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INSIDE THE MAIN sanctuary of the deserted chapel, Langdon and Ambra followed Winston’s voice around the perimeter of the two-story supercomputer. Through the heavy glass, they heard a deep vibrating thrum emanating from the colossal machine inside. Langdon had the eerie sense that he was peering into a cage at an incarcerated beast.

The noise, according to Winston, was generated not by the electronics but by the vast array of centrifugal fans, heat sinks, and liquid coolant pumps required to keep the machine from overheating.

“It’s deafening in there,” Winston said. “And freezing. Fortunately, Edmond’s lab is on the second floor.”

A freestanding spiral staircase rose ahead, affixed to the outer wall of the glass enclosure. On Winston’s command, Langdon and Ambra climbed the stairs and found themselves standing on a metal platform before a glass revolving door.

To Langdon’s amusement, this futuristic entrance to Edmond’s lab had been decorated as if it were a suburban home—complete with a welcome mat, a fake potted plant, and a little bench under which sat a pair of house slippers, which Langdon realized wistfully must have been Edmond’s.

Above the door hung a framed message.

Success is the ability to go

from one failure to another

with no loss of enthusiasm.


“More Churchill,” Langdon said, pointing it out to Ambra.

“Edmond’s favorite quote,” Winston chimed. “He said it pinpoints the single greatest strength of computers.”

“Computers?” Ambra asked.

“Yes, computers are infinitely persistent. I can fail billions of times with no trace of frustration. I embark upon my billionth attempt at solving a problem with the same energy as my first. Humans cannot do that.”

“True,” Langdon admitted. “I usually give up after my millionth attempt.”

Ambra smiled and moved toward the door.

“The floor inside is glass,” Winston said as the revolving door began turning automatically. “So please remove your shoes.”

Within seconds, Ambra had kicked off her shoes and stepped barefoot through the rotating portal. As Langdon followed suit, he noticed that Edmond’s welcome mat bore an unusual message:


“Winston, this mat? I don’t under—”

“Local host,” Winston replied.

Langdon read the mat again. “I see,” he said, not seeing at all, and continued through the revolving door.

When Langdon stepped out onto the glass floor, he felt a moment of weak-kneed uncertainty. Standing on a transparent surface in his socks was unnerving enough, but to find himself hovering directly over the MareNostrum computer downstairs felt doubly disconcerting. From up here, viewing the phalanx of stately racks below reminded Langdon of peering down into China’s famous Xi’an archeological pit at the army of terra-cotta soldiers.

Langdon took a deep breath and raised his eyes to the bizarre space before him.

Edmond’s lab was a transparent rectangle dominated by the metallic blue-gray cube he had seen earlier, its glossy surface reflecting everything around it. To the right of the cube, at one end of the room, was an ultra-sleek office space with a semicircular desk, three giant LCD screens, and assorted keyboards recessed into the granite work surface.

“Mission control,” Ambra whispered.

Langdon nodded and glanced toward the opposite end of the chamber, where armchairs, a couch, and an exercise bike were arranged on an Oriental carpet.

A supercomputing man cave, Langdon mused, suspecting that Edmond had all but moved into this glass box while working on his project. What did he discover up here? Langdon’s initial hesitation had passed, and he now felt the growing pull of intellectual curiosity—the yearning to learn what mysteries had been unveiled up here, what secrets had been unearthed by the collaboration of a genius mind and a powerful machine.

Ambra had already padded across the floor to the massive cube and was gazing up in bewilderment at its polished blue-gray surface. Langdon joined her, both of them reflected in its shiny exterior.

This is a computer? Langdon wondered. Unlike the machine downstairs, this one was dead silent—inert and lifeless—a metallic monolith. The machine’s bluish hue reminded Langdon of a 1990s supercomputer called “Deep Blue,” which had stunned the world by defeating world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Since then, the advances in computing technology were almost impossible to comprehend.

“Would you like to look inside?” Winston chimed from a set of speakers overhead.

Ambra shot a startled glance upward. “Look inside the cube?”

“Why not?” Winston replied. “Edmond would have been proud to show you its inner workings.”

“Not necessary,” Ambra said, turning her eyes toward Edmond’s office. “I’d rather focus on entering the password. How do we do that?”

“It will take only a matter of seconds, and we still have more than eleven minutes before we can launch. Have a look inside.”

Before them, a panel on the side of the cube facing Edmond’s office began to slide open, revealing a thick pane of glass. Langdon and Ambra circled around and pressed their faces to the transparent portal.

Langdon expected to see yet another densely packed cluster of wires and blinking lights. But he saw nothing of the sort. To his bewilderment, the inside of the cube was dark and empty—like a small vacant room. The only contents appeared to be wisps of white mist that swirled in the air as if the room were a walk-in freezer. The thick Plexiglas panel radiated a surprising coldness.

“There’s nothing here,” Ambra declared.

Langdon saw nothing either but could feel a low repetitive pulsation emanating from within the cube.

“That slow thumping beat,” Winston said, “is the pulse tube dilution refrigeration system. It sounds like a human heart.”

Yes, it does, Langdon thought, unnerved by the comparison.

Slowly, red lights within began to illuminate the interior of the cube. At first, Langdon saw only white fog and bare floor space—an empty square chamber. Then, as the glow increased, something glinted in the air above the floor, and he realized there was an intricate metal cylinder hanging down from the ceiling like a stalactite.

“And this,” Winston said, “is what the cube must keep cold.”

The cylindrical device suspended from the ceiling was about five feet long, composed of seven horizontal rings that decreased in diameter as they descended, creating a narrowing column of tiered disks attached by slender vertical rods. The space between the burnished metal disks was occupied by a sparse mesh of delicate wires. An icy mist swirled around the entire device.

“E-Wave,” Winston announced. “A quantum leap—if you’ll pardon the pun—beyond NASA/Google’s D-Wave.”

Winston quickly explained that D-Wave—the world’s first rudimentary “quantum computer”—had unlocked a brave new world of computational power that scientists were still struggling to comprehend. Quantum computing, rather than using a binary method of storing information, made use of the quantum states of subatomic particles, resulting in an exponential leap in speed, power, and flexibility.

Edmond’s quantum computer,” Winston said, “is structurally not that different from D-Wave. One difference is the metallic cube surrounding the computer. The cube is coated with osmium—a rare, ultradense chemical element that provides enhanced magnetic, thermal, and quantum shielding, and also, I suspect, plays into Edmond’s sense of drama.”

Langdon smiled, having had a similar thought himself.

“Over the past few years, while Google’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab used machines like D-Wave to enhance machine learning, Edmond secretly leapfrogged over everybody with this machine. And he did so using a single bold idea …” Winston paused. “Bicameralism.”

Langdon frowned. The two houses of Parliament?

“The two-lobed brain,” Winston continued. “Left and right hemispheres.”

The bicameral mind, Langdon now realized. One of the things that made human beings so creative was that the two halves of their brains functioned so differently. The left brain was analytical and verbal, while the right brain was intuitive and “preferred” pictures to words.

“The trick,” Winston said, “was that Edmond decided to build a synthetic brain that mimicked the human brain—that is, segmented into left and right hemispheres. Although, in this case, it’s more of an upstairs-downstairs arrangement.”

Langdon stepped back and peered through the floor at the churning machine downstairs and then back to the silent “stalactite” inside the cube. Two distinct machines fused into one—a bicameral mind.

“When forced to work as a single unit,” Winston said, “these two machines adopt differing approaches to problem solving—thereby experiencing the same kinds of conflict and compromise that occur between the lobes of the human brain, greatly accelerating AI learning, creativity, and, in a sense … humanity. In my case, Edmond gave me the tools to teach myself about humanity by observing the world around me and modeling human traits—humor, cooperation, value judgments, and even a sense of ethics.”

Incredible, Langdon thought. “So this double computer is essentially … you?”

Winston laughed. “Well, this machine is no more me than your physical brain is you. Observing your own brain in a bowl, you would not say, ‘That object is me.’ We are the sum of the interactions taking place within the mechanism.”

“Winston,” Ambra interjected, moving now toward Edmond’s work space. “How much time until launch?”

“Five minutes and forty-three seconds,” Winston replied. “Shall we prepare?”

“Yes, please,” she said.

The viewing window’s shielding slid slowly back into place, and Langdon turned to join Ambra in Edmond’s lab.

“Winston,” she said. “Considering all your work here with Edmond, I’m surprised that you have no sense at all what his discovery was.”

“Again, Ms. Vidal, my information is compartmentalized, and I have the same data you have,” he replied. “I can only make an educated guess.”

“And what would that be?” Ambra asked, looking around Edmond’s office.

“Well, Edmond claimed that his discovery would ‘change everything.’ In my experience, the most transformative discoveries in history have all resulted in revised models of the universe—breakthroughs like Pythagoras’s rejection of the flat-earth model, Copernican heliocentricism, Darwin’s theory of evolution, and Einstein’s discovery of relativity—all of which drastically altered humankind’s view of their world and updated our current model of the universe.”

Langdon glanced up at the speaker overhead. “So you’re guessing Edmond discovered something that suggests a new model of the universe?”

“It’s a logical deduction,” Winston replied, talking faster now. “MareNostrum happens to be one of the finest ‘modeling’ computers on earth, specializing in complex simulations, its most famous being ‘Alya Red’—a fully functioning, virtual human heart that is accurate down to the cellular level. Of course, with the recent addition of a quantum component, this facility can model systems millions of times more complicated than human organs.”

Langdon grasped the concept but still couldn’t imagine what Edmond might have modeled to answer the questions Where do we come from? Where are we going?

“Winston?” Ambra called from Edmond’s desk. “How do we turn all this on?”

“I can help you,” Winston replied.

The three huge LCD screens on the desk flickered to life just as Langdon arrived beside Ambra. As the images on the screen materialized, both of them stepped back in alarm.

“Winston … is that image live?” Ambra asked.

“Yes, live feed from our exterior security cameras. I thought you should know. They arrived several seconds ago.”

The display screens showed a fish-eye view of the chapel’s main entrance, where a small army of police had assembled, pressing the call button, trying the door, talking on radios.

“Don’t worry,” Winston assured them, “they will never get in. And we’re less than four minutes until launch.”

“We should launch right now,” Ambra urged.

Winston replied evenly. “I believe Edmond would prefer that we wait and launch at the top of the hour, as promised. He was a man of his word. Moreover, I am monitoring our global viewer engagement, and our audience is still growing. In the next four minutes, at the current rate, our audience will increase by 12.7 percent, and, I predict, approach maximum penetration.” Winston paused, sounding almost pleasantly surprised. “I must say, despite all that has transpired this evening, it appears Edmond’s release will be optimally timed. I think he would be deeply grateful to both of you.”

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