Benjamin Joshua Daniels groaned as he awoke, feeling the coldness of whatever he was laying on seep into his bones. He winced as he attempted to move and shift and knew that this was not a good thing. Really, this was stupid. Only he would happen to get himself kidnapped and captured on his birthday.

Who would capture him, though? As far as he knew, he hadn't pissed of Scorpia lately, and even though his partner had, there had been no threats about them. Besides, this wasn't Scorpia's style. If the crime-loving organization had kidnapped him, he'd know it. Fox groaned and winced. It was only because of Alex Rider that he knew it.

This was certainly not how he planned to celebrate his 25th birthday. When he had gotten accepted into the SAS two years prior, he'd planned on serving his country and helping keep world peace (i.e. helping violate countries not toss missiles at each other). But that hadn't happened. MI6 had snatched him up once he'd done two missions, saying that he would be just perfect to work for them.

He hadn't minded, he'd wanted to work with MI6, but he had also wanted to stay in contact with his friends, Wolf, Snake, and admittedly, even Eagle. MI6 hadn't allowed him to get his friend's contact information. They had flat-out stated that it would be best if nobody from his old life knew about what he did.

"So what if I die?" He'd asked. "You going to let my parents know that I'm dead?" He wouldn't even repeat Alan Blunt's response to that out loud.

Anyway, enough thinking about this. He had to get himself out of this situation. He didn't feel any wind, of any sort, or hear any noise, so he guessed that he was indoors. On something concrete. A garage, maybe? A basement with an unfinished carpet? The floor didn't feel like hardwood. He couldn't see, he had been blindfolded, so there was that…

Ben sighed as he attempted to shift his wrists. He had at least, at least, been looking forward to spending time with Alex on his birthday. Someone he knew from his 'old' life. Alex had even said he'd even stay with him for the day, and that, at least, had made Ben cheerful.

He groaned as he attempted to move his bonds yet again.

Nothing. Damn…

Wolf groaned as he awoke. It was light out, and the sky was bright. He smiled. So he'd actually gotten to sleep in for once. Good to know. Even though it had only been eight o'clock…

He sighed once more as the doorbell rang and he was reminded why he had woken up. It was probably Eagle. Wolf had actually locked the door last night, which meant that the SAS man wouldn't be able to sneak in.

He opened it. It was, of course, Eagle. "Dude," Wolf said, looking at the SAS man, who was drenched, "Why didn't you wear a coat?"

He shook his head. "I'll explain," he said, stepping inside. "Sorry I wasn't back last night…"

"Eagle, you're twenty-three. I trust you to look after yourself," Wolf replied.

"Yeah, yeah. Anyway, look, I was walking home when this kid found me and shoved a note into my hand. Then he took off. Wouldn't have thought anything of it, but…"

Wolf glanced at the outside of the car. "Happy 25th birthday? It's not even your birthday."

"It gets better," Eagle said, moving over to the coat closet and grabbing his coat. Wolf opened up the inside of the card and saw the picture. His blood rushed to his bones and he chilled.

The picture was of Fox, all bound up.

If you want to see your former comrade live until tomorrow, I'd suggest you make your way to Shirley's Pub. Your friend will meet you there. Stop next door at the mom and pop and ask the pop for a beer. He'll then give you directions to the next clue. Good luck.

"Some sicko's playing with us," Wolf muttered grimly. "You think I'm going to get one?"

"If you haven't yet, probably not. Wonder if it's going to be Snake or Bear who meets us there?"

"Or both?" Wolf asked. "Let's go," he added.

The trip to Shirley's Pub was about ten minutes by car. Normally, the trio walked it, but Wolf had a feeling they'd need their car for later. He was greeted by both Snake and Bear.

"Did you get the same message we did?" Eagle asked eagerly, now bouncing like a little child. Wolf had a nagging suspicion that he'd stolen one of the 5-hour energy drinks from the fridge.

"Probably," Bear said, pulling them out from his hidden pocket trench coat. Snake nodded at Wolf. "He's the old guy, right? The one that used to work in your unit?"

"Yeah," Wolf said. They'd talked about Fox before, although not much, in front of Bear, so he knew Bear knew who Fox was.

"We're supposed to go next door," Snake said. They were huddled under the roof to beat the rain.

"I'll do it!" Eagle said. "I want to buy the beer!"

"No, no, no," Wolf said with a shake of his head. "I'll do it. Really, Eagle, you shouldn't even be allowed to buy beer. You are certainly not mentally 21 yet."

"But Wollllllf…."

## break ##

Wolf turned towards the store and approached the counter. "Uh, hi. I'm Wolf. And I guess I'm here to speak to Pop, and to buy a beer."

"Oh, yeah! Your friend said you would stop by. Real nice, young fellow. He swore up and down the beer wasn't for himself, but he said that he knew you'd like this kind. He also left your friend who is having a birthday a card. Really nice guy. And I'm Pop, by the way. Nice to meet you."

°Uh, same. So, can you tell me what the kid looked like?" Wolf asked. He was starting to have a nagging suspicion about something.

"Yeah. Real young guy, maybe fourteen, fifteen. Didn't seem phased when I told him he couldn't buy beer… I think he called himself Cub? It was odd. Anyway, he said he'd pay for it, and that it was for an adult friend, and that he didn't want for it. Darndest thing ever, I'll tell you. Oh, and here's the card."

"Thanks," Wolf responded. He grabbed the beer and the card and made his way outside.

"Wow!" Eagle said as he glanced at the card. "We don't get one beer. We get a whole case!"

"Exception, my friend. We get more than one beer – you only get one," Wolf said. He handed the beer to Bear, who more than willingly held the oddly wrapped package. "Guy mentioned Cub, Snake – said Cub paid for the beer. You don't think…"

"Oh, I really hope he didn't get involved in something again," Snake groaned.

Wolf just shrugged as he opened the card.

Imagine how pretty Fox would look

Covered With Blood

On His Birthday?

Too bad this isn't the 30th or the 16th

To get the next clue, go to the ice cream store on 5th street. You'll find another card there when you pick up your destination.

Don't forget the cake, or the woman won't answer you with your card.

Snake his head. "I don't know, but whoever involved this is a psychopath. Let's go."

The four men made their way to the area, now complete with their case of beer. Snake stopped into the ice cream parlor, picked up the box of ice cream and cake (oddly paid for), and got yet another card. The card ordered them to go to a pizza place.

"Why are we getting all supplies for Fox's birthday?" Wolf growled as they pulled into the parlor. "Eagle, your turn. I think we can trust you to go in here. Maybe."

Eagle grinned, mock-saluted Wolf, and then picked up the card and the pizza.

All paid for in cash, by a blond kid who called himself Cub.

This was looking really suspicious.

Eagle thanked the woman and waited until they were outside and placed the five boxes of pizza on the seat next to Bear.

Bear gingerly opened the card.

Now Return To The Home Of Wolf,

Where You Will Find

Your Friend Who You Have Not Seen

Hurry Before His Killer

Bombs You All

"Wait… he broke into our flat?" Wolf said, turning sharply to Eagle. "When?"

"Don't know," Eagle said. "Let's go."

It took about twenty minutes to get back to Wolf's house where he'd been the first place. Wolf unlocked the door with his key, since Eagle hadn't stopped long enough to get his. The four SAS men warily entered the house, guns drawn.

There was another card on the table. Wolf opened it.

The Basement Is Clue

Don't Let Fox Spend His Birthday In The Basement

He'll Be So Blue

(And Probably Cold, Too)

Wolf made his way down to the basement, the other SAS members following quickly. Time was of essence, here. They had to find out what the hell Cub and Fox had gotten themselves mixed in.

Eagle flickered on the light to the basement and gasped when he saw Fox. Fox was bound and tied, another sticky-note pinned on him. Eagle rushed over and took the note off gently, causing Fox to squirm.





With that, Eagle gently set Fox free.

## break ##

"I can't believe that kid," Wolf said with a shake of his head. "I thought for sure – even up until that last note – that we were dealing with a professional."

Fox chuckled, happy to be with his friends again. It felt so good. He liked Bear, who was his replacement. "You were dealing with a professional, Wolf. You were dealing with Cub, remember?"

"So does he really work for MI6?"

"Yup. Kid's only sixteen, too. But I bet you he'll be the head of MI6 one day. Wicked…"

"Oh, come on. Tell us stories!" Eagle said. He grinned at Fox. "You can't say it's classified, either. If you just generalize it enough, we won't be able to know confidential information, so you have to tell us!"

And so there was Fox's 25th birthday – spent almost exactly how he'd imagined it.

Happy birthday, SamayouTamashi! Celebrate it like it's your sixteenth, and don't let it kick your but! Hey, after all, you don't have to spend it with Eagle! - Writer With Sprite