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Nightshade is the twelfth book in the Alex Rider series, released on April, 7, 2020 in both the U.K. and the United States. It is the longest Alex Rider book to date.


Synopsis

Following the shocking events of Never Say Die, Alex Rider’s world has changed: his biggest enemy, the evil organization SCORPIA, has been destroyed. Alex is hoping his life can finally go back to normal, that he can go to school and spend time with his friends–but very quickly everything changes. A new and dangerous criminal organization–Nightshade–is rising.

When Alex discovers they’ve planned a mysterious attack on London, he will stop at nothing to take them down. But protecting his home city means facing off a ruthless new enemy and putting his life at stake, again. And this time, there’s no one to save him if he makes a mistake.

Goofs (SPOILERS)

  1. When preparing for the Leap of Faith, the book acts like Alex has never been skydiving before. This is inaccurate, as he previously had to parachute in the book Stormbreaker in order to reach the Museum before Herod Sayle enacted his plan.
  2. On pg 207 Dr Flint refers to Alex by his name in front of Freddy whilst Alex was undercover as Julius.
  3. British Airways operate their only Airbus A318 on a transatlantic route, so Alex couldn’t have taken one to Amsterdam.
  4. At the end of Never Say Die, Freddy Grey’s parents are called Sir William and Caroline Grey, yet in Nightshade they are renamed Sir Christopher and Lady Susan Grey.
  5. When Mrs Jones recalls that most of the people who had come up against Alex are dead, General Sarov is mistakenly credited as Colonel Sarov.
  6. In the conclusion of Scorpia Rising, Mrs Jones ordered the Gibraltar facility shut down as her first act as head of Special Operations, yet here, it is still operating.

Plot

Prologue

Alex Rider and Jack Starbright arrive at Heathrow Airport, coming back from a holiday in Amsterdam after their reunion at Smoke City, an industrial compound in Wales, where he fought the Grimaldi Brothers in Never Say Die. At the same time, James Clifford (also referred to as Lord Clifford), a former politician, buys a cupcake from two supposed Girl Guides, which contained sodium cyanide. Fifteen minutes later, he suffers a seizure, followed by a fatal heart attack.

Part One: Genesis

Tulip Jones (also referred to as Mrs Jones) arrives at the Headquarters of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She is there to meet the Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Royce. He tells Mrs Jones that he had found out that she had employed Alex Rider, saying that she was acting against the law and tells her to never use Alex again.

In Rio de Janeiro, Pablo (his undercover name in Brazil, his real name never mentioned), an undercover MI6 agent, is going to meet John Crawley in the park. He tells him that Nightshade was planning to conduct a major terrorist attack in London. Before he can speak more, a model Spitfire plane with a knife on its wing, operated by two kids, slices Pablo's neck and kills him.

As the two assassins – a boy and a girl – make their escape on a moped, Crawley orders his backup team to pursue them. The chase leads them to a nearby airport, where the girl escapes through a hole in the fence to a waiting helicopter; the boy, however, is captured by Crawley’s team and contained at the Rio headquarters of BOPE: Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais, or the Special Operations Police Battalion.

Crawley meets with the senior commander of BOPE, who reveals that the boy has not given them any information at all, even when threatened with torture. The boy, who is chained in his cell and has not eaten or drunk anything, even when offered, asks to go to the toilet, and a guard goes to release him. However, the boy takes out a skin-coloured syringe from his ear and injects the guard with poison, killing him. The boy leaves his cell and takes down the two guards on duty outside; one is felled with martial arts moves, whilst the other falls victim to the boy’s glasses, which contain razor-sharp blades in the arms. Stealing a gun, he kills three guards, shoots the commander and another man, and comes close to killing Crawley, when the boy is knocked out by another guard. In total, five men die, two more are wounded, and the commander (who survived) demands Crawley take the boy to England; such an offer had been previously refused.

Iraq War veteran Lieutenant General Sir Christopher Grey and his wife, Lady Susan, meet Crawley in England, and the three of them go to the maximum-security Paddington Green Police Station, where the boy is being held. It is believed that the boy is the Grey family’s son and only child, Frederick, who was lost, presumed killed, in a boating incident ten years previously, at the age of four; the Greys were on holiday somewhere in England, and Frederick’s nanny, Jenny, an accomplished sailor, had agreed to take him out on a boat on the river, while Sir Christopher and Lady Susan went out together. When the boat did not return at the allotted time, the Coast Guard was sent out, who discovered that the boat had capsized; Jenny had drowned, whilst Frederick could not be found. It was eventually decided that he had been swept out to sea. Although the boy claims not to recognise the two new arrivals, Lady Susan is convinced he is Frederick, having always believed that he was still alive.

Mrs Jones calls a meeting at MI6, comprising Crawley, Chief Science Office Samantha Redwing, Dominic Royce, one of Royce’s staffers Owen Andrews, and Mrs Jones’ secretary Mary Makepeace serving as stenographer. Crawley mentions what happened in Brazil, saying that Pablo told him, when he died, that Nightshade is planning something bad for the United Kingdom. Redwing explains that Nightshade is, in essence, a subcontractor organisation, with no beliefs or aims, who will simply kill anyone or destroy anything, in return for a big payment; recently, Nightshade was paid for a job, not in cash, but with a canister of VX, the most dangerous chemical weapon in the world, which is believed to be the weapon in their latest plan. Crawley states that Nightshade are very thorough, as the helicopter that took the girl had a fake number plate, landed at an airport somewhere else in Brazil, and exploded half an hour later, to cover their tracks. Frederick is being held at the Gibraltar facility, where Julius Grief was held until SCORPIA helped him escape (as depicted in Scorpia Rising). Royce then decides that Andrews will work at Special Operations, and tell him all that they know. Afterwards, Crawley meets with Mrs Jones, says that Redwing is in charge of giving Andrews, and Royce by extension, false information to placate him, and shows a photograph of the girl assassin. The photograph clearly shocks Mrs Jones, who believes that they must circumvent Royce’s demands and affront to their work, and get Alex Rider to work for them again.

At Brookland Comprehensive School, Alex is glad to be back. He and his best friend Tom Harris go to art class, the last lesson of the day, when the jobsworth school receptionist says that a car is waiting for Alex outside. Worried and angry after seeing two men in suits in the car, Alex decides to create a non-lethal boobytrap to get the men to leave him alone, not wanting to get caught up in MI6 again. He takes a piece of string and a paper carrier full of black paint powder from the art room and leaves, under the pretence of a toilet break. Tom, whose help Alex has requested, tags along, getting the two men to leave the car and find Alex (who is supposedly doing a litter-picking detention) and distract them, whilst Alex uses the string to break into the car, and then filling the AC/heater system with the powder paint and some black peppers he has taken from the school kitchen, before setting the system to blow everywhere at maximum strength. As the school day ends, Alex cycles past the car; true to his hope, the driver starts it, neglecting to see the changes to the AC/heater controls, and he and his passenger are stunned by the weapon, covered head to toe in black powder. Alex passes it off to Miss Bedfordshire as “engine trouble”.

Alex spends an hour at Tom house’s, doing physics homework, before he goes home. However, the two men in suits from the car are waiting for him, along with Mrs Jones. She sends the men to wait outside, before, over tea and biscuits, telling Alex and Jack about what happened with Crawley in Rio, and about Nightshade. She acknowledges that she would let Alex say yes or no to any further MI6 work and would respect his decision either way, but she explains that she has a personal connection to everything happening.

Mrs Jones reveals that she did not want to be a spy; she started out wanting to be a humanitarian, working to stop bad things happening in foreign countries. She was at university, preparing a doctoral thesis on climate change and how it affects developing countries, when she was approached to work at Special Operations. She started as an analyst, before eventually becoming Alan Blunt’s second in command. In that time, she met a German political writer called Hans, who she fell in love with and married (though she kept her maiden name). Later, they became parents to two children, a boy called William and a girl called Sofia. Alex saw their picture at Mrs Jones’ apartment, when SCORPIA sent him to kill her (as depicted in Scorpia); this revelation startles him, as he thought of them as a nephew and niece, never once believing Mrs Jones to be a mother.

Eventually (ten years before the present-day setting of the series), Alan Blunt revealed that Hans was a Russian deep cover agent, and that there was a leak within MI6. Mrs Jones herself would not be prosecuted, but Hans would be captured. Unable to bear losing her husband, she called him and revealed that she and MI6 knew the truth, and that he should get out of the country as soon as possible; however, when she went to the primary school to explain it to William and Sofia (who were six and four, respectively, at the time), the headteacher informed her that Hans had taken them out of school within an hour of the call being made. After putting out the alert everywhere in Britain and that turning up a negative, Mrs Jones then feared that her children had been taken to Russia, or killed, until recently. She then shows Alex and Jack the picture that Crawley had shown her, of the girl assassin in Rio; it is revealed that the girl is Sofia Jones, Mrs Jones’ daughter, who is now fourteen years old, and is now believed to be, along with Frederick, an agent of Nightshade.

Mrs Jones asks Alex to go to the Gibraltar facility, under the guise of his late clone, Julius Grief. The other half-dozen prisoners at the facility are ignorant of Julius’ death in Egypt, so Alex can pretend to be Julius and say that he had been captured again. If he accepts the mission, he is to befriend Frederick, get as much information out of him as he can regarding Nightshade and their plan, and bring back Mrs Jones’ children back to her. Reluctantly, Alex agrees, knowing that there is nobody else capable of doing the job.

The next day, Alex and Jack are taken by Crawley’s nephew, Myles, to a Victorian-era toy shop, The House of Dolls, which serves as an MI6 safe house; Liverpool Street is not used, because the operation Alex is about to undertake is unofficial, to keep Royce ignorant. Crawley is there, and escorts them to a conference room, where they find a metal box, a portable RF inhibitor, capable of jamming all communication within sixty metres. Crawley warns Alex that once he starts, he will have no backup, save for a contact. He also says that there is a leak in MI6, which resulted in Pablo’s death, and he cannot trust anyone, save Myles, his personal assistant. Alex is then introduced to the other six prisoners in Gibraltar:

  • Derek and Clare Miller, siblings from the neo-Nazi Dark Angels, who nearly nuked Washington D.C., in their thirties
  • Henry Mellish, spy for the Russians
  • Jane Chumley, spy for anyone who will pay her
    • Both Mellish and Chumley are extremely dangerous, responsible for the deaths of fifty agents all over Europe
  • Ali Glasim, the oldest man in the facility. Started worked in Iraqi torture, joined the weapons inspectorate, looking for nuclear missiles. He was stealing them and selling to anyone who could pay, including the Millers
  • "Mr Someone", unknown name, freelance assassin. Supposedly the best in the business, killed his parents at twelve, went professional at fifteen; described as being a good-looking Caribbean man, with grizzled hair, a thin moustache and intelligent, humorous and dangerous eyes

Julius knew them all, as they are all too dangerous for anywhere else in the world. Alex must know them, and if they suspect something, they will kill him instantly. Alex is given a virtual tour of the prison, needing to know everything, and be part of Julius Grief’s psyche, including a fight with Mellish. He does not have long, as Nightshade’s plan could happen at any moment, and he must know what Frederick knows, and quickly. Even worse, Alex will be sent to Gibraltar unarmed, without gadgets, but will be able to communicate to MI6 through Julius’ psychiatrist, Dr Rosemary Flint, the person who knew Julius best. When Dr Flint appears in the conference room, Alex pretends to be Julius, much to her terror.

Crawley explains that when Alex has to pretend to be Julius to infiltrate the prison. Once Alex has the information required, he will pass it on to Dr Flint, who will, in turn, contact MI6, who will then retrieve Alex and repatriate him to the UK, but Jack remarks that Alex’s half-term break at school only lasts a week. Crawley promises to get Alex back to school as quickly as possible, believing that they only need a week. Dr Flint warns Alex of the prisoners, saying that they are not just dangerous, but sick, and that Frederick has barely spoken to anyone. Crawley counters by putting Alex and Frederick in the same cell, and will arrange for them to befriend one another. Dr Flint reluctantly agrees, worried about Alex getting killed by the other prisoners. Despite Crawley’s assurances that everything will go fine, Owen Andrews discovers the incident at Brooklands and communicates it to Royce, suspecting that Alex is returning.

Part Two: Exodus

Alex is flown to Gibraltar in a Hercules transport plane and transferred to the facility. Unfortunately, Crawley had only told Alex about the other prisoners, the governor and his new wife Delores, but has not said anything about the guards. At the prison, he is taken to the governor’s villa, to meet the sadistic governor, Frank Sheriff, a former Royal Navy man, in his office. Sheriff intensely hates Grief and takes it out on Alex, calling him a freak that should never have been created (in reference to Julius being a clone of Dr Grief) and declaring him the worst out of all the prisoners, before threatening him with the new technology installed to prevent future escapes, accusing him of ruining a personal promotion and transfer. Sheriff then strangles Alex, only stopping himself from killing him at the last moment, and says that nobody cares if he lives or dies, and that the guards have free reign over him, even avoiding Mellish and the Millers, all of whom having scores to settle with Julius. A guard marches him over to the dormitory, releases Alex from his shackles and locks him into his cell, with Frederick. Alex, in character as Julius, tries to bully Frederick, calling him “Dummy” in reference to his stoicism.

At breakfast, Alex meets the other prisoners and the chef, who hate Julius with all their hearts. Mr Someone expresses his delight at seeing him again. Mellish, who fought Julius over something, expresses his hatred with a knife gesture. Frederick seems to be immune to Alex’s charm offensive, but recognises that he has never told Alex his name, when Alex accidentally calls him ‘Freddy’ at the table. Mr Someone saves Alex, saying that everyone knows everything about everybody. Alex follows Frederick to the library, where Frederick reads a book on Greek myths. Frederick listens into the conversation, when Alex talks to Chumley; she has taken over as librarian when Carlos, the previous librarian, was fired, supposedly for smuggling Julius’ gun into the prison when he escaped.

Frederick is still silent at lunch, and Alex realises that there is no easy way out, as Dr Flint has been kept away from him. The guards, and Sheriff, are ignorant of his true identity; as a consequence, the guards are sadistic. In the workshop, the Millers build a model of an ICBM, Ali builds a model of a sailing ship and Frederick looks out of the window. Alex tries to be friends with Frederick again, but is rebuffed, with an unsaid threat. One of the guards presents a model of a submarine, which Julius was working on before his escape; Alex has no experience in metalwork, and tries to fixate on it, whilst Frederick still stares out of the window.

At dinner, Alex sits opposite Frederick, who is still silent. The paella they are served is terrible. Mellish tries to kill Alex, by slipping a tiny razorblade into his food. Alex worries about what will happen, and fears what will happen next, who will kill him. In the cell, Alex sees Frederick get out of bed and pray, which puzzles him. The prayer, which goes on for five minutes, reads: “O Great Master, creator of the universe, protect me in this, the hour of my need. Although I am far from your guiding light, I am close to you and your voice is in me. I ask you to lead me, as you have always done. I promise to obey your every command, and to act without hesitation, no matter what you ask…forever, and all eternity.” Alex sees the comma-shaped scar around Frederick’s ear, and he believes that it was not caused by an accident, as believed by Brazil. In the morning, Alex is determined to try and get away.

At his first meeting with Dr Flint, four days later, Alex wants to quit and leave. He worries about his mortality, and that his mission is going badly, as Frederick stays silent mostly, save only for his prayers, every single night. Frederick refuses to divulge his beliefs. Dr Flint compliments Alex’s progresses, and she asks him to help. Frederick has been brainwashed, and describes brainwashing as a delicate structure. She gives him one of Frederick’s childhood toys, a stuffed monkey called Benjamin, but Alex questions using it, as Frederick doesn’t even remember his own parents. Dr Flint says that infants have very good memories, and that even if the indoctrinators knew where Frederick lived and who his parents were, they won’t have known about Benjamin and won’t have suppressed it. It is therefore a direct link to Frederick’s past. Alex is still worried, but puts Benjamin in the bunk.

In the prison gym, Alex observes Frederick going through a punishing training regime. Down in the gym’s changing room, Mr Someone shows Alex his AK-47 chest tattoo and asks him for help, referring to Julius’ breakout. Alex worries as he knows nothing of a conversation, and claims to have forgotten it, but Mr Someone refers to an escape plan that he and Julius made. Alex says he has changed his mind, but Mr Someone threatens to kill him if he doesn’t go along with the it. Mellish is upset that Alex saw through the razorblade poisoning attempt, and is planning something unstoppable and worse. Mr Someone says that he and Alex have to leave together, and becomes more aggressive, pinning him against the lockers, saying that there are no microphones in the changing room. Alex claims to have hidden in Siwa, but was captured by MI6 and suffered amnesia as a result of a head injury. He agrees to go along with Mr Someone’s demand, and is saved by a guard. Alex goes to use a treadmill, and regrets everything he has gotten himself into, worrying about if he will survive.

In the cell, Frederick shows signs of being brainwashed, and has rebuffed attempts by both Chumley and Mellish, giving a creepy air to everyone else, as well as not seeming to care that he could die in the facility. Alex wonders if William and Sofia Jones have been put through the same nightmarish indoctrination. He shows off Benjamin the stuffed monkey, but Frederick shows no reaction. Even when put on a chair to watch a Spanish dub of Star Trek: The Original Series, nothing happens. Dr Flint’s plan has failed, and he has failed. All he focuses on now is leaving in a few days’ time. Eventually, Frederick notices Benjamin and seems to remember it. Alex says Dr Flint gave it to him, and reveals its name, to no reaction, save a glimmer in his eyes. Alex mentions Instoe, as a holiday place, watching TV and building things. Frederick shows some emotions, asking if Benjamin came from his mother. Alex sticks to Julius’ Point Blanc origins and deliberately mentions Jenny the nanny, hoping to breach his mind. Frederick is confused, and Alex gives Benjamin to him and apologises for his bad behaviour earlier on. Alex wonders about his progress, and Frederick prays for Alex, asking that he becomes a follower of his God.

Frederick shows no signs of talking, and Alex worries about whether Mr Someone or Mellish will kill him. Diego, a guard, deliberately trips him over and locks Alex up in solitary confinement for two months. In the workshop, Alex discovers a pleasure in metalwork, and discovers, again, something rattling in the submarine model. The hull unscrews, and he discovers a key hidden inside, wondering the key is the “it” that Mr Someone challenged him about in the gym. Alex pockets the key and fixes the submarine. That night, at movie night, when watching The Martian, Alex wonders where the key will work, when he is suddenly garrotted by Mellish, who is sitting behind him. Mellish nearly kills Alex, but only relents when Frederick breaks Mellish’s nose and knocks him out. At the end of the movie, an ambulance is called to remove Mellish (who later claims to have fallen asleep and slipped out of his chair) to Gibraltar’s Royal Naval Hospital, and Frederick reveals that Alex is “one of us”, that he has been praying for him, and that Alex must call him “Number Nine” when they are alone, before hinting that Alex could become “Number Twenty-Six”. Alex worries that twenty-five children, including Frederick and the Jones siblings, have been kidnapped by Nightshade.

The next day, Alex and Frederick meet in the gym’s changing room, where Frederick asks Alex to help. Frederick asks where Alex will go if he escapes, but Alex counters saying that there is no way out. Frederick reveals that there is a way out, with weapons in the metal in the workshop, two guards on duty; he will simply break a chain from one of the tools, and use it to kill the two guards, in the blind spot of the workshop’s cameras. He and Alex will then kill everyone at the facility, and escape from Gibraltar by boat. When Alex asks why the other prisoners must die, Frederick reveals that he does not trust any of them, and that he and Nightshade, his ‘family’, will take care of him, and that the breakout will happen the following day.

Back in London, the schools prepare to return. Owen Andrews goes to Green Park in the afternoon, to meet Royce in the park during lunch break. Andrews reveals that MI6 are doing their best to keep him unknowing of what they are doing, and reveals that he doesn’t like them. With Nightshade, nothing seems to be happening, and Royce wonders why Frederick is at Gibraltar. Andrews does not know what Alex is up to; he telephoned Jack, who said that Alex has gone to the Lake District, which is a lie, because they have no friends in the Lake District and she hasn’t phoned Alex during the week. Royce reveals his dissatisfaction with MI6, regarding Nightshade and Alex, and plans to increase his surveillance on Mrs Jones and her supposed incompetence.

In Gibraltar, Alex exercises and returns to his cell. He wonders how to reveal what he knows to Dr Flint, to prevent a massacre, but wonders what will happen next, if Mrs Jones loses her children and Nightshade performs their attack. He realises that Frederick is the only way to find Nightshade, but if the plan happens, the prison will be massacred. A third option comes in the form of the key Julius Grief had made, and realises that Governor Sheriff’s villa rises higher than the wall, but too far to jump, but still begins to work out a way out.

The following day, Alex and Frederick go to therapy together, against the wishes of Sheriff. It is Alex’s idea, knowing that Frederick will never tell him who Nightshade is, and forms part of his plan to get them both out and avoid a massacre. Dr Flint thinks it is insanity, but Alex is certain the plan will work. The meeting begins, at Sheriff’s villa (Sheriff himself and his wife have gone out shopping), and Frederick is uncooperative. Alex distracts Dr Flint and pretends to gag her; she knows what is happening, and is in on the trick. Alex gets her to call in the guard, who comes in, and Frederick knocks him down, stealing his gun and pointing it at Dr Flint. Alex eases him, and binds and gags Dr Flint. He takes the submarine key out of the belt, intending to get out via the villa’s roof. He and Frederick go to Sheriff’s office; when the key does not work the first time in the office door’s lock, Frederick threatens to shoot Alex, but the door eventually opens. Inside the office, the villa’s alarm goes off, and Frederick takes over, breaking the office window and instigates a shootout with the guards. Alex takes Sheriff’s wheeled office chair and takes it out, with Frederick following. He removes the back and arms, creating a wheeled platform.

The guards surround the house, so Alex and Frederick go upstairs, and Alex used the same key to open the doors on the first floor, ultimately finding the door to the top floor. Frederick opens the loft trapdoor, and he and Alex climb up, with the chair. Alex climbs out of the loft window and discovers that the house is too far from the wall, but there are some trees allowing them to climb over. As the guards breach the house, Alex and Frederick use the remnants of the chair as a launch sled, riding it down the slope of the villa’s roof, over the wall and into freedom. Alex is separated from the chair and lands in a tree. Both he and Frederick survive. Although they have escaped the prison, they have the entire military contingent to contend with. They are high up on The Rock, a virtually inhospitable part of Gibraltar, and the military has been notified of their escape. Frederick has lost the gun he stole from the prison, so he and Alex hide in the bushes. They try to escape in the darkness, but Alex falls over and slides down the hill. Reuniting with Frederick, he escapes, because of Frederick receiving correct information, despite having no maps or knowledge of the terrain.

The two boys avoid the military forces, but then the dog unit is sent out and they are discovered. Frederick leads Alex to a gate, over a stone wall, into the town. Alex suspects that Frederick’s escape has been planned. They split up, aiming to rendezvous at the derelict Queen’s Cinema. When Frederick does not show up, Alex finds a door into the cinema, only to find Frederick in the auditorium, and with Benjamin the monkey in his pocket. Unable to work out how Frederick has made it there without injury, whilst he himself is badly hurt, Alex falls asleep in one of the seats.

When Alex wakes up, he sees Frederick return with shopping from the supermarket: clean clothes and food, all which has been stolen. He then says that his ‘family’ has told him to stay in the cinema until sunset, at which point, people will help him escape. Alex asks about Nightshade, and where they are going. Frederick says they will go to Tangier, but cannot say anything more. Alex then tries to ask him about his life, and how he ended up at the prison, as well as why he calls himself “Number Nine”. Frederick says that he is “just one of twenty-five” orphans, in Nightshade’s thrall; they were seemingly abandoned by their parents on a boat at sea, spending one hundred days at sea, until the “Teachers” found them and adopted them. He then says that his ‘real’ name and biological parents were only introduced to him by the police, but he says that it is all lies, and that the numerical designation is because they have no identity beyond Nightshade. The “Teachers” tell them everything, on making the world a better place, through murder, as with the Pablo incident. The “Teachers” are angry with Frederick because he was “in training for a Leap of Faith”, a mission. Frederick sees Alex as forgiveness, and wants him to join them. Alex is internally sickened by it all.

Mrs Jones discovers the Gibraltar breakout from Crawley, and questions Alex’s motives. Crawley indicates that Alex is the best way to find Nightshade, but reveals that Alex and Frederick have disappeared altogether. They wonder about how Frederick got help, as he had no communication devices on him. They worry about Alex’s efforts and fate, but unbeknownst to them, Owen Andrews discovers the breakout from HMS Secure Unit Gibraltar. Alex’s name has been withheld from reports, but Andrews is suspicious and plans to hack into Crawley’s computer.

Back in Gibraltar, Alex hates being holed up in the cinema, and wonders about how everything is working. Two Spaniards, Sebastien and Mattias, enter the cinema, identify Frederick as “Number Nine” and say that they must leave Alex behind, according to instructions. When Frederick intervenes, the men eventually relent; they are drug gangsters, from La Máquina ("The Machine"), who have been contracted to take Frederick to Tangier. The quartet go to Queensway Quay, board a modified RIB, and leave the harbour, en route to Tangier. However, the Royal Gibraltar Police send a pursuit ship after them; the smugglers refuse to surrender and are shot at. Sebastien draws an RPG launcher and takes aim. Wanting to stop the needless deaths of four police officers, Alex arms himself with the shattered neck of a bottle of spirits and punctures the boat, causing Sebastien to lose his aim and miss the boat. The police withdraw, unarmed for fighting with explosives. Mattias discovers the broken bottle and becomes suspicious, but Sebastien reveals that they are at Tangier.

Part Three: Numbers

Nightshade has a headquarters on the Greek island of Crete, at Kavos Bay: a decommissioned Hellenic Army base bought from the Greek military. It contains a school, a hospital, two accommodation blocks (segregated along gender lines), an assault course and airstrips, a miniature temple and a taverna called Mistral. Nightshade operates it under the name Kids Crisis Relief, as a charity that raises war orphans. It is self-sufficient, as it generates its own electricity and has space to grow crops and keep livestock. The Temple is located away from the rest of the building and is the residence of the “Teachers”, the people who make up its executive committee. Four of the Teachers meet in the conference room at the Temple, in uniform grey shirts buttoned to the neck, loose robes and sandals with crescent moon pendant on their necks, giving them a new-age monk appearance. Over green tea, they conduct a meeting on recent operations.

All the teachers are fifty years old and American:

  • Brother Lamar, the founder and chief executive of Nightshade, seated at head of table. Male, completely bald, round neck, thick lips, flabby face (fat).
  • Sister Jeanne, sits next to Lamar, looks like private clinic matron; well-built, chestnut hair that always looks fake, slathered in makeup (Too Much Make Up)
  • Brother Mike, opposite Jeanne; African-American, round glasses, face that never smiles, close shaved head, suspicious eyes, precise speaking way (Undertaker)
  • Sister Krysten: long white hair over shoulders, thin face, nose like a knife, glasses, dangling silver earrings (Mrs White Hair)

The meeting opens with an update on Number Nine, and Brother Lamar questions whether Nightshade can keep him, worrying if he has been “compromised”. Sister Jeanne compliments Frederick’s performance, and has talked to him, not blaming for his capture in Rio; a similar talk with Sofia Jones, “Number Six”, and refers to his attempted escape from Rio, complimenting Brother Mike’s teaching of advance interrogation techniques. La Máquina was paid one hundred thousand euros to bring Frederick to Tangier, but it has had to be doubled with Alex’s presence. The “Teachers” believe that Alex is Julius Grief, and Sister Krysten compares him to the Numbers of Nightshade, in that Julius was raised his whole life for one single purpose, performing it without question. She believes that Alex can join their ranks, but says that Frederick disobeyed orders, the first time a Number has done so. Brother Lamar is angry, and says that friendship is not part of part of a Number’s life. Brother Mike agrees, saying that Frederick has been compromised and believes that he must die as a result, questioning why it hasn’t already happened. Brother Lamar says that Nightshade needs him, arguing that Frederick is perfect for Leap of Faith, one week away, and not wanting to risk morale.

Brother Mike retorts by saying that he has prepared Number Seven to succeed Frederick. He then insists on killing Alex, but Brother Lamar disagrees, saying that Frederick owes something to Alex and that killing him may throw Frederick off balance. He then believes that they can use Alex for their own ends. Alex is then brought into the meeting (he escaped being beaten by Mattias, and had promptly left Tangier, in a private plane, after a single night sleeping in a van, and has imprisoned in the hangar for the afternoon since his arrival) and is seated in a chair at the table. He is repulsed by the executives. Brother Lamar introduces Sister Krysten, Sister Jeanne and Brother Mike, welcoming him to Nightshade. Sister Krysten thanks him for his work and asks what he wants to do. Alex feigns having no family or friends, and asks to stay. Sister Jeanne seems to be the most reasonable. Alex, in character as Julius, says he could kill and can be Number Twenty-Six. Brother Lamar says that Alex must not communicate with the outside world, and pray as they do. Brother Lamar then says that Alex is to support Frederick with his work, a great mission, but must not question him or talk to the others of the outside world – not that they have any interest anyway. Brother Mike demands to kill him straightaway, but Alex says he wants to join Nightshade. Eventually, the Teachers are unanimous in admitting him to their ranks. He is uncuffed, but is warned that he will always be watched.

Nightshade introduces Alex to the ‘family’, at the village’s church, which has been modified for their demands. True to Alex’s suspicions, there are twenty-three children in the church, aged from twelve to sixteen/seventeen, dressed in uniform grey trousers, blue jackets, black shoes and mauve shirts. The assassins who killed Lord Clifford are present, as is Frederick. Sister Krysten welcomes him and sits him at the front of the church, and explains that he will join them for a few weeks, saying that he returned Number Nine. Alex is not a follower, so despite his closeness to them, he is not one of them, and must not be told of their world. The daily hymn is performed; “Our lives do not belong to us – You speak and we rejoice – You never will do wrong to us – We live to hear your voice – We do what you have taught us – We know we have no choice – We are your sons and daughters – And live to hear your voice”. Alex is unnerved by the hymn, and by everyone’s faith in it. Brother Lamar takes over, saying that a few days remain before Leap of Faith, and that everyone will be making the world better by attacking London. Brother Lamar leads a prayer: “O Great Master, creator of the universe, we thank you for bringing us together and watching over us. We will be with you forever and all eternity”.

Frederick takes Alex to dinner at the taverna, but Alex notices two tombstones by the church; Number Fourteen and Number Twenty-One, explaining why only twenty-three instead of twenty-five were present at church. Frederick says they both died in a training accident. Alex is reminded to a trip he made to Greece six years earlier with Ian Rider, because of all the sights, smells, and feelings. At dinner, Frederick introduces Alex to Numbers Six, Seven, Eleven and Twenty-Two. Number Eleven is blonde, who looks very similar to Alex. Despite their friendliness, there is something otherworldly about the Numbers. The dinner is served; Greek mezzes, with aubergines, fried cheese, grilled mushrooms and smoked pork; then lamb with garlic and roast potatoes, olive oil and lemon. Alex understands that the Numbers are content with their lives, the “Primes” (guards) aren’t there to stop them from leaving; and there are “Cardinals”, technicians and scientists. The Numbers are in perfect physical shape, too neat and too comfortable with others, almost like a cult with a hive mind.

The conversations all take place in perfect English. Frederick speaks about his captivity, having never visited Gibraltar before. Alex doesn’t know how he managed to find his way out. Number Six seems to be in love with Frederick, evidently with his body language. The girl is Sofia Jones. Number Seven, who is very quiet, is her older brother, William. He is suspicious of Alex, but Frederick defends him. Sofia accuses her brother of questioning the Teachers, and William says he will pray for forgiveness. She confirms that she, William, and all the others are related, as one family, living and dying for one another; she expresses no memory of her biological family.

Everything at Nightshade’s base seems to be run like clockwork, as at eight-thirty, a bell rings to signify the end of dinner, which causes everyone to fall silent. Frederick shows Alex to the boys’ sleeping area and gives him the late Number Twenty-One’s bed. Alex thinks of how the Numbers believe their lives do not belong to them. At night, after everyone else falls asleep seemingly automatically, Alex hears voices in a language he cannot understand.

Alex remembers Point Blanc Academy and Scorpia’s school at Malagosto and compares them to Nightshade's lair, knowing that the Numbers know nothing of the outside world, with no interest in it or its trappings, and seemingly having no lives of their own. He remembers the kidnappings of Frederick, William and Sofia, and believes that Nightshade’s Numbers come from military, intelligence and crime families, genetically ideal for their purposes and brainwashed under a fake religion, discovering that Nightshade is a cult, as nobody questions anything. He feels sorry for the Numbers, despite animosity with William, but feels that he cannot help the Numbers.

The lessons at Nightshade consist of languages (French, Greek, Russian and Mandarin Chinese), which everyone speaks fluently, beyond A-Level standards in academic standards. Then comes the assault course, gym and shooting range, martial arts. Brother Mike leads physical training, harshly reprimanding a girl who takes six minutes on the assault course. Sister Krysten takes languages, maths and science. The hospital teaches surgery to everyone. Other sessions include radio-controlled planes, and parachuting. Alex believes that the London attack will be by air, and nobody questions the operations or dislikes them. He cannot escape, and feels he can only communicate with MI6 at the Temple, which is impossible to break into, unless he can trick the handprint reader.

In the kitchen, Alex steals some sugar and attends a hospital lesson, run by a Cardinal with doctor training; the subject is cauterising wounds. Alex fakes being faint and steals a surgical glove from the hospital bin. The Numbers cannot fight with one another, but Alex, not a number, sees an opportunity. Brother Mike leads an advanced karate session on the second day, where Alex knows his black belt is for self-defence, whilst the others know to use it to kill. Alex pairs with Number Eleven for the training, and the Number is relentless, but goes easy on Alex. Brother Mike does not care about injuries, and asks Julius to demonstrate grappling hands at the end of the lesson. William volunteers to fight him, but Alex notices he has a similar scar to Frederick, around his ear. The sparring begins, and Alex can barely defend himself from William’s fury. Sofia is worried. William and Alex become locked together, and Alex lets himself get hurt, though not seriously. Brother Mike reluctantly helps Alex get up; he had poured water and sugar on the glove, dried it and has obtained Brother Mike’s handprint, and with it, a way into the Temple.

After martial arts comes French and physics. Alex realises that the Numbers have been through the same “raised as warriors from birth” life as himself. The physics lesson focuses on IEDs, and is led by Brother Lamar. At lunch, Alex fakes a stomach injury and sows seeds of doubt in Sofia’s mind; she says that she was abandoned on a boat, just as Frederick said, and says that the Teachers are omniscient and hear everything. Sister Jeanne seems to be the nurse, but the Numbers sometimes have to operate on each other. Under pretence of going to bed, Alex leaves. The Primes, though armed, are lazy and half-asleep. He goes to the Temple, looking for radio and computers, to signal MI6 and shut Nightshade down. He takes a driverless buggy to the Temple, and with the glove, circumvents the handprint system and goes in.

Inside the Temple, Alex goes upstairs, and with no CCTV and no guards, finds a kitchen and dining room, and an operations room. He finds maps and photographs of London, along with a newspaper clipping from The Financial Times documenting Lord Clifford’s death, weather patterns, and several rooftops. He finds a computer, but it is password-protected, and Alex can’t work it out or risk exposing himself. Another set of protected doors reveals a dark room that resembles a recording studio, and sees that it is connected to all the Numbers. Next is a changing room with hazmat suits, and a laboratory with the VX inside. Unwilling to risk anything further, Alex leaves the Temple, disappointed with himself for not finding communications equipment or being able to stop the plan.

The Teachers are holding a meeting, and Alex eavesdrops. Leap of Faith is going ahead, and Number Nine (Frederick), Nightshade’s best parachutist, will be leading it. Number Seven (William) will be his assistant, and Number Six (Sofia) will attack a coach and "ornamental gallery". A hijacked police helicopter will remove them. Brother Lamar lights a cigar, and reports that “the Doctor” in London has paid the final twenty million dollars to their Swiss bank account. The London Stock Exchange will collapse, the pound will crash, and Nightshade will exploit it to become even richer. Moreover, Alex will be taking part in a parachute jump in training. The Teachers do not call themselves Brother and Sister in private, exposing their hypocrisy. Brother Mike is still wanting Alex dead, but Brother Lamar says that he might have Alex killed after Leap of Faith, maybe via public execution or a hunt.

At Liverpool Street, Jack is furious that Alex has disappeared altogether. Mrs Jones and Crawley try to explain, but the half term break has finished, the schools have reopened, and Jack has heard nothing from him. MI6 does not know where he is, but Jack questions the truth of Mrs Jones’ story. Mrs Jones reveals that Alex and Frederick broke out of Gibraltar together, that Dr Flint didn’t tell them until it was too late, and that it was Alex’s idea. Jack questions it all, but Mrs Jones replied that although they coerced Alex in the past, he has made some decisions for himself, citing Damien Cray, Julia Rothman and the Grimaldi brothers as examples when he had no official backing. They know that La Máquina took Alex to Tangier, and from there to Greece, where they believe he is, and where Frederick came from before his capture; the clothes he wore in Brazil had Greek labels on them. They are looking for him, with Greece’s National Intelligence Service, but with over a thousand islands, it is not easy.

The Metropolitan Police descends on Liverpool Street, breach the building, and Royce and Andrews storm in, with MI5/Special Branch; they demand Jack’s name, but Mrs Jones says she is an agent. Andrews calls her Alex’s “nanny”, which sets Jack off. Royce orders Jack out of the building, before showing the Gibraltar email hacked out of Crawley’s computer by Andrews, who clearly enjoyed his work. Royce recalls Mrs Jones' meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and knows that she has recruited Alex for another mission. Mrs Jones says Alex is her only hope of stopping a terror attack on London, but Royce accuses her of disobedience, a rogue operation, and closes MI6 Special Operations down. Mrs Jones and Crawley are put under house arrest, pending trial, and lose everything, blaming them for using Alex and possibly killing him. Andrews enjoys the shutdown, and earns enmity with Crawley. Royce assumes command of the Nightshade enquiry, with all the other intelligence agencies. Andrews is sent to shut the whole building down, with Crawley planning to make him pay for it, and regret it forever. Mrs Jones worries about Alex, having no backup at all.

Back in Crete, Alex is worried by the upcoming parachuting exercise, with Frederick, William, Number Eleven and three girls, piloted by a Cardinal. He believes that the Cardinals and/or Primes are recruited from Europe’s gaols, on Nightshade’s payroll, with no idea of what they really do. The Numbers are to parachute from thirteen thousand feet, and Alex has his parachute training with the SAS to rely on, despite not jumping from the plane during the time. Frederick has been parachuting fifty times, and unwittingly reveals that it will be a night attack on London. The parachuting target is in a field, and the parachuting manoeuvres will take place at three hundred and ten metres above the ground. The jump is static-line, and Alex will be parachuting with William, who hopes he chickens out. The parachute jump begins, and eventually, a WDI is deployed. Frederick leads the way, followed by Numbers Fifteen, Sixteen and Twenty-Two, Number Eleven coming last. Alex and William’s turn comes around, William going first. Unfortunately, William’s parachute line fails and he gets caught on his line, dangling out of the plane and knocked out. Alex tries to help William, but the pilot says he has to free himself. Eventually, the pilot gives Alex a knife, telling him to cut William’s line and let him fall to his death in the sea. Alex refuses, and tries to find another way. He uses the static line as a life cord, lowering himself to William’s level and goes to cut William’s line; they fall together, wrapped in each other’s bodies, and Alex triggers William’s parachute as his own goes off. They miss the parachute jump zone and land in the sea, with William waking up on impact. He is injured, with a broken arm, and cannot attack London.

On the night before the attack on London, lobster is served for dinner, with chips and salad. It is to celebrate Alex becoming Number Twenty-Six. The knowledge of what happened on the plane was seen by Number Eleven. William is not allowed to take part in Leap of Faith due to his injury, and Number Eleven will replace him. Although Alex is still a number, he knows little more of what is happening. The Numbers are excited about the hundreds, maybe thousands, of murders that will take place the following day, and Alex compares Leap of Faith to 9/11. Escape is impossible, and a Prime is on duty at the Temple. And he cannot take part in the terror. Frederick toasts Alex’s induction, and thanks the Creator. He refers to the deaths of Numbers Fourteen and Twenty-One as “departures”. William thanks Alex for saving his life. A Prime is sent to bring Alex to the Temple; there, instead of an opportunity to communicate, he is brought to the conference room, with the Teachers praying.

Sister Krysten gives Alex drugged coffee, and Sister Jeanne talks about Leap of Faith. When Alex saved William’s life, it showed a side that means he can now participate in the atrocity. Sister Krysten mentions that Alex could kill over a thousand fellow Brits, but Alex claims statelessness, in character of Julius. Brother Lamar reveals why Alex has been brought to the Temple; the Teachers are worried about Frederick, bringing Alex to them against orders, and bringing Benjamin the stuffed monkey with him. Rule-breaking cannot be allowed, and Numbers cannot own possessions because it violates their lacking of identity; as Frederick has changed, he is no longer useful to Nightshade and Alex will kill and replace him. Brother Lamar gives Alex a gun, ordering him to shoot Frederick (who is brought to the conference room) in the head. Frederick does not care that he will die, and the Teachers ignore Alex’s protests. Alex refuses, throws the gun away, and Frederick is dismissed. Brother Mike reveals the gun is empty, and Sister Jeanne says that Alex has failed the test, revealing that they know who he is thanks to a London agent. Over a cigar (which further exposes his and the other Teachers' hypocrisy), Brother Lamar reveals that MI6 Special Operations has been shut down forever, Mrs Jones and Crawley are under house arrest, and that Alex has no help and will not survive Leap of Faith. As Alex realises the coffee is drugged and it begins to take effect, Brother Lamar reveals that Nightshade’s problem is that the other intelligence agencies know what is happening, and will try to stop them; in reaction, a dangerous criminal will be released to distract the extra police in London and allow Leap of Faith to happen. It will be Alex, as Julius Grief; the drugs take over and Alex passes out.

Part Four: Revelation

St Paul’s Cathedral is blocked off, and surrounded by a thousand officers from the Metropolitan Police, the British Transport Police and MI5. Checkpoints are erected, the entire building is searched by dogs and helicopters are used to surround London, with all air traffic forced away. The cathedral is being used for Lord Clifford’s memorial service, with two thousand attendees, the Archbishop of Canterbury presiding, a choir from eight schools, actors, royalty, and world leaders in attendance, as well as broadcast by the BBC. It is also Nightshade’s target.

Alex wakes up on Brighton Pier, in his Nightshade uniform and surrounded by seagulls. He still tastes the drugged coffee. It is midday, and he realises that Leap of Faith has started. He cannot contact MI6, and resolves to find Jack. A man with a metal detector discovers Alex, but abandons him. Alex crosses the road to a café, only to discover that he is on the front page of a newspaper, saying that Julius Grief has broken out of a maximum-security gaol and has entered the UK, is armed, and must not be approached. He realises that he has been seen by the man, and is watched by security cameras everywhere. He hides under the pier, and tries to work out what to do. He is still drugged, but also hungry and thirsty, and needs to save London. The police arrive, summoned by the man with the metal detector.

Alex runs from the police and hides in a shopping centre. His face is everywhere, on newspapers, on the TV, and he tries to find a disguise. He steals a hoodie from a clothing shop and runs, trying to make himself invisible and finding Brighton’s train station, only to worry about how he will get to London with no money. Even worse, the police are following him. Despite temptation to give up, Alex goes to a supermarket and steals a can of hairspray, avoiding a security guard. He distracts a chestnut vendor and throws the hairspray can into the roaster, before hiding. The canister explodes, destroying the brazier but not harming Charlie, the vendor. The station goes into a panic, and a bus is set on fire and explodes. The police officers go to help everyone, allowing Alex to enter the station and encounter the railway guards. Avoiding them, he goes upstairs and jumps over the side of the building, landing inside the train just as it leaves the station. He will arrive in London in seventy minutes.

At Preston Park, the train is delayed because of a signal failure. Alex is hungry and has no money. He resists the urge to beg for food. He worries about calling Jack, but comes up with an idea to get to her without a phone. At Blackfriars Bridge, he hears of Lord Clifford’s memorial. The service will start at half past seven, and suddenly, he realises what Nightshade will do. He jumps off the train and finds a blind man with a guide dog, and asks the man for a mobile phone. He phones Tom, and under the guise of “Darklight”, in reference to the main character in Tom’s indie computer game Deadmaster. Alex quickly tells Tom to go to his house, to tell Jack to go to the House of Dolls, and to avoid being followed. Tom, not knowing what is really happening, agrees. After a wish of good luck from the blind man, Alex gets another train.

At home, Jack tries to focus on her law studies when Tom calls round. He is let in and leads Jack to the bathroom and switches the shower on, to trick microphones. He reveals that Alex has made contact, but accidentally mentions “drills”. Jack realises that it is ‘dolls’, but Tom warns her that she may be followed. She goes straightaway, and Tom invites himself along, much to her chagrin. They go to the House of Dolls. Although they are worried about being followed, Jack reveals what has happened to Alex, and they get a bus. She notices a black Nissan, following them to a bus stop. Jack and Tom get off at South Kensington tube station, followed by the Nissan all the while. They run through the tube station and emerge on the other side, getting into a taxi and losing the Nissan in the process. Alex is already at the House of Dolls, but is concerned about who is inside. Remembering the number pad, he enters the code, to find Jack and Tom outside.

The three of them go inside and Alex finds the safe house entrance. The safe house has been stripped of everything useable, leaving tins of food. Over sandwiches, Alex explains the escape from Gibraltar, Nightshade’s base, Mrs Jones’ children, and Leap of Faith. He believes that it will destabilise the government with XV. But with Alex being a fugitive and MI6 Special Operations being shut down thanks to Nightshade’s London agent, it is nigh-impossible to stop them. He suspects a rat in MI6, and with ninety minutes to the service beginning, Alex, Tom and Jack take matters into their own hands.

Sofia infiltrates the school choirs, arriving by coach. Despite all the extra security rings, including metal detectors and radiation detectors, Nightshade penetrates the service easily. The school choirs are very excited, allowing Sofia to slip in via a coach toilet. Under the name Lucy Wilson, she evades security when they do not conduct another headcount, and goes into the cathedral to change into choir uniform; from there, she climbs to the dome of the cathedral, via a spiral staircase. At this time, a van arrives at the Shard. The Shard is almost as tall as the 310m gap Brother Mike had mentioned, and the parachuting target represented the cathedral and its dome, The Golden Gallery. Frederick and Number Eleven get out, with parachutes on their backs, helmets and gloves, but Alex, Jack and Tom see them enter the Shard and Alex follows them into a maintenance entrance.

Jack is told to call the police and reveal where Alex is. Alex pursues the Nightshade agents to the roof, but before he can go after them, a maintenance engineer stops him and attempts to kill him, but he is knocked out by Tom. The police don’t believe Jack, and Alex sends Tom away before trying the lift, only to find the lift needs a key. Tom recovers the key and knocks the man out again. Alex goes after Nightshade, up to the roof of the Shard. Frederick and Number Eleven are ready to jump, to perform a rollover launch, and Frederick jumps before Alex can get to him. Number Eleven is unaware of Alex, who promptly knocks him out. He takes Number Eleven’s clothes and finds a small rugby ball-shaped container inside the parachute, a bomb containing the VX nerve agent in liquid form; Frederick also has a bomb. Alex hides the bomb in a gutter, but realises that everything has gone wrong and has to follow Frederick, which he does.

Alex manages to gain control and flies to the cathedral, noticing an open door thanks to Sofia. Inside the Whispering Gallery, he tries to hide his identity. Sofia is sent to guard them, whilst Frederick and Alex go into the Ornamental Gallery. Nightshade’s plan is to detonate the bomb over the altar, killing everyone inside. Alex unmasks himself, but Frederick is amused. Alex says that Leap of Faith has been cancelled. Frederick denies it, but Alex tries to confuse him, saying the Teachers have used him to commit crimes. He closes in on Frederick, who is questioning his faith. It is revealed that all the Numbers have an ear implant, allowing the Teachers to communicate with them from the Temple, and that Alex has brought the MI6 damper with him, breaking Frederick’s communication with the Teachers. He implores Frederick to go back to his parents, and takes the VX bomb off him. Frederick’s Number self takes over and tries to kill Alex, but he jumps over a railing and lands in the congregation, not letting the bomb go off. The cathedral is evacuated, and Alex passes out at gunpoint.

Three days later, Mrs Jones is summoned to the Foreign Office to see Royce, having been reinstated as head of MI6 Special Operations, straight from Downing Street and a meeting with the Prime Minister. She is still smarting over Royce’s previous actions, and is angry with him. Owen Andrews is absent. Royce’s secretary is more welcoming than previously. Royce himself is nervous, but refuses to apologise for his actions, because of Mrs Jones recruiting Alex. Royce then talks of Alex, stopping Nightshade’s operations and recommending Alex a medal, but Mrs Jones refuses it for him. Royce is willing to forget the previous events, Alex is back at school, having been saved by the priests but beaten up by the police at Paddington Green and interrogated by counterterrorism. Sir Graham Adair orders Alex’s release and Mrs Jones’ release. Frederick was arrested at the cathedral, with no resistance. Sofia Jones has been detained; she and Frederick are in gaol.

Nightshade planned to rescue their agents in an air ambulance, and the police arrived thanks to Jack. Nightshade’s Numbers are victims, and Mrs Jones condemns them, turning children into numbers and indoctrinated into a phony religion. Nightshade have put radios in their teeth and radio loops in their necks, allowing the Teachers to communicate with them, as the Creator. Sister Krysten is really Krysten Schultz, a professor at the Harvard School of Engineering until twelve years previously, the inventor of the communications equipment. Royce is shocked, and Nightshade have abandoned their base, taking all the remaining Numbers with them, including William, her son. The bodies of Numbers Fourteen and Twenty-One are being identified. Mrs Jones calls Nightshade evil, and Royce pledges his support. Brother Lamar has been identified as Lamar Jensen, of LJ Weapons Systems, who sold guns to every major government, before arming terrorists, including IS, the Taliban and Boko Haram. He is believed to have been inspired by Japanese kamikazes, in doing Nightshade’s work.

Brother Mike and Sister Jeanne are in the process being discovered, and Royce reveals that Owen Andrews has been sent to Costa Rica on holiday, but has been arrested for drug offences, in a Batman suit, and faces ten years in prison. Mrs Jones reveals that Crawley arranged it in revenge for the hacking. She also reveals that the leak that led to Pablo’s death is Royce himself, having told Nightshade about Pablo and Alex, and that Andrews’ hacking has revealed the truth, before saying that the Foreign Office gave the newspapers their information early, knowing it was Alex. MI6 has looked at Royce’s computer trail, and know his correspondence with Nightshade and that Royce is “the Doctor”, arranging for Lord Clifford’s death and, by extension, Leap of Faith and the deaths of Britain’s Cabinet. Royce explains he wanted it as a wake-up call, for the good of Britain; in his mind, the politicians are useless, and are ignorant of the world’s issues. He intended to wipe out the whole of the government and let the younger generation take over. He does show remorse over the possible deaths of innocents, but is unrepentant over his main goal. Mrs Jones sends him on a “long holiday” to Gibraltar, to HMS Secure Unit.

Alex and Frederick are in Delhi Station Hospital, Tidworth Camp, Wiltshire, at a Ministry of Defence barracks, three weeks after Leap of Faith. Alex is there by choice, and Frederick is happy to see him; it is part of his treatment, right down to Benjamin the monkey, recovered from Crete. He does not recognise Sir Christopher and Lady Susan as his parents, but knows them as people and acknowledges his real name. Sofia is also at the hospital. Alex reveals that he is responsible for Frederick’s imprisonment, but says that he can call him. Frederick says that Alex is not his enemy, and wants to see him again. Leaving Frederick’s cell, Alex sees Mrs Jones, who has been to see Sofia; her daughter does not recognise her yet, but progress is being made. Alex apologises for not saving William, but Mrs Jones has hope that he will return. She acknowledges that what she did was wrong, but can’t express her pride in him for her personal request. Alex agrees to help find Nightshade, and ensure that they never harm anyone again, but without missing school or anything else; he and Tom are going to see Chelsea Football Club play that evening, and Jack is taking him out for dinner, as well as getting a weekend tutor for him. Mrs Jones says the intelligence agencies of the world are looking for Nightshade, William and all the other Numbers, and says that she may recruit Alex to MI6 properly.

It is revealed that Nightshade is on the other side of the world, and the Teachers are studying Alex. Although Leap of Faith had failed intolerably, they are going to go after him.

[UNFINISHED]