1 / The Master's Plan

NOW

Guy Haines walked into his study at four o'clock in the morning and found that the dog wasn't barking at a simple leaf outside the window. "What the hell are you doing here?" he asked the man sitting at his own desk. "If they find you here, they'll trace you right back to me." He shut the door so that his wife didn't hear them talking

"I don't think you have to worry about that, Mr. Haines. Besides, your ties to Quantum are already well established and known to every government. Why did you think you weren't called to any meetings?"

Haines sat down on the sofa against the wall opposite the desk. "I've been found out? When?"

" When Bond spied on us at the Bregenz opera house. You, Karakov, Soref. You've all been discovered."

"And what about you? MI6 already knew about you."

White sat back in his chair and cracked his knuckles. Haines couldn't help but notice that his hands were gloved. "But I've covered my tracks. I escaped Sienna—"

Haines cut him off, "Thanks to your man. What's his name again? Island? Imbris?"

Suddenly, a wire was drawn around his neck, cutting off his supply of oxygen. He could still breath, but it was enough to stop him from talking. A cool voice with a Kurdish accent whispered in his ear, "Iblis."

White smiled. "As I said, I escaped Sienna. I went undiscovered in Bregenz. Iblis dispatched Greene after his foul up. And we've taken care of other such... loose ends."

THEN

The Russian agent, Svetlana Kierikova, got out of her car at just the right moment. Iblis slid up to her and clamped a hand around her mouth. "Do not scream. You will not be injured if you remain silent." He released his hand from her mouth and instructed her to lead him to her apartment. Once they got there, he had a drink with her, then he killed her, slowly and painfully. She bled to death in as slow a manner as possible.

In the end, blood dripped from every possible place: nose, mouth, ears, eyes... and more private spots.

NOW

"Problems which you refused to deal with while you were in charge," White said, almost with a hint of glee. Haines couldn't help but scowl at the smile which seemed to widen almost every second. "Iblis, relieve some of the pressure on his throat."

The Kurd loosened the wire, but it wasn't taken away. "What do you want, White?"

" What do I want? It's not what I want, Mr. Haines, it's what I'm taking."

THEN

Iblis waited for the American in his home. Mrs. Allen Thompson and her children had been entertained for several hours while her CIA husband worked. Now, all three corpses laid in their beds, awaiting the man of the dead house.

"Nancy?" Thompson called as he walked in from the garage. He flipped on the lamp in their living room and was greeted by Iblis and Iblis alone. "Who the hell are you?"

"I am here to make certain you do not interfere in the affairs of those higher than you in the natural order."

"What are you talking about?"

Iblis raised the silenced handgun. "Mr. White sends his regards." He fired one bullet, hitting the man directly in his left temple. He had to be out of the country as soon as possible. His employer had one last target for him to deal with.

NOW

"And what are you taking?" Haines asked.

Iblis whispered to him, "What is deserved."

Haines narrowed his eyes. "Why make a play for power now, White?"

White laughed. "Now? I've been working toward this since I first joined the organization. You never questioned it, did you?" Another laugh. "All those targets, all the work I did? Everything worked out in the end, though we lost a few men in the process. And each time one of the committee members was killed, another one simply scooped up his assets and we carried on."

"My own sudden rise doesn't seem so sudden anymore, White."

"I'm glad you've decided to notice. Le Chiffre's financing operations, Greene's Tierra Project, my own set up on the Virgin Islands... it's all been leading to this one moment. I had Le Chiffre killed to cover up the large transactions that were sent to my accounts. Greene was eliminated because he gave us all up to Bond. And now, it's your turn to join them in the purgatory you've created for all members of Quantum."

THEN

Camille Montes set her keys down on her dresser and grabbed her gun as soon as she heard the door to her apartment close. Whoever he was, he'd been tailing her since she left the office. She hugged the wall beside the dresser and waited for him to enter the bedroom.

To her surprise, he walked in and sat down on the chair next to the door. "You can put your weapon away, it will do you no good," he said, the accent of a Kurd. "I am Iblis."

Camille's eyes widened. She recognized that name. MI6 had shared documents with her agency which had his name, but nothing more. "You don't look like I expected."

He tilted his head back. "And what were you expecting?"

"Someone a little more... Demonic."

A smile appeared on his face, one that sent chills up her spine. Indeed, the man in front of her could be considered attractive. He must have been at least six-foot-three, with a clean-shaven face, and close cropped hair. He almost looked like a Middle Eastern version of James Bond, except he didn't have the scar on his right cheek. But one thing was certain, the only thing she saw in his eyes was death. No emotions had ever held this man down.

"What do you want with me?" she asked.

"You are a threat, and must be silenced."

"On who's orders?"

"Mr. White, head of Quantum."

"Don't you mean Guy Haines?"

"No. Mr. Haines does not have much time left, and his tenure as commander is over, in any case." On the last word, he drew a weapon from a shoulder holster beneath his coat. Without sound or flash, he squeezed the trigger, and suddenly Camille's vision doubled. She looked down at her stomach and found the dart he'd fired. "The poison is slow acting, and there is no antidote. You will die, Miss Montes."

Camille tried to raise her gun, but it felt too heavy, and so she dropped it. Iblis didn't move, he simply sat there, the dart gun still aimed at her.

"What threat... could I possibly be?" she asked, her voice cracking.

"It is not my place to know such things. I simply know that you are to die, and so you shall." And with that, he stood up and left.

It was three hours before Camille lost consciousness. At first, she tried to reach her phone, but the room spun around her, making her stumble and fall. Once she gave up on that, she simply dropped to the floor and the only things she had to comfort her were her thoughts of James.

NOW

White and Haines sat across from one another. White in the desk chair, Haines on the sofa. Behind Haines stood Iblis, White's executioner.

" Now you know," White said, standing from his chair. "I just wanted you to know how much your fate was out of your hands. I've been planning this for a long time, Guy. Quantum holds the keys to the world, and now I hold the keys to Quantum." White nodded to his assassin, who pulled the wire across Haines' neck.

"Wait!" Haines struggled to say. Iblis loosened the wire. "Please, don't kill my wife."

White sighed. "She's already dead."

And with that, Iblis pulled the wire tighter across Haines' neck yet again. His death was slow, and more than a little blood stained the silk pajamas his wife had bought him last Christmas. White left the house first, and then Iblis followed once Haines' head was severed from his neck and rolling on the floor.

When both men were in the car, Iblis asked, "Shall I deal with Bond now, sir?"

White shook his head. "No, I have someone expendable on that job. Bond has done more than his share of damage to Quantum. I want to play with him a little before we kill him."