WARNING: This page contains major plot spoilers.
If you haven’t read Empire yet, you should not view this page. It is intended as an extra to supplement the book and contains material that may spoil the plot.
The following are elements that I used for my research when writing the book. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
When I started writing Empire, I wanted the principal plot to be about the battle between a team of modern day, elite immortal and human agents, and the scions of a once powerful empire.
The image of a distressed messenger striding through the corridors of a palace to bring heartbreaking tidings of a death to a queen came to my mind for the prologue. This was to be the ‘trigger’ event behind the plot. After studying the superpowers of days past, I chose the Ottoman Empire and its most notorious ruler, Suleiman the Magnificent, as the focus of this backstory.
The incredible true tale of his son Mustafa captured me straight away and evoked a ‘what if’ scenario. What if Mustafa had a lover who was an immortal? And what if his descendants were still alive to this day?
Mustafa was a Prince of Amasya and the city hence featured at the start of the story. The fact that a world famous, ancient cartographer by the name of Strabo was also from there helped provide a further clue to Conrad’s team later in the book.
The hauntingly beautiful pictures of the city with the sun setting over the Pontus mountains and the Yesilirmak River were perfect inspiration for the descriptive parts of the prologue and I hope I managed to convey the atmosphere of the era it took place in.
London, 18th century
The opening scene of Chapter 1 was inspired by the image of a sword falling toward the neck of my protagonist as he engaged in a fierce battle on the rooftop terrace of a building in the middle of London, one stormy night in the distant past. This conflict would concern a crucial historical event that would influence the course of human history and lead to the incident that causes the protagonist to ‘lose’ his soulmate.
Because of Conrad’s background history and his progress through the ranks of the Bastian Corps to the status of special operative, the late 17th century-early 18th century seemed the best fit for this backstory and my research uncovered the fascinating events that led to the Treaty of the Union.
This image brought to mind the sinister mood coloring the events of that night.
Chapter 2 was one of the most fun chapters to write in this book. Having consigned Conrad to the depths of the Amazon to live out the rest of eternity, I felt that the ‘trigger’ event to get him the hell out of there and hot on the trail of the plot line needed to be big.
What’s bigger than a plane crashing into your home while you’re spending a nice day fishing with your dog in the middle of your very own swamp? And finding the picture of your estranged lover in the suitcase of a dead man who you suspect is a contract killer?
The Amazonas town where Conrad decided to base himself. After studying a map of the Amazon and Brazil, I picked out Alvaraes; it’s in the middle of nowhere, where someone who wants to disappear from the eyes of the world can do so with ease, but is within reasonable distance of the decent sized town of Tefe, where there’s a small airport.
Note the demarcation between the muddy waters of the Rio Solimoes, rich with silt from the floodplains, and the lake next to Alvaraes.
Rocky the German Shepherd
This is the picture I had in mind for Rocky as a puppy. It’s the second time I’ve had animals in this series, after Cornelius the cat and Bob the dog in Hunted. Though he has a small starring role in Empire, Rocky stole the show in many scenes and was much loved by my readers. Rocky’s presence and significance in this story also raises an interesting question in this world I’ve created; can animals be made immortal?
The long term implications of Conrad’s actions and the critical ones that took place in the middle of Hunted and at the end of Warrior are still unknown. Incidentally, Rocky was inspired by author Julia R. Barrett’s dog Jake. If I was an immortal with lives to spare, Jake would definitely get one off me!
The snake and the rod
Conrad’s birthmark, the Aesculapian snake, was inspired by the Rod of Asclepius, the most recognized symbol of medicine to this day. At the end of the book, I introduced the notion that Rafael, Conrad’s pureblood-immortal ancestor and Bastian’s second-born son, was the original “healer”upon whom all subsequent mythological figures, such as Asclepius the Greek God of medicine, were based. The stories behind these healers of days past made for fascinating reading.
Giving Conrad a staff weapon to fight with was a logical step to complete the symbolism of the Rod of Asclepius.
Making the staff weapon be a double-ended spear and have twin short blades within its shaft gives Conrad more flexibility in battle. I wanted each of the protagonists in this series to have unique bladed weapons. Hence Lucas Soul has a daisho, Alexa King has her sai daggers, and Conrad has a staff.
Heckler and Koch P8
I chose the Heckler & Koch P8 for Conrad as it’s a handgun used by the German Armed Forces and he’s originally from, well, Germany. I’m simple that way.
This weapon’s polymer frame, recoil reduction, and resistance to corrosion made it an ideal choice for Conrad to store for long periods of time in the jungle. It’s also an extremely versatile weapon, with swappable trigger styles.
Rio de Janeiro
I picked Rio de Janeiro specifically as the place where Conrad goes once every two years to update himself about world events because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t? The fact that he could fly from Manaus to Rio and onward to Washington via Sao Paulo also made this location pretty strategic. Plus, the underground fight clubs were just perfect for him to keep his hand-to-hand combat skills up to date.
When I was working on the plot of how to get Conrad back into an adventure that would involve Laura Hartwell, I decided that the trigger would be a plane crash and a metal briefcase containing Laura’s picture. I then had to link that part of the plot to the bigger picture.
Having Laura Hartwell be a dual agent for the Order of Bastian Counter Terrorism and the US Secret Service was the first part of the connection.
Having the US President be placed in grave danger at a public function by the enemy to justify Conrad flying to the rescue was the second half.
The Redskins stadium was a great venue for a fundraiser event where President James Westwood’s life would literally be on the line. It took a lot of research, mostly through Google Maps and the stadium website itself, to pin down the descriptions involved in the whole chase, fight, and rescue scenes. As someone who has never been there, I hope I got the details right.
US Secret Service
Researching the structure of the US Secret Service and how these agents would protect the President during a public function, such as the FedEx Field fundraiser event, was interesting to say the least. It was only after trawling through dozens of newspaper articles, pictures, and the highly-instructive websites of several US government agencies, including that of the US Secret Service itself, that I managed to write those scenes. Again, I took a lot of liberties with how the US intelligence community as a whole would coordinate their efforts if a similar crisis as the one depicted in the novel was to arise in real life.
Produced by Belgian arms company FN Herstal, the FN-five seveN is the standard issue handgun for the US Secret Service. Its lightweight polymer frame, large magazine capacity (up to 30 rounds), low recoil, ambidextrous controls, and effectiveness in all environments and weather conditions makes it a highly desirable handgun, hence why it’s also in service with dozens of other military and police forces around the world.
This is Cadillac One, the current US President’s custom-made armored limo. It contains a blood bank of his specific blood type in the trunk and is full of enough security features and gadgets to make the average geek swoon. The full resuscitation kit I included in the book is fictional.
The Sit Room
The White House Situation Room exists and is usually managed by a Sit Room director, as depicted in the book. Description of the physical layout and the idea of having the US Director of National Intelligence take over its operation are purely fictional. From my research, I gathered that mobile phones and other such devices are not normally allowed in the Sit Room, which was why I had everyone using landlines.
Sit Room control
The control room where all data feeds in. This is manned by experienced representatives from various government agencies on a 24/7 basis.
The technology to make carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic guns and ceramic bullets that can evade metal detectors has existed for a number of years. The first publicly known plastic gun was shown to the world in 2013.
I decided to give Nadica Rajkovic and the other FedEx Field assassins polymer weapons as the public and staff would have been screened for guns at an event like this. Subsequently linking the polymer to the Obenhaus Group was another link in the chain of clues that would lead Conrad and his team to the enemy.
848 Ducati Evo
This is the bike that Nadica Rajkovic escapes on following the Crystal City incident. It’s almost as sexy as Lucas Soul’s Hayabusa, don’t you think? I was originally going to give Nadica a red version but thought ‘You’d have to be a pretty stupid baddie to pick a red bike as your getaway vehicle…’
Sig Sauer P250
This is Anatole Vassili’s handgun. It’s similar to Alexa King’s P229. I thought this was perfect for a volatile, red-headed immortal with a smart mouth.
This is the helicopter that Nadica escapes in after the Crystal City chase. It’s also the one involved in the final epic battle on the superyacht. The main reason I chose this helicopter was because it could fit on that ship’s helipad.
PS: that river is completely frozen in winter.
This is the private jet I decided to give Conrad and his team for their globetrotting adventures. It’s a pretty slick aircraft, if I say so myself.
The fictional Obenhaus Group was loosely based on a very famous and innovative manufacturer of polymer materials, which started life in the German state of Bavaria. I had a lot of fun researching this company. This is one of their buildings and it gave me the idea of how I wanted the Obenhaus Headquarters to look.
Although the plastic polymer which features in the book is fictional, the methods used to produce it are factual. I had to read a lot of heavy duty scientific articles to get a basic understanding of the process. This is what OG1140 would look like in its pellet form.
Thuringer Forest, Germany
The Thuringer Forest was within driving distance of Erfurt and a great location for Luther Obenhaus’s woodland retreat. It was also an ideal place to have a secret lab.
La Defense, Paris
The Paris fight scenes were one of my favorites from the entire book, especially the rooftop battle between Nadica Rajkovic and Conrad Greene. Similar to the breathtaking Rome chase in Warrior which wrote itself in my head while I listened to a specific song, the scene where Conrad and Nadica fall was entirely inspired by BulletProof Messenger’s Heavenly Answer.
I scanned a lot of pictures of Paris before I picked the business district of La Defense as the location of that fateful encounter. The building where the action takes place does exist.
When I created the plot for Empire, I originally intended the Rajkovics’s main plan to involve a series of devastating, worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis aimed at “cleaning the world of its existing superpowers”, so that they could then be at the head of a new global order. I even went and spoke to a UK tsunami expert at the British Geological Survey in Keyworth, Nottingham, to see if the science behind my plan was possible.
I realized that it would be uber difficult for the Rajkovics to do such a thing successfully as there were too many variables involved that would be beyond their control.
I therefore switched the plan to the more practical solution of destroying major seats of power around the world. I always knew I wanted a new, powerful explosive to be involved in the plot. The original idea for Cetrilium 24 came from this scholarly article, which I found fascinating once I understood what all the words meant.
When I was researching the Ottoman Empire, I came across the Tughra and its political significance. This immediately conjured up the idea of a clue that Conrad would be able to follow to discover the true identity of the enemy. The Tughra symbol in the book first appears on Zoran’s and Nadica’s amulets and subsequently in Luther Obenhaus’s safe in Leipzig.
Desert Oil and Gas plant
Another major plot point that involved a lot of research (my eyes got blurry from studying satellite images of North African deserts) was the location and layout of Ariana’s secret company, Khan Inc. I spent a considerable amount of time reading up on onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration in North Africa, an industry that has been booming in the last decade.
The Tindouf Basin (also known as the Zag Basin) proved an ideal setting for Khan Inc. as it has incredibly vast stores of as yet unexplored oil and natural gas beneath it, which energy companies are actively trying to tap into. This stems from the fact that it’s a Paleozoic basin containing the sedimented remains of tons of long dead sea creatures.
I was really excited to be able to get these guys and girls involved in Conrad’s adventures. Since the Rajkovics’s plans would impact on both humans and immortals alike, I felt it was important to showcase what the humans could do and that they were as good as the immortals in battle. This was the reason why the task force put together after the FedEx Field incident was mostly human and involved all major US security agencies, with the immortals working very much behind the scene as support.
The US Marines were my first choice for assisting Conrad and his team with the assault on Khan Inc.
Multispectral fusion technology
Ah. Multispectral fusion technology. I had a hard time getting my head around this one. Physics was not my strong point in the sciences but I knew I had to get these details right. Cue lots of scholarly articles on infrared goggles, image enhancement, and thermal imaging.
The images featured here are: a) Color RGB (e.g. from a digital camera); b) Near Infrared; c) Long Wave Infrared; d) Fused image of b & c using an algorithm; e) Channel-based color fusion of b & c; f) Channel-based color fusion of a,b, & c
Image d is what I wanted Conrad’s team and the US Marines to see through their night vision devices.
V22 Osprey in flight
Now this beauty is very close to my heart and I loved that the US Marines use it, which meant Conrad and his team get to ride in one as well. The following is a direct quote from the US Marines website.
With the speed and range of a turboprop, the maneuverability of a helicopter and the ability to carry 24 Marine combat troops twice as fast and five times farther than previous helicopters, the Osprey greatly enhances the advantages Marines have over their enemies. The Osprey’s impact was felt immediately upon its arrival in Iraq. Commenting on its advanced expeditionary capabilities and staggering operational reach, a top Marine commander went as far as to say it turned his battle space “from the size of Texas into the size of Rhode Island.”
Come check out the 360 visual, photos, and video featuring on the site. Now, if I didn’t know for sure that I would throw up, I would love to take a ride in this.
Another toy I’m grateful the US Marines had. No, really, I picked them because they’re amazing, not because of their, er, cool gadgets.
This is the RQ-11 Raven B, a small, handheld unmanned aerial vehicle lightweight and compact enough to be placed, dismantled, in a soldier’s backpack and with an easy to operate flight-module/ground control unit. This was perfect for exploring the Khan Inc. site at night and it allowed Conrad’s team and the Marines to have an idea of the enemy’s numbers.
It was also a great tactical plot point to allow them to “see” the experimental craters and the secret building
This is what an implosion crater resulting from an underground detonation would look like. This particular image was from the Sedan nuclear testing site in Nevada. Now imagine city-size craters like this one swallowing places of political and military strategic significance around the world.
Yes, I have a scary imagination.
Kola Superdeep Borehole
When I was researching how deep into the Earth’s crust man had managed to drill down to (this was for a method of creating powerful tsunamis, which never made it into the plot), I came across the Kola Superdeep Borehole, a drilling project in Russia. It made for a couple hours of fascinating reading, along with the related Project Mohole off the coast of Mexico.
And the final picture of this bonus feature is the superyacht’s sun deck, featuring the pool and the helipad.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into what was involved in writing this book. As you can see, there was a lot of reading to be done and new locations and technologies to get my head around.
Don’t forget to check out the other Empire bonus features!