Drake (Book 1)

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[66]-Tonight's entertainment

Atlantic Ocean

9:28 p.m.

Aaren shouldered his rifle as he shuffled through the blood-soaked floor, littered with spent bullet casings and corpses. Two mercenaries accompanied him, sweeping the ship’s bridge for stowaways. A gunfight ensued outside on the destroyer’s deck; bright flashes from hot barrels illuminated the night. The people toiling by the harbor took it as nothing more than military training.

Guns popped and fired like firecrackers in the distance as more mercenaries swarmed the deck. The sailors and Royal Marines fought gallantly to the last man. However, nothing could prepare them for such a violent assault or the marauders seizing their vessels.

Mercenaries tossed the sailors overboard or cut them down with monstrous claws. Just a few hours earlier, they celebrated their vessel’s departure into open waters for its maiden voyage. The captain christened the vessel by smashing champagne on its hull. However, tonight it would be christened with the blood of its crew.

The gunfire faded to bursts and screaming men. Aaren studied the bridge and tossed aside the corpse lying against a wooden helm. Open eyes stared at Aaren from the ground with a stiff jaw and bullet hole between the eyes. Aaren grimaced and nodded to the mercenary behind him. The man took the helm, turning its wheel with all his strength to position the ship towards open waters.

In the distance, a green beacon flashed. Aaren peered through the glass windows at a speck floating across the sea, realizing its outline to be another ship. Ulysses’ ship. He turned to a console outfitted with radars and flashing terminals.

“I’ve got a lock on the ship,” one mercenary said, taking a seat behind a terminal.

Aaren flipped open the case, covering a whopping red button. He studied the weapon system and grinned. “Chinese anti-ship missile” he quipped. “Tonight, we change the world gents.”

He slammed the button, and a silo on the forward bow opened as the rocket launched; trails of smoke and fire in its wake. Night turned to day as its thrusters ignited. The hired guns standing too close to the silo shrieked as infernal flames and scorching smoke consumed the top deck.

Aaren watched the missile ascend and as it reached the apex of its arc, pieces of it fell into the sea. Then the missile ignited a second time, diving into the hull of Ulysses’ destroyer. Upon impact, a metallic ping resonated along the sea and the destroyer erupted into a plume of smoke and fire but stayed afloat.

“We missed,” the hired gun behind the terminal said.

Aaren shook his head. “No, it hit right where we needed it.”

“Your mother was right about you.”

Aaren’s head snapped behind. Drake formed a grin as he gawked at the flaming destroyer. Abbas, the giant man, plagued by lycanthropy stood by his side. Aaren glared, but resisted the urge to accost him. He had much at stake: the life of Serina, and the city’s fate. Many sailors would perish and a ship would be lost, but he reminded himself that the ends justified the means.

Good soldiers followed orders.

“Why go through all this trouble to sink one ship?” Aaren asked.

Drake crossed his arms. “It will be an accident; a weapon malfunction. This ship was supposed to smuggle a bunch of Chinese weapons to neutral waters. Ulysses has been exporting arms for centuries. Vietnam, blood diamonds in Africa, and oil in Iraq. War is profitable.”

Aaren sneered. “You know a lot…”

Drake chuckled, still staring at the burning ship, fire reflecting in his eyes. “Because Ulysses forced me to help him smuggle…”

Aaren clenched his fists. He could feel Abbas’ gaze watching his every move, waiting. He refused to give the giant the gratification of cutting him down by acting rash. His body relaxed, and he raised his arms submissively. Abbas seemed reassured enough to lower his guard and sharpen his blades.

He shared a glance with Drake and said: “I’ve done what you asked; Ulysses has the Ivory flute stowed away in his quarters. The old man can’t spit a note from it. I’d say in fifteen minutes they’ll scuttle the ship. Now, for your end of the bargain…”

Drake scoffed. Perhaps at his bravery or foolishness, maybe both. But it didn’t matter. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. He had learned that during his service overseas. But he also knew one crucial fact: some men just want to watch the world burn, Drake included.

“I’m a man of my word,” Drake replied. “I’ve returned your mother to her farm unharmed. But let me make one thing clear…”

Aaren tilted his head, and Drake smashed the terminal before him. Sparks flew, and the machinery crumbled inward. Electricity hissed and tangled wires protruded from the sides.

“Your services are no longer required. I hear Azerbaijan is lovely this time of year.”

Aaren narrowed his eyes and watched Abbas sharpen his blades, scraping them against each other, making a shrewd screech. He departed the bridge, making his way to a lifeboat suspended over the starboard side.

9:33 p.m.

Drake and Abbas watched from hundreds of feet above as Ulysses' crew scrambled across the deck. Pockets of fire erupted along the hulls and the ship’s stern dipped into the sea; soon water would flood its innards and pull the vessel into the ocean bottom first. Crewman fired red flares into the sky in hope of rescue.

“What would you have your huskarl do?” Abbas asked, breaking the veil of silence.

Drake nudged his head towards the ship, and Abbas nodded. He folded his leathery wings and spiraled down, catching his victim by surprise, like a bird of prey. The man flailed his arms and legs before being dumped into the sea. Abbas returned for another glide, tackling several more guards and knocking them off the deck.

What remained of Ulysses’ crew opened fire on Abbas; however, their bullets bounced or mashed against his armored wings, tougher than steel. Abbas spun as he deflected the barrage of gunfire and cut down the gunmen with his wings acting as both shield and sword. One by one, the crew dwindled.

Unlike his other creations, Drake sported four pairs of wings arranged in the likeness of a butterfly. Demonic yet fascinating, with hints of Chiroptera in its webbed structure. He landed on the deck and sauntered towards the bridge as Abbas slaughtered the crew. Two masked guards emerged from the steps below, cocking their weapons. Not soon after, Abbas cut them down, spraying blood across the walls and steps.

Then the carnage continued. More blood on the deck and walls. Glass smashed to hell and crunchy.

It didn’t take long for Drake to track Ulysses’ scent. He knew that foul odor of roses, blood, and chocolate. At least he considered it foul; it permeated in his nostrils and he cringed at the thought.

Every deck below the destroyer overflowed with seawater and busted pipes. Drake ignored the panicked sailors lingering below, his sights set only on Ulysses. He crossed a few corridors and intersections of the ship before locating a bulkhead. He traced its smooth surface with a finger and formed a fist. The first blow left a dent, compromising the first layer of steel.

Drake continued pounding the same spot until the metal yielded to his strength. Then he reached inward and pulled apart the door; its metal creaking and bending. He stepped through the opening to find Ulysses’ quarters.

“Hello, boy…”

Drake could feel the spite in his voice. The old man laid in his bed, still in his robes. His lips bled from open sores and Ulysses stifled a cough.

“So, you figured it out?” Ulysses asked.

“I have,” Drake replied, taking a stroll through the quarters.

He approached a wooden box resting on a desk and opened it, revealing the Ivory flute. Drake held it in his palms and turned to Ulysses. He tapped the flute against his other hand and formed an impish grin.

“You have the worst luck with being at sea, Ulysses. It took you ten years to return from Troy, then Lyn shot you on your yacht. And now this-”

Ulysses guffawed before succumbing to more hoarse coughs. He laid there pensively.

“I suppose. I would have never found you on that godforsaken island. Sometimes, I ask myself should I have killed you and your sister there? Now, you’ve got your vengeance. You’ve got the flute and robbed me of everything. Are you going to kill me?”

“Not yet…”

The flute snapped in two, and Drake tossed it aside. He drug Ulysses from his bed by the collar and the ailing man fell face first.

“For the first time in my life, I’m free from you,” Drake said, venom in his words. “Without that flute, you have no power over me. You asked if I would kill you? The answer is no. I need you for something…”

Ulysses snorted derisively. “Either way, even if you kill me. The four horsemen will carry out judgment on this city, and everyone in it. If you don’t believe me, then just look outside towards Big Ben…”

Drake tilted his head. But then he thought of Lyn and his eyes widened. His heart stopped at the sudden realization that the four horsemen would not sink with this ship in their coffins. He didn’t care about the city or the lives of the wretched humans in it, only Lyn. He’d bear her hatred as long as she lived and prospered.

Water flowed into the hermetically sealed room from the opening in the bulkhead, soaking their feet. A pipe burst above, showering them in more water and the lights flickered. The power cut suddenly, leaving nothing but darkness. Ulysses hollered as Drake dragged him topside, half of the destroyer submerged.

Abbas landed beside him, his soot colored skin blending into the darkness. His shimmering piercings acted as the only beacon to identify him in the night.

“It is done,” Abbas said.

Drake nodded. “Good. Go find Rain and meet me at the top of Big Ben.”

He soared into the sky, taking a terrified Ulysses with him. As they ascended, the air became more frigid and unforgiving.

“Now’s not the time for fear. That comes next…”

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