Sorry for the delay guys! I got sidetracked by other stuff this weekend. But here it is, the final chapter of You Can Run but you Can't Hide. Thanks for all your wonderful reviews – I've really enjoyed writing this part of the Blood & Fire arc and your ongoing support has confirmed my decision that you haven't seen the last of this arc!
"What happened to your knee?" the Australian wanted to know as the van sped off into the unknown.
Alex scowled. "You broke it; don't you remember?"
The Australian smirked a little as though relishing the memory, then shrugged. "It should have healed by now."
"It was," Alex snapped and left it at that. His head was hurting more than ever and his nerves felt completely frayed. Soon, he knew he would lose control. "Where are we going?"
The Australian smirked again. "To our base of operations. We need to discuss your next mission for us, Rider. And I also need to decide what to do about you," he added, addressing Yassen directly.
Yassen's cool eyes met the Australian's without fear, and Alex was impressed by the Russian's ability to keep his calm. He didn't bother arguing with the Australian's words, however; it wasn't worth it.
"You put me in a difficult position, Gregorovich," The Australian continued. "While I understand your motivation for executing Ian Rider, you should have been upfront about it. Then we could have avoided all the unpleasantry surrounding the Cray mission."
Yassen snorted with amusement. "Of course. It is that simple."
Alex remembered the day he'd believed Yassen dead, murdered. He wondered if the Australian knew as much as he did about the events surrounding Yassen's supposed termination. Really, it was not that simple at all.
For a while they travelled in silence. Alex wondered if they had left London yet. Probably not; even in the middle of the night London traffic was a force to be reckoned with. He could feel his aching head getting heavier and heavier until he was sinking against Yassen. He stifled a yawn and tried to sit up straight, but the movement jarred his knee and he gave up. Yassen didn't seem to care anyway.
After what felt like hours, the van suddenly stopped. Alex heard the driver door slamming and looked up expectantly. Yassen, too, seemed suddenly very alert and Alex could feel him tensing.
The Australian must have sensed Yassen's movement, for he shook his head pointedly. "Don't even think about it, Gregorovich."
Alex felt Yassen settle again. He wondered how well these two men knew each other; how often they had worked together … with John … and Ian. He sighed and rolled his shoulders to try to get some life back into them. The pain in his head was subsiding a little, bringing with it the relief of clear thought. One thing was certain: he had to get out of here, and Yassen was his only hope.
"I won't work for you," he suddenly said.
"So you've said." The Australian sounded bored, though Alex noticed that his eyes had not left Yassen.
"I mean it," Alex pressed. "You can kill me with your toxins or whatever, but I won't be part of Scorpia. You've destroyed my life and if I get half a chance I'll destroy you."
The Australian's gaze flickered to Alex now. He looked amused. "You've already been very helpful to Scorpia, Rider. Without you, it might have taken us a lot longer to find out the truth about Ian. Your attitude is nothing a few months in Malagosto won't adjust."
"You're going to brain wash me?"
"Don't be so crude," the Australian laughed, finally turning his full attention to Alex. "We're going to beat you into submission, teach you a few lessons, then blackmail you into doing exactly as you're told."
Alex shivered. Beside him, he felt Yassen tense again.
"I don't care. I won't do it. I'll run away when you send me on a mission."
"And we'll find you and bring you back and start again," the Australian promised. His eyes once again sparkled with that disconcerting hunger Alex had first seen at the Scorpia base on the island on the Irish Sea. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like a mobile phone. He threw it to Alex who looked down at it blankly.
"Press the green button."
Alex did as he was told. Immediately the screen sprang to life. A white square with a blinking cursor appeared.
"Type 'Rider'," the Australian suggested. Again Alex did as he was told. Only one option appeared: 'Rider, Alex'. He pressed the green button again and an aerial view of an area immediately recognisable as the northern side of the M25 appeared on the screen.
In the centre of the picture was a static green dot, and Alex realised it had to be him, identified by the tracking device implanted in his belly. Several other dots surrounded the green dot and a blinking blue dot was approaching rapidly.
Under the picture was a white box in which several names flashed in red – Alex recognised only 'Gregorovich, Yassen'. He wondered if any of the names belonged to the Australian … or whether it mattered.
"Nice and precise, don't you think? You can run, Rider, but you can't hide," the Australian mocked. Alex felt mesmerised by the screen. This was his life, at the touch of a button. He wondered whether the device he was holding was also able to release the nanotoxins into his body.
Reading his mind, the Australian laughed. "It's not quite that simple, Rider. To kill you, there's a passcode."
The blue dot was almost on top of them now and Alex heard the driver's door slam again. He could hardly believe the temporal and special precision of the mobile device; he wondered if MI6 had any idea that Scorpia had that level of satellite access over the United Kingdom. It seemed unlikely that the MI6 had anything as good as this.
And then he saw it ... but it couldn't be that simple, could it?
On the touchpad of the mobile device was a button simply labelled "Call out". Without even thinking about what he was doing, Alex pressed the button and dialled 999 before the Australian or any of the guards had even realised he was moving.
He could hardly believe it when a voice came over the speaker, loud and clear. "Which emergency service do you require?"
For a second, it was as though everyone in the van had forgotten how to breathe.
And then Alex managed to scream, "Police! It's Scorpia! They've go—" before the butt of a rifle slammed into the side of his face and cut off his words. He threw the little device across the van and just heard the operator ask, "What is your name, sir?" when another guard grabbed it and cut off the signal.
Alex could feel his lip swelling where he'd been hit, and the graze from his fight with Wolf earlier on started bleeding again. At this rate, his whole face was going to be a swollen mass of pain. He managed to bring up his arms to protect his face from another blow; it smashed into his arm painfully. Alex squeezed his eyes shut and waited for the next onslaught … but it never came.
In fact, a deadly silence seemed to have overcome the van.
Carefully, Alex brought down his arms and looked up. The Australian was holding the device and looking down at it as though he couldn't quite believe that it had betrayed him. More than that, however, the Australian was looking utterly shocked. Around him the guards were slumped lifelessly in their seats.
Alex caught the Australian's gaze; for a split second he saw Yassen's reflection in those blue eyes, and then the Australian slumped forwards and collapsed.
Beside him, Yassen was getting up. The assassin took the time to stretch his limbs, clearly clearing away the cramps of the journey. In his hand he held a tiny tube, no longer than half a pencil. It had a sort of trigger on one end.
"Zolpidem," Yassen explained. "They will be sleeping for a very long time, maybe forever."
Alex let Yassen pull him to his feet, wincing in pain with almost every move. Incredibly, he felt a yawn working its way through his jaw. "You haven't dosed me, have you?" he asked in alarm, but Yassen merely shook his head and supported Alex's weight as they climbed out of the van.
"I need to have a word with the driver. He is an old acquaintance of mine. He knows what's good for him," Yassen explained, before leaving Alex to stand groggily by the back doors of the van. Yassen returned moments later and slammed the doors. "I have told him to take them back to the Scorpia command base."
"No!" Alex exclaimed. "You can't just let them get away!"
But it was too late; the van was pulling off and soon even its tail lights had disappeared into the darkness. Alex felt a flash of anger bubbling inside him.
"Little Alex. These men are just one small part of the organisation. Killing them now would only serve to further enrage Scorpia."
"I didn't mean you should kill them," Alex mumbled. In the distance he could hear sirens. A wave of relief crashed through him and he took a painful step toward the direction of the motorway. Between the malfunctioning MI6 tracker and the phone call for help, the authorities couldn't be too far away.
"You did a very brave thing, back there," Yassen praised. "It was an excellent distraction."
Alex took another painful step. The sirens were very near now; it sounded like there were hundreds of them. Clearly his call for help had got through to the right people. Sometimes he wondered just how much surveillance the communications systems were under. Maybe it was best not to think about it … like it was best not to think about MI6 interrogating their suspects …
Yassen was still alongside him. "You don't have to go back, Alex," he said. "I can protect you from MI6."
"And from Scorpia?"
Yassen did not reply. Alex took another step – at this rate he would never reach the motorway. He felt an inexplicable lump in his throat. "Am I ever going to get away from them?" he suddenly blurted out.
"Scorpia will always know where you are, little Alex. I expect they'll come looking for me."
Alex felt an inexplicable lump forming in his throat. "They'll kill you," he said.
"Is that what you want?"
The lump in Alex's throat grew bigger. He was finding it hard to swallow. "No," he admitted. He winced as Yassen grabbed his arm and forced him to stop.
"Scorpia's next move is not something I can predict. But now they know the truth about Ian …" Yassen trailed off, his eyes gazing over Alex's shoulder at some undefined point in the distance.
Alex felt a tug of guilt at the pain flashing across Yassen's face. He thought of the letter in his jacket pocket, the letter addressed to Kazak that maybe had the potential to change the course of the future …
But instead of pulling it out, Alex yanked his arm from Yassen's grip and started walking again.
"Yeah, thanks for reminding me. So far every Rider that's trusted you has ended up dead."
Yassen recoiled as though slapped. He did not move to follow Alex, although whether that was through hurt or because the first police cars had pulled into the slipway, Alex would never know.
As he limped away from the Russian assassin, Alex couldn't stop thinking about the unpredictability of his life, and more specifically of his seemingly never ending involvement with Scorpia.
Alex's skin bore more than its fair share of scars to demonstrate Scorpia's immense reach of violence. Often that violence seemed overly emotional and out of proportion.
Maybe, Alex reasoned, Scorpia simply liked killing people and blowing things up … maybe that's what drew its members in?
Like his father … who had been good at his job.
And Nile, who liked dominating other individuals.
And Julia Rothman, who wanted to kill all the school children.
But not his uncle.
Ian Rider had been a good man. Alex smiled to himself, then. If there was one important lesson to learn from the past thirty-six hours, it was surely that Ian Rider had given his life to fight these bastards.
He turned around and squinted into the darkness, but Yassen had gone.
Taking a deep breath, Alex limped toward the police cars, holding up his hands to show that they were empty. He was not surprised when several men advanced in a crouch to meet him. They swiftly unlocked his handcuffs, only to force his hands behind his back and snapped the metal restraints back into place with a finalistic click, before half-pushing, half-carrying him to the waiting police car.
It was time to go home and face the music …
Chapter End Notes:
== THE END ==
This part of the arc is finished, but Alex's story is far from over. Will the Australian come looking him? Will MI6 be able to protect him? Does MI6 even have Alex's best interests at heart? And what about Yassen? Is there even a place for him in this world? … One also wonders whether Snake finds it easy to sleep at night …
Thanks for all the support throughout Never Say Never & You Can Run but You Can't Hide (+ No Mistake) – I really enjoy writing these fics and there are many loose ends that still need to be tied. So keep the loving coming and have no fear. I shall not leave you hanging in the dark –
Alex Rider will return in The Abyss of Revenge …