Chapter 25: Word Association
Sir Gareth Mallory could hardly contain himself.
"M," he began, "your department has now suffered three, THREE, crippling blows within a short time. I provided you a short window to get this matter resolved and it only gets worse! In addition, a good many citizens of the city of London have been subjected to peril!"
M maintained her best Texas Hold 'Em (R) poker face. "So it would appear," she muttered softly.
Mallory paced in the conference room, back and forth. "Meanwhile, your man has been featured on a video on the Internet that has gone viral. He returns just in time to attack security personnel of the London underground system just as a bomb is detonated, causing an underground train to crash into your alternate headquarters -- a headquarters that had to be activated following an attack on the primary headquarters.
Mallory took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Finally he spoke again. "Is that an accurate summation of the situation?"
"Very much so," M replied.
"I gave your a fortnight to put this situation to rest. It has only gotten worse."
"If you say so," M replied.
"If I say so?" Mallory said, his voice rising. "There's a gaping hole in the exterior of the primary MI6 headquarters. Much of the underground system has been shut down entirely whilst the remainder is operating at a much-reduced schedule causing an already jammed commuter system to practically grind to a halt. That is not just me saying so, that is established fact."
"There is one thing," M replied. "We have a lead to the man who has caused all this."
"A lead?" Mallory asked, his race turning red. "If the reports I've seen are correct, your man actually encountered this Silva person before going his merry way into the underground system!"
M strained not to roll her eyes. "That was unfortunate."
Mallory bit his lip so hard it hurt. "Unfortunate? That's like saying the bloody sinking of the Titantic was unforunate! Admittedly, Silva has yet to inflict as many casualities as those who lost their lives on the Titantic, but he's off to a bloody good start, I'd say!"
"My man, as you call him, and myself, can bring Silva to justice if I have ninety-six hours."
Mallory shook his head. "What have you done to earn those ninety-six hours?"
"We have a key piece of information that only I can act upon," M replied. "You can discharge me if you wish, but you won't have that key information."
Mallory frowned. "You are in no position to impose such a demand!"
"It's not a demand," M replied. "Merely a statement of act. In addition, the key information is, shall we say, in delicate shape."
"Delicate?" Mallory asked.
"There is no computer record," M said. "It could be wadded up at any time. It could be lit on fire. It could be tossed in the nearest waste basket and no one would miss it."
"Just where is this information?"
M stared blankly at Mallory. "We're wasting time. Do I have my ninety-six hours?"
"You have twenty-four," Mallory said.
"Seventy-two," M said.
Mallory sighed. "Forty-eight, final offer."
"Forty-eight, it is," M said. "I will also need Bond to be available to follow up this lead."
Mallory's face reddened again. "Bond? You didn't say anything about Bond!"
"His presence will be quite vital to what I have in mind."
"Out of the question!"
"We're wasting time, this point isn't worth arguing," M said. "If you'd like, I'll resign in the morning. But you'll be back to square one regarding Silva and why he is such a menace to the crown."
Mallory leaned back in his chair and stared uip at the ceiling. "Bond must be evaluated first."
"All right," M replied. "But the clock doesn't begin running on the forty-eight hours until the evaluation is completed."
"Very well," Mallory said disgustedly.
Three hours later, Sir James Maloney was accompanied by two MI6 security men to a conference room that was part of the alternate MI6 headquarters below London.
"Thank you for showing up on such short notice, Sir James," M said, extending her right hand to shake his.
Sir James, a short, bald man with gray hair and a salt and pepper goatee, shook M's hand. "I was led to believe this was a vital security matter."
"And so it is," M replied. She pointed to a mirror on the wall. "That, of course, is a two-way mirror. Myself and other key personnel will observe as you conduct your evalufation."
"Of course," Sir James said. "May I ask something first?"
"The subject involved is an orphan, losing his parents thirty-three years ago at age eleven."
"Yes, that's correct," M said.
"According to the dossier I was provided his father was a rather handsome chap while his mother was quite beautiful. Yet, he turned out...well, looking a bit different than either of them. Was there ever any indication he was an illegitimate child or anything like that?"
"None whatsoever," M said. "I suggest we begin now. I'll leave you here, but I'll be behind that mirror. The sujbect will join you ina few minutes.
M didn't wait for Sir James to respond and was out the door in seconds. The room was spartan, just one rectangular table and two chairs. Sir James sat down on one end of the table. Five minutes later, James Bond, clad in a track suit and Nike (R) running shoes entered the room.
Bond pulled up short of the table. "So you're the shrink?"
"Actually, I'm a neurologist," Sir James said. "But I am, if I do say so myself, a bit of an expert on how the brain works."
"I see," Bond said. The agent stared blankly ahead.
"Please sit down, Mr. Bond," Sir James said, gesturing to the chair at the other side of the table.
"We shall do a word association game," Sir James said. "This may provide us insight."
"If you say so," Bond said.
"I'll say a word. You respond with whatever pops into your mind."
"Saltzman," Bond said.
"Saltzman?" Sir James asked.
"Broccoli," Bond replied.
Sir James shook his head. "No I mean that was a very unusual response."
"You said the first word..."
"Never mind, let's resume," Sir James said. "Tea."
Sir James nodded in silence. Behind the two-way mirror, M, Mallory and Bill Tanner watched on.
"Lewis," Bond said.
"Rowan," Sir James said."
"Martin," Bond replied.
"Napoleon," Sir James said.
"Solo," Bond retorted.
Sir James frowned but had a feeling it was best not to say anything about the odd replies.
"Raker," Bond said.
Sir James remembered something from the dossier about Bond's childhood.
"Skyfall," Sir James repeated.
There was no sign of life in the glassy eyes. Seconds passed before Bond spoke.
"Done," he said.
Bond got up from the table and looked at the mirror. The track suit didn't look nearly as good as the Tom Ford (R) suit. Bond stared at the mirror.
On the other side, Bill Tanner tried to look ahead and provide no reaction. Mallory glanced at M, who also looked ahead.
Long, tense moments passed without a sound. Finally M spoke.
"I think he's ready," she said. "Tanner, please have Bond's DB5 ready. He and I are taking a road trip."