AN: Well, here it is, for what it's worth. The sequel to Deaths Door. Not so much angst this time, it's more mission focused. At least, I tried, anyway. Nature of the beast, right? *shrugs sheepishly*

I very much believe that characters should be able to evolve with the story. Characters who stay constantly the same, get dull, boring and cease to be seen as potentially real people. As such, my characters evolve more here. There is no such thing as Out Of Character, in my writing, because by nature people mature by their experiences.


Finding Peace: DD2


Wolf sighed as he heard the front door close. He waited a second, and heard the unmistakable sounds of Alex on the stairs, once again, heading directly to his room after school.

Cub had been out of the hospital for a month since his bullet wound to the shoulder. He had, in the last week, at least gotten his voice back. It was still sometimes harsh and raspy, but he could talk.

Unfortunately for Wolf, he hadn't been doing much of that. Alex seemed to be content to keep to himself, and bury himself in missed coursework. They hadn't really spoken about anything else, and Wolf was getting a little tired of it.

MI6 had thus far kept their end of the bargain. Cub had been assigned a councilor, already armed with K Unit's suspicions of PTSD. Unfortunately, the reports coming back weren't good. Alex refused to talk, and instead had managed to draw the councilor into a shouting match on three separate occasions.

The housekeep dropped by, twice a week, as promised. She was an attractive woman, in her thirties, fit, and a perfectionist. Nor did she tolerate jam stains on the carpet two days after she came last. Sonya was very good at being forgotten while she was there.

The rest of K Unit were back on light duty, and weren't around as much. Surprisingly, Wolf had been granted Paternal Leave. An adjustment period, they had called it. If any were surprised that he had adopted a child more than half his age, they didn't mention it.

They had settled into a routine, but it wasn't one Wolf was comfortable with. He didn't want to smother the boy, but he also knew that what was happening wasn't healthy. Alex was clearly still suspicious of K Unit's intentions, and didn't trust them.

Snake had come closest one night when he had spoken to Alex about when he himself had made his first kill, and about how he had felt afterwards. It had happened after another flashback that Alex hadn't been able to control. Only the second that any from K Unit had witnessed, but they all knew there had been more. Alex had listened obediently, and hadn't spoken at all. When Snake had finished, he'd simply returned to his room.

The nightmares were the worst. Too many times they had caught the boy retching after one of them, and tried to express concern, only to be rebuffed by a clipped, 'I'm fine'. Wolf had to admit, he was very much starting to hate those two little words.

Snake came into the kitchen and saw Wolf frowning over his coffee. It didn't take much to know what was on his mind.

"Again today?" he asked.

Wolf nodded. "He can't keep this up, Quinn. Sooner or later he has to face what's happened to him, and what he did, or he's going to explode. And with his luck, it'll happen on a mission."

Snake shrugged. "I get the feeling that Alex is pretty used to having to deal with things in his own time, in his own way. We can't rush this. We knew what we were taking on." There was a hint of a question in his voice, and Wolf shook his head immediately.

"No regrets, Quinn. He's a member of our team going through some hard times. We'll see it through, like we always do."


Alex backed away from the top of the stairwell to his room, having overheard the conversation. He knew he wasn't being fair to K Unit. They had saved him from a far greater danger, and he owed them for it. He just wasn't sure how to handle being forced to accept one evil to avoid another.

And despite what Wolf and Snake thought, he had been doing some soul searching over the last month. Finally having his voice back had been a relief. If he had to be honest with himself, he had begun to fear that he never would.

His shoulder was healing nicely, and no longer pained him. His chest was still tender whenever he exerted himself, but he had come to accept that it would always be so. It was the scars he couldn't stand to look at. His back was riddled with thin white lines from the whipping he had received, and the two burns had left gruesome marks on his waist. His wrists held their own numerous tiny whites lines from the manacles.

Together, he often caught sight of a body that no longer seemed his. It was as if it belonged to someone else, and he had merely borrowed it for a time. The scars from his previous missions had never escaped his notice, but they had never been on this scale, and could have been easily explained away by a fall or his quickly rising ranks in Karate.

That was no longer the case and now he had to spend as much time hiding his body as he did his double life. It was exhausting keeping all these secrets and still trying to fit in. So he had given up the latter. It was easier to close off from his mates and allow the rampant rumors than it was to think of a lie to get rid of them.

Even his once best mate, Tom Harris, the only one who knew what he really did, had distanced himself from Alex. Not being able to get what had happened to Jack out of his mind, Alex had himself encouraged the idea that he didn't want Tom around.

The flashbacks were near constant now, though he had learned to recognize the signs and he had learned to control them. Unfortunately, his higher control of his waking flashbacks seemed to have triggered far more vicious nightmares. He wasn't eating as much because he knew whatever he ate, he would see again later that night. The knowledge had turned him off food of any kind. His already lean frame was easily showing the consequences of that.

And Jack. He had forgiven her, had understood why she had done what she had. But it hadn't lessened the hurt of it any. She hadn't even stopped to say good bye, and he hadn't heard from her since, despite her promise to write.

Alex viciously wiped tears from his eyes. It wasn't his fault all of this had happened, but it had, and now he had to accept that this was his life. Mourning what he had lost wasn't going to help him do that.


Wolf and Snake were sitting on the couch, viciously crushing each other on Tekken 5, shouting at each other and gloating at the win. Alex watched for a moment, a little taken aback by the normalcy of the picture in front of him.

It was like living with two older brothers. Thinking back, while both had expressed considerable concern, neither had tried to be overly parental. He had been given his freedom to deal with things as he could, had been asked how his day had gone, but never given the third degree. K Unit hadn't forbidden him from taking on the last mission, despite their obvious dislike of the situation.

MI6 had given him time to heal, and he'd even received a paycheck from them, retroactively paid from his first mission- not an inconsiderable amount. With the help of his tutor, Damon, he had quickly caught up on his missed course work and even felt relatively ready for his exams. Sonya, the housekeeper, was quiet and never entered his room, having requested that his laundry be left outside his door. He hated the councilor, Dr. Morton, but despite that, understood it was a necessary part of his job. He knew even Wolf and Snake saw one on a regular basis. They had told him after another report that Alex was being less than cooperative.

All in all, the only person who didn't seem to be keeping his end of the bargain was Alex.

"If you take him out with a roundhouse you'll be able to finish him off with the Special and get a perfect win," Alex pointed out. The timer was ticking down and both men had yet to manage a score.

Neither man showed their surprise, and instead Wolf followed his advice and promptly killed Snake. They paused the game and looked back at him. To their credit, it was probably very obvious that he had been crying, but neither said anything about it.

"Next time you're on my side, right Cub?" Snake growled.

Alex chuckled, climbed over the back of the couch, and sat down in between the two men. Without a word, Snake handed him the controller.

Wolf growled. "All right, let's see what you got, hotshot."

It wasn't much, but it was a start, and all three would take what they could get.


It was Friday night, and Snake was already calling for Takeout. The rest of K Unit would be over soon, they always were on Fridays if they weren't on assignment, and he was going to be ready for them.

The last week had been an awkward phase of adjustment. Alex had made more of an effort to actually become comfortable with them. He even spoke to them after school now, and they had talked about their days.

It was very clear, however, that two areas were still off limits. If questions about his missions came up, Alex usually claimed coursework and disappeared to his room. Equally, if any questions concerning his health, physical or otherwise, came up, Alex would answer with his traditional 'I'm fine' and would then change the subject. He and Wolf had had no choice but to accept these boundaries of this slowly budding relationship.

Even the look of the house had changed. Three days after Alex had made that initial effort with the game, he had taken everything that had been Jack's down. It hadn't been lost on the two men what it meant. It had been a subtle olive branch. A sign that Alex accepted his life had changed, and a small invitation to them to become part of it.

Alex had also taken over his Uncle Ian's office. That had been a far less welcome sign that Alex had thrown his lot in with MI6. He had spent days writing up extremely detailed reports of his missions, just in case someone else showed up from his past, he had said. He also kept a copy of his rather extensive medical file.

Unspoken was the trust that Alex had put in them not to go looking into those files. That had been, rather unfortunately, followed by Alex locking the door to the office whenever he wasn't in it.

Now Snake was alone in the house, waiting for everyone to arrive. Wolf would be back from his counseling session any moment, and Alex from school. He knew they had made considerable progress over the past week, and was ready to celebrate it.

K Unit arrived together a minute before Wolf entered.

"What's for dinner?" Eagle demanded.

"I don't know," Snake answered with a grin. "What do you feel like treating us to?"

Eagle frowned at the man before smiling. "I could cook," he offered sweetly.

A thundering herd of three men running out of the house was what greeted Alex when he got home. He'd been about to open the door when it was whipped open.

"Very funny guys. Drama queens!" Eagle called from the kitchen, aware that they had been joking. Weren't they? He was a good cook. After all, he hadn't poisoned himself yet.

"Nice to see you too, guys," Alex greeted calmly. "But you are aware that we have neighbors, right?"

"It could have been worse, Cub. Last time Eagle said he'd cook, Fox jumped right out of the shower and ran home," Wolf grinned.

"Does anything surprise you, kid?" Fox grumbled, changing the subject.

Alex shrugged and pushed them back into the house, feeling rather foolish standing on his doorstep facing three very large men. "I try not to let it."

The returned to the kitchen and an extremely indignant Eagle, who immediately cheered up at seeing Alex.

"Cub! You like my cooking, don't you?"

Alex grinned. Eagle had never cooked for him, but the chance to play was too good to pass up.

"I always like what I haven't tried, Derek, until I've tried it only to find I never liked it."

"Thanks- hey! What's that supposed to mean?"

Alex shrugged his shoulders and went to his room. He had a ton of coursework due on Monday, and needed to get started. It would probably take him the rest of the weekend. He listened to the antics going on downstairs with a light heart.

He would never admit it to anyone, not even under torture, but he felt safe when K Unit was gathered in the house. It was nice not to have to worry about making them targets just by being around them, and definitely a load off of his shoulders to know that even if they were targeted, they were more than capable of looking after themselves.

He had just opened his history books when he felt that instinct, that raising of his hackles that told him he was in danger. Without thinking twice, he threw himself to the floor, just as his bedroom window smashed.

He heard the others on the stairs, but stayed where he was for a moment to make sure it was safe. When nothing else followed, he slowly eased himself up, and looked at the brick that had landed on his desk. Had he remained in his chair, it would have hit him in the side of the head, probably knocking him out. Still crouching low, he made his way to his window, rising only enough to see outside, with his back to the wall.

There was nothing. Standing upright, he offered himself as a target for several seconds before K Unit came crashing into his room.

"Cub! Get away from the window!" Wolf ordered. Alex rolled his eyes, but obediently moved away. Did they really think he was that much of an amateur that he hadn't checked it out, first?

Letting Wolf inspect the outside, Alex picked up the brick that had been thrown. At first he thought it had just been a trick from one of his mates. He turned the brick over, and that's when his hopes of it merely being a boyhood trick were dashed.

On the other side of the brick a single symbol had been painted in red. A part of him had expected it to be a silver scorpion. He breathed a sigh of relief when he found it to be the Japanese symbol for 'DANGER'.

"What is it, Alex?" Fox asked.

"I don't know."

Wolf frowned at the brick, and then at him. "I didn't think you were involved in anything right now."

"I'm not, I swear!" Alex denied firmly. "It could be anything."

Eagle peered closely at Alex. "This isn't like Cornwall, is it? Where you know something but aren't telling us?"

"I did tell you what was going with Cornwall! I just didn't have time to write it all out. I swear to all of you, I have no idea what this is for."

Alex was getting angry. He had tried to show a little trust for them, couldn't they at least do the same?

"It's a symbol of some kind. Chinese, maybe?" Snake said as he looked at the brick.

"Japanese. And it means danger," Alex explained. He saw the other men staring at him, and shrugged. "I know a few languages. But I have no idea why it was thrown into my bedroom."

"Any chance it was one of your mates?" Wolf asked.

Alex nodded. "It's possible." Unlikely, given who he was, but possible.

The doorbell rang just then. Snake blinked in surprised. He had forgotten about dinner. "Alex, get that would you, it's our supper. We'll try to fix the window up as much as we can."

Alex disappeared down the stairs, still frowning over the brick sitting on his desk. It seemed like such a crude delivery method, and try as he might, he couldn't think of anyone he had ever dealt with that would have resorted to such methods.

Opening the door, he blindly handed the man the pounds that had been sitting on the table by the door. Snake usually had the right amount there. He didn't look up until he heard the click of a gun. Then he did so slowly, and saw a very nervous looking delivery man, Asian, short, black hair and almond eyes.

"You must not make a single sound," the man warned, his English heavily accented. Alex nodded. The man waved the gun for Alex to follow. Alex hesitated a moment. Should he shout? Give K Unit some kind of warning? "Please, you must come. I do not want to kill you."

Seeing no choice, Alex left.


Fox happened to be looking out the broken window when he saw Alex walking to the delivery car. Was he getting change? But then he saw the glint of a gun catch in the last few rays of sun.

Shit. He was running before K Unit had a chance to catch on that something was wrong. Without questioning, they followed. But by the time they had reached the street, the car, and Alex, were gone.

"Shit!" Fox swore again, coming to a halt.

"What happened?" Wolf demanded, coming upside his friend, confused, but willing to wait for answers.

"Our pizza man just kidnapped Alex!"

"Are you sure?" Eagle asked. "It's not totally unlike Alex to disappear. Especially if he thought we were going overprotective upstairs."

Fox nodded. "I saw the gun."

The four men returned to the house.

"We'd better call MI6," Snake pointed out.


Mrs. Jones slammed down the phone. This wasn't good, wasn't good at all. She saw Mr. Blunt patiently waiting to alert him as to the problem.

"Someone has kidnapped Alex Rider."

"I didn't think that was possible," Blunt frowned.

"Our security was looking into a previous incident. Apparently, someone had thrown a brick through Alex's window."

"A distraction?"

"I would say so. K Unit have no further information. They have provided the name of the pizza parlor, as well as a description of their usual delivery man. Nothing of any use." Jones already knew all that. No one got near the Rider house without being investigated by them.

"I'll have our men look into all of our active projects. It could take some time," Mrs. Jones continued.

Blunt nodded his agreement, and she left, wondering. The truth was, they had been intending on sending Alex on assignment soon. She wondered vaguely if the two were connected, but dismissed the thought. No one outside MI6's highest ranks yet knew about it. It was impossible.


The change of cars had let Alex know that this had been carefully planned. He was now handcuffed, and gagged. The little Asian man hadn't provided a name, and had merely driven in silence, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding a gun on Alex.

Alex himself was extremely curious. Had the brick been a warning, or a distraction? Either way, they had fallen for it. And where had the MI6 security been? Only an hour ago he had felt safe knowing K Unit had been in the house, but there had been nothing they could do to stop it.

Nothing could have been done differently. If he had shouted, then he would have died where he stood. Surviving a bullet from a sniper had been lucky enough, surviving one at point blank range would have been a miracle of biblical proportions.

The Little Asian, which is what Alex had named his captor, was clearly a middle man. The man was nervous, sweating, and racing through the streets to get rid of his cargo as soon as possible. Any professional would have been slower, more methodical, and would not be risking a speeding ticket.

Trying not to be obvious about it, Alex was keeping careful track of where they were going. Who knew if it might be useful. And while it was now fully dark, the street lamps were frequent enough for him to get a general sense of direction.

They were heading out of the City, that much was for sure. Were they leaving it, or were they heading for the ports? Alex found himself hoping they were merely leaving the city. He could still be tracked, if that were the case.

The Little Asian took a turn, and Alex felt his hopes drop. They were heading for the ports. If he found himself on a boat, he could be going anywhere. He vaguely wondered if the tracking device Smithers had injected him with weeks ago would work again if he died. Or was it still transmitting? He made a mental note to ask the man when, or if, he got back. Given the amount of blood he had lost after being injected, Alex was ready to accept that the tracking device was gone. They hadn't been able to follow him to Cornwall, after all.

Another mental note to speak to Smithers. Try making a tracker that didn't involve death to work.

The ports were only half an hour away. Half an hour to somehow find a way to get out of the handcuffs, remove the gag, and dive out of a fast moving car without getting shot.

Somehow, he wasn't feeling particularly hopeful.


Wolf paced around the kitchen. He felt frustrated and antsy. Snake seemed to be taking forever breaking into Cub's office. He knew it was a breach of trust, hard earned at that, but he felt they had no choice. They had to find out who Cub's enemies were before they could start trying to figure out what had happened. MI6 was being less than forthcoming, as usual.

Fortunately for them, MI6 wasn't aware of the files Alex had made up.

"Déjà vu," Fox whispered to Eagle, who nodded. It wasn't a kind reminder. The last time Wolf had been pacing around like this, it hadn't ended well.

Snake finally appeared with a thick stack of files, and dumped them on the table. "There, this is everything from his office."

Each man reached out and grabbed one.

Almost immediately, four groans were heard.

"So much for trust," Wolf growled, slamming the file shut. Alex had written the files in code. They were a jumbled mess.

"I think it had more to do with security. Alex has been at this long enough to know what a risk he was taking writing these files," Snake answered. "This was his way of protecting them- and us."

"He doesn't bloody need to protect us!" Wolf snarled.

"Maybe not. But that's not how his mind works. Alex doesn't take chances, and let's face it, we're an unknown variable," Snake continued calmly. "And to prove his point, we are, after all, looking at these. We broke into his office to do it."

"It's to try and help him!" Eagle defended.

Snake shook his head. "Alex won't see it that way. It's one more sign that everyone he's attached to is out to use him, or what he knows, to suit their own goals."

"I suppose trying to find a diary won't be any good," Fox offered.

Wolf snorted. "Even if he did keep one, it would probably be in code."

"So what do we do now?" Eagle asked.

"Nothing. We trust that Alex can somehow get himself out of this, or that MI6 figures it out before it's too late," Snake replied, ever the calm voice of the unit.

Wolf made a face, but Snake was right. There was absolutely nothing they could do except wait.

For the second time since meeting Alex Rider, K Unit were totally helpless.


The car came to an abrupt stop. Alex waited until The Little Asian man had closed the driver side door before reefing his own open and diving through it. He managed to roll himself to his feet and took off running.

Bullets hit pavement and wood all around him as he zig zagged, creating a much more difficult target to hit. He heard the little man shouting after him, but didn't dare take the time to look back. It was taking everything he had to maintain his balance, his hands still handcuffed, and without losing speed.

He ran without any real sense of direction, just knowing he had to get away. If he could find somewhere to hide, it would be all right. But to do that, he first had to lose the surprisingly fast Asian. The bullets were getting closer. Shouldn't he have run out by now? Sooner or later, the Asian was going to have to stop and reload.

It was getting difficult to breathe through only his nose as his lungs worked harder then they had in some time. Gritting his teeth underneath the gag, Alex forced another burst of speed out of himself.

At the same time, the Asian ran out of bullets. Alex took the first corner he came to, then the next, just to make sure he was well out of sight. Backed up against the wall of an alley, he yanked the tape off of his mouth, sucking in huge gulps of air. The burning in his lungs eased a little, but his muscles were still shaking with weakness. He was too out of shape for this. His karate katas had slowly worked the lean muscles, but he hadn't had time to prepare them for a run like that.

He tried to think of what he was going to do now. He hadn't spent a lot of time here at the ports, and didn't know his way around. He had chosen this alley to rest in because it definitely had a way out the other side. He heard the Asian rattling off angrily in Japanese. He heard the word 'gaki' several times, loosely translated it meant 'brat'.

He didn't have time to listen. He quickly, and awkwardly, pulled out his cell phone. He didn't dare risk calling anyone, so he opened his text messenger.


Alex turned his head, his finger automatically pressing the send button, when he heard a noise. Too late, he felt a breeze on the side of his face, and then his world went black.


Wolf frowned at the text message he had received as he waited for Mrs. Jones to arrive in her office. The words made no sense. Why would Cub send him a coded text message? As soon as he had received it, he had immediately called MI6. He had then been escorted to Mrs. Jones office, and Wolf wondered why here, and not Blunts.

Mrs. Jones finally arrived. "Let me see the message," she ordered.

Wolf obediently held out his phone.

Mrs. Jones frowned. The words by themselves didn't make any sense, but if she put them together with what she already knew, it all added up to a very bad situation.

"You know what he means, don't you?" Wolf demanded.

"I'm afraid I do. We've received information that there is a Yakuza cell working out of London. They're collecting, sometimes kidnapping people, and selling them as slaves abroad. Recently, a very important man's son was taken. He was killed, and when the police found his body they found he had been, among other things, branded."

"Among other things? What kind of other things?"

"Given the current situation, I think you're better off not knowing," Mrs. Jones replied calmly. "This was the fourth such found in as many months. All of them young boys, all with VIP parents, and all of them branded with a symbol known to be used by the Yakuza. Several more have been reported missing and are, as of yet, un-recovered."

"You were going to send Alex in undercover," Wolf guessed.

Mrs. Jones nodded. "Indeed. We were in the process of setting up a cover for him when he was taken."

"So you think the Yakuza got to him before he could get to them? How would they know?"

"That, Mr. Martin, is becoming a very disturbing question, and one that needs to be answered very quickly."


The first thing Alex heard when he woke up were voices, arguing loudly in Japanese. He heard the word "Yakuza" a couple of times, but ignored it. The second was the constant drone of an airplane engine. Not a boat, then. He tried to move, but found he was tied- very tightly- to a seat. His wrists were bound to the arms, his ankles had been tied together, and there was a thick coil of rope around his middle.

His muscles were sore and stiff, telling him that he'd been in this position for quite some time. His face itched and he recognized the feeling of dried blood. His head was pounding, letting him know how they had knocked him out.

"Ah, our young guest is awake," someone called out. Alex forced his eyes open, and noticed that there were six Asian men sitting around him. All of them were dressed in pinstripe black and gray suits. They ranged in various ages, though none were younger than fifty. Several had various scars on their faces.

Beyond them were twelve guards, their faces covered in cloth masks, standing at attention, each one with their hand on their guns, AK-47's. Somehow, Alex couldn't bring himself to be surprised. He didn't see the Little Asian man anywhere.

He could see daylight out the plane window. How far had they gone? Where were they going? And why on earth had he been targeted? As far as he knew, he hadn't ever dealt with the Yakuza before.

"Are you going to talk to us, Mr. Rider?" A man, who was leaning heavily on a silver cane, asked. His voice was heavily accented, but his English was perfect.

"Who are you?" Alex demanded.

"You may call me Colonel Sato. My associates do not need introductions as they cannot speak English."

"Why am I here?"

"Surely you know the answer to that, Mr. Rider. May I call you Alex?"

"I don't know the answer. Why am I here?" Vaguely, Alex wondered how much they knew about him. Obviously enough, if they knew his name and where he lived. For someone who was supposed to be England's best kept secret, his information seemed to be available to anyone who knew where to look.

"MI6 had been preparing for you to go under cover in one of my operations. I merely got to you first," Sato explained calmly.

And all at once Alex realized he'd made a deadly mistake. He hadn't reported the leak after Cornwall. Having been shot and left to recover his voice, his debriefing had been short, and hand written. He had forgotten about the other leak in MI6. Dr. Kiln hadn't been the only one selling information to the highest bidder.

And now that mistake would most likely cost him his life. The Yakuza were more than likely prepared for anything he might do, which was why he was so tightly contained. He had defeated SCORPIA twice, and now no one was taking any chances with him.

"What operation was that?" Alex asked. There was no point in denying anything.

"You will soon find out, Alex. I am curious to know how MI6 thought a mere boy would be able to help them, and, I must admit to being slightly insulted."

Alex snorted. Sayle had said the same thing, and now he was dead. He remained silent.

Sato nodded. "Very well. Keep your secrets, such as they are." Another flurry of Japanese came from the other men. Alex had to work to keep his reaction to himself. He didn't know how much information this man had, and assuming they knew everything would be a mistake. They were arguing with Sato, shouting that he kill Alex now. Sato appeared to ignore them. He was obviously in charge as he waved his hand and the shouting stopped.

"My associates want to kill you now. How do you feel about that?" Sato asked calmly.

Alex smirked. "If it means I don't have to listen to you anymore, by all means."

"Ah yes, sarcasm. The last defense of the desperate. I am afraid that will not work here, Alex. I know you are not afraid of death. You would not be as calm as you are if you were. However, I highly suspect that I do know your greatest fear."

Alex was silent. He barely knew his greatest fear, and it certainly wasn't death. What was there to fear, then, if not the ultimate end? It was a testament of his growing acceptance of his life with K Unit now that he didn't especially want to die, but he would if he had to.

Sato had sat back, obviously ending the conversation.

Alex was left alone with his pounding headache and his thoughts. What were K Unit doing now? If MI6 had been preparing to send him on assignment, had they made the connection yet? Would they have told K Unit?

What kind of operation were the Yakuza running? Sato hadn't seemed inclined to tell him, which was odd. Normally the criminals were only too happy to feed Alex every scrap of information he wanted, assuming they would kill him and succeed.

Sato seemed to be different. The man was full of confidence, and ego, but he wasn't cocky. Alex would find out in due time, when it suited the Yakuza cell leader, and not before. Was there a chance that could be used against him?

He was surprised when a stewardess, a small, meek, woman who wouldn't look him in the eye, came round and cleaned his wound, being very gentle about it. Then she cleaned the blood from his face. When she was finished, she left without uttering a sound.

Now that he had time to consider, Sato seemed to be taking very good care of Alex. The ropes were tight, but the sleeves of his shirt had been pulled down to prevent contact with his skin, and his socks had been pulled up for the same purpose. They needed him in one piece, but what for?

Confident that he was safe for the moment, Alex closed his eyes and allowed himself to sleep.


Alex woke to the jolt of landing. He looked out the window, and could see only trees. Lush trees. Rainforest type trees. Okay, Alex figured, so they were somewhere in South America. What were the Yakuza doing here?

For the first time, he began to realize how truly trapped he was. No one had any idea where he was, he had no gadgets to save the day, and he was being carefully watched. Even if he did manage to get away, he wouldn't know where to go. All he knew was that he was somewhere, he was guessing, in South America with a Yakuza cell leader. There wouldn't be any eleventh hour rescue, not this time. He was on his own.

It wasn't a pleasant realization.