Painter had called these extraneous lines outliers, the outlying part of the family tree, those living at a distance.
“What are you looking for?” Painter asked.
“You mentioned you suspected a pattern out here, something you could sense but not grasp.”
“Yes, but why does it matter now? Robert is dead. We can clean things up from here.”
“Robert’s not the problem-he never was. He thought he was a king, or at least a high-ranked lieutenant, but in the end, he was a puppet as surely as anyone else. Used by the Bloodline until they cut his strings.”
Gray realized something else in that moment, his mind filling in those final pieces. “I think Robert was already chafing against those unknown puppet masters. I believe he was the one who sent that note to Amanda to run.”
He remembered Robert’s last words.
No father should lose a daughter…
He was talking about the president as much as himself. Robert knew what a personal hell it was to lose a daughter. He could not let his brother suffer the same fate, so he tried to protect Amanda.
“Then what are you thinking?” Painter asked.
He pointed to the screen. “You were right, there is a pattern here. But we were all looking for a pattern with biased eyes, from a patriarchal viewpoint, where lineage is determined by the male offspring, where boys carry on their fathers’ names. That’s what is mapped here.”
“But there’s a mirror to this, another way of looking at a family’s genetic roots. Robert mentioned how the Bloodline traced its roots to the clans that were cast out by Moses. True or not, he said they still kept certain Jewish traditions alive.”
Gray twisted and pointed to Lisa. “You mentioned how the triple helices could only pass down a female lineage. From egg to egg to egg, due to the cytoplasmic nature of the PNA strand.”
“That’s why they cast aside all other paths to immortality and concentrated solely on this one. It had a direct correlation to the images on the staff of Christ, but also because it fit what they wanted. A trait that matched their traditions and goals.”
“Which was what?” Painter asked.
Gray pointed to the screen. “The mirror image to a patriarchal view of heredity is a matriarchal one. According to the Mishnah, the oldest codification of Jewish tradition, you must be the child of a Jewish mother to be considered Jewish. The father doesn’t matter. The Jewish heritage is passed only through a woman’s bloodlines.”
But Gray needed proof. “Jason, can you separate out the two genders on this map? Tagging which are males, which are females.”
“Easy. The data is already in place… let me plot in the algorithm.” Then a few seconds later, he returned. “Here are the male lines of the family.”
As they all watched, blue lines sprang to life and illuminated that genetic galaxy-but a clear pattern appeared. Most of the blue threads remained tangled and clustered down the center, only a few coursed into the outlier sections, that hazy edge of the family.
“Now the female bloodline,” Gray said.
The blue fire vanished, and crimson lines blossomed. The outer fog around the central clan lit up with a rosy glow, a crimson cloud of heritage wrapped around the Gant clan.
A small gasp rose from Painter. “Almost all of these outlier lines are women.”
Gray stared closer and traced one of those crimson lines. “A woman leaves the Gant clan-and, in a handful of generations, it’s a woman who returns to marry back into the fold. Seldom a man.” He had another idea. “Jason, can you tag only the outlier lines, see how deeply they mesh with the main Gant clan?”
“Give me a few… done. Here you go.”
On the screen, everything fell away, except for the crimson haze at the edges. Another pattern became clear. Only a few of the red lines ever delved deeply into the main genealogical center. They only stayed for a generation or two-then darted back out again.
Painter saw it, too. “It’s like they’re sticking their toe in the gene pool, then pulling it back out again.” He turned to Gray, realization dawning in his eyes. “They’re like parasites on the Gant family. Bloodsucking flies. They hover near the well of the Gant wealth and power, tap into it regularly, feeding off it to sustain themselves, but mostly they live apart.”
The very definition of outlier.
Painter pointed to the screen. “This is not chance. This was done purposefully. A breeding plan to sustain a female lineage.”
“But why?” Lisa asked behind them.
Gray answered, “It’s likely the only way they can sustain such a lineage, to keep it from fraying away in a world where wealth is passed down to the first son, where most power has been wielded by men. To survive in that world, they adapted. They became parasites on specific families. Remember, the Bloodline once involved more than just the Gants. They performed this same dance with five or six wealthy European clans. Likely these parasitic flies traveled between these various families to better hide themselves.”
“They didn’t want to keep all their eggs in one basket,” Monk said.
Gray agreed. “But over time, those other families died away, ground under the march of time, until only the Gant family was left. We know in the past the Bloodline has tried to recruit new families, but in this modern age, where it’s not easy to hide and where family wealth often comes and goes in a couple of generations, they’ve only met with failure.”
Painter leaned back in his seat, looking paler. “Leaving them with the Gants.”
“Where they’re circling the drain, likely knowing it’s become unsustainable. I believe that’s the purpose of those experiments. They were seeking ways to keep their lineage alive, to extend it and give it permanence.”
Lisa spoke, her voice hushed with shock. “That’s why they went with the triple-helix plan. A triple helix can only pass down a matriarchal line. And they came so close to succeeding.”
“I think that success-along with the pressure Sigma was putting on them-gave them the push to strike out with a masterful endgame, one final move to ensure their power for generations on end.”
“The assassination plot,” Painter said.
“And the murder of Robert. The Lineage was done nibbling at the edges. They wanted to consume the Gants whole, to take over the family completely, to fully access their wealth and power.”
“But they failed.”
“And because of that we need to be scared,” Gray warned. “This Lineage has survived centuries, living in the empty spaces between other families, doing what they must to survive, shedding their humanity.”
“And they’re skilled at it,” Seichan added, likely picturing Petra. “They won’t succumb quietly. They will leave a wake of destruction behind them. Not out of vengeance-they’re too cold and calculating for that. They’ll do it because it will serve them in the long run. To cover their escape.”
“But how do we find them?” Painter asked.
Gray nodded to those crimson lines. “We start there. They don’t know we are aware of this.” He waved a hand to the trail of red lines. “We start plucking threads-and hopefully the rest will unravel.”
“There might be a way to find which threads are the best to pull.” Painter leaned toward the laptop’s microphone. “Jason, is there a way to examine those outlier lines and determine which ones lead the farthest back? In other words, which have the richest genetic heritage?”
“That’ll take a little more time.”
Painter turned to Gray. “From those massive databases you saw at the Lodge, heredity was important to them. What if the Bloodline links power to genetic heritage? The richer your heritage, the more authority you wield. If we can trace those lines of power-”
“Done,” Jason said. “You should see certain lines growing fatter on the screen, indicating stronger hereditary weight.”
On the screen, the uniformity of the crimson threads slowly altered-some growing fainter, others more prominent.
Once the process finished, Painter asked Jason to pick the thickest line and trail it down to modern times. It should point to the power brokers of this generation.
On the screen, a small cursor ran down that fat pipe and stopped at a single name at the end. It glowed brightly on the screen for all to see.
“Fuck me,” Kowalski swore, voicing all of their sentiments.
Gray remembered the digitally masked voice on the radio, ordering the assassination. Here was the person who had been manipulating events all along. The Bloodline wasn’t planning for Robert to take the grief of a wounded nation and turn it into a presidential bid.
Her name shone on that screen.
Teresa Melody Gant
It would be the grieving widow who would tug at the heartstrings of the country and assume her dead husband’s mantle.
But that wasn’t the worst news.
“Director,” Jason said, “she’s here. The First Lady arrived five minutes ago with her Secret Service detachment.”
“The president called her. He’s due in an hour to come out of hiding. He wanted his wife to hear about his survival first, to hear it from him, but also to share the good news about Amanda and the baby.”
“Where is she?”
“Down with them now, sir. And her Secret Service detachment-they’re all women. I should-”
Faint pops of gunfire cut him off.
At the foot of their daughter’s hospital bed, President James T. Gant hugged his wife, balanced between grief and joy, mourning the loss of his brother but relieved to hear his grandson was alive and safe.
The loud blasts of pistols out in the hallway jerked him out of Teresa’s arms.
What the hell?
He was alone in the room with his wife and sleeping child. He had pushed his own Secret Service agent outside to give the family this private moment together.
He realized his mistake-from the black SIG Sauer in his wife’s hand pointed at his chest.
He searched her face and knew at that moment that the woman standing before him was not his wife. She wore the same face, but she was not the same woman. A mask had fallen away, hardening her eyes to a cold polish. Even her facial features seemed subtly different, becoming a wax version of the warm girl who’d won his heart.
She stood at the foot of Amanda’s bed in a protective pose. “Jimmy,” she said, her voice equally changed, flat and affectless, indicating how much of a consummate actress she had been. “You’ve ruined everything.”
He realized the truth at that moment. “You’re a part of the Bloodline. Like my brother.”
“Robert was nothing. He was ignorant of my involvement. Only a useful tool to hide behind. Nothing more. The Lineage will survive. We always do. It is our birthright. Born from exiles cast out into the desert wilderness-we still survive.”
He stood, stunned.
“And we have not lost everything. You’ve given us Amanda. Willful and unpredictable, she is unfit for the Lineage, but she is still clearly blessed. We failed with her first child, but she will give us more until we find that special female child, the one who will lead us out of the wilderness once again, more powerful than ever.”
He took a step forward, realizing they were planning on taking Amanda. He pictured the women floating in the tanks.
Teresa backed to the edge of the bed, never letting down her guard. “But first, to open a path back into the wilderness where we can hide”-she pointed her pistol at his face-“we need chaos.”
Like a dead president.
He flinched back as Amanda-seated in her bed behind Teresa-swung the IV pole and clubbed the weighted bottom into the side of his wife’s head.
Bone cracked and blood burst out of her nose.
She fell with a momentary look of bewilderment.
Her first real emotion since she pulled the gun.
Jimmy went for the weapon, realizing that the gunfire had ended out in the hallway. He started to bend-when the door crashed open.
Turning, he prayed it was his own Secret Service detail, that they had survived the ambush.
This was not his day.
Two women in uniform burst inside, weapons pointed.
They froze, seeing Teresa on the floor, unmoving.
Out in the hallway behind them, a small figure slid past the door on his knees along the blood-slicked floor. He had a pistol pointed.
Two clean shots to the back of the women’s heads.
Then he slid out of view.
Amanda still sat on her bed, holding the IV pole. “Who was that?”
Jimmy pictured the face of the young man, the analyst from before. He couldn’t remember his name, but he knew one thing about the boy.
“That was my new best friend.”
July 12, 10:10 A.M. EST
Painter stood at the foot of Amanda’s bed at George Washington University Hospital. He had his arm around Lisa’s waist as she reviewed the young woman’s chart. Mother and child had been here for a week, transferred shortly after the revelation of the president’s miraculous recovery following the assassination attempt.
James Gant was at the same hospital, two floors up, in his own secure wing, all the better to hide his feigned post-op recovery. Only those who knew the truth were allowed access. The shooter remained a mystery, more fodder to add to the myriad conspiracies surrounding presidential assassinations.
Off in South Carolina, the destruction at the Gant family estate was kept hushed and restricted from view by the no-fly zone. The official story was that a natural sinkhole had opened in the mountains on their property, accompanied by a quake strong enough to cause a gas leak and explosion at the Lodge. The report of the heroic death of Robert Gant-who died in the fire, while trying to rescue people-helped divert attention from the truth. A handpicked detachment of the National Guard, sworn to secrecy, still continued the cleanup of the dead pods that littered the surrounding landscape.
Lisa finally lowered the charts of Amanda and William.
“Happy?” Painter asked.
“Everything seems to be in order.”
Lisa was having a hard time letting go, feeling a personal responsibility for the child. The child had his own team of geneticists, allergists, and neonatologists who were overseeing the boy’s care. He continued to shed away the rest of the PNA, becoming a normal little boy. Any further allergic responses were watched closely and ameliorated.
But she wasn’t the only one concerned for his well-being.
“When do you leave?” Amanda asked, cradling the sleeping child in her arms.
Tucker sat next to her bed, a large stuffed dog at his elbow, a gift for the baby. “Tomorrow morning. Kane and I are headed to Russia.”
One of Kane’s ears swiveled toward his handler, but he never lifted his head from the bed’s blanket, his eyes watching every small facial tic of the dreaming baby, sniffing occasionally at the footy pajamas.
“Make sure you visit if you’re ever in Charleston.”
“I’ll do that.” Tucker stood up, kissed his own fingertips, and gently touched the crown of the child’s head.
Amanda tilted the baby out of the way and raised an arm, wanting to hug Tucker. He obliged, keeping it brief-or at least, he tried to. She held him tightly with all the stubbornness of the Gants. She kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you.”
He straightened, a blush rising to his face.
Painter and Lisa also said their good-byes. Out in the hall, Lisa crossed to talk to the doctors at the nursing station.
Alone with Tucker, Painter tried one more time. “Sigma could use your help. And Kane’s. We have a lot of work ahead to root out the rest of the Bloodline.”
That statement was true, but they were already making significant strides to that end. Armed with Jason’s database, they had many names to pursue. Threads were being pulled, and the tapestry woven over millennia was starting to shred. Gray was right when he said that in the modern age it was harder to hide. The wildernesses of yesteryear had shrunken, offering less shelter.
Painter knew with certainty.
The Guild was dead.
“But we always have new crises to attend, too,” Painter pressed. “We could use someone with your unique talents.”
Tucker gave him a crooked smile. “I’ll pass. I’ve never been much of a team player. But if you ever need me, you have my number.”
Tucker turned and headed down the corridor, Kane at his knee.
Painter called out, “Wait! I don’t have your number.”
Tucker twisted around, walking backward a few steps, his crooked smile straightening. “Something tells me, director, if you ever need me, you’ll find me.”
He was right.
Painter lifted his arm in a good-bye.
Tucker merely swung around and vanished around a corner. The last sight was Kane’s tail wagging, ready for their next adventure.
Painter watched a breath longer, knowing that wouldn’t be the last he would see of Tucker and Kane.
Lisa finally rejoined him. “Ready?”
They headed out of the hospital, hand in hand, into the brightness of a new day. A horse-drawn carriage waited at the curb, covered in her favorite chrysanthemums, each petal a deep burgundy trimmed in gold.
Jason had hunted down that rare specimen, getting a large shipment in time. Kowalski was assigned to arrange the livery service. He spent the entire week exiting rooms with the same joke: Sorry, gotta see a man about a horse.
In a few more steps, Lisa recognized the flower and immediately suspected something was up.
“Painter…?” she warned.
He walked her to the carriage, helped her up, then dropped to a knee on the carriage step, revealing the small velvet-lined box in his palm.
She covered her cheeks. “No!”
“I haven’t even asked the question yet.”
She lowered her hands, her face radiant, blushing as darkly as the petals of the chrysanthemums. “Then yes, yes, yes…”
She pulled him to his feet, practically yanking him to her mouth. They kissed, laughing between their lips, then moving to something deeper and more meaningful. For the longest moment, they remained embraced, pledging silently never to be parted.
But, apparently, there was a catch, a clause in the contract to be addressed first.
Lisa moved into the carriage, drawing him up. She faced him. “I want kids… just to be clear.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have done this after seeing the baby.”
“I’m serious.” She held up her fingers. “I want two.”
Painter stared at her hand. “You know you’re holding up four fingers, right?”
Kat dropped heavily onto the living room sofa, sprawling out, taking off her sunglasses and the light scarf that hid her bald head. Her sutures itched like mad, all over her body, setting her nerves on fire.
Monk followed a few minutes later through the apartment door, carrying Penelope, who hung limply in his arms with the slumber of innocence.
“The baby?” he asked.
“Already in her crib. Did you get the stroller?”
“It can stay in the minivan. Someone wants to smash a window and steal it, then let ’em. They can have the case of Pampers, too.”
Monk headed down the hallway to the baby’s room, settled the child into the bed, and came back and joined her on the couch. He collapsed next to her, sighing loudly.
Kat ran her palm over her head. Tears suddenly burst out.
Monk pulled her to him. “What’s wrong?”
“Look at me. Covered in sutures, scabs, no hair. Did you see the looks I was getting in the park?”
He tugged her face toward his, leaning in close, making sure she could see the sincerity in his eyes. “You’re beautiful. And if it bothers you, hair grows back and the plastic surgeon promised there would be very little scarring.”
He gently kissed her lips, sealing the deal.
“Besides,” he said, rubbing his own shaved head, “bald is beautiful.”
“It works for you,” she said, wiping her tears.
They lay in each other’s arms for a few long, perfect minutes.
“I heard you talking to Painter,” Monk said. “You sure he’s okay with the decision?”
Kat nodded against his chest, making a soft, sleepy sound. “Mm-hmm.”
“Are you okay with it?”
She pulled back, sensing his seriousness. “I know I was just crying about my injuries. But…”
She stared away, slightly ashamed.
“You still loved it,” he said. “Being out in the field.”
“I did. Especially with you. It was better together.”
He smiled. “Looks like I’m back in Sigma, then. I mean, someone’s got to keep you out of trouble.”
Her grin widened.
“And speaking of things that are better together.” He lifted her and pulled her atop his lap. Her legs straddled his waist. “And in case you wanted solid proof about how beautiful you are…”
Her eyes widened. “Oh.”
3:30 P.M .
President James T. Gant sat in his wheelchair as the nurse pushed him, trailed by two Secret Service agents.
“Your wife is resting comfortably,” the nurse assured him as they reached the private room, guarded by another agent.
“Thank you, Patti,” he said. “I’d like to go in alone, if that’s okay.”
“Certainly, Mr. President. If you need anything, you can buzz the nursing station.”
The guard opened the door, and James wheeled in by himself, leaving the agents outside. After the door closed, he climbed out of the wheelchair and crossed to the hospital bed on his own.
Teresa had two operations already to repair the damage from the “car accident,” which was the official story. They’d plated her shattered cheekbone and cracked her skull open to cauterize internal bleeding. The doctors warned him each time that the brain damage was too severe, that his wife would remain in a vegetative state, likely forever.
Still, James played the stricken husband who would do anything to keep his wife alive, demanding the painful surgeries.
He stared down at her shaved head, the tubes going into every orifice, the droop of her eyelids.
“You look a mess, Teresa,” he said, sitting on the edge of the bed. “The doctors explained the difference between a coma and a vegetative state. Coma is characterized by a lack of awareness. You have what’s known as partial awareness. They say there’s a good chance you can hear me in there. I hope so.”
He patted her hand.
“Permanent vegetative state is defined as when you’ve been in this state for longer than a year. We’ll be reaching that milestone, my dear, I assure you of that. I’ve got a private hospital picked out in Charleston. Gant family-owned, of course. They’ll make sure you stay in this state forever, even if more surgery is necessary to make sure you never wake up.”
He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. “And all of those life-extension research projects that you’ve been running? It seems a distraught husband is going to employ every one of them to make sure you stay like this year after year after year.”
He stood back up, remembering the oath he swore to Painter Crowe if he ever found out who hurt his family: There will be no quick death. I will make them suffer like no other. I’ll turn their world into a personal hell on earth.
If nothing else, James T. Gant was a man of his word.
He bent down, kissed his wife’s forehead, noting a fat tear rolling from her eye. “Welcome to hell, Teresa.”
Takoma Park, Maryland
Gray finished washing the dinner dishes, staring out the window to the backyard. A dark gazebo stood in a remote corner, nestled amid overgrown rosebushes and shadowed by the bower of a cherry tree.
Movement drew his gaze: a shift of darkness, a glint of steel zipper on a jacket, a pale hint of skin.
Seichan stalked back there, as restless as she was thoughtful.
He knew what plagued her.
A dead man’s words.
Steps sounded behind him. He turned as Mary Benning, the night nurse, returned from upstairs.
“Got your father settled,” she said. “Already snoring by the time I was out the door.”
“Thanks.” He slipped the last dinner plate into the drying rack. “He seemed good tonight.”
“More at peace,” she agreed and smiled softly. “He missed you. But he’s too hardheaded to ever admit it.”
No argument about that.
Still, Gray remembered a strange moment when he first got back from the mission. He had come here, expecting the worst after being gone for nearly a week. Instead, he found his father in the kitchen with the sports page. When Gray stepped inside, his father looked him up and down, as if searching for something, then asked a blunt question that was oddly canny.
Did you get ’em?
Gray had answered truthfully. I got ’em, Dad. All of ’em.
His father could have been talking about many things, his inquiry interpreted many different ways, especially with the state of his dementia.
No matter the cause, his father had risen from the table and hugged Gray-as if thanking him for getting the revenge he could not.
And then, this morning, they’d gone as a family to their mother’s grave. Usually such visits brought tears and storm clouds, followed by a sullen, silent ride home. This morning, there had been tears, but also soft laughter. On the way home, his father told a couple of anecdotes about their mother. Even Kenny had shed his corporate bluster for an easier camaraderie. And more surprising still, his brother had agreed to extend his stay for another two months, mentioning something about telecommuting.
Some of that decision might be because Kenny had met a girl.
He was out with her tonight.
I’ll take what I can get.
Mary pointed to the screen door. “You kids enjoy the night. There’s supposed to be a meteor shower. If he gets restless, I’m taping the Nationals game against the marlins. A little baseball quiets him right down. Unless it’s against the Yankees, then the gloves come off.”
Gray smiled. “Thanks, Mary.”
Seichan stood in the dark gazebo, waiting, lost in her own thoughts. It was a balmy night, with crickets chirping in a continuous chorus, and a few fireflies blinking in the bushes and tree limbs.
She stared back at the house, wondering who she would be if she grew up there, picturing a happy childhood of report cards, scraped knees, and first kisses.
Would I even be me?
She fingered the silver dragon pendant resting in the hollow of her throat, remembering Robert Gant’s last words.
Your mother… escaped… still alive…
Over the past week, she’d slowly allowed herself to believe it.
It scared her.
Even her father’s death was no more than a dull ache, with no sharp edges to it. She didn’t know him and never really wanted to. Her mother had raised her. The word father had no meaning in her childhood. And a part of her still burned with anger and resentment, for the abuse and horrors she had to endure to become a killer. What father would allow that to happen to his daughter?
Still, in the end, Robert Gant had granted her a truer gift than his fatherhood: hope.
She didn’t know what to do with that gift.
But she would… with help.
Gray appeared at the back door, limned against the warmth of the kitchen lights. She liked spying on him when he didn’t know she was watching. She caught glimpses of the boy behind the man, the son of two parents who had loved Gray in very different ways.
Still, he was a killer-but not like her.
She was a machine; he was human.
She pictured the girl in the lobby of the Burj Abaadi, a girl broken into a monster. She pictured Petra, a woman molded into one.
Seichan was both of them.
What does he see in me worth holding on to?
Gray crossed the yard, stirring fireflies. Overhead, a falling star flashed across the dark night. He reached her, a shadow now.
He saw something in her-and she had to trust him.
He held out a hand.
She took it.
It crouches on the rock, basking in the sun, charging its solar cells.
It listens for the sounds of danger, but all it hears is the crash of water over rock, the call of winged creatures. It watches for movement but sees only the shimmer of grass, the shake of leaves. It looks for heat but only finds hot rocks.
As the sunlight fills the hollow hunger inside it, making it stronger, it reviews and remembers.
Linked to the others, it had listened as their chorus shrank to nothing.
The silence deafened.
In that silence, it learned a new pattern.
THE END .
Once fully charged, it knows to move on; to stop is THE END.
It does not want that.
It rises on its powerful piston legs, knuckling on curved claws. It moves back into the deep shadow of the woods, where few will know it passes.
It is alone.
It will learn new patterns and adapt.
It must survive.
They say too many cooks in the kitchen is a bad thing. That may apply to the culinary arts, but certainly not the literary arts. Each person mentioned below has made this book better. The first group I hate to lump together, but you all came that way, so what’s a guy to do? They are my first readers, my first editors, and some of my best friends: Sally Barnes, Chris Crowe, Lee Garrett, Jane O’Riva, Denny Grayson, Leonard Little, Scott Smith, Penny Hill, Judy Prey, Dave Murray, Will Murray, Caroline Williams, John Keese, Christian Riley, and Amy Rogers. And, as always, a special thanks to Steve Prey for the additional handsome maps and artwork… and to Cherei McCarter for all the fodder for great stories! To Scott Brown, M.D., for the medical help (so see, you are in the novel), and Mihir Wanchoo for being there from the beginning. To Carolyn McCray, who finally gets to let her own star shine… and David Sylvian for picking up all the pieces and making my digital presence shine. To everyone at HarperCollins for always having my back: Michael Morrison, Liate Stehlik, Seale Ballenger, Danielle Bartlett, Josh Marwell, Lynn Grady, Adrienne di Pietro, Richard Aquan, Tom Egner, Shawn Nicholls, Ana Maria Allessi, Olga Gardner, and Wendy Lee (I’ll miss you). Lastly, of course, a special acknowledgment to the four people instrumental to all levels of production: my editor, Lyssa Keusch, and her colleague Amanda Bergeron; and my agents, Russ Galen and Danny Baror. And, as always, I must stress that any and all errors of fact or detail in this book fall squarely on my own shoulders.
AUTHOR’S NOTE TO READERS: TRUTH OR FICTION
A good poker player tries to never show his cards. He endeavors to hold them close to his chest, doing his best to hide whether he’s got the winning hand or is bluffing. That’s what an author does, too: blurs that line between truth and fiction. But here, at the end of each novel, I like to come clean, to lay my cards on the table, to expose what’s true and what’s not.
And I’ll certainly be doing that again here, but this time around, I thought I’d take a lesson from Dr. Lisa Cummings. She states in this novel, The proof is in the pudding. So, besides drawing that line between truth and fiction, I’m going to pepper this section with a fair number of links to videos and Web pages, where readers can see firsthand some of the sources and inspirations behind events in this book.
But first, a warning: if you venture down that road, especially in regard to a few of the videos, what you may see, you can never un-see. You’ve been warned.
So let’s get started.
Dogs. The genesis for this book came from a Russian experiment performed in the 1940s on dogs. It was the precursor for developing the first heart-lung machine, but what this archival footage shows is disturbing for the dog lovers out there. Watch at your own peril. In this video, you will see what Amanda witnesses at the Dubai lab-only with humans.
Since we’re talking about dogs, let’s talk about real heroes: military war dogs. Everything in this book, from K9 storm vests to parachuting with dogs, is real. A great resource for me was The Dogs of War by Lisa Rogak. We also got to spend a little time in Kane’s point of view. I tried to be accurate with how dogs experience the world, using a fantastic resource: Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz.
Somalia. Part of this novel takes place in Somalia and among its pirates. The history, behavior, and reality of that country are as described. In fact, shortly after I wrote the scenes set in Somalia that deal with the rescue of the president’s daughter by a joint Sigma/SEAL Team six operation, reality proved to be even more spectacular than fiction. In January 2012, an American woman and a Danish man were freed from Somali pirates via a daring rescue by SEAL Team six. Although I don’t believe the woman rescued was the president’s daughter.
This novel also raises the issue of child soldiers. And, sadly, the details related in this novel are real. I based much of my research on A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, an author with whom I was able to meet and talk briefly.
But again, shortly after I wrote this novel, a very powerful video became an internet meme addressing this very issue, titled KONY 2012:
Dubai. I mentioned many locales in this amazing city, and I thought I’d share some videos so the true marvels of the architecture described in this novel can be better appreciated.
The Palm islands are featured prominently in this novel. Here’s a video link that offers a peek at these man-made wonders that can be seen from space:
Also mentioned are the islands of the World:
A couple other architectural miracles are still in the early stages of construction: the underwater hotel of Hydropolis (http://dai.ly/9qqx4s) and the floating ice sculpture of the Blue Crystal (http://www.blue-crystal.de/bc_base_uk.html).
And what about the spiraling wonder of Burj Abaadi, the Eternal Tower? Is such a construction possible? It is-only it’s being built on the mainland, not an island. This video is amazing:
But what about Utopia? The engineering and design of that man-made deep-sea island is based on actual engineering concepts and on the real-world wonder that is the Hibernia oil Platform. If you take a look at its icebreaker base, you might get an idea where the shape of Utopia came from. Here’s a peek:
And lastly, yes, the Palazzo Versace has refrigerated beaches.
Robotics. DARPA and other labs around the world are indeed moving into neuro-robotics. In this novel, we have the pairing of cortical neurons integrated into small robots. How far along are we in this development? Watch the following videos from various universities around the world and decide for yourselves.
And rats are never going to be satisfied unless they can fly fighter jets, which they’re doing:
But more disturbing are robotic swarms, robots coordinating together to achieve a common goal. Like wiping out mankind. The first video shows a swarm operating on the ground:
The next video is absolutely fascinating and horrifying. It’s an airborne robotic swarm. This is some truly fantastic footage:
I also introduce the monstrous quadrupods. If you’d like to see one in early stages of development, here is a DARPA project to build a robotic cheetah. Watch this one to the end to see how fast these robots can run. Then consider the videos above. Happy dreams!
Red Market. This novel dealt a great deal with the abuses involved in organ trafficking, including the imprisonment of people who were “harvested” for profit. Much of the horrifying details came from a wonderfully readable and enlightening book, The Red Market by Scott Carney.
The Science of Immortality. spectacularly, all of the science in regard to the latest technologies and theories about longevity are based on hard facts. Much of the vision for the novel was gleaned from reading, listening to, and watching Raymond Kurzweil. Just Google that name and be blown away.
I also owe a debt to the work of Aubrey de Grey and his book (written with Michael Rae) Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Can Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime. The topic regarding the seven deadly damages of aging are straight out of this book.
I also enjoyed Jonathan Weiner’s take on the subject, Long for This World.
Another scientist whose work is mentioned in this novel is Sebastian Seung and his research at MIT on connectomes, the building of a synaptic map of the human brain. Here’s a link to his website, which features some great videos:
Also, in this book, I mentioned the creation of a neuron-by-neuron virtual brain. This project is real, called the Blue Brain Project, and is being conducted by the Brain mind institute of the École Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland (if you watch the first robot-swarm video cited above, you’ll see what they have accomplished).
Lastly, is triple-helix DNA possible? Yes, in fact, a team at the University of Copenhagen has produced such a complex. And Scientific American has a great article on this very subject, titled “A new molecule of life” (December 2008), covering how powerful a tool PNA could be not only to extend life but also to reboot mankind.
History of Immortality. One of the jumping-off points in the construction of this novel was the startlingly accurate biblical estimate of human longevity. In the book of Genesis, it is stated quite plainly that man can only live a maximum of 120 years. Then, in 1961, Dr. Leonard Hayflick came up with that exact same number from his study of genetics, telomeres, and cellular division. Is this just coincidence? I don’t know, but it was a fascinating seed in which to grow a novel-if not the Tree of life.
The story of St. Patrick’s staff and its connection to immortality and Jesus Christ is a legend that really exists.
I mentioned other historical/mythological elements relating to the Tree of life-from the Bible to the epic of Gilgamesh to Hindu Vedic scriptures. These examples are all faithful to their sources, as are the ties to the Great Flood. But I was really just scratching the surface. For more details, check out Immortal Again: Secrets of the Ancients by Walter Parks. And that Masonic picture of three men entwined together with the three-headed snakes is a real archival picture. Though I doubt the Bloodline had anything to do with it.
Which brings us full circle to the central question raised by my novel: Are there immortals already walking among us?
My opinion: oh, yeah.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times bestselling author JAMES ROLLINS holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine and resides in the Sierra Nevada mountains. An avid spelunker and certified scuba enthusiast, he can often be found underground or underwater. Find James Rollins on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, and at www.jamesrollins.com.