Hello everyone. I have been interested in reading the Alex Rider books fanfiction for quite a while but there wasn't really a lot of stories about it, so I decided to give it a try. Let me mention that I have the American version of the books, which differs in wording. The character of Tom Turner (Troy's partner) in the American version is Glen Carver in case you're wondering.

And lastly, for copyrights: I DO NOT OWN ALEX RIDER. RIGHTS BELONG TO ANTHONY HOROWITZ. Before you challenge me about this fic, take a look at this disclaimer. I make no money for it, otherwise I'd have change Jack's fate at the last book, lol.


Alex's mood turned sour as he glared at Alan Blunt and Mrs. Jones. To his dismay and reluctance, he had found himself back at the Royal & General Bank – the sixteenth floor, here in this particular office, seated across the heads of the MI6. It was convenient, really. Just when he had thought he could take a good vacation and relax completely – especially after that nasty business in Wimbledon, he ended up here. After Mrs. Jones explained who had attacked him when he had surfed the Cribber, and why, they had sprung the final stages of their trap in securing Alex to agree to undertake a mission for them.

Blunt debriefed him, telling him that he was to go to the United States, Miami to be exact to meet up with the agents of the CIA. Alex gritted his teeth. Working for MI6 was one thing, but taking an assignment from another foreign intelligence service ... it was like being loaned out like a library book.

He listened as Blunt went on. "Originally you are supposed to be boarding a plane to Miami at this very afternoon. However, circumstances changed, which forces us to alter our plans and schedules slightly. Two days ago, as he was experimenting, Smithers received a package." He stopped abruptly and glanced as his deputy, who took it as her cue to take over.

"The package dated from 2012, a little over a decade from now, from himself. And in it, contained Alex Rider books."

Alex raised an eyebrow, looking at Mrs. Jones as if silently debating whether he heard her correctly. "Excuse me?" he replied, not catching on.

"We all know Smithers' fondness when it comes to tweaking around with his devices," inserted Blunt impatiently. "Somehow, by some coincidence, or some miracle, technology enabled us to receive information about certain things that have not happened yet – all in the form of books."

"About me?" said Alex aghast, as the sheer absurdity of the statement caught up with him.

"About you," confirmed Blunt.

"It's like you're saying he, Smithers invented a time machine!" laughed Alex. "At least his future self."

"Close, but not quite," interjected the deputy. "The technology concerning this situation is complex, tricky, and clever. None of us claim to completely understand it, but Mr. Smithers is working towards finding an explanation to explain how such a thing happened. Of course, this could be a hoax or a trap, which is why the package went through a tight and confidential screening and verification process to validate its authenticity. Like Mr. Blunt said, there are nine books all in all."

Alex's eyebrow raised even higher. Nine books about him? It was like being Harry Potter. It was ridiculous, and yet, "And what do you want me to do?"

"Along with the books, it contained a note with specific instructions," continued Mrs. Jones. "We are to gather the exact group of people listed in the note, and we are to read the first three before you proceed to fly over to Miami and work with the CIA. When you succeed, we are to finish the rest, from the fourth to ninth book."

When you succeed. Clearly Mrs. Jones expected him to successfully complete his mission with the CIA. Even though it sounded simple when he was debriefed moments ago, you just never knew when it came to danger. "You are sure of the truth in this books?" asked Alex yet again. Incredulity could be heard in his voice.

"The first two books already happened within the last few months," responded Mr. Blunt. "The first narrated the events concerning Herod Sayle and the Stormbreakers. The second is about the French Alps, with Hugo Grief. In short, they are about your missions. It's perfect timing. The third book is about your next mission. We have the advantage of knowing what needs to be known here."

Alex swallowed again as he felt dismayed. There were nine books about him, his missions to be specific. That meant he had accepted MI6's orders and manipulations to go on missions at least six more times in the future, possibly even more past that. "Who are the people attending the reading?"

"There are nineteen people who will be there during the reading," then Mrs. Jones went on to recite the names of the people she memorised just immediately before burning the list: "Of course, there is you, Alex, myself, Mr. Blunt, Miss Starbright," Alex looked up at this, "Smithers, three agents from the CIA, K-Unit, the Pleasures, and lastly, your Headmaster, the school secretary, your Maths teacher and your tutor."

Nervous as he was that lots would be reading about him (and hearing about K-Unit didn't help either), Alex gasped, "Come again? My school teachers? Are you insane? Why them?"

"The instructions were very detailed and clear," interjected Blunt. Although his face revealed no emotion, he was displeased at having to reveal classified information, most of all to civilians like the schoolteachers. "And unfortunately, due to a series of tricks Smithers – his future self – performed, the information cannot be accessed unless all of them were followed."

"According to the letter, it is necessary for your Headmaster and his secretary to know, as well as a couple of your teachers to give you some support within your school," stated Mrs. Jones. The deputy's voice, while it still held authority, had somewhat softened just ever so slightly.

"Very considerate," growled Alex.

Blunt stood up. "It might set your mind at ease to know that all are bound by the Official Secrets Act. The rest of them are assembled at the moment, debriefed by Smithers. We must not keep them waiting, and time is very limited before your next mission." He strode out of the room.

"After you," murmured Mrs. Jones, and Alex took that as his cue to go right behind Blunt.

The rest of the group were assembled in a conference room in fourteenth floor, two floors below Blunt's office. A narrow, mahogany desk was placed in the centre of the room and there were ten plush, and comfortable chairs on either side. Below the table and chairs, a large and deep red rug covered the floor. On the left side of the room, windows from the ceiling to the floor gave the occupants a view of the neighbouring buildings and Liverpool street – if one actually looked down.

Heart hammering, Alex nervously followed Blunt inside the conference room and scanned it. At the right side of the table, nearest to the door was K-Unit. Fox was at the edge, and seated beside him, in his right side was Eagle followed by Snake, and the leader, Wolf. Edward Pleasure sat at Wolf's right, and next to him was his wife, Liz and then Sabina. There was an empty seat in between Sabina and Jack, while Smithers occupied the chair furthest from the door.

Two seats were empty across Smithers and Jack. Alex's schoolteachers were right next to the empty seats. Across, or in front of the Pleasures sat Mr. Donovan, Mr. Gray, Mr. Brey and Ms. Bedfordshire, who looked relieved at seeing Alex. Right next to the secretary were three people unknown to Alex, and he assumed these were representatives from the CIA.

Blunt and Mrs. Jones headed over to seat themselves beside the schoolteachers, so Alex made to go towards the only available seat left – in between Sabina and Jack. Fox and Snake immediately stood grinning. Fox shook his Alex's hand and grasped him into a tight manly hug as Snake clasped his shoulder.

"Long time no see, Cub!" grinned Eagle. "You look much better than the last time I saw you!"

"Yeah," chuckled Alex. "It's been quite a while."

"Cub," the leader acknowledged him as he passed by.

"Hello Wolf," replied Alex. He glanced over his teachers as he took his seat, within his rights feeling every bit awkward. After all, who could spend time with their teachers in the summer and not feel a sense of awkwardness? "Good afternoon, Mr. Brey, Ms. Bedfordshire." He smiled weakly towards the other too as well.

"Mr. Rider," the Headmaster briefly. There was a bit of confusion and hesitance in his eyes. "It's good to see you up and about. I trust your summer is going well."

Alex nodded and politely interjected. "And yours?"

"So this is him?" whispered Belinda Troy to Glen Carver and Joe Byrne. "The boy we will be assigned to work with?"

"Seems like it," murmured Carver from beside her. "He seems fine, different from what I expected. I guess, we're given a good opportunity to get to know about him."

"I don't like it," whispered Troy instantly. "He's too young, it's not-"

"Silence," hissed Byrne. Despite the fact his lips barely moved, with no expression in his face and the fact his voice was very low, the command and stern demeanour were clear to the Americans and they dropped their hushed conversation, noticing Wolf and Fox glancing at them.

"Perhaps we should start with the introductions?" suggested Smithers jovially as everyone waited. "My name is Derek Smithers, everyone, and it's a pleasure to meet you all." Smithers, who was extremely wide, was sitting on a chair that was much bigger than the others, to accommodate his size.

"My name is Alan Blunt," said the head of the MI6. "And this is my deputy, Mrs. Jones." The woman merely nodded.

"I am the Headmaster of Brooklands School, where Alex attends as a ninth grader," interjected Mr. Brey. "These are my colleagues: Ms. Bedfordshire, Mr. Gray and Mr. Donovan."

"Joe Byrne."

"Pleasure to meet you, I am Belinda Troy and this is my partner-"

"Glen Carver," said the man with a happy grin and a wink.

It was now K-Unit's turn, and Fox took the lead. "We are soldiers from the SAS. We will not reveal our names, but our codenames follow: I am Fox. This is my team: Eagle, Snake, and Wolf."

The Pleasures, Jack and Alex introduced themselves immediately after. "So," stated Mr. Brey directly at Alex. "We are here to find out about Mr. Rider's absences." Although the Headmaster's gaze was not stern, it was penetrating. However, Alex calmly met the man's eye.

"Indeed," replied Mr. Blunt as fingered the first book, black and really thin. In a seemingly disinterested voice, he said, "And who would like to volunteer for the first chapter?"

Alex swallowed yet again, avoiding everyone's eye and curious expressions: most of all, from the Pleasures. Sensing his nervousness, Jack put held his hand lightly under the table and sent him a reassuring grin. Alex returned it.

There was a moment of silence before, "I will go first," volunteered the secretary interestedly, as she glanced curiously at Alex. The book was passed to her and so, it began.

Alex Rider: Stormbreaker

"Stormbreaker," mused Mr. Gray, his head still pounding at the fact there were nine books about his student. "Those were the line of computers that were supposed to be released a few months ago, isn't it?"

"That is correct," responded Mrs. Jones. "And that is what the book will be about."

Mr. Gray reclined in his seat, his curiosity rising higher. He had been completely shocked when agents had shown up in his front door to bring him here. He had been angry, and wary at being brought to this unknown place but once Alex Rider's name was mentioned... that was enough to get his attention. It was also interesting that the millionaire: Herod Sayle's merchandise had been mentioned.

Chapter One: Funeral Voices

Alex slowly glanced at the book, and frowned. Ever since Blunt mentioned they would be reading about his missions, he had a pretty good idea of where it would begin, of which moment had changed everything. He was not looking forward to hearing about it.

When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news.

"I wouldn't be pleased to wake at three in the morning," drawled Carver easily, with a grin.

"No, it's never good news," murmured Jack as she now realized what the first chapter was about.

Alex Rider was woken by the first chime.

His eyes flickered open, but for a moment he stayed completely still in his bed, lying on his back with his head resting on the pillow. He heard a bedroom door open and a creak of wood as somebody went downstairs.

"It's really weird, hearing the narration about Alex," commented Sabina.

"Tell me about it," laughed Alex.

The bell rang a second time, and he looked at the alarm clock glowing beside him. There was a rattle as someone slid the security chain off the front door.

He rolled out of bed and walked over to the open window, his bare feet pressing down the carpet pile. The moonlight spilled onto his chest and shoulders. Alex was fourteen,

"You don't look it though," inserted Snake, as he turned to look at the boy.

And it was true. Mr. Brey had to acknowledge the truth in the solder's words. With the lean and athletic body he possessed, Alex looked older, around seventeen or eighteen. He would still look more like a teenager if it weren't for his solemn eyes. Looking at his student now, he had to admit there was some change – something discreet in the boy's eyes that set him apart from his peers.

already well built, with the body of an athlete. His hair, cut short apart from two thick strands hanging over his forehead, was fair. His eyes were brown and serious.

Mrs. Jones tightened her lips as she remembered. Alex looked stunningly like John Rider that if one hadn't known any better, they would have mistaken the son for the father.

For a moment he stood silently, half hidden in the shadow, looking out.

"From?" muttered Eagle.

"From the window, you idiot," whispered Snake, causing Fox to smirk and Wolf to sigh.

There was a police car parked outside. From his second floor window, Alex could see the black ID number on the roof and the caps of the two men who were standing in the front of the door. The porch light went on and, at the same time, the door opened.

"Mrs. Rider?"

Despite the solemnity of situation, Jack had to laugh. "Me? Ian's wife? No, no way," she grinned.

Although his heart felt a pang at his hearing his Uncle's name, Alex chuckled as well. He had to admit, however, despite the secrets they held, that was the image portrayed whenever the three of them went out, when Ian was alive. Whenever they spend time together, and had fun in their outings, it certainly looked like all three of them were related – biologically family.

"No. I'm the housekeeper. What is it? What's happened?"

"This is the home of Mr. Ian Rider?"

Blunt met Mrs. Jones' eyes at the mention of the former superspy, who, while inferior compared to his brother, was one of the best they had in a long time.

"Ian Rider, he's your father?" asked Edward. He had never actually met Alex's parents, and he was curious.

"My uncle," replied Alex softly, the sinking feeling in his heart growing slowly. He didn't want to revisit this again. He felt Jack's hand on his right one again and leaned just ever so slightly, closer to her. Sabina seemed to have sensed something in him, for she poked him and sent a small playful grin.

"Yes."

"I wonder if we could come in..."

And Alex already knew.

Wolf was looking at the book with a raised eyebrow. So Cub, his name was Alex... Alex Rider. If Ian Rider was his uncle, where were his parents? Why was he living with his uncle, and the housekeeper?

'Why is he here?' he demanded from his teammates when he Cub left the cabin. 'Who the hell does he think he is? Some bloody kid with a rich daddy? That enables him to be fuckin' part of SAS?'

'Just leave it, Wolf,' sighed Fox tiredly. 'We won't ever know the reason why. We just got a little less than a week left with him anyways.'

'Doesn't mean I have to like it,' growled Wolf as he sat on his mattress.

Wolf suppressed a wince as he recalled that memory. Some bloody kid with a rich daddy, that's what he had said. Why did he suddenly have a bad feeling about that line?

He knew from the way the police stood there, awkward and unhappy. But he also knew from the tone of their voices. Funeral voices . . . that was how he would describe them later.

"That's very fitting," said Carver, though his voice had no emotion to it.

The sort of voices people use when they come to tell you that someone close to you has died.

Liz Pleasure, who hadn't caught on yet, gasped. Edward looked at Alex with sadness while Sabina gripped Alex's left arm, eyes wide, as she had never known this bit of information in the short time she knew him.

"Look, Alex, I am so sorry," Liz began in a hush voice, although everyone heard.

"No, it's alright," he hurriedly assured her. "It's been quite a while since – since this incident. I'm fine now."

Mr. Donovan had silently wondered if Alex really was fine. He had never met Ian Rider, because during parent-teacher meetings, it was always the housekeeper who attended them. Not once in any way or form did he cross paths with Ian. It was always Jack, even though the former was the legal guardian. And now, he was curious about it. If his student had been fine, he would have never missed lengthy weeks of school.

He went to his door and opened it. He could hear the two policemen talking down in the hall, but only some of the words reached him.

". . . a car accident . . . called the ambulance . . . intensive care . . . nothing anyone could do . . . so sorry."

There was a bit of silence after Ms. Bedfordshire read that statement before, "He was a fine man." Heads turned to Joe Byrne and Alex looked surprised. "I'm very sorry to hear this again, Alex. Do you mind if I call you Alex?"

"Yes, sir. You met him, Mr. Byrne?"

"Definitely. It was in Washington DC several years ago. He was one of the best at what he did."

Mr. Brey frowned, wondering what Alex's relationships were with these people. He had been wondering, especially when K-Unit had introduced themselves. After all, what business did the SAS have with him? It was obvious to him Alex did not deal with drugs. He had never for one moment believed any of the rumours that reached his ears in the school, but if the presence of the SAS implied something, it meant the matter was far more serious.

It was only hours later, sitting in the kitchen, watching as the gray light of morning bled through the West London streets, that Alex could try to make sense of what had happened. His uncle – Ian Rider – was dead.

Alex shifted in his seat unhappily. His father. His mother. His uncle. All dead and gone.

Driving home, his car had been hit by a truck at Old Street roundabout and he had been killed almost instantly. He hadn't been wearing a seatbelt, the police said. Otherwise, he might have had a chance.

Ms. Bedfordshire resisted the urge to make a disapproving sound, knowing that was the last thing Alex needed. Like the rest of her colleagues, she had never met Ian Rider. Still, it was highly irresponsible of the uncle not to have buckled up safely. If only the matter of something small like a seatbelt had been changed, maybe none of this would have happened.

Little did she know she would be proven wrong very soon.

Alex thought of the man who had been his only relation for as long as he could remember. He had never known his own parents. They had both died in another accident, this one a plane crash, a few weeks after he had been born.

"Just a few weeks?" the secretary whispered softly, feeling very sorry for Alex.

Alex felt Liz's sad eyes on him and when he looked up, indeed everybody was sending him pitying expressions. "I'm fine," he insisted, even though he was his mood turned downwards just a little bit more. Both Jack, Sabina and Liz had teary eyes as they began to water.

Nobody said anything, knowing their words would not be appreciated however, Edward merely murmured, "Still, I'm sorry Alex."

Blunt's mind briefly wandered as he remember John Rider, and Helen too.

He had been brought up by his father's brother (never "uncle" – Ian Rider hated that word)

"Why?" Sabina interrupted.

"He said it made him feel old," chuckled Alex.

"Well he was," Jack inserted playfully. "Although, he never looked it."

and had spent fourteen years in the same terraced house in Chelsea, London,

"Boo!" yelled Snake. "There's only one team in London! And that's Arsenal!"

"You're an Arsenal fan?" Alex said, with a mock disgusted face, grateful for the distraction. "In your dreams. You were barely hanging in fourth place last season. Tottenham nearly got that spot. We won the Premier League," he smirked.

Snake hesitated before continuing uncertainly, "That was last season, a one off kind of season."

"Sure," Alex's smirk grew broader, clearly not believing it.

"We'll slaughter you next season when September starts. And you're forgetting, we boast more trophies than any team in London."

"Goodness knows why you bicker about London teams," beamed Smithers. "When it is clear Manchester has the eye of the world. Manchester United is the better team."

"Would I be correct in assuming you're talking about soccer?" asked Carver, asserting himself into the conversation.

"That would be football, my friend," responded Snake. "Easy for you to say, you don't have a lot of rivals in Manchester like in London."

"As fascinating it would seem to continue with your discussion, I would like to move on," said Blunt pointedly, speaking for the first time.

"Very well," grinned Snake.

"And for the record Mr. Rider," Mr. Brey spoke up. "There's only one team in London. Arsenal is by far superior."

Chuckling at his indignant expression, Ms. Bedfordshire denied him the opportunity to reply as she read on, while Snake smirked in agreement.

between King's Road and the River. The two of them had always been close. Alex remembered the vacations they'd taken together, the movies they'd seen. They hadn't been just relations, they'd been friends. It was almost impossible to imagine that he would never again see the man, hear his laughter, or twist his arm to get help with his science homework.

Jack glanced at Alex. Despite Ian's constant absences and her insistence that he prioritize Alex over his job, they had been very close. Even though Ian had been very cold to her, holding her at arm's length during her first few months, she had somewhat became part of their family. Ian and Alex made her feel home. Slowly, the homesickness washed away.

She still missed Ian deeply, and this book was just bringing back memories. Next to her, Alex was also deep in thought.

Alex sighed, fighting against the sense of grief that was suddenly overwhelming but what had saddened him the most was the realization – too late now – that despite everything, he had hardly known his uncle at all.

"What do you mean?" asked Fox, confused.

"How can you be close to someone and not know them?" questioned Sabina, puzzled.

Troy looked up at that before leaning closer to Mr. Byrne and whispered, "He was an MI6 agent, was he?" A small nod confirmed her question. She knew that feeling, the feeling of being close to someone, but at the same time unable to let them know more about you. She was unmarried with no children at home, but she had nieces and nephews whom she was close to. Would it be the same thing for her with Ian and Alex Rider? If she were to die in her line of work, her family could come to realize they didn't know a lot about her in the past few years.

"Unfortunately, this business requires utmost secrecy..." said Smithers vaguely.

"What business?" Mr. Gray inquired sharply, feeling slightly uneasy.

"You'll see, sir," said Alex solemnly.

Mr. Gray nodded, intently observing him for a moment.

He was a banker.

Alex snorted, while Jack sent a glare to Blunt and Mrs. Jones, causing those didn't know some confusion.

People said Alex looked a little like him. Ian Rider was always travelling. He was a quiet, private man who liked good wine, classical music, and books. Who didn't seem to have any girlfriends . . . in fact, he didn't have any friends at all. He kept himself fit, had never smoked, and had dressed expensively. But that wasn't enough. It wasn't a picture of life. It was only a thumbnail sketch.

"Surely you know something a bit more than that?" questioned Ms. Bedfordshire.

Alex's eyes met hers and with a tinge of anger, not aimed at her, he said, "I don't think I will ever know more than that."

Taken aback by the tone of his voice, she read, her pity growing slightly.

"Are you all right, Alex?" A young woman had come into the room. She was in her late twenties with a sprawl of red hair and a round, boyish face. Jack Starbright was American.

"Aren't I fabulous?" remarked Jack.

She had come to London as a student seven years ago, rented a room in the house – in return for light housework and baby-sitting duties –and had stayed on to become housekeeper and on of Alex's closent companions. Sometimes he wondered what Jack was short for. Jackie? Jacqueline? Neither of them suited her and although he had once asked, she never said.

"And you still haven't mentioned it," said Alex.

Jack merely smirked.

"Come on, please?" he begged and all he got was laughter.

"Jacqueline totally does not suit you," commented Sabina.

"You will never know," vowed Jack.

Alex nodded. "What do you think will happen?" he asked.

"What do you mean?"

"To the house. To me. To you."

"I don't know," she shrugged. "I guess Ian would have made a will. He'll have left instructions."

"It certainly seems everything worked out well," said Edward.

Alex and Jack avoided his eyes.

"Maybe we should look in his office."

"Yeah, but not today Alex. Let's take it one step at a time."

Ian's office was a room running the full length of the house, high on top.

"Fancy," grinned Eagle.

It was the only room that was always locked – Alex had only been in there three of four times, and never on his own. When he was younger, he had fantasized that there might be something strange up there . . . a time machine or a UFO.

The table burst into chuckles. "Really, Cub?" said Fox. "A time machine? A UFO? Really?"

Alex blushed as Sabina shook beside him. "I was much younger," he defended. "I don't know, it's just.. Ian kept his office well guarded."

"Rendering something off limits always makes people curious," remarked Liz with a small smile.

But it was merely full of papers and books. Bank stuff – that's what Ian said.

"In a manner of speaking," said Mrs. Jones with a hint of smugness.

Jack narrowed her eyes at the deputy. It was thanks to this blasted business that Ian had never been the perfect person to raise Alex, due to his absences. Granted being a spy had been Ian's choice and MI6 were merely taking precautions, but if it weren't for this, Alex would have never been involved, and ripped from the chance of being a normal schoolboy.

Even so, Alex wanted to go up there now.

"The police said he wasn't wearing his seatbelt," Alex turned to Jack.

She nodded, "Yeah. That's what they said."

"Doesn't that seem strange to you? You know how careful he was. He always wore a seatbelt. He wouldn't even drive me around the corner without making me put had mine on."

Jack thought for a moment, then shrugged. "Yeah, it is strange," she said. "But that must have been the way it was. Why would the police have lied?"

"Perhaps your uncle just forgot?" said Carver.

"Ian was that careful," insisted Alex. "He would have never disregarded the seatbelt."

"So either the police lied or they missed something when they assessed the situation?" questioned Mr. Donovan.

Those involved spy business either grinned wryly or looked away from the Maths teacher.

The day dragged on. Alex hadn't gone to school even though, secretly, he wanted to. He would have preferred to escape back into normal life, the clang of the bell, the crowds of familiar faces, instead of sitting here, trapped inside the house. But he had to be there for the visitors who came throughout the morning and the rest of the afternoon.

There were five of them: a lawyer who nothing about any will

"There wasn't a will?" asked Mr. Brey, surprised. Then again Ian Rider probably never expected he would die soon.

Alex's mind however, was racing. It seemed impossible someone like Ian, wealthy from the money he earned and who knew the danger and death involved in the world of espionage, would not have left a will. "I never thought about it before, but now that I do, it is very strange." He looked meaningfully at Mrs. Jones, who was avoiding his eye. Next to him, Jack had taught the same thing.

Alex made up his mind to confront the MI6 heads about this later. He wouldn't put past MI6 – past Blunt - ... if they had done something...

but seemed to have been charged with organizing the funeral; a funeral director who had been recommended by the lawyer; a vicar – tall and elderly – who seemed disappointed that Alex refused to cry; a neighbour from across the road – how did she even know that anyone had died? –

"Can't escape nosy neighbours," said Smithers.

and finally, a man from the bank.

"Crawley," recognized Blunt.

"All of us at the Royal and General are deeply shocked," he said.

Mrs. Jones gave a small nod to herself. It had been very shocking to them. Even though Ian had been second to John, he was still one of their best and most valuable agents. His success rate had been one of the highest in MI6's history and to suddenly hear about his death from what was supposedly a simple mission of guard duty, alarmed and unsettled her at that time. Although she would have never said it out loud, she regretted his death.

He looked about thirty, wearing a polyester suit with a Marks & Spencer tie. He had the sort of face you forget even while you're looking at it, and he had introduced himself as Crawley, from personnel. "But if there's anything we can do . . ."

"What will happen?" Alex asked for the second time that day.

"You don't have to worry," Crawley said. "The bank will take care of everything. That's my job. You leave everything to me."

"Royal and General certainly took care of it," said Jack coolly.

The day passed. Alex killed a couple of hours knocking a few balls around on his uncle's snooker table – and then felt vaguely guilty when Jack caught him at it.

Wolf suppressed a snort at that.

But what else was he supposed to do? Later on she took him to a Burger King. He was glad to get out of the house, but two of them barely spoke. Alex assumed Jack would have to go back to America. She certainly couldn't stay in London forever. So who would look after him? At fourteen, he was still too young to look after himself. His whole future looked so uncertain that he preferred not to talk about it. He preferred not to talk at all.

"You did the right thing," said Ms. Bedfordshire, looking straight at Jack. It somewhat gave her a heart a pang when she thought about the full situation. A young boy, with no parents, grieving the death of his only relation, and there was no one else related to him leaving him in a complicated rut. "You stuck around rather than abandoning Alex, even though he was not related to you."

"He is family," said Jack lightly, stating the truth without being too emotional. There was no way her conscience would have let her rest in peace if she left Alex alone in England, a hundred percent in MI6 clutches. Of course, MI6's presence made things very hard now, but she was there for him the best she could – even if it meant having to delay returning to Washington to reunite with her parents. Up to now, Alex never knew about her plan to resign just weeks before Ian died.

Edward and Liz saw the grateful smile Alex gave to the young woman he considered a sister, and they too felt grateful to the American.

And then the day of the funeral arrived and Alex found himself dressed in a dark jacket and cords, preparing to leave in a black car that had come from nowhere surrounded by people he had never met.

"Strange," muttered Mr. Gray. He had a feeling whatever it is Ian had been involved with, Alex had been dragged down into.

Ian Rider was buried in Brompton Cemetery on the Fulham Road, just in the shadow of the Chelsea football field, and Alex knew where he would have preferred to be on that warm Wednesday afternoon.

Snake didn't have the heart to bring up the topic of football out of respect for situation, though he perked up at the reference of Stamford Bridge.

About thirty people had turned up, but he hardly recognized any of them. A grave had been dug close to the lane that ran the length of the cemetery, and as the service began, a black Rolls-Royce drew up, the back door opened, and a man got out. Alex watched him as he walked forward and stopped. He shivered. There was something about the new arrival that made his skin crawl.

"Why? What's wrong?" asked Sabina worriedly.

"Nothing," replied Alex. "I just felt nervous for some reason." It had been his natural instincts, flaring and warning him at the sight of Blunt, telling him that the man was no good.

And yet the man was ordinary to look at. Gray suit, gray hair, gray lips, and gray eyes.

Everybody, save Mrs. Jones, turned to Blunt, all thinking the accuracy of that description. "Just how could anyone be that gray?" muttered Glen, who winced when Troy elbowed his ribs hard and glared at him.

His face was expressionless, the eyes behind the square, gunmetal spectacles, completely empty. Perhaps that was what disturbed Alex. Whoever this man was, he seemed to have less life than anyone in the cemetery, above or below ground.

A small flicker of amusement appeared in Blunt's eyes as he was aware of some looking at him with disturbed expressions. He knew full well – and everyone else would have to admit – that he represented the image of anonymity very well. Although he was not attractive to most, being alarmingly gray, that suited him just fine.

Someone tapped Alex on the shoulder and he turned around to see Mr. Crawley leaning over him. "That's Mr. Blunt," the personnel manager whispered. "He's the chairman of the bank."

Alex's eyes travelled past Blunt and over to the Rolls-Royce. Two more men had come with him, and one of them driving. They were wearing identical suits and, although it wasn't a particularly bright day, sunglasses. Both of them were watching the funeral with the same grim faces. Alex looked from them to Blunt and then to the other people who had come to the cemetery. Had they really known Ian Rider? And why did he find it so difficult to believe that they really worked for a bank?

"What's wrong with that?" asked Mr. Brey.

"Perhaps the two men were merely bodyguards?" suggested Edward in agreement.

"Certainly," muttered Byrne. It was very true.

". . . a good man, a patriotic man. He will be missed."

The vicar had finished his graveside address. His choice of words struck Alex as odd. Patriotic? That meant he loved his country. But as far as Alex knew, Ian Rider had barely spent any time in it.

Mr. Brey's eyebrows were raised. That sentence implied Ian Rider had travelled a lot, and therefore left Alex alone occasionally with Jack. If travelling was connected with patriotic, there were only certain jobs matching the description in the name of service to the country. Was his student's uncle a soldier? But why didn't Alex know? Perhaps, that would explain the appearance of the SAS?

Wolf was also listening closely. The image of Cub, Alex being the spoiled son of a wealthy higher up in the government was now shattered. Ever since Cub joined his team, he was curious to know of the boy's background.

Certainly he had never been one for waving the Union Jack. He looked around, hoping to find Jack, but saw instead that Blunt was making his way towards him, stepping carefully around the grave.

"You must be Alex." The chairman was only a little taller than him. Up close his skin was strangely unreal. It could have been made of plastic. "My name is Alan Blunt," he said. "Your uncle often spoke about you."

And Alex wished his uncle didn't.

"That's funny," Alex said. "He never mentioned you."

Several snorts sounded in the room. "Mr. Rider," said Mr. Brey sternly.

Alex looked abashed. "I was curious," he chuckled. "I never saw Mr. Blunt before."

The gray lips twitched briefly. "We'll miss him. He was a good man."

"What was he good at?" Alex asked. "He never talked about his work."

Suddenly Crawley was there. "Your uncle was an overseas finance manager, Alex," he said. "He was responsible for our foreign branches. You must have known that."

"I know he travelled a lot," Alex said. "And I know he was very careful, about things like seatbelts."

"Well, sadly, he wasn't carefully enough." Blunt's eyes, magnified by the thick lenses of his spectacles,

Smithers laughed, though he quelled it when Blunt's eyes reverted to him. He actually felt that way whenever he spoke to the head of MI6.

lasered into his own, and for a moment, Alex felt himself pinned down like an insect under a microscope.

"That's some analysis," said Mr. Donovan lightly.

"I hope we'll meet again," Blunt went on. He tapped the side of his face with a single, gray finger. "Yes . . ." Then he turned and went back to his car.

"Fortunately for you, you guys did, Blunt," said Jack coldly. She had to wonder whether Blunt was already planning to use Alex for his purposes at that very moment.

That was when it happened. As Blunt was getting into the Rolls-Royce, the driver leaned down to open the back door and his jacket fell open, revealing a stark white shirt underneath. There was a black shape lying against it and that was what caught Alex's eye.

"You saw it?" asked Eagle with wide eyes, knowing that the object was. "From a far distance? Cub, you have good instincts."

"You have a sharp eye for detail," mused Carver, looking at Troy as if to say, 'About our new partner? Not bad.'

"It happens one time," hissed Troy. "Big deal."

The man was wearing a leather holster with an automatic pistol strapped inside.

The civilians looked uncomfortable as they glanced at Blunt.

Realizing what had happened, the driver quickly straightened up and pulled the jacket across. Blunt had seen it too. He turned back and looked again at Alex.

"Funny," said Ms. Bedfordshire. "It's almost as if you knew he had been looking at it."

Something very close to emotion slithered over his face. Then he got onto the car, the door closed, and he was gone.

Blunt remembered that moment well. He had instructed the guard to do that particular movement, knowing the pistol would be revealed, knowing Alex would have been watching them. It had been a small test in his part for John's son. And that moment he had known from his assessment, from the way Alex looked at him with certain distrust, that he was perfect for the job, that he had what it took.

A gun at a funeral, Alex thought. Why? Why should bank managers carry guns?

"Let's get out of here." Suddenly Jack was at his side. "Cemeteries give me creeps.

"Yes. And quite a few creeps have turned up," Alex muttered.

Carver and Fox laughed at that.

They slipped away quietly and went home. The car that had taken them to the funeral was still waiting, but they preferred the open air. The walk took them fifteen minutes and as they turned the corner onto their street, Alex noticed a moving van parked in front of the house, the words STRYKER & SON was painted on its side.

"What's that doing . . . ?" he began.

"Sticking their noses where it doesn't belong," said Jack angrily.

"Are you sure about that, Ms. Starbright?" responded Mrs. Jones. It was for everybody's safety that the secrets of Ian Rider's office vanished before it fell into the wrong hands.

At the same moment the van shot off, the wheels skidding over the surface of the road.

Alex said nothing as Jack unlocked the door and let them in, but while she went to the kitchen to make some tea, he quickly looked around the house. A letter that had been on the hall table now lay on the carpet. A door that had been half open now was closed. Tiny details, but Alex's eyes missed nothing. Somebody had been in the house, he was almost sure of it.

Eagle whistled obviously impressed. Alex saw impressed glances from Carver, Snake, Fox and Byrne while Troy was looking at him sharply. Trained professionals like them obviously would have spotted the differences too, but for an untrained fourteen year old boy who was not expecting trouble to notice – that was brilliant.

"You have a keen eye for detail, my boy," boomed Smithers. He knew Alex was good, but to actually hear it gave him a good impression. "Nothing gets past you, oho, nothing!"

"You actually remembered them?" said Sabina.

Alex shrugged modestly as he saw even his school teachers looked impressed. Blunt had to hand it to boy, even though he had a role in the small, changed details. He had instructed the workers in charge of emptying the details to leave very small, and unnoticeable differences. If Alex had the instincts and good observational skills, then things would take care of themselves.

But he wasn't certain until he got to the top floor. The door to Ian's office which had been always, always been locked, was no unlocked. Alex opened it and went in. The room was empty.

"What?" said Mr. Donovan.

"Stryker & Son," said Snake, gesturing the words with quotation marks. "They stole it all."

"Why would they do that?" demanded Liz.

"You'll see," said Alex. "I think it will be explained in the next chapter."

"It better be," she muttered, slightly agitated.

Ian Rider was gone and so was everything else: the desk drawers, the closets, the shelves . . . anything connected to the dead man's work had been taken. Whatever the truth about his uncle's past, someone had wiped it out.


So, how'd I do? Please leave a review, thank you very much.