Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dark Wisdom Part Five.

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.
"!" 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?"
The End.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dark Wisdom Part Four

I was hanging and swinging weakly over the shoulder of Dark Owl as we flew south from Cairo. As the city receded, I could see the glow of the sand on the desert beneath me and if I could cock my head, the sky was full of more stars than I could ever see in Queen City.
I could see the Nile reflecting the pale moonlight beneath us, and calculated we were heading south by southeast toward the Sudan. I wrestled with my restraints, but the handcuffs Black Ibis had used were mine, and had been test rated against some powerful villains.
We flew south and east for a while and from my own experiences flying and carrying, I figured we were well away from the city. The terrain slowly changed from desert to rocky cliffs, and I realized we were nearing an area that had sheltered bandits, guerrillas and outcasts for centuries. Its remote location and myriad caverns made it a fantastic place to hide things of value.
We entered a dark, winding canyon, and I saw the ground rising to meet us. Ibis shifted his positions and mine, and landed with a gentleness born of much practice near an unguarded cavern. To the east, the sky was glowing a dark red, as the faint beginnings of dawn heralded the arrival of another sun. "Take a good look, dear Athena. Tonight, you will follow the sun into the realm of Osiris. Only you won't be reborn, I'm afraid."
He placed a hand on my shoulder and tried to force me into the cave. I whirled on my heel and slammed him in the ribs with a whirling roundhouse. Black Ibis groaned, as my unexpected attack caught him by surprise. I planted my feet, flexed and leaped into the air. But as I attempted to fly, I heard a fast whir past my ear.
Another whirring sound buzzed past, then I felt a stabbing pain in my left thigh as Black Ibis hit home with one of his Shurriken. I winced, then felt three more tag me in my right shin, my waist and my shoulder. Trying to ignore the pain, I staggered in flight. But Black Ibis had one last trick; a large silver ball shot past me, then opened, revealing a net. I flew directly into the web, snagged by the heavy nylon. The net shot close around me, and Ibis reeled me in like a prize catch of fish.
"That was very foolish, my dear," he said. Leaving me in the mesh, Ibis dragged me deep into the dark cavern. As we slipped in, I could see the sun fading from view. We rounded one corner, and I saw the shadows of daylight playing on a retreating wall. Then a second corner and suddenly I was plunged into an eerie and complete darkness. My tail felt sore, from all the dragging on the harsh sand and rough rock of the cave. I lost count of the steps and the turns Ibis made, though how he could see was beyond me.
But on a wall in front of us, I saw a dancing light--flickering like a torch playing on a wall. We rounded that turn and the narrow passage opened into a large cave, one that looked like it had been altered by humans...
The walls were painted with scenes that would rival a Pharaoh's tomb. Despite the smoke from the braziers surrounding the room, the paint looked almost untouched. I ached, wishing I had my camera and my art tools. An undiscovered temple, and now in use by Black Ibis as a base. The walls were fantastic, the main wall, directly opposite of me was absolutely breathtaking. There was a large onyx statue of Thoth, holding a balance. In front was a large table or altar with bas relief images of Osiris and Anubis carved into the dark stone. Parts of the stone were darker than the normal shade, and I had to assume the most grisly events that had happened here.
Ibis dropped the bag in the center of the room. Suddenly I was surrounded by five men in dark, flowing robes, who began poking and prodding me. The net was removed, and I heard murmurs of appreciation as the men examined my nearly nude form. "Do not molest her!" I heard Black Ibis say, his voice full of command authority. The men retreated a step, though they still watched with wary and leering eyes.
"This woman is our guest, she will share bread, water and salt with us before she makes her journey." The men nodded silently, in agreement and I saw their demeanor change to obedience.
With shaky legs, I attempted to stand.
Ibis licked his lips greedily, then pointed at one of the men and said, "You, get bandages for her. The rest of you, take her to her chamber until we are ready to send her ka to the birthplace of the dawn. Be wary though, despite her size, she is more powerful than any of you."
Two men helped me to my feet. I stood up, feeling strength returning. One of the men said, "You are playing a joke on us Black One! This is a mere slip of a girl, how can she..." His sentence was never completed as I elbowed him in the ribs. I swivelled again, and kicked out at the other guard. He howled in pain as I connected in the center of his crotch, dropping his rifle. I then bowed at the waist, flipping the third into the fourth.
I turned to face Ibis, but was met instead with his powerful fist in my jaw. I crumpled to the floor. "Now maybe you'll believe me," Ibis said to his pained men. "Take her away, and chain her well, she's not to escape."
I came to my senses lying on a cold granite floor, with my arms and legs chained in a large X pattern to several rings mounted in the cave wall. My camisole was torn, but intact as were my panties. I pulled at the chains, wondering how strong the walls and chains were. Outside I could hear voices, but a large wooden door made it impossible to see who was out there. In the darkness of the cave I had lost all track of time, but I knew that if Daud had his way, my time on earth was running out.
(to be continued)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dark Wisdom Part Three

The first thing I felt after deplaning was the oppressive heat. Despite the modernization Egypt developed in the twentieth century, no one had yet developed a way to ward off the bright sun near the equator.

I slipped into the terminal, grateful for the air conditioning and had my passport and visa thoroughly examined and stamped. "Have a pleasant stay, Dr Nikos," said the customs officer. I thanked him and made my way toward the taxi stand, dragging my suitcase behind me.

"Right this way, miss," said an eager, fez wearing man. He was middle aged, with hair going gray and wore loose robes with a dark vest. "I, Wali, have a very fine taxicab, very nice with air condition!" I allowed myself to be hustled into his slightly above disreputable vehicle. The cab smelled of cinnamon, sweat and pungent tobacco. But I had to admit, Wali was right about the air conditioning.

"Is nice, yes?" he asked holding the door for me and taking my suitcase. "Hey, where is the rest of your luggage. No American lady have just one for trip to Egypt."

"I sent it through about a week ago Wali. They're holding it for me at the Stennet house. Do you know it?" I could see Wali's eyes widen noticeably at this revelation.

"Stennet House? Is Cairo base for Dr Sahdi and his diggers! I am cousin to one. I get you there in good time!"

As we careened through the city toward the Stennet House, I saw graffiti on some of the walls. It looked suspiciously new. "Wali? Who or what are the Sons of Amon?"

Wali practically growled. "Please not to mention them in this cab again, lady, please? They are new militia band or gang or something, and they want headlines, and people to talk about them. If you never mention, they lose their powers, see?"

I nodded, and refrained from asking any more questions on that topic. Instead I clung to the ceiling strap as we rocked through the city. True to his word, the taxi fairly flew through the streets. I was certain that death for SOMEONE awaited us just around each corner, but somehow we arrived with all limbs intact. Wali brought the cab to an expert and sudden stop in front of the Stennet house.

I pushed out of the cab and studied my surroundings. Stennet House stood in an older, run down section of Cairo, but the hope of rich American and European scientists always attracted a small gathering of beggars. Across the way, I saw them and my heart went out. But Wali put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Come lady, is not always safe for women outside Stennet House. I shook my head and followed him into the courtyard; unaware of the sinister eyes watching from beneath a beggar's burnoose.

"So, you've regained your arrogance and confidence have you?" muttered the beggar behind me. "Well, you'll soon see how misplaced that confidence is..." The beggar crept stealthily away, and slipped quietly into the back seat of Wali's cab, unnoticed by me. From the dark shadows, another, similarly dressed slipped into his place.

I walked into the foyer of the Stennet House and was promptly greeted by Mohammed; the manager. "Dr Nikos, how wonderful it is to see you again," he said with a stiff Sandhurst accent. He cast a suspicious eye at Wali, but good manners prevailed and he said nothing about my companion. Mohammed turned back to me and said, "We sent your things up to the Aten room as you requested."

"Facing east," I confirmed.

"Indeed, though that room offers the poorest view of any in the house. Are you certain you will not reconsider?"

"No, I like that room fine. Consider it my lucky room." At Mohammed's signal, one of the servants took my suitcase from Wali and proceeded up the stairs. I turned to my cabbie and paid him, adding a generous tip.

"Thank you Wali," I said. "It was an adventure."

"Oh you are too kind by far lady! If you need ride in the future, call Wali--I know all good spots in Cairo." He gave a very informal bow and headed toward the door.

Mohammed couldn't stifle the haughty sniff. I smiled despite myself. "I keep forgetting how egalitarian your country is," Mohammed said. "But there's an order in Egypt that shouldn't be crossed. That man should have known better." Mohammed hummphed again and led me up the staircase to my room. His usual good mood and brisk efficiency had returned by the time he opened the door and handed me my key.

"Oh, there was also a message for you Dr Nikos," he said, handing me an envelope. I took it from Mohammed and he stepped back but his curiosity kept him close as I read the note.

"Nothing serious, one trusts?" he asked, fishing for information.

I smiled. "Not unless you think having a guest for an extra day is serious," I said. "The note just means I'll be taking advantage of your hospitality until Wednesday. Dr Sahdi can't spare anyone until then, it seems."

"Shall I alert the kitchen staff?"

"No need Mohammed. I can manage the tourist traps in the bazaar easily enough. And despite your wife's good cooking, I wouldn't want to put the whole staff to trouble just for me."

He nodded easily, relieved, I think. "Well if that's all for now, then. Dinner is at 8, dress is casual tonight." I thanked him and closed the door, then tossed my luggage to the floor and sprawled on the bed.

I woke with a start, my heart racing. For a moment I was disoriented, then I settled into the memories of where I was. I checked my wristwatch and saw it was 7 pm. I yawned, then slipped into a pair of loose jeans and a comfortable golf shirt, feeling that satisfied the "casual" requirement for dinner. Looking into the secret compartment of my suitcase, I sent a quick "check in" signal to the Guild, satisfying Val for a while. I ran a comb though my hair, trying to get it to sit properly. Satisfied I offered a glance out the window in my room, looking out at the backs of buildings around the Stennet House and watching the shadows growing longer.

I left the window open, allowing the air to circulate, then slipped downstairs for a warm meal. I ate sparingly, more from routine than from actual appetite. The bread was good and so was the lamb but I just was more tired than anything. I thanked Mohammed, then headed back upstairs.
My room was darkening, and Stennet House had not yet availed itself to air conditioning. I turned the ceiling fan on, then slipped into a camisole and panties for sleeping. I think I was asleep as soon as I hit the pillow.

I felt something against my mouth and tried to sit up but powerful arms restrained me. I bit down on the hand, only to find a thick cloth in my mouth. "No no, Athena, we mustn't bite, we mustn't scream," said a velvet voice to my left. I struggled, realizing I was in the grip of someone overly powerful. My eyes could nearly make out a human figure, and a flash of gold at the neckline told me it was someone I was deeply acquainted with.

"Bllk bbs?" I mumbled.

"Indeed, White Owl, I have returned from my exile. Where you trapped me. I've been waiting all this time, my dear. I plan to see you dead, just like my poor beloved, Intrepid."

All the time he spoke, I angled my body and slashed a sidekick at his thigh. He gave a soft laugh. "Would that stop YOU, Athena? I think not. So how could you possibly believe it could stop me?" He lifted a hand from my mouth and I was about to scream when he slammed the fist into my solar plexus.

"Unnnn" I groaned. My stomach contracted, and I gasped noiselessly trying to draw breath.

"You should thank me, Athena. I'm going to save you...for myself. I'm here to rescue you from the horrible destruction of the Stennet house." My eyes wouldn't focus, but I guess I glanced at him.

Ibis grabbed the back of my hair and slammed me out of bed, throwing me into the bureau across the room. I slid to the floor, struggling now to get up. Instead I felt his heavy boot in my back. "No, Athena, you're MINE!" he said. I shuddered, hearing the mania in his voice. Then I felt his hands tightly about my throat. I reached feebly, trying to pry his fingers from my windpipe, but as he squeezed more tightly, I felt all my own strength ebbing away.

He pushed my head forward again, dashing it against the knob of the bureau and I saw stars, then blackness.

I awoke face down on the floor of my room in the Stennet House, my arms fastened securely behind me. "Wha?" I began.

"Ahh good, you're awakening," said Ibis. "I hope you don't mind, but I took the advantage of binding you with your own handcuffs; the ones you use for the powered me?" He laughed quietly and hefted me to my feet. I struggled, but Ibis had a strong grip on my arm.

"I think I prefer you this way, Athena; as Doctor Nikos, and not White Owl. So I'm taking you this way, and no White Owl equipment this time." He dragged me to the window, then I felt us falling. Ibis then began flying away from city. Behind me, I heard the explosions. I managed to look over Ibis' shoulder and I saw the fire blazing where Stennet House had once stood.

To be continued...