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On His Majesty's Secret Service (20 and last)
Eye
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Bond took the steps three at a time, his feet light as a cat’s. He was in his element now – the chase. Adrenaline flooded his system. He had to catch Zoeller. There was no more time for games – Bond knew he must capture Zoeller, kill him if necessary, but neutralize his threat. Zoeller and his organization could not be allowed to survive.

Bond heard Zoeller’s panting and clumsy scuffling footsteps not far above him. He controlled his own breathing and concentrated on keeping his footwork quiet. If he knew roughly where Zoeller was, but not vice versa, the advantage would be his.

The spiraling staircase wound around and around as Bond climbed higher and higher into the soaring edifice of Neuschwanstein. Bond’s heart rate climbed, but his conditioning was excellent. Zoeller seemed to be fit as well, but he was older. Bond must inevitably catch Zoeller – he knew it, and Zoeller must have known it as well. Besides, they were going up, not down; where could Zoeller run to?

Bond saw the end of the staircase – an opening at a landing just around the curve of the shaft. The doorframe was decorated with Valkyries crossing swords above the arch. Zoeller’s breathing sounded curiously loud to Bond, and he dropped prone on the stairs a fraction of a second before two shots fired. Zoeller was lying in ambush behind the doorway. Bond fired back, his high-powered revolver chipping off one of the Teutonic maidens’ breasts. Bond heard the sound of Zoeller’s footsteps retreating, and he sprang to his feet once more. “Sorry,” he murmured, patting the maimed Valkyrie on the hip as he passed.

A long corridor stretched out ahead of him, and in the dim light Bond thought he perceived movement in the distance. He fired blindly as he gave chase. A door opened at the end of the hall and blinding illumination filled the hall – daylight. A black outline of an individual was framed in the rectangle. Bond fired again, but the intensity of the light spoiled his aim, and then the door was shut. Bond sprinted for it, his feet kicking up expensive runner rugs. Bond clinically noted drops of blood on the ground in front of the door; he shot the handle and lock in the last few meters’ approach and then kicked the door open.

It was a bright day, and it took a moment for Bond’s eyes to adjust to looking out across that white terrace at the very top of the castle. When he finally could see again, Bond saw Zoeller perched on the lip of the parapet, strapped into a hang glider. Before he could bring his gun up, Zoeller leaped over the edge and disappeared.


Bond tore for the parapet and looked over. Zoeller’s glider was a massive kite-like affair, one of the new sort with fabric stretched over a truss of rigid tubes, looking something like a bat’s wing. The glider was fifty feet below the edge of the wall, but it had caught the air under its wings and was no longer falling. In fact, it was actually rising as Zoeller circled about to catch one of the updrafts that blew up the castle walls from the north. In the distance Bond could see the runway of the airport at Fusse; Zoeller would be able to reach it in a matter of minutes.

Bond thought quickly. If he ran as fast as he could downstairs and found a vehicle to commandeer, even if he encountered no resistance or traffic, at best he would reach the airport fifteen minutes behind Zoeller. His foe might well be gone by the time he got there. That was assuming the airport was his target; Zoeller could have means of escape stashed anywhere. Bond felt his only chance to stop Zoeller was to stop him immediately.

He fired at the glider, punching a hole in the wing, but then his revolver was empty. Bond cursed; he had expended a great deal of ammunition in the previous few minutes, and now he was out. Bond holstered the gun and peered at the glider. It was coming about one more time, twenty or so feet below him, and then it would likely be gone. Bond judged the distances and decided he had only one available option. He stepped back a few paces, ran at the parapet wall and launched himself into space.

Bond dropped, his arms and legs stretched out like a parachutist trying to brake his fall. The multicolored fabric of the glider wing rushed up at him, and then he was sprawled atop the thing, the wind almost knocked out of him. He clutched at the tubing on the forward arms of the frame, hanging on for dear life. The glider immediately nosed downwards.

“You madman!” shrieked Zoeller. “You’ll kill us both!” The glider was plainly not made for the weight of two men, and even with his limited experience with aerials, Bond felt certain that Zoeller would have little chance to keep the craft under control.

A gun fired, and a new hole sprouted in the fabric inches from Bond’s face. It fired again, and searing agony ripped through Bond’s right side. “Die, Bond!” shouted Zoeller, throwing his weight to the right to angle the uncontrolled glider away from a rocky outcropping. “Why won’t you die?!”

Bond’s vision swam – partly from the blood he knew he must be losing, partly from the wind in his face from the glider’s dangerous downward spiral. Neuschwanstein from the air was so beautiful, Bond thought; pity double-oh-one hadn’t gotten to see it. The man had the soul of an aesthete.

Something occurred to him. When Weir had died he had pocketed his holdout pistol. It seemed like ages ago, but it was still in his back pocket. It was impossible for him to reach back with his right arm – that side of his body felt like it was on fire – but with his left hand he teased the Derringer out of his pocket and held it in front of his face. It was so tiny; it seemed more like a toy than a firearm. And all he had were two shots.

There were holes in the fabric. Bond peeked through one and saw Zoeller suspended below the glider. He could shoot through a hole or he could look through it; he couldn’t do both at the same time. Bond decided it would be better to fire blind rather than hope that the tiny bullets had enough stopping power to punch through glider, harness and pilot. Unfortunately Zoeller’s position was constantly moving as he frantically leaned this way and that to try to regain control.

Bond estimated Zoeller’s position and fired. He heard Zoeller cry out in pain. Bond peeked through the hole and saw Zoeller cradling his hand; his gun was dropping away. Zoeller looked up at Bond with a murderous expression and shook his bloody fist. “To hell with you, Bond!” he cursed.

Bond put the gun to the hole and fired again. Zoeller made a coughing sound and the glider heeled over to the left. Bond threw his weight as far to the right as he could to level the glider, but there was nothing he could do about the downward pitch. Inexorably, the ground came up to meet him. Mercifully, Bond blacked out before impact.

-*-

Fragmentary images. Swirling lights. Sounds, sometimes cutting out. Breaks in continuity.

A tugging sensation. A familiar voice, female. Strong arms holding him. Feet dragging on the ground. Oddly, no pain. No pain at all.

Lying. Now sitting. No – sprawling, in a sitting position, in a chair. Engine noises. Sudden clarity. Susan, in the pilot’s chair opposite him, white-knuckled hands gripping the stick. “Hang in there, Bond.”

Impossible to speak – lips and tongue won’t cooperate. “Don’t say anything at all, Bond. You’ve lost a lot of blood. Not really sure how you’re still alive. I’m getting you to Frankfurt and a proper hospital.”

Her hands on him now. Susan wipes his face. A kiss now, a fond look. “It’s best when you don’t say anything anyway.”

Blackness.

-*-

Bond was patching up in the Marsdale Estate, two hours outside London. It was a quiet place, ideal for MI-6 agents to recuperate after serious trauma. Bond was propped up in the study; his broken legs and hips were mending steadily. M himself had turned up.

“The Knight’s Cross,” said M, showing Bond the medal. “His Royal Majesty asked me to convey his special thanks and gratitude for your service.”

Bond looked out the window. There was a line of trees beyond a low stone fence, out past the green lawns. Bond thought there were white birds of some sort in the trees, but he couldn’t make out what sort of bird they were. “Thank you, sir,” he murmured. “I only did my duty.”

M mistook Bond’s absent expression for annoyance. “Now see here, Bond,” he said. “Everybody in the Ministry agrees that you did an all-around excellent job. War averted; gold recovered; artwork even now being restored; and a new and dangerous organization blunted before it could do any serious damage. You showed great initiative and superb instincts. My report shall reflect all this and more.”

“Thank you, sir,” Bond said simply. He couldn’t tell what sort of birds they were. Weir would know. It was the sort of thing Weir would know everything about.

“There, that’s all right then,” said M genially. “Martini?”

“Yes sir; please,” said Bond. M crossed to the bar and selected out bottles.

“You know,” M said, “We’ve lost a double-oh agent. We need six again, and I plan on promoting you into that status.”

“I see, sir,” said Bond, looking around. M poured ice into the tumbler, washed it with Vermouth and dumped the liquor out again.

“Rather than renumber everybody, I supposed I had better just give you Weir’s number,” M mused.

“No, sir,” Bond said sharply. “I don’t want it.”

M paused with the bitters uncapped, shocked. “But it’s just a number!”

“I don’t want it,” Bond repeated firmly.

“What am I supposed to do, then, assign you a seventh number? Of all the ridiculous ideas…” M saw the expression on Bond’s face and sighed.

“Oh, all right; I’ll see what we can do,” he said.

“Where’s Susan, sir?” asked Bond.

“Hmm?” M put away the bitters. “Oh, the pilot woman. Well, I’m afraid she’s gone off the radar. She collected the surviving women captives and took off in that plane of hers. Said something about the South Pacific being nice this time of year. Sounded like a dreadful sort of person to me. Not at all like a lady.”

“If you say so, sir,” said Bond, looking out the window again.

“I do say so,” said M, picking up the spoon. “I’m all for being modern, but…”

Bond’s finger stabbed out. “Don’t do that, sir,” he said.

M frowned. “Don’t do what?”

“I’ll have mine shaken,” said Bond, trying to discern the distant birds’ markings. “Not stirred, if you please.”

-*-

Thousands of miles away, another man recuperated in a very different sort of facility. The Argentine hit-man held the mirror as still as possible while Stemmer sewed stitches into his own face.

“This is actually a Godsend, you know,” said Stemmer. With the chin and cheekbone implants, the shape of his face was completely altered. Later, when the skin bleaching was complete, his coloration would also be unrecognizable. “Zoeller was always unstable. A terrible planner.”

“But a source of money,” said the Argentine.

“Bah; money,” said Stemmer. “There is always more money. What is important is the organization. The nucleus has survived undiscovered. SPECTRE will acquire its funds, my friend, and then the world will never be the same.”

“Very good, Doctor Stemmer,” said the Argentine beatifically.

“Not Stemmer,” came the sharp reply. “That identity must be laid to rest. I must create a new persona.” He looked at himself in the mirror, admiring his handiwork. His shorn scalp gleamed.

“A European name, still, but exotic. Difficult to place,” mused the doctor. A thought occurred to him.

“Blofeld,” he said, trying out the sound of the name.

-*-

HERE ENDS BOND’S FIRST ADVENTURE WITH MI-6, BUT MORE ADVENTURES AWAIT. BOND’S FIRST MISSION AS 007 WILL TAKE HIM INTO THE HOLY LANDS, IN A SPINE-TINGLING TALE OF SUSPENSE ENTITLED – “THE SEA OF THE DEAD”, FROM JONATHAN CAPE BOOKS!
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(clapping slowly, said in a laconic drawl) Bravo, Bond. But don't think you can escape my next trap. Allow me to introduce... Somik-chan.

Thanks, this was a lot of fun!

Really enjoyed this. I'm reading Fleming's original Bond at the moment (partly as a result of your writing) and interestingly there's an opaque hint at the end of Moonraker that MI6 had (or has) a policy of declining honours for their active service agents.

That was great, thanks. I loved the frequent hat tips to things fans would recognize. I confess I didn't quite follow every action sequence, but I wished more prequels had this subtlety and grace. I would watch the hell out of this movie.

I've read all the Fleming Bonds many times, and I have nothing to say but: bravo, sir. Bravo.

Fantastic. Really enjoyed this one a lot. They could do a lot worse than to do something like this with the actual films.

"Bond could see the runway of the airport at Fusse" Fussen?

Aw, Bond's got half a heart for his sadly short-termed mentor. So given the aforementioned lack of history with Bond, what book would you suggest I pick up if I wanted to start reading?

DUN DUN DUNNNNN

Loved this.

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