The Fallout or How Alex Plunged Malagasto into Chaos, Part 3
The trip back from their "survival exercise" had been a little awkward. Alex had gotten the feeling Gordon was worried about something. Maybe it was the fact that they had all survived? Alex was trying not to be too sarcastic. His classmates had eventually gotten the medical care they needed. The teachers, in a fit of what seemed to be mercy, had given everyone but Alex a week of lighter classes to recover. Alex strongly suspected the original plan had been private lessons with just him for a while. Yermalov had decided he needed more knife training to "feel more confident killing people with a knife". Alex knew a punishment when he saw a punishment. Overall, it wasn't nearly as bad as expected. Gordon greeted him after his "morning" lessons with Yermalov. Alex strongly felt that only insane people got up before five in the morning. "How's it going?"
Alex shrugged. "About as well as expected."
Thankfully, Gordon let him eat breakfast. Gordon looked insanely cheerful. Alex knew that was bad news. "The other students and you will be in for a special treat tomorrow."
Alex knew that this was bad news. Call him paranoid, but Gordon would not look this happy about anything nice. Alex tried to stir up some enthusiasm. "Oh?"
Gordon grinned. "Diving exercises!"
Alex resisted a groan. "Why don't you look happy?"
Alex began to eat. "The last time I went diving, I almost got eaten by a shark."
Gordon paused. "What happened?"
Alex finished his breakfast. "I killed the shark with my diving knife."
Gordon made a noise in the back of his throat. Alex got the feeling him killing or not killing things with knives was still a sore subject. "You killed a shark with a knife?!"
Alex moved to take his dishes to the dish depot. "Two, actually. Once when I went diving and got lost. The second time when I was working for MI6."
Gordon paused. "Excuse me for a minute."
Alex shrugged and went to the bathroom to brush his teeth before firearms class with Gordon. Alex heard what sounded like a muffled scream of rage from the other room. He shrugged and went off to class. Gordon was waiting for him at the gun range. Alex sighed and prepared for a class with the dubious honor of Gordon's undivided attention.
Gordon slammed the door to the teachers' lounge open. Jet looked amused. Yermalov was scowling at a wall. "He killed two sharks with a knife while diving. Two! And he had the audacity to bring five of his six classmates back!"
Gordon pulled out a wrapped present. Jet looked at him. "Who's that for?"
Gordon handed the present to Yermalov. "Sorry that the survival trip didn't work out."
The sound of the wrapping paper tearing filled the room. Yermalov seems scary until you give him a cashmere blanket. The man rubbed his face against it. Like a cat. Gordon continued. "He could have at least had the decency to look sorry for bringing that sorry sack of shit we call a class back, but no. NO. He does not!"
Gordon was on a roll. Jet wasn't even going to try very hard to stop him. "Gordon."
Gordon huffed. "He carried Walker for two days! Two! Days! It's a tragic waste of energy and effort! Whyyyy?!"
Jet was stifling laughter at this point. "Didn't you scream obscenities at him for half an hour after he regained consciousness?"
Gordon glared. "That's not nearly enough!"
Jet looked amused. "Aren't the diving activities tomorrow designed to take care of any lingering, ah, issues?"
Gordon made a noise that sounded like a squirrel about to launch an attack. "Fair point."
Gordon sat down. "How's Alex doing in your class?"
Jet looked amused. "Well. He says his extra credit project is almost done in phase one."
Gordon raised an eyebrow. "You have extra credit?"
Jet shrugged. "If the student does the extended reading and passes the required exams, then it is possible. It's doctoral research."
Gordon yawned theatrically. Jet smacked him. Yermalov spoke up. "Alex is doing adequately."
Jet and Gordon exchanged a look. That was about as close to complementary as Yermalov got.
Gordon had them all lined up on a boat. Alex had to ask a question. "Is medical going to approve this? Walker and Lena still have concussion side-effects."
Gordon grinned. "They will if they want to see the next sunrise." Alex's sigh was lost in the noise of the boat motor. Alex resigned himself to rescuing and CPR-ing anyone who needed it. He had already foiled his teachers' first set of plots. Why not more? Plus, if he was about to die, he was going to die as himself and not as a miserable shadow of it. Alex was suddenly glad Ian had made him get certified as a diver and that they had gone diving so many times together. "Do all of you have diving experience?" Alex found out that the question was strictly rhetorical as Gordon cut all of them off before they could answer. "Good, Good. You're all tasked with retrieving the golden barbells at the bottom of the lake. There's one at fifty feet, one at sixty feet, etcetera, etcetera. They are NOT made of real gold. You all have about ninety minutes of air. They'll be somewhere in between those buoys."
Alex raised his hand. "You do know that anything past sixty feet isn't novice level, right?"
Gordon grinned. "Good, at least one of you got certified. It would be such a pity if all of you died."
Alex felt something akin to abject horror. Gordon went inside the captain's cabin. Walker looked like he was about to hyperventilate. Amanda's eyes were wide. Alex set his jaw. "I'll get the deepest one."
His classmates looked at him. David spoke. "Are you sure?"
Alex glared at the man. "Yes."
Alex glanced at Walker and Amanda. "Walker and Amanda get the shallowest ones."
Walker still looked like he was terrified. The others nodded and began jumping off. "What's your deal?"
Walker sighed. "I'm claustrophobic."
Alex facepalmed. They were all going to die. He took a deep breath. "Walker, put your damn helmet on. You could free dive this. C'mon."
Walker still looked near tears. Alex looked at Amanda. "No dive training?"
Amanda didn't look much better than Walker. "I come from and trained in a desert!"
Alex sighed. He was going to rescue his classmates if it killed him. Alex walked her through the basic steps of the suit and diving. She was going down sixty feet. It was not unsubstantial. Eventually, Amanda seemed ready to go. Alex was not liking their prospects. "All right, let's go."
Alex decided to focus on his quarry. Walker seemed to be doing okay. Alex began his slow descent.
Alex returned after everyone except Amanda and Walker. Not that it was unexpected. He began stripping off his diving gear but left the wetsuit on. Amanda surfaced next, carrying her weight. Alex plonked the gold-colored thing on the boat and helped her up. "Any sign of Walker?"
Amanda shook her head. "No."
Alex frowned. "He should be back by now." Alex began squinting at the water. Alex remembered that Walker had claustrophobia. Alex swore. "Fuck."
He hastily attached his diving gear and went back in. Alex quickly spotted Walker slowly sinking in the water. Sans helmet. Shit. Alex hastily dove towards the man, who had attached the weight to his belt loops. Goddamn it, Walker. Alex grabbed the man, wrapping his arms around him and kicking towards the surface. He was heavy, but Alex was determined to bring him back up. Alex just hoped it wasn't too late. After what felt like an eternity, Alex broke the surface of the water. Klaus quickly grabbed him and David took Walker. Alex pulled off the diving helmet. And took the chest section of the gear off of Walker, before beginning CPR. Walker woke with a start and vomited up water. Gordon picked that moment to barge out and see what was taking them so long. "You performed CPR?!"
Alex shrugged and tried to look apologetic. "I am certified for it."
Gordon took a deep breath. "Did you all retrieve your weights?"
Everyone nodded, still a little shell-shocked. "Right, we're going back now."
Alex let out a sigh of relief and sat against the ship wall. They got through this and everyone was still alive.
Alex woke up from Walker elbowing him awake. He was surprised that he'd managed to fall asleep with a moving boat under him. There were five pairs of eyes all on him. "What?"
Alex was blinking sleepily. "Where did you learn to do that?"
Alex sighed. "They have practice dummies to train lifeguards."
Walker was just continuing to stare at him. "What? You didn't think MI6 recruited me for my stunning good looks, did you?"
Walker laughed. "Kid, you look like every blonde surfer dude ever."
Alex scowled. "Hey! At least I'm not the guy who looks so average my file reads "looks particularly average", Walker!"
Walker huffed. "Are they allowed to write that?"
Alex snorted. "It's Malagasto, they can write whatever they want."
Walker sighed. "Point."
The boat had taken them back. Gordon was still muttering dangerously under his breath as they all filed off. Walker was dismissed to the infirmary. "Alright, which of you are diving certified?"
Alex, Lena, David, and Klaus raised their hands. Gordon sighed. "Professionally rated as a diver?"
Only Alex's hand remained. Gordon grunted. "Alex, we're having a meeting in the teacher's lounge you need to attend after lunch. The sorry lot of you are dismissed."
Alex felt like he was doomed but just didn't know how yet. Walker began following him towards his usual before-lunch study spot. "So, um, you, uh, saved my life again."
Alex blinked. "I suppose so."
Walker rubbed his forehead. "Is there, like, something you want from me?"
Alex shrugged. "Not right now, no. Why?"
Walker just looked at him. "Well, you keep saving my life."
Alex leaned against the tree and prepared to climb. "Did it ever occur to anyone that I might just like you? As a friend, I mean."
Walker didn't follow him up. "Thank you, but I'm serious."
Alex shrugged. "It was kind of my fault you were in trouble in the first place, considering I made you dive with a helmet and all. Phobias aren't a joke. I think Steiner will probably insist on fixing it."
Walker groaned. "Joy."
Alex popped open the Countess' sequel to their textbook. "Wait, is that required reading?!"
Alex's lips twitched. "You haven't memorized our booklist yet?! Also, no, it's just recommended."
Walker breathed a sigh of relief. "That's a relief."
Alex rolled his eyes. "You should read more. It might help your class standing."
Walker hovered some more. "What?"
He looked a bit sheepish. "I may have accidentally told people about our evening studies."
Alex closed the book. "Walker."
Walker leaned against a tree. "Some other people want to join. Do you think that'll be okay?"
Alex grumbled. "Fine."
Walker cheered up instantly. "Cool, thank you, Alex."
The man walked off. Alex groaned. "He's worse than Tom."
At least he'd only needed to save Tom once. Then again, Tom wasn't exactly involved in Alex's world, but Walker was. Alex returned to the Countess' book. It was interesting, mainly because it listed ways of killing people while still having perfect manners. There were more than three ways to kill people while shaking their hands, apparently. They had about twenty minutes until lunch.
Gordon stormed into the teachers' lounge. "Alex gave Walker CPR."
Jet closed her book and looked amused. Yermalov made a noise that sounded like an angry cat. "I'm sorry, what?"
It was The Countess this time. "I know, right? He's crazy."
Jet rolled her eyes. "I think it's cute."
Gordon scoffed. "That's just because he's the only student ever to do your extra credit project."
Jet sniffed. "His tomato plants are beautiful. Alex has a nice touch."
Gordon grumbled something under his breath. "Oh, shut up. Alex has private lessons with myself, you, and The Countess."
The woman was eyeing Jet sternly. "You can't expect a spy to teach these things right."
Yermalov perked up. "I will have Alex for private lessons."
Gordon looked at the man. "Isn't that pushing it a bit? He is only fourteen."
Yermalov scowled. "I was fourteen when I went into the trenches in my country."
Gordon sniffed. "That explains a lot."
Yermalov glared. "Aside from that. There are certain exercises that I can perform on him if his muscles lock up. I think another hour of hand-to-hand lessons and an hour of underwater combat lessons will be a nice addition."
Gordon scooted away from the man slowly. "Maybe he'll be too tired to do something stupid like resuscitating Walker, too."
Yermalov smirked. "Perhaps."
Gordon moaned. "We were so close to getting rid of the stupid fucking moron, too."
Yermalov huffed. Gordon continued. "I was assured by the quartermaster there would be mass casualties on that camping trip, goddamn it."
Jet snorted. "Alex threatened a good kit out of him. I told you two not to sabotage his gear too obviously, you twits."
Gordon scoffed. "Dear God, what did he threaten the stingy bastard with? I can barely squeeze adequate gear out of him as it is."
Jet snorted. "Like either of them will tell you."
Gordon whined. "But, Jeeeet, he got an entire medical kit aside from surgical tools."
Jet looked impressed. "I'll admit, it's intriguing."
Yermalov perked up. "I think we will add situational awareness to our lessons."
Gordon groaned. "I hate that. You never know who's going to wake up normally and who's going to pounce and try to stab you before they're fully conscious."
Yermalov glared at him. "Are you trying to override my authority?"
Gordon swallowed. "No, no."
Alex Rider was right on time. Malagasto was not the sort of place where you were tardy for your teachers' meetings. He knocked on the door and received a "come in" in response. Alex opened the door and dodged at a knife that was thrown his way, using the door as a shield. He pulled the knife out of the door. Alex was a little ticked and flung the knife at the right wall. It did an impressive set of ricochets that made him look a lot better than he was before landing in front of Yermalov. Alex arched a brow. "Heated school politics?"
Gordon's booming laugh filled the room. "Not exactly. We're going to be adding situational awareness lessons to everything else."
Alex was feeling slightly sarcastic. "It'll be just like home!"
Gordon blinked. "Right. We just wanted to tell you that Yermalov here wants you for more private lessons."
Alex was unsure of how to respond to that. Except. "Wouldn't that push me over the four recommended hours a day?"
Yermalov rose. "I will monitor you medically and have the chefs alter your meal plan."
Alex didn't dare question whether the man had the qualifications for that. He assumed so, given that he knew the school had to sign off on students and teachers having any kind of private time together. "Okay, when?"
Alex knew he had fewer sleep hours to look forward to. He just knew it. "I think an hour before my regular office hours should do. The diving will be in the evening after dinner. All the better to practice night underwater combat with."
Alex wanted to run away screaming now but managed to answer in his usual monotone. "Sounds great."
Alex left the room. Gordon was frowning. "Do you think Ian was MI6? Alex's previous training sounds a lot like what we do. Plus, he sent six dudes off a cliff during his RTI with the SAS."
Yermalov shook his head. "Idiots. They should have restrained him better."
Gordon grinned. "Apparently, his defense was 'you told me to act how I would in real life if I got interrogated'. The Sargent was not amused."
Yermalov nodded approvingly. "It is a good response."
Gordon Ross was fuming. They were not supposed to have all the students left, particularly Walker. Part of him respected Alex for trying to save potential SCORPIA resources, but part of him longed to shake the kid and scream that these people weren't resources. Gordon was suddenly struck by an idea. What if? What if some of these dumbasses decided to blow themselves up "by accident"? Gordon decided to get right on that idea. Alex would only be doing underwater combat with Yermalov for another forty-five minutes and he wanted Alex to have a rock-solid alibi. The pools had cameras, even if Three decided not to take Yermalov's word for it. Besides, he was done leaving things up to chance. Mainly the chance that Alex would save his classmates. The little shit. He'd swear that Alex was doing it just to piss him off. Gordon used one of his blank access cards to card into the room where he kept all of the explosives that weren't actively being practiced on. Gordon had everyone's in-class assignments. It was good to be entirely behind on your grading sometimes. Especially when you wanted to frame other students for blowing shit up. Gordon was all but skipping as he began to fix the explosives to be able to blow up from a certain range with a detonator. Gordon exhaled as he went to the students' quarters and set the explosives up to cave the building in, but not anywhere else. Three would likely be extremely upset, not to mention Rothman. The school was sort of split territory between the two of them. They'd probably get a visit from both second-in-commands, if not the board members themselves. Gordon checked his watch. Fifteen minutes. He ran off to the dining hall. For some reason, certain walls in the school were reinforced quite heavily. Gordon suspected that they were load-bearing walls, but had no proof. Either way, the dining hall was going to be perfectly safe. Gordon slowed himself to his usual walk as he entered and got in line. He'd gotten his lunch tray and sat down as an explosion rocked the room. "What the fuck?!" For once, nobody told him off for swearing, even though the Countess and Jet were there.
The students were waiting underneath a tree for Alex to get away from Yermalov and joining the study group they had all formed. Well, they were also doing classwork. Walker closed his book. "So, do you think that MI6, like, altered Alex?"
David shrugged. "Even if they did, what's your point, Walker?"
Walker huffed. "I'm wondering how they did it, you know."
Klaus spoke up. "That's not the only possibility."
Walker raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Klaus shrugged and turned a page. "There are myths of certain...beings like him. Strong, beautiful, temperamental, deadly, and charming. They say Hunter was just like him."
Walker shrugged. "And?"
Klaus closed his book. "Hunter was his father."
Walker frowned. "Then who's that Ian dude he keeps bringing up."
Amanda piped up. "Do some fucking math, Walker. Hunter died a year after he was born. Ian's probably the younger brother he went to."
Walker frowned. "Why would he call him by his given name and not "uncle", then?"
Klaus rolled his eyes. "Have you heard him talk about his home life? I wouldn't call that guy uncle either."
Walker frowned. Lena spoke up. "Well, if they are, like, not human, maybe they don't follow human child raising customs?"
Klaus sighed. "We don't know any of this for sure. He could just be...better than us."
Walker rolled his eyes. "I'm still banking on genetic alteration."
The others might have argued, but there was an explosion in front of them that forced them to hit the ground. Walker felt his ears ring slightly. "What the fuck?"
Klaus got up. "It looks like that was the student dormitories."
They all began to move towards the building.
Doctor Three seemed to have drawn the short straw. Or perhaps he wanted to be here. Alex wasn't sure asking the man was the best idea. On second thought, he wasn't going to speak unless spoken to. The rumors were terrifying. Doctor Three finished his lecture on "responsibility". All Alex heard was "somebody is going to pay dearly for this if I catch who did it" and Alex had a sinking suspicion Three's scalpel would be involved. "Alex."
He almost jumped. "Sir."
Three paused. "Where were you during the explosion?"
Alex blinked. "I was in private underwater combat lessons with Professor Yermalov."
Three blinked. "You're professionally rated as a diver?"
Alex stiffened. "Yes, sir. I can dive up to one hundred and thirty feet."
Three moved towards Yermalov who nodded. "Impressive, for someone your age."
Three turned toward his fellow students. "And where were the rest of you?"
Alex noticed the man took a much harsher tone with the rest of them. Walker spoke up. "We were studying outside near a tree."
Three eyed them. "All of you?"
Walker replied. "Yes, sir. We were waiting for Alex to join us when the student dormitories exploded."
Three retorted. "Even you should realize that the event in question was an implosion."
Walker blanched. "Imploded, then."
Doctor Three didn't respond. "The rest of you are under investigation. I will be staying here until the matter is resolved or the dormitories are rebuilt. In the meantime, all of us will be living in the guest quarters. There will be assigned roommates since all of you have proven far too irresponsible to be living on your own."
No one even dared groan at that. "Students are dismissed."
They all filed out. Three turned towards the teachers. "Which one of your students has acceptable hygiene and cleanliness?"
Gordon felt a stab of guilt as he and the rest of the teachers exchanged a look. They answered as one. "Alex."
Three looked at Yermalov. "I believe we have found our roommate."
Gordon felt something crack inside him. "I'll just...let him know now."
Gordon walked out of the room.
Alex was glad that he hadn't had the chance to bring anything remotely sentimental. He was currently helping the other students try to find what remained of their personal effects. Gordon had informed him of his new roommates and he felt a dawning sense of dread. He was rooming with Doctor Three and Yermalov. He was going to die a slow horrible death or, worse, get adopted by Three, he just knew it. That was it. "Walker, I need you to lie for me."
Alex had, conveniently, not given up his camping gear at the end of the trip. He'd even been adding to it. Call him paranoid, but he was going to do his best to have a way out. The backpack was still in the process of being waterproofed, sadly. Walker turned towards Alex. "What do you mean?"
Alex arched a brow. "I'm guessing you heard about my room assignment."
Walker gulped. "Yep."
Alex sighed. "I'm going to live in that abandoned church for a bit. I need you to pretend like that's what I've been doing the whole time. Don't worry, I'll make it look convincing. You just need to tell them when I don't turn up for curfew."
Walker blinked. "You want me to lie to the best interrogations expert in the world?"
Alex gave Walker his most pleading look. "Please?"
Walker sighed. "Fine, fine."
Alex smiled. "Thank you, Walker."
Walker rubbed his eyes and wondered why he'd agreed to do this. Damn Alex and his strikingly deer-like brown eyes. Alex took his backpack and bookbag and left. Walker had never been sure why he carried both but didn't question it.
Three and Yermalov were looking at all of them. Yermalov turned towards Walker. "Where is Alex?"
Walker blinked. "What? You mean you didn't know?"
Yermalov's eyes were frightening. Walker just managed not to flinch. "Know what?"
Walker scratched the back of his neck. "Erm, well, he's been living in the abandoned church this whole time and showering twice a day to avoid getting caught."
Yermalov fixed his gaze on the man. "Explain. Now."
Walker shrugged. "Well, you know, I notice things."
Gordon muttered under his breath. "You stalk Alex, you mean."
Walker flushed. "I do not."
Three interrupted. "Gentlemen, my time is valuable."
Walker cleared his throat. "Well, I noticed he disappeared after a certain point every night. I couldn't find him in his room or anywhere else. So, I asked him about it and he was all like "I'm working on my botany extra credit". I kinda figured it was fake, because nobody does the botany extra reading, let alone the extra credit, so I thought it was some kind of teacher approved accommodation that the other students weren't supposed to know about. Plus, he was always in his room for night exercises, so it's like somebody told him when they were."
Three turned towards the others. "Was it?"
D'Arc shook his head. "No."
Three turned towards Walker. "What sort of accommodation?"
Walker shrugged. "Look, I used to work for the CIA. We had a bunch of weird ADA shi-stuff all the time. Plus, if you try to touch him to wake him up, he goes full psycho and throws a knife before he's even fully awake."
Gordon frowned. "How do you know that? I mean, I get him up for night exercises."
Walker shrugged. "I was his partner for the survival trip."
Gordon muttered. "Partner is a bit of an exaggeration. Useless deadweight and a burden, more like."
Walker glared. "The point here is that he's in the abandoned church."
Gordon huffed. "He dragged your infected and concussed ass through the African Congo. God knows what he sees in you."
Walker scowled. "Alex-"
Yermalov cut off their bickering. Three was watching the display with undisguised amusement. "I will be back shortly."
Gordon frowned. "Where are you going?"
Yermalov arched a brow. "To retrieve my errant student."
Three picked up a flashlight. "I'm curious as well."
The men left to find Alex.
Doctor Three and Yermalov headed straight for the church. "Private lessons with you?"
Yermalov shrugged. "Alex is worthy of my time."
Three arched a brow. "Three extra hours of it? That's more than you gave Cossack."
Yermalov scowled. "Alex has potential."
Three glanced sharply at the man. "I thought I was to be kept apprised of all potential elite operatives."
Yermalov shrugged. "That is D'Arc's failing, not mine. I believe Rothman had something to do with it if it is any consolation."
Three muttered. "Of course, she did. She wants to fail him and have him killed, as does Zeljan. I should have known John Rider's son would not have been average at this school."
Yermalov sighed. "His real records can be retrieved by Gordon."
Three blinked. "We're here."
The church looked the same from the outside, not that Three would expect anything less deceptive from a former intelligence agent. Yermalov frowned. "It looks the same."
Three glanced at the man. "He said he was doing his botany extra credit here, did he not?"
Yermalov blinked. "Yes."
Three sighed. "Then, we should probably begin near the church garden."
Yermalov drew a long knife. A few hacks at the brush made it fall over. Behind the brush was a tomato farm with about three hundred plants. This must be the extra credit project. "Why tomato plants?"
Alex was in the middle of the field. "Does anyone besides me do Jet's extra credit reading, Professor?"
Yermalov smirked. "No."
Alex sighed and turned. "Tomato plants are used in experiments with poison because it's considered unethical to use animals for the testing."
Three blinked. "We have no ethics board and plenty of animal subjects."
Alex shrugged. "Well, it wouldn't be purely botany, then. Besides, she has to be able to compare it to previous research that was legitimate, you know."
Three sighed. "Right."
Alex blinked. "What are you two doing out here?"
Three looked at Alex. "We came to take you back to the building."
Alex shrugged. "Why? I'm perfectly fine out here."
Yermalov started forward, but Three put his hand up. Three stepped forward. "Do you like it here?"
Alex shrugged. "Sometimes."
Three closed the gap between them and gently laid a hand on Alex's shoulder, ignoring the flinch under his touch. "Come back with us, Alex."
A pair of mildly terrified brown eyes met his own. "Okay. I just need to get my stuff."
Yermalov looked at the doctor, expectantly. "What was that?"
Three sighed. "Brute force is not always needed. Sometimes finesse is better."
The man huffed. Three looked mildly amused as Alex came back out with a backpack and a bookbag. "How much of your wardrobe is here?"
Alex shouldered the backpack. "About half. Have to keep up appearances, you know."
Three was mildly exasperated. Spies. "Naturally."
Alex awoke to be jabbed sharply on the arm in the morning. By the time he was fully awake, he found himself pinned under Yermalov with Doctor Three frozen over his papers. Alex sighed. "Sorry. You can't wake me up like that."
Yermalov scoffed. "I think I can handle a student."
Alex got up. "Your funeral, mate."
Alex glanced around for his knife. Yermalov glared. "I confiscated it."
Alex scowled. "What?!"
Yermalov scoffed. "You can sleep with your knife when you can wake up like a normal person."
Alex glared. "It's an unconscious reaction, Professor."
Yermalov scowled. "When did these begin?"
Alex rubbed his eyes. "Uhh. I don't remember?"
Yermalov looked impatient. "How did your civilian caretaker wake you up?"
Alex blinked. "She does it a special way."
Yermalov scowled. "What about your friends?"
Alex shrugged. "They slept in the bed with me. I don't have that reaction then."
Yermalov did not look happy at that announcement. Alex rolled his eyes. "Just make Gordon do it. Or, like, yell at me. Why am I up at three in the morning?"
Yermalov smirked. "Private lessons."
Alex groaned. "Why did you wake me up an hour before?"
Yermalov eyed him. "Don't you eat before our lessons?"
Alex blinked. "Uh, no. You do a lot of stomach and very painful strikes. I'd probably puke."
Yermalov scowled. "That is because you are not eating properly."
Alex began getting dressed. "That sounds painful."
Yermalov whacked him upside the head. And then grabbed him by his ear. "Ow. Ow. Why are you doing this?"
Yermalov's eye twitched. "We are now going to see about appropriate pre-sparring nutrition."
Alex wondered what he'd ever done to deserve this. "No, it's really fine. I can starve for a few hours."
Yermalov's eyes were gleaming. Alex knew this was a bad sign. "No, it is not okay. Your brain is still developing. And, given what I've seen and heard, you need all the brain cells you have left intact."
Alex knew he was defeated, for now. He was doomed. Yermalov was going to give him some sort of nasty nutritional shake.
Doctor Three was waiting for Alex to get back from classes. It seemed the child had a very full schedule. Extra lessons with four teachers. Four. D'Arc had said he was fluent in four languages and needed no help with his fifth. As amusing as watching Yermalov drag the child out by his ear for morning lessons was, it cut down on the time he had to try to figure out the puzzle that was Alex Rider. He'd gotten the stories out of Gordon, however. While he normally disapproved of a teacher and student fraternizing to the point of drinking together, it happened to have its uses. Then again, Alex seemed to drink more responsibly than Gordon. The door opened to Alex coming back. It had been over twelve hours since he'd left the room. "Hello, sir."
Alex began rapidly unpacking his book bag and setting up for his homework. "Alex."
Alex opened one of the books and started reading. It was nearly eight in the evening. Suddenly, the door banged open. "Yo, Alex, remember that botany homework that's due in an hour?"
Doctor Three watched as Alex didn't even look up. "Page eight, paragraph three. Pages twenty-seven through thirty-eight. Page eighty. Page ninety-five."
Walker grinned. "Thanks, Alex."
Doctor Three glanced at Alex. "Are you ahead?"
Alex blinked. "Uh, yes, and no."
Doctor Three wondered what that meant before yet another classmate threw open the door. Hadn't they ever heard of knocking? Don't mind him at all. "David broke up with me."
Alex looked up from the textbook for that one. "What the hell do you expect me to do about that?"
Lena huffed and threw herself at his bed. "How do I make him jealous?"
Alex closed his eyes and opened them again. "That's not how this works. David is practical. The more mind games you play, the less he's going to like you."
Lena huffed. "Where do I get laid, then?"
Alex shrugged. "Not with me. Um, try another one of your fellow students? Or a cucumber?"
Lena sighed. "I'll try Klaus. Walker's too dumb."
Alex shrugged. "I mean, you're going for their looks, not anything else."
Lena threw his pillow at him. "Lena, I've dated like one person."
Lena shrugged and walked off. Doctor Three figured Alex could not possibly have more guests. "How did it go down with Sarov anyway?"
Alex had returned to his studies. "We talked and he killed himself."
Three sighed. The details, child, the details. The door was thrown open before Three could ask any more questions. It was Klaus and Amanda. "Alex. Er, Gordon wrote his individual homework questions illegibly, again."
Doctor Three made a mental note to force Gordon to type all homework assignments. Alex blinked and read them out. "This one says 'Klaus, write me a nice paper on Kpinga'."
Klaus blinked. "Are you sure?"
Alex sighed. "It's a bladed throwing knife from central Africa."
Klaus patted Alex lightly on the shoulder. "Danke."
Amanda was the unfortunate soul who got assigned a paper on Macuahuitl. Amanda squinted at him. "What did you get?"
Alex blinked. "The English broadsword."
Amanda grumbled. "That's blatant favoritism."
Alex shrugged. "Take it up with Gordon."
Yes, Doctor Three thought, go away and see Gordon. He wanted to ask Alex questions. The two left. "Have they ever heard of knocking?"
Alex's lips twitched. "Sorry, sir. I kind of had an open-door policy when I had my room. I'll tell them to knock next time."
Well, that was all he could ask for.
It had been a few weeks since the explosion. Walker was surprised at how fast the construction went. Though, he was more worried about Alex than how fast the building got fixed. The kid got stuck with Yermalov and Doctor Three as roommates. Walker was shocked the kid hadn't snarked his way into an execution yet. There was still time, though. He and the other students had made a quiet agreement to interrupt as much of Alex and Doctor Three's alone time as possible. There was no need for someone nice like Alex to be hanging around that man. Three was best known for both interrogations and corrupting the nicest operatives into some of the worst monsters the intelligence world had ever seen. Nobody who had Three take a personal interest in them seemed to hold on to any morals past around three years. All of them were lined up outside Alex's door. Alex was currently AWOL because Alex sometimes just disappeared without people noticing for a few hours. Klaus checked his watch. "It's been five hours."
Gordon walked in. "Why the fuck are all of you lined up like a bunch of toddlers at preschool?!"
Walker crossed his arms and closed his textbook. "Alex."
Gordon seemed to snap. "None of you can find him?!"
Walker scowled. "He's stealthy!"
Gordon retorted. "He's ex-MI6, what did you expect?!"
Alex appeared as if from nowhere in the hallway. "Sorry I'm late, extra credit with Jet was tricky."
Gordon sighed. "Extra credit to Alex. One of you seems to have paid attention in stealth class. As for the rest of you losers-"
Alex cut Gordon off. "Aren't these Doctor Three's quiet hours?"
Gordon dropped to a whisper. "Fuck. All of you are getting extra cardio tomorrow."
Alex sighed as Gordon walked off. "Alright, let's head to the cafeteria for this. I don't think anyone's rooms are big enough."
They all went to the cafeteria to desperately cram for their test in the morning. Alex slowly blinked and closed his textbook at about three in the morning. "Hey guys, I have something I want to ask you about."
Everyone closed their books almost in unison. Alex knew what he wanted them to promise. After all, the clock was ticking for Rothman's murder attempt. "So, if they ever see us against each other, I want you to promise that you'll make it fast. No matter what. I know I can't ask you not to kill each other, but at least we can choose our preferred method of a quick death."
Walker blinked. "Alright, then. What do you want?"
One by one, they went in a line and stated how they wished to die. Alex looked at his classmates. "Promise?"
They all nodded. "Alright, the rest of you should get to bed."
Walker looked at Alex. "What about you?" Alex felt a wry smile appear on his lips. "Yermalov will be here any minute for private lessons."
Walker paused. "You haven't slept, though."
Alex snorted. "Dude, when my muscles freeze up during the private lessons, he just hits me harder so they loosen up and we can continue."
Walker gaped. "That's awful."
Alex shrugged. "The point here is, I don't think he'll care unless I pass out from exhaustion."
Walker paused. "Are you sure you want me to go?"
Alex sighed. "Go to bed, Walker."
The man left him alone in the cafeteria. Alex must have dozed because he was woken for breakfast before said lessons with a sharp jab to his side. "Get up."
Well, there goes all fifteen minutes of sleep.
After the reconstruction of the student dormitories, Doctor Three took some time to reflect. Rooming with Alex hadn't been that irritating. He had been pleasantly surprised by the neatness. His classmates, on the other hand...It was better to leave some things unsaid. Alex had saved most of his classmates at least twice. Walker had the record for both most times needing and receiving CPR and being saved by Alex. It had taken him a few hours to figure out that Alex's goal here was to have some extremely deadly people rely on him for their psychological well-being. It had been amusing to watch his classmates line up like ducklings outside their room when they couldn't find him. The poor dears had to live without their emotional support teen for a few hours. Gordon had, predictably, screamed at them in the hallway. And then assigned Alex extra credit. Otherwise, things had gone fairly smoothly. There was a knock at his door. Three wondered who it could be because, evidently, nobody on this island knocked. He wondered how Alex could stand it, but that wasn't his problem. "Come in."
It was Alex. "Alex, what can I do for you?"
The child had always seemed hesitant to direct any sort of interaction towards him. "You're a member of the executive board, aren't you?"
Three paused. It was something of an open secret on the island. "Yes."
Alex blinked. "Then you know Rothman is planning to kill me, don't you?"
Three sighed. "I suspected as much."
He wasn't about to break the secrecy of the meetings. He regretted it because it was a waste. Alex was a talented young man. "I, however, hold only one vote and can be voted down."
Alex shrugged. "That's not what I'm asking. Also, I already saw the vote on tape."
Three blinked. "Then what do you want?"
Alex licked his lips. "I want you to call them off. If I survive Rothman's attempts, that is."
Three blinked. "And what would you give me in return?"
Alex shrugged. "It's a well-known fact that you don't like her." Alex leaned on his desk. "Well, I don't like it when people threaten me. So, I figure it works out."
Three sighed. "Very well, it would be foolish to show repeated and failed attempts on the life of a fourteen-year-old, anyhow."
Alex glanced at the man. Three stepped towards him, lightly laying a hand on his arm. "Good luck, Alex."
Alex moved back. "Goodbye, sir."
Doctor Three had a feeling he would be dealing with Alex again.
Author's Note: This can be seen as being set in the same universe as "Reprisal", "The Camping Trip from Hell or How Alex Plunged Malagasto into Chaos P2", "Watching Anime or How Alex plunged Malagasto into Chaos, Part 1", "An Unwelcome Cellmate", "The Internship", "I Need Therapy", and "Enigma" but also as a standalone.