Sample Chapters


A small bead of sweat rolled down Matt Sousa’s forehead. He brushed at it as it moved past his left eye, wiping his fingers just below a growing circle of dampness that soaked the front of his tee shirt. He could hear the late August wind as it blew down from the Andes and across the Altiplano, but Matt couldn’t feel the rush of the cool mountain air. He was almost 8 feet below the surface of the earth.

He worked methodically, even though his back ached and his knees hurt, clearing layer after layer of dirt from a seam between two stone floor tiles. He used his index finger to clear a few small pebbles that his brush had missed. When he stopped, his hand hovered directly over the object, hidden from his view by a thin layer of earth. Matt Sousa had no idea how close he was.

Another bead of sweat rolled off his face and splashed on the rough stone three inches from his left knee. A small starburst of water and dust marked the stone. After two and a half hours in this position, his mind began to wander. His work demanded attention, and yet, he drifted to a different time and place. Another bead of water splashed onto the stone tiles transformed by his memory into parqueted oak. The sound of the Altiplano wind morphed into the background roar of 4,000 people. Matt was in a huddle of five tired basketball players in the final seconds of the Colorado state high school championship. Across the years, he could hear the tension in his coach’s voice as he diagrammed a last play.

It was simple. It had to be. Only eight seconds remained on the clock and his team trailed by 1 point. A 6’2" senior guard and the best shooter on the team, Matt would take the final shot.

His memory of the next eight seconds was extraordinarily clear. Like high-resolution film, the slow motion replay ran in his mind, nervous players making nervous passes. He watched the seams rotate as the ball moved into his hands. Matt faked a move toward the hoop, causing his defender to lean backward, slightly off balance. It was the opening he needed. Two seconds remained as he squared to shoot from 15 feet.

But the film in his head had been edited. He couldn’t remember releasing the ball or watching its flight. His mind’s eye only saw the rim. The ball hit the inside of the rim at ten o’clock, made one full revolution around the metal, half in and half out of the basket, and then spun out against the backboard and into the air. He had missed.

He remembered kneeling on the oak floor, disconsolate, the sound of the final buzzer echoing in his head. A hand touched his shoulder. A teammate—the point guard—leaned over and said something, but the crowd noise and chaos on the court overwhelmed the words. It didn’t matter, it was over.

A wan smile crossed Matt’s face as he shook off his daydream and resumed work.

"Matthew, why don’t we call it a morning. Let’s have lunch."

Matt didn’t look up at the voice coming from the surface.

"Just give me ten more minutes and I’ll have this sector cleared out. Then I’ll quit," Matt mumbled at the ground beneath him.


"Ten more minutes!"

"All right. But no more than that. We’ve got to begin closing this down."

Three months ago, 22 people were at work at this same place—most of them doing grunt work. Matt had time to diagnose, to analyze, and to think. But the season was coming to a close, and now just four people remained. The grunt work could no longer be delegated, and that meant that it all fell on Matt, the junior member of the team. Soon, excavation would be put on hold and months would pass without any activity. That was okay. The site had waited for more than 1,000 years.

The history of this place would never be known with absolute certainty. It was Matt’s job to provide best guesses. A 31 year-old Ph.D. candidate in archaeology, he was where he belonged. In a hole at a remote location—digging. More than 400 cubic yards of Bolivian earth had been removed during the past three years, one pail at a time. But the site gave up its secrets grudgingly. There was little question that it was a small Inca shrine, but it also appeared subtly different from others in the region. One month ago, not more than 10 feet from where Matt now knelt, another member of the team had uncovered a portion of a large stone carving of a bird’s wing. Slowly, additional pieces of the stone statue had emerged, including more of the wing and part of the head. The bird looked like a vulture, which was odd, because no similar carvings had ever been unearthed at an Inca site.

As work continued, evidence of an older civilization materialized. A small stone amulet made by the Coyas, a people of the Tiahuanaco culture that flourished between 2000 B.C. and 600 A.D, had had been found only three days earlier. It was this evidence Matt Sousa sought. The Coya amulet appeared remarkably similar to small stone carvings found in North Africa and dated to the same period.

Matt and his team had developed a radical hypothesis: that the early cultures of South America were influenced by cultures that pre-dated them in North Africa. Specifically, that the Egyptians had traveled to South America two millennia before the birth of Christ and had taught the indigenous peoples many lessons in architecture, mathematics, medicine, and language. Matt’s Ph.D. dissertation, when he sat down to write it, would use information obtained from this and other digs to support the ‘North African connection.’

Recent discoveries in Central America had caused a stir in the arcane world of archaeology and provided the first support for Matt’s hypothesis. A number of early Mayan tablets containing a hieroglyphic-like text that had a surprising resemblance to ancient Egyptian had recently been uncovered. The implications were enormous. Could knowledge imported from North Africa have formed the basis for the advanced Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations?

The old guard contended that early cultures in the Americas had descended from hunter-gatherers who traveled across the land bridge from Asia, dismissing the Egyptian connection out of hand. Still Matt persisted, even though getting funding to explore his theory was a continuing battle.

Matt stood up and stretched, looking around at the excavation. A grid of strings criss-crossed the ground, dividing the work area into sectors. It sometimes gave Matt the odd feeling he was standing on a giant chessboard and that he was one of the pieces.
There were, of course, no historical records of this place. Stone floor tiling and the fragmentary remains of stone walls left a sketchy floor plan of the ancient shrine. Matt was working in the "sealed room"—so named because the builders appeared to have created no way in and no way out. He squatted again and continued his painstaking work.

"Matthew, it’s time."

Matt frowned at the ground, knowing that the dig was over, and then smiled up at Professor Andrew Gilman—his Ph.D. advisor. Like Matt, Gilman was a strong proponent of the North African hypothesis. He was Matt’s most ardent supporter.

"I’m up against the wall here." Matt smiled as he brushed the last layer of dirt from the seam between two floor tiles.

Both literally and figuratively, he was right. The sector that he was clearing abutted the Northwest earthen wall that rose 8 feet to ground level. Floor stone continued into the wall, disappearing under 8 feet of dirt and stone.

Matt pivoted his head upward until he saw his advisor at the edge of the hole. "Come on down and help me finish up. Then we eat."

Gilman leaned over the edge, sending a cascade of dirt and small rocks into the hole, missing Matt by a few feet.

"You’re still paying your dues, Matthew, that’s why you’re down there and I’m up here." Gilman laughed. "Seriously, it’s not likely you’ll accomplish much more. Let’s call it quits."
"Give me a minute, and I’m done for the morning." Matt thought for a moment. "Maybe I should say we’re done for the season." Matt’s team would leave for the States tomorrow.

Matt continued his work, retracing the path of his brush along the seam and removing another few millimeters of dust in the process.

OK, just clean up this seam and that’s it, he thought, rotating his shoulders to overcome the stiffness in his back. His colleagues, all older men, could work only for short periods of time in the mile-high altitude, but Matt worked for hours on end. Years earlier, he had learned to block out pain and discomfort if the mission demanded it. It was a discipline that came in handy, even for an archaeologist.

As he changed position, Matt thought he noticed a small glint of metal from within the seam that separated the two floor tiles. His brush stopped moving. Matt blinked, unsure he had seen anything at all.

He brushed more dirt away until he caught another reflection of light. More brush strokes revealed the edge of what appeared to be a small, flat metal disk—like a thick, finely machined coin, with a mirror polish on its edge.

"What the hell?" he whispered, rubbing a bead of sweat away from his eye. The people who built this temple did not, according to existing knowledge, use metal objects, with the exception of gold and silver. The object certainly wasn’t gold, and silver would never maintain a high polish for 1,000 years or more. Therefore, the object had to be contemporary, something that fell from someone’s pocket or was thrown into the hole.

Matt stopped and scratched his cheek. Something wasn’t right. He bent forward, his nose no more than 10 inches from the stone seam that contained the object. It couldn’t have fallen into the seam—the disk was embedded there, centuries of dust filling any gap between the rock floor and the disk. Matt reached for an awl-like tool that lay to his right and probed around the object.

Slowly, he worked the tool under the disk. It rocked and moved upward. Matt pulled it out of the seam, examined it for a few moments, and put it in his shirt pocket.

* * * * * *

R.J. Fanler was an early riser. He got out of bed quietly—Ming Lo was still fast asleep—and opened one of the large French doors that connected his bedroom to a huge redwood deck. Through a stand of pines, he looked down the mountain toward the Pacific Ocean, three miles away, studying the few stars that remained as the sky brightened just before dawn. On a clear day, this view was spectacular, and spectacular views in the state of California were expensive.

Fifteen years ago, he lived in a small rent in Cupertino, typical for a young, underpaid hotshot software engineer. He moved out of Silicon Valley and toward the ocean when the money came.

RJ’s house—it was actually large enough to be called an estate—stood in the hills above Santa Cruz, isolated, unmarked. A long driveway meandered through a stand of small redwoods to a large multistory A-frame. The rear of the house, almost all glass, faced the Pacific. Sunsets were awe-inspiring, but in the 11 years that RJ had lived in this house, he had rarely seen them. He had a company to run and he never got home before dark.

His commute down the mountain, across California Route 17, north on I-280 and into Cupertino had been a daily nightmare. RJ once figured that over the time he had lived in Santa Cruz he spent almost a full year of his life sitting in his car, bucking traffic that sometimes stretched bumper to bumper for 10 miles or more. He could have had a company car with a chauffeur each morning, but that just wasn’t RJ. He had to drive himself, even though it wasn’t the best use of his time.

RJ walked along the deck toward the south end of the house and opened the door to his office. He was dressed for work—ripped jeans and faded Rolling Stones T-shirt draped on a body that was slightly overweight, but still powerful, his long, light brown hair tied in a ponytail. He absently stroked his mustache, studying his faint reflection in the glass of the door.

Until recently, RJ’s home office got relatively little use. But now it served as his center of operations. He flipped on the lights—it was still dark in the house, even though the sky to the west continued to brighten—and turned on an all news radio station. He dropped to the floor and began doing push ups, listening to the drone of the early morning business news.

As the newsreader approached a commercial break, his voice took on a somber tone, "In a related story, MarketPulse, a Stamford, Connecticut-based market research firm, reports that PC sales for the second quarter will be flat at best."

RJ stopped doing push ups, switched off the radio and grimaced. More good economic news, he thought, sardonically.

At 33, RJ was a wounded veteran of the PC wars. Until six months earlier, he had been Founder, President and CEO of Averic Computer—a company that at its zenith had employed almost 23,000 people, though downsizing over the past few years had reduced its staff by more than 50 percent.

Averic was an American corporate success story. It began the PC revolution back in the days when "home computers" were in their infancy and rode a wave that swept every industrialized nation. For a time, RJ and his management team had a chance to dominate the entire personal computer industry, but bad decisions and a stubborn reliance on high-priced, high-quality technology caused the company to stumble. Competitors eroded Averic’s market share.

For the cognoscenti, this was galling, but predictable. Good marketing, low prices, and a solid business strategy, coupled with technologically inferior products, beat Averic’s superior technology almost every time.

The last six months had been traumatic for Averic and equally stressful for R.J. Fanler. In an unexpected move, the board of directors of the company he founded had ousted him. The new acting CEO of Averic, Sam Wylie, had orchestrated the coup by a group of outside board members—all of them venture capitalists.

A legend in the PC industry, RJ was a classic software wizard. Born in Texas and raised on a small cattle ranch, he masked an IQ of over 160 with good ol’ boy’s charm. Almost fifteen years earlier, he single-handedly wrote the first version of the Averic operating system and then worked side-by side with a few other wizards to fine-tune the product for wide scale use.

But RJ was a visionary, not a businessman. The venture capitalists had tolerated his idiosyncratic behavior and laissez-faire management style as long as Averic was growing at 40 percent per year. But today the company with the best hardware and software technology on the planet controlled less than 5 percent of the world market for PCs. Enough for over 5 billion dollars in sales, but not enough to please shareholders, Wall Street analysts, or the board of directors.

RJ sat at his desk and pressed auto-dial on the phone, waiting six rings before he heard, "Huh."

"S.Y., how’er they hangin?"

"Jesus H. Key-ryst, Bobby Joe, it’s ... it’s .. what the hell time is it out there anyway?" the speaker mimicked his friend’s Texas accent.

RJ smiled, "5:50, you still in bed?"

"Hell no. Been up for what? Probably a half-hour. It’s almost 8:00 in the windy city. How’s unemployment?"

RJ chuckled. The person he was speaking to had been one of the wizards who helped him start Averic Computer. In a play on his own nickname, RJ only addressed his friend using his initials. "S.Y., I’ve told you 12,000 times not to call me ‘Bobby Joe.’ My mama named me Robert Joseph and it was my idiot father that thought-up Bobby Joe before he left us when I was but a poor child."

S.Y. laughed. "Give me a break, RJ, it was your ‘idiot’ father who loaned you the first ten thousand bucks to get your company started."

"Guilt," grumbled RJ. "Hey, it’s not ‘my’ company anymore. It’s all theirs."

"Why the hell are you calling me at this ungodly hour?"

"I’m returning your call. You been trying to reach me for two days. Least that’s what your last angry message said."

"We’re playing phone tag, Bobby Joe. I was returning your call, remember? Where the hell were you?"

"Me? I was at a conference," said RJ hesitantly.

"What conference?"

"It’s personal."

"Oh, man. You went to another trekkie conference, didn’t you."

R.J. Fanler, the technical genius who built a billion-dollar company from a garage, was a Star Trek fanatic. Although there were many others like him, few were worth 200 million dollars.

"Been giving a lot of thought to what I want to do with the rest of my life." RJ’s voice lost a little of its Texas accent. This always happened when he got serious.


"I’m ready to start a company."

At the other end of the phone line, S.Y. smiled. "Hmmm, doing exactly what?"

"Same stuff we were trying to do at Averic when I had you come in for a consult, only this time we do it without a bunch of bean counters breaking our balls."
There was silence on the line. Finally S.Y. asked. "You mean the SIP?"

"Yep ... just because those assholes on the board fired me because I wouldn’t give it up, that’s no reason not to do it. Right?"

During his last months at Averic, RJ battled continuously with the board of directors, trying to convince them that the company needed a breakthrough technology to get back on top—something that would be truly revolutionary. RJ firmly believed that a semantic information processor—a SIP—was exactly the kind of breakthrough technology that could regain Averic’s market share. The SIP concept envisioned a truly intelligent machine, one that the media would surely call a ‘thinking machine.’ One that could understand natural language and converse in quasi-intelligent manner with a human user. In its extensions, it could learn, both about its human user and about its environment, using the vast sea of information on the Internet to increase its knowledge. The SIP would provide the company that built it with a revolutionary technology—a true breakthrough in computing.

Sam Wylie, a prominent bay area venture capitalist and a major Averic stockholder, rallied the board of directors against the SIP project. They needed immediate revenue, not pipe dreams.

As a result of the escalating conflict over the SIP, the board had forced RJ to resign. The business press went wild when the announcement was made. "Fanler to Leave Averic," stated a front page article in The Wall Street Journal. Industry pundits debated the impact of RJ’s departure on the future of the company, some arguing that it was the best thing that could have happened, while others lamented it as the death of innovation at Averic.

Interview requests came pouring in. RJ was more than a businessman, he was a character—and characters made news. But after more than a dozen TV and print interviews, RJ simply stopped. He declined further requests to meet with the media and essentially dropped out of sight, going into seclusion at his Santa Cruz estate. Now it was time for his next move.

"So whaddaya think, S.Y.?"

A pause. "You really serious about building a SIP?"

"Do rag dolls have cloth boobies? Of course I am. Question is, are you with me?"

There was no hesitation at the other end of the line. "Yeah. As a consultant, I can
help, but I’ve still got my day job."

"Goddamn, S.Y., give up that academic bullshit and get your ass back out here. I’m talking full time employment, none of this part-time crap."

S.Y. laughed. "I happen to like the academic life, Bobby Joe. The 16 hour days working at a start-up kind of wear on me after about a year or so."

"Pussy ..." RJ laughed. He knew S.Y. would resist. "All right, you’re hired as a consultant ... for now."

S.Y.’s voice became serious. "When does all this start happening?"

"I’ve got to put together a good techie team and a good business team. Develop a plan. That’ll take a little time, probably a few months. I want to involve one or two other investors—people I can trust."

"I’ll be sitting by the phone."

"I’ll just bet you will, my friend." RJ paused. "We’ll talk in a few weeks. I’ll call."

"Looking forward to it, RJ. Later."

RJ walked back out to the redwood deck. The sky was brighter now, the stars in the western sky erased by the growing light. "Here comes the sun," he said out loud as he walked back to the bedroom. Mornings were a sexy time. Maybe Ming Lo would be up.


Marco Paena stared at the laminar flow of his cigarette smoke as it rose into the air. Marco’s eyes followed the smoke upward until it dissipated two meters above the sidewalk on deAroyo Street in Lima’s busy business district.

The late morning crowds were typical of those found throughout Peru’s largest city. The professional class walked with a purposeful, yet relaxed grace. Places to go, people to see. The working class—secretaries, laborers working on nearby construction projects, people from the smaller cities and towns that surrounded Lima—moved casually along the street, no one paying particular attention to Marco as he leaned against a light pole near the curb. Dressed casually in light tan pants, a white cotton long-sleeved shirt open at the collar, and a well-worn blue sports jacket, he was just another face among thousands.

Every so often, however, a passer-by would notice the scar and examine it furtively for a second or two. In an unconscious reaction to such stares, Marco rubbed the scar gently, tracing the long white line that moved from just above his left ear across his cheek to a spot just right of center on his chin.

Through the cigarette smoke, he watched the front doors of a business branch office of Banco Internacional de Peru, 100 meters down and across the street. He glanced at his watch, then looked at his reflection in the plate glass of a nearby storefront. Around his dark face, he wore his black hair peppered with grey cut long in the disorganized way that he knew gave him an oddly dangerous look. Marco could remember when his hair was jet black and much thicker. But that was before the scar and before the fury of the movement.

In Peru the seeds of revolution began growing during the 1960s. The wealthy controlled a system where political corruption ran rampant, judges could be purchased, and oppression was a way of life for the masses. A small group of leftist university students, supported by sympathetic faculty, formed "Shining Path"—Sendero Luminoso. At first, the group was non-violent and its goals idealistic—to win social and economic justice for the common people, the workers who had built Peru. But when talk failed, Sendero Luminoso opted for to something stronger, more exciting, and more effective. By the time Marco joined the group, their goal was revolution—by whatever means necessary.

"Excuse me, Señor."

Marco was startled by the words. He had been thinking, in fact day dreaming, and not observing the street scene on deAroyo Street.

A young girl, no more than 15 or 16 years old, was standing in front of him with a hopeful look on her face. If she had been particularly observant, she would have seen his pupils widen and his facial muscles tense at the sound of her voice. But she was staring surreptitiously at the scar, and when she met Marco’s eyes, he was smiling.

"Yes, young lady?"

"Do you know the time?" She looked at his watch.

"Yes, it’s 11:20," he said, looking past her and at the entrance to the bank.

"Gracias," she smiled, instantly turning and walking away.

Marco studied her for a moment. Her tight young features reminded him of Viviana when he had first met her. They were both members of Shining Path, and together, they would slip away from the university and travel the countryside recruiting peasants and members of the working classes as operatives for Shining Path. They would make love in the tall grasses that lined the country roads as they traveled from village to village. Now Marco was one of only five men who each controlled a provincial cadre of Shining Path. All operations in central Peru were under his control. He was a professional revolutionary, indicted as a terrorist by his country’s ruling elite. He was wanted dead or alive by a government that knew of his existence, but not his face or name.

Marco watched as an elderly woman struggled across deAroyo street lugging a bag filled with groceries. He wanted to help her, but the time was too close.

Four men, all dressed in suits and carrying large attaché cases walked south along deAroyo Street heading for the entrance of the bank. None so much as glanced in Marco’s direction as they passed. As one, they stopped outside the bank and then walked up the steps and through the front doors. No more customers would be allowed to enter after 11:30, the bank’s midday closing time.

Marco snuffed out his cigarette and reaching into his jacket pocket for a pair of sunglasses. It was now 11:29am. They had been in the bank four minutes.

After 20 years as a Sendero Luminoso operative, Marco had learned to cultivate a focused calm before any major operation. He recalled the tightness that he felt during his first operation in the capital. Marco’s hands had shaken as he used bolt cutters to gain access to the base of a high voltage electrical transmission tower outside of Lima. Using plastic explosives smuggled from eastern Europe, he and his comrades set charges around each of the four skeletal legs of the tower. Twenty meters above him, Marco could hear the hum of high voltage electricity in the stillness of the night. The work took less than 20 minutes and the result left Lima in total darkness. The nation’s largest city had felt the touch of Sendero Luminoso for the first time.

But the heady days of the revolution were no more. Shining Path was now marginalized, it's cadres in disarray, its ability to raise money disabled. Much to Marco’s chagrin, desperation had led Sendero Luminoso to drug trafficking, extortion, kidnappings, and other criminal activities—including bank robbery.

Marco watched the second hand of his watch approach 12:00. A small charge of plastic explosive designed to blow upward for maximum noise, but minimal damage, blew the top off a garbage dumpster 200 meters down deAroyo Street. The sound, even from that distance, was deafening. Pedestrians ducked involuntarily, then rose, craning their necks to determine the source of the noise and smoke. People began running in the direction of the blast.

Marco walked across the street to a small panel truck. He got in and turned the ignition key. The truck crept away from the blast as cars passed it with horns beeping.

As Marco braked to a stop, the front doors to the bank burst open. One of the four men held an Uzi, pointing it straight up into the air. Another walked quickly through the doors, holding a large canvas bag, followed by his two armed colleagues. At first, people in the street didn’t seem to notice anything amiss, their attention focused down the block in the direction of the blast. When an older woman walking near the bank steps saw the Uzi and gasped, one of the gunmen smiled at her pleasantly as he walked past. She backed away awkwardly, hand over her mouth, eyes wide.
The four men moved to the panel truck quickly, jumped in and closed the door behind them. Marco stepped gently on the gas, taking a right onto a side street, then accelerating. A few quick turns and they would be gone.

He looked in the rear-view mirror and spoke in a soft voice that tended to surprise people who didn’t know him.

"Any problems?"

A much younger man, no more than 25, looked up at the rear view mirror and met Marco’s eyes, "A few screaming women, nothing more, but ..."

Marco interrupted him impatiently, "How much?"

The younger man looked at his compatriot and shrugged, "We, uh, we didn’t get into the vault. It was already locked for the afternoon closing, and it’s a timed lock. But ..."

"It was what?" Marco asked, a hint of menace entering his tone.

In the distance the wailing rise and fall of police sirens could be heard through the open windows of the panel truck.

"It was already locked for the midday break," said the younger man again. "I don’t know why. We couldn’t very well shoot the manager just because he locked the vault early."

Marco watched the road, small beads of sweat forming on his upper lip. "How much were you able to get?"

"We cleaned out all of the tellers’ drawers. I don’t know, probably about 6,000 or 7,000 neuvo soles, maybe a bit more. We also got maybe three or four hundred US dollars."

Marco did a conversion in his head—just over 3,000 US dollars was all that the operation had netted.

He took a deep breath, trying to purge his frustration at their bad luck. He was certain that the vault contained the equivalent of well over 200,000 US dollars. Not quite enough for what he needed, but it would have been a very good start.

Marco had learned to think in dollars. It was required in his line of work. His dealings with international arms dealers, revolutionary groups in other countries, and in recent years, drug traffickers, were all conducted in dollars.

Marco braked the truck and pulled into an alley between two apartment buildings. The other men got out, all four walking south toward a spot where they would be picked up. Marco waited a moment, then took the canvas bag and walked north, up the block. He stopped at a well-worn Volvo. The door was not locked. Marco entered the driver’s side, reached under the seat and after some fumbling, found a key. He started the car after two tries and drove Southeast toward the city of Cuzco, a trip that would take almost two days over the torturous mountain roads of the Andes.

A faded road sign was an early indicator of his first night’s destination, "Huancavelica, 20 km," it read. Marco downshifted to brake the old Volvo as he came to the bottom of a long incline. He turned south and within ten minutes found the house—a run down property with a small shack in the rear. The road to the house, no more than 100 meters long, was unpaved. The springs on the old Volvo groaned as he pulled to a stop.

A woman walked onto a small wooden porch and stood hands on hips, silhouetted by the light from inside the house. Marco had not been with Viviana in almost three months.

"You arrive late," she said as he opened the car door. "How did it all go?"


Viviana inhaled deeply. As Marco turned to close the car door, he heard her say, "Tell me."

"Later," he said. "Let’s go inside."

Inside the house, Marco walked to a small wood table, pulled out one of three chairs and sat. He stared at the floor for a moment and then looked up into Viviana’s eyes.

"How long has it been?" he asked without expecting an answer.

Viviana moved across the room and stood within arm's length. Her face was less than perfect, but evinced a dark allure that was accentuated by a streak of prematurely gray hair that moved back from the middle of her forehead like a narrow fan in her shiny jet-black hair. She looked and moved like an athlete, a nervous energy always lurking just under the surface. Viviana liked to be in control, to dominate, and struggled in a culture where machismo tried to snuff out such tendencies in a woman.

"You look tired." she said.

"Tired?" Marco laughed softly. "Sometimes I am tired. Of the struggle. Of the hiding. Of it all."

"Tell me what happened?"

As Marco described the events on deAroyo Street in Lima, Viviana gathered some bread and cheese and placed them on the table next to a half empty bottle of red wine. Marco picked at the food and lit a cigarette.

When he had finished, Viviana said, "We’ll have to deal with the Puma. We need the weapons." She thought a moment. "If the Puma reneges on this, we’ll have to act harshly. Too much is at stake. I say we kill him, if he says ‘no.’ "

Marco smiled, "You’ll never change."

Viviana canted her head to the side, an incongruously feminine action following her hard statement.

"You know," he mused, "the first time I set eyes on you, I knew you’d be a hard case."

Viviana smiled. "Oh yes, the brilliant young Sendero Luminoso lieutenant, the planner, the leader. You didn’t like having a strong woman around, did you?"

"Remember our time together before the Nazca raid? We fought constantly, about strategy, tactics, politics."

The Nazca raid was one of the high points in the long history of the struggle. During the early 1980s, Sendero Luminoso controlled the Arequipa province. The government reacted predictably, killing dozens of Shining Path members and jailing hundreds more. The squalid stockade outside the city of Nazca became known as The House of the Shining Path.

"I remember the Nazca raid only too well," said Viviana with a smile. "You wouldn’t listen to my ideas and nearly got killed because of it."

"You forgot that we also freed 47 of our brothers and killed our share of soldiers."

The raid—a jailbreak actually—made headlines. Sendero Luminoso had reasserted its power in Arequipa.

Marco’s eyes followed a smoke ring as it distorted on its way toward the ceiling. "I remember we made love after that raid. Bright-eyed young revolutionaries, just like in a novel." He laughed.

Viviana studied him. "Yes, just like in a novel."

* * * * * *

It was good to be back on campus for the fall semester ... sort of. Matt Sousa arrived at the J. Bennett Jeffson Center, the building that housed the Anthropology and Archaeology departments, four days before the start of the term and 15 minutes before the first faculty meeting of the year. Teaching assistants were required to attend the first meeting, a dictum that Matt could have easily lived without. He rushed to his small office, hoping to have a moment to check his e-mail and drop off a few things before the meeting began.

Matt was a free agent this term. He had returned to Midwestern University with Professor Andy Gilman, but his Ph.D. advisor would stay in the Chicago area for only a week. Gilman was taking his sabbatical leave, doing research at a museum in the East. This meant that Matt had to cover two of his advisor's undergraduate courses. But he also had considerably more freedom to do as he pleased. Matt had promised that the rough draft of his dissertation would be done by the time Gilman returned, nine months hence.

Matt dumped his knapsack onto his desk and scanned his office. Things on his desk weren’t where they were supposed to be, as if someone had been using the office while he was gone. Entirely possible, he thought as he hurried to unpack and head to the meeting.

He reached into the knapsack and removed a plastic baggie containing the small disk he had found on the last full day of the dig. Although there were many real artifacts to catalogue, he decided to investigate the disk further, even though the more senior archaeologists at the Bolivian site were less than impressed. In fact, each had dismissed it out of hand when Matt showed them the object.

"Found something interesting just before I climbed the ladder," Matt had said when he joined his colleagues for lunch on the last day at the site. Three heads moved at once to face him.

"Is that why you were down there for so long?" asked Andy Gilman. "How come you didn’t call up for the log book. We’ll need to make an entry."

"Well, I’m .. I’m not really sure what’s going on. Thing looks contemporary, but ..."

"What did you find?" asked Omar Langaren, the senior archaeologist on the dig. He specialized in the Chavin people, who carved ancient stone monuments found throughout the Andean highlands. For the last few weeks he had been examining the anomalous stone carving that had become known as the ‘vulture.’

Matt unbuttoned his shirt pocket, and removed a small metal disk, approximately one and a half inches in diameter, 1/8 inch thick. Holding it between his thumb and forefinger, he displayed his discovery to the team, and then handed it to his advisor. Andy Gilman studied the piece.

Lighting inside their tent wasn’t very good, but then, the object wasn’t particularly complex. A 3/8-inch hole machined into the disk sat at the center of 36 lines—actually they were more like finely machined grooves—that radiated from the center of the disk to the perimeter. There appeared to be no markings or labels on the object. The perimeter was polished to a very high gloss, the disk surface itself had a satin finish. The object looked like it had been machined using modern methods.

"What on earth is that? Let me take a look."

Sidney Davis, a colleague and friend of Andy’s, reached across the lunch table.

Andy handed the disk to Sidney who turned it over and over, while he moved it closer and then farther from his face.

Matt Sousa, playing the court jester, had laughed at this display.

"What are you doin’, Sidney? With your legendary eyesight, I’ll bet you’ve already concluded that it’s an Eisenhower silver dollar in disguise. Let a pair of young eyes have a look."

"What our junior colleague fails to understand," Sidney said dryly, "is that good eyes with little experience are no match for poor eyes with vast experience." Everyone smiled, but it was apparent that the object held greater interest than one of Matt’s and Sidney’s good-natured verbal sparring matches.

"Definitely looks contemporary," said Sidney. "I’m no engineer, but this looks like finely machined stainless steel, except it feels too light." He passed it to Matt, who didn’t comment, but simply looked at the disk carefully and then passed it on to Omar.

"Where exactly did you find this?" Omar addressed Matt directly.

"Sector W-18, in a seam between floor tiles in the sealed room. I saw a reflection from the mirrored edge just as I was going to call it quits."

Omar, looked pensive. "It was in the seam?"


No one spoke for a few seconds. Each person considering rational explanations for the disk and the manner in which it was found.

"Let me take another look," said Andy.

After studying the object for a moment, Andy passed judgement. "Look, a lot of people have moved through this area over the past few months. We’ve tried to limit contamination, but somebody must have dropped it."

"What else could it be?" said Sidney. "There is no possible way this piece is an artifact of any people who inhabited this place. You know as well as I that the Coya and Incas did not work with metals, except gold and silver."

"That’s true" said Matt. "I just wish it was a quarter or a silver dollar or something less mysterious, then I’d just blow it off."

"Mysterious? Damn, you’ve been out here too long." Sidney’s tone was mocking. "It’s contamination. Pure and simple. Likely from one of the folks who have been helping us over the past month or so. It might even be a hoax, a sick joke—ancient astronauts, that stuff."

"Give me a break," said Matt. "I’m not talking ‘mysterious’ as in aliens. I’m just saying that I find it odd something that looks like a contemporary object was wedged into a seam at depth and within the bounds of a controlled site. When you guys have a plausible explanation—and I haven’t really heard one yet—I’ll ask that ‘mysterious’ be deleted from the record."

"Let’s log it, bag it, bring it home next week and you’ll deal with it then." Sidney said this with a finality that irked Matt. Andy nodded his approval, giving Matt a case-closed look. No one mentioned the object again while the four men closed down the site and headed back to the United States.

Matt looked at his watch, startled that only three minutes remained before the faculty meeting. He trotted down the hallway and into Lecture Hall 6-B, already filled with faculty members and other graduate students.

"Matt, como es ta!" It was Steven Korzac, a fellow grad student with an interest in mid-eastern antiquities. He was six years younger than Matt.

"I’m doing fine. How was Jerusalem?"

"Old. You teaching this semester, or are you still on release time?"

"Teaching until spring, when I head back to Bolivia. I just rolled in, I’ll stop in to see Edgar later today. Find out what I’m slotted to teach."

Matt grabbed an aisle seat and began doodling on a desktop already filled with the musings of bored students.

"Mind if I join you?"

Matt looked up and allowed the newcomer to take a seat. "Uh, no, not at all, I don’t believe that we’ve met."

He didn’t know this woman. As she squeezed by him, they bumped. She laughed self-consciously and looked embarrassed, her dark brown eyes meeting his at very close range.

"I’m Diana Travest, from the Smithsonian," she said extending her hand. Matt contorted his body to shake it.

"Oh, ... you’re the Visiting Professor ... I’m Matt Sousa." Matt was mildly disappointed. He had hoped she was a grad student.

"Hi, Matt." She smiled again and brushed her brown curls back away from her face. "They .. uh ... ran out of faculty space so they gave me the office right next to yours, and I borrowed your computer workstation during the summer. Mine is still on order. I hope you don’t mind."

"Not at all."

She was in her mid thirties, just a bit older than Matt, but startlingly attractive. He wondered whether she spent some time getting to know him via the photos he had stick-pinned to his office wall and the basketball posters that filled space where bookshelves weren’t. "What are you teaching during your sojourn at Midwestern?"

"Well, I’ve been working in the South American section—at the Smithsonian, that is. My specialty is linguistics of native peoples. Recently, I’ve been working on the use of language in Inca culture."
Quechua was the language of the Incas, while the indigenous peoples of what is now Peru and Bolivia spoke another language, Aymara. By the year 1400, the Incas had conquered all of these peoples, and in an effort to meld different cultures into a homogeneous and controllable population, Aymara was banned. Under penalty of death, the general populace was forced to learn and speak Quechua.
"Since the Smithsonian is funding my visit here," Diana continued, "Edgar has pretty much given me free reign. I’ll be continuing my research and offering two electives, one undergraduate and one graduate."

"Interesting. I just returned from Bolivia and Peru." "I know. I’ve been waiting to talk to you and Professor Gilman about it."

"Andy’s on sabbatical this term."

"I didn’t know that."

Matt nodded. "But I’d be happy to give you a summary of what we’ve been doing."

Diana smiled. "Great. I’d like that. By the way, I was in Cuzco, Peru earlier this summer, doing some language research."

Matt looked surprised. "Funny, we were only about 100 kilometers to the south on a dig. We can share stories."

Department Chairman Edgar Botecka cleared his throat in an effort to silence his colleagues. After a moment or two, the faculty settled into the early rhythm of a new term.


The Fokker twin engine turboprop jostled its passengers as it passed through the high cloud layer and began its descent. Jose Ceasar-Lozano sat in seat 3A and stared out the starboard window. He had made this trip hundreds of times, yet he never tired of seeing his home city from the air. A vast low-rise sprawl, home to over 250,000 inhabitants, spread outward from the central old city. Although he was too high to see detail, he knew that the streets were bustling with people. Indians from the surrounding high country intermingled with the never-ending crowds of tourists, most European, who bought a vast array of wares from local merchants at grossly inflated prices. The tourists used the city as a staging point for the visits to the ruins of Machu Picchu.

As the plane descended, Jose’s eyes followed the network of old Inca roads radiating from the city and stretching for thousands of miles through the mountains from Chile to the border of Colombia. In the Quechua language, Cuzco translates literally into ‘the navel of the earth.’ The city was the center of the Inca empire. The walls of the old Inca city, clearly visible from the air, had been deliberately constructed in the shape of a puma—a symbol of strength.
The plane touched the runway and began to taxi to the modest terminal building. Glancing at the altimeter, the pilot noted an absolute reading of 10,120 feet.

"Welcome to Cuzco," he said in Quechua, then Spanish and English. "If you are new to our city, please stand up slowly or you will feel faint. We are high in the Andes."
Jose walked quickly through a light rain and cold breeze of the late afternoon. The flight from Lima has taken just under an hour, but was almost five hours late in taking off. Bad weather.

As he entered the terminal building, Jose walked to a counter and ordered Mate de Coca, an herbal tea brewed from the leaves of the coca plant. He had been traveling for almost two weeks and the jolt provided by Mate de Coca helped to reacclimate him to the rarefied atmosphere of a city almost two miles high.

Mate de Coca still in his hand, Jose hailed a dilapidated taxi and used one of the old Inca roads to make the short trip to his home.

"You were away on business?" asked the cabbie off-handedly.

"Si," Jose laughed. "I almost didn’t make it back from Lima. Damn plane was delayed half the day."

"I’ve always wanted to see Lima," said the cabbie. "How long were you there?"

"A long time, lots of business."

To those who knew him socially and to most of his casual friends, Jose Ceasar-Lozano was a businessman. When asked, he would say that he ran a small tourism company—and he did in fact do this. His business interests required that he travel throughout Peru and often to countries outside his own.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Jose was a worldly man. In an isolated and somewhat provincial city, he was a man of substance. He attended all of the right gatherings in Cuzco, went to the trendy clubs, and knew almost everyone who was worth knowing. Jose was connected.
But Jose Ceasar-Lozano was not who he seemed to be. He had other business interests, and these were not so benign. He was the Puma—a major arms supplier for Shining Path.

Jose unlocked the front door of his house. He had given his housekeeper the day off, so there was no smell of food on the stove. No matter. He would eat dinner at a local restaurant. But first business.
At home, he listened to the answering machine messages that had come in while he was en route from Lima. The call that mattered was the second to last. A woman’s lilting voice.

"Mr. Ceasar-Lozano ... this is the Brittanica Bank in the Cayman Islands. You asked that we inform you when there is activity on your account. Please be advised that a deposit was made to this account today—in the amount of $50,000 U.S. If you have any questions, please feel free to call your account representative. I’m told you have the special number. Good day."

Jose frowned. Finally, they’ve paid something at least, he thought, those Sendero Luminoso hoodlums are getting later and later in their payments.

The payment—almost three months late—was for arms delivered more than six months earlier. Sendero Luminoso still owed him an additional $75,000.

He punched in a long sequence of digits on his desk phone. The call routed through a dummy number in Mexico City and was then forwarded automatically to a business associate in Bogota, Colombia.

After eight rings, the phone was answered.


"It’s Puma."

"Ah, hello my friend. Let me put you on the scrambler ... please do the same." Both men switched on their encryption devices, small black boxes attached to their telephone lines. Their conversation secure, Jose continued.

"My clients tell me that they will have a major order, small arms ... AKs ... 20,000 rounds of ammunition ... heavy arms ... some light explosives and anti-tank weapons."

The voice at the other end of the line expressed no emotion. "I see. It is not a problem, but when?"


The voice chuckled. "You know the prices. I’ll need $200,000 American wired to our account in the

Caymans. The remainder after the order is received in Peru."

"Acceptable," said Jose. "I’ll give you details within the next few days."

"Until then."

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