The Warlord's Thorn

 

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Synopsis:

In the year 1990, the renowned body of International Criminal Police Organization, also known as Interpol or ICPO, crumbled into ruins as the notorious Dark Chaos Mafia attacked their main headquarters in Lyon, France. It was one of the darkest times in the history of the infamous enforcement organization as their forces had dwindled and they lost their powers to deliver justice and rule the world. Among the victims of the savage attack were the close relatives and upperclassmen of Aiden Knight whom they admired and idolized.  Their young, innocent minds had endured the brutality and horror as they witnessed the bloody massacre on worldwide television. Ever since then, Aiden and his colleagues worked hard to become the best ICPO agents  in their generation.

 

Ten years later, Aiden and his colleagues are set to graduate and formally assumed their positions as ICPO agents when the Council received a disturbing news about an attack that erupted in Maryland headquarters where their co-aspirants had gone missing. All that were left in the crime scene were the series of random numbers and cryptic codes signifying that the notorious Mafia had resurfaced once again to terrorize the world. Lead Strategist Aiden Knight and his Black Knights unit were tasked to uncover their nemesis’ identities and lead  a rescue and retrieval mission.

 

As Aiden Knight and his unit lead the crackdown of the Dark Chaos mafia, they discovered that there might be more than what meets the eye. They unveiled a brutal history that triggered the chain reactions and uprising during the 1980s, which may be connected to the Dark Chaos mafia. As they got caught in the crossfire and entangled in the dark politics of the underground world, will they be able to defend and rescue their comrades while stopping the mafia from achieving their vicious plans? What will happen if Aiden meets the Mafia's Boss that had taken an interest in him? Will he be able to resist his nemesis' charm? Or will he be trapped in the Warlord's Thorn, forever?

 
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Prologue: The Crimson-Eyed Prince

 

PROLOGUE:

 

THE CRIMSON-EYED PRINCE

 

The golden sunshine that dominated the horizon for about 10 hours or so had finally reduced into summer peaches and dark purple hues. Its glowing radiance fading to give way to the darkness that’s slowly enveloping the whole skyline. Usually, he enjoyed the feeling of basking under the heat of the sun while roaming around the bustling streets and staring at the towering buildings, skyscrapers, and the soaring Transamerica Tower surrounding the Baltimore CBD (Central Business District). He should be grateful that for once in his life, he was able to finally see the beauty and wonders of the world he’d missed ages ago. For such a long time, he’d seen nothing but the shadows plunging his world filled with unknown terrors and untold mysteries.

But for some reason, he couldn’t muster himself to appreciate the Summer season this time. Maybe because the glaring light rays blinded his vision and it interfered with the intense training sessions he had every afternoon. Not to mention even if it’s night already and the thousands of stars above twinkled like Christmas lights, he could still feel the hot, humid breeze caressing his skin like a breath of fire. Even the breeze coming from the shoreline of Patapsco River felt feverish against his skin.

He brought his hand to wipe the sweat trickling down his face and sighed loudly as he  continued walking on the brick and cobblestone streets of Fell’s Point. The array of pubs, taverns, antique stores, restaurants, and other shops passed by like a blur as he headed around this historic waterfront neighborhood. He would’ve reached his intended destination for a shorter period of time if he took its infamous “water taxi” transport system.

However, he preferred to walk because it lets him stroll around to kill some time. If anything, he dreaded coming back to the headquarters because he didn’t want to deal with his comrades who had no doubt was already drunk by now as they partied to their heart’s content. Granted, the party that was happening tonight was not like what you’d normally saw on pubs or clubs where they get to be wild and be reckless of their actions, especially since the ones who organized the party were the superiors of the headquarters.

However, he also knew that when business was over, everyone, including his superiors, loves to tease and play pranks on him since he’s the Ace student of their branch. Everyone was interested to know if he’d be transferring to the main headquarters in New York to pursue his enforcement career after the graduation tomorrow. In all honesty, he already had a concrete plan up his sleeves, he just didn’t want to tell them yet in fear that they’ll be disappointed with his decision. He supposed it would be a no-brainer to transfer to New York and join the other Aces as he embarks the journey of being a full-fledged Interpol agent. It would boost his credentials and connections immensely, after all. But for some reason, he preferred to lay low on his profile and just serve the people of Maryland.

He’d been born and raised in this state all his life, after all. This state became his confidant when he was on the lowest and darkest moment of his life. Maryland was also there to give him the light and hope he needed to start all over again. And even if he had his fair share of joy and entertainment gazing high up above the modern cityscape of Baltimore, he still prefered to immerse himself in the historic culture of Fell’s Point. Besides, he was sure that the Ace officers in New York would take great care of that modern city.

He figured it’s his duty to protect Fell’s Point and the Downtown City of Baltimore. He felt that this was his payment for the gratitude he had to the only person who gave him a ray of light.

He broke out from his stupor when he heard the Irish classical music played in an Irish Pub and restaurant adjacent to their headquarters. He stopped as he came face to face to an 8-story twin building that was composed with the Baltimore headquarters on the left wing while the Academy where they studied and trained throughout their lives reside on the right wing. The last three top floors of the right wing was where their dorms were located.

He brought his hand on his head to ruffle his shaggy chestnut hair as his crimson eyes stared back at the ruby brick walls facade of the building. He felt like he was looking at his own reflection at how the brick walls painted his vision with blood. Like any other day, the front view of the right wing looks peaceful and quiet, as it should be during nighttime since the authorities implemented strict curfew to their aspirants.

However, it was this deafening silence that made him shiver as if a cold, chilly breeze just ghosted over his skin, even though he knew it was impossible since it’s currently Summer, that made him frown in confusion. The hairs around his skin stood as his crimson eyes narrowed into slits in suspicion.

Something wasn’t right about this scene.

He expected the right wing to bright up with lights and burst with array of colors with the back-to-back party poppers and confettis that should scattered all over the place. He expected the place to be filled with blasting noises as his comrades, and maybe even his superiors, would laugh like there’s no tomorrow while partying to their heart’s content. If not, then the blasting sound of music or their voices singing with hymns of joy would surely reverberated around the place, breaking the peaceful silence and tranquility he’d grown to love during nighttime.

However, all he saw right now was that all the lights were out, plunging the entire right wing with nothing but eternal darkness. There’s no sound emanating from the inside too.

It’s as if all had gone to sleep.

Or maybe his comrades and superiors now decided to pull a prank on him.

Anyway, there’s only one way to find out.

He inhaled a sharp intake of breath before he gathered his will to open the heavy metal door and went inside. As expected, the building was dark like midnight. He tried flipping the switch but to no avail. It seems like the electricity was out, even though he couldn’t fathom how the hell that happened.

Unless someone cut the power off purposely.

He closed his eyes as he visualized the blueprint of the building and he felt his sense of touch and hearing heightened. From where he was standing right behind the door,he could see the series of couches, sofas, and chairs occupying the opposite corners of the room. This ground floor was the lounge area where the students could chill and chitchat with their friends and classmates while waiting for their next class or passing some time before they were called for their curfew.

He continued walking through the long center aisle, maneuvering himself carefully to avoid the rows of tables, chairs, and bookshelves he might’ve collided along the way.  As he walked through, he could feel the mild cold seeping from the air conditioners installed from several of their classrooms even if they had been turned off. He knew that each side of the aisle was where several of the faculty rooms and offices were located.

The aisle felt narrower as he walked through until he  paused when he felt a hard, rough surface beside him. He raised his hand on the right side to touch the hard surface there and sure enough, he could feel the shelves of lockers laying against the wall. This was also his signal to lift up his feet in order to step on the stairs. He carried on for another five steps then he paused when he reached the top surface.

This platform was still in the first floor, but this time, he felt the space had gotten wider. He slipped off his shoes and true enough, he felt the smooth texture of a wooden surface on his toes that signifies him that he’s now inside the main hall. He tilted his to the side and opened his eyes when he heard light noises humming on his left. It felt like whispers but he wasn’t so sure, since for some reason, their voices felt muffled to him.

Suddenly, he heard a switch flipped on and a glimmer of light streaks illuminated on the stage while the rest of the main hall was covered with pitch darkness. His crimson eyes widened when he saw his superiors and comrades kneeling and sitting on the stage. Their hands and feet were bound with thick ropes and cuffs. At that moment, all his senses heightened in alarm as he drew the gun from his holster. His muscles were tense as he shifted his body in a defensive stance while his eyes bleed red when he tilted his head from side to side, anticipating any attacks from the enemies lurking in the shadows.

His ears strained to hear any stealth footsteps or any slight movements from the enemies hiding. His heart was beating loudly as he tried to formulate a strategy on how to overcome this situation. He didn’t like the fact that he felt like a prey just waiting to get pounced on by  the predator. He wanted to lure his enemies out, but in doing so, he’ll risk not only his life but also that of his comrades and superiors who were helpless and bound on the stage.

Which added to the mystery spinning around his head.

How the hell did their enemies manage bound and immobilized his comrades and superiors that easily? He knew his superiors were strong enough to defend themselves in cases of surprise attacks. They had such immense brute force that they can easily beat their enemies and cover them with bruises in no time. They can even throw them around like a ragdoll if  they want to. Or if not, they can even pull the trigger with practiced accuracy without leaving a banging noise that would send the whole town in frenzied panic.

However, there wasn’t a single sign of resistance in here. Everything was in place. There’s no remnants of blood, gunshots, bullets flying everywhere. The things were not thrown in opposite directions or ripped apart or turned upside down. Everything was still intact. He also couldn’t see any wounds from his superiors. It’s as if the enemies had just come in and bound them. What was more flabbergasting was that it’s as if his superiors and comrades just followed their nemesis’ actions obediently, like trained puppies.

Everything was just too creepy and sinister if he let his mind follow that line of thought.

Or maybe, this was really just a prank pulled against him.

Again.

His comrades and superiors just wanted to see how would he react in this kind of situation.

Yes, that’s the only logical conclusion he could think of in this matter.

He released a heavy sigh as he lowered his gun and put it back in his holster. He straightened his back as his muscles relaxed and he walked towards the main stage.

“With all due respect, I really would like to know what this prank is all about, Sir? If you thought I’d fall for this, "I'm sorry to tell you that I'm not. My mind couldn't comprehend how you ended up incapacitated and bounded without any retaliation. It’s as if you were no match against the enemy when in reality, you, I mean we, can retaliate and defeat our opponents however we see fit--”

He paused when all of his comrades shook their heads in denial, their eyes had grim and gloomy looks. While his superiors were narrowing their eyes into slits, their intense stare was melting him with scorching heat  even though he knew it wasn’t directed at him. Their stares were rigid, and hard.

“--Besides. I saw a fatal flaw that blew your magnificent prank. Everything’s in place, there’s no any sign of resistance. So it couldn’t be that, right, sir? I don’t know if you’re testing my deductive skills and reasoning. But anyway, this is my verdict. Now, can we please end this farce and just continue the party? I believe we can celebrate the normal way, without pulling unnecessary pranks. And I promise that I’ll be cooperative this time.”

He walked through the three-steps stairs and come face-to-face with one of his dark-haired superior while his comrades and classmates were behind him. In all honesty, he would’ve laughed out loud at how ridiculous the situation was. They were all in front of him tied up kneeling on the stage like sacrificial lambs. One of the rules he learned the hard way during his rigorous training was that you should never leave yourself vulnerable, no matter how disadvantaged your position was.

Their code of honor was to die first than be at the mercy of their enemies.

However, he knew that this was just all a prank. There’s no way they would’ve acted this way if there was indeed a real enemy lurking around. He gave his superior a gentle smile as if to say that he wasn’t at all mad. It would be bad if he lost his temper now and snap at his superiors for doing some ridiculous prank like this. He didn’t want to leave any bad impression to his superiors, especially since it’s their graduation tomorrow.  

He pulled out his switchblade from his pocket and used it to cut the rope that binds his dark-haired superior. He followed untying his feet and he tore the tape that bounds on his mouth. He expected his superior to stand up and untied their other members too. However, he frowned when he didn’t move one bit.

Instead, he just moved his mouth and spat at him. “Leave this place at once, Agent Pendleton! You’re the only one who’s mobile right now! Leave us alone and report to the Annapolis headquarters right now!”

“But Lieutenant--”

“That’s a damn order, Agent Pendleton! Don’t you dare make me repeat myself and disobey my order! Leave. Now.”

A deadly silence reigned around as he internalized what his superior had said. His superior was dead serious and for a moment, he didn’t know what to do. Heck, he didn’t even understand what really was going on. Should he obey the order and leave his colleagues behind? Or should he disobey his superior’s orders directly by rescuing his colleagues? But before he could even make his decision, a cracking noise of a gunshot echoed around. His muscles tensed when he felt a hot trajectory coming towards him. He quickly rolled to the side just in time to avoid the shot.

However, his unknown assailant succeeded on shooting his superior on his right knee in doing so.

    His superior let out a loud shriek as he felt the bullet piercing his flesh, all the while kneeling on the floor. Big, hot tears poured down on his eyes as he gritted his teeth while bearing the intense pain on his knee. He barely moved from his spot as he cried helplessly. The sharp pungent smell of metal lingered around as blood spurted around, tainting the floor with crimson red. Agent Pendleton grabbed the gun from his holster as he turned around, and pulled the trigger to shoot the perpetrator. A series of loud bangs echoed back and forth as they exchanged gunshots.

His grip on the 40-caliber was already tight as he fought the blasting force from pulling the trigger, but it tightened even more when he felt his a stinging pain on his right hand. He gritted his teeth as he anticipated the excruciating pain of a bullet digging through his skin, piercing his flesh and severing the arteries and veins as he bathed himself in a puddle of his blood.

However, that wasn’t what happened.

The pain perished the instant it appeared.

The bullet fell down on the floor like they were light and empty to begin with. He tilted his head, expecting to see some damage on his right hand but the only thing he saw was a light graze against his skin. It’s as if the bullet barely broke his skin and pierced the flesh inside.

‘A dry fire? But why? When they shot a real one just before this!’ Agent Pendleton thought but he broke out from his stupor when he heard several footsteps approaching them. He lifted his head as their enemies finally decided to emerge from the shadows.

The first thing he noticed was a big, bulky bald man with a nasty red scar that stretched from his left eyebrow all the way to his right cheekbone. His left eye was tightly sealed by the scar while his right shimmered like golden orb. What surprised him was that all of their nemesis were wearing a blue uniform, a blue belt, and blue pants as if they were ICPO aspirants like them. It was really an excellent disguise to attack their headquarters in. An evil smile plastered his nemesis’ face as he walked towards them while holding his gun. However,  all of them widened in surprise when their gaze landed on his pair of crimson eyes.

Of course, he half-expected anyone who’s a stranger to pause in whatever they’re doing as  they stared in horror at his bloodshot eyes. The pair of eyes he’d gained were one of the unique ones in this world. However, he also became a subject of trepidation and unnecessary attention because of his strange eyes.

“Fuck! Those Crimson eyes . . . Shit. Shit got real! The Boss will definitely be delighted to see this!” He said as he dropped the gun carelessly on  the floor, as if he posed no threat to him. This annoyed Agent Pendleton to no end but before he can even raised his gun to kill him, the intruder gripped his jaw hard and he screamed at the deadly grip. His bloodshot eyes collided with shimmering gold with intensity.

“At long last, we found it. Folks, make sure to only get the aspirants. You can do what you want with the superiors. You can torture, kill, or shoot them for all I care! These superiors will go rot in hell anyway!!” Their leader barked the order around as his subordinates answered in a series of “ayes”. They gathered around the stage and they started carrying his colleagues with them. He could hear his colleague’s muffled voices as they struggled against their nemesis’ grip, but it’s like their bodies wouldn’t listen to what their minds were dictating. One by one, he could see that his colleagues were being pulled out from their beloved headquarters.

It was then that Agent Pendleton attempted to move his pointed finger to fire another shot, but this time, his eyes widened in surprise when he felt it. Hs mind was screaming while he attempted to thrash and squirm, anything just to make his body move, to no avail. His body felt heavy, like he was hit by a truck and he couldn’t even move a single limb.

“You should know by now that resistance will be pointless. So just stop fighting already. I don’t want to hurt you. It’s now my job to handle you with utmost care. Or else the Boss will kill me.” The bulky leader said as he scribbled some random numbers and symbols on the floor out of his superior’s tainted blood.

When he was done, he pulled out a white cloth on his blue vest and wiped his hand with it. The red, crimson blood tainted against the milky white as he threw it on the floor when he was done and flashed him a sinister smile.  

“It’s time to go home, My Lord. It’s time to go back where you truly belong.” was the last thing he heard before darkness engulfed his vision and he entered the blue dreamland.

 
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Chapter 1: Code Yellow

CHAPTER 1:

 

CODE YELLOW

                                                                                                                                      

           The intense light rays of the sun penetrated his skin like a breath of fire. The heat clung around his limbs like a great hot-blooded serpent. The deep and tall evergreen trees that spread around the woods like a canopy of green did nothing to shelter him from the sun’s scrutinizing heat.

Aiden brushed his inky black hair as he brought his hand to his forehead and wiped the large beads of sweat trickling down his face. The heat was bouncing off the ground, creating a smoldering and disorienting haze. He shook his head to clear his line of sight while trying to even his breathing.

If only he could make a choice, he’ never wished to be in this situation. He just wanted to relax his sore muscles and limbs while enjoying the coolness of water running against his skin. Or he would choose to lie on the bed and sleep like there’s no tomorrow while embracing the coldness of the air conditioner installed in his room.  

He never really liked the sun’s scrutinizing heat and the intense training he had undergone-- it drained his energy and it made him weak like that of a vampire. He felt like he was being toasted and burned under the heat of the sun. He preferred to live in cold and wet weather, anything that he could associate his favorite element—water, or ice. He would love to soak himself under the rainfall, or play and build a snowman during the Winter season.

Aiden sighed heavily as he shook his head to clear his thoughts. With wobbly legs, he walked his way from the secluded area of the North Woods down to the Central Park’s front garden. From his line of vision, he could see the scenery shifting from thick evergreen with the bonsai trees that lined the perfect lawn in their wooden boxes  until it bursts in an array of vibrant colors.

The garden was adorned with different flowers ranging from canary yellow tulips and golden daffodils that reflects their radiance back to the sunlight, the oceanic blue waves of blue orchids wrapping their vines around the trees, and the range of scarlet roses that painted his vision the color of blood that surrounded the large lake at the Center of the Park.

The people enjoyed strolling around the park to unwind from the bustling streets of cityscapes and reconnect with nature. You can find some of them running around chasing their children while playing. Some loves to play hide and seek. While some just wanted to enjoy the peace and tranquility while sitting on the benches and reading their favorite book, while the others would love to sprawl themselves and lie down to sleep on the grass.

Aiden made his way to the lake and sat on the grass as his gaze locked on its clear, crystalline waters. He couldn’t help but cringed at the disheveled sight before him. He looked like he had just got out from the war. But it was a given. After all, he had just finished his four hours of rigorous training, no wonder he looked like hell right now. His inky black hair was sticking out in different directions—as if he’d just woken up from his deep slumber. His white alabaster skin was now beet red from the intense exposure to the sun. He bet he looked like a toasted shrimp by now. His chocolate orbs looked like an adorable puppy’s eyes as it widened when he tried to calm the erratic beating of his heart from the adrenaline rush.

His thin white shirt was now covered with dirt and dust, he could see his pale skin contrasting with the dark shade of dirt.He brought his hand on the water and splashed some on his face to clean himself. He rubbed some of the dirt off his body and fixed his wrinkled clothes. When he felt he was “presentable” enough, he stood on the ground as he gazed at his full form, and sighed deeply at how dull his appearance was.

He was what you’d consider a midget even though his height was near 5’5, considering how his colleagues overshadowed him with their towering height of 6 feet and above. It didn’t help that despite his brutal training as an aspirant Interpol agent, he didn’t gain those sinful pack of abs that every girl had wished to die for. He barely earned a thin line of muscle— just enough to strengthen his stamina as he performed his duties and responsibilities well. Not to mention his entire body was devoid of flecks of hair. His friends liked to mock and taunt him just to see his pale skin became rosy and beet red. His colleagues often called him “Princess” because of his feminine features.

Not that he really care that much about his looks, but sometimes he just wanted to look reputable to qualify as a dignified man in the eyes of the ICPO, especially to his father who rejected and abandoned him because of his sexual orientation. Yes, Aiden Knight was gay. And while most of the first world countries generally don’t give a damn about your gender preference, it was not the case inside the prestigious International enforcement institution like International Criminal Police Organization, also known either as ICPO or Interpol.

The Interpol emerged when the United Nations was formed after the disastrous aftermath of the Second World War. The Interpol then became the most powerful and influential police body acknowledged worldwide to enforce the law.  They were the enforcers and justice deliverance unit of the United Nations. They fought and interfered with heinous crimes and protect the human rights of the people. If ever there comes an individual or group that poses imminent threat to world peace and order, that’s the time they would step in and intervene to neutralize the threat.       

               Aiden was usually proud of his skills, talents, abilities, and the person he’d become thanks to the training he’d undergone as an ICPO Aspirant. If anything, he was proud to be raised in this way of life (even if the harsh brutal training under the sun was the bane of his existence). He carries his accomplishment and title as an ICPO aspirant with pride, honor, and dignity. But sometimes it got trampled down whenever he became the object of the murderous and scrutinizing looks of his co-aspirants.

It unnerved him and it only added to the self-pity and inferiority complex he was experiencing to himself. Despite all his hard work in order to achieve his status and ranking, many of his colleagues still treat him like a trash. They couldn’t see his fighting abilities and superior intellectual skills that made him earn the number 2 Ace spot of their generation. All they ever see was his facade, the man who was shameless enough  to go out of the closet and dragging down the name of his clan in  the process.

    The Knight clan was one of the most powerful and influential families in ICPO. They were known to produce elite ICPO members with exceptional track records and performance across different generations. They were highly respected and was regarded as one of the noble families in the elite police force.  However, his father loathed his existence for various reasons, including his sexual orientation.

His father, Axel Knight, held a high position in ICPO. And being his only son and the sole heir of the Knight clan, he expected him to fulfill his obligation to produce an heir to the next generation. However, he deliberately rebelled against his father’s wishes by coming out. Ever since then, his father refused to acknowledge him. His father disowned him and he moved out from the main house. Axel Knight stripped him off his inheritance, money,  properties, even threatening to halt his ICPO enlistment using his influence.

At such a young age, Aiden was exposed to the harsh reality of life. He was still fortunate that despite his father’s threat, the parents of his colleagues still believes in his skills and his dedication to serve the people. They knew that being an ICPO agent was his destiny and they were proud of what he’d achieved and accomplished at such a young age. And so, they gave their recommendations to retain his enlistment. But just by being an enlisted member was not enough to continue his education. Now that he’s not receiving any support from his father, he needed to tend for himself. He still applied for the ICPO’s scholarship to support his education. He’d also undergone advanced internship and he even applied for an apprentice jobs to help the Interpol agents in solving cases.

Fortunately, he received the full scholarship grant that funded his education,accommodations, and travel expenses whenever he’s overseas during his internship. He also earned a substantial amount of money to support himself and with enough earnings, he was able to rent an affordable apartment a few months ago. Now that he’s graduating and he’ll start his life as a fully-fledged Interpol Agent, he needed to move out from their dorms soon. He already anticipated this event beforehand and so, he started to move out his things gradually to prepare for this most awaited day of his life.

The day of their graduation in the International ICPO Crime Investigators Academy.                 

               The day where he and his colleagues will become an official member of the elite Interpol agents.

The day where they will finally seek their vengeance and justice from what happened a decade ago.

           For in this very same day also marked as one of the darkest days in the ICPO’s history.

        Ten years ago, the ICPO’s former main headquarters in Lyon, France was attacked by its notorious enemy—the Dark Chaos mafia. The world’s most elite Interpol members were brutally murdered and massacred on worldwide television. Aiden could still remember the pain and agony he felt like it was yesterday. How they were forced to watch the horrible scene unfolding in front of them.

               Blood. There was blood everywhere. The poor, battered bodies of of their former upperclassmen were mutilated, and scarred in different patterns. As if their method of killing varied from one initiation to another, while their bodies were engulfed in red, scorching flames. Their head was severed and piled up inside the main interrogation room like a haystack. Hundreds of masked men raised their guns together and shot at them mercilessly.

Aiden bit his lips, hard enough to draw blood to muffle his scream while he embraced his friends and bury their heads on his chest to shield them from witnessing such a brutal scene. Although he knew it was impossible, but at that moment, he wanted nothing more than to protect the innocent mind of his friends from being scarred for the rest of their lives.

               That left him to witness the brutal killing spree like with his very own eyes and ever since then, the memory plunged him every night. He could still remember how his entire body shook in fear and terror as he witnessed how their enemies celebrated and partied their victory afterward. They wore sinister smiles while gulping a big splash of red wine like bloodthirsty beasts while bathing in a puddle of blood. To add more fuel to the raging fire of wrath and fury they felt, most of the dead elite Interpol members they saw on television were their seniors. Aiden and Thane, his mission partner, were only 16 while his colleagues were 15 when the tragedy happened. They were relatively close to their seniors. He and his colleagues look up to  them as their role models, their inspiration to strive hard and follow the righteous path their elders had paved.

Their seniors just graduated as top-notchers in their school when they were sent to the French main headquarters. The señiors had promised them of their return when their own graduation comes. They wanted to see how much they’ve grown and accomplished as an ICPO Aspirants. Aiden and his friends were thrilled when  they heard their promise and in return, they vowed to work hard to become the best agents of their generation. However, that vow vanished like a thin air and their hearts shattered the when they heard the news. It’s as if the time had frozen and the air was knocked out of them. They were devastated when they heard that some of the thousand victims who died in the massacre were the señiors they’ve admired and looked up to.

Aiden, who was in the middle of reminiscing the deepest scars of the past broke out from his stupor he felt a heavy object hit his head. He groaned painfully as his head throbbed from the impact of the collision. He brought his hand on the back of his head and start massaging the affected area in a circular motion in an attempt to soothe the pain.

When the pain had dulled, he tilted his head to the side to see what had hit him. And to his surprise, he saw that it was a . . . stiletto heel?

“There you are! My runaway Princess!” Aiden turned around, willing to see his perpetrator, and grimaced  when his vision painted a flash of gold.

In front of him was Devin Hughes with his chin high and proud as he swayed his hips while walking towards him. His golden locks were secured in a tight ponytail while some strands of his bangs fell over his nose. The thick, black ring of eyeliner around his eyelids made his beautiful hazel eyes stood out even more. His long and thick eyelashes were covered with black mascara and his lips were covered with sizzling red lipstick that was oozing with sensuality and seduction.

He was wearing a black shirt with silver sequins on the center that formed the statement “Let’s Get Dirty” while his sleeves were made of black fishnet design and a furry red scarf was wrapped around his neck. His studded bracelets and colorful, vibrant jewelry shimmered and made dangling sounds as he crossed his lean, tanned arms across his chest.    

Aiden knew at that moment, Devin’s face had also scrunched up in disgust as he took in his disheveled state, but he paid no attention as the feeling was mutual. His face had gone sour as he gazed Devin’s lower outfit. He wore a tight, gray leather pants with chains that cling to legs like a second skin—showing off his every curve. His outfit was completed with 4-inch silver stiletto heels, only now that one of them was missing, leaving his left foot in bare. The nails on his hairless foot was painted with red polish. Everything about him just screamed how feminine he was in his outfit.

If he detested his natural feminine physique, Dev was the complete opposite of him. He detested his natural manly physique. He worked hard to get rid of developing those pesky abs and muscles. He customized a training regimen to emphasize his curves, he constantly shaves his hairy body and maintains his tanned skin. Dev was his only other friend that swings the same way as him, but unlike him, he was quite proud of it. He was never ashamed of who he was and he outed himself without giving a damn about how their colleagues would react and treat him afterward.  

“What the heck are you doing here, Dev? Didn’t I tell you I didn’t want to be disturbed today? I want to be alone for a while before our graduation ceremony. And how did you find me, anyway?”

“Oh, please, Denny. If this is a normal day, then by all means you are free to do what you want. I will never interfere with your, uh, sweaty and intense workout. Though I would’ve preferred a different kind of sweaty and intense workout, not by punishing yourself under the scrutinizing heat of the sun! But hey, newsflash! Today is a special day so you shouldn’t be doing anything strenuous! Don't tell me you actually forgot what day today is?” Dev screeched.  

               Aiden scoffed as he picked up Dev’s heel and gave it to him. “Of course not, Dev. I know how special this day is, Dev. It’s our graduation day. All the more reason to train and be more prepared as we assume our position as ICPO Agents. Just because it is our graduation day it doesn’t mean we should let our guard down and party to our heart’s content.”  

               “And it is precisely why we should loosen up and give in to our wild side! We’ve been training hard for what? Four, ten, sixteen years?! Almost our entire life! It won’t kill us if we let our guard down for just a day, don’t be such a pussy! We deserved this one special day to relax and enjoy ourselves! Come on, Aiden! Don’t be such a pussy! It’s time for you and Thane to delve into nightlife and get laid!”

               “You know that I don’t do parties, Dev. You know how I don’t blend well with the crowd. Besides,  I never like the smokes, sweats, alcohols, and an insane pool of bodies grinding on each other like some bunnies. Those are your things, not mine. I would end up being holed in the corner looking like a standee post while watching you make out in public. So, no thank you, I’m turning down your offer.”

         “Aw, you’re just jealous that I’m getting some actions and you’re not! But you don’t need to be, you know, that shall be fixed soon enough.” Devin replied as he smirked evilly.

        “Uh, I don’t think I like that smirk of yours. Don’t plot some nasty things in that wicked head of yours!” Devin gasped as his blazing red lips twitched upward in a cynical smile.

“Is that how you think of me? In case you’ve forgotten, I’m your friend, you know! I would never involve you in an evil scheme. I only wish for you to loosen up and enjoy life. You’re 30 now and you’ve already missed half of your life if you don't give your V-card anytime soon! For Goodness sake, we’re already adults, not teenagers!” He exclaimed dramatically as he threw his hands in the air. Aiden just groaned in annoyance while he fought the blush that was threatening to emerge on his face.

“I appreciate your concern, Dev. But please, don’t be such a drama queen. I’m still 26 and young! Like I said, I’m not just interested in visiting clubs for pleasure. If we’re going there to do some business, then you might succeed in convincing me.”

“Well, about that,” Dev’s eyes widened before he gave him a wicked grin that made Aiden gulped as he realized his grave mistake. He shouldn’t have told him that. He realized he just gave his friend an opening to invite him to go clubbing anytime soon. “We’re definitely going to go clubbing sooner than later, Denny. We’re about to conduct an investigation about a drug syndicate that’s been lurking around the famous clubs of New York City. Unfortunately, that will have to wait--”

Just like that, Devin’s wicked smile vanished as it was replaced with a scowl. His golden orbs narrowed into slits like that of a cat in irritation. He gritted his teeth in fury and Aiden could sense that Devin was done playing around. It’s as if what he said triggered something inside that made him remember why he bothered coming here in the first place, when he specifically instructed them not to. “I hate to bear this news to you but I don’t think I really have a damn choice. That bastard Thane just had to ruin all of my plans for tonight and decided to make me play the role of a delivery man. And a bearer of a bad omen. I--”

“Just get to the point, Dev. What is it?” Aiden interrupted him with a grim face. A dreadful feeling came over him. For some reason, he felt like an impending bad omen was coming. And he didn’t like it one bit. This special day was supposed to be filled with joy and happiness, not some bad news threatening to destroy this important milestone and occasion in  their lives.

The silence reigned around them as Devin didn’t say anything. Instead, he pulled out something from his pocket and Aiden felt something soft and light on his right palm. His face frowned in confusion when he saw a small yellow card bearing the symbol of a globe with its 7 giant continents with olive branches encircling around it. A vertical sword of justice pierced through the globe while on its side bear a tip of scales that seems to weigh in the magnitude of the justice served. Aiden was well-aware what this card represents. But for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out why there’s a need to issue a card like this.

“Dev, where did this come from?”

“I don’t know the whole details yet, but I received the notice from Thane.” Aiden could see that they’re dealing with a dangerous predicament here, but still, he’s confused as to what the fuss was all about.

“But you know  that we normally don’t lead a search and rescue or retrieval operation, right? It should pass first through the local police authorities and the FBI before we can intervene. We need their request of assistance first.”

Normally, you’re right.” Devin nodded in agreement, but not before adding “However, it becomes a different story if someone from the inside forces got abducted. Now that certainly caught Aiden’s attention and his eyes widened in realization.

“You mean?--”

“Yes, Denny.” Devin interrupted his voice heavy with unease. “The Baltimore headquarters in Maryland was attacked. And all of our co-aspirants were abducted.”

 
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