Authors: AD Starrling
Anna and I gazed at each other for long seconds. Her hand moved under the table. My eyes followed her fingers to the folds of her dress while my heart thudded dully inside my chest.
The other incredible secret we had kept from Victor Dvorsky and Dimitri Reznak was that Anna was pregnant. It had only been a couple of days since we found out ourselves. Reid was the only other person who knew.
Both Anna and I found it a miracle that she had conceived so easily, after our very first night together. As the implications of the Crovir noble’s revelations sank in, I saw my own unease reflected in her green gaze; if we were this gifted because of our possible blood links with the fathers of our races, then what would our unborn child be capable of?
I frowned at Reznak. ‘What do you—’
‘Want from the two of you?’ the Crovir noble interjected. He smiled and shook his head. ‘Nothing, really. I thought you deserved to know about this discovery as it concerned you directly. Victor agreed with me on this matter.’
‘No one but the two of us know the details of what Reznak has told you today,’ said Victor. ‘The scientists working on the project had access to only part of the materials at any one time.’ He observed us from hooded eyes. ‘However, we did wonder what impact it would have on the immortal societies if we let the truth be known.’
‘About us?’ Anna’s fingers clenched convulsively on her lap. I grasped her hand and squeezed it gently.
Victor shook his head. ‘About the origin of our races.’ He hesitated. ‘And possibly about you.’ He shared another glance with Reznak. ‘Both of us think the Bastian and Crovir First Councils would benefit from having the two of you as members.’
I stared at Victor for a long time before rising from the table and stepping to the edge of the veranda. As I gazed out over the rippling surface of the ocean, a strange and unexpected feeling of calmness stole over me.
It was as if I could see everything clearly for the first time in my long and unnatural life.
I looked over my shoulder. ‘And if we were to say no?’
‘Then both Victor and I would respect your wishes unconditionally,’ Reznak replied. ‘Think it over. We’re not expecting you to give us an answer straight away.’
I turned and smiled at him drily. ‘I don’t think we’re likely to change our minds anytime soon.’
Anna looked relieved at my words.
‘If that proves to be your final decision, then so be it,’ Reznak said graciously.
The puppy bounded over from the beach and dropped a mouthful of wet seaweed at Reid’s feet. It sat on its haunches, cocked its head, and gazed at the former US Marine with an expectant expression on its canine face.
‘If you think we’re playing catch with this, you’ve got another thing coming,’ said Reid.
The puppy yipped.
Reid sighed. ‘I told you Peanut was a bad choice of name for a dog,’ he told Anna. ‘It’s made him stupid. Even the cat’s laughing at him.’
Cornelius was eyeing the dog haughtily.
‘No, he isn’t.’ Anna rose from the chair and petted the puppy on the head. Its tongue rolled out further and it whimpered in delight. ‘Let me guess, you would’ve preferred something like Butch or Bud.’
She lifted the tray of empty glasses from the table. Cornelius curled around her ankles as she headed for the patio doors.
‘What’s wrong with Bud and Butch? Or Bob, even?’ said Reid. ‘What?’ he added defensively in the face of our stares. ‘Bob’s a great name for a dog.’
‘I don’t think so,’ said Anna, her tone emphatic. ‘When you have a dog, you can call
Reid muttered something under his breath.
Anna rolled her eyes. ‘Tell you what, we’ll rethink Peanut.’
Reid brightened. ‘Oh. Good.’ A faint frown dawned on the former Marine’s face at Anna’s expression. ‘Wait. What’re you gonna call him in the meantime?’
‘Dog,’ Anna stated firmly.
Victor grinned. Reznak chuckled.
Reid’s eyes widened in horror. ‘
Why, you might as well just shoot the poor bastard!’ He stormed after her.
As the sun started to sink over the ocean, we followed them inside the house, the D-O-G included.
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initially started life as a 5,000-word story which I wrote for the British Fantasy Society Short Story competition. By the time it made the shortlist the year it was submitted, I was already convinced it could be a longer piece of work. Even
wanted to know what happened to Lucas next.
Although I intended for
to be a trilogy, I realized that I had to finish Lucas’s tale in one novel because I wanted to write about the other intriguing characters I came across while I was creating the whole backstory to the world of the immortals. Thus, the idea for the series was born.
One of the great things about writing
has been the research aspect in terms of exploring the science and technology featured in the novels, as well as the various worldwide locations.
A lot of this research material is on my website, as “Extras” under the “Bonus” section. I also regularly feature the music that inspired and accompanied many of the scenes in the books under the “News” section.
Here are a few interesting facts behind this particular novel:
Miyamoto Musashi, the 17th century samurai who taught Lucas the art of
did exist. He was the author of “The Book of Five Rings” and the founder of the
Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu
, the “Two Heavens as One” or “Two Swords as One” style of swordsmanship. His grave still stands to this day in the Kumamoto Prefecture, on Kyushu Island, Japan.
The Center for Molecular Genetics of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, where Professor Hubert Eric Strauss worked, exists and is located on the Gif-sur-Yvette campus outside Paris. The same goes for the Functional Genomics Center in Zurich and the Prague Institute of Molecular Genetics. The interior descriptions given of these three buildings are fictional.
Bar the war between the immortals, all the conflicts featured in the story are based on true historical events. Count Ernst Rudiger von Starhemberg successfully defended his city against the Ottoman invasion during the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Vienna does have a network of underground tunnels and crypts, parts of which were used by the Germans in the Second World War. The secret passage under the Hofburg Palace is fictional.
The cell cycle and the genetics behind cell reproduction and death form the basis of cancer research and the development of appropriate drugs to cure or control the disease. Hubert Strauss’s attempts to create an “off” switch to down-regulate cancer cell production is something that cancer research scientists have been trying to do for a number of years. I believe we will see this happen successfully for some cancers during my lifetime. The “on” switch is purely fictional.
The Black Death of the 14th century was a bubonic plague caused by the Yersinia Pestis bacteria. The fictional Red Death of the same century was a viral hemorrhagic disease similar to the ones caused by the Ebola, Lassa, and Marburg viruses. It was highly contagious and deadly, with a short incubation period of 24-48 hours, and left most survivors infertile. Reverse vaccinology, the technique that Anna Godard initially used to create a vaccine against the new strain of the Red Death, is factual.
To all my friends who helped make this possible. You know who you are.
Other Titles By A. D. Starrling
(Seventeen Book Two)
Next Generation Indie Book Awards Winner Action-Adventure 2014
Shelf Unbound Competition for Best Independently Published Book Finalist 2014
(Seventeen Book Three)
(A Seventeen Series Short Story)
(A Seventeen Series Short Story)
(A Sci-fi Horror Short Story)
AD Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God’s hours as a Paediatrician, she decided to return to her first love, writing.
is her debut novel and the first in the supernatural thriller series
. She currently lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the next installments. She still practises medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.