DISCLAIMER: Still not mine. The bastards.
Alex spent the hour before his mess duty catching up on some of the work he'd brought with him, which he'd missed over the last couple of terms. The other boys all filed in about half an hour later, but, for the most part, ignored him, and he continued to learn about 3D trigonometry and how to make yoghurt until a quarter to seven, when he headed out – amid some snide comments which he, in turn, ignored – to do his mess duty.
Alex was surprised, when he got there, to find that some members of the training facility hadn't left yet; from what he remembered of his time there, they had had a small window of time to eat in, before they were sent off to go and do some other activity. Only the instructors had had the time to stay after the meal.
He shrugged, and went back to his task, looking at the mess hall in front of him with a faint curl of despair in his stomach.
The SAS were, for the most part, relatively tidy. His year mates, on the other hand, were not – and there was food and mud apparently everywhere. Quite how they'd managed to get so dirty so quickly – they hadn't even done any activities today – he had no idea, but they'd left the evidence of it everywhere.
Sighing, he couldn't help but think that it was at least somewhat fair that someone who was part of the group who'd caused all the mess should clear it up, even if that person had to be him
He got a cloth and a broom from the grinning Head Chef – joke of a title there, as no one could exactly be proud of being in charge of serving up this slop – and started dealing with the mess.
The men he'd noticed earlier were still there, and they watched him as he began cleaning. They didn't pause in their talk, which was little more than a low hum from one corner of the room by the door, but Alex could feel their eyes on him. It was… disconcerting.
"Hey kid!" one of the men spoke up, grinning, after about half an hour. "Bit tougher than what you're used to, I bet, huh?"
Alex looked at the broom he had in one hand, and thought, briefly, of his rigorous, if short, training with Scorpia. Looking back up at the man, he shrugged, and when back to his work.
"I asked you a question." The man no longer sounded amused; not angry, just – well. Alex thought about it for a second; more slightly taken aback than angry; and possibly somewhat annoyed?
Alex stopped sweeping the floor for a second time, and shrugged again. "Not really." He looked more closely at the man, who looked strangely familiar. "Hang on." He said, suddenly, shock – or, at least, surprise – taking away his better good judgement, cutting the man off as he began to speak. "Wasp?"
He knew the moment he'd said it that he'd made a mistake – he should never have admitted to knowing this man. But it did, at least, explain why they were there, if they were already enlisted, rather than being more trainees. One of the other men grinned, slightly.
Wasp stopped, shutting his mouth and looking surprised, then suspicious. "How do you know that?"
The other man's grin grew.
Alex paused; surely he wasn't allowed to tell the man unless he already knew? In lieu of an actual answer, he shrugged, for what felt like the hundredth time, and said, rather weakly, "I heard someone talking to you."
He was saved from Wasp's response by Wolf's timely appearance.
"Cub." He growled, having first checked that there were no members of his class around. "Come on, I've got to issue you night equipment."
"Hang on," Wasp said, staring at Alex. "'Cub'? Little Cub? As in, Cub, the kid who got tacked on to your group?"
Alex grinned a little at that, rather amused; he'd never really thought about the way other groups saw him. It was strangely novel to get that sort of perspective on it.
Wolf looked at him, raising an eyebrow that effortlessly made the other man – fully qualified member of the SAS or not – squirm. "Yes, that Cub." He said, blandly. "He's here under cover, so anyone who calls him by his codename is going to end up with more punishment duty than sleep, alright?" he gave one of the other men – Alex thought he might have been called Falcon – a quick, pointed look. "So, if you think you're going to slip and call him 'Cub', you should just ignore him altogether. Otherwise, his name is Rider." He looked at the man who'd been grinning earlier, and said, quietly, "You've been briefed?" The man, Viper, nodded. Wolf nodded back, then looked back at Alex. "Cub. Come."
Alex followed him, obediently, when one of the men – Viper again – grabbed his arm.
"You're doing night manoeuvres with us tonight." He muttered. "Come to Barrack 12 at 2100 hours, and I'll brief you on it." He gave the kid a testing look. "Oh, and, next time you end up here, could you make sure that your cover doesn't involve twenty nine irritating children?"
He let Alex go, and, as he left, Alex heard the other men asking him questions about how he knew and 'what the kid was doing here'. Alex ignored them, and followed Wolf in silence.
"Here." The man threw a box of cam cream at him. "If I ever find this on you, or hear any of the other brats talking about you having it, I'll punish you for stealing it."
Alex nodded, pocketing it and taking the torch Wolf gave him.
The man gave him a piercing look. "You're going to get a gun tonight, when you get briefed. No magazine, or anything that could put you in a position to go on a – 'mad killing spree' was the way the Sergeant put it, I think." He gave him a slightly wry smirk, but it disappeared almost instantly. "It's just to get you used to running and moving with a gun, and not getting mud in the barrel, or dirt in any of the vital mechanisms."
Again, Alex nodded. "Thank you." He said, and if his voice was slightly sarcastic, neither of them mentioned it.
Alex didn't bother going back to the barracks his year group had been assigned; he had an hour before he had to go to Barrack 12, but if he didn't go back to his year group, he could say that mess duty had taken hours – make up something about sadistic Drill Sergeants, or something – rather than having to make up excuse to get out, and not come back till late. He had no idea how long this night manoeuvre was going to take, but hopefully everyone would be asleep by the time he got back, and he would escape questions on why he looked so muddy and dishevelled after 'mess duty'.
He spent his hour finishing off the mess duty he'd been assigned to, and made it to Barrack 12 at five to nine.
Viper looked up as he knocked, and straightened with a nod. "Cub." He said, shortly. "Come here."
Alex obeyed, looking down at the map that was spread out in front of him, frowning slightly in concentration. Viper looked at him.
"Name the problems that you see." He said, neutrally.
Alex frowned down at the map, and pointed to the place where their route apparently crossed the river. "There's no bridge here, unless they've built one…" he said, slowly. "So, unless it's both narrow and shallow there, which I doubt, we've got to ford it somehow… and here," he moved his finger to the wooded area they headed to, "is going to be hell to navigate in the dark." He bit his lip, frowning down at their marked route. "This bit there…" he said, very slowly. "That hill is way too steep to risk climbing in the dark – seems to be more of a cliff than a hill – but it's too large to take the time to go round it… this is a timed exercise, right?"
Viper was looking at him with something akin to approval. "Yes." He nodded, folding the map up again. "We've got two hours to complete it; as for that hill, we're just going to have to scale it. Every minute over is ten press ups, wasn't it?" he looked at Wasp, who nodded, absently, checking his kit. "We move out at 2130." He looked at his watch. "Wolf issued you with everything?"
"Adder, give Cub his gun." Alex accepted the gun from the dark, wiry man, with a silent nod of thanks. "Cub, you can strip that down and clean it while we wait."
He got the impression that this was yet another test, rather than something he was being told to do to keep him occupied – an idea that was backed up by the fact that Viper didn't take his eyes off him, as Alex began to strip the thing down.
He fumbled a few times as he did it, his mind second-guessing itself, even though his hands generally corrected any mistakes without much conscious thought. Laying the items out as he'd been ordered, he could see immediately that this gun was old, and hadn't been used in a while. It was filthy, and far from a new model; he thanked God that he'd been paying attention at Scorpia when they went through how to scour an old weapon into something serviceable.
Scorpia had one advantage over MI6, and that was that they never blindly expected to have the advantage. If old weapons were all they could find, their operatives were damn well going to be able to use them.
It would take him maybe twenty minutes to get this weapon serviceable but…Alex checked his watch. He had plenty of time.
He accepted the cleaning materials with a sharp glance and another nod of thanks, then settled down to cleaning the weapon.
By the time Viper told them they were to move out, he'd got the weapon at least half-way decent, and he was ready to go. In the dark, as they made their way out of the barrack, no one gave him a second glance.
The night manoeuvre was exhausting, even for the other men, and Alex thought that he could be excused wanting to drop by the time they got back to camp, at twenty past eleven that night. Technically, the route hadn't been that long – four kilometres. An average person can walk a kilometre in nineteen minutes, so, had it not involved various tricky areas, such as the river, and the overly steep hill, they'd have managed it in a bit under an hour and a half. The difficult bits had added a few minutes to their time, but, as Alex was reminded, the SAS were hardly put off by it; they took each challenge stoically, dealt with it, and forgot about it.
Wolf was waiting for them – or, it became obvious – for him, as the others headed for the man who'd set them the task.
"Cub." He said, sharply. "Over here." Alex trudged over to him. "How did you find it?" he asked, shortly.
Alex thought about it for a second. "Difficult. Interesting." He paused. "More difficult than interesting, though." He shrugged.
The man's teeth gleamed for a second as he grinned, wolfishly. "You'll get better at it." He promised.
"I'm doing this again?"
"Yes." Wolf told him, shortly. "Now, gun. Hand it over."
Alex gave in the gun with a sigh of relief. He would have sworn that the thing had got heavier throughout the mini-hike, shoulder strap or no shoulder strap.
There was a brief pause as Wolf checked the mechanism and nodded. "Good. Go and get some sleep."
Alex nodded, and set off for his barracks at a slow jog.
He'd had maybe three hours sleep when someone banged the door open, flicking the lights on.
Alex glared at the speaker – Eagle – having woken up and rolled out of bed instantly on hearing the door open. Eagle gave him a wicked grin, and turned away, looking at the rest of his group.
"C'mon, children, up, up, up! We're all going for a nice long run now. Everyone loves a good midnight run, don't they, Rider?"
Alex, who was half-way through tying his boots up while the rest of his class moaned, still half asleep, gave Eagle another withering glare. "Yes, sir." He told him, sarcastically. Eagle's grin grew slightly.
"Back talk, Rider?" he asked, cheerfully. "I think that's another hours punishment duty there…"
Alex sighed, and shrugged. He was too tired to bother with any actual back talk.
Alex was out of the barracks before any of his classmates were even out of bed, too damn tired, and too pissed off at having to do a damn run at two in the morning to bother about fitting in and looking normal. He just wanted to get this run over with, and then go back to bed.
Fox was stood outside, apparently waiting to direct them on the course. He grinned on seeing Alex, and said, "Morning, Rider." He checked that none of the other boys were nearby, "You've got a special course. Run up over Brannon's Hill, skirt the wood, and follow the track back here."
Alex sighed, remembering that route from his time spent at the camp earlier, when the this route had been a favourite of the Drill Sergeant for whenever he felt that they 'weren't doing enough', nodded, and took off.
He managed the two and a half kilometre run in about fifteen minutes, and arrived back at the barracks at a twenty to three in the morning. Fox was still sat there, reading something, and he looked up when he heard Alex approaching.
"Nice one, Cub." He said, cheerfully. "Longer route, and you're still back before the rest of your class. Do you just not have any long distance runners at your school, or something?"
Alex shrugged, breathing hard, and beginning some of the warming down exercises he'd been taught. He had absolutely no desire to spend the rest of his fortnight here with stiff muscles. "What have you told the others about why I did a different route?"
Fox stood and stretched, languorously. "Well, to begin with," he said, with a grin, "I don't think any of them would actually notice, the unobservant little brats," Alex let the comment pass for the moment, though he acknowledged it with a frown, "But we've told them that Wolf went with you on a shorter course, because you're 'sickly'." He shrugged. "Are you? Sickly, I mean?"
"No." Alex replied, shortly, "But, that's the excuse MI6 always gives for me." He walked past Fox, into the barracks, with a terse, rather final, "Good night."
Alex heard the others come in – and, equally, heard some of the resentful remarks they made about him – but pretended to be asleep. It wasn't worth the effort of trying to be nice to them at the moment.
He woke the next morning at ten to six, and slipped out of bed, dressing quickly and quietly, and heading out without waking anyone. Once he was outside, he ran down to the shooting range.
The other men – B-Unit, he was told – had only arrived a few moments before him, but they were quite obviously indisposed to like him, no matter how punctual he was. Alex had a sudden, rather darkly amused moment of déjà vu – their attitude was almost identical to K-Unit's when he'd first arrived at the Brecon Beacons – but swallowed it, and listened carefully to the instructions given by the Range Sergeant.
The man looked at him, with dislike. "I take it you're Cub?" he said, quietly. Alex nodded, warily. "Right then, Cub." The man handed him a gun, and said, rather unpleasantly, "Strip it down and reassemble it." He grinned, suddenly. "Just for a bit of added pressure, you men," finally, he looked away from Alex, "Can do press ups till he's done."
There was a lot of grumbling, and Alex received a number of glares. He sighed. Obviously, promoting camaraderie wasn't something this man was interested in.
Alex was grateful that he'd had the chance to practice stripping a gun down the night before, because he managed it in just over a minute. When he handed it back to the Range Sergeant, the man was looking at him, thoughtfully. "Not bad, Cub." He said, slowly. "Not bad at all." There was a pause, then he barked at the other men, "Right, get up, stop wasting time…!"
Alex spent the next half an hour shooting standing up, kneeling, and from the prone position – and, though the memories of it still made him shudder, he couldn't help but be grateful for the time he'd spent with Scorpia. They had honed his coordination to the point where a range like this, however advanced, was relatively easy.
After half an hour though, the Range Sergeant yelled for him to come over. Glancing over, Alex saw that Eagle had arrived at some point, and was watching him with the same thoughtful expression that the sergeant had adopted earlier, after he'd stripped the gun down and reassembled it.
He got up from the prone position, put the rifle down – after engaging the safety –and headed over to the man. "Yes?" he said, politely, glancing at Eagle.
"Your file with us says that you were pulled out of shooting practice last time you were here." The man said, rather gruffly. "You haven't missed a target once yet, and, believe me, I know that that's more than just luck. Where d'you learn to shoot?"
Alex would have shrugged, if he hadn't thought he'd get punishment duty. He couldn't tell them about Scorpia… for a second, he fished about for an excuse, and said, finally, rather slowly, "I got taught."
"I got that much, Cub." The man snapped. "By who?"
"Scorpia." He muttered.
"What was that?" The sergeant demanded.
"Scorpia." He said, more loudly, knowing that his reluctance was obvious on his face.
The sergeant frowned, as did Eagle. "Scorpia?" he repeated, rather incredulously. "The terrorist organisation?" his frown deepened into a glare as he looked at the boy, who met his gaze calmly. "What do you have to do with them?"
"If you're accusing me of being a terrorist, I'd stop and think about it." Alex told him, exasperatedly. "Would I just announce that if I was still working for them?" he sighed. "No, it was more a sort…" he shrugged, rather helplessly. "I dunno, a kind of, um… work experience."
The sergeant stared at him. "You did your work experience with Scorpia?"
"Sort of." Alex hedged, rather reluctantly. "I, er… yeah. I did a mission with them."
"And they taught you to shoot?"
The sergeant paused. "What did they teach you to shoot with?"
"Most things." Alex said, slowly, "But they concentrated more on small arms."
The sergeant nodded, and turned back to the range assistant, who nodded, without having to be told anything.
Alex hefted the smaller firearm he was given in one hand, checked it over carefully, then nodded, sharply. "Right." He held out his hand for a magazine, and the man gave him two. He slipped one into the voluminous pocket of his combats, and slotted the other one into place, making sure the safety was on. He looked up at the Sergeant, his eyes sharp, expression focussed. "What do you want me to do?"
The sergeant's eyes were equally focussed. "One magazine from the shoulder, and the other prone."
With some reluctance, Alex nodded, and walked back to his position. Carefully, he checked the gun over once again – then he cocked the gun, took aim and shot, as fast as he could, as Scorpia had taught him. He didn't miss once, but then, he hadn't expected to; Scorpia had been far too thorough in their approach to this to allow for any of their students to miss.
He kept shooting until the magazine clicked empty, then the took it out, and replaced it with the full one. He repeated the same manoeuvre, shooting prone this time, with much the same results. When he finally stepped away from the target, though, the sergeant's eyes on his face were thoughtful once more.
Belatedly, he realised that B-Unit had stopped shooting, and had been watching him, but when he turned away, they all went back to their own targets. A couple of them gave him rather tentative grins, though.
When they left, one member of B-Unit fell into step with him – Eagle was behind him talking to a couple of the other men, but Alex caught the sharp glance "his" team mate gave the man – or possibly Alex himself, it was difficult to tell.
"Cub." He said, "I'm Hawk." Alex just nodded, and they walked on in relative silence. "So…" the man said, finally, "You, er…you worked with Scorpia?"
Alex nodded, again, rather warily this time. "Yeah. What about it?"
"That must have been – tough." Hawk said, rather leadingly, Alex thought.
He shrugged. "I guess." He agreed, and left it at that.
"C'mon, Cub, give a little." Hawk said, with a grin, though the camaraderie was tentative at best. "Y'know we're all desperate to know what the hell it is you do, and at least this way, you haven't got any rumours floating around…?"
Alex sighed. "Look, it's nothing interesting." He said, quietly. "I – was assigned a mission with them, because of…" he swallowed, "They'd sent a – threat. To the government. MI6 knew that Scorpia would jump at the chance to have someone as young as me working for them, so they gave me the assignment." It was a cover story Mrs. Jones had given him. Maybe that was why it didn't feel right to use it. It felt like he was covering up for himself at her expense; after all, he had tried to kill her.
"How do they train, though?" Hawk asked, intently. "I mean, shit, we've fought against them a couple of times, and the people they employ, and drill – they're good. How did you train?"
Alex shrugged again, uncomfortably. "They weren't training me as a soldier." He said, awkwardly. "I was an – assassin." Even now, it was difficult to admit that. "I think they train them differently."
"Probably." A voice said, from behind them, easily. "Hawk, stop bugging the kid, he wouldn't know what you're looking for anyway. And Cub, you'd better head back to your barracks if you don't want to get caught out." Eagle gave Alex a quick, rather tight grin. As Alex nodded, and moved off, he heard Eagle giving Hawk a sharp order to 'back off'. Frowning, he was out of earshot before Hawk replied.
When Alex got back to the barracks at about ten to seven, he found that no one in there was up, so, rather reluctantly, he went round opening curtains, and shaking the other boys awake, then pretended to be getting dressed himself, making as much noise as he could while doing it.
The other boys complained about it, but, on finding out what the time was, scrambled into their clothes, and trailed down to breakfast, bleary-eyed and yawning.
As he entered the mess hall, Alex caught Wolf's eye. The man met his gaze levelly for about ten seconds, then nodded at him, and looked away. Next to him, Fox grinned, gleefully, and Alex sighed. Nothing that could make Fox look that cheerful this early could possibly be good.
Bleh. I hope you liked it!
lol, ami xxx