“Welcome back, 007. How did it go?”
Bond said nothing. On the long haul back from the Sudan he had spent hours – days even – imagining this conversation. He had turned over the options in his mind, mentally rehearsing all the things he wanted to say to Q. His relationship with the weapons expert had been fractious over the years, but where previously he had always been made to feel like a naughty schoolboy, now he was bristling with justified rage.
“Could have been better, could have been better,” Bond said, emptying out his pockets. “A few bumps in the road. One or two sticky situations.”
“I’m sure,” Q said, surveying the equipment as 007 laid it out in front of him. “I see you’ve managed to bring back your equipment back in one piece. For once.”
“Yes. As it turns out, all this was about as much use as a chocolate teapot.”
There was an awkward pause. “Excuse me?” Q said, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
“Absolutely. Bloody. Useless. All of it.”
Q scratched his temple and looked a little nervous. “Really?”
Bond picked up the Parker pen from the assorted gadgets strewn on the workbench. “Tell me about this… thing,” he said, handing the pen to Q.
“It’s quite simple, really. Just click the top and the pen shoots a high intensity laser from the barrel, deadly to a range of 50 metres.”
“All well and good, but what’s the problem with it?”
Q stared at the pen. Stared at Bond. Stared at the pen.
“I wasn’t aware there was one,” he said.
“Well, let’s say an agent in the field is perhaps wanting to pay for something using Her Majesty’s Credit card. Imagine this agent is going to sign the check at a restaurant and then burns the table in half. Do you think that’s a problem?”
“007, I can’t be held responsible for your forgetfulness. If you can’t keep track of your equipment, then that’s your own lookout.”
“Oh I can keep track of it. I just thought that if you were building a weapon into a pen, it might also function as a pen, you know?”
Q shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not that simple. The laser fuses the ink, you see…”
“Well, I’m going to need a new chequebook as well.”
“You’ll have to talk to finances. Not my department, you see.”
Bond waved away his excuses. “Never mind that, what about the suitcase?”
“Ah yes, the suitcase,” Q said, his chest swelling with pride. “Contains a parachute that will deploy within two seconds of being activated. Perfect for those impromptu skydives that you seem to be so fond of.”
“That’s as maybe, but there’s no room to put anything in it. Like my clothes.”
“Sacrifices have to be made, 007. And if you’re falling out of a plane, which would you rather have – a parachute or your pyjamas.”
“A parachute. But when I’m travelling across the desert, I’d rather carry my belongings than a parachute I’m not going to use.”
“You say that now…”
“I say that always.”
“So… you didn’t fly to the enemy base?”
“I rode a Camel.”
“I see.” There was an awkward pause and Q felt rather embarassed. Trying to save a little dignity, he said: “What about the watch? Surely you found a use for the watch.”
“The watch did tell the time,” Bond conceded. “As for the grappling hook that shoots out the front, that did me no good whatsoever.”
“How about the umbrella with the speargun?”
“I was in the desert, Q.”
“Hm. The shoes with the ice-skates in the bottom?”
“What about the cigarettes filled with cyanide?”
“Gave them to a beggar. Still feel guilty about that, but it was hot and I was forgetful.”
Q walked around to the other side of the workbench, his hand trailing over the equipment he had so lovingly crafted. “So what you’re saying is that none of this was of any use to you whatsoever?”
“That’s it exactly,” Bond said, his eyes hardened like steel. “But you know what would have been handy while I was facing down a dozen enemy agents? You know what might have come in useful while I was grappling with the henchman and in mortal combat with the evil mastermind behind it all?”
“A gun. A gun that shoots bullets from the end. A gun that doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Not concealed inside some salad tongs, not made out of rubber to fool the enemy. Nothing clever. Nothing fancy. Just a gun.”
There was an awkward silence before Q erupted in gales of laughter.
“Oh, 007!” he cried, wiping the tears from his eyes. “You’re so old-fashioned!”
Bond shook his head. “Fuck off, Q,” he said, before walking away to find someone to flirt with.