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Buenos Aires, Argentina

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

"We should have waited until Heidi returned from Antarctica."

The women were dazzlingly beautiful, not simply pretty or exotic, but shimmering beauties in the classical sense. Their matching flaxen blond hair was coiffed in long ringlets below their bare shoulders, with tightly woven braids running across a center part on top. They sat regally, delicate hands demurely laid on their laps, staring down at the orchestra pit through uniform blue-gray eyes that gleamed with the intensity of moonlight on a raven's wing. The facial features were enhanced with high cheekbones and a tanned complexion that might have come from skiing in the Andes or sunbathing on a yacht anchored off Bahia Blanca. Any one of them could have easily passed for twenty-five, although they were all thirty-five. It took no imagination to believe they were sisters-- in fact, they were four of a brood of sextuplets. Enough of their body proportions could be discerned through their dresses to show that they were trim and fit from arduous exercise.

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

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

"An unknown ancient civilization wiped out by a great catastrophe. If I didn't know better, Admiral, I'd say you were talking about Atlantis."

The horseshoe interior is decorated on a grand scale that boggles the eye. Incredibly intricate brass molding on the upper railings, sweeping tiers with velveted chairs and gold brocaded curtains, spanned by ceilings filled with masterworks of art. On dazzling opening nights, the society elite of Argentina sweep through the foyer with its Italian marble and beautiful stained-glass dome up the magnificent stairways through the glitter to their luxuriously appointed seats.

TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY ARK

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.

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.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

April 4, 2001

April 4, 2001

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.

All four women turned from the opera and looked at him with controlled trepidation. "Can you tell us what it is?" asked Geli.

"An unknown ancient civilization wiped out by a great catastrophe. If I didn't know better, Admiral, I'd say you were talking about Atlantis."

The horseshoe interior is decorated on a grand scale that boggles the eye. Incredibly intricate brass molding on the upper railings, sweeping tiers with velveted chairs and gold brocaded curtains, spanned by ceilings filled with masterworks of art. On dazzling opening nights, the society elite of Argentina sweep through the foyer with its Italian marble and beautiful stained-glass dome up the magnificent stairways through the glitter to their luxuriously appointed seats.

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."

"An unknown ancient civilization wiped out by a great catastrophe. If I didn't know better, Admiral, I'd say you were talking about Atlantis."

Buenos Aires, Argentina

"Archaeologists won't be overjoyed to rewrite the book on prehistoric civilizations."

"An unknown ancient civilization wiped out by a great catastrophe. If I didn't know better, Admiral, I'd say you were talking about Atlantis."

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.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

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