But now he was not so sure. He picked up an old report from a WWII Japanese commander of a Zero fighter wing, Shiro Kawamoto. The aged commander told a curious tale, the story of the disappearance of a Kawanishi Flying Boat during World War II off the coast of Iwo Jima. Kawamoto quoted the final words of the doomed pilot over the radio: “Something is happening in the sky…the sky is opening up!”

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He returned the report to its pile. Jack had related the details of Air Force One’s transcript to him last night after it was clear the news had already been leaked to the press. The cockpit recording had struck a chord in him, sending him to his library. It had taken him an hour to dig up Kawamoto’s recounting. The similarity was too striking. It took him the rest of the night to construct the model before him.

George returned to his map. Red pencil and ruler in hand, he charted the Dragon’s Triangle upon the map. He worked deftly, striking the lines cleanly. Once done, he stood back again. All the tiny pins fell within the boundary of his lines, all within the infamous triangle.

The old historian sat down. He did not know the significance of his discovery, but he couldn’t stop a feeling of dread from settling in his chest. Over the long night, he had read countless other stories of ships gone missing in these seas. Stories extending far into the past, to records of ancient Imperial Japan, countless centuries.

But these stories were not what disturbed him the most. They were not what kept him working all night. Instead, among the cluster of red flags, in the exact center of the marked triangle, was a single blue flag.

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It marked the grave of Air Force One.

4:24 P.M., Ryukyu University, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

At the bank of computers, Karen worked alongside Miyuki. On a tiny monitor, she watched a computer flash through various connections, winding through an Internet maze. Finally, the University of Toronto logo appeared on the active window. “You did it!” Karen said.

“Gabriel did it,” Miyuki answered.

“I don’t care who did it, as long as we’re hooked up.”

For the past day, they had been trying to get a linkup to the outside world. Blackouts, phone service interruptions, and overloaded circuits had plagued their efforts to reach networks across the Pacific, even with Gabriel’s skills. But at last Gabriel had succeeded. With this Internet connection, their research into the discoveries at the Chatan ruins could continue.

“Now maybe we can get somewhere,” Karen said, grabbing the computer’s mouse. After learning of the crystal artifact’s strange properties, she had urged Miyuki to keep quiet until she could research the language in more depth. Miyuki had not argued. Both women were too stunned—and frightened—by their discovery. They had locked the artifact up in the safe in Miyuki’s office.

Karen connected to the anthropology department of the University of Toronto. She performed a quick search under the name rongorongo and found six websites. She worked rapidly, afraid of losing even her tenuous connection. She clicked on a web address titled “Santiago Staff.” From her research, she knew this was one of the twenty-five known authentic artifacts from Rapa Nui’s ancient past.

On the screen, a photograph of a length of wood appeared. Carved into its surface were rows of tiny glyphs. Below the picture was a detailed rendering of the staff’s writing. Karen highlighted it. Several of the symbols looked similar to those they had found in the star chamber. “We need to compare these to the lines we photographed.”

“Done,” Gabriel’s disembodied voice answered.

On a neighboring monitor the screen split into two halves. On the left side a copy of the Santiago Staff’s glyphs scrolled. On the right the script from the star chamber rolled past. At first nothing seemed to match—they were similar but not exact—then, abruptly, the scrolling stopped. Two glyphs, now highlighted in red, shared opposite sides of the screen.

Miyuki gasped. “They look almost the same!”

Karen frowned. She was not yet convinced. “It might be a coincidence. How many different ways could there be to represent a starfish?” She spoke louder: “Gabriel, can you find any other matches?”

“I already have.”

The pair of starred glyphs shrunk in size. Now each half of the computer monitor was filled with thirty glyphs, each side the mirror of the other. Human figures, odd creatures, geometric shapes—but they all matched!

“I think this is more than coincidence,” Miyuki said softly.

“No kidding,” Karen said.

“Adding this database to the previous,” Gabriel said. “I estimate the language constitutes some 120 main glyphs, combining to form twelve hundred to two thousand compound glyphs. With more data, I may be able to begin building a translation.”

Karen’s eyes grew even wider. “I can’t believe this. If Gabriel’s right, the star chamber may be the Rosetta stone for this ancient language, the final key to a century-long puzzle.” She returned to her monitor and computer. “Gabriel, I’m going to direct the other rongorongo examples to you.” She returned to the main screen and began feeding in other Easter Island artifacts: the Mamari tablet, the Large and Small Washington tablet, the Oar, the Aruka Kurenga, the Santiago tablet and Small St. Petersburg tablet.

When she was done, Karen straightened, turning to Miyuki. “Toronto only has these nine artifacts. Can Gabriel search other universities’ databases on his own? If we could add the glyphs from the other sixteen artifacts—”

“Then we’d have a better chance at deciphering the language.” Miyuki also spoke louder: “Gabriel, can you perform a worldwide search?”

“Certainly, Professor Nakano. I will begin immediately.”

Karen clutched Miyuki’s wrist. “Do you have any idea what this could mean?” Excited, she answered her own question: “For centuries scholars have been attempting to translate the rongorongo writing. How old is the writing? Where did it come from? Who brought it to the islanders? The entire lost history of this section of the world could finally be revealed.”

“Don’t get your hopes too high, Karen.”

“I’m not,” she lied. “But either way, to discover a new source of rongorongo script on the opposite side of the Pacific—that alone will garner countless journal articles. It’ll force historians to change their assumptions of this area. And what else is at Chatan? We’ve barely scratched the surface. We should—”

An alarm klaxon rang out from a wall-mounted siren.

Karen jumped at the noise. Miyuki stood up.

“What is it?” Karen asked.

“My office alarm! Someone is breaking into my office.”

Karen bolted to her feet. “The crystal star!”

Miyuki grabbed her elbow. “The guards downstairs will check it out.”

Karen shook out of her friend’s grip and moved toward the door. Her mind spun. She would not lose this clue to a mystery older than mankind. She zippered down her white cotton clean suit and grabbed her pistol from its shoulder harness. Luckily, the Chatan police had not discovered her weapon after the incident at the ruins. Ever since that adventure, she did not go anywhere without it.

Miyuki followed her as far as the lab’s antechamber. “Leave it to the guards,” she repeated emphatically.

“The elevators aren’t working. By the time they get here, the thieves could be gone. And I won’t lose that artifact! It’s too valuable.” Trusting in her skill as a marksman, Karen cracked open the door and peeked down the hall toward Miyuki’s office. The door lay open, its glass window shattered. Karen strained to hear anything, but the alarm was deafening.

Taking a deep breath, she ducked out the door and crept along the wall toward the open office. Despite her warnings, Miyuki followed. Karen glanced at her friend, but Miyuki waved her on.

Readying her pistol, Karen slid along the wall. She could see a light skittering around inside the office. A flashlight. The intruder had not been scared off by the alarm. Her heart thundered in her ears. She swallowed hard and continued on.

At the doorway, she paused. She could hear two men arguing inside, but didn’t recognize the language. There was a loud crack of splintering wood. She squeezed the grip of her pistol, tensed for a breath, then leaped into the entryway.

“Freeze!” she yelled.

Inside, two men glanced up at her with shocked expressions. They had dark complexions, clearly South Pacific Islanders. One held a crowbar, which he’d just used to break into Miyuki’s desk. The other held a pistol. He made a move in her direction.

Karen fired—a warning shot. Plaster puffed from the wall behind the armed man’s head. He froze.

“Drop the weapons or you’re dead!” she screamed. She did not know if the men knew English, but the single warning shot crossed all language barriers.

The thief paused, then tossed his pistol to the side, a sour look on his dark face. The other dropped his crowbar.

Her adrenaline surging, her senses were acute. From the corner of her eyes she saw the ramshackle condition of Miyuki’s office. In the short time, they had torn through the filing cabinets. The drawers of the desk had been pulled and dumped. With relief, she noted that the wall safe hidden behind Miyuki’s doctoral diploma had not been discovered.

“Raise your hands,” she said, motioning with her pistol.

They obeyed. Karen kept her gun raised. The building security should be arriving in the next few moments. She just had to keep these thieves at bay.

As the men stood with their hands up, Karen noticed their bare arms. The serpent tattoo was visible even in the dim light. Recognizing the symbol, her breath caught in her chest. They were the looters from the pyramids!

Momentarily confused and shocked, she was a few seconds too slow in realizing the hidden threat. They had been attacked at the pyramids by three men. Only two were here. Where was the third?

To her right, Miyuki gasped. She was posted in the shadow of the door. Karen glanced her way. Miyuki was staring down the hall, past Karen’s shoulder. Karen swung around.

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