A/N: OMG I've FINALLY finished writing this! I know it's kinda late, but I had a bit of writer's block and took time for me to get over it. But, now it's done.
I hope you like it! –I apologize in advance for any weird inaccurate technical terms – I prefer writing to typing.
Disclaimer: Nope he don't belong to me.
1 hour and 14 minutes left…
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock…
'What do we do now?' Fox growled, his fists balling at his sides in frustration. Wolf thought for a moment before raising his hand to shush the murmuring soldiers beside him. He turned his hand held radio on and spoke in to it, voice low and tense. 'Eagle can you hear me? Zebra, can you hear me?'
After two yeses he carried on hurriedly, painfully aware of the time slipping by. 'We're all going to split in to 5 groups of 3 and search thoroughly through each section of the camp. Be ready to alert the rest of us if you find them, that understood?'
A scatter of nods, group and section sorting later, Alex found himself running towards the forest with Fox and Wolf. They ran nimbly through the forest, trying to be as quiet and thorough as possible, making sure to not only check the ground, but up in the trees too.
'Do you think there's any way they could have escaped the Camp?' Fox asked, squinting up a tree.
'No,' Wolf and Alex answered simultaneously, but for different reasons. Fox turned towards them and raised his right eye brow slightly, as a sign for them to elaborate.
'You forget Fox that Eagle activated the emergency lock down gates around the Camp,' Wolf explained, peeking from behind a tree trunk. 'The only way out of here would be by air and what with the camp so quiet, we would hear that.'
Fox nodded in agreement and from the corner of his eye saw Alex shake his head gently.
'Alex?' he asked.
'Even if the camp hadn't been locked down, I doubt they would leave,' he replied quietly moving lithely throughout the forest.
'How come?' Wolf asked, his dark brows knitting together. It took another minute of silent searching before Alex answered.
'Scorpia…well, they'd want to make sure it was done properly. They can't afford to make mistakes. There can be no glitch to their plans – everything has to go immaculately. They will wait till the end to make sure their mission is accomplished properly.' Alex couldn't hide the bitterness that clouded his tone. He could see Ash in his minds' eye, pressing the trigger that would condemn him to becoming an orphan.
Fox carried on scanning the area, but his words, hesitant yet burning with curiosity, were aimed at Alex. 'You know…you never did tell us how you know so much about Scorpia?' His words were followed by a deafening silence and if possible, Alex strained to look even more thoroughly at the ground, trying to find trails that weren't there.
Wolf, a practical soldier decided it was time to change tactics. 'You said before that Scorpia had made a deal with MI6, to not try to kill you again…so were they the ones who gave you that bullet wound?'
Alex stubbornly continued to search for trails in the ground.
'Come on Cub.' Wolf all but growled, luckily remembering to keep his voice low. Alex whipped round to face him, eyes like ice.
'What does it matter?' he hissed viciously between his clenched teeth.
'It matters because if they did, it'll give me all the more motivation to hunt those bastards down and kill them,' Wolf answered, eyes blazing. 'It matters, because you should never have been put in to such a life threatening situation in the first place. And it matters…' his voice and expression lost their anger and turned remorseful. 'Because it would mean I made your life even harder for no reason. You have to understand,' he said turning desperate, 'I didn't act like a complete arsehole, simply because I felt like it. I thought that maybe, if I could make you really hate it here, you would leave. Go back to a normal life.'
Fox's words echoed in Alex's head. 'Let's just say Wolf is a strong believer in 'you have to be cruel to be kind.' He could feel his throat tightening. He'd never thought that statement could be so true.
'It's a bit too late for a normal life for me. Yes. Scorpia hired a sniper to kill me. The bullet just missed my heart.' Alex's eyes stung. He refused to cry, but he couldn't deny the stinging sensation. Wolf and Fox's faces hardened momentarily.
'Why?' Fox asked, subdued.
'I…had a mission with them,' Alex replied reluctantly.
'Thank you for telling us,' Wolf whispered, when it was clear Alex wouldn't elaborate. They continued to forage through the forest, making as little noise as possible. They continued like this for the next 10 minutes.
49 minutes left…
'Okay they're obviously not in the woods, so let's move on to the lake.' Wolf spoke in to his hand held radio, alerting the other soldiers of the same thing. They headed over to the lake quietly, their guns still drawn.
Fox suddenly stopped, rooted to the spot.
'What is it? What did you see?' Wolf asked him and Alex looked around furtively.
'No, it's not that,' Fox murmured. Then he looked Alex straight in the eyes. 'That cardboard cut out…I know him don't I?' Alex tried to keep his face neutral but panic set in and he failed miserably. Fox took it as a confirmation.
'The only thing is, I don't know from where. I'm guessing it must have been someone from our mission together, but who?' Alex swallowed hard and avoided Ben's intense gaze.
'We haven't got time for this conversation, we need to keep looking,' he answered, proud that his voice didn't waver at all.
Fox looked like he wanted to press his point but thought better of it. He knew they had a far more pressing issue. As if to validate that fact, their hand held radios cracked to life and Snake's frantic voice sounded from it, his accent all the stronger with his distress.
'They're not in the shooting range and they're not hiding in the obstacle course either. I really don't know where else to look. Is anyone else having any more luck?' There was a chorus of resounding no's.
'Don't give up,' Wolf said firmly. 'We still have a few more places to look and we better hurry up. We have…shit, we have 42 minutes left!' They hurried on, trying to look for every nook and cranny between the rocks, where someone could possible hide.
'This is ridiculous!' Fox exclaimed. 'There's no one here!' Wolf barked the same thing in to his radio, letting the other soldiers know about their unsuccessful search.
'We just checked the barracks – even under the bunks! It's like they've been swallowed off the face of the Earth,' Panda growled.
A light bulb went off in Alex's head. 'Under the beds…'
'I know where they are,' he said, his voice barely above a whisper. Fox and Wolfs' heads snapped towards him.
'Where? How?' They asked but Alex was already sprinting away from them. They ran after him.
'Tell them to go to the Sergeants Office NOW!' Alex shouted at them, without even looking back. They were right behind him, the difference in their strides having enabled them to catch up to him. Wolf barked the order in to his radio, speeding up as the adrenaline coursed through his veins.
'How are you so sure, Alex?' Fox asked, jumping over a twisted tree root.
'Because it's so obvious - that we wouldn't think to look there. Why – would we look for them in a place – they'd already blown up?' His breathing was starting to get a bit laboured but he ignored it and pushed himself harder.
'It's diabolical,' Wolf gave a wry half smile. 'How'd you come up - with it kid?'
'I hid under the bed of Major Yu,' he answered feeling reckless. He couldn't see the men's shocked faces but could feel them in the back of his neck. He smiled amusedly at himself, pushing himself even harder; the forest was becoming a blur of green and brown.
'It doesn't offer much cover -,' he panted, 'so be ready 'cause as soon as they figure we're there – they'll attack.' Alex touched his hand to a Glock at his hip, reassuring himself of its weight. He could hear one, or both of the men behind him handling their weapons.
They reached the Sergeant's office (or what remained thereof) last. The other twelve soldiers already stood, guns drawn surrounding it. Alex, Fox and Wolf joined the ranks, their eyes purposefully trained on the half blown off door, rather than the mangled corpse of the Sergeant, still lying before it.
'Come out!' Zebra roared. 'We know you're in there! Show yourselves you cowards!'
30 minutes left…
A slightly hysterical laugh sounded from the inside and two dark shadows pooled on to the ground in front of the half broken door. The figures of 'Alan Blunt' and 'Tulip Jones' stepped out in to the light.
'Oh put your toys down soldiers', 'Blunt' drawled. 'You wouldn't want to shoot us, for fear of losing the keys. You don't think we're stupid enough to keep them on our person, do you?' He grinned widely displaying flashing white teeth.
'Who are you? And where are those keys?' Snake growled. Another short derisive and oddly masculine laugh, came from 'Mrs Jones.' She ripped at her face, peeling it off, the manic grin never leaving her face. Alex was reminded strongly of his own disguise the night he was sent to kill Mrs Jones.
He suddenly felt very hot and sweat beaded on his forehead. He wiped it away with one hand ignoring the strange, sudden shivers down his spine. 'Blunt' was grinning at him strangely. An audible gasp ripped itself from the throats of the SAS soldiers. Jones' mask had been taken off completely. In its place, stood an olive toned masculine face, with green eyes, a sharp, crooked nose and short, dark hair.
'Amur,' Eagle chocked out.
'So it was true?' Wolf said quietly. His voice sounded like the calm before a storm – Alex could practically feel the rage bubbling beneath the surface. 'You really did betray us? Why?' he spat.
Amur opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted by 'Blunt'. 'You can have your little reunion later…or not. It doesn't matter. What does however is you, Alex Rider.' The malicious grin on his face widened if that was possible.
'Do I know you?' Alex asked. His hands started shaking and he balled them in to fists. It was weird though – he didn't really feel scared. So why was he shaking?
'No. We've never met. But I know a lot about you Alex Rider. My name is Zeljan Kurst and as one of the board members of Scorpia, I was the one who told Major Yu not to underestimate you. He didn't take my advice and we all know where he ended up.' Yeah, 6 feet under.
Alex heard Ben hiss angrily behind him.
'Enough with the time wasting,' Wolf snapped. 'Where. Are. The. Keys?' he asked, splitting the question in to four separate sentences.
'Somewhere nearer than you think,' Amur drawled. And that's when it started. The grounds erupted in a flurry of movement, shouts and gun shots.
Though the two Scorpia members were greatly outnumbered – 15 to 2 – they had the advantage of shelter as well as the soldiers being slightly hesitant to shoot them, in case they had been bluffing about not having the keys with them.
'Fools,' Amur thought, 'we're not really going to keep them on us.' He shot Panda straight through the heart and ducked back down, behind the 3 foot of wall remaining. He felt a sick pleasure at hearing the man's final scream. He sprang back up again and shot another 3 soldiers.
25 minutes left…
The SAS men were panicking. They were being killed off like flies, yet they couldn't afford to retreat. They had so little time left! Alex's mind was racing. 'We needed some sort of shelter or cover to stand a fighting chance. That's it!' He ran towards the barracks, away from the battle scene. He suddenly felt light headed and nearly tripped over his own feet. He shook his head to clear it and ran faster.
Zeljan had finally found a gap to shoot Alex. 'Those irritating SAS soldiers keep covering him,' he thought, glaring at Fox. But even Fox had to move to fight. In that instance, Zeljan got his opening. He raised his hand and pointed the gun at the boy – and lowered it again as the boy turned his back to him and ran away from the area. It wasn't that he had any qualms about shooting a child in the back. Oh no, that didn't bother him at all. He had…other motivations.
'Where is he going? What is he planning? He's not the type that would run away.' He thought, watching the boy's retreating back. He couldn't leave the cover of the wall or the SAS men would have him. 'He'll come back,' he thought confidently.
Meanwhile Alex ran to where the vehicles were being kept. Thankfully, they weren't that far from the Drill Sergeant's office. The calm (or perhaps already insane?) part of his brain registered the fact that it was probably that way so that the Sergeant who was in charge of lending them to soldiers, could keep a better eye on them, to spot any misconduct. At any rate, it helped him now.
He got to the first car, a large black jeep, and from where he stood a meter away from it, shot the window on the drivers' side multiple times. The shattered glass came cascading down like a crystal river. Crystal river? Alex thought, shaking his head again. Something was not right with him. His body shivered again, involuntarily. He ignored it and focused on opening the jeep door. Ian Rider may not have come to every school Christmas play, but he'd made time to teach him how to hot wire a car.
The jeep rumbled to life. Alex got in and hit the pedal. He hit 60 mph before he even turned the corner.
18 minutes left…
The soldiers, had by now retreated in to the foliage of the front of the forest that offered them some security, However they were now 15 metres away from the enemy. They twisted their heads round as Alex screeched to the halt right in the middle of their battle field. He got out and ducked behind it, motioning for them to do the same.
Only 7 soldiers joined him. 2 remained in the forest, severely wounded and the other 5 had joined the Sergeant. Eagle and Snake were missing…
'Eagle was shot in the thigh, Snake's looking after him and the others,' Fox grunted, taking his place next to Alex. And hence, the fighting commenced. On the one hand, the SAS soldiers finally had some cover but on the other, the enemy wasn't dying either.
Zeljan was aiming purposefully in Alex's direction. What did he care about the SAS soldiers? Let Banks deal with them – this was his initiation test in to Scorpia anyways. Oh no. All he wanted was Alex Rider. He had to admit, the idea with the jeep was good – it offered cover as well as helped the soldiers recover some lost ground. There! Alex stood up and started lifting his arm, towards Zeljan. Zeljan, mimicked the movement but moved much faster than Alex.
Two shot rang out in the clearing, lost among the many other being shot in the same instance. Alex buckled down to his knees, then fell forward. Zeljan buckled to his knees and fell a look of shock on 'Blunt's' face. He touched his hand to his chest and could feel the hot moisture between his fingers.
'Is that really my blood?' he thought astonished, before his eyes rolled in to the back of his head. The SAS soldiers cheered as they noticed Zeljan fall and Amur looked panicked. The SAS soldiers strengthened their attack on Amur.
Ben was the first to notice Alex fall. A wordless howl ripped itself from his throat and he bent over the boy trying to look for a wound or blood – but there was nothing. He'd fallen before the bullet had managed to penetrate through his flesh. He let out a temporary sigh of relief, then nearly choked on the same breath when he realized the teen was shaking violently, his clammy skin an unhealthy pasty white.
'Yes!' he heard Wolf yell beside him, before he and the other soldiers ran forward. Wolf had managed to shoot Amur in the stomach.
15 minutes left…
'Where are the keys you backstabbing son of a bitch?' Wolf spat, shaking Amur's shoulders. But Amur just shook his head. Wolf growled. 'Now you listen here, Scorpia aren't going to come save your worthless hide. You failed. Now if you don't tell me where the keys are now, I will prolong your death and torture you so bad, you'll be wishing for hell.'
It was a bluff. Wolf didn't believe in torture and as an ex-member of K Unit Amur knew that. But Wolf looked scary and being at the brink of death frightened Amur.
'The boy,' he rasped.
'What?' Wolf asked.
'The boy's neck,' he rasped again, coughing up blood. He was a goner. The SAS men turned to Alex who was cradled in Fox's arms, with Snake bending over him concernedly. Fox who had been stroking Alex's back soothingly, felt a hard metallic bump at the back of Alex's neck. He pulled the boy's collar down, to reveal two small metallic squares, with some sort of chip on their faces.
It was stuck in the boy's skin. Suddenly Alex's shivers and clammy skin made sense.
'They poisoned the keys,' Fox choked out. Memories flashed through his mind; Them with 'Blunt' in the shooting range. Them with 'Blunt' in the mess hall. He had so many opportunities to place them in the back of Alex's neck.
12 minutes left…
'We have to move!' Zebra exclaimed. Snake nodded and took out one of the keys from Alex's back; a long needle came out of Alex's skin – and that's when the blood started rushing out.
'Shit!' Snake gasped and stripped his shirt off, holding it to the small puncture hole, trying to stem the bleeding.
'Zebra take the key and run to the Mess hall bomb. It's closer.' Snake said and handed him the key carefully, not wanting to poison him too. Zebra ran as fast as he could. He just had to get there in time. Fresh hot blood continued to soak through Snake's shirt.
'We can't take the other one out,' Fox growled helplessly and for a moment. As irrational as it may be, he was more concerned with saving Alex's life than of the CO's. There has to be some way to do both.
'Wolf help me carry Alex in to the jeep, then drive us as quick as you can to The Killing House.' Wolf complied not having to think it through. He wasn't sure what Fox was planning but he trusted him. Elephant held the backdoor of the jeep open for them.
'Snake, look after Eagle and the others and try to look for some kinda medicine or antidote for Alex!' Fox shouted as Wolf sped off.
Lemur and Crocodile were also Unit medics.
'We'll look after the injured, Snake look for something to help Cub,' they offered. Snake nodded gratefully and ran off to find all his medical books and supplies. Where to start?
Meanwhile in the jeep, Alex was getting worse. He was shivering and muttering mainly to himself, his eyes focusing and unfocusing on his surroundings. Wold was gripping the steering wheel so hard, his knuckles were turning bone white.
'Hang in there Alex,' he muttered, his voice too desperate to be reassuring. He stroked the boy's hair out of his face, which had been plastered down on his forehead from all the sweating.
'What are you planning?' Wolf asked, his voice deceptively calm. He had to try to keep his head clear.
'I'll carry Alex to the bomb and only then will I take it out and put it in place. I'll try to stem the bleeding as much as possible and pray Snake's found something.' Fox nodded to himself, trying to convince himself that the situation wasn't so dire and that really, there was a lot of hope.
Their hand held radios crackled to life. 'I got it!' Zebra's voice rang out. 'The first bomb's been diffused!' Some of the weight the soldiers had been carrying on their shoulders lifted; but not entirely. There were still so many lives at risk.
The hand held radios crackled to life again and Zebra's voice rang out once more. 'The bomb is in the basement of the Killing House, take the left entrance to it, it's quicker.' Wolf gave a short thanks. They were nearly there.
Alex started muttering more loudly.
'I don't wanna…leave me…'
'Shhhh,' Ben tried to soother him. 'It's okay. We got those Scorpia bastards.'
'Scorpia…' Alex mumbled. 'Ash…my godfather…traitor…with Scorpia…Dragon 9…Ben shot him…don't tell Ben…' Alex wasn't quite with it, completely unaware of what he'd just confessed. Unaware of how Ben Daniels' arms around him froze, like an ice statue. That's who the cardboard cut – out was of. That's why I recognized him. I shot his Godfather.
'Ben we're here,' Wolf said.
5 minutes left…
Ben shook himself out of his revere and carried Alex out the car. Snake's shirt could no longer absorb the blood. Ben's fingers were coated in it and as they made their way to the left entrance of the basement, they left a blood trail behind them. They went down the narrow, dark steps – the door having already been forced open by Zebra and his group when they were searching for it.
'There it is!' Wolf exclaimed and ran to it. Fox followed behind him more hesitantly.
4 minutes left…
'Fox what are you waiting for? Take the key out!' Wolf growled.
'I can't,' Fox's voice was just above a whisper. 'He's losing so much blood…I…'
Fox's face was twisted in to such a pained expressions and Wolf knew that his mirrored it. 'I know it's hard Ben, 'he said gently. 'But we have to save the others too. You know that.' And logically, Fox did know that. He sighed. Wolf was right.
He pulled Alex's shirt collar down and gently extracted the needle from the nape of his neck.
'I'm sorry,' he whispered.
3 minutes left…
He placed the key face down in to the square shaped indention in the bomb. He was normally quite interested in technical and chemical things. Normally he would find the electrical reactions from the key, that set the chemical reactions in the bomb in to motion fascinating. Now, it just left him cold. The countdown stopped at 2: 46.
It was too soon to be relieved. The blood gushed from Alex's neck more profusely. Fox lifted the boy up again, cradling his head against his shoulder.
'I'll go check the CO's. Fox, take the jeep and get Alex to Snake,' Fox nodded and strapped Alex in to the front seat. Fox drove one handed and wiped the sweat from Alex's forehead with the other.
'Snake we diffused the bomb. Wolf's freeing the CO's. Where are you? Have you got an antidote or something?' He stroked Alex's hair unconsciously.
'Thank God, that you stopped the bomb!' Snake was clearly relieved. But the relief didn't last. 'I'm in the Infirmary. But without knowing what poison that was and not enough time to find out all I can do is treat the symptoms and –if we can get MI6 to tell us his blood type, do a blood transfusion. But that's all I can do! Zebra's readying a helicopter to get him to St. Dominic's. I just hope…' he broke off. He didn't want to finish his sentence. It's not too late.
Fox sped up. They couldn't lose Alex. They just couldn't. They should have paid better attention. How could he live with himself knowing he'd killed the boy's only family and then also indirectly be the cause of the boy's death? He parked the car haphazardly, got out, picked the still bleeding, still unconscious boy up and ran with him in to the infirmary.
Snake ushered him in and he lay Alex as gently as possible on the mattress on his front.
'Hold in there Alex. Please,' Fox whispered.
'Hey Eagle, shut up! I think he's waking up!' Alex's eyes flickered open in time to see Wolf whack Eagle on the back of his head.
'Hey,' Alex croaked, voice hoarse from disuse.
'Hey,' Ben replied gently, squeezing Alex's hand gently.
'So you've finally regained consciousness Agent Rider,' a skin crawlingly familiar voice said from the foot of his bed. Alex looked up and his eyes widened to see Blunt's cold, plain face.
'Relax Alex, this is the real Alan Blunt,' Snake said gently from his side.
'I know,' Alex said disgruntled. 'That isn't really much better.' A light chuckle ran through the assembled men. Except Blunt himself of course. His face remained stubbornly impassive.
'Where am I?' Alex asked looking round sniffing. The place smelt familiar but he couldn't place it.
'St. Dom's,' Eagle replied promptly. Ah. That explained the smell. Hospital.
'I'm sure you're groggy about what happened,' Blunt said. Alex nodded slightly.
'We've got time for that later,' Fox said firmly. 'When you're properly recovered,' he promised Alex, seeing the demanding look on his face. Alex sighed in resignation. Blunt cleared his throat.
'Ahem. Very well. After the incident at the camp, we've decided to reinforce security within and around the camp. Though it is true that we already had our doubts about Andrew Lloyd. We had been looking in to him for a while now, because of various criminal activities where he seemed to be around, but never actually involved. At least as far as we could see..' There was a shocked silence.
'Then why didn't you come to our aid sooner,' Fox said from between his teeth. It really wouldn't help if he started swearing at his boss.
'We were confident that two of our top agents and a group of SAS soldiers would have been enough to sort this problem out.' The SAS soldiers fumed in silence. Ben and Alex looked defeated though. It wasn't as if they didn't know their boss was a cold, heartless man.
'Moving on,' Blunt drawled. 'It is my understanding that you worked well together to complete this (unofficial) mission. Therefore Alex, for future missions where you need a family cover for example, you will go with various members of K Unit or Agent Daniels. However, it's quite likely that you'll still be going on missions on your own.'
'Not now though he won't,' Snake said fiercely. 'He still needs to recover and get some down time.'
'Of course,' Blunt replied, still no intonation to anything he said. 'We have no use of an Agent who is unable to do his missions, because of physical restrictions. Like Ash.' And he turned and strode from the room. The heads of MI6 weren't exactly known for using greetings or for that matter, sensitivity.
Blunt left behind him three pained faces and two confused ones.
'Who's Ash?' Eagle asked bewildered.
'No one,' Alex replied too quickly. Fox's eyes flashed, clearly pained.
'He wasn't no one Alex. He was…your Godfather. And I killed him. I don't know how to begin to say sorry – I didn't – I mean –'
'How do you know about Ash?' Alex whispered, ignoring the hanging jaws of the rest of K Unit, in reaction to the words, 'I killed him.'
'You spoke about him, when you were half delirious,' Ben replied just as quietly. Alex took a deep breath.
'Don't feel guilty Ben. Seriously, it's not worth it. Ash was a Double Agent who betrayed my dad and later me, to Scorpia. So don't feel guilty.' He looked Ben straight in the eyes and held his gaze, until Ben nodded, obviously slightly more at ease.
'Betrayed you and your dad to Scorpia? What is it with you kid and criminal organizations?' Eagle asked, a slight hint of a laugh in his voice. He didn't really expect a proper answer – not yet anyway. Alex understanding what Eagle was doing smiled slightly and said, 'I don't know. I seem to attract weird, psycho's. Explains why I'm surrounded by you lot.'
'Ha. Ha. Ha,' Wolf rolled his eyes.
'And you'll be stuck with us for a long time yet,' Ben said smiling down at Alex. 'Think you can bare that?' Alex grinned..Looking round at the faces of the men around him, he felt like he truly belonged. A feeling he hadn't felt in a very long time.
'Yeah. I guess I can bare it.'
A/n: THAT'S IT! I'VE FINALLY FINISHED THIS STORY! I hope it lived up to people's expectations. The waking up scene is a bit similar to 'To make Good On A Promise.' I'm sorry. When I realied I tried to change it more. That was totally unintentional but I'm too tired to write out the events as they happened.
I'm not doing a sequel and I don't think I'm going to write anymore Alex Rider fanfic – at least not anytime soon. I might do other fanfic but all after the summer hols. As it is I'm flying to Egypt in less than a week (yaaaaay!)
Thank you so much for reading Demasked all the way to the end. I'm glad people liked it enough to read it. If you could, for the very last time, review, it would mean a lot.
Bye! DCC xxx