Calvin wants to enter the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building by himself and then report back to Meg and Charles Wallace, but the Murry children insist that they heed the parting words of Mrs. Which and stay together. Just as they are trying to figure out how to enter the building, a door opens before them, revealing a great entrance hall of dull, greenish marble and icy cold walls. Filling the hall are a number of similar-looking men wearing nondescript business suits.
The children decide to ask one of the suited men how things work in CENTRAL. The man instructs them to present their papers to a series of slot machines. He seems unable to understand the fact that they are strangers to the planet and do not know anything about the elaborate mechanical system governing all transactions and interactions. He says that he runs a "number-one spelling machine" on the "second-grade level."
He warns that he will have to report the children to the authorities in order to avoid the risk of "reprocessing." Before he leaves, he advises them, "just relax and don't fight it and it will all be much easier for you."
The marble wall in front of the children suddenly dissolves, and they find themselves in an enormous room lined with machines and their robot-like attendants. At the end of the room they approach a platform on which a man with red eyes is seated in a chair. Above his head a glowing light pulsates with the same rhythm as his red eyes. The children immediately sense that the cold blackness emanating from this man is the same as that exuded by the Dark Thing, and Charles Wallace instructs Meg and Calvin to close their eyes lest the man hypnotize them. The man tries to...