Authors: Sophie McKenzie
Award-winning books from Sophie McKenzie
Winner Richard and Judy Best Kids’ Books 2007 12+
Winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2007 12+
Winner of the Manchester Children’s Book Award 2008
Winner of the Bolton Children’s Book Award
Winner of the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2008
Winner of the John Lewis Solihull Book Award 2008
Winner of the Lewisham Children’s Book Award
Winner of the 2008 Sakura Medal
SIX STEPS TO A GIRL
Winner of the Manchester Children’s Book Award 2009
Overall winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the Leeds Book Award 2009 age 11–14 category
Winner of the Spellbinding Award 2009
Winner of the Lancashire Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the Portsmouth Book Award 2009 (Longer Novel section)
Winner of the Staffordshire Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the Southern Schools Book Award 2010
Winner of the RED Book Award 2010
Winner of the Warwickshire Secondary Book Award 2010
Winner of the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2010
Winner of the North East Teenage Book Award 2010
THE MEDUSA PROJECT: THE SET-UP
Winner of the Portsmouth Book Award 2010
With thanks to Lou and Lily Kuenzler
First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd,
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © 2011 Sophie McKenzie
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Sophie McKenzie to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-84738-893-3
Typeset by Hewer Text UK Ltd, Edinburgh
Printed in the UK by CPI Cox & Wyman, Reading RGI 8EX
‘Synthetic life has been created in the laboratory in a feat of ingenuity that pushes the boundaries of humanity’s ability to manipulate the natural world.
Craig Venter, the biologist who led the effort to map the human genome, said yesterday that the first cell controlled entirely by man-made genetic instructions had been produced.’
, 21st May 2010
Fourteen years ago, scientist William Fox implanted four babies with the Medusa gene – a gene for psychic abilities. Now dead, his experiment left a legacy: four teenagers – Nico, Ketty, Ed and William’s own daughter, Dylan – who have each developed their own distinct and special skill.
Brought together by government agent, Geri Paterson, the four make up the Medusa Project – a secret, government-funded, crime-fighting force.
After a disastrous spell in a training camp in Spain, the four have returned home to England with a changed understanding about their work and a new agenda . . .
According to Ed’s map-reading, we were over halfway through the woods and had almost reached our destination. But Ed was insisting we waited.
make it to the rendezvous in two minutes,’ I whispered. ‘Three max. And there’s no one here. Nothing. Listen.’
Ed folded his arms and listened. It had been raining for most of the hour it had taken us to reach this point, but the pattering drops had stopped now and the forest was totally silent.
I shivered in the cold, damp air.
‘Hear that?’ I said. ‘
‘We have to wait,’ Ed whispered.
‘Why?’ I snapped. ‘There are no sounds. No movements. There’s no one
. We’re safe to move on.’
‘Nico says to wait,’ Ed said stubbornly. ‘He says it’s
I rolled my eyes. Ed was such a doofus.
‘Why should Nico know any better than me?’ I argued.
Ed rubbed his forehead. His sandy hair stuck up in damp tufts, still wet from the earlier rain. ‘Come on, Dylan,’ he pleaded. ‘That’s the mission.’
I sighed and leaned back against the nearest tree. Technically, Ed was right. The four of us were on a Medusa mission to find and capture a fugitive hiding out in a hut in the woods.
Nico and Ketty were about half a mile to the west of us. We’d spread out in order to make less noise – and to be able to monitor more of the forest as we travelled.
We each had a job to do. Ketty’s role was to bring on visions of the near future so we could avoid any potential dangers. She was trying to stay open to her visions the whole time, so Nico was letting Ed mind-read him remotely and passing on what she saw.
It was all kind of a stretch, in my opinion. Ed wasn’t very experienced at remote telepathy while Ketty’s supposed ability to see into the future was ludicrously unreliable.
‘Look, Chino Boy,’ I said. ‘Ketty can barely control that freaky mind thing she does. It’s real flaky. Half the time she can’t see anything at all.’
‘She’s got a lot more in control of it since Africa,’ Ed hissed.
I groaned. Ed was totally unreasonable where Ketty was concerned. Nico was the one actually dating her, but Ed
had feelings for her.
It was written all over his face.
‘Well, whatever Ketty’s seeing right now, we can’t be sure that it’s accurate,’ I argued.
Ed folded his arms. ‘I’ll contact them again,’ he said. ‘See if there’s any development. Okay?’
He turned slightly away from me and focused into the middle distance, trying to reach Nico through remote telepathy.
I shook my head. A few weeks ago I’d have had no problem persuading Ed to do what I wanted. Back when I met him, he was shy and gawky and hated his mind-reading abilities. Since then he’d had some real bad experiences. Most recently, we’d run up against this dictator guy in North Africa. Ed had tried to stand up to him and a girl he liked ended up being shot. All that would have been bad enough, but Ed expected the head of Medusa – Geri Paterson – to go after the man who’d killed the girl. Geri had refused, saying small stuff like that wasn’t the government’s priority.
Anyway, Ed got all worked up about it. And now he’s insisting we pick our own missions.
Whatever. Who cares where we go or what we do? I love my ability – and any chance to use it.
Ed blinked, his connection with Nico presumably ending.
‘What did Nico say?’ I asked.
Ed took a few deep breaths.
‘Jesus, Ed,’ I snapped. ‘I’ve known continents move faster than you.’
‘Ketty and Nico both say to carry on waiting,’ Ed insisted.
‘But we’ve already waited for
At that moment it started raining. Ed shuffled sideways, under the shelter of the nearest tree. I didn’t need to take shelter, of course. My Medusa ability means I can create a protective force field around myself whenever I want. It’s like an energy around my skin. Great for stopping glass from cutting me and sticks from beating me – but also awesome for keeping my hair sleek and my make-up from running when it’s raining.
Go ahead. Say I’m superficial. I couldn’t care less.
‘Did you at least find out what the danger is?
we’re supposed to wait?’ I said.
‘So Nico and Ketty don’t know.’ I sighed. ‘Don’t you think they’re being overcautious?’
Ed looked me in the eye. It kind of freaks me out when he does that. I mean, I’m not use to it. He didn’t used to be able to make eye contact without mind-reading the person he was looking at, but now he’s got all Mr Control about everything.
‘No,’ he said. ‘They’re not being overcautious.’
As he spoke, the rain grew heavier. I was having to focus hard now to stop my hair and clothes from getting wet. It struck me that if we were attacked and I had to concentrate on something other than my hair, it was going to get soaked.
The thought just about tipped me over the edge.
‘Well, I’m not freakin’ waiting any longer,’ I snapped. ‘The weather is totally gross and I can see the path up to the hut. There’s nobody hiding in the trees. We’d be able to see and hear them – and there are way too many bushes and trees further out for any snipers to catch us.’
‘Oh, do what you want,’ I snarled. ‘I’m going.’ And, without waiting for a response, I jogged off.
It was good to be running after standing still in the damp air for so long. I was still focusing on keeping the rain off me. I was aware of my ponytail flapping from side to side. I trod lightly along the earth path, my sneakers making hardly any sound. I kept my ears open in case there was – after all – an ambush, but as I’d expected, nothing was hiding out here.
Ed crashed up beside me.
‘This is all wrong, Dylan,’ he said, his voice tense. ‘You’re supposed to be protecting me. Not running off.’
‘It’s fine,’ I said. ‘You’re okay, aren’t you?’
I pointed up ahead. There was the hut. We had less than thirty metres to go until we reached it – and safety.
‘Let’s get inside, then you can contact the others and tell them to join us,’ I said.
I sped up, leaving Ed muttering behind me. We were almost there. Looking around carefully, I stepped off the path, my feet crunching softly across the damp twigs. Still no sign of anyone or anything among the trees. I waited for Ed. He panted up beside me, looking cross.
At that moment the rain stopped. Grateful for the opportunity to relax my guard, I let go of the force field surrounding my hair.