Two men sit in companionable silence working on their laptops in the sitting room of a high-rise luxury flat with a stunning view of the London skyline. There is a 60-inch ultra-high definition television screen on one wall, the set tuned to some entertainment gossip show and the volume turned down to a low murmur. James Bond couldn’t care less about either the set or the program, but his companion, the Quartermaster, gets twitchy if he’s not surrounded by screens and streams of information. Bond shrugs inwardly. He supposes that it’s the same feeling he has when deprived of his Walther PPK. Not good. So not good. And Q can be every bit as destructive as his agent when he’s bored and out of sorts.
“You must be joking!” the young Quartermaster suddenly exclaims.
“Beg pardon, Q. Did you say something?”
“Can you believe that wanker?”
“Language, Quartermaster.” When silence meets Bond’s comment, he eventually looks up from his laptop and is met with a glare more tightly focused than any laser beam. “Right, then, which wanker would that be? There are so many to choose from.”
“So true.” The Quartermaster heaves a rather theatrical sigh which leaves Bond in no doubt that he is being included in the category. “However, the one I have in mind is Daniel Craig.”
“Oh really, Bond. Do pay attention. He’s the actor who currently impersonates you in the cinema.”
“Ah.” Bond makes a noncommittal noise to cover his disinterest. By now he really should know better than to play either dumb or innocent in any exchange with Q. “Would you mind bringing me up to speed? What exactly did this Daniel Craig say – or do – that has you so exercised?”
“He’s the star of an iconic and very successful film franchise . . . ”
“Much as you hate to admit it.”
The Quartermaster grimaces in a way that Bond somehow finds endearing. “Yes, much as I hate to admit it, but as I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, he’s well paid for his time . . . and rather dubious talent . . . but it seems that he’s bored. When the interviewer asked him if he would be continuing in the role in the next film, Craig told him that he would rather break a bottle, grab a shard of glass and slash his wrists.”
Bond quirks an eyebrow. “That does seem a bit excessive. On the other hand, I must admit that I occasionally feel that way after a mission. It’s why I sometimes drop off the grid rather than come home directly. I wouldn’t be the best of company.”
Q’s hands hover for just a nanosecond over his keyboard. It’s a tell that he’s been touched on an emotional level. He’d like to think that James doesn’t notice, but he knows better. James Bond notices damn near everything, especially when it comes to his Quartermaster. Someday perhaps, Q muses, he’ll tell his agent that he would prefer a drunken lout cursing like the sailor he is and punching holes in the walls of their flat to not knowing where he is or if he’s even alive. But not yet. He settles for remarking, “He’s not an agent. He only plays one in the cinema. How hard can that be?”
“Oh, I don’t know. He has to learn all those lines.”
“Whilst you, on the other hand, can – and sometimes do - say any inane thing that pops into your head.”
Bond wisely chooses to move on. “He has to do those crazy stunts, sometimes more than once because the director has a bug up his arse about his ‘vision’ for the film.”
“Are you implying that M doesn’t have a vision for how she’d like to see a mission go?”
“Not at all, but M is a pragmatist. As long as the job gets done and Her Majesty doesn’t have to issue an apology from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, she’s more or less satisfied.”
“You’ve clearly never been to a Q Branch budget meeting. M does not find the cost of replacing your tech after each mission to be amusing. I believe she is currently considering whether that displeasure would best be expressed by seeking reimbursement from your salary or mine.”
“You worry too much, Q.”
The Quartermaster merely huffs in response, his eyes closely following the strings of code appearing on his laptop’s screen at an amazing rate.
“Perhaps he’s grown bored with certain tropes he’s forced to contend with in the role. As I recall, he doesn’t much look like a man who favors martinis – shaken or stirred.” Bond takes a moment to refresh his memory. “No indeed. I should say that he probably fancies a bottle or two of Glenfiddich, water optional.”
When Q makes no comment, Bond offers, “Perhaps it’s the ‘Bond Girls’ then? A good number of the men in Craig’s line of work don’t go in for that sort of thing.”
“He’s married to an actress. Perhaps he’s satisfied with what he has waiting for him at home. I’ve heard - though I certainly have little personal experience to verify it – that some men do go in for that sort of thing.”
“Now, Q, you know I can’t live without you whispering sweet nothings in my ear.”
This time Bond’s response is met by an out and out snort on the part of his Quartermaster. For the next few minutes, Bond attempts to busy himself with the after-action report he’s supposed to be working on, but his mind strays to the slender, dark-haired man beside him. It worries Bond sometimes. He finds the Quartermaster’s quick, acerbic wit incredibly arousing except for those times when he can’t tell whether the man is being serious or merely joking. Case in point: Does Q really not know how more than satisfied his agent is with whom he has waiting for him at home? Some day, he supposes, he’ll have to lay it all out for him in language that is crystal clear. There are three people in the world for whom James Bond would willingly die: Her Majesty the Queen, M and Q. But today probably won’t be the day for that conversation.
“I can’t blame Craig for being bored. You know, Q, they do redact the most interesting parts of our adventures before they make it to the big screen.” Bond reaches over to ruffle Q’s barely tamed mop of hair.
Q swats his hand away. “You’re incorrigible. And you’re supposed to be working. The more you mess about, the more likely it is that Her Majesty will be forced to make a rather embarrassing announcement from Buckingham Palace.”
“You’re starting to sound like M.”
“I’m doing what I can to preserve your salary. Oh, and thank you, by the way.”
Bond sighs and erases the document he’d been working on. Somehow, the tone wasn’t right. And Q had a point. Their last mission had been a bit of a cock-up. Things came right in the end, as they usually did, but there were a few issues where Her Majesty could use plausible deniability, the operative word being plausible. What he’d spent the last hour writing wouldn’t be believable in Mr. Craig’s next film, should he choose to accept the role again.
“So tell me, Bond, if Mr. Craig does move on to ‘explore other opportunities’ as they say, who would you like to see take over the role? Who do you think has what it takes to play you?”
“There was a time when I would have said Sean Bean.”
“Ah, the chap from Sharpe’s Rifles. How did PBS in America describe that character? Oh, yes, a 19th century James Bond with a Baker rifle.”
“Sounds accurate to me. All that derring-do behind enemy lines on secret missions for the Duke of Wellington . . . ”
“Carousing, bedding beautiful women and being a thorn in the side to the said Duke of Wellington. Yes, I think I can see the resemblance.”
“Well, at least if he became the cinematic Bond, Bean would once again have the luxury of his character still being alive at the end of the production.”
“I’m afraid that the powers that be put paid to that idea, though, by casting him as the villain of Goldeneye.”
“Don’t remind me, Q. Alec is still livid about that. How anyone could think that 006 would betray his country is beyond me. I understand he even considered filing suit for defamation of character.”
“Yes, Moneypenny mentioned that M was actually forced to raise her voice in order to dissuade him from taking that particular course of action.”
“You know, it occurs to me that Alec is pretty good with computers. Not like you, of course, but then who is?”
“Too true, though in an emergency you might want to seek out a woman named Penelope Garcia who works for the FBI.”
“Isn’t that the bird who Felix . . .”
“The very one. She’s a bit of a flaming flamingo, but one with mad skills. We go back to her Black Queen days, long before Leiter tried to play matchmaker.”
Bond makes the connection. “Is that where the Dalek biscuit jar came from?”
When Q answers with only a mischievous grin, Bond makes another connection. “You’re trying to change the subject, aren’t you?”
“I’m busy,” Q answers primly. “I’ve wasted more than enough time on this nonsense.”
“You helped Alec get a bit of his own back, didn’t you, Q? You’re the one who hacked Sony, leaked the script for Spectre and got it blamed on the North Koreans.”
“You might think that. You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”
“Right.” Bond grins in that predatory way that Q finds strangely appealing. “I know you’re aware of the law of unintended consequences or, as they say in the vernacular, no good deed goes unpunished. You may have assisted Alec in getting satisfaction, but the downside is that certain more, shall we say, 00Q-friendly scenes were re-written and toned down. No wonder Craig was bored!”
“Ah, yes. Mr. Craig and half the fandom. And it’s all my fault!”
Both men retreat to their electronic devices. Bond still has that after-action report to write, and God only knows what the Quartermaster is up to now (and even He isn't sure). Time passes and the report is finally taking shape, but there is still a question nagging at Bond from the back of his mind.
“Q, if Craig does decide to ‘spend more time with the family’ rather than continue in his greatest role, who would you like to see take over? Who do you think has what it takes to play me?”
Much to Bond’s chagrin, his Quartermaster has an immediate answer. “Ben Whishaw.”
“Wait, how does that work? He portrays you.”
“Indeed, but I think he’s due for a promotion. He’s played anything and everything from a rather vain and self-centered king to a murderer. BBC2 has even given him experience playing a spy. And have you seen him in a bespoke suit? He’s perfectly capable of maintaining your sartorial standards.”
“But isn’t he scheduled to take the role of some musician in a biopic?” Bond hopes he doesn't sound too eager for that eventuality – or too jealous.
“There’s been interest expressed in him portraying Freddie Mercury, yes. He’s already played Keith Richards, though, so I’m sure he can handle your larger-than-life rock star persona.”
“I’m sure,” Bond grouses, “but I’ve heard rumors in the fandom that there’s an appetite for a spin-off featuring the Quartermaster. They don’t mean John Cleese.”
“Isn’t it lovely to have options?” Q smiles as he shuts down his laptop and stretches languidly. “It’s been a long day. I’m for bed. You are going to get that report in on time for once, yes?”
“Do remember that I get bored easily and don’t be long.” Q clicks off the oversized TV and saunters toward the master bedroom in the back of the flat.
Bond shakes his head in bemusement. This Ben Whishaw fella had also played a lovelorn poet, but in that department, he has nothing on the Quartermaster. In just a few more minutes, Bond hits “Send” and the report does whatever it does in cyberspace to end up in M’s mailbox. He hopes the old gal doesn't have cardiac arrest when she sees it – not what's in it, mind, but the fact that it is, indeed, on time. If she were ever to learn the power of Q’s threat to become bored in bed . . . Well, Bond shudders to think.