After The End Of The World

After The End Of The World

Summary: Murmansk is not a name that will ever be forgotten. It's a disaster, a tragedy of epic proportions. It's exactly as General Sarov planned.

Author's notes: I had a million and one things (some very important) to do today. So obviously I had to start writing a new fic. It's a little choppy, but it's kind of supposed to be like that. Also, 's new 'delete all line breaks' policy is really annoying. Really. It's making everything all squashed looking. Sorry.

Disclaimer: I'm not Anthony Horowitz and I don't own Alex Rider.

Alex is there when they plant the uranium. Sarov is triumphant, standing tall beside him, glowing with righteousness. The Submarine Repair Yards at Murmansk are derelict. That almost makes it worse, knowing that without the nuclear power already here, the bomb would do nothing.

"This is it, Alex," General Sarov says, almost fondly, resting a hand on his shoulder. "This is the beginning of our new world."

Alex's lips twist down into a frown. To make a new world, Sarov is going to destroy the old, is going to kill millions, and there is nothing that Alex can do to stop him.

General Sarov predicted that it would take 24 hours for the Russian government to be swept out of power.

It takes just seven.

Alex watches the news broadcast, from the plane, as Sarov steps up to the podium, dressed in his military uniform, badges on his chest. Alex waits, knowing it won't happen, for someone to challenge him as he takes power and instates a state of emergency. Someone, surely, must know!

He watches a people applaud a murderer as though he were a hero.

He feels sick. He should have stopped this.

He reads the newspaper the next day. There's even one from London (he thinks, ludicrously, why are you still writing? Why don't you help? But from inside his locked room it seems like hypocrisy.)

They don't agree on numbers. He guesses there hasn't been time to count the death toll. They all agree on tens of thousands though. They all agree that the nuclear fallout will kill tens of thousands more. There are examples from Hiroshima, from Chernobyl. There are cries of disbelief, of anger, of hatred towards Russia.

And there are pictures.

Alex is sick, this time.

Time passes. Things get better, yet don't. The dead are buried. The wounded are treated. Refugees are given homes. Refugees from Britain, from Europe, from countries once considered the developed world.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen," Sarov remarks one morning, while reading the paper and eating his customary raw eggs. There's a quiet sort of glee in his eyes at the fall of the countries that once destroyed his Russia.

Alex wonders if he is considered a refugee. He resists the urge to throw his cereal all over the other man. It wouldn't help.

Alex learns Russian. It isn't hard. He already knows French, German and Spanish. Russian isn't like any of them, really, but it's still just another language.

He likes learning Russian. It isn't dangerous. It makes Sarov happy without making Alex do things he hates.

He feels silly sometimes, though, sitting learning Russian while the world is falling apart outside.

He signs his name as Alex Rider. It's a small rebellion, one that the general has to notice. But he has said nothing, so far, so Alex clings to it, to the tiny reminder of who he was before this nightmare started.

General Sarov had been certain that nobody would believe the CIA. He was wrong, of course. The CIA had a plausible case. They had no proof, but sometimes proof isn't needed.

But it was one thing to believe it. It was another to act.

Joe Byrne stared across the table at Alan Blunt. They were in the CIA headquarters, of course, as London was completely uninhabitable.

"An alliance could save us," Byrne said.

"Or destroy us," Blunt countered. "Remember Iraqi? Russia has suffered but the change in government makes it impossible for us to use the incident against them. To declare war now… we would become the oppressors."

"Sarov has killed millions," Byrne said, frustrated.

"Something must be done," Blunt agreed.

They're at a function. The General goes to many of them. This is the first time he has taken Alex. The General is dressed up in his military formal. Alex is wearing a suit.

It's in a hotel, somewhere in the city. The place is luxurious. There are many dignitaries there, from all over the world, carefully fawning over the new President of Russia. He's hardly a President; Alex thinks sometimes, more of a dictator.

He doesn't know why he does it. He knows it's stupid. He knows he will get caught. He knows Sarov is serious about the whip.

He slips out of the main room when Sarov is preoccupied and picks up a telephone.

The General is nearly shaking with rage. Alex knows that this is going to hurt. The guards force him to stand braced against the desk, palms flat, arms locked. The fact that they stay makes him angry and almost embarrassed.

The whip whistles through the air. He hears it before it lashes down and lays a line of white hot fire across his back. He grits his teeth against a scream. He goes hot, then cold. The world darkens in front of his eyes and rushes past his ears.

His arms tremble. He feels beads of sweat trickle down his face and his eyes water.

"…disappointed," the General says, and the whip whistles through the air again. Alex tenses instinctively, the sound already connected to pain. The fear that courses through him then is almost as bad as the pain.

The second strike is as bad as the first. Worse in the places where the two overlap. He can feel them both, and wonders, vaguely, if there is blood soaking his t-shirt. Or if his shirt has simply been destroyed.

"I expected better of you, Alex," the General says. Alex can feel the eyes of the guards on him. He can't think of a reply. Couldn't say one, anyway; his jaws are clamped down so hard that they might as well be welded together.

He's shaking now, adrenaline rushing through him. He both wishes that the General will hurry up, or decide he is finished. The anticipation, the fear, will break him soon.

The whistle in the air almost makes him cry out. He's not sure if it's in relief or fear. He's not sure which is worse.

When it's over, he stays hunched over. His arms are shaking. His back burns with pain. He's hot and cold at the same time, and the world is too dark and dim. His clothes are damp with sweat and stick to him.

"I hope you've learnt your lesson," Sarov says crisply. Alex doesn't dare turn and look at him.

There's a house in Moscow where Alex stays. It's not as nice as Casa d'Oro, the golden house on Skeleton Key, but a bare, functional house. It's a house that suits General Sarov.

Alex is assigned a pair of guards and allowed to roam free. He is given tutors. Is taught how to shoot. Is taught everything that Sarov thinks he should know.

He doesn't try to escape. He has nowhere to run to.

The first time he calls the man Father, in Russian, the General smiles. Actually smiles. Alex doesn't know if it's a good thing.

Yassen Gregorovich is a Russian. He cares little who runs his homeland. Sarov, to him, is no better, is no worse than Kiriyenko.

He does however, care that the CIA are paying him a large sum of money to ensure that Sarov does not run the country for very long.

They catch the intruder before he has a chance to harm the General. It's luck that lets them. The intruder is very good.

"Bring him to me," Sarov orders when the guards tell him. They're having breakfast, but he is not perturbed. He turns to Alex. He smiles. "I think it's time for you to show me how your target practice is going."

He offers Alex a gun. Alex takes it, knowing what he is being asked to do, knowing he has no choice.

He's surprised at who they bring to him.

This is the man that murdered his uncle. In effect, this is the man that began everything.

Alex shifts the gun in his hand. It's a Marakov PM, 8 rounds, Russian made. It's the Generals favourite gun. It sits awkwardly in his grip.

Yassen Gregorovich does not look worried. He kneels, held in place, as still as a statue. He does not struggle or attempt to escape. His blue eyes are as cold and empty as blocks of ice.

This man is his uncle's murderer. If ever there was a man he wished to kill, it would be this man. He could justify it as revenge.

"Do it, Alex," the General says from behind him, tired, perhaps, of his stalling.

Pulling the trigger is easy. The shaking doesn't start till after. After the bullet has left the gun. After Gregorovich's eyes have closed. After the back of his head has exploded

"That's going to be a pain to clean up," he says for lack of anything else to say as he turns away. That sight will be forever etched in his mind, but he doesn't have to look at it now. His head is curiously light.

The General laughs and throws one arm over his shoulders. "The cleaners will handle it," he says. One of the guards steps forward and takes the gun off him.

Alex does look back, just as they leave. The body is just lying there, where it fell, discarded like so much junk. It wasn't revenge, Alex knows, that made him pull the trigger. It was just an end.

The next time he's asked to sign something, he writes Alex Sarov.

AN: So what'd you think? Worth it, or should I have just finished off The Cunning Hand and been done with it? Or does it just need to be taken down and revamped a little?