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Authors: Annabelle Jacobs

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The Altered

BOOK: The Altered
8.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub






The Altered






I would never
have finished this book without the constant support of my friends.
Thanks guys, you are all awesome.





Cover artist:
Natasha Snow

Editors: Sue
Adams & Posy Roberts

The Altered ©
2015 Annabelle Jacobs




This literary
work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole
or in part, without express written permission.

This is a work
of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or
business establishments, events or locales is coincidental.

The Licensed
Art Material is being used for illustrative purposes only.

All Rights Are
Reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.




This book
contains material that maybe offensive to some and is intended for
a mature, adult audience. It contains graphic language, graphic
violence, explicit sexual content and adult situations.




Table of





















About the


January 1995 –
Cerlika Pharmaceuticals, Reading


The research
department, three floors below ground, lay quiet and deserted at
eleven forty-five on a Friday night. Except for one lone scientist,
typing furiously and checking over his shoulder every few minutes.
He pressed the Return key on his computer, and slumped back in his

It was

The cursor
blinked back at him, the rest of the screen, empty. He’d deleted
all of it—every last piece of information relating to Lycanaeris
had been erased forever. He should have done it after the very
first batch, as soon as he realised what they were trying to
do—what they’d already done.

At least they
hadn’t started clinical trials yet, and with all the information
gone, they wouldn’t be able to now. All that remained were the
vials, and he’d take care of them soon enough.

He turned off
his monitor and walked over to the bank of fridges along the back
wall, housing vials and vials of samples under test. He opened the
door to the third fridge and carefully took out the small
rectangular container, placing it on the bench. It held ten
vials—enough to infect half the population if administered

He never heard
the door open behind him, didn’t register he’d been shot until the
pain hit, and red began to spread across the front of his lab coat.
He slumped to the floor, the voice of his attacker sounding loud in
the silence of the room.

“I have the
vials, everything else is gone.”

The answering
voice on the other end of the phone came through faint but audible.
“The vials are all we need. Do you have them all?”


“Is everyone
ready to go?”

“Yes, it’ll be
in the water supplies by noon tomorrow.”

“Good. Destroy
the lab. And Kestle?”


“Make sure you
stock up on bottled water.”



January 2015


years ago this week, the majority of the UK’s water supply was
contaminated by the experimental pathogen, Lycanaeris, resulting in
nationwide panic and an almost crippling water shortage. Cerlika
Pharmaceuticals, the company behind Lycanaeris, denied any
involvement, claiming terrorists stole the pathogen from its
Reading laboratory before then setting the facility on fire and
killing one of Cerlika’s lead chemists.”

Daniel frowned
at the TV as he walked into the living room, while doing up the
last of the buttons on his shirt. “What the hell are you watching
this rubbish for?” He wandered over to the sofa and sat down on the
arm where Matt had his feet propped up. “And get your smelly socks
off the cushions.”

“I’m watching
because it’s interesting,” Matt said, leaning forward a little and
sniffing. “And fuck you, my feet don’t smell.” He turned the volume

claimed the pathogen was essentially a new strain of the flu virus,
but further details were never released to the general public. The
UK’s hospitals and doctors’ surgeries braced themselves for an
influx of patients, but after months of waiting, the government
claimed the whole thing was an elaborate hoax. By this time,
Cerlika Pharmaceuticals no longer existed—having closed its doors
under a cloud of suspicion and secrecy and selling off its assets
to the highest bidder. The head of Cerlika, John Talson, and his
top scientist, Kyle Chambers, disappeared around the same time, so
neither was available for questioning. The actual effects of the
Lycanaeris pathogen didn’t begin to surface until—”

“God, turn it
off.” Daniel snatched the TV remote and pressed the power button
before Matt could grab it back. “I don’t know why you insist on
watching that shit. It’s not like we don’t know what happened. We

“Yeah, but we
were, like, six years old.”

“I was five,

Matt sat up
and stretched, his muscles flexing and his back cracking as he
raised his arms above his head. He was still wearing only his
jeans, and they were supposed to be going out in ten minutes.
“Don’t you ever wonder what really happened? Why it affected some
people and not others?”

Not really. I
guess people react differently to viruses. Anyway, Cerlika
dissolved almost straight after it happened, and the fire
conveniently destroyed any evidence. Obviously they were in it up
to their eyes. And the fact that no one was investigated should
tell you they had friends in high places. Face it, you’re never
going to know the truth, so why bother?” Daniel checked his watch
and frowned. “Hurry up and get dressed, or we’re gonna be

timekeeping pissed Daniel off no end sometimes. He was one of
Daniel’s best friends, they’d known each other since primary
school, and he’d always been the last to get ready for

Matt stood,
grabbed a dark blue T-shirt from the back of the chair, and tugged
it on. “There, I’m ready.” He ran his fingers through his hair a
couple of times, bent to pull on his shoes, and ushered Daniel
toward the door. “We’re only meeting up for a drink, it’s not like
the others’ll be on time either.” Matt paused and glanced back down
the hall toward the bedrooms. “Is Ash coming out?”

“No. I asked
earlier, and he mumbled something about being busy with wizards and
guilds, and was surprised I had the energy after such an exciting
day at the library.”

“Yes, the two
of you must be exhausted after a day shelving books.” Matt laughed,
and avoided Daniel’s attempt to hit him.

“Hey, I only
got a job there because I thought it seemed like the last place
anyone would think to look. Anyway, we don’t spend the whole day
putting books back, and I actually enjoy my job.”

Matt raised an
eyebrow, and Daniel glared at him.

“I do. And so
does Ash, for that matter, despite what he says. You don’t have to
be old to work in a library, so piss off.”

“Okay, no need
to get so defensive.” Matt grinned at him before leading the way to
the front door, not bothering to put on his jacket. The cold
January evening had little effect on him, and Daniel sighed as he
tugged on Matt’s shoulder, forcing him to stop. “Matt.”

He grabbed
Matt’s coat off the peg and handed it to him.


Ten years of
hiding, and Matt still sometimes forgot.



They walked
down to the end of their street, and Daniel shivered as they passed
the last house and the wind picked up. The buildings in this part
of London weren’t huge or overly expensive, but they were mainly
well-kept, and the streetlights gave them an old town charm that
they didn’t have in the day.

were friendly in that they said hello in the mornings, but tended
to mind their own business most of the time. Daniel felt as safe
here as he probably would anywhere, and they had everything they
needed within walking distance or a few stops on the Tube.

The bar they
were meeting at tonight was roughly a twenty-minute walk away,
maybe fifteen at the pace Matt walked. At six feet tall, Daniel
stood an inch shorter than Matt, but he always seemed to struggle
to keep up, even though Matt insisted he was walking normally.

As they left
the residential area behind, bars and restaurants lined the
streets, always busy with a steady hum of people. It had been one
of the deciding factors in coming to London in the first place—too
many people for them to stand out in the crowd.

Daniel asked, watching Matt out of the corner of his eye.

“A couple, two
streets over, and six just up ahead.” Matt flexed his fingers as he
spoke, glancing around them.

As they
rounded the corner and the bar came into view, Daniel noticed the
man on the door. Matt tensed beside him.

The guy was

He eyed Daniel
curiously, but Daniel didn’t falter, well practiced at tamping down
any reaction. The guy was probably looking at his hair anyway. It
used to be a nondescript light brown. An okay colour, but nothing
that turned heads. The day after the pathogen changed him on the
inside, Daniel’s hair turned a shocking silver blond.

Hard to

He’d tried
dying it, had gone through the whole range of available dyes and
colours, but nothing would take. That had been one of the many
reasons his family had to move.

At least his
eyes hadn’t changed, though. They were the same blue they’d always
been. In fact, apart from his hair and a slight increase in his
ability to heal, there was only one other notable difference. Some
might call him lucky, but Daniel knew he was anything but.

He carried on
walking next to Matt, heart rate steady, and breaths coming slow
and even as they neared the pub.

“How late are
we?” he asked, pausing in front of the door. But what he meant was
“How many are there?”
They’d developed simple yet subtle
codes over the years. Easy to remember, hopefully impossible to
detect, and essential in keeping Daniel’s ability a secret.
Forewarned was forearmed.

Matt made a
show of looking at his watch. “Only about five minutes, they’re all
probably waiting inside.”
Five, inside the bar.

With the one
on the door, that made six. Not loads, but more than they’d been
expecting for a Thursday night. They’d only wanted a quiet drink
with friends. Daniel would have to be a little more on his guard
than usual, but no big deal.

“Shall we?”
Matt gestured toward the door and Daniel nodded. Matt made sure to
stand between Daniel and the bouncer, acknowledging the guy with a
quick nod before going inside.

The bar lined
the back wall of the large room, with tables around the edges and a
big open space in the middle. The décor was too modern in Daniel’s
opinion—he preferred the old fashioned pub round the corner from
their house—but Matt liked it.

Daniel glanced
around, looking for their friends and seeing if he could spot the
others Matt had sensed. Knowing where they were, and where the
exits were, helped him feel more in control of the situation. Just
in case.

He scanned the
bar, his gaze sliding quickly past the various faces, not daring to
linger. Two men sat at a table in the corner, perched on high
stools, both with their backs to the wall, giving them a clear view
of the room.

Daniel ignored
them, showing not a flicker of recognition for what they were. Two
more were at the bar—a man and a woman this time, standing closer
than friends would, with their fingers loosely entwined, and he
searched for the fifth one, all the while following Matt to the far
end of the bar where their friends waited.

BOOK: The Altered
8.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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