I generally wait a little longer before putting up a new chapter; it's only been five days, and I'm paranoid, I like to tweak stuff, and also, real life has this nasty habit of happening, and getting in the way of important things like writing fanfiction.
Mind you, at the moment, I'm trying to sort out University courses that do both English and Spanish/Hispanic Studies - and I think my school is being a little silly in this, because, woah, people, premature much? I haven't taken my damn AS-Levels yet, what's with the University hype?! - whether or not to apply to Oxford (because, argh, some teachers say yes, some say maybe, and some look at my like I'm totally mad and say "um, sorry sweetie, but they don't take thick people at Oxford..." :D), fitting in revision, piano practice, flute practice, Tae Kwon Do practice, and there's also that pesky nervous breakdown to schedule for some time in the summer holidays.
Seriously, though, my dears, writing fanfiction is not the most important thing on my mind right now - you're only getting this because I already typed it up, I'm afraid. There may be something of a wait for the other ones! Sorry again, but I really do have to pass these exams.
Love and a dedication once again to Von, who never fails to inspire me, and also to my brother, because it would annoy him. Though, in his own little way, I suppose he does inspire me; every time he's at home, he annoys me so much, I go to my room and type. :D
And thanks to all you lovely people who reviewed so much and so quickly, because now it means I feel I can update. :D
Though, could someone please tell me something? I've looked and looked on the actual Alex Rider page for two of my stories, and they don't seem to be there. THey're definitely on my profile page, but I can't see them in the actual category itself. Is this just me, or is this something anyone else as found?
Meh. That sounds like a plug, and it's not - you don't have to read them, I'm just... curious.
Anyway, onto the story.
DISCLAIMER: If I were Anthony Horowitz, I'd be being paid to write about Alex Rider. Sounds like an ideal job to me, but, unfortunately, not one I'm ever likely to get.
Alex stood and stared at the all-too-familiar camp in the Brecon Beacons. He couldn't believe that he was here, doing this, with his class mates, and would be here for two weeks.
He bit his lip, following the crowd absently as they were led into the mess hall, his mind on other things. Hopefully, he'd manage to be useless at all this; after all, it wasn't like he'd done any proper assault courses recently, it was likely he'd be just as bad as everyone else. He clung to that comforting line of thought, and just prayed that, if there was anyone here who knew him, they'd been briefed not to say anything that would give him away.
The drill Sergeant apparently had, as, though he'd definitely seen him, he gave no sign of recognition, standing up in front of the crowd of chattering kids and shouting,
"All of you, shut up!"
The silence rang throughout the mess hall.
"While you're here," he shouted, "You'll behave. You'll be alongside professional soldiers, who aren't going to take kindly to any back-talking, do you understand?" A few brave people nodded. Alex didn't react at all, remembering all to well how 'kindly' the soldiers had taken to him. "We've never had to train any bloody children before," and here, his eyes did flick over to Alex, though it wasn't noticeable to anyone who wasn't looking for it. "So we're not going to make any exceptions for you, you understand?" he grimaced. "Obviously, you'll get the soft options, in terms of training – and we're not going to risk your lives by training you with the other soldiers…"
Tom leant across to Alex to whisper to him. "Did you train with the other soldiers?" he asked, but before he could even finish the question, the drill Sergeant was pointing at them.
"You!" he barked, and they both jumped, Tom fearful of punishment, Alex on edge at the idea of having his 'cover' blown. "We don't tolerate talking over your instructors here. We're not in a bloody high school." He turned back to the rest of the children. "He's going to be an example." He told them, voice carrying a very heavy warning. He turned back to them. "Stay behind." He ordered. "We'll talk about your punishment duty."
Tom wilted – but it was Alex the Sergeant was talking to.
The man went on for a while longer about what they would be doing, where they would be doing it, and where they would be sleeping, but Alex had tuned out. He'd done all this before, and although he did listen with half an ear, he wasn't paying any great attention – just enough to catch where they were sleeping, where to get kit, etc. He was more worried about blending in. Already, he'd managed to get singled out.
Finally, the man barked, "Dismissed!" at them, and they all filed out, rather cowed and silent, though Alex heard the chatter explode the moment the door was closed.
The drill Sergeant looked him over. "Cub." He said, slowly.
"Sir." Alex's voice was flat.
"What the hell have you got into now?" The man's voice was slow and almost friendly. Alex shrugged, unwilling to be taken in that easily by a man who'd contributed so much to his week and a half of living hell so many months ago. "I asked you a question, Cub!"
"And I'm not allowed to answer it, sir, so there wasn't much point asking it, was there?" Alex said, his voice controlled and polite, but with a hint of steel under them.
The Sergeant, amazingly, backed off, with a tiny, almost invisible smile. "You picked up a tongue from somewhere, then." He stated, backing away, and leaning against one of the tables. "I said you had punishment duty." He began, after a pause. Alex nodded, with a small sigh. "Mess duty." The sergeant ruled. "Every night for the next week." He grinned, suddenly, the expression looking strangely incongruous on the tough, no-nonsense man Alex remembered so vividly. "We might be able to teach you some of the interesting stuff."
He made his way over to be issued with kit – it had been brought in specially for his class, because they didn't generally keep many spares of anything in the barracks, and certainly not enough to deal with a class full of school children – and carried it back to the barracks where the boys were quartered.
Inside was chaos; no one seemed to know quite what to do with their belongings, or how to wear the new clothes they'd been issued, so Alex, knowing that it wasn't necessarily the most sensible of moves if he wanted to stay inconspicuous, dressed as quickly as he could, and then said, quietly,
"You know, we're gonna get bollocked if we leave this place looking like this."
Only a few people heard him, but they stopped talking, and the silence spread, until, after a minute or so, the room was almost totally silent, apparently waiting for something.
Alex swallowed, squaring his shoulders, and waiting for whatever was going to come next.
One boy stepped forwards, looking him over. "How d'you get the uniform to look like that?" he said, suspiciously. "You done this before, or something?"
Alex shrugged. Well, there's another rumour for the school as to what I do when I'm off school, he thought, absently, with heavy irony. For a second, he thought fast, then said, casually. "I've watched enough films to know how to wear this stuff. 'Band of Brothers', and all that." He looked at the other boy, Will Hartford, a hint of challenge in his gaze. "Haven't you?"
Will shrugged. "What were you saying about tidying this place up?"
Alex looked at him, the lie already formulated. He remembered all too well how K-Unit had been chewed out for the slightest disorderliness, and he had no doubt that, school children or not, they would get the same sort of treatment.
"He doesn't seem like the sort of guy who's going to let us be messy." He let a faint hint of a whine surface in his tone. "I mean, he gave me mess duty just for talking."
Will smirked, then frowned, putting two and two together, and realising that the punishment for untidiness would probably be far, far worse; and no one wanted to find out what it was.
Alex went round, helping people put on their uniforms. Tom's was far too big for him, and he was practically swimming in it. Alex did the best he could, tightening the trousers, and the jacket, but even after that, Tom still looked like he was wearing some sort of camouflage circus tent.
When the drill Sergeant arrived, twenty minutes later, the barracks were tidy, they all looked at least half-decent, and were sat on their respective beds, talking. He frowned at them, as only Alex got to his feet on entering.
Mentally, Alex kicked himself. He hadn't been thinking before he did it, and now he was making himself stand out. Getting back into the SAS camp mindset would normally have been useful, but not in this particular case. He wanted to be like everyone else, he didn't want to show that he knew how these things worked; there was, after all, only so far he could push the excuse of 'watching a lot of war documentaries.
Fortunately, though, the Sergeant was quick to provide him with an excuse. "Someone's been watching too many films." He said, sounding almost gentle, and a couple of boys smirked at Alex, who tried to make himself flush, with little success. Then, the sergeant barked, "On your feet, all of you!"
There was a frantic scramble as everyone threw themselves to their feet, thought Alex gained himself a few dirty looks, for being a 'know-it-all'. He sighed in relief. If, by the end of the fortnight, the most that was said of him was that he was an army know-it-all, he'd feel that he'd done pretty well.
"The SAS work in teams." The Sergeant told them, voice sharp. "Four men in each team. There aren't that many of you, so you've been assigned one team, as 'teachers'." He smiled, without humour. "They're fully fledged members of the SAS, who've been given some downtime," Alex started to get a little nervous about this, "And they're not too happy about being asked to teach you." The other boys looked slightly worried about that as well. "Well, come on, ladies!" the Sergeant said, after a pause, during which no one moved. "They're outside."
Alex made sure he wasn't the first to move, and wasn't the last. Keeping his head down – they hadn't been given berets, or 'lids', but he couldn't say he was unhappy about that – he filed out with the others, and only risked a glance upwards when everyone went still.
Four men were stood there, as they'd been told. One was short and wiry, blond, with a kind, stern face – one had red hair, cut short, and dark eyes, with laughter lines around them, who looked seriously pissed off at the moment. Of the other two, one was tall and dark, and looked just about as pissed off as his shorter, red-headed team mate. The last was average height, well built, and looked Hispanic. Alex sighed.
Brilliant. Just bloody brilliant.
Snake, Fox, Eagle, and Wolf. Just the people he wanted to see.
MI6 had obviously decided that making Alex Rider's life living hell was more fun than any of their other past times, and had put an extra-large amount of time into it this week.
The girls joined them a second later, while Alex stared fixedly at his boots. Technically, women weren't allowed to join the SAS, as it was too rigorous a training course, and too physically demanding, but it had been ruled that, as they weren't doing to full course, the girls could just come to the same camp. For the most part, they were being ignored to the same extent as the boys; they were just rather more pissed off about it. Equally, without Alex there to help them, they all looked as rag-tag and disorderly as the boys had, pre-Alex.
Wolf heaved an audible sigh, and Alex became ever more fascinated with his shoes. Even to him, the kid who'd known Wolf for all of ten days, and had become reacquainted with him for the sole purpose of overthrowing an evil mastermind, a tentative alliance which had lasted all of a day and a half, the man sounded annoyed. And Wolf wasn't exactly the most forthcoming of guys, when it came to emotions. If even Alex could hear his annoyance, the man was very, very annoyed.
"Shut up." He told them, quietly, and there was an immediate hush. Alex had known, even when he was training the first time round, and was dealing with Wolf's bullying, why the man had been picked to lead the unit; he was a natural leader, even if he had decided he hated Alex on sight. "We're your – teachers," he put a wealth of disapproval into the word, "while you're here. I'm Wolf, that's Fox," he pointed to the red-head, "That's Snake," this time, it was the blond man, "And that's Eagle." He frowned round at all of them, suddenly catching sight of Alex's bent head. "You." He said, suddenly, and Alex jerked his head upwards, on reflex, not entirely sure whether it was him being addressed, but all too used to being issued orders.
He knew, the moment he met Wolf's eyes, that the man hadn't been expecting to see him anymore than he, Alex, had wanted to see Wolf.
Luckily, they were both all too used to adapting in a split second.
"You look up when you're being spoken to, do you understand?" he said, roughly, though his voice had changed very slightly. Enough, however, that the rest of K-Unit looked over. Eagle's look of 'very, very pissed off', made a lightning change into shock, and then to glee, and then to pain, as Snake surreptitiously kicked him on the ankle, as a not-so-subtle reminder that Alex was probably under cover.
Alex nodded. "I understand, sir." He told him, quietly.
Wolf nodded. "Stay behind." He told him, voice still rough, his eyes assessing Alex, frowning slightly. Then, he took a step backwards, and addressed the whole group. "If all of you act like him, it's going to be a long fortnight." He told them, sourly.
There was a brief ripple of laughter, until Wolf glared them into silence. "As the leader of my unit, I'll be the highest authority that you have day-to-day contact with." Great, just great, Alex thought, sourly. "If you've got any problems, you come to me; you've got any complaints, you come to me; you've got any suggestions, you come to me. I'm not going to promise tea and sympathy, and if you're being ridiculous," his tone said that he expected exactly that, "I'm not even going to bother listening. If it's serious, I'll do what I can. But, I don't expect you're going to have any problems except the fact that you're all lazy and unfit."
Behind him, Snake raised an eyebrow at his nominal 'leader's' assessment of the school kids.
"You're not doing anything tonight." Wolf told them, so Alex immediately suspected a midnight swim, or some other form of 'fun' torture. "Evening meal's at six. If you miss it, you don't eat, it's as simple as that." He looked disapprovingly at some of the more waif-like girls. "I'd recommend that you eat whatever you're given. You're going to need it. Lights out is at nine, for you, and any noise after that is going to be severely punished, do you understand?"
There was some mumbling consent, and Wolf looked at them, a faint hint of despair in his voice as he said, "You're lucky you're only doing a little drill. It'd take a lot longer than a fortnight to get you lot even half-way decent. You'll be woken at seven, an hour later than the rest of the men. That's so you don't clog up the mess hall for men who've got better places to be. Understood?" The same mumbling. He let them stand there in silence for maybe a minute longer, then dismissed them, pointing at Alex. "You. Wait behind."
Alex let his classmates go past him, some grinning, obviously amused at how much he'd managed to get 'wrong' so far, while a few – a very few – others gave him sympathetic looks. Tom even managed a pat on the back.
Once they'd all disappeared, he stepped towards his erstwhile team-mates, and sighed. "Yes, sir?"
Behind Wolf, Eagle was grinning, as was Fox. Snake just looked faintly concerned.
"What're you doing here?"
"My class got sent to get some training." Alex answered, deliberately oblique. "I'm a member of the class, so I got sent too."
"What about parental consent, though?" Snake broke in, before Wolf could say anything. "Didn't your parents object? I mean, surely they knew that it'd be difficult for you to be here, again?"
Alex stared at him. "I thought you knew." He said, slowly.
"Knew what?" Wolf asked, impatiently.
"MI6 are my legal guardians." He allowed himself a tiny, sarcastic smile. "I guess my uncle left me to them in his will."
"What do you mean?" Wolf demanded.
"My parents died when I was one." Alex reeled off the facts, refusing to get emotionally involved at this point. "They died, and I went to live with my uncle. Both my Dad and my uncle were spies, and when my uncle died, MI6 were designated my legal guardians; they sent me off to finish the job my uncle got killed on." He shrugged. "But, first, I had to have some more training. That was when I came here."
Snake nodded. "And, didn't MI6 think that it would be a little dangerous for you to be here again? What if you got your cover blown?"
"I think they thought it was worth it to top up my training." Alex told him, with faint sarcasm.
"Possibly." Snake nodded.
"How fit are you?" Wolf interrupted, bluntly.
Alex debated whether or not to tell him about his bullet wound, then decided against it, figuring that he could tell him about it if it ever became really necessary. "Relatively." He hedged, warily. "Why?"
"Because, unless you need to regain your fitness, there's no point you doing the same training over again." Wolf pointed out, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. He frowned, thinking it over. "Tomorrow, you can do the same thing as everyone else. Then, if we think that you're doing well, we'll find a way to give your training an 'upgrade'."
"Oh, thank you." Alex muttered.
"What was that, Cub?"
"I said 'thank you'." He told him, presenting him with a blank, innocent face. "Was there anything else?"
"No." Wolf waved him off, but Eagle spoke up before he could get safely away,
"Cub, I meant to ask, and never got the chance, that time when we were working together in the Alps… why were you snowboarding on an ironing board?"
Alex turned back to look at him. "I couldn't find a proper board."
"Why not?" he was grinning, the bastard.
"I was in a hurry."
Alex sighed. "Because, if I didn't get out quickly, they were going to find me. And if they found me, I was going to be dissected. Understandably enough, I think, I was less than keen on that." Eagle looked sufficiently silenced, and Alex turned his gaze to Wolf, who looked faintly – but only faintly – taken aback. "May I go, sir?"
Wolf nodded, and, this time, Alex managed to leave without being called back.
Back in their barracks, he was jumped on and pumped for information. He put on a sulky face, and slouched in, trying to look annoyed and a little upset, and doing a rather good job of it. The other boys certainly seemed to believe him when he moaned that he'd just been 'yelled at' for being 'rude'.
Only Alex kept any real eye on the time, and he was the sole reason that they all managed to eat that night, as he was the one who practically kicked everyone out of the door. It wasn't for any very philanthropic motive; he just didn't feel like trying to get to sleep in a room full of boys bitching and moaning about how hungry they all were. But the mess hall itself presented him with something of a challenge, when, while he was fetching his tray of food, one of the cooks paused, and said,
"I know you. You been here before, right?"
Alex froze, trying to school his features into a look of surprise and confusion, when Wolf, of all people, came to his rescue. He was a few people behind Alex, and he snapped at the man,
"For god's sake, Joe, get a fuckin' move on, OK? And stop teasing the damn kids, of course you haven't seen him before, and you'll never have to see any of 'em again, after a fortnight, thank God. Now, could you please damn well move, kid?"
Alex, who had glanced at the man when he started speaking, reckoned it was the truly terrifying glare on his face, rather than his words, which got the man to release him and his food, and allow the line to continue.
When he sat down at the table, though, the Sergeant, who was apparently just leaving, paused next to him, just as he was about to start eating, and said, clearly,
"Don't forget your mess duty tonight, boy."
Suddenly, his food looked even less appetising than it had before.
"Hey, Rider!" one of the boys, a good friend of Will Hartford, called across to him. "Couldn't your drug dealing friends think up a way to get you out of this?"
Alex ignored him, until the boy next to him elbowed him. "Well?" the other boy prodded. "Aren't you going to answer him?"
Alex looked up at him, coolly. "Obviously not." He shrugged, and tried to go back to his meal, when someone else piped up.
"I bet you're used to places like this, after all the time you've spent in Juvie."
Alex sighed, but didn't bother to contradict the boy. Apparently, someone had decided that this was Question Alex Rider Night. "I suppose I must be, yeah." He agreed, calmly.
"Have you actually been to prison?" The boy across from him asked. A couple of the girls on their table were listening closely.
"If you think I have been, nothing I say is going to change your mind." Alex pointed out, finally giving up on his meal, and trying to find the slab of rock-hard bread in the slightest bit appetising.
"But, have you?"
He gave up on the bread as well – he could survive without one meal and still manage this training, he'd eaten less and done more before – and stood up. "No." he told him, flatly. "I get sick easily." With that, he took his tray to the exit, poured his uneaten food into the bin, and walked out.
Alex walked slowly back to the barracks, and was nearly there by the time he noticed the big black Sergeant stood by the door, apparently reading something. "You given up on dinner, Cub?"
"Yes, sir." He noticed that he was half stood at attention, and fought the urge to slouch deliberately.
"You're going to need it."
"I've missed meals before, sir." he pointed out, quietly, and let the man dropped it.
"You've got an hour before you need to be at the mess hall for clear up duty." The Sergeant told him, slowly. "And you were pulled out of learning how to shoot last time, weren't you?" Alex nodded, beginning to see where this was going. "Well…" he man appeared to consider it. "I've not got any order concerning you in particular." He shrugged, "And it might be worthwhile for you to learn how to shoot." He looked at Alex again, and said, sharply. "If you think you can manage to get up at the same time as the men – and not wake anyone else in your barracks – I'll assign you to shoot with whichever unit is on the firing range that day."
Alex nodded, silently.
This was going to be a long, long, long fortnight.
And, there you have it. The long-awaited - well, the short-awaited - second chapter.
Man, I'm good. :P
lol, ami xxx