Bond sat back. The wine waiter brought the champagne and Bond tasted it. It was ice cold and seemed to have a faint taste of strawberries. It was delicious.
'I quite understand,' said Steerforth.
The lofty room was perhaps as large as a tennis court. It had the took and the smell of age and the two large chandeliers, to fit in with the period, blazed warmly in contrast to the strip lighting along the vaulted ceiling whose glass roof was partly obscured by a blind, still half-drawn against the sun that would have been blazing down on the afternoon's sale. Miscellaneous pictures and tapestries hung on the olive-green walls and batteries of television and other cameras (amongst them the M.I.5 cameraman with a press pass from The Sunday Times) were clustered with their handlers on a platform built out from the middle of a giant tapestried hunting scene. There were perhaps a hundred dealers and spectators sitting attentively on small gilt chairs. All eyes were focused on the slim, good-looking auctioneer talking quietly from the raised wooden pulpit. He was dressed in an immaculate dinner jacket with a red carnation in the buttonhole. He spoke unemphatically and without gestures.
Doctor No said quietly, "You said that power was an illusion, Mister Bond. Do you change your mind? My power to select this particular death for the girl is surely not an illusion. However, let us proceed to the method of your departure. That also has its novel aspects. You see, Mister Bond, I am interested in the anatomy of courage-in the power of the human body to endure. But how to measure human endurance? How to plot a graph of the will to survive, the tolerance of pain, the conquest of fear? I have given much thought to the problem, and I believe I have solved it. It is, of course, only a rough and ready method, and I shall learn by experience as more and more subjects are put to the test. I have prepared you for the experiment as best I could. I gave you a sedative so that your body should be rested and I have fed you well so that you may be at full strength. Future-what shall I call them-patients, will have the same advantages. All will start equal in that respect. After that it will be a question of the individual's courage and powers of endurance." Doctor No paused, watching Bond's face. "You see, Mister Bond, I have just finished constructing an obstacle race, an assault course against death. I will say no more about it because the element of surprise is one of the constituents of fear. It is the unknown dangers that are the worst, that bear most heavily on the reserves of courage. And I flatter myself that the gauntlet you will run contains a rich assortment of the unexpected. It will be particularly interesting, Mister Bond, that a man of your physical qualities is to be my first competitor. It will be most interesting to observe how far you get down the course I have devised. You should put up a worthy target figure for future runners. I have high expectations of you. You should go far, but when, as is inevitable, you have finally failed at an obstacle, your body will be recovered and I shall most meticulously examine the physical state of your remains. The data will be recorded. You will be the first dot on a graph. Something of an honour, is it not, Mister Bond?"
'We have perfect confidence in you, Mr. Micawber,' said I, 'and will do what you please.'
'Well, sir,' returned Mr. Chillip, smiling very meekly, and shaking his head as he surveyed me, 'I have a kind of an impression that something in your countenance is familiar to me, sir; but I couldn't lay my hand upon your name, really.'
It was desperately important for the Tibetans to secure at once some positive and spectacular success against the Chinese Empire, so as to start in China also that process of galloping decay which was already at work in the rival empire. The people of eastern Tibet were able to retire to their deep shelters, prepared long before the war, and to escape the destruction which now fell upon their cities, their herds, their precious irrigation system. It now appeared that the government, convinced many years ago of the inevitability of war, had established a great number of underground munition factories. But the attack was too heavy to be endured for long without the crippling of the Tibetan resistance. The method of surprise, which had succeeded so well in Kashmir, was impossible against the Chinese imperialists, for they had concentrated an immense force in Chwanben. The efficiency of this army was beyond question. Its loyalty to its imperial master had never been tested. After much discussion the Tibetan leaders decided that there was nothing for it but to court disaster and hope for a miracle. Or rather, divinely confident of victory, they saw that the only way to it was the way of inspired foolhardiness. The Tibetan air force, though heavily outnumbered, proved far more resourceful and skilful than the Chinese, and their courage was fanatical. They did their utmost to destroy the enemy aerodromes. They dropped bombs and the microbes of infantilism on the advancing army in Chwanben. They scattered leaflets on the great industrial centres. At the same time the Tibetan land forces put up a desperate defence upon the frontier.