"This," Cern proclaimed, "is where I get to do a bit of exposition. I realize it's a traditional sign of hubris, the monologuing, but I have to get my practice in. I'm going to be saying this on TV eventually, you see. I have to have my delivery down."
"You're not worried that I might escape?" Bond asked, straining at his ropes.
"Oh, I'm sure you've got something up your sleeve," Cern said. "But isn't it better to take that risk, and actually enjoy victory? I mean, who else is capable of truly appreciating the struggle that took place here? We have to savor it, you and I, like a fine wine."
"Well," Bond said, "I would have to admit that you've earned the right to gloat. And I do confess to some curiosity."
"I appreciate you being such a good sport about it," said Cern, strolling past the fifteen-foot monitor with the satellite view of the Earth, and running his hands lightly over the console's brightly-colored control buttons. "It's a relief, frankly. It's so rare to find a sense of perspective. Put together a mad scientist, a suave superspy, and a tractor beam aimed at the moon, and the whole world expects a shootout -- some sort of bloodsport ending in murder or Armageddon. No subtlety. No style. Nobody appreciates the value of a good rivalry these days, do they?"
"About that," Bond said. "Wouldn't you say that 'rivalry' implies an ongoing relationship, which is to say, at least one rematch between the same opponents, namely, you and I, which would, I'm afraid, be precluded by my unfortunate and untimely death?"
"Now you're catching on," Cern said brightly. "You see, all along, I've been hoping that someone like you would come along." He looked around. "This isn't for the cameras. But I never really meant to kill you, not after seeing your brilliance on full display." Cern paced over to the smaller, secondary monitor, typed in the command to connect the communicator to the U.N. videophone, but paused before hitting Enter. "I mean, how many people could have done what you did with the laser-guided sharks?"
"Why, thank you," Bond said with a smile. "I'm glad you noticed. Too many people think a giant gun-toting army is the solution to every challenge, when really you can accomplish so much more with a single man with some creativity and wit."
"Now, see, that's what I say!" Cern beamed. "And the best part, the very best part? When it comes down to the climactic duel, the raw brawl, mano a mano, brain to brain ... you know exactly where you stand. When you win, it's because of your own actions, not some army of faceless and incurious soldiers."
"I certainly would look forward to a rematch," Bond said. "After all of our clashes across the length of the island, to be done in by that overhanging pipe in the escape tunnel leading here is frankly something of an embarrassment."
"It was, but you put up enough of a fight that I think we can still both be proud of the game," Cern said. "But I digress. They'll be expecting my speech soon. I would hate to disappoint. Tell me how this sounds." He cleared his throat and faced Bond directly. " 'Mr. Secretary-General -- people of the world -- I speak to you from Skull Island, which was just the site of the epic clash between the evil genius holding the world hostage and the lone hero sent as their last, best hope.' "
"And soon-to-be site of a smoldering crater," Bond said resignedly.
"Well, yes, there is that little matter of the four-hour self-destruct switch neither of us can reset," Cern sighed. "But cheer up. The yacht in the harbor is afire, so I'm escaping in my mini-submarine. Who would have predicted that you'd have one too? I certainly didn't see it on the monitors in the security room. All that the world will know is that I left you for dead in a locked room as I ran to beat the timer. Your return will come as a shock to millions."
Bond considered. "And thank you for that, Cern. If I may offer a little unsolicited advice in return? If you're really serious about the rematch, then you might not want to call the U.N. from here. The fleet is only an hour away."
"I see what you're saying. They'll be swarming after the call. The mastermind's unarmed mini-sub would inevitably be found by dozens of destroyers -- and all of the sharks are dead already." Cern made a face. "You're right, I suppose. But it's a shame. My speech would have been so much more dramatic live."
"I'm sorry," Bond said. "I'll make up for it in our next meeting."
"Yes," Cern said, straightening his bow tie and smoothing the arms of his tuxedo. "I know you will."
"I'll carve out a mountain fortress," Bond said. "No pesky navies."
"Then I'll be sure to bring the grappling hook gun," Cern said with a dapper smile. "See you, Doctor."
"Next time, Jake. Next time."