The League Extraordinaire:

Part 12

by DarkMark

This time Bond didn't even allow himself the luxury of feeling scared. It was time for action. That was the best known antidote for fear.

He crouched and went at them, yelling in the fashion of a commando going into battle. Then he dropped flat on his stomach, evading the bullets of the Cold Men. But his gun was out, and he gave them back what he could.

The bullets struck the chests or heads of the Si Fan zombies, gouging out flesh and bone, spattering something that was possibly a substitute for blood. Nonetheless, the things kept on firing. With parts of their very skulls out, they kept firing.

"Bond!" Flint was up now, using his own gun on the monsters. "Aim for their heads! Knock those off, and they can't see to aim!"

He punctuated that with a shot that decapitated one of the five Cold Men from the nose up.

Smart thinking, Bond decided. Rolling, leaping, evading, he targeted his shots on the heads of the Cold Men. They were moving forward, and the zombie whose head had been recently subtracted was still firing, like the Amoks of wartime. But the latter couldn't hit anything. Small blessing, but they'd take anything they could get at this point.

The heads of two more zombies exploded. They kept firing, aimlessly, at the places towards which their guns had been pointed. For an instant, Bond's mind froze-–My God!, he thought, I'm fighting the living dead!–-but he put it aside just as quickly and kept the barrage up.

One of the remaining two Cold Men grabbed something from behind him, popped a handle off, and threw it. Grenade. There was no way Bond could evade it. Even as he fired upon the hurler, Bond took notice that the beggar was wearing gloves. It was amazing what details you could take in, during your last few seconds of life.

And then, an instant after the grenade's flight had reached its apogee, two hands intervened, cupped to catch the thing. The body behind the hands was still in flight from an heroic leap. Braving the bullets of the last two defenders, Derek Flint snagged the grenade on the fly, pitched it away before touching the floor, and rolled to cover even as Bond hit the deck again.

The grenade, pitched towards the hole in the front windows, blew up and weakened the structure even more. Shrapnel spanged against the remains of office furniture. Bond lurched towards a place of better cover. The two beggars were still firing upon them.

Grimly, he took aim, and deprived each one of its head.

The idiots were still firing, like their brethren. In savage fashion, Bond got behind each of the five and kicked them down. They sprawled, limply. Like Amoks, once you had them down, they seemed to realize they were dead.

Bond stood, breathing hard, among the smell of blood and cordite and heard a grunt of pain.

Flint.

In a second, he was at his friend's side. Flint was grimacing, lying on the floor, holding his hands out, palms up. Both of them were showing terrible burns.

Bond swore. "Flint, what—"

"Acid!" Flint bit off the word. Bond marveled. He had a high enough tolerance of pain himself to gauge and appreciate it in others.

Bond grasped him under the arms and hauled him up. "There's bound to be a loo on this level. We'll get your hands under a sink."

"There isn't time!" Flint, still holding his hands apart, nodded in the direction from which the Cold Men had come. "Go."

"Both of us," said Bond. He began to help his friend forward in a fireman's carry.

Flint said, "Just a minute," and Bond paused. The body of one of the fallen Cold Men was very near. Flint crouched, almost collapsed, really, and wiped his hands on the zombie's shirt. He cried out, briefly, in pain. Bond helped him back up.

"Did that help?" he asked.

"Not much," grated Flint. The two of them moved quickly forward.

The bomb was in front of them.

In size, it was not that impressive. Just a rectangular box, hardly bigger than a breadbox. There wasn't even the sound of a ticking mechanism within. None, thought Bond, of the movie stereotypes about a bomb. Which, of course, made the thing that much more unnerving.

Within the box was an unquantified mass of cobalt-60. God only knew what the explosion would be like if the thing went off, but the problem, Bond knew, wasn't the explosion itself. It was the fallout. The damned thing was dirtier by far than a U-235 bomb, more, probably, than plutonium, and the stuff would spread over a much larger area. Well over half the people of the United States would sicken and die within weeks. The only consolation he and Flint had was that neither of them would have to worry about that if it blew.

It was bolted to a stone stand which was riveted into the floor. Bond doubted that either of them could move the stand, which meant that the bomb had to be moved, somehow. "Flint," he said. "Back against the wall."

He drew his gun and fired at the casing, three times. The shots ricocheted off.

"Damn!" Bond smashed at it with his gun butt, kicked at it with the heel of his shoe. No results, outside of some small dents where the bullets had spanged off. If Flint's lighter was available, they'd have been able to take it apart with the laser he packed in it. But the lighter was deader than the Cold Men, now.

"Bond..."

Flint had spoken, strainedly. Bond whirled to see what he was doing. Despite the pain in his hands, he was struggling to lift a barely-moving Cybernaut and drag it in the bomb's direction. "Give me a hand, will you?"

Bond rushed to Flint's side and took the Cybernaut away from him. Mostly, it was a bit of head, arm, and torso, its wiring and inner mechanisms dragging out like guts from below. The left arm was chopping, slowly, with impaired movements. Nonetheless, Bond made sure to keep that part of the robot away from him. He grunted as he manhandled the robot towards the bomb. "You think we can smash it open with this?"

Flint didn't respond. "Flint?"

Bond looked back. Flint had his elbow wrapped about the head of one of the other Cybernauts, one which was mostly sans body. His face was still white and sweating. With a great effort, Flint wrenched the head of the robot from the neck mechanism. He collapsed on his knees, but still held the Cybernaut's head in his arm.

"My God, Flint!"

"James," said the American, "just get the damn thing over there. We're going to have to hook this head into that body."

"What?"

"It's called cannibalizing. You're going to have to do it for me. We need the power of this head for that body. Otherwise, it'll never be able to crack the bomb casing."

"I don't know a thing about that."

"I'll tell you. What to do. Just do it!"

Bond leaned the robot torso against the stone stand at an angle in which its chopping arm was only slashing air. Wordlessly, he went back to Flint, took the metal head away from him, and helped him back to his feet. Then he fireman-carried Flint over to the bomb. Finally he said, "Tell me, Flint. This had better be a great deal simpler than Popular Mechanics."

"I'm going to lie on my hands and knees. Put the robot on my back."

"What?"

"Put it on my back so that its arm will be chopping at the bomb. I'll give you instructions on. Hooking up the new head. Do it, James, my hands are still hurt."

"I'm sorry, Flint," said Bond, knowing how inadequate it sounded. Nonetheless, Flint crouched at the base of the stand, supporting his weight on his elbows and knees, holding his hands palms upward. Carefully, Bond lifted the metal torso up, leaned it against the stand, and contacted Flint's back with it as gingerly as he could. "Can you hold up, man?"

"I'll manage," said Flint. "Get that other head in hand. What we want is a thick yellow wire, and a violet one. On both the torso and head. Got it?"

"Understood," said Bond. The remains of the Cybernaut torso's head were in the way. Bond grasped it by the remains of the chin and wrenched. Thankfully, it came off, but the robot's arm chopped with even less authority. "What now?"

"Find the wires, strip the ends on both of them, and connect the new head and torso." Flint gasped. "Quickly."

Bond pulled a small folding knife from his pants pocket and opened it. Such a mass of wiring inside the Cybernaut's opened neck... He reached in, pulled a handful of wires up, and noted one was yellow and another was violet indeed. It was only the work of seconds to strip the plastic sheathing from an inch or two of both wires. But there couldn't be many more seconds left, if the two hour deadline Fu Manchu had written of was to be believed.

"James," gasped Flint.

"I'll get the thing off your back, Derek," said Bond.

"No time. Just...hurry."

Swearing softly, Bond turned to the robot's head. He reached into the jagged-edged opening of its neck, pulled out wiring until he came to the correctly-colored ones, and did a stripping of the appropriate two of them. Then he grasped the yellow-sheathed wires from torso and head and twisted them together.

The thing's arm wasn't chopping any better. He didn't expect it to. But it would have been nice.

The violet ones remained. He put them together, saw them spark and mildly shock him like the completed circuit of a jumped car battery. Bond clenched his teeth, ignored the pain, and braided the second pair together. The circuit was complete.

A noise, of metal striking stone and chipping it.

Bond looked at the half-Cybernaut. Its arm was coming up like the backswing of an executioner's axe.

"Get it in position," said Flint. "It'll only last for a few seconds."

Grasping the robot under its metal armpits, Bond lifted it up, shifted its position, and angled it so that the hand, pointed and stiff in a karate fashion, came down on the bomb casing. The noise of its impact echoed through the entire chamber.

The casing dented.

Bond held the robot off of Flint's back now, straining a bit to keep it in position. The metal hand smashed at the bomb casing anew. Was there a crack in it? There had to be. The Cybernaut's hand came down again, and again, and again.

It was losing power. Bond swore.

"Is it..." Flint started.

"No!" Bond saw the hand come up again, then crash down upon the box with the bomb inside. There was, indeed, a crack in it. But the robot's arm was growing too feeble.

With a shout of something unintelligible but deeply felt, Bond lifted the Cybernaut's torso as high as he could, and then smashed it down upon the bomb.

The robot's body rebounded, slightly, rolled off, and fell onto the other side with a bang. Bond, sweating, looked at its handiwork.

A hole had been torn in the casing. Not very big, perhaps only enough to poke the muzzle of a gun through. There were explosives within. They had to be detonated in just the precise pattern, to ensure that the fissionable material would be compressed just so, and be forced to expand in reaction, causing the grand explosion that was its inventor's intention of design.

"Two minutes," said Flint. "What?"

Bond had him by the underarms and was dragging him away.

"James, what are you doing?"

Bond dragged Flint into the next room and lay him down on the floor. "Don't get up, Flint," he said, and strode quickly back to the bomb.

"James!"

Bond pressed the muzzle of his gun to the hole in the bomb casing, crouched below its level with the stone stand shielding him as much as possible, and drew a breath.

"See you on the other side, Derek," he said, and pulled the trigger.

-L-

Explosion.

Another burst of flame, gas, and sound from the hole already torn in the building's side. The men of the League Extraordinaire, and the emergency personnel near them, looked up in horror.

"Great God!" Mark Slate was pointing upward, involuntarily. "It's gone off! They didn't...they..."

"Slate!" Steed whirled on him, viciously, and grabbed him by the shirtfront. "Shut up! Don't you see? Don't you use your eyes for anything, man? Tell me what you see!"

Mrs. Peel said, "Steed, for Heaven's sake, Flint and Bond have been..."

"They've been killed." Napoleon Solo said it. "But the bomb..."

Illya was the first to say it. "That wasn't a big enough blast. They disrupted the detonation. It was...they..."

April Dancer drew in a breath, then spoke. "They succeeded. And they died."

There was a long period of silence. Steed was the one who finally broke it.

"My dear," he said, "where Flint and Bond are concerned...never take anything at face value."

-L-

The NEST team were the first into the building, helped along by a helicopter of their own (actually, the U.S. Army's), which got them to the ruptured part of the building and inside it. They sprayed it with fire- and radiation-retardant materials. They cleared the floor of the bodies which were dead, and those which were not.

As things went, there was very little contamination. The casing had torn open when Bond set off the explosive elements in the bomb, but, thanks to his work, most of it kept its integrity. Flint had to be restrained by the men in the suits from going after Bond.

For his part, Bond lay on the floor beside the stand and the remains of the bomb, and did not get up.

Flint and Bond were both rushed to a hospital under the auspices of UNCLE. The American's exposure to radioactive materials was negligible, miraculously enough. Bond wasn't so lucky. He'd taken a massive hit from the cobalt-60. The blast had done him some damage, but that, he would have been able to recover from, in time. The radiation poisoning was another matter.

Bond was mostly kept under sedation as the specialists worked on him. Marrow transplants were considered, among other things. But it was generally agreed that such measures were too little, too late. In the end, they gave Bond about a week.

Miles Messervy caught a plane to San Francisco to see his agent, or what was left of him. He was surprised to see Steed, Peel, and all the rest maintaining vigil in the waiting room of the hospital. "Well," he said, for lack of any better opening, "it's heartening to see you here. Even though they must be pressing you with assignments."

Emma Peel looked at M evenly. "Mr. Bond is one of our own, sir," she said. "For the rest of the week, we will recognize no assignments."

-L-

In the early hours of the morning, Bond awoke.

What in the name of Heaven was transpiring now? Bond hoped that his metaphor was accurate. He'd paid enough of an admission ticket, he felt, to keep him out of the afterlife's nether regions. But the room around him was dark, save for the luminous light of the call-box behind him. There were shapes, at least two of them, and they were vaguely human.

He could barely move. But at least he could hear.

"Are you conscious, Mr. Bond?"

The voice was familiar. Bond strove to focus his eyes, tried to move his mouth, his tongue, tried to form words. The effort was only vaguely successful. He tried to arise from the bed, but something, or someone, held him back.

"You can hear me, Mr. Bond," said the voice. The speaker was still in the shadows. "My masterstroke has, again, been turned away. Congratulations. Your action, though damnable, was valiant. Now, you lie here, dying by the minutes, by the seconds. It would be the simplest thing of all to let you do so. I cannot deny it would be somewhat pleasing to me.

"But. Let it never be said that I do not reward valor. Whether displayed by my allies...or my enemies."

Bond tried to lurch up from his bed. The man (and, he saw, it was a man, an Asiatic at that) held him down with one arm. With the other, the man grasped his head and yanked it back, opening Bond's mouth by force.

The other intruder came forward, a tube glinting in his hand. It was uncorked. Before Bond could manage to get his mouth shut, the strange-tasting liquid in the tube was emptied down his throat.

The man restraining Bond shoved his jaw into place and kept it there while Bond, involuntarily, swallowed. A few moments later, the other one displayed another instrument in his hand: a hypodermic needle.

"Should our paths cross again, Mr. Bond, do not expect a similar mercy," said the man with the needle.

There was a sharp prick in the inside of Bond's elbow. Within seconds, he was asleep again.

Bond didn't see the man's face. Then again, he didn't need to.

-L-

"Mr. Bond? Mr. Bond, wake up. It's time you got back with the living."

Actually, Bond was impressed with the speed with which his eyes opened. The surroundings were fairly familiar. One hospital room looks very like another, and he'd seen his share of them. The doctor and nurse by his bed were unfamiliar, but that was all right. What was gratifying was the fact that he was apparently alive enough to see them.

He also felt more well than he'd have imagined.

"Nice to know I'm still in their number," said Bond, and pushed away a number of sleep seeds from his eyes. "What happened? Bomb wasn't efficient enough to let me die?"

The doctor, a 40ish man with brown hair and a mustache, wearing a green outfit, consulted his clipboard. "Oh, it was efficient, all right. Radiation poisoning, burns, trauma. By all the normal odds, well..." The man looked up. "We expected, really, to lose you two days ago."

"Why didn't you?" Bond fixed the doctor with an even expression. The nurse said nothing.

"We don't know," said the doctor. "The radiation damage has all but totally withdrawn. Your system seems to be recovering, purging itself. For the most part, all we're doing is standing back and letting it work."

Bond was silent.

"What happened to you in there?" asked the doctor. "If we could discover what's causing you to do this, we might be able to save cancer patients, burn victims, and, yes, radiation cases. Mr. Bond, do you have any idea why your body is acting the way it is?"

"Doctor," said Bond, carefully, "perhaps my body has decided that I'm still on assignment."

-L-

Minutes after the doctor and nurse had left, the door to Bond's room opened again. Derek Flint, in bathrobe and slippers, was in the lead, smiling. His hands were bandaged, but he seemed intact otherwise. "James," he said, holding out a hand. "We can't shake hands. But it's good to see you back."

Bond sat up in bed. "You, too, Derek. Glad our friends managed to stay for the weekend." Behind Flint was the entire complement: Steed, Emma, Napoleon, Illya, Slate, and April. Thankfully, all of them seemed to be in better shape than he and Flint.

Steed, still clutching his umbrella in one hand, held out his other to Bond. "James," he said, "well done."

Bond shook Steed's hand.

"I'll add my second to that sentiment, James," said Napoleon, shaking Bond's hand next. "It's good to know that we're not the only ones who can pull off a last desperate chance around here, after all."

Illya Kuryakin said, "But none of us should wish to pull it off that closely again. Well done, Mr. Bond."

"Thanks, Kuryakin." Bond pumped the Russian's hand as well.

April Dancer was next in line. "It's been intriguing working with you, Mr. Bond," she said. "But if we ever have to do it again, I hope we won't do it in quite the same way."

Bond smiled and took her hand, briefly. Mark Slate was next. "Good to know we Brits still have a few tricks to show the Yanks," he said, taking Bond's hand in a surprisingly firm grip. "Very decent job, Mr. Bond."

"Thanks, Slate," said Bond. He moved on. That left only one in line.

Emma Peel stood at the foot of Bond's bed. She studied him, silently, for a long moment. Then she said, "To quote Steed, Mr. Bond—well done."

Bond raised his eyebrows a tad, and, after a pause, said, "From you, Emma...quite a tribute. Thank you."

"You're welcome," she said, and stepped back.

Well. Perhaps some rewards were to be withheld from the victor, after all. But, after all, he reminded himself, Emma Peel was not like the brass ring on a merry-go-round. She would probably be forever out of reach. He looked at Steed, who had pulled up a chair and was sitting in it, but whatever connection he and Emma had would probably remain confidential forever. Just as well, he supposed.

"We think we've figured out what happened to you, James," said Steed. "Though, of course, we're not quite sure how."

"Evidently, some of the Si Fan penetrated our security," said Flint, casually. "For once, that was a good thing. James, you were apparently dosed with the Elixir Vitae."

"What?"

"The Elixir of Life," said Kuryakin. "The serum which the alchemists strove for in the Middle Ages. It prolongs life, which is why Fu Manchu has been able to thrive as long as he has. That much, we've learned from Nayland Smith's reports. Mr. Bond, it's apparently in your blood."

"Of course, we...doubt that we'll be able to analyze it from bloodwork," said Solo. "Otherwise, the medical types probably would already be running up and down the halls yelling, 'Eureka!' But it's enabling your body to throw off that cobalt poisoning."

"I daresay it'll retard your aging processes as well," said Slate. "Enough to make a man jealous. You have more than a few good years ahead of you, Mr. Bond."

It was only through sheer strength of will that Bond kept his jaw from dropping open. "Do you mean to tell me...that Fu Manchu's bloody made me immortal?"

"No, James," said Flint. "Hardly that. Even Fu Manchu has to take periodic doses of it, from what we've heard. But the dosage you've got should keep you fit and vital for some years to come. At retirement age, you'll still look about the same as you do now."

"Retirement," Bond repeated. "What you're telling me is that I'm going to be this young for many years to come?"

Steed nodded. "Yes, James. Without even having to hang a picture on the wall and let it age for you. The way I feel, it's almost enough to make me wish I'd been in there, not you." He smiled. "But not quite."

"That's...nice to know, I suppose," said Bond. His mind wouldn't fully wrap around the concept, yet. If the doctors were accurate, he hadn't been expected to live out a week. Now, he might well outlive all the other people in this room.

To what purpose?

He shrugged. Hell, what purpose was there ever? A man gave his own life purpose. He'd deal with it as he dealt with everything else, in its own good time. Apparently, he had more than a usual supply of that left.

"What of the bomb?" asked Bond. "He made one, he can make another."

"He could," agreed Flint. "But I don't think he will. Let's consider: Fu Manchu is said to have developed the atomic bomb and, apparently, the laser years before anyone in the West succeeded in doing that. But he failed both times he tried to use them. He never tried them again. My guess is that he sees such instruments as part of an artistic endeavor, if you will."

"And like any good artist," put in Illya, "he doesn't want to repeat himself."

"Of course, that doesn't mean we're entirely off the hook," said Steed. "There may come a day when he wishes to visit vengeance upon us all. The League has balked him twice. He might wait another seventy years before trying again. Or he might do it tomorrow. Little point in worrying about it, though. We have other things to do."

"Perhaps," said Emma. "Perhaps some of us do. Others of us...well, we have other lives now."

Bond glanced at her and agreed, silently. The League had succeeded, true enough. But it was difficult, working with all the rest when one was used to going it on one's own. He didn't think he'd like to repeat it, if he was offered the chance.

There was no telling how the others felt. He assumed some shared his sentiments. But if those pictures back in their temporary headquarters were true, a League of some sort or another had existed for decades, possibly centuries. There would be other men of the League, he felt, if they were needed. If Steed was not around to bring them together, someone else would. Of that, Bond felt sure.

Emma Peel had brought a large bag into the room with her when she entered. She stooped to unzip it now. From it, she produced a magnum of champagne and a number of cheap plastic glasses. Oh, well, those were the kind of vessels that traveled well.

As were all of the persons within the room.

The glasses were filled and distributed. Steed was allowed the privilege of making the toast. Raising his glass, he said, "Ladies and gentlemen...to the League."

"To the League," they echoed.

Even Bond said it, last of all. "To the League."

And everyone emptied their glasses.

Notes for part 12:

"James, you were apparently dosed with the Elixir Vitae." The Elixir figures in several of Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu novels and is indeed the secret of his prolonged longevity.

"I daresay it'll retard your aging processes as well," said Slate. Bond was born no later than 1924, possibly as early as 1920, though I favor the later date. (See Raymond Benson's JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION.) COLONEL SUN, the last James Bond novel published before the time of this story, appeared in 1968. Yet, John Gardner began chronicling new Bond exploits in LISCENSE RENEWED (1981) and a string of sequels, most recently continued by Benson to the present day. The dosage of Elixir Vitae explains how he was able to keep physically young throughout the rest of his novel series.

Okay, here's where we try to sort out the acknowledgements.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen concept was created by Alan Moore.

James Bond, M, and related characters were created by Ian Fleming and are the property of Glidrose Productions.

Derek Flint was created by Hal Fimberg and is the property of 20th Century Fox.

Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin, April Dancer, Mark Slate, UNCLE, and related characters were created by Norman Felton and are the property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

John Steed and Emma Peel were created by Sidney Newman and are the property of EMI Films Ltd.

Dr. Fu Manchu and related characters were created by Sax Rohmer and are the property of his estate.

Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin were created by Peter O'Donnell and are the property of his estate.

Savage was created by Gil Kane and is the property of his estate.

Alexander Scott and Kelly Robinson were created by Sheldon Leonard and are the property of Sheldon Leonard Productions.

John Drake, aka Number 6, aka the Prisoner, was created by Patrick McGoohan and is the property of ITC Ltd.

Max Smart, the Chief, and related characters were created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and are the property of Talent Associates.

Jim Phelps and the Impossible Missions Force were created by Bruce Geller and are (I believe) the property of Desilu and / or Paramount.

Matt Helm was created by Donald Hamilton and is the property of his estate.

It's possible I've gotten some of the creators or copyright holders wrong, despite my efforts. I welcome corrections. No money is being made from this story, no infringement is intended.

This one's for Alan Moore and David McDaniel.

–DarkMark, 7 / 20 / 04