THROUGH HALF-CLOSED eyes Bond looked intently at the torch while for a few precious seconds he sat and let life creep
back into his body. His head felt as if it had been used as a football, but there was nothing broken. Drax had hit him unscientifically
and with the welter of blows of a drunken man.
Gala watched him anxiously. The eyes in the bloody face were almost shut, but the line of the jaw was taut with concentration
and she could feel the effort of will he was making.
He gave his head a shake and when he turned towards her she could see that his eyes were feverish with triumph.
He nodded towards the desk. "The lighter," he said urgently. "I had to try and make him forget it. Follow me. I'll show you." He
started to rock the light steel chair inch by inch towards the desk. "For God's sake don't tip over or we've had it. But make it fast or
the blowlamp'll get cold."
Uncomprehendingly, and feeling almost as if they were playing some ghastly children's game, Gala carefully rocked her way
across the floor in his wake.
Seconds later Bond told her to stop beside the desk while he went rocking on round to Drax's chair. Then he manoeuvred himself
into position opposite his target and with a sudden lurch heaved himself and the chair forward so that his head came down.
There was a painful crack as the Ronson desk lighter connected with his teeth, but his lips held it and the top of it was in his
mouth as he heaved the chair back with just enough force to prevent it spilling over. Then he started his patient journey back to
where Gala was sitting at the corner of the desk on which Krebs had left the blowlamp.
He rested until his breath was steady again. "Now we come to the difficult part," he said grimly. "While I try to get this torch
going, you get your chair round so that your right arm is as close in front of me as possible."
Obediently she edged herself round while Bond swayed his chair so that it leant against the edge of the desk and allowed his
mouth to reach forward and grip the handle of the blowtorch between his teeth.
Then he eased the torch towards him and after minutes of patient work he had the torch and the lighter arranged to his liking at
the edge of the desk.
After another rest he bent down, closed the valve of the torch with his teeth, and proceeded to get pressure back by slowly and
repeatedly pulling up the plunger with his lips and pressing it back with his chin. His face could feel the warmth in the pre-heater
and he could smell the remnants of gas in it. If only it hadn't cooled off too much. He straightened up.
"Last lap, Gala," he said, smiling crookedly at her. "I may have to hurt you a bit. All right?"
"Of course," said Gala.
"Then here goes," said Bond, and he bent forward and released the safety valve on the left of the canister.
Then he quickly bent forward over the Ronson, which was standing at right angles and just below the neck of the torch, and with
his two front teeth pressed down sharply on the ignition lever.
It was a horrible manoeuvre and though he whipped back his head with the speed of a snake he let out a gasp of pain as the jet of
blue fire from the torch seared across his bruised cheek and the bridge of his nose.
But the vaporized paraffin was hissing out its vital tongue of flame and he shook the water out of his streaming eyes and bent his
head almost at right angles and again got his teeth to the handle of the blowtorch.
He thought his jaw would break with the weight of the thing and the nerves of his front teeth screamed at him, but he swayed his
chair carefully upright away from the desk and then strained his bent neck forward until the tip of blue fire from the torch was biting
into the flex that bound Gala's right wrist to the arm of her chair.
He tried desperately to keep the flame steady but the breath rasped through the girl's teeth as the handle shifted between his jaws
and the flame of the torch brushed her forearm.
But then it was over. Melted by the fierce heat, the copper strands parted one by one and suddenly Gala's right arm was free and
she was reaching to take the torch out of Bond's mouth.
Bond's head fell back on to his shoulders and he twisted his neck luxuriously to get the blood moving in the aching muscles.
Almost before he knew it, Gala was bending over his arms and legs and he too was free.
As he sat still for a moment, his eyes closed, waiting for the life to come back into his body, he suddenly, delightedly felt Gala's
soft lips on his mouth.
He opened his eyes. She was standing in front of him, her eyes shining. "That's for what you did," she said seriously.
"You're a wonderful girl," he said simply.
But then, knowing what he was going to have to do, knowing that while she might conceivably survive, he had only another few
minutes to live, he closed his eyes so that she should not see the hopelessness in them.
Gala saw the expression on his face and she turned away. She thought it was only exhaustion and the culminative effect of what
his body had suffered, and she suddenly remembered the peroxide in the washroom next to her office.
She went through the communicating door. How extraordinary it was to see her familiar things again. It must be someone else
who had sat at that desk and typed letters and powdered her nose. She shrugged her shoulders and went into the little washroom.
God what a sight and God how tired she felt! But first she took a wet towel and some peroxide and went back and spent ten minutes
attending to the battlefield which was Bond's face.
He sat silent, a hand resting on her waist, and watched her gratefully. Then when she had gone back into her room and he heard
her shut the door of the washroom behind her he got up, turned off the still hissing blowtorch, and walked into Drax's shower,
stripped and stood for five minutes under the icy water. 'Preparing the corpse!' he reflected ruefully as he surveyed his battered face
in the mirror.
He put on his clothes and went back to Drax's desk which he searched methodically. It yielded only one prize, tha 'office bottle', a
half-full bottle of Haig and Haig. He fetched two glasses and some water and called to Gala.
He heard the door of the washroom open. "What is it?"
"You drink. I'll be ready in a minute."
Bond looked at the bottle and poured himself three-quarters of a toothglass and drank it straight down in two gulps. Then he
gingerly lit a blessed cigarette and sat on the edge of the desk and felt the liquor burn down through his stomach into his legs.
He picked up the bottle again and looked at it. Plenty for Gala and a whole full glass for himself before he walked out through the
door. Better than nothing. It wouldn't be too bad with that inside him so long as he walked quickly out and shut the doors behind
him. No looking back.
Gala came in, a transformed Gala, looking as beautiful as the night he had first seen her, except for the lines of exhaustion under
the eyes that the powder could not quite conceal and the angry welts at her wrists and ankles.
Bond gave her a drink and took another one himself and their eyes smiled at each other over the rims of their glasses.
Then Bond stood up.
"Listen, Gala," he said in a matter-of-fact voice. "We've got to face it and get it over so I'll make it short and then we'll have
another drink." He heard her catch her breath, but he went on. "In ten minutes or so I'm going to shut you into Drax's bathroom and
put you under the shower and turn it full on."
"James," she cried. She stepped close to him. "Don't go on. I know you're going to say something dreadful. Please stop, James."
"Come on, Gala," said Bond roughly. "What the hell does it matter. It's a bloody miracle we've got the chance." He moved away
from her. He walked to the doors leading out into the shaft.
"And then," he said, and he held up the precious lighter in his right hand, "I shall walk out of here and shut the doors and go and
light a last cigarette under the tail of the Moonraker."
"God," she whispered. "What are you saying? You're mad." She looked at him through eyes wide with horror.
"Don't be ridiculous," said Bond impatiently. "What the hell is there else to do? The explosion will be so terrific that one won't
feel anything. And it's bound to work with all that fuel vapour hanging around. It's me or a million people in London. The warhead
won't go off. Atom bombs don't explode like that. It'll be melted probably. There's just a chance you may get away. Most of the
explosion will take the line of least resistance through the roof—and down the exhaust pit, if I can work the machinery that opens
up the floor." He smiled. "Cheer up," he said, walking over to her and taking one of her hands. "The boy stood on the burning deck.
I've wanted to copy him since I was five."
Gala pulled her hand away. "I don't care what you say," she said angrily. "We've got to think of something else. You don't trust
me to have any ideas. You just tell me what you think we've got to do." She walked over to the wall map and pressed down the
switch. "Of course if we have to use the lighter we have to." She gazed at the map of the false flight plan, barely seeing it. "But the
idea of you walking in there alone and standing in the middle of all those ghastly fumes from the fuel and calmly flicking that thing
and then being blown to dust… And anyway, if we have to do it, we'll do it together. I'd rather that than be burnt to death in here.
And anyway," she paused, "I'd like to go with you. We're in this together."
Bond's eyes were tender as he walked towards her and put an arm round her waist and hugged her to him. "Gala, you're a
darling," he said simply. "And if there's any other way we'll take it. But," he looked at his watch, "it's past midnight and we've to
decide quickly. At any moment it may occur to Drax to send guards down to see that we're all right, and God knows what time he'll
be coming down to set the gyros."
Gala twisted her body round like a cat. She gazed at him with her mouth open, her face taut with excitement. "The gyros," she
whispered, "to set the gyros." She leant weakly back again the wall, her eyes searching Bond's face. "Don't you see?" her voice was
on the edge of hysteria. "After he's gone, we could alter the gyros back, back to the old flight plan, then the rocket will simply fall
into the North Sea where it's supposed to go."
She stepped away from the wall and seized his shirt in both hands and looked imploringly at him. "Can't we?" she said. "Can't
"Do you know the other settings?" asked Bond sharply.
"Of course I do," she said urgently. "I've been living with them for a year. We won't have a weather report but