Langdon and Vittoria stood alone now outside the double doors that led to the inner sanctum of the Secret Archives. The decor in the colonnade was an incongruous mix of wall-to-wall carpets over marble floors and wireless security cameras gazing down from beside carved cherubs in the ceiling. Langdon dubbed it Sterile Renaissance. Beside the arched ingress hung a small bronze plaque.
Curatore: Padre Jaqui Tomaso
Father Jaqui Tomaso. Langdon recognized the curator's name from the rejection letters at home in his desk.
Dear Mr. Langdon, It is with regret that I am writing to deny...
Regret. Bullshit. Since Jaqui Tomaso's reign had begun, Langdon had never met a single non-Catholic American scholar who had been given access to the Secret Vatican Archives. Il gaurdiano, historians called him. Jaqui Tomaso was the toughest librarian on earth.
As Langdon pushed the doors open and stepped through the vaulted portal into the inner sanctum, he half expected to see Father Jaqui in full military fatigues and helmet standing guard with a bazooka. The space, however, was deserted.
Silence. Soft lighting.
Archivio Vaticano. One of his life dreams.
As Langdon's eyes took in the sacred chamber, his first reaction was one of embarrassment. He realized what a callow romantic he was. The images he had held for so many years of this room could not have been more inaccurate. He had imagined dusty bookshelves piled high with tattered volumes, priests cataloging by the light of candles and stained-glass windows, monks poring over scrolls...
Not even close.
At first glance the room appeared to be a darkened airline hangar in which someone had built a dozen free-standing racquetball courts. Langdon knew of course what the glass-walled enclosures were. He was not surprised to see them; humidity and heat eroded ancient vellums and parchments, and proper preservation required hermitic vaults like these - airtight cubicles that kept out humidity and natural acids in the air. Langdon had been inside hermetic vaults many times, but it was always an unsettling experience... something about entering an airtight container where the oxygen was regulated by a reference librarian.
The vaults were dark, ghostly even, faintly outlined by tiny dome lights at the end of each stack. In the blackness of each cell, Langdon sensed the phantom giants, row upon row of towering stacks, laden with history. This was one hell of a collection.
Vittoria also seemed dazzled. She stood beside him staring mutely at the giant transparent cubes.
Time was short, and Langdon wasted none of it scanning the dimly lit room for a book catalog - a bound encyclopedia that cataloged the library's collection. All he saw was the glow of a handful of computer terminals dotting the room. "Looks like they've got a Biblion. Their index is computerized."
Vittoria looked hopeful. "That should speed things up."
Langdon wished he shared her enthusiasm, but he sensed this was bad news. He walked to a terminal and began typing. His fears were instantly confirmed. "The old-fashioned method would have been better."
He stepped back from the monitor. "Because real books don't have password protection. I don't suppose physicists are natural born hackers?"
Vittoria shook her head. "I can open oysters, that's about it."
Langdon took a deep breath and turned to face the eerie collection of diaphanous vaults. He walked to the nearest one and squinted into the dim interior. Inside the glass were amorphous shapes Langdon recognized as the usual bookshelves, parchment bins, and examination tables. He looked up at the indicator tabs glowing at the end of each stack. As in all libraries, the tabs indicated the contents of that row. He read the headings as he moved down the transparent barrier.
Pietro Il Erimito... Le Crociate... Urbano II... Levant...
"They're labeled," he said, still walking. "But it's not alpha-author." He wasn't surprised. Ancient archives were almost never cataloged alphabetically because so many of the authors were unknown. Titles didn't work either because many historical documents were untitled letters or parchment fragments. Most cataloging was done chronologically. Disconcertingly, however, this arrangement did not appear to be chronological.
Langdon felt precious time already slipping away. "Looks like the Vatican has its own system."
"What a surprise."
He examined the labels again. The documents spanned centuries, but all the keywords, he realized, were interrelated. "I think it's a thematic classification."
"Thematic?" Vittoria said, sounding like a disapproving scientist. "Sounds inefficient."
Actually... Langdon thought, considering it more closely. This may be the shrewdest cataloging I've ever seen. He had always urged his students to understand the overall tones and motifs of an artistic period rather than getting lost in the minutia of dates and specific works. The Vatican Archives, it seemed, were cataloged on a similar philosophy. Broad strokes...
"Everything in this vault," Langdon said, feeling more confident now, "centuries of material, has to do with the Crusades. That's this vault's theme." It was all here, he realized. Historical accounts, letters, artwork, socio-political data, modern analyses. All in one place... encouraging a deeper understanding of a topic. Brilliant.
Vittoria frowned. "But data can relate to multiple themes simultaneously."
"Which is why they cross-reference with proxy markers." Langdon pointed through the glass to the colorful plastic tabs inserted among the documents. "Those indicate secondary documents located elsewhere with their primary themes."
"Sure," she said, apparently letting it go. She put her hands on her hips and surveyed the enormous space. Then she looked at Langdon. "So, Professor, what's the name of this Galileo thing we're looking for?"
Langdon couldn't help but smile. He still couldn't fathom that he was standing in this room. It's in here, he thought. Somewhere in the dark, it's waiting.
"Follow me," Langdon said. He started briskly down the first aisle, examining the indicator tabs of each vault. "Remember how I told you about the Path of Illumination? How the Illuminati recruited new members using an elaborate test?"
"The treasure hunt," Vittoria said, following closely.
"The challenge the Illuminati had was that after they placed the markers, they needed some way to tell the scientific community the path existed."
"Logical," Vittoria said. "Otherwise nobody would know to look for it."
"Yes, and even if they knew the path existed, scientists would have no way of knowing where the path began. Rome is huge."
Langdon proceeded down the next aisle, scanning the tabs as he talked. "About fifteen years ago, some historians at the Sorbonne and I uncovered a series of Illuminati letters filled with references to the segno."
"The sign. The announcement about the path and where it began."
"Yes. And since then, plenty of Illuminati academics, myself included, have uncovered other references to the segno. It is accepted theory now that the clue exists and that Galileo mass distributed it to the scientific community without the Vatican ever knowing."
"We're not sure, but most likely printed publications. He published many books and newsletters over the years."
"That the Vatican no doubt saw. Sounds dangerous."
"True. Nonetheless the segno was distributed."
"But nobody has ever actually found it?"
"No. Oddly though, wherever allusions to the segno appear - Masonic diaries, ancient scientific journals, Illuminati letters - it is often referred to by a number."
Langdon smiled. "Actually it's 503."
"None of us could ever figure it out. I became fascinated with 503, trying everything to find meaning in the number - numerology, map references, latitudes." Langdon reached the end of the aisle, turned the corner, and hurried to scan the next row of tabs as he spoke. "For many years the only clue seemed to be that 503 began with the number five... one of the sacred Illuminati digits." He paused.
"Something tells me you recently figured it out, and that's why we're here."
"Correct," Langdon said, allowing himself a rare moment of pride in his work. "Are you familiar with a book by Galileo called Dialogo?"
"Of course. Famous among scientists as the ultimate scientific sellout."
Sellout wasn't quite the word Langdon would have used, but he knew what Vittoria meant. In the early 1630s, Galileo had wanted to publish a book endorsing the Copernican heliocentric model of the solar system, but the Vatican would not permit the book's release unless Galileo included equally persuasive evidence for the church's geo centric model - a model Galileo knew to be dead wrong. Galileo had no choice but to acquiesce to the church's demands and publish a book giving equal time to both the accurate and inaccurate models.
"As you probably know," Langdon said, "despite Galileo's compromise, Dialogo was still seen as heretical, and the Vatican placed him under house arrest."
"No good deed goes unpunished."
Langdon smiled. "So true. And yet Galileo was persistent. While under house arrest, he secretly wrote a lesser-known manuscript that scholars often confuse with Dialogo. That book is called Discorsi."
Vittoria nodded. "I've heard of it. Discourses on the Tides."
Langdon stopped short, amazed she had heard of the obscure publication about planetary motion and its effect on the tides.
"Hey," she said, "you're talking to an Italian marine physicist whose father worshiped Galileo."
Langdon laughed. Discorsi however was not what they were looking for. Langdon explained that Discorsi had not been Galileo's only work while under house arrest. Historians believed he had also written an obscure booklet called Diagramma.
"Diagramma della Verita," Langdon said. "Diagram of Truth."
"Never heard of it."
"I'm not surprised. Diagramma was Galileo's most secretive work - supposedly some sort of treatise on scientific facts he held to be true but was not allowed to share. Like some of Galileo's previous manuscripts, Diagramma was smuggled out of Rome by a friend and quietly published in Holland. The booklet became wildly popular in the European scientific underground. Then the Vatican caught wind of it and went on a book-burning campaign."
Vittoria now looked intrigued. "And you think Diagramma contained the clue? The segno. The information about the Path of Illumination."
"Diagramma is how Galileo got the word out. That I'm sure of." Langdon entered the third row of vaults and continued surveying the indicator tabs. "Archivists have been looking for a copy of Diagramma for years. But between the Vatican burnings and the booklet's low permanence rating, the booklet has disappeared off the face of the earth."
"Durability. Archivists rate documents one through ten for their structural integrity. Diagramma was printed on sedge papyrus. It's like tissue paper. Life span of no more than a century."
"Why not something stronger?"
"Galileo's behest. To protect his followers. This way any scientists caught with a copy could simply drop it in water and the booklet would dissolve. It was great for destruction of evidence, but terrible for archivists. It is believed that only one copy of Diagramma survived beyond the eighteenth century."
"One?" Vittoria looked momentarily starstruck as she glanced around the room. "And it's here?"
"Confiscated from the Netherlands by the Vatican shortly after Galileo's death. I've been petitioning to see it for years now. Ever since I realized what was in it."
As if reading Langdon's mind, Vittoria moved across the aisle and began scanning the adjacent bay of vaults, doubling their pace.
"Thanks," he said. "Look for reference tabs that have anything to do with Galileo, science, scientists. You'll know it when you see it."
"Okay, but you still haven't told me how you figured out Diagramma contained the clue. It had something to do with the number you kept seeing in Illuminati letters? 503?"
Langdon smiled. "Yes. It took some time, but I finally figured out that 503 is a simple code. It clearly points to Diagramma."
For an instant Langdon relived his moment of unexpected revelation: August 16. Two years ago. He was standing lakeside at the wedding of the son of a colleague. Bagpipes droned on the water as the wedding party made their unique entrance... across the lake on a barge. The craft was festooned with flowers and wreaths. It carried a Roman numeral painted proudly on the hull - DCII.
Puzzled by the marking Langdon asked the father of the bride, "What's with 602?"
Langdon pointed to the barge. "DCII is the Roman numeral for 602."
The man laughed. "That's not a Roman numeral. That's the name of the barge."
The man nodded. "The Dick and Connie II."
Langdon felt sheepish. Dick and Connie were the wedding couple. The barge obviously had been named in their honor. "What happened to the DCI?"
The man groaned. "It sank yesterday during the rehearsal luncheon."
Langdon laughed. "Sorry to hear that." He looked back out at the barge. The DCII, he thought. Like a miniature QEII. A second later, it had hit him.
Now Langdon turned to Vittoria. "503," he said, "as I mentioned, is a code. It's an Illuminati trick for concealing what was actually intended as a Roman numeral. The number 503 in Roman numerals is - "
Langdon glanced up. "That was fast. Please don't tell me you're an Illuminata."
She laughed. "I use Roman numerals to codify pelagic strata."
Of course, Langdon thought. Don't we all.
Vittoria looked over. "So what is the meaning of DIII?"
"DI and DII and DIII are very old abbreviations. They were used by ancient scientists to distinguish between the three Galilean documents most commonly confused.
Vittoria drew a quick breath. "Dialogo... Discorsi... Diagramma."
"D-one. D-two. D-three. All scientific. All controversial. 503 is DIII. Diagramma. The third of his books."
Vittoria looked troubled. "But one thing still doesn't make sense. If this segno, this clue, this advertisement about the Path of Illumination was really in Galileo's Diagramma, why didn't the Vatican see it when they repossessed all the copies?"
"They may have seen it and not noticed. Remember the Illuminati markers? Hiding things in plain view? Dissimulation? The segno apparently was hidden the same way - in plain view. Invisible to those who were not looking for it. And also invisible to those who didn't understand it."
"Meaning Galileo hid it well. According to historic record, the segno was revealed in a mode the Illuminati called lingua pura."
"The pure language?"
"That's my guess. Seems pretty obvious. Galileo was a scientist after all, and he was writing for scientists. Math would be a logical language in which to lay out the clue. The booklet is called Diagramma, so mathematical diagrams may also be part of the code."
Vittoria sounded only slightly more hopeful. "I suppose Galileo could have created some sort of mathematical code that went unnoticed by the clergy."
"You don't sound sold," Langdon said, moving down the row.
"I'm not. Mainly because you aren't. If you were so sure about DIII, why didn't you publish? Then someone who did have access to the Vatican Archives could have come in here and checked out Diagramma a long time ago."
"I didn't want to publish," Langdon said. "I had worked hard to find the information and - " He stopped himself, embarrassed.
"You wanted the glory."
Langdon felt himself flush. "In a manner of speaking. It's just that - "
"Don't look so embarrassed. You're talking to a scientist. Publish or perish. At CERN we call it 'Substantiate or suffocate.' "
"It wasn't only wanting to be the first. I was also concerned that if the wrong people found out about the information in Diagramma, it might disappear."
"The wrong people being the Vatican?"
"Not that they are wrong, per se, but the church has always downplayed the Illuminati threat. In the early 1900s the Vatican went so far as to say the Illuminati were a figment of overactive imaginations. The clergy felt, and perhaps rightly so, that the last thing Christians needed to know was that there was a very powerful anti-Christian movement infiltrating their banks, politics, and universities." Present tense, Robert, he reminded himself. There IS a powerful anti-Christian force infiltrating their banks, politics, and universities.
"So you think the Vatican would have buried any evidence corroborating the Illuminati threat?"
"Quite possibly. Any threat, real or imagined, weakens faith in the church's power."
"One more question." Vittoria stopped short and looked at him like he was an alien. "Are you serious?"
Langdon stopped. "What do you mean?"
"I mean is this really your plan to save the day?"
Langdon wasn't sure whether he saw amused pity or sheer terror in her eyes. "You mean finding Diagramma?"
"No, I mean finding Diagramma, locating a four-hundred-year-old segno, deciphering some mathematical code, and following an ancient trail of art that only the most brilliant scientists in history have ever been able to follow... all in the next four hours."
Langdon shrugged. "I'm open to other suggestions."
Robert Langdon stood outside Archive Vault 9 and read the labels on the stacks.
Brahe... Clavius... Copernicus... Kepler... Newton...
As he read the names again, he felt a sudden uneasiness. Here are the scientists... but where is Galileo?
He turned to Vittoria, who was checking the contents of a nearby vault. "I found the right theme, but Galileo's missing."
"No he isn't," she said, frowning as she motioned to the next vault. "He's over here. But I hope you brought your reading glasses, because this entire vault is his."
Langdon ran over. Vittoria was right. Every indictor tab in Vault 10 carried the same keyword.
Il Proceso Galileano
Langdon let out a low whistle, now realizing why Galileo had his own vault. "The Galileo Affair," he marveled, peering through the glass at the dark outlines of the stacks. "The longest and most expensive legal proceeding in Vatican history. Fourteen years and six hundred million lire. It's all here."
"Have a few legal documents."
"I guess lawyers haven't evolved much over the centuries."
"Neither have sharks."
Langdon strode to a large yellow button on the side of the vault. He pressed it, and a bank of overhead lights hummed on inside. The lights were deep red, turning the cube into a glowing crimson cell... a maze of towering shelves.
"My God," Vittoria said, looking spooked. "Are we tanning or working?"
"Parchment and vellum fades, so vault lighting is always done with dark lights."
"You could go mad in here."
Or worse, Langdon thought, moving toward the vault's sole entrance. "A quick word of warning. Oxygen is an oxidant, so hermetic vaults contain very little of it. It's a partial vacuum inside. Your breathing will feel strained."
"Hey, if old cardinals can survive it."
True, Langdon thought. May we be as lucky.
The vault entrance was a single electronic revolving door. Langdon noted the common arrangement of four access buttons on the door's inner shaft, one accessible from each compartment. When a button was pressed, the motorized door would kick into gear and make the conventional half rotation before grinding to a halt - a standard procedure to preserve the integrity of the inner atmosphere.
"After I'm in," Langdon said, "just press the button and follow me through. There's only eight percent humidity inside, so be prepared to feel some dry mouth."
Langdon stepped into the rotating compartment and pressed the button. The door buzzed loudly and began to rotate. As he followed its motion, Langdon prepared his body for the physical shock that always accompanied the first few seconds in a hermetic vault. Entering a sealed archive was like going from sea level to 20,000 feet in an instant. Nausea and light-headedness were not uncommon. Double vision, double over, he reminded himself, quoting the archivist's mantra. Langdon felt his ears pop. There was a hiss of air, and the door spun to a stop.
He was in.
Langdon's first realization was that the air inside was thinner than he had anticipated. The Vatican, it seemed, took their archives a bit more seriously than most. Langdon fought the gag reflex and relaxed his chest while his pulmonary capillaries dilated. The tightness passed quickly. Enter the Dolphin, he mused, gratified his fifty laps a day were good for something. Breathing more normally now, he looked around the vault. Despite the transparent outer walls, he felt a familiar anxiety. I'm in a box, he thought. A blood red box.
The door buzzed behind him, and Langdon turned to watch Vittoria enter. When she arrived inside, her eyes immediately began watering, and she started breathing heavily.
"Give it a minute," Langdon said. "If you get light-headed, bend over."
"I... feel..." Vittoria choked, "like I'm... scuba diving... with the wrong... mixture."
Langdon waited for her to acclimatize. He knew she would be fine. Vittoria Vetra was obviously in terrific shape, nothing like the doddering ancient Radcliffe alumnae Langdon had once squired through Widener Library's hermetic vault. The tour had ended with Langdon giving mouth-to-mouth to an old woman who'd almost aspirated her false teeth.
"Feeling better?" he asked.
"I rode your damn space plane, so I thought I owed you."
This brought a smile. "Touche."
Langdon reached into the box beside the door and extracted some white cotton gloves.
"Formal affair?" Vittoria asked.
"Finger acid. We can't handle the documents without them. You'll need a pair."
Vittoria donned some gloves. "How long do we have?"
Langdon checked his Mickey Mouse watch. "It's just past seven."
"We have to find this thing within the hour."
"Actually," Langdon said, "we don't have that kind of time." He pointed overhead to a filtered duct. "Normally the curator would turn on a reoxygenation system when someone is inside the vault. Not today. Twenty minutes, we'll both be sucking wind."
Vittoria blanched noticeably in the reddish glow.
Langdon smiled and smoothed his gloves. "Substantiate or suffocate, Ms. Vetra. Mickey's ticking."