Drakul II Gateway

Summary

Marine research vessel The Kittiwake is conducting a magnetic survey of the sea floor off the Gulf of Khambhat, North West India. A team of young researchers are mapping an ancient city that should not exist. British archaeologist Julia Anderton discovers a powerful anomaly and wants to investigate but lecherous Captain Dan Jamieson wants to sail the ship home, as the expedition is out of time. Andrea Estevar (geologist) and Henri Albert (palaeontologist) are soon to be married on a cruise ship. A powerful earthquake occurs and the epicentre coincides with the anomaly. The sponsor of the expedition, Angelica Ambrus, insists they investigate. They find evidence of civilisation far older than thought possible and buried deep below the drowned city is a black box, but they also encounter sea-demons.

The box is struck by lightning and as the captain is electrocuted as he tries to control the vessel. When the storm ends, the scientists open the box. It contains the shrivelled corpse of a hominid with the face of a beast over seven feet tall.  It is more than two hundred and fifty thousand years old and Andrea in particular seems obsessed. Both she and Julia have visions of a world with three giant moons where a gleaming black pyramid reaches the clouds, but they also dream of violence and death. During the night, the power fails and Julia makes her way to the laboratory but the corpse has gone.  Andrea is drawn to the cargo hold by a strange compulsion…

The novel plays out in a luxury cruise ship as Vadhul Drakul takes control, turning it into a weapon so he can recover the magical box and return home, using sea demons to fulfil his quest. The box is taken to the carbon building in central London, and only demon slayer Finn Angmon can prevent the city being invaded as the power of the box is revealed.

Chapter 1

Captain Dan Jamieson stood on the bridge steering the Kittiwake along her endless track. It was ten a.m., the sun was a sledgehammer and he was in need of another drink.  Piggy eyes narrowed against the glare.

For two long months, the ship had been undertaking a low frequency magnetic survey of the ocean floor, endlessly sailing up and down the gulf of Khambhat off the North-West coastline of India. It was the nautical equivalent of ploughing a field and about as interesting to him. The two probes were towed behind the ship on long cables attached to the giant yellow ‘A’ frame lifter that spanned the aft deck, and he had grown to hate the sight of them. The probes each maintained a course wide of the ship and travelled at about five hundred metres depth. Their endless task was to record magnetic fields and build a 3D picture of what lay below the sea floor, but why that should be of interest was beyond the whit of the captain.

The ship was currently owned by AMRES, a research institute which paid cash up front and that was all he needed to know. Most of his business was cash-based with no questions asked. Dan did not know much about marine archaeology or anything else other than ships and women, and not a lot about women. However, he did understand the Gulf and he loved all fourteen hundred tonnes of the Kittiwake, if he loved nothing else. He had been married to her for the last six years and she would never leave him as the others had. He ran his hand around the rim of the wheel, feeling the vibration of the engine through the soles of his feet. Sometimes, he thought the Kittiwake could understand his thoughts.

Captain Dan did not give a flying fuck about drowned cities or lost civilisations but he approved wholeheartedly of young female researchers.

“Jesus H.”

He wiped the sweat from his forehead and leered drunkenly at Julia Anderton – doctor Anderton as she had once corrected him in her self- righteous English accent – bending over some of her scuba equipment. Luckily for Captain Dan, Julia liked to wear tight white shorts and skimpy bikini tops and her sun-bleached hair was blowing along her brown back like some photo in a tasteful calendar. Not the kind of calendar he would buy, no sir. He studied the architecture of her backside intently whilst rasping the stubble on his chin with a thick hand, the nails black with engine oil. She must have sensed him drooling in the suffocating heat of the bridge because she looked over her shoulder disapprovingly and moved out of sight. He grinned and stuffed a Cuban cigar between his cracked lips, lighting it with cupped hands but the grin did not express his true feelings. He knew what she thought about him and he did not feel particularly good about it.

“Hey, what can you do,” he said to himself with a shrug. The cigar was heaven, almost as good as whiskey.

The Kittiwake finally reached the end of the last track and the end of the survey. He stopped the ship and dropped anchor before shinning down the short ladder with the agility of an overweight monkey, thinking of a chilled bottle of beer and still mulling over Julia Anderton’s tight shorts but beer, mostly. He was more than aware of the absurdity of his fantasy.  He was a big fat man, chunky arms heavily freckled and decorated with pig’s bristle whiskers that also covered his sun-reddened jowls. He had matching eyelashes, tobacco-stained teeth and sun-rinsed eyes of the palest blue. A small cloud of armpit smell tended to follow him and sometimes he came across it himself, if the wind was the wrong way. Dan had no illusions and lived by the doctrine of ‘what you see is what you get’. It was a pointless life that made him happy enough.

He yanked open the rusting refrigerator that squatted in the shade under the ship’s bridge and took out a wonderful cold wet beer, which he opened on one of the ladder’s steps. He tipped the bottle up so that the sun made the liquid glow and glugged it down followed by a belch and a gasp of pleasure. Life could not get any better than this. Cold beer, hot sun and Dr Anderton’s shorts, but her disdain and the cumulative effect of the beer made him grow spiteful.  He tried to throw the bottle over the side as a protest but it shattered noisily against one of the railings, showering the waves with gleaming shards. He heard a female cry of protest from somewhere and laughed, heading off in search of the two young women to see what he could see. As he lumbered around the deck, he spat over the leeward side and thought he saw something long and silver flash below the surface as it dived under the boat. Shark, maybe. He hadn’t seen dolphins for a couple of days. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen anything.

Julia was trying to be patient with Andrea whilst she stood with hands on hips, staring at the large computer screen displaying a three dimensional model of the sea floor. The model represented a ruined city complete with the outlines of buildings and streets arranged in a radial pattern around a central piazza. The piazza and a number of the buildings were contained within the remains of a square enclosure maybe two miles along each side and in the very centre sat the magnetic anomaly, an angry red splodge.

Andrea tossed her head. “I don’t get it. I mean, the whole thing’s ridiculous. This city was designed for some kind of transportation – look at the width of the streets. And that enclosure, what was the point? Half the buildings are outside of it. Explain that.”

Julia gnawed her lip. When Andrea did not understand something she behaved as if everyone else was being stupid. The self-righteous indignation and head tossing were becoming galling to live with as the weeks passed. “It is what it is,” she replied stubbornly. Julia focused on the computer model, thinking that the enclosure was strangely familiar. For one thing, it was perfectly square and orientated precisely north to south. If it had once been a building, then the size must have been staggering and even in the present day, she could not think of any building that was two miles long and perfectly square.  In fact the whole thing was impossible, but it was there.

“The epicentre of the anomaly’s probably in the very middle of the most important building,” Julia replied patiently, “and in the exact centre of the city. And you’re telling me it’s some random thing? Come on – I mean, come on. This bloody well isn’t random and you know it.”

Andrea folded her arms and her dark brown eyes flashed angrily. “You come on.”

It was meaningless but the way she said it got the message across. Julia could not help laughing at her friend’s discomfort and after a pout, Andrea laughed with her. Julia thought of Andrea as one of her closest friends but she knew it would be hard to find two people more dissimilar.  Whilst she liked the precision of American Line Dancing, Andrea danced the Argentinean Tango with smouldering eyes as if each night would be her last. Julia knew they lived their lives accordingly, the planned versus the passionate, discretion versus drama. Julia would not accuse herself of lacking passion but passion had to be planned and managed like everything else in life and maybe that was why she had lost Henri to her friend, but she held no bitterness. Well, not so much. Andrea somehow made Julia’s life whole and in return, she provided Andrea with some sense of direction in her otherwise chaotic life. Julia took a deep breath and tried again.

“Please, Andrea, just listen to me. I’m not saying you’re wrong. It’s just that the anomaly wasn’t here yesterday,” she said, keeping her voice level. “It clearly wasn’t – so we need to investigate what it could be. This isn’t geological in origin.”

Andrea pushed back her glossy chestnut hair. Her face was darkly intelligent, with an aquiline nose and a firm chin and right now, that chin was jutting aggressively. Julia began to get annoyed and Andrea stood up and waved her hands in the air dramatically, as Julia knew she would.

“Look, you’re the archaeologist, right? You’re supposed to know about the buildings. Well, I’m the geologist on this ship and I’m telling you that there are a dozen different reasons for that blip and none are of any interest to me.”  Her voice began to rise. “It’s over, Julia. We’re finished here and we need to go home. I am getting married, in case you’ve forgotten.”

As if Julia would be allowed to forget. “Well, let’s at least take the DSV down and check it out,” Julia tried to sound reasonable. “You and Henri will have plenty of time for…for the wedding.”

“For Christ’s sake, we’ve out of time and we’re probably out of budget and I’ve had enough of being groped by that disgusting old man.” She folded her arms and stared defiantly at the computer screen.

“I like a woman with fire in her loins,” the skipper said from the doorway. “And it breaks my heart to disappoint you doc, but we’re going into port tonight and you’re leaving the ship.”

“But we only need a few hours. Please, captain.”

“Not a fuckin’ chance. Unless you want to make it worth my while.” He leered as his eyes roamed freely and she felt her face redden.

“Stupid fucking arsehole,” Andrea blazed at him. “I agree with Julia. We should go down and investigate. I mean, look at the screen here. Have you ever seen anything like it? Have you?”

How typical. Changing sides as her emotional wind vane span round, Julia noted.

He walked up to Andrea so that she had to lean back against the wall of the cabin and he took the cigar from his mouth, blowing smoke in her face. “I’m the fucking captain.” He poked her in the chest with a nicotine-yellow finger and the soft flesh whitened.  “Got it?”

For a moment Julia feared Andrea would hit him and she was almost certain that Jamieson would hit back. “I’ll get the men,” she said quickly, “and we’ll vote on it.”

Jamieson slumped onto a chair, swivelled round on it and scratched his crotch expressively. “The men? This should be a fucking hoot,” he said dryly but he was watching Andrea thoughtfully. He wiped the sweat from his face and picked up the microphone. He flicked a switch and spoke into it. “Roger? Henry? Get your butts down to the radio room, boys. Teacher here wants a word with you.”

Henri was a quiet Frenchman, tall, slim and athletic, his good looks undermined by thick glasses and a nervous temperament, vulnerabilities she found strangely attractive. Although Julia would never admit it, her feelings for Henri were still niggling away at her. Roger Graves was not good-looking, needed to wash his clothes more often and alternated between being serious and introverted and playing the fool.  Neither man was capable of standing up to the garrulous captain, particularly after he had been drinking, which was most of the time and that riled Julia.  She had threatened to report him, but he only laughed and told her to do so. Henri went to stand next to Andrea and she took his hand whilst looking at Julia.  She smiled in a secretive way. Roger watched Julia’s reflection in the screen, picking a spot as she  explained what had happened. “So we want to vote on it,” she finished.

“We’ll have to go down, captain,” Henry said uncertainly. “I mean – that’s why we’re all here, isn’t it?”

“I agree,” Roger replied, scratching his chin and examining his fingernails with interest.

The captain shrugged and spat. “I don’t think so, boy.”

He barged out of the room and went on deck and they followed behind remonstrating wildly, but when Julia emerged in the blinding sunlight, the anomaly was forgotten in an instant. At first she thought it must be some huge creature – a whale, perhaps. She saw a vast swirl, as if the sea surface had been stirred by a giant invisible spoon. The ship heeled over with a groan that was almost human and they staggered, grabbing at anything to prevent themselves from falling. Roger lost his footing and tumbled across the deck with a yell until his head connected with the base of a metal post with an audible thunk. Blood flowed down his face. One of the three crewmen caught him and hauled him to his feet while the other two began to pray in Hindi. The giant swirl vanished but the prayers had not worked.

Julia watched as the surface of the sea darkened before dropping away, forming a crater made of water. The sides were deep green and translucent where the sunlight penetrated and shoals of flying fish broke through the sloping surface, reminding her of shooting stars. The Kittiwake teetered on the edge, the anchor chain threatening to pull it down as the cliff began to collapse. “Oh my God,” Henri muttered, frozen to the spot. Julia said a silent prayer and Andrea screamed theatrically and grabbed hold of Henri.

The captain moved fast, running up the steps to the bridge and released the anchor chain. The mechanism yelled as the chain whipped through. His fast thinking probably saved them all because the ship righted just as the giant hole was swamped with foaming seawater. The air filled with spray and the noise was a continuous, thunderous roar. Julia felt the deck surge, lifting the ship high into the air as a giant wave passed beneath it. The vessel slid down the back of the wave and wallowed sulkily in the foam.  Further waves came, lifting them up on green hills before plunging them into dark valleys. The ship felt tiny.

“Tsunami,” one of the crewmen wailed.

Julia could only stand and watch as the first long dark shape spread the length of the distant coast and set off on its voyage of destruction. All around was a deathly silence and even the seabirds made no sound.

“What’ll happen when it arrives?” Roger asked unsteadily. The gash on his forehead would need stitches, Julia thought.

Andrea shaded her eyes. “The gulf narrows to a point and the wave will build up to maximum size there.”

“And what’s that?” Dan asked.

“Maybe twenty metres,” she said quietly.

“Holy shit.” He went back to the bridge and radioed the harbour, talking rapidly in Hindi before sticking his head out of the doorway. “They say they know already – seems they’ve got some kind of early warning system now. I offered to come in but they said no point. We should stay offshore. Looks like I’m stuck with you nerds for a few more days after all.”

Andrea fetched a first aid kit and fussed over the injury to Roger’s forehead as he raised an eyebrow. “It’s nothing, Miss Moneypenny, just a scratch,” he said in his best James Bond voice and she laughed.

She dabbed at the wound. “Ve have ways of making you talk, Mr Bond.”

“Ouch,” he shouted, “that hurt.”

“Whilst you two are playing, I’m going to call the professor,” Julia said disapprovingly.

“I’ll come with you,” Henri added as she headed down to the radio room.        To Julia’s dismay, Henri shut the door behind him before moving uncomfortably close and reaching out to stroke her hair.

“Julia, do you remember when we used to make love? Do you remember the hunger? Do you?”

She swatted his hand away, angry. “Henri, you promised you wouldn’t – we can’t go back. You’re with Andrea now. Aren’t you happy with her?”

He did not look happy, stretching his fingers wide and examining his hand, as if he hadn’t seen it before. “She’s so different from you. She’s exciting, unpredictable.”

“There you are. I’m obviously not exciting, then.” She picked up the phone, bothered by his strange behaviour.

He took her face in his hands and before she could stop him, kissed her on the mouth. At first she resisted, but the old memories came flooding back and she had returned the kiss before she could stop. She pushed him away and wiped her mouth, tasting the bitter tang of betrayal. She tried to calm her breathing, so disappointed in him. “This is wrong. Please stop.”

Julia had never fully got over Henri despite the hurt, but she had learned to accept it. Now he was unlocking her heart again, days before his wedding. She suspected he was getting off on some power thing, wanting to build a harem or whatever. She turned away, angry with herself and more so with him. “You’re a selfish bastard. You betrayed me and now you’re doing the same to Andrea. I should tell her what you’re like.”

“Come on, we’re adults, aren’t we?” he replied with a smile both secret and hungry. No harm in a bit of yazu, is there?”

Before she could give him a suitably stinging reply, the sat phone rang. She answered, glad of the diversion. “This is Julia Anderton, on the Kittiwake. Who am I speaking to?”

A woman laughed. “This is Angel Ambrus. We’ve not met, Miss Anderton, but I’ve been paying for your research.”

It was a voice used to being obeyed and most attractive, husky with an accent Julia could not place, the words spoken in a sigh.  From somewhere in Central Europe, she guessed.  “How can I help you?”

“I am a great admirer of yours, doctor-”

“Julia.”

“Ah-h-h, yes. Julia. Listen carefully. Your orders have been changed-”

Julia raised an eyebrow and looked at Henri. “Orders?”

His dark eyes stared back, filled with secrets.

Angel laughed and Julia could almost feel sensuality dripping through the phone.  “I am so sorry, my English not always good. I should say, your mission. Yes, your mission, that sounds better. Professor Jenkins has been briefed and I will speak to Captain Jamieson in a moment. We want you to stay in the area and investigate the anomaly. Use the submersible’s cameras. Look, Seek.”

Julia was lost for words. “But – how-”

“Aah, yes. How did we know about the anomaly?” the sighing voice asked. “We have known about it for a long time.”

Now Julia decided she did not like the voice one little bit. A man might have found it sultry or even sexy but for some reason she could not explain, it was beginning to give her the creeps.  “What’s going on?”

“You may as well know that all the data you get in the ship also comes directly to the AMRES institute in Hungary. In the spirit of international research, of course. But you write the papers and get to attend the conferences.” The voice was mocking.

“And what do you get out of it, if I’m not being rude?” asked Julia, thinking how rude it actually sounded.

The woman laughed unpleasantly. “We are a commercial organisation, doctor. There’s money even in your science. Now, have you any other questions?”

Julia’s mind seemed to be completely blank. She desperately tried to think of something to ask but before she could come up with anything, Angel Ambrus had put the phone down and Julia was left with a crackling noise. “Did you get that?” she asked Henri.

He frowned. “Every word. I suspected our computers are being raided all the time. I spotted the processes, but I didn’t know what they were. Makes you wonder if they’ve been listening to our conversations as well.” He smiled. “And where were we with our conversation?” He reached out and touched her face.

The spell was broken, the words empty. “That’s quite enough. I don’t know what’s got into you, Henri. Maybe it’s because you want what you can’t have. Forbidden fruit.”

“What kind of fruit?” he asked with a grin.

She laughed at the innuendo. “Unripe and out of reach, sunshine.” She went to the door, keen to put some distance between them whilst he cooled down. “Let’s talk about work,” she said brightly. “The tidal wave might make it difficult to dive, what d’you think?”

Henri chewed his thumb as his mood seemed to change. “Andrea’s going to flip if I tell her we’re staying on to do this. You know what she’s like about the wedding.”

“Exciting and unpredictable?”

He laughed and the old Henri was back. “Exactly.”

A shout from the deck interrupted them and they went up. The sunlight was dazzling and the heat from the deck struck at Julia, burning the soles of her feet. She yelped and ran into the shade. “God almighty.”

“I think God’s busy right now,” Roger said thoughtfully, staring landwards. The wave’s almost there.”

Julia and the others waited in a line, shading their eyes. The captain and one of the crew stood on the bridge, watching through powerful binoculars. “Look,” someone shouted. A line of dirty grey exploded along the edge of the mangrove forest and behind it the sea bloated. In the distance where the land began to narrow the water seemed alive, the black mass foaming and humping as if in a force ten storm whilst the palm trees on the hillsides hung listlessly below a deep blue sky.

“May God protect them,” said Henri. Andrea hugged him theatrically, hiding her face against his shirt and he put his arms around her.

Roger cast a hopeful glace at Julia but all she gave him was a little smile. Things would have to get a lot worse before she would accept a hug from Roger, who needed no encouragement and the world would have to end before Captain Jamieson got a look in.

“Captain,” Julia shouted, squinting up at the bridge, shading her eyes from the sun. “Captain Jamieson.”

He clambered down from the bridge, treating Julia to the hairy cleavage between his butt cheeks before he slouched across the deck to her, hitching up his pants. “What’s up, babe?”

She ignored the provocation. “I just had a phone call from the sponsor of this expedition. As you know, she has commissioned the Kittiwake. She told me we must investigate the anomaly and the cause of the tidal wave using the DSV. I think we need to start right away, don’t you?”  Before he could argue she added, “She’s going to call you herself. So do yourself a favour and help us.” She had the satisfaction of seeing his shoulders droop before he turned away and she thought he looked anxious. Stupid bastard, she thought but at the same time, the idea of going down in the DSV had become much less enticing.

She looked at the dark sea and shuddered.