Tom Pawlik


For Andrew, my firstborn.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:7


To my beloved wife and best friend, Colette: What a blessing you are to me. Your support and encouragement continue to inspire me. I thank God for that day you walked up the driveway and I said you had the wrong house and you told me to shut up… and we’ve been in love ever since. Though, all things considered, I have by far gotten the better end of the deal.

To my Pentebrood—Andrew, Aryn, Jordan, John, and Jessi: You have subtly transformed my passion for writing into a necessity. But I wouldn’t change a thing. You’ll never know how much I love you until you have children of your own someday.

To my agent, Les Stobbe: Thank you for all your prayers, counsel, and efforts on my behalf.

To Dan and Dr. Rachael Romain: Thank you for the enthusiastic support and for lending your expert scientific consultation to this endeavor. And especially for cool-sounding terms like oxidative phosphorylation.

To the great team at Tyndale:

Stephanie Broene—thank you for your continued input, patience, and encouragement. It was a long and arduous road but hopefully a worthwhile one.

Sarah Mason—once again it was a distinct pleasure working with you on this project. Thank you for all the spackling, sanding, painting, varnishing, and polishing that this book needed. You should have your own editorial reality show.

Dean Renninger—thank you for your inspired work on the cover design. Once again you’ve captured the mood of the book perfectly and hit the three c’s: cool, creepy, and compelling.

Babette Rea, Andrea Martin, and the whole sales and marketing team—thank you for all your ongoing efforts to make this project successful.

And last but not least, to Jerry Jenkins and your excellent staff at the Christian Writers Guild: May God continue to bless your service for Him.

Part I


Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel.

Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

Chapter 01

Chicago, Illinois

The last time he saw his father alive, Jackson David Kendrick was only nine years old.

The gray light of dawn was seeping in between his bedroom curtains when Jack woke to find him standing in the doorway. Dr. David Kendrick was a willowy, spectacled anthropologist at the University of Chicago. His black skin and wide brown eyes gave him a youthful appearance, but the flecks of silver frosting the edges of his hair made him look more distinguished and professorial. So people who didn’t know him could never tell if he was twenty-nine or forty. But this morning, his normally thoughtful eyes looked weary as he sat on the edge of Jack’s bed.

“Sorry to wake you so early, but my flight leaves at seven thirty.”

“Where are you going this time?” Jack sat up and asked through a husky yawn.

“Out west,” his father said. “Some field research on an old Indian legend.”

His father had often explained the kind of work anthropologists did, but all Jack really knew was that he was gone more often than not. Always traveling around the world to study some obscure ancient culture. He said he was trying to learn more about them—who they were, where they had come from, and why they had disappeared. But Jack had always felt there was something in particular he was searching for. Something that continued to elude him. Most of the time he would come home from his trips looking tired and disappointed.

“What kind of legend?” Jack persisted, figuring that if he kept peppering his father with questions, he could keep him from leaving as long as possible.

His dad stared out the window for a moment. In the shadows, Jack thought he saw hesitation in his eyes, as if he was pondering exactly what to say. “One about a very old civilization that I believe actually existed out there. A long time ago, before most of the other tribes had even migrated to this continent.”

“Who were they?”

“Well, that’s just it—nobody knows for sure. One legend says they built a whole subterranean city under a mountain somewhere. And that they may have been very advanced… maybe even more advanced than the Egyptians.”

“That’s cool.”

“Very cool.” His dad grinned. “Anyway, it’s kind of a mystery I’ve been working on for a few years now. So if I can find some proof that they actually did exist… well, it could change most of what we know about human history.”

“Change it how?”

His father laughed and rubbed Jack’s hair. “I’m on to you, kiddo. I’m running late, so we can talk more about it when I get home.”

“Fine,” Jack huffed. “Are you gonna be back for my soccer game on Saturday?”

“I’ll try, but Aunt Doreen’s bringing her video camera just in case.”

Jack’s shoulders drooped. His father’s sister had moved in with them after Jack’s mother died in a car wreck six years earlier. It wasn’t that he disliked his aunt—indeed, she was the closest thing to a mother Jack could remember. It was just that his father had missed five of his last seven games, and watching Aunt Doreen’s shaky video footage wasn’t the same.

His father stood to leave, but Jack clutched his wrist. “When can I start going with you?”

His father looked down and sighed. “Maybe when you’re a little older.”

Jack groaned and lay back on his pillow. “You always say that. But you never say how much older.”

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