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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 79: The Visitor Arrives

High above the clouds that blocked the moonlight from the mountains, an Airbus A320 cut through the night sky, flanked by two Mirage 2000 fighter jets. As the pilots had expected, the journey had not been interrupted but with such precious cargo aboard the airliner, they knew they could never be too careful.

Inside, the Airbus was the height of luxury. Designed to seat over one hundred and fifty passengers, the interior had been ripped out and now comfortably housed a crew of twenty, a dark figure clad from head to toe in black robes and his team of six bodyguards. The windows running down the sides of the main compartment were blacked out and only a low emission from the strip lamps above cast a token amount of light over the passengers.

Seated in Italian leather chairs secured to the compartment floor in a semi-circle around their respected and feared leader, the six bodyguards all kept their silver-plated swords at their side. Their long hair almost obscured their faces as they sat in meditation, contemplating their important mission.

Protect the Lord Chancellor.

The intercom system made a low ping and crackled. ‘We will shortly be passing over our destination. ETA two minutes.’

The bodyguards jumped to their feet in unison. They moved the swords from their sides and threw the straps over their shoulders, securing them on their backs. The Lord Chancellor rose to his feet and led the way to the rear of the compartment, where they waited by a custom-made double door that had been fitted into the side of the Airbus.

In the cockpit, the pilot spoke into his radio. ‘Guardian Angels one and two, we have one minute till the drop.’

Roger that,’ was the reply from the pilots of both jets.

Outside, the two Mirage jets dropped away from the Airbus and spread out until they were almost half a mile away from the airliner. They continued to slow down and reduce their altitude until they were below the clouds. The Airbus also dropped and levelled off just above the cloud cover.

Twenty seconds,’ the pilot announced and hit the button to open the double doors in the main compartment. The Lord Chancellor and his bodyguards gripped the metal railings next to the door to steady themselves. Cold air rushed into the compartment and blew their hair and robes over their faces. As the doors opened fully, only a blanket of grey clouds were visible from inside the plane.

Even though they were his sworn protectors, the bodyguards rarely saw anything of the Lord Chancellor. He was so heavily decked in black that he could hide under his robes and barely be seen. Very few had ever seen his true face. Somehow the powerful wind didn’t reveal the face beneath his robes.

One of the bodyguards registered the sight of the Lord Chancellor’s hand on the metal railings. It was incredibly pale, almost white, and the fingers were unnaturally long and thin, with long, sharp fingernails. The bodyguard tried to fight the thoughts that were entering his mind.

The Lord Chancellor looks old.

He can’t have long left, can he?

The bodyguard knew he had failed to contain his thoughts when he felt the deadly stare of the Lord Chancellor’s eyes pierce his mind from beneath his black robes. Before he could do or say anything, the Lord Chancellor leapt through the open doors, into the darkness outside. The six bodyguards all followed.

The doors closed behind them, leaving all seven figures hurtling towards the mountains below. The bodyguards swooped round the Lord Chancellor to form a protective circle. The Mirage jets flew in sweeping arcs, forming a second circle around the falling team. One thousand feet from ground level, the jets pulled up and continued to circle around the target landing zone, a deep, dark chasm hidden from the casual view of anyone passing through the mountains.

Five hundred feet from ground level, the Lord Chancellor and his bodyguards stopped falling and started to fly. They adjusted their direction and swooped in a long line over the clearing where a small number of empty cars were parked. Falling deep into the chasm, they all stopped in mid-air just in front of the wooden platform at the front door to Marcus Verrico’s lair.

Two vampires dressed in black were standing guard on the platform. When they saw the figures floating before them, they knew exactly who they were. They nodded and disappeared inside the door, closing it behind them. After a short wait, the doors were flung open. Marcus and Roxy stepped out onto the platform. They knelt on one knee and bowed their heads.

The Lord Chancellor nodded and they got to their feet.

Welcome, Lord Chancellor,’ Marcus said, ‘It is an honour to have you here. Please, come inside.’

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