-The Ivory flute
As Aaren pushed the bulkhead open the metal creaked and groaned. He sighed but found it much easier to close than open as he secured the latch behind him. His eyes widened at the amenities and commodities before him. He realized why it was the captain’s quarters with its own bed, dresser, a mahogany desk with a computer on top and private kitchen.
The steel white walls, however, reminded him this was just as much a part of the ship as any other quarters. A man sat behind the desk, his black leather chair turned away. It rotated towards him. Aaren stifled a gasp and fell to his knees.
“Ulysses…” he said, trying to contain the joy in his voice.
Ulysses grinned and left the comfort of his seat, ambling over to Aaren on a cane. His scent carried with him: blood, roses, and chocolate. His snake-like eyes studied Aaren as they always had, and his snow-white curls hung from his head like frost on a tree. He planted the end of his cane into the carpet and rested a hand on Aaren’s shoulders.
“Sir, I- I thought you were dead…”
Ulysses scoffed. “So it would seem, rise.”
Ulysses limped to a port hole by his bed, peering out into the darkness of the sea. Aaren noticed the prominent scar on his forehead, big enough to fit a small caliber bullet. The old man coughed, covering his mouth with a white glove, now sullied by blood.
As if reading Aaren’s thoughts, Ulysses said: “Lyn’s gun was rigged. The bullet didn’t have enough velocity to penetrate my skull.” Ulysses tapped his forehead. “It was staged, between Sullivan and I. We needed to get Drake and Lyn off the playing field but it would seem we failed.”
Ulysses’ face was pallid and the skin beneath his eyes sagged, almost dragging his face with them. Ruptured sores lined his lips, which he continued wiping away. Then he coughed, and for a moment, Aaren thought he would collapse. Instead, he sat on his bed, gripping his cane with all his vigor.
“But why — why all this?” Aaren asked, perplexed.
“Because, for the longest time. I’ve had to clean up after Drake’s mess and the monstrosities he’s created just to spite me. Him and that wretched woman, Aspasia. I should have crushed those infants beneath my heel the day I found them…”
Ulysses’ eyes twitched wildly and the veins in his hands popped.
“I was sure Drake was killed in India when the four horsemen brought down their lightning on him. But somehow he survived, and now he’s ruined me. My investors, all of my shares — gone in the blink of an eye. It’s only a matter of time before Drake comes for me and Sullivan-”
His body lurched forward as another violent cough erupted. Aaren rushed to his side, setting him down on his bed and pulling a cover over him. He filled a glass of water and snatched a small box containing a myriad of pills. Ulysses took every pill and gulped the water. His body settled and a hue of pink returned to his cheeks.
Aaren presented the USB drive. “My mother, Serina, said that the viruses she created could kill Drake and Aspasia. She was posing as a ballerina to retrieve a DNA sample. It’s all in this drive.”
The small presentation intrigued Ulysses to rise from his bed, though with some labor. The destroyer blared its horn and crew members shouted from the deck below. Turbulent waves clashed against the ship.
“You were one of the best,” Ulysses said, “a good soldier. Excellent soldiers follow orders. You understand now what has to be done? Every contract killing you did meant one less monster in the world.” Ulysses gripped his sheets and stared absently. “This is my fault. This is something I should have handled centuries ago. I was a fool to think I could control Drake…”
Ulysses glanced at a wooden box resting on his study. “Grab that box.”
Aaren nodded and retrieved it, handing it to Ulysses. Ulysses wiped the dust smothered on its lid and opened it with thin, scrawny fingers. Inside was a flute made of ivory with a music sheet. Arena and Ulysses shared a glance.
“This flute is the only thing that will bring Drake to total subjugation. You’ll have to learn the notes, practice them for it to work. But it’s easy, that sheet will teach you how. The flute is silent but plays at a frequency only Drake can hear.”
Aaren held the flute in his palms, inspecting it. How could a simple device bring one such as Drake to his knees?
He had to have faith; trust in his master, as he always did. Ulysses entrusted this to him, appointing him as his champion. Once again, the burden of Drake’s dissolution rested on his shoulders. Sure, he couldn’t kill him with force, but nothing said he couldn’t expose him to a genetically engineered virus still in its prototype stage.
“Aaren, soon Sullivan will return to London with the four horsemen and obliterate everything. This is God’s will; the city has become corrupted, decadent, and beyond salvation…”
“But millions of innocent people will die!”
His words flowed like sand slipping between the fingers, and the determination in Ulysses’ eyes never faltered.
“It does not differ from when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But if you find two righteous people, perhaps the four horsemen will change their minds…”
Ulysses snickered, almost mocking his own words or Aaren’s vain efforts, perhaps both.
Aaren’s face grew dark with anger. He placed the flute in the box and left it on Ulysses’ bedside. “Fuck your bloody flute! If I kill Drake, I’ll do it my way, with or without your help. I won’t let you do this. This is wrong-!”
“You dare defy me!” Ulysses gritted, blood dripping from his lips.
He stared down the barrel of Aaren’s pistol, a familiar sight to him by now. Aaren shoved the USB into his pocket. “Consider this my formal resignation…”
He holstered the pistol and turned, leaving a sour Ulysses to ruminate on his actions. Drake would die another day. But first he would save his beloved city.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend…