You'd think sand would be soft, maybe even warm; and not overly uncomfortable as it contours to your body. But in a dark cave, with a basalt floor beneath the sand was nothing but itchy. My nice satin sleep set had runs from the sands and the rough treatment Black Ibis had subjected me to. Moreover I was certain sand fleas were biting at my exposed skin. I kept shifting, but I was finding it difficult to get comfortable.
Heavy chains held my wrists and legs wide, and weren't doing much toward improving my comfort level. Every so often I would glance around my dim chamber, and examine the chains fastened to the cave walls. Three chains were set into heavy D rings mounted directly into the walls. The fourth was mounted on a metal post driven deep into the cave's floor. I studied the post and its ring, concluding it was too deeply set for me to break loose there.
But the three mounted to the cave wall looked equally looked equally strong. But as I studied the one over my right arm, I could see the stress lines in the wall, surrounding the link. They looked fresh, almost brand new. "It's been driven in," I thought. "With sheer brute strength--or Super Strength! Ibis! He couldn't resist showing off for his men."
Well two could play at that game. Black Ibis wasn't the only one with extraordinary strength. I looped the chain around my right hand, and gritted my teeth. I pulled, feeling the chain burning and tearing at my fingers. Grimacing I refused to loosen my grip. I pulled again, feeling the tension in my shoulders, the burning in my right arm muscles. I tried to brace with my feet but the sand only offered scant purchase.
"Pull Athena," I exhorted myself. Then it happened. I heard the 'chink' of metal moving against rock; almost like driving a piton. I relaxed a moment, then pulled again, and was rewarded with a "pop" as the D ring pulled free from the wall. I sprawled on the floor, resting a moment, catching my breath. Then I moved to my left wrist and pulled the manacle back, shattering the hinges. Within another three minutes I was free, the chains laying on the ground next to me. I was about to stand up when I heard the sound of footfall in the corridor.
"Has she been silent all this time?" I heard Black Ibis say, in flawless Egyptian.
"Yes Dark one, she still slumbers within."
"Then I think it's time to wake her. Her judgement before Thoth awaits." I played possum, clutching the free chain in my right hand. I knew that Black Ibis and I had similar powers, but where I had an ability to heal quickly; Black Ibis could read minds with a touch.
"Athena, my dear," I heard Black Ibis say, standing at the doorway to my cell. "It's time for you to have your heart weighed in the balance." I lay perfectly still, daring to hope Black Ibis wouldn't suspect my plan.
"You once refused my offer to become my bride, spurning my hand and nearly destroying me. Now only the land of Osiris awaits, the land to the west, my dear. Arise and prepare your heart for the journey of your ka." He moved closer, and nudged me with his boot.
I sat up rapidly, looping the chain tightly under his ankle and spilling Black Ibis onto the floor. My attack was so swift, he was off balance and toppled like a giant redwood. I dove on him, wrapping the chain tightly around his neck, cutting off his air supply.
"Let....me....go!" he gasped, his strength waning with each second. His hands tore at the chain but I refused to be dislodged. Black Ibis then realized he could fly and struggled to his feet, trying to fly and scrape me against the walls.
Holding tight to the chains with one hand, I reached into his toolbelt and found a small canister...his sleep gas. I sprayed it under his nose and was rewarded with a sudden gasp, then I felt Black Ibis falling to the ground. I waited until he stopped moving, then pulled the toolbelt from his waist. It was too large for my hips, but I buckled it over my shoulder.
I started by pulling his own handcuffs from his belt, and restrained his wrists tightly behind him. I added more sleep gas to a cloth I tore from my camisole and left it tight around his mouth and nose. Satisfied Ibis wasn't going to arise anytime soon, I took a quick inventory of his toolbelt.
He had many items that seemed to duplicate my own, but on the opposite side of the belt. I realized he was from a dark, yet almost mirrored dimension. I found his flashbang devices though and made my way to the front of my cell. The guards were sitting, almost eager for their boss to arrive. "Too easy," I thought. "But why not?"
I tossed one of Ibis's flash bombs into the mix, the combination of noise and phosphorus disorienting the Sons of Darkness and allowing me to slip past them and into the temple area.
I remembered the way out, and flew through the cave, hearing gunshots ricocheting behind me. I knew I had to get out, and keep them in.
I drew a heavy sigh, the temple was so magnificent, and I hated to do it. But as I neared the cave's entrance, I tossed one of Black Ibis's smoke bombs back at the Sons of Darkness. But instead of smoke, the grenade exploded, closing the mouth of the cave with a heavy boom. Shocked I flew back, but the rock debris was thick. I knew that the cavern had been deep though, and that the Sons looked capable of holding out for a while.
I flew out of the cave and into the canyon, looking for any sign of civilization I could find. I knew my presence in the desert would present more problems than I'd care to answer. Still I knew that could be dealt with as I came to it. But suddenly I was swept into the air, in a familiar embrace of gold and scarlet.
"Are you all right?" asked Val.
"Better now," I said. "What are you doing here?"
"You made the local news when the Stennet house exploded. So I couldn't accept you were dead, especially in light of your apartment fire. I've been looking for you since. And when Dr Mystik reported this explosion being reported on the Guild's satellite feed, I had to check it out."
"Why you? Wouldn't that go to the nearest hero?"
Val got that sheepish smile. "I was in Cairo. Someone had to come and I knew you weren't dead."
"Well in that cave are several very disgruntled Sons of Darkness, and Black Ibis." It was Captain Valiant's turn to look surprised.
"You managed to capture him on your own? And without weapons?"
"You told me it's what inside that makes us heroic, not the masks or suits or weapons. Sometimes its just being able to out think the villains."
Val nodded. "Let me take care of something, first here, Athena." He touched the signal device on his belt and spoke.
"Dr Mystik, this is Captain Valiant. Recovery is complete. Lock onto my signal and send Guild Task Force for cleanup." He turned back to me.
"Dr Mystik will be here shortly with a few other members for mop up. But we need to figure out some way to get YOU explained."
"How long have I been missing?" I asked.
"Only about a day. I think we can work with something here. There's a clinic in Cairo where I can take you as Virgil. They'll be more than willing to errr....alter their documents for me, since I'll make a sizable contribution to their operating costs."
So 24 hours later, Athena Nikos was discharged from the clinic and into the arms of Virgil Coleman. The thoughtful man had brought a change of wardrobe for me, and within 48 hours I was safely at the dig as planned. Dr Sahdi was gentle, but exacting and I threw myself into my work. The therapeutic value was good and I lost track of the time.
But about a week into the work, I felt my new Guild comlink tingle. "What is it?" I asked.
"Can you get away for about an hour?" asked Torrque. I nodded, and saw a golden glow forming around me. A scant moment later I was in the Guildhall, in Megametropolis. I headed into the locker area and quickly donned one of my costumes. A moment later I was in the science lab along with Scirocco, Captain Valiant and Dr Mystik. One of the Guild's transit pods was secure in the middle of the room.
"We know Black Ibis came from an alternate dimension," said Dr Mystik, her green eyes flashing. "And in the last week I've been trying to track it. I can now safely say I know where he comes from."
"But you can't send him back there Doctor," I said. "He's a predator and already a menace there."
"What happens on his world is his concern, White Owl," said Dr Mystik. "And as our world developed, so must his." She raised her arms and the dark green sleeves swirled over her head.
In a moment, Ibis screamed as a bright purple sphere filled his cell, then filled the room. When the light had cleared, the transit pod was empty.
"He's gone," I said. "Is he gone for good?"
"I believe so," said Dr Mystik. "I placed a ward on this planet. I don't think he'll be back ever again."
"I certainly hope so." I stretched and yawned. "I'm sorry but dawn hits early in the desert. I don't suppose you could zap me back?"