In the cerulean glow of his basement lights, Mal'akh stood at the stone table and continued his preparations. As he worked, his empty stomach growled. He paid no heed. His days of servitude to the whims of his flesh were behind him.
Transformation requires sacrifice.
Like many of history's most spiritually evolved men, Mal'akh had committed to his path by making the noblest of flesh sacrifices. Castration had been less painful than he had imagined. And, he had learned, far more common. Every year, thousands of men underwent surgical gelding--orchiectomy, as the process was known--their motivations ranging from transgender issues, to curbing sexual addictions, to deep-seated spiritual beliefs. For Mal'akh, the reasons were of the highest nature. Like the mythological self-castrated Attis, Mal'akh knew that achieving immortality required a clean break with the material world of male and female.
The androgyne is one.
Nowadays, eunuchs were shunned, although the ancients understood the inherent power of this transmutational sacrifice. Even the early Christians had heard Jesus Himself extol its virtues in Matthew 19:12: "There are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
Peter Solomon had made a flesh sacrifice, although a single hand was a small price in the grand scheme. By night's end, however, Solomon would be sacrificing much, much more.
In order to create, I must destroy.
Such was the nature of polarity.
Peter Solomon, of course, deserved the fate that awaited him tonight. It would be a fitting end. Long ago, he had played the pivotal role in Mal'akh's mortal life path. For this reason, Peter had been chosen to play the pivotal role in Mal'akh's great transformation. This man had earned all the horror and pain he was about to endure. Peter Solomon was not the man the world believed he was.
He sacrificed his own son.
Peter Solomon had once presented his son, Zachary, with an impossible choice--wealth or wisdom. Zachary chose poorly. The boy's decision had begun a chain of events that eventually dragged the young man into the depths of hell. Soganlik Prison. Zachary Solomon had died in that Turkish prison. The whole world knew the story . . . but what they didn't know was that Peter Solomon could have saved his son.
I was there, Mal'akh thought. I heard it all.
Mal'akh had never forgotten that night. Solomon's brutal decision had meant the end of his son, Zach, but it had been the birth of Mal'akh.
Some must die that others may live. As the light over Mal'akh's head began changing color again, he realized the hour was late. He completed his preparations and headed back up the ramp. It was time to attend to matters of the mortal world.
All is revealed at the thirty-third degree, Katherine thought as she ran. I know how to transform the pyramid! The answer had been right in front of them all night.
Katherine and Langdon were alone now, dashing through the cathedral's annex, following signs for "The Garth." Now, exactly as the dean had promised, they burst out of the cathedral into a massive, walled-in courtyard.
The cathedral garth was a cloistered, pentagonal garden with a bronze postmodern fountain. Katherine was amazed how loudly the fountain's flowing water seemed to be reverberating in the courtyard. Then she realized it was not the fountain she was hearing.
"Helicopter!" she shouted as a beam of light pierced the night sky above them. "Get under that portico!"
The dazzling glare of a searchlight flooded the garth just as Langdon and Katherine reached the other side, slipping beneath a Gothic arch into a tunnel that led to the outside lawn. They waited, huddled in the tunnel, as the helicopter passed overhead and began circling the cathedral in wide arcs.
"I guess Galloway was right about hearing visitors," Katherine said, impressed. Bad eyes make for great ears. Her own ears now pounded rhythmically with her racing pulse.
"This way," Langdon said, clutching his daybag and moving through the passage.
Dean Galloway had given them a single key and a clear set of directions. Unfortunately, when they reached the end of the short tunnel, they found themselves separated from their destination by a wide-open expanse of lawn, currently flooded with light from the helicopter overhead.
"We can't get across," Katherine said.
"Hold on . . . look." Langdon pointed to a black shadow that was materializing on the lawn to their left. The shadow began as an amorphous blob, but it was growing quickly, moving in their direction, becoming more defined, rushing at them faster and faster, stretching, and finally transforming itself into a massive black rectangle crowned by two impossibly tall spires.
"The cathedral facade is blocking the searchlight," Langdon said.
"They're landing out in front!"
Langdon grabbed Katherine's hand. "Run! Now!"
Inside the cathedral, Dean Galloway felt a lightness in his step that he had not felt in years. He moved through the Great Crossing, down the nave toward the narthex and the front doors.
He could hear the helicopter hovering in front of the cathedral now, and he imagined its lights coming through the rose window in front of him, throwing spectacular colors all over the sanctuary. He recalled the days when he could see color. Ironically, the lightless void that had become his world had illuminated many things for him. I see more clearly now than ever.
Galloway had been called to God as a young man and over his lifetime had loved the church as much as any man could. Like many of his colleagues who had given their lives in earnest to God, Galloway was weary. He had spent his life straining to be heard above the din of ignorance.
What did I expect?
From the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to American politics--the name Jesus had been hijacked as an ally in all kinds of power struggles. Since the beginning of time, the ignorant had always screamed the loudest, herding the unsuspecting masses and forcing them to do their bidding. They defended their worldly desires by citing Scripture they did not understand. They celebrated their intolerance as proof of their convictions. Now, after all these years, mankind had finally managed to utterly erode everything that had once been so beautiful about Jesus.
Tonight, encountering the symbol of the Rose Cross had fueled him with great hope, reminding him of the prophecies written in the Rosicrucian manifestos, which Galloway had read countless times in the past and could still recall.
Chapter One: Jehova will redeem humanity by revealing those secrets which he previously reserved only for the elect.
Chapter Four: The whole world shall become as one book and all the contradictions of science and theology shall be reconciled.
Chapter Seven: Before the end of the world, God shall create a great flood of spiritual light to alleviate the suffering of humankind.
Chapter Eight: Before this revelation is possible, the world must sleep away the intoxication of her poisoned chalice, which was filled with the false life of the theological vine.
Galloway knew the church had long ago lost her way, and he had dedicated his life to righting her course. Now, he realized, the moment was fast approaching.
It is always darkest before the dawn.
CIA field agent Turner Simkins was perched on the strut of the Sikorsky helicopter as it touched down on the frosty grass. He leaped off, joined by his men, and immediately waved the chopper back up into the air to keep an eye on all the exits.
Nobody leaves this building.
As the chopper rose back into the night sky, Simkins and his team ran up the stairs to the cathedral's main entrance. Before he could decide which of the six doors to pound on, one of them swung open.
"Yes?" a calm voice said from the shadows.
Simkins could barely make out the hunched figure in priest's robes. "Are you Dean Colin Galloway?"
"I am," the old man replied.
"I'm looking for Robert Langdon. Have you seen him?"
The old man stepped forward now, staring past Simkins with eerie blank eyes. "Now, wouldn't that be a miracle."
Time is running out.
Security analyst Nola Kaye was already on edge, and the third mug of coffee she was now drinking had begun coursing through her like an electric current.
No word yet from Sato.
Finally, her phone rang, and Nola leaped on it. "OS," she answered. "Nola here."
"Nola, it's Rick Parrish in systems security."
Nola slumped. No Sato. "Hi, Rick. What can I do for you?" "I wanted to give you a heads-up--our department may have information relevant to what you're working on tonight."
Nola set down her coffee. How the hell do you know what I'm working on tonight? "I beg your pardon?"
"Sorry, it's the new CI program we're beta-testing," Parrish said. "It keeps flagging your workstation number."
Nola now realized what he was talking about. The Agency was currently running a new piece of "collaborative integration" software designed to provide real-time alerts to disparate CIA departments when they happened to be processing related data fields. In an era of time-sensitive terrorist threats, the key to thwarting disaster was often as simple as a heads-up telling you that the guy down the hall was analyzing the very data you needed. As far as Nola was concerned, this CI software had proven more of a distraction than any real help--constant interruption software, she called it.
"Right, I forgot," Nola said. "What have you got?" She was positive that nobody else in the building knew about this crisis, much less could be working on it. The only computer work Nola had done tonight was historical research for Sato on esoteric Masonic topics. Nonetheless, she was obliged to play the game.
"Well, it's probably nothing," Parrish said, "but we stopped a hacker tonight, and the CI program keeps suggesting I share the information with you."
A hacker? Nola sipped her coffee. "I'm listening."
"About an hour ago," Parrish said, "we snagged a guy named Zoubianis trying to access a file on one of our internal databases. This guy claims it was a job for hire and that he has no idea why he was being paid to access this particular file or even that it was on a CIA server."
"We finished questioning him, and he's clean. But here's the weird thing--the same file he was targeting had been flagged earlier tonight by an internal search engine. It looks like someone piggybacked into our system, ran a specific keyword search, and generated a redaction. The thing is, the keywords they used are really strange. And there's one in particular that the CI flagged as a high-priority match--one that's unique to both of our data sets." He paused. "Do you know the word . . . symbolon?"
Nola jolted upright, spilling coffee on her desk.
"The other keywords are just as unusual," Parrish continued. "Pyramid, portal--"
"Get down here," Nola commanded, mopping up her desk. "And bring everything you've got!" "These words actually mean something to you?"
Cathedral College is an elegant, castlelike edifice located adjacent to the National Cathedral. The College of Preachers, as it was originally envisioned by the first Episcopal bishop of Washington, was founded to provide ongoing education for clergy after their ordination. Today, the college offers a wide variety of programs on theology, global justice, healing, and spirituality.
Langdon and Katherine had made the dash across the lawn and used Galloway's key to slip inside just as the helicopter rose back over the cathedral, its floodlights turning night back into day. Now, standing breathless inside the foyer, they surveyed their surroundings. The windows provided sufficient illumination, and Langdon saw no reason to turn the lights on and take a chance of broadcasting their whereabouts to the helicopter overhead. As they moved down the central hallway, they passed a series of conference halls, classrooms, and sitting areas. The interior reminded Langdon of the neo-Gothic buildings of Yale University--breathtaking on the outside, and yet surprisingly utilitarian on the inside, their period elegance having been retrofitted to endure heavy foot traffic.
"Down here," Katherine said, motioning toward the far end of the hall.
Katherine had yet to share with Langdon her new revelation regarding the pyramid, but apparently the reference to Isaacus Neutonuus had sparked it. All she had said as they crossed the lawn was that the pyramid could be transformed using simple science. Everything she needed, she believed, could probably be found in this building. Langdon had no idea what she needed or how Katherine intended to transform a solid piece of granite or gold, but considering he had just witnessed a cube metamorphose into a Rosicrucian cross, he was willing to have faith.
They reached the end of the hall and Katherine frowned, apparently not seeing what she wanted. "You said this building has dormitory facilities?"
"Yes, for residential conferences."
"So they must have a kitchen in here somewhere, right?" "You're hungry?"
She frowned back at him. "No, I need a lab."
Of course you do. Langdon spotted a descending staircase that bore a promising symbol. America's favorite pictogram.
The basement kitchen was industrial looking--lots of stainless steel and big bowls--clearly designed to cook for large groups. The kitchen had no windows. Katherine closed the door and flipped on the lights. The exhaust fans came on automatically.
She began rooting around in the cupboards for whatever it was she needed. "Robert," she directed, "put the pyramid out on the island, if you would."
Feeling like the novice sous chef taking orders from Daniel Boulud, Langdon did as he was told, removing the pyramid from his bag and placing the gold capstone on top of it. When he finished, Katherine was busy filling an enormous pot with hot tap water.
"Would you please lift this to the stove for me?"
Langdon heaved the sloshing pot onto the stove as Katherine turned on the gas burner and cranked up the flame.
"Are we doing lobsters?" he asked hopefully.
"Very funny. No, we're doing alchemy. And for the record, this is a pasta pot, not a lobster pot." She pointed to the perforated strainer insert that she had removed from the pot and placed on the island beside the pyramid.
Silly me. "And boiling pasta is going to help us decipher the pyramid?"
Katherine ignored the comment, her tone turning serious. "As I'm sure you know, there is a historical and symbolic reason the Masons chose thirty-three as their highest degree."
"Of course," Langdon said. In the days of Pythagoras, six centuries before Christ, the tradition of numerology hailed the number 33 as the highest of all the Master Numbers. It was the most sacred figure, symbolizing Divine Truth. The tradition lived on within the Masons . . . and elsewhere. It was no coincidence that Christians were taught that Jesus was crucified at age thirty-three, despite no real historical evidence to that effect. Nor was it coincidence that Joseph was said to have been thirty-three when he married the Virgin Mary, or that Jesus accomplished thirty-three miracles, or that God's name was mentioned thirty-three times in Genesis, or that, in Islam, all the dwellers of heaven were permanently thirty-three years old.
"Thirty-three," Katherine said, "is a sacred number in many mystical traditions."
"Correct." Langdon still had no idea what this had to do with a pasta pot.
"So it should come as no surprise to you that an early alchemist, Rosicrucian, and mystic like Isaac Newton also considered the number thirty-three special."
"I'm sure he did," Langdon replied. "Newton was deep into numerology, prophecy, and astrology, but what does--"
"All is revealed at the thirty-third degree."
Langdon pulled Peter's ring from his pocket and read the inscription. Then he glanced back at the pot of water. "Sorry, you lost me."
"Robert, earlier tonight, we all assumed `thirty-third degree' referred to the Masonic degree, and yet when we rotated that ring thirty-three degrees, the cube transformed and revealed a cross. At that moment, we realized the word degree was being used in another sense."
"Yes. Degrees of arc."
"Exactly. But degree has a third meaning as well."
Langdon eyed the pot of water on the stove. "Temperature."
"Exactly!" she said. "It was right in front of us all night. `All is revealed at the thirty-third degree.' If we bring this pyramid's temperature to thirty-three degrees . . . it may just reveal something."
Langdon knew Katherine Solomon was exceptionally bright, and yet she seemed to be missing a rather obvious point. "If I'm not mistaken, thirty-three degrees is almost freezing. Shouldn't we be putting the pyramid in the freezer?"
Katherine smiled. "Not if we want to follow the recipe written by the great alchemist and Rosicrucian mystic who signed his papers Jeova Sanctus Unus."
Isaacus Neutonuus wrote recipes?
"Robert, temperature is the fundamental alchemical catalyst, and it was not always measured in Fahrenheit and Celsius. There are far older temperature scales, one of them invented by Isaac--"
"The Newton Scale!" Langdon said, realizing she was right.
"Yes! Isaac Newton invented an entire system of quantifying temperature based entirely on natural phenomena. The temperature of melting ice was Newton's base point, and he called it `the zeroth degree.' " She paused. "I suppose you can guess what degree he assigned the temperature of boiling water--the king of all alchemical processes?"
"Yes, thirty-three! The thirty-third degree. On the Newton Scale, the temperature of boiling water is thirty-three degrees. I remember asking my brother once why Newton chose that number. I mean, it seemed so random. Boiling water is the most fundamental alchemical process, and he chose thirty-three? Why not a hundred? Why not something more elegant? Peter explained that, to a mystic like Isaac Newton, there was no number more elegant than thirty- three."
All is revealed at the thirty-third degree. Langdon glanced at the pot of water and then over at the pyramid. "Katherine, the pyramid is made out of solid granite and solid gold. Do you really think boiling water is hot enough to transform it?"
The smile on her face told Langdon that Katherine knew something he did not know. Confidently, she walked over to the island, lifted the gold-capped, granite pyramid, and set it in the strainer. Then she carefully lowered it into the bubbling water. "Let's find out, shall we?"
High above the National Cathedral, the CIA pilot locked the helicopter in auto-hover mode and surveyed the perimeter of the building and the grounds. No movement. His thermal imaging couldn't penetrate the cathedral stone, and so he couldn't tell what the team was doing inside, but if anyone tried to slip out, the thermal would pick it up.
It was sixty seconds later that a thermal sensor pinged. Working on the same principle as home- security systems, the detector had identified a strong temperature differential. Usually this meant a human form moving through a cool space, but what appeared on the monitor was more of a thermal cloud, a patch of hot air drifting across the lawn. The pilot found the source, an active vent on the side of Cathedral College.
Probably nothing, he thought. He saw these kinds of gradients all the time. Someone cooking or doing laundry. As he was about to turn away, though, he realized something odd. There were no cars in the parking lot and no lights on anywhere in the building.
He studied the UH-60's imaging system for a long moment. Then he radioed down to his team leader. "Simkins, it's probably nothing, but . . ."
"Incandescent temperature indicator!" Langdon had to admit, it was clever. "It's simple science," Katherine said. "Different substances incandesce at different temperatures. We call them thermal markers. Science uses these markers all the time."
Langdon gazed down at the submerged pyramid and capstone. Wisps of steam were beginning to curl over the bubbling water, although he was not feeling hopeful. He glanced at his watch, and his heart rate accelerated: 11:45 P.M. "You believe something here will luminesce as it heats up?"
"Not luminesce, Robert. Incandesce. There's a big difference. Incandescence is caused by heat, and it occurs at a specific temperature. For example, when steel manufacturers temper beams, they spray a grid on them with a transparent coating that incandesces at a specific target temperature so they know when the beams are done. Think of a mood ring. Just put it on your finger, and it changes color from body heat."
"Katherine, this pyramid was built in the 1800s! I can understand a craftsman making hidden release hinges in a stone box, but applying some kind of transparent thermal coating?"
"Perfectly feasible," she said, glancing hopefully at the submerged pyramid. "The early alchemists used organic phosphors all the time as thermal markers. The Chinese made colored fireworks, and even the Egyptians--" Katherine stopped midsentence, staring intently into the roiling water.
"What?" Langdon followed her gaze into the turbulent water but saw nothing at all.
Katherine leaned in, staring more intently into the water. Suddenly she turned and ran across the kitchen toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Langdon shouted.
She slid to a stop at the kitchen light switch, flipped it off. The lights and exhaust fan went off, plunging the room into total darkness and silence. Langdon turned back to the pyramid and peered through the steam at the capstone beneath the water. By the time Katherine made it back to his side, his mouth had fallen open in disbelief.
Exactly as Katherine had predicted, a small section of the metal capstone was starting to glow beneath the water. Letters were starting to appear, and they were getting brighter as the water heated up.
"Text!" Katherine whispered.
Langdon nodded, dumbstruck. The glowing words were materializing just beneath the engraved inscription on the capstone. It looked like only three words, and although Langdon could not yet read what the words said, he wondered if they would unveil everything they had been looking for tonight. The pyramid is a real map, Galloway had told them, and it points to a real location. As the letters shone brighter, Katherine turned off the gas, and the water slowly stopped churning. The capstone now came into focus beneath the water's calm surface.
Three shining words were clearly legible.