All recognisable characters are owned by someone else.
This story is the result of watching DVD's, movie trailers and drinking too much coffee

Better Dead Than R.E.D.

Cooper felt sure that the constant buzzing and flickering of the florescent light-bulb that offered the small, dank cubical its only illumination was intended to drive him either insane or to suicide. Truth was, it wasn't far from succeeding if it was.

It turned out letting the Vice President of the United States get kidnapped and then shot on your watch wasn't exactly good for ones prospects as a CIA Agent. If not for the fact that he had been able to uncover a rather embarrassing conspiracy involving said Vice President and the late arms dealer Alexander Dunning, Cooper would have probably ended up either spending the rest of his life in a maximum security federal prison, or laying dead in a shallow grave somewhere. The newly appointed director didn't no exactly what to do with him, so he had been "temporarily" reassigned to the records department to review old files to see if there was anything in them that might prove to be important.

It was his own personal purgatory, but at least there was the faint glimmer of hope that he might be able to work his way out of the basement by the time he reached retirement age.

The file before him concerned a botched attempt to assistant a British agent in Bolivia. The man had been marked as rogue after another agent had been killed, and targeted by a Special Activities Division kill-team. He managed to evade them with what sounded like consummate ease, before stopping an attempted coup d'état, clearing his name in the process. The file was highly amusing to read, as the former head of the South American section and the members of the kill-team were obviously trying to cover their own asses the entire time.

Still, there was something about the file that nagged at Cooper's memory, but he couldn't quite put his finger on why.

If there was one good thing about his new position, it was that he had access to The Vault, the top secret repository for all the files that didn't officially exist. His first visit there had been an eye-opening experience, and the truth was that he was looking for an excuse to go back there. Now he had one, he couldn't help but feel slightly daunted at the prospect of meeting the Records Keeper again. The somewhat jovial old man probably knew so many secrets that his dreams had their own security classifications, and he had more than enough dirt on powerful people to keep from any of the blow-back from recent events from landing on him. That said, he also seemed to have a slightly twisted sence of humour, so something like this case might appeal to him.

Checking the latest access code, Cooper made his way to the secure elevator and waited for the retinal scanner to confirm his identity before it would take him down even deeper into the bowls of the CIA. There was still a faint hint of fresh paint in the air, and an area where the colour of the wall beside the thick,blast-proof door recently been repaired, but the code worked as advertised and the door swung open with well-oiled ease.

"Well, well, well; Agent Cooper." The Records Keeper looked up from behind his small, simple desk, "Can't say I ever expected to see you down here ever again."

"They have me looking through some old case files." the former assassin explained, holding up the nondescript folder in his hand, "Something about this one jogged my memory, but I can't place it."

"So you came down here to see if I could help." the older man nodded, "Okay, let me see what you've got."

Cooper handed the file over, and the Records Keeper flicked it open, his eyes going wide almost instantly.

"Well, you've certainly stumbled upon something." He pulled out a photo an examined it, "Not a name I ever expected to come across again; I thought it had been discontinued."

Cooper looked at him somewhat blankly, waiting for the rest of the story to be filled in. after a few moments, the Records Keeper got up and walked over to one of the perfectly ordinary looking failing cabinets that filled three of the walls of the room and pulled out one of the draws. From inside he removed five thick, sealed files and returned with them to the desk. Cooper noted that each had been stamped RETIRED – EXTREMELY DANGEROUS in blood red ink.

"What I'm about to tell you is one of the greatest secrets of 20th century espionage." With care bordering on reverence, he opened the first file, "Royal Navy Commander James Bond, CMG, RNVR. Born November 11th, 1921. Father, Andrew Bond, Scottish. Mother Monique Delacroix, Swiss. Both were killed in a climbing accident when he was eleven. Raised from then on by his paternal aunt. There are a few notes here about his school life, including his expulsion from Eton College due to what was referred to as 'girl trouble with a maid', but it doesn't get interesting until he joins the Special Operations Executive in 1941, where he gained his military rank."

"What are you talking about?" Cooper blinked, "He'd be almost a hundred today..."

"I'm getting to that." The Records Keeper responded with a hint of annoyance at being interrupted, "He remained with British Intelligence after the war, becoming their top agent, reaching '00' status, meaning he was free to use lethal force as and when he saw fit. They gave him all the difficult jobs; the sort of do-or-die, save-the-western-world-as-we-know-it missions you probably thought spies got up to when you were a kid. Well, he did all that and more." He turned the file round so his younger companion could read some of the parts that hadn't been blanked out, "Accredited with stopping at least two acts of nuclear terrorism, and helping to stave off a Third World War. Retired from the field in 1967, but by then he'd become something of a myth in the intelligence world. That's when some bright spark at MI-6 came up with the idea of perpetuating the myth. They find themselves a young, up-and-coming agent who looks and sounds like Bond and give him the mantle. The name, the reputation, everything."

"He adopted the legend." Cooper nodded, "Risky."

"Too risky." The Records Keeper opened a second, much thinner file, "He fell in love shortly after taking the job, and got married right after his first mission. Unfortunately for him, someone came looking for payback." A photo showed the bullet-ridden remains of a car, "They were aiming for him, but they hit his wife; killed her instantly. He had a total breakdown, as you can imagine, and had to be pulled. They managed to talk Bond out of retirement so he could go track down the man responsible and make it clear what would happen to anyone who went after an agents family ever again, but he was getting too old to keep it up."

"So they found a third agent." Cooper glanced at the next file, "Did he do any better?"

"Much." the contents of the next file were almost completely blanked out, "I once saw this before it was redacted; he did shit that'd make your hair turn white. Real crazy, you wouldn't believe me if I told you half of it, saved the world and everyone in it stuff. But again, there's only so long you can keep going before age or luck catches up with you. He hurt his back on a mission, and the doctors refused to clear him." He almost spat, "Bunch of lilly-livered desk-jockeys didn't have a clue who they were talking about."

"So onto number four?"

"This guy was real hard-core; highly decorated ex-SAS combat veteran, kill you with both hands tied behind his back type." the next file was only slightly thicker than the second, "But it was a different world by that point; the Cold War was starting to come to an end, and the new threats, well, they didn't play by the same rules. Not that this guy cared; he was a human wrecking machine, ready, willing and able to take down any target that he was pointed at. His missions may not have been as glamours, or had as far reaching consequences, but he was no less effective or deadly. Some said he was too hot blooded, and that was his downfall; he let the job get personal, so MI-6 cut him lose. I heard he got married, settled down and started a family, crazy as that sounds."

"And number five?"

"Number five was a little more controlled; guy had ice-water in his veins. If anything, that made him deadlier." The final file was opened, "It was a post-Cold War, pre-9/11 world; enemies had become friends, friends enemies. The old power structures were shifting and changing on an almost daily basis. Hell, you know what it can be like out there. This guy lasted seven years in the field, in situations where you couldn't necessarily tell the good guys from the bad guys. He didn't just survive, he thrived in it; ate it up like it was candy and asked for more. He didn't care about the politics or the power-games; he did what he was told to do, and God help anyone who got in his way."

"So what happened to him? He die?"

"Worse; he gut burned. Mission in North Korea went bad and he found himself spending 14 months in one of their prisons, and you can only imagine what he went through. MI-6 got worried that he cracked, so first chance they got, they traded him for a Nork agent they'd captured. He claimed to have given nothing away, but when they didn't believe him, he went off the reservation to prove himself. He did it, managing to stop the Korean war from starting up gain, from what I was told, but by then the damage was done; who's going to trust a once burned spy?"

"And now?"

"Now you have a new player on your hands." The Records Keeper sat down with a sigh, "If MI-6 has decided to resurrect the James Bond name, it can mean only two things. One, they are convinced they're going to need someone who's name alone is going to be able to stop people in their tracks."

"And two?"

"They have an agent who's ability to case death and destruction in the pursuit of his objectives are second-to-none. There are only ever nine agents with '00' status. Nine, out of everyone who works for MI-6. Just imagine what someone like that is capable of."

"So, definitely not an annalist then?" Cooper looked at the photo taken in Bolivia and smiled, "Should be worth keeping an eye on."

The End