Twenty-four hours later, Bond was feeling distinctly uncomfortable at the underwater annual general meeting. He had never been enthusiastic about infiltrating SPECTRE disguised as Lady Gaga. Her costume left almost no room for Q’s gadgets. He couldn’t sing — well, that wasn’t such a problem. He had to share a room with Frenchie Galore and, though he believed he had finessed them quite well, there had been some tricky moments in the shower. Now she was gazing at his legs again. Was there tell-tale stubble on his calves?
Fortunately, Blofeld called the meeting to order and everyone turned towards him. He stroked his white cat impatiently and pointed. There was still no sign of Number Two, who was to report on agenda item one. Blofeld was notoriously short-tempered, and the average lifespan of a SPECTRE Number Two was numbered in weeks rather than years. Bond was still uncertain about Number Two’s identity, but he was also beginning to feel that it didn’t really matter. If it was Romney, Blofeld would probably do the world a favor before the hour was out.
Two minutes later Mitt Romney entered the room, followed by an eager young intern, and took Number Two’s seat.
“You’re late, Number Two,” said Blofeld.
“No,” replied Romney curtly. “You were early.”
With an effort, Blofeld controlled himself and gestured an instruction for Romney to make his report. Romney began an impressive PowerPoint presentation on “How to Profit from the Coming Apocalypse.” He had arrived at a key point about how changes in Medicare and Social Security would yield billions in profits for SPECTRE by 2016 when Blofeld interrupted with a malicious smile.
“And how exactly?”
“Cigarettes,” replied Romney smoothly.
Blofeld was not the only one around the table to react with incredulity. Putin, Mugabe, Khamenei, Blofeld, and even Frenchie, terrorizing the monsters around her as she excitedly waved her poison-tipped cigarette holder, all shouted back, “Cigarettes?” at an imperturbable Romney.
“Yes,” he responded. “Cigarettes. Gaspers, fags, coffin-nails, stomps, smokes — call them what you will. We cut the price by reducing the tax to the optimal level at which it yields the greatest revenue by increasing cigarettes’ share of the drug market, watch the proceeds roll in, count the falling costs of Medicare and Social Security, and bank the proceeds in, ahem, the Cayman Islands.”
Blofeld looked incredulous still, but also strangely joyful. He could see his rival had made a fatal blunder. Almost sweetly, he asked exactly how the figures all added up.