Capitol police chief Trent Anderson had overseen security in the U.S. Capitol Complex for over a decade. A burly, square-chested man with a chiseled face and red hair, he kept his hair cropped in a buzz cut, giving him an air of military authority. He wore a visible sidearm as a warning to anyone foolish enough to question the extent of his authority.
Anderson spent the majority of his time coordinating his small army of police officers from a high-tech surveillance center in the basement of the Capitol. Here he oversaw a staff of technicians who watched visual monitors, computer readouts, and a telephone switchboard that kept him in contact with the many security personnel he commanded.
This evening had been unusually quiet, and Anderson was pleased. He had been hoping to catch a bit of the Redskins game on the flat-panel television in his office. The game had just kicked off when his intercom buzzed.
Anderson groaned and kept his eyes on the television as he pressed the button. "Yeah."
"We've got some kind of disturbance in the Rotunda. I've got officers arriving now, but I think you'll want to have a look."
"Right." Anderson walked into the security nerve center--a compact, neomodern facility packed with computer monitors. "What have you got?" The technician was cueing a digital video clip on his monitor. "Rotunda east balcony camera. Twenty seconds ago." He played the clip.
Anderson watched over the technician's shoulder.
The Rotunda was almost deserted today, dotted with just a few tourists. Anderson's trained eye went immediately to the one person who was alone and moving faster than all the others. Shaved head. Green army-surplus jacket. Injured arm in a sling. Slight limp. Slouched posture. Talking on a cell phone.
The bald man's footfalls echoed crisply on the audio feed until, suddenly, arriving at the exact center of the Rotunda, he stopped short, ended his phone call, and then knelt down as if to tie his shoe. But instead of tying a shoe, he pulled something out of his sling and set it on the floor. Then he stood up and limped briskly toward the east exit.
Anderson eyed the oddly shaped object the man had left behind. What in the world? It was about eight inches tall and standing vertically. Anderson crouched closer to the screen and squinted. That can't be what it looks like!
As the bald man hurried off, disappearing through the east portico, a little boy nearby could be heard saying, "Mommy, that man dropped something." The boy drifted toward the object but suddenly stopped short. After a long, motionless beat, he pointed and let out a deafening scream.
Instantly, the police chief spun and ran for the door, barking orders as he went. "Radio all points! Find the bald guy with the sling and detain him! NOW!"
Dashing out of the security center, he bounded up the treads of the well-worn staircase three at a time. The security feed had shown the bald man with the sling leave the Rotunda via the east portico. The shortest route out of the building would therefore take him through the east-west corridor, which was just ahead.
I can head him off.
As he reached the top of the stairs and rounded the corner, Anderson surveyed the quiet hallway before him. An elderly couple strolled at the far end, hand in hand. Nearby, a blond tourist wearing a blue blazer was reading a guidebook and studying the mosaic ceiling outside the House chamber.
"Excuse me, sir!" Anderson barked, running toward him. "Have you seen a bald man with a sling on his arm?"
The man looked up from his book with a confused expression.
"A bald man with a sling!" Anderson repeated more firmly. "Have you seen him?" The tourist hesitated and glanced nervously toward the far eastern end of the hallway. "Uh . . . yes," he said. "I think he just ran past me . . . to that staircase over there." He pointed down the hall.
Anderson pulled out his radio and yelled into it. "All points! The suspect is headed for the southeast exit. Converge!" He stowed the radio and yanked his sidearm from its holster, running toward the exit.
Thirty seconds later, at a quiet exit on the east side of the Capitol, the powerfully built blond man in the blue blazer stepped into the damp night air. He smiled, savoring the coolness of the evening.
It had been so easy.
Only a minute ago he had limped quickly out of the Rotunda in an army-surplus coat. Stepping into a darkened alcove, he shed his coat, revealing the blue blazer he wore underneath. Before abandoning his surplus jacket, he pulled a blond wig from the pocket and fit it snugly on his head. Then he stood up straight, pulled a slim Washington guidebook from his blazer, and stepped calmly from the niche with an elegant gait.
Transformation. This is my gift.
As Mal'akh's mortal legs carried him toward his waiting limousine, he arched his back, standing to his full six-foot-three height and throwing back his shoulders. He inhaled deeply, letting the air fill his lungs. He could feel the wings of the tattooed phoenix on his chest opening wide.
If they only knew my power, he thought, gazing out at the city. Tonight my transformation will be complete.
Mal'akh had played his cards artfully within the Capitol Building, showing obeisance to all the ancient etiquettes. The ancient invitation has been delivered. If Langdon had not yet grasped his role here tonight, soon he would.
For Robert Langdon, the Capitol Rotunda--like St. Peter's Basilica--always had a way of taking him by surprise. Intellectually, he knew the room was so large that the Statue of Liberty could stand comfortably inside it, but somehow the Rotunda always felt larger and more hallowed than he anticipated, as if there were spirits in the air. Tonight, however, there was only chaos.
Capitol police officers were sealing the Rotunda while attempting to herd distraught tourists away from the hand. The little boy was still crying. A bright light flashed--a tourist taking a photo of the hand--and several guards immediately detained the man, taking his camera and escorting him off. In the confusion, Langdon felt himself moving forward in a trance, slipping through the crowd, inching closer to the hand.
Peter Solomon's severed right hand was standing upright, the flat plane of the detached wrist skewered down onto the spike of a small wooden stand. Three of the fingers were closed in a fist, while the thumb and index finger were fully extended, pointing up toward the soaring dome.
"Everyone back!" an officer called.
Langdon was close enough now that he could see dried blood, which had run down from the wrist and coagulated on the wooden base. Postmortem wounds don't bleed . . . which means Peter is alive. Langdon didn't know whether to be relieved or nauseated. Peter's hand was removed while he was alive? Bile rose in his throat. He thought of all the times his dear friend had extended this same hand to shake Langdon's or offer a warm embrace.
For several seconds, Langdon felt his mind go blank, like an untuned television set broadcasting only static. The first clear image that broke through was utterly unexpected.
A crown . . . and a star.
Langdon crouched down, eyeing the tips of Peter's thumb and index finger. Tattoos? Incredibly, the monster who had done this appeared to have tattooed tiny symbols on Peter's fingertips.
On the thumb--a crown. On the index finger--a star.
This can't be. The two symbols registered instantly in Langdon's mind, amplifying this already horrific scene into something almost otherworldly. These symbols had appeared together many times in history, and always in the same place--on the fingertips of a hand. It was one of the ancient world's most coveted and secretive icons.
The Hand of the Mysteries.
The icon was rarely seen anymore, but throughout history it had symbolized a powerful call to action. Langdon strained to comprehend the grotesque artifact now before him. Someone crafted the Hand of the Mysteries out of Peter's hand? It was unthinkable. Traditionally, the icon was sculpted in stone or wood or rendered as a drawing. Langdon had never heard of the Hand of the Mysteries being fashioned from actual flesh. The concept was abhorrent.
"Sir?" a guard said behind Langdon. "Please step back." Langdon barely heard him. There are other tattoos. Although he could not see the fingertips of the three clenched fingers, Langdon knew these fingertips would bear their own unique markings. That was the tradition. Five symbols in total. Through the millennia, the symbols on the fingertips of the Hand of the Mysteries had never changed . . . nor had the hand's iconic purpose.
The hand represents . . . an invitation.
Langdon felt a sudden chill as he recalled the words of the man who had brought him here. Professor, tonight you are receiving the invitation of your lifetime. In ancient times, the Hand of the Mysteries actually served as the most coveted invitation on earth. To receive this icon was a sacred summons to join an elite group--those who were said to guard the secret wisdom of all the ages. The invitation not only was a great honor, but it signified that a master believed you were worthy to receive this hidden wisdom. The hand of the master extended to the initiate.
"Sir," the guard said, putting a firm hand on Langdon's shoulder. "I need you to back up right now."
"I know what this means," Langdon managed. "I can help you."
"Now!" the guard said.
"My friend is in trouble. We have to--"
Langdon felt powerful arms pulling him up and leading him away from the hand. He simply let it happen . . . feeling too off balance to protest.
A formal invitation had just been delivered. Someone was summoning Langdon to unlock a mystical portal that would unveil a world of ancient mysteries and hidden knowledge.
But it was all madness.
Delusions of a lunatic.
Mal'akh's stretch limousine eased away from the U.S. Capitol, moving eastward down Independence Avenue. A young couple on the sidewalk strained to see through the tinted rear windows, hoping to glimpse a VIP. I'm in front, Mal'akh thought, smiling to himself.
Mal'akh loved the feeling of power he got from driving this massive car all alone. None of his other five cars offered him what he needed tonight--the guarantee of privacy. Total privacy. Limousines in this city enjoyed a kind of unspoken immunity. Embassies on wheels. Police officers who worked near Capitol Hill were never certain what power broker they might mistakenly pull over in a limousine, and so most simply chose not to take the chance.
As Mal'akh crossed the Anacostia River into Maryland, he could feel himself moving closer to Katherine, pulled onward by destiny's gravity. I am being called to a second task tonight . . . one I had not imagined. Last night, when Peter Solomon told the last of his secrets, Mal'akh had learned of the existence of a secret lab in which Katherine Solomon had performed miracles-- staggering breakthroughs that Mal'akh realized would change the world if they were ever made known.
Her work will unveil the true nature of all things.
For centuries the "brightest minds" on earth had ignored the ancient sciences, mocking them as ignorant superstitions, arming themselves instead with smug skepticism and dazzling new technologies--tools that led them only further from the truth. Every generation's breakthroughs are proven false by the next generation's technology. And so it had gone through the ages. The more man learned, the more he realized he did not know.
For millennia, mankind had wandered in the darkness . . . but now, as had been prophesied, there was a change coming. After hurtling blindly through history, mankind had reached a crossroads. This moment had been predicted long ago, prophesied by the ancient texts, by the primeval calendars, and even by the stars themselves. The date was specific, its arrival imminent. It would be preceded by a brilliant explosion of knowledge . . . a flash of clarity to illuminate the darkness and give mankind a final chance to veer away from the abyss and take the path of wisdom.
I have come to obscure the light, Mal'akh thought. This is my role.
Fate had linked him to Peter and Katherine Solomon. The breakthroughs Katherine Solomon had made within the SMSC would risk opening floodgates of new thinking, starting a new Renaissance. Katherine's revelations, if made public, would become a catalyst that would inspire mankind to rediscover the knowledge he had lost, empowering him beyond all imagination.
Katherine's destiny is to light this torch.
Mine is to extinguish it.
In total darkness, Katherine Solomon groped for the outer door of her lab. Finding it, she heaved open the lead-lined door and hurried into the small entry room. The journey across the void had taken only ninety seconds, and yet her heart was pounding wildly. After three years, you'd think I'd be used to that. Katherine always felt relieved to escape the blackness of Pod 5 and step into this clean, well-lit space.
The "Cube" was a massive windowless box. Every inch of the interior walls and ceiling was covered with a stiff mesh of titanium-coated lead fiber, giving the impression of a giant cage built inside a cement enclosure. Dividers of frosted Plexiglas separated the space into different compartments--a laboratory, a control room, a mechanical room, a bathroom, and a small research library.
Katherine strode briskly into the main lab. The bright and sterile work space glistened with advanced quantitative equipment: paired electro encephalographs, a femtosecond comb, a magneto-optical trap, and quantum-indeterminate electronic noise REGs, more simply known as Random Event Generators.
Despite Noetic Science's use of cutting-edge technologies, the discoveries themselves were far more mystical than the cold, high-tech machines that were producing them. The stuff of magic and myth was fast becoming reality as the shocking new data poured in, all of it supporting the basic ideology of Noetic Science--the untapped potential of the human mind.
The overall thesis was simple: We have barely scratched the surface of our mental and spiritual capabilities.
Experiments at facilities like the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in California and the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR) had categorically proven that human thought, if properly focused, had the ability to affect and change physical mass. Their experiments were no "spoon-bending" parlor tricks, but rather highly controlled inquiries that all produced the same extraordinary result: our thoughts actually interacted with the physical world, whether or not we knew it, effecting change all the way down to the subatomic realm.
Mind over matter.
In 2001, in the hours following the horrifying events of September 11, the field of Noetic Science made a quantum leap forward. Four scientists discovered that as the frightened world came together and focused in shared grief on this single tragedy, the outputs of thirty-seven different Random Event Generators around the world suddenly became significantly less random. Somehow, the oneness of this shared experience, the coalescing of millions of minds, had affected the randomizing function of these machines, organizing their outputs and bringing order from chaos.
The shocking discovery, it seemed, paralleled the ancient spiritual belief in a "cosmic consciousness"--a vast coalescing of human intention that was actually capable of interacting with physical matter. Recently, studies in mass meditation and prayer had produced similar results in Random Event Generators, fueling the claim that human consciousness, as Noetic author Lynne McTaggart described it, was a substance outside the confines of the body . . . a highly ordered energy capable of changing the physical world. Katherine had been fascinated by McTaggart's book The Intention Experiment, and her global, Web-based study-- theintentionexperiment.com--aimed at discovering how human intention could affect the world. A handful of other progressive texts had also piqued Katherine's interest.
From this foundation, Katherine Solomon's research had vaulted forward, proving that "focused thought" could affect literally anything--the growth rate of plants, the direction that fish swam in a bowl, the manner in which cells divided in a petri dish, the synchronization of separately automated systems, and the chemical reactions in one's own body. Even the crystalline structure of a newly forming solid was rendered mutable by one's mind; Katherine had created beautifully symmetrical ice crystals by sending loving thoughts to a glass of water as it froze. Incredibly, the converse was also true: when she sent negative, polluting thoughts to the water, the ice crystals froze in chaotic, fractured forms.
Human thought can literally transform the physical world.
As Katherine's experiments grew bolder, her results became more astounding. Her work in this lab had proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that "mind over matter" was not just some New Age self-help mantra. The mind had the ability to alter the state of matter itself, and, more important, the mind had the power to encourage the physical world to move in a specific direction.
We are the masters of our own universe.
At the subatomic level, Katherine had shown that particles themselves came in and out of existence based solely on her intention to observe them. In a sense, her desire to see a particle . . . manifested that particle. Heisenberg had hinted at this reality decades ago, and now it had be come a fundamental principle of Noetic Science. In the words of Lynne McTaggart: "Living consciousness somehow is the influence that turns the possibility of something into something real. The most essential ingredient in creating our universe is the consciousness that observes it."
The most astonishing aspect of Katherine's work, however, had been the realization that the mind's ability to affect the physical world could be augmented through practice. Intention was a learned skill. Like meditation, harnessing the true power of "thought" required practice. More important . . . some people were born more skilled at it than others. And throughout history, there had been those few who had become true masters.
This is the missing link between modern science and ancient mysticism.
Katherine had learned this from her brother, Peter, and now, as her thoughts turned back to him, she felt a deepening concern. She walked to the lab's research library and peered in. Empty.
The library was a small reading room--two Morris chairs, a wooden table, two floor lamps, and a wall of mahogany bookshelves that held some five hundred books. Katherine and Peter had pooled their favorite texts here, writings on everything from particle physics to ancient mysticism. Their collection had grown into an eclectic fusion of new and old . . . of cutting-edge and historical. Most of Katherine's books bore titles like Quantum Consciousness, The New Physics, and Principles of Neural Science. Her brother's bore older, more esoteric titles like the Kybalion, the Zohar, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, and a translation of the Sumerian tablets from the British Museum.
"The key to our scientific future," her brother often said, "is hidden in our past." A lifelong scholar of history, science, and mysticism, Peter had been the first to encourage Katherine to boost her university science education with an understanding of early Hermetic philosophy. She had been only nineteen years old when Peter sparked her interest in the link between modern science and ancient mysticism.
"So tell me, Kate," her brother had asked while she was home on vacation during her sophomore year at Yale. "What are Elis reading these days in theoretical physics?"
Katherine had stood in her family's book-filled library and recited her demanding reading list.
"Impressive," her brother replied. "Einstein, Bohr, and Hawking are modern geniuses. But are you reading anything older?"
Katherine scratched her head. "You mean like . . . Newton?"
He smiled. "Keep going." At twenty-seven, Peter had already made a name for himself in the academic world, and he and Katherine had grown to savor this kind of playful intellectual sparring.
Older than Newton? Katherine's head now filled with distant names like Ptolemy, Pythagoras, and Hermes Trismegistus. Nobody reads that stuff anymore.
Her brother ran a finger down the long shelf of cracked leather bindings and old dusty tomes. "The scientific wisdom of the ancients was staggering . . . modern physics is only now beginning to comprehend it all."
"Peter," she said, "you already told me that the Egyptians understood levers and pulleys long before Newton, and that the early alchemists did work on a par with modern chemistry, but so what? Today's physics deals with concepts that would have been unimaginable to the ancients."
"Well . . . like entanglement theory, for one!" Subatomic research had now proven categorically that all matter was interconnected . . . entangled in a single unified mesh . . . a kind of universal oneness. "You're telling me the ancients sat around discussing entanglement theory?"
"Absolutely!" Peter said, pushing his long, dark bangs out of his eyes. "Entanglement was at the core of primeval beliefs. Its names are as old as history itself . . . Dharmakaya, Tao, Brahman. In fact, man's oldest spiritual quest was to perceive his own entanglement, to sense his own interconnection with all things. He has always wanted to become `one' with the universe . . . to achieve the state of `at-one-ment.' " Her brother raised his eyebrows. "To this day, Jews and Christians still strive for `atonement' . . . although most of us have forgotten it is actually `at- one-ment' we're seeking."
Katherine sighed, having forgotten how hard it was to argue with a man so well versed in history. "Okay, but you're talking in generalities. I'm talking specific physics."
"Then be specific." His keen eyes challenged her now.
"Okay, how about something as simple as polarity--the positive/negative balance of the subatomic realm. Obviously, the ancients didn't underst--"
"Hold on!" Her brother pulled down a large dusty text, which he dropped loudly on the library table. "Modern polarity is nothing but the `dual world' described by Krishna here in the Bhagavad Gita over two thousand years ago. A dozen other books in here, including the Kybalion, talk about binary systems and the opposing forces in nature."
Katherine was skeptical. "Okay, but if we talk about modern discoveries in subatomics--the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, for example--"
"Then we must look here," Peter said, striding down his long bookshelf and pulling out another text. "The sacred Hindu Vendantic scriptures known as the Upanishads." He dropped the tome heavily on the first. "Heisenberg and Schrodinger studied this text and credited it with helping them formulate some of their theories."
The showdown continued for several minutes, and the stack of dusty books on the desk grew taller and taller. Finally Katherine threw up her hands in frustration. "Okay! You made your point, but I want to study cutting-edge theoretical physics. The future of science! I really doubt Krishna or Vyasa had much to say about superstring theory and multidimensional cosmological models."
"You're right. They didn't." Her brother paused, a smile crossing his lips. "If you're talking superstring theory . . ." He wandered over to the bookshelf yet again. "Then you're talking this book here." He heaved out a colossal leather-bound book and dropped it with a crash onto the desk. "Thirteenth-century translation of the original medieval Aramaic."
"Superstring theory in the thirteenth century?!" Katherine wasn't buying it. "Come on!"
Superstring theory was a brand-new cosmological model. Based on the most recent scientific observations, it suggested the multidimensional universe was made up not of three . . . but rather of ten dimensions, which all interacted like vibrating strings, similar to resonating violin strings.
Katherine waited as her brother heaved open the book, ran through the ornately printed table of contents, and then flipped to a spot near the beginning of the book. "Read this." He pointed to a faded page of text and diagrams.
Dutifully, Katherine studied the page. The translation was old-fashioned and very hard to read, but to her utter amazement, the text and drawings clearly outlined the exact same universe heralded by modern superstring theory--a ten-dimensional universe of resonating strings. As she continued reading, she suddenly gasped and recoiled. "My God, it even describes how six of the dimensions are entangled and act as one?!" She took a frightened step backward. "What is this book?!"
Her brother grinned. "Something I'm hoping you'll read one day." He flipped back to the title page, where an ornately printed plate bore three words.
The Complete Zohar.
Although Katherine had never read the Zohar, she knew it was the fundamental text of early Jewish mysticism, once believed so potent that it was reserved only for the most erudite rabbis.
Katherine eyed the book. "You're saying the early mystics knew their universe had ten dimensions?"
"Absolutely." He motioned to the page's illustration of ten intertwined circles called Sephiroth. "Obviously, the nomenclature is esoteric, but the physics is very advanced."
Katherine didn't know how to respond. "But . . . then why don't more people study this?"
Her brother smiled. "They will."
"I don't understand."
"Katherine, we have been born into wonderful times. A change is coming. Human beings are poised on the threshold of a new age when they will begin turning their eyes back to nature and to the old ways . . . back to the ideas in books like the Zohar and other ancient texts from around the world. Powerful truth has its own gravity and eventually pulls people back to it. There will come a day when modern science begins in earnest to study the wisdom of the ancients . . . that will be the day that mankind begins to find answers to the big questions that still elude him."
That night, Katherine eagerly began reading her brother's ancient texts and quickly came to understand that he was right. The ancients possessed profound scientific wisdom. Today's science was not so much making "discoveries" as it was making "rediscoveries." Mankind, it seemed, had once grasped the true nature of the universe . . . but had let go . . . and forgotten.
Modern physics can help us remember! This quest had become Katherine's mission in life--to use advanced science to rediscover the lost wisdom of the ancients. It was more than academic thrill that kept her motivated. Beneath it all was her conviction that the world needed this understanding . . . now more than ever. At the rear of the lab, Katherine saw her brother's white lab coat hanging on its hook along with her own. Reflexively, she pulled out her phone to check for messages. Nothing. A voice echoed again in her memory. That which your brother believes is hidden in D.C. . . . it can be found. Sometimes a legend that endures for centuries . . . endures for a reason.
"No," Katherine said aloud. "It can't possibly be real."
Sometimes a legend was just that--a legend.