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On His Majesty's Secret Service (15)
Susan sat on the pier, dangling her legs over the edge. Her pants were soaked but her shirt was dry, because it wasn’t her shirt. The cargo truck’s driver had survived Bond’s attack and appeared inclined to be hostile when Susan had dragged herself out of the water. It had been necessary to kick him in strategic anatomical areas and club him with his own gun. He was out cold up by the truck with Susan’s wet shirt as a pillow. The driver’s shirt was too big for Susan, but at least it was modest.

Bond bobbed to the surface and paddled slowly to the pier. “What kept you?” Susan asked.

“I had to get my gun,” Bond said.

“That attached to it, huh?” said Susan, smirking.

“Q made me sign a receipt for it,” said Bond.

“Oh,” said Susan. “Who’s Q?”

“Never mind,” said Bond. He hauled himself, dripping, over the edge of the pier and lay panting on the wood planking.

“What about the big jerk?” Susan asked.

“I think he’s still looking for his gun,” Bond suggested. He frowned; one of the boards he was on had been reduced almost to splinters, and sharp bits of wood were poking into his side.

Susan looked around her. “I don’t think this thing is structurally sound,” she said. “It’s a wreck.”

“I hear sirens,” said Bond. “We need to move, unless we want to answer a lot of questions.”

“My gold,” said Susan sternly, “is at the bottom of the river.”

“I don’t think so,” said Bond. “The men in the truck moved one load already, didn’t they? As far as my government is concerned, that truck is empty.”

“Makes sense,” said Susan. They picked their way across the shattered remnants of the pier back to the dock and the truck. Bond closed the cargo door and got into the driver’s seat. Susan handed him the keys she had thoughtfully fished from the unconscious driver’s pants.

“Where are we going?” Susan asked brightly.

Bond started the truck. “We got you your gold,” he said. “Now let’s see about that plane.”

They escaped the marina just ahead of the German police and drove at a leisurely pace through the streets of Berlin towards Tempelhof. The afternoon was wearing on and the late-day traffic was beginning to pile up. The number of emergency vehicles made things worse – fire trucks rushing towards the column of smoke in the center of town, police cars heading for the marina. Fortunately nobody seemed inclined to stop an American Air Force vehicle.

“I can’t imagine that Zoeller’s plan would have been to move that gold to somewhere else in the city,” Bond said. “Once he double-dealt the Soviets, he would have assumed that Berlin was too hot for him. The only reason to move the gold in an air force truck would be to move it to the airport, and there’s no place at the airport secure enough to store it. No, that gold was scheduled to fly out tonight.”

“And the artwork?” asked Susan.

“If I were Zoeller,” said Bond, “I’d make a clean sweep of things. I’d pick up everything of value in Berlin and clear out. That’s why we need to return to the terminal building. I think if we follow the art, we’ll find Zoeller.”

“I’m interested in learning more about how this gets me a plane,” Susan said pointedly.

“Zoeller,” said Bond, “is flying out in your plane.”

“Is he?” said Susan, arching an eyebrow.

“Oh yes,” said Bond. “It’s in your name and everything.”

The truck was waved through the gates of Tempelhof. Following Susan’s directions, Bond parked the truck at a building that served as a kind of motel for pilots; they hauled out the small but very heavy boxes of gold and dollied it into a locker where Susan kept her things. Susan emerged having changed into dry things, and she handed a folded shirt, jeans and jacket to James. “This ought to fit you,” she said.

“Won’t they be missed?” Bond asked.

“They belonged to Archie,” said Susan. “So no.”

Bond stripped in the cab of the truck. Susan wolf-whistled. “You’re kinda pretty yourself,” she said.

Bond chuckled. “I had rather assumed you were a lesbian,” he said.

“That’s a damned stupid thing to say,” said Susan, irritated. “Why on Earth would you think that?”

Bond shrugged. “I’ve only known a few good woman fighters, and they were all lesbians,” he said. “You fight like a lesbian.”

“You’re not getting any smarter,” Susan advised. “A woman doesn’t have to be a copy of a man to be effective.”

“But she does need to abandon much of what it takes to be like a woman,” said Bond.

“You’re not so pretty anymore,” said Susan, disappointed. “Let’s go see a man about a plane.” Bond blinked several times, then started the truck.

Bond pulled around the side of the terminal building, parked the truck and peeked around the corner. He swore and ran back to the cab. “What’s wrong?” asked Susan.

“There’s a parade of trucks just leaving the storage area,” he said. “We almost missed the boat. Zoeller must have heard about the marina and chose not to wait around.” He started the truck and pulled around the terminal building. A dozen trucks were crawling down the tarmac towards the line of hangar buildings near the airfields. Bond fell into position at the end of the procession.

The trucks pulled up next to one of the buildings. A small army of workers began to unload boxes. Bond kept driving by and parked in front of the next hangar over. He and Susan watched the operations.

There were two C-47 Skytrains out in front of the hangar building. They were both being serviced and fueled. As Bond and Susan watched, a man in a white suit emerged from the hangar building. It was Zoeller. He began issuing instructions to the loaders, and they opened the cargo doors on one of the planes and began loading the boxes into it.

“We’ve got to get closer,” said Bond.

“You’re crazy,” said Susan. “Look at all the goons Zoeller has loafing around.” She was right; white tuxedos were standing watch over the plane being loaded, at the trucks being unloaded, and at the entrance to the hangar.

“We might be able to get close to that other plane,” Bond said. Only one of the planes was taking on cargo; the other stood off by itself, with only a couple of mechanics performing checks on it.

“Leave this to me,” said Susan. She pulled a clipboard out of the truck and double-timed her way over to the isolated plane, keeping it between her and Zoeller’s men. Nervously, Bond followed.

Susan walked brazenly up to the grease monkeys. “Hey, boys,” she said. “Inspection time.” The men blinked at her; they were Germans.

“Air Force,” said Susan, unnecessarily loudly. “American. Ich *inspect* the *flugzeug*.” She tapped her clipboard importantly.

“Oh!” said the mechanics. They didn’t look happy, but they also didn’t look inclined to stop Susan. Bond smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring fashion to the mechanics, and he and Susan began to make a slow circuit of the plane.

“I suppose the fact that you’re not wearing a uniform wasn’t lost on them,” said Bond just loud enough to make himself heard over the engine noise.

“’Nice work, Susan,’ Susan suggested. ‘Great spy stuff there, bluffing those guys to let you take a look around the plane.’”

“What’s this?” said Bond. He was looking at the serial numbers on the tail of the plane. The numbers read AX-783. However, there were strips of white tape on the tail next to the ‘3’. Bond peeled one of them up. The black paint of the number ‘3’ continued under the tape, and Bond saw that if all the tape were removed, the number ‘3’ would actually be a number ‘8’. From a distance the tape would never be noticed.

“That’s interesting,” said Susan. “Look at the other plane.” Bond and Susan squatted under the plane and looked at the other C-47 a hundred yards away. Its numbers were AX-788.

“Hey, hold on,” said Susan, frowning at the underside of the plane. “There’s something fishy here.”

“What?” asked Bond. He knew the basics of flight, but aircraft weren’t really his strong suit.

“Well, some kind of drop-down doors have been built into the underside of this plane,” said Susan. “It’s a custom job, not something you’d see unless you knew what you were looking for.”

“But what are they for?” asked Bond.

“Not sure,” said Susan. “I’d have to see the inside.”

Bond nodded. He glanced over at the mechanics, who were deep in conversation. Bond motioned for Susan to join him at the rear of the plane. Once there, he threw the hatch on the cargo door. “We’ll have a quick look inside,” he suggested.

Bond and Susan let their eyes adjust to the dim interior of the plane. The rear cargo hold was empty. Bond closed the rear door and they moved to the central compartment of the plane. Susan whistled. “Would you look at that?” she said.

Two heavy machine guns were mounted on some kind of frame that was fixed to the interior of the plane. Other shapes around the compartment looked like bombs. There were also belts of ammunition in boxes. Susan squatted down next to the guns.

“James,” she said, “the doors I saw open up and these guns drop down. This plane has been modified to fight.”

There was a thump and a grind of metal-on-metal. Somebody had opened the pilot hatch and was moving around in the plane.

“Hide,” hissed Bond.

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"they hauled out the small but very heavy boxes of gold and dollied it into a locker" boxes....it should be boxes...them, or box....it?

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