A/N: Looks like I managed to give you guys one last chapter before I leave after all. This one is, most definitely my last chapter for the time being (and one I wrote while I was meant to be studying for my Maths and Geography exam _).
I want to thank everyone who reviewed and gave me feedback on my questions, they were very helpful :) Of course, with such a big variety in opinions, some might not like what I do while others will, but I figured that seeing as this is my story, you'll just have to live with the decisions I make.
I've decided that because otherwise I might drag it out for too long (as I have a habit of doing) that this will probably be the last full length chapter you will of Alex being eight. The next time you see him, he'll be fourteen. Don't panic if you wanted to see training because there will be flashbacks to his training at relevant times :)
As for the Stormbreaker plot, I'm still contemplating what will happen. As there was a mixed reaction considering another teenage spy, I'm thinking long and hard about I want to do because after all, the plot isn't set in stone.
Alex's codename you'll have to wait and see what I decided. No point in telling you all know when you can find out in the next couple of chapters :P And canon characters. Jack and Ian will definitely be seen as will Mr Blunt and Mrs Jones. The SAS will most likely make an appearance as well. Tom and Sabina I'm not sure of as I cannot at the moment fathom how they will appear but who knows, maybe a minor appearance might happen. Again you'll just have to wait.
And enough of my ramblings for now… I'm sure a loft of you have probably skipped the Author Notes and went straight to the story *looks around suspiciously*
Disclaimer: Well I do own Alex Rider… See the lovely books sitting on my bookshelf at the moment?
Course I'm not Anthony Horowitz. Why would he want to screw up his books so much?
Part I: Meet Alex
Chapter 6: Desination: Malagosto
Alex had only gotton a few hours sleep after his rather eventful night. He had tossed and turned on his flower-printed bed, but he just couldn't get rid of the images that replayed in his mind. John Rider dying. Ian shooting him. He had tried to use the relaxation methods that Ian had taught him, but just the thought of Ian made him stop and clench his small fists in anger.
It must've been early morning before Alex had finally drifted off into his fitful dreams only to be disturbed a few hours later by a cold-faced man whom Alex remembered as the one he had smashed the metal meal tray into. He had been given a change of clothes and a bowl of cereal before being told to 'be ready in fifteen'.
After he had changed and got some breakfast in his stomach, only then did he realise the severity of his decision the previous night.
The one to join Scorpia.
And he panicked.
Alex had acted on an impulse, his grief and desire for revenge had driven him to an almost hysterical state and now he realised that he probably wouldn't last through what Scorpia had planned for him.
He wasn't a killer. Not like Ian or his father.
Trembling, Alex pushed his breakfast away and curled up into a ball, staring blankly at the door in front of him. Why for once couldn't he be normal, like everybody else? He had known before Scorpia had came for him that he was different, compared to his friends and classmates it was safe to say that none of them had the lifestyle that he had. Not that he had hated it; he just wished that his uncle had spent a bit more time with him. He had been jealous of the other boys on his soccer team; they always had family cheering in the stands and if it wasn't for Jack, then that kind of support would have been almost non-existent for him.
And that was how Yassen found him five minutes later. The Russian's eyes softened as he saw the miserable eight year old and he knocked gently against the mahogany door frame to gain Alex's attention.
"We're leaving. Now."
Alex nodded slowly and rose to his feet. Yassen was already out the door and in the corridor, seeming to understand his need for privacy and for that Alex was grateful. From earlier observations, he had realised that Yassen was a lot like… Ian. He cringed at the name.
Both men were anti-social and seemed the most comfortable in the silence rather then loud noises. Yassen, he noted, liked to sit back and observe quietly rather then interact with others. Ian was a private man and Alex had rarely seen him start up a conversation without someone initiating it first.
Alex gritted his teeth as he thought of his uncle. Just because of a few words and a short video, his life had been turned upside down. Everything he had known; how could he not question what had been sincere and what had been lies?
He followed the assassin silently; the soft pad of his shoes trailed the assassin's almost silent steps as they walked. Alex also noticed that Yassen no longer had a bandage on his arm, but the short-sleeved black shirt he had worn showed the carefully done stitches that had replaced the bandage.
Alex felt a little guilty for shooting the assassin.
"Where are we going?" He asked quietly, his voice was a little hoarse but while Yassen seemed comfortable with the silence, Alex desperately needed someone to talk to him. To distract him from his thoughts.
Yassen looked over his shoulder.
"Where is that?"
Malagosto, as it turned out, was an island a few miles off the shores of Venice. It served as a training ground for Scorpia's recruits and trainees where they were trained to kill. Its official name was Scorpia's Training and Assessment Centre. Yassen had explained some of its history to Alex as they travelled to the small crescent moon shaped island by motor launch. Apparently it had once been a small, thriving community living there. But 'once' could be described as a long time ago, in the Middle Ages. The island had been looted in 1380 during the war with Genoa and afterwards was used for victims of the Black Plague. If you as much as had sneezed in Venice, you would've ended up in Malagosto along with others suffering from the plague.
When the plague had died out, it became a quarantine centre and later on, in the eighteenth century, became a sanctuary for the insane. It was finally abandoned and forgotten for hundreds of years before Scorpia had bought the island from the Italian government in the mid-eighties.
If anyone asked, they were told that Malagosto was now used as a business centre where lawyers, bankers and office managers came for motivation and bonding sessions. This was, of course, a lie. But an effective one at that as no Civilian or non-Scorpia operative had ever set foot on the island since Scorpia had bought it.
And would soon become Alex's new home.
Alex sat in front of the motor launch, his gaze focused in the distance, watching as the island drew closer. The silver scorpion on the bow of the boat glistened in the sun while Yassen sat opposite him, totally relaxed, though there was an unmistakeable bulge of a gun by the waistband of his trousers.
Even from the distance, Alex could just make out the outline of a crumbling building and wondered if the rest of the island looked like that. Run down with wild grasses and other various weeds overtaking buildings. Looking over at Yassen, Alex even asked if it was so.
The assassin looked amused, "No, that is merely a cover to discourage anyone from going there. The rest of the buildings are in… better condition though nothing that would be state of the art. We don't want other government agencies zeroing in on us from satellites."
Alex nodded and turned back to the front, enjoying the feeling of the wind in his hair, but not so much the spray of seawater that was getting in his eyes. They were fast approaching the island, he could see the bell tower looming over the canopy of trees, leaning crookedly to one side and looked like it was going to fall any moment. Sort of like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, but less stable.
The boat soon pulled in towards the island, losing speed as Yassen manoeuvred it towards a jetty, carefully concealed in the natural fault line of a rock so that nobody could be seen arriving at or leaving the island. The engine was cut and Yassen gracefully leapt ashore, with the ease of a ballet dancer Alex had once seen in a dance production.
Alex climbed out after Yassen, feeling awfully clumsy as he almost fell flat on his face when he stumbled over the ledge of the boat. The only reason he didn't fall was because Yassen's strong arms had caught him and pulled him onto the jetty without any further incidents.
Yassen motioned with his hand as he released Alex and allowed the younger male to steady himself. Alex followed him, still a little tipsy from their boat ride and having his feet on firm land again.
The rather strange pair that could past off as father and son walked up a long twisting path through the trees. It was obvious that the path had been walked many times in the past as it was well-worn and the vegetation was less dense. Even Alex's untrained eyes could pick up the faint shoe prints left from previous path-travellers.
Their whole journey was quiet, the only thing that stopped it being classified as 'silent' was the constant chattering and buzzing of wildlife and insects alike though Alex was curious as to what kind of animals would live on Malagosto.
Once they had passed through the copse, a large monastery appeared. Its great walls were peeling from age and neglect. Alex found it hard to believe that this monastery housed a training ground for spies and assassins alike. The only sign that the building had been adapted to modern times was the keypad with a build-in camera that had been fixed to the wall next to the huge wooden door which had a smaller one set into it.
Yassen entered the code while Alex gazed around in awe at his surroundings with childish wonder. A small electronic buzz caused Alex to jump as the smaller door opened automatically.
Yassen walked through the door, turning and raised an eyebrow when he realised that his companion had not followed.
"Well?" He inquired with a raised eyebrow. Alex jumped again and scurried after the Russian, still a bit exhausted after their trek through the copse.
He found himself in an open, green courtyard. Three out of four sides of the courtyard were cloisters while the same crooked bell tower Alex had seen earlier rose above the fourth. A roof slanted inwards, providing shade and covering all three cloisters.
The ground was a neat rectangle of grass and two trees stood side by side at one end. In the centre of the rectangle shape of grass was a small group of six men and women. One of the older men was dressed in black while the five others were in white robes that were usually associated with martial arts with the exception of belts. The man in black was obviously the instructor as he led the group, stepping out as one and lashing out with their fists in almost perfect synchronisation. A shout followed –the kiai Alex recognised from his own karate lessons. A short yell that came either directly before, during or after the execution of a strike or technique.
Alex watched with silent fascination as the instructor led the group in several more strikes and techniques taken from a variety of martial arts including Taekwondo and Karate.
"Sometimes, with the silent kill, it is not possible to shout out," the instructor said. He spoke with a Russian or Eastern European accent. "But remember the power of the silent kiai. Use it to drive your chi into the strike zone. Do not underestimate its power at the moment of the kill." (1)
"That's Professor Yermalov." Yassen explained as he gently pulled on Alex's arm to indicate that they should be going, "You'll meet him soon enough."
Yassen led him across the courtyard and Alex couldn't help but feel self-conscious as he noticed a few glances he was getting from the group in the middle. Obviously children were a rare sight at Malagosto.
They went through an archway and into a vast room with a colourful mosaic floor; ornate windows, pillars and intricate wooden angels had been carved into the walls. Long tables, sofas, and a hatch leading into a kitchen beyond. The ceiling was a dome shape and carried the remnants of a fresco.
There was one lone door on the opposite side of the room. Yassen went over and knocked. Alex hung back, looking unsure.
"Entrez!" A voice called from within. He, for the voice was almost certainly male, was speaking in French and sounded friendly.
Alex cast a look of doubt at Yassen who merely pushed him through the open door with a nonchalant look on his face.
Alex let out a muffle cry of protest as he stumbled into the tall, octagonal room. His jaw dropped, "Whoa." He said as he took in the room, if it could be called that. The ceiling was almost twenty metres high, but to Alex, who was a lot shorter then the rest of the occupants, it looked even bigger. The ceiling had been painted blue with silver stars, a strange decorative choice for someone who worked for Scorpia. Tall book cases lined five out of eight walls and a ladder on wheels reached the top shelved which reminded Alex of one of those old private libraries you see in films. An iron chandelier was suspended from the ceiling by a heavy chain.
The middle of the room was occupied by a huge desk by certain standards with three antique looking chairs; two in front, one behind. The last chair was currently occupied by a small, plump man in a suit. He was staring intently at his laptop computer, occasionally pressing a few key strokes. His gold rimmed glasses along with his neat black beard and grey hair looked almost comical in Alex's opinion and he had to bite on his cheeks, hard to keep from bursting out into giggles.
After a while, the man finished with his laptop and looked up at his guests. "Ah, Mr Gregorovich and our newest student." The man said with obvious pleasure, "Alex Rider. I would've known who you were easily if we had met on the street. You look very much like your father." He spoke with a slight French accent, but otherwise his English was perfect. "I am Oliver d'Arc and I am, as you might say, the principal of this institute. Or headmaster."
Alex looked at d'Arc with a bewildered look as the eccentric man talked. Maybe the stars on the ceiling weren't so strange after all…
"Sit down, Alex. You must be tired… You too Yassen." D'Arc said pointedly staring at the assassin.
Yassen seemed to sigh before ushering Alex forward.
He and Yassen sat down on the antique chairs, and Alex once again looked uneasy. A plate of sandwiches was on d'Arc's desk and he couldn't resist glancing at the plate every now and then. After having only a couple of spoonful of breakfast earlier, Alex was now famished and the plate of sandwiches looked so tempting.
D'Arc seemed to notice his not too discrete looks at the plate and laughed, "Those are for you. I assumed that you would be hungry after that walk." Alex brightened and picked the top sandwich as the French man turned then to Yassen, "You can eat as well. I don't want you in the medical bay because of your lack of nutrients, again, and gods know your insomniac problems don't help."
Alex turned his head to look at Yassen, who looked oddly embarrassed at being reproached by the older man. "I already ate." Yassen said stiffly.
"More can't hurt."
The Russian looked like he was going to protest, but then d'Arc cut in, "They're not poisoned. I made them myself."
Yassen gave d'Arc a narrowed glare before picking up a sandwich and taking a small bite out of it.
Alex almost snorted at the Russian's antiques, Yassen was really that paranoid?
D'Arc seemed happier now that his guests were eating, "Good. Now Alex, am I right to assume that Mrs Rothman has told you a little bit about Scorpia?"
Alex nodded, chewing on his sandwich. Quickly swallowing the piece he had in his mouth, Alex added, "You want to make me an assassin." He said softly. "But I don't want to kill people." His eyes were downcast as he stared at his feet.
"Oh no, no, no. You won't have to kill people if you don't want to. Despite what you might think, there are other activities you can do that don't involve killing people." He said, "Otherwise government intelligence agencies would not have allowed us to last this long without much persecution. You can be very useful to us, for example, spying. Or being a courier. Who would ever suspect someone like you carrying drugs around or explosives? There are so many things that children can get away with without raising suspicion while an adult can't. Here we will discover what you can and cannot do and from there choose assignments that would suit you best."
"But what if I'm not good at anything else?" Alex asked, "What then?"
D'Arc chuckled and shook his head, "You're only eight and you've shown some talent. How many boys your age can speak more then one language fluently? Or perform a roundhouse kick that well?"
Alex's eyes went wide. "H-how did you know that?" He said nervously, he wasn't so comfortable with the fact that these people knew so much about him.
"Research." D'Arc replied. "We had to make sure that we weren't making a mistake when we decided to train you."
"And you think I can do it?"
D'Arc nodded, "Otherwise you would not be here. But what's past has past and now I must tell you the programme. Seeing as you are a unique case here, we had to alter things slightly for you, but otherwise I'm confident you'll be just fine." The grey haired man beamed, "I think Yassen?" The man in question nodded, "Yes, Yassen will be your mentor for the next few months. He will personally train you until he deems that you are ready to begin training with the other students. There are never more then fifteen here, and at the moment we have eleven. I am sure you will get to know some of them better over time." He said, "But before any of that happens, you will be medically examined as well as psychological testing. We will also take some tests to see your level of fitness and aptitude so that Yassen will have an idea of what he has to teach you. This will happen in the next couple of days and after that things will become routine." D'Arc smiled, "I think we can expect great things from you, Alex. You are very young, but you are John Rider's son and he was the very best."
"But I am not my father. I've never met him." Alex stated, his brown eyes gazing at d'Arc with uncertainty, "I don't know if I can do it."
"You will Alex, you will. You can't know if you don't try, eh?"
"I-I guess." Alex said, stifling a yawn.
"My boy! I think you should be getting some rest. You must be exhausted." D'Arc exclaimed, catching his yawn. He looked over at Yassen, "You and Alex will be sharing a room. Just in case…" There was a warning glint in his eye that Yassen seemed to understand.
"I know." The assassin spoke for the second time since they had entered d'Arc's office.
"Very well. I will see you again at lunch."
Yassen nodded and stood up, leading Alex out of the room.
"He's very short." Alex commented, glancing back as they re-entered the main hall.
Yassen shot him an amused look, "Indeed." The assassin agreed, crossing the hall and walking into a corridor that Alex hadn't noticed before. It too had a high ceiling, though not as high as the one in d'Arc's office.
They passed a classroom and Alex couldn't help but stop and peer in curiously. The room itself looked like it had once been a chapel, but no longer as there were now desks and a blackboard occupying it. There was a teacher standing in the front, drawing a diagram on the board while about half a dozen students listened intently each had several wires and what appeared to be a matchbox.
"…You need very careful and precise hands here. Wire the explosive wrong and you'll blow us all up… That's exactly what I said not to do Mr Russel."
Alex looked up at Yassen who had stopped as well, pausing at the door.
"That's Mr Ross. Technical specialist." Yassen explained patiently, "You'll get to meet him and the other instructors later."
They moved on, leaving the main building and headed towards an apartment block. Alex looked worried for a moment as he took in its neglected appearance, but as they entered the building, he discovered that the building was very much modern and elegant on the inside.
Yassen showed him to their room on the second floor. The living area was surprisingly large and spacious with sofas and a desk. There was a balcony with a sea view and Alex also noticed that there was a fridge, a television and even a PlayStation that he presumed was for him… He didn't think that Yassen would enjoy video games.
"My room is the one on the closest to the door, and yours is other one." Yassen pointed out as he looked around. "I have some… matters to attend to so feel free to have a look around and rest. I'll be back later to collect you for lunch."
"OK." Alex said, already heading towards the room that Yassen had said was his. He was eager to catch up on the few hours of sleep he had missed out on.
"Wow." Alex murmured as he heard the door close behind him. He was in his new bedroom and it was just as impressive as the living room had been. There was a king-sized bed in the middle of the room while a set of drawers and a lamp had been arranged next to the bed. Alex was relieved that his bed sheets weren't flower –printed like the ones back in Venice.
Kicking his shoes off, Alex went over to the build and climbed onto it, relaxing into the soft mattress. He stared at the ceiling wearily wondering how his life could've changed so much in such a short amount of time and he wasn't even sure if he liked the change or not.
Dark thoughts rose from his mind as he thought. Was he making the right decision? Did he really want to be what his father had been? Alex bit his lip anxiously.
He would just have to wait and see.
And with that last thought, Alex Rider drifted off to sleep.
End Part I
(1) Quote from the book Scorpia
I hope that wasn't too boring… It was more of a filler chapter rather then action packed funness and again it hasn't been edited except for a quick run through spell check so there might be some grammatical errors lying around. Descriptions of Malagosto and the Scorpia training centre were all based off the book.
EDIT: I've started (or will be when I figure how to get the damn thing to work) a new poll in my profile regarding several codenames I've been toying with, I'm interested to see which one you guys think would best suit. (Notice there is a key theme between each name I chose myself)
So… just drop a comment by and tell me what you thought and be sure to have a safe holiday. I'll see you guys next year!