Chapter 1

The Dancer

Sing, O muse, the driving of James son of Bill, that brought countless ills upon the Sunday drivers. Many a timid soul did it set quivering behind the wheel, and many a traffic regulation did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of The Professor fulfilled from the day on which the son of Jim, king of geeks, and great James, first went on a road trip with one another.

So yeah… hi. I guess I should probably introduce myself properly, seeing as I’m expecting you to read my logorrhoea.

My name is William Masters. William Tell Masters, actually. Yeah, my parents had an awful sense of humour, but James’ were worse. That’s a story for another time, though. It might help you understand things if you know that I’m named after his father, Bill Campion, and he’s named after my father, Jim Masters, and that our middle names are basically childish insults delivered by birth certificate, with the full agreement of our mothers, who both found it incredibly amusing. And these people were our role models.

I was born on March 31st, 1990, in Hamilton, New Zealand, and James was born five minutes later, on April 1st. It’s kind of typical of our parents that they had kids born within five minutes of each other. We grew up together, and when I say that, I don’t just mean we hung out every once in a while. We were basically joined at the hip. People thought we were actually brothers sometimes, despite our different appearances. He was your typical muscle-bound rugby player, at least outwardly, and I was your typical weedy geek. Despite our differences, though, we got along. We’d known each other so long we didn’t have much choice in the matter.

Our little group of friends always seemed a little larger-than-life in a small town like Te Kainga. We itched, bored in class and constantly poking our noses places we probably shouldn’t have in our own time. To amuse ourselves, we experimented with a variety of recipes off the internet, built a trebuchet capable of flinging a coconut half a mile, devised a hydroponics system for a group of stoners we knew… we had capabilities, and our environment wasn’t challenging them enough.

So, really, it was no surprise we leapt for the chance. We knew it was going to be something secret, and probably dangerous, when the NDAs arrived in the post. And even after I’d read the whole thing, looking for the clause about our eternal souls, I still signed and initialled where indicated.

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