PROLOGUE: Moonlight on Aquarius

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PROLOGUE: Moonlight on Aquarius

“Who do you work for?!”

The man trembled in the shadowy figure’s grip as he struggled to form words from his mouth. Sweat trickled down his face and hit the floor, as if signaling his impending doom.

“Last chance. Tell me who you work for, and I’ll try not to pull the trigger.” The cold metal of a handgun silencer dug deeper into his forehead, prying for the answers that the figure in front of him demanded.

“I, uh… I don’t know anything,” the ship’s captain managed to spit out at the last possible moment, struggling to breathe and looking frantically for a way out.

“You mean you know nothing of the twenty tons of high-caliber C4 loaded onto this ship last night?” the dark figure said as he tightened his grip on the terrified captain’s collar and lifted his head to look him directly in the eyes. “What is all that shit doing downstairs? They’re not for you to play with.” He smirked as he threw the trembling man against the main control console, knocking him to the floor. His gun was still trained directly on the shivering captain’s forehead.

“Please… I tell you everything,” the man begged, slowly rising to his feet, his back to the bow of the ship. The view behind him showcased a vast ocean, lit only by the moon and the lights coming from the harbour to the left. The captain stood now, slowly gathering confidence, facing the shadow of a man in the main control room on the bridge of the ocean-liner Aquarius. He spoke slowly, suspiciously, “It… the cargo… it was a, how you call it, a pay-off.”

The man’s grip on the gun loosened, his sight trailing from the captain in front of him to the ground, his arm falling to his side. He took a deep breath.

“A payoff…? For what?! From who?!” he shouted in frustration. His left hand clenched into a fist, the gun in his right hand still trained on the floor. His fatal mistake.  The captain’s left hand ran along the bottom of the console behind him, pressing a small red button. An alarm sounded almost immediately, echoing loudly through the corridors of the ship. Lights on the control console flashed repeatedly.

His eyes lit up. A chill ran down his spine and his blood ran cold. For a moment his life, recently devoted to serving Queen and Country, flashed before his cold grey eyes. He looked back over his shoulder towards the door, moonlight splashing over his face. His heart raced. A drop of sweat ran down his forehead, dripping onto his solid black wet suit. Jonathan Smythe, secret agent for the Echo Echelon, a signature counter-terrorist organization under the British government, turned his startled gaze back to his prey.

“That was bloody stupid of you!” he yelled as the captain came at him head-on, striking him in the chest before he could react and swatting at his gun. Swiftly, as if the result of years of training and experience, he grabbed a hold of one of the man’s arms, twisted it back, forcing the man to turn his back to him, and then pistol-whipped the back of his head in one quick motion. The man fell to the floor, unconscious.

Smythe stared straight ahead at the harbour in the distance, then pushed the accelerator handle on the control panel to its limit. After feeling the sudden change in velocity, he rang a shot into the console, sending sparks flying and temporarily lighting the room. Smythe then dashed for the door, took one last look at the sparkling harbour, and flew into the main corridor.

He crept along the dimly lit hallway, the alarm still ringing in his ears. His right hand firmly gripped his Beretta while his left hand supported it by the wrist. Walking over to the corner of the hall, he kept his back to the wall, and then peered around the corner. The door to the outside upper-deck of the ship was within reach.

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