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

TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY ARK

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.

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.

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."

April 4, 2001

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.

When Karl and his four sisters showed up on opening nights at the opera, it was a major gossip event. The overture ended and the curtains pulled open and the audience reluctantly turned their attention from the stunning and resplendent brother and sisters sitting in the premier box and gazed at the singers on the stage.

When Karl and his four sisters showed up on opening nights at the opera, it was a major gossip event. The overture ended and the curtains pulled open and the audience reluctantly turned their attention from the stunning and resplendent brother and sisters sitting in the premier box and gazed at the singers on the stage.

When he turned and spoke to his siblings, he smiled, flashing brilliantly white teeth framed by a friendly mouth that found it impossible to turn down in a grimace. The eyes, though, showed no warmth. They stared as if they belonged to a panther gazing over the grasslands in search of prey.

Construction began in 1890, and no expense was spared. Completed when Puccini reigned supreme in 1908, the Teatro Colon opera house stands sidewalk to sidewalk on one entire block of the city. A spellbinding blend of French art deco, Italian Renaissance, and Greek classic, its stage has felt the feet of Pavlova and Nijinsky. Toscanini conducted from its podium, and every major singer from Caruso to Callas has performed there.

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.

"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."

Wolf turned to Maria and smiled. "Because, dear sister, if we didn't display the family on different occasions, the government and the public might begin to think of us as a gigantic conspiracy wrapped in an enigma. It's best to make an appearance occasionally to let them know we're not extraterrestrial aliens bent on secretly controlling the country."

A few seconds before the houselights dimmed, a party of one man and four women flowed unobtrusively into the remaining empty box and sat in the maroon velvet chairs. Unseen outside the curtains, two bodyguards stood alert and fashionably dressed in tuxedos. Every eye in the opera house, every pair of binoculars, every pair of opera glasses automatically turned and focused on the people entering the box.

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

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.

A few seconds before the houselights dimmed, a party of one man and four women flowed unobtrusively into the remaining empty box and sat in the maroon velvet chairs. Unseen outside the curtains, two bodyguards stood alert and fashionably dressed in tuxedos. Every eye in the opera house, every pair of binoculars, every pair of opera glasses automatically turned and focused on the people entering the box.

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 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.

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

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.

April 4, 2001

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

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