Chapter 1: Prerequisite Death Chapter

At sixteen years old, Alex was tall and blond with brown eyes that could only be characterized as sad. He was otherwise an attractive, well-built teen, who could easily pass as older. He trudged along in the farmer's market at Rice University, casually scanning the stalls and feeling a bit exposed. He remembered how much could be hidden in broad daylight. Also, the day was clear enough for a good shot with a sniper rifle. He hadn't exactly wanted to travel anyway. Hotels brought back bad memories and the strong urge to check for bugs. The agents he'd watched die or the people who had ignored his wishes again and again came to mind. He continued to scan his surroundings, checking for anything that looked out of place. A remnant of a time he would rather forget. The faint chill of foreboding was his only warning of what would happen next.

An old lady watched from one of the stalls. It seemed to be an ordinary day, aside from the market itself. She gave the approaching family a one-over. They all seemed ordinary enough. The man was a bit scarred to be sure. The woman seemed anxious, but what mother wasn't? The boy and the girl were both quite attractive, she supposed. Good genes and youth. She shrugged and continued crowd-watching. It was her favorite activity. People were always in such a hurry. She could admit it was nice to be able to just sit down and watch the world. The old woman was long past having much to worry about. It had been almost a full life for her, with a husband and kids and grandchildren. The mourning was bright and the familiar sounds of people buying things at the market washed over her. The sun touched her skin. It was a nice morning. The weather gave no hint of what would happen next.

Sabina was worried. She knew Alex was still recovering from what MI6 and SCORPIA had done to him. Alex had been simply coasting in school. He had gotten good grades after the first semester but hadn't seemed really alive anymore. The spark was gone from his eyes and sometimes it was like his mind was somewhere else. She watched as he continuously scanned around and even above them, silently taking in the many stalls with fresh bread, fruit, honey, and all kinds of goods. The air smelled like bread and she was visiting all the colleges she wanted to attend as a kind of family road trip, although she still refused to travel at night after the events of a certain New Year's party. God, they had nearly drowned that time. And before that, she'd been kidnapped and her father still had scars from the time they'd been blown up. She still had nightmares over the events on Air Force One and nearly drowning in a lake. She could only imagine what Alex's were like. She wanted to help him, but she wasn't sure how. They were safe now, or they were supposed to be. The family had no warning of what was going to happen.

Edward Pleasure was worried. He gave Alex his space after what happened in Egypt, but he really wasn't sure how to act around the teen. Alex had been polite, if slightly quiet and withdrawn. Liz wanted to send him to a psychologist, but he wondered how much it would actually help if Alex couldn't talk about what happened. That official secrets act was a pain in the ass. Alex refused to talk to anyone from the government, not that Edward could blame him. There were days he cursed the government and their secrets. Frankly, he was at loss, since he hadn't exactly had his only family murdered in front of him he wasn't sure about anything to do with it. Edward wasn't the best at talking to teens, anyway. He would be the first to admit that it had been a while since he'd been one. He did love Alex as his own and hoped he would be happy and open up to someone, even if it wasn't any of them.

The shooter was worried. He had decided to do a close-up shot. He had heard what happened the last time someone had tried to snipe the kid, plus the kid was a trained operative. It was bad. The guy had committed suicide, rather than end up in his bosses' hands. Not that the man blamed him. Being a torture expert's plaything was far from fun. He wasn't sure if he could pull this off, but he had to. He could not fail. He began to go very still and imagined the kid as just a pair of lungs connected to a heart, relying on his training. He stepped forward and pulled the trigger of his Glock. Three shots rang out in the open air market as the sun shone down at precisely noon. Head. Left lung. Right lung. He ran. There was no rescue for people who got caught in this business.

Alex knew something was wrong. Something was I should never have come here wrong. Then, his neck began to prickle. Turning, he saw a gunman with a Glock 20 feet away. Shots rang out and people started screaming. He looked down and saw the red spreading across his chest. He couldn't breathe! He saw Sabina running toward him, but he knew it was too late. I wish this had never happened was his last thought. Any of it. His ribs were shattered and his lungs were filling with blood. A rotten onion-scented voice in his ear whispered, "SCORPIA never forgives and never forgets. Goodnight, Agent Rider". The world spiraled into red and silver splotches, and as Alex saw the faces of the dead and heard the Pleasures screaming, it went black. The very last conscious thought he had was that the ambulance wouldn't get there in time this time around. Not that they could. These shots, they were fatal. He knew. At least it was quick.