In an upstairs rented flat in a converted Victorian house in the Borough of Hertsmere one of the two new tenants was watching television.
Patricia Thompson was a very thin girl who wore glasses. She hadn't always been like that. Oh, the glasses, yes, but the thinness - that was new. Until she and her friend Jemima had been holed up in a flat for a week with nothing to eat (well, nothing worth speaking of) by the Queen's husband (she was sure it had been him) Patricia had been dangerously overweight, as had her friend. Now she she had been released she somehow hadn't the urge to eat the way she had once. Perhaps the Duke of Edinburgh Diet should be recommended to everybody? She giggled nervously at the idea.
On the television the news was playing the same story it had all day.
"You know, dude," said a young man with an infectious grin, slick black hair, a smart medal-adorned suit and an American accent with hints of German in it, "zere's only vun Kaiser, man, and you're looking at him. Uncle Fred, if you're getting zis - you better votch yourself, dude, 'cause Kaiser George is ready for you, you hear vot I'm saying? OK, punks - hit it."
So saying the Cologne-based Kaiser Chiefs tribute band started to play "Ruby" while the pretender to the throne strutted his stuff. "Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby - Aah aah oh aah... votcha doing doing to me... aah aah oh aah..."
The TV went blank. Finally the government had woken up to what was being shown. The new British prime minister, Markus von Strahlheim, who was basically just a mouthpiece for His Imperial Highness Kaiser Frederick William, had been alerted and had got the go-ahead from Berlin to stop the transmission. The entire news team would be spending the next few months in the Tower of London, Patricia guessed.
As the 17-year-old switched off the television she heard the sound of a car pulling up outside. She looked out of her window... and giggled with astonishment. For there was a long black limousine. It was the longest in the world - in fact it bent round in the middle. On one side of the immaculate windscreen was the Royal standard. On the other side was a German cross.
Patricia giggled again when she saw none other than the PM himself, Markus von Strahlheim, step out of the bendy limo and stride up to the front door and ring the bell, followed closely behind by two bodyguards.
She hurriedly put on some brown lipstick, slightly inexpertly, and raced downstairs to greet her guest. Her heart was pounding and she could feel her voice disappearing.
She opened the old house's communal front door. Yes, it was him, all right. He'd taken off his tall metal helmet with the feathers on it and placed it under his arm, carefully making sure his medals were all still showing. His strange moustache had been waxed perfectly this morning as ever and he looked strangely dashing in person in his bright red uniform.
"Gentle frauelein," he bowed, "do I have ze pleasure of addressing Frauelein Bond?"
"Ah ha ha, ah ha ha, ah - oh, ah - ah ha ha, oh, er, no, I'm afraid she's not here, I, oh, ah ha ha ha," she stammered.
"Frauelein Thompson, I presume?" he said, kissing her hand. Patricia went bright red.
"I ah oh - ah ha ha ha ha, oh, er, you'd better come in, oh, she'll be here soon - wow, I can't believe it - AAAAAAH! The PM in our flat!"
She ushered her prime minister and his two assistants upstairs to her flat and made them all tea.
"Ah, a good cup of English tea, yes?" smiled the prime minister. "How long have you been in zis apartment?" he asked pleasantly.
The polite chit-chat went to and fro for a while and Patricia began to feel at ease with her guest. He had a politeness and pleasantness about him that was rare in anybody these days. It certainly wasn't how he came across on television.
Soon the door opened and Jemima entered. She glanced at her guests.
"Oh, 'ello - I mean hello. Keep droppin' me aitches, you see, an' I keep tryin' to remember to say 'em. Pleased to meet you. I'm Jemima."
So saying she put her hand out to shake von Strahlheim's hand but he took hers and kissed it instead.
"No offence, mate, but you're a bit old for me..." she said.
Von Strahlheim turned delightedly to his assistants.
"Sie hat feuer, nicht? Nicht wie die andere."
They both smiled at whatever he had just said.
"Frauelein Bond, you vill take a vawk viz my two friends here vile I shall stay here viz ze delightful Frauelein Thompson."
Patricia and her guest indulged in more pleasanteries but then he did something which made her giggle like it was 1999: the PM handed her over the largest sum of money she'd ever seen as compensation for her and her friend's recent incarceration in the Duke of Ed's flat. Markus told her that he and the Queen were very grateful she'd kept the whole thing "under four eyes" and would be obliged if she'd keep it that way. Patricia felt so priviledged: why had the PM wanted to talk to her and not her friend? Why give her the money to dish out? Maybe Jemima had been too rude.
Actually Von Strahlheim's chat with Patricia was merely a decoy. His two guards were outside offering Jemima the chance of a lifetime: leave her job; come and work for the Queen; take way, way more money than had just been handed to Patricia; tell no-one of what had happened. Her life was about to become very exciting indeed.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jemima got out of the bendy limo the next day and strolled into Buckingham Palace as though it were the most normal thing she'd ever done. She'd told Patricia she was on a high-paying cleaning consignment this morning and didn't need any help. Her first lie for her Reich.
She was ushered through long corridors covered in paintings of British monarchs of the past and their dogs. She entered a chamber with a massively tall ceiling. In pride of place was a picture of Queen Victoria, the esteemed ancestor of the current Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Kaiser Fred and would-be Kaiser George. In front of it sat an elderly lady wearing glasses and doing her knitting. The lady stood as Jemima entered. Jemima curtseyed as she'd been told. Jemima remembered to use "Your Majesty" followed thereafter by "ma'am" to rhyme with "spam" in the ensuing conversation.
"I've often thought that a baker is the best person to bake bread," said Her Majesty, staring out of the window, "and that a butcher is the best person to give one cuts of meat. If one wanted any cleaning carried out, your friend Miss Thompson would be a jolly good person on whom one could rely. Would you agree?"
"Yes, ma'am," agreed Jemima, wondering where this was going.
"I should be useless at such things," said the Queen. "But if one wanted someone to run a country I have some experience in such matters and would be a good choice of candidate, as would Cousin Frederick William. Would you agree?"
Again, Jemima signalled her assent.
"One must welcome in the lightning when it strikes," said Prince Philip who had burst in wearing a tinfoil suit. He was ushered out by a couple of courtiers. The Queen ignored him and carried on.
"The world is more peaceful when everyone knows what their particular talent is and employs it productively for the good of all. Often one is born into these things. I did not have a baker as a father; if I had I should have been inculcated with an ability with loaves which would have been a very useful skill. As it happens I was not. I grew up surrounded by people who knew how to govern. Therefore it seems logical that I should be involved in the government of this Reich, does it not?"
"Welcome - pkkhhh!" said Prince Philip, doing an impression of lightning before being shown the door again.
Jemima agreed again, also ignoring the Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen proceeded to talk of democracies and how they were contrary to commonsense and very dangerous. Instead of a Queen born to rule, the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick-makers - they all ran their country, something they were not born to do. And look what a miserable job they made of it, poor misguided things! The rot had started with America. Recently the Kaiser had unfortunately granted a bit of Australia to be given over to a Jewish state called Judah, which was also a democracy. The vulgar concept was beginning to spread: Cornwall had unilaterally declared herself a democratic republic. The Reich had threatened her, of course, but she had seemed unmoved and hinted that she had weapons of mass destruction and a strong sponsor. Obviously America or Judah, the Queen and the Kaiser reasoned, but they couldn't be sure.
The door flew open again and Prince Philip entered, this time followed by a man with a white beard. The man was also wearing a silver-foil suit. The Prince was carrying a sword, which he raised.
"We could welcome it in with this," he suggested and was sent away again along with his new friend.
The Queen carried on as though nothing had happened. "I should like you to meet someone," she said and pressed a fake book on her library shelf. The hidden door swung open.
"Cool!" said Jemima.
The unbrushed-white-haired MI5 agent standing there came in and shook Jemima's hand. He was Agent Q, he said. He was wearing massive dark glasses so as not to be recognisable. He explained that MI5 was the branch of the Reich's secret service that protected Britain from all dangers.
The man had apparently bugged her and her friend's flat after their return from Prince Philip's flat, worried that they'd say something. They had never breathed a word to anyone outside about their ordeal. Jemima had also made comments about people "knowing their place" and about how clean the streets were nowadays and various other things which the special service had liked the sound of. They also noticed her inner steel. Jemima and her new friends all laughed together as the agent played back some of the tapes. This was part of the test, too: would Jemima object to the bugging of her flat? No, not a bit - she did let out a quick "Oh, yeah - why not bug my flat, I mean to say!" but she was obviously loving the attention.
"Out of interest, what is... a complete div?" asked the Queen.
Jemima laughed out loud and explained the meaning. As it had been said in reference to "Kaiser" George, the Queen and MI5 had found it most amusing, as had von Strahlheim, who had been hiding under the table the whole time and who now revealed his presence... as did someone else.
"One can read the clouds," said the ubiquitous Prince Philip. "This very building will be struck by lightning at 5:47 this afternoon Greenwich Mean Time. Tell them, Professor."
The Queen immediately started knitting again and von Strahlheim pretended rather theatrically to read his newspaper while the Professor was speaking.
They had both made it clear that, whoever he was, he was making the Prince worse, not better.
Not to be deterred, the bearded, white-haired old man carried on explaining the dubious-sounding science behind reading the clouds to tell when lightning would strike. He didn't explain why he and the Duke were both wearning the most conductive material imaginable and carrying around metal objects like swords, but then his audience wasn't interested - this was all baloney.
The courtiers were about to show the Professor and the Prince out when the Queen summoned her husband back.
"This is Miss Bond. Do you think there's something you need to say to her?" asked the Queen, peering over her glasses.
"One learns to ski," smiled the Duke, patting Jemima on the back.
"Try again," said the Queen coldly.
"Be prepared to open a window at 5:47 this afternoon to welcome in the lightning," he smiled.
The Queen threw her arms up in despair and let her husband leave the room.
It was von Strahlheim's turn to address Jemima. She was now Secret Agent T and was to infiltrate behind Cornish lines to see what she could learn. As the Queen had been saying, everyone in life had their own unique role to fulfill in life. Jemima was about to live out her destiny.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The mists swirled in and out around the old castle at Tintagel. It was midnight and nobody should have been here. An Party Noweth, the political party now running the little country, had sent their secret nuclear scientists to this spot to commence work on the biggest bomb in the world, as paid for by their sponsor. It would be pointed directly at Berlin, the heart of enemy territory.
"I'll keep a watch out, Jethro, in case that pesky girl comes flying in," said Jowan.
Jethro nodded and opened up the trapdoor. Down below were twenty wooden barrels. Well, they looked like wood but weren't - that wouldn't have kept all the Caesium 137 contained at all. He gestured to his troops to start moving the goods out along the secret tunnel to the coast.
As they started moving they heard the sound of a 1959 Mini that had been souped up to travel at 150 m.p.h.. It couldn't be... could it?
The wall crashed in and the Mini came flying through the air using its wings. It was still wet from its recent underwater journey. It landed and the hated figure of Agent T was seen leaping out.
"The name's Bond. Jem Bond, servant of the Reich," she said, kicking her enemies all to the floor as per her training and then dusting her rubber costume off in the mirror before reaching a hand out behind her to do a karate chop on the man who had just stood up to try to grab her.
She stepped casually over the unconscious bodies of the Cornish nuclear scientists and strolled towards Jethro.
"Jethro Trevithick, I presume?" asked Agent T, who now had long beautiful red hair, vision that was augmented to beyond 20:20 and who had kept her post-Prince-Philip slim physique. "The name's Bond." She took off her sunglasses. "Jem Bond."
"Holy..." began the scientist, looking around him in fear.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The old grandfather clock clicked on a minute. It was now 5:47 pm. The Queen's corgis were asleep by the fire. Charles, the Prince of Wales, was reading a book called "The Middle Way" by some Whig chappie from pre-conquest days. Princess Anne was talking to the newest Master of the Hounds. The Queen herself was having a brisk walk in the rain. The clouds suddenly became very dark indeed and the rain intensified alarmingly. Elizabeth II about-turned and headed back towards the Palace. She saw a lightning bolt strike one of the rooms upstairs, heard an explosion, saw smoke and flames... and heard the undeniable sound of the word "Welcome." She raced upstairs. The room was blackened and a curious machine was whirring away, coloured lights flashing all over. Neither her husband nor that irritating Professor were anywhere to be seen.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Underneath Tintagel, Jem Bond had everything wrapped up... or so she thought. There was the sound of slow applause and two figures entered. It was the Duke of Edinburgh and that strange Professor.
"One learns to sabotage," smiled the Duke of Edinburgh, holding up the cable which Agent T had just laid down to stop the Cornish bomb from being able to function.
The Professor held up various charts and calipers to indicate how you could tell when lightning was going to strike.
"I ain't interested in any of that crap, am I?" asked Jemima, her real self beginning to shine through.
The Professor decided to reveal his real self, too. He slowly removed the fake beard and white hair to reveal a much younger clean-shaven man's face with slick black hair. He removed the tin foil to reveal his suit with all the medals.
"Don't be calling me a div now, dude," said Kaiser George. "Now, let's get zis here bomb pointed tovards Berlin. Don't vorry, Agent T - ve already completed ze vun at St. Ives and - oh, it's pointed right tovards London."
The sound of "Ruby" by the Kaiser Chiefs started up again and the would-be Kaiser and Prince Philip both started to dance to it.
"One learns to dance," said Prince Philip.