ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS and DISCLAIMERS

People always want to know if writers put real people in stories. And the answer, for most writers, is no.

But I've found that sometimes readers are convinced that real people are in stories. Me included. I have had conversations with friends where we all agree that, "the serial murderer in that last story, the one who was called the beer murderer, because he used beer bottles to stun his victims before killing them, that guy with the black hair and the strange eyes," is someone whom we work with. And well, we all know he's meant to be so and so "… in this story….and how clever to portray him as the serial murderer and give a whole new meaning to the phrase murder a beer…"

This is the sort of conversation that can make me quake with fear as a writer. There's no point protesting that the text was not meant to sound like any particular person. Nobody believes you. I live in fear of meeting a harmless work colleague, with black hair and strange eyes, who loves to guzzle beer and calls himself a beer murderer.

Which is why I decided to write a story where I could make up things left, right and centre.

I don't own any of the main characters – they've been created by DC.

I happily invented my own scenes. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the writer, and all incidents are pure invention, and have no existence outside the imagination of the writer.

Apologies to any one who reads anything I've written that makes them quake. I'm sorry, but I just made lots of things up!

Many thanks to all the writers, authors and other fabulous people who have in some way inspired my thoughts, ideas and words.

A big thank you to ImFanci for the fabulous beta.

And a special thanks to the SMWW fan group for allowing me to experiment, think aloud and generally have fun, while being generous with their praise.

PROLOGUE

Friday, 12 February 2010

Open Season
By Clark Kent, Metropolitan Crime Reporter , The Daily Planet

A liquid hand sanitizer manufacturing giant has reportedly released a sub-sect strain of the popular swine flu virus to the general public to make up for sagging fourth quarter sales projections.

LL Gels saw their stock prices soar over the past year as the swine flu epidemic hypothetically infected millions of people. It must be noted that LL Gels was formed with the intent of providing an efficacious yet simple solution to the swine influenza epidemic that devastated Mexico and some parts of the USA in 2009. The best selling product, Vaccine Strength Liqua-Gel, had shown declining sales in the last financial quarter. Independent confidential sources interviewed by The Daily Planet revealed the marketing plan to boost sales and make profits indiscriminately.

Hotels, retailers, and offices alike all positioned the trendy FLOWGO dispensers in clear view to allay public fears and to provide the perception of a society dedicated to the control of the spread of swine influenza or the H1N1 virus.

The Daily Planet took a look behind the gilded company doors and interviewed key officials representing LL.

"We have become aware of a situation of a mutated strain of the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as swine flu. This strain has been known to affect those who are recovering from an illness or have an already compromised immune system. Other people should be just fine. There is no perceivable problem with our tried and tested Brand Vaccine Strength Liqua-Gel, with an all-new formula, that good medical assistance cannot cure. Congress should take more note of the appalling health-care conditions," said corporate spokeswoman Lisa Marie Dawson.

"And for all those wacky, tin-hat wearing conspiracy theorists out there, of course we would not leak such a deficiency on the general public. The only profit we see is the health of our nation's people through the use of our tough, form fitting, easy dissolving anti-bacterial lotions that fight off 99.99% of diseases," she continued.

That and around $200 million in projected first quarter earnings, this year.