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Authors: Daniel Godfrey

New Pompeii

BOOK: New Pompeii
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Contents

Cover

Praise for New Pompeii

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

AD 79, Pompeii

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3

4

5

6

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10

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77

Acknowledgements

About the Author

“Fascinating, cleverly wrought, intelligent and occasionally brutal,
New Pompeii
is a thrillingly original take on the time travel genre.”
T
IM
L
EBBON
,
N
EW
Y
ORK
T
IMES
BESTSELLER

“If you like Michael Crichton at his best, then check out Daniel Godfrey. An exciting new talent.”
S
TARBURST

“An exuberant, high-concept thriller that brings ancient Rome crashing into the present day. Smart, inventive and action-packed.”
T
OM
H
ARPER, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF
T
HE
L
OST
T
EMPLE

“That rare science fiction novel that reads like a thriller – fast-paced and intricate. Godfrey has crafted an astonishing debut, and I can’t wait to see where his story goes next.”
A
LAN
S
MALE
, S
IDEWISE
A
WARD WINNER

“An impressive debut. A smart, intriguing thriller in the tradition of Michael Crichton and Philip K. Dick.”
G
ARETH
L. P
OWELL
, BSFA A
WARD WINNER

“A first class debut. I couldn’t put it down!”
A
DAM
C
HRISTOPHER, AUTHOR OF
E
MPIRE
S
TATE

Coming soon

E
MPIRE OF
T
IME
(J
UNE 2017
)

New Pompeii
Print edition ISBN: 9781783298112
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783298129

Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd 144
Southwark Street, London SEI 0UP

First edition: June 2016
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Names, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead (except for satirical purposes), is entirely coincidental.

© 2016 Daniel Godfrey

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

FOR MY MUM AND DAD

“A man can lose neither the past nor the future; for how can one take something which is not yet his?”

M
ARCUS
A
URELIUS
, E
MPEROR OF
R
OME

AD 79, POMPEII

M
ANIUS
C
ALPURNIUS
B
ARBATUS
looked down at his daughter, but didn’t smile. She was kneeling in front of their household shrine, her prayers no longer being whispered with any sense of hope. Instead, she recited the same words over and over until they were nothing more than an incantation. Perhaps, eventually, she’d be heard. But not today. Because the gods’ ears would already be full of unanswered prayers, and the fate of her husband would likely be low on their list of priorities.

Still, he continued to watch Calpurnia – just long enough to detect some of her coldness towards him – and then cast his eyes over the other members of his household. None of his slaves or freedmen had deserted him. That, at least, gave him a grim feeling of satisfaction. He’d chosen them all personally, and now it seemed they would remain with him until the end. Two of the slaves had even started a new fresco to cover a recently damaged wall. They dabbed quickly with their brushes, applying paint to the wet plaster despite surely knowing they might never get the chance to see their work finished. He admired them for it. Perhaps it would be enough to earn them their freedom.

From above, the timbers supporting the roof gave another groan. Barbatus glanced upwards. At first, the ash had been light. He’d seen children playing ankle-deep in it as if it had been nothing more than a freak fall of snow. Calpurnia herself had been quite taken with it – perhaps thinking it would signal the end to all the tremors that had been shaking the town. Perhaps thinking it would be something new for her to record and study. But as the flakes became heavier, and the cloud from the mountain had all but blocked out the sun, she’d soon come inside.

Barbatus felt his shoulders tighten. He’d been wrong. It wasn’t like when the earth shook twenty years ago. Outside, people were dying. Cut down by the pumice stones falling from the sky, before being buried in the dark. His own roof would only support so much more weight before it finally buckled. And then there’d be no more need for shrines.

Calpurnia slowly got to her feet, perhaps coming to the same realisation. She gave a bitter grimace as she rose. But at least there was some resistance in her eyes. She hadn’t given up, and whoever met her at the gates of Elysium would surely regret it.

Barbatus smiled inwardly at the thought, and again looked at the members of his household. He saw them shaking. Saw their terror. But he also knew many had faced death before. And maybe they believed that, even at the last second, the gods might swoop down and carry them away to safety. So it wasn’t over. Not yet. The dice were still rolling. He could almost hear them scattering, alongside the final complaints of the roof above them.

“There’s no point living in fear,” he whispered, “when we’re already dead.”

1

K
IRSTEN
C
HAPMAN WOKE
, and screamed.

She gagged on a mouthful of water. Saw bubbles stream away from her face. Felt the pressure tighten around her lungs as if someone was using her torso as a stress ball. As if she was going to die.

She kicked out. Let her mouth find the surface just before her lungs exploded. Only the tail end of her cry echoed in the bathroom, however. And she didn’t have time to suck in any more air. Her head was going under again – the water once more lapping across her nose and lips. She reached out with her legs. Made her thighs tighten and twist as she searched for the end of the bath. But her body just slid against the porcelain. And the water surged higher. Deeper. Her vision started to go black…

Tap – tap – tap.

I’m going to kill you, bitch!

Kirsten’s arms found the side of the bath. She levered herself forward – upwards – until she could pull her body on to her elbows. Until her head once more found frigid air.

Around her, water sloshed on to the floor. Inside the tub, it continued to ripple back and forth for a few more seconds. Kirsten didn’t move. She was quite alone. Finally, she opened her mouth. This time though, her scream was no more than a whimpered cry, interspersed with deep gasps for air. But at least they were becoming shallower. Easier.

She’d fallen asleep in the bath. That was all. No need to panic. Her body had kicked in and rescued her – even if her brain was still struggling to catch up. She shivered. The water was cold. She must have been in it for hours. Instinctively, she turned her head, looking for her robe and towel.

They were missing.

It took a while for the implications to dawn on her. Not just missing. Taken. She’d dropped them on the floor, just far enough away to ensure they didn’t get wet. And now they were gone.

Her head snapped towards the door. It was shut, bolted. She glanced behind her. The room was only a few feet square. There was barely enough space for the bath, and certainly no place to hide.

And so she was quite alone. Except that footsteps had started to echo up from the quad below. Soft at first, but growing louder. Someone – maybe two people – was coming. She felt her shoulders shake, but the footsteps didn’t stop. They were heading up the staircase.

To her floor.

2

N
ICK
H
OUGHTON ALMOST
made it. In the five short minutes since finishing work, he’d managed to confirm his pigeonhole was empty, and was already hustling towards the History Department’s exit. He should have been easily outside and heading home. But that would have to wait. Because he’d been intercepted. Just as his hand had reached the door handle.

“Nick. A moment of your time, please.”

The diminutive figure didn’t pause to confirm he’d been heard. Nick followed him back into the bowels of the faculty. Professor Drockley could have chosen a better location for his office. As the relatively new head of the History Department, most people had expected him to move into one of the building’s larger offices. But all the books and papers down here probably anchored him just as securely as his apparent desire to stay away from the centre of things.

Nick maintained a fixed smile as he let himself be waved into an old wooden chair opposite Drockley’s desk. The professor didn’t make eye contact. Instead, Drockley started to shuffle his papers.

It took a few seconds for Nick to register the problem. The professor didn’t know what to say. Or, rather, he did – but didn’t know how to say it. After a few more seconds, Drockley passed a leaflet across the desk.

“Interesting new exhibit on at the British Museum.”

Nick examined the leaflet. The cover displayed a photograph of a polished, mahogany-brown skull. He knew what it was without a second look. He’d already ordered tickets for the British Museum’s main summer event.

“Peking Man,” continued Drockley. “I must admit, I didn’t think anyone would ever find those bones. But, then again, I suppose there are new ways of doing things now.”

Nick nodded. Maybe a little too quickly. “The exhibition opens tonight,” he replied, scanning the rest of the leaflet. It didn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know. Peking Man was a collection of bones of several individuals from the extinct species
Homo erectus
. Although not really his main area of interest, the story of their rediscovery struck much closer to home. Even if it was all just another example of what his father would call cheap tricks and nonsense. Or rather,
dangerous
cheap tricks and nonsense. Nick made a move to hand the leaflet back.

“Keep it,” said Drockley, waving it away. “I take it you’ll be going?”

BOOK: New Pompeii
6.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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