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CARA EXAMINED THE journal in her hotel room. Under the soft glow of the lamp on her desk, she thumbed through the pages for a cursory glance. Besides some general notes regarding the site in Antarctica, the rest of the journal's pages overflowed with strings off numbers. Page after page, the numbers seemed to have no reasoning behind them. But they must, she knew.

She slid the journal aside, leaving it open to the first page where the string of number began. Next, Cara took the scrolls they'd recovered from Medusa and unrolled the seventh with great care.

The papyrus appeared in excellent condition, especially if the age indeed dated back to the beginnings of Egyptian civilization. Cara didn't know what any of hieroglyphic symbols meant, but she recognized many of the pictures. Something odd brought a cloud over her concentration. Large blocks of entirely different symbols were bookended amongst the others. She didn't need to be a language scholar to know the other hieroglyphs were not Egyptian.

Cuneiform? Sumerian, perhaps? "Why the mix of the two? Both hieroglyphs and cuneiform pictographs represent the alphabet, syllables, even entire words." She mused in curiosity.

Cara opened the desk drawer and pulled out a piece of paper. She transposed the hieroglyphs in their order on one side and then flipped the page and did the same thing with the other symbols she thought might be cuneiform. Her hand cramped, but she finished the last few images.

Cara opened the touchscreen laptop John had bought for her, adjusting the screen from the glare of the lamp-light. She logged in with her password and then tapped the internet icon.

Headlines of more terrorist attacks filled the news page and consumed the majority of the articles. The ongoing chaos drew a heavy sigh from Cara, but she typed in the address for her cloud-base program and uploaded images of the scrolls from the thumb drive storage device acquired from Greece. She tapped the keys, queuing up the analysis algorithm and pressed Enter. The laptop chirped. Internal fans kicked on as the processors crunched a string of complex calculations.

"Let's see what the hell all of this means." A sensation of power surged though Cara's body, the instant gratification of getting what she wanted, when she wanted it. She blurted a laugh, realizing that the way she felt now was probably how John must feel every moment of his life. Money not an object, unlimited resources, and everything cutting edge technology. "Humph. I could get used to this."

Fifty minutes later, the results started streaming in. Numbers decoded from the chain of symbols. Cara shook her head at first, but a passage decrypted below the growing line of numbers, and she couldn't believe what it said.

Beware the pull precise.

The gods will heed the bearers call.

Pull precise or all will fall.

The riddle meant nothing to Cara until the second and third passages appeared on the screen. When the last few symbols translated, the program beeped.

[Analysis complete]

In the Spider's lair, above as it is below.

The power of Death reverse and slow.

But heed the pull of the Cosmic bell.

Or suffer eternity the wrath of hell.

By Vishwakarma's conception, and Osiris' might.

The Lodestone attracts the Cosmic light.

The Third bridge of Life and Death connect.

In Teotihuacán, the underworld is met.

"Osiris, God of life and death." Cara worked it out. "Vishwakarma, the Hindu God of Architecture, engineer of the universe. The Spider's lair, Teotihuacán ... the Great Goddess. The bridge of Life and Death connect." She let her mouth fall open. "It's fucking Pandora's Box."

Ascension must have Pandora's box, but John's father found the frequency code to open it.

Even without the precise frequency current, Cara knew it must operate within a narrow range based upon the limited variables to be adjusted. But she glanced at the journal, and grinned. "And we've got the owner's manual." She tapped a finger to her lips. "No wonder John's father was chasing the legend. The implications of extending life, maybe indefinitely, has serious repercussions."

But why are they after me?

She glanced at the clock on the computer before shelving the idea of contacting John at one in the morning. Instead, her mind raced at the possibilities, wondering how the discovery of Pandora's Box played into Ascension's ambitions.

Cara's gaze wandered about her lonely room. Empty, except for—

An envelope slid under her door

"What's that?" Cara squinted as she crossed her room. She bent over and picked up the letter

No name. No markings.

She scrunched the envelope in her hand. Then she smacked it to her forehead a couple of times. "You know what you want. Why don't you just ask him how he feels? You've done worse." Her lingering examination on the awkward dinner surprised the curious scientist in her.

Cara plopped down on the tiny but luxurious loveseat. The cushions pulled around her body, comforting her as she opened the letter. She sank in, sprawled out, and started reading. The generic font of the message and the fact that if had been written in capital letters was not disturbing until she read one word: Loren.

WE HAVE SOMEONE THAT MAY BE OF INTEREST TO YOU, DOCTOR CRIEST. YOUR NIECE, LOREN, IS QUITE EXCEPTIONAL. HOW FORTUNATE THAT SHE HAS DETAILED OBSERVATIONS OF MUCH OF YOUR WORK. WE HAVE BORROWED HER AND BROUGHT HER ON A VACATION AND WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU WOULD DO THE HONOR OF JOINING US.

Cara scooted to the edge of her seat and straightened. Hand over her lips, she rose, pacing while she continued to read.

DON'T TELL ANYONE, DON'T TAKE ANYTHING. PRECEDE TO THE AIRPORT NOW, TERMINAL 2, AND WE WILL FIND YOU. IF YOU DON'T, YOUR TRAVELING COMPANION WILL BE ASSISINATED, AND YOUR NIECE AND BROTHER WILL BE FORCED TO SUFFER FOR YOUR INACTION. DON'T FORGET TO BRING THE JOURNAL.

Her world spun. Cara grabbed her gut for the sick feeling rising through her body, gathered her passport, and added it to her purse. She considered alerting John, but if the people who had her niece and brother could get into the hotel and past the security with apparent ease, then she decided it best to observe their warning.

Cara gnawed her lip, fingers flipping through the pages of the journal, focused on the section which she'd begun to see the pattern of the frequency. She clamped down on the series of pages and pulled. The pages tore cleanly, and she folded the papers neatly and tucked them into her bra. Careful not to make excessive noise, she turned the doorknob and opened the door. Empty.

Craning her head one last time at John's door, Cara slipped down the hallway and took the stairs to the lobby. She hailed a cab and left for the airport, pushing away her feelings for John and the fear for her family.

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