Monday, 12 October 2015

BAYAMO - A JAMES BOND ADVENTURE - Part Four (Of Four)



CHAPTER 22
THE DAY OF THE CONQUISTADOR

James Bond would have preferred to have had complete darkness, but the moon had other ideas. Combined with the crystalline light of the Caribbean stars, the result was a risk he had to take. With no sign of Maximilian, it made sense to get aboard the Bayamo and do what he did best; destroy. He chose-or rather, had chosen for him-a team for the job, six of the Special Boat Squadron lads, the best at this work according to Mickey Greene and from what Bond had seen, the Sergeant-Major had not been exaggerating. Indeed, these men must have been half-fish, swimming out to the yacht under the surface using no more than their own lung capacity to sustain them. Despite his best efforts, Bond himself had to surface for air twice on the way in.

In the water, the men took turns assembling a slim metal pole, each man adding his own section. This obviously practiced routine concluded with the last man hooked it quietly onto the stern rail, one of those flexible ladders of the sort favoured by climbers and potholers now hanging from the pole. Bond went first, over the rail and straight into the nearest cover, half kneeling behind a capstan, .45 at the ready, wearing a borrowed pair of shorts and a diver's knife on his thigh. On the Starboard side of the yacht opposite one of the SBS men crouched in the shadow of a davit. The others were waiting for them to deal with the guards aft; Bond's man going down with a sigh as the heavy pistol lashed down onto his exposed neck, the guard opposite dropping down like a stone thanks to a killing blow to the larynx with the skeleton stock of a sub machine gun. At the signal, the others were over and gone in under a minute, two making straight for the bridge, the remaining men secreting themselves besides the hatchway leading to the crew's quarters and below the bridge ladder.

The team were armed with silenced sterling smgs, as well as browning 'hi-power' pistols, the knives each carried more for dealing with obstacles than for any murderous purpose. There was the briefest exchange of shots from the bridge, the THWACKAKAK noise of the subsonic rounds striking flesh seeming excessively loud in the absence of the normal sterling racket. A thumbs up from the open bridge door was Bond's signal to move up and to allow the men to begin the leap-frog clearance of the lower decks. The surviving bridge crew were face down, hands on heads, one man covering while the other searched them for weapons or incriminating documents. Bond stepped past the body to take a look at the bridge, pulling the chart draws open as he began a rapid search. The bridge was fairly clean; the only thing of interest was the body; a Russian Paratrooper, chest now riddled.
'Looks like they don't trust each other, dunnit, mate?.' Bond answered the man's question with a shrug and a noncommittal 'Perhaps.'

It took ten minutes to be absolutely sure, but finally the team pronounced the yacht was cleared. There were no obvious booby traps, plus there were now upwards of fifty prisoners – the entire skeleton crew that had been left aboard to keep her at readiness, held in the crew canteen. Bond joined two of the men as they searched Maximilian's opulent quarters. One of the team was a well-spoken home counties type, elsewhere certainly an officer, but in this company he was as likely to be a Corporal. 'Well, what now, Commander?.' Bond pocketed a packet of smokes and a gold lighter from the desk before answering. 'I was thinking of scuttling her. Pity really, some of this is probably worth a fortune.' 'Well, stone the crows... would you take a look at this little lot?.' The other man, a Geordie was holding up a gold bar for inspection. The man had noticed a handle set into the deck beneath a rug, a turn of which and a spring-loaded hatch cover had opened, revealing the metal and wooden boxes, the entire haul ready for transport in the hidden hold. Idly Bond toyed with a silver letter opener on Maximilian's desk, some Aztec god by the design, inlaid with precious stones, emeralds for eyes. The green stones reminded him of Paige's eyes. He tossed the thing away as one of the men burst in.
'Boss, Commander-there's, well, you'd best get up to the radio room.' Bond lit up, leaning back on a shelving rack in the tiny compartment. With headphones on over one ear, the SBS man scribbled on a water-proof pad furiously, finally placing his chinagraph pencil behind his ear. Keying the message out using high-speed morse, he sent a reply with a quick, sure hand, holding the pad over his shoulder with his free hand. Bond read; BARRACUDA FROM FURBALL (REPEAT) RSVP
'Furball?' Home counties frowned the question at Bond. 'Yes, as in Felix – Felix the Cat, hence Furball – I'm working with him, he's from CIA.' 'You cloak and dagger types must have an odd social life.' 'Yes, but at least the pay is lousy.' To the radio man, 007 added; 'Send this, would you?; FURBALL FROM BARRACUDA, REPEAT, SEND, OVER.' There was a short pause before the pencil resumed its scribble. BARRACUDA, FURBALL PAN PAN UNDER HEAVY FIRE AMMO LO. Felix was in trouble, deadly trouble. Bond instinctively knew that 'Pan Pan' – meaning assistance required – should have been a Mayday. 'Tell him helps on its way – then I want your full strength, only leave the minimum guard on this ship and get ready. You've just joined the Cavalry.'

Bond took four of the men, all that could be spared for the business at hand. Working quickly, with the maximum of grunting and sweating, they hefted the boxes from the secret hold to the jolly-boat and back onto the island. The train would have been handy, but it was in pieces back in the tunnels. Bond's luck held, however, with the discovery of an overturned jeep. Heaving the vehicle back onto four wheels took the strength of four, plus a tow rope that they found coiled over the rear bumper. One of the team set to work on the engine, while two others worked quickly to replace a tyre that had been riddled with shrapnel. Bond and the remaining man swore and cursed the heavy boxes into the back as the jeep was declared serviceable, if a touch scorched. He waved the others off to join the rescue mission, starting the jeep up and sending sand flying as he hit the pedal. The jeep's engine roared in approval of the mechanic's touch, 007 sending the machine off the track and into the blackening jungle.

'Felix, I need more ammo!.' Benny's plaintive call elicited a grimace from Leiter. They had regrouped, armed themselves with captured weapons, but their progress had stalled an hour back. Maximilian's Cubans had put up a stiff fight, but Benny's Cubans were fighting with their backs to the sea. 'Hard' and 'cruel' were the words that best described their lives, after exile these men had fought to prove themselves with some of the toughest gangs in the United States. From the original force of around sixty, no more than half that now survived; the rest dead or in the process of dying, many with horrific burns. The thirty-odd remainder included at least a dozen wounded, some seriously. The volume of fire had died down in accordance, from the continuous barrage of the early battle to the sporadic outbursts of fire to single shots. The enemy knew this, were clearly preparing another assault on what had been the attackers. Where the hell was Bond and that 'help' of his?.

On his side of things, Colonel Borodin was a satisfied man; his elite Airborne troops had smashed the invaders to matchwood. Using standard tactics and heavy weapons, he had decimated the imperialists. His mortars had proved annoyingly ineffective on such sandy soil, true, but his heavy machine guns and flamethrowers had done the trick nicely. Soon, it would be time for him to lead his men to victory – the men would expect nothing less of their leader. Yes, it was true that until now his actual participation in the battle had been conducted from the command bunker, but wasn't he a busy man?, didn't he have to submit to that ass Mitrovkhin's inane rantings about security?. Well, the Morning Star reactor was safe, that much he would soon report – when those duraks from the engineers got their stupid heads together and fixed the radios. Yes, it was about time. Careful – he was always careful about his appearance – careful not to scuff his highly polished cavalry officer's boots, the Colonel drew his pistol, taking a moment to admire the workmanship. He had had the pistol specially made in a nickel finish, with hand engraved decoration, by a gunsmith who had gone to sleep in Germany and found himself waking up in East Germany. Those capitalists certainly knew how to make a fine pisto... but such thoughts would be unpatriotic, so he re-fastened his holster, cocked the pistol and checked his cap was at an appropriately jaunty angle.

'Pssst! - Look at this peacock, pretty inne?.' The SBS man nudged his mate, who looked over and smiled at the sight of the pompous Russian Colonel marching over to his men, moonlight glinting off the idiot's highly polished brass and boots. With two men left on the Bayamo, the remaining ten Marines were crawling into position off to one side of the Soviet firing line. True to form, the Russians had posted men to watch their flanks, but being true to form, these men were also bored, long overdue for relief. Clearly audible were the nearest men's complaints at being left out of the fighting. As the saying goes; be careful for what you wish...

Damnit! Wrenching the wheel over, Bond only just missed her in the dark, the jeep screeching to a halt in the middle of a large cluster of zamia bushes. 'James! James – I think I've found a way... well, don't just sit there, give me a lift and I'll show you...' As they drove Paige alternated between talking and gesturing. She had gotten lost, but found herself caught in the middle of the fighting. Using her training, she had worked past the Soviet positions and found another entrance to the subterranean complex; an emergency exit designed to facilitate evacuation in the event of a reactor meltdown or similar disaster. Bucking and bouncing, the jeep careered through ferns and around fallen palm trunks, the girl's flow unbroken by the teeth-cracking ride. '...So, there I was; back in the jungle, where you found me, James. Anyhoo... what's the cargo?.' Bond glanced across as he fought to stop a skid turning into a crash. 'Its Max's gold – the payment for Blue Steel, plus some interesting engravings of various American Presidents and Her Majesty.' 'I won't ask how you got them, just what you intend to do with all of it.' 'I wasn't entirely sure; I had an idea of drawing him out, bait the trap, that sort of thing.' Paige seemed confused. 'Had?.' 'Had. I think I'd like a look at that exit of yours.' They exchanged glances, before both bursting into laughter at the unintended double entendre.

'ADVERTENCIA! Todo el personal a permanecer en sus puestos' 'VNIMANIYe! Vsego personala ostayutsya na svoikh postakh' The tannoy announcements echoed around the vast cavern, the order to all Morning Star personnel clear; remain at your posts. Paige's emergency exit turned out to be a concrete pipe wide enough to drive the jeep down – unfinished, the idea was clearly for some kind of 'flying-fox' rail arrangement – the rail in question suspended from the roof of the pipe by stanchions. Bond had seen something of the sort on a visit to Cape Canaveral-finished, a chair of some kind would slide down the pipe to take the occupants from the immediate danger zone. It took a few of the metal boxes to act as a ramping step, but the jeep was driven into the mouth of the pipe. Boxes back aboard, the journey continued, into the heavily guarded Soviet Atomic reactor.

Grim-faced, Leiter fired his last few rounds, dropping back below the sandy ridge, exhausted. Across the firing line, Benny was in the same boat, blasting away with his Tommy gun until the sudden, heart-stopping klik spelt the end of his ammunition. Risking a quick look, Felix saw an immaculately turned-out Soviet officer rallying his men for the death blow. Well, they had tried...
'Nice knowing you, Benny!.' There was a snort of laughter, then; 'Me, dyin' for Uncle Sam... who'da thought it, uh?. Well, screw 'em, commie basteds didn't get us widowt a fight, for sure...'. Suddenly, there was what sounded like a dozen gloves being slapped hard against a leather sofa, with the odd KRUMP! Of a grenade exploding on the sand, which then rained down on the huddled men.

This time Benny joined Felix in examining the situation; a group of dark figures were going through the terrified Russians like ghosts passing through a graveyard, which this was fast becoming. Brrp Brrrp!; To the left of the attacking wraiths a firing line composed of two machine guns barked and stuttered out a hail of suppressive fire. Whoever these newcomers were, Felix knew they had to be 'pros'. Silenced automatic weapons used this well against hardened Soviet Paratroops, that cut the field down to a handful of outfits. As quickly as they had arrived it was over; the remainder of Soviets surrendering, including their officer – after a brief, if dramatic struggle in which he was prevented from suicide by one of his own men, furious at his commanding officer's cowardice.

Cautiously, Felix stood, slowly, arms out to his sides, instantly facing two stubby barrels.
'Hold it chum!, wait there, we'll come to you.' The two SBS men came forward cautiously, checking the ground with their toes for any sign of booby traps. 'My names Leiter. I'm CIA. I take it you guys are the help we were promised.' 'OK then, what's our callsign?' 'Damned if I know, but Barracuda finds my pal Bond, wherever he is.' 'Close enough; Commander Bond sent us.' A stocky, short man ambled up, having overheard the exchange. 'Leiter is it?. Well, Bond's gone off after someone, seems your friend has a bit of a bee in his bonnet.'

Running his hand over his hair, Leiter sighed, exasperated and unsure of his next move. Catching sight of the disgraced Colonel, who was being held apart from his men, gave the Texan an idea, however. 'Vy govorite po-angliyski?'. Nodding curtly, Borodin spoke, his voice heavily accented.
'Yes, I speak English. What do you want?.' 'Oh, nothing much, just a few words really. Let's take a walk-smoke?.' The suspicious Russian stood erect, refusing the offer, instead producing a pack of Red Star-the cigarettes favoured by the Soviet Officer class. Leiter was not so circumspect as to refuse the Colonel's own offer, but soon regretted it, forcing the smoke to remain in his lungs, eyes watering at the harsh blend.

Bond knew time was running out. From the lip of the pipe, he could see the whole of the reactor. There was no hope-the ramp that spiraled up from the tunnel was wide enough for the jeep-just. The problems he faced; the place was bursting with Soviet troops, KGB security and scientists, the time was running out, all in the odds were stacked against him. He had not found Maximilian, but the din of battle had fallen away to sporadic outbursts. It would soon occur to someone in the Cuban Military that they hadn't heard from the island-that, or the fires started by the burning wreckage would be spotted and investigated. If only... but no, there was no way he could get the precious boxes further to put his plan into effect. Put bluntly, he needed a miracle. Paige broke into his thoughts. 'O.K. James-why exactly are you doing all this?.'

Keeping his gaze on the nearest troops, Bond told her his sketchy plan. Looking up, Paige saw the overhead rail was missing a section. 'Pity-their monorail isn't finished.' 'Monorail?, only a lunatic would put a blasted monorail in a volcano-its an emergency escape system; its to get them out in a hurr-hurry...' Get them out in a hurry!. 'Paige, you're a marvel.' Kissing her firmly, Bond was off, going through the back of the jeep to find a small brown bakelite box before sprinting back down the pipe, leaving the girl to marvel at men's idiosyncrasies.

Outside, by the entrance to the pipe a concrete structure resembling a dog kennel sat hidden and unremarked among the leaves. Had Bond not been forced to improvise a ramp for the jeep it was doubtful he would have even spotted the junction box. Now, he wrenched the small double cabinet doors open, revealing a tangle of wiring. Annoyingly, Soviet engineers tended to use odd combinations of colours for their work, but after a false start (in the form of a mild electrical shock) he had it, wrenching two wires free from their terminals. Opening the box revealed a military field telephone – which Bond hooked up to the wires, at first getting an alarming burst of static before getting it right. With both wires securely screwed into the post terminals the phone was live. Bond checked the battery and turned the switch. Almost instantly, the operator's voice;
'Tsentralʹnyy kommutator'. ('Central Switchboard.') 'Eto professor Kirova. YA khotel by pogovoritʹ s dispetcherskoy reaktora.' ('This is Professor Kirov. I wish to speak with the reactor control room.')
'Da, ser . Kakovo vashe razresheniye?'. ('Yes, Sir. What is your clearance?.') Bond's mind struggled with both the Russian grammar and the unexpected challenge – but his nerve held, as always steady under pressure. 'Moskvu premʹyer . Mozhet bytʹ, vy predpochli by proveritʹ s TSK?'.
(Moscow Prime. Perhaps you would prefer to verify with the Central Committee?.) Clearly, the operator did not; a pause then another voice, a woman. 'Da?' 'Eto professor Kirova. YA izuchil dannyye iz aktivnoy zony reaktora - ona neustoychiva . Evakuirovatʹ nemedlenno! .
(This is Professor Kirov. I have examined the data from the reactor core - it is unstable. Evacuate immediately!.) Ringing off, Bond unscrewed the wires, then, on impulse, twisted them together. A short circuit wouldn't help them if they tried to call 'Professor Kirov' back. Back at the jeep, there was no sign of Paige. Women...

In the control room of Morning Star, Assistant Chief Controller Komarov shrugged, replacing the telephone handset in the cradle. Her superior, a nervous type from Riga, was off-duty until the morning, giving her responsibility for the reactor. Most likely this was another false alarm-the quality of the monitoring equipment was appalling. Her console gave her immediate access to all the danger areas-although the reactor wasn't yet 'hot' there was still an awful lot of potential risk. If only they hadn't run the damn thing up to half power for that man Castro!. The whole core was still well above safe tolerances for the work party that would have to finalise the electrical outputs, at this rate... no, it seemed there was no problems, the dials were all well clear of the red. Sitting back in her chair, Komarov smoothed her nerves with a sip of tea. This would happen when she was in the hot seat!. Well, what harm would it do?-she could always claim it was an unscheduled test of the alarm systems if this 'Kirov' turned out to be mistaken. Yes, she had made a decision – she reached up and hit the large red button.

Bond tossed away his cigarette and started the engine at the sound of the siren – a female voice over the tannoy, her tone urgent; 'Vnimaniyu vsego personala, yestʹ test chrezvychaynoy protsedury - yekhatʹ v rayon priyuta izlucheniya srazu! YA povtoryayu …' ('Attention all personnel, there is a test of emergency procedure - go to the radiation shelter area at once! I repeat...') The troops and staff seemed to freeze, before exchanging glances or looking up at the tannoy speakers. The next second, it was as if some unseen signal had passed through them; pandemonium. The figures running for the shelters collided with others who hadn't a clue where the shelters were, whilst the nervous troops were ordered to remain at their posts by their equally nervous NCOs.

No-one paid any attention to the jeep driving up onto the ramp, until the two guards at the gate. Imperiously, the nearest held his hand up to stop the jeep, standing in front of the lowered barrier, but was sent flying by the splintering wood as the vehicle crashed through the gate. Swaying drunkenly, the driver climbed out, shaking his head, a water-bottle in hand. 'Pokazhi mne putʹ domoy …' Bond sang the words unsteadily, lurching into the second guard, confidentially winking and 'sssshh'ing. As the enraged guard regained his feet he grabbed Bond by the shoulder – getting a faceful of petrol from the bottle. Staggering backwards, he missed 007's elbow ploughing backwards into his comrade's groin, Bond yanking the man's rifle barrel downwards and backwards, sending him spinning, straight out of the Commando textbook. Using the Kalashnikov as an axe finished its owner, Bond flipping the weapon in his hands to deliver a crippler of a stomach jab with the barrel then swinging the butt up under the chin. Both men would live, but one would have a permanent crick in his neck and the other would be drinking his food for a few months.

The party atop the pyramid had been in full swing, the old men free at last. As they threw the last of the bundles of notes into the fan, however the jubilation died down suddenly. Standing on the stone dais was the hated figure of their oppressor, clad in the armour of Hernan Cortes, none other than the man who had brought such terrible fear to this very place those long centuries past. 'I see you are all busy throwing my money away. No, do not apologise my friends. I ask only that one of you accompany me.' Indicating one of the aged forgers with a finger, the grandiose figure drew his sword, walking slowly and with a frightening slowness and purpose towards the others. The guards seized the chosen man, a Polish jew who had seen men like this before. The sword sliced down, and again, the old men helpless as they were butchered, their blood spraying onto the madman's armour. Even Maximillian's hand-picked bodyguards flinched inwardly at the horror before them, as for the old jew that they held, he was determined not to blink. One day, Benjamin Levine swore, one day there would be a reckoning. He would not forget what he had seen here.

It was not the first time that the place of the priests had seen bloodshed. Some of those 'comrades' who were quietly catholic could almost have sworn they heard the great temple shudder, as if the primordial gods of the volcano had been awoken in anger at the desecration. The days of the Conquistador had returned.

CHAPTER 23
THE AVENGER OF BLOOD

The dying man turned his face to the stars, having found the strength to drag himself to the edge of the stone. In low tones he began the invocation, praying fervently that he remembered it correctly from the tabernacle. 'Yeytekn heva lenqevm at dem mesherteyv yesh 'eber 'eleyh, kepy ketveb tevrh shel meshh, hayesh shel alevheym...'
As he finished his call for vengeance, he prayed that there would come a 'Go'el Haddam' – an avenger of blood....

'Madre de Dios! ¿Dónde está ese hijo de puta?' Slamming his fist into the rock, Maximilian's eyes flashed red, he was fast losing control of himself. By now thoroughly disconcerted, his men were all aware of the change in personality since he had put on Cortes' armour and sword. The 'Marques de Bayamo' was clearly in the grip of a terrible possession, even his face seemed to have altered, becoming somehow older and narrower – it was as if a demon from the dark times of the conquerors had been let loose.

Bond's voice came over the tannoy, strangely hollow and echoing across the island. 'MAXIMILIAN!, It's all up, Maximilian... I'm waiting for you Max, with the boxes I took from your boat... were you really leaving, Max?, no goodbyes?... Morning Star, Max, I'm in Morning Star. Do come alone, company makes me nervous and there are so many switches and buttons in here-I wouldn't want to press the wrong one... ' The tannoy fell silent, but the tunnel above echoed to the shout of rage and hatred as Maximilian turned and marched towards the lift, trailed by his men.

'Hello Max.' Paige stepped from the shadows, raising the silenced Makharov and 'PHUT!' shot the man nearest to him through the forehead, leveling the barrel with remarkable coolness at his chest.
'Goodbye, Max.' Smiling cruelly, armour flashing dully, he stepped towards her. She pulled the trigger, 'PHUTWANG!' dropping to the floor almost instantaneously, the pistol on the floor next to her as her face began to register the pain from the richochet. Quickly drawing the sword, Maximilian lunged, flicking the gun away with the tip that he then flashed to her exposed throat. It was all she could do to remain fairly still, her hand clamped over her shattered shin-bone.
'Very good!, but again-I do not die. It seems your bullet has returned to its owner!.'
Summoning his remaining bodyguards to the wounded girl, Maximilian sheathed his sword, convinced more than ever that destiny had, indeed singled him out for greatness. Now to deal with that fool Bond.

'Well, that should set the cat among the pigeons.' Cheerfully, James Bond winked at Assistant Chief Controller Komarov, who watched him with horror as he began donning the radiation suit. Standing in the middle of the room with her were two technical staff, who looked as frightened as she. Her English was far from perfect. 'You, why you do this?. You are crazy man, you kill us all, but you die first I think. Radiation will poisoning, is big danger yes?.' 'You can go when my guest arrives, now, you two give me a hand with that trolley.'

It took both men to push and pull the heavy load, Maximilian's fortune aboard one of the constructor's trolleys Bond had found in the loading dock. Tugging and cursing, the trolley just fitted into a service lift with the two Russians. Thumbing the button, Bond made sure the lift was lowered before he took the stairs down to the access level-glad he had had a quick look at the documents he had stolen earlier. Most of it was gibberish, but he felt he knew enough about the reactor to have a chance. A hammering at the outer door to the control room announced the arrival of the blood-spattered 'Grandee', Miss Komarov hurrying to unbolt it as instructed. His voice no more than the hissing of a serpent, Maximilian looked through the frightened woman with eyes that seemed to belong to another time.
'Where is he?.'

Eager to escape the lunatic with the gun, the technicians rushed up from the stairs. Flanked by two of his bodyguards Maximilian found Bond in a massive circular room that itself reflected the curvature of the top section of the spherical monster that was Morning Star's main reactor building. In the centre was a large, raised circle of concrete and steel, a set of built-in concrete steps curving around the structure, on the middle of which a figure in a white radiation suit stood, arms folded, looking down on the new arrivals.

At their approach, the figure raised an arm in greeting, his voice distorted by the speech module in the helmet. 'Max, you made it. We both seem to be dressed for a party. I've come as a Cosmonaut, you must be-don't tell me... ah, I've got it...' Bond stepped across a lattice-work of metal to stand in the centre of the room by a console attached to a steel pipe, the protruding end of which was the size of a large oil drum. '...You've come as Don Quixote.' Waving Maximilian's henchmen away with the barrel of the big Colt, Bond admonished his adversary, taunting, goading with his tone. 'I didn't invite Sancho though, or any donkeys so if you gentlemen would step outside I'd be grateful.'
'Where is my gold?.' 'Up here. All you have to do is come and get it.' 'With pleasure.' Eyes narrowed, Maximilian drew his sword with a quiet rasping sound that seemed to emphasise his dread purpose. He stepped up onto the concrete.

In the suit, Bond was not sure if he was roasting through poor ventilation or radiation from the atomic inferno below. As the helmet appeared he placed a gold bar on the top of the pipe and put his hand on the lever by the console, waiting until the cuirass was visible before turning it. Emergency red lighting began flashing around the room as, with a loud hiss, the precious metal fell from view, a loud clanging noise announcing its departure. Maximilian's curiosity at Bond's unexplained behaviour was replaced by nagging concern, quickly replaced by mounting panic. 'What is this?, what did you do?.' 'Well, Max, at today's prices I reckon that just cost you $5,000.' Quickly, Bond had reached down for more bars, this time putting two of them on the pipe. Again, the hissing and clanging. Aiming the .45 at the middle of the metallic breast, Bond reached down, this time making it four as an alarm began sounding.

Sweating freely inside the suit, Bond forced himself to remain focused. 'This is the main inspection chamber for the reactor; it has a thermo-gauge and a condenser chamber and all sorts of gadgets to see into the heart of the beast. It was designed to take samples, but imagine my delight at discovering it could be used as the World's biggest piggy-bank. Right about now, I'd say theres about fifteen thousand dollar's worth of gold beginning to melt right under our feet...' Hiss-CLANG. '...Or was it thirty five thousand?, I'm starting to lose count...' 'Enough!.' Hands up, the Cuban was desperate to stop this waste, desperate to kill Bond, but obviously this British lunatic was past caring-but there was perhaps one thing he would care about. He began leaning forward, hand on heart, sincerity and probity etched on his features. 'The girl!-I give you the girl; you can go, go with the girl.' 'You haven't got the girl, Max, just...just this gold.' It was getting hard to shift the bars now, the confines of the hellish suit and the need to keep his gun hand steady combining to make for hard work. Still, Bond had a tempting pile on the chamber this time; a miniature pyramid made of seven bricks.

Urgently, Maximilian shouted back down to the doorway where, out of sight, a group of his men were huddled. 'La chica!, conseguir a la chica aquí! - Y rápido!. I get her, you can see for yourself, Bond. Why would I lie?.' 'To keep me from turning all this to radioactive sludge?' Bond's hand hovered over the lever, threateningly. To his dismay, through the thick glass of the helmet he could see they had her; Paige was pale, being supported by two stooges. Those swine!, what had they done to her?. Forcing himself to remain outwardly unaffected, Bond returned to the reason for the dramatic scene he had staged. 'Anyway, I'd say she's a fair exchange for the gold. You want the plates too?-hand over those plans you've been holding. Her Majesty's Government is rather keen to have them back. The girl and Blue Steel-there's still a good few boxes here, it's a good deal, Maximilian, think it over. There's enough gold left to take you anywhere and with the plates you'll be nicely set-up.'

Maximilian nodded, smiling as if accepting the inevitability of Bond's argument. 'I do not have the plans here. They are on the Bayamo.' In fact, Maximilian had them concealed behind his back beneath the cuirass. To Bond, however, it made sense; the gold had been found through luck and diligence; doubtless the vital plans were hidden in some vault aboard. He would need to impound the vessel... but Paige was at the lip of the platform, Maximilian's men helping bring her up for inspection. 'James, I'm sorry. I tried...' 'Yes, Mr.Bond – she thought she could kill me with her silent gun. You see? - not a dent.' Her head slumped, Paige saw her chance to avenge her Father slipping from her grasp; she had tried, she had failed. She knew Bond would never get out of this death-chamber alive, but perhaps he stood a better chance of at least killing the hated Maximilian. She shammed a stumble, the man next to her instinctively taking her weight. Grasping his pistol, she drew it, twisting round.

What happened next would stay with Bond until the moment of his death. BLAM! BLAM! Paige shot the second man, the bullets slamming through his chest into his heart. Wrenching herself free, she turned back to shoot the gun's owner, but was transfixed by Maximilian's sword, the steel running through her body driven by the force of madness. Laughing at her agony, the demons were truly freed from the constraints of humanity. As he pulled the long blade free with a flourish, he turned to the horror-stricken Bond. For the first time, James Bond knew what it was to face the Devil. Any vestige of the man he had known as Maximilian had fallen from this creature as chunks of rotten flesh from a corpse. Bond now knew only hatred, hatred mixed with the fear of the priests who, despite their evil sacrifices had eventually been slaughtered on this island of darkness. He would have walked through hell itself to avenge the girl, but he suddenly sensed they were no longer alone. It was a mystifying experience, a sensation like no other, but Bond could have sworn there was a presence in the room-as if a spectral jury had assembled to witness justice. The infernal incarnation of Cortes, the uncanny figure stepped towards 007, bloody steel gripped in anticipation of another life.

The remaining guard took one look at the scene and his nerve broke, he staggered back to the steps and ran. Bond stood squarely in front of the approaching figure. Perhaps it was the heat, but he swore the man's face kept changing, one second the familiar Maximillian, the next a gaunt and spectral visage with a wisp of beard and eyes like coals. It took all Bond had left not to run after the guard and yet he felt welded to the spot, as if under the grip of an evil hypnotist. The tip of the sword rose and the girl let out a moan of pain. Bond blinked.

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! The chest plate shrugged off the first two rounds, but they dented it. The third and fourth punched through, the last bullet bursting through the sternum. A hideous, rasping cackle rose from the creature and still it kept coming towards Bond, reaching up to lay a hand on his shoulder, sword pulled back to deliver the vengeance that kept the creature alive. His fingers, somehow more like claws of bone dug into flesh and muscle, the sword's guard smashing Bond's .45 away to clatter onto the concrete, then up into his chin, knocking him backwards and off-balance. The blade slashed across Bond's chest, ripping through the suit and drawing blood. Clutching his chest, Bond tried circling round the appalling apparition, his shot seemingly having no effect. It spoke, a voice from the tomb. 'Los españoles saben una enfermedad del corazón que sólo el oro puede curar...' Bond froze in his tracks as a bloody figure pulled herself up over the rim of the concrete, dragging her other arm up with the last of her strength, a pistol loosely hanging from her fingers. SPANG! The shot caught Maximillian in the shoulder, the possessed Marques falling forward across the gold and lunging at Bond. Launching himself in a frantic dive 007 wrenched at the lever Hiss-CLANG!-the pyramid of gold fell away into the reactor, the last of the Conquistadors tumbling over into the mouth of the chamber with a final scream of hatred. Almost at once the alarms began sounding with renewed urgency, this time all across the island. Morning Star was going critical.
A tremor of anticipation swept through the assembled men on the surface, to match the one that had briefly shaken the whole island. It was enough to send the parrots squawking off to find the next island in the chain. The sirens had sounded out here, just once, with a decisive effect; the remaining Soviets either surrendered or turned to hide in the foliage. Supervised by four of the SBS men and a group of Benny's Cubans, the prisoners filed past to the beach, hands on the back of the man in front to prevent any accidents. The men were dejected, demoralized-and then relieved, mainly of their valuables by Benny's boys, encouraging generosity with the odd slap or kick that the four affected not to see.

It was only when the Aussie 'Sandy' Carew insisted on being asked the time-revealing a thick forearm gauntleted with cheap Russian tick-tockery-that the looting was judged out of hand.
Benny's cigar arrived, pulsing and glowing in the darkness, followed by Benny himself. 'Not bad, uh, Felix?, have a stogie...' Leiter accepted the gift with a raised eyebrow. 'Got 'em from a box one of the British boys found on the boat.' 'No sign of James?.' 'Nah, I asked around – one of my boys speaks a little Ruskie, none of theirs seen nuttin'. 'Can't say I blame 'em-any pidgens likely end up strangled by their comrades.'

Breathing hard as if from a run, one of the SBS men came pounding from the trees. 'Mr. Leiter?, thought so; listen in, the reactor is starting to go unstable – didn't get all the details, but the support staff, the reactor people, they are all evacuating. We found a few survivors on the pyramid, old boys by the look of them, but they are badly wounded, probably won't make it. We've called up our Navy, we are going to try to evacuate the casualties by sub. Best you and your boys pack up shop and head for home.' Felix pocketed his cigar, deciding now was not the time. 'Well, you go right ahead, soldier-me, I've got a friend in there somewhere and I'm not leaving him.' Benny clapped the CIA man on the shoulder. 'He stays, I stay.' Leiter found himself looking on Benny with newfound respect. Shaking his head, the SBS man couldn't hide his respect. 'Lovely, very touching. Our orders are to find Commander Bond. If you want to come along, fine, but don't get in the way.' At his signal, Benny's men began withdrawing, the word going round with a series of shouts and whistles. The surviving Cubans started back to their boats, carrying the wounded with them. It was at that point the island roared.

Morning Star was dying, as was the girl. Carrying her, Bond rushed to the emergency escape rail, from which a large cage was suspended. There were metal seats for twenty people or more, the whole thing clearly operated by a brightly coloured overhead bar running the length of the crude vehicle, an arrow adorned with cyrillic lettering confirming it to be the release bar. As gently as the situation allowed, Bond laid Paige into the cage, climbing in besides her reaching up and grabbing the bar. Praying the gap in the rail wouldn't prove fatal, he pulled, hanging on grimly.

The KGB men were heading up the ramp, led now by a brutish Slav with strangely red-eyes, keen to prove himself now that that bourgeois Muscovite Security Chief Mitrovkhin was dead. An odd ringing noise began sounding through the rail overhead. Curious to see the cause of this resonance, he was rewarded with the sight of a massive cage screeching around the curve towards him. Right towards him!. In sudden terror, the group realised there was no clearance. Some tried diving off the ramp, but the new Security Chief opted for the novel approach of trying to outrun the speeding contraption. Bond could only watch in captive fascination as the wire ship gained a figurehead, the man flattened against the metalwork as it careered down towards the gap in the rails at approaching sixty miles an hour. The cage shot across the gap with a sickening stomach-churning ZIZZZ, into the pipe- KSSSHHH! Missing the beckoning rail, the cage hit the bottom of the pipe, which is where it lost all semblance of control, with a shower of sparks from the bottom, the curves flinging it up the side to howl round the bend upside-down, dropping back to slew down the concrete.

Felix hung on to the side of the truck cab as it skidded around the smoking wreckage of an armoured vehicle in the middle of a clearing. Digger hat hanging by its string, 'Sandy' Carew was in his element. Sandwiched between them Benny the Breeze was convinced they would be killed. 'For Chrissake slow down, willya?.' 'No worries mate; I been driving since I was a nipper on the station – hey, you don't fancy buying a watch now, do you?. Here look, I got plenty of the things; all best quality, one previous owner and fully guaranteed.' Alarmingly, the Australian SBS man chose to illustrate his wares by holding his arm up for inspection, taking one of the Russian watches off with only his knee holding the wheel steady.
Benny shut his eyes, but Felix was intrigued. Partly out of a desire to own one of the watches – certain to be a talking point back in Langley-partly out of a malicious shared amusement at Benny's distress, he reached across for the shiny timepiece. 'Guaranteed you say?.' With a broad, if toothless grin, Carew answered laconically. 'Sure – I guarantee that watch will be right at least twice every day and thats a guarantee for life. Just don't overwind it.' 'Why not?.' 'Well, if you do, the main spring'll go and cut yer bloody wrist...'. Despite the awful joke, Felix couldn't help but smile.

They were just passing a rocky outcrop when, with a spray of sparks, a massive cage shooshed over the cab, a limp body slamming down onto the truck's bonnet. 'Bloody hell!.' Hitting the brakes, the Australian could only watch in disbelief as the trees swallowed the contraption. With a groan, the KGB man slid off the bonnet, out for the count. Felix was the first to recover. 'That was Bond!. Lets go, Sandy-get going!.' Taking the direct path down the hill would have been madness-to anyone but an Australian. Grinning like a maniac, he took the truck down the steep hillside after the mysterious metal monster.

Holding on to both Paige's limp body and the seat in front, Bond was on the verge of exhaustion. Buffeted, battered and shaken, it was all he could do to stay in the seat, the escape cage giving no sign of slowing as it continued in a mad race down the side of the volcano. Spraying dirt behind it, slapping through the foliage the cage slid across a small stream, showering the occupants briefly before hitting a massive tree root with bone-shattering suddenness, then vaulting up and around into a spin. Flipping over in a barrel roll the helpless Paige and Bond were slammed around, the cage finally coming to a halt on the edge of the beach.
By the time the truck arrived, it was too late. Sandy Carew grabbed a medical kit and would have raced to the slumped figures on the sand, but Felix laid a restraining hand on his arm. 'Hold it chum. We're too late.'

Paige lay cradled in Bond's arms for the last time. Weak and dying, she forced a semblance of a smile, of her old self. Trying to speak, her voice was a shallow rattle. 'J-James...' 'Hey, easy now. It will be alright.' Holding her closely, he found his grip tightening. 'You killed-him for me.'
'You got him; I just got rid of the body.' She shuddered. Don't leave me, James.' The three men stood in silence, unable to help as Bond suddenly bent forwards, kissing the girl intensely. After only a few seconds, his body slumped back, his head down. Automatically, Sandy reached up to remove his hat, holding it respectfully across his chest. Even Benny took his cigar from the side of his mouth.

Bond lifted the girl's body, carrying it past the three in grim silence, to a point above the high water mark. He began digging, using his bare hands. Exchanging a glance with Felix, Sandy went around to the side of the truck where he found a long-handled shovel. Without a word, the muscular Aussie set to work with Bond to dig the grave, while Benny and Felix, anxious not to be left out, sought out a few pieces of wood with which to fashion a crude cross. By the time they had finished, Bond's sense of purpose was resolved with the solidity of a block of ice. He would destroy that reactor once and for all. There was no room for such a monster on Paige's island.

Dawn had broken, the last stars had fallen away to the west. The Special Boat Squadron demolition men were finishing their work and preparing for evacuation to the waiting submarine. The vibrations were more frequent now, the reactor containment was still holding, but it wouldn't be long now before the core breached. Clad now in the green shirt and trousers he had 'found' Bond sat, weary, aching for sleep but too disciplined to allow it. Felix knew better than to try to lift the Englishman's spirits, knowing his friend would be best left alone with his thoughts. The Texan lit a Chesterfield and went in search of something that might pass for coffee.

At the same time Felix was on his thirst quenching mission, HMS Trafalgar was submerged off the coast at the rendezvous point, her skipper watching the island through the periscope. He was aware of the First Officer at his elbow. 'How's it looking, Sir?.' Captain Fanning kept his eyes on the island as he spoke. 'Not good, Maxwell. We should have slipped away under cover of darkness, not in the middle of the day. There's plenty of activity ashore; I can see the boat teams standing by to get away, but not much else. Any news of the Bayamo?.'

Aboard the yacht in question, the Captain, on loan from the Soviet Navy nodded his approval-he was back on his bridge where he belonged. It had not gone entirely to plan; when the emergency plan had been enacted, three of the crew had died when the English Marine had pulled his trigger in his death spasms. Nor had the other man died without a fight, there were another four of his crew in the sick bay with lacerations, broken limbs and even a bite wound. A call from the engine room; the Bayamo was ready for sea.

CHAPTER 24
A LESSON IN MURDER

Ortega breathed in, then out. In...out. Flexing his fingers, he looked away from the weapon, then back, to check it was naturally aligned-he did not want to force the rifle into the aim with his muscles, thereby risking a miss. The weapon was his favourite; he had assembled it earlier during the battle. Vitally, he had also checked the sight alignment-the 'zero point' by firing five shots. Ortega was a man who left nothing to chance. Custom made by Fleischmann himself, this was no ordinary rifle, more a weapons system; the weapon fired virtually any ammunition, due to the ingenious barrel, which could be removed and replaced with any of the ones in the lid of the case. In addition, the breech block could be dropped out and also replaced, which allowed for Ortega to not only vary the shot according to the target, but even to point the finger of suspicion at any country of manufacture. His first kill with this rifle, in fact was blamed on the Americans, a suspicion seemingly confirmed by the recovered bullet-a Winchester round that had been used to assassinate the French Spy Levant in his hotel room in Canada.

Now though, Ortega had literally loaded for bear. Using the barrel and block stamped .416 Rigby he carefully opened a small container marked with a skull and crossbones, checking the bullets inside had not been damaged, anxious not to get a single drop of their deadly contents on his skin. Each round had been lovingly crafted for maximum accuracy and effect-each cast of an amalgam harder than lead yet still malleable enough for purpose. On entering the unfortunate victim's body, the domed point of the round would then splay, slowing the projectiles progress dramatically while allowing the contents to spread. If the shock of the massive bullet-designed to drop a Cape Buffalo or a charging elephant-failed to produce death, the aforementioned contents certainly would. A halide salt, not unrelated to potassium chloride contained in capsule form, the poison was incredibly effective, killing a fully-grown man in under fifteen seconds. (This poison was one of those developed by the former Smersh laboratory on an island in the Aral sea - author.) Checking the dials on his scope still matched the settings he had scribbled down on his notebook, he had declared himself ready.

As a master of the art of murder, Ortega had, typically not settled for the easy kill. Rather than shoot Bond from half a mile away with a conventional round, the assassin had chosen a shorter range shot from a tight, high angle. It had taken all his cunning and stamina, but he had crawled into a defile in the rocks no more than three hundred yards above the assembled invaders. The tall CIA man was a temptation, but Ortega was a man who possessed an enormous stock of self-discipline. Settling the cross-hairs on the face of the Englishman, Bond, he found it amusing that he could see without being seen. Often, poorly trained soldiers felt vulnerable when using optical equipment for the first time-the feeling that the target is looking straight at you, when the fact was they saw nothing of a well-camouflaged viewer. He lowered the sight, concentrating on a spot just behind the collarbone. With such a powerful cartridge, merely shooting straight on would result in the round traveling straight through, possibly the poison capsules too. A good surgeon could possibly save the target, so this shot would be down, through the area of most body mass into the vital organs.

Now he resumed his breathing exercise-he would take a last look at the target area, then acquire the target through the scope, taking the first, light pressure on the trigger then, only then, would he inflate his lungs prior to breathing out halfway-a split-second's pause and in one smooth movement he would draw his finger back towards his thumb.

Down below, Bond watched the demolition men checking their time fuses were rigged correctly. First-Pressure, the finger now curled around the trigger. 'All set, boys?.' 'All set, Commander-when we give the nod its five minutes to these going up-the whole thing will be sealed in by the blast. We used every pack of explosives we had with us, but we also found a whole arsenal's worth of Soviet shells-enough to keep a battery going for the next World War. We wired them in parallel. Would have been a pity not to, really.' Second-Pressure, exhale and hold... Bond laughed shortly-typical Marines, even these elite soldiers were not above having a bit of fun with their work. Now... 'Good work. I'll leave you to it.' SPANG!

Bond dived off to one side, as did the SBS men, each man seeking out cover quickly and bringing their weapons to bear on the hillside above. A tall figure stood up slowly from the rocks, waving an arm over his head as if signalling. 'Moy tovarishch!, Ne strelyayte!' 'Hold your fire!, I know him, I know him!.' Suddenly Bond had recognised the man. It was the same Russian Sergeant of Guards he had reached the truce with earlier in the battle, the man who had then administered mercy had obviously come to his aid again. There was an ominous patch of white powder on the rock where the bullet had struck, not two inches from Bond's arm.

Clambering up the hillside with one of the SBS men the truth became apparent. Hands in the air, the Russian mutely pointed to the body at his feet; it was Ortega all right, there was no mistaking the man's features. Oddly peaceful, he lay sightlessly staring ahead, a wicked killing knife protruding from the side of his chest. 'Etot chelovek, on sobiralsya ubitʹ tebya. Eto bylo ne pravilʹno.' Bond translated for the SBS man; 'He was going to shoot me.' Then, to the Russian; 'Spasibo. YA dumayu, chto vy naydete na lodke vniz na plyazhe.Vozmozhno, Kuba?.' With a smile and a handshake, the Russian with the blue eyes left the pair, making his way down towards the beach.
'Well?, what was that all about then?.' Smiling, Bond replied; 'Oh, not much – I thanked him, suggested he might care to try Cuba. He saved my life, I don't think we need another prisoner, do you?.' 'Suits me, Commander – suits me fine.'

Sergeant-Major Mickey Greene was in a deep discussion with two of his men, who seemed to have some disagreement. As Bond approached the beach, the reason became clear; two bodies lay in one of the inflatable boats the team had brought with them. 'What happened?.' Greene's face was stone as he answered. 'Two of ours. They were guarding the prisoners on the yacht. They were found in the water by one of the teams bringing the boats round to the evacuation point.' Bond followed Felix Leiter as the latter stepped into the boat. As Felix seated himself there was a small thud, then a thunderclap that rang out across the island and out across the water. All that was visible was a pall of smoke and dust rising from the area where the charges had been set. Suddenly, Bond yanked Felix back over the side into the shallow water. As the Texan spluttered and floundered in shocked rage, Bond had pushed the boat out and was waving apologetically 'What the?, hey!.''Sorry, Felix. There's a job to finish. I'll make it up to you.'

Morning Star had been sealed. What no-one could see now, in the deserted reactor complex, was the array of gauges in the control room. On auxiliary power, flickering then fading the dials were all over in the red, the core temperature rapidly rising now that the coolant water pumping station had began to fail. By the time the boats had reached the area of their rendezvous, the core of Morning Star had reached-and exceeded criticality. Deep beneath the surface of the water, in the depths of the watery tomb, a statue of gold and steel stood, arms raised to a heaven it would never see, could never reach. Splashed with molten gold, armour fused by the intense heat, the body of Maximilian had become his own monument.

'Take her up.' 'Up aye, Sir.' As HMS Trafalgar's tanks blew, her conning tower breaking the surface to welcome the boats that had linked in chain formation. The hatches fore and aft popped open, the crew running out with hooks and lines to secure the boats. In one well-practiced move, the SBS men and their guests were aboard, the casualties being stretchered below for treatment by the sub's Doctor. The last man off each boat slashed the rubber bladders with a diving knife, the boats now a liability in these hostile waters. Soaked and dejected, Felix Leiter slumped onto a seat in the tiny officer's mess with some of the others and, accepting a blanket began alternately cursing and praying for Bond. In the control room Captain Fanning was waiting anxiously for the signals that Trafalgar could safely dive again. It was the worst possible moment for the Hydrophone Operator's urgent shout. 'Sir. Contact bearing zero-seventy, range four hundred yards – its the yacht, Sir – she's preparing for departure.'

Bond slammed the truck through the gears with a vengeance, taking the protesting engine up to its limits. Swinging up alongside the jetty he bailed out, grabbing the equipment bag and the silenced sterling he had borrowed. Charging up the planks he was going to be lucky to get aboard-the Bayamo was leaving.

'Arm stern torpedoes, compute, range and mark.' 'Arming stern torpedoes, range-mark aye, Captain.' 'Bring her to one-seventeen, flood stern tubes and open stern doors.' 'One-Seventeen Aye, flooding stern and opening stern doors.' The commands were implemented as they were repeated, the submarine coming around to face the island. Fanning knew his stuff-as the Bayamo passed to stern, she would be bracketed by two Mark VIII torpedoes with little chance of both missing.

As the Bayamo pulled away from the jetty one of the crewmen was busy coiling the line aft when he looked up, to see a strange figure in green shouting at him to throw the line. He did as he was bid, helping pull the soaking figure aboard. The drag from the accelerating yacht and his heavy bag made it almost impossible, but, in the water Bond was determined not to let go. Fortunately for him, the sailor was an ox of a man, their combined strength just enough to allow Bond to gain the lower deck aft. The line went slack suddenly, the Cuban hauling it up in confusion-then horror as he was tipped over the railing. Bond was aboard.

On the bridge, the Captain was already rehearsing his speech-he would be sure to receive at least a staff posting with the Soviet Naval Academy. The man who sank a British submarine?, they would make him a Hero of the Soviet Union!. He rapped out his orders, confident and sure of purpose.
'Ir a media potencia. Preparar armas de la cubierta. Vamos a hacer como si no lo hemos visto esos tontos luego se convierten en ellos.' ('Go to half power. Prepare deck guns. We'll make as if we haven't seen those fools then turn into them.') 'Si el Capitán' 'Vamos a volar fuera del agua Entonces nuestros amigos rusos rana puede bajar y recuperar sus libros de códigos secretos y vamos a echar un vistazo a su sistema de radar de lujo nuevo.'
('Then our russian frog friends can go down and recover their secret codebooks and we will have a look at their fancy new sonar system.')

Aft, Bond set to work quickly, following the instructions Paige had given him what now seemed a lifetime ago. Going past the two Russians he had shot with the sterling, he made his way for'ard to the State-rooms. Once there, he wasted no time, turning the place over in the hope of finding the equipment bag that Thewlett had brought for him. There was no sign of it – apart from the linen roll of gold sovereigns, which he found in a drawer. Tying it around his waist he tucked his shirt back in to conceal the precious horde. He snapped his head up at the klaxon blast, then the tannoy;
'Descubre las armas de cubierta! prepararse para disparar!' 'Deck guns?.' He grabbed the sterling and ran out to deal with the threat, crumpling to the deck as the knife edge of a hand hacked at his windpipe.

The Ukrainian stood over 007, a plaster over the ugly razor wound the Englishman had given him in the alleyway. The blow had been misjudged, an inch too low-he had intended to kill, crushing the larynx. As it was, the English spy was stunned, helpless. Reaching down, he took the man's weapon, tossing it to his partner. The correct procedure would be to kill the man where he lay... but this was personal. He wanted to make the man pay for the alleyway. A tattoo on his forearm depicted a sea-lion and anchor; Naval Special Forces. Slapping Bond until he stirred, he let him fall heavily back onto the deck. 'Gold... Zoloto!- vse, chto vy mozhete potratitʹ !' 'Gold?, what Gold?'

Pulling up his shirt, the Ukrainian hauled at the coins, tearing them free and slamming them viciously across Bond's head. Eyes shut to try to cope with the sickening blow, Bond gasped and raised a hand in supplication, but grabbed the roll as it came back for another swing, wrapping his fist in the cloth and throwing his right fist straight into the brute's nose. It felt good, so he did it again, then dropped the coins and moving into a boxer's crouch he ducked the return blow. A straight left sent the Blonde's head snapping backwards, an overhand right dropping him outright. Bending to retrieve the roll of coins some sixth sense warned Bond and he whirled round to see another crewman. Unfurling the roll, Bond flung it up and around the knife arm, quick as a whip his right hand was down into the crook of the elbow behind the blade, twisting the linen hard and upwards to drive the knife straight into the shoulder of the swarthy unfortunate-virtually a carbon copy of the move he had used to scar the Ukrainian in the alley-but this ended differently, Bond first ramming his left palm into the already broken nose, then the left hand drove the blade in to the hilt. Breathing hard, Bond had no time for self-congratulation, recovering his silenced sterling and going up to the gun deck.

The guns had been hidden beneath cowlings designed to appear as part of the yacht's ventilation system, the crews loaded and ready. Bond risked a glance at his watch, telling him he was fast running out of precious time. A shout went up from the bows, at the same moment the farthest gun loader spotted 007. The man died in a hail of bullets, but then the sterling jammed. Bond worked frantically on the stoppage, but a look into the breech told him the worst; a separated case – the cartridge had broken apart, a problem which would take time he did not have. Casting the weapon aside in disgust, he rolled sideways onto his shoulder-thankful for the hours Double-O men spend on the judo mats-and stood up, hands raised. The gun layer laughed harshly, as he curled his hand around the firing bar, but paused; why was the Englishman smiling?. He looked down to see his death as the grenade Bond had rolled exploded.

The difference between life and death? - often mere chance. Had James Bond known the grenade had rolled into an ammunition locker, he might have expected it; the deck of the Bayamo simply disintegrated into fragments, the blast obliterating the other gun crew and flinging Bond high over the rail to hit the water in a heap. Dragged under by the weight of the sovereigns he had re-tied around his waist, Bond felt rather than heard what happened next. To his horror the whirring noise in his ears was matched to the suddenly gigantic shape that was flashing towards him; an ominously dull bulge that became a huge cylinder in a second. Kicking frantically, he was unable to avoid being slapped sideways with the force of a train speeding through a station. The torpedo hurtled towards the exposed hull of the yacht... and missed, passing beneath the keel by an inch. Bond had missed death by a whisker-the degaussed hull was invisible to the magnetic trigger and the 'fish' had failed to explode. Lungs burning, Bond began kicking for the surface, determined not to leave the valuable sovereigns behind. It was no use; he was forced to untie the roll and drop it to the bottom. As he approached unconsciousness he had the satisfaction of hearing a dull thud which was followed by a colossal underwater eruption, the last thing he saw was a billowing cloud of gas as the yacht was blown to pieces. The Bayamo was no more.

'Forty-five seconds, its a miss Sir.' Captain Fanning swore at the news. 'Bugger it!, bring her about three-sixty and reload stern tubes. I want one more shot at her before she's out of...' The concussion reached Trafalgar with the speed of sound and the power of a tidal wave, knocking the lighting out and sending the crew across the deck plates. A call from the crewman on watch above on the conning tower came urgently; 'Man in the water!, get a recovery team up fast!'.
EPILOGUE
LONDON

While London bustled and thrummed, the building overlooking Regent's Park was, by contrast, a haven of calm, a Sargasso of stone almost set against the turbulence of a World in the grip of a Cold War. Lighting one of his cherished Morlands, Bond regarded the battered gold Ronson for a moment before pocketing it and sitting back in his seat as he finished his recollection. 'So that's really everything, Sir. I set the time fuse for ten minutes-we really should get a proper look at these new Soviet launchers-Trafalgar's torpedos failed to detonate, the Soviet rocket I set up fired into the reserve peroxide tanks aboard the yacht.' M set down the file he had been reading. 'The Cubans are saying the volcano erupted unexpectedly; they'll be believed too by the look of the steam coming out of the crater. Seems when that reactor overheated an old fault opened up; no danger of radioactive leaks, but the place will take an age to cool down again.' 'Well, they won't try anything like that again, Sir. All the same, they need to be watched, and carefully.' 'Quite-the report Leiter sent in to my counterpart caused the hell of a stir. The place will be crawling with CIA after this debacle.' The lined face softened, became almost amused. 'So the equipment we sent you was lost?, the sovereigns included?.' Bond smiled ruefully. 'Er, yes, Sir. Unavoidable given the circumstances, I'm afraid.'

M closed the file. 'Yes, well, that's an end to it. We've given the Russians the tip on the girl's death, I'm told she will have died in a training accident in Siberia-they'll make her a Hero of the Soviet Union or suchlike. I understand you were, ah, close?.' 'I wouldn't put it like that, Sir. She was quite a girl. I will miss her.' 'Well, all in all, most satisfactory, if I might say so.' M reached for his pipe, the signal that the debriefing was at an end. Bond made to go.
'Oh, there is one thing, Double-O Seven. That old Bentley of yours.' 'Sir?.' 'I understand its for the breakers yard. Pity. Good thing you found that Aston Martin-spot of luck that, an ex-works model with racing clutch and gearbox. Must have cost a bomb, what?.' 'You could say that, Sir.' 'Well, drive the bloody thing with more care than the Bentley, won't you?.' 'I wouldn't dream of it, Sir.'

Moneypenny was a fraction late in regaining the safety of her filing cabinet when Bond flung the outer leather door open. 'Spying on me again, Penny?.'
'James!, such a thing never crossed my mind.' He was gratified to see her blush softly. 'A little bird tells me that the Old Man offered his resignation over that last job.' 'And I suppose your little bird was from the typing pool?' With a look of mock severity, James frowned. 'Perish the thought. Well?'. 'Well... let's just say requests to resign can get awfully delayed. So much red tape around here.' Bond almost flushed with emotion. He knew M had put his career on the line for him.

Seating herself on the edge of her desk, Moneypenny gave him a look that was somehow neither coy nor knowing. 'I suppose you are taking some leave now, after nearly drowning?.' 'Something like it; I'm booked on the ferry from Dover for tonight, going to take the new car for a bit of a spin through France.' Holding her nose away, she reached behind her desk and held up the case Chago had handed to Bond in the Casino a hundred years before. 'Well, here's your case. Really James, I wish you would get some new luggage-it's positively ghastly-it smells damp.' 'But Penny, you simply must keep up; don't you know everybody launders their money these days?.' He reached for the door, but halted as he remembered the present. Reaching into a pocket, he placed an object on Moneypenny's desk. 'Something I found diving-the Navy boys lent me a scuba set. Yes, surprising what you find underwater.' Moneypenny smiled as Bond left for his 'spin'. Looking down, she saw the most beautiful sea-shell she had ever seen, picking it up she heard a rattle. She gasped as she tipped the shell over – there, in her hand were the emeralds that had adorned Max's letter opener.
'James, I can't possibly...' But James Bond was gone.

THE END

A note of thanks;
Firstly, thank you for reading this, I hope it entertained you. I had a lot of fun writing it, but I didn't have the late Ian Fleming's deep pockets so I couldn't actually visit Cuba – I went there on the Internet. Wikipedia, Google Translate and a few other 'places' were all useful stops. I do understand smoking and drinking are very naughty – but a story set in the early sixties about a teetotal non-smoking Bond?.

Thanks mainly to my wonderful and not always patient wife Mrs.S – for whom this work is belatedly dedicated. The wonder is you.

A word on Copyright; Mark Sohn has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. First published on www.volcanocat.blogspot.com
'James Bond' and '007' are registered trademarks of Danjaq LLC


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