Alex debated simply not answering when his phone started ringing. Every Time the damned thing started up, it took a little longer to convince himself that he needed to answer it. One of these days he was just going to let it go to voice mail. He suspected that when that day came, he'd be out of a job and probably running for his life, but it was a temptation nonetheless.
Instead he pushed off of the couch and padded over to the table to pick it up and answer it, already knowing who it was and what they wanted. Only one place knew that phone, after all. Everyone else used his civilian phone when getting in contact with him. Reluctantly he answered the phone, his jaw clenching as he was told that he had a meeting at the bank by the woman on the other side. He shouldn't blame her, she was just doing her job, as they all were, but Alex couldn't help but resent each intrusion on his life.
He had been a ward of theirs since Jackie Starbright had died, and while the Pleasure's had tried to take him with them when they had left England, he hadn't made it further than the airport before he was being arrested. Apparently, Tulip Jones had helpfully put out a warrant for his arrest at all airports and she was determined to follow in Mr. Blunt's footsteps.
He had always thought she was the nice one of the two, but he had clearly been wrong about that.
Given their interference into his life during his school years, they had essentially made him dependent upon them to get a career since his grades were average at best and downright atrocious in places. It had only been due to the Bank's manipulations that he had even managed a college degree, in between missions.
At least he was being paid for them now. That was a plus, even if he didn't have anything that he really wanted or needed to buy. His life between missions was largely spent playing pick-up games of rugby and football on the weekends and watching soaps and shows between an extensive work-out routine. Alex's job meant that it was almost impossible to hold down any sort of work since he could be disappearing at a moment's notice for weeks or even months at a time, which unfortunately didn't leave a lot for the young man to do. He hated missions, but he hated not being on them even more.
Shrugging on his jacket, he locked up the house behind him, glad to be away from the overwhelming emptiness. Alex knew he should sell the place, but honestly he didn't really want to. It was one of the few things that Ian had left him that was in no way connected to MI6 and he'd be damned if he let that get away from him.
Twenty minutes later he was striding up the steps to the bank. It wasn't really a bank of course, but one of many offices around the city housing the workspace of various MI6 personnel.
Alex wasted no time taking the lift up to Ms. Jones' office.
"Bit rushed after the last mission, isn't it?" He asked mildly as he sprawled out across from her, patiently waiting for her to finish up whatever she was doing.
It had only been three weeks since his last mission, and they didn't usually give him one so soon afterwards.
She glanced up at him. "Yes, I know. Hopefully it won't get as.. complicated.. as your last mission was." Tulip observed briskly. "This one should be fairly simple, but it has the potential to get messy, which is why we're sending you."
"Oh goody for me." He muttered darkly, "What is it?"
She slid a file across the desk towards him. Alex raised an eyebrow and sat up properly to retrieve it. An older man was prominently displayed on first page with minute details concerning his life. "Isn't that Richmond Valentine?"
The slight but steady sound of water splashing across the concrete floor had Alex's eyes snapping open and him shooting upright. Given how many times he had nearly drowned over the course of his spy career, he couldn't sleep if he could hear water.
Had someone left a sink on?
He pushed himself up into a seated position and stared in the direction of their group bathroom, his brow furrowed slightly. From his position he could see the dim light reflecting across the floor, and he could see that there was a puddle of water that was quickly spreading across. Alex's eyes widened as realization struck. That was too much water to be from a sink; someone was trying to drown them.
Or test them, but that wasn't an immediate concern.
His loud shout brought all of them awake, scowling and grumbling under their breaths as they were dragged awake.
In a moment, they were all as wide awake as he. "We've got maybe a minute before there's no air left." Alex said shortly. The water had risen two inches in the time it had taken him to wake everyone up. They wouldn't have much time to do anything. His eyes roved over them, doing a quick count and making sure everyone was awake and alert.
After only a couple of moments, Roxy was pushing everyone towards the shower heads while Eggsy was left standing in confusion and he in thoughtfulness. He understood the basic idea from her garbled explanation, but merely surviving had never been his style. If it had been, he wouldn't have made nearly the effective spy that he had been. "Door doesn't have any locks on it," He murmured thoughfully, catching the other by the elbow, "and it's five inches of solid steel. You're not forcing it open unless you're a lot stronger than you look."
"Maybe they didn't lock it." Eggsy muttered back.
Alex shook his head, "It's magnetically sealed. It's either open or it's locked, there's not really an in-between."
The other shot a surprised look at him before squinting in the direction of the others. The water was now waist high, forcing the two of them to wade to the back of their bunker as it steadily climbed. "Think it's a two way mirror?" Eggsy asked as he examined the glass.
He hadn't even considered that, but looking at it, he could definitely see why Eggsy might suggest that. Most mirrors weren't set in the wall that way; they were hung off of the wall. "That would be my guess." Alex agreed, a frown on his face as he considered that for the moment. "Bit creepy that." The other man merely grunted in response.
The two of them managed a deep gasp of air before the water had filled the entirety of the bunker, and they took turns pounding the mirror, cracks spreading along its surface. Alex shoved aside the pain building in his knuckles as he worked until they were all suddenly being washed out of the bunker by the same vaguely amused looking man from earlier.
Alex clenched his fist before relaxing it, trying to work the pain out of it. Eggsy was having the same problem, though he looked significantly less pained by it. Alex assumed that he had spent a lot of time punching things, although it was probably best not to make assumptions. He was here, after all, so he had just as much potential as the rest of them.
"Good work, Alex for spotting the danger and waking everyone." The man told them briskly as he stepped through the water, looking unconcerned by the fact that his shoes were now waterlogged and probably ruined. "Roxy, good idea with the showerheads; if you can manage to get a tube around the u-bend of a toilet, you've got an unlimited supply of air, and good work on getting everyone out. As far as first challenges go, some of you have risen spectacularly."
All of them listened with eager ears while Alex filed away the tip about the toilet. Given how many times he had nearly drowned over the course of his spy career, any tips on surviving were bound to be useful at some point.
Unfortunately, given the state of the test, their belongings had been ruined and their beds were not in a state where they could be used. Alex almost felt sorry for whatever sods had to clear up the mess, though he wouldn't have put it past them to give the chore to them.
Still, it was quite clear that they weren't going to be getting any more sleep that night, not that Alex thought any of them were in any shape to sleep. Most were probably still coming down from the adrenaline high of their first near-death experience. He could acknowledge the use of that. The first was always the hardest when the limbs froze up and the mind blanked, so it was best to get that out of the way during training, rather than in the thick of things.
He could remember his first with startling clarity, and it had taken him several precious moments to get his bearings, not a good state while trapped in a huge aquarium with one of the most deadly sea creatures in the world inhabiting it.
Most of them were huddled together, watching their bunker with haunted eyes, all of the cockiness gone from their demeanors at least for the moment. Alex settled himself down next to the kid from London, Eggsy he thought his name might have been.
Alex jogged along with most of the other trainees easily, Jackie managing to keep pace with him. It was moments like these that he was grateful of his habit of playing football over the weekend whenever he could manage, because it meant that he could keep up a steady pace without too much trouble. A couple of the boys were starting to fall behind, and they had all lost sight of Eggsy some time ago, although whether that was because he was having problems with his dog or whether he was genuinely having difficulty keeping up remained to be seen.
At random intervals, Jackie tugged on her leash, trying to jerk him away from the path and towards the obstacle course, which doubtlessly looked like puppy heaven to her. He had been side-eying it for the past half an hour or so, wandering if it was as difficult as it looked.
This was training for spies, after all. There were probably traps and hidden elements that most soldiers would never dream of.
"Scared of it?" Gale wheezed as he trotted alongside of him, looking about as winded as Alex felt.
The blond glanced back at it, "I'm withholding judgement." He answered, "It's probably harder than it looks."
"Reminds me of basic training." Gale grinned ruthlessly at that. "Should be a piece of cake."
Alex disagreed. "Pretty sure they'll expect more than the drill sergeants."
"Pah, you only say that because you were never good enough to make the cut for officer training." Underneath the lighthearted teasing was a note of mocking, and it took all of Alex's training not to snap back about his experience in the camp.
Alex absently tossed a tennis ball in her direction, watching as the growing puppy grabbed it and brought it back to him, happily depositing it in his hand.
He knew that he shouldn't have named her as he did. He had his suspicions as to why they had been given puppies, and Alex didn't want to contemplate killing her. He doubted he would have been able to in any case; she was an innocent, animal or not, and he made it a point of not killing them. So he'd done the next best thing, he'd named her after Jackie.
If it came to that, he would fail it with flying colours, but at least he had given a semi-plausible reason as to why not beyond simply not killing such an adorable puppy. Jackie was bright and energetic, determined to drag him out of whatever moods he was in, and she loved the training sessions almost as much as he did.
Compared to training at the SAS camp in the Brecon Beacons, this was nothing. The challenges were thought-provoking, but there wasn't the sense that he might very well be murdered by his teammates if he didn't keep up with them, and their tempers all around were much more tolerable than the staff at Brecon Beacon's had been. He found the lack of threats to run laps until he puked or doing the obstacle course until he'd beaten Wolf's record to be profoundly disappointing, though he tried his best to not let on that he could do a lot better.
Weapons training was a new one, however. He hadn't been allowed to carry weapons before he'd turned eighteen and after that, well, he'd been expected to just pick it up as he went along, like most of the skills he had. It was nice to improve on his skill in that regard, and it was equally nice to know that it was an area that he could actually improve on considerably.
Alex glanced up as movement caught his eye in time to see Eggsy plop down next to him and stealing the ball from his hand with a mischievous grin. "Hey, I was using that!" He objected as he watched the ball sail away and both Jackie and JB go racing after it. Jackie was faster, but JB was clever and was nipping at her heels and growling the entire way.
"How're you doing with training?" He asked idly as he glanced at the other man.
"'S a bit differen' from the marines." Eggsy shrugged, grinning at JB's antics. "Not too difficult though." He fell silent again.
Alex had heard that his mentor, Galahad, had been admitted into the infirmary a couple of weeks ago and was still in a coma. It had taken its toll on the native Londoner, he knew. Anyone with eyes could see the exhaustion and worry lining the young man's face. The others might have seen weakness there, without a mentor to guide him he couldn't possibly keep up with the rest, but thus far Eggsy had exceeded expectations.
Alex suspected that Galahad meant a lot more to him than he was letting on, which was saying something since it was pretty clear that he meant a lot to him.
"I never thought I would be working on a career as a spy." Alex lied eventually. "One semester left before I graduated, but I guess that won't work out now."
They had been told to report outside for their first official 'assignment'. Alex dutifully reported outside along with the others, wary of what they were doubtlessly being asked to do. Chances were, it was probably not nearly as difficult as his first assignment for MI6 had been. All the same, he couldn't stop the little thrill shooting up his spine at the prospect of actually doing something.
Merlin was waiting for them outside, customary tablet in hand.
"Fall in," The Scot ordered as they obediently did so, standing ramrod straight shoulder to shoulder. "Today is going to be your first assignment, children. You will be utilizing the skills you have learned over the past month, and you will be putting them to use."
Beside of Alex, Digby was smirking slightly at the mere prospect, while on his other side Hugo was looking slightly worried. Alex managed to look perfectly unaffected by the idea of an assignment.
"Each of you will be handed a dossier detailing your target and the information you require from them, as well as further information concerning their daily habits and preferences. You will have until midnight tomorrow night to scope out your target and retrieve the information. Failure to retrieve the information is grounds for immediate dismissal." He paused a moment, staring at each of them in turn, "Getting caught by your mark or otherwise being discovered is also grounds for dismissal."
There were nine dossiers spread out across the table, and at his command, each of them hurried forward to collect theirs.
"Each of you will have a driver to escort you to where you need to go at your disposal, as well as the contents of storage room B. Plan carefully, gentleman as this could make or break your career."
Alex gestured at Jackie to follow him and settled down against the wall to start reading over the dossier.
His target was a man well into his fifties employed to a security company. A quick glance revealed that he had been working there for nearly twenty-five years and had been collecting files regarding the company's work into more advanced security systems and selling it to other security companies for a tidy profit. His latest had cost the company millions of dollars in damages, as his underhanded dealings had forced them to speed the schedule of production up. They were eager to determine the cause. Eager enough to seek out the help of the Kingsman at any rate.
Alex's job was to find proof of his underhanded dealings and bring that back to the Kingsman to deal with as they saw fit.
It was a simple enough mission, one that they hadn't seen as important enough to hand off to any of the full-fledged agents.
The man wasn't the sort to take risks, however, and had been very careful not to make it obvious what exactly he was doing. The only thread they had found connecting him to the thefts at all was the fact that he was one of only sixteen people with access to the files in question, and as the most recent to be given the security level was seen as the most likely culprit by the rest of the company.
Alex rather liked a challenge when he found one.
"Fall in, puppies." All of them snapped into place in the front yard, any tiredness gone in an instant. He scowled at them all, his default expression, though he looked unusually grumpy this morning. "Can anyone tell me why you're here?" He snapped at them, prowling in front of them.
"No sir." Digby immediately rebutted, shrinking slightly under the look Merlin gave him as his eyes briefly flicked from the bruising across the left side of his face and the bandages that were hidden under the uniform.
"Funny, because you're part of the reason their morning is about to get miserable." Merlin fixed him with a sharp look.
"Anyone want to share with the class why you're here?" He mocked them.
"Because of our juvenile behaviour last night." Alex answered finally.
"Exactly." Merlin agreed.
"It was just a bit of fun with Eggy." Digby muttered darkly.
"Yes. A bit of fun that pulled personnel away from their jobs to deal with. Tell me, what exactly were you hoping by stealing the pug? You can barely manage your own puppy, what on earth were you going to do with another?"
He fixed each of them with an angry stare. "The puppies are off limits. Do not mess with another's dog. Is. That. Clear?"
At their hasty nods he smirked ruthlessly. "In the meantime, all of you are going to become very well acquainted with the obstacle course."
Alex gasped for breath as he flopped bonelessly down on the grass. His clothes stuck uncomfortably to him, a combination of sweat and dew from the rain the night before. Beside of him Jackie was lying with her head resting on her paws, occasionally offering low growls when one of the other boys came too close to him for her tastes.
They were running the obstacle course for the third time that morning, and Alex could feel exhaustion settling into his limbs. He wasn't sure how many more times he could do the course, though he was stubborn enough that he had little doubt he'd still keep going even after reaching his limits.
The others looked as exhausted as he felt, and he rather doubted there would be anymore pranks from the group. At least not any that were likely to draw the attention of their trainers. No one wanted to face Merlin's wrath again since he was gleefully telling them to rerun the obstacle course until they had each beaten the fastest record any of them had managed, which incidentally had been Alex.
Alex did not bother with looking guilty as Merlin surveyed the mess of wires and parts surrounding the young man. It was a pet project of his that he had been working on since he had discovered the wonders of the watch with amnesia knock-out darts. Darts were well and useful for dealing with individuals, but having something capable of affecting multiple people at once would be useful, particularly since Alex preferred not to kill whenever he could manage it.
That wasn't to say that he lost much sleep if a few minions died here and there, he just preferred to avoid it was all.
"What are you doing with all this?" He asked, indicating the mess around Alex.
The young man shrugged, "Trying to make an amnesia grenade." He answered.
"I.. see." Merlin looked unsure of what to think about that and settled for sitting across from him to examine what he had managed so far. "Why is it set in a compass?" He frowned.
"Only thing I could think of that has numbers around the edge that wouldn't be suspicious at first glance." Alex explained, handing the device over. "The North side is the activator, and whatever number is set at that is how much time the explosive is supposed to wipe from the mind. It's an inhalant, and it knocks them out, so it you need a bunch of people to forget you were ever there, this should work just fine. Or it would if I could manage to fix the activation ingredient." He mumbled to himself.
"This?" He asked, picking up a tiny vial of something clear.
Alex nodded, taking the vial from him. "This is what primes the amnesia ingredient, and depending upon how much is released determines how much is forgotten. Otherwise, they'd lose everything, or at least that's the plan. I'm still working out the kinks."
Merlin made a noise at the back of his throat. "And has this been tested?" He asked.
Alex shook his head. "At the stage it's at, you'd notice if I'd been testing it on people. It's still at the stage of wiping everything."
"Finish this by the final test and I'll consider taking you on as one of mine." He told him finally, "Assuming, of course, you don't manage to become an agent on the way."
"I can't be both?" Alex asked with a wry smirk.
"So what is it that you actually do here, cause it seems to me that you do a bit of everything." Alex observed after managing to corner Merlin. As far as Alex could tell, he wasn't actually an agent for the Kingsman. He seemed to be some sort of mish-mash of handler, tech god, and chauffeur all wrapped up in one snarky package, though whether he could also stand in as an agent was anyone's guess.
"You wouldn't be far off," he muttered distractedly without looking up. "Why are you here, Rider?"
"Curiosity, maybe?" Alex pondered thoughtfully.
The longer he was in training, the more he had come to realize that there was quite a lot he hadn't known before coming here. The SAS camp might have taught him stamina and endurance, but it had nothing on the sheer level of gymnastics that were being introduced to the trainees.
He was really starting to enjoy learning from everyone here, and it was getting harder to remember that this wasn't real for him. That at the end of the day, he was still just an MI6 undercover agent. He vaguely wondered what they would do if they ever found that out about him.
He honestly tried not to think about that too much, though at least for the moment they seemed to have their hands full investigating all of the disappearances occurring around the globe.
"And that's why you're in here, instead of training yourself for the next series of tests." He deadpanned, shooting a brief look at him that seemed to convey his opinion on that.
Alex grinned wryly at that. "What can I say, I have a degree in engineering, not spying. I'm more interested in tinkering than I am sneaking about."
He raised an eyebrow at that. "Then why are you here?"
"Well Arthur didn't exactly tell me what he was dragging me here for, did he? Nope, he just swanned into my life and decided I'd make a good spy. Worst decision ever, if you ask me. I'm pants at sneaking." Alex replied.
Technically it wasn't even a lie; his skill did not lie in getting in and out undetected, but rather getting the information he needed to know and escaping almost certain death on a semi-regular basis. Some had considered it luck, but he had turned it into an art form from the sheer amount of practice he'd had with managing it.
"Yes, it doesn't seem to be one of your strong points." Merlin agreed wryly, "Though you have shown signs of improvement. Your agility is noticeably better as well, though you still manage to hold the record on the obstacle course."
Alex shrugged at that. He couldn't very well explain to him that the one they used was unbelievably easy because he'd been over much more difficult courses with a lot more at stake, though he had noticed that the course had also been getting steadily more difficult with each week as their lessons were incorporated. Not only were there standard obstacles, but now there were lasers to avoid, pressure plates that couldn't be tread upon, and sensors to be stopped. It was proving challenging in its own right, and it was a bloody relief since he had thought that this entire venture would be a waste of his time.
"So you're an engineer; we don't get many of those." Merlin observed, turning his attention back to his tablet.
"You don't?" Alex blinked at that. He had found that many of his classes could be applied to the more technical aspects of his missions. He hadn't needed to rely on Smithers quite so much over the past couple of years, though his gadgets were undeniably still a point of interest of his; he found that he quite enjoyed modifying them for purposes other than what Smithers had intended them for, and it had turned into a bit of a contest between the two with Smithers trying to cover all of the bases he could and Alex finding new uses for them. It was probably one of the very few aspects of spying that he actually enjoyed, because it was a bit like getting a new toy every time he used them.
"Sadly no. If we did, perhaps we wouldn't go through quite so many signet rings and exploding pens." Merlin muttered under his breath.
Alex couldn't help but smirk slightly at that.
Seduction is nothing new to Alex, though it's not something he bothers with outside of missions. The same, ironically, went for sex. Therapists would probably have a field day with that, no doubt, but he simply had no interest in it outside of work, though he could manage it well enough when he had to. They weren't his favorite aspects of missions however.
Seducing a girl in the biblical sense wouldn't be challenging if not for the fact that all three of them had been given the same girl to seduce and it had rather been made out to be a competition between the three of them. He had no doubt that previous tests might have turned out just that way, but the three remaining competitors had become friends of a sort, and he didn't want either of them going home as a result of this.
Which meant that they were going to have to convince her to come with all three of them as a joint package.
Orgies, as he supposed it would technically be called, were a new one on him. He couldn't say as he had ever done one of those before. Or wanted to for that matter.
He considered the problem, turning it over in his head all through the ride to the club.
"Guys, I have a plan." He said briskly as they entered the club.
"A plan?" Roxy echoed, eying him up. "What is it?"
"Can you two play a couple?" He asked them, "Because I'm thinking I'm the voyeuristic best friend and you two are the adventurous couple looking to spice up your night with someone."
"Wait.. all three of us are going to seduce her? At once?" Eggsy looked surprised.
Alex shrugged. "That's the plan." He agreed with a wry smile, "If you two can play the part, I can try to sell it to her."
"Worth a shot." Roxy said briskly before unceremoniously dragging Eggsy in for a snog.
He rolled his eyes before heading off to find a drink, a martini in his case, as he cased out the club, noticing exits and who there might be a problem. After only a couple of minutes he spotted their target and simply watched her for several minutes. She was sitting alone and thus would be easy to approach for their mission and was nursing a glass of amber liquid, possibly scotch. Her eyes darted around the club and she looked rather forlorn, as if she wasn't even sure why she was here.
Taking another sip of his drink, he nodded at the two of them who weren't nearly as distracted with each other as they looked. They broke apart hurriedly and settled into a booth near their target to talk and stare adoringly in each other's eyes. One would never know it looking at them, but they were friends, nothing more.
Alex casually wandered over to her, "May I-?" He gestured at the seat beside of her. She glanced him up and down before nodding shyly, a smile starting to break free. "You look lonely over here," he observed as he took another sip, rolling it over his tongue and noticing the slightly off taste.
"I was supposed to meet someone, but he never showed." It didn't seem like a new occurrence either, from her expression.
She shook her head, "We're just friends." She hastily reassured him, clearly lying though he didn't call her on it. The missing boyfriend angle might actually help if she was really upset about it.
"Lucky me, I suppose." He murmured, "So are you lookin' to drown your sorrows, or-?" He trailed off suggestively as his eyes trailed over her for a moment. She was pretty in a quiet mousy sort of way, there was no denying that.
She swallowed as a look of uncertainty stole over her pretty features before steeling her expression. She must have been really upset with her absentee boyfriend. "Yeah, I'm lookin' to hook-up with someone, you interested?"
He chewed on his lip, acting unsure, "The problem is that I'm not alone here," He murmured, he leaned over and pointed out his two partners sharing a drink.
"Well they seem to have hit it off," She commented dryly, a look of confusion on her face.
"Yeah, yeah. They've been solid for a year now." He agreed as he watched the two of them. Neither of them were acting like the newly dating; there was no hand-holding or staring deeply into one anothers eyes. Just two people sharing drinks and having fun. "Thing is, they're going through a bi' of a rut in bed, if you catch my drift."
Her eyebrows raised slightly, "So-" She seemed at a loss for words.
"They've talked about it, of course," he continued hesitantly, watching her closely, but she seemed more confused than anything, which was good. If she'd seemed against the idea than the likelihood of convincing her otherwise would have been extremely difficult. "but neither of them's ever really been good at picking people up, and they both like what they see with you."
Her eyes widened as she started to finally get what he was saying. "I- but.. what?" she finally managed to sputter out, staring at him in surprise. He watched as her eyes unwillingly drifted back to the other two.
Alex shrugged, "I know, they're more adventurous than most. Best friends a bloke could have, really."
She swallowed as she looked over at them again, as if her mind was being pulled in two different directions. He could see her turning it over in her mind. "We're not trying to pressure you or anything," he murmured in her ear, "And if it helps, I won't actually be taking part." She sucked her breath in as he took her earlobe between his teeth and nibbled while his hands curved around her waist, holding her steady, "I'll be watching you. I'll be watching as my very talented friends take you apart piece by piece until you can barely think, and I'll be directing them how to."
"Yes," She whispered, the word seeming to come out of its own violation because she looked surprised to have said it. It was barely out of her mouth before a man that he didn't recognize was appearing in front of them.
"You have a phone call." He told her, and Alex frowned slightly, internally cursing as he realized that that might be enough to draw her away from them.
"I-" She didn't look like it was entirely registering what he meant.
"My dear, there's someone on the phone for you." He told her gently.
Before he could begin a proper response, the drug that had been in his drink took effect and his vision darkened as he slumped over, her worried cry echoing in his ear.
Consciousness came in a flash of distress and fear. He was used to that part of his job, waking up somewhere unknown in a dire situation. Usually he could get himself out of it, given time to think. He was lying stretched across of a train track, and he couldn't help the curl of his lips at it. "Very 1800's of you," he drawled out as he tested the bonds around his wrists and ankles. They were tight and expertly made.
Pulling out of them would not be possible, he realized after only a moment.
"The classics are underrated." Came the retort from the man that he thought he recognized. His head felt fuzzy and he knew that he had been doing something before he had woken up here, but he couldn't quite recall what it had been. "Two of your friends have already died today. Tell me about the Kingsman, and I'll cut you free."
As if on cue, the humming underneath his body graduated to a rattle that guaranteed almost certain death in a matter of seconds.
"Bullshit." he retorted, "I'm not an idiot. The train's too close. If I tell you, there's no way in hell you're cutting me loose because you risk dying yourself. If you're going to kill me at least have the decency not to lie about."
The man paused as if he hadn't quite expected that answer, though really, he had to be an idiot if he thought Alex would actually fall for that.
Alex was very pointedly not looking in the direction that he could hear the roar of the train from. It was close, too close, and he quietly, very quietly, accepted the fact that he might not survive this. That MI6 might only find what was left of his body smeared across the tracks. He bitterly reflected that their only concern would probably be the amount of paperwork it would cost them.
"Are they worth dying for, these Kingsman?" The man interrupted his bleak internal musings, his voice loud over the roar.
"Yes!" He roared back, surprising himself. He hadn't realized until that moment that he did consider them worth dying for. Alex closed his eyes as the roar of the train passed over head. His eyes snapped open and he stared blankly up at the passing steel overhead.
He sighed as the platform was slowly raised up and he found himself staring up at a bemused Arthur.
"Usually there's a lot more screaming." He told him with a speculative look.
Alex shrugged his shoulders as he was cut free, "What's the point? Screaming wasn't going to stop the train and it sure as hell won't stop people from trying to kill me." In fact, most of the people he had found himself up again likely would have been all the more eager to kill him if he started shrieking his head off every time someone threatened his life.
"Fall in." Merlin told them as he entered their dormitory. The three remaining candidates fell into line, staring calmly back. "I have to say, of the various groups for rankings, you three came the closest to succeeding with the honeypot mission, which is interesting since only one of you actually did anything."
His brow was furrowed in Alex's direction as if he was a puzzle that he couldn't quite put together.
"What can I say, it seemed easier to sell a threesome to her than for all of us to fight over her and scare her off." Alex offered with a slight smirk.
"And you would have succeeded if not for our test." Merlin agreed, almost smiling but not quite. "All three of you passed the loyalty test with flying colours." He continued, scowling dourly at them all, "Which makes my job harder since that means more whittling."
Twenty-four hours with his mentor. He wasn't sure what Arthur expected from him during that time. Somehow he didn't think Arthur planned on him getting any last minute advice before the final test tomorrow. Arthur had very much proven to be the sink or swim type, and Alex liked to think he was very much the swimming sort, given that he was still alive and everything.
Alex rapped his knuckled against the door and waited until he was called in before entering. "Ah, Mr. Rider. Good of you to join me," He commented lightly as he glanced up, "I was rather hoping you hadn't decided to fuck off for the next twenty-four hours."
Alex looked at him with a questioning expression. "Why would I do that?"
"Most spies, particularly the younger generation, seem to labour under the delusion that they already know everything by this stage." Arthur explained calmly as he shifted a stack of paperwork aside. "Have a seat."
"If there's one thing I've learned, it's that there is always room for improvement and learning, and any spy that thinks otherwise is probably not going to survive long." Alex answered, seating himself opposite from his mentor.
"To right, to right." Arthur agreed. "I was thinking perhaps you would like to accompany me to a meeting this afternoon with an.. acquaintance of mine."
Alex found himself nodding in acceptance. He really had had no other plans for the afternoon and had assumed that if his mentor didn't have anything to impart, he'd probably play around with Jackie for a bit.
"Couldn't hurt." He acquiesced. "When do I need to be here?"
"I'll be meeting with him in a little over three hours."
Alex climbed out of the car and followed Arthur into the mansion. They were greeted at the door by a woman introducing herself as Gazelle. Alex had a feeling that that was just a codename, especially from the way she was staring at him with a lingering look of distaste in spite of the suit he was wearing.
He couldn't help but feel that there was something familiar about her although Alex had no idea where he could have known her from since he didn't recognize her.
Eventually they were lead onto a balcony. Alex recognized the man as Richmond Valentine, and he couldn't help the surprise from showing on his face. He had had no idea that the Kingsman were even familiar with the man, though they probably had tabs on everyone of note. He did not allow himself to relax, however. He had more than enough experience with rich self-made men to know that they were just as capable of cruelty and insanity as anyone else. Damien Cray came to mind, after all.
Hopefully it wouldn't come to that because was not at all prepared to do any sort of sneaking around today, though he could probably manage in a pinch.
"So this is your protege," Valentine beamed at him after ending the call. "What's it like, being a spy?" He asked, eagerly leaning over.
"Technically I'm just a trainee at this point. The final test isn't until tomorrow." Alex answered, not mentioning his suspicions on the test. "Seems to be a lot of quick-thinking involved though."
"So none of those old James Bond tropes?"
Alex grimaced at the mere mention James Bond. His time in the SAS training camp had insured that he would never watch James Bond with the same enjoyment again. It gave him uncomfortable flashbacks to K-unit. While he was on better terms with most of them these days, he doubted they would ever be friends. There was too much history between them that he didn't feel inclined to forget.
"Not really, no." Alex answered, "But then I haven't really been out in the field, so it may yet surprise me."
"Are you serious." Alex stared at the man with an incredulous look, ignoring Arthur's expression. If he actually agreed with this lunatic's ideas than they had far bigger problems. "There are so many things wrong with that that I don't even know where to start!"
"Look man, I know that it can be a bit of a shocker at first, but-"
"Shocker?!" he yelped, "You're talking about genocide here, the extinction of at least one species, if not more, and you call it a shocker?!"
"Alex, please, listen to what he's saying." The dangerous expression on Arthur's face might have ruffled any other trainee, and possibly most agents, but Alex was not most trainees or agents. He was used to taking his own initiative and making his own calls. God knew no one else in the bloody organization was going to.
"Oh fuck off, Arthur." He snapped, "You can't seriously be buying into any of this."
Alex could think of several reasons off the top of his head as to why it would never work, at least not the way that Valentine had explained it.
Going by Arthur's expression, he wasn't used to being dismissed like that. Alex was of the opinion that most leaders of spy organizations could use a bit of questioning every now and again, otherwise they turned out like Mr. Blunt and Ms. Jones, assuming they could do anything and no one would say a word against it.
"With an attitude like that, you'll never make a Kingsman." Arthur told him lowly.
The not very subtle threat did not have the effect that he had probably been hoping for since Alex had already accepted the probability of that occurring. "Would that be before or after I refuse to kill the dog?" He asked, tilting his head slightly. "That is the final test right, killing the dog? Cause I can tell you right now, it's not going to happen."
His eyes narrowed at that. "You won't know until you've tried." Neither of them paid any attention to Valentine as he protested the treatment of the aforementioned dog.
Alex shook his head. "No, I'm not killing her. I make it a point of not hurting animals if I can manage it." Technically the jellyfish had probably died after being expelled from its monstrous aquarium, and he did feel rather bad for it. At the same time, he felt entirely grateful that he hadn't been caught up in its tentacles. He hadn't hung around to watch the lady dying, but he doubted it had been pleasant.
"Then I've wasted my time." Arthur told him coldly.
"Oh shut up, I've got more important things to do, like stopping a genocide." Alex retorted sharply. He would have liked to work for the Kingsman agency, but at the moment, stopping Valentine was definitely more important.
"It's not genocide, it's the exact opposite of genocide." Valentine huffed, watching their byplay with interest and no small .
Alex raised an eyebrow. "And you really think a bunch of useless politicians will know the slightest thing about how to survive in a world where they have no support staff, no aides, and everyone has to pull their weight for their own survival?" He asked forcing himself to remain calm. Shouting at people rarely worked half as well as it did in the movies. "Can you imagine the PM of England plumbing his own toilet, much less growing his own dinner?"
Valentine frowned slightly, as if that hadn't even occurred to him. Alex sighed at that. He could already tell he was going to have a headache by the time this was over.
"I'll admit that is a problem I hadn't considered." Valentine muttered, more to himself. "Gazelle, make a note of that. We need plumbers. And gardeners."
He pinched the bridge of his nose, "And have you given any thought as to how you're going to survive after you've killed off ninety-nine percent of the population? Because that's a lot of dead bodies to deal with and you can't just leave them lying around, rotting and spreading disease and bacteria to the few that remain alive, and have you got a viable gene pool to repopulate the species?" He rattled off as he stared pointedly at the frankly insane man.
Alex plowed on, not letting either of them get a word in edgewise. Valentine seemed like the sort that went off on tangents and crusades at the drop of a hat, and that was rather what Alex was hoping for. This plan did not seem well thought out at all, in spite of the complexity, so he rather imagined that it had probably been spur of the moment.
"And what about maintenance? Can any of the people you've chipped fix a computer or repair a car? I know you'll probably have plenty of both to go around, at least for a little while, but at some point they'll start falling apart, and have you even considered things like electricity and power? How are you planning on operating power plants and managing electricity when you've gone and offed all the engineers who do that for you?"
Arthur. Well, Arthur really had no excuse for agreeing to this, though Alex supposed that he could have been kidnapped and threatened into doing so. Still, it seemed to him like a spy could deal with that sort of thing.
"That's not even mentioning the major problems, like nuclear meltdowns because the operators are messing around and causing trouble where they shouldn't." Alex watched him as he seemed to assimilate all of his points. He could offer up a whole bunch more, or course. Aeroplanes crashing could cause massive amounts of damage, especially if they were near anything important, and Alex had no doubt that there were probably plenty of biological weapons, if not more substantial weapons, stored away around the world that could be released by scientists and military personnel with the clearance level to retrieve them.
"Look, Mr. Valentine sir, you've already established the basis for reducing population." Alex sighed as he sat down exhaustedly across from the man. He had no expected to spend his day off saving the world, though really he should have suspected it given how his life tended to be. "The more advanced the country is, the more educated it becomes, the more the population decreases as a result as people choose not to become parents or to have fewer children than they might otherwise have had. By giving the SIMcard away in less prosperous countries, you've already paved the way for them to educate themselves. The result won't be immediate, but I imagine over the coming decades, we will likely start to see a significant decrease in population."
"You're well versed on this." Valentine observed in an unusual moment of clarity.
"I had to be." He murmured cryptically, not bothering to explain himself. His work against the organization First Aid had guaranteed that he was more than a little familiar with various eco-terrorist organizations as well as the odd charity that was getting a little too violent.
Alex did not get to find out what actually happened to Arthur after they returned to the mansion. They were greeted by four of the Kingsman, all of whom had their weapons out to bear, and all of whom looked quite ready to use them if either of them so much as blinked wrong.
Somehow they had witnessed the conversation between the two of them and Valentine, and none of them were very pleased. Arthur had been promptly taken to some dark pit, and Alex hadn't been privy to where they had taken him, not that Alex was all that bothered. He had never particularly cared for him anyway; he'd reminded him entirely too much of Mr. Blunt.
Alex had found himself in an interrogation room, however, with only a cup of water and a plate of sandwiches for company. He hadn't realized until then just how ravenous he was.
After finishing off the light meal, he toasted the two-way mirror in thanks and settled back to wait for someone to come. Alex sincerely hoped that nothing came of this, although he supposed that if push came to shove, the amnesia grenade in his pocket could be of use. It had taken some doing to figure out how to keep himself from being affected by the grenade and Alex had lost countless hours to tinkering with the damned thing, and had garnered the occasional strange look when he failed to remember conversations, or even training patterns they'd gone through. After realizing what was happening, he had taken to recording all of his lessons and reviewed them at the end of each day.
Finally the door opened and Galahad stepped in, looking more drained than usual. Considering that the man had just woken up from a coma a couple of weeks ago, that was really saying something.
"You're evaluations have shown you to be a promising recruit. Not unusual for one of Arthur's picks." Galahad observed, sitting down across from him.
Alex snorted at that. "He had nothing to do with my training, believe me." he answered, "I had no idea what either he or Valentine were up to until I met with them this afternoon."
"That was the indication we got as well. However, given the circumstances, we have to cover all of our bases."
Alex nodded in understanding. He wasn't at all surprised that they would want to make sure that he wasn't in league with an eco-terrorist of the worst kind.
"There was a truth serum in the glass of water." Galahad continued succinctly, leaning back to watch him carefully, "It should start to affect you in about ten minutes."
Alex swallowed and forced himself to remain calm. He hadn't even known they had things like truth serums. He kept forgetting that at their very core, they were a spy organization with advanced technology. Really, it shouldn't have come as any sort of surprise for him. "Alright." He said, once he was certain his voice wasn't going to waver. From the look Galahad was giving him, he wasn't sure he had succeeded.
There was a very real possibility that he could tell them about his work for MI6, and while he had definitely planned on telling them about it, this wasn't quite how he had envisioned it happening.
"Sir, could I ask something of you?" Alex asked finally, looking up to meet his eerily calm eyes.
"Certainly, you may I ask. I make no guarantees, however." He answered affably, looking more than a little curious.
Alex swallowed down his nerves. "During the interrogation, I might reveal.. something. If I do, please, don't push. It's not something I enjoy reliving." There might have been a chance that he could have avoided bringing up his career as a spy, but Alex sincerely doubted it.
"I'll see what I can do." Galahad answered after a moment.
The tension in the room was rising steadily as the minutes stretched out while they waited. Alex didn't feel any different once the agent decided to start the interrogation, but it didn't take him long to realize that it was definitely working.
"Your name, if you please." Galahad murmured, glancing down at the tablet in his hands.
"Alexander John Rider." He answered promptly before blinking in surprise. It was an odd feeling, as if whatever reservations about answering his questions were completely gone. It wasn't so much being compelled to answer as not having a reason to refuse.
"Good, it seems to be working. I'll start the interrogation now." Alex nodded his acquiescence, and Galahad started asking. "When did you first meet Chester King?"
"Regent's Park." Alex replied, needing no explanation of who Chester King was, and contemplating the afternoon the afternoon. "He called my handler, requesting a meeting with me concerning a possible job interview, and we agreed to it."
Galahad glanced up sharply. "Handler?"
Alex nodded eagerly. "Yeah, Richard Cuthers. He sometimes acts as my handler in the rare event that MI6 deigns to give me back-up. It's a bit rare though since I'm usually undercover for months on end and I apparently don't actually need one most of the time." Judging from his expression, that had not been the answer he had been expecting at all. "I thought it was a bit odd, to be honest. Normally I don't get handlers or back-up. In hindsight, they must have suspected who and what he was."
"You work for MI6." Galahad's brow was furrowed, the only sign of his displeasure.
He shrugged unconcernedly. "Yes sir. My mission was to investigate Chester King, the man you know as Arthur, in conjunction with the spate of disappearances. Their surveillance caught him leaving Valentine's mansion, and that coupled with the fact that many people have gone missing from the aforementioned mansion made him suspicious in their eyes." He paused a moment. "I don't think I was actually supposed to join the Kingsman, but I don't think they were too terribly surprised either since they could have pulled me out at any time."
"What have you reported back to them?" Galahad questioned.
"I reported that he was a Kingsman and I reported his connection to Valentine during that meeting earlier today. I also reported that he had been picked up by your lot, so I doubt they'll get involved." His head tilted slightly consideringly, "Everything I have reported has been strictly confined to my mission, and only that. They know nothing about your hierarchy, training, missions, or anything else of that nature." He recited.
Galahad looked marginally relieved at that, insomuch as a man who carefully monitored his own emotions could manage. Alex had no idea how he managed that, but he would dearly love to know his secrets.
This has not been beta'd
This is just a random collection of snippets. I might add more to it, I might not. Basically I just really want to see more Alex Rider/Kingsman crossovers and I'm hoping this will kickstart all of them ever.
If you decide to write one based off of what I've got here, I would love you forever and possibly name my firstborn after you. You're welcome to use any of this in your fics, just please please please link me to it because I need more crossovers between these two genres.