcano erupted or not. He had to get out.


Bond dug into the inside pocket of his swimming shorts. The lump he’d felt through the diving suit was the re-breather, still in its slim leather case. Now Bond unscrewed the back of the Sea Master to reveal a small package of C4 plastic explosive fixed to the cap. He emptied it out of the bag.


It was only a thin chance. The C4 was really designed to break open locks. The dome was a strong shape, molded like an egg, yet all Bond needed to do was exactly what Sabatini wanted to do to the earth’s crust. He wanted to crack it open. Energy never evaporates. If the explosion of the C4 could force a small break in the shell, the energy from the explosion would continue to snap at the glass, dispersing certainly, but hopefully doing so for long enough to allow the downward pressure of the sea water to puncture a hole. And, like the magma rising from the bowels of the earth, the ocean would pour through the hole and make it bigger and wider until Bond was able to swim out. It was crazy, but like Sabatini’s madcap scheme, it might even work.   


Bond mashed the C4 into a lump about fifteen inches up the glass. He pulled out the winding mechanism and buried it into the centre. The tiny detonator was a fitted with a miniature receiver, the size of a few grains of sand. Q-Branch assured him it would send a spark sufficient to activate the detonator.


Bond pulled the bench over onto its side and ducked behind it. He placed the re-breather between his lips and bit down tight on the mouthpiece. Lastly he raised his right hand, extended the watch and hit the transmitter button.


There was a tremendous bang. Smoke filled the chamber.


Bond peered over the top of the bench. There was no sound of running water. There was no indication that anything had broken at all. He waved his hand to clear the air of smoke. Where the C4 had rested there was now a big black stain. It glowed furiously red at its centre, but as Bond watched and the redness subsided, all he could see was a big black burn. Across its heart was a three inch long crack. But the dome still held. The C4 had caused nothing more than a graze.







#23 chrisno1



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Posted 06 May 2013 - 01:07 AM




Bond continued to stare at the crack on the thick glass.


Nothing happened. The split hadn’t penetrated far enough through the inches of silica and the cotton-thin steel mesh that bound it. The concentrated clump of C4, powerful as it was, simply hadn’t been strong enough to break the egg shaped dome.


Five seconds elapsed.




Fifteen.  Bond counted them out, willing, wishing for the weight of water, to take effect.


Twenty. He heard it. A snap. It could have been an axe chopping at wood. And then a series of sharp smacking sizzles, like the snarling, spitting echo of a forest fire.


Twenty three. The crack was growing, spreading across the dome, a spider’s web of jumbled lines. Tiny splinters of glass burst out of the curved pane.


Twenty five. Bond started to sweat. A loud popping noise cut through the air. A trickling stream began to seep through the initial wound.


Twenty six. The hole started to blister. Suddenly a fountain of sea water gushed into the observation dome, spraying in every direction.


Twenty seven. Bond ducked behind the upturned seat. When the glass finally broke the force of the water would crush him unless it hit something else first. His ears too were likely to rupture with the sudden change in pressure. He hadn’t even considered the fragments of jagged glass, any one of which could sever an artery as they spun loose in the whirlpool that would engulf him.


Twenty eight. There came a long agonized groan, as if the protective dome was in mourning. He heard it clearly, even over the rushing, flooding water.


Twenty nine. A thunderclap. And all hell broke loose.


It was just a roar. The sound penetrated his whole body. It was a living thing, a booming, sepulchral resonance that burned and punched and screamed. The dome crashed inwards. The sea swamped the little stage in a second, a tumult of foam and slime and salt water. It came like a massive breaker, thrusting forward, smashing everything in its path. The glass shattered. The seat buckled, crushed by the ferocity of the onslaught.


Bond sucked hard on the re-breather, his only lifeline. If he lost it, his world would be forfeit. The water stung at first. His skin was hot with the pain. Ears singing, he felt the tsunami cascade over him in one solid mass, and the seat, his only shelter, was torn out of his hands. His injured arm and shoulder howled as the torrent collided with it. His head was buffeted. He hit something. He almost cried out and dropped the tiny aqualung from between his teeth. He felt a shard of glass scythe angrily at his chest, felt the skin tear, saw the blood spiral. Everything hurt, everything bruised. His head was exploding with the change of pressure. Wasn’t it? His brain thumped against his skull. His bones, all of them, wanted to crack and break, surrender to the tomb of the sea. His skull thumped against his brain. His eyes were blown wide. His throat squeezed.


Thirty five. He kept counting.


Free of holding the seat, shockwaves still booming in his head, Bond clawed himself upwards through the water. The dome was still more or less intact, but a huge hole was torn in one side. Broken, twisted glass was sagging around the opening, the wire mesh still holding it together. Already fish were inside the new realm, swimming in furious circles as they fought the violent currents that had sucked them through the void. Bond pushed aside the waving shard of glass. The chaos began to subside. The placid undersea kingdom once more took shape. His mind was still in turmoil.


Forty one. He struck for the big hole and swam straight through it.


With no light to guide him, Bond set out on a vertical trajectory, the murky night time world of the ocean seeming to be a ghostly fog. Marine life whipped past him and around him. His legs and arms kicked upwards, forcing his body through the water. The urge to escape the depths was everything. He wanted to reach the surface. Fast.


He was injured. He was deaf. He heard nothing. The world was silent to him. His eardrums may have burst. At the very least the water pressure had temporarily flattened the fibres of the cochlea. God knows, for how long. The only sound was inside his mind, a drumming inside his head, thumping, beating.


Jesus Christ! It was his heart. It was his blood, pumped ever faster by the vital organs of his body, his lungs, his heart, his veins, pumping and kicking and forcing the oxygen around his system in a desperate fight to keep him alive. If he rose any faster, his body wouldn’t cope and he’d pass out. He had to slow down. He had to acclimatize. But even if he stopped kicking, he’d still float upwards, the air in his body acting like a six foot balloon.


Desperate, he fought to maintain his sensibilities, to bring calm to his panic stricken nerves. Barely registering what he was doing, he glanced down through the mire. In the last of the light from the broken dome, the long thick tail hung in the water. It stretched up and up from the pod to the lifebuoy sitting fifty metres above him. He swam left and grabbed at the flailing cord. He clung on, counted sixty seconds, and rose another few metres before taking hold and pausing once more. It was in this fashion, a torturous, interminable, marathon, that James Bond hauled his tired body out of Neptune’s grasp.



*****              *****              *****



The Sikorsky CH53E is nick-named ‘The Super Stallion’. These great grey behemoths are the world’s biggest helicopters. They have three engines and seven huge rotational blades which propel the one hundred foot body at speeds of over 170mph. The United States military uses these giant transport vehicles throughout the world. They are equally able over land or sea, high or low altitudes, and can carry civilian supplies, military equipment or combat soldiers. It is their versatility as much as their size which makes them a favourite of the Special Forces.


As James Bond was clawing his way to safety, three Super Stallions were ploughing their way through the empty airspace of the Caribbean basin.


Colonel Austin Fletcher of the 7th Special Forces Group had received his instructions directly from the C.I.A. via the Pentagon. It had been a busy tea-time at Elgin Air Force Base. Decisions had been made quickly. Transport, men, arms and aerial routes had been organized and cleared within an hour. The U.S. Virgin Islands were a shade over twelve-hundred miles from Florida; Montserrat and Trinidad even further. That was at least eight hours flying time. It was eight hours Colonel Fletcher considered they didn’t have.


Tactics agreed, decision made, battle plan in place, the Colonel assigned his three best Company Commanders, one to each Super Stallion, and briefed them in ten minutes. They had another twenty to each raise a detail of men. The first Super Stallion was in the air a little after seven o’clock in the evening.


Major Miguel Anthony, C-Company Commander, was leading thirty six volunteers of the 3rd Operations Detachment. They were heading for Strike One, the installation at Herradura. They’d stopped to refuel once, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and were now cruising in the thin atmosphere, Puerto Rico to the north and dead ahead the sprawl of the Lesser Antilles.


Major Anthony checked his watch, synchronized with his colleagues and all his troopers. In a few minutes the two companion helicopters would veer south towards their own destinations. Behind him, in the cockpit, he could hear the crackle of communication. The signals were relaying positional information, reassessing the ETA. Through the slit windows, he saw the two flashes of grey gradually turn southwards. That was it. They were alone against the enemy.


Miguel Anthony gritted his teeth with relish. He stared at the rows of men who faced him. They were tense. He could sense it, but it didn’t bother him. Tension made men act faster. Sometimes they also made mistakes. But he’d rather have soldiers who acted first and thought last. Mistakes could always be explained. They could always be justified. It was the price you paid in war. He had believed it without question for the two decades he’d spent as an officer. It was a belief that had served him well, twice in Iraq and twice in Afghanistan. Now he was on home territory again, yet the threat of war, the shadow of terrorism, had never died in Miguel’s eyes. Today was affirmation of his belief. Again, he would prove to be correct. He was certain of it.


Miguel started to bark orders. It was time to load up. ETA was less than sixty minutes away.


The men were kitted in unusual uniforms. Normally wrapped in camouflage colours, parachutes hoisted onto their backs and machine guns to their chests, today his handpicked team was wearing tar black skin-diving suits. Each man had been volunteered not on his fighting ability, that was granted, but on his ability as a swimmer and diver. Today his soldiers were to be flying frogmen. They would be helocasting. When the target was in sight, when it was as good as too late to approach unseen, the Super Stallion would assume a low altitude over the sea and deposit the force directly into the water. It was Miguel’s job to ensure his detachment made it to the objective with haste. To that end, each pair of soldiers was assigned a Sea-Bob to speed their journey and the sleigh also carried their M4 carbines and ammunition, sealed in water tight bags. Some sleighs would also carry explosives. Once the objective was reached, the force would split into a three pronged attack. The main assault would be led by Miguel’s Company Sergeant Major, Howells. Its main purpose was to draw attention and firepower. Meanwhile the two smaller teams would be making strikes to on the opposite side of the installation. They had no idea how well defended the objective was, if it was defended at all, but Miguel had his own theories on that. Probably, he considered, it would be a wet and wonderful war.  


The minutes passed rapidly. The hands of Miguel’s watch clicked towards four. The British spy was meant to have planted explosives. There had been no call to confirm the sabotage had succeeded. Without the call, Strike One was imminent. They heard nothing. It was touching half past when Miguel heard the pilot’s call. He leaned into the cockpit.


“Ten minutes, Major.”


Through the canopy, across the black sky and the deep sea, Miguel could see the lights of the Sea World Installation, the tall drilling tower its pinnacle. Resting among the darkness, the blurry glow looked insignificant.


“Is that it?” queried Miguel.


“That’s your objective. Colonel,” confirmed the pilot, “We’ll hover around five hundred yards away, facing the target, in case we need to give you covering fire.”


“We might need it. They have radar. They’ll know we’re coming,” Miguel squinted, “What’s that?” he said, indicating a shallow beam of light heading for the horizon far to the left of the installation, “It’s moving.”


“It’s the yacht. Do you want me to shadow her?”


Miguel considered for a moment. Someone had escaped. Good thinking under the circumstances, he thought. That was a pity. They didn’t have any orders to pursue, destroy or capture. The only instructions related to the Sea World Installation. He sensed the pilot wanted to be involved, but this sort of tension was misplaced. There was a time for action and a time for calm. The young man needed reigning back a little.


“No,” he replied, “Stay close to the objective as planned. This isn’t a time to be gung-ho.”


Returning to the launch deck, Miguel mustered his troops. The Super Stallion was descending at a rapid rate. As she flattened out, the loading doors were thrust open on both sides. The blast of air sucked at the men’s suits. The winches were unhooked. Miguel exchanged a clenched fist salute with his Sergeant Major, and gave the order to dismount.


The process had been rehearsed many times in the Florida wash. The Super Stallion was no more than fifty feet above the surface of the sea. The down draft kicked up a whirlpool of waves. The first pair of troopers, one with a Sea-Bob, was lowered into the howling wind and spray. They touched down simultaneously, released the harness and wasted no time activating the propulsion device. The trooper with the Sea-Bob located his colleague and exited the rolling vortex. By the time they were into open seas, the second pair had hit the water. Thirty six men were off-loaded in less than fifteen minutes.


There had been no response from the installation. The place was eerily silent. The detachment swam on top of the waves. Aqualungs, even the lightest, smallest examples, would have proved too bulky to fight in. Removing them was dangerously time consuming. Miguel saw the main strike group, CSM Howells at its apex, swimming directly for the quay and the drilling platform. Miguel’s two teams headed for the rear and side of the rig, intending to launch a surprise attack through the domestic quarters.


Fifty metres to go. This was what you train for, Miguel told himself; this is where all the hard work pays off. Remember what it’s like. Remember the fear. Remember the dread. The closer he got to the rig, the tighter his muscles became. Tension, blessed, bloody tension.


And yet something was wrong.


The thundering rumble of the Super Stallion must have alerted whoever was inside the rig, but there was no reaction. Miguel couldn’t understand it. They hadn’t even come out to look at the great big air borne battleship. It was scarily ordinary. Was this a trick? He thought about the yacht. He almost cursed. He’d made a mistake. Everyone had abandoned the centre. They were going to attack the Marie Celeste of drilling rigs. He’d be made to look a bloody idiot.


The thought was still in his mind when the dark world suddenly became illuminated. A safety flare had been fired. It hung high in the air, floating on its parachute, bathing the once black empty sea a dull phosphorous green. Miguel cursed.  


Now, everything started to happen at once.


The first of his soldiers began to mount the rocky shore. They had ripped open the sealed bags and were hefting the M4s over shoulders. Miguel heard the growl of the Super Stallion. It was accelerating, moving away from the drop zone. Somewhere over the far side of the rig, gunfire could be heard. Howells was on the attack already.


Unexpectedly, there was a movement from the gallery above him. Startled, Miguel took his hand off the accelerator pump. What he’d assumed were blocks of cabins, perhaps for work, perhaps for play, suddenly sprang apart, their sides falling away, to reveal searchlights and mounted machine guns.


Miguel had no time to dive, before the opening burst of fire cut through the air, raking the water and the bodies still swimming towards the drilling platform. Because he wasn’t moving, Major Miguel Anthony was killed where he floated, seven bullets penetrating his helpless body.



*****              *****              *****



Sitting on the life buoy, shivering, estimating times from the position of the moon, Bond had heard the approach of the helicopter well before he saw its red and green wing lights and the shaft of pearly white that scanned the way forward.


They’d made good time; unusual for the Americans.


Bond’s body ached. His legs felt like lead. His back and shoulders and chest were still taut from absorbing the underwater pressures. His head was befuddled, for a while, and he had taken long deep breaths to fight the stinging echoes between his ears. Gradually, as his migraine ceased, some of his hearing returned.


When Bond had clambered onto the lifebuoy he immediately sought the safety locker and opened the First Aid kit. He used the bandages to rewrap his wounds, wheezing as he dabbed the open sores with antiseptic. He dressed himself in the life vest, pulling the strings tight for warmth, and tucked the flare gun into his belt, although he had no intention of using it.


Now Bond dug into the locker again. Inside was an emergency transmitter, powered by the electrics on the buoy. He’d not chanced to activate it before as the monitor station on the rig would pick up the distress signal, but now, in the heat of battle, he hoped to alert the helicopter signalman. He had to trust the pilot wasn’t a man wed to his orders.


The transmitter featured a vibroflex key for sending Morse code signals. Working by moonlight, Bond switched on the machine. The transport craft, one of those big Super Stallion ’copters, was hovering above the water. Inside the tiny pool of luminescence, Bond could see froglike creatures dropping into the sea. They dismounted rapidly. It was an efficient exercise, swift and well drilled. Special Forces training, no doubt.


Bond waited and watched. The swim to the rig wouldn’t take long. Five minutes at the outside. There didn’t appear to be any response from Sea World. For a moment Bond wondered if the place was completely empty, if everyone was escaping on board The Sun Chaser, but deep in his stomach he doubted it. If the men of Golden Age were as dedicated and fanatical as Sabatini claimed, they would defend the cause to the very last. He was certain of it.


The answer wasn’t long in coming. When the first flare shot into the sky, Bond heaved out a sigh. Seconds later the echo of gunfire reached his ears. It was time to get off this metal palm tree. He operated the Morse paddle with his thumb and quickly tapped out ‘Gulfstream’. No reply. He tapped again. Still nothing.


The battle was raging on both sides of the rig. The Special Forces had already made inroads along the quay. Bond could make out the muzzle flashes as the men advanced. Three of Sea World’s box-like living capsules had collapsed to reveal fortifications. Men with weapons were returning fire from well protected positions. The Golden Age Force had altitude on their side. Looking down from a height, they were able to pick out the attacking troops, sally the searchlights and give accurate fire. Another two flares shot into the sky. Bond wondered why the Super Stallion wasn’t engaged in the battle. Didn’t it have heavy GAU machine guns mounted to its bodywork?


Once more Bond relayed ‘Gulfstream’.


This time he got a response.


‘Received. This is Flying Frogmen. Identify.’




There was an explosion on the installation. A balloon of orange flame burst out of one of the fortifications. The Special Forces probably carried the M203 grenade launcher, an accessory that was bolted beneath the barrel of an M4. Someone was taking affirmative action.


‘Location, Predator?’


‘Life buoy. Thirty degrees south east.’


‘Located. Stay put. Out.’


Bond stood up, clutching the mast. The heavy beat of the Super Stallion’s wings, those forty metre rotors, thundered towards him. The sound was like rolling cannon fire, blotting out even the noise from the fire fight on the rig. The massive body positioned itself directly above and the blast of suddenly compressed air almost knocked him off the raft. Someone was winching down a grappling hook. Bond was surprised. He’d expected a rescue harness. Then he understood the pilot’s intention.


Bond grabbed the swinging hook and fixed the clamp onto the steel structure of the life mast. The Super Stallion was a huge beast, heavy and tremendously powerful, able to carry payloads on a sled beneath it as well as inside its hold. To one of these giants, the life buoy would be like carrying a feather.


Slowly, the Super Stallion began to turn. Bond went into a crouch and gripped tight to the mast, both arms curled through the stantions. He thanked God for a pilot who didn’t follow the rules. Later, he’d thank him personally.


There was a brief lull as the buoy strained against its anchors. It resisted for only a few seconds and then with a wrench and a jolt the umbilical cords split and the buoy lurched forward, Bond its only passenger, skimming across the waves at a wild angle, half in, half out.   


The journey took less than a minute. The lifebuoy slowed and righted itself just as it smacked into the side of the drill platform. Quickly Bond clambered up the mast and stepped onto the lea of the rig. He signaled the winch operator and saw the line released. The wire clattered into the sea.


Bond cautiously clawed his way around the battle zone. There was a detachment of soldiers pinned down along the quayside. He glanced back at the helicopter, which was now under fire itself. The assault seemed to spur the pilot and Bond saw the Super Stallion manoeuvre into an attack position. The twin mounted heavy machine guns boomed. Armour piercing shells ripped into the metal work of the second fortress. Bodies collapsed under the onslaught. The ground troops launched another grenade. The explosion sprang out and upwards from the gun point. A single corpse was flung over the parapet, half a leg missing.


Fortification destroyed, the approach down the quay was cleared and the Special Forces troops made rapid progress, mopping up what little resistance was left. The doors were breached with another grenade and the black kitted frogmen poured into the installation. They began a room by room assault. Occasionally volleys of gunfire echoed, but the only common sound was the rattling rotor blades and the moaning wounded.


Bond looked up at the drill tower. The cables were still playing out. The warhead was still being dropped. It was time to contact the marines.


The metal wharf was battle scarred. Fires were crackling. Bond picked his way past six fallen bodies. To the left, under the communications centre, Bond could see the hyper-sub, Nautilus, still immaculate, seemingly immune to the chaos that had recently surrounded her. He thought of that wonderful afternoon with Gabi. How far away it all seemed. And how far away was she now? While resting on the life buoy, he had seen the disappearing lights of The Sun Chaser as she dipped towards the horizon. Gabi was on board. He knew it. And he knew she was waiting for him.


Bond walked through the gashed entrance and into the lobby, his hands already raised.


A wet-suit clad trooper knelt opposite the door, his carbine raised.




“My name’s Bond. Code name: Predator.”


The trooper didn’t relax. He had a com-link strapped to his cheek and spoke into it, the words rapid and harsh. Not once did he take his eye or aim off Bond. The man had just seen some of his friends and colleagues killed. His ire was still high.


After only a few moments a second frogman appeared. This man’s suit was flashed with one star, the US insignia for a Company Sergeant Major. He saluted.


“CSM Howells, Sir.”


“Commander Bond,” he put down his hands and returned the salute, “What’s the situation?”


“We’ve secured the perimeter. Professor Méndez and the last few rebels are sealed inside the control centre.”


“What’s your action plan?”


“We’ve got siege equipment in the Stallion,” explained Howells, “We’ll drill through the walls and pump BZ gas into the room; knocks them cold, Sir.”


“Good. You appear to have everything under control,” Bond moved back to the doorway, “Sergeant, according to Sabatini, the warhead isn’t primed to explode until it touches the base plate, but it’ll take until noon to descend into position. There isn’t exactly a rush, but I’d recommend you don’t hang around.”


“We don’t plan to, Sir,” answered Howells, “Sir?”




“What are your intentions?”


“I have a friend who needs rescuing.”


Howells accepted Bond’s answer without as much as a blink.


“Do you need transport, Sir? If you wait, I’m sure the Stallion can help.”


“No,” Bond offered, “I’ve got my own ideas on that.”







#24 chrisno1



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Posted 11 May 2013 - 12:19 AM




It was still dark.


The hyper-sub cut through the sea with incredible speed. Bond was surprised by how fast he could push Nautilus. She was travelling at well over forty five knots. He maintained constant hard pressure on the accelerator button. The spot lights struck forward across the dipping waves. The catamaran hull crashed through the breakers, spraying the windshield with backwash.


Bond knew exactly where he was heading. He’d mapped the approximate route of The Sun Chaser by the position of the stars. Now he had a compass, he was focused on the NNW trajectory. While the yacht was fast, it didn’t have the capacity to race like the hyper-sub. Already he could make out the port and starboard lights, winking above the offing, perhaps as little as sixteen miles away.


Bond had wasted no time checking the hyper-sub for safety. The fuel gauge read full. The ignition key sat on a hook next to the socket. It was as good to go as any vehicle could be. Bond scavenged the Special Forces for weapons. They’d loaned him one of the M4 carbines, fitted with a grenade launcher, and gave him a haversack full of ammunition. The equipment was loaded and ready beside him on the seat. Lastly, he’d strapped a Ka-Bar dagger and a Beretta M9 pistol to his waist. Bond had replaced his life jacket with a tight fitting sweater he stole from a bloody corpse.


Bond was travelling at almost twice the speed of the yacht. The low rise of her hind quarters came into view. A vivid hue emanated from above the barriers. The lights must be on in the lounge. She was like a golden beacon. It was almost as if Sabatini was beckoning him on. How many people were aboard? Sabatini, the Captain and Priest for certain; of the others, he knew he’d already eliminated one; so maybe six or seven in total.


Grimly, Bond maintained his speed. He’d only had a brief opportunity to view the blue prints from Luca Breta, but he’d noted a tiny flaw in the design. The pontoon deck was a slim wooden platform surrounded by a rubber frame which acted like a buffer to the stern. It jutted out about half a metre and beneath it lay the soft underbelly of the hull. This area was less reinforced than the keel. The interlocking fibreglass panels were designed for removal from inside, in case external access was needed to the engine room. And what could push out, thought Bond, could easily push in.


Now silhouetted against the early strokes of dawn, Bond thought he saw The Sun Chaser decelerate. She might be preparing for an evasive manoeuvre. There was less than a mile to go. Indistinctly Bond could see shapes moving onto the rear decks. The ship’s radar would already have picked him up and they were waiting for him. Bond was certain of it.


Half a mile out, Bond saw them clearly. Lined along the aft rails were five men, black shadows to him, illuminated from behind by the amber haze. As he sped closer, he saw they the arms raised, pointing at him. Guns! Muzzle flashes penetrated the gloom. The bullets smacked into the sea around the hyper-sub. Something cracked. Bond thought he saw a shaft of metal spring loose. An arc of holes careered across the left wing.


Bond took evasive action. He opened the ballast hatches. Immediately the hyper-sub started to submerge, even as she powered through the surf. The blackness rattled the canopy. Bullets bombarded the water. Bond saw thick trails of foam as the shells scythed through the sea. More dull thuds. Hit again. Christ!


Nautilus’ one bright eye lit up the keel. There it was. The shallow hull splintered by the twin screws and the rudder post. And there almost straight ahead, was the stern section, the pontoon deck bouncing above it. Bond locked the ballast doors, blew out the water and pressed hard on the accelerator levers. The hyper-sub, still moving forward at speed, suddenly angled up. Bond braced himself. The pointed tip, moving at almost fifty knots, crashed into the stern.


The whole ship seemed to jolt under the impact. The fiberglass cracked. Bond almost lost control. It was as if Nautilus had a life of her own. The sub pressed on, forcing her prow deeper into the bulwark. Something tore. Something ruptured. The sub started to spin, screwing itself into the aperture, opening it wider, smashing through the hard fibrous materials. Bond’s injured shoulder crashed against the canopy. Desperate, he grabbed for his carbine. There was an awful grinding. The two metal beasts, one a giant, one a dwarf, were wrestling. Sea water fizzed around the canopy. Bond activated the release and the canopy shot backwards. He almost fell out with it, clung to the wheel and the seatbelt. The wind shield shattered. Perspex daggers cut towards him. He fended them off with the M4. Something stuck. He pushed outward, using the gun as a battering ram and forced his way through the aperture.


Sea water was flooding the rear section. Bond flopped onto the metal walkway which surrounded the diesel engines and the power shafts that rotated the propellers. The sea spray knocked him forward. Bond slid along the floor, completely out of control. He slammed into a stanchion and held on. Already the yacht was beginning to list.


No more than a few metres away the chief engineer staggered upright. The man had been knocked from his feet by the collision. Shocked and stunned and trying to orientate himself, the man didn’t see or hear Bond make his entrance. The man was unarmed, but Bond had no time to worry about the rules of combat. This was as good as war. He took out the commando dagger and stepped forward. The cutting edge of the Ka-Bar ripped across the engineer’s throat, slicing the jugulars. The man dissolved into an untidy bleeding heap.


Quickly Bond shouldered the M4 and headed for the main door. He thrust it open. The corridor was empty and led into the crew quarters. A red emergency light was flickering. The place was empty. They were probably all on deck. Bond moved swiftly down the communal passage, passing bunks set back into alcoves. He could hear voices. At the end was another door which led into the lower lobby. He heard the rumble of feet as they charged down the spiral staircase. Bond moved into one of the alcoves, switched the M4 to semi-automatic and waited.


The door crashed open and two more men, both armed, headed for the engine room. Bond felled them instantly. The bullets almost cut them in two. Bone and gore splattered the walls. Bond stepped over the broken bodies, which were already soaking in the sea water as it rose through the broken hull. Deliberately, Bond didn’t close the hatchways.


He raised the M4 to vertical and took the spiral stairs. There! A face at the next level! Bond fired. Plaster work showered him. Someone shot back. The bullets whizzed over his shoulder. Bond shrunk away, fired again, indiscriminately, as he headed further up. He paused a few feet below the opening. If he went any further, he’d have his head blown off. Bond switched to the grenade launcher. He aimed it through the circle of light and squeezed the trigger. The noise was like a bomb going off by his ear. The recoil dug at his shoulder. The fat grey pellet shot out of the chamber and buried itself in the ceiling void. Seconds later the grenade exploded in a ball of hot angry flame. Dust and debris catapulted down the spiral shaft.


Bond inched up the last steps. The cloud was settling. Half way down the corridor lay two men. One was inert; the other was crawling backwards, his leg a mess of raw open flesh. It was the bearded mate Bond had assaulted two days before. The man scrambled for his gun and started to fire. His aim was badly off. Bond hardly moved. He squeezed the launch trigger again and watched as the grenade rocketed down the corridor.  It thumped into the man’s stomach and stuck fast. The scream was loud and long and finally absorbed into the crunching explosion that tore the body apart.


Bond turned towards Sabatini’s quarters. This had to be where Gabi was.


He kicked the door open. It swayed to and fro. She was dressed in a short silk pajama suit and sat wide eyed on the enormous bed, a scream half formed on her lips. As he stepped into the suite, her eyes moved.


Bond spun, jamming the M4 upwards as he did so. He was in time to deflect the gun hand and knock the pistol aside. It clattered to the floor. It was one of the chef’s. He grabbed at the carbine, pulled them close and tried to yank it from Bond’s grip. They circled, grappled and kicked. Neither man relinquished hold of the weapon. Bond’s sore fingers tugged at the trigger. The gun started to unload. Bullets crashed around the suite. Mirrors shattered. Furniture burst. Gabi screamed. Pillows spewed feathers. The girl curled. The chandelier hook snapped. Ninety nine Swarovski crystals crashed to the floor. The chamber clicked empty. Bond jerked forward, butted the chef. The floor lurched as the yacht sunk another foot. The two men lost balance.


Bond recovered first and shoved the chef backwards, gun and all. The dagger was in his hand again and he thrust upwards, jabbing at the man’s torso, forcing the blade through the rib cage and into the heart. The chef let out one gasp before blood bubbled out of his mouth and he dropped to his knees.


Bond was about to retrieve the M4 when the girl shouted a warning. He twisted the knife out of the dead body, spinning on one heel as he did so. His hand went back, forwards, fast. The attacker was unprepared. The dagger landed deep in his chest. The force of the throw sent him barreling backwards and he slumped into the corner of the room.


Bond picked up the M4 and reloaded.


The girl was by his side. She flung her arms around him and started gabbling in Italian.


Bond shrugged her off and gripped her shoulders. She looked terrible, worn out, beaten. Her face was leathery, her eyes blood shot and fearful. He saw nasty red welts on her chest. What the hell -


She kept talking, faster and faster, grabbing at him.


“James! Oh, God! James! James!”


“Gabi!” he shouted, “Listen to me!”


The urgency got through.


“The boat’s sinking. You need to get to the life rafts. Do you know where they are?”


“I’m not sure,” she shook her head vacantly, “The forward deck I think.”


“Good,” Bond hefted the M4, “Come on.”


“Where are you going?”


“Where’s Sabatini?”




She repeated it automatically, her face suddenly a mask. The girl’s eyes flickered for a moment then she whispered, “I don’t know.”


Bond nodded and led her out. There was no sense in forcing her. The bastard wouldn’t be far away.


There was fire in the passage, big flames licking their way along the walls, a grey mist choking the air. The yacht was angled at almost twenty degrees. She was slipping further and further into the water. Bond no longer had any sensation of movement. The engines had seized. So Nautilus had won. David had beaten Goliath.


Bond started up the last stairway, the girl behind. There was no one in the swish dining room. Bright morning sunlight streaked through the windows, making them blink. Bond opened one of the side doors. The gangway was empty. He heard voices, urgent orders, from above in the bridge. He beckoned to the girl and pushed her towards the front of the boat.


“They’ll see me,” she whispered.


“No, they won’t,” Bond replied, “They’ll be too busy.”


He set off down the gangway, back towards the stern and the cocktail lounge. It too was abandoned. The water churned at the rear. The ship was on her way down, there was no doubt about it.


Bond climbed to the smaller, upstairs lounge. A few feet in front of him, back turned, stood Priest, his tattooed face clearly visible. He stood with his arms folded, barring any descent. Sabatini was in a rage at two other men. It seemed Captain Nordraak and the boson had disobeyed orders.


“The ship will sink, Signore, we must abandon her!” declared Nordraak.


“And how am I to reach the kessel now?”


The sentence was more of a statement than a question.


“Damn the kessel!” shouted Nordraak, “You’ll be lucky to escape the ship!”


Sabatini scowled. His hand flashed out, like lightning. There was a tiny stiletto dagger in the huge fist. It dug into Nordraak’s throat, slit it from ear to ear and came away dripping blood. The Captain collapsed where he stood. Sabatini threw out an arm towards the others.


“You two! Find Bond!” he cried, “Kill him!”


Priest turned. Bond’s head and shoulders were still above the parapet. The tall man registered no surprise. Instantly he took three paces forward, executed a snap kick and connected with Bond’s chin.


Bond tumbled back down the stairs. Priest jumped after him and launched into a series of heel kicks and tsuki strikes. Unable to use the machine gun, Bond crumpled. Helpless, his chest and arms cracked under the assault. The right boot crashed in, thudded onto his wounded arm, split it open and was replaced by the left boot. Bond felt it thunder into his chest. His back smacked against one of the porphyry tables. The attack had taken seconds. Vaguely Bond registered Sabatini and the boson leaning over the rail. Groaning, he tried to take aim, only to find the main target was no longer in front of him.


Priest had leapt the table, leant over and was ruthlessly pulling the garrote. Bond’s left hand immediately went to the wire. He felt it cut into his fingers. He dug back with an elbow, wrestled left and right, anything to upset the tall man’s balance and loosen his grip.


Dawn bathed the battlefield. Through the bright light, Bond saw the two shadows moving forward. The boson was the thin one, running quickly, keenly, inexperienced. The bigger man was Sabatini, his approach more studied, skilled, silky, a lion to a jackal.


Bond swung the M4 and raked the deck. Wood splinters flew. The boson was cut down, his legs chopped from under him. He let out one feverish yell and then shock silenced him.


Sabatini powered through the melee. He grasped the still exploding barrel and tore it from Bond’s hands, tossing it aside. Two bullets had wounded him, but he appeared not to notice. The M4 slid under the rail and into the sea. Even in the shadows, Bond could see the man’s inflamed features convulse.  The stiletto raked Bond’s chest. Punches rained down. All at once, Bond wrestled with the garrote, tried to fend off the vicious blows. He hooked a foot behind Sabatini’s ankle and yanked. The big man lost his stance. He fell to his knees. Bond kicked at the face, got his leg caught, felt Sabatini twist it. All three men heaved over.


Bond sprawled on the slippery deck. A lucky elbow thudded into Priest’s face. The waves lapped over the rail. Sabatini was clinging to it, trying to right himself, his fresh wounds turning the sea pink. Bond ripped himself free of Priest’s grip, the garrote still stuck at his neck, his hands a bloody mess, his throat raw. He went for the Beretta. Priest was already on the counter. The man was lightning fast. He chopped towards Bond’s throat, punched at the soft abdomen and the wounded arm. Bond rolled the incoming blows, grabbed a fallen chair and swung it hard. The metal legs clanged into the tattooed man’s face. His head jerked sideways. Bond heard something crack. Blood spurted. Priest splashed into the waves.


Finally Bond yanked out the pistol. It was too late.


Sabatini was on him again. The stiletto crunched into Bond’s wrist. The gun fell, slid away somewhere. The two men grappled. The big hands wrapped themselves onto Bond’s throat, trying to tighten the noose. They staggered, slipped and scurried on the angled floor, wrapped in each other, angry bloody lovers. The knife had gone, lost in the struggle. Bond forced his wrists between Sabatini’s, clawed at the remaining eye, gouging. With a curse, Sabatini broke his hold. The big man staggered on the uneven floor. A wave rolled in. Bond landed a vicious knee to the gut and a two fisted uppercut sent Sabatini spiraling backwards. He crashed into the surf.


Bleeding, barely conscious, Priest clawed his way back out of the mire. His clothes streaked wet, his hair lank, his eyes mad, his blood pounding, coating his head and chest. Bond felt the boat lurch again. Priest grabbed the rail, working his way up the incline. The garrote was still wrapped around Bond’s throat. He unraveled it and leapt at the tattooed figure. The two men slammed into the barrier, Priest flailing. Bond ignored the fists, trapping one under his own arm. He lassoed the man’s pulsating neck. Another breaker washed over their legs. Priest fought him, tried to punch, but Bond was behind him now, levering his knee into the man’s spine. Among the sounds of fighting and fire and water, Bond heard two or three explosions, short loud booms, sizzles. Gun shots. He tensed, expecting the bullets to find their target, but they did not. Unharmed, confused, he tightened his grip. Priest gargled. Bond yanked hard, felt the knot tighten. The wire snagged at the bastard’s throat. Slowly, sickeningly, the gory metal strand sawed into the man’s skin, into his muscles, into his existence. The gasping, gaging sounds continued, getting fainter and fainter. Eventually the tongue lolled out, the struggles stopped and the body went limp.


Bond turned away from the corpse, letting it drop.


What the hell?


Sabatini was struggling up the incline, forcing his way into the lounge. In front of him was the girl. Bond hauled himself toward them. What had happened, he couldn’t comprehend, but then he saw the gun, his gun, the Beretta M9 in Sabatini’s hand, and the fire extinguisher in hers and he remembered every sound.


Sabatini’s face and head and shoulders were a crackled, frozen mess. He was flinching madly left and right. He was blind. Completely blind. The girl had fired CO2 over his upper body. Now as Bond watched, he shot aimlessly into the air until the chamber clicked. She took aim and unleashed a second volley of gas directly into Sabatini’s face. Roaring, the huge figure fell to his knees. He tried to wipe the acid away. He failed. Instead he veered onto his side and came to rest by one of his own porphyry tables.


Bond dragged himself over, pulling the garrote wire with him. He grabbed Sabatini’s wrists and tied them to the table. Fixed to the deck, the man was immobile, but, even weakened, blinded and insane Sabatini still tore at the bonds.


Bond crawled up to the girl.


“What happened?”


“I had to kill him.”


“I know,” he said, “Tell me later. We need to get to a life raft before this ship sinks.”


The girl couldn’t move. She stood staring at the big screaming body lashed to its tombstone. Horrified, she felt pain and pleasure and petrifying fear.


Bond’s bloody hand took Gabi’s arm and he led her away from the sweet taste of death.



*****              *****              *****



Three thousand five hundred miles away it was noon, 12:00 GMT. The man known only as Loki reached out a tired hand and turned the volume control. He’d waited hours for this moment. It was time for the shibboleth.


The screen fizzled.


The face appeared to be in panic. It was Professor Méndez.


“It’s a disaster!” he yelled, “Disaster I tell you! They are pumping gas into the control room. We’re all going to die.”


Loki hid his shock. This was not what he expected.


“Slow down, Professor.”


“It’s the U.S. Army,” continued the Professor, hardly pausing, “The Marines, I don’t know. There was fighting. There was a man.”


Loki found it hard to contain a clawing sense of disappointment. What had happened? He asked himself. How could the plans have gone so spectacularly wrong?


“What man?”


“He’s called Bond,” answered the Professor, “James Bond. It doesn’t matter. Sabatini has gone. The men are dying. What am I to do? What am I to do?”


Loki considered the question. He leant forward a little, out of the shadow so his face was half illuminated. The grey beard, the sunken cheek bones, the wisps of hair, as white as the suit he wore.


“There is nothing for you to do, Professor,” he announced steadily, “Thank you for your co-operation. I will not forget it.”


Loki switched off the video link and turned to the ever present Number Three.


“Break communications,” he ordered, “Cover our traces. The kessel is closed. Forever.”


“Yes, Sir.”


Unconcerned, Loki sat back in the comfortable leather chair and crossed one leg over the other, hitching his trousers at the knee to avoid creases. Slowly he rubbed a finger across his lips and felt out the words, mouthing the name as he did so: “James Bond.”





#25 chrisno1



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Posted 11 May 2013 - 11:54 PM




The ice cool edge of the tumbler touched his forehead and made him sigh. It was three weeks later.


After they had been rescued from the life raft, both Bond and Gabi were airlifted to the University Hospital. They were in a terrible state. Bond’s battered arm was a bloody mess, but the doctors informed him it’d be as good as new once the muscles reformed. The scar tissue would take longer to heal; there wasn’t much they could do about that. Bond wondered if a skin graft might be necessary. It certainly looked unhealthy when they unwrapped the bandages.


Meanwhile the girl was being treated for the burn sores that plagued her skin. She was also suffering from post-traumatic stress, or so the doctor’s claimed.


Mucho had other notions and told Bond she was simply in love.


“And we all know with who,” he said with a wink, “I’ll see if I can get you two some private nursing.”


As good as his word, Mucho found a bungalow near Boquerón on the West Coast, perched above a quiet secluded bay. For a while he kept them up to date with developments from London, how the warheads had been recovered, including the one on The Sun Chaser, how Sabatini’s business interests had been shut down, how MI5 had arrested Flight Lieutenant Jack Stoddard and how that had led Interpol to an underground fortress in France. After a week though, Mucho’s visits ceased. Finally, protected on three sides by hills and forests, Bond and Gabi found something of the solace unafforded by the urban sprawl of San Juan.


The house only had five rooms, two bedrooms on either side of a massive lounge, the kitchen and bathroom to the front. Along the back of the house facing the sea, ran a wooden terrace with steps to a long winding path leading to the beach. It was cool most of the day. The big overhanging ceibas formed canopies of shade and bright exotic birds, Purple Caribs, flycatchers and Caribbean Martins paid regular visits, humming and cooing in the branches. Bond spent most of his time on the terrace, reading, sleeping and eating fruit. The battles had worn him. Exhausted, his body had given itself to apathy; slowly the freshness of the place was bringing him painfully back to life. Recuperation was always the hardest part of a mission. 


Initially Bond’s state of mind wasn’t helped by Gabi. She was nervously pensive, yet talkative all at once, constantly gabbling about something or anything, worrying about what the chef was going to cook and why they even needed a chef at all. At first Bond found it irritating, but as his mind was shot through, he was glad not to have make decisions, not to plan, to let someone else take the strain of daily living. After a few days he found her chatter homely, as if she’d always been there, watching out for him. He noticed, with some curiosity and a lot of pleasure that she didn’t ask questions. To her, everything just was.


She’d sunbathe all morning and swim every afternoon and sometimes he’d join her. They were happiest snorkeling, spiraling in the clear hot water, two silent human fish among hundreds of tiny amphibians. In addition to the chef, Mucho had organized two middle aged, chubby, fat fingered nurses to fuss over them. They loved their charges from the first and couldn’t understand why such a pretty couple slept in separate beds. Every evening for the first week as they left the house, the nurses tutted and tittered, but said nothing, as mannered women do in Puerto Rico.


It had bothered Gabi too, and this evening she’d dismissed both the nurses and the chef.


Bond sighed at the chill and opened his eyes. The sun was setting fast and the last vestige of a pink sky was turning to black.


The girl stood over him, the glass in her hand. Something smelling like a vodka martini was in it. Two ice cubes rattled. She was dressed in a white knee length sarong, dark hair tumbling over naked shoulders. She had a nervous smile on her lips.


“Our angels have deserted us at last.”


“Good,” smiled Bond, “What’s this?”


“You haven’t had one drink since we’ve been here. The doctor’s didn’t ban it, you know. Anyway, there’s nothing to say you can’t drink on antibiotics. That’s a medical myth.”


“Is that so?” Bond took the glass. The cocktail was perfectly mixed and refreshingly cold.


The girl sat on her knees in front of him and took his free hand in hers.


“I’m glad we’re here together,” she said.


Bond thought she looked a bit sad. He asked if anything was the matter.


“The doctor’s told me I don’t need to be looked after any more. I need more counselling, they said. But I told them I didn’t want that. I told them you’d give me all the counselling I need.”


She paused. Bond didn’t say anything, but his fingers curled tighter around her hand.


“I said even if I didn’t need looking after, you did,” the girl continued, ”And I’m more than happy to do it, James. We can heal each other.”


“That would be wonderful, Gabi.”


Slowly, deliberately, the girl took his hand and placed it on her breast. Bond felt the point harden under his palm.


“You haven’t made love to me either, James.”


“I’ve been waiting for the right moment.”


The girl took the hand away from her bosom and kissed it. Bond put down his drink and lifted the girl to her feet. She stood between his knees and unhooked the sarong. She was nude, shining with anticipation. The darkening light cast shadows across her skin and disguised the burn marks on her body.


“Keep the lights off, James,” she whispered, “I’m still a bit sensitive about the scars.”


“I understand.”


“Do you think this is the right moment?”


Bond leaned forward and kissed her beautiful, flat belly. What was it he’d said before? A beautiful girl who could mix a perfect vodka martini?


“Yes,” he said, “I think it might be.”