This is the original prologue to EMBRACED BY FIRE.
Although I loved the action of this scene, and the fact we get to see Ryu as a dragon, in the end it was decided because of the time gap between here and the beginning of the story it was better to drop the prologue and go straight into chapter 1.
So the original beginning....
So the original beginning....
His curiosity had got the better of him, again. He’d overheard the guards mention level three, now here he was outside the last secure door debating the wisdom of going further. He stroked a hand over the metal panel, white paint chips catching on his calloused fingertips. Curiosity burned hotter. What were they hiding?
Unable to resist, he narrowed his eyes in concentration and set to work on the lock. A tight smile tugged at his lips and excitement thrummed through his blood, the danger making him feel electrifyingly alive, like static against his skin. He changed the angle of the lock picks, his fingers sensitive to the slightest vibration. The empty corridor held its breath as he made short work of the mechanism. The click of the lock disengaging was overloud. He froze, nothing stirred.
Ryu Mackay took a steadying breath. His life hadn’t always turned out the way he wanted, but this, this made it all worthwhile. This exhilaration, serving his country under the radar, knowing his actions made a difference. His picks vanished back into his pocket and he turned the handle. The door swung open on silent hinges – disturbingly silent for a compound full of squeaky doors.
He slipped into the room and his eyes widened. Horror turned his blood cold. In the centre of the bare concrete block room, sitting on a rough wooden table, were tubes of pale green chemicals surrounded by twisted wires.
Bomb! The word exploded in his brain. The red numbers on the timer attached to the front clicked over, 04:23. He had less than five minutes to get the hell out.
“Shit!” The word was more exhalation than speech.
No time to disable the bomb. Neither his training nor his inherent difference would stop him dying if he was near that thing when it blew. He was turning even as he realised the only option was to run as if the world were about to be blown apart at his feet, which in fact, it was. He raced for the door.
Grabbing the doorframe, he spun himself around the corner. Three quick strides and he was across the landing and shoving open the door to the stairwell. He needed to get out faster than Houdini on a good day.
As the door closed behind him, he heard it: rapid footsteps pounding up the stairs from below. The sound pushed his heart rate even higher than the already adrenaline-surging beat it developed after he saw that little construction of destruction.
Ryu began running up the stairs quicker and quieter than the men below. Thank goodness he’d already photographed the illegal importation documents. He slammed his way out of the final set of doors and found himself standing on the roof, five stories up with no external fire escape. He swore silently. Where was a helicopter when you needed one?
Standing in the shadows surrounding the exit, he debated his options. His jaw tightened, he hated being caught out like this. He glanced at the sky. The heavy globe of the moon illuminated the compound. If he moved, he’d be a clear target.
Unfortunately, like a ticking bomb, time wasn’t on his side. A man’s coarse shout on the other side of the door made up this mind. He’d have to risk being seen. Gritting his teeth in annoyance, he sent his clothes, weapons, and camera into Elsewhere and began running. He reached the edge of the roof—and jumped.
Air rushed past his face, burning his cheeks. Throwing his arms wide, he released the dragon. With an electric rush, he shifted. His wings caught the wind and pulled him upwards. If he was lucky no one would look up and see a giant, copper dragon flying overhead. If he wasn’t, he hoped they mistook him for a dream not an enemy aircraft.
He pushed through the air with powerful wing strokes. His next mission better be an easy one or he’d kick Adrian’s butt.
The sound and heat of the explosion almost tumbled him out of the sky, only a jerk of his tail and a mighty wrench of his wings kept him airborne. He glanced over his shoulder to see the roof where he had been standing only moments before, shattered and engulfed in flames.