Malakh could feel the tattooed muscles on his back rippling as he sprinted back around the building toward the open bay door of Pod 5.
I must gain access to her lab.
Katherines escape had been unanticipated . . . and problematic. Not only did she know where Malakh lived, she now knew his true identity . . . and that he was the one who had invaded their home a decade earlier.
Malakh had not forgotten that night either. He had come within inches of possessing the pyramid, but destiny had obstructed him. I was not yet ready. But he was ready now. More powerful. More influential. Having endured unthinkable hardship in preparation for his return, Malakh was poised tonight to fulfill his destiny at last. He felt certain that before the night was
over, he would indeed be staring into the dying eyes of Katherine Solomon.
As Malakh reached the bay door, he reassured himself that Katherine had not truly escaped; she had only prolonged the inevitable. He slid through the opening and strode confidently across the darkness until his feet hit the carpet. Then he took a right turn and headed for the Cube. The banging on the door of Pod 5 had stopped, and Malakh suspected the guard was now trying to remove the dime Malakh had jammed into the key panel to render it useless.
When Malakh reached the door that led into the Cube, he located the outer keypad and inserted Trishs key card. The panel lit up. He entered Trishs PIN and went inside. The lights were all ablaze, and as he moved into the sterile space, he squinted in amazement at the dazzling array of equipment. Malakh was no stranger to the power of technology; he performed his own breed of science in the basement of his home, and last night some of that science had borne fruit.
Peter Solomons unique confinementtrapped alone in the in-betweenhad laid bare all of the mans secrets. I can see his soul. Malakh had learned certain secrets he anticipated, and others he had not, including the news about Katherines lab and her shocking discoveries. Science is getting close, Malakh had realized. And I will not allow it to light the way for the unworthy.
Katherines work here had begun using modern science to answer ancient philosophical questions. Does anyone hear our prayers? Is there life after death? Do humans have souls? Incredibly, Katherine had answered all of these questions, and more. Scientifically. Conclusively. The methods she used were irrefutable. Even the most skeptical of people would be persuaded by the results of her experiments. If this information were published and made known, a fundamental shift would begin in the consciousness of man. They will start to find their way. Malakhs last task tonight, before his transformation, was to ensure that this did not happen.
As he moved through the lab, Malakh located the data room that Peter had told him about. He peered through the heavy glass walls at the two holographic data-storage units. Exactly as he said they would be. Malakh found it hard to imagine that the contents of these little boxes could change the course of human development, and yet Truth had always been the most potent of all the catalysts.
Eyeing the holographic storage units, Malakh produced Trishs key card and inserted it in the doors security panel. To his surprise, the panel did not light up. Apparently, access to this room was not a trust extended to Trish Dunne. He now reached for the key card he had found in Katherines lab-coat pocket. When he inserted this one, the panel lit up.
Malakh had a problem. I never got Katherines PIN. He tried Trishs PIN, but it didnt work. Stroking his chin, he stepped back and examined the three-inch-thick Plexiglas door. Even with an ax, he knew he would be unable to break through and obtain the drives he needed to destroy.
Malakh had planned for this contingency, however.
Inside the power-supply room, exactly as Peter had described, Malakh located the rack holding several metal cylinders resembling large scuba tanks. The cylinders bore the letters LH, the number 2, and the universal symbol for combustible. One of the canisters was connected to the labs hydrogen fuel cell.
Malakh left one canister connected and carefully heaved one of the reserve cylinders down onto a dolly beside the rack. Then he rolled the cylinder out of the power-supply room, across the lab, to the Plexiglas door of the data-storage room. Although this location would certainly be plenty close enough, he had noticed one weakness in the heavy Plexiglas doorthe small space between the bottom and the jamb.
At the threshold, he carefully laid the canister on its side and slid the flexible rubber tube beneath the door. It took him a moment to remove the safety seals and access the cylinders valve, but once he did, ever so gently, he uncocked the valve. Through the Plexiglas, he could see the clear, bubbling liquid begin draining out of the tube onto the floor inside the storage room. Malakh watched the puddle expand, oozing across the floor, steaming and bubbling as it grew. Hydrogen remained in liquid form only when it was cold, and as it warmed up, it would start to boil off. The resulting gas, conveniently, was even more flammable than the liquid.
Remember the Hindenburg.
Malakh hurried now into the lab and retrieved the Pyrex jug of Bunsen-burner fuela viscous, highly flammable, yet noncombustible oil. He carried it to the Plexiglas door, pleased to see the liquid hydrogen canister was still draining, the puddle of boiling liquid inside the data-storage room now covering the entire floor, encircling the pedestals that supported the holographic storage units. A whitish mist now rose from the boiling puddle as the liquid hydrogen began turning to gas . . . filling the small space.
Malakh raised the jug of Bunsen-burner fuel and squirted a healthy amount on the hydrogen canister, the tubing, and into the small opening beneath the door. Then, very carefully, he began backing out of the lab, leaving an unbroken stream of oil on the floor as he went.
The dispatch operator handling 911 calls for Washington, D.C., had been unusually busy tonight. Football, beer, and a full moon,she thought as yet another emergency call appeared on her screen, this one from a gas-station pay phone on the Suitland Parkway in Anacostia. A car accident probably.
Nine-one-one, she answered. What is your emergency?
I was just attacked at the Smithsonian Museum Support Center, a panicked womans voice said. Please send the police! Forty-two-ten Silver Hill Road!
Okay, slow down, the operator said. You need to
I need you to send officers also to a mansion in Kalorama Heights where I think my brother
may be held captive!
The operator sighed. Full moon.