Domain, p.1

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  Steve Alten


  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.

  DOMAIN Copyright © 2001 by Steve Alten

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

  The author is grateful for permission to reprint copyrighted material. These permissions and other acknowledgments appear on page 380, which constitutes a continuation of this copyright page.

  This book is printed on acid-free paper.

  A Forge Book Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

  175 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10010

  Forge® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

  Book design by Ellen Cipriano Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Alten, Steve. Domain I Steve Alten.-1st ed.

  p. cm.

  A Tom Doherty Associates book. ISBN 0-312-87476-6 (acid-free paper)

  1. Life on other planets-Fiction. 2. Mayas-Antiquities-Fiction 3. End of the world-Fiction. 4. Archaeologists-Fiction I. Title.

  PS3551.L764 D66 2001 813'.54-dc21 00-048454

  First Edition: February 2001

  Printed in the United States of America


  For Ken Atchity, Manager, Mentor, Friend .


  It is with great pride and appreciation that I acknowledge those who contributed to the completion of Domain.

  First and foremost, to my literary manager, Ken Atchity, and his team at Atchity Editorial/Entertainment International for their hard work and perseverance. Kudos to editors Michael Wichman (AEI) for his vision and to Ed Stackler of Stackler Editorial for his excellent commentary.

  Many thanks to Tom Doherty and the great people at TOR Books, editor Bob Gleason, and Brian Callaghan, as well as Matthew Snyder at Creative Arts Agency in Los Angeles, and Danny Baror of Baror International. Kudos to Bob and Sara Schwager for their great copy-editing.

  Thanks also to the following individuals whose own personal expertise contributed in some way to Domain: Gary Thompson, Dr. Robert Chit-wood, and the terrific staff at the South Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center, Rabbi Richard Agler, Barbara Esmedina, Jeffrey Moe, Lou McKellan, Jim Kimball, Shawn Coyne, and Dr. Bruce Wishnov. And to authors Graham Hancock, John Major Jenkins, and Erich Von Daniken, whose work certainly influenced the story.

  Very special thanks to Bill and Lori McDonald of Argonaut-Grey Wolf Productions/Web site:, who contributed to the editing and are responsible for the incredible artwork found in this novel, and to Matt Herrmann of VILLAINDESIGN for his graphic input and photographic contributions.

  I am also deeply indebted to Donna and Justin Lahey, whose dedication, creativity, and know-how have helped launch my novels via the Internet.

  Last-to my readers: Thank you for your correspondence. Your comments are always a welcome treat, your input means so much.

  -steve alten

  For more information about Steve Alten's novels or to contact the author personally, click on

  ... and in these ancient lands encased and lettered as a tomb

  and scored with prints of perished hands, and chronicled with dates of doom...

  I trace the lives such scenes enshrine and their experience count as mine.


  The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.


  Fear and religion. Religion and fear. The two are historically entwined. The catalysts for most of the atrocities committed by man. Fear of evil fuels religion, religion fuels hatred, hatred fuels evil, and evil fuels fear among the masses. It is a diabolical cycle, and we have played into the Devil's hand.




  I stand before the vast canvas, sharing the feeling of loneliness its creator must have surely felt thousands of years ago. Before me lie the answers to riddles-riddles that may ultimately determine whether our species is to live or die. The future of the human race-is there anything more important? Yet I stand here alone, my quest condemning me to this purgatory of rock and sand as I seek communion with the past in order to comprehend the peril that lies ahead.

  The years have taken their toll. What a wretched creature I've become. Once a renowned archaeologist, now a laughingstock to my peers. A husband, a lover-these are but distant memories. A father? Scarcely. More a tortured mentor, a miserable beast of burden left to my son to lead about. Each step across the stone-laden desert causes my bones to ache, while thoughts forever shackled in my mind repeat the maddening mantra of doom over and over in my brain. What higher power has chosen my family among all others to torture? Why have we been blessed with eyes that can see the signposts of death while others stumble along as if blind?

  Am I mad? The thought never leaves my mind. With each

  new dawn, I must force myself to reread the highlights of my chronicles, if only to remind myself that I am, first and foremost, a scientist, nay, not just a scientist, but an archaeologist-a seeker of man's past, a seeker of truth.

  But what good is truth if it cannot be accepted? To my peers, I no doubt resemble the village idiot, screaming warning cries of icebergs to passengers boarding the Titanic as the unsinkable vessel leaves port.

  Is it my destiny to save humanity, or simply to die the fool? Is it possible that I have spent a lifetime misinterpreting the signs?

  The scraping of footsteps on silica and stone gives pause to this fool's entry.

  It is my son. Named for an archangel fifteen years ago by my beloved wife, Michael nods at me, momentarily warming his father's shriveled pit of a heart. Michael is the reason I persevere, the reason I do not end my miserable existence. The madness of my quest has robbed him of his childhood, but far worse was my own heinous deed, committed years earlier. It is to his future that I recommit myself it is his destiny that I wish to change.

  God, let this feeble heart last long enough to allow me to succeed.

  Michael points ahead, reminding me the next piece of the puzzle beckons us. Stepping carefully so as not to disturb the pampa, we stand at what I believe is the beginning of the 3,000-year-old message. Centered upon the Nazca plateau, laid sacred from the mysterious lines and colossal zoomorphs is this-a perfect circle, carved deeply between the black-patina-coated stones. Extending out from this mysterious centerpiece like sunbeams from a child's painting are 23 equidistant lines, all but one running some 600 feet. One line is aligned with the solstice, another with the equinox, variables consistent with the other ancient sites I've spent a lifetime exploring.

  It is the 2yd line that is most intriguing-a bold carving within the pampa, extending over rock and hill for some 23 miles!

  Michael shouts, his metal detector erupting as we approach the center of the figure. Something has been buried beneath the topsoil! With renewed vigor, we dig through the gypsum and stone, exposing the yellow dirt below. It is a heinous act, especially for an archaeologist, but I convince myself that the end shall ultimately justify the means.

  And there it is, glistening beneath the broiling Sun. Smooth and white, a hollow cylinder of metal, a half meter long, that has no more right being on the Nazca desert than I have. A three-pronged candelabra-like design adorns one end of the object. My feeble heart flutters, for I know the symbol as I know the back of my weathered hand. The Trident of Paracas-the signature icon of our cosmic teacher. A similar glyph, 600 feet long, 200 feet across, adorns an ent
ire mountainside not far from here.

  Michael steadies his camera as I open the canister. Trembling, I remove what appears to be a length of parched canvas, my fingers registering its disintegration as it begins to unravel.

  It is an ancient chart of the world, similar to the very one referenced 500 years ago by the Turkish admiral, Pin Re'is. (This mysterious map was believed to have been the inspiration for Columbus's daring expedition in 1492.) To this day, the 14th-century Pin Re'is map remains an enigma, for upon it appeared not just the undiscovered landmass of Antarctica, but the continent's geology, drawn as if the terrain possessed no ice. Satellite radar scans have since confirmed the incredible accuracy of the map, further baffling scientists as to how anyone could have drawn the charts without the aid of an airplane.

  Perhaps the same way these very Nazca figures were drawn.

  Like the Pin Re'is map, the parchment I now balance in my hand was laid out using an advanced knowledge of spherical trigonometry. Was the mysterious cartographer our ancient teacher? Of this I have no doubt. The real question is-why has he chosen to leave us this particular map?

  Michael snaps a hurried Polaroid as the ancient document singes, then crumbles to dust within my hands. Moments later we are left to stare at the photograph, noting that an object, obviously of great importance, had clearly been highlighted. It is a small circle, drawn in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, situated just to the northwest of the Yucatan Peninsula.

  The location of the mark startles me. This is not one of the ancient sites, this is something else entirely. A cold sweat breaks out over my skin, a familiar numbness rising up my arm.

  Michael senses death approaching. He searches my pockets and quickly locates a pill, placing it beneath my tongue.

  My pulse eases, the numbness retreating. I touch his cheek, then coax my son to return to his work. With pride I watch as he examines the metallic container-his black eyes, portals to an incredibly disciplined mind. Nothing escapes my son's eyes. Nothing.

  Within moments, he makes another discovery, one that may explain the location highlighted in the Gulf of Mexico. The metal detector's spectral analyzer has determined the molecular breakdown of the dense, white metal-its very composite, a story unto itself.

  The ancient cylinder is composed of iridium.

  Pure iridium.

  -Excerpt from the Journal of Professor Julius Gabriel, June 14, 1990




  A spiral galaxy-one of 100 billion islands of stars moving through the dark matter of the universe. Rotating like some luminescent cosmic pinwheel in the vastness of space, the galaxy hauls more than 200 billion stars and countless other bodies within its titanic vortex. Let us examine this galactic hub. Observing the formation within our three-dimensional limits, our gaze is first drawn to the galactic bulge, composed of billions of red and orange stars, swirling within clouds of galactic dust some 15,000 light-years across (a light-year being approximately 6 trillion miles). Revolving around this lens-shaped region is the flatter, circular disk of the galaxy, 2,000 light-years thick, 120,000 light-years across, containing most of the galactic mass. Whipping around this disk are the galaxy's spiral arms, home to bright stars and luminescent clouds of gas and dust-cosmic incubators birthing new stars. Extending above and beyond these spiral arms is the galactic halo, a sparsely populated region containing globular star clusters that support the more senior members of the galactic family.

  From there, we move to the very heart of the galaxy-a complex region surrounded by swirling clouds of gas and dust. Hidden within this nucleus is the true power train of the celestial formation-a monstrous black hole-a dense, swirling vortex of gravitational energy, three million times heavier than the sun. This ravenous cosmic machine inhales everything within its unfathomable grasp-stars, planets, matter, even light, as it churns the heavenly bodies of the spiral galaxy.

  Now let us look at the spiral galaxy from a higher dimension-a fourth dimension of time and space. Branching out through the galactic body like arteries and veins and capillaries are unseen conduits of energy, some so vast they could transport a star, others delicate, microscopic strings. All are powered by the unimaginable gravitational forces of the black hole, located at Galactic Central. Access a porthole into one of these conduits and you have accessed a fourth-dimensional highway crossing the boundaries of time and space-assuming, of course, your transportation vessel could survive the trip.

  As the galaxy revolves around its behemoth center point, so too these snakelike streams of energy move, always circling, continuing their timeless trek across the galactic plain like some bizarre spokes on a forever-rotating cosmic wheel.

  Like a grain of sand caught in the mighty current of a gravitational stream, the asteroid-size projectile races through the fourth-dimensional conduit, a porthole of time and space presently located in the Orion arm of the spiral galaxy. The ovoid mass, nearly seven miles in diameter, is protected from the cylinder's crushing embrace by an emerald green anti-gravitational force field.

  The celestial traveler is not alone.

  Concealed within the spherical object's charged magnetic wake, bathed within the protective tail of the force field is another vessel-smaller, sleek, its flattened, dagger-shaped hull composed of shimmering gold solar panels.

  Navigating through the dimension of space and time, the cosmic highway deposits its travelers in a region of the galaxy located along the inner edge of Orion's arm. Looming ahead-a solar system containing nine planetary bodies, governed by a single yellow-white star.

  Sailing by way of the star's gravitational field, the immense iridium vessel closes quickly on its intended target-Venus-the second planet from the Sun, a world of intense heat, enshrouded in a canopy of dense acidic clouds and carbon dioxide.

  The smaller vessel closes from behind, revealing its presence to its enemy.

  Immediately, the iridium transport alters its course, increasing its velocity by tapping into the gravitational pull of the system's third planet, a watery, blue world containing a toxic atmosphere of oxygen.

  With a brilliant flash, the smaller ship expels a white-hot burst of energy from an extended fin-like antenna rising from behind its bow. The charge streaks through the ion stream of the sphere's electromagnetic tail like a bolt of lightning coursing along a metal cable.

  The charge ignites upon the iridium hull like an aurora, the electrical blast short-circuiting the vessel's propulsion system, knocking the behemoth violently off course. Within moments, the damaged mass is seized within the lethal embrace of the blue world's gravitational field.

  The asteroid-size projectile hurtles toward Earth, out of control.

  With a sonic boom, the iridium sphere violates the hostile atmosphere. The mirror-like outer hull cracks and pits, then blazes briefly into a blinding fireball before plunging into a shallow, tropical sea. Barely slowed by thousands of feet of water, it strikes bottom in a fraction of a second-causing, for one surreal moment, a cylinder of ocean to empty to the seafloor.

  A nanosecond later, the celestial impact detonates in a brilliant white flash, unleashing 100 million megatons of energy.

  The thunderous explosion rocks the entire planet, generating temperatures that exceed 32,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the surface of the Sun. Two gaseous fireballs ignite at once. The first, a dust cloud of hot, powdered rock and iridium coming from the disintegrated outer hull of the vessel, followed by billowing clouds of highly pressurized steam and carbon dioxide, the gases released as the sea and its limestone bed are vaporized.

  The rubble and superheated gases rise into the devastated atmosphere, drawn upward through the vacuum of air created by the object's descent. Enormous shock waves ripple across the sea, giving rise to monstrous tsunamis that crest to heights of three hundred feet or more as they hit shallow water and race for land.

  Southern Coastline of North America

  In deadly silenc
e, the pack of Velociraptors closes around its prey, a thirty-one-foot-long female Corythosaurus. Sensing danger, the duck-billed reptile raises her magnificent fan-shaped crest and snorts the humid air, detecting the scent of the pack. Trumpeting a warning cry to the rest of the herd, she crashes through the forest, galloping toward the sea.

  Without warning, a brilliant flash stuns the fleeing duckbill. The reptile staggers, shaking its great head, attempting to regain its sight. As its vision clears, two raptors leap from the foliage and screech at the larger beast, blocking her escape as the rest of the pack pounces upon the Corythosaur's back, gouging her flesh with their deadly, sickle-clawed feet. One of the first hunters finds the duckbill's throat, biting into the animal's esophagus as it digs its feet and sickle claws into the soft flesh below the sternum. The wounded reptile chokes out a cry, gagging on its own blood, as another raptor bites down upon its flat snout, plunging its front claws into the Corythosaur's eyes, bringing its heavier foe whimpering to the ground.

  In moments, it is over. The predators snarl, snapping at each other as they tear mouthfuls of flesh from their still-quivering prey. Occupied with the kill, the Velociraptors ignore the trembling ground beneath their feet and the approaching thunder.

  A dark shadow passes overhead. The bird-like dinosaurs look up as one, blood dripping from their jowls as they growl at the mountainous wall of water.

  The twenty-two-story wave crests-then falls-pummeling the startled hunters, liquefying their bones into the sand with a thunderous clap. The wave sweeps north, its kinetic energy obliterating everything in its path.

  The tsunami inundates the terrain, sweeping vegetation, sediment, and land creatures within its roaring swell as it submerges the tropical coastline for hundreds of miles in all directions. What little forest remains outside the wash path ignites as searing blast waves turn the air into a veritable furnace. A pair of Pteranodons attempt to escape the holocaust. Rising above the trees, their reptilian wings catch fire, incinerating in the thermal wind.

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