Vittoria did not remember how they had gotten to the main elevator, but they were there. Ascending. Kohler was behind her, his breathing labored now. Langdon’s concerned gaze passed through her like a ghost. He had taken the fax from her hand and slipped it in his jacket pocket away from her sight, but the image was still burned into her memory.
As the elevator climbed, Vittoria’s world swirled into darkness. Papa! In her mind she reached for him. For just a moment, in the oasis of her memory, Vittoria was with him. She was nine years old, rolling down hills of edelweiss flowers, the Swiss sky spinning overhead.
Leonardo Vetra was laughing beside her, beaming. “What is it, angel?”
“Papa!” she giggled, nuzzling close to him. “Ask me what’s the matter!”
“But you look happy, sweetie. Why would I ask you what’s the matter?”
“Just ask me.”
He shrugged. “What’s the matter?”
She immediately started laughing. “What’s the matter? Everything is the matter! Rocks! Trees! Atoms! Even anteaters! Everything is the matter!”
He laughed. “Did you make that up?”
“Pretty smart, huh?”
“My little Einstein.”
She frowned. “He has stupid hair. I saw his picture.”
“He’s got a smart head, though. I told you what he proved, right?”
Her eyes widened with dread. “Dad! No! You promised !”
“E=MC2 !” He tickled her playfully. “E=MC2 !”
“No math ! I told you! I hate it!”
“I’m glad you hate it. Because girls aren’t even allowed to do math.”
Vittoria stopped short. “They aren’t ?”
“Of course not. Everyone knows that. Girls play with dollies. Boys do math. No math for girls. I’m not even permitted to talk to little girls about math.”
“What! But that’s not fair!”
“Rules are rules. Absolutely no math for little girls.”
Vittoria looked horrified. “But dolls are boring!”
“I’m sorry,” her father said. “I could tell you about math, but if I got caught . . .” He looked nervously around the deserted hills.
Vittoria followed his gaze. “Okay,” she whispered, “just tell me quietly.”
The motion of the elevator startled her. Vittoria opened her eyes. He was gone.
Reality rushed in, wrapping a frosty grip around her. She looked to Langdon. The earnest concern in his gaze felt like the warmth of a guardian angel, especially in the aura of Kohler’s chill.
A single sentient thought began pounding at Vittoria with unrelenting force.
Where is the antimatter?
The horrifying answer was only a moment away.