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This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2010-01-16 — sourcemeta

Source: 1, DeviantART
Author:Judith “Stormdance” Kenyon
Copyright:Archiving permitted by author

3. Beyond the Pyramid

The minifin had been rudely spat out by the underwater pyramid. It drifted to the surface and bobbed aimlessly. Water splashed over the empty windows. The radio blared—Danson’s angry voice and the voice of the tech who had sort-of let Jason and Brett take the sub. He was horrified. He’d let them sneak out because he knew these boys were responsible. And now they weren’t answering.

“Well something’s happened. Get a boat out to their last position and somebody had better call Doctor Bates.”

They clambered out of the well. “Unreal!” Jason said.

“We’re thousands of miles from home!”

“You are sure?”

“Yeah Neri. Remember what HELEN was showing us? Look around, all the same stuff!”

Jason pointed at the pyramid and the tents beyond it, and a camel they could see. He threw up his hands and asked the sky, “How did we get here?”

“Don’t look at me!” Brett went off, “We just hap-pened to be in a pyramid under the pacific ocean then there’s this swirling watery thing, Neri leads us through it and suddenly we’re in another pyramid on the other side of the world!” He finally took a breath and looked at Neri, “Can you explain it?”


“The woman—that statue. She said this was the beginning.”

“Yeah, the beginning of big trouble.”

“We go this way.” Neri started down the hill towards a canal. Jason shrugged and followed.

Brett looked back and said to the pyramid, “You realize Mum’s going to kill us.”

As Dianne stalked out of the lift she did look ready to kill. She’d just arrived back, and been met by bad news.

“HELEN, maps—show me where it was found.”

Winston said, “The minifin was undamaged. That should be encouraging.”

“Undamaged but empty. Mid-ocean. What’s encouraging about that?”

Winston tried to send eyebrow signals, but Dianne didn’t see them. “What about Brett’s video phone?”

“Nothing yet.”

“I’m trying.” Cass waved from on of the consoles on the bridge.

“We have boats out Dianne, and I think maybe…”

Danson interrupted, “By the way, how did your trip to the mainland go?”

“They’ll be making an announcement this afternoon.”

“What happened?”

“Well it’s not official yet.”

“Do I take it to mean that…?”

“Yes.” Dianne said, “As of today I’m the new commander.”

“So I should call you Madam Commander then?”

Dianne didn’t spare him a glance. “I don’t care what you call me. I just want to know what’s happened to my boys.”

In Egypt Neri, Jason and Brett reached the top of the dune and got a full view of the tent city. It was all white and tan, the tents, the people, the sand. There were dozens of people, maybe a hundred, and they were all bustling around doing things. Many carried baskets of stones. Others were poking around half-built walls, either putting them up or taking them down.

“Egyptian take-away!” Brett said, “Let’s check it out.”

Neri grinned with amused delight, the most normal expression she’d worn all day. She said, “We go see?” And followed Brett.

They wandered through the camp. All the voices they heard were speaking Egyptian. Jason identified what was going on as “archaeology” but he only had a vague idea what that meant.

“It’s a dig.”

“Dig?” Neri chimed.

“They dig up old bones and pottery and stuff.”

Findings were laid out on a table. Brett looked them over—just broken bits mostly—and picked up a little statue.

Instantly Brett was picked up—by a very large Egyptian. Brett squirmed and yelled, “Hey sorry- I wasn’t going to take it!” The huge man reached for his belt where a huge knife hung—and got out a cel phone. He spoke Egyptian into it. The three visitors waited, Brett still hanging by his shirt from the big Egyptian’s fist.

“A pyramid. Under the ocean.” Dianne said blankly.

“I wouldn’t have believed it myself.”

“Who else knows about this?”

“Just us so far.” Cass said, coming in with a tool. She leaned over Winston’s shoulder to see what he was up to. “How’s it going?”

“It’s most odd. The transponder shows Brett’s vidphone emitting a faint signal, but I can’t enhance it.”

“Can you at least trace where the signal is coming from?”

“I’ll try, but it will take time. I have to scan a whole range of frequencies.”

“Just hurry.”

Winston glanced at Dianne. “Did something happen on the mainland? More than you told us?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re way tense.” Cass said, “Wherever they are they’re with Neri.”

“Neri has always brought them back safe and sound.”

Dianne deflated a bit. “You’re right. Sorry I snapped. Something did happen. The new commander in chief is my ex-husband. The boys’ father.”

“Oh my heavens! I can see that would shake you up.”


There was an awkward silence then Cass said, “So what happened…”

“Cass, that is not polite!”


“It’s all right.” Dianne said, “Long story short, Paul had a mistress. When I confronted him he said all the wrong things, tried to justify himself. I was furious. We decided to end it.”

“…I’m sorry.” Cass said more seriously then tried, “Sounds like a real slimeball.”

Dianne gave her a dry smile. “Thanks. But he wasn’t, until he met that girl. But enough of that! What can I do to help you trace that signal?”

Jason, Brett and Neri were escorted to one tent in the center of the dig. They were met by an older man, brown skinned, dressed in European clothing instead of the robes most people around wore. He greeted them with a smile. “Why Horace! They’re only children. Come in.”

Neri, smiling her wide curious smile, went in first. The tent was lovely inside; it had carpet and a low table, and a beautiful star-shaped lamp hanging from the center pole.

“I’m sorry if Horace startled you.” The scientist followed them in. “I’m Professor Malakat. I’m conducting an archaeological dig on behalf of the international antiquarian society, which I founded. And, ah, whom do I have the pleasure…?”

“Oh. I’m Jason and this is Brett. We’re from Australia.”

“And your friend?”

“That’s Neri.”

“Neri.” The professor repeated. “What is the origin of such a… musical name?”

Neri looked friendly enough but she didn’t speak. Brett said, “She doesn’t like to talk much. She’s a bit shy.”

“And… what an interesting outfit she’s wearing. Is this what young girls get about in these days?”

Neri looked down at her tattered sailcloth dress. Even with so many people in robes around she looked a bit odd.

“She’s always been a bit of a hippie.” Brett tried.

“Hippie? Oh, of course. How amusing.” Quickly moving on he said, “Sit down, make yourselves at home. What brings three travelers to the heart of nowhere?”

Making it up as he went along Jason explained, “We were with a tour group. The bus pulled over for a rest stop and we sort of got left behind.”

“If only every problem were so easily solved! Tell me the name of your group and I’ll contact the authorities.” He had his phone out.


“Or maybe it’s wiser to wait until morning. You must be too tired to wander the desert at night.”

“Guess we could wait until tomorrow.” Jason said in relief.


“Fine. Have a rest, and some refreshments.” Professor Malakat brought baskets of bread and fruit to the table and gestured them to help themselves.

“We are pretty hungry.” Brett admitted and they murmured thanks and reached for the food. The bread was good, if a little sandy, and Neri tried grapes, which she’d never had on ORCA.

While they ate there was a swish of canvas and a girl ducked into their section of the tent. A beautiful girl, black eyed, black haired, with the face of a princess.

“Guests, professor?”

“Ah! Allow me to present my assistant, Shersheba. This is Brett, Jason and Neri. They’re with a tour group.”

“A pleasure.” Her voice was like silk. “Brett.”



“Pleased to meet you, Sher—?”

“Shersheba.” She corrected with a musical chuckle. “I hope you’re not thinking of hurrying away. We don’t often get guests. Especially young and attractive ones.” She looked at Jason when she said that.

Unnoticed, Neri had been trying to reach into the water bottle. When she couldn’t, she held the bottle up and poured it over her face.

Professor Malakat noticed. “My dear young lady, what’s wrong?”

Neri looked down, a bit sheepishly, and smoothed her wet hair back. Jason muttered, “Oh no.”

Shersheba gracefully stepped in. “You’ve completely drenched yourself. But never mind, I’ll lend you something to put on. I’ve a lot of pretty things you can choose from. Would you like to come with me?”

Neri looked at Jason then nodded, “Yes.” She followed Shersheba out into the desert evening. The sun was setting, turning the desert from gold to red. The pyramid bulked against the sunset, spilling a long black shadow.

“Watch for scorpions.” Shersheba said, though her feet were bare under her skirt. A cool breeze tugged at their hair and started a low thunder of flapping canvas around them.

In Shersheba’s tent Neri washed and changed into one of Shersheba’s long robes.

“Beautiful.” Neri said as Shersheba hung a heavy gold necklace around her neck.

“From the time of Ramses the first.” Shersheba picked up a brush and began smoothing Neri’s hair. “Such a golden mane. As if it was kissed by the sun. You and Jason… are you good friends?”

“He is a good friend yes.”

“That’s nice.” Shersheba murmured, “It’s good to have friends.”

Outside, red dusk had turned to black night.

“Must be very exciting living in a city under water.”

“Well it’s different, but then so’s this.” Jason answered. Then Neri and Shersheba returned. Neri glowed in her pale dress, with the ancient gold shining around her throat. Jason became momentarily mute.

“Do you live on ORCA too, Neri?”

“Yes.” Said Jason.

“No.” said Brett. They stumbled for a minute and Jason finished, “What Brett’s trying to say is that she comes and goes.”

“Like the tides.” Malakat said softly.

Jason jumped a little, spooked, and made a show of looking at his watch. “Look at the time.”

“You must be tired, you’ve had a big day. I’ll get Horace to show you to your sleeping quarters.”

The huge man appeared as if summoned.

“We’ll put these two gentlemen in the empty western tent and Neri can have the guest tent. We’ll contact the authorities first thing in the morning but I should warn you nothing happens quickly in this part of the world. Good night, sleep well all.”

They said good night and Neri followed Shersheba to the guest tent.

“I’ve left you a nightgown and a robe. Wake me if you need anything.”

“Thank you.” Neri said. There was also a big pottery urn full of water in the corner. Left alone, Neri sniffed the water and, finding it pure, splashed a handful over her head. Then she closed her eyes and listened.

Shersheba returned to the main tent carrying Neri’s dress.

“Uncommon fabric.” Professor Malakat commented.

“Very uncommon. And did you see the pendant she wears?”

“That’ll be all thank you, Horace.” Brett said when the big Egyptian showed no signs of leaving them alone in the tent. At these not very polite words Horace stuck a cigar in his mouth and finally went out.

“Nice guy.”

“How’d Professor Malakat get a gorilla like that for a butler?” Then quieter, Jason added, “Something doesn’t smell right here.”

“So what now?”

“Dunno. I’m just making it up as we go along.”

The back wall of their tent lifted a few inches and Neri squirmed under the heavy canvas.

“I do not like it here.” She said immediately.

“Yeah join the club.”

“We must return to the pyramid.”

Jason nodded. “Tonight, if we can get past Horace. Or in the morning.”

“Mum must be going crazy by now…”

“Yeah, but there’s phones all over the place. Maybe we could call ORCA.”

“Wait ‘til they sleep.” Neri suggested, “I think the girl, Shersheba, only pretends to be our friend.”

“I dunno. I thought she was… interesting.”

Brett snorted. “You thought she was a knockout!”

Neri looked confused. “A knockout is something beautiful?”

Brett opened his mouth and Jason quickly told him to put a sock in it.

“Can’t be. Must be some sort of frequency overlay.”

Winston and Cass were looking at the screen, which showed a faint signal—in Egypt.

Dianne came in, looking neat and professional in her new uniform. “Anything yet?”

“Every time I reset the scanner I keep getting this phantom signal.”

“The middle east.”

“It’s ridiculous and completely impossible! How could they be there?”

As soon as it was quiet, Jason and Brett snuck out of their tent. They passed other tents with lights on inside, and voices talking in English, Egyptian and what might have been French. Not everyone was in bed; some interns packing potshards waved at the boys but didn’t try to stop them.

In the main tent they found Malakat’s mobile phone on the table under the star lamp.

“Thank goodness!” Jason snatched it up. “Watch the door ok?”

“Yeah, just hurry!”

Jason dialed the satellite number for ORCA then the code for Dianne’s lab. “Come on Mom, be there—Cass!”

“Jason! Where are you?”

“Try, Egypt?”

“Egypt! But how—are you all right?”

“Yeah we’re ok. Let me talk to Mom.”

“She’s not here,” Cass answered, “She and Winston are out in the minifin looking for you. You’re with Neri right? It’s something about the pyramid?”

“Yeah. We’re at—it’s called the pyramid of mystery-”

Brett hissed, “Hey!” and Jason hung up quick and got the phone back on the table just before Shersheba came in.

“Ah, we were just… hungry!” Jason said as he thought of it. “Brett always takes an apple to bed. That ok?”

“Of course.”

Brett made a face to communicate what a stupid excuse that had been.

“Well good night.” Jason tossed Brett the apple and headed out.

Shersheba stepped in Jason’s way “I was just going to step outside and look at the stars. Have you ever seen the desert sky, Jason?”

“I haven’t.” Brett said.

“It’s rather late for your little brother.” And Shersheba actually pinched Brett’s cheek. Brett’s mouth fell open in shock that instantly turned to annoyance.

“Um, no, actually at home it’s still afternoon.”

Jason gritted his teeth. “But Brett, didn’t you just say you were really, really tired?”

Double teamed, Brett gave in. “Oh. Yeah. Really tired. Right.”

The sky was beautiful. In the dry air the stars were clearer, closer than they ever looked from Australia. But Jason was really looking at Shersheba. He wanted to ask her about what she did here. He wanted to ask her about herself. About lots of things.

“Your friend, there’s something about her you’re hiding.”

“Neri? Why do you say that?” Not what he’d wanted to talk about.

“You don’t trust me do you Jason?”

“Yeah, ‘course I do.” Jason lied. She was lovely, her long drapings glittering where gold ornaments caught the starlight.

Sudden accusation. “Then why are you not telling me the truth? Who is she and why are you really here? Tell me! What’s all the mystery?”

“Shersheba, I—“

And just as quickly, the claws were hidden. “Look, I don’t know what kind of trouble you’re in, but I can’t help you unless you trust me.”

Spooked, Jason looked at his watch for an excuse. “Is that the time, I’d better get some sleep. Good night.” And he ducked into his tent.

Left outside, Shersheba frowned. What a waste that had been. She turned and went back to her own tent.

In the minifin Dianne and Winston were headed for the pyramid. Cass had just gotten through to them with the news.

“Egypt? This really isn’t funny. What kind of an idiot do they think I am?”

“This wasn’t a joke.” Cass told her.

Winston added, “Well it was where the vidphone signal was coming from.”

“What else did Jason say?”

“Just that they were ok, then the line went dead.”

“Ok. We’ll be back at… fourteen hundred hours.”

“Ok. Over’n’out.” Cass turned off the radio on her end.

“Well at least we know they’re alive.” Dianne said with a sigh, putting her worst fears to rest.

“Alive and not down here. So why are we not turning back?”

“Don’t you want to have another look at this fantastic pyramid? Since we’re down here.”

“I have a feeling I’m about to whether I want to or not.”

“Here we go!” Dianne pushed a lever all the way and the minifin dived.

Malakat was patting a bundle of fabric—Neri’s dress. “My chemical analysis confirms it. This material could not possibly have originated on this planet. Do you realize who this girl could be?”

“I don’t believe it.” Shersheba tossed her head. She’s so… so awkward. Childish.”

“What better way to hide than behind the mask of innocence?”

“But she hardly talks.”

“A wise listener hears the silences between the words.”

Shersheba was above a crude snort, but she thought it, and snatched the dress from her companion.

“Where are you going with that?”

“To put it back where I found it before she discovers it missing.” Shersheba whisked out.

They got right up to the pyramid, six feet from the walls.

“Are those hieroglyphics?” Dianne leaned forward, squinting as she tried to make out the carvings on the pyramid’s surface.

Suddenly the minifin shuddered and the forward screen went blinding white. A wave of force hit them and the little sub was bowled backwards. Dianne struggled with the controls and finally got them out of range.

“I-it appears this is as close as we come.”

“Looks like.” Dianne said, sounding shaken too. “Let’s head home.”

“An excellent decision, Madam Commander.”

Morning. It was still cool on the banks of the river where Jason waited, watching sailboats come and go. Behind him the dig was busy as everybody tried to get things done before the heat of the day set in. Egypt was beautiful just now, but all Jason could think about was finding a way home.

Neri appeared in the water and shook drops off her face before she climbed up the bank. Jason offered a hand to help her.

“Feeling better?” He asked.

“Yes.” The desert was hard on Neri. She still looked a little haggard.

“Let’s get back before Brett and the others wake up.”

At the top of the dune they paused for a minute to look over the camp. Someone had found something big; there was a cluster of people chattering at what looked like a blank stone block. From the road a Landover drove into camp. The people in it had light hair and were wearing western clothes.

“Who’s that?” Jason whispered.

Neri’s eyes went wide and she ducked down and began to run towards the tent where Brett was waiting for them.

Shelby parked the landrover in front of the giant Horace and flashed his card. “PRAXIS. Agent Shelby, Agent Hauser. I need to see the person in charge.”

Horace took the cigar out of his mouth and led the way.

“Brett! Brett wake up!”


“Some people just showed up and I don’t think they’re looking for souvenirs.” Jason’s voice was tight with tension. “Let’s go.”

“Professor, there are some people here. They claim to be from an organization called–“

“PRAXIS.” Malakat finished. “Perfect timing.”

“Bad!” Neri said, “Those people feel—bad.” In her mind it was an image of sharks.

Jason only knew that seeing the landrover drive up made his neck prickle with a sense of danger. It wasn’t reasonable. They were probably just more scientists coming to work.

“Hey, let’s find out.” Brett pointed at the main tent. The heavy canvas walls weren’t fixed to the ground; the kids could lift them enough to see what was going on inside.

Elly was saying, “…our organization specializes in the investigation of certain…phenomena.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of PRAXIS.”

Elly stuttered for a moment, apparently surprised. “Then we’d like your permission to look around the site. For the record.”

“That wouldn’t be convenient just now I’m afraid.” Malakat replied politely.

Shelby stepped forward. “Yeah, well it’ll take about fifteen minutes to drive back into Cairo and get a warrant. Your call.”

Malakat suddenly smiled. “I’m sorry. I certainly didn’t mean to imply we have something to hide. What would you like to see?”

Jason tugged on Neri’s dress and the three of them scooted backwards out from under the tent.

A shadow fell over them.

Brett looked up at the looming form of Horace and said a word Dianne would not have approved of.

“Leaving so soon?” Malakat—and everyone else!—came around the corner of the tent. “You might have at least said goodbye.”

“Who are they?” Shelby asked.

“They seem to have become separated from their tour group.”

“They say they live underwater.” Shersheba sauntered forward, smiling at Jason. “In a research facility called—ORCA.”

Malakat was saying, “Frankly their story has a few discrepancies. In fact their whole arrival here seems mysterious—but I suppose mysterious arrivals are quite in your line of business.”

Shelby’s eyes lit up. “Well now Professor, we can’t let three lost kids wander around the desert.”

“I couldn’t agree more Mr. Shelby.”

“Stick around kids. I want you to tell us a whole lot more about yourselves.”

“Um, who am I speaking to?” Dianne asked over the vidphone link.

“Jake Shelby, PRAXIS.”

“PRAXIS? I don’t understand, what’s your interest in all of this?”

“I just wanted to verify the boy’s story before contacting the local authorities.”

“I can verify they’re telling the truth. They live at the ORCA facility and I’m very anxious for them to return here.”

“And the young lady, ‘Neri?’ How does she fit in exactly?”

“She—she works here at ORCA.”

“’Works.’ Could you be more specific?”

Wondering why she had to answer at all, Dianne replied, “I’m afraid her duties are confidential. Look, I’m only interested in getting them home as soon as possible.”

“I understand commander. I’ll see about getting them on a flight to Australia as soon as possible.” Jake shut off his end of the vidphone.

Elly had ben watching the other side of the phone, where a voice analyzer displayed. “Well everything else was true but she was lying about the girl.”


“An extraterrestrial intelligence agency.” Paul Bates said from the doorway. “They hunt down aliens.”

And he wondered why Dianne’s face paled.

Brett, Jason and Neri had been confined to a tent under guard.

Elly entered, and smiled at them. “Good news guys. We’ve just spoken with your mother in Australia and we’ll get you home as soon as we can book a flight.”

The boys smiled.

“However there’s some delay in verifying the young lady’s immigration status. She’ll have to remain here.”

Neri looked at Jason in panic.

“No way. We’re not leaving without Neri.”

“You’re not getting a choice.” Shelby snapped.

“There’s no need for concern.” Professor Malakat appeared smiling, looking all benevolence. “I’ll take a personal interest in Neri’s welfare.”

Neri looked up at him, expressionless.

They were going to Cairo, first. Agent Hauser explained while she loaded the three of them into the land rover. They’d be put up in a hotel until the boys could get a flight home, and then PRAXIS would pay for Neri to stay there until her status was worked out…

Shelby just nastily told them to sit tight while he and Elly finished collecting their gear. He walked away.

Jason and Brett looked at each other for about half a second. Then Jason dove into the front seat and grabbed the ignition key. “Hold on!”

“You can’t drive!” Brett yelped as the jeep jumped forward and slammed into some barrels. Something black and slimy started leaking out. Jason threw the jeep into reverse, got it pointed the right way, and headed for the road at top speed.

Malakat roared, “They’re getting away! Get after them!”

Horace went for the truck to give chase. He dropped his cigar—

Just as the leaking stream of fuel reached it.

Brett was looking back so he saw the fire catch. Jason didn’t notice until the fire hit the rest of the fuel barrels. The blast made the ground shake and Jason hit the brake in surprise. They all looked back for a minute, watching everyone dive for cover while Professor Malakat’s tent burned.

“Oh yeah.” Brett grinned.

Elly was collecting hairs from Shersheba’s brush: soft golden-brown hairs. “That girl with the Professor said the girl Neri used her brush. I think we should run some tests on this hair, find out what this Neri is all about.”

She didn’t notice that Shersheba’s brush had no long black hairs tangled in it.

They abandoned the jeep—without crashing it, to Brett’s disappointment—and caught a ride on a tour bus. The driver was an old Egyptian who looked half asleep and didn’t notice when three extra people got on.

They sat in the very back, behind a dozen American tourists. Neri looked sick; her eyes were glazed and she hadn’t spoken for hours. Jason frantically tried to think of a way to get her to water—and then get them all home.

The bus driver rambled out his prepared speech as they drove past the pyramid. “Now approaching Pyramid of Mystery, so called because archaeologists have never been able to discover why it was built. It contains no tomb of dead king, no treasure, no riches whatsoever. Maybe its true purpose will always be unsolved mystery…”