People Like Us
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Looking back on it, he never would have been able to take down SCORPIA without the help of an insider, somebody familiar with the organization’s inner workings. Unfortunately, SCORPIA had no qualms about killing their own, least of all turncoats, and the list of surviving ex-Scorpians was abysmally short. Those who had managed to evade the all-knowing eye had moved as far from Venice as possible, gone into seclusion, changed their identities, and were impossible to trace. Alex didn’t have the luxury of time on his hands, not with SCORPIA threatening to exterminate one-third of the world’s population in just under 72 hours.

But in the end, Alex hadn’t needed to find a mole for SCORPIA—the mole found Alex first.

Deep in his heart, he always knew that it would take more than a bullet to kill Yassen Gregorovich. When the Russian had rescued Alex from a hyperbaric chamber designed to pressurize him into a bloody, gutty pulp, Alex’s reaction was hardly one of surprise. Of course Yassen had survived. The man had more lives than a cat, and probably better reflexes. A bullet to the chest was nothing to him.

It wasn’t exactly a joyous reunion, but Yassen had made it abundantly clear that he had no love for SCORPIA, not after discovering the truth about John Rider’s death just a few months before. The fact that they’d also tried to assassinate Alex had been enough for Yassen to pick up his guns again. And he’d brought a lot of them.

“I need you,” he’d told the fifteen-year-old in Cairo, “and you need me. The only way one can destroy Scorpia is from the inside out, and if we hope to accomplish that, we must work together. What do you say, Rider? Do we have an arrangement?”

Alex, thinking of the parents who had died at SCORPIA’s hands and an uncle who had died at Yassen’s, had hesitated for a moment. Then Yassen had pulled a Glock 19 from his belt and placed it in Alex’s hand.

“You have my trust,” he said, staring intently at Alex’s face. “All I need is yours.”

Alex had accepted the peace offering and shaken Yassen’s hand like a man.

Forty-eight hours later, Cossack and Cub single-handedly blew SCORPIA’s headquarters off the face of the earth with a two-ton massive ordnance bomb, and averted a global power disaster that would have plunged the human race back into the Dark Ages. Of course, the bomb had been hijacked from the United States military, Yassen had broken at least twelve international laws in order to get it, not counting taking three UN representatives hostage, and Alex had shot Zeljan Kurst in the head with a .50 caliber AutoMag V. They weren’t exactly heroes, and they knew the only thing waiting for them back in London was a military tribunal.

MI6, however, in an unusual act of mercy, declared that they’d been “misinformed” by several “unscrupulous sources”, and all charges against Yassen Gregorovich and his young accomplice were dropped without further argument. Furthermore, Alex was officially released from his duties as MI6 operative and granted full power of attorney to Ian Rider’s bank accounts, the bait which MI6 had been using to trap Alex in their service for the past two years.

Unfortunately, things hadn’t changed much for Yassen. He still had a criminal record a mile long and was a wanted man in nearly every country in the European Union; his respite in London wasn’t meant to last.

Alex and Yassen parted ways at Liverpool Street Station with a handshake and an understanding, and the last Alex saw of Cossack was the back of his head disappearing into the crowd. He vaguely wondered if he’d ever see him again.

Of course I will, Alex realized almost immediately, feeling suddenly, inexplicably relieved.

People like Yassen always came back.

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