The Crime Fighters in:
And Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them
A step behind
Michelle wandered into the bathroom, closing the door behind her, and then slipped out of her robe. She stepped into the shower, taking a few minutes to adjust the water to the right temperature. The steam rolled out into the bathroom, partially obscuring her slender figure. After a few moments, she began to sing to herself, in French. She had a rather nice voice, and apparently what she was singing was a love song, as her voice began to take on a slightly lascivious tone.
After several minutes, she finished her shower, and pulled open the curtain. Still singing, she started to step out onto the tile floor, but then stopped short. The room fell dead silent, except for a quiet, and terrifying, hiss.
A cobra lay coiled on the floor, just inches from her leg. It reared up a little higher, swaying, its hood spread. Michelle drew in her breath. The cobra hissed again, angrily, as she tried to pull her leg back. She froze there, unable to move a muscle.
Michelle closed her eyes, trying to control her trembling. If she moved very, very slowly, the snake might not strike. Then again, it might. There was no way it could miss her at this range. She wanted to cry out for help, but even that might make the cobra strike.
She could feel herself sweating, and not just from the heat of the room. The cobra was watching her for any movement, and it could take minutes before it let up its guard enough for her to move. Already, her leg was cramping from the position she was in.
But then there was a loud crash, and the door burst open. It was Robert. The fog from the shower dissipated almost instantly, throwing the scene into sharp clarity. As the cobra turned towards the intrusion, Robert brought up his pistol. There was a loud crack, and then the snake fell to the floor, neatly cut in two.
Michelle gave a yelp and wrapped the shower curtain around herself. Then she stood there, breathing hard. "I figured something was wrong when you stopped singing," Robert said. "You okay?"
She nodded. "I think so, now," she said breathlessly. "Just a little shaken. I didn't know you had a gun. . ."
"Well, I didn't bring it with me, if that's what you're thinkin'. But with all this business goin' on, I got your dad to point out the right people to me, and I did the rest myself."
Michelle took a deep breath. "You saved my life. Thanks."
Robert grinned. "I aim to please, ma'am."
She grinned, too, as if considering something. Then, after a moment, she let the curtain drop. She turned back to the shower. "In that case, would you mind scrubbing my back?"
Robert raised an eyebrow. "Mind if I put up my gun, first?"
"Oh sure." Her voice was turning lascivious again. "You won't need that one. . ."
Richard met up with Robert and Michelle, and after a quick breakfast, they headed for the dig. Michelle's father was already at the site, supervising the placement of explosives around the stone plug that was blocking the passage. After the charges were set off, the diggers would clear the rubble out of the passage, and then new holes were drilled for the next blast.
The blasting took about two hours, and then the last of the pieces of the shattered plug were cleared away. Michelle and her father led the way, as the explorers made their way into the ancient tomb.
The first couple of rooms were treasure chambers, and a cheer rose up from the diggers when Michelle's light first fell on a golden figurine. Mr. Bertrand gave his daughter a hug. "Wait here", he said. "I'm going to go get the packing equipment. We're going to have to inventory all of this. . ."
Dr. Betrand gestured to the foreman to join him, and the two men ducked back out through the passage. Michelle started to look around the room, stopping at a wall of heiroglyphs located over a doorway.
"Look here," Michelle said, and Robert joined her. "Your typical Egyptian curse. You're not gonna want to back out now, are you?"
She grinned at Robert, and he snorted. "I ain't afraid o' no moldy old mummy. . ."
"'You who would take this treasure, beware of the power. Those who rest in this tomb will rise and take their vengance on the world. . . um. . . do not violate this. . . no, wait. The wording is strange. . . you will rest. . . in this tomb. . . for eternity?"
"No. You've got it all wrong. It's not directed at robbers."
Richard came up behind her, and pointed at some heiroglyphs. "You see. Here, and here. It's not in the second person. It's the person inside the tomb that is the subject. . ."
"'Oh, you of great power, take this treasure and be satisfied. Do not rise and take your vengance on the world. Violate not the seals that keep you in the realm of the dead, but rest in this tomb for all eternity. . .'"
Michelle stared at him, and Richard looked down at her. "It isn't a warning to robbers. Its a spell -- intended to seal whoever is buried in this tomb inside it. . ."
Robert frowned. "But that would mean. . ."
"What kind of person would be so feared by the priests that they would write a curse like that?" Michelle asked, a bit stunned.
"Perhaps Akenaton's four heroes?"
Michelle looked up at the wall. "Then this would be. . . their burial tomb. Not Akenaton's." She looked disappointed.
"Unless they were so afraid of Akenaton that they wanted to seal him in here, too."
Richard stepped forward to the door, and looked inside. Michelle put a hand on his shoulder. "We should finish with the rooms one at a time," she said.
"Let your dad handle that," Richard said. "There is a mystery here."
The next room was similar to the last. There appeared to be two exits out of it, one to the right and one to the left, but they were both sealed. Richard studied them for a moment.
"False doors", Michelle said. "The Egyptians believed that the dead could walk through them as if they were real."
Richard nodded. He stared intently at the center of the room. Michelle tried to figure out what he was looking at, but couldn't. She walked over to read some of the heiroglyphs.
"We aren't the first ones here," Richard said.
"What?" Michelle shook her head. "This tomb was sealed off by a sandstone plug! No one has been here for a thousand years!"
"Sniff the air," Richard said.
Michelle did so. "So?"
"Smoke. A burned smell." He sniffed the air himself, thinking.
"Someone was in here, burning something. . . And besides that, the air's fresh."
Michelle looked startled. She backed away from the wall, and looked around the room. Robert, however, looked confused. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"The air should have been stale in here. If this room's been sealed up for the last thousand years or so, the bacteria should have consumed all the oxygen. The air should smell very musty and dead."
"Maybe there's a vent shaft in here. . ."
"Maybe. . ." Richard knelt in the middle of the floor. "Notice there is no dust on the floor?"
"There shouldn't be any," Michelle said. "Not in the dry air of Egypt."
"But there's sand, right here."
Michelle walked over to join him. There was a scattering of sand on the stone. Richard traced an outline with his finger. "Someone stood here, and the sand fell off of his shoes. Notice the outline is that of a modern shoe."
"This is too wierd," Michelle said.
Richard stood up, and stared at the far wall. He looked down at the way the foot print was pointing, then back at the wall. "Follow the path," he said, reading the heiroglyphs on the wall. "Return not to your tombs, for the. . . bolt cannot be lifted. Pass on to be with Osirus forever. . ."
Michelle put a hand to her forehead. "What does it all mean?"
"It's the same as before. . . a spell to keep the spirits of the people entombed here from returning to the living. 'Go through the false doors, but don't go back to your tomb.'"
Richard walked over to the wall. "What would open the door? How do you open a door? The doorknob, of course. . ."
Richard put up a hand and touched one of the heiroglyphs. Then he pushed. The stone gave way, a hidden button disguised by the shape of the glyph. There was a rumbling, and the stone wall rotated, opening.
"The heiroglyph for the word 'doorknob'," Richard explained. "Or the bar on a barred door, anyway."
"Oh, don't be so damned smug," Robert snorted. He pushed past his friend into the chamber.
Inside, was a small, square room, ornately decorated with stone pillars and pedestals. In the center, a large pedestal held an enourmous, silver metal bowl. In front of it, behind it, and to either side were stone coffins, sealed with gold lids. The lids were designed with claw-like projections that dug into the stone, preventing them from being lifted.
Michelle walked over to the nearest of the coffins and examined it. "Well, whoever was here didn't disturb this. It's going to take equipment to break it open. How odd. . ."
She grinned as she looked up at Richard. "It's looks like you were right. The priests were so afraid of these four men, they even sealed their sarcaphaguses shut, so they could never be opened."
Then she looked back down at the coffins. "Could it actually be that their legend is real? What if. . . what if. . . their objects are. . ."
"If the four objects were here they would be gone already," Richard said. "Besides, remember the legend? The four men had their powers taken away and sealed up somewhere else. Apparently they were defeated easily, but the priests were still scared that they might return."
Michelle nodded. "Right. And even if the priests did find the objects, they wouldn't put them here. They'd want them as far away from these guys as possible. . ."
There was a long silence. "But what if some of the priests were still loyal to Akenaton?"
Richard smiled. "Exactly what I was thinking."
Michelle wandered around the room. "Look at the designs on the sarcophaguses." She stopped near the one to the right. "This one's marked with flames, like the Element Fire."
"And this one would be Water," Richard said. He was standing near the coffin nearest the door. It was covered in wave-like patterns. "And Earth and Air."
"They're also at the four cardinal points," Michelle added. "Fire is to the north, Water to the east."
Richard walked to the center of the room. He ran a finger along the inside of the bowl, which was set on top of the pedestal here. "Michelle. . . do you have your canteen on you?"
"Of course." She handed it to him, and Richard poured the contents into the metal bowl. Then he poured his own canteen into it. Just as the water level reached the halfway point, there was a loud click. Robert turned around as a pedestal behind him, next to the wall, descended into the floor.
"Water," Richard said, indicating the pedestal. It had wave markings on it. The bowl, meanwhile, suddenly emptied, all of the water running out through an opening that had appeared in the bottom. Then the opening closed up again.
"Wait, I've seen this movie." Robert said. "We can use some sand, for Earth, right?"
But Richard shook his head. "No. Not sand. There would be plenty of sand around here."
"Mr. Bhai. . ." The foreman, who was watching from the doorway, stepped forward. "Go get some wood chips. Any kind would be fine, but probably palm trees would be best. . ."
He glanced at Michelle, who nodded. The foreman left, then returned with a basket. Richard poured the contents into the bowl until there was a second click. A second pedestal, next to the wall, sank into the ground.
The bowl didn't empty itself, this time. "Now what?" Robert asked.
"Now, the fire. . ." Richard took Mr. Bhai's torch from him, and held it to the wood. In moments, it had burst into flame. There was several minutes of silence, until Robert irritably asked, "Well?"
"Just a few more seconds. . ."
There was another click, and the third pedestal sank into the floor. The opening in the bowl opened back up, and the mass of flame and wood ashes dropped into the water below. There was a hissing noise, and smoke curled up from the bowl.
"Smoke." Michelle said. "Air."
"Whadda we do, blow on it?" Robert asked.
Richard shook his head. He looked back at the doorway. Behind it was the room they had come in through, and behind that the passage back to the surface. "Get the biggest mirror you can find," he said to Mr. Bhai, "and project a beam of sunlight down the passage."
"Sunlight, of course," Michelle said. "To the Egyptians, Air was represented by the Sun." The foreman left the room, and a few minutes later, Mr. Bertrand entered.
"What have we found?"
"I think it's Akenaton's four warriors, Dad," Michelle said. "There's nothing to identify them, but that in itself is suspicious."
The man looked around at the four coffins. "It is Eighteenth Dynasty, very much in keeping with Tutankamun's tomb." He looked at Richard. "You know that not following the procedures could call our conclusions into question, don't you?"
"I'm aware of that," Richard said. "But I think we're not the first to find this room. Someone came through here, headed straight for what he was looking for, ignoring everything else here, and left almost no sign that he'd been here."
Richard frowned. "We're a step behind this guy. And I want to know what he found."
"If he left no sign that he was in here," Mr. Bertrand countered, "then how can you tell?"
"I know what it sounds like, Daddy, but I think he's right." Michelle joined her father in the doorway. "There are too many oddities. . . the freshness of the air in here, the brazier, which seemed to have already been used. . . and there's a footprint back in that room."
"In fact, if you can keep people out of that room until I can get a picture of that footprint I'd appreciate it," Richard said. A flash of light from the passage behind them caught his attention. "Now, I think the two of you should step out of the way. . ."
They did so, and a shaft of light fell on the sarcophagus nearest the door. "Rotate the mirror a bit to the right," Richard yelled, "and up a little!" The light edged toward the pedestal. "A little more. . ."
The light finally struck the metal brazier, and was concentrated by the curve of the bowl into a cone, bouncing up and off of the silvery surface. At the wall, where the beam was concentrated down to a pinpoint, it struck a crystal set into the stone. The crystal lit up, and the fourth pedestal nearby sank into the floor.
With a loud rumble, the wall parted, revealing another hidden door, just like the one that had led into the room. Michelle and her father watched, their mouths open in astonishment and excitement. But as the light fell into the room, Michelle gasped, and Robert muttered "Son of a bitch. . ."
The far wall of the room was completely destroyed. It had fallen into rubble on the floor, and sand and dust covered the room. The rock was blackened, broken with sharp edges, and soot covered the walls up near the ceiling. The smell of burned gunpowder filled the air.
"What the Hell. . ." Mr. Bertrand walked forward, slowly, but Richard grabbed his arm.
"Let Robert and I check this out," Richard said. "I don't think there's any danger, but I suspect this is not natural."
"You mean somebody blew the wall up?" Robert seemed incredulous, but he was studying the wreckage closely.
"Robert and I have taken demolition training," Richard explained to the Bertrands. "You can see the smoke damage, and the breakage is clean, not worn down, as it would be if the wall had just collapsed. I suspect this wall was blown up with the dynamite that was stolen from your supplies. Robert and I will get some samples, so we can confirm this."
Michelle put a hand to her mouth. "I don't believe it. After all this. . . He beat us to it. . . and he. . ."
"Maybe I can put it back together," Mr. Bertrand said. "If the breaks are clean, as you said, it should be a matter of collecting all the pieces."
"I hope so," Richard said. "I'm afraid the combustion itself probably damaged most of the text near the source of the explosion. And if I were our adversary, I would plant the charges right where it would destroy the most important info."
Mr. Bertrand frowned. But Robert called out, from one corner. "Hey Richard! Here's some heiroglyphs that survived!"
The glyphs that Robert had found were on the side wall, not the back wall which was destroyed. Richard read the text. "Greetings, followers of Aton, the One True God. If you have uncovered the secret of the Crime Fighters, of the four Elements of the Earth, then you must be the Chosen Ones."
"We have have faith that in the Age Of The One God to come, you will find this. The power of Aton will once again shine on the earth. The heiroglyphs here will show you the location of Akenaton's final resting place, the secret chamber of the ages, where Aton's power waits for you."
"Dad!" Michelle held up a piece of the rubble, which she had been searching through. "It's the text of the description of the Bearer of Water!" She glanced at Robert. "The one we found on the stela. This must have been the original!"
Mr. Bertrand's expression brightened. "Then we have the copy to work from. This will make it easier for us to reconstruct it." He grinned widely. "Mr. Conner, you and your friend get your samples that you want. Then Michelle, you get Ali Bhai and gather up all the peices of this text. I'll try and reconstruct them, in my tent. I'll get what I need ready, you take care of the rest, okay?"
Michelle nodded. "I'll take care of everything, Daddy."
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