Summary: Yassen must answer a question, a question that will affect him for the rest of his life.
Word Count: 1134
Pairing/Characters: Yassen Gregorovich, John Rider (no slash)
Beta: The wonderful joanwilder .
Author’s Note: Written for the flash_rider community’s ninth challenge prompt, Full Moon. Spoilers for Eagle Strike.
Disclaimer: Any mention of 'Stormbreaker’, 'Alex Rider', any associated entities, or any copyrighted material pertaining therein is reasonably protected by the Fair Use Rule of the United States Copyright Act of 1976, and is not intended to infringe upon any copyrighted material. All Alex Rider characters belong to Anthony Horowitz. No monetary profit made on this story.
By the Light of the Full Moon
“Yassen, please stay after class. I have something to discuss with you.”
Yassen moved to stand in front of the table where John Rider was sitting. He tried to hide his nervousness, but he knew he was no good at it – his eyes always gave him away. He was going to have to practice more at masking his emotions.
Yassen had already been a student at Scorpia’s Training and Assessment Centre on Malagosto Island when John Rider arrived as a trainer. Rider was a decorated British soldier who’d been convicted of killing a civilian during a bar fight. Britain no longer had use for him but Scorpia certainly did. He’d quickly become their number one assassin. During a break between assignments, he’d come to Malagosto to teach a class on assassination techniques. Yassen had worked hard in his class; he was unsure what he’d done to receive a reprimand. No teacher asked a student to say after a class unless it was for disciplinary action.
“You’ve done very well with your training,” Rider told him. “You’re ready to go out into the field. I’m leaving on an assignment in two days - the assassination of a drug dealer living in the Amazon jungle. I’d like you to be my partner on this mission. If it works out, we’ll partner on future missions.”
Yassen was speechless, but the smile on his face said it all. The offer was more than he’d dared hope for – to partner with Scorpia’s best assassin was a very high honour.
“Before you accept, I want you to think seriously on what you are about to do.” Rider looked down at some papers sitting on the table. “I’ve gone over your file. It says that you have never killed. Is that true?”
Yassen nodded. Scorpia knew everything about his life – there was no point in denying it. If it was a problem, Rider wouldn’t have asked him to be his partner in the first place.
“You are an excellent marksman,” Rider continued. “I have no doubt in your ability to hit a target. But,” Rider paused, giving him a deep, penetrating stare, “killing a man is not like what you see in the movies. When you pull the trigger, you’ll be firing a real bullet into real flesh and blood. You’ll have to live with that for the rest of your life. It’s something you’ll never forget. You’re only nineteen. That’s a long time to live with the memories. And each time you take a life, you kill a little bit more of yourself – believe me, I know.
“Now, I don’t want you to answer me today. I want you to think carefully on what I’m asking you. Do you really have it in you to kill? When the time comes, will you be able to take another man’s life?”
Yassen inhaled, ready to reply, ‘Of course I can,’ but before he had the chance, Rider held up his hand to stop him.
“I need to know that I can count on you to do what must be done. If you have any doubts, you must tell me now. There is no shame in changing your mind. You’ve had a rough time of it. I’m sure coming here was the answer to your prayers. But you’re intelligent, and people like you. You can do many other things with your life – you don’t have to be an assassin just because Scorpia thinks you should. I’ll help you leave here if you decide that killing isn’t what you want to do.”
Yassen left the classroom, Rider’s words ringing in his ears. He had to hurry to his next class – being late had severe consequences. He didn’t have time to think about Rider’s offer now. He’d think about it later tonight.
The air was warm. The spicy scent of the sea floated on a light breeze. The sun had set long ago, but the light from the full moon was bright enough that from his position on top the bell tower, Yassen had no trouble making out the buildings of the training center down below.
There were two hundred and forty-seven steps to the top of the tower. He knew because he’d counted each and every one of them several times over. When he had a problem to work out, this was the place he came to to be alone.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, savoring the freshness of the air. Slowly, he exhaled, concentrating on making his mind blank. He tried to maintain control, but he was too excited, and he found his thoughts wandering to John Rider – his offer, and his question.
The way Rider had worded his offer was strange. It was almost as if he was trying to talk Yassen out of accepting. Yassen puzzled over it at first, but then realized that Rider simply wanted to be sure that any partner of his wouldn’t freeze up when the time came to take the shot.
Yassen had never really thought about it. He’d assumed that killing was simply a part of the job he’d be doing for Scorpia. He’d never wondered if he’d have a problem with it – until now.
Could he kill?
Could he take another man’s life?
The honest answer was – he really didn’t know. He was sure, given the right set of circumstances – to protect a loved one or friend, or to defend himself – he could pull the trigger. But Rider was talking about assassination, killing someone in cold blood. He’d have to watch as the life left their eyes and their body fell to the ground. He might have to hear the screams of loved ones – a wife, a son, a daughter – as their husband, father, or lover died.
Yassen wasn’t sure he could do it.
And what if the target was a woman?
Or even worse, a child?
He could never take the life of a child – never!
The thing was, he didn’t see he had a choice. All the students knew what would happen if they changed their minds or failed any of the classes. No matter what Rider said, Yassen would never be allowed to leave Malagosto alive if he decided to quit the training program.
He took another deep breath, then exhaled. He stared out at the moon reflecting brightly on the water, the lights of Venice twinkling on the horizon. He wondered if the moon would be shining as brightly two nights from now when they were in the Amazon jungle.
Yassen stayed after class the following day and gave Rider his answer. For a moment, Yassen thought he detected a look of sadness in Rider’s eyes, but then it was gone.
“I’m looking forward to working together,” Rider said as he shook Yassen's hand and smiled.
~ Fin ~