When in Cairo
Sean’s Notes: This book is still copyright and falls under the “Otherwise noted” copyright notification.
WHEN IN CAIRO
I had just left the lobby of the Semiramis Hotel in Cairo, and was starting down the street when a hand plucked gently at my coat sleeve from behind, and a low voice said, “Sahib, Could I have a moment of your time?” I shrugged my shoulder to shake off the restraining hand and, without looking back, I strode on.
There are always a few guides, taxicab drivers, Bazzar steerers, and black market money changers in the street between the Shepheard and the Semiramis hotels, and the competition for the tourist dollar is so keen that a few of the more venture some sometimes invade even the forbidden precincts of the hotel lobbies in search of customers for their particular talents. If the prospective customer stops to talk or even turns to look he is hooked and will find it very difficult to get away. I had taken only three steps, however, when the hand again touched my shoulder. “Sahib, Please!” The voice was still low but there was a firm insistence that would not be denied. It was a voice which, though gentle, was obviously accustomed to being obeyed. In spite of myself, I turned to see who it was that was so insistently demanding my attention. The man was of
medium build, though a little on the slender side. Dressed in an American style business suit of indeterminate vintage, only his heavily tanned skin and well moulded features indicated an Arabic ancestry. “Well?” I asked, “What is it that you have to sell?” “Sahib,” the man replied, “the only thing I have to offer you is your own life. I offer that to you without charge, and at the risk of my own. There are those who know your true purpose here and will never permit you to achieve it. To them, human life has no value or significance whatever, unless it be their own, and they will eliminate you with as little concern as you would have in swatting a fly that had annoyed you with its buzzing. They call themselves the ‘Shukran’ which, as you know, is an Arabic word meaning ‘Thank you!’ When they have robbed a man of his money or have taken his life they make a habit of saying a mock ‘Thank you’ to the victim, for the contribution which he has made to their cause. In their ruthless exploitation of every human weakness, they have acquired a great deal of money and a certain amount of political power. Their only purpose in life is to acquire more of both. If I am seen talking to you and it is even suspected that I have warned you, I may well be killed before morning. I don’t think that we are being watched now, but in case I should be mistaken it would
be desirable for you to take a few American dollars from your wallet and hand them to me while I in turn will hand you some Egyptian Pound notes. If we are being observed it may be assumed that I am only a black market money changer, and perhaps no report of our meeting will be made to those who would know better.” As I reached for my wallet and extracted a few small bills, he extended a number of Egyptian Pound notes, saying in a low voice, “Take them, count them and slip them in your wallet, then walk away without looking back, as though our business had been completed and you had no further interest in me. You must know the full facts if you are to survive but I cannot risk being seen here in the street with you any longer especially in daylight. Go about your business as though you knew nothing but tonight at exactly 800 PM. start walking across the University Street Bridge as though you were simply out for an evening stroll. I will start across ahead of you but will allow you to overtake me near the center of the bridge. This will allow me to be certain that no one is following us or observing us from either end.”
While he had been giving me these instruction, I had been mechanically counting the pound notes which he had thrust at me and, even in my abstraction, I could not help note that, in the exchange of money, I was certainly getting considerably the better of the deal. As soon as he had finished speaking I began to walk away as he had instructed.
In my business, it is seldom that one is genuinely
surprised by anything that happens, and, in my business, of course, anything can happen, and frequently does! Yet, I would have wagered a great deal, and at long odds, that my cover, on this project, could not possibly be broken. I have long been known for the meticulous care with which I approach each project and especially the more difficult ones. This one I had considered to be the most difficult and delicate of all and I had made my preparations accordingly. Yet, unless the stranger was simply lying for some purpose of his own, and I did not think he was, it was obvious that something had slipped a cog somewhere. There seemed to be only two courses of action from which to choose. I could abandon the quest and leave Cairo on the next plane, or I could follow the stranger’s suggestion and see what happened.
The goal which I was seeking was, if it actually existed and, if judged by the value which the underworld places upon human life, worth at least a hundred lives, but I did not intend, if I could help it, that mine should be one of them. On the other hand, I had had very little experience with retreat, and was not sure that I would know how to go about it. I decided that would at least see a few more cards before I threw in my hand and gave up the pot.
At two minutes before eight I stepped out of the lobby of my hotel and walked with casual gait toward the University Street Bridge which crosses the Nile only a
stone’s throw from either the Shepheard or the Semiramis hotel. There is a walkway for pedestrian traffic, and occasionally someone will cross the bridge on foot, but the great bulk of the crossing is done in motor vehicles whose drivers pay no attention to pedestrians.
As I started across the walkway, only a single figure was visible ahead of me, walking slowly and pausing from time to time to gaze over the rail at the muddy water flowing slowly beneath. Although my own pace was leisurely, to avoid any appearance of haste, I was still overtaking the more slowly moving figure ahead. By the time I had reached the center of the bridge I was within a few feet of the form ahead, and was a little surprised to see that the business suit which my informant had worn that afternoon, had now been replaced by a typical Arab costume of burnoose! Perhaps after all, the timing had gone awry, and this was a total stranger who just happened to be walking across the bridge at this hour. As I drew ahead of the figure however, it turned to face me and a firm but definitely feminine voice said, “I have come in the place of the man who talked to you this afternoon. After telling us of his arrangement to meet you, he went out for his evening meal and has not returned. We fear he may be dead. I am not known to the Shukran, and it is not likely that I have been watched but your departure from your hotel was probably noted and you may acquire a shadow when we reach the far end of the bridge. Until then we can talk without
much chance of being overheard, but since I cannot give you all of the information you must have in that length of time and since we dare not move any slower than we now are, I will, from time to time, make suggestive motions and gestures that will indicate to any observer that I am only an ordinary street walker, luring you to my apartment. Do no be misled by these actions. Respond to them a little for appearances sake but do not be fooled. I have more important and vital tasks to concern me than romance or sex. I will be brief and to the point, please do not interrupt before I have finished. It is known that you intend to go by taxi to the Memphis area tomorrow, to explore some of the ruins there. It is feared that you may see things there that no ordinary tourist would ever notice and that you may reach conclusions that might be dangerous to the Shukran. The driver of the cab which will be furnished you by the hotel service, is in the employ of the Shukran. At a point near the side road which enters the ruins of Memphis, a car coming in the opposite direction will turn at an angle so as to block the road, and stop the taxi. A man will step out of the car and approach you as though to ask you a question but instead will produce a silenced pistol which he will empty into your body. The driver of the other car will, in the meantime, be pulling alongside of the cab, your body will be transferred to it and it will drive off. The entire action will require less than thirty seconds, and will be performed while there is no one else in
sight in any direction, as is the case most of the time at this spot. The driver of the cab in which you came, will simply continue on as far as he can drive into some part of the ruins, and will remain there for four or five hours as though awaiting your return. During this time he will examine the cab carefully for any bloodstains, bullet holes or any other evidence of violence that might raise suspicion when he reports back to the hotel in Cairo. During his hours of waiting it is virtually certain that he will be seen and perhaps approached by a few tourists who can later testify if necessary, that he was indeed there. His story to the authorities, if he is asked to tell it at all, will simply be that you left the cab at the point where he waited, and proceeded into the ruins on foot after instructing him to remain there until you returned. That, after a number of hours had passed and you had not returned he had felt it his duty to return to the hotel and report your disappearance. Yours is to be the simple, direct action type of killing that has been employed so frequently and so successfully by the Shukran. There are no frills and no complicated set up. Just a few shots in an isolated place and the victim disappears. No one other than the principals know just what happened, and there is no way for any one else to find out. Since the body is never found there is no way in which any crime can be proven.
The victim can only be listed as ‘missing’ by the authorities, and that is as far as the case ever goes. Of the half dozen killings engineered by the Shukran during the last year, no one has been prosecuted or even formally charged with any crime.
At this point the woman suddenly put an arm about my waist and drew me over to the bridge railing where, after a moments hesitation I put my right arm around her back and drew her slightly toward me. There was enough illumination from one of the floodlights over the bridge so that I could get a fairly good look at her face which was now upturned to mine. It was a pretty face, one which in some art circles might even have been considered beautiful. I guessed she was not more than nineteen or twenty although, in the half light I could well have been off by several years in either direction. I gave her a slight squeeze and said, “Well-what do we do now.”? “Keep your voice down,” she replied we are getting close to the end of the bridge and if someone is awaiting us there, he will soon be able to hear what we say. After we pass the end of the bridge and start up the street toward the university, if we are followed it will probably not be at a distance close enough for us to be heard since that would almost certainly alert you to the fact that you were being followed. As I said, I am not yet known to the Shukran and to anyone who
observes us, I will be just another woman of the night in search of a customer for her favors. The shadow, if there is one, will not be interested in me or in what I say, His only concern will be where you go and what you do. Now pretend to kiss me and we will move on past the end of the bridge before we resume conversation.” “First answer me this,” I replied, “You are in what is obviously male attire. What will any observer think if he sees me kissing another man in a public place?” I am not particularly sensitive about my reputation, but there are some limits.”
“Don’t worry about that” she said, “It is well known among the authorities and most of the people that that women of the night often don men’s clothing for their nightly forays. It is safer that way. If they keep to the shadows and do not raise their voices they can almost always pass for a man until they have selected their quarry and are closing in. The fact that I, a woman am wearing men’s clothing will not of itself raise any suspicion of intrigue, it will only brand me as a prostitute since no other woman of our race would even consider wearing men’s clothing.”
“Yet you yourself are wearing them and you say you are not of the profession,” I observed.
“Forget it,” she replied, “you know why I am wearing them.” Are you going to pretend to
kiss me or not? If we stand here much longer without doing anything but talk we will certainly arouse the suspicion of anyone who sees us.”
“I am not very good at play acting,” I said, “let’s make it a real one.” My right arm was already around her waist and, placing my left about her shoulders so as to brace her upturned head, I pressed my lips firmly upon hers. They were warm and firm and moist. She was not exactly yielding, but she was not resisting either, and a certain amount of biological response inevitably results from such a contact. In my profession, such events are few and far between and I was determined to make the most of this one. After a few seconds however, she broke free saying matter-of-factly, “That should do it for now, let’s start walking.” There was no change in her voice or her attitude but I noticed that her breathing was somewhat deeper and more rapid than it had been before, and when she took my hand in hers, “To maintain,” as she put it, “the appearance of a woman who has captured her quarry for the night,” her hand was considerably warmer than would normally be the case in the open air at night.
We passed the end of the bridge and proceeded on in the direction of the University without interruption and without seeing any sign of
observers, onlookers, or surveillance of any kind except for the large sculptured lions which stand perpetual guard there. So far as we could determine we were not followed. Perhaps our ruse of meeting in the center of the bridge had been so successful that we had escaped observation entirely, although as my companion pointed out a little dryly, “those who underestimate the interest or the ability of the Shukran have a notoriously short life expectancy.”
As we walked along, waiting until we were far enough from the bridge abutment to be sure that we could not be heard before resuming serious discussion, a thought occurred t me and I expressed it to the young woman at my side.
“In all my life, so far as I can remember,” I said, “This is the first time I have ever held hands with and kissed a girl whose name I had never heard. You seem to know mine. How about yours?” “Just call me Faida she replied. “Its as good a name as any, and when this business is over I will simply Faida-way and you will never see me again.” Her words brought a sudden twinge, although I had to admit that she was right. what possible bond could there ever be between us except the common danger of the moment? I knew her words were logical but couldn’t quite bring myself to accept them.
By this time, we were as much in the open as we were likely to be on this street. Even the motor traffic was sparse and the drivers went past without paying the slightest attention to us.
“For a group that is apparently working directly against the Shukran,” I said, you seem to have an amazingly large and precise fund of information. How do you manage to obtain it without yourselves being killed?” “We don’t,” she replied with some bitterness, “Two of our group are among those who are now gone, and the man who approached you this afternoon is missing and may well have met the same fate. We still have some connections however, and we maintain and increase them at every opportunity and at any cost or risk. We simply must find some way to stop this insane organization before they take over all of Egypt and plunge the nation into a hopeless war of conquest. The three leaders are the most dangerous of egomaniacs, whose ambition has absolutely no limit. If they succeeded in conquering the entire earth. they would immediately set up a huge space program just so they could go to other planets and conquer them too!”
They are not infallible, if they were we would not know so much about them, but up to now at least, they seem to be invincible. We know of course, that no man and no organization can operate
forever in defiance of the laws of God and of man and so we continue to oppose them and to frustrate their plans whenever and wherever we can. My father was the first to give his life in this struggle, and that fact helps to explain my own bitterness and my dedication to their destruction.
You must, of course, give up your trip to Memphis tomorrow, and should probably leave this country as soon as possible. If you make it plain that you are giving up your plans and activities here you will probably be allowed to leave without any interference. The Shukran do not kill for pleasure or for excitement but only as a part of their normal business activities. If you are no longer a threat to their plans or activities they will simply ignore you altogether, if they learn that we have warned you, they will certainly take some action some against one of us, just to indicate their displeasure at our interference.
“You must get tired of being continually on the defensive,” I remarked, “don’t you ever take the offensive? How many of their people have you disposed of in your efforts to frustrate their plans?”
“None, of course,” Faida replied. We cannot murder in cold blood as they do, and none of our people could match their trained gun men in open combat. We can only remain on the defensive while
we seek other subtler ways to bring about their downfall.”
The university buildings and grounds occupy the entire right hand side of this next block. We will turn at the next intersection and proceed halfway down the block. There are some trees there which cut off virtually all light from the street lamps. We will be in darkness but will be able to see the surrounding area. If no shadow appears we will separate there and you will return to your hotel while I will return to my own quarters which are not far from here. If a shadow does appear we will have to go on until we find some way to lose him. I cannot afford to risk leading anyone to my quarters since that might be fatal to several of our people. I am not yet known to the Shukran, but they are, and if their place of residence were discovered they would have to seek other quarters at once and possibly not in time.” “If your father was the first casualty in this private war,” I said, the Shukran surely must have known of him, how is it they don’t know of you?” I was in a ‘finishing school’ in England when he was killed she replied. I don’t think they even knew he had a daughter but in any event they don’t know that I have left England or that I am here.”
By this time we had reached the shadow of the
trees and paused to look around. We were in almost total darkness, but the surrounding area for a block or more in every direction but one, was visible in the light from the street lamps and a few outside lights on several of the university buildings. It was vacation time and the buildings were mostly vacant but the few lights were left burning at night for the benefit of maintenance men and to discourage vandalism.
Except for an occasional motor vehicle passing on University Street, there was no traffic, and no pedestrians were visible. We waited motionless for several minutes and still no one had come into sight. “I guess that’s it,” Faida said, “We part here. you return the way you came and I will continue on through the darkness on this side of the street. Neither you nor anyone else will see when I leave this street or where I go from there.” If you ever return to Cairo, I hope it will be more friendly to you. “You have been friendly enough for all,” I said as I tightened my arm about her waist and bent my head to hers. “But-” she protested “no one is looking now, there is no need for us to kiss farewell.” Allah is looking,” I replied, and He says you need this as much as I do!” Our lips met and remained together longer than they had the first time, but eventually she pushed me away from her, turned on her heel
and without a word, raced away into the darkness of the tree lined avenue. It had been a long time since my mind had been in such a state of indecision. I have been accused of being a robot without any human emotion, and there have been times when I have worked rather hard to create and maintain that image. It fits my profession well. At this moment however, I was suffering not only from indecision but from unusual emotions as well. I had never seriously considered taking Faida’s advice and leaving the country. There was too much at stake, and I realized that this entire encounter might have been engineered for the sole purpose of frightening me away. I had never heard of any group that called itself the Shukran and even if it existed I doubted that it was as powerful or as ruthless as had been indicated. I would know tomorrow, of course, whether the assassination attempt would be carried out, and if it were, I could reassess my position at that time. According to Faida, if that was her real name, only three men would be involved in the action, and I had, on occasion, faced odds considerably larger than that. I would have the advantage of surprise and there is no one easier to take than one who
thinks he is about to take you.
In my years of intensive training for my profession I had spent hundreds of hours sweating away in police and army pistol ranges welding my hand and my eyes into one smoothly functioning unit. It had been a long time since I had found it necessary to take aim at anything I wanted to hit. If I was looking at the spot, my hand automatically directed the bullet to the center of it. Being something of a specialist, I had determined in the beginning that the tools of my trade would always be the very best that could possibly be obtained. The gun which was my constant companion, even in bed, was one of two that had been made to my own specifications by one of the best gunsmiths in the world. Made from the finest steel alloys known, and to a precision never before attempted, they had cost me just over three thousand dollars each. All of my friends who knew of the deal told me it was too much to pay for a sidearm when the ordinary variety could be purchased for sixty to eighty dollars, and were almost as good. I didn’t argue with them, but the little bit of difference in that “almost” had saved my life on several
occasions. The guns were relatively small and compact, yet their stellite barrels could easily handle gas pressures much higher than those produced in standard weapons, and the high speed bullets had the punch of a magnum. Since I never took aim along the barrel, there was no need for front or rear sights, nor were there any other projections that might catch or drag in the holster and impede the draw.
The underarm holster that had been built into each of my jackets and even into my dress suit, had been the result of months of experiment and testing, carefully balanced by a small amount of padding under the opposite arm, the gun gave no outward evidence of its presence, yet was instantly accessible.
All in all, I felt that I was at least an even match for any three mafia type hitmen, who usually practice their trade upon unarmed and unsuspecting victims.
Concerning the statements of my erstwhile companion, I was in more of a quandary. I realized that whatever happened from here on, it was unlikely that we would meet again. Logic pointed out that there was no earthly reason why we should. Whatever her purpose had been, whether to warn me of danger or
simply to scare me into leaving town, she had made her play, and there would be no point in repeating the contact. It was obviously good logic, yet it was mixed with an emotion that I could not rationalize, nor did I make any serious attempt to do so during my return to my hotel.
At eight the next morning I received a call on my room phone, informing me that the taxi I had reserved the previous afternoon was at my disposal for the day. I had been ready for some time and, picking up a large notebook and a leather case containing several implements of the archaeologist’s trade, I took to the stairs. Since my room was on thee second floor, there was no need to wait for the elevator, which seemed to be specially designed to test one’s patience.
The taxi was the usual American made car, of venerable age, but renewed and polished until it appeared to have come directly from the assembly line. The driver seemed no different from any other Cairo taxi driver and showed no sign of emotion or reaction of any kind when I instructed him to take the road to Memphis. He did object when I made a motion to get into the front seat beside him, explaining that it was forbidden to allow
passengers to ride in the front seat of taxies in Cairo. I knew this was a lie, since I had on many occasions shared the front seat of taxies in Cairo and no other driver had ever objected. I could only assume that there was indeed to be an attempt on my life and the driver did not want to be in the line of fire. That would mean that the shots would come from the side, as Faida had explained.
I took the rear seat without objection or comment. The driver revved up the motor, which had been idling while he had been waiting for me, and we were off.
Gasoline is plentiful in Egypt, and is quite cheap, if one knows where to go to get it, and few drivers bother to shut off their motors if the wait is expected to be less than half an hour.
Before we had covered the first mile however I began to notice that my driver had a different style of driving from that of most Cairo taxi herders. For example, in that first mile he had never once used his horn. Most Cairo drivers are convinced that the horn is an integral part of the propulsion system, and the motor will not perform properly unless the horn is used continuously. Also, he slowed down when approaching groups of people standing in the middle of street intersections. No regular
Cairo taxicab driver would dream of doing such a thing. It is his business to get his passengers where they are going, and it is the pedestrian’s business to look out for himself, a task which, in spite of his apparent unconcern, he usually manages to perform quite successfully.
This driver was being especially careful that nothing should happen that would, in any way delay him, or prevent him from reaching his destination at a preappointed time. I had said nothing to him about being in any hurry or about reaching my destination at any particular time, yet at the moment of our departure from the hotel and again at about the halfway point in our journey, I saw him glance quickly at his wrist watch. Cairo taxi drivers are seldom concerned about the exact time, since the cab meter will record the only factor about which are concerned, and that is the amount of money which they have coming. There could be little doubt that I was being driven to some precisely timed rendezvous which I had not requested and was not intended to know anything about. If that were true, then Faida had probably been right about the attempt on my life.
As we approached the turnoff from the highway to the Memphis area, I reached under my jacket and slipped my gun out of its holster. the back of the
driver’s seat was high enough so that he could not see this action in the rear view mirror, even if he had been watching me, and he and he did not appear to be doing so. At the moment, his attention seemed to be focused upon another car coming from the opposite direction, which was slowing down as it approached. A short distance ahead of us, the oncoming car braked hard and swung broadside in front of us, blocking most of both lanes, while the driver waved for us to stop, a needless gesture since our only choice was to stop or to collide with his car. There were two men in the front seat of the other vehicle and, as we ground to a stop less than ten feet away, the second man in the car who was now facing us, emerged from the car and strode directly toward me. My window was down, and as he approached me he held forth a road map in his left hand as if to ask directions. When he was within a single stride of the car however, his right hand emerged from the lower part of his jacket holding a pistol with a long, old fashioned silencer. The weapon was heavy and poorly balanced, and even if I had not been warned it is unlikely that he would have lived to use it on me. As it was his gun
had barely cleared the fold of his jacket when a small blue hole appeared in the center of his forehead and he crumpled to the ground without a sound or a single muscular contraction. My pistol had no silencer, and its report cold have been heard by anyone within a radius of half a mile, but at the moment, I had more important and more immediate problems to concern me.
The driver of the other car, after a moment of stunned inaction, leaped from the far side of the car and drawing a small pistol without a silencer, attempted to snipe at me from over the other car’s hood. Unfortunately for him, he had to raise his head slightly above the car’s hood to take aim, and in that moment, he joined his fellow assassin in whatever afterlife the two may have earned.
My own driver was in a state of near paralysis a this strange and unexpected turn of events, and seemed totally unable to decide what he should do next. Although he was certainly in the pay of the Shukran, it was obvious that he was not himself a gunman, since if he were it would not have been considered necessary to have employed the other two. With my gun still in my hand, I turned to him and said, matter-of-factly, “If you drive carefully, I think you can get past the stalled car ahead of us without going in the ditch
and we can go upon our way.” “But Sahib,” he protested, “the two dead men who tried to kill you, we must notify the authorities.”
“Forget them,” I said, “the next passer-by will do that for us. They tried to kill me, as others have done in the past and they have met the same fate. We are well rid of them. I am sure you have no real desire to notify the authorities who might ask embarrassing questions as to how this all came about, nor do I believe your employers, the Shukran, would wish you to do so. As for me, I have much work to do today, and I want to get on with it. We have been delayed long enough.”
The driver’s head was turned back toward me as I spoke these words and he could not help but see that although my gun was now held loosely in my hand, nevertheless it was pointed directly at him. There was nothing he could do, and without another word, he started the taxi’s engine drove carefully around the stalled car and proceeded to the ruins of Memphis. As we entered the area where the majority of the surviving ruins are clustered, I instructed the driver to drive the taxis as far into the area as the terrain would permit. Although there was no road, there were short stretches of flat ground on which the car
could be driven. The driver obeyed my instructions, but it was obvious that his nerve was rapidly deserting him. He had seen two of his fellow plotters die instantly and he knew that the gun that had disposed of them was now pointed in his direction. Because of my remark about his joining the Shukran, he also knew that I was aware of his connection with the assassins. What was to prevent me from pulling the trigger once more and making a clean sweep of the plotters? He knew that it was exactly what he would do if he were in my place, and, not knowing that I had other plans for him, he fully expected to be killed as soon as he had taken the cab as far as it could go into the ruins. When he was finally forced to bring the vehicle to a halt, a few feet from an impossible pile of rubble, he turned to me and said, almost pleadingly, “Sahib, I have a wife and small children.” “That is unfortunate for them I replied, you should have thought of them before you joined the Shukran, but I am not going to kill you, at least not now unless you make it necessary. I am going into the ruins on foot, and will probably be gone for at least three to four hours. You will wait here for my return. Since I notified the hotel that I wanted a cab for the entire day, I
presume that you have brought food for lunch in the box beside you on the seat. It should tide you over until I finish my work. With that, I turned on my heel and walked directly away from him, returning my gun to its holster as I did so. I was perhaps, a somewhat foolhardy act, but I wanted to impress this weak tool of the Shukran with my apparent contempt for him and his employers. It might make them think more carefully before making the next move.
About twenty feet away was the remnant of building that would hide my movements from that point on, and I strode directly toward it. I could not help feeling a slight twitch in the center of my back where I know the cab driver’s bullet would strike me if he were armed and decided to take a chance. I was reasonably sure that he was not, but one can always make a mistake in such cases, and the first one is usually the last.
I reached the concealment of the ruins without incident however, and from there I went about my business without further concern for the cab driver, or for whatever plans he might have for my future. I suspected that the glove compartment of the cab might contain a short wave radio which would allow the driver to communicate with his employers, and that between them they might cook up some further scheme to dispose of me but I doubted that
they would try direct confrontation again the first attempt had been too costly and unproductive.
In any event, all of that would have to await its turn. Right now I had more important business.
I needed no map to find the particular ruin with which I was concerned, since I had long since memorized every foot of the area from the detailed description and the photographs found among the personal papers of Fritz Von Palen, the archaeologist who had made the discovery but had never officially reported it. In his diary he admitted, somewhat ruefully that the principal reason why he had never reported the find was that he was sure no one would believe him. The description in his diary of the chamber he had discovered beneath one of the ruins was indeed difficult to accept as anything other than the fantasy of a highly imaginative mind, except for the fact that Von Palen had not been an imaginative man nor was he given to any form of fantasy. His description was crisp, precise, and matter of fact. He referred to the chamber he had discovered as “the Atlantean Hall of Records. He found no gold or jewels other than those which had been used as construction materials in some of the many artifacts in the chamber. It was the artifacts
themselves that were incredible. Some were miniature models, others were full sized replicas of the most advanced Atlantean technology.
Since the submerged continent of Atlantis is itself considered by most archaeologists to be merely an interesting myth, supported only by the imaginative writings of Plato, in his extensive manuscript Timeus, or Theory of the universe and his shorter paper Critius, it would indeed be difficult for the archaeological profession to accept the existence of complex technological artifacts created by a race and a technology that had never existed. Nevertheless, Von Palen’s diary had given precise and detailed descriptions of technological devices whose purpose and functions were obviously far in advance of our present technology.
The terms ‘levitation’ and ‘Anti-gravity,’ are frequently used, in a knowing way, by those in the field of metaphysics or the realm of the psyche, but no hardware leading in this direction has yet come to the attention of modern science.
Governments of the world have spent countless billions of dollars in the research and development of nuclear weapons and devices. Howe many billions would they pay for a complete, operating device capable of reversing the force of gravity, or of
channeling it in any desired direction? How much would they pay for an energy generator that made simple and practical use of the ‘Cold fusion’ of hydrogen? How much for a communication system that could transmit a precise message to a given individual anywhere on earth, or millions of miles in space, but which could not be intercepted or read by any other person? If one half of the things described by Von Palen in his diary were actually in existence, they would be worth more than all of the gold in all of the national treasuries of the world combined. Anyone who had possession and complete control of them could soon become the master of the planet. Personally, I had no desire whatever to become the boss of the earth and from what I had learned of the Shukran, I doubted that the world would be any better off under their domination either. The simple fact was that I did not know of a single group or nation on earth that I felt was sufficiently advance, politically, economically or philosophically to be capable of successful administration of the powers and abilities inherent in the Atlantean technology. Apparently, the Atlanteans themselves had not been able to do so, and their failure had resulted in their complete destruction. This left me with a serious problem of
procedure. All of the detailed plans I had made so carefully, before coming to Cairo revolved around the authenticity of Von Palen’s manuscript. Did the Atlantean Hall of records actually exist? Could it be relocated from his map and description? Were the devices and records he told of really there? These questions demanded answers and, from the first time I had read the diary, there had been no doubt in my mind that I would eventually have to check them out. I had done little planning however, as to what I would do if everything Von Palen had said turned out to be true! I had no license from the Egyptian government to do any excavating among the ruins of Memphis, or anywhere else, and even if I obtained one, I would never be permitted to remove anything from the site of its discovery. The Egyptian government has long maintained that any artifacts unearthed by archaeological excavation belong to the people of Egypt, and must be taken in charge by a government agency. I was also aware, of course, of the ancient saying, that “Money Talks, and if there is enough of it, it will practically always say Yes!” I had little doubt that, with a careful approach and generous financing, I could get a few crates shipped out of the country, if only no
one but me knew what they contained. The major question however, remained unanswered. If I did succeed in getting the artifacts and records out of Egypt, where would I ship them, and what would I do with them when they arrived? While it was perfectly true that if these devices and the accompanying technology were valid and functional, they would be worth many billions of dollars to any government that could afford them, it would be almost impossible for any single individual to arrange any meaningful demonstration and subsequent sale. Worst of all, I knew of no government that I thought should have them. Being a citizen of the United States of American, my patriotic duty would seem to dictate that that country should have first chance, but I did not feel at all enthusiastic at the prospect. However, all of these problems were purely academic since I had not as yet, discovered anything that would cause them to arise.
Memphis, the ancient capitol of Egypt, was located about fourteen miles south of the present city of Cairo just above the apex of the Nile delta. One of the oldest
cities known, it had been founded and had become a thriving metropolis long before any of the presently known history of Egypt was written. There are however persistent legends that tell of its original founding as a colony of Atlantis, during its heyday, and when that continent began to break up, they say, many of the records of its history and samples of its technology were transferred to Egypt for preservation against the time when mankind might acquire sufficient intelligence to use them properly. To me it seemed to be a vain hope. The years the generations and the centuries had rolled by in endless succession until the city was reduced to piles of rubble, and, after the conquest of Alexander, much of this was carried away to be used as building material for the new city of Fostat, and later for Cairo. Still mankind showed no evidence of having advanced in basic intelligence, or in understanding of himself or his neighbor. Consequently, I now found myself engaged in a very costly and danger ridden search for something which, if I succeeded in finding it, would involve even greater danger and responsibilities. My nature
is such that, having begun the quest, I had to find the artifacts if they were there, but I almost hoped that they had never existed.
I was now entering the South side of the Necropolis, or City of the Dead which has, to some extent, been protected by large accumulations of blown sand, and by the superstitious fear of the dead which prevented it from being demolished in the search for building materials.
There was no one else in sight as I neared the L shaped remnant of what had once been an ornate and magnificently fashioned structure, but now consisted only of parts of the two intersecting walls with a number of loose stone blocks scattered about on the stone floor between them.
So far I had been following from memory, the map that Von Palen had drawn, now I took form my pocket the photograph he had taken, showing the spot where the entrance to the underground Crypt was located. Comparing the photo with the actual spot, there could be no doubt that they were one and the same. Not a stone had been moved since the picture was taken. After a careful look around to be sure that I was not being observed, I strode quickly to the left
hand wall and began to roll away the stone blocks that were piled loosely on the floor. As I moved the fourth block I began to uncover a slab in the floor that was not cemented in as were the others. Brushing away some dirt that filled a depression in the center of the slab, I found a metal ring obviously intended to aid in lifting the slab. All of this was exactly as described by Von Palen, and I could not help feel a sudden thrill as I grasped the ring and pulled upwards with all my strength. Either the slab was lighter than I had expected or the excitement of the moment lent me added strength, for the slab came up easily leaving an opening about 24 inches square, and a narrow set of stone steps leading downwards. The whiff of stale air that rose from the crypt beneath warned me not to try to descend until some surface air had replaced it.
In air as stale as this was, anoxia can creep up on one and put him under before he is aware that anything is happening. While I waited, I took two items from the small kit of equipment I had brought with me. One was a small flashlight and the other was a candle. To any uninformed
observer it might have seemed to be the height of folly to carry both a flash and a candle, but the candle was not for light but to monitor the condition of the air. So long as the flame burned normally, there would be sufficient oxygen to sustain the body, even under rather strenuous working conditions. If the flame flickered and died down it would indicated that the oxygen was low, and considerable care should be exercised. If it went out it would be a clear warning to get back to the surface as quickly as possible.
I waited impatiently for ten minutes, remaining close to the inside wall where I would be least visible to anyone approaching the area, and keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who might. No one did however and, at the end of the ten minutes I slipped down through the small opening, descending on a narrow set of stone steps which started about three feet below the opening and descended to the floor of the crypt beneath. There was no visible deposit of sand or even dust on the steps, and the floor was as clean as though it had been freshly swept. Evidently the stone slab had been very carefully
cut, and fitted so that it created what was virtually an air tight seal when in place. Sweeping my flash around me in a slow circle, I found myself in a vault about 20 by 20 feet, with a ceiling not more than a foot above my head. To my surprise, there was no sign of individual blocks or slabs in the walls or floor. The corners were slightly rounded and no cracks or joints of any kind were visible. It appeared as though the entire room had been poured in a single monolithic operation from some type of very smooth and fine grained and remarkably white concrete.
Scattered about the floor of the room were a number of mechanical devices seemingly made of metal, some parts of which gleamed rather eerily in the light of the flash.
I lit the candle and, finding a small flat surface on one of the mechanical devices, I dropped a little wax on this surface and attached the candle to it. The candle burned with a steady flame, and I felt it was safe to pursue my next objective.
Among the many incredible things Von Palen had included in his report was the statement that this crypt contained a built in lighting system. A full page of his memo
had been devoted to an attempted explanation of how an electric storage cell could be created with a diode barrier between the charged plates so that the cell could not discharge internally and if no external circuit was created it would retain its charge indefinitely. He also described a complex thermopile embedded in one of the walls of the chamber, with one junction in the ceiling and the other in the floor. Because many thermocouples were in series in the pile, even the small temperature difference between the floor and the ceiling would create a sufficient potential to keep the cell fully charged.
The quartz tube embedded in the ceiling contained a gas which would fluoresce with a relatively low voltage applied to its terminals and which allowed very little flow of current. According to Von Palen, it was the ideal cold light generator, wasting no energy in the infra red or the ultra violet frequencies but whose entire output was in the visible spectrum.
Since such talents as I posses lie principally in fields other than science, Von Palen’s description, while it was generally understandable, did not impress me nearly as deeply as some of the other devices which he also described. My only interest
in the lighting system at the moment was to see whether it would actually work as intended and so furnish enough light to examine the many other artifacts which the room also contained. About breast high in the center of the left hand wall, as one descended the stairs, was a small disk of metal with extensions shaped like arrow heads projecting from either side. According to Von Palen, it was the switch mechanism that controlled the light. If one pressed on the right hand arrow head, the disk, which was pivoted in the center would rotate slightly to the right establishing the circuit and turning on the light. If one pressed on the left hand arrow head the circuit was broken, and the light would go out.
Utter nonsense of course, to even think of an electric lighting system installed at least four thousand years B.C., yet there was the disk on the wall waiting to be tired. I stepped forward, pressed tentatively on the right hand arrowhead, and instantly the room was flooded with light. It was a soft white light such as might have come from a florescent tube but its luminescence penetrated to every corner of the room. I pressed gently on the left hand arrow and instantly the room was again in darkness except for the light of the candle which still burned. The lighting system
at least, worked exactly as Von Palen had described, but how about all of the other incredible things he had discovered, could they also be real? For the second time I pressed the right hand arrow and for the second time the room was brightly lighted. This time I left the light on and began to examine the many devices and artifacts which the room contained. Each of the larger devices had attached to it a small roll of what appeared to be parchment but was much more flexible and showed no sign of age. The scrolls apparently contained descriptions of the various devices along with directions for their operation, but unfortunately my very limited knowledge of the early Egyptian language and my total ignorance of Atlantean precluded any complete understanding of their texts.
In one corner of the room stood the largest of the devices, apparently some sort of a vehicle since it had several seats surrounded by a light metal framework. There were no wheels or sled runners yet it was vaguely reminiscent of a light carriage or sleigh except for lack of visible propulsion
system. Just in front of the right hand seat however, was a small panel which had projecting from it and facing the seat, what seemed to be several more control knobs. As I was attempting to decipher the scroll that accompanied it I heard soft footsteps on the roof of the crypt approaching the opening.
Instantly I leaped to the light switch plunging the room in darkness. My gun was in my hand and pointed toward the opening when a feminine voice broke the silence. “Hold everything,” this is Faida. I have some important news for you, May I come down?”
“Are you alone?” I asked. “I am now, but not for long I fear,” Faida replied.
For a moment, I was almost speechless with surprise. How in the devil could she have found me here unless she had somehow followed me, and I was sure that no one had. However, I have learned to recover very rapidly from any kind of surprise, too often my life depends upon it. “Are you alone?” I asked, “I am now,” Faida replied, but not for long, I fear the Shukran also know where you are and are furious.
It is the first time one of their assassination plots has failed and they have lost two of their most dedicated killers.” While she was saying this, Faida was beginning to descend the short stairway in the semi darkness. With gun still in hand and pointed toward the opening, I pressed the switch and relighted the room. “Thats better,” Faida remarked, “Coming down a stairs in darkness is not easy when you have never been on it and there is no handrail.”
“What’s this about the Shukran?” I asked, You say they know where I am?” How did they find out, and how did you find out for that matter, I could have sworn that no one followed me.” “The driver of your cab did,” Faida replied, he remained at a considerable distance and took cover behind every bush and bit of ruin that would conceal him. He had a portable short wave radio with which he reported the day’s events to his superiors in Cairo. We know about their short wave communication, and have a set constantly tuned to their wave length which is why we also knew about you. The cab driver did not describe your exact location but I knew enough about this area to know there was only one bit of ruins here you
could have disappeared behind, the driver was afraid to approach anywhere within gunshot range. He was unarmed and is probably still lurking at some distance waiting for reinforcements to arrive. In his veiled report of your escape from the trap and your subsequent departure on foot into the ruins of the necropolis he did not use words that would have meant anything serious to a casual listener, but to us who knew the situation his meaning was very clear. I left home as soon as I heard the report, and apparently have beaten them here since they would have to get a few men together and formulate a plan of action. However, I don’t imagine they are far behind, and we will have to leave here at once if we are to get away at all. I am of course tremendously curious about this room and all of these strange gadgets in it but that explanation will have to wait until we have more leisure. I came on a motor bike which is light but will carry two in a pinch and will go places where no car can follow. It is parked several hundred yards south of here, so that I could pretend to be a casual
tourist if the Shukran had arrived before me. I suggest that we depart at once if we wish to continue living, and I for one would like to do so.” “But,” I interposed, your organization exists for the sole purpose of preventing the Shukran from coming into complete domination of Egypt. The contents of this room represent complete domination not only of Egypt but of the entire earth, how can we go away and leave it to them? Now that they know I have been here, they will certainly investigate the area and can hardly help from finding this room. Fritz Von Palen found it three years ago but never made it public. The only reason no one else has found it is that no one else was looking for it.”
“I don’t understand how the contents of any room can give the possessors power over the earth,” Faida said, it must contain things that no one has ever dreamed of.” “The Atlanteans dreamed of them” I said, “and also built them. For a time they did represent power over the rest of the world but eventually their own creations destroyed them. I haven’t had time to try out any of these gadgets but Von Palen said they were apparently working models and
described some of their functions. He was much better at reading the ancient Egyptian inscriptions than I and so I have to depend mostly upon his interpretations.
“I have spent a certain amount of time in the study of our oldest language,” Faida replied, and while I am by no means an expert, perhaps I can help to decipher the descriptions and directions that seem to be attached to each of the devices. However I fear we haven’t time to do all that now. We probably have only a few minutes to decide whether we are going to get away from here and leave these gadgets to the Shukran, or stay here and die defending them. Even as she spoke the words however, the choice was denied us. There was a short grating sound overhead and the stone cover which had sealed the opening dropped back into place.
In the moment of silence which followed there was a mocking laugh from above followed by the works Shukran! You have made it easy for us. Now you will die slowly and in great distress as befits one who dares to opposes us. There was also the sound of other blocks of stone which I had moved away from the vault cover, being rolled back upon it.
When a number of stones had been rolled back upon the entrance block, a voice which was apparently that of the leader said, in Arabic, Enough. The fool came here searching for crypts. He has found one, and it will be his tomb.
“But Effendi,” replied another of the group above, What if there should be gold or jewels in this crypt that he had found, should we not kill him now and see what he had found? “And how shall we do that” the leader replied, Lift the entrance block and descend the stairs? Whoever did that would die before he could even see his target. The stranger’s speed and accuracy with a pistol is incredible, but the two of our best men who have already died at his hand prove it. No, we will leave him where he is. I know something of the burial crypts that were built here in the city of the dead. Most of them are small, airtight and have only one entrance. With that entrance sealed the intruder who came here seeking to plunder our dead, will himself die of suffocation within a few hours. If there is treasure in the crypt, it has been there for thousands of years, it can wait a few days longer. We will return next week and see what it was that brought him to this place.”
There was the sound of a few footsteps overhead and then silence.
Faida was the first to break that silence. Fate can play some grim jokes,” she said, here we are in a room with equipment which you said would enable one to control the world, and are doomed to die for lack of air. Not yet I replied, we have a few hours to study the equipment stored here. If it is in operating condition we should find some way to cope with our problem. If I only had an ordinary hydraulic jack, I could lift the stones without much trouble, but I don’t think hydraulic jacks were in style when these gadgets were built,” a levitation device would be more like it. Perhaps there is one here.
Walking over to the sleigh like device which I had briefly examined earlier, I said “This looks like a conveyance of some kind. Perhaps it would transport us if there were anywhere we could go.” Faida who had followed me to the machine, picked up the roll of parchment like material from its supporting hooks attached to the frame. Unrolling a short strip she began to read. “Chariots transport men in two directions, flying machines in three, but only I can move in four. That doesn’t make sense” She
said, “Chariots can go in four directions, North, South, East and West. Flying machines could go in any of these directions and also up, making five.” I had better read that again.”
After a few minutes of brow furrowed concentration she said, “I think the problem is that the word which I translated as direction actually should be dimension, but that doesn’t make sense either. There are only three dimensions, length, breadth and depth. It is true that a chariot could travel in only two of these while an aircraft could travel in three, but how could anything travel in four, when there is no fourth?
“Just a minute,” I said, It just might be that Albert Einstein was not the first to come up with the idea that time is a dimension. It seems that what this scroll is saying is that this machine can travel in any direction and also in time. If that is true, and if this device is still in working order, perhaps our problem can be solved.’ “I don’t see how,” Faida replied, “even if it can travel in time, can it take us through solid stone?” “It won’t have to,” I said, it will simply take us back in time to a point before it was placed in this vault, and if we then cause it to move a few dozen yards in space from its original
position, we can then have it return us to the present time, but now we will be out of the crypt, and some distance away without having touched or penetrated the walls. It is a difficult concept for the mind to grasp, because we have never seriously considered the possibility of movement in time, but extensive studies in advanced mathematics have indicated that it is indeed possible. It now seems that other people, thousands of years ago, reached the same conclusions and made practical demonstrating devices. Do you think you can decipher enough of this script to learn how to operate this machine.
“I’m not sure,” Faida replied, but I will certainly do what I can , after all, we don’t have much else to do!”
For the next twenty minutes, Faida stood in an attitude of intense concentration, making no comment except for an occasional exclamation of perplexity or of satisfaction as the meaning of the text gradually became clearer. Finally, she looked up with a sigh and said, “I think I’m beginning to get it. There are two sections of control panel. The one on the left as you face the panel is for linear motion in any of the three dimensions while the right had section is for travel in time.
The built in energy package should still be good, and the travel range in time is almost unlimited but the range in space is only about 2,000,000
cubits which would be equal to about 550 miles in any direction except the vertical which would be limited to about one tenth of the horizontal distance or about 55 miles.
I still have to figure out the operational controls and the calibration system, that may take some time.
While Faida continued to struggle with the text of the scroll I wandered about the room examining the various devices and artifacts, trying to guess their purpose and function. On a small table near the stone stairway was a cylindrical object which had the appearance of a small bomb. I remembered that Von Palen had mentioned this as a destruct mechanism which although there would be little blast effect would, if triggered would release enough heat through the nuclear reaction of its core, to melt down all metal as well as much of the stone walls and roof of the vault. The thought crossed my mind that if it proved to be impossible to escape, at least we could have the satisfaction of making sure that neither the Shukran nor anyone else would have the secrets and the power of the Atlantean technology.
The minutes were slipping by and the air was beginning to have a stale odor that reminded me we didn’t have too much time. Yet I did not dare to interrupt Faida’s concentration least we lose even more. Finally, after what seemed to be hours, she turned to me and said “I think perhaps we are ready to make the test, it will have to be done right the first time. There are several problems. We have to determine the setting in time at which to stop the backward movement in time and begin to move in space.” “Why can’t we just go back to the time before the Shukran arrived,” I said, It would be much simpler, and we could set the trigger on the destruct mechanism for a few minutes after we had left. The Shukran would find nothing but melted rock.” “No good Faida replied, While we can travel in time while in the field of the machine we cannot leave the machine at any time except that at which we entered it. If we did we would simply cease to exist. If it were not so the entire history of the world could be changed by anyone going back in time and performing acts which had not originally occurred. No, the only thing we can do is go back to the time
the machine was brought here. Since we will be moving backward in time we will not be visible to, nor will we even exist in so far as those who are moving forward in time are concerned. According to this scroll, the zero point on the time control dial was set on the day before the device was placed in the crypt, and we can probably go back exactly to that time. When we reach it we will be hovering in time, that is, we will not be going either backward nor forward. The change in physical location does not require any time to accomplish since the device does not accelerate in the usual sense of motion, but begins to exist at its destination point a the same instant it ceases to exist at its original position and without having occupied any of the points between the two. It is the principle described in Metaphysics as Apportation, but which has never really been accepted by present day science. The physical displacement control can be set before the device is actuated, and the return to the present can be set to operate automatically. If the scroll is correct and the machine operates properly, the entire operation
should not require any time that is perceptible to our senses. I will set the time and space controls and all that will then be required is for us to get aboard and throw the activation switch.” “Would it be possible to take any of the smaller gadgets here with us,” I asked? If you can get them into the area enclosed by the framework,” Faida replied, The time field reaches only to the limits of the framework.” “I would like to take one or two of the smaller items along” I said Just as proof that this place existed and to keep them out of the hands of the Shukran. I would also like to trigger the destruct mechanism so that they wouldn’t get anything, but I don’t know if its action could be delayed long enough for us to get out of here first.”
Faida walked over the cylindrical device and picked up the small roll of instructions. This time only a few minutes were required to extract the data for which she was searching. “There’s no way to control the time of activation, but there is a built in delay which amounts to about twenty seconds of our time. Once triggered there is no way to shut it off. If we trigger it and the time machine doesn’t work, it will be all over for us.” If the time machine doesn’t work
it will be all over for us anyway,” I said we have only enough oxygen for an hour or so more, and I’d rather go quickly than gasp out my life over a period of time.” “I guess you’re right” Faida replied, I have the controls on the time machine set, you get in on the left hand side, put the other gadgets you want to take in back, and I’ll trip this thermonuclear device and hop in the right hand side. I’ll throw the activation switch and we’ll see what happens!”
I picked two artifacts almost at random knowing nothing about them except that they were small enough to go into the back of the time machine, and stepped aboard, depositing the gadgets in back of the seat as I did so. “OK” I called to Faida, “lets go” She immediately pressed down forward on a small projecting knob and walked briskly but with no sign of fear to the time machine stepped into the right hand side, seating herself and at the same moment reached to the control panel and threw the activation switch.
For an instant there was total blackness. everything seem to dissolve into nothingness
A single thought flashed through my mind. The time machine didn’t work, the heat bomb has been triggered and this is death! Then a cool breeze struck my face and I opened my eyes and looked around. A crescent moon was in the sky, giving enough light so I could see that our time chariot was resting in the sand surrounded by sparse brush and weeds. Faida was still seated at my side and as I turned to her, she broke the silence. “It looks like we made it O.K.,” she said, I hope we aren’t too far from the crypt to find the motor bike I stashed, or we may have to walk home. I set the physical displacement control for six hundred cubits south, on the vernier dial, which was as near as I could calculate to where I left the bike, but on a vehicle which has a range of 500 miles an error of a mile in any direction would still represent ninety nine and 80/100% accuracy which would be surprisingly good.”
As she was speaking, I noticed a dull glow seemingly coming [from] a spot on the ground several hundred yards to the north of us. It looked as though someone had built a campfire which was now almost
burned out, but still had a thin bed of coals. I asked Faida what she thought it might be, but even as I asked the question, I knew the answer. “That must be where the crypt was,” I said, The thermonuclear device has gone off and melted the stone. some of the roof has fallen in and the glow we see is from the molten rock inside. If so, we can’t be far from where you left the motor bike.”
“I’d guess it should be within a hundred yards of here, probably a bit to the north,” Faida replied. It’s lying down in a patch of weeds. The area around it is mostly bare sand so it shouldn’t be too hard to find, even with the little moonlight we have. If we both start walking northward about a hundred feet apart, one of us should be able to see the patch of weeds, and I’m sure the cycle will still be there.
From what the Shukran said while they were sealing us in they did not know I was with you so the taxi driver must not have seen my arrival. After all he was to the north of the crypt while I arrived from the south. He was afraid to come within gunshot range and did not want
to risk being seen by you until his reinforcements had arrived.
While she was saying this both of us had stepped from the time machine and were walking northward moving apart as we did so. Faida was right about the distance. We had proceeded only a little over a hundred years when she called. “Here it is just as I left it.” As I walked over to her, she said, “What is our schedule now? I can take you back to Cairo on the motor bike if you wish, but what will we do with the time machine? It seems a shame to just leave it here for someone, perhaps the Shukran to find, although without the detailed explanation and instructions they would probably never suspect what it was or even learn to use it. “Can you get the use of a light truck or pickup at this time of the night, I asked, if you could rent or borrow one we could come back, load it on and take it back to Cairo yet tonight. I don’t know where we could keep it or what we could do with it, but I don’t think we should leave it. Besides there
are the two gadgets that I put in the back. I don’t know what they are, but they might be very useful.
“I can arrange for transportation and storage of the machines, if you wish it and are willing to trust me with them,” Faida said. “Why not, I replied, you know more about them than I do, and your knowledge of the language saved my life. Besides there aren’t many uses for a time machine if one can’t leave it at any point except the one where it was entered, but it does have possibilities as a space transport.
The ride back to Cairo was an unforgettable experience. Since I had never operated a light motor bike Faida drove while I occupied the rear half of the double seat with my toes precariously perched upon a few inches of the foot pads. Since there was no way to brace myself, I was forced to put my arms around Faida’s waist. She realized that this was necessary and made no objection, although I imagine it must have caused some embarrassment to her especially since the first mile or two was through rather bumpy terrain.
After reaching the highway however, the going was smoother, and the remainder of the trip
was made without incident
A short time after we had entered the limits of Cairo, Faida turned off the highway to a building which appeared to be an ordinary small warehouse. Although it was still early in the evening, there were no lights showing anywhere about the structure, but when Faida pressed the bell button, a light came on over the doorway and a voice asked, in Arabic, who is it? “It is the Hand of Allah” Faida replied whereupon the door opened and we were ushered inside by an Arab in a red burnoose, who led us to an inner room where three other men were in conversation. The three immediately recognized Faida, who in turn introduced me, and some time was spent in explanations and comments. Finally Faida said, Enough of talk,” there are things to do. We need a light truck or pick up to bring in the devices which we salvaged from the vault. Two of you will come with us and help load them, and they will be stored here until some decision is reached as to their use or disposal
It was Mr Scott who discovered them, and so they really belong to him, but he has entrusted their safekeeping to us until such time as their ultimate disposition has been decided upon.
The remainder of the evening was routine. A light truck parked in the rear of the warehouse was made available and together with two men we returned to the ruins of Memphis loaded the time machine and brought it to the warehouse, where it was stored in a small room in the center of the building.
It was Faida herself who drove me, in the truck, back to the Semiramis hotel. When two people have been through so much stress together, a certain bond inevitably develops between them, and when one of them is a very attractive young woman and the other is a single man who has very few contacts with women of any age, the bond can become warm and personal. As I left Faida in the cab of the truck and walked into the lobby of the Hotel, I was glad that Faida was not in the habit of using lipstick.
I slept quite late the next morning and when I finally awoke, I lay in bed for some time considering what my next move should be. If I remained in Cairo, it would not be long before the Shukran learned that I had, somehow, escaped from the crypt. I was not so naive as to think that simply because they had failed on two occasions, to terminate my career, they would now give up their efforts. On the contrary, if it became known that a single man had twice frustrated and defeated their plans, they would lose a great deal of face among the members of the underworld, and their status as a terrorist organization would suffer a severe setback. I knew that if I remained in Cairo, I would be a prime target, and would have to continue to kill or be killed.
I had found that which I had come for and, at first there seemed to be little reason to remain in Cairo, I had financed this project entirely by myself. I owed no duty to anyone else concerning it, still, there were a number of loose ends which neither my conscience nor
my ego would permit me to ignore. In the first place, when any individual or group makes two deliberate and calculated attempts upon my life, my ego makes strong objections to my retirement form the field before the matter has been brought to some final conclusion. Then, of course, there was the problem of the artifacts we had rescued from the demolition of the crypt. I was not sure that I wanted to have anything more to do with them, but my curiosity insisted that I at least find out what they were, before deciding what should be done with them.
Finally, there was Faida. I repeatedly pointed out to myself that our cooperation had been for one purpose only, that that purpose had been achieved, and that, except for our mutual ownership of several examples of early Atlantean technology, there was really nothing between us, and no reason why we should meet again. It was unassailable logic, but a part of my mind stubbornly refused to accept it.
By the time I had finished showering, shaving and dressing, it was nearly noon and my usually docile stomach had begun to remind me that it had been too long since it had had anything to do.
I was forced to agree with the logic of its complaint, since my last meal had been an early breakfast on the previous morning. Accordingly, I made my way to the hotel dining room where I ordered a rather substantial brunch.
At the conclusion of the meal, the waiter brought the usual check, but with it there was a brief note which said only, “I will contact you when you leave the hotel.” The note was unsigned and, although I had just completed my meal, it gave me considerable food for thought. It seemed unlikely that the Shukran would be sending me a warning note even if they had learned that I was still around. The only others who would have any reason to send me such a note would be members of Faida’s group, by whatever name it might be known, if indeed it had a name. The thought reminded me that I had learned very little about that group, except that its principle purpose seemed to be in the frustration and, if possible, the destruction of the Shukran. While my own experience forced me to agree that their goal was a desirable one, it did not seem to be a sufficiently powerful or precise motivation
to keep an organization of any size in continuous operation. I could understand Faida’s emotion, since her father had been the first victim of the Shukran, but, as she herself had admitted her people made no specific plans of operation against their opponents. They contented themselves with a certain amount of espionage and some attempts to frustrate the enemie’s plans. I knew that this kind of operation could never be successful against an organization such as the Shukran. It would be like few flies attacking an elephant. While they might annoy or perhaps enrage the beast, they could never destroy or even cripple him. Meanwhile, the elephant’s switching tail might well decimate the ranks of the flies.
Faida had never mentioned a leader of her group, and I suspected that she, herself provided whatever leadership there was. When we had stopped at the warehouse after our escape from the crypt, her explanation’s were accepted without question, and her requests were complied with as a matter of course. While I felt a great deal of admiration for her courage and determination, I also realized that if her followers were to accomplish their purpose they would have to be lead by one who was
capable of planning and launching major offensive actions of their own instead of simply opposing the actions of the enemy. No one ever really wins a defensive war, because the enemy has all the options and makes all of the choices.
While these thoughts were passing through my mind, I had paid the check, left the hotel and started for the University St Bridge. I had decided that if I was to be contacted by friends the center of the bridge would probably offer the most privacy and, of course, that had been the spot picked for the previous meeting. It would be almost impossible to ambush me there and few pedestrians would be on the bridge at this hour. I strolled casually to the beginning of the bridge, saw that there was no one on any part of the walkway, and started across. I would have wagered a great deal that no one could have approached me on the bridge without my being aware of it, but when I had reached a point near the center of the bridge a hand touched my coat sleeve from behind, and the same voice I had heard two mornings before said, “I regret, Sahib, that I was unable to keep my appointment with you. There were others who had different plans for me, and it took some time to convince them of their
error.” My surprise at the unexpected touch was so great that my gun had leaped into my hand even as I turned to face the man who had first warned me of the Shukran. Somewhat sheepishly I replaced my gun and asked, “I presume the delay had something to do with the Shukran, Can you give me the details of what happened” “Oh yes,” the man replied, It seems that their surveillance of me was closer than I supposed and they were aware of my approach to you. Shortly after my evening meal I returned to the street where a gentleman nudged me in the ribs with a pistol and invited me to enter an automobile parked at the curb nearby. Since I had no gun of my own, and since there were two other men in the front seat, I readily acquiesced and climbed into the rear seat with my accoster. The car was driven to a large home in the suburbs where I was escorted to an inner room while my captors awaited orders as to what should be done with me. I had learned from their conversation among themselves that they were not sure how much I knew of their organization or how much I had told you. In fact, they seemed to know very little about me except that they had been ordered to pick me up and hold me
until they received further instructions. Their ignorance of one of my unusual abilities made it rather simple for me to take command of the situation. Although my profession is simply that of an import export agent for several business concerns in Cairo, I have made a deep and exhaustive study of the motivating factors and processes of the human mind, and of the means by which they may be directed and controlled. It is a science known only to a very few and is practiced by them only in cases of emergency. In its simpler applications it might be described as a form of hypnotism but is much more dependable in its effects. Even while we were still in the car, I could have caused my abductors to drive me to any part of the city and to release me there. I could also have caused them to tell me anything they knew. However, I needed to know more about this terrorist organization than any of these three poor tools would have known and so I decided to remain with them until they had brought me into contact with some of the higher ups. The result was that I spent a most informative evening in what turned out to be one of the headquarters of the Shukran listening to one of its three top men describe
for me, the organization, its methods of operation and its objectives in considerable detail. When I left around midnight, it was in one of their own cars, after I had instructed all of those present to sleep soundly for at least seven hours and to awaken with no memory whatever, of anything that had happened at any time during that day. I left their car in front of a police station in a no parking zone and made my way home from there on foot. It has given me considerable satisfaction to contemplate the state of utter confusion that must have prevailed in the upper echelon of the Shukran when it was realized that one of their top leaders and three of their underlings had lost an entire day from their memory. None of them could recall what they might have done that day, or to whom or how or where, no one could create an alibi for his actions because no one knew what kind of an alibi might be needed. There must also have been a considerable amount of outright suspicion generated in the minds of the remaining two leaders of the organization; and I imagine that it will be some time before the Shukran will begin to function with anything like their previous efficiency. “You are indeed a very remarkable person,” I said. “While I may mange to cope fairly successfully with
men of the Shukran type, it is only because I can shoot faster and straighter than they, and because I have had enough experience to know exactly when it is necessary to do it.
You do not need a gun at all since you can control, even outlaws by putting thoughts into their minds, while I could only put bullets into their heads. It took me a little over ten years to perfect my shooting skill, it must have taken even longer to learn and perfect a process of complete mind control Mr. – this is the second time we’ve met and I still don’t know your name.” “They call me Alan”, he replied, “and if I told you how many of your years I had studied the science of mind control, you would not believe me. In fact there are many things about me that you could not believe if I told you, so I will not risk our friendship by straining your credulity. You will just have to accept me as I am!
“Tell me one thing, if it is permissible?” I asked. “You have been working, or at least cooperating to some extent with the group to which the young lady who calls herself Faida belongs, does that group have an official leader, and if so are you it? If not you should be. You are the only person I have ever known who could single handedly, take on an organization such as the Shukran, and drive
them into a state of total confusion and impotence without them ever quite understanding how it had happened.” I am not a leader of Faida’s group or of any other, Alan replied. I am a simple business man engaged in the import export trade, I have however, been given a few responsibilities that have nothing to do with my business but which may in the end, be far more important than my business or even than the Shukran. I only learned about the Shukran recently and have not decided quite what to do about them, but I will see to it that they do not become a serious hazard to any government or large group of people. Enough of that subject for the present. I understand that you and Faida have rescued several artifacts of the ancient Atlantean technology. If you should be willing to trust me, I might be able to help you discover their functions and if they are desirable ones to help you use them.
It wouldn’t matter whether I trusted you or not I replied, since you could cause me to tell you anything you wanted to know or do anything you wanted me to, but I have been trying to make up my mind as to what to do about them, and I shall be glad of any help you can offer. As you probably know, I left them in storage in a building that Faida’s group seems to own or at least control. Would you care to set a time to go with me to examine them? If I can get Faida’s permission of course, I doubt that I could gain entrance
to the building without her O.K. although you probably could. Faida seems to be fairly well versed in the ancient Egyptian or perhaps Atlantean script that accompanies each artifact. If she had not been, I would not be here now. In any event the device performed what would normally be considered a totally impossible function “Yes,” Alan replied, “I understand it is a transport device that is able to travel in both space and time. A very handy gadget to have available if one finds himself in dire or extraordinary circumstances.” “You seem to know as much about it as I do,” I replied, or perhaps a good deal more.” Not really” Alan said, it is just that some of my remote ancestors a few millennia ago were supposed to have developed a similar device, of which I have read some alleged history. However there were two other gadgets which you managed to bring along with you. It might be interesting to find out what they are for.” “I think the only real problem in getting Faida’s permission to enter the warehouse is that I have no way of getting in touch with her,” I said, I have no idea where she lives, and she made it quite clear that I was to make no effort to find out. “I believe I can arrange that,” Alan replied. If you will return to your hotel I think I can guarantee that no member of the Shukran will have recovered enough from the events of last night to do any more plotting for several days to come
At exactly one o’clock tomorrow afternoon Faida and I will pick you up in the street in front of your hotel and we will all proceed to the warehouse. “It’s a date,” I replied, I am only a couple of blocks from my hotel. I can walk back, but how will you get to wherever it is that you need to go to arrange the appointment?” “There are plenty of taxis on University Ave at this time of the day,” Alan replied, You return to your hotel and I will finish crossing the bridge I will have a taxi before I have gone a block beyond it.” “When you have reached your hotel you will be able to arrange for transportation to wherever you may wish to spend the remainder of the day.” “That’s fine,” I said but I don’t think I will go anywhere today, yesterday was a long and busy one and I could use a little more rest. Besides, you have given me a great deal to think about, and it will take some time to digest, if I manage to do it at all. I will see you then at one, tomorrow. There was no one else near us on the bridge as I turned about and started back to my hotel, but even if there had been, I would have felt sure that this was one time when no member of the Shukran was paying any attention to me, All the way back to my hotel and for hours after I had reached it, my mind was
attempting to cope with a series of questions which were demanding some kind of answers from my reasoning faculties. I had just left a man who was totally different from any man I had ever met or thought to meet. A simple appearing man of quiet and unassuming manner, who had described to me in a matter of fact way how he had taken control of four armed thugs, and without any weapon except his mind, had caused them to do his bidding for an entire evening, and had finally left them sleeping soundly while he departed in one of their automobiles. I might have been able to cope with this by itself, but other words of his kept coming back to me. “If I told you how many of your years I had studied the science of mind control, you would not believe me. In fact, there are many things about me that you could not believe if I told you, so I will not risk our friendship by straining your credulity; you will just have to accept me as I am.” What could he have said that would have strained my credulity more than the things he had already said? “I am an angel from heaven!?”, I am a demon from Hell!” That would have done it. I have never been superstitious or especially religious, and I don’t think I could have bought either of those ideas. A man from a totally unknown race on earth I might be able to manage; a man from another planet or a space ship maybe – but the idea would not be easy to get used to. I had heard and read
discussions concerning the possibility of life elsewhere than earth. Most scientists admit that it is possible but seem to think it is unlikely and especially unlikely that any of that life, if it exists would have the same build as earth men or that they would ever bother to visit this planet. Still – here was a person who could read minds with perfect ease and exactness; (I was sure he was reading mine when he mentioned the two artifacts and Faida and I had brought with us in the time car, and his description of its operation. He could hardly have had time to have met with Faida, and even if he had I was sure that she would have said nothing of the events of the night before. Also, he had said, “Some of my remote ancestors a few millennia ago were supposed to have developed a similar device of which I have read some alleged history.” To what ancestors could he have been referring?
The questions kept repeating themselves but I was unable to come up with any satisfactory answers. They persisted through several attempts to read the afternoon newspapers, and early supper and several efforts to interest myself in a book. I finally gave up and prepared for bed wondering if I would be able to sleep at all. With my gun carefully placed beneath the covers within easy reach of my right hand I settled my head into the pillow and closed my eyes. An instant later I sensed that something
was wrong and sat bolt upright in the bed with my hand grasping my gun. The room was silent and unoccupied except for myself, but sunlight was pouring through the east facing window of my room! After a moment of stunned surprise I glanced at my watch. It was 8:00 o’clock in the morning! Never before in my life had I experienced such instant sleep and such instant awakening. Then I remembered Alan’s words, “I had instructed all of those present to sleep soundly for at least eight hours and to awaken with no memory of anything that had happened during that day.” I had slept for 10 hours but I had a clear memory of the day before. Had Alan, unknown to me, ordered me to go to sleep at 10 P.M. and awaken at 8 AM? and if so, had he done it while we were talking together or did he have some sort of telepathic ability that could control minds at a distance? Again the questions began to nag at my consciousness, but this time I was able to throw them off. “I will be meeting him again at one pm today,” I said to myself, and we shall see what we shall see. He said that I would just have to accept him as he is, and that is exactly what I shall do. If he wants me to know anything more about him he will tell me, and if he doesn’t it is none of my business. This time the philosophy worked and I was able to enjoy a late breakfast and the morning papers without mental interruption
After breakfast I returned to my room for a period of serious thinking and decision making. I was no longer troubled by the strangeness of the situation in which I found myself and the ten hours of sleep which had seemed to be only a few seconds had left me refreshed and clear headed. The questions concerning Alan would be answered in their own time and in their own way and no amount of thinking on my part would answer them any sooner. I owed Alan a debt of gratitude for warning me of the Shukran, and Faida for translating the directions on the time machine. They had almost certainly saved my life at considerable risk to their own, and I have always believed that all debts should be paid as soon as possible. But I was not sure how this debt could be repaid, Alan seemed to be capable of dealing with the Shukran without any help from me or anyone else, and that seemed to be the only end and purpose of Faida’s life at the present time. Was there any significant way in which I could assist in the destruction of the Shukran? and if that was accomplished what then?
I introducing himself to me, Alan had said that he had been given a few responsibilities that had nothing to do with his business.
but which might in the end be far more important than his business or even than the Shukran. Presumably then, these responsibilities would remain, even if the Shukran threat was ended. There might be some way in which I could assist him in meeting those responsibilities and if so, I might discharge some of my debt to him. At least it would be an excuse to remain in Cairo longer than I could otherwise justify myself in doing, and for some reason, which I did not try to explain to myself, that, seemed to be desirable.
Of course, if there was to be any way in which I could repay my debt to Faida, it would probably require my presence in Cairo, but I was forced to admit that my desire to remain here went deeper than any feeling of simple gratitude could explain, which was, perhaps, why I made no effort to explain it. The whole thing was nonsense, anyway one looked at it.
Faida was a young lady of culture, newly graduated from a finishing school in England, while I was a hardened, emotionless machine, with none of the redeeming graces which all human beings are supposed to possess in some measure. It was ridiculous even to imagine that there could ever be anything between us other than the momentary companionship of common peril. The facts, and the logic of them, were inescapable but there must have been a few human flaws
in the emotionless machine because a part of my mind simply refused to accept them.
Shortly after 1200 noon I returned to the hotel dining room for a light lunch, since I had no way of knowing when the next opportunity might arise. I realized then, that I probably should have invited Alan and Faida to have lunch with me. Since they were to meet me at one pm, but it was too late to remedy that situation now.
When I had finished lunch and paid the tab, it was only a few minutes to one and I had barely reached the curbside of the hotel loading zone when a car containing Alan and Faida pulled in and stopped. The car was a Buick sedan which looked as though it had just come off the assembly line, but was a model which had first been sold in the United States some eight years before. – START-
Faida was driving, which should perhaps, have seemed somewhat strange to me, but which actually seemed perfectly natural. After all, Faida was a very competent young lady, the car was probably her own and it was she who was to take us to our destination. Alan was in the front seat with Faida and, after polite greetings had been exchanged, I took the rear seat and we started for the warehouse.
It was only a twenty minute drive, and
it was obvious form the moment we arrived that we had been expected. Two men emerged from the front door of the warehouse as we drove into the lot. One took charge of the car and drove it to the rear of the building while the other escorted us to the same door through which Faida and I had entered two days before. He apparently had received his instruction by phone because without any word having been spoken, he led us directly to the inner store room where we had left the artifacts. They were still in the same position we had left them and seemingly had been untouched.
“What have you decided to do with them,” Faida asked me. “I haven’t decided,” I replied “and I think that is a problem we should all work on,” but before we decide anything let us see if we can discover what the two smaller gadgets we brought along are intended to do, if anything, and whether or not they still do it. Then we will have a much better basis for decision as to what should be done with them. If they should be weapons of destruction, we might want to sink them in the deepest part of the ocean!
I reached into the rear of the four dimensional transport device that had saved Faida’s and my life, and removed P. 39 one of the two objects I had tossed there in the last few seconds before we departed from the sealed crypt.
It was what the war ordinance dept would call a “black box” except that this one was apparently plated with silver or platinum and encrusted with 3 large jewels on the cover. It was about 14 inches long by 10 inches wide, by 8 inches deep with carrying handles on either side. It had a hinged lid with what seemed to be a simple hasp, although I could not remember ever having seen any other one just like it. Just above the hasp was a small handle for lifting the lid or for carrying the device which was encrusted with a large diamond in the center and an equally large emerald on each side. To the handle was attached the usual roll of parchment which had accompanied each device in the crypt, describing the device and telling how to use it.
I detached the parchment and handed it to Faida. “See what you can make of it,” I said, I’m not very good on any language that dates back more than two or three thousand years. Faida took the parchment and studied it for several minutes with deepening frown lines on her brow, then, “I’m not sure she said I can make out some of it, but the rest is hazy. It seems to be a communication device of some sort and has instructions for opening the case which are fairly clear but some of the operating instructions are not so easy to grasp. “Might I have a look at them,” Alan interposed, Some years ago I had occasion to make a study of the language
Let us see what the other gadget is for, if we can,” Faida said, “It looks like a container of some sort, with a valve of some sort to release its contents whenever desired. Judging from the nature of the valve, the contents must be a gas under considerable pressure releasable at a very slow rate if desired,” Faida said thoughtfully.
“That is probably just what it is,” Alan replied, “but we had better be careful anyway, when we release any and we don’t know what it is,” was Alan’s reply. Remember the old story of Pandora’s box, We might not be able to put back what we release! “the word stenciled on the cylinder is the ancient word for peace,” Faida said. That probably means that the cylinder contains a relatively