I claim no ownership of characters, themes, or plot devices used in this story that closely resemble those of the Alex Rider franchise. All characters, themes, or plot devices of the Alex Rider series are the property of Anthony Horowitz and/or his publisher.

In other words, I don't own shit.

This is poorly edited. Just sayin' I can't quite believe I am sleep-deprived enough to publish this. I once liked to think I took pride in my work….No longer. Maybe I will look back at some point and change my mind about this. At the moment, it seems unlikely.

If anybody wants to take this, change it, and republish it as something worthy, let me know when you have it up and I will remove this.

The Plaque on 1504

Alex had hated few people as much as he despised Alan Blunt in that moment. Another mission, and more blackmail. Though he steeled himself for a moment, he knew that he would capitulate, just as he always did, just as Blunt knew he would.

He really hated that man.

"…Fine." He hissed at last. If they wanted his answer, then he was damn well going to make them wait. Petty, yes. But if they were going to manipulate his life to suit their whims, and hold him over the proverbial barrel, he figured he had the right. Even in this, though, they had the upper hand. Alex had never seen Blunt get riled up over anything. The wily bastard could out-wait him at any game, and it only made Alex more frustrated with his powerless position. When a cast of satisfaction ghosted over of Blunts eyes (goodness forbid they man's facial expression reveal a thing) he felt his eyelid wanting to twitch. It spoke highly of his self control that he held back.

"Go see Smithers. He has some devices that may be of use to you on this assignment. The American agent you will be working with should still be there. You will stay in the office after he leaves. In addition to the first set of gear that you will get, Smithers has something for you that we would like for you to keep…discreet."

Alex nodded tersely. Great. One more secret to keep. What could it hurt?

He left he office with his jaw clenched so tight he could acutely feel the pain of the bones and teeth grinding together. He didn't wait for a dismissal, and spitefully left the door open behind him.

He didn't go to Smither's immediately, either. There was something he felt compelled to do. Instead, he walked down the hall in the opposite direction. He took the stairs to the fifteenth floor. He knew the elevator would be monitored more closely (they no doubt had his every move on video surveillance in any case, but the stairs had fewer physical bodies which could stop him). Upon reaching the landing, he immediately took stock. This floor was not as deserted as the administrative offices above. A number of people, likely agents, were passing through the hall. Another quick glance told him which direction he wanted. He stepped quickly. There was no way that, out of a group as highly trained and paranoid as the agents in the hall, no one had seen him.

When he reached the door he wanted, he tried the handle out of habit. It was unlocked. It had not been that way the last time he'd been there. There was a strange cold, clenching feeling in his gut that he couldn't identify. The only reason for the door to be unlock was for the room to be in use. A glance at the plaque confirmed it.

Other than the symbols upon it, the name plate was identical to the one he'd seen before. Black plastic. White letters. Last time, the plaque had read "Ian Rider" in harshly utilitarian letters. Now, it read "Jonathan Flemming."

It was hard to say why Alex felt so stunned. Even after everything he'd done, even seeing his uncle's killer killed in turn, this undeniable, in-his-face evidence of the finality of Ian Rider's death struck him solidly in the gut. The man wasn't just away on a long-term job for his "bank," he was never coming back. Things were not alright, and it didn't seem they ever would be again. Things were too different. He was too different.

He was the last of the Riders.

He felt trapped. If he'd been one to believe in such things, Alex would have sworn that some ghost of his past chose that moment to try to crush his chest, squeeze at his lungs, pull his heart out through his esophagus. The pain of it brought involuntary tears close enough to escaping that his eyes stung.

Alex fought the feeling back, swallowing around the lump in his throat convulsively. He breathed deeply. The constriction of his chest relented slightly, leaving his lungs feeling raw and the rest of his body numb. His hand slipped absently off the knob. He stared at the plaque a minute longer, not seeing it, but the letters burning into his mind all the same.

'Jonathan Flemming'.

Alex sighed, and walked to Mr. Smither's office. He had a mission to do.

Still, he wondered if it was only a matter of time until a door-plaque with his name on it would have to be replaced.

Special Agent Jonathan Flemming relaxed the hand he had at his holster when he finally heard the unknown presence leave. He didn't know what to make of the hunch-shouldered boy he saw on the security footage when he checked it later that day.

This started as a plot outline for a xXx/Alex Rider crossover that was beating itself against the inside of my skull. It came out a bad one-shot. Go figure.

To anyone who cares, the next chapter of Research & Development has changed three times, outgrown its single-chapter size in terms of content, and generally frustrated the hell out of me. And while I am typing this, my grade on the upcoming finals are dropping at a rate inversely proportional the number of words I write. Which means I need to stop now if I want to have any shot at scoring a GPA-based scholarship again next semester. Wish me luck.