Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is shocked to find proof that the legendary secret society, the Illuminati - a real-life secret brotherhood presumed extinct, but reborn to continue their deadly vendetta against the Catholic Church - is alive, well, and murderously active. Brilliant physicist Leonardo Vetra has been murdered, the society's ancient symbol branded upon his chest. His final discovery, anti-matter, the most powerful and dangerous energy source known to man, has disappeared - only to be hidden somewhere beneath Vatican City on the eve of the election of a new pope. Langdon and Vittoria, Vetra's daughter and colleague, embark on a frantic hunt through the streets, churches and catacombs of Rome, following a 400-year-old trail to the lair of the Illuminati, to prevent the incineration of civilisation.620pp, 126mm x 198mm, Paperback, 2009
Sixty-four minutes had passed when an incredulous and slightly airsick Robert Langdon stepped down the gangplank onto the sun-drenched runway. A crisp breeze rustled the lapels of his tweed jacket. The open space felt wonderful. He squinted out at the lush green valley rising to snowcapped peaks all around them.I'm dreaming
, he told himself. Any minute now I'll be waking up.
'Welcome to Switzerland,' the pilot said, yelling over the roar of the X-33's misted-fuel HEDM engines winding down behind them.
Langdon checked his watch. It read 7.07 a.m.
'You just crossed six time zones,' the pilot offered. 'It's a little past 1 p.m. here.'
Langdon reset his watch.
'How do you feel?'
He rubbed his stomach. 'Like I've been eating Styrofoam.'
The pilot nodded. 'Altitude sickness. We were at sixty thousand feet. You're thirty per cent lighter up there. Lucky we only did a puddle jump. If we'd gone to Tokyo I'd have taken her all the way up - a hundred miles. Now that'll
get your insides rolling.'
Langdon gave a wan nod and counted himself lucky. All things considered, the flight had been remarkably ordinary. Aside from a bone-crunching acceleration during take off, the plane's motion had been fairly typical - occasional minor turbulence, a few pressure changes as they'd climbed, but nothing at all to suggest they had been hurtling through space at the mind-numbing speed of 11,000 miles per hour.
A handful of technicians scurried onto the runway to tend to the X-33. The pilot escorted Langdon to a black Peugeot sedan in a parking area beside the control tower. Moments later they were speeding down a paved road that stretched out across the valley floor. A faint cluster of buildings rose in the distance. Outside, the grassy plains tore by in a blur.
Langdon watched in disbelief as the pilot pushed the speedometer up around 170 kilometres an hour - over 100 miles per hour. What is it with this guy and speed?
'Five kilometres to the lab,' the pilot said. 'I'll have you there in two minutes.'
Langdon searched in vain for a seat belt. Why not make it three and get us there alive?
The car raced on.
'Do you like Reba?' the pilot asked, jamming a cassette into the tape deck.
A woman started singing. 'It's just the fear of being alone...'No fear here
, Langdon thought absently. His female colleagues often ribbed him that his collection of museum-quality artifacts was nothing more than a transparent attempt to fill an empty home, a home they insisted would benefit greatly from the presence of a woman. Langdon always laughed it off, reminding them he already had three loves in his life - symbology, water polo, and bachelorhood - the latter being a freedom that enabled him to travel the world, sleep as late as he wanted, and enjoy quiet nights at home with a brandy and a good book.
'We're like a small city,' the pilot said, pulling Langdon from his daydream. 'Not just labs. We've got supermarkets, a hospital, even a cinema.'
Langdon nodded blankly and looked out at the sprawling expanse of buildings rising before them. 'In fact,' the pilot added, 'we possess the largest machine on earth.'
'Really?' Langdon scanned the countryside.
'You won't see it out there, sir.' The pilot smiled. 'It's buried six stories below the earth.'
Langdon didn't have time to ask. Without warning the pilot jammed on the brakes. The car skidded to a stop outside a reinforced sentry booth.
Langdon read the sign before them. SECURITE. ARRETEZ. He suddenly felt a wave of panic, realizing where he was. 'My God! I didn't bring my passport!'
'Passports are unnecessary,' the driver assured. 'We have a standing arrangement with the Swiss government.'
Langdon watched dumbfounded as his driver gave the guard an ID. The sentry ran it through an electronic authentication device. The machine flashed green.
'Robert Langdon,' the driver replied.
The sentry arched his eyebrows. He turned and checked a computer printout, verifying it against the data on his computer screen. Then he returned to the window. 'Enjoy your stay, Mr Langdon.'
The car shot off again, accelerating another 200 yards around a sweeping rotary that led to the facility's main entrance. Looming before them was a rectangular, ultramodern structure of glass and steel. Langdon was amazed by the building's striking transparent design. He had always had a fond love of architecture.
'The Glass Cathedral,' the escort offered.
'Hell, no. A church is the one thing we don't
have. Physics is the religion around here. Use the Lord's name in vain all you like,' he laughed, 'just don't slander any quarks or mesons.'
Langdon sat bewildered as the driver swung the car around and brought it to a stop in front of the glass building. Quarks and mesons? No border control? Mach 15 jets? Who the hell ARE these guys?
The engraved granite slab in front of the building bore the answer:
Conseil Europ?en pour la
'Nuclear Research?' Langdon asked, fairly certain his translation was correct.
The driver did not answer. He was leaning forward, busily adjusting the car's cassette player. 'This is your stop. The director will meet you at this entrance.'
Langdon noted a man in a wheelchair exiting the building. He looked to be in his early sixties. Gaunt and totally bald with a sternly set jaw, he wore a white lab coat and dress shoes propped firmly on the wheelchair's footrest. Even at a distance his eyes looked lifeless - like two gray stones.
'Is that him?' Langdon asked.
The driver looked up. 'Well, I'll be...' He turned and gave Landon an ominous smile. 'Speak of the devil.'
Uncertain what to expect, Langdon stepped from the vehicle.
The man in the wheelchair accelerated toward Langdon and offered a clammy hand. 'Mr Langdon? We spoke on the phone. My name is Maximilian Kohler.'
Maximilian Kohler, director general of CERN, was known behind his back as K?nig - King. It was a title more of fear than reverence for the figure who ruled over his dominion from a wheelchair throne. Although few knew him personally, the horrific story of how he had been crippled was lore at CERN, and there were few there who blamed him for his bitterness... nor for his sworn dedication to pure science.
Langdon had only been in Kohler's presence a few moments and already sensed the director was a man who kept his distance. Langdon found himself practically jogging to keep up with Kohler's electric wheelchair as it sped silently toward the main entrance. The wheelchair was like none Langdon had ever seen - equipped with a bank of electronics including a multiline phone, a paging system, computer screen, even a small, detachable video camera. King Kohler's mobile command center.
Langdon followed through a mechancial door into CERN's voluminous main lobby.The Glass Cathedral
, Langdon mused, gazing upward toward heaven.
Overhead, the bluish glass roof shimmered in the afternoon sun, casting rays of geometric patterns in the air and giving the room a sense of grandeur. Angular shadows fell like veins across the white tiled walls and down to the marble floors. The air smelled clean, sterile. A handful of scientists moved briskly about, their footsteps echoing in the resonant space.
'This way, please, Mr Langdon.' His voice sounded almost computerized. His accent was rigid and precise, like his stern features. Kohler coughed and wiped his mouth on a white handkerchief as he fixed his dead gray eyes on Langdon. 'Please hurry.' His wheelchair seemed to leap across the tiled floor.
Langdon followed past what seemed to be countless hallways branching off the main atrium. Every hallway was alive with activity. The scientists who saw Kohler seemed to stare in surprise, eyeing Langdon as if wondering who he must be to command such company.
'I'm embarrassed to admit,' Langdon ventured, trying to make conversation, 'that I've never heard of CERN.'
'Not surprising,' Kohler replied, his clipped response sounding harshly efficient. 'Most Americans do not see Europe as the world leader in scientific research. They see us as nothing but a quaint shopping district - an odd perception if you consider the nationalities of men like Einstein, Galileo, and Newton.'
Langdon was unsure how to respond. He pulled the fax from his pocket. 'This man in the photograph, can you-'
Kohler cut him off with a wave of his hand. 'Please. Not here. I am taking you to him now.' He held out his hand. 'Perhaps I should take that.'
Langdon handed over the fax and fell silently into step.
Kohler took a sharp left and entered a wide hallway adorned with awards and commendations. A particularly large plaque dominated the entry. Langdon slowed to read the engraved bronze as they passed.
ARS ELECTRONICA AWARD
Well I'll be damned
For Cultural Innovation in the Digital Age
Awarded to Tim Berners Lee and CERN
for the invention of the
, Langdon thought, reading the text. This guy wasn't kidding
. Langdon had always thought of the Web as an American invention. Then again, his knowledge was limited to the site for his own book and the occasional on-line exploration of the Louvre or El Prado on his old Macintosh.
'The Web,' Kohler said, coughing again and wiping his mouth, 'began here as a network of in-house computer sites. It enabled scientists from different departments to share daily findings with one another. Of course, the entire world is under the impression the Web is U.S. technology.'
Langdon followed down the hall. 'Why not set the record straight?'
Kohler shrugged, apparently disinterested. 'A petty misconception over a petty technology. CERN is far greater than a global connection of computers. Our scientists produce miracles almost daily.'
Langdon gave Kohler a questioning look. 'Miracles?
' The word was certainly not part of the vocabulary around Harvard's Fairchild Science Building. Miracles
were left for the School of Divinity.
'You send skeptical,' Kohler said. 'I thought you were a religious symbologist. Do you not believe in miracles?'
'I'm undecided on miracles,' Langdon said. Particularly those that take place in science labs
'Perhaps miracle is the wrong word. I was simply trying to speak your language.'
'My language?' Langdon was suddenly uncomfortable. 'Not to disappoint you, sir, but I study religious symbology
- I'm an academic, not a priest.'
Kohler slowed suddenly and turned, his gaze softening a bit. 'Of course. How simple of me. One does not need to have cancer to analyze its symptoms.'
Langdon had never heard it put quite that way.
As they moved down the hallway, Kohler gave an accepting nod. I suspect you and I will understand each other perfectly, Mr Langdon.'
Somehow Langdon doubted it.
As the pair hurried on, Langdon began to sense a deep rumbling ahead. The noise got more and more pronounced with every step, reverberating through the walls. It seemed to be coming from the end of the hallway in front of them.
'What's that?' Langdon finally asked, having to yell. He felt like they were approaching an active volcano.
'Free fall tube,' Kohler replied, his hollow voice cutting the air effortlessly. He offered no other explanation.
Langdon didn't ask. He was exhausted, and Maximilian Kohler seemed disinterested in winning any hospitality awards. Langdon reminded himself why he was here. Illuminati
. He assumed somewhere in this colossal facility was a body... a body branded with a wymbol he had just flown thousands of miles to see.
As they approached the end of the hall, the rumble became almost deafening, vibrating up through Langdon's soles. They rounded the bend, and a viewing gallery appeared on the right. Four thick-paned portals were embedded in a curved wall, like windows in a submarine. Langdon stopped and looked though one of the holes.
Professor Robert Langdon had seen some stange things in his life, but this was the strangest. He blinked a few times, wondering if he was hallucinating. He was staring into an enormous circular chamber. Inside the chamber, floating as though weightless, were people
. Three of them. One waved and did a somersault in midair.My God
, he thought. I'm in the land of Oz
The floor of the room was a mesh grid, like a giant sheet of chicken wire. Visible beneath the grid was the metallic blur of a huge propeller.
'Free fall tube,' Kohler said, stopping to wait for him. 'Indoor skydiving. For stress relief. It's a vertical wind tunnel.'
Langdon looked on in amazement. One of the free fallers, an obese woman, maneuvered toward the window. She was being buffeted by the air currents but grinned and flashed Langdon the thumbs-up sign. Langdon smiled weakly and returned the gesture, wondering if she knew it was the ancient phallic symbol for masculine virility.
The heavyset woman, Langdon noticed, was the only one wearing what appeared to be a miniature parachute. The swathe of fabric billowed over her like a toy. 'What's her little chute for?' Langdon asked Kohler. 'It can't be more than a yard in diameter.'
'Friction,' Kohler said. 'Decreases her aerodynamics so the fan can lift her.' He started down the corridor again. 'One square yard of drag will slow a falling body almost twenty per cent.'
Langdon nodded blankly.
He never suspected that later that night, in a country hundreds of miles away, the information would save his life.
From Angels & Demons, ?2009 by Dan Brown, published by Transworld Publishers.