Disclaimer: Characters and situations from Agent Carter owned by Marvel. James Bond created by Ian Fleming and currently owned by various corporations.

Timeline: Early 1954, which is five years after Peggy and Howard founded SHIELD and a year after Casino Royale as per Ian Fleming's original novel. Bond's age is also from the novels (born in 1920, which makes him a bit younger than Howard and as old as Peggy).

Thanks To: Kathy, my fabulous beta.

Author's Note: Originally written for the SSRConfidential 2018 ficathon.


Prologue

As an evil millionaire's lair went, this one was pretty much par for the course, Bond thought. An island, because of course it was, a mansion that excelled in gilt decorations, various traps complete with prowling animals on the grounds surrounding the mansion. Though to give credit where it was due: using a vicious flamingo instead of sharks, piranhas or feral dogs did have some originality. That bird had been relentless.

He'd found the suit hidden where his contact had said it would be. It was easy to mingle among the guests; he identified various oil men with ties to organized crime, various US senators known for their corruption, and at least three known contract killers among the beauties dressed in bikinis who were lingering around the swimming pool. Yes, they'd definitely sent him to the right place.

As for the host, famous for never doing anything low key, this was excessive even for him; he'd engaged an orchestra dressed in nothing but sea shells which in turn formed letters of his name. And then there was the gold-painted obelisk in the middle of the pool. Personally, Bond thought Freud was vastly overrated, but the symbolism didn't escape him. The only person in this entire assembly who was dressed in a manner that allowed them to fade into the background was the butler, so Bond decided to keep his eyes on him, not least because butlers of megalomaniac millionaires in his experience tended to flaunt a sideline of murder.

Bond had just ordered his first martini, shaken, not stirred, when the orchestra's brass players actually used conch shells to play a fanfare announcing that their host wanted to make a speech. The man climbed on the pool's diving board and rambled on for far too long about how he was to introduce the world to his latest masterpiece, something featuring self heating cells, if Bond understood him correctly among all the bluster. The golden obelisk split apart and revealed what looked like a fancy air conditioner in the form of flower petals, and Bond was about to discreetly check his watch when at last the truly interesting part of the evening began. There was a sound in the air that resembled a whip, combined with some crackling, and to his amazement, he saw the pool's water turn into ice. In a few moments, the ice had reached the center, covering those flowery heating cells. Bond turned to the pool's edge, to the point where the icy transformation had started.

She was a vision in silver, from the mask covering her entire face downwards, dressed in a sleek, figure, hugging suit, her hair pulled back into an equally silvery braid. Bond wasn't entranced enough to miss she was also wearing a gun belt, though the instrument she was holding in her hand seemed to be connected to the sudden ice wave rather than providing ammunition.

"That's what true power and innovation looks like, Stark," she called, in a voice that reminded him of the instructor who taught him how to break someone's neck. All the excited murmurs her display had caused abruptly ceased. She had everyone's attention, including, of course, Bond's, though he spared a quick look for the butler and noted with interest the man seemed to have disappeared.

"If anyone else wants to have a taste, you'll have to make it worth my while. I am Madame Masque, and this is the last free sample any of you is going to get."

There was something about her accent that bothered Bond. It struck him as generic American, maybe a bit too generic. In any event, she'd meant what she said; no more free samples, and that included words. She pulled something out of the pouch that hung from her belt, and at once was surrounded by red smoke. He'd anticipated some disappearing act, and started to move in her general direction as soon as he spotted her. This was his chance. A perfect opportunity to impress Stark and infiltrate his organisation. Though he was surprised London had picked a woman for him to defeat; this was supposed to look difficult, after all.

As he'd suspected, the red smoke theatricals were supposed to disguise "Madame Masque" disappearing into a grass covered trap door near the pool. He caught her wrist before she could pull the lever. She whirled around, and used the motion for a roundhouse kick. It didn't take him much longer to lose the assumption someone in London wanted to make things easy for him. This woman could actually fight. When she grabbed one of the pool chairs and damn near whacked him with it, he realised she was a bruiser, and abandoned all notions of fighting at a lesser level.

By the time she'd thrown him on the newly frozen pool, he was truly and sincerely infuriated; never mind impressing Stark, if this went on much longer, he'd never live the story down at home. He doubled his efforts and had her down near the icy remains of the heat petals, breaking off a shard sharp enough to hold at her neck.

No need to tell her to stop; she caught the implication at once, and apparently finally realised she'd gone too far.

"Now," Bond said, "get up and..."

He saw her eyes flicker just a moment too late. Then he felt it hit him; electricity, enough to make every cell in his body scream. Before unconsciousness claimed him, he spotted the man with the gun in his hand, a gun that had shot some wirelike things at Bond's body.

Of course it had to be the bloody butler.