The woman, alone in the London apartment, stood up at the sound of the doorbell.
Curious, considering she was several floors up and a doorman was on permanent duty. As she crossed the floor, she ran through the list of people who could, and would do this, and as she reached for the doorknob, she only came up with one name.
"Bond, I hope you're ..."
The man standing in her doorway wasn't Bond. The brown pinstripe and overcoat wasn't to her most aggravating agent's satirical tastes. Neither were the sideburns, glasses, and unnaturally spiky hair.
The despondent looking man gave her a slight smile. "Hello M."
The woman removed her hand from her dressing-gown pocket, aiming a small automatic at his head.
Staying just out of her visitor's reach, M gestured towards a nearby wall. The visitor, with a resigned look, pressed himself flat on the wall, face first.
M, being shorter than her visitor, found it easy to place her ear against one side of his back, then the other side. She then slid the safety switch and pocketed the gun.
"Sorry, Doctor. Just being cautious."
The Doctor turned, a little reproachful. "Wasn't the TARDIS parked next to your front door a bit of a giveaway?"
"I've just found out about the existence of an entire secret organisation that's apparently infiltrated every level of society. I don't know about you, but that tends to make me little paranoid."
The Doctor rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah. Hate it when that happens."
"Cup of tea?"
The Doctor brightened. "Oh, now you're talking."
"I assume you came to talk about Bond."
The Doctor reluctantly lowered a custard crème. "Yeah. I thought ... I was nearby, better make sure how he's going."
"He's ... changed."
"Well, you were there, weren't you?"
"Unlike my predecessor, I hadn't seen ..." M lowered her cup. "I'd like to know what happened."
The Doctor's mouth tightened. "The Time War."
"Evidently. MI6 has an extensive dossier on the subject. Torchwood, UNIT, our surveillance of one Jackie Tyler. Never has so much effort has been expended on so much second-hand information."
The Doctor leaned back, not looking at his host. "You want an eyewitness account?"
"I'd like that. Besides, you've gone through half my custard crèmes, if you tell me, I can get it back on the expense account."
"MI6 complaining about the budget?"
M's face was stony. "We've scrapped Q Branch."
"Oh. I'm sorry. Hang on, what about ..."
"Snapped up by Apple. He's now designing whatever new thing Steve Jobs wants to prefix an i to."
Nodding, the Doctor moved forward, elbows leaning on the table. "The War ... it'd been brewing for a while. The Time Lords send an agent against the Daleks, the Daleks start some scheme to kill the High Council ... small stuff. Warning shots. Then one day, Davros shows up at the same time that an Emperor wants to make a serious push against the Time Lords, and is willing to offer anything for the one creative genius who'd willingly work with the Daleks."
"The Time Lords knew that Davros with the full backing of the Dalek Empire was a serious threat. Not to mention they'd hadn't been in a serious fight in ages. That's the thing with time-looping every remote threat; you get out of practice."
"There was one type of Time Lord who had ... practical experience. Renegades. Time Lords who'd been exiled or left on their own."
"Sort of. So they made ... made us an offer."
"A full pardon. Welcome home, open arms, never mind you violated one of the Time Lord's biggest rules and got really, really involved." The Doctor took a sip of tea. "Some of us took the offer like a shot. Some of us were ... resurrected, if we were skilled enough. But most of us knew what it meant if Gallifrey fell to the Daleks."
"Did Bond fall under the last category?"
"I remember that Jimmy boy didn't need much convincing."
M raised an eyebrow.
"One of the first things the Time Lords had me do was recruitment. At least one renegade would listen to another."
"Quite." M refreshed her drink. "Bond had been in something of a bad way when you met him."
"Some business in Korea, he said."
"Some business that went very wrong in Korea. He missed Q's retirement party."
"One thing I knew about James, he loved a party."
"When he finally returned, Q was dead. Car accident."
Something indescribable crossed the Doctor's face. "Oh. I'm sorry."
"We all were. Bond in particular took it very badly. Then one day I turn up to work and find a letter telling me that one of the Double-0's best and most experienced agents had taken a leave of absence, his only explanation was he's attending a long overdue family reunion."
The Doctor grinned. "That's him."
"What brought him here? To Earth?"
"You're getting the full value of those custard crèmes, aren't you?"
"I shop at Harrods."
"Good point. Now from what I know ... there was a scandal, on Gallifrey. Some say he'd been caught in bed with one high-ranking Council member's daughter. Some say he killed that Council member ..."
"I say it was probably both, knowing Bond."
"It was hushed up, so a lot of the details were somewhat ... wibbly. Now whoever did the hushing wasn't powerful enough to have Bond erased from existence. But powerful enough to have him exiled."
"Like you were."
The Doctor grimaced. "Capital Punishment wasn't the done thing on Gallifrey. Legal, yes, but ... messy, politically speaking. Exile, however, for the average Time Lord? Given the choice, they'd march into the vaporisation chamber. So they exiled Bond. But not after making an example of him."
M gave the Doctor a pointed look.
"Surgical internal alteration. Nearly everything inside that's Time Lord is taken out and put in a jar in a cupboard. Officially, it's so the exile doesn't raise any eyebrows among the population if he needs to be opened up. In reality? It's a message saying Don't Come Back."
"So they dumped him here. Just before World War Two."
"Found work at a dock until he encountered someone he was the spitting image of. A young man who'd lied about his age to join the Navy. Someone who'd just died in a barfight."
M smiled. "James Bond."
"Needed an identity. After the war, joined the Secret Service."
"From the papers my predecessor left, the first time Bond died, it was terrifying. Even though he'd fought several supervillians ..."
The Doctor nearly dropped his tea. "What?"
"What we called certain individuals ... during the Cold War, certain ... ambitious agents were funded, trained by both sides to find new and interesting ways to take on both superpowers. Complex and audacious schemes with cutting edge technology. Usually through cut-out organisations like SPECTRE. And without fail, they turned against both sides. When they started inspiring private individuals, like Stomberg and Drax, we pulled the plug. And it was usually Bond that stopped them."
"Blimey. And they wanted to kill him?"
"They soon realised they had an agent that couldn't easily die. Not to mention someone who could read and memorise entire books on ... marine biology and any other topic to the point he could pass off an expert in minutes." M stirred her tea. "Didn't believe it myself when I got the top job. I knew Bond was capable, brilliant. One of the reasons he got away with so much. I didn't believe the file that said he was at least three times older than me, that he'd had at least four other faces that we knew about. But then ..."
The Doctor looked at the table.
"James was one of the best front line officers for the Time Lords. Tactics, strategy, brilliant, simply brilliant. But the Daleks only had one strategy; move in with overwhelming force ... and exterminate. There's only so much we could do against that."
"Then ... they got clever. They found a way around our regenerative abilities. Destroy the nervous system with an overdose of arton energy. Brain Death in a flash of light."
"It was at the Fall of Arcadia. I was trying to get them to retreat, our officers wouldn't hear the end of it, didn't want the loss of one of our prime strategic positions to fall on their record. Me and James were trying ... something, anything ... then an Arton Grenade went bouncing around the corridor."
"James threw himself on it. Saved me. Saved the three officers we'd been arguing with, and possibly every Time Lord there because that finally scared them into ordering a full retreat."
"James had absorbed the full blast, but I triggered a regeneration by using the metabolised arton energy as a power source. I brought him here, to you, and left, they wouldn't let me leave the front for long."
M carefully set her tea down. "He changed. Regenerated. As your ship left, he changed. When he woke up ..."
"He couldn't remember me."
"His entire neural network had been wiped clean. It was a miracle ..."
"He started ... to remember things. His name. His position as an MI6 agent. That I was his superior."
The Doctor looked away, then back. "But not exactly."
"He was absolutely convinced he'd been in an accident of some kind. Prior to his entrance test for the Double-0 Branch."
"The higher-ups didn't want to let him go, he was still the agent who couldn't die. I had him requalify as a Double-0 and put him back in the field."
"And how is he ...?"
M twisted a ring around her finger. "Aggressive. More brutal. We don't recruit peace-loving hippies, I'm the first to admit, but he's become more and more physically ... direct."
"That ... that happens."
"There's other problems. You know those martinis he drinks?"
"Those 'shaken not stirred' things?"
"He keeps on ordering them made with ingredients that haven't been on the market in twenty years."
"Well ... say he's a connoisseur. I'm still wondering how someone can have at least four different faces and still stay in the same job."
"The Double-0's have what's euphemistically known as a high turnover rate."
"Euphemistic as in 'don't bother with a pension plan'?"
"As in few of his colleagues last long enough to notice someone has a new face."
"I'm interested to know how you can fix Bond."
"Maybe. I don't know if I should."
"I beg your pardon?"
"The war ... it was like nothing you've seen or could imagine. It ended badly. For James ... it didn't happen. Not anymore."
"What if something goes wrong with Bond? Medically? Psychiatrically? And when he changes again?"
The Doctor's gaze snapped up to meet M's. "Then he'll think he's always had his new face, if the new personality matrix reforms the way it did before. One of the reason you should keep him ... busy."
"Occupational therapy for an alien."
"Whatever part of James Bond was Time Lord, it's ... resting now." The Doctor gave a wry grin. "Best to let it rest."
M crossed her arms.
"I know you're not happy about it ..."
"... I do a lot of things I'm not happy with. It's part of my job."
The Doctor nodded, got up, and headed for the door.
After the noise of the time machine faded, the woman was alone in the London apartment.