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Chapter 1

Night had finally come to Mansbridge Academy.  

Situated in a remote corner of England and cloaked by dense forest, this prestigious high school for privileged children of the upper class was now quiet. The school year was over and two hundred grateful students had returned home to spend their summer lazing on the front lawns of sprawling mansions or sunbathing along the Spanish Costa del Sol with their equally privileged teenage friends.

At Mansbridge Academy there was silence at last. A cold, eerie silence; the kind of hollow silence that hits you when you’re last one to leave a school dance and the auditorium is suddenly dark and empty.

Being a national heritage site – it had been the elite school for Britain’s ruling clique for almost two centuries – Mansbridge had an elaborate state-of-the art security system that included a twelve foot rod iron fence with menacing spikes, a dozen well-placed cameras, and a laser matrix that triggered an alarm system that would wake up the dead.

And that is exactly what it was designed to do -- rouse the dead. In this case, that meant Vampires.

For deep in the bowels of this historic edifice, in a vault-like suite of rooms protected by six-foot thick walls and ceilings, was housed the Experiment, a daring program conceived by a long-feared race of beings referred to in folklore as the “Undead”.

But unlike the stereotype of blood-sucking predators, this sect of Vampires known as the Convocation was more enlightened and sought to put an end to the five-thousand-year war with their mortal counterparts. They had savagely hunted their prey as a means of survival, but over the centuries that bloodlust had only brought suffering and death to their own kind at the hands of their enemies.

Despite being immortal, their numbers had dwindled as man’s detection methods and weaponry against them became more sophisticated. They were facing slow extinction but not only at the hands of mortals, but from a renegade group of Vampires known as the Fury. 

This sect refused to accept change in the natural order of things. Their instinctual nature was to kill and that basic urge was to be nurtured, not restrained. So they declared war on their reformist brethren and committed themselves to fight for domination of the all the Undead, and a complete subjugation of the world’s population.

In response, the Convocation sought out the most promising of their kind, five youthful Vampires who had not become hardened in their predatory ways, five intelligent beings who showed a potential for change, a possible ‘humanization’ of their aggressive nature that would allow them to co-exist with mortals, without fear or threat.

These five were the chosen ones, to be protected at all cost so that they could be tutored in the ways of man, to learn his values, to understand his complex range of emotions, to develop compassion and even love – that most valued of all human traits, and a concept completely alien to the Vampire race.

But right alongside this ‘humanization’ training was to be preparation of another kind – the deadly martial art of Mucat. This was the most sacred and secret of the Vampire’s arsenal. Developed a thousand years ago, this ancient skill was the most powerful fighting technique on earth. It involved the perfect synthesis of mind and body and split-second timing that could destroy an enemy in the blink of an eye.

These five young Vampires were to master this skill for it alone could save their sect. For five could withstand five hundred. And training others, these five could defend themselves against thousands.

The Experiment could not fail. And to ensure its success another one was chosen to mentor them, to curb their savage desires and infuse them with a thirst not for blood but for knowledge. Human knowledge. That one selected was Dr. Reginald Murdoch.

A renowned educator and respected tutor to the power class, Dr. Murdoch was conscripted by the Convocation. The details of his recruitment were not revealed. Whether he agreed willingly or was threatened with immediate extinction, or worse, was a matter of constant conjecture by the chosen five.

But one thing was certain: Dr. Murdoch was a force to be reckoned with. His commitment to the Experiment was unwavering. And his determination to succeed was absolute. 

Cross him and you were met with an intensity that struck fear into the Vampire soul – something that no other human could affect. So was he really human or something else? And if so, what was that something else? Certainly not Vampire for Dr. Murdoch never thirsted for blood, never had to tuck himself into a coffin a night, never had to hide from the day.

Yet he could look into the hearts and minds of his students and see things that no other could see, not even their own kind. Such was the mystery of their headmaster. And a mystery it would remain.

As for Dr. Murdoch, his every move in the Experiment was observed and evaluated. For the Convocation could not risk failure, and to ensure its success a Vampire elder was picked to assess Dr. Murdoch’s actions and to provide counsel whenever needed.

This elder was one of the true ancients, a warrior from a dark and distant past who had fought his deep carnal nature and risen above it to help forge the Experiment. His name was Vackal. So developed were his faculties, so advanced were his killing techniques, that he could paralyze his prey with a look, and melt their flesh with a thought. He could appear and disappear out of nowhere, and overhear conversations a mile away.

Vackal was the embodiment of pure Vampire, the final evolution of a master race that had stalked the earth for a millennium. But unbeknownst to mortals, Vampires do age. Though eternal, they begin to slow down after a thousand years till eventually they don’t move at all. And they will remain in that vegetative state forever if not killed by a merciful hand.

Vackal was starting to slow down. And for the first time in his long life, he was afraid.

For the Fury were growing in numbers, recruiting those disaffected Vampires who would not considered enlightened enough to be part of the Convocation. Their marching orders were clear: seek out and destroy any member of the Convocation. This campaign of death was made easier by the fact that members of the Convocation could be identified by a blue circle that formed around their iris when sensing danger. 

One by one the Convocation sect was shrinking. There was little time left. The Experiment had to succeed.

And it had to remain a secret from the Fury. 

Mansbridge Academy was the perfect cover. A high school by day, and at night, a school for the five chosen. Should the Experiment’s existence leak, everything would be lost, and a reign of terror would descend upon earth the likes of which would not have been seen since the Great Cataclysm of fifty thousand years ago when a meteor shower pounded the planet and wiped out ninety percent of civilisation.

The Manbridge Experiment was the final hope. 

With the day students now gone for the summer, the Vampire training would be intensified. Beginning tonight.