NOTE: All apologies to Alan Moore and all the others whose characters I've shamelessly plagiarized for this fict.
"You don't have to accept the assignment, Bond."
The words caused the man who was being addressed to jerk his gaze up in his superior's direction. "Sir?" he said.
The admiral gave his agent another appraising look. "Other services will be sending their applicants. They should be sufficient for the task." He mused. "There are even a couple with whom you'd be familiar."
"I'm sure," said Bond. "If they're old friends, wouldn't it be an impoliteness for me to decline?"
Miles Messervy toyed with a pen. "Knew you'd say that, Bond. Pick up the usual from Moneypenny. Plane tickets have been purchased. You'll be leaving tomorrow at 8 a.m. And Bond?"
"I imagine the ones with whom you're familiar will not like you. Nonetheless. Work with them."
"Thank you, sir."
On the way back to his flat, Bond considered the situation M had gotten him into this time. He was used to working by himself--well, to be fair, there were backup people, but he handled all the important matters on his own. Of course, he was on the backside of forty by now, and had, in recent years, suffered amnesia, been taken in by the Russians and brainwashed into trying to murder the very man from whom he had just taken orders, been nearly killed by Scaramanga and then by Colonel Sun, and now found himself asked to work with a group of operatives.
Well, he'd do it, but damned if he'd like it. And what was the name they'd given themselves?
The "League Extraordinare"?
Sounded like some silly-ass name from a Boy's Own Paper.
The ticket was for San Francisco and that was a hell of a long plane ride. The usual inedibles, and a fiftyish woman seatmate who had to tell him about her new grandbaby and such, but who had sense enough to leave him alone when he wanted to sleep.
San Francisco. Why? It would seem that the Americans could take care of their own backyard, or at least their own side yard, given California's positioning. God knew, they had capable men there. He'd even worked with a few. Of course, he didn't know whether or not it would be a good thing for him to collaborate with Leiter again. They loved each other, but damnation! Every time, Leiter lost a part of his body. Luckily, none of them so far was the part Bond had almost lost once, to Le Chiffre. But there was only so much of a man that could be lost before he died.
The pilot was talking to them now in that boring Midwestern drawl. "Ladies 'n' gentlemen, we are approaching San Francisco. We ask that you stow any excess items in the compartments above your seats and that you remain seated with your seatbelts buckled at all times from this point until we land. Thank you all for flying Continental Airlines, and have a great time in San Francisco." At least he didn't say "y'all".
The usual bumps of landing, the usual deceleration, unbuckling, getting to one's feet, recovering the case which one had put in the overhead compartment, filing out into the cramped walkspace, through the tunnel, and into the airport. Bond felt as though he needed three drinks, one after the other. He located the luggage carousel and promised himself to fulfill at least a third of his needs at the terminal bar.
There was someone watching him.
He knew that while he was standing there waiting for his damned suitcase.
It is much less hard to trust your hunter's instincts than it is to disconnect your emotions from your surface, but he had done it many times. One had to. Just as one had to find the one who was watching.
Hopefully, this one would be a friend. But he doubted it.
The most likely candidate was a Chinese man leaning against the wall to the extreme left of him and holding a copy of The Guardian. The man was dressed in a brown suit that had no telltale bulges Bond could detect about the chest. He seemed to be in his mid-thirties and was muscular. Probably one of those types who spent a quarter of their lives in dojos, Bond thought with a twinge of distaste.
The man's eyes were searching the room but always seemed to return to Bond. The man also seemed to know that Bond was watching.
The black suitcase came around in the carousel and Bond carefully reached for it. He did not wish to give the man his back as he did so. Nonetheless, one's back faces some direction at all times. Colonel Sun, he remembered, was not that long ago.
Then someone else was walking forward. Walking towards him. Suitcase in one hand and valise by his legs, Bond turned in his direction and raised an eyebrow in recognition.
"Mr. Hazzard?" said the man. Casual dress, hat, sunglasses. But Bond knew the silvery hair, the face, and the smile.
"Yes," acknowledged Bond, his face softening. "I believe we have company, Mr...."
"Stone," said the other. "Our company will be covered, Mr. Hazzard. Come with me."
The two of them walked away from the carousel. Bond said, softly, "The Chinese person in the brown suit. Against the wall."
"We saw him," said Stone. "He has friends."
"About three, I think."
"One and a half for each of us," murmured Bond. "I haven't yet figured out how to split a villain."
Stone smiled. "James, I don't think we'll have to worry about that. Trust me."
"I heard your assignment with Galaxy went all right," said Bond. "Congratulations."
"Thanks. By the way, he's following us."
"Do you think they'll wait till we get in a car?" Bond chanced a look and saw another Chinese gentleman was heading towards them, less inconspicuously than he should have, from a separate direction.
"For their sake, James, I hope so."
Bond exhaled heavily. This bit of being ambushed just as one reaches another country was getting to be a damned cliche. True, it was better than being attacked on board your plane. But not by much.
Still, he had met the man who called himself Stone before. In fact, he'd staged a fight with him, just for the purpose of passing on information about the Galaxy case. The man could handle himself, no question. That was the kind of man Bond wanted at his back, and hoped would want him at a similar place.
"Be prepared to run for the taxi stand," Stone cautioned him. "We've got one waiting for us."
Bond shoved Stone down with an arm to the shoulders and swept his legs out from under him with a foot, all in the same motion. He fell to the carpet along with his friend. Briefly he noted Stone's surprise, but the man was too good to ask questions. He already had his cigarette lighter in hand.
A dart had been fired from a small concealed weapon in the hand of one of the Chinese men. It passed over the bodies of Bond and Stone at what would have been waist-height and embedded itself point-first in the wall of a brown Samsonite case on a porter's cart. The blue-uniformed porter looked up and gaped.
They were drawing attention. Not good, but they hadn't asked for it.
Bond had jammed his hand into his jacket and came out with the gun. No time to worry about future consequences, just fire. The Asian who had shot at them was quick, but not quick enough, as a silenced report of Bond's Walther confirmed. The impact threw their target back, arms flailing, onto his back on the floor. People moved away from the spot where he had landed. A woman screamed as she saw the blood begin to gout from a hole in the man's sternum.
Stone was already up. The second of what was presumably four assassins had a knife in hand and had arced his arm to the halfpoint of throwing it. From what he could see of the knife, Bond knew that it looked like it bore a dragon-shaped hilt. The Triad and a lot of other Asian crime families could be the pedigree.
Stone rushed forward, flipped, did a handstand before the man could break his wrist for the throw, and smashed his two feet into their foe. One foot into the forearm of the man's throwing wrist, the other into his face. The latter landed with great impact and, from the sound of it, Bond knew it had broken bones. Stone rebounded from his foe, who was beginning to decide whether or not to scream, and flipped back to his feet again. The assassin was still holding his knife. Stone grabbed the man's wrist with one hand, held the knife in place with the other, and forced the arm forward to drive the knife straight into his chest. He stepped away at such an angle that the blood did not stain him. As the body fell, Stone stooped and recovered his cigarette lighter from where he had dropped it on the floor.
Bond was peripherally aware of the people around him, the people starting to scream, to draw away, to look like zombies, to put themselves in harm's way. All of that data would be sorted out, in time. For now, the focus was on the two other Chinese, who were shredding caution and coming at them without attempt at concealment. One of them was going for something apparently stuck down the back of his coat. A guard in a blue uniform tried to stop him, grabbing his shoulder. "Hey, buddy, what's this all a..." was all he got out.
The Chinese whipped the pair of nunchucks from the back of his coat and smashed one end of them into the guard's face. He went down and did not get up.
The incident, though terrible, was a blessing for Bond. It allowed him the time he needed to fire on the man and bring him down. He fired once, then once more to keep things certain. A hole opened in the man's forehead and throat and he went back, the two-part weapon falling from his hands. A bit of a tattoo seemed visible as the sleeve rode back from his arm.
The crowd was reacting with horror.
Good for them.
That left Mister Four, and, unlike his fellows, he wasn't getting that near to them. He hung back, materialized something in his hand, and threw it. A stinging pain in Bond's upper arm told him that the man had scored a bullseye. Some sort of wicked pointed metal star. On his gun arm, too. The thing hurt like a right bitch. He grasped for his gun wrist to steady it, and knew he was going to be all too late. Whatever the man threw his next star at was going to go just where he wanted it.
The cigarette lighter hit him in the face first. It was spewing gas. The Chinese assassin opened his mouth in surprise, and then clawed at his eyes. It was blinding him. The lighter had fallen to the floor, where it still spewed gas for a few seconds.
Stone was on him, his eyes narrowed to slits, and brought his arm down in a stroke that contacted the side of the man's neck and broke it. The Chinese fell to the floor and stayed there. Stone swept his lighter up in one hand and, a second later, had Bond in the other, helping him up.
"Don't panic, anyone," said Stone in a sufficiently loud voice. "We'll take it from here."
"I'm afraid," said Bond, trying not to grit his teeth, "that I might bleed on you."
"I've had worse," replied Stone, hustling him forward.
There were remarkably few incidents in proportion to the stares they received as they made it out the doors, to the taxi stand, and to a yellow cab whose driver was being yelled at by a man in a flat cap who wouldn't take no for an answer. "You off duty?" said the man in the cap. "That sign on your top don't say off duty. Why can't you take me?"
"'Cause I'm waiting for my fare," said the cabbie, a well-built black man.
"I'm a fare," said the man. "What the hell else are ya waitin' for, dammit?"
Stone said, "He's waiting for us."
The man turned, looked, gaped at the two men and the blood below the belt which Stone had looped about Bond's arm above the wound, and backed away.
The two got into the back of the cab and were, thankfully, able to pull away at a rapid speed. The driver looked back at them. "Cut looks nasty."
"I look better in red," said Bond, loosening the belt-tourniquet a bit.
Stone was turning the throwing star over on his knee with a pencil. "Not quite the thing you can pick up in the local pawnshops. Very professionally balanced. However, doesn't have any poison on it. Careless."
"You sure you don't want me to take you to a hospital?" asked the cabbie. "We can go there, you know."
"They've got facilities where we're headed, Raymond," said Stone. "You know that."
"I think I do, sir," said Raymond. "I think I do."
"Flint," Bond said, massaging his shoulder a bit, "I'm beginning to appreciate what Felix Leiter goes through, every time I see him."
"Bond, I hope not."
The meeting place was not at Universal Exports, as he hoped it would be. Instead, it was in the twentieth story of an office building, with appropriate guardposts and defenses located about it. There was quite a bit to be found on that floor, including an infirmary of sorts where a doctor numbed Bond's arm and stitched his wound efficiently. An older gentleman offered him a new coat, and he wore it. Flint and Bond had to present their letters of invitation and were issued badges with only the gold letter L on a black background.
"Have you been here before?" Bond asked Flint, as the two of them proceeded through the last office door.
"Actually, no," Flint answered. "But I know of the man who invited us, and I think I can trust him."
"So you know his name, then," Bond asserted. "More reassuring by the minute." They were in the outer office, alone, and Bond had time to pass his eyes over a series of framed group portraits on the walls. Some of them were paintings, some were engravings, others daggeurotypes, and the rest seemed to be photos from Matthew Brady's time up to the present. The only identifications were year plates, and they went well back into the 1600's.
The inner door opened before Flint could reach it. "Come in," said a feminine voice.
"Well," said Flint, and did so. Bond followed.
Inside was a spacious meeting room, with a fairly long table and not very many people to fill it. Actually, besides Bond and Flint, there were only four. Two of them sat side by side on the left hand side of the table, one in a black suit and the other in more casual jacket, pullover shirt, and pants. The one in the suit was black-haired and gave Bond an appraising look. The jacketed one was blonde and regarded both of the newcomers with casual wariness.
The woman who had invited them in should have taken most of Bond's attention. She was brunette, gorgeous, a blend of cold and warmth from what he could take in of her, attired in a purple jumpsuit, and as self-possessed as a general. She stood near the head of the table with folded arms and had a slight smile, not giving more of herself away than her appearance.
But the one who sat at the table's head was a familiar face to Bond. Even after all the years between, even in a derby and tailored suit, with an umbrella's handle hanging from the edge of the table beside him, Bond knew him. And, more importantly, was known by him.
The man smiled with his mouth, but not his eyes. "Commander Bond," he said.
"Bond," said the black-suited man, pushing his chair back, rising, and extending his hand. "Heard about you. Of course, in the trade...who hasn't?"
Flint smiled, tightly. Bond stepped past him, and pumped the hand offered him. "Thank you."
The blonde man was shaking Flint's hand. "My name is Kuryakin. This is Mr. Solo. Pleased to meet you."
"Dosvidanya, Mr. Kuryakin," said Flint.
"Mrs. Peel," said the woman, to answer Bond's inquisitive gaze. "I've met your superior before. Charming man."
"Hopefully, we're speaking of the same man," quipped Bond.
"Quite," said her partner. "And, for Mr. Flint's benefit, I'll introduce myself. My name is Steed. John Steed. Welcome to the League Extraordinaire. Or at least, part of its present incarnation."
Flint said, "So much high-priced talent here. I'd almost expect to see a few managers at hand."
"Or, in some cases," said Steed, favoring Bond with a glance, "a few keepers. But. Let's on to business, shall we?"
Bond took the throwing star from his coat pocket and pitched it lightly onto the table. "Business has already come to us. Does this indicate anything?"
"Sort of a business card one gentleman left in Mr. Bond's arm," said Flint. "We left him with a few calling cards of our own."
Steed looked at the star, briefly. "Indicates quite a bit, actually. We've been posted about the incident. My regrets to your arm, Mr. Bond, if not to...all of you. But we've had indications of the person's presence in this matter. That's why the League was called into action. They've fought him before. Our predecessors, that is."
Flint said, "How long before?"
"Oh," said Steed, "roughly in the neighborhood of...I suppose...seventy years."
There was much to dislike about the present era, the man decided. Not that there had not been competition in earlier days as well. The Hitlers and Stalins, the British with their attempts to hold onto an Empire now thankfully almost dust, the Americans with their industry and then their all-powerful bomb, those of his own race who had so stupidly turned to Communism, for which he would someday chastise them.
Those things were of nations and empires, and easily understood.
Now, it was an era of multinational agencies with absurd names and absurder operatives. Names such as UNCLE and THRUSH and CYPHER and SPECTRE. Sometimes he wondered how they managed to recruit enough underlings to staff their operations, and suspected that there was great migration about these groups, though none admitted it.
He had moles within all these, and within those on the other side. What corresponding moles he had found in his own organization had their bones pierced while they were still alive, if he was feeling merciful. The quality of mercy was not in the intensity of punishment from discovery unto death, but in the length.
Now, so he knew, men of the modern era had gathered under an old banner to fight him. Just as their predecessors had, several generations ago. He wondered if any of them even knew of that old battle. It mattered not.
For their actions against several agents of the present government of China, he might even have rewarded them. But they were not allies. Not even competitors. They were simply another flavor of enemy.
Fu Manchu indulged in a bit of reflection as he fed his pet marmoset, and wondered how they would fall to him.
To be continued...possibly...
Notes for part 1:
James Bond (Agent 007): Top agent of the British Secret Service. The 00 prefix of his serial number indicates that he is licensed to kill. Created by Ian Fleming, who depicted him in a series of novels and short stories beginning with CASINO ROYALE (1953). His adventures were later written by Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, and John Benson. This adventure takes place after COLONEL SUN.
M (Admiral Miles Messervy): James Bond's superior, created by Ian Fleming and appearing in virtually all of the novels.
"There are even a couple with whom you'd be familiar." As we shall see, Bond has already met Derek Flint and John Steed.
"Of course, he was on the backside of forty by now, and had, in recent years, suffered amnesia, been taken in by the Russians and brainwashed into trying to murder the very man from whom he had just taken orders, been nearly killed by Scaramanga and then by Colonel Sun, and now found himself asked to work with a group of operatives." Bond suffered amnesia in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. The attempt to murder M after Russian brainwashing and his subsequent adventure against Francisco "Pistols" Scaramanga was delineated in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. Colonel Sun appeared, of course, in COLONEL SUN.
"The 'League Extraordinare'?" This is the name by which the former League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is known by 1970. Emma Peel would not stand to be counted as a Gentleman.
"Every time, Leiter lost a part of his body." Felix Leiter, an American CIA agent, is one of Bond's most steadfast friends. He debuts in CASINO ROYALE and appears in at least six novels in the series. In LIVE AND LET DIE, he loses his right hand and leg to a shark. In THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, he suffers a fracture of his remaining tibia, and remarks, "Every time I see [Bond] a piece of me gets broken off." That's an exaggeration, but not by much.
"Luckily, none of them so far was the part Bond had almost lost once, to Le Chiffre." If you really want to know what part that was, read CASINO ROYALE.
"Colonel Sun, he remembered, was not that long ago." COLONEL SUN is Bond's last recorded case before this story. Col. Sun Liang-tan was a Red Chinese who captured M in order to lure Bond into a trap, planning to bomb a Russian summit conference and leave the bodies of M and Bond as plants to implicate the British.
"'Mr. Hazzard?' said the man." Mark Hazzard is an alias Bond has used before, in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.
"'Stone,' said the other." This is Derek Flint, independent American secret agent who works for Zonal Organization for World International Espionage (ZOWIE), as shown in the movies OUR MAN FLINT and IN LIKE FLINT and the TV-movie OUR MAN FLINT: DEAD ON TARGET, the last of which takes place after this story. Flint is an incredible polymath, a formidable combatant, and the possessor of a cigarette lighter with 87 separate death-dealing functions. (88 if you include lighting a cigar...)
"'I heard your assignment with Galaxy went all right,' said Bond." This case, as shown in OUR MAN FLINT, involved Flint's one-man attack on an organization named Galaxy, which sought to conquer the world through weather control.
"Still, he had met the man who called himself Stone before. In fact, he'd staged a fight with him, just for the purpose of passing on information about the Galaxy case." This was shown in OUR MAN FLINT. Bond was referred to in the movie as "Agent 0008" because of copyright problems, but the variation on his code number and his reference to SPECTRE identifies him clearly as James Bond.
"The meeting place was not at Universal Exports, as he hoped it would be." Universal Exports is a cover used by the British Secret Service in the James Bond novels.
"Bond had time to pass his eyes over a series of framed group portraits on the walls. Some of them were paintings, some were engravings, others daguerreotypes, and the rest seemed to be photos from Matthew Brady's time up to the present. The only identifications were year plates, and they went well back into the 1600's." These are either the originals or duplicates of the pictures shown in LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN #1. The League, in some form or another, has lasted almost four centuries.
"The one in the suit was black-haired and gave Bond an appraising look. The jacketed one was blonde and regarded both of the newcomers with casual wariness." Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, top enforcement agents of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, as shown in THE MAN FROM UNCLE TV episodes, novels, and comics. This story takes place after THE FINAL AFFAIR (MFU #24), though some events at the last part of that story were possibly incorrect (such as Illya's supposed loss of a limb and subsequent promotion to the Russian admiralty).
"She was brunette, gorgeous, a blend of cold and warmth from what he could take in of her, attired in a purple jumpsuit, and as self-possessed as a general." Emma Peel, the "talented amateur" who works for MI5 as the partner of John Steed, as shown in the TV series THE AVENGERS. Emma is a crack martial artist and an excellent agent who saved England from evil masterminds in dozens of cases.
"Even after all the years between, even in a derby and tailored suit, with an umbrella's handle hanging from the edge of the table beside him, Bond knew him. And, more importantly, was known by him." John Steed, top MI5 agent, who appeared in the TV series THE AVENGERS. His chief weapon is his umbrella, which, on occasion, contains gimmicks (including a hidden brandy flask). He is rarely seen without his derby. His encounter with Bond in their schoolboy days is recounted in THE BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN STEED.
"I've met your superior before. Charming man." Emma met M in THE RAINBOW AFFAIR (MFU #13).
"Names such as UNCLE and THRUSH and CYPHER and SPECTRE." THRUSH, the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity, was UNCLE's main enemy until their fall in THE FINAL AFFAIR (MFU #24). Their revival in "The Fifteen Years Later Affair" will take place after this story. CYPHER is a similar agency which fought the Shadow in several 1960's Belmont novels. SPECTRE (Special ExeCutive for Terror, Revenge, and Extortion) is, of course, the organization formerly headed by the late Ernst Stavro Blofeld, which became James Bond's chief opponents. It debuted in THUNDERBALL and appeared in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and, after the time of this story, in FOR SPECIAL SERVICES.
"Just as their predecessors had, several generations ago." As depicted in LOEG #1-6.
"Fu Manchu indulged in a bit of reflection as he fed his pet marmoset,
and wondered how they would fall to him." Dr. Fu Manchu, head of
the Asiatic secret organization known as the Si Fan, debuted in THE INSIDIOUS
DR. FU MANCHU and appeared in fourteen books authored by his creator, Sax
Rohmer. He also appeared in various pastiches.