Strong, gold-coloured sunlight streamed through the windows of the New York Veritas Foundation headquarters. Juliet sat at a computer terminal helping Maggie and Calvin work on deciphering one set of the inscriptions from the box they'd found. Where she sat she could see Nikko slouched in one of the more comfortable chairs reading. At least Juliet assumed he was reading, at the speed the kid was flipping through the pages of the thick book he would have little time to do more than glance at the pages. Not for the first time the teacher in her wondered exactly how smart her student really was. The intelligence test she given the teenager when they'd first met had shown a very high intelligence rating but Nikko had treated the test itself as a joke, and Juliet had always wondered if it had been an accurate measurement of his true potential.
The elevator pinged and Juliet, along with the rest of the team turned toward the office doors. The expected figure of Vincent was followed closely behind by Dr. Zond. The injured man moved stiffly and Juliet was sure he was still very sore. She had assumed he would be spending several more days in the hospital before he was released, and from the look on the faces of the other team members so did they.
"You checked yourself out early. Solomon, are you sure you're all right?"
"Yeah, Maggie, I'm fine. Just a little stiff is all."
Maggie nodded in acceptance but didn't look convinced. Juliet decided to follow the other woman's lead and not press the issue, even though she thought the archaeologist looked terrible.
Nikko watched his father with concern in his eyes but the boy said nothing.
"So, what have you come up with?" Zond asked, getting down to business.
"A few interesting things have surfaced," Maggie began.
The whole team gathered around the analysts work station, even Nikko put down his book and joining the group, standing next to his father.
"How interesting?" the teenager asked curiously.
Maggie smiled, "Well, Calvin was right, the inscriptions on the box are layered to include multiple coded messages. There are four distinct messages we've discovered so far."
"What do they say?" Vincent questioned.
"We've only been able to interpret two as of yet. The one Calvin deciphered at the site; the story of a girl who destroys her world through a selfish act, and this second level which seems to be the key to unlock the box… and that's where it begins to get interesting."
Pressing several keys on her keyboard Maggie brought up a representation of the data found in the second code.
"That looks like DNA," Solomon said astonished.
"It is," Maggie confirmed. "Or to be more specific, it is a genetic pattern for the X chromosome."
Juliet felt a chill was though her. "As in the chromosome that determines that a person is female? Are you saying the key to opening that box is female genetics?"
Maggie nodded. "Exactly, whoever built that box wanted it to be opened by a woman. When Juliet touched it, the X chromosome in her DNA was the key and the box opened."
"To what purpose?" Dr. Zond asked.
Maggie shrugged and shook her head. "That I don't know."
"I do," Juliet interrupted. "It's retribution for the acts of the girl who destroyed their temple."
"Doesn't seem like the punishment really fits the crime, I mean, come on… this girl destroys their whole culture and all they do is give someone a few bad dreams?"
"Let's be grateful it wasn't worse," Dr. Zond said.
Juliet wore a smile but it was forced. The punishment was harder than Nikko, or any of the team, knew. She hadn't been able to tell them the details of her nightmare and had said nothing of the warning the messenger had given her. The burden of choice and the weight of responsibility forced on her by the box… along with the insecurity of not knowing if any of it was real was a harsh punishment indeed.
It couldn't have been real, it had to have been a dream, Juliet thought. Nikko is just an ordinary kid, he has no special powers.
Solomon pointed to a few lines of script displayed at the bottom of Maggie's screen.
"That is the other interesting thing. Juliet's working on it and I think it is the key to deciphering the next layer of the code, but what's really interesting is that it spells out a name… the name Kukulcán." 3
Solomon's jaw dropped. "Kukulcán, but that's impossible."
"All right, I give in. Who's this Kukulcán guy?" Nikko asked glancing around at the rest of the team.
Vincent shrugged. "Don't ask me, I hit people for a living."
"He's a god of the ancient cultures of the South American Toltec and Maya," Calvin explained. "But I couldn't even guess how his name came to be engraved in Greek on a Lycian artefact."
"I don't know either, but we're going to find out." Dr Zond promised.