“But gullible voters may be misled into thinking it was some kind of intelligence failure, or a sign that my policy of winning over the Muslim world has not been a 100 percent success,” the president continued. “That’s why I’m announcing today that there will be a total government news blackout until you gentlemen have conducted an independent investigation into the cause of these regrettable incidents, starting with the video terrorists, and reported your findings back to me on November the 7th.”
“We want the truth and we want it then,” said the president’s wife.
“Not a moment sooner,” said Ms. Jarrett.
“At the earliest,” added Ambassador Rice, thumping the table for emphasis.
“Well, gentlemen, you have your orders,” said the president. “You will want to get going. But there’s no immediate urgency. If you feel like a cup of coffee, or a drink, or a cigar while you ruminate on your approach, please relax here in the Oval Office for a few hours. We don’t need it for a while.”
“Make yourself at home,” said the president’s wife.
“It’s got a lovely view,” said Ms. Jarrett.
“The service is awfully good here,” said Ambassador Rice.
When the president and his entourage had left, Romney did indeed relax. He settled back in his armchair, produced two cigars from his pocket, and put his feet up on the presidential divan.
“Please have a cigar, Mr. Bond — no tricks this time, I assure you. It’s a genuine Corona Semper Fidel,” he smiled pleasantly across at the British agent. “Don’t make any sudden moves, I beg you. Five sharpshooters have their rifles trained on you as we speak. And don’t be too surprised. Oddball made his escape from your so-called ‘safe house’ a month ago. We’ve known who you were for more than three weeks.”
Bond accepted the cigar almost gratefully. For a moment both men drew in the scented smoke with sighs of satisfaction.
“I confess that I will miss you, Mr. Bond,” Romney continued. “The trousers you pressed had a much sharper crease than Oddball’s ironing produces. That alone might have given you away if we had not already known. You’re too good — standards of valeting are woefully low in Pyongyang. “
Bond seethed inwardly, but decided to encourage his opponent to keep talking and leaned forward eagerly. The longer a super-villain talked, the better chance his victim had of survival. He had not misjudged his man. Romney was in a talkative mood.
“You know, Mr. Bond, you may be surprised to hear this from a global criminal mastermind, but I really think I would be a better president than this fellow Obama. Did you hear him just now? Not a thought for the people who have risked their lives on his behalf. No determination to get the people who murdered them. Nothing but concern for his own miserable political hide. It’s, well, shameful.”
“Odd to hear such humanitarian sentiments from the head of SPECTRE,” interjected Bond coldly.
“I understand why you say that, Mr. Bond,” responded Romney crisply. “But when I order a killing, it’s to make myself astronomically rich and powerful. I don’t tell my people to let children die simply because it will keep some political interest group happy. And when someone kills a SPECTRE operative, I avenge him. It makes his widow happy and discourages other attacks on SPECTRE. The president’s policy of ‘live and let die’ is one that encourages frivolous murders. Frankly, I think it’s immoral.”
Bond, getting ready to spring, was encouraged by his opponent’s garrulousness. Romney continued:
“And then there’s America. Back in Berlin, I despised this country. But my wife is right: It’s a generous, good-hearted place full of decent people. They deserve better than their current leader. I might be a bastard, but I would be their bastard. In a way I would like that role.”
Bond was about to spring when Romney put up his hand. “Don’t forget those sharpshooters, Mr. Bond. I must be going.” He popped a small device into his mouth. “We had Q’s little gadget copied while you were asleep one night. It’s very useful. Do you suppose that Q might work for SPECTRE?”
“Only if you could give him a life membership at the MCC,” said Bond grimly.
“Ah, the famous British sense of humor,” said Romney. Then switching over to Q’s Voice Dissimulator, he spoke to security in the unmistakable tones of the president: “Colonel Hawkeye is on a secret mission for me. He is leaving the Oval Office now and is to be given full control of the Camp David helicopter. And tell the Marines to arrest the British agent, James Bond, who has defected to SPECTRE. He has a license to kill; so have you. If he is captured, you have my permission to waterboard him, but no more than ten times.”
Romney walked out of the door, throwing an exploding cigar at Bond’s feet, as the Marines burst in through the windows. The last thing that Bond heard before his head hit the water was the sound of a helicopter lifting off and heading west. Then he closed his eyes and thought of England.