Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Part I: Marked
Chapter 1

            Drake ran down the spiraling stairway to the bowels of the endless tunnels of stone quarry walls and mining rubble.  Electric lights danced in the darkness, solitary sentries of wet gravel pathways leading to destroyed estates and cathedral cemeteries.  In some caverns, the water seeped through the ceilings, calcifying with the eternal residents, cementing together in a lovers’ embrace of limestone rock.  Four hours in the Paris Underground and those ghosts among the fecund matter and stench of decay were his only company.
            Tourists never saw this section of the Underground.  They saw only a road to a history of death, contamination, and the human will to find order sparsely displayed in paved floors, reinforced cement for weakening Roman arches, and buttressed supports among turning tunnels.  Even the Parisian residents who lived above this rot stayed innocent and ignorant.  They drank their coffee with long drags of their cigarettes, not knowing the catacombs connected to the sewers, which connected to the Council headquarters.  They didn’t know that a gentle 1,300-mile river of human waste and putrid smells, sandstone and maintenance pipes, complete with signs that mirrored the streets above, led to those who truly controlled the City of Lights.
            But he knew. 
            Something sinister stirred for the Council to call an emergency meeting, requiring all five of its governing members to fly in from across the globe.  Something important had happened.  Or was about to.
            What could they possibly discuss except more novel political decisions to quench an insatiable quest for power that could extinguish the fragile lives of the people who would have nothing left but torched towns, ruined homes, and orphaned children fleeing the devastation left behind from war?
            A bitter void expanded through Drake, threatening to swallow his rationale.  He would never let another war overtake the continents.  It didn’t matter how many he had to kill.
            Dim, winding channels blended into cavities darker than black.  Where had the Council hidden the entrance to the site?
            Suddenly, he stilled.  The feeling was faint, but tangible.  Drake stepped silently towards the feeling and after five minutes, stopped again.  It grew stronger.  Two of them.  He gauged they were lower-levels.
            He focused his eyes through the veiled torpid thickness.  It took a second for his sight to adjust, but he saw them standing there in black suits, guarding the front of a black, wrought-iron gate with bars wide enough to let water through.  No lock hung on the open gate.  It likely had a lot of regular traffic.
            Two more men in black suits and ties walked by the gate, patrolling the dank hallway.
            He had only one shot—that short split second when all four stood within close range in front of the gate.  He watched the men walk back and forth, gauging the length of time it took for them to cross each other’s paths.
            Drake slipped his hand into his pocket, pulling out a small razor blade between two fingers.  Just as the two patrols intersected, Drake shot out his hand.
            The razor flew at the guards, slicing the path his hand instructed.  The blade cut from left to right though the first patrol’s neck, making a sharp left turn to carve through the throat of the right sentry, then the left.  Drake pulled his hand back, the power in his blood calling the razor, to careen around and sever the esophagus of the last patrol.
            Drake caught the razor in his fingers and waited.  The guards stood still for a few seconds before they crumpled to the floor, their bodies slowly disappearing in different colors of crystalline light.  He shook the blood from the small weapon and slid it back into his pocket, fingers tracing the blade, admiring its sharp edge without feeling its bite.
            He continued through the sewers along the edge of the flowing wastewater ravine, heart calm despite his increasing proximity to the Council.  Discovery waited.  His imagination logged dozens of reasons for tonight’s emergency meeting.  Perhaps they discovered a traitor in their midst.  Or they were arguing over territory jurisdiction.  Maybe they tired of peace and wanted to start another War of Awakening.
            The Council never surprised him, with its ambition that hid itself behind bureaucracy, that chain of command that claimed to represent those of the same blood, spreading its control through every aspect of human life.  A cancer.
            He edged around a bend.  He couldn’t see them, but he felt them.  Dozens.  This had to be a major artery to where the Council met.
            “Who’s there?” someone asked.
            Before Drake could wonder how the guards could have heard him, a faint metallic scent wafted to his nostrils.
            It was too late.  He would have to kill them all.
            Drake rushed down the dark hallway.  The razor left his fingertips, slicing across the throat of a guard several feet away just as he rammed his hand into an enemy’s chest, ripping through the thin fabric of the shirt, tearing into the flesh, with ribs giving way under the onslaught, breaking and cracking from the sternum.  His hand closed around the pulsating organ, fingers pressing against arteries.  He squeezed and wrenched it out in a stream of blood.
            He tossed the heart away with one hand and guided the razor with the other.  It sped in trails of white light, the small blade carving through the enemies’ flesh in rivulets of blood.
            And all the while, his eyes followed the lone attacker who had started it all.  A boy.  An assassin.
This is a work of fiction.  The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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