Vitamins, Supplements, Sport Nutrition

CHAPTER 54

Frantically,the SMSC perimeter patrolman dashed down the gravel pathway that ran along the outside of the building. He’d just received a call from an officer inside saying that the keypad to Pod 5 had been sabotaged, and that a security light indicated that Pod 5’s specimen bay door was now open.

What the hell is going on?!

As he arrived at the specimen bay, sure enough he found the door open a couple of feet. Bizarre, he thought. This can only be unlocked from the inside. He took the flashlight off his belt and shone it into the inky blackness of the pod. Nothing. Having no desire to step into the unknown, he moved only as far as the threshold and then stuck the flashlight through the opening, swinging it to the left, and then to the—

Powerful hands seized his wrist and yanked him into the blackness. The guard felt himself being spun around by an invisible force. He smelled ethanol. The flashlight flew out of his hand, and before he could even process what was happening, a rock-hard fist collided with his sternum. The guard crumpled to the cement floor . . . groaning in pain as a large black form stepped away from him.

The guard lay on his side, gasping and wheezing for breath. His flashlight lay nearby, its beam spilling across the floor and illuminating what appeared to be a metal can of some sort. The can’s label said it was fuel oil for a Bunsen burner.

A cigarette lighter sparked, and the orange flame illuminated a vision that hardly seemed human. Jesus Christ! The guard barely had time to process what he was seeing before the bare-chested creature knelt down and touched the flame to the floor.

Instantly, a strip of fire materialized, leaping away from them, racing into the void. Bewildered, the guard looked back, but the creature was already slipping out the open bay door into the night.

The guard managed to sit up, wincing in pain as his eyes followed the thin ribbon of fire. What the hell?! The flame looked too small to be truly dangerous, and yet now he saw something utterly terrifying. The fire was no longer illuminating only the darkened void. It had traveled all the way to the back wall, where it was now illuminating a massive cinder-block structure. The guard had never been permitted inside Pod 5, but he knew very well what this structure must be.

The Cube.

Katherine Solomon’s lab.

The flame raced in a straight line directly to the lab’s outer door. The guard clambered to his feet, knowing full well that the ribbon of oil probably continued beneath the lab door . . . and would soon start a fire inside. But as he turned to run for help, he felt an unexpected puff of air sucking past him.

For a brief instant, all of Pod 5 was bathed in light.

The guard never saw the hydrogen fireball erupting skyward, ripping the roof off Pod 5 and billowing hundreds of feet into the air. Nor did he see the sky raining fragments of titanium mesh, electronic equipment, and droplets of melted silicon from the lab’s holographic storage units.

Katherine Solomon was driving north when she saw the sudden flash of light in her rearview mirror. A deep rumble thundered through the night air, startling her.

Fireworks? she wondered. Do the Redskins have a halftime show?

She refocused on the road, her thoughts still on the 911 call she’d placed from the deserted gas station’s pay phone.

Katherine had successfully convinced the 911 dispatcher to send the police to the SMSC to investigate a tattooed intruder and, Katherine prayed, to find her assistant, Trish. In addition, she urged the dispatcher to check Dr. Abaddon’s address in Kalorama Heights, where she thought Peter was being held hostage.

Unfortunately, Katherine had been unable to obtain Robert Langdon’s unlisted cell-phone number. So now, seeing no other option, she was speeding toward the Library of Congress, where Langdon had told her he was headed.

The terrifying revelation of Dr. Abaddon’s true identity had changed everything. Katherine had no idea what to believe anymore. All she knew for certain was that the same man who had killed her mother and nephew all those years ago had now captured her brother and had come to kill her. Who is this madman? What does he want? The only answer she could come up with made no sense. A pyramid? Equally confusing was why this man had come to her lab tonight. If he wanted to hurt her, why hadn’t he done so in the privacy of his own home earlier today? Why go to the trouble of sending a text message and risk breaking into her lab?

Unexpectedly, the fireworks in her rearview mirror grew brighter, the initial flash followed by an unexpected sight—a blazing orange fireball that Katherine could see rising above the tree line. What in the world?! The fireball was accompanied by dark black smoke . . . and it was nowhere near the Redskins’ FedEx Field. Bewildered, she tried to determine what industry might be located on the other side of those trees . . . just southeast of the parkway.

Then, like an oncoming truck, it hit her.