Saturday, 3 October 2015



The RAF Shackleton MR.3 lumbered across the vast gulf of ocean. From its base on Ascension the Maritime Patrol aircraft with its crew of ten was flying at the absolute edge of its fuel endurance, the area they were tasked to reconnoitre being some four thousand miles distant. The Captain, a Flight Officer Benson was a veteran with eight thousand hours on the type under his belt, so he knew they were taking a calculated risk with the mission. The four Rolls Royce Griffon piston engines produced 2,455 horsepower, but at a cost – rather than the maximum speed of three hundred-plus, they would have to fly at two hundred miles per hour, worse, under two thousand feet. If they were lucky, the long - range wing tanks might enable them to reach the planned landing at Ladyville in Belize. The mission tasking from the Ministry had been the usual curt missive, the larger part of it full of the jargon that is the lingua-fraca of flyers everywhere. If the weather reports held true, there would be clear sky over the target area, some islands adjacent to the Cuban Republic.

The briefing from the Operations Officer had been an eye-opener, Benson thought. He was given strict instructions on procedure, including a rather unconventional order to keep his mouth shut about the whole thing. Instead, he was told, if questioned about the nature of the mission, he was to stick to a pre-arranged cover story; the aircraft was on routine patrol over the Atlantic when a storm blew up. Disorientated, with instrument failure and dwindling fuel reserves, he then decided to make for the nearest airbase. Not much of a cover, Benson thought. A 'hot-box' – a portable asbestos-lined strongbox containing a miniature thermite charge was to be used to store the incriminating film canisters after exposure. At the first sign of trouble, Benson was told, he would personally activate the box, pulling the arming handle to melt the film before jettisoning the box.
A keen amateur himself, Benson had handed over to the second pilot and gone aft to join the photographic specialist, who was busy changing lenses on a K24 Kodak ‘Long Tom’ camera.
'Ready to take some beach shots, Tim?.' 'Yes Sir, with this baby you can get a clear image of a girl sunbathing in her bikini at fifteen-hundred feet, clear as you like.' 'Not sure about the bikinis where we're headed, more likely some old girl doing her washing. Anyway, I'm famished, time to see what Mother's packed for our tea.' With that, Benson made his way to the small galley, little more than an electric hotplate, to open his lunch.

'Ravenous, James, simply ravenous. Shall we call the chef?.' Dreamily, Paige reached for an imaginary phone, careless that her magnificent breasts were proudly exposed.
Both she and Bond were exhausted after several hours lovemaking. The first, desperate urgency of animal coupling had given way to the luxuriant rhapsody of slow, sensual and prolonged sex, the sensations washing over their bodies until both seemed adrift on tingling waves of pleasure, scaling peaks and sliding into troughs. Lazily, smoke curled upwards from the bed as both lovers enjoyed a welcome cigarette. 'I really should try to find a way out of here, “England expects” and all that.'
Rolling over, she extinguished her cigarette with a pout. 'So soon, James? I thought a gentleman never left before dawn?, what would your headquarters say? - I shall write to my M.P.'
'Yes – I was meaning to ask you about that.' Bond put out his own, rolling back over to face those disarming eyes. 'Do you really have M.P.s in Russia?.' 'In Rus...James!, what are you saying?.'
His face was hard, angry. Gone the tender lover now, only a cold ruthlessness.
'Spare me; the routine's wearing thin. You knew Max had betrayed your Father, now why?, was it your Control?, who, Paige? - and where did you get that Model 27?, hardly standard-issue, even for the KGB. Well?.'

Furiously, she snatched up her gown, throwing the blue Chinese silk around herself as if ashamed of her nakedness, at having been such a fool for giving herself to this brute of a man. She slumped onto a chair, running her hands through her hair, in doing so missing Bond flushing with guilt and sudden self-loathing that had threatened to choke him briefly. Tying the cord on his dressing gown, he was standing in front of her. Eyes brimming with tears, she looked up, the moisture lending her eyes even more lustre. 'Damn you James Bond. Damn you, as I shall be damned for loving you.' Weary, she held a hand up to fend him off. 'No, there's no need. I'll tell you. I'll tell you everything, even if they kill me for talking. Have you ever heard the name SMERSH?'

'Dear God, this gets worse. I thought we'd heard the last of them.' M picked up the innocuous looking report from his desk. 'Yes, I'm afraid it looks bad.' The Head of Records had made the rare effort to leave his precious files to visit M in person. 'Its all been confirmed, naturally; the girl went over to the Reds after her Father's death. We knew nothing; only that we think she was approached in Paris, worked in one of those ridiculous up-market dress firms they have there.' 'Is there a point to this?.' 'Eventually. The girl was involved with an under-secretary at the American Embassy, the Russians got wind of it and made the approach. Apparently she was devoted to her father, given his views on atomic weapons it seemed a good bet she would come across, which she did.' M looked grim, tapping the dossier with the stem of his pipe. 'The usual?.' 'Blackmail?, what else? - the note threatening disclosure, the unsuspecting wife and family, promising career and threat of ruin, plus some very interesting photographs; let's just say our American had unusual tastes. The girl disappeared from the scene for some time with the plans for the new American Early Warning System in Europe. We only know any of this because the Deuxieme Bureau uncovered that smuggling ring in Marseilles, one of them had been in Paris working as a double agent for the French; he helped set up the safe house the girl's contact was renting, sang like a canary when the Bureau held twelve years over him.'

M had lit his pipe as he listened. Puffing away, he stood, walking around his desk to the large sash window overlooking the Park. 'We know, at least we think we know that SMERSH was wound up in fifty-eight, if we have our dates right she would have already have received her basic training by then. Supposing she joined the Special Executive Department at the MWD?, they took over all SMERSH operations and duties; perhaps she was sent after Double-O-Seven...' The Head of Records shook his head decisively. 'Not very likely. Given SMERSH's reputation it's doubtful Bond would have lived to make the request regarding her. Cross-reference it all, what are you left with?.'
'Well, there's that blasted super-yacht Bond went gallivanting around on, the suicide of the girl's father, the Early Warning System – I'd discount that, probably unconnected. Then she is listed as a SMERSH operative and finally Bond's Red Castle message and the request to the Americans regarding the girl. It doesn't make much sense, but it looks to me as if the threat to the Russians may have triggered an operation of some kind, but why send a girl with so little experience?.'
'We may never know. That's all we have for now, I'll be in records if you need me.' 'Thanks, Hugh. I'll see you and Margaret for drinks, sometime soon.' M went back to his desk, a worried man. His hopes now rested on an aircrew and a Double-O man who may not even be among the living.

'To us, James.' 'To life.' They clinked glasses and drank. Bond had found the bar while examining the room for any signs of a way out, pushing and pulling at the curved walls, which alternated between sections of rough natural rock and smoothly worked masonry blocks, these last with glyphic carvings of long-forgotten idols. Twisting at what looked like a feathered fish of some kind, 007 had been rewarded with the sudden appearance of a bar, as completely equipped and stocked as any he had seen in London or New York. Two of the blocks had pushed outwards, to become stools, while a large section of the wall had folded back and away. The whole affair had soft lighting – even a small sink at one end. 'So, that's it?. You just typed out an order and left it on your Colonel's desk?, no questions, no verification of any kind?.' 'None.' Paige shrugged, a smile of self-satisfaction on her lips. She drank the Cuba Libre Bond had mixed for her, enjoying the refreshing fizz-tingle from the cola bubbles bursting in the white rum. He had plumped for a Vodka and Tonic with a squeeze of lime for a change.

'I was living in Leningrad, my sponsor took me in until I was granted citizenship. After my clearance came through I had been assigned to Department III of Smersh, in Administration. I was watched like a hawk at all times, I wasn't trusted by the Russian staff. There was a routine inquiry about an agent of SMERSH, known by the Codename CAROUSEL. Well, I found the relevant files and was taking them to the Captain who asked for them, when I dropped them. Silly, but these things can be I suppose. I saw my father's name, then CAROUSEL's details. He was to have picked us up that awful night. I knew then that I was going to kill him for what he had done to my father.'
'So why didn't you?. Kill him, I mean – first chance you got, bring out the gun and BANG! - Max sports a third eye.' 'My plans changed when the MWD men came. SMERSH was out of control, they said, time for reform. Kruschev's public image called for a new approach, so the Special Executive Department was given the task of running all SMERSH business. Suddenly they needed new people – there were a lot of empty desks all of a sudden.' Bond could well imagine where the occupants had ended up, but said nothing, raising his glass as a gesture for her to continue her remarkable story.

'I was promoted quickly to the rank of Junior Sergeant, they sent me on intensive courses to learn various things – I think they wanted me to return to England, but they never said. I was transferred to the Embassy in Paris, with the cover of a pool driver, though my actual duties were with the communications section. That's where I was when I first heard about CORMORANT.'
'Cormorant?, as in the bird?.' 'It's the operation to set up an atomic reactor in this region. It's the most carefully guarded secret in the Soviet Union, well, outside the Union. The signal I received mentioned CAROUSEL, I knew Maximilian's habits from his files, meeting him at the Consulate was my idea, but I had no idea he was going to invite me on a cruise. I would have killed him the other day, but now I can see why you stopped me.' Bond finished his drink. 'Oh, don't mind me; now I've seen what I came to see you can shoot him all you like. Now I've seen CORMORANT for myself I can see Max's importance to the Kremlin. He's setting Castro up with atomic energy, a limitless power source that makes a joke of any embargo the Americans can get the UN to agree to. Blockading Cuba won't make a blind bit of difference. And then, there's the atomic bomb...'.

Bond outlined the A-Bomb threat while he began work, examining every inch of their quarters for something, anything that he could use. He rifled through drawers and looked through the bar, collecting a few things he hoped would be of use. The bathroom was as impressive as the rest of Maximilian's apartments, a large sunken bath set into a marble and slate floor with another idol in the form of a gargoyle jutting from the wall above. This time the carving looked human, with a jug of some kind held over its head. Experimentally, he pushed at one of two bronzed studs below the gargoyle, at which a gout of water issued from the jug into the bath. Despondently, Bond found the lever to operate the plug, emptying the water with a curiously hollow echoing sound. He cocked an ear, certain he had heard something. Yes, there it was – someone was singing, and that someone sounded distinctly American!. Urgently he went back to the main chamber, over to the sofa on which their belongings had been left by the guards, going through his things to find a slim case which Paige had bought for him. 'Thanks for this – mind if I mis-use it?.'

Unzipping the case Bond revealed a small men's grooming set of the kind gentlemen take on their holidays. He took out the metal shaving mirror, waving it at her. Thoroughly puzzled, she followed him back into the bathroom, curious to see what he had in mind. He angled the mirror into the stone jug over the gargoyle, called out. 'Hey!, Felix!.' After a pause the reply; echoing and distorted.
'Hey yourself – what's new your end?.' 'Not much. We should meet, I'll come to you.' 'Fine with me, James. I've got nothing but time on my hand.'

It took most of the night, Paige keeping watch on the doors to the apartment. Bond, stripped to the waist worked like a navvy, levering away with the makeshift tools to pry the gargoyle from its mountings. He had a close shave at dinner-time, the guards bringing them a trolley piled with a cold meat buffet and a selection of fruit. Casually, he sauntered from the bathroom at Paige's call, toweling his soaking hair as if fresh from the bath rather than drenched with sweat. After a light dinner, he resumed work, chipping and hacking away at the rock to enlarge the opening. The pipework for the bath had been laid down an original shaft, probably part of a primitive drainage system. Bond could now see it went both up and down and was probably three feet across by perhaps slightly less deep. What was worrying him was the iron grilles that he could now see – several of them had been fixed to cover the shaft at intervals of about twenty feet. These looked new, but while their purpose wasn't clear, it was obvious Bond wouldn't get past them. Without a reasonable alternative, he persevered.

He called a halt around two, exhausted. There was a pile of rubble in a corner of the bathroom and the bath itself, which he swept out using a towel. Pulling the pipes for the bath through the hole, he turned the water on for a soak. Eyes closed, he was laying back, a hot towel over his face. He felt the hands at his neck, fingers probing his aching muscles, massaging the day away.
'Mmm, Paradise...' 'Yes, here we are in paradise and we can't wait to get out.' Paige lifted the damp towel, leaning over to find Bond's lips with hers. 'Really Darling, we should have called a plumber, just look at the mess you've ma-JAMES!.' Bond hauled her off her feet into the over-sized bath, pulling her to him.

The Shackleton rolled to a halt by the tower at Ladyville, the ladder already down as the specialist jumped down clutching the film canister. In the cockpit, Flight Officer Benson wiped his brow, relieved to put the strain of the mission behind him. The fuel indicator dials were resting on their stops. The RAF photographic interpreter rushed the film through, cracking the canister open in the dark room and setting to work. Fewer than twenty minutes later and the resident intelligence specialist was poring over the prints with an eyepiece. With infinite patience he set to his task, his keen eye alert for anything out of the ordinary. The Shackleton's navigational track, a red line on the map on the wall, was his principal guide. The prints were all numbered, each corresponding to an area on the chart. Even the smallest island had several photographs taken, the result laid before the interpreter was a black and white haystack. If there was a needle, this man would find it.
Forty-five minutes passed before the door to the communications room banged open, the RAF man waving the prints and his report in victorious fashion. 'Danny, get on the box to London, call up the Ministry and quick about it! - we've got something!.' His colleague rolled his eyes at the theatrics, no doubt the photo-squinter had turned a manta ray into a submarine again. Nevertheless, he calmly took the report and began tapping out the morse on his key.

It was an old trick, but Bond knew the old tricks were often the best. He gave the section of pipe another turn, the wet towel around it now taut, twisted around two of the bars of the grille. The ironwork was certainly sturdy, the bars must have been an inch thick. Now it took all his strength in the confined space, an uncomfortably loud creaking announcing the metal was surrendering to the immense strain. Basic physics; Cotton fibres can bend iron, the water swelling the fibres to lock them together, forming a bond of incredible strength. Leiter had been busy too, using the threaded bar on which his hand was normally screwed as a lever to remove the bath fitting in his apartment. Squeezing through the gap in the bars, Bond stuck his head through into the bathroom.
'Well, this is cozy. You'd best keep watch while I chip away at this, once it's big enough we can move.' Leiter shook his head, tapping it with his plastic hand. 'James I hate to remind you, but we're still prisoners – in a cockeyed pyramid full of armed goons and Christ knows how many Russians – and that same pyramid happens to be in an island brimming with hardware just off the coast of Red Cuba.' 'Oh Felix, such a drama queen. Where's your sense of adventure?.'

There was no mistaking those lines. M finished studying the images from the wirephoto machine that Moneypenny had brought in. The images were less than perfect, but the Bayamo was easily identified in one, her wake lending the image the impression of speed. The problem was, there was no telling where the yacht had come from – a reverse bearing took her to somewhere in a group of islands South of Cuba, several of which showed signs of recent activity. It had been a terrific gamble sending the Shackleton, but all M could say for certain was the yacht had been there, 007 and the American agent were still unaccounted for. The warning from the Deputy Director of the CIA couldn't have been clearer; no rescue attempts. Grimly, he folded the images into a funnel shape, lighting the top with a match. He let the paper burn down, brushing the last of it into the bin before heading out of his office, past an unconvincingly un-intrigued Moneypenny and down the hallway to the communications section.

Ten minutes later and Moneypenny was typing up the day's notes when M walked into her office, hands deep in his pockets. She had never seen the old man like this, and it was killing her not to be able to say anything. 'Penny, be a dear and drop that – I need you to take down a letter, won't take long.' Moneypenny didn't like the sound of this one bit, but, always the professional she set a new sheet of foolscap into her Adler. 'To the Prime Minister of Her Majesty's Government, Please accept my resignation from the Secret Intelligence Service, effective on appointment of replacement.'
Immediately, Moneypenny's hands were over her mouth, but she composed herself to avoid embarrassing the 'Old Man' further. Clearly, he must have been under intolerable strain over this Cuba nonsense. 'Send that off Immediate, would you?.' Turning back to the leather doors M seemed smaller, somehow bowed. She had a spark of hope when the man she had worked for these long years paused. 'Actually, Miss – Penny, would you care to take a drink with me?.'
'Yes, Sir. Yes, I bloody well would!.' Miss Moneypenny followed M into his office for the first and only drink they would ever have as old friends rather than colleagues.

'Fire!, hey – FUEGO!, FIRE!.' Felix stole a swig of whiskey from his tumbler before throwing the rest on the burning sofa, the flame erupting outwards satisfyingly. Unlocking the door, the young guard on duty was struck dumb, unsure of what to do. His companion, an older man, pulled him out of the doorway to go in to tackle the fire, tackled by 007 who cracked a wine bottle over the unfortunate man's head, kicking him over and launching himself at the first guard. By the time the younger man had thought to use his Sub-machine gun, Bond had grabbed his lapels and swung his forehead into the bridge of his nose with all of his power. Groaning and staggering to his feet, the elder guard was felled again, put out for the count by Felix's solid right hand. Quickly they went over the guards, Bond realizing that neither of their uniforms would fit – unless...

The guard posted to cover the lift area was bored and hungry, counting the minutes until his relief. Illicitly, he smoked, knowing that discovery was unlikely. He blinked as the girl marched smartly up to him. He hadn't seen her before, the few women among the Russians were masculine and unappealing. Not like this, though, certainly not buttoned as low as this girl, her breasts threatening to fall from her shirt. Her boot was unlaced, which he pointed out, eager to be helpful. She started to bend, then, as if suddenly conscious of her alarmingly-revealed chest, she straightened up, a hand thrown across that mesmerising cleavage. 'Por favor?.' 'Oh, Si.' Returning her smile, the idiot bent down to tie her laces for her, her right hand smashing down onto his exposed neck, the pistol she had been hiding in her pocket making a nasty cosh. 'Come on!.' She beckoned her companions over to the lift. 'Going up. Stand clear of the doors.' Leiter grinned, punching the button. 'Sorry old man, going down.' Both his companions gave a start as Bond pressed the button marked with . 'We need to take a closer look at the reactor first.'

Taking stock quickly the small group now had three weapons, a PPS43 Russian Sub-Machine Gun and two pistols, of the Tokarev type favoured by the Eastern Bloc and Revolutionaries everywhere. The girl was in uniform, so she carried the PPS. Morning Star was clearly in the later stages of construction. Neither of the three interlopers was expert in their analysis, but they were agreed it had the look of something nearly finished. Bond hoped there was no actual nuclear materiel on site, but had no way of telling. He outlined the 'plan' such as it was; split up, attempt to gather some evidence and get out alive. As the gigantic chamber welcomed the tiny cage into it's presence Leiter smoked his Chesterfield with the air of the condemned enjoying the final smoke. Paige was amused, now her true identity of SMERSH cum MWD agent was in the open, her demeanour had changed noticeably. In whispers, Bond had managed to tell Leiter the basics about the girl – basically she was not to be trusted beyond the current sphere of events; this was an alliance of convenience. Leiter had aired his misgivings about the Soviet agent; wouldn't she just betray them to protect Morning Star?. Bond had been adamant; she would do anything to see Maximillian dead, while he was alive she would be an ally; once he was deal with, she was to be considered hostile.

On the ground level, Leiter and the girl made for the nearest of several accommodation blocks in search of something for Felix to wear that might pass inspection; his tropical suit a give-away. Bond opted for the bold approach, simply walking along as if he owned the place. Spotting what looked like an administration block, he took the decision to take a look. There was a guardroom, but it was unfurnished, clearly not operational, so he walked past the open gate to the steps leading to the main entrance of the two-storey building. Presented with a corridor leading into the building and another criss-crossing it Bond turned left on a whim, finding himself in a hallway full of offices. Almost immediately he was challenged – and this was no Cuban, but a massive Russian in a cheap suit. The man stank of KGB security, all cheap cologne and sweat. 'Ostanavlivatʹsya na dostignutom. Dokumentov.' Damn it!, Bond frantically searched his memory for the Russian. 'Dokumentov' was obvious though. 'Khm , izvinite. U menya net ikh so mnoĭ.' (Erm, Sorry, I haven't them with me.)
'Chto? , Gde vy izuchatʹ russkiĭ yazyk ? DOKUMENTY!' (What?, where did you learn Russian? PAPERS!)

Bond had a moment's inspiration, drawing himself up he became belligerent, poking the broad chest to emphasize his words. 'Teperʹ slushaĭ menya! . Eto ne na Lubyanke ! Vy ne mozhete otnositʹsya k uchenym , kak prestupniki zdesʹ! zhdatʹ, poka ya govoryu vashemu nachalʹstvu vy obrashchalisʹ doktor Flyeĭshman eto moda!' (Now listen to me!. This isn't the Lubyanka! you cannot treat scientists like criminals here! wait till I tell your superiors you treated Doctor Fleischmann this fashion!). Instantly the man's attitude changed, doubt then deference spreading across the broad Slavic features. Bond's ploy seemed to have worked, the Russian slave-mentality and the naturally second-rate Russian of the 'German Scientist' in his favour. He was waved off with a grunt for an apology and a note to himself to take the first refresher course available.

The offices themselves were either bare or in the process of being furnished – nothing for Bond here. He pushed further along, coming to a stairwell. It was a risk, but he could see cheap-suit lurking at the entrance to the corridor he had just come through. The second floor opened into an identical arrangement, but after the first row of empty rooms a left turn took Bond into a canteen. He was just turning to leave when he caught sight of cheap-suit lumbering along urgently – clearly the dolt had discovered Doctor Fleischmann was a fraud. Ducking behind the counter Bond automatically snatched up a container marked PERETS, dodging around the dixies full of bubbling soup and stew, past a cook who clearly couldn't care less and into a staff restroom. The KGB-man blundered in to get a face-full of pepper and a groin-full of shoe leather. Bond finished it with a japanese palm strike (A favourite on the Hand to Hand course, delivered with the fingers curled back and a guaranteed knock-out when used against the jaw.).

He was dusting his fingers free of pepper when he noticed the cook's coats hanging from the rail; to a casual observer they might easily pass for the white coats worn by scientists. Time was against Bond now, he needed to get something and get out, quickly relieving the man of his identity pass and the thick rubber cosh that was, oddly the man's only weapon. Doubtless the man had not been issued a side-arm for disciplinary reasons or drunkenness. Fortune smiles upon the brave and today was to be no exception. The section to the rear was a laboratory area, with heavy metal doors and thick red-rubber seals around them. Clearly this was an area intended for either hazardous material or one designed to protect the occupants. As Professor Bond strolled into the laboratory proper he knew he had come up trumps. The air of controlled chaos pervading the area made it a spy's dream, with scientific staff and technicians bumping into each other in their haste to get the whole place up and running. Obviously a deadline had been imposed, the possible reasons for which Bond didn't concern himself with. He found what he wanted in a side-room, filing cabinets stuffed with paperwork.

Casually, 007 shut the door behind him, setting to work quickly, going through a drawer at a time for anything that looked like useful intelligence material. Finally he had amassed a small pile, perhaps fifteen pages of likely stuff; mainly technical diagrams, cost projections and operating procedures for the reactor. As a bonus, he swiped the radiation dosage guide he found fixed to the inside of the door; it looked the part, which Bond knew was as likely to impress the politicians as the technical stuff was to keep the boffins interested. It all went into his waistband at the back, covered with the white coat.

Bond decided to go out the front, but his plan changed when the alarm went off – a nerve-jangler of a klaxon that had to have been stolen from a U-boat. Suddenly there were boots everywhere, with Bond opting for a hasty withdrawal back past the canteen to what might have been intended as a dormitory – whatever, there was a window, which overlooked some large objects covered in dull green tarpaulins on the concrete outside the building. Bouncing heavily off the middle tarpaulin, 007 was flung off into the fence at the back of the building, finishing up sprawled underneath the whatever-they-weres just in time to see a Soviet military jeep pull screeching up to the guardroom. Noting that the mystery objects were, in fact empty trailers, Bond climbed into the nearest one, out of ideas and out of places to go. He drew the Tokarev, silently checking chamber to ensure there was one 'up the spout'. He had eight shots, but had already counted thirty of the opposition. That made seven, plus one for himself. 007 closed his eyes for a moment, taking a series of deep breaths to steel himself for what had to come. Strangely enough, there was no attempt to enter the building, just what looked like a parade. As the Klaxon's last echo slapped off the rock the impression was heightened by the call of men to attention.

This was something Bond could resist no longer, his curiosity peaking as a file of white coated scientists, men and women, began filing out in pairs to form two ranks opposite what now looked to be a company of elite Soviet Guards Airborne troops, high boots spit and polished to a shine that would have a British Guards Drill Sergeant weak at the knees. Bond seized the chance, easing the hammer forward and clicking the safety before hurriedly dusting himself off and joining the file of scientists, standing next to last on the back row. The arrival of the lift could now be heard across the cavern, the work gangs at a temporary standstill. Resisting the impulse to crane his neck around Bond stood loosely at attention. A Sergeant-Major of Guards swaggered out in front of the assemblage, hands on hips and chest out, of all things a cavalry sword at his hip. The man gave a short nod to his men before turning to the scientists and nodding more deeply. Bond got the message; they were simple civilians, but god help them if they so much as blinked!. This was starting to remind him of his passing-out parade all those years before, when as a gauche officer cadet he joined the Navy reserve.

The VIPs arrived, a pair of motorcycle outriders roaring up impressively before three jeeps came to a sliding halt, the last two disgorging Cuban troops to form a slightly less-impressive Guard of Honour. This time Bond risked it, getting the shock of a lifetime before locking his eyes forward again as the Sergeant-Major brought the parade to attention, goose-stepping forward three paces and stamping to attention as if it were May Day on the Square itself. The sword came out and up in salute, which was returned with a wave of the cigar before the muscular bearded figure wrapped his arms round the Guardsman and kissed both cheeks in comradely fashion. Recovering his composure admirably, the Sergeant-Major led Fidel Castro first past the scientists and then his men. James Bond was genuinely at a loss – as he saw the Cuban supremo's approach he knew he had the chance in a million. Two shots to the head, plus a few at the next targets of importance (The senior scientists were easily distinguishable from their greying and balding heads and their position in the front rank); his housekeeper could have done it, let alone a Double-O!.

The famous pillbox hat was level with Bond, those famous brown eyes made contact with his for a heartbeat, Bond returning the gaze with a smile, his hand casually against his coat ready for a fast draw from the hip. Bond knew it was suicide, plus he had no orders regarding Castro – the moment had passed, the hand relaxed and, he had to admit, the man he had nearly killed seemed genuinely likable, laughing and joking, handing out cigars from a box a flunky carried and even trying a guardsman's cap on before playfully punching the nervous young man in the arm and slapping him on the back. Bond knew this would not be in his report, but his feeling of contented satisfaction over his inaction washed away through his shoes at the commotion that had started up in the building behind. Cheap-suit was clearly awake. The Parade was dismissed as the motorcade sped off to the main reactor building, Bond letting the flock of white coats disperse enough to cover his exit towards the lift, his nerve holding as he could hear shouts behind him, the wrong man indignantly vocal in outrage at being accosted.

Bond caught up with the Motorcade as it stood idly outside the reactor building, waiting for the Cuban leader to finish his tour. Ducking out of sight beneath an external metal fire-escape Bond whipped round, pistol drawn – to find a grinning Leiter already concealed there, in a dirty blue boiler suit and hard hat. 'Relax James, don't say you're getting jumpy on the trigger.' 'Okay I won't say it, then. Where's the girl?.' 'My guess is up there with Comrade Fidel selling us out-yes, I've seen him. She went ahead to take a look inside. Turns out our girl learned more than hoodwinking Double-O men at spy school; she's a bona fide expert on nuclear stuff like this get-up.'
'Yes, I rather thought she was too good to be true. How do we get out of here anyway?, that lift is getting busier by the minute.' 'Beats me, James. Here's our girl.' Out of breath, Paige joined them.
'Here's the bad news – don't ask, there isn't any good. Despite appearances, the reactor itself is ready to go hot, all the structural work is complete and todays visit was the official commissioning ceremony – they start generating power sometime this week, with the undersea cable ready for connection to Cuba as soon as a cable laying craft gets here. I had to get out when extra guards started being posted. Some sort of trouble in the complex.'

James looked down, embarrassed, but Leiter was intrigued. 'So, you've taken the advanced course on all this Atomic stuff; what's the deal with this Morning Star?.' 'Morning Star is a water-cooled graphite-moderated reactor. It's a military design using uranium fuel-not the standard enriched-uranium either, this stuff comes out of the ground in the Belgian Congo by the bucket-load. Extremely simple design. Once it's built it only needs a handful of specialist technicians and staff – the rest can be trained in a day or less.' Bond was getting lost. 'Could it be used to make a bomb?.'
'No – not in the Hiroshima sense of the word at least. Its primary purpose is to provide power, which is probably worse.' It was Leiter's turn for confusion. 'Worse than mushroom clouds and instant sunshine?.' 'Yes, worse. Uranium decays, becomes inefficient. The spent material remains highly dangerous to humans, which is why Maximilian is the last person who should have access to so much of it. Put simply; pack a suitcase half full of TNT, pack the remainder full of uranium and set the lot off with a timer.' '

Bond had that feeling again, exchanging a quick look with Felix that told him the Texan was worried too. Paige ran a hand through her hair and explained; 'It needs to be somewhere high, say the Empire State. New York, Manhatten and a large part of the surrounding area would be desolate for five hundred to a thousand years. Manhatten, New York City. No life of any kind for five centuries. Worse enough for you Mr. Leiter?.' Bond had a glimmer of an idea. 'What if the reactor blew up?, wouldn't the blast be contained under all this rock?.' Felix snapped his finger, 'Hey, yeah, like our tests out in Nevada – don't tell me the Reds haven't got their own stretch of desert full of new craters and melted rock. Well?, what about it?.' Paige sat back, taking her head in her hands before answering. 'You're confusing Atomic bombs with Atomic power – this reactor simply cannot be made to explode. Well, not in the conventional sense of things.' This raised the eyebrows of both men. 'There is one way. If the fuel rods come into contact with air, they oxidise violently, releasing large amounts of hydrogen in proximity to the biggest heat source on Earth. The only problem is, the person operating the rods would be among the first to be killed in the explosion. A suicide mission, in short.' 'Well, I'm seeing this gal from Houston, James is single...' Leiter's joke fell flat,

They had to find another way. They had out-stayed their welcome as it was, to judge from the increased Jeep patrols and squads of soldiers that now sealed every entrance. Leiter wasn't optimistic. 'There's no way out.' Bond ducked back into cover as a couple of trucks whined past. Looking up at the steel stairs a thought occurred to him. 'How does the electricity get out – where does it go after the reactor, I mean?.'


The guards at the steel mesh gate were becoming bored. It was nearly time for dinner and their relief was overdue, nearly ten minutes now. Had the men been more alert, they might have paid closer attention to the driver of the truck that pulled up at the gate, waving his pass impatiently. Another arrogant Russian, no doubt. They had been on duty in this godforsaken hole for a whole month now and not once had one of these foreigners deigned to treat them as equals. So much for the global Comradeship of Socialism. They would show him!; the two Cubans went over the truck as carefully as if they were thinking of buying it. The search took a full three minutes, one guard climbing up onto the jump-step to look inside the cab, while his counterpart climbed into the back; they even looked underneath. Finally, tiring of their sport, they waved the driver through, waiting until the truck had disappeared down the access tunnel before bursting into laughter. Inside the cab of the truck, Paige had to fight off a fit of the giggles, partly because of the absurdity of the situation, but mainly because her 'seat' kept tickling her.

The truck pulled over into a parking area, joining a row of identical trucks. Identical, that its, except that they hadn't had their driver's seat removed and replaced by two spies crouching down and covered in an old oil-stained blanket. Glad to be free of their burden, the two men jumped down behind Paige to stand in awe at the scene before them. If the cavern containing Morning Star was large, this one was long; not the same height, perhaps, but much longer, with the impression of a natural gallery that had been widened and elongated. There were no stalactites here, whatever had created this chamber had done so mechanically and recently. Nor was it empty; the monstrous concrete box running the full length was easily a hundred feet tall and five times that in length; probably more.

'Gentlemen – the Morning Star Turbine Hall-inside there are two Super-Generators, powered by the steam piped through from the reactor at extremely high pressure, each one could provide enough power to run a medium-sized city... at half normal operating conditions. Easily enough for the whole of Cuba, with plenty left to spare.' Bond was starting to lose patience. 'What's beyond that?.'
'Just the outlet channels; assuming the high-voltage switching gear is in the end of the main building, if they are planning an undersea cable there'll be a set of outlet channels of some kind, where the cable will connect to the transformer stage.' 'And we can get out of these channels?.'
'I hope so.' Bond grabbed her by the shoulders.
'You hope so?. You knew about this place from the very start – don't try to deny it I'm not in the mood, and I doubt Felix is either.' 'You got that right Jim. Keep going, I'm finding this all rather fascinating.'

Angrily, Paige pulled herself free of Bond's grasp, but he threw her against the truck with brutal force. 'All right. Let's have it and no games. How come you know so much about this place?. Dropped another file?, happened to read it?. I want answers.' Her defiance required Bond to go further. Deciding against striking her, he drew the Tokarev, cocked it and stood with his legs firmly planted, the pistol at his side. Felix raised his hands in protest 'Now wait a minute, James.' 'Stay out of this, Felix. I'm damned if I take another step without answers.' His eyes blazed into hers, and she knew she was seeing in them her own death. Of the man she had lain with there was nothing, just darkness, empty and void. It was a truly frightening glimpse of what this man would become when a life was to be taken.

'All right. I told the truth, but only about giving myself this assignment. It had been given to another agent, I just changed the name on the orders. The mission was to get close to Max, keep a close eye on him and report on the progress of Morning Star.' 'Report?, how?.' 'There's a radio hidden on the island. There's more; I was to eliminate him if required. I was also given the name of several potential traitors among the scientists, those classed as politically unreliable, also to be watched and eliminated if necessary.' Bond thought about it for a moment and let the hammer down on the pistol. 'One more question, then we get out of here to that radio of yours. Why did Max leave your father on that beach?.' 'It took me years to find the answer to that same question.'

It wasn't much of an answer, two words; Blue Steel. From what Paige had read in those files, her father was taking the plans for the British nuclear missile to the Soviets, but Max stole them and left them behind. He was paid $100,000 in gold bars for the plans, but raised the price at the last minute, delivering only half. Paige intended to find the second half of those plans and destroy them.

Sitting on a pile of crates, the group took a moment to digest this information, Felix's Chesterfields coming out for an unusual and risky conference. Leiter wasn't sold. 'Destroy them?, surely your father wanted the Soviets to get those plans.' 'He was an idealist, he believed no one side should have an advantage. If you know anything about Blue Steel you'll know what it means. It's simply too dangerous for either side to have such a weapon. I can't do anything about the West having it, but I don't believe that the way to peace will be found through having more weapons.' Bond admired the sentiment, yet felt sick at being used this way. Love!, the thought of it; a slushy word for a slushy sentiment. So!, that's how it felt!, to be used by another... The bile rising in his gorge was quenched by the overpowering bitterness of cynicism, a cruel smile of irony on Bond's face. The girl was a professional after all!. 'Okay, no hard feelings. Just business, right?.' 'Yes James. As you say. Just business.' 'Speaking of business, don't you two love-birds think it's time to get going?.' Bond couldn't have agreed more, shaking his head as he followed his companions towards the building. Once more it seemed life certainly liked to play tricks on 007; all along he'd wanted the Blue Steel job, but this was the last place he'd have thought to have stumbled upon it.

The locker room was busy when Leiter breezed in, which made for good cover as he set about stealing two boiler suits to go with his. The work crews in this area seemed to either be in blue or white, so he took a chance on the blue, hoping that would get them through un-challenged. Returning to the storage bins where he had left them he handed them over, waiting while they changed. The main engineering spaces were as impressive as the size of the building had suggested, gantries to the centre and either side of the great hall with a gantry crane running along below the ceiling. An operating crew was at work on the crane, lending scale to the proceedings by appearing to be insect sized as it slid along regally in the rafters.

The Super-Generators themselves defied description, each like some massive metal city – overall they were pipe shaped as expected, but the inhuman scale of the machines was un-nerving, even to a Texan, Leiter's low whistle was expression enough. The klaxon sounded, startling them, but this turned out to be a shift change, all the blue boiler suits clambering down gantries and out from under machinery, grateful to have another long stint behind them. The three kept moving, ever deeper into the bowels of the monster. 'Do you see what I see?.' Bond answered Leiter's question with a noncommittal grunt. Paige was the last to see it; the shift coming onto the floor were all in white. 'Ahh crap. Trust old Felix to pick the wrong shirt.' 'Keep walking-I can't see the end yet, but that gantry-' Bond pointed a finger-' That looks like it leads somewhere. When the balloon goes up, run like hell.' Paige had left the PPS back at the truck, which left the two pistols. Bond and Leiter were ready to shoot their way out if they had to.

'Hey!, Consiga el culo en movimiento!' At the bottom of the gantry a confused supervisor emerged, looking around for the cause of the shouts, on seeing the three blue figures he started to berate them for their laziness, but fell silent as Felix shoved the barrel of his Tokarev into his chest. 'Hi there. Which way to the outlet channels?.' Bond tried Spanish; 'Canales de salida', at which the dumbstruck figure pointed towards a stairway leading up the side of the building, where it connected with a catwalk leading out over the hall to a large central metal room suspended from a series of pipes leading all the way up from the ground level to exit through the ceiling at an angle.
'Doesn't look like a way out.' Bond might have agreed with Felix's doubts, but Paige had already set off at a trot to the stairs. 'We'll soon find out. Go, go!' Bond waved Leiter on after the girl, smiling at the supervisor, then whipping his pistol up to fire two quick shots.

By the time the man had opened his eyes again Bond had gone, leaving him alone with the badly wounded guard behind him, two bullet holes through his arm and shoulder. This time the Klaxon blasts sounded in alarm as the new shift evacuated the floor, to be replaced by squads of heavily-armed guards. It took a full minute to reach the catwalk, all three gasping for breath as they jog-shuffled along the span. A sudden whining howl and a spark from one of the supports announced the outbreak of hostilities, the shot soon followed by another. Bond saw a group of tiny Lilliputian soldiers directly below, a flash from one becoming a zzup! As the bullet flashed by his leg. From up here the whole building stretched away dizzily below and around the alarmingly narrow metalwork. Paige in particular seemed to be fighting an attack of nerves, but a reassuring hand on her shoulder from Felix lent her courage.

The room ahead was occupied, shapes visible through the windows, the bulk of a huge man appearing in the opening door ahead, a large spanner clutched menacingly in one hand and a toothless grin on the broad features. 'Down!, Paige get down!.' Cursing, Felix couldn't get a shot off at the advancing bulk, the girl was frozen on the spot. Seeing the danger, Bond grasped both rails, pistol still in hand, kicking up to get his feet onto the thin bars. Forcing himself to stand, with a brief moment's loss of balance – and the clattering, dismaying loss of his pistol – he flailed his arms once, yelling down to Leiter. 'Felix!, pistol!.' The Texan understood, tossing the pistol up for Bond to catch as the spanner was poised to smash down onto Paige's skull. Heart-stoppingly, Bond fumbled the catch, the Tokarev slipping from his right hand... into his left. He fired. The shot took the man in the bicep, the spanner tumbling down from the rafters to smash the rifle from the hands of a soldier as he was about to shoot Bond.

'Get up. Up! Bystro!' Using the wounded giant as a shield, Bond entered the room. It was a large space filled with rows of electrical control panels and an observation gallery. There were upwards of people inside, including two women, all standing or in the process of doing so having heard the shots and commotion. Pushing the injured man into a chair Bond directed the nearest woman to attend to his wound, waving his companions past to the hatchway at the far end. Standing on the roof of the building the outlet channels were either side of the hatchway, each with its own access hatch in the side of the gigantic steel pipes, the diameter of these easily over two metres. Opening the nearest hatch Bond could see the high-tension cable at the core of the channel, a rubber coated beast as thick as a man's thigh. These stretched away, both down and up, being held central by sets of springs mounted at intervals along the pipe. The angle was steep, but he reckoned they could make it – assuming no-one thought to start shooting up the pipe – or switched the reactor on, the heat from the cables probably fatal to a human. 'These wires, they must go up to the surface, right?.' Leiter sounded dubious. 'Well, we've only got five shots left, so we'll be finding out soon enough, won't we Paige?.' Bond's sickly-sweet smile was not returned. Leaning back into the roof hatch, he called out for the workers to get out of the way and cover their ears, firing the remaining five shots rapid fire into the electrical control panels. He hoped it would be enough. Jamming the empty pistol into the roof hatch lever, Bond reckoned they had bought a little time, going over to the outlet channel pipe. 'Ladies first, Texans second.' Paige paused for a second, going into the pipe cautiously, stepping onto the springs and reaching upwards. With his one good hand, Felix was naturally worried about the climb. 'Well?, how is it in there?.' 'Come on, Felix, its easy. Just don't look down.'

It certainly wasn't easy, but they managed, clambering up the steep incline with no more than the odd slip or slide into each other. Several sweat-soaked minutes later and they emerged into a concrete box room, the hatchway for which was dogged – from the outside. Bond slumped onto the floor, beaten. 'Now what?, knock and say Open Sesame?.' Felix wasn't used to seeing his friend give up. 'Sure, James, why not?.' Banging on the hatch with his plastic hand, he shook his head in shock when the hatch was opened, a tanned face peering in.'Que pasa?.' Anyone watching the Cuban would have seen his head jerk back, then his body suddenly being dragged from sight into the open hatchway. No-one was watching.

The cache was contained in three boxes, each waterproofed, buried in the loose topsoil and camouflaged. The first had contained the radio and batteries, the second food and water, as well as a rubberised sheet for shelter and a set of canvas jungle boots and camouflage overalls in Paige's size. Several handy items had been thoughtfully included, such as a belt with water bottles and pouches containing the boy scout stuff that soldiers all over the world actually rely on for their survival; a torch, knife and so forth. It was the contents of the third box that Bond and Leiter were busying themselves with, however. As well as an AK-47 there was a Makharov pistol with silencer, a bag of grenades and two satchel demolition charges, plastic explosive type. The most interest had been reserved for the rocket launcher-a new type neither of the men had seen before. Paige had given them a quick run-through; the launch tube was fixed to the ground by a folding bipod, then a sighting arrangement was slotted on before aiming. The tube was then loaded with the rocket – a high-explosive warhead with a massive punch, launched by a mechanical timer that could be selected manually or by a booby-trapped wire. When fired, the tube and sight arrangement were melted into unrecognisable scrap by the rocket flame.

Headphones to his ear, Bond tapped out the morse on the Russian set. BARRACUDA STOP URGENT STOP BARRACUDA STOP URGENT ANY STATION STOP ANY STATION – The signal was kept to the bare minimum, just co-ordinates and a coded reference to Morning Star. He waited for the reply, taking a deep pull at the water bottle Paige handed to him. The reply came in typically terse style; a brief acknowledgement plus a set of instructions. Felix was busy preparing a snack – of sorts, from the food supply. Bond finished listening to the reply, making sure he had memorized the details before signing off gratefully. Suddenly things had changed, withdrawal now far from his thoughts. 'Well, that changes things. Felix, I'll need a word when we've got a moment.' Paige said nothing, but Bond could feel the annoyance from where he now sat. 'You said you had a radio, not an armoury and food. Standard MWD issue I take it?.' 'Something like that, yes.' She accepted a saltine cracker and beef paste sandwich from Leiter. Bond sniffed his suspiciously, taking an experimental bite. Paige couldn't help laughing at the face he pulled and Bond joined in despite himself. 'Now I can see why Soviet agents are so tough. If you can survive the food, you'd be indestructible.' The two old friends took the chance to speak alone, apart from the girl. From where they stood, just inside the treeline the view across the island was magnificent. The calm before the storm. Felix handed Bond one of the last of his precious Chesterfields, lighting another for himself. 'So, what's the news from the outside world?.' 'Theres going to be a beach party – and we're the hosts.'

The Shackleton lumbered off into the pale blue dawn at Ladyville, just over two hours flying time distant. Unknown to all on the island, M's last official act as Chief had been to send a signal authorising the rescue mission, but until Bond had called in with his location, the aircraft had remained at a state of instant readiness. The hold of the Shackleton contained an unusual cargo; a small force of Elite Royal Marines. Just twelve in number, the men crammed into the back were drawn from the highly secretive Special Boat Squadron, itself descended from the legendary Cockleshell Heroes that wreaked havoc in many daring missions behind enemy lines. Each man knew Sergeant Thewlett personally, inevitable in such a close-knit unit, and this was a matter of honour. With blackened faces they sat, each lost in his own thoughts. Some smoked, despite the prominent STRICTLY NO SMOKING signs, others checked their equipment and weapons. They wore the new experimental camouflage pattern tropical weight shirts and olive green trousers over canvas and rubber jungle boots. On the ground personal choice dictated the choice of headgear from bush hats and sweat bands, only one man, 'Sandy' Carew wearing the distinctive Australian 'digger' hat, a nod to his roots with the Australian Commandos. Jumping with the Mark Two parachute, it would be-unusually-a day-time operation. The Royal Navy was to make the pickup later that day, the details were sketchy due to the covert and last-minute nature of it all, but the Submarine HMS Trafalgar was operating in the Caribbean and the current betting was on a rendezvous at sea and a ride back to Belize, where the men had been on a jungle training course.

Bond checked the time again, holding the torch carefully so as to shield the light from prying eyes. On the way to the isolated beach they had already had to dodge two patrols and it was certain there would be more now the whole island knew of their escape. The torch, with red signal filter attached, was a nifty East German type based on the German wartime model used by the infamous Brandenburger Kommando units. He sent three flashes, waited thirty seconds then repeated the signal. There! Flash – flash – flash, a tiny pinprick of red light out to sea. Thirty seconds then another three came, followed by the sound of waves gently slapping against rubber then a vagueness that slowly resolved into a boat, several dark figures dimly visible.
'Commander Bond, Felix?, that better be you – Godammit Pancho, keep the lousy boat steady!. Where is that Goddamn limey anyhow?.' Laughing, Felix stepped forward from his concealment place between the rocks and waved his lighter. 'Benny?, well I'll be... what the hey?.' The voice came again, closer now. 'Well, you said you needed an Army. I brought one.'

Benny the Breeze finished his hurried explanation, shrugging and gesturing wildly to emphasise the trouble he had gone to to help the stranded party. 'So then you missed the Midnight show, great act by the way, Carmen Roxana, best singer we had in months... Anyway, I gets a call from a guy, can't say who, says he's looking to get his friend Bond out of a nook, thats what we call a hole in Brooklyn, so I says sure, where is this Bond?. Anyway, he says he's on some island, but its all sewn up tight with Cubans and Russians and theres no way. So, I figured the odds and called in some favours, which is to say every favour I was ever owed...'
'Benny, I hate to interrupt a pal, but we're kinda out on a limb here if you get my drift.'
'Okay, sure, I get it. Benny always comes through – I brought some guys, actually bought 'em is more correct. They're all ex-Cubans, like you wanted, all keen to take back the old Motherland.'
Leaning closer, the flamboyant Mafioso lowered his voice. 'Just don't tell 'em this ain't Cuba. They all think we're on Cuban soil – I didn't want them to lose interest. Speaking of which, this all adds up to, well it won't be cheap Felix, so I gotta tell ya, this job don't pay there would be unpleasantness.' Leiter was incredulous. 'Why you lousy crook... are you threatening the CIA?.'
'Just business Felix, nuttin' personal. Anyway, I figure your credit's good. Okay, Pancho, better bring the boys in.'

At a signal from Benny's man Pancho, first one, then two, then four boats began emerging from the black waters. As each made the shore, it was quickly dragged up into the treeline. After nearly half an hour, the group was complete. Bond took a rough count, coming up with an estimate of around sixty men-Benny had claimed there were a hundred, but when Bond confronted him over the discrepancy the New Yorker had just shrugged and smiled coyly. They would have to do; sixty men, armed with a motley collection of weaponry that ranged from rusty shotguns to what looked to be brand new Thompsons, the 'Tommy Gun' of gangster notoriety.

The group had appointed several men as Lieutenants, Bond grouping these men around a hasty plan of the base he had drawn in the sand, seashells standing in for artillery pieces and machine-gun posts. 'Now, listen carefully. This is where we are, this arrow is North and these are the directions we will attack from. There are two main areas of defence, judging from what we've seen an inner and outer ring...' Briefing the irregular troops took just ten minutes; Bond estimated they only had ammunition for that long, besides which he was sure that after that time they would either be dead or have forgotten the plan anyway. With a last look round, he made his AK ready, cocking the weapon and making sure the fire selector was in the 'Safe' position. Felix cocked the Colt .45 he had borrowed from Benny and Paige, in her camouflaged overalls followed suit with the Makharov.
Bond stood in front of the expectant group. He knew none of these men, only that they had risked their lives for their country and he felt admiration and gratitude; these men were not professionals, but still had answered the call. 'Gentlemen. For Cuba.' 'Por Cuba!, Por Cuba!.' The shout went up into the trees, taken up by sixty voices. Benny's army was going to war.


The military Headquarters building for the island was concealed in the stone of a ruined temple adjacent to the main pyramid. On duty in the radio room Corporal Gonzales of the Cuban military was losing hand over fist, throwing his hand away angrily. Sergeant Perez gloated as he made twenty-one for the third time in a row, as well he might since the cards they used were his specially marked deck. The buzzer from the radio console saved him from discovery as he pocketed his winnings and the cards. Reluctantly, Gonzales answered the call, getting a screech of static and an unintelligible babble through the loudspeaker. Pressing the 'transmit' button he realised that the fool at the other end was holding theirs down, so couldn't hear him anyway.
"Sargento, yo no puedo conseguir a través de - ¿Cuáles son sus órdenes? '.
('Sergeant, I can't get through – what are your orders?.') 'What do you think?, some drunken idiot is keying the mike. Call the stations on the emergency channel, channel twelve-a radio check, find out which moron doesn't answer and I'll go kick their ass.' Unconcerned, the Sergeant looked over the map on the wall, which showed the island divided into sectors, each with its own radio post.
There was no need for the emergency channel-at that second a massive explosion blasted up into the sky from the area designated as Sector G. Knocking the stunned Corporal aside, Perez stabbed at the button, yelling into the microphone. 'Attencion!, attencion!, informe de todos los sectores!, guardias para el Sector G!'. While he waited for the sectors to report in, he cuffed his subordinate round the ears, ordering him to sound the General Alert on the air-raid siren outside.

The sounds of gunfire and the distinctive crump of grenades exploding came from several directions, while on the ground Benny's men were making steady progress towards the main pyramid. Felix had taken command of a group of twenty Cubans, with the aim of hitting the outer ring of defences around the island as a diversion for the main attack. Bond had taken up position opposite a pair of heavy anti-aircraft guns, the ominous shape of a tracked vehicle behind, a communications and headquarters vehicle. He scanned the greenery intently, hardly blinking, concentrating on his surroundings. Jungle warfare is one of the most demanding kinds, the shadows and greenery natural camouflage for those deadly little tricks and traps; miss an exposed equipment pouch and you miss the sniper, miss the tripwire and be certain the shrapnel won't miss you. Seeing nothing, it was time to move closer.

'Now what the?... well, somebody sure has good friends in the Kremlin. Felix ducked back down behind the earth bank, careful not to be seen. If there had been any doubt about the Soviet commitment to this Atomic plant, Felix now had none. He knew about the Davina missile, of course, the latest Russian anti-aircraft missile got a mention in every briefing now-the man who got hold of one intact would be an Agency legend. Officially, NATO called the rocket the SA-2 Guideline , although details were sketchy it was estimated to have an operational height exceeding fifty thousand feet, with a separate radar guidance system. Felix was glad they had no planes over the island. Such as the Shackleton which was at this very moment ten minutes out to sea.

On the other side of the island, Bond had crawled to within a few feet of the nearest gun position, the four barrels pointing lazily skyward, the gunner carelessly smoking. The fighting was yet to reach this sector, so there was no need for alarm. The man was a veteran of the revolution, and knew better than to panic at the first sign of trouble. He died smoking, Bond's knife cutting his windpipe, left arm tightly holding the Cuban as he kicked, Bond making sure of death before releasing the body. Taking the man's bush hat and cigar, 007 climbed into the gunner's seat.

The men manning the second gun were jumpy, neither had been in the military long and they were unsure of themselves. The gunner was staring into the jungle, eyes wide at the sound of gunfire. His mate was crouched alongside the gun carriage, equally tense. A glance over at the first gun gave him hope; look at Alfredo!, smoking coolly without a care!. He waved, getting a laconic wave of the hand back in reply. His gunner was about to scold him for taking his eyes off the danger area when the whole world exploded. At this range and used in the ground role the Soviet 14.5 mm anti-aircraft system is one of the most fearsome weapons known to man, the high-explosive shells designed to punch massive holes through aircraft left the second gun an unrecognisable mess of twisted steel. Of its crew only the mate remained, lying in the mud behind the wreckage and praying he would survive. Bond swung the barrels round to engage the communications vehicle, but the Russian crew were obviously professionals, the tracks screaming in protest as the driver sent it lurching off into the foliage. Bond gave it a few bursts anyway, but doubted he had done any damage to the armoured beast.

The fighting was getting closer, the proof in the number of stray rounds blasting past; a loud krak-thump as the odd round came through the trees, with a thwok! sound when one hit solid wood. Things were getting hairy, so Bond decided to head to the pyramid, determined now to destroy Morning Star. Paige had been behind him, part of a group with Benny, but she was no-where to be seen. From out of nowhere a clattering announced the arrival of a helicopter, the craft roaring overhead at just over tree height to hover above the nearest group of attackers. Bond saw the danger, but it was too late, as he loosed off a long burst at the chopper a silver canister rolled from its belly, to fall amongst the patriots bursting open in an explosion of flame and smoke. Horrified, 007 was powerless to help the poor devils who writhed around in mute agony, living balls of fire in their own private hell. Mechanically, 007 raised the kalashnikov, thumbing the switch to automatic. Firing short bursts he moved round the perimeter of the holocaust, ending the misery for those he could see. A shot from nearby sent him crouching into the aim, but it was a Russian Sergeant of Guards, administering mercy shots of his own. Locking eyes, Bond looked into the blue eyes opposite for any sign of hostility, but the Sergeant merely nodded in acknowledgment. Returning the gesture saw both men reach a kind of personal truce, each going on his way unharmed.

In the cabin of the helicopter, Chago tapped the pilot on the shoulder, whirling a finger round to indicate another pass. The pilot nodded, banking the machine into a tight pass around the pyramid and leveling out in a low run towards the area where the fighting was fiercest. On the ground Benny took a break, swigging thirstily from a hip flask one of his Cubans had passed round. The men were in good spirits, despite several casualties. They did tend to bunch together, but this was to be expected from untrained men. Giving the thumbs-up, Benny hefted his tommy gun, giving the opposition half a magazine. The machine-gun at the base of the treeline opened up, sending chunks of wood and sand spinning and spraying up. 'Hey, senor Benny.' Pancho pointed at the sky, where the helicopter was flying away from a large fire on the ground. Benny eyed the whirly-bird nervously as it flashed overhead. Unless they got past that machine-gun, into the safety of the trees they were finished.

Chago leaned out from the open doorway, grinning evilly as the helicopter turned to attack the main group. He hauled the canister to the edge of the door, ready to slide it out onto the fools below.
Fumbling with the spanner, Felix wished he'd left this to Bond, the tricky perch and all the noise not helping one bit. He had to hand it to 'his' Cubans, they sure were game – throwing un-primed grenades at the rocket crew to send them running off in a panic, the prize the intact missile system itself. Nearly there! - one more turn and he would be the proud owner of the guidance box from a Guideline missile. What he hadn't bargained for was the damned thing deciding to take off with him still aboard!.

Up on the hillside a glint from binoculars was briefly visible from beneath the camouflage netting cover. Lowering the binoculars, the Captain of Artillery nodded to his next in command. The radar had been correct and the target was indeed an enemy aircraft; a four-engined bomber of British type was the Captain's assessment. No matter; they would bring it down, a legitimate target, no doubt connected to the bandits who were about to be swept into the sea by the Guards troops held back in readiness. 'Tselevaya na poltory tysyachi , priobreteniye semidesyati protsentov vosemʹdesyat pyatʹ, start!' (Target at fifteen-hundred, acquisition seventy percent, eighty five, LAUNCH!.')
To a background of noisy chirping, the fire control officer slammed his hand down on the release button, keeping it down to allow the automatic system to fire the missile from it's launcher in the clearing below, with, unseen a petrified Texan hanging on to the guidance control box for grim death.

'RED LIGHT ON – STAND IN THE DOOR' The RAF Jumpmaster shouted the words, but knew no-one would hear him. Still, it was standard drill, and the men shuffled forward towards the door as one, each hooked onto the cable running above the door. In his headphones, the Loadmaster gave his colleague three fingers followed by a finger to thumb zero. Thirty seconds.

Far below, Felix hit the ground hard, knocking the wind out of his lungs. He rolled away as the rocket-blast blew his boys off their feet, surprised to find he was still holding the guidance box. Thirty-odd feet of missile screamed off the rail and with a phenomenal WHURSSHHH lifted into the sky at a frightening velocity.

Chago heaved at the incendiary bomb, but was sent sprawling over it as the Russian pilot saw the launch plume from the forest below. 'Boga nyet!' The Russian heaved at the control stick, but to no avail; the rocket went crazy, spinning and gyrating out of control. From the ground Felix saw the thing bucking around the sky and, for a moment he was convinced it would fall back into the clearing. It roared around the helicopter and toppled into the tail boom. Nearly a mile away, Bond whipped his head around, shocked at the scale of this latest explosion, parts raining down across a wide area.

'GO-GO-GO!' With scarcely a second between them a the men jumped, anxious to keep it tight, a second at this speed the difference between landing in a group or a hundred feet away in the jungle. The plane was down to five hundred feet for its run, the height chosen to help keep the men together and avoid too much time spent helplessly dangling in the air.

The first pair crashed down into the canopy, coming to a sudden halt. One man felt his parachute slipping, quickly pulling at a bag on his leg, sending it tumbling down to the jungle floor eighty feet or so below. Rappelling down the canvas strap that had been rolled in the bag he hit the ground hard, rolling to the side and drawing his pistol to cover them, pulling the last of the strap through the harness each man wore for the purpose as the next man's boots came down next to him. This was repeated until nine of the men had either landed in the trees or clearings, months of training proving their value as the parachutists transformed into SBS teams. Jumping on a small island, the inevitable; the last three men went into the drink, jettisoning their parachutes as they came down to the water-they knew the trick; when the horizon looked normal, they were about to go in (More than one parachutist had a long and fatal fall before this became common knowledge.). Partially inflating their buoyancy vests, the three stragglers began striking out for shore.

Maximilian listened to the stream of chatter on the radio. Instructing the Captain to take the Bayamo to full speed he went to his state-room. There, he found Ortega coming from his bathroom, in a track-suit. The man was in excellent shape; he would need to be to kill this James Bond. What a fool he had been to imagine this pendejo gringo would have the intellect to comprehend his plans!. Well, this would end with the knife. Going to a sofa Maximilian pressed two of the button studs, the back falling open to reveal a small safe. Spinning the dial, the 'Marques' pulled out a folder containing the precious Blue Streak plans. Whatever happened on the island he knew these were as good as hard currency, but he would not leave the gold the Russians had paid him, or the printing plates. The reactor had been a dangerous diversion, more for Castro's reputation than any real gain. He would raise the price again-perhaps even offer the all-important blueprints to the Americans!, surely if the Reds would pay the rich US would pay double, triple to keep the plans from the Soviets. With the plates, the operation could still go ahead. Better to take at least one of the old forgers as insurance... 'Ortega, you will find Bond, then kill him.' 'And the others?, the American and the girl, Senorita Turner?.' 'The same. Do not delay. We leave tonight.'

'All right gentlemen, you know the score.' Sergeant-Major Mickey Greene was an old hand at this sort of work, with a career going back to the closing stages of the war in Italy. The no-nonsense figure was short, but built like a barrel, a true Cockney from Stepney. 'Now that we're all here,' his eye took in the recent arrivals, the three men dripping wet from their swim. 'We've got three teams to cover the whole place, so we just keep it simple. First; find this Bond chappie, get him out, no messing. The Yank and the girl-they're not our responsibility, but we'd best bring them out anyway.'
'What about the Reactor?, the personnel, scientists, that sort. What's the word on this from upstairs?.' The question came, not unexpectedly from Munro, a dour Scot with a pedants chain of thought. 'Well, we don't know – each team's got a radiation meter, if anyone starts feeling funny best get out sharpish. They'll want some pictures, so Davey G thats you nice and busy, don't ponce about with document photos, just bag the lot and scarper. Jack and Davey B you've each got a radio, get set up and wait for further-sorry about the lack of gen, but I only got this much when we were already in the air. Alright, piss off, the lot of yer.'

With that briefest of briefings out of the way, the men broke up into three four-man patrols, each taking a different route at intervals of five minutes. The last two men swept the beach clear as they went. A minute after they had left the beach, no-one would ever know they had ever been there.

'DE TODAS LAS UNIDADES DE EMERGENCIA STAND-BY POSICIONES, CON TODAS LAS UNIDADES DE EMERGENCIA STAND-BY POSICIONES.' The voice over the tannoy was that of a man used to command, sounding almost relaxed as it echoed around the complex. Bond made sure he was ready, checking himself over quickly. He had hoped to find a uniform to replace the boiler suit-green seeming to be la mode above ground, but his luck seemed to have drawn the line below sartorial matters. As well as the AK-47 he had a Colt.45 tucked into a pocket and a holdall containing the satchel charges and two grenades in his pockets. There were just three magazines for the rifle, not nearly enough, but he hoped there would be more in the complex itself. Silently, he stepped into the freight car, hoping the metal sides were thick enough to stop a bullet. Up ahead, one of Benny's men reached up to move the locomotive's accelerator lever to half-speed and press the starter button. With shouts of alarm, the guards nearest to the train began running to try to stop it as it began rolling down the track. As the nearest came alongside the freight cars, Bond lashed out with the butt of the Kalashnikov, sending the man sprawling to bring the next down in a tangle of arms and legs. The Bond Railway Company continued on it's inaugural – and terminal journey.

'¿Qué demonios?.' The men manning the self-propelled artillery piece looked on in surprise at the unmanned train, then chaos as automatic fire began hailing down on them from the car. Bond ran through half a magazine, giving an observation post up in the trees the last few bursts. He had the satisfaction of seeing a body topple down before ducking back down to change magazines.

'Mensaje entendido, vamos a detenerlo' Clipping the walkie-talkie to his belt, the soldier at the guard-post outside the pyramid entrance unslung his rifle, cocking it as he relayed the message 'He's in one of the mine cars-you jump up on the loco and stop it, soon as he shows himself, pow!.' The chosen man nodded, steadying himself to make the jump. The locomotive was going at perhaps twenty miles an hour, but the man was quick, vaulting into the seat to slap the lever back to 'stop' then rolling off to help cover the cars. Nothing. Both men looked at each other, shrugging. They moved forward, down the carriages, but the train was empty!. There was just a green canvas bag in the last car. As he opened it, the soldier heard an ominous klik and just had time to see the grenade pin attached to the neck of the bag... BOOMF!. The second Cuban staggered back, covered in bits of his colleague and riddled with shrapnel. His last thought as he saw the man walking around the corner of the train was; 'Oh.' Then there was nothing.

Bond walked up the train, throwing down the satchel charges on the front passenger carriage. Wedging himself low on the floor of the locomotive, he reached up to push the lever forward to drive into the pyramid.

The guards at the lift were from the Soviet Airborne forces, there were four of them, well armed and trained, behind a hastily erected sandbag barrier. They watched the black mouth of the tunnel, the lighting above making it seem even darker. As the sound of the train intensified the Sergeant released his safety catch with a click, the signal for the others to follow suit, the machine-gunner pulling the cocking handle back on his RPD and releasing the safety, ready to send a belt of 7.62 ammunition into the target. The train, however, did not arrive, squealing to a halt, brakes sparking in the darkened tunnel. Silence. A long minute passed, the four soldiers keeping all weapons trained on the tunnel. Eventually, the Sergeant realised they were being foolish, acting like frightened schoolgirls. Chastened, yet angry at himself he sent two of the men over to investigate. They reached the tunnel, one behind the other, going in fast. Six shots sounded, followed by a long burst – then again, silence.

From his viewpoint under the locomotive, Bond had been cramped, the view less than ideal. The boots rushing towards him were too tempting, the shots had been his, shattering the men's ankles, one firing a burst into the tunnel wall. His ears ringing from the noise, 007 hit the lever, running back to dive into the first mine car. As the little train rolled out into the chamber, the RPD gunner opened up, the machine gun blasting the passenger carriages full of holes. Throwing himself flat in the little car, 007 tossed his last grenade out, which exploded fairly harmlessly against the sandbags, the two remaining guards ducking away. By the time they had cautiously raised their heads – behind their barrels, the train had gone on its way off into the next tunnel. The moans from the wounded men in the tunnel brought them back to reality, the Sergeant walking out cautiously to stare after the departing train, as it rounded the next corner to disappear from view into the 'Archeology rooms'. Well, that was a dead end – and a lethal trap for the crazy durak who had attacked them. He waved his remaining man over to help him get the wounded over to the lift.

The lead scout froze, as did the next man. The third man in the patrol slowly closed up to number two, while the last man simply slid off to the side to go down on one knee, watching the rear, the barrel of his sterling sub-machine gun slowly following the movements of his head, alert to the minutest signs of danger. After what seemed an eternity, the scout took his left hand from the grip of his pump action shotgun to signal with a waving motion forward, the third man – the patrol commander - stepping past number two, who was armed with a Light Machine Gun, (the old-fashioned Bren gun given a new lease of life with a conversion to NATO 7.62 calibre). Like their rear security man, the commander hefted a sterling. The scout, still rigid, brought his hand up, splaying his pinkie and thumb out to form a line, then nodding forwards. A tripwire was just visible, but only just – strung at waist height across the path. The commander took a quick look himself, finding a Soviet anti-personnel grenade had been rigged up, fixed to the trunk of a palm. As he expected, anyone who survived the trap and who tried walking around it would simply trigger the real booby-trap, the string of mines hidden in the soft earth. It took no more than a minute for him to render the grenade safe, simply running some waterproof tape around it before cutting the wire with his naval-issue clasp knife. The scout waited another minute then moved forward at the crouch, shotgun questing for targets as he made his slow, silent and deadly progress towards the Headquarters building..

Now on full alert, the Soviet troops in the booby-trap chamber were poised to open fire, literally; the others giving the flamethrower man a wide berth as he stood in the 'invisible' gallery ready to spray death down onto the intruder on the train. Sitting on the lip of the last car, Bond waited for the right moment, when the first passenger car would emerge beneath the gallery. He tensed, ready to roll backwards from the train. With horrific force a jet of oily flame lanced down to envelop the locomotive, licking back greedily to consume the carriages, the satchel in the first enveloped in flames.

'CHRIST!' Bond had a split-second to push himself down to the floor of the mine car, before the orange-yellow bloom that ripped the air from his lungs and sent the last two cars careering back down the track. He had just enough time, just to clap his hands over his ears and open his mouth, but although he had avoided ruptured eardrums he would be effectively deaf for some time. He never saw the man with the flamethrower stagger, immolated, falling to the ground next to the macerated corpses of his companions. The blast itself continued down the paths of least resistance, slamming through the bronze doors into the printing room and down the tunnel, where after knocking Bond aside the next victims were the two remaining guards by the lift. In the outer entrance to the tunnels, the incoming SBS men ducked down as the rolling boom breathed its last over them as a sharp gust of warm air and dust.

Maximilian pushed the old man in front of him, behind two of his most loyal men, four more bringing up the rear with their burdens in two fireproof metal boxes. Each box contained two sets of printing plates, plus a generous amount of forged currency. Maximilian would not be short of funds to continue his operations, he would... but the thought fell from his mind as the doors ahead exploded inwards, a searing blast of super-heated air raging towards the party, the two men in front taking the worst of it, but both declared themselves fit to continue. Luckily for him, the current owner had discovered the passageways installed by the originals, whatever caused that blast it would be foolish to go out that way – plus he doubted his Russian comrades would be impressed by this withdrawal. Not for the first time, Maximilian decided to leave his friends behind. With curt commands, he summoned more of his men. He would need more than this party to move it all.

In the lift chamber, the Russian Sergeant climbed groggily to his feet, to see his machine gunner lurching drunkenly. Comically, both men were now naked, apart from their boots. The SBS patrol had hit the ground, low and to the left, alternately lying prone or kneeling, ready to deliver a lethal volley. There came a scuffling noise, as if people were running, coming closer. Sergeant-Major Greene frowned into the darkness, then bellowed a warning as he waved the two Russians forward.. 'Stone the crows, look at these two!, all right, lads we've got some prisoners-don't think the search will take long, mind.' Faces to the floor, the cowed Russians walked out, hands up in the universal gesture of surrender. Smiling, one of the SBS men handed each a leaf to cover their embarrassment.


Bond had been lucky not to have been incinerated. He realised he had lost the AK somewhere, but still had the Colt and his teeth... he stumbled out towards the lift, wondering what the best way would be to destroy the reactor below. Ears still ringing, he reached the lift shaft, finding it empty. Reaching for the button, he became dimly aware he was not alone. 'Permanecer quieto !, no te muevas!' He froze, his hand dangerously close to his pocket.Two of the team moved in, one to check the man in the dirty boiler suit for weapons with the other covering. Bond was relieved of the Colt, letting himself be controlled by these newcomers, recognising their equipment and the accent of the one who had spoken. At a nod to the remaining two Marines, the patrol commander stepped forward. Bond sized him up. 'You're English?.' 'Commander Bond?' 'My friends call me James.'
'Lovely. Come on, we're getting you out.' 'And just when I was enjoying myself...' The commander, a plainly-spoken corporal from the Rhonda was in no mood for argument. 'Now listen to me would you. I've got orders to get you out, see. I take it there's an Atomic power reactor on the island, lets not hang about chatting, lets go. Boys.' He snapped his fingers and pointed to Bond, the signal for two burly Marines to grab hold of him.

'Take your hands off me!. Listen, I don't have the time for explanations, but clearly we're on the same side. You've got orders, but I've got a lunatic who's capable of anything. If I don't stop him he's going to cause chaos – he'll destroy our country and many more, no-one will be able to trust their money, everything will collapse!.' The Welshman looked at this mad Englishman pityingly, clearly whatever the poor sod had been through had un-hinged his mind. One of his team came back from the tunnel. 'Sorry Taff, I think you'd better see this.' He held a fistful of currency. Outside, it was raining money – a look to the top of the pyramid revealed the source; a group of old men who were delightedly throwing handfuls of the stuff into a massive fan, one of those used for drying the notes. Bond couldn't have asked for a better moment to slip away, instead he confronted the patrol commander, who was squinting thoughtfully at a five pound note he held to the sunlight. 'There's one of those water-marks, even. Well, it looks real, doesn't it?. All right, James to my friends – I'll be generous. You tell me why I shouldn't drag you off this island and best be quick about it.'

As Bond outlined the plot, the plotter was stepping out into a vast subterranean space, a crescent-shaped chasm formed when the volcanoes had given birth to the islands, a place of smoke and fire that had seen the temple builders come and go over long centuries. In addition to the six men Maximilian now had a further eight bringing up the rear. The shelf near to the rim of the shaft was an extension of the natural, a platform built out over the pit that had then still glowered an angry red, smouldering and un-satiated. The bowl in the platform floor was roughly cruciform, those few who had seen it needed no explanation of purpose; this was an altar for human sacrifice, channels and apertures designed to drain the victim's lifeblood away to fall to the thirsty gods that dwelt below. Even though long dormant, the volcano gods long since forgotten, this place of evil still retained the aura of the macabre. Overlooking this a stone-lined bowl against the side of the cavern was a throne of sorts set in what had seemed to be a crypt, a stone coffer below the throne itself. Inset with a filigree of brass the coffer was clearly intended to honour a personage of importance, but the designs engraved into the brass were clearly Spanish of origin. The old forger-a Hungarian by birth-couldn't contain his curiosity, which did not go un-noticed by his keeper.

Placing a hand on the bony shoulder, Maximilian's voice was kindly. 'This is my greatest treasure. See, come, you have worked well for me, you should see why.' At his command, four of his men hauled the cover-stone from the coffer. Reaching in, Maximilian took out an object wrapped in an oiled leather roll and then more, each of differing shapes and sizes, each placed carefully to one side. Remaining in the coffer were several wooden boxes, with rope handles. 'Gold. The universal currency, bullion bars each worth a man's life.' 'If I may say so, you seem to value life rather cheaply, Sir.' Maximilian took a moment to absorb the old man's temerity, then laughed. Why not? - he could afford to.

Turning his attention to the leather rolls, he unwrapped the longest, revealing a scabbard of surprisingly simple beauty, the silver was dented and scratched, but the design was as artistically worked as the demands of function allowed. Likewise the sword, which Maximilian drew to reveal an etched Toledo blade, burnished rather than polished, with a silver and brass handle. The basket-hilt was dented and pocked, suggesting many years of service. The pommel itself was adorned with a ruby or garnet the size of a tuppence. It was the sword of a conqueror, and as Maximilian pulled it from the old man's stomach, he wiped it on his own sleeve with due reverence. Falling backwards, the dying man's arms flopped outwards, his body a terrible illustration of the purpose of the bowl in which it lay. His blood ran down the channels, dripping away into the depths. 'Never mind, eh?. I can always learn to print myself, eh?.' Only Maximilian laughed at the joke.

With the extra men carrying the bullion boxes, they continued on along a narrow ledge that led to a dramatic halt, just a wheel set into the rock. At the turn of this wheel, a modern steel gangway was revealed, detaching itself from a recess in the manner of a folding ships bunk. Stepping onto the grilled sections, Maximilian strode forth confidently, his men following visibly less so, the odd glance downwards amplifying the precariousness of their progress over the abyss. A stone lintel on the far side seemed welcoming by contrast, even with the grotesquely carven face that it bore.

The KGB men finished their search of the apartment, finding nothing save Bond's excavation work in the bathroom. Security Chief Mitrovkhin was busy contemplating his likely future when a subordinate broke into his thoughts, the man's eyes still red and smarting from the pepper Bond had thrown into them. The Chief beckoned him over impatiently. 'On ushel ! , My dolzhny soobshchitʹ ob etom srazu!' ('He's gone!, we must report this at once!'.) But, instead of the usual nod of obedience, there was just embarrassment. Lowering his gaze, the man mumbled; 'My ne mozhem. Radio oborudovaniye bylo unichtozheno.' ('We cannot. The radio equipment has been destroyed.')
Puce with rage, the Chief rounded on the hapless man. 'Chto? Obʺyasnitʹ sebe tovarishcha' ('What? Explain yourself comrade.') 'Gruppa napadayut na nas idet yarostnaya, a lyubitelʹ. Radio peredach byla unichtozhena spetsialistami. Yestʹ seychas neskolʹko nashikh lyudey chislyatsya propavshimi bez vesti .' ('The group attacking us is fierce, but amateur. The radio gear was destroyed by professionals. There are now several of our men reported missing.')

Mitrovkhin knew the ramifications of this. He would be lucky to escape with 're-education' and twenty years in the lead mines – not that anyone had ever survived the full twenty... 'Vot derʹmo! My dolzhny zashchititʹ reaktor lyuboy tsenoy. Poluchite , chto durakpolkovnik , skazhite yemu , chtoby zapechatatʹ yego.'
('Shit! We must protect the reactor at all costs. Get that fool of a Colonel, tell him to seal it off.') Red-eyes left with a perfunctory nod. The Chief opened a box of cigars, selecting one to bite the end off, spitting it onto the floor as he fished in a pocket for his lighter. Puffing away he decided things were not so bleak, sitting in a chair to mull over his options. He could always defect... Lost in his plotting, Mitrovkhin's normal alertness deserted him; he should have noticed the wall hanging behind him as it ruffled and billowed slightly. Perhaps it was some sixth sense screaming at him, he turned to see Maximilian standing there, in full helmet and armour, sword in hand.

The commander of HMS Trafalgar leaned back as the periscope dropped down. He had seen enough. Captain Alastair Fanning RN was the image of a young sub skipper, lean, bearded and alert-looking, with a hawk's eye for danger. Right at this moment, he smelled a rat. Leaving his second officer to keep things in hand, he went off to his wardroom to think it over. The island was, as advertised, a death trap-the whole place was wreathed in smoke it seemed. He buzzed his steward for a coffee, then opened the envelope containing the latest from Admiralty. It was only what he had expected; the routine rubbish plus a re-statement of his responsibilities if caught operating in foreign waters. Blah-blah-blah. It was only when he got to the last page that his interest was piqued. On the receipt of certain codewords, Trafalgar was to close in to the island at a point marked on the charts to receive the party concerned. As if things weren't tight enough on board!-he would have to tell Chief Crooke to find some space for'ard. The orders for the yacht left no room for interpretation, either; if she leaves, sink her-preferably in the deeper waters out to the East. The fatheaded idiots!, what did they think this was?, a torpedo boat? - Trafalgar was no slouch, but even on electrical power her best was no more than seventeen knots submerged. No, if he sank the Bayamo, it would have to be done from the spot. With no cover, he knew using the periscope array was a risk he could not afford, which left the Hydrophone Operator. Blind, they would have to listen for the sounds of their prey's attempted escape-then he would see if they could outrun a Mark VIII Torpedo.

The jolly-boat pulled away from the Bayamo, but instead of the jetty the craft headed for the rocks to the side of the bay. Coming around the bluff, a cave revealed itself, no more than a few feet above the high-tide marks on the stone. A powerfully-built crewman held the boat from the rocks with a fender pole. Jumping down into the boat, two of Maximilian's men started the transfer of the boxes, while the bosun kept the boat stationary.

'Contact 240 range seven hundred yards. Single screw, probably a boat.' The voice from the Hydrophone station was the only sound from inside the sub. Even at this range and submerged, the dull crump and boom of battle reached the ears of Trafalgar's crew. Leaning in intently, Captain Fanning was relying on the young rating to provide him with the vital warning of the yacht's movement. 'Thank you, Simmons, keep it up.' The Captain went into the control room to confer with his duty officers.

Maximilian, resplendent in full costume and armour stood in the shadows of the cave, watched the boat taking his fortune to the yacht on which he would soon escape. All that remained for him to do now was to find and kill that hijo de puta Englishman Bond. He knew that he would be taking a risk, but not now... no, now he could not back down. Clad in the very armour of the great Cortes, there would be no question of his simply running away like a whipped dog. Hand on hilt, he turned to exact his vengeance. The vengeance of Cortes.

No comments:

Post a Comment