Disclaimer: Alex Rider belongs to Anthony Horowitz, not me.
This is a lovely rewritten chapter of the original - it contains the same content (mostly) but has been tweaked and rewritten to flow better. Chapters 2 and 3 may also be done at some point soon - three years can make a large difference to your writing style!
'Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.'
Somewhere along the way Alex had lost track of time. There was no window in here. The only way to tell the difference between night and day was the switching on and off of the lights, and when they were feeling particularly vindictive, the harsh white bulbs never turned off at all. It had been days, weeks, probably even months, and he had almost given up hope of rescue. He was resigned to his fate – and he knew it would be an awful one. Nothing really changed in here. People walked past and bleeding bodies were brought back. Water was brought and empty cups taken away. Food was given and rubbish removed. Time trickled past him but he couldn't find the energy to care.
Images of his captors tormented him every moment he was left alone, but their real life counterparts were worse. Alex was so weak by now he could barely stand, and after the last bout of torture he'd thought he'd surely pass away into the quiet darkness. Instead he'd awoken yet again, and tried to stall the moisture in his eyes. Death seemed like a relief, and like every other positive, it had been denied him. The only human contact he had was from those who wished to harm him, taking delight in his muffled cries of pain and fear. His pride had shattered, in here. He had lost the will to care. They came every few days, depending on how bad his last injuries had been. They couldn't get answers out of someone unconscious, after all.
It was becoming hard to remember the outside world, and Alex knew how much of a cliché that was. That didn't change the truth of the statement though; he would give anything to simply stand outside and feel alive. It was difficult to feel real, sometimes, when you were left alone for long periods of time. He thought absurd things like, maybe I'm dreaming, or perhaps this is simply what hell is like. He could no longer remember what sunlight looked like. He couldn't picture grass swaying in the wind. He couldn't recall what it felt like to be warm and comfortable, or that long sought after feeling of being safe – free from the terror of this captivity – and of being loved. Oh, Ian had never granted him that, except possibly when Alex was very young. The man had been absent too much, and kept too many secrets even when he was home. A wedge had been growing between the two of them for years prior to the man's death. Alex mourned more the loss of opportunities to reconcile with Ian than the man himself – and he felt awful for that.
Jack, on the other hand . . . Jack was a beacon of light in the darkness, a little star twinkling in the night sky, refusing to allow the London fog to rub her out. She'd been his saving grace, his raison d'etre , and now- Well, now, Alex had no one.
Alex was snapped out of his reverie by the sound of voices.
"Is the boy awake?" asked a man, and Alex didn't recognise it. That didn't mean it was safe. He tensed and berated himself for not being alert enough to even notice the men before they were right outside his cell until they spoke. That kind of mistake could cost him his life. It nearly had already, and he would always know that his unawareness was the reason for his capture. The memory of that day was seared into his mind and, as he sat in his cold cell, it played before his eyes again-
(-Whilst carefree was a bit of strong emotion to use, Alex had to admit it was somewhat true. The sun shone in the clear blue sky, despite the freezing temperature, and he couldn't help but smile. The first appearance of the sun after a bleak winter always cheered him up – and did the same to Jack, who had been happily dancing around the house this morning, singing along to Mamma Mia.
He was on his way home from school, having said goodbye to Tom a few minutes ago. His I-Pod was plugged in one ear, a low rock tune playing that he caught himself mouthing along to at times. His other ear was free to listen out for suspicious noises, but he freely admitted he was not feeling very paranoid.
After a series of arguments – on Alex's side, anyway – Blunt and Jones had agreed to install him as a fully paid agent with proper rights as he was now sixteen, and that meant he had two months of rest after his last mission at least. He was determined to enjoy it.
Jack wasn't happy, of course she wasn't, but she'd accepted it. Alex didn't think he could leave the business behind. It was addicting, and he was a helpless junkie, following in his family's footsteps. Jack was merely upset because she felt useless; her inability to protect him frustrated her to no end. Alex knew she hated watching him suffer after missions, waking night after night due to terrors that she could scarcely imagine and he never wanted her to experience.
He spotted one of his neighbours strolling towards him, a petite old woman known to him as Mrs Madon. She had never seemed to care about his injuries or the many rumours about his drug use – in fact, she existed almost in a world of her own a lot of the time. Alex wondered privately if she didn't have some sort of neurological disorder, such as Alzheimer's. She was fairly alone in the world, and both he and Jack made the effort to talk to her as regularly as they could. Jack dropped round shopping on occasion, and helped her out with financial matters. The old woman's family had never been seen to visit.
"Morning, Mrs Madon," Alex greeted her, tugging his headphone out of his ear and smiling at her.
She looked up at him, pulling her shopping trolley up next to her and letting it stand still. She got out and about when she could, something Alex very much admired. She never gave up.
"Alex," she exclaimed in her rasping voice. "How are you, dear?"
Alex touched her on the arm lightly. "I'm very good, thank you," he said, watching her eyes snap back to him with the touch. She had a tendency to wander if you didn't keep her focused. "You?"
"Hmm?" she said, before smiling at him. "Oh, I'm fine," she said. "Only the arthritis that bothers me, and that's nothing I can't deal with."
"I'm glad," Alex replied, his attention caught briefly by a car whizzing past.
"My granddaughter's coming to visit," Mrs Madon informed him, though her eyes were looking past him. Alex mustered up a cheerful expression. He had never seen this granddaughter, despite the old lady telling him often she was coming around. Perhaps he always missed her, but he suspected the girl was merely too busy to care about her grandmother – or didn't exist.
Alex acted surprised. "Lovely,"
"Yes," Mrs Madon agreed. "She's about your age, Alex, dear. She turns eighteen next month."
Alex shook his head gently. "I'm only sixteen," he told her.
"Oh," she said with a small frown. "Time runs away from me, now," she explained lightly. "It's the age."
Alex nodded, unsure what to say. "It'll be nice to see her,"
"Yes," Mrs Madon replied. "You must come round and say hello some time. You'll like her."
"Of course," Alex said, inclining his head.
"I must be off," the old woman said suddenly. "I've got shopping to do. Have a good day, Alex."
"I'll see you soon, yeah?" Alex replied, used to her random declarations and actions.
They shared goodbyes, and Alex headed off towards home. He liked Mrs Madon. Her little problems and interesting anecdotes grounded him – and it was nice to have someone to chat to who wasn't affected by rumours.
He put his earphone back in and strolled leisurely home. He was just turning off his I-Pod on the front step on his house when he heard a faint scream and a bang. He stood stock still, blood pounding through his body. What was that? A swear word barely formed, he slipped into the house, adrenaline flooding through him. Don't jump to conclusions, he told himself sternly. Jack might have been watching a scary film, as she was prone to doing. It's nothing, he kept repeating. But something wasn't right.
He stood, silent, in the hallway, his head cocked to the side. There was no noise; that was the main thing he noticed. If Jack was watching a film, where was the sound? And if she had been attacked – and he bit his lip in distress at the thought – where were the attackers? He hesitated outside the kitchen door, knowing that was where she would probably be. The living room was connected to the kitchen, so whether she was watching a movie, or preparing dinner, she would be through the door.
He pushed open the door, his muscles tense and ready to fight. There was no sign of intruders, apart from-
"Jack!" he gasped desperately, all thoughts of personal safety evaporating as he ran to her side. No, no, no . . . This couldn't be happening! "Jack," he murmured again, his voice cracking as he knelt next to her. His hands hovered, uncertain, and he grabbed her wrist to check her pulse.
She was dead. He knew that; there was no way she could have survived, but her lack of heartbeat hit him like a knife to the chest anyway.
"Jack, please," he choked, tears beginning to swim in his eyes. She didn't move. She was lying on the kitchen floor, her hair spread around her, her limbs sprawled. Blood was seeping across the tiles, and the perfectly round hole in her forehead made it intimately obvious what had happened.
"You bastards," Alex hissed to himself, before suppressing a sob. "Jack. . ."
Her pale skin contrasted so perfectly with the crimson blood and her fiery hair, and Alex wanted to kick something, lash out, scream to the world that she wasn't dead, couldn't be dead, shouldn't be. This wasn't fair, he thought viciously, swiping a hand across his eyes. He pressed his lips to her hand, speckled with the blood seeping from her body, and he saw another wound on her abdomen too – a knife, by the looks of it. Wasn't the bullet enough?
"Did you have to destroy her completely?" he frantically asked the world at large, anger rising and fuelling the flames of grief. They mingled together, growing as his body shook over hers. "No," he said. "No, no, no," he repeated, the words catching in his throat. "Please," he whispered.
She didn't rise. She lay, still, on the floor, no evidence of her cheerful grin and fierce personality left. She had been larger than life in many ways, an independent and impassioned woman who allowed no one to control her. She'd taught herself martial arts, way back when Alex was a kid and learning himself, determined not to be left behind by her charge. She'd been like that. She wouldn't be helpless or useless, and was damn well going to get what she wanted. Men who dated her learnt fast not to underestimate her, or were left by the wayside as she moved on.
Alex loved her – had loved her, and always would. She was like an overprotective big sister, and she had shown her love for him every single day and in every movement she made. She was the one who held him after a nightmare, who pressed kisses to his hair when he sat, motionless and lost, on the sofa after a mission. Blunt hated her, Jones admired her, and Jack had made her impression at MI6 several times when Alex had not returned unscathed. And, oh, she wasn't perfect or always strong, but Alex loved her all the more for it. She wasn't a mother – had never pretended to be – and she'd accepted comfort from Alex as a sister would, when she was pulled down low. He'd defended her from idiot words and leering gazes, and despite her laughs, she'd always thanked him for it.
Alex was so caught up in memories, in denial and in thought of what could have been and now would never be, that he didn't hear the footsteps of the so cleverly hidden men; the men who had killed Jack and then waited for him to appear, knowing that they wouldn't need to track him down. He would always go and help Jack, even if it meant sacrificing himself.
Someone grabbed him from behind, pulling him to his feet and away from Jack. His heart jumped, and he tore himself away, taken utterly by surprise but cursing himself all the same. He lashed out with a kick automatically, but the men – one, two, maybe three of them, he couldn't tell – were stronger than he was, older, and highly trained. His kick missed, but he didn't stop fighting.
The fight lasted only a few seconds, until another man took him by surprise and punched him forcefully on the side of his head. Dizzy and stunned, he could do nothing as they wrapped a piece of cloth round his head. He breathed in an unknown scent, and struggled against the darkness that came upon him. But battle against it was useless, and he sank, almost gratefully, into the blissful darkness that the obviously drugged material brought upon him-)
-"Looks like it," another man replied, and Alex snapped back to reality, pulling himself under control. He pressed his fingertips into his palms, taking refuge in the pain he caused – and controlled. He glared at the three men who peered at him.
"Definitely conscious," one agreed, smirking at him. "Looks like he could do with another round."
Alex shot daggers at them, his injuries throbbing as they spoke. He pushed down the unwanted memories of previous torture sessions, balling his fists tighter but making no effort to stand. His body ached with every breath he took, pain flaring at each movement, but he refused to back away. He would not surrender. They would get no information from him.
"Fuck you," he breathed furiously, and one man laughed sneeringly.
"Don't remember me, do you?" he taunted. "We had such fun before."
Alex pulled himself to his feet, resting on the wall to prevent from swaying as the malnutrition and dehydration left him weak. Vague recollections of pain and the man's voice were swimming through his mind and he bared his teeth. He would not be vulnerable.
"Sadist," Alex hissed at the man, as he recalled the man's cruelty. Flashes of pain sped through his body as if in response to the memories. He hated the way his limbs shook as he rested on them, but being denied steady food and water left him almost crippled.
The man smirked, but was stopped from moving forward by another's arm.
"We've been told not to harm him," this other man said in a low voice. "He's got to recover first, remember?"
The man spat on the floor, but didn't respond. Alex stared at them, trying to hide his relief. It was a rest period, then. He bloody well needed it. They went through cycles of pain and recovery, never hurting him enough to kill him outright, but just so that he would suffer for several days.
A third man unlocked the door and placed a plastic plate of bread and a cup of water on the floor. The other men trained guns on Alex as he did so, and Alex didn't move. Every brain cell was screaming at him to attack, to try and escape, to go down fighting if he must go down . . . But it was suicide, launching himself at them when they would shoot him without a moment's hesitation, and he wasn't stupid – or self-destructive.
The men retreated in silence this time, although Alex could hear their voices echoing down the corridor as they walked away. He shifted over to the food, lowering himself carefully to the ground and slowly eating his way through the bread, aware that his malnourished body would revolt if he ate too fast. He saved some of the water, knowing he would need it later on.
He was, for once, reasonably comfortable and he leant back against the wall. He shut his eyes. It wouldn't hurt to get some sleep. . .
He was woken by the sound of voices, and Alex kept his eyes closed for a little longer. He couldn't quite make out what they were saying, and he was safer if they thought he was asleep.
"I don't think there's anyone down here," a strangely familiar voice said, and Alex dropped his façade. He cocked his head to the side, trying to work out from where he knew it. He didn't think it was one of his torturers, but he wasn't sure.
"I don't know where else he would be. MI6 told us that their agent would be in this building. We've looked everywhere. There's only here left," another voice said, and Alex strained his ears even further. The voices were coming closer, and Alex recognised two of them now. What was going on? MI6? Was it a joke, or was it a genuine rescue attempt-
No, he said to himself. Don't get your hopes up, idiot.
It had been weeks, months, and no one seemed to be looking for him. It would be a trick, it always was.
"Let's just keep looking," said a third voice then, and Alex jolted as he heard it. He definitely knew that man. Ben, his mind whispered. Ben! That meant the others were K Unit, and he knew he'd recognised their voices!
He lurched to his feet unsteadily, cursing his weakness and tuning out the throbbing of his body. He peeked out of the small window in the door, looking down the corridor. And, sure enough, there were the SAS men – and Ben, of course – down the other end, arguing with each other.
"I'm here!" he called out weakly, but his throat was sore and scratchy, and his voice made no impact. He hissed to himself – he had to get their attention before they gave up looking. He settled for banging his arm on the door, desperately trying to make noise without injuring himself further. He was so weak, and it was incredibly frustrating.
It must have worked, however, as K Unit headed down the corridor towards him, raising their guns.
"Alex!" Ben cried when they got close enough to see him. There was no surprise in his face, but the others displayed suitable expressions of shock. Presumably, they hadn't been told the name of the person they were rescuing – if, in fact, they were here to rescue him at all. It could have been a coincidence.
Ben angled the gun towards the door. "Stand back," he warned, and Alex did so, weakly clutching at the walls. He was feeling faint, the adrenaline that had propelled him to his feet was fading, and he wanted to sit down. Wait, he told himself firmly.
Ben shot off the lock and opened the door. The bang of the gun was loud and Alex flinched slightly, hoping none of them noticed. They all seemed too preoccupied with surprise, however.
"What the hell?" Eagle was muttering, his staring undisguised, and Alex would have snapped back a retort if he'd felt up to it.
Both Snake and Ben rushed forward and Alex found himself grateful for Ben's supporting arm.
"Cub?" Wolf asked roughly, still not recovered. "What the hell are you doing here?" Alex wasn't sure if surprise or anger was the main emotion in that question.
He had a greater priority than figuring out Wolf's emotions, though. He had started swaying and found his vision was going white.
"You okay?" Ben asked worriedly, and Alex shook his head slightly, feeling the mistreatment surging up and overpowering the adrenaline. His legs gave way and Ben caught him, his expression very concerned. Snake was hovering above him, and Alex dimly recalled he was the unit's medic. The pain from someone holding his back was making him woozier, where the cuts were pressing into Ben's hands.
"We need to get him out of here," someone said, fairly anxiously, although Alex was too far gone to tell whom. He stared, unseeingly, at the ceiling, feeling blackness whoosh over the top of him. Ben's face began to fade as his eyes started to shut.
"He needs medical help, now!" a voice called, but Alex was already drifting. The last thing he heard was someone swearing, before his mind fell apart, and he let go.
A/N: Well, I hope you enjoyed this first chapter and it has persuaded you to read on! This fic is complete (although the first couple of chapters are being rewritten).
Please do review still!