Quietly into the Night
Characters/Pairing(s): Yassen Gregorovich/Alex Rider, OMCs
Summary: On a mission gone wrong, Alex is thrown into a world in which he is prey in a sea of predators and solely dependent upon a certain Russian assassin.
Warning(s): Slash, Alex is a minor, mature and uncomfortable themes, violence, and content which some readers may find strongly disturbing.
Word Count: ~22,500 (in roughly 4 parts, part 1 - 4,220)
Written for hpstrangelove for spy_fest 2010. This fic comes with illustrations which you can find here: loony-lucifer (dot) livejournal (dot) com/233194 (dot) html
So much thanks to my beta, annephoenix.
"We've got an assignment for you, Alex," Mrs. Jones said from across her expansive desk. It was far cleaner than it had been the last time Alex had seen her.
Alex, sitting slouched in the visitor's chair under her gaze, could have made a bid for the most unenthusiastic looking fourteen year old boy in the world right then.
She cleared her throat softly. "Unlike your previous missions, we only need you to perform surveillance. You won't be interacting with our subject. Far from it; you'll be in an environment surrounded by authorities, including some of our own operatives, completely secure."
Her expectant gaze was met with silence. Alex's composure hadn't changed at all once she'd finished her offer, no, statement. "You've said that before." It was the only thing he could manage to get out of his mouth right then.
She looked somewhat guilty at that. Her eyes lowered slightly from his, dropping to the edge of the desk between them. He wondered if he was the only agent who was able to do this to her, but really, the ability to make his employers feel was kind of a moot point when they still put his life in danger again and again. Her lips tightened. "I know I have," she replied. "But I need you to do this."
"Why?" he asked abruptly. Her eyes flicked back to him. "Why do you need me? Over and over again, you need me to do what the people you've actually hired can't?" His voice was becoming angrier as he went. "That's – that's unbelievable!"
"Alex…" Her tone was soothing now. "We will have other agents on this assignment, other agents who are considerably more involved than you will be. It's only a precaution to have you there. We simply can't….cover all of our bases without you. Please."
He couldn't believe it. Here she was asking him "please" with a quality of voice that really said "be reasonable" as though any other fourteen year old would be anything remotely close to reasonable if MI6 had asked this of them. Mrs. Jones would probably get a temper tantrum thrown right in her face.
He wasn't very far off from that himself. He took a breath. "What do you need me to do?" he asked flatly.
Mrs. Jones folded her hands on the desktop in front of her, and Alex again noticed the conspicuous lack of files out for him to see. "We'd like for you to attend a trial, and the proceedings afterwards," she began. "Officially you will be a friend of the family represented by the prosecution, a boy named Eli Morgan and his parents. Unofficially, we want you to keep an eye on the defendant and anyone associated with him. If anyone out of the ordinary approaches the family, we want to know about it. And most importantly, we do not wish for the public and those involved to know of MI6's surveillance. We believe this defendant has…has hired a team to extract him from the authorities once he is convicted."
When no more of an explanation came, Alex's eyes narrowed. "You're certain he will be convicted then?"
"Yes," she said.
"Forgive me Mrs. Jones, but that's all rather…vague." Alex replied acidly.
She sighed. "Yes, I know it is, but it's…for the best. We only need you to watch for strangers, or unusual conversations and requests. You'll fit in. If anyone tries to ask you anything, you'll tell them you're there to support your friend."
"And who is the defendant?"
Mrs. Jones paused for a moment. "His name is Jon Dylan, and he is going away for a very long time."
Alex could feel the look of annoyance falling over his face. "Unless somebody breaks him out first."
"If someone were to take him from state custody, they would not do so in the midst of the trial. You will be perfectly safe," she stated.
"You realise that I could just look up his name the minute I leave this office and find out about this case for myself, don't you?" It was true, and he didn't understand why she wouldn't just tell him what the whole thing was about. He was pretty sure his "delicate young mind" could handle it, if that was the trouble.
Mrs. Jones looked him squarely in the eye. "I realise that, Alex, but what you do on your own time is out of our control and therefore not our responsibility."
He was certain he could feel his left eye twitching at this point. She was sounding more like Alan Blunt as this conversation went on.
"And anyway, you won't have time to do any research, we'll be needing you on the plane in thirty minutes," she added.
At this, Alex was shocked. And furious. Although, past experience should have warned him to feel otherwise. "Wait a minute. I haven't agreed to anything."
"But we both know that you will."
She looked up at him when he stood in anger, and he was amazed that he could clearly read sympathy in her expression. "Get your things ready. You'll be seeing Smithers next. And yes, you will have a short briefing on the plane. You're going to Florence, Italy," she added when he opened his mouth, ready to object.
He closed it when she was finished. His shoulders slumped, and inside he felt rather hollow. He didn't dislike Mrs. Jones, and he would be happy to see Smithers again, but he hated the way they did this. Once again, he didn't have much choice other than to follow along.
On the plane to Florence he learnt little more. He'd been introduced to the other agents covering the scene and shown pictures of the family he was supposed to surreptitiously befriend. To them he would be the son of one of the prosecution's consultants, and to everybody else he would be a friend of Eli, the boy. They were close to the same age. He had to wonder how exactly he was going to pull off these two identities with both parties he had to fool being in the same place at the same time and assuredly asking him questions. MI6 didn't seem to see the issue. Well, he figured, at least if he was found out and then thrown out, his part in the whole affair would be over. All in all, his part in the mission was supposed to take less than an hour. He would only be seeing the end of the trial, and only be waiting outside with the rest of the boy's family, watching the crowd with MI6's undercover agents. That was it. They'd allowed him to call Jack, to let her know that he'd be gone for a little while, a day or two at most, but their conversation had been cut short and she had had very little time to protest. Alex felt immensely guilty afterward.
Alex had been given a small set of surveillance equipment when he'd seen Smithers, mostly eavesdropping devices meant for listening in on conversations a fair distance away from where he would be standing. Nothing remotely dangerous. Even Smithers hadn't thought this little escapade warranted much caution on their part. From the sound of it, Alex would have been inclined to agree with them, that was, if every other experience he had been through with MI6 had not taught him otherwise. All he could manage was a half-hearted smile when Smithers said goodbye, and he was pretty sure the big man had looked a bit ashamed to have not had anything particularly special to give the young spy when they parted ways.
Butterflies welled up in his stomach as he and the other agents climbed into a tiny van and drove through the bustling and winding streets of Florence. He wished they at least had a window to look out of; he'd barely gotten a glimpse of the impressive city while they hauled in.
The agents prepared their own equipment, and Alex inserted his earpieces, too. This was probably what it was like to wear a hearing aid, he thought; a very, very sensitive hearing aid. One that honed in on whatever sound was in the direction he cocked his head toward.
When they arrived at the courthouse, they met up with two men from the AISE and AISI, respectively Italy's external and internal intelligence and security agencies. Along with MI6, there were now a total of three intelligence agencies covering the scene, and Alex wondered if that was really such a good idea. Luckily, everyone already seemed to know what their parts in the operation were without much further instruction. Even Alex, with what little information he had, reluctantly felt that he could manage what had been asked of him. Though it frustrated him to do so, he even refrained from asking why the Italians had called in MI6, a British intelligence agency, to help them on their own turf. On the whole this operation seemed very trivial, and made little sense, and Alex was certain that was only because he wasn't being told what it was all about.
One man from MI6, Terrance was his name if Alex remembered right, was his acting guardian for the time. Following him, Alex was able to walk straight through a small crowd of media and into the front doors of the impressive sized, if a bit dull, courthouse. Terrance presented ID for both of them at the security desk, and they were allowed through once again. Crowds of people waited inside, and Alex could tell by the heavy tension in the hall that whatever proceedings were going on in the actual courtroom were fast coming to a close. Many men and women in suits were speaking quickly and quietly into their mobiles, and security guards were posted at the ends of each hall and in front of many doors. Alex could spot one or two of the agents he'd met briefly only because he recognized their faces; otherwise they would have blended in with the crowd perfectly.
Then he spotted them, at the end of the expansive hall was a family clustered together. A middle aged woman who didn't really make much of an impression, but with her were two young daughters and a dark haired boy about Alex's age, surrounded by suits. It was the looks on their faces more than anything that made them stand out in the crowd. They were very drawn, tense, not exactly frightened, but definitely unhappy to be there, and none of them were speaking to anyone. Alex had to guess that the father was inside the courtroom. Not for the first time since he'd been informed of this operation did he wonder what had been done to this family.
Terrance had spotted them too, and after giving Alex a nod of confidence, he slipped away. That left Alex on his own to head over to investigate. MI6 expected some sort of contact to be initiated between the defendant's party and an outside source, so that their operation could be put into action at a later date. This was probably going to be their only chance to make contact, as it was the only time Dylan would be out in public. So far, Alex hadn't heard or seen anything relating to the defendant, so he decided it was best to focus on the family for now. He knew if he approached them and tried to make introductions right away his story wouldn't make sense, so he settled in a chair not far from where they stood, pretending to be waiting in anticipation along with everyone else.
There was a woman across from him who was getting into a row with the secretary on the other end of her call. Just a bit to the right there were a group of assistants checking their watches and muttering to one another about how long the session was becoming. An older man approached the mother and asked if she would like a glass of water. She declined. Surprisingly, the most interesting thing in the hall turned out to be a television set placed in the upper corner of the wall, near the waiting seats. Its volume was low, but with Alex's earpiece he was able to hear the news broadcast without having to move closer.
There was some sort of commotion happening on the other side of the city. An unidentified explosion, possibly gas related, had occurred within a populated area. No reports of injury had come in yet, but rescue workers were rushing to the scene. Alex watched as the reporter and her crew stood across the street, gesturing to an area with an upturned car near the sidewalk. He squinted up at the screen, an uneasy feeling settling into his gut. In the middle of the reporter's dialogue, a second explosion sounded. Alex jumped up. The camera jostled showing the reporter ducking her head, nearly losing her footing in surprise. That couldn't have happened more than a block away from the news crew. Police were rushing for them, going to the edges of the scene and a small panic broke out while the media team looked on. It looked like they were going to set up an evacuation of the area if they could just get the situation under control.
Alex stepped back, looking around. He wasn't the only one watching now. Most of the conversation around him had died and people had turned their eyes up to the screen. There was no way that had been an accident and Alex knew it.
He had to find Terrance, unable to shake the terrible feeling of dread that was creeping through him. And then it happened. The floor beneath them lurched. A great sound ripped through the air, and though Alex could see no harm done to the structure near him, he knew there was no sound on earth quite like that of an explosion. It was deafening. All the people around him, agents included, bent over suddenly, holding their hands to their ears. He'd instinctively done the same, and for one fleeting second he'd been terrified by the realisation that the sensors were still in his ears, amplifying the great shock of noise. But when he'd removed his hands, looking around, startled, for the source of the explosion, he realised that his hearing was still intact.
Smithers. Good old Smithers. There must have been some sort of safety decibel limit in the earpieces, turning them off to protect his ears in this exact situation. His heart fluttered with relief.
It didn't last long.
Hazy white smoke was curling and then billowing up through vents in the floor and from the ceiling and Alex knew that it had not come from a fire. It was too clean, and there was far too much of it. It had become a screen, and just before it engulfed the crowd, he looked over and saw Eli's eyes on him. His mother had her arms around the two girls, and was reaching for her son. The men in suits stepped between the two boys' gaze, and the family was lost in a sea of white.
Alex pulled a sleeve over his nose, trying to inhale as little of the smoke as possible. As far as he could tell it was disorienting only, and not poisonous. He reached out in front of him and made for the direction where he ahad last seen Eli, but when he got there, and he was relatively sure this had been the place, the other boy had already gone. Shapes moved around him, but he wasn't able to get a clear view of anyone. Then gunfire sounded.
A few people screamed, but it was quickly silenced by more shots. Alex ducked low, moving across the floor now, not knowing where the bullets were coming from and knowing that staying low was his best chance of not getting hit. He crawled forwards on his hands and knees until he found the wall again and then followed it to a wide door that had been broken open. He recognized it immediately. It had been the entrance to the courtroom.
His thoughts filled with a flurry of curses, but he managed to remain silent. He needed to get to his feet. He needed to get out of this room.
He was willing to lay a bet that the men hired by Dylan to get him out of prison had struck right in the middle of his trial, and that once again MI6 had been wrong. Maybe it was the adrenaline in his system already affecting his stability, but Alex just couldn't find it in himself to be too surprised. More than anything, he was angry, and a little scared. He had to admit that. He had no idea what was going on even ten feet in front of him; he'd lost sight of the other agents, from both countries, and…it just hit him…. The whole of Florence's police force was investigating bombs on the opposite side of the city.
No one would be coming here for a very long time. Their forces were simply spread too thin.
More gunfire echoed across the hall. Contrary to his instincts, Alex crawled closer. He rounded a corner in the hall. There was a scuffle at the opposite end of it, with men's voices, and the sound of fists. Someone hit the floor. Then another someone. Alex crawled faster until he nearly crawled over a body. He'd barely seen it until he was almost on top of it, and to his horror, he found that he recognized the dead stare of one of the British agents. He couldn't even remember the man's name.
He took a deep breath and crawled around, trying to both physically and mentally put the sight behind him. There were shouts up ahead now, and Alex was getting to a point where the smog was thinning just a little. Realising this, he got to his feet and began moving hurriedly along the wall. If anyone saw him, he would be a perfect target.
The sound of a door slamming shut echoed down the hall and he began to move faster, passing more and more bodies as he went. A few were still alive, moaning where they lay on the floor or hunched against the wall. Alex tried to avoid these people; there wasn't anything he could do for them.
He found a stairwell at the end of the hall and pulled open the heavy door. Inside, the smoke was more transparent. Footfalls clanged on the steps above him, and when he looked up he could just about make out several figures quickly ascending. Below him, he heard voices and footfalls making their way down. They probably belonged to people looking for the way out, trying to get to the ground floor. It didn't make any sense to go up, and Alex felt confident that it could only be his quarry heading that way. He took hold of the handrail and shot up after them, taking the stairs two at a time. He could think of only one place they could be going: the roof.
Sure enough, when he reached the top of the stairs, the door that usually blocked roof access had been blown open. Already there was a gunfight ensuing between a few men dressed head to toe in black and two of the AISE agents. Alex ducked out of the door quickly and dived behind a large air vent on the rooftop. He had no weapons of his own and didn't stand a chance out in the open.
When he peered around the vent he could see that things weren't turning out in favor of the AISE. He'd thought only two had made it up here, but now he could see that a third man had already fallen. His body lay leaking blood on the ground between the two groups who were dodging from air vent to electrical generator in order to avoid getting shot.
Then Alex saw it. On the far side of the building, there was a news helicopter. He recognized the logo because it was the same one he'd seen on the television broadcast only minutes ago downstairs. A pilot was already starting its engine and the rotor was picking up speed. Then the pilot leaned forward, as far out the side as he dared, and made a waving motion. Two figures that Alex hadn't seen before emerged from hiding and ran towards the helicopter. They were a good distance away from the fight, and it was clear that the AISE agents were trying to get past the black-clad men in order to reach them. Alex recognized the first immediately. It was Jon Dylan,who was about to have been convicted. He was followed by another, dressed in black like the rest, but with hair that caught in the sunlight and….
Alex felt like the ground had just dropped out beneath him. The air left his lungs in a sharp gasp as his memory was jarred. He recognized the second man, too. There was no mistaking his build, his hair, his fluid, efficient movements as he directed Dylan to climb into the helicopter. When Alex caught a glance of his face as he turned to assess the gunfight, it only confirmed what he already knew. Yassen Gregorovich was very much alive.
Alex was running towards the escaping men before he could think of anything else. No one on the roof had noticed him until then, and as usual surprise was his best ally. He snatched up the dead agent's gun as he tore around the gunfight; each side momentarily stunned as a boy came out of nowhere and began sprinting toward the helicopter. The black-clad forces recovered quickly though, and a few bullets whizzed through the air past Alex. The AISE returned fire again. One of their shots flew by Alex , but clearly had not been aiming for him. It broke through the windshield of the helicopter and the pilot crumpled in on himself instantly.
The rotor was spinning at full speed now, creating a great noise and lifting up dirt and rocks all around him. Alex could feel the wind push at his clothes and skin, but still he ran toward the helicopter. Yassen had climbed into the cockpit as soon as the pilot had been hit. He took hold of the body and shoved it out of the door where it fell to the ground below. Then he saw Alex.
Alex raised his gun. He couldn't immediately guess which areas would disable it permanently, so he aimed for whatever looked good. He needed to buy the Italian agents time. He shot once. He grit his teeth then shot again, and again. The bullets impacted the hull. Nothing happened. It wasn't to be.
Yassen jumped out of the helicopter and made for Alex. The young agent hadn't realised that he was shaking until he raised the gun and pointed it, this time at the assassin.
Yassen didn't seem concerned and Alex found that he couldn't shoot. He began stepping back, at first unintentionally, when he realised that Yassen wasn't going to stop, and then more quickly when the distance between them diminished. Without even pausing in his advance, Yassen reached out and took hold of the gun, pointing it away from him in one swift motion With his other hand, he caught Alex by the throat.
Alex made a strangled sound as Yassen's hand tightened. His heart beat loudly in his chest, like the thrumming of the helicopter blades above them. His free hand flew up to grasp at Yassen's wrist, trying to wrench it free of his neck, but still he refused to let go of his grip on the gun. In the struggle, his finger must have pulled the triggers, for he was suddenly jolted by the power of the shot. The bullet buried itself itself into the roof, but the distraction was all Yassen needed to finally wrench the gun away from Alex's hands.
Suddenly there was shouting, and Alex was turned around. Yassen drew a heavy arm across his chest and pressed against his back, holding him tight while dragging him backwards towards the helicopter. Alex could see the one remaining Italian agent advancing on them. Speaking in Italian, Alex understood "stop" and "let go of the boy" repeated several times. The Agent's gun was trained on Yassen, and therefore on Alex as well, and it was clear that he didn't have a good enough shot to avoid hitting Alex.
Yassen, however, did. He swung Alex's gun around and fired into the agent's chest. The man went down immediately. He wasn't dead. Alex could see his arms moving, trying to aim his gun again.
Alex was forced up to the side of the helicopter. Once there, Yassen turned him around so that he could look down at Alex. He tossed the gun inside while Alex still struggled to break free. He was just about to say something particularly nasty to the assassin, but he never got the chance to speak. With a quick blow to the side of the head, Alex was knocked out cold.