Authors: Sophie McKenzie
Award-winning books from Sophie McKenzie
Winner Richard and Judy Best Kids’ Books 2007 12+
Winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2007 12+
Winner of the Manchester Children’s Book Award 2008
Winner of the Bolton Children’s Book Award 2007
Winner of the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2008
Winner of the John Lewis Solihull Book Award 2008
Winner of the Lewisham Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the 2008 Sakura Medal
Overall winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the North East Teenage Book Award 2010
Winner of the Leeds Book Award 2009 age 11-14 category
Winner of the Spellbinding Award 2009
Winner of the Lancashire Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the Portsmouth Book Award 2009 (Longer Novel section)
Winner of the Staffordshire Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the Southern Schools Book Award 2010
Winner of the RED Book Award 2010
SIX STEPS TO A GIRL
Winner of the Manchester Children’s Book Award 2009
With thanks to Lou
and Lily Kuenzler and Stephanie Purcell.
First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © 2010 Sophie McKenzie
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Sophie McKenzie to be identified as the author of this
work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77
and 78 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places
and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living
or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-84738-892-6
Printed by CPI Cox & Wyman, Reading, Berkshire RG1 8EX
For Aimée, Isabelle and Daniel
Fourteen years ago, scientist William Fox implanted four babies with the Medusa gene – a gene for psychic abilities. Now dead, his experiment left a legacy: four teenagers – Nico, Ketty, Ed and William’s own daughter, Dylan – who have each developed their own distinct and special skill.
Brought together by government agent, Geri Paterson, the four make up the Medusa Project – a secret, government-funded, crime-fighting force.
Until recently, the Medusa teens lived under the protection of William’s brother, Fergus Fox, at his North London boarding school – Fox Academy. However, their existence has become known to members of the criminal underworld, so they are being taken to a secluded training camp where their identities can be kept secret.
Spain was unbearably hot. We’d made a pit stop at a roadside café after a solid five-hour drive and, even though it was late afternoon, the sun was still fierce on the back of my head. Everyone else was still inside the café, but I’d come outside for a moment by myself. I was leaning against the car, the metal hot against my back, looking into the distance. All I could see was desert: sand . . . rocks . . . and, further away, a range of purple-tipped mountains.
The café door banged and Ketty emerged. ‘Kind of bleak, isn’t it, Ed?’ she said as she reached me. ‘And way too hot to run in.’
I nodded. Ketty’s my best friend – and a keen runner. Like me, she has the Medusa gene but whereas I can read minds, Ketty can predict the future. I glanced at her, trying not to look her in the eye – if I make eye contact with anyone I automatically see into their thoughts and feelings.
You probably think that would be cool.
Trust me, it isn’t.
Ketty looked surprisingly unbothered by the heat. She was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. No sweat patches, unlike me, though a couple of her dark brown curls were stuck damply to her forehead.
‘Did Geri say how much further?’ I asked. Geri Paterson, the head of the Medusa Project, was driving us to a training camp where we were going to have to stay – with no contact with our families – for six whole months.
‘Another hour or so.’ Ketty sighed.
I shook my head. Everything felt wrong. The journey was long and boring, sure. But I was in no hurry to reach the camp either – the whole point of being sent there, Geri had said, was to ‘learn discipline through hard work’. Goodness knows what it would be like, but the thought of it filled me with horror. Physical activities are not exactly my strong point.
Nico emerged from the café to join us. ‘Depressed because you won’t be going to school for half a year, Ed?’ He put his arm round Ketty, a big grin on his face.
Ketty beamed up at him. I turned away. I’m not going into it here, but a few weeks before, she and I dated a bit. Then Nico told her he liked her and now they were all over each other. As Dylan might have said, it sucked
Geri strode out of the café. It didn’t look as though stopping for a break from driving had improved her mood at all. She was posing as the parent/school liaison officer responsible for taking the four of us to the camp. She jumped into the driver’s seat, calling angrily for us to join her.
We sat as before, Nico and Ketty in the back, Dylan on her own in the middle row of seats and me up front next to Geri. I get a bit car sick if I sit anywhere else. Mind you, the next part of our journey was enough to make anyone puke. The road quickly disappeared and we started bumping over really rocky ground. With a snarl, Dylan appeared from behind her oversized sunglasses and took out her headphones.
‘When are we going to quit freakin’ bouncing around?’
I closed my eyes. Geri was in a bad enough mood without Dylan provoking her further. Geri sucked in her breath. ‘May I remind you that if you four hadn’t taken matters on your last job into your own hands, then you wouldn’t have to be here at all,’ she snapped.
Behind me, Ketty sighed. Her brother, Lex, was the reason we’d gone off on our own on our last job. The criminal we were investigating, Damian Foster, had been holding him captive and Ketty had been attempting to find out where he was. The rest of us were helping. I knew Ketty felt responsible for getting us all into trouble with Geri. I turned round and smiled at her. She smiled gratefully back.
‘Just because you’re sending us to some brat camp doesn’t mean it has to be in the middle of nowhere,’ Dylan snarled, shoving her headphones back on.
‘It’s in the middle of nowhere for your own protection,’ Geri said. I glanced down at her fists, gripping the steering wheel. She was holding on so tightly that her knuckles were white. ‘And may I remind you that I was up for
last night finding a new camp after the original one was compromised.’
The atmosphere in the car chilled further. Geri had reminded us of this fact on average once every ten minutes for the entire journey.
‘Yeah, you said,’ Nico said sarcastically.
what I signed up for,’ Geri muttered. ‘I expected you all to behave . . . to do what I told you . . .’
I looked away. As usual I’d been lumped in with the others. It wasn’t fair.
‘We didn’t sign up for any of this, either,’ Nico muttered.
I could hear Ketty whispering in his ear, presumably telling him to calm down. I sighed. Nico was right, of course. None of us had chosen to be part of the Medusa Project – not the original gene implantation before we were born, nor the crime-fighting work we were being trained to do now. Geri was forcing us to work for her.
After another half an hour or so, with the sun hovering over the distant mountains, a long, white building shimmered into view.
‘Is that it?’ I leaned forward, straining to see the place that was going to be our home from now until October.
‘Yes, dear.’ The sharp edges of Geri’s bob batted her chin as she gave a vigorous nod. ‘Camp Felicidad.’ She raised her voice. ‘Dylan, take those headphones out. I need to go over your final briefing.’
Grumbling, Dylan did so.
‘What does Feliss-y-whatsit mean?’ Ketty asked.
‘Camp Happiness,’ I translated. ‘Hey, maybe the name’s a good sign.’
Behind me, Dylan snorted. ‘Yeah, right, Chino Boy.’
Dylan was always taking the mickey out of my clothes . . . out of me generally, in fact. Not that I cared, really.
As we drew nearer, Geri went through our cover stories again. We had each been assigned a new surname and background, part of which was that we’d all attended the same school. I was Ed Jones, bright but lazy – a formerly straight-A student, who was now giving his wealthy parents a massive headache because he wanted to spend his days smoking weed instead of concentrating on his GCSEs.
‘Remember, you’re all the delinquent children of well-off, middle-class, concerned parents,’ Geri cautioned. ‘Like everyone else at the camp.’
‘Oh good,’ Dylan drawled. ‘Six months with a bunch of spoilt brats . . . I can’t wait.’
‘Don’t worry, Dyl,’ Nico said. ‘You’ll fit right in.’
‘Freakin’ shut up,’ Dylan snapped. ‘And don’t call me Dyl. It’s bad enough going to some hellhole brat camp, without you starting on me.’
Geri just pursed her lips. ‘Discipline . . . discipline,’ she tutted.
The large, white building was now identifiable as three separate houses. The biggest was in the centre – a low, sprawling concrete structure with small windows and a few thorny bushes by the front door. A man stood outside, arms folded.
‘Camp Happiness isn’t very nice-looking, is it?’ Ketty said, disappointed.
‘It’s not supposed to be,’ Geri snapped. ‘You’re here to learn to behave yourselves. It’s perfectly adequate, with a good record on discipline.’
Nico muttered something from the back of the jeep.