Bond strode purposefully towards the workshop, pausing only to cast his homburg at the hat stand in the corner with pin-point accuracy.
“Ah Commander Bond,” announced a voice from the doorway, irascible and hurried. “There you are at last. How good of you to grace us with your presence.”
Bond regarded the older man. “Good morning Q. What have you been working on for me this time?”
“Come on through to the Armoury, Bond, and we’ll see what’s what.”
Stepping through the threshold, Bond regarded the familiar low-ceilinged workshop. The white-coated assistants bustling around, weaponry clamped down for bench-testing, a low shape at the far end covered with a grey dustsheet.
“I see nothing much has changed, Q.”
“Don’t you believe it, 007.”
Bond raised a quizzical eyebrow as the Q continued.
“We’re operating in straightened circumstances, don’t you know.”
“Pay attention, Bond,” Q sounded exasperated. “Don’t you ever read the newspapers? There’s a financial crisis afoot. We can’t be seen to be spending willy-nilly, even at MI6. The papers would have a field day. Sometimes I wish the Cold War was still on.”
Bond wasn’t giving his Quartermaster the benefit of his full attention. Instead, he focused on a ballpoint pen held in a jeweller’s vice. “Hullo, what’s this?” he asked as he loosened the vice and held the instrument aloft.
“Hmmm? Oh, Bond. Please don’t touch that.”
“What have we here?” Bond waved away Q’s protests. “No, don’t tell me, let me guess. It’s a location finder. No, a laser device, perhaps. Or maybe some form of dart gun? What if I pull this switch on the barrel?”
“Then you will find that you’re writing with black ink instead of blue. Look, Bond, sometimes a pen is just a pen. Like I’ve been trying to tell you, times are hard.”
“Just a pen, eh? Well, I suppose it’s mightier than the sword,” Bond sniffed.
“We’re in a different world, Bond. You can’t act like you have in the past.”
“I suppose I can rely on my trusty firearm. My Walther PPK?”
“Sorry, Bond, that’s had to go. Do you know how pricey those things are? Here, you’ll have to use this instead,” he grunted as he heaved over a hessian sack.
“What’s in there?” asked an incredulous Bond.
“Honda 750 motorcycle chain. One of the most devastating close-combat weapons known to man. No, don’t interrupt me, Commander. Think yourself lucky. 006 has had to make do with a Super Soaker. 008 is getting a length of two-by-four next week. It’s the financially responsible way.”
Bond motioned towards the shape nestling under the dustsheet. “I see you’ve been working on some transport for me, though.”
“Ah, yes, we’re quite proud of that one. Stand on that side while I remove the covers.”
Bond allowed his eyes to rest on the bodywork. “What.....is that?”
“That, Commander, is a Ford Fiesta. A 2003 model. We got a very good deal.”
“But what about the Aston Martin?”
“Have you any concept of cost, Commander? To say nothing of the insurance. You lost your no-claims bonus years ago – you’re not exactly the safest of drivers, Bond. The depreciation alone made M weep.”
“Now pay attention. The Fiesta gets good mileage, has plenty of room in the back and is actually quite nippy around town. Think of the Benefit In Kind tables.”
“But I can hardly pull up to the Ritz in Monaco in one of these, can I?”
“Ah, that’s the next bit of news,” said Q. “Overseas travel is a definite no-no at the moment, I’m afraid. Your next assignment is to Swindon.”
“Swindon? But I normally arrive at my jobs by seaplane or mountain pass. Tootling down the M4 just won’t be the same.”
“Bond, you’re going to have to face reality. Times are hard. We can hardly afford to have you swanning around the world, quaffing vodka martinis. We’ve had to make Miss Moneypenny redundant; her job’s now being performed by a Call Centre in Mumbai. If you don’t want to be next, you’re going to have to tighten your belt a bit.”
Bond’s steely eyes narrowed as he turned away. He was the best. In his time he’d faced down all enemies, from the Stasi to SMERSH, renegade nuclear scientists to megalomaniac media barons. But there was one thing he couldn’t beat. The Accounts Department. Were they trying to force him out? He turned back to Q.
“Do you expect me to walk?”
“No, Bond, I expect you to get receipts.”