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A Close Second (edited)  By K. Banks


Bond walked into M’s office.  He was dressed in his dark navy blue Armani suit, which complemented his blue eyes.  The sight of MoneyPenny sitting at her desk, eagerly typing, amused him.  Moneypenny looked at Bond with her innocent yet teasing brown eyes.

                “Good morning James, have you come here to cheer me up as usual?”

Bond raised his left eyebrow and boyishly smirked at Money penny.

                “ Well I was running late.  And uh, I didn’t have time for breakfast, so I thought I could come to you for a quickie…cup of coffee?”

                “Money Penny leaned over to him and said, in a flirtatious but playful tone:  “Well you know James, it’s the most important meal of the day.”

A serious voice suddenly interrupted the conversation.

                “I’m sorry to cut the usual chit chat, but come into my office 007 immediately.”

Sensing M’s sarcasm and impatience, Bond walked over to the door to M’s office.  He adjusted his tie before entering.  He entered quietly and stood there for a minute or so.  M was sitting at her desk sipping her bourbon.  She was looking over some files.  Bond was mentally guessing what M wanted.  She glimpsed at Bond in her usual manner.

                “You may sit down 007.”   She took another sip of bourbon.

                Bond sat down on the leather chair in front of her desk.  He noticed the files were labeled trainee personal information.

                “Well as you may already know 007, we’re recruiting new agents.  Today, they will be given an examination that would test their motor skills, psychological well being, and physical abilities.  If one of them succeed, they would be given Double- O status.  I was very highly selective in choosing who fit our criteria.”

                “Profile?” Bond inquired

                “That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Series of rigorous examination was given.  There were only three who passed, only one received perfect score.  We even heighten the standards for new agents.  The 36 hour deprivation test moved up to 40 hours.”

Bond was wondering what does this have to with him.  He gave M an inquisitive expression.

                “I want you to be at the examination which is about to start in 40 minutes.  We must not waste time.”

Bond was annoyed by this assignment.  The idea of training new agents was beneath him.  However his respect for M wouldn’t allowed him to be blunt.

                “Thank you” Bond walked away slightly displeased.



As Bond was looking back at the large acres of training ground, he thought it was the obstacle course from hell.  There was a long cement road that turned in all sorts of directions.  It had spikes raised from the middle of the ground.  Simulated machine guns, filled with blanks, were hidden behind the walls.  Robinson was standing beside Bond.

                “It’s shocking isn’t it James.  New course, new requirements, the British government is looking for very top-notch agents. At least someone second place to you James.”

                “How many will be tested?” Bond looked at Robinson curiously.

                “Three, if they pass, they will receive double 0 status.”

                “And if they don’t?”

                “Desk job, or some where in our department, since they meet most of the criteria of a British civil servant.  By looking at this training exercise it’s seems impossible.”

                M was in a black jumpsuit.  All the trainees arrived.  They were dressed in a black jumpsuit as well, but they were equipped with a few weapons that included a smoke grenade, and a handgun loaded with blanks.  All of them were wearing helmets with black goggles.  To Bond they looked like young lambs.  It was reminiscent of his days starting out as an agent.  However, he was often cavalier about risky situations.

                “Okay men, this is our last and final examination. This obstacle course would determine your improvisational skills, physical ability, and your mental competence.  Each trainee would go through this obstacle course.  If one of you get shot or killed by the simulated terrorist, you failed.  However if you do pass, your assignment will be given to you.”

                M observed the trainee with a prudent expression. 

“Even though this is an examination, and the situations are exercises, you should take into account that situations get difficult in the field.  Except, instead of using fake bullets, you will face real ammo in the field.  In order to complicate it even more, Agent Bond will pursue you in his car.  Each trainee will be using a motorcycle.  That’s all.  Good luck.”

                All the new recruits were preparing and Bond sensed uneasiness among them.

                “Okay gentlemen, to be blunt, there is no second place.  Let’s begin.”

M sent the first trainee into the obstacle course.  Bond entered his car and started to pursue Trainee one.   The trainee was able to dodge the bullets.  However when he ran through the spikes, and was shot by one of the simulated terrorist, he fell off the bike.

                “You got to be joking.”  Bond said to himself.  He started to have this mental conversation.  He could have been in his office looking at files of international criminals, or bothering Q.  But no, he had to sit through this.

                “Just bloody great” he muttered under his breath sarcastically.

M sent the second trainee into the obstacle course.  He got shot the first second he was sent in.  Bond heard Robinson voice on the car radio.  James pressed the button in order to respond. 


                “Well that’s two.  You probably find this boring James.”

                “That’s okay, the secret service needs a few more secretaries any away.”

Robinson laughed quietly.

                M sent the third trainee.  He shoots out and dodge the bullets as if he had ESP. Bond was amazed.

                “Okay lad let’s see what you got.”

Bond sped up to the motor cycle.  The trainee looked back and went at a high speed.  The spikes were glaring in the sunlight.  The trainee pulled back and charged towards the spikes.  He was able to leap over the spikes.  Bond was impressed and was relieved that this trainee examination wasn’t a total loss.  He noticed that trainee  3 was pulling something out of his side pocket.  The trainee’s hand looked large and masculine from far away.  He pulled out the grenade and dropped it on the ground.  It emitted red smoke, which made it difficult for bond to see the trainee. When the smoke screen cleared, the trainee had driven a few yards away.  Bond sped up again until he reached in the end of the trainee’s tire.  The trainee looked back quickly.  Bond could see that he was ticking him off, he found it so amusing.  Trainee 3 looked hesitant and didn’t know what to do.  He suddenly made a quick turn, which enabled him to get away from Bond.  The exercise was almost over.  Bond was pleased by the trainee’s determination.  The trainee reached the end of the obstacle course.  Bond stopped the car.  M and Robinson drove up in a car and approached Bond.

                “Well I guess this is it, he was the best of the three.  If he stuck in there a little longer, I would have gotten him.”

                “You tested the trainee skills well 007.”  M observed the third trainee and gave a respectful congratulatory smile.  The trainee walked up to Bond with a little intimidation.

                “Well sir, you didn’t make this exercise a total loss.  My name is James Bond.”

The trainee took the helmet off and long brown hair fell out.  Bond was flabbergasted.  It was a woman.  She took her goggles off and wiped her eyes because of the perspiration.

                “My name is Mara Lovechild.  It’s an honor to meet you sir.  You got me worried I was sure I was going to fail this examination.” 

                “You were good. You handle that motorcycle like a man would.”

                “Thank you sir.”

Robinson approached them.  “Excuse me, Bond I need to speak with Ms. Lovechild for a moment.”

Bond nod to Robinson.  He approached M with a disturbed and annoyed look.

                “Why didn’t you tell me, one of the trainees was a woman?”  He said in a quiet but disappointed manner.

                “I thought it was irrelevant, besides she had the perfect score on the exam.  She fits the criteria as the next man would.  Well that would be all.” She walked to the trainee.  Robinson went to Bond. 

                “I must say, I am impressed.  Her profile really turned M’s head.   She's a graduate from Cambridge, expert marksman or marks woman.  Speak several languages.  She has a little of everything.  Compare to the current Double 0’s I say she has equal skill and some what better than the other agents.”

                “Well as long as I’m around, she’ll be a close second.”  Bond return to his car and drove away.

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