In the moist air of the Jungle, the Architect of the Capitol could feel the sweat now rolling down his back. His handcuffed wrists ached, but all of his attention remained riveted on the ominous titanium briefcase that Sato had just opened on the bench between them.
The contents of this case, Sato had told him, will persuade you to see things my way. I guarantee it.
The tiny Asian woman had unclasped the metal case away from Bellamy's line of sight, and he had yet to see its contents, but his imagination was running wild. Sato's hands were doing something inside the case, and Bellamy half expected her to extract a series of glistening, razor- sharp tools.
Suddenly a light source flickered inside the case, growing brighter, illuminating Sato's face from beneath. Her hands kept moving inside, and the light changed hue. After a few moments, she removed her hands, grasped the entire case, and turned it toward Bellamy so he could see inside.
Bellamy found himself squinting into the glow of what appeared to be some kind of futuristic laptop with a handheld phone receiver, two antennae, and a double keyboard. His initial surge of relief turned quickly to confusion.
The screen bore the CIA logo and the text:
USER: INOUE SATO
SECURITY CLEARANCE: LEVEL 5
Beneath the laptop's log-in window, a progress icon was spinning:
ONE MOMENT PLEASE . . .
DECRYPTING FILE . . .
Bellamy's gaze shot back up to Sato, whose eyes were locked on his. "I had not wanted to show you this," she said. "But you've left me no choice." The screen flickered again, and Bellamy glanced back down as the file opened, its contents filling the entire LCD.
For several moments, Bellamy stared at the screen, trying to make sense of what he was looking at. Gradually, as it began to dawn on him, he felt the blood draining from his face. He stared in horror, unable to look away. "But this is . . . impossible!" he exclaimed. "How . . . could this be!"
Sato's face was grim. "You tell me, Mr. Bellamy. You tell me."
As the Architect of the Capitol began to fully comprehend the ramifications of what he was seeing, he could feel his entire world teetering precariously on the brink of disaster.
My God . . . I've made a terrible, terrible mistake!
Dean Galloway felt alive.
Like all mortals, he knew the time was coming when he would shed his mortal shell, but tonight was not the night. His corporeal heart was beating strong and fast . . . and his mind felt sharp. There is work to be done.
As he ran his arthritic hands across the pyramid's smooth surfaces, he could scarcely believe what he was feeling. I never imagined I would live to witness this moment. For generations, the pieces of the symbolon map had been kept safely apart from one another. Now they were united at last. Galloway wondered if this was the foretold time.
Strangely, fate had selected two non-Masons to assemble the pyramid. Somehow, this seemed fitting. The Mysteries are moving out of the inner circles . . . out of darkness . . . into the light.
"Professor," he said, turning his head in the direction of Langdon's breathing. "Did Peter tell you why he wanted you to watch over the little package?"
"He said powerful people wanted to steal it from him," Langdon replied.
The dean nodded. "Yes, Peter told me the same thing."
"He did?" Katherine said suddenly on his left. "You and my brother spoke about this pyramid?"
"Of course," Galloway said. "Your brother and I have spoken on many things. I was once the Worshipful Master at the House of the Temple, and he comes to me for guidance at times. It was about a year ago that he came to me, deeply troubled. He sat exactly where you are now, and he asked me if I believed in supernatural premonitions."
"Premonitions?" Katherine sounded concerned. "You mean like . . . visions?"
"Not exactly. It was more visceral. Peter said he was feeling the growing presence of a dark force in his life. He sensed something was watching him . . . waiting . . . intending to do him great harm."
"Obviously he was right," Katherine said, "considering that the same man who killed our mother and Peter's son had come to Washington and become one of Peter's own Masonic brothers."
"True," Langdon said, "but it doesn't explain the involvement of the CIA."
Galloway was not so sure. "Men in power are always interested in greater power."
"But . . . the CIA?" Langdon challenged. "And mystical secrets? Something doesn't add up."
"Sure it does," Katherine said. "The CIA thrives on technological advancement and has always experimented with the mystical sciences--ESP, remote viewing, sensory deprivation, pharmacologically induced highly mentalized states. It's all the same thing--tapping the unseen potential of the human mind. If there's one thing I've learned from Peter, it's this: Science and mysticism are very closely related, distinguishable only by their approaches. They have identical goals . . . but different methods."
"Peter tells me," Galloway said, "that your field of study is a kind of modern mystical science?"
"Noetics," Katherine said, nodding. "And it's proving man has powers unlike anything we can imagine." She motioned to a stained-glass window depicting the familiar image of the "Luminous Jesus," that of Christ with rays of light flowing from his head and hands. "In fact, I just used a supercooled charge-coupled device to photograph the hands of a faith healer at work. The photos looked a lot like the image of Jesus in your stained-glass window . . . streams of energy pouring through the healer's fingertips."
The well-trained mind, Galloway thought, hiding a smile. How do you think Jesus healed the sick?
"I realize," Katherine said, "that modern medicine ridicules healers and shamans, but I saw this with my own eyes. My CCD cameras clearly photographed this man transmitting a massive energy field from his fingertips . . . and literally changing the cellular makeup of his patient. If that's not godlike power, then I don't know what is."
Dean Galloway let himself smile. Katherine had the same fiery passion as her brother. "Peter once compared Noetic Scientists to the early explorers who were mocked for embracing the heretical notion of a spherical earth. Almost overnight, these explorers went from fools to heroes, discovering uncharted worlds and expanding the horizons of everyone on the planet. Peter thinks you will do this as well. He has very high hopes for your work. After all, every great philosophical shift in history began with a single bold idea."
Galloway knew, of course, that one needn't go to a lab to witness proof of this bold new idea, this proposal of man's untapped potential. This very cathedral held healing prayer circles for the sick, and repeatedly had witnessed truly miraculous results, medically documented physical transformations. The question was not whether God had imbued man with great powers . . . but rather how we liberate those powers.
The old dean placed his hands reverently around the sides of the Masonic Pyramid and spoke very quietly. "My friends, I do not know exactly where this pyramid points . . . but I do know this. There is a great spiritual treasure buried out there somewhere . . . a treasure that has waited patiently in darkness for generations. I believe it is a catalyst that has the power to transform this world." He now touched the golden tip of the capstone. "And now that this pyramid is assembled . . . the time is fast approaching. And why shouldn't it? The promise of a great transformational enlightenment has been prophesied forever."
"Father," Langdon said, his tone challenging, "we're all familiar with the Revelation of Saint John and the literal meaning of the Apocalypse, but biblical prophecy hardly seems--"
"Oh, heavens, the Book of Revelation is a mess!" the dean said. "Nobody knows how to read that. I'm talking about clear minds writing in clear language--the predictions of Saint Augustine, Sir Francis Bacon, Newton, Einstein, the list goes on and on, all anticipating a transformative moment of enlightenment. Even Jesus himself said, `Nothing is hidden that will not be made known, nor secret that will not come to light.'"
"It's a safe prediction to make," Langdon said. "Knowledge grows exponentially. The more we know, the greater our ability to learn, and the faster we expand our knowledge base."
"Yes," Katherine added. "We see this in science all the time. Each new technology we invent becomes a tool with which to invent new technologies . . . and it snowballs. That's why science has advanced more in the last five years than in the previous five thousand. Exponential growth. Mathematically, as time passes, the exponential curve of progress becomes almost vertical, and new development occurs incredibly fast."
Silence fell in the dean's office, and Galloway sensed that his two guests still had no idea how this pyramid could possibly help them reveal anything further. That is why fate brought you to me, he thought. I have a role to play.
For many years, the Reverend Colin Galloway, along with his Masonic brothers, had played the role of gatekeeper. Now it was all changing.
I am no longer a gatekeeper . . . I am a guide.
"Professor Langdon?" Galloway said, reaching out across his desk. "Take my hand if you will." Robert Langdon felt uncertain as he stared across at Dean Galloway's outstretched palm.
Are we going to pray?
Politely, Langdon reached out and placed his right hand in the dean's withered hand. The old man grasped it firmly but did not begin to pray. Instead, he found Langdon's index finger and guided it downward into the stone box that had once housed the golden capstone.
"Your eyes have blinded you," the dean said. "If you saw with your fingertips as I do, you would realize this box has something left to teach you."
Dutifully, Langdon worked his fingertip around the inside of the box, but he felt nothing. The inside was perfectly smooth.
"Keep looking," Galloway prompted.
Finally, Langdon's fingertip felt something--a tiny raised circle--a minuscule dot in the center of the base of the box. He removed his hand and peered inside. The little circle was virtually invisible to the naked eye. What is that?
"Do you recognize that symbol?" Galloway asked.
"Symbol?" Langdon replied. "I can barely see anything at all."
"Push down on it."
Langdon did as he asked, pressing his fingertip down onto the spot. What does he think will happen?
"Hold your finger down," the dean said. "Apply pressure."
Langdon glanced over at Katherine, who looked puzzled as she tucked a wisp of hair behind her ears.
A few seconds later, the old dean finally nodded. "Okay, remove your hand. The alchemy is complete."
Alchemy? Robert Langdon removed his hand from the stone box and sat in bewildered silence. Nothing had changed at all. The box just sat there on the desk.
"Nothing," Langdon said.
"Look at your fingertip," the dean replied. "You should see a transformation."
Langdon looked at his finger, but the only transformation he could see was that he now had an indentation on his skin made by the circular nubbin--a tiny circle with a dot in the middle.
"Now do you recognize this symbol?" the dean asked.
Although Langdon recognized the symbol, he was more impressed that the dean had been able to feel the detail of it. Seeing with one's fingertips was apparently a learned skill.
"It's alchemical," Katherine said, sliding her chair closer and examining Langdon's finger. "It's the ancient symbol for gold."
"Indeed it is." The dean smiled and patted the box. "Professor, congratulations. You have just achieved what every alchemist in history has strived for. From a worthless substance, you've created gold."
Langdon frowned, unimpressed. The little parlor trick seemed to be no help at all. "An interesting idea, sir, but I'm afraid this symbol--a circle with a round dot in the middle--has dozens of meanings. It's called a circumpunct, and it's one of the most widely used symbols in history."
"What are you talking about?" the dean asked, sounding skeptical.
Langdon was stunned that a Mason was not more familiar with the spiritual importance of this symbol. "Sir, the circumpunct has countless meanings. In ancient Egypt, it was the symbol for Ra--the sun god--and modern astronomy still uses it as the solar symbol. In Eastern philosophy, it represents the spiritual insight of the Third Eye, the divine rose, and the sign of illumination. The Kabbalists use it to symbolize the Kether--the highest Sephiroth and `the most hidden of all hidden things.' Early mystics called it the Eye of God and it's the origin of the All-Seeing Eye on the Great Seal. The Pythagoreans used the circumpunct as the symbol of the Monad--the Divine Truth, the Prisca Sapientia, the at-one-ment of mind and soul, and the--"