Alex Rider was bored.
MI6 hadn't contacted him in 3 months, 15 days, 10 hours, 45 minutes and 39 seconds. 40, now.
No matter how much he tried to convince himself that he was content with this restful life, he wasn't. He had experienced the real world. He couldn't handle everyone treating him like a kid, when he had experienced far more than any of them had.
It wasn't only the fact that he was being underestimated by everyone around him. Without being in the midst of action, Alex felt that he wasn't achieving anything. He didn't feel like he was doing something for the world – one of the only things he got out of spying. He felt like he was wasting his life.
He had been tempted, he admitted, to march right up to the MI6 headquarters and demand some kind of attention. A well done, or a thank you, if they didn't want to employ him any more. Even better, a new mission. But there was nothing. No contact whatsoever. And Alex hated it.
However, every time he'd passed the Royal and General bank, he told himself he didn't want that life back. He told himself he wanted this life – the life he was living now. So he passed the bank, and kept living his life.
It had reached a point where he wanted to explode. He'd been keeping everything in for so long, that he didn't think he could hold his self-control any longer. He wanted something, anything, to happen.
'Alex! Alex! Earth to Alex!' Tom's voice cut through Alex's thoughts and brought him back to reality.
'What is it?' asked Alex tiredly.
'Did you not hear what that assembly was about?' Tom asked incredulously. Obviously, Alex thought, it was something that Tom was excited about. He was grinning from ear to ear and his eyes sparkled with glee.
'No, I didn't,' Alex said.
'We're going on camp!' said Tom. Alex sighed. Of course Tom would find that exciting. To Alex, however, camp seemed like it would be a bore. How wrong he was.
'Oh, ok,' said Alex. 'That's great!' He tried to sound interested, he really did.
'What's wrong?' asked Tom. 'You know, I wasn't going to ask, but you've been really out of it lately.'
Alex wondered about the best way to answer that question. Should he tell Tom? No, he'd already told him that he was fine with this life.
'When have I ever been with it, lately?' Alex asked, with a hint of sarcasm. Tom paused. Maybe Alex had been too sarcastic – for a second he was afraid that he'd insulted his best friend.
'You're bummed about… you know what.'
Alex didn't know Tom could read his mind, but then again, Alex wasn't as mysterious as he thought he was. He looked at Tom incredulously.
'Are you serious? I would never be! I'm glad they're leaving me alone!' Tom noticed that Alex was talking a little too fast, and was being more emphatic than he usually was.
'Yeah right,' said Tom. Alex stared at him, giving him an exasperated look.
'Really,' lied Alex. 'What were you saying about this camp?' he asked, hoping Tom would be so excited about camp that he'd drop the subject of MI6. He was right.
'It's not normal camp, Alex! We're going camping!'
'That's cool,' lied Alex.
'With tents! We're going to go bushwalking for 7 days, and we're not always going to have teachers on our back! Isn't that awesome? We have to pitch our own tents, and cook our own food, and everything!' said Tom. Alex almost sighed. It sounded more like a pain in the neck to him.
'You aren't excited?' asked Tom, seeing the look on Alex's face – or rather, the lack of a look on his face.
'I am excited, Tom,' Alex lied again. 'Really.'
'We're going in two weeks, so you'd better start packing!' said Tom, obviously believing that lie. Perhaps Alex was getting better.
'Alright Tom. Have a good weekend,' said Alex, walking off.
'Bye!' replied Tom. As soon as his friend was out of sight, Tom let out a sigh. There was something wrong with Alex, and he was determined to fix it.
2 weeks seemed to go by unbelievably quickly for Alex Rider. Before he knew it, the school had organised the groups, and somehow Alex found himself completely not ready the night before.
'YOU HAVEN'T PACKED?!' Tom shouted into the receiver. Alex jumped and held the phone a few centimetres away from his ear.
'I've been… busy,' said Alex.
'Well why on earth are you talking to me then? Go and pack!' ordered Tom, who subsequently hung up. Alex sighed. He supposed he would have to pack.
'Jack, I'm going up to pack, ok?' he called out.
'You haven't packed?!' asked Jack incredulously. Alex sighed.
'No, not yet,' he answered.
'Hurry up then!' said Jack, and resumed cooking.
Alex trudged upstairs and entered his room. He picked up the packing list that he had gotten from school, and started to pack. He couldn't make his bag too heavy, because he would have to walk with it, and so he needed to use every gram wisely. He brought the bare necessities for clothes – just one spare outfit and a few briefs. He packed matches, a water bottle, a torch, a length of rope, an electric lantern, some canned food, and a few other things, and before he knew it, his pack was full.
Standing up, satisfied, he tried picking up the pack.
It was too heavy.
He considered – what didn't he need? He supposed he could take out the electric lantern. The torch should be enough. He also took out the batteries needed to power the lantern. He took out some of the canned food, and took out the cutlery as well. He could eat with his hands.
He tried the pack again – it was light enough this time.
Bracing himself for a tiring day, Alex turned off the lights and fell asleep.
The man opened the window silently, and crept in. He didn't expect Alex's security to be so low. Alex should have known better.
In the moonlight, the man studied the room. Alex was sleeping peacefully in bed on the opposite side of the room, and a large backpack lay next to his bed. That was right. His bushwalking trip was tomorrow.
The man treaded lightly, not making a sound. A bird called outside, and Alex stirred, but didn't awaken. The man continued across the room, and stood on the left side of Alex's bed.
He watched Alex's regulated breathing for a few minutes as the boy's muscular chest rose and fell in perfect rhythm. The man watched Alex's face – he was frowning, as if something was bothering him. The man knew exactly what had been bothering Alex. MI6.
In a rare moment of showing his emotions, the man smiled at Alex. Alex didn't see the smile – and that was the way the man wanted to keep it. The man paused for a second, and then sighed.
He had to leave.
Silently, he crept back to the window and left, leaving no signs that he was ever there.