There is a legend…
This legend talks of a missing chapter. A chapter that sits mysteriously between chapters 58 and 59 of HUNTERS.
You know what they say about legends?
That they are based in FACT!
Well, in this case it’s absolutely true.
Back in February 2021, on the build up the launch of HUNTERS, yours truly went on a Podcast called ‘The Tiny Bookcase‘. Much fun was had. The premise of the Podcast is that the hosts – Nico and Ben – give you a prompt for the week. Each of us then writes a short story and then we take it in turns reading them out on air and then discuss.
To tie in to the release of HUNTERS I wrote an extra chapter that, based on the prompt, fit quite nicely between the aforementioned chapters. The prompt was ‘MY COLLECTION‘, and here is the chapter as it was written for the show.
Now, as a small disclaimer prior to your reading, it was written in about an hour and while it did have a cursory glance over from myself and NT Anderson (my awesome Editor) it obviously never had the care and attention the rest of the book did. But then, that’s okay. It’s just a little bonus!
The chapter is NOT in the regular edition of the book and ONLY appears in the VERY limited and special signed ‘BLACK EDITION‘. This edition is not up for sale and is only given to very special collaborators and competition winners. As of writing this webpage, there are only 6 copies of it in total.
So, without further ado…here’s the chapter. Enjoy!
l 58 1/2 l
– TechMaster Takahashi –
– Friday – Pacific Ocean –
The savage storm-generated waves of the South Pacific crashed noisily against the flanks of the carrier, yet the rain-slicked deck remained perfectly level. The Akagi II easily displaced a quarter of a million metric tons, and as such, this miniature hurricane was little more than a minor inconvenience.
Much like the deplorable little man who stood on his deck in the torrential rain. A man with whom he had just concluded his business. As TechMaster Takahashi turned his back and began to walk back toward the control tower, the man called out to him.
“Will the Empire be attending the Nexus Summit this year?” Grand Chancellor StormHall shouted over the cacophony of the thunderstorm.
Takahashi turned slowly. He kept his face stoic as he regarded the Vampyrii leader, so as not to betray his disdain. He flicked his eyes toward the crate that his deck crew was unloading from StormHall’s flyer and then back to StormHall himself. Takahashi had everything he needed.
“I see no good reason for us to attend,” he replied, and then reiterated his previous dismissal. “Safe travels, Grand Chancellor.”
He could tell that this lack of proper respect rankled the Vampyrii leader, but the TechMaster cared not for his ruffled feathers. In his opinion, he had already displayed a greater sense of decorum than that…creature deserved. With their business concluded, the sooner he was off Akagi, the better.
Without a further glance backward, Takahashi made it to the bulkhead where his apprentice Hikari was waiting to usher him in out of the driving rain.
“Did the Grand Chancellor deliver what you requested?” she asked eagerly.
Takahashi nodded as he led her slowly down the narrow corridor toward the elevators that would carry him into the depths of his ship.
“Excellent!” Hikari exclaimed happily. “I cannot wait to see them!”
He knew that he had a reputation for being…curmudgeonly, but the excitement evident on her elfin face was enough to bring a smile to Takahashi’s. Working on Project: Sutīrudoragon with her had been a delight. He had no children of his own. No grandchildren. There were times when he felt like Hikari might be the closest he would come to having them again.
Bright beyond her years, with an agile mind capable of making greats leaps of scientific knowledge. She was a prodigy, just as he had been at her tender age. It was only logical that he should take her under his wing and teach her all he knew. To be his protégé.
Takahashi knew he was living beyond his natural lifespan. Every day he drew breath was a precious gift. Who knew how much longer he would be blessed by Omoikane? How much longer could the deity of wisdom and intelligence hold back Shinigami?
How long before the death spirit takes me?
“You will not have to wait, Hikari,” he said softly with a smile. “I, too, am eager to see what the Grand Chancellor has brought us. I plan to start my work today. For this I will need your help.”
“Today?” Hikari’s voice betrayed her surprise. “You do not wish to be patient?”
Patience is a luxury I can no longer afford, he thought to himself.
“I wish to learn,” he replied. “Go now and prepare yourself. My staff have orders to place the live subject into storage, and the other to the laboratory. I shall meet you there in one hour.”
She nodded, then performed a small respectful bow as he entered the elevator. As the doors closed, likewise his eyes shuttered in concentration trying to push back the pain in his head. His pills were in his quarters. They would alleviate the symptoms for a while.
Long enough to at least perform the task that lay before him.
Opening the door, he stepped over the threshold and into what he broadly considered his home. He had lived aboard Akagi for almost twenty years now, in these modestly sized yet luxurious quarters. As his illness progressed, he had found an urgency to complete his work. If that meant he resided aboard his mobile laboratory to be closer to his experiments, then so be it.
He had no family to neglect after all.
No one to miss him being there.
That was why he was doing this.
Thirty years ago the world had been engulfed in a supernatural war against the rising of monsters and demons that billions of people had regarded as simply myth and legend. The death toll had been horrific. Untold numbers of men, women, and children had been slaughtered or turned.
His wife. His children.
Dead because of what Grand Chancellor StormHall and his kind had unleashed onto this world. Thus, it was with some irony, that the Vampyrii leader was delivering into his possession the very thing that would bring about the downfall of his kind.
Takahashi would have his vengeance.
He sat on the edge of his futon, and slowly began to undress. There was a time when he would have swiftly discarded his clothing and pulled on his laboratory garments in a matter of minutes. Alas, his age and condition took their inevitable toll on his body. Now he found that even the simplest of tasks, such as this, took a force of will.
It would be so easy to simply lie back and let the darkness take him.
To surrender to an easier path.
But Takahashi had work to do, and while Hikari was making progress as an excellent successor, she was not yet ready to complete his work. To fulfil his legacy. This was a job that he needed to finish himself. It was important.
Once clothed, he made his way to the bathroom and opened the small mirrored cabinet above the sink. Row upon row of pill bottles were lined up neatly in the order in which he needed to take them. So many tiny tablets.
He chuckled ruefully to himself.
It is mystifying how I don’t rattle when I walk!
Each bottle was opened in turn, and the prescribed doses of each were taken. The effects wouldn’t be immediate, they never were, but he knew that in an hour or so he would feel…invigorated.
Just in time.
When he arrived at the laboratory, Hikari was awaiting him outside. She hadn’t entered, knowing that to do so would be disrespectful. It was to be the TechMaster’s honor to be the first to perform research on the new specimen.
And this particular specimen is one on which he had been wanting to lay his instruments for a very long time.
She followed him into the lab, deferentially silent.
His staff had laid the specimen out on the examination table. Even deceased and unmoving, the creature was quite…extraordinary.
It was humanoid, barely. It retained the bipedal stance of its original victim, before their DNA had been horrifically overwritten and changed beyond recognition. What had once been human was now a monster. Slender, willowy in nature with skin as black as the midnight sky. Oversized hands with sharp talon-like fingertips sat at the end of long skinny arms with a sinewy muscle structure.
The once human face was now distorted with giant almond-shaped eyes that swam a milky white above a flattened nose with oversized nostrils.
And then there was that mouth…
A nightmarish maw filled with rows of sharp, piranha-like teeth that flanked a pair of three-inch long curved canine fangs that protruded menacingly from the upper jaw.
“Adze…” Hikari said in an almost reverent tone. “Magnificent.”
“I’ve waited quite some time for this…” Takahashi muttered quietly. “The ultimate Vampire breed. An undiluted engine of death…”
The Adze were the ultimate progression of the Vampire lineage, a killing machine without compare. Yet it was not its prowess as a predator in which Takahashi was interested. He cared not for its claws and teeth, or even for its rumored telepathic abilities.
He wanted its blood and its venom.
The TechMaster wanted the secrets of its DNA.
A Vampyrii bite could turn a human in a matter of minutes. Bestowing on its victim increased agility and strength. Retractable fangs and claws. Enhanced night vision – and its accompanying susceptibility to bright light – and a more sensitive sense of smell and hearing.
As impressive as all this sounded, it was a relatively small genetic change in comparison with the full body makeover an Adze bite could force.
An Adze bite could completely rewrite the DNA of its victim to an even greater degree.
Huge physical changes.
That was the secret he wanted.
Dissecting this specimen would bring him to the brink of succeeding in his research. Once this creature’s secrets were exposed, there would be only one item left on his agenda. One more specimen of which he needed to uncover the secrets.
“Now, all that is left to complete my collection…” he whispered to himself, “…is a Fae.”
And there you go. 🙂
So, if you got to the end of Chapter 58 and wondered exactly what it was that Sebastian StormHall delivered to TechMaster Takahashi, now you know. This story-thread will get picked up a little in ‘Blood to Earth’ but will factor more heavily when we get to book 5 ‘The TechMasters’.
Hopefully this teases you for what’s coming up in the future and – I hope – will inspire some thought and debate about what exactly is going on. Trust me, answers are coming…slowly.
Finally, a MASSIVE thanks to Ben and Nico over at The Tiny Book Case for having me on their show. It was a truly awesome experience.
Click the logo to the left to hear the Podcast. And once you’ve heard mine, listen to the others! They’ve had many an awesome guest!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed that little bonus chapter, and that it whets your appetite for ‘Blood to Earth’, coming in the Autumn!
Love & Books