A lost friend. A family tragedy. A psychopathic scientist driven by greed.
All Shannon Dane wants to do is be with his girlfriend, Ally. So when tragedy strikes her family, he’s willing to do whatever she asks. Even break into Rat City, the run-down mansion owned by her geneticist uncle.
Ally is convinced the secrets hidden inside Rat City will give her the answers she’s desperate for, and reveal the truth behind her family’s heartache. But what Shannon discovers could rip their lives– and the lives of a generation of teens – into shreds.
Rat City is a novel for young adults (12 years plus) that mixes science fiction, horror and a touch of romance with fast-paced action. Here’s a short sample from Chapter 1. In this excerpt Shannon, the narrator, is in science class when a guest teacher is introduced:
‘Good afternoon, class,’ said Ms Norton. ‘Today I have great pleasure in introducing you to Dr Russell Killian. Dr Killian is an expert in the field of bio ethics and genetic research. Thanks to Macpherson High’s close links with Holt University, he has kindly agreed to be our scientist in residence for the next eight weeks. So let’s give him a warm Year 10 welcome.’ Ms Norton clapped, nodding her head at our class.
‘Who thinks rats can draw?’ Killian put what looked like an oversized cooler-bag on the front desk. ‘Anybody?’
Jessie raised her hand. ‘Only the two-legged ex-boyfriend variety, sir.’ She turned and glared at Nate. The front row of girls giggled.
Killian forced a chuckle. ‘Yes, well apart from those. No?’ He unzipped the bag and took out a white rat, holding it in the palm of his hand.
Killian ignored the squeals that came from around the classroom and walked in between the rows of desks while the rat ran up his arm and rested on his shoulder.
‘It’s actually been many years since scientists first created a robot that used the neural impulses of rat brain cells to draw pictures. Now, I’m not saying I could give this little fella a white board marker and let him loose but—’ an image of a page filled with coloured scribbles showed on the presentation screen ‘—we are living in an age where ideas that were once the stuff of science fiction are reality.’
Killian’s smooth-suit style didn’t impress me but the guy was clever. He knew how to win the class over. The girls up the front were hanging on every word he spoke and the nerds in the corner looked so excited I swear they were about to wet themselves. But when he passed by my desk, and those pink rat’s eyes glared at me, a shiver shuddered down my spine.
‘As you look through the images on the screen,’ Killian continued, ‘you can see examples of some of the incredible research being done here and overseas. But this type of research also raises some interesting questions regarding ethics.’
I glanced across at Felix. He was working away at folding that same page in his book, hunched over his desk as if he was trying to scrunch himself into a tiny ball.
On the opposite side of the room, Hab and Nate both had that sleepy post-lunch look, all drooping eyes and nodding heads, as Killian talked on. I picked up a pencil eraser in my hand, my mind drifting, too, until I decided we all needed a wake up. I pegged the eraser, aiming it at Hab’s head. It missed. Instead it hit Killian’s rat. The rat scrambled up on top of Killian’s head, standing on its hind legs and squeaking, its front paws clawing at the air.
‘Who did that?’ Killian pulled the rat from his head and held it to his chest. He scanned the classroom. ‘Who did that? Stand up immediately.’
I slunk down in my chair, trying to make myself as invisible as possible. Felix looked at me sideways through squinted eyes.
‘You idiot,’ Felix hissed.
Ms Norton glared at him. ‘Felix. Was it you?’
‘No Miss.’ Felix pointed at me. ‘It was him.’
‘Shannon Dane,’ said Ms Norton. ‘Apologise to Dr Killian.’
‘Sorry.’ I rolled my eyes.
Killian walked over in front of my desk. ‘Stand up when you apologise.’
I stood and folded my arms. ‘Sorry I hit the small furry creature,’ I paused and met his glare. ‘I meant to hit the rat.’
The muscles at the corners of Killian’s mouth quivered with anger. The light in his eyes shut down.
Goose-bumps prickled across the back of my neck.