Alex Rider was surprised to find that he no longer found school boring. Tom called him crazy, others called him less complimentary things, but once he had caught up, he had found that actually enjoyed learning. It was a hell of a lot more relaxing that trying to stop crazy multi-billionaires from blowing up the world, at least.

All the same, he couldn't help but sigh as he prepared for his Chemistry lesson - Chemistry wasn't like Spanish or French, which he had known since he was little - Chemistry was difficult for him to wrap his head around, with all the talk of Moles and hybridization orbitals.

"Alex? Alex, are you even listening?" his best, well, only friend Tom asked him.

"Hmmm? Oh, yes, just trying to remember whether I've done the homework from last night." He replied. It wasn't a lie. He relished being able to worry about silly things like when assignments were due, rather than how he'd fly into space to destroy a multi-billion dollar hotel. He thought it rather suited him.

"We had homework last night?" Tom yelped as they entered the new Science block, catching several amused eyes as his voice changed pitch halfway through the sentence. Tom cleared his throat and repeated the question, this time much lower and huskier. "Erm...sorry. We had Chemistry homework last night?"

Alex grinned and nodded at Tom, who was making a valiant attempt not to flush, but failing. "Yep. Pages 261 through 266, and then questions 21 through 30 on page 266." He paused for dramatic effect, knowing his next sentence would make Tom go crimson. "Why? Were you too busy staring at Regina Marbury to hear Mr. Wells?" True to his intention, Tom flushed a much deeper shade of red at this and glared at Alex, muttering something about 'bloody super spies who notice too much for their own damn good'.

All the same, it did not prevent Tom from taking his usual seat next to him, in the second row from the back. Alex dutifully took notes, in contrast to Tom, who was doodling fanciful RM + TH on his notebook. Alex bit back a laugh. Halfway through the class, they heard a sharp noise coming from the floor below. Most of his classmates looked up only briefly before turning back to Mr. Wells, but Alex knew that sound too well to ignore it - gunshots.

He was about to ask Mr. Wells to go to the nurse when they came in, dressed head to foot in black, with machine guns easily visible in their hands.

Alex tensed.

By whatever small miracles there were in the world, the two didn't seem to be looking for him in particular - just interested in causing general mayhem. Alex knew the type, though he hadn't needed to deal with them often. Maybe they had a purpose here, maybe they didn't - for all he knew, they were just school shooters, which would make his life easier. He almost snorted with the irony, but managed to hold it in. Yes, it said a lot about him when he thought with hope that they were JUST school shooters.

He looked toward the front, not relaxing, where the two, a man and a woman, were calmly pointing guns at his classmates. His classmates, unlike himself, had never before had to deal with a situation like this, which resulted in a lot of screaming and pointing, the very last thing they should have been doing.

"Good afternoon class," said the woman's voice from the front, quieting the din instantly. If she hadn't been pointing a gun at him Alex would've called her voice beautiful; slightly foreign and crisp. "I hope we aren't interrupting anything."

Alex closed his eyes.

This was too much. Not a month ago he'd returned from bloody Thailand, a while before that, outer space, and less than two weeks before that he'd been in the hospital recovering from a bullet to the chest. Not to mention the other missions that had made his life a living hell. He could feel Tom shaking like a leaf next to him, and the adrenaline flooding through his system made him want to go and knock the two unconscious, which even he knew wasn't a wise idea at this point - with his luck they would fire, and get one of his classmates, who were just beginning to warm up to him, hurt. Or killed.

He didn't open his eyes as the woman continued talking, "You should know that at this very moment, your government is being notified that we have taken your school hostage, and that we do not intend to release anyone until a rather large sum has been placed in our accounts." Many of his classmates, not catching any hints that she was going to kill them, started to relax. After all, this was a job for the government! They'd get it all sorted out! Alex wasn't that optimistic.

The woman - Alex had guessed Asian from the accent - was speaking again. "You should not, on the other hand, get too comfortable. We will not hesitate to kill you should the need arise." As if to prove a point, she pointed her gun at Mr. Wells, who had until this point been cowering behind his desk, and shot. The shot hit exactly between his eyes and started bleeding immediately. He fell right on top of his lecture notes, not moving. Alex's classmates screamed. He did not.

He stood up.

The class quieted immediately, as did the man, who had been laughing gutturally and more than slightly sadistically. He looked at Alex in shock, and Alex guessed, probably correctly, that he was hired help. The woman's eyes, which were the only part he could see of her face, narrowed as she took him in.

He only said one word.


The silence that filled the classroom had never felt so loud, and Alex imagined that he could hear the thoughts of his classmates, tumbling and confused.

"What the hell's he doing? He's going to get us all killed!"

"Alex Rider? Sickly, weak Alex Rider? I must be imagining things."

"What in the world is he playing at?"

Before the silence went from being imposing to oppressive, the woman spoke out again.

"And what's to stop me?" She asked, never taking her eyes off him.

He didn't respond.

She looked less angry now, but somehow more dangerous than ever when she asked him, "What's your name, boy?"

"Alex." he replied without elaboration, and he could almost see her lips purse underneath her ski cap. She didn't comment on it, however, but instead picked up the attendance list sitting on Mr. Wells' desk - which she had to lift up his head to move - and scanned the bloody contents.

"Alex Rider, I presume?" She asked, with a hint of venom in her voice that hadn't been there before. She didn't wait for his reply before saying, "If you would come up to the front, please?"

Despite her politeness, Alex knew it wasn't a request. He eyed the two before he made his way slowly toward the front. This was exactly what he had been aiming for - now he had to gauge how well the two in front of him could fight. Preferably without the guns.

He stumbled purposely over David Hotchkiss' backpack, which was in the aisle. If the two thought him clumsy and uncoordinated, they would underestimate him, which was how he won essentially all of his fights. While outnumbered, anyway.

It couldn't have taken him longer than ten seconds to reach the front of what used to be his Chemistry classroom, but the pounding of his heart seemed to disagree. He spared one look back at his classmates, who were looking surprisingly fearful for him, save Tom, who was beginning to grasp what Alex was up to. His face went into the same looks as the others of their class, save the extra-incredulous eyes. They widened as he got closer to the two, but Alex had to turn back around as not to attract suspicion.

The woman, whose eyes were definitely Asian, he determined, beckoned closer with her right hand. The hired helper seemed not to be watching too closely, and his safety was on, so Alex determined to take the woman out first.

Without warning, his foot hit her stomach, and as she doubled over, Alex took advantage of the opportunity to grab her gun. He switched the safety on before moving onto the man, who was fumbling with the trigger on his gun, apparently not noticing that the safety was still on. Alex took him out with a well-placed chop to the side of the neck and made to snatch his gun too. He succeeded, and proceeded to drop both guns in an attempt to keep his footing. He would have been surprised if the only weapons they had were the guns, and he was not disappointed. The woman brought out a miniature blade and managed to slash Alex's forearm with it before he had twisted it out of her wrist. Meanwhile, the other man was closing in on him from behind, no doubt trying to get his arms pinned.

He spun around, and tried to kick the man in the head, but the bear-like man caught Alex's foot in his hand and flipped him over, causing his head to hit the edge of the desk. Alex felt the warm blood start to trickle out of his scalp as he pushed himself up, swinging his fist around to the side of the woman's head. She dodged easily, but stumbled over the two guns on the floor.

While she regained her balance, Alex ducked down and went for Bear Man's knees, which knocked him over. Getting up and stepping on the man's fingers even as he heard them break and the howls of pain that accompanied, he turned back to the woman just in time to see her leg flying toward his chest - his heart, and therefore his bullet wound, to be exact. He turned so it would be a less damaging blow to the shoulder, though it would still bruise something nasty. Chancing a risky move, Alex grabbed the woman's ankle as it fell and attempted to flip her onto her back. She was lighter than the enemies he was used to fighting, however, so she went flying into the whiteboard and therefore the wall, where she lay still.

Alex glanced at her for a moment before a punch caught him in the kidney and the sharp pain made him glance back at Bear Man. He was grinning maniacally, and Alex noted with detached interest that he had no teeth. Groaning out loud, Alex dodged a punch from his meaty fist and sent one fist of his own toward his stomach a split second before sending his other toward his head. Busy blocking the punch to his gut, Bear Man completely missed the other that was flying toward his head.

After he watched the man tumble to the floor unconscious, Alex took his first glance at his classmates. Every single one of them, including Tom, had looks of incredulous disbelief on their faces. Alex imagined he must look a mess - his head was bleeding profusely, as was his arm, and he was sweating like mad.

The silence seemed to last for ages – Alex would've found his classmates' expressions amusing, were they not all directed at him. But barely anyone was blinking and their mouths were nearly all open and they were all staring at him. For someone who was used to stealth and secrecy, their gaze was unnerving.

Tom was the first to speak up. "Well, Alex. That was quite a show."