Katherine Solomon hurried across the parking lot through the cold rain, wishing she had worn more than jeans and a cashmere sweater. As she neared the buildings main entrance, the roar of the giant air purifiers got louder. She barely heard them, her ears still ringing from the phone call shed just received.
That which your brother believes is hidden in D.C. . . . it can be found.
Katherine found the notion almost impossible to believe. She and the caller still had much to discuss and had agreed to do so later that evening.
Reaching the main doors, she felt the same sense of excitement she always felt upon entering the gargantuan building. Nobody knows this place is here.
The sign on the door announced:
SUPPORT CENTER (SMSC)
The Smithsonian Institution, despite having more than a dozen massive museums on the National Mall, had a collection so huge that only 2 percent of it could be on display at any one time. The other 98 percent of the collection had to be stored somewhere. And that somewhere . . . was here.
Not surprisingly, this building was home to an astonishingly diverse array of artifactsgiant Buddhas, handwritten codices, poisoned darts from New Guinea, jewel-encrusted knives, a kayak made of baleen. Equally mind-boggling were the buildings natural treasuresplesiosaur skeletons, a priceless meteorite collection, a giant squid, even a collection of elephant skulls brought back from an African safari by Teddy Roosevelt.
But none of this was why the Smithsonian secretary, Peter Solomon, had introduced his sister to the SMSC three years ago. He had brought her to this place not to behold scientific marvels, but rather to create them. And that was exactly what Katherine had been doing.
Deep within this building, in the darkness of the most remote recesses, was a small scientific laboratory unlike any other in the world. The recent breakthroughs Katherine had made here in the field of Noetic Science had ramifications across every disciplinefrom physics, to history, to philosophy, to religion. Soon everything will change, she thought.
As Katherine entered the lobby, the front desk guard quickly stashed his radio and yanked the earplugs from his ears. Ms. Solomon! He smiled broadly.
He blushed, looking guilty. Pregame.
She smiled. I wont tell. She walked to the metal detector and emptied her pockets. When she slid the gold Cartier watch from her wrist, she felt the usual pang of sadness. The timepiece had been a gift from her mother for Katherines eighteenth birthday. Almost ten years had now passed since her mother had died violently . . . passing away in Katherines arms.
So, Ms. Solomon? the guard whispered jokingly. Are you ever gonna tell anybody what youre doing back there?
She glanced up. Someday, Kyle. Not tonight.
Come on, he pressed. A secret lab . . . in a secret museum? You must be doing something cool.
Miles beyond cool, Katherine thought as she collected her things. The truth was that Katherine was doing science so advanced that it no longer even resembled science.