FANDOM: X-Men [Adapted comicverse], Bourne Trilogy [Movieverse], Bond [Casino Royale Rebootverse], DCU [Adapted comicverse].
CHARACTERS: ...lots of ‘em. From every single one of these universes
RATING: Teen [Language, violence.]
SUMMARY: One hard drive has something three different men want. One woman is on their trail. One small apartment is going to be lucky to make it through this intact.
AUTHOR’S NOTES: OH MY GOD IT’S FINALLY HERE. I AM JUST AS SHOCKED AS YOU ALL ARE.
First off, this one goes out to mwffj. A long time ago, I mentioned that I’d love to read fic where James Bond and Jason Bourne met. She encouraged me to write it, and what was initially going to be a ficlet blew up into what you see here today. Mercedes has waited a really freaking long time for this, and I’m just hoping it lives up to her expectations.
A few nerdy notes because I’m feeling nitpicky like that: the quick hint at Catholic!Bourne is canon; check his dogtags in ‘Ultimatum’. Continuity wise, it’s pre-X-Men Remy. It’s post-Ultimatum for Jason, and post “Casino Royale”, pre-“Quantum of Solace” (perhaps even ignoring QoS) for James. Any and all inconsistencies with Lois Lane and her universe are my own and in no way the fault of any resources I consulted.
GIGANTIC amounts of thanks are due to the amazing and wonderful xenokattz, who provided bunnies, support, advice, and a ridiculously awesome beta/squee session. Thanks girl.
To everyone else? Enjoy.
The office was absolute chaos. This was the first thing that the intruder noticed when he slipped through the window he’d cracked open. Intel had said that the woman who had called this office hers was organized to a fault; the higher ups must have already come through and tried to sort through all her things. He smirked to himself. Never let it be said that the bureaucracy couldn’t move quickly when it wanted to. Boot-clad feet hitting the ground in perfect silence, he strode across the room to the computer on the desk. He ignored the mess of papers stacked everywhere, and walked past the locked filing cabinets. The desk drawers, locked as well, went untouched. There was even a closed safe in the back corner that he left alone. None of these meant anything at all when what he was after was right there in the open. Funny how people never thought to protect the things that were really important.
Pulling out a couple small tools, he opened up the chassis of the computer, and spent a few moments disconnecting and removing the hard drive with a dexterity that indicated previous experience in such work.
He took a moment to look at his prize once he’d fully extracted it. A little square of information that certain people would kill for: a night’s work well spent, he reflected as he tucked it away in the duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
The watch on his wrist gave a muted buzz – time to get out.
“Easy as breathin’,” murmured the figure as he returned to the window he’d entered through. Taking hold of a waiting rappelling rope and closing the window behind him, he was down and gone, sinking into the night more shadow than man.
Bourne walked into the small church, wearing a heavy coat to match the weather. His collar was turned up, having the practical applications of both keeping him a touch warmer and obscuring his face.
A few faithful sat near the front whispering rosaries. It was a woman sitting in the back corner, seemingly engrossed in a hymnal that Jason sat down next to.
“How did you find me?”
Hardly even phased, Nicky looked up.
“I didn’t think you’d come.”
Ever to the point, he gripped Nicky’s arm and spoke quietly. The low volume failed to hide the sharp edge.
“Here’s how this is going to work. You’re going to tell me how you knew I was still alive. You’re going to tell me how you found me and why I’m here. You’re going to tell me why you’re here when I told you that--”
“Landy is dead. A couple days ago now.”
The simple statement stopped him cold. He pursed his lips for a moment, the closest thing to mourning or shock that he was able to muster. He wasn’t even sure he was capable of dredging up any proper grief for the woman who had set him free. If she was dead, then there were bigger things afoot that required more attention. He looked Nicky directly in the eyes in expectation of elaboration.
“It’s--” Nicky looked down to her hands. “It’s not exactly clear how. It isn’t like I could go back to the Agency after what happened. I know a few things though.”
“Like Landy wasn’t especially popular after your escapades, and there are people who would probably have encouraged her disappearance. Her office was broken into yesterday night too, and her computer’s hard drive was stolen.”
“That’s a lot to know so quickly.”
“I keep an ear to the ground,” she offered by way of explanation and mild rebuff. “There’s murmurs that she had some things on that hard drive that might be breadcrumbs leading people from ‘Jason Bourne, presumed deceased’ to ‘Jason Bourne, possibly alive’. I thought I’d extend you the courtesy of letting you know so you can do what you’ve got to do to keep yourself dead.” She looked directly at him once more, her face more defiant than he ever remembered seeing it. Of course, memory was something of a punch line for him.
Suspicion took over. Why would she bother to do this?
“You’re risking a lot to help me here. Again.”
“This isn’t completely altruistic,” she bit out under her breath. “If they find out about you, they find out about me.”
The weight of the statements seemed to rest on the ‘completely’, and Jason found himself reading too much in to that to be completely comfortable. Nicky had a point though, despite what lay beneath the words. It wasn’t a far jump from him to her, or from her to him, and the Agency hardly had a reputation for being merciful. There would be no welcome mat if either of them were tracked down. Just more of America’s finest sent out after them with orders to kill.
“What do you know?”
“There was no security footage. The prevailing theory at the Agency is that the feed was cut and looped to cover the actual theft, so there’s no visual confirmation of anyone even being in the office. It’s just a theory though. No-one’s positive about anything.”
“That doesn’t leave a lot to go on. And why would whoever was behind this leave the computer without a hard drive?”
“It is sloppy. My best guess? It’s sending a message. There’s talk about the Guild circulating. There’s no other group that would be capable of something like this while remaining completely invisible. “
The Guild syndicate.
A few brief flashes of memory kept Jason quiet for a moment. Clips from Treadstone and Blackbriar briefings. Sets of initials. Addresses of places that were and weren’t at the same time.
As often happened, they began to sharpen from flashes to things more fleshed out. This clarity was coming more and more quickly as of late, and he had yet to decide if he liked that any better than the fragments and slow build of his former nightmares.
The Guild, though. The Guild.
While the Agency could make some fairly accurate guesses about what sort of things the Guild was behind and what they were capable of, they had yet to get enough on the group to make anything stick properly. Legality hardly being a deterrent for the Agency, there had of course been more underhanded attempts to bring the Guild to its knees as well. They had all ended with new stars on the wall in Langley.
“Unless it was an inside job,” Jason observed. “There could have been people within the Agency after what she had, especially if she was unpopular.”
Nicky shook her head.
“Couldn’t have come from the inside. Having her killed, maybe. That’s the most likely story, actually. But stealing the hard drive? Why do that when you could just openly confiscate it with perfectly good reason? No one would question the removal of a dead agent’s computer. It would be protocol. Outright stealing is more the Guild’s style, and other international agencies would know better. None of this is a guarantee, but I’d put money on the Guild over anything else myself.”
There was only silence on Jason’s part. Breathing uneasily, Nicky continued.
“Word is that one of the Guild’s players is moving around in the area right now. He’s also, from what I’ve read, probably the only one stupid enough to try something like this and lucky enough to pull it off.”
Nicky removed a small USB stick from her coat pocket. “We’ve got a few aliases, but he goes by ‘Gambit’ most of the time. Even if he doesn’t have the hard drive, he’s so connected that it’s a safe bet he knows who does. This is everything I could get on him. It’s not much, but it’s a start. If the Guild is behind this, you can fix it. If not, you’ve eliminated one of the major possibilities.”
Jason had spent her speech watching the USB stick she was holding intently. He looked up at Nicky once more, expression stolid but question genuine.
“How did you get your hands on all this?”
She shrugged, the gesture seeming ill-fit to her shape.
“The Agency isn’t as infallible as they like to believe. You should know that. I can still get in and out of the system. Sometimes. I can’t get a whole lot: bits and pieces, mainly, but it’s something.” There was something sitting on her shoulders, her posture making it clear to Jason she wasn’t quite finished yet. He let her collect her thoughts. “You were wrong, you know. It doesn’t get easier.”
Jason’s jaw clenched. He took the USB stick, leaving Nicky and the church with only a pause to touch his fingers lightly to the surface of the holy water in the basin by the door.
Perry White’s office door burst open, and he rubbed his forehead upon seeing who stood there.
“I’m on to something big,” Lois told him, knowing that he was thinking about the bottle of Tylenol he kept in his desk. As he had no qualms making perfectly clear, he often needed it after dealing with her. She in turn had no qualms about replying to this with a screw-you smile.
She dropped a folder in front of him. Opening it, Perry flipped through the small collection of photographs and photocopies of documents – some official looking, some handwritten – that she’d cobbled together.
“What am I looking at here, Lane?”
“Next Friday’s front page if I’m right.”
Lois rolled her eyes before getting right to the heart of the matter.
“What do you know about the Guild?”
The snort Perry gave grated on Lois’ nerves. She was rather proud of herself for not snapping at him for it.
“Come on, Lane. Your something big is a ghost story from the criminal underworld? You can’t be serious here.”
“Mind suspending judgment so I can actually tell you what I’ve found? Five minutes. Give me five minutes.”
“I’m timing you.”
She resisted the urge to flip him the bird. As far as she was concerned, this was personal development at its very best.
“I don’t think the Guild is a ghost story.”
“Then what is it?”
“Exactly what the rumors say it is. A criminal network that makes the mobs here in Metropolis look like kids playing cops and robbers.” She picked up one of the documents. “This is a statement taken from Oswald Cobblepot upon his arrest last week.”
“Cobblepot, the crime lord.”
“Yep. A lot of it was inconsequential stuff he was spilling just to ingratiate himself to the Powers That Be, but he said something about a Robert Lord that just felt...I don’t know. Off. I talked with the cops about it, but they’re not really interested in this Lord guy. Small fish, apparently. A messenger boy. I did a little poking around anyway. I passed some photos on to a contact who’s good with stuff like this—”
The throbbing in Perry’s temples was only growing stronger. He dug that bottle of Tylenol out of his desk and dry-swallowed two.
“—and it turns out this particular Robert Lord doesn’t exist. He doesn’t have a social security number, which was the first red flag, so I kept looking. No birth certificate, no passport, no tax records to speak of. As far as any official organization is concerned, there is no Robert Lord.”
“And you’re not taking this to the police why?”
She ignored the question.
“I had my contact check if ‘Robert Lord’ was this guy’s pseudonym or something. No dice.”
“I’m still not seeing how this is big news, or how it links to the supposed Guild.”
“Why would a messenger boy not exist? The cops are right. They’re just small fish. They may know a little, but the messages are purposely cryptic to keep messengers in the dark. That way, even if they get caught, they can’t offer up anything that the brass doesn’t already have. There’s no reason that a messenger shouldn’t exist. My contact managed to find something connected to this specific Robert Lord though.” She flipped through the papers and showed a faxed copy of a rental agreement. “There’s an apartment in New York rented out in Lord’s name.”
“If he doesn’t exist otherwise, why the hell would he use his name to rent an apartment?”
“Exactly. Which is why I called the place and talked to the super. He said they had no record of a Robert Lord at all. I told him about the rental agreement, and all he told me was that the records were mistaken.”
“I double checked the information myself. My contact did some digging around too. Suddenly there’s no record of this rental agreement at all, like it never even existed.”
“You still haven’t connected the dots between this Lord guy and the Guild yet.”
“No identity? Barely any tracks to speak of? Someone out there making sure any track isn’t just covered, but erased? Perry, the guy’s more than a messenger. You’ve got to be at a way higher pay grade than that to be all but invisible.”
“And you’re absolutely sure this is your Robert Lord we’re talking about? There’s gotta be tons of them out there. Maybe your contact’s mistaken.”
He braced for the impact of the inevitable blow of Lois’ scorn a moment too late.
“My contact doesn’t make mistakes.”
She flipped to one of the pictures. It was blurry, a shot clearly taken from afar and only catching its subject in profile, but the figure could be made out easily enough: tall, dark haired, and high cheekbones that supported sunglasses. The trench coat he wore hid his build.
“Look at this. This was taken during the stakeout that led to getting Cobblepot. He pegged this as Lord, which is how the name came up. I went and asked a few questions at places that Cobblepot mentioned. A couple of the other messengers confirmed this was him.”
“And tell me, was violence at all involved in this process?”
“Are you questioning my journalistic integrity, Perry?”
“That’s what you asked the paper’s lawyers last time.”
Lois’ left eye twitched almost imperceptibly. Tase one dirtbag of an informant in a back alley and you ended up branded for life.
Doing her best to ignore Perry’s comment, Lois tapped at the photograph again and tried to get him to focus on what was really important.
“My contact used this picture as the starting point for all the other details. This is our Robert Lord.”
“So, I think that Lord is just playing messenger. Messengers get used to move between crime families or organizations sometimes. What better way to infiltrate and navigate the underworld than to be a messenger? No-one would bother to check a messenger’s background. They wouldn’t need to. Messengers just deliver, get paid, and are sent on their way to the next job. Lord stays on the ground floor, he stays below radar. It’s only if he tried to move on up that they’d take a closer look.”
“That’s useless to Lord then. What good would staying on the ground floor do him if he’s trying to work his way in?”
“The kind of bureaucratic invisibility that he’s got isn’t just above the pay grade of a messenger, Perry. It’s above anything that anyone we know of in the criminal underworld could manage. No way you waste those kind of resources on just anyone. If Lord’s at that level, then I guarantee you he’s got hooks in the ceiling even from the ground floor.”
“And you think that this ceiling is the Guild, and that Lord’s part of it.”
“This whole thing’s flimsy. You’ve got to realize that much.”
“If this is the Guild, this is huge. We’re talking about not just confirming its existence, but blowing the lid off it.”
“That’s still a pretty damn big if. You can’t even be sure this is the Guild at all.”
“Even if it’s not, then it’s something just as scary and just as powerful. Either way, I’ve got my finger on something big and you know it.”
Perry weighed the pros and cons of popping another Tylenol.
“You’re going to have to fly me to New York,” she informed him.
“On a hunch and some co-incidences? You’re dreaming, Lane.”
“I’ll keep the receipts this time,” she grinned. Perry raised an eyebrow, then sighed.
“You waited outside this time. I’m impressed, James.”
“I’m growing as a person,” he said dryly. “You wanted to see me, M?”
A rather unremarkable brunette served as M’s shadow, dressed in a sensible grey skirt suit and with a sensible leather briefcase in tow. James hadn’t seen her before, which made the woman intriguing. Fresh meat was something of a rarity so deep into MI6.
“And this is?”
“My new assistant. Miss Moneypenny, 007. 007, Moneypenny.”
The woman bobbed her head.
“Pleasure, sir,” she said, and headed for the desk outside M’s office.
“Likewise.” The answer was distracted. He’d been called in, and was itching for a folder in his hand or just something to do. He was too scattered right now. Or too focused, maybe. Perhaps there wasn’t even a difference, but either way he was cagey and needed an outlet for whatever energy he was charged with. What he needed was a target.
M went for her office, waving him in behind her.
He rose and followed. Closing the door behind him, he watched as M took a seat at her desk. She indicated the chair set across from her, an invitation to sit down, but James shook his head and remained standing in the back corner of the room. Unruffled as per usual, M began her briefing.
“There’s news from America. A high ranking official within the CIA has recently had her office broken into, and her computer ransacked. The hard drive has been stolen, and our operatives in the United States have since linked the incident to an organization known as the Guild. That’s as far as they’ve gotten at this point.”
“And what’s on this hard drive that so intrigues us?”
“I should think the fact it belonged to a CIA official and disappeared the same day its owner turned up dead is quite intriguing.”
“The specific owner is also of interest. Pamela Landy was a whistle blower. The CIA has kept mum about the details of what she revealed as well as the circumstances of her death. Official word is that she called superiors out on corruption with regards to the Treadstone and Blackbriar projects, but judging from what we’ve heard, she rattled a much bigger cage than that. You recall that article in the Guardian on Jason Bourne?”
“The one by the reporter dead in Waterloo Station a while back.”
A tight smile spread across James’ face.
“This gets more interesting by the second, doesn’t it?”
“This hard drive may have some significant information on it about Jason Bourne as well as Blackbriar and Treadstone. It’s been suspected that the programs targeted British nationals, and as such have been very much our business since their revelation. Unfortunately, the American government closed ranks tightly on the matter very quickly after Landy handed everything over. The disappearance of the hard drive from CIA property gives us the opportunity to step in, get it, and get the truth without having appeared to interfere.”
For a moment, M looked concerned. James might even have said ‘maternal’, but her face was too hard from her years devoted to MI6 (Semper Occultus, Pro Regina et Patria) to warrant the word. M might have come across as a guardian angel of sorts at times, but it would have been unwise to forget that she had been a double-o herself once, back when she would have had to fight tooth and nail through a well-established old boys’ club. Those with double-o status did indeed have short life expectancies, but M was what the few survivors became.
“007, are you capable of this?”
The use of his number served as a cue that it was time to be professional. However, he not only heard the spoken question, but the one beneath it. Are you alright?
“You wouldn’t have called me in for this if you didn’t think so,” he answered nonchalantly, forcing it to be true for both of M’s inquiries. After all, there was no need to think about purple dresses or love knots or water or cages…
It wasn’t an answer she appeared glad to hear, but M nodded anyways and her face was stern once more as she produced a manila envelope from her desk.
“You’ll meet a contact in New York. They’ll give you the full brief on what they know of this Guild, and you can move from there. Get the hard drive, get it back here, and for the love of God, 007, don’t do anything stupid.”
Bond gave a murmured, half-hearted affirmative as he crossed the room and took the proffered envelope. It would contain a plane ticket, a passport, and an address. It was just enough to get him to the contact, who in turn would give him the next piece of the puzzle.
Finally, a target.
Upon exiting the office and passing the assistant, the young woman cleared her throat to catch his attention.
“Forgive me if it’s presumptuous, but I read the field report on what happened in Venice. For what it’s worth,” Moneypenny said quietly, “I am sorry.”
Bond looked over his shoulder for a moment back to M’s office, then swept his gaze past Moneypenny and towards the door.
“Thank you,” he answered stiffly. Moneypenny managed a small smile, and 007 walked out.
It wasn’t precisely his own apartment that Remy was staying in. Sure, he was living in it, and on paper it was rented out to a name he’d been using lately, but it was technically a Guild safe house – one of the many places scattered across the world for members to hide out in between jobs, or to use as operation bases during. Kept off the grid by the miracle of administrative red tape and Guild involvement therein, the safe houses were essentially non-existent. They were communal places for Guild members, shared around and bounced between.
Until further notice though, this was his place.
Entering the apartment and dropping a grocery bag on the counter, he dug a ringing cell phone out of his pocket.
The phone itself was a disposable one that he’d end up burning in the trashcan behind the building once he was done, since at that point it’d be a liability. Textbook Guild procedure – you got rid of anything that might drag you down as soon as it’d served its purpose.
“Everything still good?” the voice on the other end asked before Remy had a chance to say anything.
“Bears still shit in the woods, don’t they? ‘Course it is.”
“Har, har, smartass. Gimmie some details.”
“Geraldson’s got a pretty penny down right now, but I wanna keep the auction open for a little bit longer. I’m thinkin’ I can squeeze a couple of ‘em still. Gimmie forty-eight hours.”
“Done. We’re gonna get you in with Thibodeaux and his crew after you’re finished; lay low with them ‘til I send word.”
“Thibodeaux? Really? Some days I think y’honestly hate me.”
“Clock starts tickin’ as soon as I hang up, moron. Get back t’work.”
“Love you too, Henri.”
There was a click, at which Remy grinned. He kicked off his boots, stretched a bit, and splashed a little water from the kitchen sink on his face. He grabbed a pen and a notepad from the counter, and headed for the bedroom where he sat down on the bed and punched a phone number in to the cell.
There was only one ring before someone picked up.
“Mister Charles?” Remy began, laying back with one arm propped behind his head. All traces of his natural drawl were gone. He spoke crisply, using a perfectly anonymous middle-American accent. “This is Mister Ayble from Seveith Sales. We spoke yesterday about your interest in a purchase from us?” A pause. “Yes, of course. As I explained to you though, we have limited stock and numerous interested parties.”
Remy grinned as he sat up and crossed out a number underneath the word ‘Charles’, then wrote down a new one that contained a couple more zeroes.
“Thank you, Mister Charles. I’ll be in touch.”
Jason found an internet café a couple cities over and bought an hour of time. Settling in, he popped Nicky’s USB stick in and opened up the files she’d provided.
She’d been right. There wasn’t much at all on this Gambit. There were a couple photographs of a sharp featured man taken a couple years ago, three or four months apart based on the dates. In each, the man was wearing sunglasses and a trench coat.
There was a fairly extensive list of names connected with him aside from ‘Gambit’. From the looks of it, no-one had determined exactly what name was on his birth certificate, or if he even had a birth certificate at all.
Hardly shocking given the association with the Guild.
Nicky had even managed to find a couple documents linked to some of the names Gambit went by. There were some sparse police reports, related to the man solely by the presence of one of his aliases. There was some FBI paperwork too, but it was just as weak content-wise.
Most of what Gambit was linked to was petty crime, and he was only ever mentioned tangentially. He was on the fringe of a good deal, but never close enough to be attached to anything in any significant way.
Gambit (or any one of the names he was associated with, however tenuously) was seemingly Teflon.
One document in particular caught Jason’s attention. It was marked as having been written by Pamela Landy. He read that one through with particular care, being inclined to take anything she said especially seriously.
According to Landy, rumors of Guild members popping up on the grid were circulating. None of them were entirely substantiated, and Landy admitted as much in the document, but felt that the fact there were even rumors out there was concerning.
The organization referred to as the Guild has been the subject of numerous investigations by the Agency, Landy had written. That there are even rumors suggesting something significant is happening, or about to happen, is worth noting. The Agency’s previous experiences with the Guild should make clear that the Guild does not make these sort of mistakes. While it is far too early to give a definitive explanation for this, speculation would indicate that the Guild possibly wants the Agency to take note of their movements.
He kept reading, skimming the historical precedence Landy provided as support for her theory. It was essentially a crash course in the Guild and the Agency’s knowledge of it.
There are a few addresses that have been associated with these rumors (see Appendix 2). It would be prudent to post surveillance at these locations. At the very least it would be wise to establish a small team to delve in to these rumors, and take closer looks at each of these sites to see if there is any significance or history behind them that is at all connected to already established Agency knowledge of the Guild. If nothing else, this team would be able to disprove this conjecture and bring the matter to a close.
See Appendix C for names, qualifications, and availability of suggested team members.
The tone of Landy’s document was passionate, but James sensed an undercurrent of desperation there too, perhaps even a sense of futility. She had created the report not because she was certain action would be taken, but because it was the right thing to do.
If he knew Landy, which he liked to think he did in some small way, she would have pursued this lead by herself even if she’d eventually been told to leave it alone. If he hadn’t been sure, her conclusion put to rest any doubt.
Prior engagements with the Guild have not ended well for the Agency. Numerous good men and women have been lost to them. This discouraging fact alone should serve to remind the Agency that action should be taken.
The Guild cannot be invincible, and it cannot last forever. Further attention to these matters could very well be the opportunity for the Agency to prove it.
He scrolled down to Appendix 2 to see what was there. It was a short list: three places total, all in New York City.
Closing the document, he grabbed the USB stick and stepped outside to hail a cab.
“Where to?” the cabbie asked.
“Airport,” he answered.
Walking off his flight, James saw a man in the waiting area holding a sign reading ‘J.B.’
“Mr. Bond,” the man said, offering a hand. James shook it absently. “Welcome to New York.”
“And you are?” James asked.
“A friend. Shall we?”
The two drove to a large office building without much talk – it was a short drive, and thus there was little time for any real conversation – and wandered into its generously sized café-cum-cafeteria. The ‘friend’ went straight for the lineup.
“Coffee’s on me.”
A couple coffees were quickly in hand, and the choice of location suddenly became much clearer to James. It was lunchtime, and numerous business men were milling around. No-one would bat an eye at two suited men sitting in the cafeteria, having a drink on what would be construed as their lunch break.
“I’ll be as brief as I can,” James’ contact began, his tone crisp and even. “My working name here is Harold Donahue, but my given name is Alec Trevelyan. I also go by 006.”
James knew better than to react; he simply bobbed his head in recognition of a fellow operative. Double-os rarely met, but had a more than healthy respect for each other if only because they recognized themselves in one another and fought the good fight to the same ends. Pro Regina et Patria Semper.
“I’m a deep cover plant here in the States right now. M wanted someone on the inside here to keep an ear to the ground on American politics. The real politics, mind you.”
Bond nodded. The officially designated politicos might have held power, but it was the criminal world that held true sway.
“Are there others?”
“Other plants? Of course. I can’t give names, but I can tell you they’re in a few of the major cities.”
“Other double os?”
“So why waste a double o here in New York? That seems a rather bizarre assignment for an individual of…” He searched for the proper words. “Our particular caliber.”
“One, I’m based out of Gotham City. Two, you clearly aren’t familiar with the Gotham underworld. But we now stray from the point.”
“By all means then,” Jason said brusquely.
“I’m working my way up the ranks of one Edward Nigma’s organization. Currently, I’m one of his Lieutenants. This has given me a rather unique insight into what’s going on around here.”
The scoff James gave couldn’t be helped.
“A Lieutenant for a mobster? I wouldn’t consider that an especially strong infiltration.”
“You would be surprised, Bond.”
Taking a generous draught of his coffee, he continued. “There are much higher heights to reach than where I stand. This isn’t just about Nigma, his people, or his work. There are larger things stirring. Which you know, obviously, and which is why you’re here.”
There was a moment of silence in which James took a closer measure of the man across from him. He seemed incredibly comfortable with what he was doing. He discussed the mob with a nonchalance that felt wrong somehow. Too casual.
In the end, the truth was James could hardly throw stones. He had a disconcertingly high body count under his own belt, and he certainly felt little, if any, remorse.
(His remorse was of a different sort, for a different individual. But he wasn’t going to face that. Not now.)
And to be a deep plant, one had to be comfortable with doing things that could be easily qualified as reprehensible. God knew James had. Both men were working for their country, however different the ways, and as MI6’s elite it was their job was to get blood on their hands to prevent others from having to.
“The Guild,” James finally said, bringing himself back to the present.
“Can you get me in?”
“In a way.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“You’re impatient, Bond. Not an admirable trait.”
James’ jaw tightened. His companion simply watched him and drank a little more of his coffee. The expression he wore was one of calculation and measurement, and James didn’t doubt that he himself sported an identical one. Alec was the one who broke the silence.
“Tight links exist between Gotham and New York. Word travels fast. One of my men has recently gotten wind of some rumors about something important arriving here in New York. The Guild has been mentioned in relation to it. Normally, the Guild would silence any of this sort of talk, but there’s been no such response. Little else is known beyond the fact that there’s something incredibly valuable here, and the Guild is attached to it.”
He produced an envelope from seemingly nowhere and slid it across the table.
“An address. It’s not a guaranteed location by any means, but I can at least tell you that someone there will be able to point you in the right direction. Given you apply the proper sort of pressure, of course.”
Alec glanced at his watch.
“I should be going. I told Nigma I was heading to New York to meet an old school friend. I’m expected back tonight. Apparently, he’s starting a business undertaking that requires the presence of all his Lieutenants.”
James was hardly listening. He’d opened the envelope and was scanning the single sheet inside. There was indeed an address there, as well as some brief information about the neighborhood. Alec interrupted his train of thought.
“You’re going to go in today, aren’t you?”
He gave Alec no response.
“Brash behavior. Again, not an admirable trait. How ever does M put up with you?”
The question was delivered with a smile. James’ response was pointedly cool. “I can only assume it’s my scintillating wit and dashing good looks. Thank you for the help.”
He made to rise.
“A toast before you go at least,” Alec offered, raising his coffee cup. “For England, James.”
James raised his own. He had yet to drink from it. “For England.”
“Okay,” Lois said, digging in her shoulder bag and pulling out her Robert Lord folder. She spread its contents out on her hotel room floor, and booted up her laptop. Beginning to putter around, she wrote up a to-do list and a concrete outline of what she knew. The more she would learn, the more detailed her outline would be, and the easier it would be to change into an article.
Her cell phone rang, and she noted that the call display read ‘unknown number’ as she answered.
“Lois Lane speaking.”
“You made it to New York okay, obviously.”
“I did. And sweet of you to check in, Babs.”
“Hey, what are friends for?”
“Outside of offering help of the legally questionable sort and being generally amazing?”
“Thanks again for everything,” she said, gesturing around her even though Barbara couldn’t see. “This stuff is great.”
“Got some more for you. I’m e-mailing you some photos of the apartment building right now.”
On cue, a new message popped up complete with attachments. Clicking them open, Lois found herself looking at various images of a dilapidated building.
“I knew it was a crappy place in a crappy neighborhood, but this place looks like it hasn’t seen any TLC since the eighties.”
“Eighty nine, to be exact.”
“No renovations or anything?”
“Nope. I took a look at the other tenants to see if there was anything fishy. There’s only a few of them, but all with rental agreements present and accounted for. It’s just Robert Lord that stands out.”
“You’re a goddess.”
“And don’t you forget it. You’re planning on checking the place out this afternoon, I’m guessing.”
Babs made a distracted humph sort of noise. “Sorry Lois, but I gotta go. I’ve got a rodent problem.”
“Say what now?”
“Some douchenozzle going by the handle ‘Rabbit’ has been trying to block me every step of the way with this Guild thing. They’re trying to crack the Watchtower right now. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go light a fire under their ass.”
“Give ‘em hell girl.”
“Will do. Give me a call tonight though, okay? Just want to be sure you’re alright.”
“Of course. Now go make yourself some rabbit stew.”
Onwards to Part 2