Chapter 1Mature

A mercenary treasure hunter and his partner agree to a job where they must find the clues to the location of a legendary artifact with the power to change history, and must deal with the threat of a fanatical Neo-Nazi sect and ruthless modern day pirates, amidst other dangers and twists of fate, to complete their quest...and get that huge paycheck.



Gulliver Crow began to awake.

The first thing he became aware of was that he could not see. Something had been tightly wrapped over his eyes, keeping his world in pitch-blackness. Next, he heard the disembodied sounds of people close by, but was unable to make out words. Crow tried to move, only to feel the scratch of rope keeping his hands tied to something. His arms were locked in a vertical position above his head, while his legs were tied together. And to cap it all off, the pain of the tiny arrow wound in his side continued to vex him.

Crow's hearing improved with every passing second as he became more fully awake, and simultaneously his memory began to return. Him retrieving the diamond in the temple, the ambush once he got back outside, the little arrow hitting his stomach... Crow felt that familiar feeling of exasperation whenever a job went sour.

His hearing finally reached clarity, and he heard an intense, manic male voice shouting nearby, speaking in an exotic language. Thankfully, Crow was fluent in it, as he was in nearly any known language across the planet. It helped in his line of work. This particular tongue belonged to the Lakirayan people of a small island in the Southern Pacific, a primitive and secluded culture that more or less ignored the outside world. Crow listened carefully.

“This thief must answer for his sacrilege! Vorin-Da is consumed with the fire of rage!”

This comment was met with a cheer from a fairly huge audience, judging from the strength of the response. But that wasn't what worried Crow; it was the abrupt vibration that suddenly made his whole body rattle against the object he was tied to, a tremor that lasted only a couple seconds before ceasing. He heard scared murmurs from the distance, but then the wild voice began again:

“The ground trembles from the anger of Vorin-Da! He warns us that if we do not give him the stranger that desecrated his crystal, we shall be destroyed!”

Another cheer, and Crow then felt hands unwrapping the thing blinding him. Within seconds, he went from total darkness to blinding sunlight, and once his vision adjusted, he saw that he was in the middle of the Lakirayan's small village, nestled in a clearing in the jungle. Gathered in this place was what looked like every villager; man, woman, child and their pets. The Lakirayans had ebony skin, bearing impressively ornate piercings and scar patterns, with minimal clothing.

But Crow's gaze quickly went to the distance, and he saw only about roughly a mile away the looming mountain dubbed Ikliana by the Lakirayans. The whole village had been built pretty much right next to the damn thing, as the natives believed it to be the lair of their deity, Vorin-Da. And to Crow's great dismay, he saw a huge cloud of black smoke rising from the mountaintop, and seemed to finally notice the steady, foreboding rumble in the air.

The volcano was ready to blow.

Crow quickly craned his head around, inspecting himself. He had been fastened to a wooden structure, his arms pulled above his head with the hands tied together, and his legs bound as one. He tried moving again, but the Lakirayans had done a good job; Crow wasn't going anywhere. From what he could tell, his body seemed to be more-or-less unharmed, minus the small wound in his side from the arrow that had taken him down. The tip had been coated in a juice that had a tranquilizing effect, which explained his brief nap.

Crow wore his usual ensemble for jobs: a dark brown short-sleeve button shirt that hugged his well-built upper torso; khaki pants with dark black boots, and thick gray leather gloves. The only thing missing was his Beretta pistol, its holster, and his black satchel, all of which Crow quickly noticed sat a few feet away on a wooden pedestal.

Just as Crow came to the verdict that he was not significantly injured as to rule out fleeing if the opportunity presented itself, he saw a little ways in front of him a tall, crazed-looking Lakirayan, his body covered in scarred symbols and wearing a feather headdress that normally would have impressed Crow with its artistry, except he was currently too busy listening to the wearer's shouts to his audience:

“We must act! Now! Now, before ruin falls upon us all!”

Another cheer, and the witch doctor suddenly pranced up to Crow, glaring at his stubble-covered face. He snarled, “You do not beg for mercy, thief?”

Crow said nothing, giving the man a contemptuous look. The witch doctor asked, “Then you accept your fate?”

Another tremor shook the ground, and Crow looked at the volcano, to see geysers of lava spew out of cracks in the mountain. The time was coming close, now. So he looked at the man who was daring him to show fear, to plead for mercy, and said softly in the Lakirayan tongue, “Do you want my advice?”

The witch doctor listened intently.

“Start running.”

This seemed to only further incense the man, who reached to his belt, whipping out a large dagger. He spun to the crowd, and they all let out a tremendous cheer upon seeing the weapon in his hand. Crow, in desperation, strained to move against his binds, hoping that somehow he could break through them. Again, he was met with failure.

The witch doctor then began to call to the mountain, “Hear me, Great Creator! I now slay the stranger, the trespasser, the defiler, as you have commanded!”

He turned to Crow, and swung back the dagger. Crow gritted his teeth, waiting...

But Ikliana had finally run out of time. The world was suddenly rent by a powerful quake, as in the distance, the peak of the mountain erupted massive fire and lava. The quake ruined the descent of the dagger, making it miss Crow's head cleanly. All of the Lakirayans began to scream in terror, as giant flaming stones were blasted from the volcano, and began to bombard the village. Huts were smashed and lit aflame, natives crushed or set alight by fire, and in the chaos, Crow watched as the witch doctor grabbed the diamond, and attempted to run as the rest of his people now did.

But he suddenly lost his footing, and stumbled, dropping the crystal. Before he could get up, a shard of debris fell from the air and sliced into his skull. The man collapsed, never to move again. The other villagers fled the clearing in a panic, totally forgetting about Crow, still tightly attached to his post.

Crow watched as the raining fire and rock decimated the village around him, and knew it was only a matter of seconds before he was destroyed with it. He fought the ropes, grunting angrily, and his muscles strained painfully. But they were too much. He gave up. There was no hope of escaping in time. Death was ready to claim him.

“Quite the tight spot, Gully!”

Crow jerked his head around, looking toward the direction of the voice. There was a fair-skinned, red-haired woman standing next to him. Young, mid-twenties, with an athletic build shown off by her well-fitting khaki shirt and shorts. Her hair, slightly untidy, stopped below the ears.

Crow scowled as his personal pilot Eve Rider instantly went to work on the ropes, using a big knife to slice them off. He shouted over the noise of the apocalypse, “You could've come a little sooner!”

Eve looked him in the eyes with her bright blue ones, grinning as she discarded the ropes and Crow removed himself from the structure. “Wanted to make a dramatic entrance. Now, follow me!”

She turned to one direction, ready to run, but Crow did not follow suit. Instead, he began running to the fallen witch doctor. He ignored Eve's yells, as he quickly picked up the diamond, and stopped only a second longer to snatch his gun and satchel before finally looking at his pilot and yelling, “Well? Lead on!”

She turned tail and took off, with Crow following close behind, wincing from the arrow wound. They were in full sprint, weaving through the burning huts and ducking from falling rock and fire. The two reached the jungle, and Crow followed the mystery woman through the trees, seeing flames devour parts of the lush foliage.

Crow shouted, still running, “Where's Lucy?

Eve yelled back to him, “Just ahead! Now, keep up! The whole island is gonna go!”

Crow did not argue. He kept up with her, as they leaped over logs and smashed through shrubbery, and all the while, Crow kept a strong grip on the diamond. After about a minute, they finally came upon a break in the trees, and Crow found himself looking at a small banged-up blue helicopter, the name Lucy sloppily painted on the nose. Eve hollered, “All aboard!” before she leaped into the cockpit. Crow clambered into the back, setting the diamond down, and buckled himself in, as the engine awoke, and in moments the chopper lifted off, rapidly moving away from the island.

Crow watched out of the window, as he saw the island shrink in the distance. He was breathing wildly, and sweat dripped from his blonde hair. Lucy finally moved out of sight of the island, and Crow got up, moving into the cockpit, standing next to Eve. “I owe you my ass again, Eve.”

Eve chuckled, “Sorry Gully, but, nice ass as it is, I'm not interested.”

Crow ignored her cheek, continuing, “Call Jerry and let him know we're ready for delivery.”

She nodded. “Sure.” Eve glanced at his side-wound, looking concerned. “You gonna treat that, or do I have to stitch you up in your sleep again?”

Crow gingerly felt the spot, sharply taking a breath as he felt pain. “Yeah, yeah, I'll do it. Last time you made a mess.”

“Do I look like a doctor? Just be grateful I did something at all, Gully. And I'm still keeping count, by the way...”

Crow rolled his eyes. “For the last damn time, I never agreed to that bet!”

Eve waved a hand dismissively. “Bullshit. You probably repressed the memory or something.”

Shaking his head, Crow made his way back to his seat. He sat, breathing slowly as he felt exhaustion envelope him like a warm, comforting blanket. In mere seconds, he was dozing off. The last thing he heard before completely slipping out of consciousness was Eve's annoyed tsk tsk followed by a dry, “Typical...”

The End

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