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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

4. Sanctuary

The travelers rode their tour bus a few more stops, then slipped away while the rest of the group was admiring a statue. It was probably a very nice statue, if any of them had been in the mood to appreciate it.

Neri heard water flowing and followed the sound to a pump well where some locals were filling buckets. While Jason and Brett looked around nervously, Neri slipped through the crowd to crouch under the flow of water. People talked in Egyptian, and laughed at her, but Neri didn’t seem to notice. After a minute she stood up, picked up two full buckets and chimed, “Where go?”

A woman pointed at her garden, and Neri set off to water the plants. Brett tried, “Hey, can we help?” and a young woman laughed behind her veil and pointed where she wanted her water.

The three strangers were drawing a crowd. Jason was pretty sure everyone was laughing at their pale skin and hair, and their funny language. But… “Hey Neri, can you understand them? Ask if we can have some food!”

Neri asked, mostly in mime, “We put water on… all, share food? A little bit?”

Brett protested, “All of them? These buckets are heavy!”

“Yeah but how much do you want dinner?”

Then they heard Neri say, “Water on camel?”

“Aw no…”

“Wash camel. Ok!”


Neri was giggling. She looked so healthy again after getting some water that it was hard to be angry with her, even if she’d just volunteered them to wash a camel.

By the time they’d dried off after washing the camel, another Egyptian night was falling. Their hosts provided flat bread, meat, unrecognizable vegetables and a funny-tasting sauce poured over the lot. Brett made a face, but Jason liked it.

There were no spare beds, so they borrowed some dusty blankets and sacked out on a pile of hay.

“Well that was a long day.” Jason said. “Anybody got new ideas about how we can get home?”

Brett was fiddling with his vidphone watch. “Forget using this thing. If I had Cass and a satellite dish, maybe. Hey, at least we met some people who aren’t scary.”

Neri grinned. “Is nice here.”

“So Jase, you ever heard of PRAXIS before? Tell me it’s an X-Files fan club.”

“It’s some government thing. Neri, do you know anything? You didn’t talk to them.”

“Better they not know I speak. I think they…” Neri began and stopped.


“Just like Hellegren.”

Jason and Brett looked at each other through the gloom. Not the kind of thing they wanted to hear before bed, in the dark, outside. Neither of them could bring themselves to say anything more. Jason’s last thought as he dozed off was that they’d probably all get fleas from the hay, too.

Brett was awakened by a donkey trying to get the apple out of his pocket. He yelled and tumbled off the side of the haystack. “Jason!”

“It’s ok, it’s just a donkey.”

Neri’s musical laughter came from where she was ‘wetting down’ under the pump. She wandered over as Jason got up and brushed hay out of his hair and clothes. It was just a bit after dawn, and already heating up.

“Any idea where we are exactly?”

“Well, I think the river’s that way.” Brett said, did a half turn and added, “Or maybe that way.”

“Great. How’re we ever going to get home?”

“Way we came.” Neri answered. “The pyramid. We must find it again. Last night, I think we came from that way.”

“Are you sure?”

“We pass that lot of trees.”

“I thought it was that lot.”

“Then the pyramid should be over in that direction?”

“Unless it was that little clump over there.”

“I think it was…” Neri stopped listening, consulting some inner compass. “That way.” She started walking.

Brett shrugged. “When in doubt, follow Neri!”

Shersheba surfaced and spat out the mouthpiece to her scuba gear.

“Anything?” Malakat asked from the bank.

“Yes. More dead ends.” Shersheba shrugged off the air tank and it splashed into the river behind her.

“We’ll try again after you’ve eaten.”

“No we will not!” The girl tossed her head and snapped, “It is cold and dark down there and I am not going to do it anymore.”


“No. That’s final.” Shersheba walked away from the river, leaving her companion to fish out the scuba rig and follow behind.

“Naturally I can’t force you. In any case if we’re right about the girl Neri, maybe she can find us a way into the pyramid.”

“If you can find her again.”

Shelby and Elly were on vidphone with their boss.

“We recovered the vehicle sir, but there’s no sign of the girl or the two boys.”

“Keep looking. We’ve done a full analysis on the girl’s hair. Here,” The director’s face vanished, replaced by a 3d rendering of a dna strand. “The dna is absolutely unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Extraterrestrial, beyond any doubt. I am upgrading operation Sphinx as of today. The pursuit and detention of our female subject is now triple-o priority.”

“Y-yes sir!” Shelby said as the director closed the link.

Elly couldn’t help it. She allowed herself a moment for shock. “You mean she really…”

Neri was still walking in a straight line across the desert. From behind her Brett called, “That pyramid’s a hundred stories high. We should be able to see it by now.”

“Maybe.” Neri chimed. She looked around, her face tight and tense again. “I don’t know.”

Clanking and engine noise broke the silence, and a battered volkswagon bus came up behind them. Someone shouted in Egyptian from inside.

Jason walked over and peeked in the window. “Um, hi. I was wondering if you could help us. We’re kinda lost.”

Inside two men in headscarves and sunglasses grinned at them and answered—in Egyptian.

“We’re looking for this pyramid…”

“Ah, pyramid!”

“Plenty pyramid!”

“Too much pyramid”

“Um, we’re looking for a particular pyramid. They call it the ‘pyramid of mystery.’”

More babble inside the van. Brett almost tried speaking Spanish to them—but not even HELEN’s translation software had been able to understand his Spanish.

“Mys-ter-ee.” Was the reply.

“Yes that’s right. Do you know how to find it?”

“Yes that’s right.”

“You think you could show us the way to get there?”

The guy in the passenger seat leaned over, “Pah! Girl talk now.”

Neri made her best pleading face, “Please, we must find pyramid of mystery.”

There was more Egyptian, and laughter, and the main speaker hopped out and opened the backseat door. He waved them in with a bow. “The pleasure is all yours!”

Jason and Brett looked at each other. They didn’t really want to go with these guys, who might be sleazy and were probably drunk… but the alternative was staying lost in the desert. And maybe these guys really would take them to the pyramid. Neri smiled her dazzling smile and climbed into the back of the van, and Brett and Jason followed.

Shelby was pacing. “Ok, the local police and military say they’ll stake out the airport and start a grid search of the whole district. With any luck we’ll have this thing wrapped up before the start of the next ice age, and that’s if they don’t disappear into Cairo.” He kicked sand in annoyance.

“There’s no sense getting steamed up about it. Things move slowly around here.” A wind rose, and Elly moved to cover their computers against flying particles of sand.

“Where could they be? Where could they go?” The wind blew Shelby’s tie in his face and he batted it away. “How can anyone not recognize three kids dressed up like its Halloween?”

With a roar of gears, the vw bug came into sight on what could loosely be called a road. In the back the three fugitives dived for cover under the rugs and junk in the back.

“Oi, you! Seen three kids?” Shelby called.

“Th-ree keeds?”

“Kids, three kids! Children!”

“Children. Ah, kids. Kids. No kids. Nowhere.”

“We is bachelors!” the other guy brayed a laugh.

“Ok, on your way. Buzz off!” Shelby waved the van on. In the back Jason relaxed and Brett muttered, “How much English does he know anyway?” Then he put his head up and said louder, “Thanks.”

Cass was eating in the mess hall, with a textbook propped on her lunch tray, when Louis sat down next to her.

“I don’t understand.”

“What?” Cass didn’t look up from her book.

“Commander Bates. Practically the first thing she does when she gets the job is call off the search for Jason and Brett, right?”


“So, if they’re not lost, where are they?”

“I guess they must be safe.”

“Safe where?” Louis pressed.

“Ah, just remembered, I’ve got an ocean acoustics class.” Cass stood up and gathered her stuff.

“Come on, you’re always hanging around Doctor Seth so you must…”

But Cass had escaped. She found the new commander in the hall.

“Hey—any news from Jason and Brett?”

“Their father’s heard from PRAXIS—they’ll be on a flight home from Egypt tomorrow. He’s going to meet them at the airport on the mainland.”

“Whew. Hey, can I hole up in the lab with Winston? Danson’s kid is stalking me.”

Dianne smiled. “Like I could stop you. Winston probably wants you to upgrade something-or-other again anyway.”

The van stopped and the kids, half stifled from the long drive in the heat, piled out. Immediately they were surrounded, two dozen Egyptians of both sexes and all sizes, wearing a mishmash of traditional and Western clothes.

“Um—where are we?” Jason asked.

“Our place!”

“I don’t see any pyramids…”

“Pah! Too much pyramid! First we eat, rest, watch some TV!” He called something in Egyptian.

“You say you take us to pyramid!” Neri cried.

“Plenty time!”


But the guys waved her off again and walked towards a large tent, followed by the crowd. The travelers had no choice but to follow.

Neri felt something hit her hair. She reached back and found a ball with Velcro on it. A little girl giggled at her and shrugged.

Neri crouched and held out the ball. “Hello. I am Neri.”

The girl tapped her own chest and said, “Emuishere.” She accepted her ball with a smile, and threw it to one of her friends.

“Thanks for the ride and everything but we really–“

“You wait.”

“I don’t like this.” Jason muttered to his brother

The big tent’s door flap was pushed aside and a very strange looking man appeared. He wore all black, with sunglasses and a fancy cowboy hat. Clearly this was the Man In Charge.

“Never take a ride from a stranger.” Brett observed, too late.

“What happen?” Neri asked, catching up to them.

“Malakat must’ve put the word out, or maybe one of those agents. Might even be a reward.”

The grownups were discussing their guests, with lots of gesturing and laughter. The guys from the van seemed to be talking about their encounter with Shelby.

Neri looked back. Emuishere was throwing the ball to her friends, three skinny kids in mismatched outfits. The ball bounced on the rim of the well, then off again.

“Yeah, thanks for helping us get away. Those guys are no good.” Jason said.

“Ah, I know I know!” The driver laughed loudly and mimed choking himself with a tie, to everyone’s amusement.

Neri laughed too. Then she turned and saw the little girl standing on the edge of the well. Neri shouted, but too late. With a shriek, Emuishere fell into the water.

Suddenly everyone was yelling.

Neri got there first, climbed over the stone lip and dropped into the well. She vanished into the dark water.

Everyone gathered around, shouting. The girl’s mother wailed. Everyone waited a long minute, long enough that the water went still.

Then it stirred, bubbled, and Neri surfaced holding the little girl in her arms. Emuishere coughed and gasped. She reached up, and everybody reached down to pull her up. In a moment she was on dry land, wrapped in a towel and getting scolded by her mother.

Brett grinned. “Good going Neri!”

Neri pulled herself up to sit on the stone lip of the well. “She is ok?”

“She’s fine, I think.”

The crowd around them was whooping and cheering. The Head Honcho waved them to silence to say, “Thank you very much! Now you are honored guests! Tonight we will have special feast.” More whooping greeted that pronouncement.

“Thanks a lot but we really do have to keep moving.”

But Jason had no chance. “Oh no. Cannot allow. Many bad people look for you—radio, TV, police say big reward. Is rude for Bedouins not to help friends! No, you stay. Stay safe from enemy.”

More cheering, this time mixed with laughter. Jason was pretty sure this was the local equivalent of “putting one over on the man.” He approved, especially if it meant free food and safety.

A little while later they were once more eating in a tent—this time a smoky, crowded, noisy tent. Someone had a cd of local music playing, and several of the guys were having cigars with dinner. The low table was packed with unidentifiable food and pitchers of wine and water.

The chief, after a few cups of wine, was telling a local proverb. “You not eat ‘til it hurt, you not eat ‘til you burst—you eat ‘til you die!”

Brett said, “Ok.”

“Thank you for food. Very good!”

A curvy woman danced over, draped in spangles and veils. She stopped in front of them and just wiggled in time to the music. Jason was suddenly tongue-tied. Neri just looked confused.

“This, ah, pyramid you look for…” The chief said around a bite of food.

“Pyramid of mystery. Yes. You can take us there?” Neri asked him.

“Ah, mystery indeed! A place of ancient stories–“

“Like all pyramid!” their driver interrupted.

“Pah, you hush.” He turned back to Neri, “Scientists from all over come, pick-pick-pick with their shovels. Say, ‘Pah! Bedouin tell big myth, superstition.’ Bedouin say no. Bedouin say legend is true.”

“What is the legend, chief?” Jason asked.

“Long time ago, before great great great, hundred generations?”

“A hundred generations ago?”

“Story says pyramid of mystery is road to heaven. A light come down from the sky, but is not a jumbo jet! A star, but not a star. Inside is people but… is not people! They take one scared Egyptian fellow, take him in the star and fly away. Gone many long time.”

“Then what happened?”

“Big sky ship come back. Egyptian fellow now very much old—had white hair, was gone that long. He say to people, ‘I live many long time with sky people. Live like pish!’”


“Pish! Pish! Blub-blub-blub.”

“Oh, fish! He was taken by people who live like fish?”

“Too much underwater, eh. Like my beauty friend. I think she is like pish too, mm?” He touched Neri’s hair, very softly, and suddenly wasn’t even a little bit scary anymore. “Keep you safe.”

“Well here’s the report PRAXIS requested—best I could come up with anyway. What do you guys think?”

Winston read it over and frowned. “Dianne, this being an official document I’m not sure one should be so… selective with the truth.”

“What? Like the truth that we’ve been hiding an extraterrestrial? Of that she and the boys somehow got zapped to Egypt? Remember what happened last time people found out what she is.”

Cass, hanging over Winston’s shoulder, shuddered. “Yeah Winston. Isn’t Neri more important than a few little white lies?”

“Oh they’re not really lies, they’re just…”

“Improving the truth.” Cass finished.

Winston still looked unsure, but just then the computer chimed a call. Dianne hit the answer button. “Yes, this is Commander Bates.”

Paul’s face appeared on the screen. “Dianne, I’m at the airport. The boys and their friend weren’t on the plane.”

“Well there must’ve been some mix-up.”

“First thing I did was to ring PRAXIS to check the flight details. Suddenly they’re denying they know anything about anything.”


“And when PRAXIS starts denying everything… I don’t know what they think they’ve found, but it must be something big.”

The Bedouins gave them a ride back to the pyramid of mystery, on camels. The chief went with them, on a camel decked out in a saddle that gleamed with desert bling. Near the well behind the pyramid the kids dismounted.

“Well, thanks for everything chief.” Jason said.

“Yes. Thank you.”

The big man looked at them. “Wait. I forget, there is finish to story of pish people.”


“People from sky ship say someday this pyramid will decide the… mehskenet, the fate of the whole world.”

“Fate of the whole world huh? That’s… big.” Brett observed.

“Well so long chief.”

“Good luck, dudes!”

Brett and Jason laughed at that while the chief turned his camels around, waved, and headed for home.

“We have got to send him something from home.” Brett said, “What do you think, a new TV?”

“Ask HELEN. Bet she could arrange it. For now, who wants to go for a swim?”

There was nobody around. The three of them dropped into the well and swam down the passage into the pyramid.

“Whew! At last.” Brett squeezed water out of his shirt.

“This place is amazing. We must be the first people in here in five thousand years…”

They came to the main chamber. It was plainer than the one in the underwater pyramid—no statue, just an empty room with steps around the walls.

“Maybe this was going to be a burial chamber.”

“Who could get a dead pharaoh through an underwater tunnel?”


Neri stood by a carving in the wall. A woman with stylized hair, holding an ankh. Her outline was scratched deep in the stone.

“It’s just like the statue in the underwater pyramid.”

Neri reached out and touched the carving, running her hand over it. She didn’t seem surprised when the outline lit up, glowing gold. There was a sound like stone cracking and the ankh—suddenly wasn’t carved into the wall; it was a separate object gleaming in a little niche. Neri took it out and stroked it wonderingly. “This…”

“You have saved me a great deal of trouble.”

The kids turned. Professor Malakat stood in the doorway. “Thank you. But I’m afraid that artifact is the property of my organization.”

Neri hugged the ankh to her chest and shook her head. Jason said, “No way.”

“I have no wish to harm you.” Malakat stepped forward and the kids scooted back, ducking into another room. “But I must have the golden ankh. You have no idea how important it is. It has powers beyond your imagination, powers that are very dangerous in the hands of a young lady who doesn’t know how to harness them.”

Neri tossed him a haughty look, an expression she’d learned from Vanessa. They were still backing up through the pyramid’s chambers. Jason looked back. Dead end. They’d run out of room.

“There’s no place to run this time.” Malakat observed. “At this moment there are forces gathering at the well who want to capture you and put you in a zoo. And I’m afraid they’re not nearly as polite and reasonable as I am.” He held out his hand for the ankh.

“Don’t Neri. Whatever that is it’s meant for you!”

Suddenly Neri whirled, ran up a step and touched a shape in the wall. With a roar of moving stone, a water gate opened. “Jason! Brett!”

The two boys jumped up beside her and felt the gate pulling them in. Malakat snarled as he watched them disappear.

The gate had just closed when agent Shelby burst into the room. “Where are they?”

Agent Hauser followed him, with Shersheba. The black-haired girl looked at Malakat, and at the closed gate. “Oh do not tell me…”

Malakat nodded curtly to her. “They have escaped, Agent Shelby. For now.”

The gate left them, not back in the underwater pyramid, but in a red stone cave. A nice cave, clean, with a spring bubbling in one corner and an easy climb to daylight. Neri, still carrying the ankh, ran up and outside. The sun was bright, but the air wasn’t as harsh as it had been in Egypt.

Jason whooped and pointed. “’Roos! Hey! We’re back in Australia at least.”

Brett leaned against a rock and watched the distant kangaroos for a minute before giving his opinion. “Next time, let’s go on a real airline.”