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The doomsday code, p.1
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       The Doomsday Code, p.1

           Alex Scarrow
 
The Doomsday Code


  Praise for TimeRiders:

  ‘A thriller full of spectacular effects’ – Guardian

  ‘Insanely exciting, nail-biting stuff’ – Independent on Sunday

  ‘This is a novel that is as addictive as any computer game’

  – Waterstone’s Books Quarterly

  ‘Promises to be a big hit’ – Irish News

  ‘A thrilling adventure that hurtles across time and place at

  breakneck speed’ – Lovereading4kids.co.uk

  ‘Plenty of fast-paced action … this is a real page-turner’

  – WriteAway.org.uk

  ‘A great read that will appeal to both boys and girls …

  you’ll find this book addictive!’ – redhouse.co.uk

  ‘Contender for best science fiction book of the year …

  an absolute winner’ – Flipside

  ALEX SCARROW used to be a graphic artist, then he decided to be a computer games designer. Finally, he grew up and became an author. He has written a number of successful thrillers and several screenplays, but it’s YA fiction that has allowed him to really have fun with the ideas and concepts he was playing around with when designing games.

  He lives in Norwich with his son, Jacob, his wife, Frances, and two very fat rats.

  Books by Alex Scarrow

  TimeRiders

  TimeRiders: Day of the Predator

  TimeRiders: The Doomsday Code

  Sign up to become a TimeRider at:

  www.time-riders.co.uk

  ALEX SCARROW

  PUFFIN

  PUFFIN BOOKS

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

  Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  puffinbooks.com

  First published 2011

  Text copyright © Alex Scarrow, 2011

  All rights reserved

  The moral right of the author has been asserted

  Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

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

  ISBN: 978-0-141-96464-5

  To my nieces and nephews … here we go (big breath … and in order of age) – Leona, James, Nathan, Abigail, Tom, Aaron, Naomi, Joe, Nick and Connor. Future TimeRiders?

  FACT

  The Voynich Manuscript is a very real document written in an unidentifiable language that dates from the Middle Ages.

  FACT

  Despite numerous attempts by code-breakers and computer decryption software, the manuscript’s code has yet to be broken.

  FACT

  The source of the Robin Hood legend remains a mystery.

  FACT

  The true identity of the Sheriff of Nottingham at the time of King Richard’s return from the crusades is uncertain.

  Table of Contents

  PROLOGUE: 2044, Chicago

  CHAPTER 1: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 2: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 3: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 4: 1193, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 5: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 6: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 7: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 8: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 9: May 1994, UEA campus, Norwich

  CHAPTER 10: 1994, Norwich

  CHAPTER 11: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 12: 1994, UEA campus, Norwich

  CHAPTER 13: 1994, Norwich

  CHAPTER 14: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 15: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 16: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 17: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 18: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 19: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 20: 1194, Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire

  CHAPTER 21: 1194, Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire

  CHAPTER 22: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 23: 1194, Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire

  CHAPTER 24: 1194, Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire

  CHAPTER 25: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 26: 1194, Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire

  CHAPTER 27: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 28: 1194, woods, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 29: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 30: 1194, Beaumont Palace, Oxford

  CHAPTER 31: 1194, Oxford Castle, Oxford

  CHAPTER 32: 1194, Oxford Castle, Oxford

  CHAPTER 33: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 34: 1194, Oxford Castle, Oxford

  CHAPTER 35: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 36: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 37: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 38: 1194, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 39: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 40: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 41: 1194, Oxford Castle, Oxford

  CHAPTER 42: 1194, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 43: June 1194, Normandy, France

  CHAPTER 44: 1194, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 45: 1194, Oxford Castle, Oxford

  CHAPTER 46: 1194, Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire

  CHAPTER 47: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 48: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 49: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 50: 1194, Beaumont Palace, Oxford

  CHAPTER 51: 1194, Dover

  CHAPTER 52: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 53: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 54: 1194, Nottingham Castle

  CHAPTER 55: 1194, Oxford Castle

  CHAPTER 56: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 57: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 58: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 59: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 60: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 61: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 62: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 63: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 64: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 65: 1194, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

  CHAPTER 66: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 67: 1194, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 68: 1194, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 69: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 70: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 71: 1194, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 72: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 73: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 74: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 75: 1194, Not
tingham

  CHAPTER 76: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 77: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 78: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 79: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 80: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 81: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 82: 1194, Nottingham

  CHAPTER 83: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 84: 1194, Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire

  CHAPTER 85: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 86: 1194, Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire

  CHAPTER 87: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 88: 2001, New York

  CHAPTER 89: 2001, New York

  PROLOGUE

  2044, Chicago

  ‘So, ladies and gentlemen,’ said the man, ‘this is what you all came to see. In just a moment I’m going to step inside that Faraday cage and disappear.’

  Right, so he IS just another fruitcake. Anna Lopez shook her head. That’s all I need.

  Her eyes met one or two of the other members of the small audience, journalists like her. She recognized a few faces: a reporter who covered science and environment issues for one of the Euro News digi-stations; a science editor for a Stamford-based technology e-periodical. They’d all received the small vanilla-coloured invitation card last week with just a few words of explanation printed on it. An invitation to come down to a place called Larkham’s Gallery ‘to witness the demonstration of a technology that is going to change the lives of every man, woman and child on this troubled planet’.

  Anna Lopez sighed. The world could sure do with a bit of good news.

  Larkham’s Gallery sounded nice. Like a nice little boutique gallery where there’d hopefully be wine and nice little savoury things on silver trays being offered around. Instead they were sitting on three rows of uncomfortable plastic school chairs in a grim-looking warehouse with a fizzing strip light overhead and the echoing tap tap tap of rainwater dripping through somewhere.

  ‘The cage itself takes the charge and will distribute it evenly around me, creating a space big enough for me to –’

  ‘To what? Make you vanish?’ called out someone from the row behind. ‘My kid can do that trick with his old Chuckle Cheese magic set.’

  Someone snorted coffee into their styrofoam cup.

  ‘No,’ said the man on the stage. Anna had forgotten his name again. She looked down at the scribbled notes on her T-Pad.

  Waldstein. Even the name sounded corny.

  ‘No!’ he snapped, silencing a ripple of laughter. ‘This isn’t a party trick!’

  Anna raised her hand. ‘Mr Waldstein?’

  ‘Uhh … yes?’

  ‘You say you’re going to vanish?’

  Waldstein nodded. ‘I will be transported elsewhere for a period of no more than a minute.’

  ‘Uh-huh, transported.’ She nodded. ‘Where, exactly?’

  He grinned, pushing frizzy coils of salt-and-pepper-coloured hair out of his face to reveal eyes as wide as a child’s behind the glint of his glasses. ‘Another moment in time,’ he announced theatrically.

  Behind her she heard a chair scrape the cold concrete floor and someone mutter, ‘Idiot,’ and the receding clack of footsteps. Either side of her she could hear and see the other journalists shuffle awkwardly.

  Time? The poor deluded old fool seemed to be talking about time travel. She decided he was clearly in need of some sort of help; perhaps he needed to be in a place with padded mint-green walls and soothing music. Other chairs began to scrape noisily. It looked like this madman’s pitiful little charade was over already. She almost felt sorry for him.

  ‘Don’t go!’ Waldstein shouted. ‘Please! Stop right there!’ The footsteps stopped. ‘I’ll show you right now!’

  Anna watched him huddle over a wobbly picnic table on his makeshift stage of stacked wooden pallets. He tapped the keys of a battered and beaten old laptop. Beneath the table was something that looked like a copper boiler, cables snaking in one end and out the other and over towards a tall wire cage. She heard the low hum of power surging inside the copper device, and the lights in the warehouse began to dim. It was then that it occurred to her the fool’s little contraption was drawing mains electricity.

  Oh my God, he’s going to fry himself. Right here. Right in front of us!

  Waldstein stepped smartly over the cables and opened the door of the wire cage. ‘Just you watch!’

  She stood up. ‘Mr Waldstein, I think you should –’

  Waldstein stepped inside and slammed the cage shut with a loud clang that echoed around the warehouse. The humming was growing louder. ‘Ladies and gentlemen!’ Waldstein’s voice rose to a shout over the noise. ‘You’re about to witness the very first journey through time!’

  ‘Mr Waldstein.’ Anna stepped forward. ‘Please! You should stop this!’

  She noticed that one of the digi-station journalists had pushed his way through the chairs and was filming the cage with his palm-cam. She shook her head with disgust. No doubt the sicko was hoping to catch the whole thing – catch this poor deluded Froot Loop frying himself like a potato chip.

  Jesus …

  Waldstein was smiling calmly at her through the wire. ‘Don’t worry, my dear, I’m going to be just fine!’ he called out above the increasing hum of power building up towards a discharge.

  ‘Please!’ cried Anna, surprised at the sound of panic in her voice. ‘Please! Just get out!’

  Waldstein’s smile was almost reassuring. ‘I’ll be fine, my dear. I’m going to see them again. I’m going to see them, touch them …’

  ‘Them? Who? What’re you talking about?’ she shouted, but her words were getting lost amid the growing din.

  Suddenly sparks began to dance along the wires of the cage.

  ‘Stand back!’ shouted someone. She realized the charge could quite easily arc across the space towards them. Instinctively she stumbled backwards several steps, bumping into an empty chair, barking her ankle painfully. The chairs were all empty now; everyone was on their feet. She could hear someone calling for the police. No one came here tonight so they could watch a man voluntarily cook himself – not even a crazy. And there were enough crazies out there these days.

  Sparks sputtered from the cage and showered on to the floor. The strip lights across the warehouse ceiling fizzed, popped and went out, leaving them in a darkness lit only by the strobing flash of Waldstein’s electrical execution. She could still see his silhouette in there, perfectly still, amid the curtain of sparks. Still, calm … not the thrashing and convulsing marionette she’d expected to see by now.

  Then, with a soft pop – not a bang but a pop – and a gentle puff of displaced air, it all stopped. The sparks, the humming of power, the fizz and crackle of raw electrical energy. All still and silent. In the complete darkness she could hear the ragged breathing of everyone around her.

  ‘Somebody better call an ambulance!’ she heard a man utter.

  A torch snapped on, and the beam swung round on to the cage.

  ‘My God! Where is he?’

  It was empty. Just as he’d assured them it would be. He’d vanished. Anna felt a surge of relief. She found herself laughing giddily. ‘I’ll be …’ She shook her head. ‘Well, that’s what he said, right?’

  Not everyone else seemed quite so relieved and amused by the spectacle.

  ‘I didn’t come here tonight just to see a magic show! I’ve got articles to file, ya know? Real work, not this kind of insane crud –’

  A ribbon of sparks suddenly flickered along the wire of the cage.

  ‘Whoa! Stand back, everyone! It’s still live!’

  Anna expected a repeat performance to begin, to cover his ‘arrival’ back in the cage. Smoke and mirrors, that’s what magicians call it – the art of distraction. But instead through the wire she could see a faint ghostly glow; at first a pinprick, but quickly it expanded in diameter to several feet across, shimmering and undulating like water. How she imagined ghostly ectoplasm might look – if that kind of supernatural nons
ense was for real.

  ‘What is that?’ someone uttered. The torch flicked off, allowing them to see the ethereal glow more clearly. Anna shook her head in the dark, as if the question had been addressed to her personally.

  ‘No idea,’ she replied. In the faint swirling light, she thought she could detect a vaguely human shape. Perhaps shapes – plural. Something in there, someone. Some people. An outline gradually became more distinct, as if drawing closer. Anna had the definite impression that the faint glow was somewhere else. As if – had the wire mesh not been in the way – she could have stepped forward and reached inside … and touched another place. Almost as if it was a shimmering, wavering doorway to another –

 
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