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hossainmad.peperonity.net

part 5

26
The Hassassin stood at the end of the stone
tunnel. His torch still burned bright, the
smoke mixing with the smell of moss and stale
air. Silence surrounded him. The iron
door blocking his way looked as old as the
tunnel itself, rusted but still holding strong.
He waited in the darkness, trusting.
It was almost time.
Janus had promised someone on the inside
would open the door. The Hassassin marveled
at the betrayal. He would have waited all
night at that door to carry out his task, but he
sensed it would not be necessary. He was
working for determined men.
Minutes later, exactly at the appointed hour,
there was a loud clank of heavy keys on the
other side of the door. Metal scraped on metal
as multiple locks disengaged. One by one,
three huge deadbolts ground open. The locks
creaked as if they had not been used in
centuries. Finally all three were open.
Then there was silence.
The Hassassin waited patiently, five minutes,
exactly as he had been told. Then, with
electricity in his blood, he pushed.
The great door swung open.



27
Vittoria, I will not allow it!" Kohler's
breath was labored and getting worse as the
Haz-Mat elevator ascended.
Vittoria blocked him out. She craved sanctuary,
something familiar in this place that no
longer felt like home. She knew it was not to be.
Right now, she had to swallow the pain
and act. Get to a phone.
Robert Langdon was beside her, silent as usual.
Vittoria had given up wondering who the
man was. A specialist? Could Kohler be any less
specific? Mr. Langdon can help us find
your father's killer. Langdon was being no help
at all. His warmth and kindness seemed
genuine, but he was clearly hiding something.
They both were. Kohler was at her again. "As
director of CERN, I have a responsibility to the future of
science. If you amplify this into an international
incident and CERN suffers-"
"Future of science?" Vittoria turned on him.
"Do you really plan to escape accountability
by never admitting this antimatter came from
CERN? Do you plan to ignore the people's
lives we've put in danger?"
"Not we," Kohler countered. "You. You and your father."
Vittoria looked away.
"And as far as endangering lives," Kohler said,
"life is exactly what this is about. You
know antimatter technology has enormous implications
for life on this planet. If CERN
goes bankrupt, destroyed by scandal, everybody loses.
Man's future is in the hands of
places like CERN, scientists like you and your father,
working to solve tomorrow's
problems."
Vittoria had heard Kohler's Science-as-God lecture
before, and she never bought it.
Science itself caused half the problems it was
trying to solve. "Progress" was Mother
Earth's ultimate malignancy.
"Scientific advancement carries risk," Kohler argued.
"It always has. Space programs,
genetic research, medicine-they all make mistakes.
Science needs to survive its own
blunders, at any cost. For everyone's sake."
Vittoria was amazed at Kohler's ability to weigh
moral issues with scientific detachment.
His intellect seemed to be the product of an icy
divorce from his inner spirit. "You think
CERN is so critical to the earth's future that
we should be immune from moral
responsibility?"
"Do not argue morals with me. You crossed a
line when you made that specimen, and
you have put this entire facility at risk.
I'm trying to protect not only the jobs of the three
thousand scientists who work here, but also
your father's reputation. Think about him. A
man like your father does not deserve to be
remembered as the creator of a weapon of
mass destruction."
Vittoria felt his spear hit home. I am the
one who convinced my father to create that
specimen. This is my fault!


When the door opened, Kohler was still talking.
Vittoria stepped out of the elevator,
pulled out her phone, and tried again.
Still no dial tone. Damn! She headed for the door.
"Vittoria, stop." The director sounded asthmatic
now, as he accelerated after her. "Slow
down. We need to talk."
"Basta di parlare!"
"Think of your father," Kohler urged.
"What would he do?"
She kept going.
"Vittoria, I haven't been totally honest with you."
Vittoria felt her legs slow.
"I don't know what I was thinking," Kohler said.
"I was just trying to protect you. Just
tell me what you want. We need to work together here."
Vittoria came to a full stop halfway across the
lab, but she did not turn. "I want to find
the antimatter. And I want to know who
killed my father." She waited.
Kohler sighed. "Vittoria, we already know
who killed your father. I'm sorry."
Now Vittoria turned. "You what?"
"I didn't know how to tell you. It's a difficult-"
"You know who killed my father?"
"We have a very good idea, yes. The killer left
somewhat of a calling card. That's the
reason I called Mr. Langdon. The group
claiming responsibility is his specialty."
"The group? A terrorist group?"
"Vittoria, they stole a quarter gram of antimatter."
Vittoria looked at Robert Langdon standing
there across the room. Everything began
falling into place. That explains some of
the secrecy. She was amazed it hadn't occurred
to her earlier. Kohler had called the
authorities after all. The authorities. Now it seemed
obvious. Robert Langdon was American, clean-cut,
conservative, obviously very sharp.
Who else could it be? Vittoria should have
guessed from the start. She felt a newfound
hope as she turned to him.
"Mr. Langdon, I want to know who killed my father.
And I want to know if your agency
can find the antimatter."
Langdon looked flustered. "My agency?"
"You're with U.S. Intelligence, I assume."
"Actually . . . no."
Kohler intervened. "Mr. Langdon is a professor
of art history at Harvard University."
Vittoria felt like she had been doused
with ice water. "An art teacher?"
"He is a specialist in cult symbology." Kohler
sighed. "Vittoria, we believe your father
was killed by a satanic cult."
Vittoria heard the words in her mind, but she
was unable to process them. A satanic cult.
"The group claiming responsibility
calls themselves the Illuminati."
Vittoria looked at Kohler and then at
Langdon, wondering if this was some kind of
perverse joke. "The Illuminati?" she demanded.
"As in the Bavarian Illuminati?"
Kohler looked stunned. "You've heard of them?"
Vittoria felt the tears of frustration welling
right below the surface. "Bavarian Illuminati:
New World Order. Steve Jackson computer games.
Half the techies here play it on the
Internet." Her voice cracked.
"But I don't understand . . ."
Kohler shot Langdon a confused look.
Langdon nodded. "Popular game.
Ancient brotherhood takes over the world.
Semihistorical. I didn't know it was
in Europe too."
Vittoria was bewildered. "What are you talking
about? The Illuminati? It's a computer
game!"
"Vittoria," Kohler said, "the Illuminati is
the group claiming responsibility for your
father's death."
Vittoria mustered every bit of courage she
could find to fight the tears. She forced herself
to hold on and assess the situation logically.
But the harder she focused, the less she
understood. Her father had been murdered.
CERN had suffered a major breach of
security. There was a bomb counting down
somewhere that she was responsible for. And
the director had nominated an art teacher
to help them find a mythical fraternity of
Satanists.
Vittoria felt suddenly all alone. She turned
to go, but Kohler cut her off. He reached for
something in his pocket. He produced a
crumpled piece of fax paper and handed it to her.
Vittoria swayed in horror as her eyes hit the image.
"They branded him," Kohler said. "They
branded his goddamn chest."


28
Secretary Sylvie Baudeloque
was now in a panic.
She paced outside the director's
empty office. Where the
hell is he? What do I do?
It had been a bizarre day. Of course,
any day working for Maximilian Kohler had the
potential to be strange, but Kohler
had been in rare form today.
"Find me Leonardo Vetra!" he had
demanded when Sylvie arrived this morning.
Dutifully, Sylvie paged, phoned,
and E-mailed Leonardo Vetra.
Nothing.
So Kohler had left in a huff, apparently
to go find Vetra himself. When he rolled back in
a few hours later, Kohler looked decidedly
not well . . . not that he ever actually looked
well, but he looked worse than usual. He locked
himself in his office, and she could hear
him on his modem, his phone, faxing, talking.
Then Kohler rolled out again. He hadn't
been back since.
Sylvie had decided to ignore the antics as
yet another Kohlerian melodrama, but she
began to get concerned when Kohler failed to
return at the proper time for his daily
injections; the director's physical condition
required regular treatment, and when he
decided to push his luck, the results were
never pretty-respiratory shock, coughing fits,
and a mad dash by the infirmary personnel.
Sometimes Sylvie thought Maximilian
Kohler had a death wish.
She considered paging him to remind him, but
she'd learned charity was something
Kohlers's pride despised. Last week, he had
become so enraged with a visiting scientist
who had shown him undue pity that Kohler
clambered to his feet and threw a clipboard at
the man's head. King Kohler could be
surprisingly agile when he was pissé.
At the moment, however, Sylvie's concern
for the director's health was taking a back
burner . . . replaced by a much more pressing
dilemma. The CERN switchboard had
phoned five minutes ago in a frenzy to say
they had an urgent call for the director.
"He's not available," Sylvie had said.
Then the CERN operator told her who was calling.
Sylvie half laughed aloud. "You're kidding,
right?" She listened, and her face clouded
with disbelief. ...
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