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Sandecker didn't immediately reply. Pitt swore that he could almost hear the wheels turning inside the admiral's head eight thousand miles away. Finally, Sandecker spoke slowly "Atlantis." He repeated the name as if it were holy. "Strange as it sounds, you may be closer to the mark than you think."

Premier opera houses throughout the world are judged by singers and musicians for their acoustics, the quality of sound that carries from the stage to the box seats and then to the gallery far up in the stratosphere. To the opera lovers who buy the tickets, they are ranked and admired more for their elegance and flamboyance. Some are noted for their baroqueness, others for pompousness, a few for trappings and festoons. But none can hold a candle to the unmatched grandiloquence of the Teatro Colon on the Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires.

April 4, 2001

Wolf and others of his family easily could have slipped into the new Argentine celebrity society. He was sophisticated, confident, and prosperous, and yet he and the other members of his family lived frugally, considering their vast fortune. But the Wolf family dynasty, consisting of, incredibly, over two hundred members, was seldom seen at fashionable restaurants or high-society functions. The Wolf women almost never made their presence known in the exclusive stores and boutiques around Buenos Aires. Except for Karl, who made a show of openness, the family remained low-profile and reclusive, and was a great mystery to Argentineans. There were no friendships with outsiders. No one, not even celebrities and high government officials, had ever cracked the Wolf family shell. The men who married the women in the family seemed to have come from nowhere and had no history. Strangely, they all took up the family name. Everyone, from the newest born to the most recently wed, carried the name of Wolf, whether male or female. They were a fraternal elite.

Maria Wolf, the sister sitting immediately to Karl's left, leaned over and whispered, "Why must you subject us to this terrible ordeal?"

Sandecker didn't immediately reply. Pitt swore that he could almost hear the wheels turning inside the admiral's head eight thousand miles away. Finally, Sandecker spoke slowly "Atlantis." He repeated the name as if it were holy. "Strange as it sounds, you may be closer to the mark than you think."

"I agree," whispered Geli, the sister on Wolf's right. "She's the only one who would have enjoyed this awful bore."

Their long, shimmering silk gowns with dyed fox trim were identical except for color. Sitting in a semicircle in the box, they radiated like yellow, blue, green, and red sapphires. They were bejeweled in a glittering display of comparable diamond chokers, earrings, and bracelets. Strikingly sensuous and sultry, they had an ethereal, untouchable goddess quality about them. It seemed unthinkable, but they were all married and each had given birth to five children. The women were attending the opening night of the opera season as a family affair, graciously nodding and smiling to the man who sat in their midst. Ramrod-straight, the male centerpiece possessed the same hair and eye color as his sisters, but there any further resemblance ended. He was as handsome as his sisters were stunning, but ruggedly so, with thin waist and hips accented by lumberjack shoulders and a weight lifter's arm and leg muscles. His face was square-cut, sporting a chin indented with a dimplelike cleft, an arrow-straight nose, and a head jangled with thick blond hair through which women dreamed of running their fingers. He was tall-- at six-feet six-inches, he towered over his five-foot ten-inch sisters.

Karl Wolf was a very wealthy and powerful man. The chief executive officer of a vast family-owned financial empire that stretched from China through India and across Europe over the Atlantic, and from Canada and the United States into Mexico and South America, he was stupendously rich. His personal wealth was estimated at well over a hundred billion dollars. His vast conglomerate, engaged in a multitude of scientific and high-technology programs, was known throughout the business world as Destiny Enterprises Limited. Unlike his siblings, Karl was unmarried.

Maria Wolf, the sister sitting immediately to Karl's left, leaned over and whispered, "Why must you subject us to this terrible ordeal?"

TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY ARK

Premier opera houses throughout the world are judged by singers and musicians for their acoustics, the quality of sound that carries from the stage to the box seats and then to the gallery far up in the stratosphere. To the opera lovers who buy the tickets, they are ranked and admired more for their elegance and flamboyance. Some are noted for their baroqueness, others for pompousness, a few for trappings and festoons. But none can hold a candle to the unmatched grandiloquence of the Teatro Colon on the Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires.

"I agree," whispered Geli, the sister on Wolf's right. "She's the only one who would have enjoyed this awful bore."

TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY ARK

"Yaeger and Dr. O'Connell have also made headway in deciphering the alphabetic inscriptions. It's beginning to develop as some kind of record describing an early worldwide catastrophe."

They ignored the stares of the audience, who were torn between observing the elusive Wolf family and the singing and acting on stage. The curtain for Act III had just risen when one of the bodyguards entered from the rear hall and whispered in Wolf's ear. He stiffened in his chair, the smile vanished, and his facial expression turned grave. He leaned over and spoke softly. "My dear sisters, an emergency has come up. I must go. You stay. I've reserved a private room at the Plaza Grill for a little after-show dinner. You go ahead, and I'll catch up later."

Sandecker didn't immediately reply. Pitt swore that he could almost hear the wheels turning inside the admiral's head eight thousand miles away. Finally, Sandecker spoke slowly "Atlantis." He repeated the name as if it were holy. "Strange as it sounds, you may be closer to the mark than you think."

They ignored the stares of the audience, who were torn between observing the elusive Wolf family and the singing and acting on stage. The curtain for Act III had just risen when one of the bodyguards entered from the rear hall and whispered in Wolf's ear. He stiffened in his chair, the smile vanished, and his facial expression turned grave. He leaned over and spoke softly. "My dear sisters, an emergency has come up. I must go. You stay. I've reserved a private room at the Plaza Grill for a little after-show dinner. You go ahead, and I'll catch up later."

Every seat in the house was occupied sixty seconds before the overture to the opera The Coronation of Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi, except for the preeminent box on the right side of the stage. That was still empty. Poppea had been the Roman emperor Nero's mistress during the glory of Rome, yet the singers wore costumes from the seventeenth century, and to rub salt in the wounds, all the male parts were sung by women. To some opera lovers, it is a genuine masterpiece, to others it is a four-hour drone.

Wolf patted Geli's hand. "I'll make it up to her when La Traviata opens next week."

Buenos Aires, Argentina

TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY ARK

"Yaeger and Dr. O'Connell have also made headway in deciphering the alphabetic inscriptions. It's beginning to develop as some kind of record describing an early worldwide catastrophe."

"I agree," whispered Geli, the sister on Wolf's right. "She's the only one who would have enjoyed this awful bore."

Their long, shimmering silk gowns with dyed fox trim were identical except for color. Sitting in a semicircle in the box, they radiated like yellow, blue, green, and red sapphires. They were bejeweled in a glittering display of comparable diamond chokers, earrings, and bracelets. Strikingly sensuous and sultry, they had an ethereal, untouchable goddess quality about them. It seemed unthinkable, but they were all married and each had given birth to five children. The women were attending the opening night of the opera season as a family affair, graciously nodding and smiling to the man who sat in their midst. Ramrod-straight, the male centerpiece possessed the same hair and eye color as his sisters, but there any further resemblance ended. He was as handsome as his sisters were stunning, but ruggedly so, with thin waist and hips accented by lumberjack shoulders and a weight lifter's arm and leg muscles. His face was square-cut, sporting a chin indented with a dimplelike cleft, an arrow-straight nose, and a head jangled with thick blond hair through which women dreamed of running their fingers. He was tall-- at six-feet six-inches, he towered over his five-foot ten-inch sisters.

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