Read The Romulus Equation Online

Authors: Darren Craske

The Romulus Equation

BOOK: The Romulus Equation
12.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Darren Craske
THE ROMULUS EQUATION

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

The Story so far…

Chapter I: The Wheels of Industry

Chapter II: The Devil's Right-Hand Man

Chapter III: The Advocate of Fate

Chapter IV: The Grave Question

Chapter V: The Bloody Madman

Chapter VI: The Bad Penny

Chapter VII: The Dead Weight

Chapter VIII: The Second Opinion

Chapter IX: The Dead End

Chapter X: The Thrill of the Hunt

Chapter XI: The Romulus Equation

Chapter XII: The Bombastic Explosion

Chapter XIII: The Undercurrent

Chapter XIII: The Second Impression

Chapter XIV: The Burning Soul

Chapter XV: The Fifth Phase

Chapter XVI: The Wolves of Rome

Chapter XVII: The Sticky-Fingered Exploit

Chapter XVIII: The Devil's Tide

Chapter XIX: The Landscape of the Mind

Chapter XX: The Grace of a Goddess

Chapter XXI: The Explosive Entrance

Chapter XXII: The Hive

Chapter XXIII: The Beast Released

Chapter XXIV: The Temptation

Chapter XXV: The Bolt from the Black

Chapter XXVI: The Dark Side

Chapter XXVII: The Healing Hands

Chapter XXVIII: The Moth to the Flame

Chapter XXIX: The Hot Pursuit

Chapter XXX: The Jaws of Hades

Chapter XXXI: The Thorn in the Side

Chapter XXXII: The Tender Instinct

Chapter XXXIII: The Unstable Foundation

Chapter XXXIV: The Melting Pot

Chapter XXXV: The Fall

A Word from the Author

About the Author

Also by Darren Craske

Copyright

About the Publisher

For Primrose

Yet they, believe me, who await

No gifts from Chance, have conquer'd Fate.

Excerpt from ‘Resignation
'

Matthew Arnold, 1822–88

THE STORY SO FAR…

There are some who believe that all our destinies are mapped to a predefined course beyond our mortal perception.

There are others – such as Cornelius Quaint – who find this concept laughable.

But there others still – such as Quaint's clairvoyant confidante Madame Destine – who believe that the faster you run from your destiny, the quicker you shall receive it.

After he had successfully prevented the Hades Consortium's plot to poison the River Nile, Cornelius Quaint felt that he had earned some respite, yet the path of his life had never been one that ran true, and he soon learned that the eminent archaeologist Professor Pollyanna North had become unknowingly infected with a deadly bacterium known as ‘the Eleventh Plague'. Worse still, she would die within thirty days and everyone with whom she came into contact during that time was at risk. Quaint's race to warn the Professor of her plight proved fruitless, for she had completed her discoveries in Egypt and was bound for England on the steamship
Silver Swan
, her destination: Buckingham Palace, for a celebration in her honour hosted by Queen Victoria herself, no less. Boarding a spice clipper bound for Dover, Cornelius Quaint and Madame Destine set off in pursuit of the steamship, knowing that it would take a miracle to reach England in time.

Thankfully, miracles were Quaint's stock in trade.

He arrived in Dover only minutes before the steamship and boarded it to find the vessel empty, almost the entire complement had become infected, and now the
Silver Swan
was nothing more than a floating graveyard of corpses. But Professor North was not amongst them, as Quaint learned from a handful of crewmembers who had sealed themselves in the cargo hold. Ordinarily, finding Professor North would have been next to impossible – had Quaint not known exactly where she would be on the night of the gala dinner.

Posing as a foreign dignitary, Quaint infiltrated the function, where his worst fears soon came to pass. Queen Victoria and Professor North were mere inches from making contact with one another when the Professor began to violently convulse. Seizing his chance, Quaint barged through the crowds to ensure the Queen's safety, but he was unable to save Professor North from an agonising demise.

In a private consultation, the conjuror explained to the Queen that the Chinese warlord Cho-zen Li was responsible for infecting the Professor with the deadly bacterium,
and whoever the man was, whatever his motive or intent, he was a threat that could not be left unchecked. Sensing within Quaint qualities that might prove useful to the British Empire, the Queen awarded him with a special key, allocated to individuals of great merit whom she could call upon in times of great crisis. As Quaint made plans for his voyage to China for a confrontation with Cho-zen Li, he soon realised that this was indeed a time of great crisis, for Madame Destine had predicted that death would follow him to China…

As he often did, Quaint ignored the Frenchwoman's warning, and departed from London alone. Or so he had thought. Several members of his troupe had stowed away onboard the ship, and reluctantly Quaint found himself forging a plan.

In a mountaintop village, the troupe met an aggrieved blacksmith who told of decades of torment, of how Cho-zen Li had positioned himself atop a great mountain and every province within its shadow was under his tyrannical rule. Only the masked outlaw called Makoi offered hope to the people, and soon Quaint's troupe allied themselves with Makoi's small group in conflict with Cho-zen Li.

Eventually the conjuror came face to face with his enemy. Cho-zen Li's physical bulk was fearsome, yet it was during their battle that Quaint uncovered the warlord's secret. His mind and body were fuelled by the regenerative oil of his prized lotus plants, and injected intravenously to hold his death in arrest. Quaint was then left with a puzzling conundrum: how was he supposed to kill someone that was already dead?

After a protracted battle with Quaint, Cho-zen Li's physical body was fatigued, and he desperately needed regenerative oil from his sacred plants in order to repair himself, yet during the combined forces of Makoi's band and the circus troupe attacking his fortress, his lotus garden was destroyed beyond repair. Blaming Quaint for the attack, Cho-zen Li tortured him, and during the proceedings the conjuror's pocket watch fell to the floor and into the warlord's sight.

For Cornelius Quaint, once again, destiny and coincidence collided.

The watch, as Cho-zen Li explained, had been a gift to Quaint's father many years before and it contained an engraved warning: ‘Beware the fifth phase of the moon.' Cho-zen Li claimed this was a clue to the identity of the man who was to murder Augustus Quaint. Reeling from this latest revelation, Quaint learned that Adolfo Remus had murdered his parents, and furthermore (confirming his suspicions) he had done so on the orders of the Hades Consortium. Quaint then knew the truth about his father's murder, yet not the reason why.

Running headlong towards his destiny, the conjuror had no idea what (and not to mention whom) he would face once it found him.

Hence, he was to be completely defenceless…

Chapter I
The Wheels of Industry
Rome, Italy
1854

The foundry stood in disrepair on the outskirts of the city, and although it had been less than a decade since the echoes of industry had resounded from within its walls, the foundry had aged poorly. Away from the hustle and bustle of the capital, no one paid it any mind nor noticed the columns of black smoke that plumed from its chimneys. As empty and disused as it appeared at first glance, there was a constant throb emanating from within the foundry's bowels like thunder underfoot. Deeper below, the wheels of industry were still turning.

Baron Adolfo Remus, one of the Hades Consortium's most respected members, walked briskly down the steep stone steps directly underneath the foundry. In his mid-sixties, his ice-white hair and beard were tainted with black streaks at his temples and jowls. The Italian had only returned from Egypt the night before, and he was ill-prepared for the news awaiting him. The inner stratum convening an emergency session was a disturbing enough rarity in itself, but the fact that it was allegedly all for his benefit was not sitting well on his stomach. The steps eventually met a gloomy tunnel with flaming torches fixed to the walls, illuminating a path that seemed to descend for ever. Deeper and deeper went the Baron, further into the tunnel, that much closer to hell.

‘Good morning, Adolfo,' said a corpulent man waiting outside a set of heavy wooden doors. He was not much more than a mass of stomach, and his completely bald head displayed a variety of pockmarks, pits, lumps and bumps. ‘The council is in a fettered mood today. You'd better remember to curb that temper of yours.'

‘
Jacobi
,' said Remus not at all pleasantly. ‘You are presiding over this session?'

‘Indeed, and a sorry state of affairs it is!' snorted Carmine Jacobi.

‘Then you seem to be better informed than I.'

‘Has Lady Sirona not spoken to you?' Jacobi asked.

‘It must have slipped her mind.'

Jacobi's greasy face was undecided whether to show sympathy or deep satisfaction so it sort of flip-flopped between the two. ‘In that case, perhaps I had better not spoil the surprise. All I can say is that you have my condolences.'

‘For what exactly?' asked Remus, but before he could receive an answer, Jacobi steered his arm brusquely through the wooden doors.

Remus walked into a cavernous underground auditorium; an uncomfortable amalgam of a cathedral and an amphitheatre. The darkness was almost a physical thing, taking hold completely except for bursts of torches mounted on four wooden posts around a raised platform centre-stage. Lines of Romanesque columns joined the ground to the high ceiling, and beneath crumbling stone arches, a gallery was just about visible on the upper level. Honeycombed with twelve inset booths, the light of a single candle in each save one.

If the Hades Consortium had a heart, it was to be found here, in a place where matters of espionage and assassination were discussed as casually as the weather. Shrouded in the wrap of darkness, the inner stratum's gallery was silent as Baron Remus took his position on the platform at Jacobi's side.

‘Greetings revered council members,' Jacobi began, his rasping tones echoing around the cavern. ‘It is under grave circumstances that we have been forced to convene this session. At this time much is unclear of what occurred in Egypt… but hopefully Baron Remus may provide vital information on the tragedy.'

Remus's mind was afire. Tragedy?
What
tragedy?

‘Good day, Baron,' a booming male voice called out from the gallery, but the acoustics of the cave made it sound everywhere at once. ‘We are aware that you have only just returned from Egypt, so we shall be direct with our enquiry. Are you aware why this session has been convened?'

‘My apologies, sir, but I am not,' replied Remus, lowering his head. ‘I have not yet had time to catch up on my affairs. My journey was delayed off the coast of Portugal due to a local issue that added almost two weeks to my journey.'

There was a low rumble of chatter from the gallery.

‘Ah, yes,' said the male. ‘An unknown strain of the plague broke out in Lisbon.'

‘One of ours?' asked Remus.

‘Not as far as we can tell,' replied the voice from above. ‘The spread was contained with minimal loss of life according to our Portuguese sources.'

‘You are here now, Baron Remus, so we shall not waste any more time,' said another voice; a female this time, the accent tainted with the Orient. ‘If you are unaware of our agenda then perhaps we need enlighten you. Speaker Jacobi, if you will be so kind.'

BOOK: The Romulus Equation
12.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Godzilla 2000 by Marc Cerasini
The O'Malley Brides by MacFarlane, Stevie
Clash of Star-Kings by Avram Davidson
Sacrifice by Philip Freeman
Ashley's Bend by Roop, Cassy