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Authors: Alex Blackmore

Killing eva

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KILLING EVA

Witnessing a dramatic death at London's Waterloo Station triggers a series of events that shatter Eva Scott's world. Dying words uttered on the station concourse awaken a history she had thought long buried. But the past is about to be resurrected, in all its brutal reality.

Soon, Eva's life is out of her hands. A genetic key is keeping her alive; but foreshadowing her death. People she loved and lost materialise and then disappear, testing the limits of her sanity. Inextricably linked to her survival is the potential takedown of an economic power, on which hang the lives of many others.

The only way out is through. But Eva's life is no longer her own. And it's killing her.

About the Author

Alex Blackmore gained an LLB and LPC in Law at Nottingham University and went on to practice as a finance lawyer in the City.

After five years in the world of corporate finance and banking, she moved into legal and financial writing and editing before becoming a freelancer full time.

She runs a copywriting business and a fashion retail website championing new designers, and lives in North London.

For John, Vicky, Pippa and B.

With special thanks to my family who have listened, supported and been there on repeat. Thanks to Henning Mankell for taking the time to get to know Eva and providing feedback on my writing, as well as being an inspiration. To everyone at No Exit for bringing the book into being, especially Ion, Claire and CQ, and Jem for the digital skills. Thanks to Annette for tireless support and enthusiasm and Steven for perceptive and intelligent editing. To Jill for showing me a Ceret sunrise and Anna for the therapeutic phone calls and generally being an awesome woman. Thanks also to some of the finest human beings in existence: Jacinta, Emily, JP, Christophe, Katie, Bea, Helen, Adam and Leora who have, at various points, provided exactly what I needed to take a next step, sometimes without even knowing they're doing it. And finally, the pup, who cannot read or write, but who has kept me sane and down to earth, mostly by eating my favourite shoes.

ONE

Eva drew backfrom the dying man. His breath was hot on her face, the grip he had on her wrist was tight, but she knew that he had just moments left.

Her heart was beating fast – too fast – and the adrenaline pumping through her body made her muscles burn.

There was now a large crowd of onlookers – it was Waterloo Station at rush hour – but no one else had stepped forward. People just stood and watched, texting or tweeting what was unfolding before their eyes, one eye on the departure boards. Don't miss that train.

The man had collapsed only moments before. Almost in front of Eva as she ran from a tube train to a bus that would take her to the pub after an unforgiving day. For a split second she had almost swerved round him but the look in the man's eyes – the terror – stopped her in her tracks.

‘Are you ok?' she had said, breathlessly, as she tried not to stumble under the man's weight. His eyes had rolled up towards the ceiling before settling on her once again as he tried to speak. His breath smelled of stale alcohol and he had the unmistakable odour of someone who had not been under a shower for weeks. But he was still alive. Just.

‘Are you ok?' she had said, again, lowering the man to the cold, hard floor, requiring all her strength to prop up at least 180 pounds of bodyweight. Her muscles shook from the effort. No one helped. It was easy to see why the flock of commuters around her kept their distance. The man had string tied around his waist where the belt to his stained raincoat should be. His hat, now on the floor, was full of holes, and frayed at the brim. Eva could see a sock through the toe of one of his shoes.

Finally, she managed to gently lay him on the floor, took off her scarf and folded it, trying to make him a pillow. She heard mutterings in the crowd – ‘should we call the police?' ‘tramps, I'm so sick of them' ‘this problem is getting worse' – and she saw a flicker of what looked like shame cross the man's face. He looked at her, eyes suddenly lucid and clear.

‘Kolychak,' he whispered firmly.

What was that – Russian? Czech?

‘I'm sorry I don't understand.'

‘Kolychak,' he said again. And then louder, but still whispered, ‘KOLYCHAK.'

He made a sudden grab for the front of Eva's coat and pulled her face next to his.

‘Ko-ly-chak,'he said fervently and tears started to fall from his eyes.

Somewhere in Eva's mind, recognition flared. But she couldn't reach it.

‘I don't understand. Can you tell me who you are, what's happened to you? We need to get you some help.'

Suddenly, the man let out an ear-piercing shriek that echoed around the station hall. Every person in the enormous space stopped; most turned to face the direction from which the unearthly sound had come.

Eva pulled herself away, stumbled, fell and then sat and stared at him in horror. The noise made her blood run completely cold.

Then the man began to buck and writhe, as if someone was extracting his insides with a toasting fork. No one else moved. Liquid began to bubble and froth at his mouth. It had a bluish tinge. Abruptly, he stopped choking. His body became completely rigid, his eyes wide. Finally, he was still.

Eva heard her heartbeat thumping in her ears. She stared at the man on the floor. Reaching out a shaking hand, she felt his wrist for a pulse. Nothing.

‘Shit, is he ok?' asked one of her fellow commuters. She looked at him for several seconds.

‘He's dead.'

When she reached the pub – a ‘historic' site just off High Holborn – she walked up to the ground floor bar and ordered a straight shot of brandy. She had barely reacted to the dying man at the time – the desire for flight had been too strong – but now she felt shaky and unsettled. Her friends, she knew, were in the bar upstairs in an area reserved for some birthday or other but she needed five minutes alone. Not that she would have it here. Even though it was only a Tuesday night, seething crowds had descended on the City and the man to her left appeared to be planning an imminent introduction. She turned away from him, looked out at the room around her and finished her drink.

‘Do you have a cigarette machine?' she asked the barman.

‘No, love. There's a supermarket round the corner though.'

By the time Eva returned to the pub, she was 20 minutes late for the party but still she didn't go upstairs. She bought herself another brandy from the bar and leaned against the wall outside the building. She smoked three cigarettes in a row. After that, she felt pretty awful.

‘There you are! We thought you weren't coming!'

Three of Eva's friends tumbled out of the pub door, rosy cheeked from booze and laughing. Behind them came Sam, the man who had most recently shared Eva's bed. She looked at him and he smiled. She smiled back but there was no stomach flip.

She made her excuses for being late but when she tried to tell the story of the man on the floor at Waterloo words failed her. She tried again when Sam went to the bar but she couldn't. Ok, she reasoned eventually, why ruin their night with something she wanted to forget anyway. Sam returned with the drinks and then was at her side. He took her hand. She freed it to light a cigarette.

‘You're smoking?' He raised his light eyebrows towards a shock of blond hair.

She nodded and smiled. ‘Bad day.'

He gave her a hug. ‘Go on, give me one too then,' he whispered in her ear.

She pulled back and then handed over the slim white cigarette and watched him try not to smoke it like a non-smoker.

Conversations in the group continued as one, and then two, more cigarettes were smoked to avoid a return to the cold for an hour at least. Then, the others drifted back inside. Sam pulled at her hand but she remained planted against the wall.

‘Are you ok?'

He came and stood opposite her, put his arms around her waist and stepped forward so that their faces were close.

‘I'm fine.' She could feel that she was rigid in his arms. You're still adjusting to being in a relationship, she told herself. It's not him, it's you.

He kissed her. ‘See you upstairs,' he said and walked back into the pub smiling at her over his shoulder, attracting admiring glances as he went.

Eva turned the other way and leaned sideways against the wall. Her head hurt.

The word the man at the station had uttered was circling round and round her mind:kolychak-kolychak-kolychak. It was maddening.

She didn't understand, she had never even seen him before. But she couldn't forget what he had said – the incident had shaken her more deeply than it should.

She felt her phone vibrate in her bag and, grateful for the distraction from her thoughts, dug it out.

The display showed two words, starkly white against the blood red background she had chosen as a screensaver:

‘Jackson Calling.'

When she arrived at her flat that night, Eva double locked her front door and drew the chain across – something she never really did, despite living in one of the more ‘up and coming' neighbourhoods of London.

Once inside, she stood with her back to the door and took several deep breaths.

As soon as she had seen that name on the display of her phone, Eva had started to run. She wasn't sure where the instinct came from but she hadn't even picked up the call. In fact, she had dropped her phone and had to rush after it as it skittered towards the edge of the kurb. A bus pulling up at a stop she hadn't noticed was forced to skid to a halt, the driver sounding the horn angrily. She had been shocked, unaware of the peril so close, and had snatched her phone from the gutter and continued to run.

After that, a bus opposite Holborn station transported her to Camden, where she decided to walk home. On the way, a supermarket stop: a bottle of wine, another packet of cigarettes – a tin of tomato soup as an afterthought.

She'd made the journey home on autopilot. In her head the words ‘kolychak' and ‘Jackson' revolved mercilessly.

Jackson was her brother – her dead brother.

She had last seen that caller ID 13 months ago before she had journeyed to Paris and then Paraguay to try to find out what had happened to him. It had been a reckless, dangerous trip – and one that had nearly cost her her life – but she was still none the wiser about the circumstances of his death. Or who it was who had called her from his phone the last time, and why.

For 13 months she hadn't had to think about it.

Eva moved away from the door and dropped her purchases on the sofa. She noticed she was shaking.

She walked quickly into the bedroom and stripped off her clothes, shivering in the cold air of the spacious flat. She should learn how to set the timer on the heating. She pulled on a pair of running leggings, sports bra and a fluorescent lightweight running top. She tied her long, dark hair back into a ponytail and secured it loosely with a tattered elastic band. It swished from side to side as she walked back through the flat, collected her phone, headphones and keys, slammed the front door behind her and made for the street.

Outside, it was dark and the street was quieter than when she arrived home several minutes earlier. She lived in an area where ‘people like her' had chosen to put down roots because it was well connected, up and coming but the rent wasn't yet eye-wateringly expensive. It suited her – it was a cheapish taxi fare home and there were great local pubs. She had been unable to stay in her old flat in Camden as the memories there were too overwhelming.

Outside, she walked for several minutes as she connected her headphones, selected a playlist on her iPhone and then began to run. Her feet pounded the pavements and, gradually, as she settled into a rhythm, she began to relax.

She could think clearly for the first time that day.

Jackson. Jackson was dead. Even before she had gone to Paris 13 months ago to try and follow in his footsteps, she and her father had been told Jackson was dead – a fatal gunshot wound to the head, apparently by his own hand.

By the time Eva returned from Paris, she knew her brother had been working for the government and that he may or may not have been tortured to death. Ultimately, no one – not Irene Hunt, Jackson's handler, or even Daniel – could confirm or deny whether her brother was still alive. As she thought of Daniel, she felt her fists clench. He had been a friend of Jackson's at school – a privileged and manipulative boy who had grown into a violent and cruel man. She had encountered him on her first few nights in Paris. He had casually assaulted her when she needed his help. But that was not the only part he had played.

With the calculated cool of a sociopath, Daniel had driven development of a virus that he had planned to release to create a market for a new drug. In the end, his ‘people' – the Association for the Control of Regenerative Networking – had found his greed made him dispensable. He became a liability and so he was killed. Even now, Eva could remember the look on Daniel's face in the moment that the shot exploded his skull; she could still smell the metallic odour of his blood on her skin.

Jackson.

She stopped running as she realised she had said the name aloud. She quickly picked up her pace again and continued moving almost soundlessly through the dark streets, her wraith-like figure flitting in and out of lamplights at a steady pace.

She had received several similar calls from her already dead brother in Paris but had never been able to figure out who had made them. Since his death, Jackson had existed only as a caller ID on a smartphone screen – not the Jackson she knew, or even a tangible pretender. Then for 13 months he had been silent. But now someone somewhere wanted her to believe that he was still alive.

‘How do you invade a country without an army?'

‘You don't.'

‘But you just said…'

‘An invasion does not have to involve movements of troops.'

‘Then I'm not sure I understand.'

The conversation was taking place in the hushed environs of a thickly carpeted Geneva hotel lobby. It was casual, the two participants apparently uninvested. But the first was better informed about the second than the second man would be comfortable with – if he knew.

‘England is a nation of shopkeepers.'

‘Bonaparte.'

‘He was a wise man.'

‘He died a prisoner.'

‘Nevertheless…'

Two tiny white coffee cups with shimmering gold rims were deposited onto the table between the two men by a crisp suited waitress, who departed in silence. Both cups were left untouched.

‘Your intentions are unclear. I think you have obtained this meeting under false pretences.'

‘My intentions are the same as yours.'

‘No, what I mean is I do not understand why you have come tome.'

‘Because I believe I have what you're looking for.' He had carefully rehearsed the line.

‘And what might that be?'

‘The key you need.'

‘I do not need a key.'

The air around the two men was becoming hostile. That one could know anything about the other was inconceivable to him. And a threat. The particles bristled as the conversation continued.

‘You have no idea who I am,' deflecting the threat.

‘I know everything about you.'

‘That… is not possible.'

One of the men – the younger by some decades – reached into the pocket of a cheap suit and pushed a blue memory stick across the gleaming walnut wood of the low coffee table.

The other man looked at it. He was middle aged but well kept. He had a ski tan and it was possible to see the outline of where his goggles had sat. He looked at the memory stick.

Then, he looked up at the younger man. An almost imperceptible flicker of fear passed momentarily in front of his eyes.

‘You know I will not take it.'

‘Take it. Read it. And then we will meet again. I believe that this is the final step for you.'

After some hesitation, the man across the table reached for the memory stick. He held it up in the air and waited. A second man rose from a chair at a table behind. Silently, he took the memory stick, sat down and reached under his chair for a slim laptop case. He opened the zip, flicked up the screen on the machine and inserted the stick into the side of the brushed metal.

‘Unless you can back up your boldness you will not leave here alive.'

The younger man was surprised. He had not expected such an immediate test. Nevertheless, he refused to allow his face to betray him. He waited.

The associate with the laptop stood and deposited the machine in front of the older man, who spent several minutes scanning the information.

‘What do you want in exchange for this?'

‘I want to work with you. I want to be part of it. Use me where you can.'

‘And that is all?'

‘That is all.'

Suspicion in the eyes of the older man. ‘That is never “all”. What else is it you want.'

‘I am ambitious. I want to progress. Nothing more.'

It was plausible. Just.

‘You could not have a position of authority.'

‘I understand.'

A second silence, deeper than the first, settled on the area around the two men. The air of hostility had faded but a deep distrust remained.

‘I still do not understand how you came upon this.'

‘You do not need to know.'

‘I wonder whether that is the case.'

‘It is genuine.'

‘That's not something I can verify without knowing its origin.'

‘Scott.'

The older man glanced up quickly at the younger man, who was about to play the trump card.

‘Scott,' repeated the younger man, ‘Jackson Scott.'

TWO

The next morning, Eva struggled even more than usual to push herself through the daily commute. Whether it was the cigarettes from the night before or the two hour run through a heavy rain shower, her cheeks were flushed and feverish and she felt uncharacteristically shaky. She left her flat, slamming the door and pulling up the collar of the thick blue oversize coat she had bought in a fit of fashion. An Investment Piece. The quality material was solid and warm and she felt comforted as she went to the mobile coffee cart under the glass canopy next to the station. As she stood in the queue, she watched the hordes of people flowing into the Underground, heads down, eyes glazed, the odd angry shove or curse when personal space was breached.

When she had bought the biggest, strongest coffee she could, Eva began to walk down the hill, through the busy high street, towards the nearest bus stop. It would take her along a circuitous route to work but she could not face Waterloo today. Besides, the bus offered better thinking time. After her experiences in Paris and Paraguay, she had tried to figure out her life and had concluded she needed to do something vaguely ‘worthwhile'. The job at the environmental NGO had appeared from nowhere. She almost couldn't remember whether she had applied for it, or whether it had applied for her. It had seemed the perfect option – a worthy cause, a better salary, a role that sounded just about challenging enough. Whilst she may not have achieved some other ‘adult' milestones – the husband, the house, the pension, the baby – she did at least have a ‘grown up' job. Whether she herself was happy about that she hadn't yet worked out. She wasn't even sure how much the concept of ‘adult' appealed.

And then there was Sam. Much like the job, he seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and, before she knew it, she was tentatively taking first steps towards something more than her accustomed-to flings. Or was she? Eva was unable to shift the feeling that, deep down, she had opened up nothing, that she remained as shut off from Sam emotionally as she had done from every other man she had met in the last ten years. What she struggled to understand was why.

‘We have a new project for you – algae.'

Eva looked up, surprised, from her seat opposite her line manager. Janet had a nasal tone of voice that was coma-inducing and she had been half asleep.

‘Algae?'

‘Yes, an outbreak in an area around London.'

Eva's heart began to thud. The genetically engineered strain Daniel had developed to spread his virus had begun its release like this.

Eva realised she was sitting forward in her chair. ‘Is it serious?'

Her line manager laughed, sneered a little. ‘Relax Eva, it's just a little algae – all we need is someone to write a report on it.' She pushed a file across the desk.

Eva sat back. She was one of the few people in the country who knew how many people the PX3 algae could have killed in the name of commerce. Were it not for the fact that she couldn't prove any of it she wondered whether she would still be alive. Cleaning up that mess quietly had posed only a temporary inconvenience for the powers that be, more important to hide what had happened than show the vulnerability it revealed. Who really cared about algae anyway? A strain of bird flu that claimed a number of lives and coincidentally appeared at exactly the same time got much more coverage. It was expert media-manipulation, using one already established fear to cover something much worse.

Eva had once felt a passion for politics but now it seemed like a sham – behind it sat the real web of control: money. Global finance, profit motive and the sway of influence held by large corporates defined political policy, whether with respect to global warming emissions targets or food labelling. Most people would believe what they read in the news and never see the world they lived in for what it really was.

‘Read this. Everything's in there. Any questions, just ask Sam.'

Her supervisor Janet smiled. It wasn't a pleasant smile. Eva knew Sam – who also worked at the NGO – had been Janet's favourite before Eva had arrived. As Janet was fond of jokingly stating herself, she was now 38, single and ‘desperately looking (lol)'. Eva had endured several weeks of having doors slammed in her face and being cold shouldered in front of other staff after her and Sam's ‘relationship' was revealed. Eva had heard the rumours about Janet and other men in the office but she knew that gossip in a place like this was rampant, thanks to the boring nature of the work, and a nearly-40 single woman always seemed to attract the same kind of slurs. Although she didn't understand why Janet willingly made herself such a caricature. Eva didn't like the woman but, for the sake of sisterhood, had stayed away from bitching about her.

She picked up the file. ‘Thanks.' She stood up. She felt appraising eyes on her back – and lower – as she left the room.

Outside the door, Sam was there.

‘What happened to you last night?'

‘I didn't feel well, sorry.'

They started walking in the direction of the office kitchen that was only a few paces from her desk. Sam lowered his voice. ‘I hope you're ok,' he said and then, very self-consciously, kissed her on the side of the head. She had the odd feeling he was looking at someone else when he did it.

In the kitchen, Eva made yet more coffee. Sam was silent until she sat down opposite at the table. He pulled something out of his pocket.

‘I got you this.'

A small, colourfully wrapped chocolate biscuit in the shape of a heart. She smiled at him, but it was a mechanical response.

‘You're sweet.'

He smiled as if she had declared her love for him. Which she hadn't. Even though he already had to her. After three months. A shaft of sunlight streamed in and illuminated his blond hair, as if it were a halo.

‘I have to go,' he said, suddenly standing up. ‘See you for lunch?'

She nodded and he bent down and kissed her again.

Eva pushed the little heart around the table with her finger. She watched it fall to the floor, sparkling in another shaft of sunlight. She realised she was thinking about Leon.

Eva took a long sip of her coffee and opened the file she had been given. She read the contents once, made herself another coffee and read it again. She sat back in her chair. The information was fluff. It was pointless and groundless. The algae outbreak was minimal, it wasn't even worth a report. She was being given something to write that was essentially a waste of everyone's time.

Eva picked up the biscuit heart Sam had given her from the floor, unwrapped the paper and shoved the whole thing in her mouth. Love tokens when you were not in love… awkward.

She turned the final page of the report and there at the back was a sheet of questions. She skimmed through them. Whether generated by the enormous amount of caffeine she had drunk or the sugar hit of the heart she had just consumed, anxiety plucked at her insides. The questions seemed personal – very personal – and apparently directed specifically at her – despite the ‘hypothetical scenario', she was being asked to record her own experiences of dealing with an algae outbreak ‘for the report' and to give details of everything from the type of algae involved to the eventual resolution of the situation. It wasn't exactly subtle.

She flicked the file shut. What was going on?

All through the expensive lunch with Sam at the local deli (he paid), Eva just couldn't stop thinking about the algae questions in the file. She had drunk far too much coffee that morning – that always made for spiralling paranoia – but, nevertheless, the task felt strange. She generally wasn't asked to produce content but to edit it and it was, on the whole, newsworthy content that the NGO would use to generate a media profile for itself. This algae information was pointless and would do nothing to attract the right kind of attention – it wasn't what they had hired her for.

Was it a coincidence it had ended up on her desk or was it intentional?

She looked at Sam and realised he was waiting for a response.

‘Hmmm?'

‘You're half asleep today, Eva.'

‘I know, sorry, too much coffee this morning, I'm having a post caffeine slump.'

He laughed enthusiastically.

‘Paris this weekend.'

‘What?' Eva looked at him shocked. Paris was where Jackson had died.

‘I-I-I I thought you'd be pleased. It's such a romantic city.'

Eva stared at him.

It began to get uncomfortable.

‘I'm sorry, Sam, I'm really not feeling that well today, I think I might go home.'

‘Want me to come over later?'

‘I think I just want to go to sleep.'

Eva left work without bothering to make excuses. She had to get out and, besides, she knew that Sam would make them for her. Back in her flat, she changed out of her work attire and into her running clothes. She took to the streets for two hours and, by the time she returned, she had quelled what was probably caffeine-induced paranoia. More than once when she had tried to draw some conclusion in terms of what to do about Sam, her thoughts had turned to Leon. The ex-addict, her brother's friend and a self-admitted mercenary, he had both assisted and saved her life in Paris and then, at the end, tried to kill her. When she returned to London, she had no idea if he was still alive. It troubled her and it excited her. And the fact that it excited her troubled her even more.

When she had showered after her run and changed into comfortable clothes, Eva decided to make a phone call. She called Irene Hunt's office – if there was one person who could put an end to this gnawing paranoia, it was her. The phone was answered by her secretary.

‘She's on indefinite leave.'

‘But I spoke to her two weeks ago and she didn't mention anything about that – has something happened?' Irene and Eva stayed in regular contact. Eva was never sure whether it was motherly or monitoring.

There was a clicking sound on the other end of the phone. The secretary took too long to answer.

‘Family affairs, I think.'

‘Right, ok. Thanks.' Eva hung up.

Something wasn't right.

Perhaps he knew something was wrong when he left the research lab that night. But Stefano Cirza was simply too preoccupied with the intricate details of his research to be troubled by instinct. He was excited by the leaps forward he had made in recent months – the project he was working on was virtually complete. Two projects, interlinked, although one he preferred to talk about more than the other. The first (and the more citizen friendly) was an ingenious key that allowed an individual to use their own unique genetic code as a ‘lock'. A simple blood sample could be used to create it and he had even come up with a way of ensuring that, when it came to using the blood key to open whatever it was required for, this could not be done under duress. The second project was still in trial but used a combination of drugs, cranial implants and face mapping technology to give one person the power to change their appearance in the eyes of another. It was not yet complete but, when it was, it would give the technology-user the ability to appear to be whoever they needed to be to convince a specific person to trust them. Trust – that most fragile of things – could be established artificially.

Stefano would not be feted for curing an incurable disease, or wiping out famine, but what he had done was still important. Not just important, but lucrative too.

His mentor had been a great man, a renowned scientist whose work had done much for the world. But he had died almost penniless, troubled by the heavy burden of debt until his very last day. And with nothing to leave his daughter or ex-wife, he had died with disappointment in his eyes.

Stefano was as yet unmarried and had no children, but he did not intend to go the same way. Which is why he had chosen an area of genetic science he knew was marketable.

But also pioneering.

There would be acclaim as well as money. When he was approached about developing the key he had hesitated but the Englishman who had later become his business partner was convincing. So convincing, in fact, that they had been friends. At least, until the man disappeared.

When Stefano had made the decision to work on the project, he comforted himself that at least he was not working on genetics that could cause loss of life – biological warfare, for example. Far worse causes existed to which he might have applied his very considerable skills for a significantly larger sum of cash. There was little chance that his coding could be used for anything ‘bad'. It was important security technology. And it was inevitable progress.

In fact, neither project had been much of a leap from technology that already existed but there were few people in the world who really understood it – at least outside the scientific sphere – and it was in such technology that the money lay. If he had not produced this, someone else would have done it.

He had initially struggled with the idea of finance backing science, of monetising his research. Just like every other area of life, as soon as there was a profit motive, only those who could afford to pay would benefit. As a scientist and medical professional, Stefano knew there should be no barriers to anyone accessing medical innovation – especially if it related to life or death – but, as a person, he was not sure the future of the world would be positively influenced by such an approach. Everyone surviving everything. It was unsustainable. If we all survived every disease, the drain on resources would be too much. Some had to die. And perhaps the easiest solution was simply to offer survival to those who could pay – it was something people could work for, they could create their own opportunities to have the lives they wanted, to afford treatment they needed. As long as you didn't believe in luck, that is – or bad luck to be more precise.

Anyway, Stefano thought to himself as he began to shut down his equipment for the night, he was becoming distracted. For both projects there had been only one live test subject so far. That first test had been a bad decision, perhaps his only one recently – using someone so completely unknown who had offered himself up for the testing. And testing the two products together… Stefano had allowed his ego to get the better of him and accepted the volunteer because he claimed to be a fan.