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Time is running out.

Security analyst Nola Kaye was already on edge, and the third mug of coffee she was now drinking had begun coursing through her like an electric current.

No word yet from Sato.

Finally, her phone rang, and Nola leaped on it. “OS,” she answered. “Nola here.”

“Nola, it’s Rick Parrish in systems security.”

Nola slumped. No Sato. “Hi, Rick. What can I do for you?”

“I wanted to give you a heads-up—our department may have information relevant to what you’re working on tonight.”

Nola set down her coffee. How the hell do you know what I’m working on tonight? “I beg your pardon?”

“Sorry, it’s the new CI program we’re beta-testing,” Parrish said. “It keeps flagging your workstation number.”

Nola now realized what he was talking about. The Agency was currently running a new piece of “collaborative integration” software designed to provide real-time alerts to disparate CIA departments when they happened to be processing related data fields. In an era of time-sensitive terrorist threats, the key to thwarting disaster was often as simple as a heads-up telling you that the guy down the hall was analyzing the very data you needed. As far as Nola was concerned, this CI software had proven more of a distraction than any real help—constant interruption software, she called it.

“Right, I forgot,” Nola said. “What have you got?” She was positive that nobody else in the building knew about this crisis, much less could be working on it. The only computer work Nola had done tonight was historical research for Sato on esoteric Masonic topics. Nonetheless, she was obliged to play the game.

“Well, it’s probably nothing,” Parrish said, “but we stopped a hacker tonight, and the CI program keeps suggesting I share the information with you.”

A hacker? Nola sipped her coffee. “I’m listening.”

“About an hour ago,” Parrish said, “we snagged a guy named Zoubianis trying to access a file on one of our internal databases. This guy claims it was a job for hire and that he has no idea why he was being paid to access this particular file or even that it was on a CIA server.”


“We finished questioning him, and he’s clean. But here’s the weird thing—the same file he was targeting had been flagged earlier tonight by an internal search engine. It looks like someone piggybacked into our system, ran a specific keyword search, and generated a redaction. The thing is, the keywords they used are really strange. And there’s one in particular that the CI flagged as a high-priority match—one that’s unique to both of our data sets.” He paused. “Do you know the word . . . symbolon?”

Nola jolted upright, spilling coffee on her desk.

“The other keywords are just as unusual,” Parrish continued. “Pyramid, portal—”

“Get down here,” Nola commanded, mopping up her desk. “And bring everything you’ve got!”

“These words actually mean something to you?” “NOW!”