This is the result of a long conversation 'tween me and Von. She said it wasn't possible to do a serious all-of-alex's-class-get-sent-to-train!story. I said it was, and, what was more, it was possible to do a good, fun one.
This is the setting up chapter. The next chapter is already written, and let me tell you now, I am on FIRE. This story is awesome! It's so much fun!
I hope you like, and forgive it for being somewhat...rushed.
DISCLAIMER: Sadly, I still don't own Alex Rider. Though, I did try very hard.
The first time it happened, Alex got very, very lucky.
He had had the feeling that someone was watching him, but had shrugged it off; after all, he was back at school, where people always stared at him, and they were on a school trip. He assumed it was just one of the teachers with them thought he was about to whip out some heroine and start offering it to his classmates.
As it turned out, it was a little less mundane.
They were in the National Portrait Gallery, being dragged through an exhibition on Holbein, when an armed man grabbed their teacher, while others blocked off the door to the room they were in. Some of the bystanders screamed; a couple of kids in their class joined in. Alex froze; obviously his past was catching up with him.
Before anything very serious happened, however, the many guards around the Tate had managed to neutralise the greater part of the threat, and the man holding their teacher had been shot; that was the only shot fired. It was a miracle, Alex reflected, that none of the paintings were damaged, but thankfully no real damage was incurred anywhere, or to anyone – except the man who had been shot, of course. The entire building was cleared – their trip was ruined – but Alex wasn't implicated. They were perfunctorily questioned, and sent on their way.
"That was because of you, wasn't it?" Tom muttered to him, on the crowded Tube, on their way back to Brooklands.
Alex managed a shrug, feeling the weakness of relief, and the after-effects of an adrenaline rush beginning to take hold. For several nasty moments there, he had thought he was either about to be murdered in front of his year mates, or, at the very least, have his 'real life' revealed. Surprisingly, neither option had seemed particularly appealing. There had been a time when he'd wished to be able to tell his school about his real life, but that had passed; now, all he wanted was to be normal – or as normal as possible. "Perhaps." He murmured back. "But, it might have just been a badly executed heist of some sort."
"Which is why they targeted our group, of course." Tom pointed out, voice heavy with sarcasm. "C'mon, Alex, it's got to have been to do with you." He smiled a little, shaking his head. "God, when that guy grabbed Mrs. Bennett, I thought I was going to pass out. Scary."
"Mm." Alex nodded, distractedly. "God, it's going to be on the news, and everything, isn't it?"
"Probably." Tom nodded. "Hey, we'll be on the news! …Well, sort of."
Someone else heard him, and they started a discussion about whether they'd have to do television interviews. Alex sank back into the background with a sigh of relief – it didn't seem like anyone was linking this to him at all.
He barely had time to put his bag down when he got home, when a black-suited man appeared from the kitchen. "Mr. Rider." The man said, voice reserved and intensely professional. "I've been asked to take you to the Bank with me, if that's alright?"
Alex looked at him. "ID?" he asked, sharply.
The driver – or the agent, or the errand boy, or whoever – nodded, with a faint hint of approval, handing over a card. "There you are."
Alex looked at it, carefully, and handed it back with a sigh. "Shall we?" he asked, stepping aside to let the man pass.
The Royal and General was busy when he arrived, and Alex allowed himself a few moments to wonder, whimsically, whether all the people in the bank were agents, or whether MI6 paid people to come in and pretend to be customers – or, indeed, whether it was 'just' a real bank. But then he was on the seventh floor, and knocking on Blunt's door, and he didn't have time to wonder anymore.
"Alex." Blunt said, voice dry. "Sit down." He didn't wait for Alex to do so before starting. "We've reason to believe that the attack today at the Tate Britain was related to you."
"Really?" Alex shrugged. "Never would have guessed."
"This is nothing to joke about, Alex." Mrs. Jones cut in, her voice a little sharp.
"Honestly, if someone's trying to kill me, trust me, I'm not laughing." Alex sighed. He shrugged. "OK. So, what else did you want to tell me?"
"We don't think it was solely aimed at you." Mrs. Jones said, her voice gentler now. "There are, as you found out with Scorpia, people who are willing to use children to make their point, and we are relatively certain that this is designed as a show case for something much bigger than simply a grudge against you." She paused. "It is possible, though, that your presence in the class is the reason that they are being targeted, rather than another, random group."
Alex almost flinched, but managed to stop himself.
"We're assigning you a guard." Blunt told him, shortly. "He'll be in one of the flats next door to you, and he'll be working in your school, as a new teacher; that way he brings a modicum of protection to your class, as well."
Alex paused for a couple of seconds, thinking it over. There was nothing he wanted less than to have his life interfered with so drastically – but then, on the other hand, he really didn't want to die, and if MI6 thought it would help… Alex didn't like them, but he had to admit that they probably knew what they were doing – in this case, at the very least.
"OK." He said, slowly. "What's his name?"
"George Hanley." Mrs. Jones replied, her voice softer this time. "He'll be here in just a few seconds – he'll follow you back to your house." She paused, then went on, "He's not supposed to be obvious." She told him, possibly to reassure him. "He's just… protection, of sorts. We can't afford to lose you, Alex; Hanley will be the first line of defence. If the worst comes to the worst, he will at least be able to call for back up."
"Couldn't you just give me some way of signalling for help?" Alex said, quietly.
"No." Blunt said, brusquely.
"Alex, if it happens at your home, the chances are back-up wouldn't arrive in time." Mrs. Jones elaborated, more gently. "If it happens at school – well, we can't risk there being any collateral damage, we have to take all the precautions we can."
Alex shrugged. "OK."
There was a knock on the door, and, on invitation, a tall, slender, dark man walked in. He gave Alex a small, rather tense smile, holding out a hand, which Alex shook, and saying,
"You must be Alex Rider." Alex nodded. "George Hanley."
"Yes." Alex nodded. "You're my bodyguard, apparently."
The smile widened and became more than a little ironical. "Yes. Apparently."
"You understand your assignment?" Blunt broke in, impatiently. Hanley straightened, apparently automatically, and said, stiffly,
"Good." Blunt looked down at some paperwork on his desk. "You can go."
In the lift, on the way down, Alex said, shifting slightly, "Well, I guess I'll see you in school."
Hanley gave him a lopsided smile. "Guess you will." He paused, shrugging. "I've done things most people wouldn't believe, but teaching school kids scares me far more."
Alex nodded. "I can understand that." He murmured, and then the lift doors opened. They didn't speak again.
Jack had laid the table for dinner by the time Alex got back for the second time, and she straightened as he walked in, from where she was bent over the oven, peering at something inside.
Washing her hands, she said, casually, "So, I heard about the shooting at the art museum, today." Alex nodded. "Anything to do with you?"
"In a roundabout sort of way." He nodded, stealing a tomato from the salad he'd just put out.
"I didn't cause it." Alex said, quietly. "That sort of 'roundabout'."
"But," she frowned, "It was partially to do with you?"
"Well, someone was trying to kill me, according to MI6." Alex said, grimly. She stared at him, and he shrugged. "S'not the first time." He sighed.
"Alex…" she said, biting her lip. "Are… is…" She swallowed. "Are you OK? I mean, is… how dangerous do they think it is?" she paused. "I guess…I was hoping that it didn't have anything to do with you." She gave a small, regretful laugh. "Stupid of me, I know."
"Until MI6 talked to me, I was hoping it was nothing to do with me as well, and I was there, so I should have known." Alex said, awkwardly, trying to be reassuring. "I guess it's Scorpia." He frowned, "Though, I guess it might be the Triads. Or, y'know, it could be the militant wing of Green Peace, deciding that I'm too dangerous to the environment, or something. Could be anyone."
"You're one of a kind, Al." she told him, shaking her head in faint disbelief. She checked whatever was in the oven again, as Alex fetched the salt and pepper. "So – what did MI6 say?"
"They've assigned me a bodyguard." Alex said, unable to stop the tiny smile. "He's living next door for the moment."
Jack stared. "I'm sorry, I could have sworn you just said that MI6 have given you a bodyguard."
He nodded, the smile growing. "They have." It morphed into a smirk. "Apparently, I've made myself indispensable. They 'can't afford to lose me', was what they said, I think."
"I'm not sure whether to be relieved, or disturbed." Jack muttered.
Alex couldn't help but agree with her.
The next day at school was weird, for most of Alex's year. For a start, the police were taking statements from their teachers, and they were all getting over the excitement of being shot at; and, for Alex, there was the added knowledge that his new History teacher had a licence to kill. He didn't want to think why the job had 'suddenly' come up.
His first lesson with 'Mr. Hanley' was uneventful. Hanley asked them all to give him their names, passing Alex without a flicker, not that Alex expected one. He was, Alex was surprised, and a little relieved, to find, a very good teacher; strict, but not harsh. At the end of the lesson, he called over the noise of classroom,
"Rider? Stay behind, please."
Alex hung back, while his classmates trailed out, all of them wondering how he'd managed to get into trouble with a new teacher already, Alex could tell.
Hanley picked up a few sheets of paper. "This is your history coursework?" he handed it to Alex. Alex frowned at it, handing it back with a nod. "It's your first draft, am I right?"
"Yes." Alex said, looking at him. "It's been, um… difficult, for me to get things like History and English coursework in on time, sir." He shrugged. "I get ill very easily, you see."
Hanley nodded, his eyes amused, but his face straight. "Right. Well, your class has already finished the coursework; if you like, I'll go over this with you? I had a look at your school records, to check those illnesses you mentioned, and it seems like you live quite near me. I could come round, maybe tomorrow afternoon?"
Alex nodded, inexplicably grateful. He was certain that this didn't come under the usual necessities of being a bodyguard, and it had been a while since any teacher, engineered into his school by MI6 or not, had put him or herself out for Alex.
Unless, of course, it was all a ruse to give him an excuse to stay with Alex for a while. But Alex didn't think it was.
"Thank you." He said, softly.
Hanley had already turned back to his papers, and looked up, surprised at the depth of gratitude in the boy's voice. But Alex Rider was already disappearing out the door.
Hanley appeared that afternoon, after school, with a couple of books and a folder. He smiled at Jack when she opened the door, saying, rather loudly, "I'm Alex's history teacher. I'm here to help him with his coursework…?"
It wasn't the last time the man came round to help Alex out with his work; under the pretext of tutoring Alex in History, helping him catch up on all the things he'd missed, he spent most afternoons there. After a few days, he relaxed a little around Alex, even accepting an invitation to dinner, occasionally; and it was a novel experience for Alex to have a teacher around whom he didn't need to worry about what he accidentally let slip.
The second attempt on Alex's life happened just before one of these study sessions. It was one of the rare sunny days that Britain got in early March, and Alex was coming back from a football practice, revelling in the fact that he could do normal things like this – MI6 had decided that it was too dangerous for him to go on any missions while he had someone gunning for him. So he'd been made to run laps for absent-mindedly back talking to his Nazi of a football coach; it was worth it, for the sheer, boring normality.
Mr. Hanley had met him half way back home, at the juncture where he split from Tom, falling into step with him after Tom had disappeared, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
"How was football?" he asked, casually.
"Good." Alex grinned. "Mr. Parker made me run laps, but – yeah. Good."
"You must find organised sports pretty boring, now…" he murmured, hardly moving his lips.
"Not really." Alex considered it. "I've found I kind of like the lack of bullets and life-threatening danger when I'm playing football."
Hanley laughed a little at that. "I guess you would, at that."
They walked in silence for a few seconds, in the quiet residential street, which was how they heard the metallic 'click' behind them.
They whirled round in unison, and saw the men advancing on them. Alex rolled his eyes.
"All in black." He muttered. "Amateurs."
"It doesn't matter if they're amateurs if they've got guns." Hanley muttered back, tensely. "Run!"
They turned and ran. The bullets were kicking up the concrete around and behind them before they reached the corner. Swerving left, they found themselves on a busy road, just across from the Thames.
"Cheyne Avenue." Alex murmured, unsure whether or not to be relieved.
"If you run back home now, you'll just bring them with you." Hanley said, quietly. "I'll stop them, OK?"
"Alex, I'm licensed to carry a gun, and I'll be doing my job, I'm not going to get into trouble!" Hanley snapped. "Now, go! Keep your eyes out for any followers, and keep to busy areas. I'll get Jack to call you when it's all over, OK?"
Alex took off, trying to see whether there was anyone following him.
He wandered around until it hit rush-hour, when he made it to a busy looking cafe, and sat outside, absently sipping on the Coke he ordered. When his phone finally rang, it made him jump.
"It's over." Hanley's voice was tired. "Where are you?" Alex told him. "Don't move, OK? I'll come and get you." The man had hung up before Alex could reply.
He was surprised to find that he disliked not being able to do this for himself; he'd become used to managing without someone, and though he liked Hanley well enough, he disliked – as he'd known he would – having his life constantly interrupted by him, and being baby-sat to such an extent.
But, logically, he knew it was sensible, and not the man's fault, so he said nothing about it when the man finally appeared.
His face was even darker than normal, tense with tiredness, but he dredged up a smile for Alex. Alex managed to smile back, before frowning, and saying, worriedly,
"Are you OK?"
Hanley nodded. "Yeah. It was… a little harder than I'd expected. They had back up, and having a gunfight in the middle of Chelsea is…difficult." He stumbled slightly as they headed towards the Tube, and Alex automatically put out a hand to help him.
"The guy on the right." Hanley whispered, as Alex steadied him. "Brown jacket, jeans… he's been watching you."
"And?" Alex whispered back.
Hanley shrugged, straightening, and saying, in a voice which was meant to be heard, "Well, Alex, if you won't work, I don't think there's anything I can do. Not at this point. I've done too much already, I think."
Alex caught the underlying message, but shrugged, managing a slight whine, as he snapped, indignantly. "I was only asking." He turned away, stopping, and leaning on the wall separating the pavement from the river, faking a sulk. He watched, out of the corner of his eye, as the man Hanley had pointed out stopped, pretending not to watch him.
"Alex." Hanley said, warningly, but Alex shrugged.
"Doesn't matter." He said, huffily, but he knew the other man understood what he was saying. Don't worry. It'll be fine.
Hanley nodded, with an angry shrug, and moved off. Alex noted that the man in the brown jacket was approaching him, and he tensed, covering the movement by shifting slightly against the embankment.
The man came even closer, until he was practically next to Alex.
It was a lightning move, one which Alex nearly missed; the man reached out to grab his neck, and Alex ducked, reacting purely instinctively. It was all over very quickly; Alex, remembering the little of Judo he'd been taught, allowed the man's own weight and momentum against him. As the man overbalanced, heading for the heavy stone wall, Alex half stood, allowing his shoulder to contact with the man's midriff, then, wrenching backwards, allowed himself to semi-fall as well. The man went stumbling over the wall, and Alex watched, detachedly, as he fell into the Thames.
There was a short scream, which cut off as soon as the man hit the water.
Alex flinched then, and turned away to find Hanley.
Jack was frantic by the time they got back, fussing over them equally; she'd become rather fond of Hanley over the past week or so, not least because of what he'd done for Alex. She insisted Alex go upstairs and change out of his dirty uniform, telling him to 'warm up and relax a bit', because he was 'horribly pale'. Then she turned her attention on the spy-turned-bodyguard, and insisted that he stay for dinner, telling him that 'he'd just sit down with a TV dinner if he was left to his own devices'.
Alex and Hanley exchanged sheepish glances, and acquiesced.
Over dinner, they discussed the recent attack, while Jack pursed her lips disapprovingly, and listened.
"That one was aimed just at you." Hanley said, thoughtfully. "But I doubt that means they've decided to narrow their sights to just you. Not when they probably have a far wider agenda, which killing of your class would help along."
Alex nodded. "Yeah." He gave a tired smile. "I don't know whether to be grateful that they didn't attack everyone else, or upset that they attacked me."
Hanley shrugged. "I suppose a bit of both would be natural, but most kids wouldn't feel the first one." He gave Alex a quick smile. "I guess you're just unique."
Alex shrugged, rather uncomfortably. "Maybe." He brushed it off, quickly. "If they attack the whole class again, what will you do?" he asked, in an attempt to change the subject.
"I don't know." Hanley said, quietly. "I'll just… do as best I can, I guess." He sighed. "Really, there's nothing else I can do, in all honesty. I'll just – try."
Alex nodded. "Sounds good to me."
The third attack was almost standard, for Alex, at any rate, except for one vital difference. They had been attacked as they waited for their PE teacher, out on their playing field, when two groups of black-clothed men appeared, heading for them with obvious intent. As the first bullet hit the ground, throwing up soil in a soft explosion, Alex had yelled, and scattered like the other kids had, and worked on tripping up, or disarming the men and making it look like a series of constant lucky accidents. However, the men had obviously been given a description of him, and they were shooting at him with frightening accuracy before he could deal with more than three of them.
Finally, cornered, and staring at a man who had a gun pointed at his head, he shut his eyes for a second, hearing an odd thump, followed by a gunshot. He opened his eyes, and looked down.
Well, nothing on him.
The man who'd tried to kill him was unconscious at his feet, and, around him, he could see the police taking out the other would-be assassins – apparently Hanley had heard the gunshots, and called for back up.
Next to the unconscious assassin, was Hanley himself, bleeding profusely from a wound low on the left side of his chest, which seemed ominously close to his heart to Alex, who knew only a little about Biology.
Alex stared sickly at him for a second, then dropped to his knees, yelling hoarsely for help and a doctor.
Hanley opened his eyes and looked at him, blearily. "'Lex." He nodded. "You – OK?"
"Yeah." Alex nodded, fiercely. "I'm sorry."
"Don' be." The man murmured. "Not y'r fault…"
"Right." Alex nodded, not about to start an argument with a wounded and possibly dying man. He opened his mouth to say something – he wasn't sure what, reassurances, maybe, though they'd both knew that they'd be trite – when a shadow fell across him, and a voice whispered,
"Oh my god."
Suddenly there was screaming, and talk of ambulances, and emergency procedures, and Alex faded into the background. The ambulance arrived far faster than Alex had expected – quickly enough that his teacher and bodyguard was still alive, and whispering things at people who asked questions of him.
He managed to push through the huge crowd to talk to one of the medics, as they were about to leave, though. "You might want to take him to St. Dominics." He muttered, as the man shut the door.
The man stared at him. "That's just for the rich and military personnel…"
Alex returned his stare, calmly. "Yes. Exactly." He interrupted, simply, and turned away.
Jack was understandably devastated when Alex told her. Alex himself couldn't seem to feel anything. He had this horrible sense of numbness – and nothing about the incident itself was very clear. He could hardly remember what happened, or how. He remembered the attack, vividly, but after he found himself backed up against the wall, his memories were blank.
He'd never felt like this before, and it worried him, so he simply tried not to think about it too much. It was the safest way, though he determined to go and see Hanley as soon as the man could have visitors.
When he got into school the next day, it was to find armed guards in the school, patrolling the corridors, with men on duty roster at the gates. The entire school was given a talk on why they were there, though the teachers might as well not have bothered, as they gave the pupils no new information, and they could all have guessed more than they were actually told in the assembly.
By the fourth attack, however, even the other kids were beginning to be a little blasé about the whole thing. Having people out there who were intent on killing them was undoubtedly scary, but they were all realising that it never happened except when they were at school, in a group, so at least none of them were worrying about being attacked on their way home, or when they were on their own. Some people had been taken out of the school by their parents, but, for the most part, parents were satisfied that enough was being done, and, given that getting their children into another school would be difficult at such a late stage in the term, were content to leave them there for the moment.
The fourth attack had soon been 'neutralised' by the guards, almost before their attackers had a chance to fire off any bullets. However, it seemed to have tipped the scales, in some way, and Alex's class was informed that they would be having an assembly during third lesson, 'about recent events'. Buzzing with excitement, they made their way down to the gym, where Alex was confronted with John Crawley.
He stiffened, but managed not to show anything outright, taking his seat silently, and staring at the man. Briefly, Crawley met his eyes, but only for a second, before he looked away again, eyes sweeping the room.
"Good morning." He said, voice as dry and dusty as usual. "As I am sure you have noticed, you've been experiencing a persecution of sorts from an outside threat." A ripple of laughter ran through the class – how could they not have noticed, after all? But Crawley ignored it, and continued, regardless. "I work for MI5," A flicker of excitement; Alex allowed his lips to twitch at the lie, but kept resolutely silent, and still. It did make sense, he supposed. After all, they'd all go back home and tell their parents, who would know that MI5 was internal, against MI6, which dealt with international terrorism; and, although it would only be a slight comfort, parents would be very slightly reassured by the 'fact' that their children weren't being targeted by an international terrorist organisation. "And, after long consideration, we have decided that, to help you deal with this, you would benefit from some personal training." The flicker of excitement grew, breaking out into small pockets of excited whispering, which Crawley quelled with a tiny frown. "Your parents will, of course, have to be informed, and may decline to have you put through this, though it will be a valuable life skill." Alex raised an eyebrow, but mentally shrugged. He supposed it was a valuable life skill, if you weren't then forced to use it, immediately, to save said life. "Those of you who have your parents' consent will leave on Friday. The course will be two weeks long." He looked at them, carefully. "If you have any further questions, talk to your teacher." He told them, quietly, and waited for them to walk out, which they did, in silence.
Once the doors of the gym closed, the excited mutterings began. Alex, however, felt dull inside. Of course, he was going – since Alan Blunt and Tulip Jones were essentially his 'parents' in a practical sense (though the very thought made him shudder), there was no way they 'wouldn't allow him' to go – but he had a nasty feeling that blending in was going to be very, very difficult.
And, there you have it. I hope you liked it! Please tell me, yeah?
Lol, ami. xxx