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The Messiah Code
Midnight. December 10, 2002
It continues to snow. As it has done throughout the award ceremony and the celebration banquet that followed. Huge flakes of white fall from the dark sky, appearing suddenly in the powerful lights that illuminate the red brick of the Stadshuset, Stockholm's City Hall. Despite the cold and the snow, a small hardy crowd has gathered by the steps to watch the royal couple and the prizewinners leave.
Hands pushed deep into overcoat pockets, one broadshouldered figure moves to the front, perhaps hoping for a better view. But as Olivia follows Dr. Tom Carter out of the City Hall and into the Swedish night, she doesn't notice this watcher's unusual eyes staring at her husband.
She's too busy checking that her eight-year-old daughter buttons her red coat. "Put your hat on too, Holly. It's freezing."
Holly scrunches up her hazel eyes as she buttons her collar. "It makes me feel dorky."
"Dorky? That's a new one." Olivia laughs and puts the Russian-style fur hat over Holly's spiky blond hair. "Anyway, it's better to feel dorky than cold."
"You don't look dorky, Holly," Tom says, turning to his daughter. He crouches down to Holly's level, his blue eyes studying her as if she's something in his laboratory. Then he shrugs and smiles. 'Well, perhaps a little."
Holly giggles then as he takes her hand and leads her down the steps.
They look good together, thinks Olivia, following behind. Their daughter is beautiful, although Olivia would never dare tell her that. Just getting Holly to forsake her jeans and Nikes and put on a dress for the ceremony has been a major achievement.
Tom turns and laughs at something Holly says, and Olivia sees his intense blue eyes soften. Looking at his tall, gangly frame and the flakes of snow resting in his unruly black hair, she is reminded how handsome he looks, especially in the white tie and tails he wears beneath his cashmere coat. Both he and Jasmine deserved the prize and Olivia feels so proud of them that she barely notices the biting cold.
At that moment Dr. Jasmine Washington comes up beside her. The young computer scientist's short, styled Afro is hidden beneath the hood of a bright blue cape, which looks almost electric in the spotlights. The dark skin of her elfin face contrasts with the snow and the whites of her eyes.
Next to her is Jack Nichols, Tom's business partner at GENIUS Biotech Diagnostics. He walks straight up to her husband and pats him on the shoulder, congratulating him again. A few inches shorter than Tom, Jack is still over six feet, and powerful with it. His craggy face, complete with a crescent-shaped scar running from his left nostril to the left side of his mouth, makes him look more like a boxer than the joint head of the world's largest biotech company.
Their group is now almost complete as they make their way to the waiting limousines, their interiors lit up like carriages of old. Olivia is impressed with the size of the crowd gathered at the base of the steps. She suspects that most of them, along with the police, are focused on King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, whose limousine is just leaving. But more than enough lights focus on their small group.
"Jazz, where are the others?" asks Olivia. Tom 's father and Jasmine's fiancé are also in their party.
Jasmine gestures behind her. "They're back there talking with the guy who won the literature prize."
"So how does it feel being a Nobel laureate?" Olivia asks, smiling at her old roommate from Stanford. "And to think, twelve or so years ago, you were worried about getting a job that would make a difference. Remember?"
Jasmine laughs, her teeth white against her skin. "Yeah." She shrugs dismissively, but Olivia can see how thrilled she is. Getting a scholarship to Stanford, followed by a PhD. from MIT, was an impressive achievement for anyone, let alone a ghetto kid from the projects of South Central LA. But this-this was something else.
"And now you and Tom have changed the world," says Olivia. They had indeed, according to the head of the Karolinska Institute, the body that awards the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. The short, silver-haired man had hailed Tom's brainchild, born of his mastery of genetics and Jasmine's genius with protein-based computers, the most significant scientific achievement since Watson and Crick discovered the DNA double helix. One that would save countless lives. Olivia remembers how back in January 1999 Tom and Jasmine had first demonstrated the Genescope's ability to decode every human gene from just a single body cell. In one stroke their invention had made the international Human Genome Project redundant.
Jasmine reaches forward and pats Holly on the back "Well, my goddaughter didn't seem too impressed. I saw her yawn twice."
"Were you yawning in the ceremony, Holly?" asks Tom with a laugh.
Holly gives a sheepish shrug and blows a snowflake off her nose. "No. Well, a little. It was pretty long, wasn't it?"
Tom turns his head and catches Olivia's eye behind him. They smile at each other and he extends his other hand behind his back, toward her. They are now some ten feet from the limousine. Their hands clasp and Tom turns around, leaning toward her as he does when he's about to kiss her.
At that moment the broad-shouldered figure steps out of the crowd in front of them ...The Messiah Code. Copyright © by Michael Cordy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.