Authors: Christopher Wood
Now outer space belongs to James Bond 007
A very regrettable incident has ocurred. A US MOONRAKER space shuttle, on loan to the British, has disappeared — apparently into thin air. Who has the spacecraft? The Russians? Hugo Drax, multi-millionaire supporter of the NASA space programme, thinks so. But Commander James Bond knows better.
Aided by the beautiful — and efficient — Dr Holly Goodhead, 007 embarks on his most dangerous mission yet. Objective: to prevent one of the most insane acts of human destruction ever contemplated. Destination: outer space. The stakes are high. Astronomical even. But only Bond could take the rough so smoothly. Even when he’s out of this world...
James Bond and
The 747 was flying high, nosing aside wisps of cloud as a celebrity might brush past eager reporters. It was not alone. On its back was the squat outline of the space shuttle it was transporting, the word MOONRAKER distinctively lettered on its sides. Seen from afar, the shuttle looked like a giant fish riding on the back of a cruising whale.
Inside the control cabin the captain’s eyes flickered over the panels of instruments, the wavering needles, the banks of coloured lights. There was nothing abnormal. The 747 was flying itself. There appeared to be no adverse reaction to the unaccustomed load. The captain was surprised and relieved. It proved what a hell of a good aeroplane the 747 was. The captain indulged a twinge of patriotic pride and wondered, not for the first time, why the space shuttle was being lent to the British. Was it just for an air show? It seemed a gesture both expansive and expensive at a time when the Administration was cutting back savagely on overseas spending and when the space programme itself was being starved of funds to the point where there had been accusations in the Senate that space was being abandoned to the Russians.
Maybe the British boffins had come up with something that NASA could use. That seemed the most likely explanation. While the shuttle was in England, the British scientists could run their own tests and confer with their American colleagues. Despite limited resources it was difficult to believe that the British had not come up with something since Bluestreak, if only at the drawing board stage.
Beside the captain, the first officer glanced at his watch and moistened his lips. He was thinking of pleasure, not business; of an apartment off the Bayswater Road in London where a lady of his acquaintance would be checking that there was still enough Jack Daniels left in the bottle and that an extra towel hung in the bathroom. She would do this before she went to work in a library so that she could get home by six with any extra supplies that were necessary and take a bath and scent herself, and wait for him. He knew she would be waiting because he had telephoned her in the middle of the night before the trip. She was always waiting. Always glad to see him. She was a passionate girl but, like many English girls, ashamed of her carnality and inclined to cloak it in coyness. She would open the door to him in the most provocative underwear she possessed and complain that she had been expecting him an hour later. He would back her into the bedroom and make love to her and she would protest at the same instant as the dry nail varnish flaked off against his punctured back and her well-cleaned teeth bit into his shoulder.
He wondered what shape the evening would take. She did not always open the door in a négligé. Normally she would be waiting to receive him in a dress of becoming simplicity, perhaps adorned with a large antique brooch. She would take the flowers he proffered with small cries of joy and stand on tiptoe to push forward her cheek for a kiss. When it would be into the small sitting room and a vase for the flowers and a Jack Daniels on the rocks for him. And all the time a constant flow of questions that never waited for answers, and reminiscences about people he had never met. ‘You know, it was frightfully funny, but...’ It never was funny, or even interesting, but he would listen with a good-humoured expression on his face and sip his drink and let his eyes enjoy the breasts and the curve of the skilfully aligned legs that the rest of his body would be savouring in good time.
After a second drink, a gin and Schweppes’ Bitter Lemon for her, he would suggest dinner and they would go round the corner to a small Italian restaurant where the lights were low and the prices high and the clientèle leant across the tables to hold hands and looked round quickly every time somebody entered in case it was their wife, husband or established lover.
Once at the restaurant he would transfer his allegiance to a bottle of Valpolicella and listen to her talk about her job; or rather, the man she worked for. He surmised that this man had once been a lover although this had never been explicitly stated. There was resentment but at the same time grudging respect and a kind of fascination. The man was married but he was not happy with his wife. He would have been happier with her, if she would have him, was the inference.
Whilst the saga of the library unfolded the
prosciutto e melone
would give way to the
petto di polio
and the girl’s face become even more desirable in animation. She was probably trying to make him jealous but he did not care who else had her as long as she was always available on demand. As he debated whether they needed another bottle of wine his legs would stretch out to find hers and immediately feel the pressure of her calf against his and her hand upon his thigh. Her lips would start to stay apart temptingly and glisten in the candlelight. He would forget about the second bottle of wine and suggest that they drank their coffee back at the apartment. He smiled. They had never had that coffee yet.
‘What are you sniggering about, Joe?’ The captain’s voice cut in on his reverie.
‘Nothing in particular.’
‘Some broad you’re going to lay in London?’
‘I’m too much of a gentleman to answer that question.’ The first officer spoke over his shoulder. ‘How are we doing for time, Dick?’
The navigation officer, who was Britain’s contribution to the ferrying of the Moonraker, looked up from his plotter. Close inspection would have revealed a faint blush on his pink cheeks. He was not used to exchanges of the kind he had just heard between the captain and his first officer. ‘Not bad at all, sir. We’re fifteen minutes up on our E.T.A. already. If this tail wind keeps up we could be at Heathrow forty minutes ahead of schedule.’
‘Excellent,’ said the captain.
The navigation officer looked down at his charts. Somewhere, far below in the strange half-light between night and day, was the town of Champagne. What a name for a town at the northern end of the Rockies in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Perhaps there actually was champagne there once when the gold rush was in full spate and the word Yukon was synonymous with twenty-four carats. He thought of men wrapped in furs staggering out of a blizzard and kicking their snow shoes against the hitching rail of a saloon. The swing doors bursting open, the gust of warm air, the honky-tonk music in the background, the slaps on the back, the fire of the first shot of whisky hitting the back.of the throat, the satisfying pressure of the bag of gold dust wedged solidly against the underbelly.
Now the saloon had probably given way to Frank’s Fast Food Dinette, catering for truck drivers climbing down from the air-conditioned comfort of their cabs on the Alaska Highway. Half an ear on the local radio, half an eye on the girl behind the counter. The sizzling hot plate appearing through the hatch. Three eggs, sunny-side-up on rashers of bacon that overlapped the plate and were further anchored by a small mountain of crusty hash brown potatoes, the whole accompanied by a mug of steaming black coffee. The navigation officer could taste the saliva building up inside his mouth. He could almost feel the invisible knife in his hand breaking through the delicious, fatty, fried crust of the hash browns. With any luck, if there were no stacking problems at Heathrow and the Kingston By-pass was not throttled by returning commuters, he would be home in time to help the children with their homework and eat supper with the family. He had tried to ring Louise and let her know when he was likely to be back but there had been no reply. She must have been out at one of her yoga classes or helping clear up after a War on Want lunch. It did not really matter. It would be more of a surprise for them when they saw him.
Inside the lower deck of the Moonraker a trained ear could have heard a faint vibration. All was in darkness. The whole structure of the craft trembled. Then there was another sound. A muffled, fizzing noise like a firework in a tin can about to explode. But the noise went on and on and there was no explosion. The noise did not get louder but there slowly came a faint glow of light that showed itself like a tiny slit mouth at the extremity of one of the wall lockers. The glow concentrated itself about the locked securing catch, which slowly began to turn red and then white hot. A thin column of black smoke rose in the air and the Metal began to buckle. Fifteen seconds passed and then there was a sharp crack and the locker burst open. Immediately the bright light that was revealed extinguished itself and the glowing metal faded rapidly until it lost its identity in the darkness. The shuttle continued to vibrate through space and there was a rustle of clothing as a man’s legs swung from the locker. A thin torch beam probed the darkness and a laser welder was tossed on to one of the bunks. The light probed like an impatient finger and found what it wanted: the opening device on the opposite locker. This was swiftly pressed open and a second pair of legs swung into view.
The two figures that were revealed looked like hob-goblins in the quarter-light. Their tight-fitting black uniforms covered them from head to toe and were melded into pressurized oxygen masks with tubes that led from beneath the reinforced glass panels at eye level to two thin cylinders on their backs. They did not hesitate but moved instantly towards the foot of a spiral stairway. The first man to emerge led the way and began to climb. Above him was the control cabin of the Moonraker space shuttle.
In the cabin of the 747 the first officer rubbed his hands together ruminatively. ‘How we doing now, Dick?’
‘We just passed over Fairbanks.’
‘Twenty minutes ahead.’
The first officer rubbed his hands some more and thought of how in a few hours’ time he would be walking his date back from the Italian restaurant. The winter fog would be fuzzing up the street lamps. He could hear their footsteps and see the breath in the cold air. He liked London in the winter. Most of all he liked the thought of what was going to happen once the prim counterpane had been stripped off the bed that was too small for sleeping but just the right size for everything else.
He felt the captain’s eyes on him.
‘I can read you like a book, Joe. I don’t think I ever flew with a —’
He broke off as he saw the first officer start forward in his seat.
‘What the —’
A light was flashing on the right-hand extremity of the control panel.
‘The shuttle ignition!’
‘There must be a fault in the system. Check the circuits!’