AN: Okay, here it is, the last chapter. Phew. That was a bit of an undertaking, but I hope it makes it easier for you to read. And the good part about fixing this is that I can tell you, yes, there IS a sequel. It's called Finding Peace: DD2. Hope you enjoy the read.
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Wolf followed Alex into the kitchen, hard on his heels. The rest of K Unit were once again gathered there.
"Well?" Fox asked.
"Troy Dellaware has Jack Starbright hostage in Venice. He wants Alex delivered to him in two days, or he'll kill her," Wolf reported, noting that Alex was moving around the kitchen, looking for something.
"Don't tell me MI6 is going to do it?"
"Alex has already agreed," Wolf growled to Eagle. "He thinks it's his fault that she's being threatened."
They started when Alex pounded his first on the counter, obviously frustrated at not finding whatever it was he was looking for. They watched as he moved swiftly into Ian's office.
"Um, is he all right?" Snake asked.
"Something's up. I don't know what it is," Wolf answered.
"So, we're kitting up too?" Eagle assumed, surprised when Wolf shook his head.
"I asked. Alex talked them out of letting us go."
"How'd he do that?" Snake asked, wondering if this wasn't forcing Alex to use his voice.
A loud crash from the office had the men rushing to see what had happened. Alex was standing there, triumphantly hold a box in his hand. A bookcase had been pulled away from the way and was now lying where it had fallen. Without looking at them, Alex left the office, placed the box on the kitchen table and bolted upstairs.
Wolf looked at the red and black box on the counter. It had a digital lock that would require a code to open, and was about the size of a book. He looked at the others.
"He is definitely up to something."
They heard Alex on the stairs, and were surprised to see the youth had changed yet again. He was now completely dressed in black. His jeans and jumper were dark, but his pale face stood out horribly in contrast. They were puzzled by the leather straps in his hand. They looked like buckles and sheaths.
"Alex, what are you doing?" Eagle finally blurted.
Alex ignored him and quickly entered the code for the box. Inside were six shuriken, or throwing knives. Alex pulled up his jean leg and immediately strapped two on either side of his calf, near his ankles.
For Fox, it was clear what the boys intentions were. "You're going after him yourself."
Alex hesitated, but then nodded and proceeded to strap the other two on his other leg. He felt frustrated that he couldn't tell them. But at least, seeing this, they would know he hadn't gone unarmed.
"How do you expect to get to Venice?" Wolf demanded.
Alex shrugged helplessly. Snake grabbed a pad and pen and slammed them down in front of the boy.
"You're not going anywhere until you tell us what's going on," he stated.
Alex sighed, but immediately picked up the pen. "THERE'S NO TIME."
"Make time, unless you want us to follow you," Eagle threatened.
"HE'S NOT IN VENICE. HE SAID BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN. THAT'S CORNWALL, MY FIRST MISSION. HE SAID TWO DAYS, BUT HE MEANT ONE. I HAVE TO GO TONIGHT OR JACK WILL BE KILLED."
Alex watched them read, pleading with his eyes to let him go. He was running out of time. It was going to take him several hours to go by train, and he had only until morning to get in under the cover of night.
Come on guys, Alex thought. I can do this, but I have to go. Alex rolled up his sleeve to the elbow, and quickly strapped the sheathed shuriken to his forearm, and then again repeated the process.
"You sure you know how to use those?" Fox asked.
"No kidding? We didn't know that."
"Ben! We have other pressing matters!" Snake hissed. "Alex, why can't we come with you?"
"BECAUSE BY TOMORROW MORNING MI6 WILL BE WATCHING THE HOUSE TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS NORMAL. I KNOW BLUNT DIDN'T BUY A WORD OF WHAT I SAID. THAT MEANS YOU AND WOLF HAVE TO STAY HERE. EAGLE, FOX, YOU NEED TO GO HOME, AND THEN POP UP FOR A VISIT TOMORROW AFTERNOON."
"We don't live here. Fox and I could go with you," Eagle pointed out.
"YOU HAD TO BE FORCIBLY REMOVED FROM MY ROOM WHEN I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL. MI6 ISN'T GOING TO BUY YOUR SUDDEN LACK OF INTEREST. I HAVE TO GO."
Alex put down the pen and turned to leave, but was stopped by Snake. "Wait!"
Not bothering to hide his irritation, Alex was surprised when Snake left, and returned with what looked like a small makeup case. Opening it, he was even more shocked to see Cammo.
"If you're going to do this, be smart about it. You're as white as a sheet and it only looks worse with those black clothes. You'll need this."
Alex hesitated, but then grinned and grabbed the pen. "RELAX GUYS. THIS IS WHAT I DO!"
K Unit watched him zip out the door, but somehow, his parting words hadn't left them the slightest bit comforted.
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The old tin mine seemed no different than it had almost a year ago. To Alex, it felt like ages since he'd been here. His uncles death had changed so much of his life. Sometimes he wondered what would have happened if he had simply let Yassen Gregorovich kill him.
He worked his way quickly down the mine shaft. It had been his only hope of sneaking in without alerting Troy. Alex was sure his time here had been reported by Yassen to SCORPIA, but he was also sure Yassen hadn't known exactly how he got into the plant.
He copied the same route he had taken before. Once he was inside the plant, he stopped and applied the cammo to his face. It was dark, and the more invisible he could be, the better he was.
He had an idea where in the plant Troy was. He had instantly recognized the antique chair that Jack had been tied to. All he had to do was make his way into the main house. Except this time he didn't have a Smithers made handy yoyo.
By the time he was on the grounds of the main house, Alex was starting to wonder if perhaps he shouldn't have made a stop to see the jolly man. It would certainly have been useful to have a few gadgets now.
Then his luck turned, and he realized that no one had been up keeping the house, and the carefully controlled ivy had grown quickly, as it was wont to do. As silently as he could, he made his way to the room he had stayed in. From there, he was certain he could locate the office where Sayle had kept the man-o-war.
But his plan had been already foiled. There, right beside him, was his old room. And the window was wide open. So, Troy had known what he would do. Going into that room would be a trap. What did that leave?
Alex wracked him memory, then remembered the chimney in Sayle's office. The house was huge, and unkept. There were a hundred reasons why Alex shouldn't do what he was planning to do. Unfortunately, there was also one good one.
He knew what he had come here for, knew what his mission was. He couldn't let Troy walk away again. His only chance was to get to Jack first, otherwise Troy will shoot to kill the moment he came face to face with Alex. Troy liked his games, though, and if Alex were to be already standing there, then his natural ego would take over, with the intention of allowing Jack to suffer, and that would give Alex the precious second that he needed.
Making up his mind, he carefully climbed into the chimney. He was somewhat surprised that it went straight down, and in less than half an hour, he dropped into the large fire place. He was covered in soot and dirt, and his muscles were beginning to shake again. He wasn't ready for this kind of action yet, but he had no choice.
Standing carefully, he looked around the room. There was Jack, slumped over in the chair, her back to him. But there was no one else. Troy was still watching the old room, being almost positive Alex would return the same way he had before. So far, the only mistake he'd made was the window.
Cautiously, he entered the room, keeping very much to the shadows. He knew he wouldn't be able to stay there forever, but the closer he got to Jack, the better off he was. Just before he reached her front side, he reached to his ankle and pulled a Shuriken, tucking it up the sleeve of his jumper.
He moved silently, and at last could he see his Guardian. She seemed more asleep than unconscious, which Alex prayed meant Troy hadn't hurt her overly. He took a deep breath, knowing that the moment he stepped from the shadows, he would be spotted. It would take Troy only moments to get there.
Doing so, he quickly made his way to Jack, who woke up at his touch. Her eyes widened.
"Alex! You shouldn't have come! He knew you'd figure it out."
Alex shrugged and continued working on the knots that held her. There were many, and he was wasting time doing it one by one, but he couldn't afford to show the only advantage he had.
"I'm sorry I did what I did. Are you that angry that you won't talk to me?" Jack sounded very hurt, and Alex wished he could reassure her, but he couldn't, so he shook his head and continued to work.
"Alex, please, you're scaring me. Why won't you talk to me?"
"Because he can't, my dear," Troy called from the doorway, just as Alex managed the last knot. Jack was free, but they had been caught. "You see, the boy can't speak. What a funny thing torture can do to your body, isn't that so, Alex?"
Troy raised the gun, pointing at Jack. Immediately, Alex moved in front of her to protect her and pushed her father away from him.
"Ah yes, gallant to the very end. Shall she watch you die?"
Alex snarled silently at the man. In his mind, he was glad. Troy was, at least, predictable.
Unfortunately, not entirely predictable. Troy changed his aim and fired. Alex fell the impact in his right shoulder drove him to his knees, giving out a noiseless cry. He immediately looked behind him to make sure the bullet hadn't gone straight through and into Jack, but she seemed physically fine.
Turning back to Troy, who was advancing on him slowly, he again snarled. Troy chuckled.
"Poor little Cub, he's lost his growl."
"Please stop," Jack begged from behind them, tears streaming down her face. In answer, changed him aim again, taking the three steps forward that Alex needed him to take. Without pause or thought Alex whipped the shuriken.
The pain it caused was horrible, but Alex barely noticed. He couldn't stop staring at what he had done. His aim had been true, and the end of the throwing dart was know protruding through Troy's throat.
His breathing was harsh and panicked, the adrenaline still surging through him. He wasn't used to things being over this fast. He was shivering, and he knew enough about himself to know he was going into shock.
SCORPIA had finally done it. They had turned him into a killer.
The deaths before had been caused by him, but never with true intent to kill. He had come here with that intent tonight. He had known that when the two met, only one would walk away. He thought he had been prepared to face the consequences of it.
And he had been wrong.
It was his last thought before he passed out.
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Wolf shook his head as he found himself once again sitting in the semi comfortable hospital chair next to Alex Rider. The bullet wound to his shoulder had been repaired surgically, and now it was a case of playing the waiting game until he woke up.
"Damnit, Cub, you do seem to go looking for trouble," he muttered.
"I think it goes looking for him, and that he's just a particularly strong magnet for it," Jack spoke as she entered the room. "Wolf?"
Wolf stood immediately. "Jack Starbright. It's nice to finally meet you in person." It wasn't. She had abandoned Cub. Left him to the mercies of the organization she had claimed to hate. An unforgivable sin, as far as he was concerned.
Jack seemed to sense this, and nodded. "I had my reasons for doing what I did, you know. Someday, maybe even now, you'll understand. I love him enough to let him go. He would never have found peace with himself if he had to fight me every step of the way."
"MI6 has debriefed you?" Wolf asked, veering off the subject. He had to admit, even only to himself, that he was starting to understand a little. Two hospital trips in as many months were starting to make him wonder what he had really gotten himself in for. But, unlike this woman, he would not abandon his charge.
"As much as they could. It all happened so fast. Alex was there, untying me, then he was shot, then he killed that man. He passed out, I found a phone, and here we are." She was silent for a moment. "I've never seen him kill, before. I saw what he was like, after he had done it. I know he'd do it again in a heartbeat, but he hated himself for what he had become. A killer. A murderer."
Wolf growled. "Alex is not a killer. He did what it took to complete the mission."
"He's fifteen!" Jack cried out, angry and hurt. This was not the life she had imagined when she'd promised to take care of him. No one should have to watch a child suffer so.
"He made his choice!" Wolf shouted back. "At least respect him enough to honor that."
Wolf calmed down. They didn't want to wake Alex, especially with a shouting match between his present and past Guardians. Jack, too, seemed to back off.
"Can he really not talk?" she asked after a moment.
Wolf shook his head. "He's severely bruised his vocal cords. The doctors suspect that he's dislocated one or two, but they have to wait for the swelling to go down. Once it can be confirmed or denied, it should only be a matter of weeks before he's his usual mouthy self."
"I should go."
"He'll want to see you, to make sure you're okay," Wolf pointed out.
"Can you tell me what his reaction to my letter was?" Jack asked.
"He said it was for the best. You're not the only one who's suffered this past year, Jack. You said it yourself, what he's done, he's done to protect you, no matter the cost to himself. Part of protecting you was letting you go, too. You can't ask for a greater sacrifice than that."
Jack sighed as she made her decision. "That's just it, Wolf. He's fifteen. He shouldn't have had to make one at all. Tell him I'm safe, and that I'll write him."
She left without another word.
Sensing he was being watched, Wolf turned to find Alex staring at him. Deep understanding were in those brown eyes, and acceptance of what had just happened. Jack would not be back in his life again, and she had left without ever really saying good bye.