Title: The Cunning Hand
Author: Silver Queen
Summary: "It's confirmed," Tulip Jones said. "Yassen Gregorovich is alive." (Post Snakehead) Alex Rider might be finished with MI6, but they're not finished with him.
Author's notes: This is my first Alex Rider fic, so here's hoping it goes right. I have to say, I haven't got the entire thing planned out, so it might be a little while between updates. But I just got tired of waiting for updates on other fics, and decided to try my hand at my own. Enjoy.
"It's confirmed," Tulip Jones said. She had just walked into Alan Blunts office on the seventh story of the 'Royal and General' bank. As usual she was dressed in a severe grey suit and sensible black shoes. Around her neck was a necklace that could have been either silver or steel. She was sucking on a peppermint. In her hand she was clutching a thick manila folder.
"Is it?" Alan Blunt asked mildly. He was not a man that forgot things. He was aware that she was working on three different cases which could have catastrophic consequences. He was also aware that there was only one case which would have sent her to his office immediately.
"Yassen Gregorovich is alive and in working for the Black Hand," she confirmed, placing the folder on his desk, before moving to stand by the window.
"Well, then," Alan Blunt said, opening the folder and investigating the pages inside. He shuffled through them, touching them the barest minimum with the tips of his fingers.
Mrs. Jones nodded curtly. "He has identified our undercover agent." She didn't say how. That would be covered in the report. It wasn't a surprise. Yassen Gregorovich was notorious for spotting and eliminating undercover agents.
"Dead?" Blunt asked the first hint of an emotion on his face. It looked out of place.
"Hospitalized. The doctors think he will survive. He brought us this report. The whole mission is finished." She sucked furiously on her peppermint. She disliked failing. And the information that the agent had managed to uncover was disturbing. It would be a priority to send another agent in. It would also be extremely difficult.
"We have something that would distract Gregorovich," Blunt stated. He turned one of the pages over and stared at the neat, precise type on it.
"You think he would compromise his defense?" Mrs. Jones asked. Her tone was flat and gave no hint to what she was thinking.
"Undoubtedly," Blunt said. All profiles of Gregorovich after he had somehow, incredibly, survived Air Force One and escaped the well-guarded hospital, said the same thing. Gregorovich had failed to kill Rider. Gregorovich did not fail. Thus, either he had not meant to kill Rider, or he would continue to try. Either way, he would split his attentions between the Black Hand and Rider. It would be enough.
Mrs. Jones considered it. It was more than he had expected her to do. It told him she had already thought of it, and had knew it to be the only sensible course of action. "Alex will never agree to it."
Blunt considered that. She was correct. "Perhaps."
After he had told them, not quite politely, that he did not, in fact, wish to work for them, Alex had not expected to hear from MI6 for a very long time. Or at least, much longer than a month.
But, after returning from Australia and the disaster that his attempted infiltration of the snakehead had been, a month was all he had. And, standing in the foyer of the 'Royal and General' Bank, still in his school uniform and holding his school bag, Alex reflected that it certainly hadn't been long enough.
He was let through to Blunts office by the secretary at the front desk. The lift moved on its own, without needing input, and took him directly to the seventh floor. From there, he went to Blunt's office.
The room itself was exactly the same as it had been the last time he visited it. There was a single file on the desk, as well as ordinary, featureless office stationery items. It would not have surprised him if the items on the desk were precisely, down to the millimeter, in the same place. Certainly Blunt himself seemed to have moved less.
"Where's Mrs. Jones?" Alex asked, casting a quick look around the room. Her absence gave him an illogical uneasy feeling. It wasn't that she had always taken his side, but she had sympathized with him much more than Blunt ever had.
Blunt looked like he was tempted to ignore the question. "She is in charge of an operation that currently requires her to be elsewhere," he answered shortly. "Have a seat."
"Recently, it has come to our attention," Blunt said smoothly, clasping his hands together on his desk. "That you are in some considerable danger."
Alex looked skeptical. In the past month, he had been in less danger than he'd been in for the entire previous year.
"It was not confirmed until yesterday, at which point we immediately contacted you." Blunt pulled a photograph out of the file. It was new and glossy, but slightly blurry, as though it had been taken in a great hurry. Alex looked at it and was strongly reminded of his first meeting with Alan Blunt.
Once again he was staring at a photo of Yassen Gregorovich. He felt curiously lightheaded and had to force himself to pay attention to Blunt.
"… suspect that he will go after you. After all, Yassen Gregorovich has never before failed an assignment. We feel it is prudent to assign you security, until such time as the threat is reduced…"
Alex let the man continue. He stared unblinkingly at the photograph. He thought about telling Blunt that he did not need protection. But he had never told MI6 what Yassen had said to him. And he did not know, truthfully, if he would be safe. Perhaps, having survived, Yassen had decided that it wasn't worth it. Perhaps…
"How did he survive?" He asked suddenly, cutting Blunt off.
Blunt frowned at him, as if he had interrupted something really important. "When bodies were recovered from the Air Force One, yourself among them," Blunt said, and there was a hint of something (reluctance?) in his voice. "It was discovered that Gregorovich was still alive. He was taken to St. Dominic's under heavy guard. However, once he regained consciousness, he managed to evade them and escape."
Alex nodded and looked at the photo again. "I see."
Blunt nodded apparently satisfied. "Very well. Ben Daniels is coordinating your security. I believe you are acquainted. His office is number seven hundred and thirteen on the fifth floor. He is expecting you."
Alex nodded, picked his gear up and left. He was still holding the photograph.
Alex made his way to the fifth floor silently. He took the lift down, which he shared with a man who looked at Alex curiously, but didn't speak. Alex didn't speak either. He just looked at the photograph in his hands and tried to sort out the whirlwind of thoughts in his head.
By the time he reached his destination, he had given up on clarity and was trying to merely keep the gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach from consuming him. He knocked and opened the door. Inside, both people looked up. One Alex identified without any thought. Ben Daniels, who he'd first known as 'Fox', had helped him escape the snakehead. He'd also been shot.
The second made him pause. She was young; still in her twenties and almost absurdly attractive, with blonde hair falling to her shoulders, amazing blue eyes and movie star lips. She dressed in a grey, tailored jacket and serious shoes.
Then he remembered. Miss Treat, the MI6 spy who had been assigned to his school after Skoda had escaped and tried to kill him. She had saved his life.
Ben stood up and smiled. "Alex, nice to see you." He walked over to the door. "Alright then, Donna, if you'd like to keep working on this, I'll take Alex down to see Smithers." She nodded, smiled up at Alex in greeting, then turned back to the papers spread across the desk.
"Right then, shall we?" Ben said, moving past Alex.
"How are you anyway?" Alex said as they moved down the hallway, back towards the elevator. "You know, having been shot and all?"
Ben grinned. "Pretty good, actually. The doctors patched me up. I've been doing mainly desk work since then. This'll be my first actual assignment since I was shot. Not that I'm excited about it or anything, because I'd rather you weren't, you know, in need of protection or anything, but it is nice to be back in the field."
Alex grinned back at him. "So what are you going to be doing?"
"Me? I'll be staying with you for a while. We'll still be at your place, until… well, unless something comes up. It's not a pressing threat at the moment. So don't think you can get out of school because of it, y'hear?"
Alex grinned, but he was glad. He didn't need to get any further behind in class.
"There'll be a couple of guys, just, you know, hanging about." Ben continued. "I put in a special request, but… anyway, never mind that. Donna, she'll be going back undercover as Miss Treat, your science teacher. I imagine you'll need a lot of extra help, being as you're so far behind in your classes." He looked far too amused by the thought.
"I imagine," Alex said dryly, "that if Miss Treat is there, most of my class will need extra help." He grinned. "They all did last time."
Fox sighed. "Ah, to be a teenager with a hot teacher again." He shook himself out of it. "Anyway, Smithers has been wanting to see you. I think it made his day when Blunt told him you were needing gadgets. He loves designing things for you."
"Not half as much as I love using them," Alex replied. "Smithers has saved my life more than… well, more than anyone."
"Aww," Ben teased, "here we are, taking bullets for you, right and left, and all you think of is Smithers."
It wasn't until he got home after visiting the Bank that he realized he'd overlooked something very important. He'd have to explain it all to Jack. He found her in the kitchen and tried to explain. She wasn't happy about it.
"Alex," she said, half moaning, leaning against the kitchen bench. "I thought we were finished with this." She ran a hand through her short red hair. It stuck up in short tufts.
"So did I," Alex said defensively. "I didn't know he was still alive. And … well, MI6 thinks he might come after me. So that's why Ben's staying with us. You'll like him," he added, desperate to sound cheerful.
Jack sighed. "I just… Alex, I just hate it when… I don't want you to get hurt, alright? And ever since you got involved with these people, all you seem to get is hurt. I thought that this house was at least one place where they couldn't get you. And now you say…" she sighed again.
Alex felt bad for making her worry. "It's probably nothing," he reassured her, hoping it was true. Yassen probably wouldn't come after him. "This is probably just an over-reaction. They just want to keep me safe, too."
Jack looked at him somberly. "God, I hope so, Alex. I hope so."
Oh, and for your information, Miss Treat is considered a canon character. She appeared in the Alex Rider short story 'Secret Weapon' in which Skoda (from Point Blanc) comes after Alex after being released from jail.
So, there you go. Chapter 1. Please tell me what you think of it.