The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Pharaoh's Heart Was Hardened
11.15 pm, Saturday 14th March 1998
Andrew, pacing anxiously about the dig site, looks back towards town and sees that fires are burning all over the Old City. There is the faint sound of sporadic gunfire.
All other problems seem to be linked to the CPRG and what they do with the pyramids, he thinks to himself. Even Essawi seem to need the CPRG to get what he wants. So, stop the CPRG.
He pulls out his mobile phone and calls the hotel.
'Very well, sir,' said Celestina to Essawi, coldly, 'but I don't think you realise who or what you are dealing with, or the opportunity that you are throwing away with your rudeness.'
She draws herself up, grasping the folds of her ornate dress with almost shaking hands, desperate thoughts rushing through her head: if only she had thought to prepare a sleeping draft for Essawi! She could try and get it from Isobel who she knew was in the next room, but there would be no way she could give it to Essawi without him or others in the room noticing. She knew Mickey had set up an armed attack, she had to try and get to him and get the attackers to stop Essawi. If only there was some way to mobilize the mob outside to attack the pyramid! The full weight of the responsibility she had on her suddenly dawned on her – she was sure that Isobel was being set up as a vessel to receive whatever spirit the group resurrected, and Johnny would either be unable to stop it or more likely incapacitated by one of the group. And it would all be Celestina's fault.
'I can aid you more than you can imagine, for I have witnessed strange things afoot at the pyramid and know how to deal with them.' She pauses, hoping that she can convince him, though seeing the mark on his head makes her guess that he must be possessed, just as he had taken control of her colleagues at Branston Hall. Sarfraz, the old man at the dig, had told Mickey the mark indicated that Essawi was a servant of the witch, presumably Khentkaus: but she vaguely wonders if he answers only to the spirit or if there was an even higher ranking mortal that he is beholden to. 'However, your brusque manner convinces me that you are unworthy of my help, and whilst I wish you the best possible outcome for your dealings, you will have to dismiss me, I have business of my own to attend to.'
With that she leaves the restaurant, holding her head high, and hurries to the snack bar. Essawi also strides out, his pace hurried, the sign on his forehead glinting stronger.
'This is brilliant!' exclaims Johnny enthusiastically. 'I'm so grateful to you all for allowing me to join you in this realignment ritual!' He shakes each of their hands warmly, and the atmosphere towards him thaws somewhat.
'You don't mind giving me a couple of minutes, do you?' he continues, gesturing in the vague direction of his bladder, and he dashes off round the corner.
'I need to change, as well,' says Isobel, and she is heading for the stairs, to the sound of an annoyed tutting from John Torillo, when Celestina comes out of the restaurant, looking intense and closely followed by Eddie, and takes her by the arm.
Celestina quickly explains what has transpired with Essawi and about the mark of possession on him. 'I think there are considerable dangers in you going ahead with the CPRG's plan, Isobel: I am sure they plan to use you as a vessel to receive the spirit of Hetepheres.'
'Yes, I was thinking that too,' says Isobel mildly.
'I suggest that you and Johnny should use the sleeping draught to drug the group and make sure that the ceremony does not go ahead. You could drug the group and steal the obelisk...'
'No, I don't want to do drug John,' says Isobel. 'I'm relying on Johnny to come up with something later. And I feel I can trust Isobelle Kingston.' And she heads upstairs.
Celestina, giving up on Isobel, hurries on and finds Johnny talking into his mobile.
'...so, Mickey, that's what's been happening here,' he is saying. 'Are you going to call a hit on the CPRG? If so, tell your friends that Isobel and I will be with them, and we're not to be harmed.'
'I was planning to call them up on the way out, if needs be,' says Mickey. 'I'll be sticking close by you on the way in, and I'll make a move if anything starts to look dodgy.'
Celestina realizes that she is not even sure whether she believes that either the CPR group or even Essawi are genuinely bad, just self-interested. But nonetheless she takes the phone and says to Mickey 'I think you should get Wasim's men to detain, perhaps even kill, Essawi. Or is that asking too much?'
Mickey sounds very wary. 'I don't know... I think them hitting the CPRG is OK, but Essawi's a different matter. I think that'd be a bad choice. The main thing's to get hold of the obelisk, isn't it?'
As Johnny waits patiently for Celestina to hand his phone back, he is given another by a uniformed waiter. It is Andrew on the line. 'I think there's going to be a storm tonight,' says Andrew. 'But I will try and stop it as soon as it reaches me. Do you understand?'
Johnny wrinkles his brow in puzzlement for a moment, and then realizes that Andrew does not trust the hotel phones. 'Right, I'm with you, I understand what you mean. Good luck – take care!'
Isobel reappears, looking somewhat more bulky about the middle [not that any well-brought-up member of the team would be looking that closely - ed] and John Torillo strikes his hands together ringingly.
'Away! Let's be about our great business!'
Andrew is rushing through the little tented village of Nazlet el-Simman, alongside the dig site, where the workers live. After turning back a few flaps on the surprised diggers, he finds Sarfraz, their chief, who looks up at him nervously from his blanket.
'I need help, Sarfraz,' says Andrew. 'We need to get an imam here to stop the evil occult worship that occurs here during the night.'
Sarfraz rubs his eyes sleepily. 'What you say is most virtuous, effendi. It is true, there is much evil here, and Allah would curse those who practise it.'
'So can you find an imam to come here tonight? A really fanatical Muslim,' implores Andrew.
It looks as though for once Sarfraz is struggling to make a decision based on morality rather than greed. He mutters a brief prayer, no doubt for forgiveness. 'I shall do as you say, effendi. These foreign evil-doers must be driven forth, their ways are unholy in the sight of Allah!'
'Excellent,' says Andrew. 'Your reward will be in heaven – and here's three hundred dollars in the meantime.' He gives Sarfraz the cash, and describes the CPRG people who he expects to come to the dig tonight – not including the SITU operatives among them. 'And we need to get Professor Bird and her team – and their most essential equipment – away from the site before the imam arrives – within an hour. Can you get some good trucks with trusted crews to do the job?'
Sarfraz looks alarmed. 'What if the Professor-lady does not wish to go?'
'They must not be hurt,' says Andrew slowly, 'but force can be used.'
Sarfraz's dark eyes gleam with excitement.
Johnny, Isobel and the CPRG team, including John, squeeze into the group's Landrover – fortunately they all know each other quite well by now – and head off down the Sharia al-Ahram towards Giza.
Johnny, glancing out the back, sees that they are being followed by a Suzuki jeep driven by a suspicious-looking character with burnous wrapped well about his face – Mickey, in disguise. Further back down the road is a taxi, containing Celestina and Eddie.
Andrew rouses Professor Bird from her sleep, and she regards him owlishly and with puzzlement. 'What on earth is the matter?'
'There's going to be a terrorist attack,' says Andrew quickly.
'What? Here? Why?' Sonia is amazed.
'I've got reliable information, from the Davina Millhouse Trust, that there will be a large attack on an archaeological dig here at the pyramids. Apparently the Islamic Brotherhood want to make a big international impact. We have to evacuate until the danger is passed.'
'What?' Sonia seems to be having difficulty taking it all in. 'We can't just leave like that! What about the equipment?'
'Sarfraz is organizing trucks,' says Andrew calmly.
'If you know this is going to happen, why aren't the Egyptians doing something about it – stationing troops here, or something?' She starts to drag on clothes over her night things.
'They've sanctioned the attack,' Andrew says grimly. 'For some political reason. We can't trust anyone from the government on this.'
Sonia's mouth opens and closes weakly, all the colour draining out of her face.
'Don't worry,' Andrew says. 'We'll take care of everything.'
As if to illustrate his words, there is a loud explosion from the direction of the city, followed by the faint sounds of several alarms.
'What the hell was that?' asks Reg Presley in alarm as the Landrover speeds down the highway. He twists round to look: there is a new blaze to the north of Cairo.
'That's the direction of the armoury,' says Jonathan Sherwood smugly. 'I was expecting something like this.'
'What? You were expecting armed insurrection?' Nick Pope gapes at him.
'When a realignment approaches its climax, like tonight, there are always forces who try and oppose it. Remember last summer, at Stonehenge, when we were arrested? I've taken steps to make sure that won't happen tonight.'
'What sort of steps?' asks Johnny worriedly.
'Our friend Mr Essawi, when we were setting up this operation, was very helpful. Although a government official, he has strong connections in the Islamic Brotherhood, apparently. He agreed to make sure that the police would have their hands far too full to bother frustrating our plans.'
'So Essawi's raised a mob?' asks Johnny. 'But it was when you and he were working together that he agreed to use it to help you, wasn't it – before you stopped using his prayers and started using John's instead? Are you sure he's still going to be as accommodating?'
Sherwood laughs nervously and not wholly convincingly. 'Of course – there's no enmity between us. What does it matter whose prayers are used, as long as they have the effect of realigning the pyramid? He could hardly bear a grudge over a matter like that, now could he?'
There is no response, as none seems needed.
'Ey, you know them hieroglyphs?' asks Eddie.
'Which ones?' replies Celestina distractedly. She is carefully mixing some of her sleeping draught into a water-bottle, as the taxi speeds along. If there is an opportunity, she hopes to be able to administer it to John: that may be the only way of getting him out of Egypt. Ideally the whole CPRG could be sedated this way.
'The ones on yon Essawi's fore'ead. Ah was thinkin' – if it's in a cartouche, it must be a person's name, that's the way they work.'
'Is that right.' Celestina holds her lower lip between her teeth as she judiciously swills the bottle. The ride is rather bumpier than she would like, for this operation to be completely secure.
'Aye, and that means you just say the sounds. So ah looked 'em up – in this book, like. Semicircle, that's the settin' sun, it's pronounced "titi". An' t'other thing, cross wi' a blob under it, that's pronounced "nefer".'
Celestina stops what she is doing, alerted. '"Titi" and "nefer"? Nefertiti?'
'Aye. An' that's strange, en't it – 'cause Nefertiti wasn't around until a thousand years after this crowd, Khufu, Khentkaus an' that.' Eddie shakes his head in amusement. 'Ah'll bet one o' the archaeologists could ha' told us that that were what the hieroglyphs meant, days ago.'
Andrew's plan is still not complete, and he hastens over to the pyramid itself to speak with the bored guards who are stationed on its doors.
'You men – be alert tonight! The archaeologists are leaving – there are trucks coming for their equipment. I want you to be very careful who you allow to enter the pyramid.'
The guards glare at him unhelpfully, and, with a sigh, Andrew pulls out another handful of his precious dollars. He hopes that SITU will allow his expenses claim, as he is not getting receipts for any of these bribes.
The guards' eyes light up at the sight of President Lincoln's stern face gazing up at them, and Andrew adds 'Just the archaeologists, and anyone who is with me myself can enter the pyramid – do you understand?'
There is a mighty honking and shining of headlights as the two trucks – they look like ex-British Army issue – appear. Andrew dashes off to supervise their loading, slightly concerned about the pyramid guards. They are such venal types, no doubt if someone else were to offer them more money than he has just done they would swear that black was white, and probably throw their grandmothers into the bargain.
This could get nasty, Andrew thinks to himself.
The Landrover has to slow as it reaches the tail of a crowd of a hundred or so excited locals, who are streaming towards the dig site.
'I hope that's not trouble,' says Nick Pope mournfully.
'Fools! Imbeciles! Out of the way!' shouts John Torillo out of the window impatiently. Fortunately, none of the nearby people understand English.
By the time the vehicle reaches its parking spot, it is clear that the crowd of Cairenes is here for a purpose: standing on a makeshift platform is a white-bearded imam, who is haranguing them enthusiastically in Arabic. To one side of him is the chief digger Sarfraz, his scrawny chest swollen with pride.
The dazed archaeologists are protestingly bundling the last of their kit into trucks, under Andrew's supervision.
'Blimey!' says Reg Presley, surveying the scene. 'What's this? Revival meeting?'
'Let's just try and make our way over to the pyramid without being noticed, shall we?' says Jonathan Sherwood nervously.
As they climb down from the Landrover, Isobel draws Isobelle Kingston aside. The other woman looks worried. 'You know, dear, being arrested at Stonehenge was not too bad really – that was our own British bobbies, and they were very polite. I'm not too keen on a raging mob of Muslim extremists, though, are you? And quite a few of them seem to be armed.' Her eyes dart nervously about.
'I'm a bit worried, too,' says Isobel. 'About John, and what he's planning. I think he's hoping to do more than just realignment.'
'What do you mean, dear?' asks Isobelle concernedly.
'I'm worried that he may be planning to use someone as a "vessel" for another spirit.' Isobel looks at her seriously.
Isobelle is alarmed. 'Really? I must say, he does seem a little... odd. Not how I imagined a professor at Cambridge to be. So do you think his prayers are going to call up an unquiet shade?'
She speaks as though this would be a perfectly natural thing to do: and, indeed, perhaps it is, for her, reflects Isobel. 'Yes, and I was wondering, you must know such a lot about these things, is there anything I can do to prevent myself becoming possessed?'
Isobelle purses her lips. 'Are you religious, dear? I mean, really – do you really believe in God?'
'Well...' says Isobel uncertainly.
Isobelle takes both her hands firmly. 'That's the only sure defence, dear – faith. A powerful spirit to defend you. A guardian angel, or a guardian spirit. Mine is called Aiwass: he's a Red Indian. He used to be a powerful medicine man. He'll make sure no harm comes to me. I'll ask him to defend you, as well, darling, if you don't think your faith is strong enough to call forth an angel.'
Meanwhile Johnny is up at the pyramid with Jonathan Sherwood, who is carrying the obelisk, and John Torillo, who is having a furious argument with the guards. 'What do you mean, no entry? Out of my way, you dogs, you lickspittle vermin! How dare you stand against me, in this the moment of my fullest power? I shall crush you like the pestilent ants you so surely are!'
As he raises his hand to strike the truculent guards aside, Sherwood drags him back, saying 'Now, now, John, no call for that sort of language. I'm sure this can all be settled amicably.' He turns to the guards, and reaching into his pocket pulls out a handful of twenty-pound notes. 'Might this make any difference, my dear fellows?'
The guards confer hastily among themselves.
Mickey, closely followed by Celestina and Eddie, arrives on the scene. The three stand together in his Suzuki, inspecting the growing crowd. 'Things are looking a bit nasty,' says Mickey cheerfully. 'The first guys on the scene were your standard rent-a crowd, wanting to see the old imam spit a bit of blood and thunder, that's what I'm reckoning. These guys here, though -' he indicates a gang of youths with baseball bats who have just arrived '- they look more like your basic hooligans to me – looking for trouble.'
At this point Andrew sees the CPRG team lurking near the pyramid, and his eyes widen. He hastily runs over to Sarfraz and tugs on his sleeve, shouting in his ear to be heard over the frenzied cheering that is accompanying the imam's every word.
Sarfraz clambers up to shout in the imam's ear in his turn, and without breaking his flow at all the old white-bearded priest whirls round to point at the pyramid, crying out in furious Arabic as he indicates Sherwood, Torillo and Johnny.
His meaning is fairly clear.
As the crowd starts to surge towards the pyramid, Mickey reacts quickly, diving into their midst and charging towards Isobel.
'Bloody hell,' says Sherwood, looking terrified.
'Pfaugh!' spits John Torillo. 'These worms will not be allowed to prevent me from the realization of my dreams!' He strikes outward with his right hand, and the two guards collapse as though felled with axes, although there was only the lightest of contact.
Johnny turns to head back for Isobel, but a fearsomely strong hand grabs the back of his collar. 'You, Dr Stone, are coming with me.'
The mob lurch up to the pyramid, and John grasps Sherwood – still carrying the bag with the obelisk – with his other hand, and drags both men inside the corridor. His strength is superhuman, and a tremendous power of will which make him very difficult to resist is urging forth from him. Johnny is no slouch in the force of character department, but even he can do no more than struggle feebly. His control over his body has drained away.
Sherwood has gone limp, and, tossing him down, John swiftly sketches a sign in the doorway of the pyramid, pronouncing two syllables. At once the doorway is filled with crackling white fire, zipping back and forth, barring entry.
The faster members of the mob, who are pressing hard on the three's heels, back away from the pyramid, muttering alarmedly.
'Now,' says John with some satisfaction, continuing to drag Johnny and Sherwood towards the central chamber, 'we have a task to perform.'
Isobel, Kingston, Pope and Presley are cowering against the back of the Landrover as the mob pushes past them. The colour of their skin earns them more than a few angry buffets.
Suddenly Isobel feels herself seized around the waist by a particularly unpleasant burnous-clad specimen, who starts to drag her off.
She lashes out furiously, catching him in the stomach – he grunts and whispers angrily 'It's me, Mickey!'
The noise of military sirens erupts from the direction of town, and Celestina hears the crackle of automatic fire quite close by. But her attention is drawn by another arrival on the scene. About a hundred yards down the road, a long, black car has pulled up. From it spill two men in desert camouflage, each of them carrying something that looks like a grenade launcher. Then Abdel Essawi gets out.
He is dressed as an Egyptian priest, in a white sarong-type garment, his head shaven but for a small tassel at the back, the skin of a leopard draped over his shoulders. He carries a ceremonial flail in one hand, and a hooked sceptre in the other. He pauses to survey the situation, and smiles.
Inside the pyramid the noise of the riot is curiously muffled. Johnny has regained his senses, but not his power of movement. In any case, there is nowhere to go except through the curtain of fire which hangs in the entranceway.
John busies himself lighting candles and placing the obelisk squarely on the floor, muttering quietly.
Sherwood merely watches him dazedly.
'John – Haremakhet – what are you hoping to do?' asks Johnny. Keep him talking. Something'll turn up. 'Do you plan to free Hetepheres's spirit, is that it?'
'Not bad, Dr Stone, not bad.' John flashes him a glance. 'Perhaps your mind is not of the lowly calibre I had assigned it. That is indeed my plan. Together we can stand against the witch Khentkaus, and banish her from the Two Kingdoms forever.'
'But how can you do that, now? Who will be her vessel? You were going to use Isobel, weren't you? And I bet before she volunteered you were going to use Isobelle Kingston.'
'Very good! I was indeed.'
Sherwood gasps in surprise. 'I... I knew nothing of this! You agreed to help us realign the pyramid, that was all! No-one said anything about any possession!'
'Silence, you anile fool! Know now, if you did not before, that you have been my dupe all along – what care I for your foolish realignments? Calling to beings from other stars, indeed – a dream for children. There are no other stars, witless man, they are merely bright spots painted on the body of Nut the sky-goddess. Everyone knows that!'
'But what will you do now?' persists Johnny. 'Neither of the women are here to receive Hetepheres's spirit.'
John looks at him in surprise. 'The vessel need not be close at hand. It is more convenient that way, but... we will call forth the spirit and it will travel disembodied until it finds its vessel, that is all.'
Essawi points with his sceptre at the cluster of tents which the archaeologists until very recently occupied, and one of the men with him raises his launcher to his shoulder.
There is a flash and a whoosh, and quicker than the eye can follow, the central tent bursts into flames.
'My specimens!' calls out Professor Bird plaintively.
Andrew whirls round in horror. 'What are you doing still here? Get back in the truck!'
She struggles with him, trying to get to the tent, muttering distractedly 'My results, my results...'
In the end Andrew picks her up and throws her bodily – but gently – into the back of the truck. 'Drive on!' he screams at Harry Challis, who is at the wheel.
Harry needs no encouragement.
Andrew hears a scream just behind him, and whirls back to see a frenzied man charging at him brandishing a dagger, crying 'Insh'allah!'
With the reflexes of his Army training he draws his gun, aims and fires in one smooth movement.
The man drops to the ground screaming, clutching his leg, which is pumping red.
Andrew looks round him panickedly. The archaeologists and their trucks have gone now, and are as safe as they can be. He starts to forge his way towards Eddie in the Suzuki, occasionally firing shots into the air to clear his path.
'I have to do something,' mutters Celestina to herself. Mickey, Isobel and Eddie are gathered with her, watching Essawi's henchmen directing grenades into the camp at random. There is now a good deal of gunfire. A little way down the road she can see parked an armoured car; it is taking no action, though.
Eddie looks pleadingly at the Suzuki.
'We can't go without Johnny,' says Isobel sharply.
'Join your hands together, all of you,' Celestina says firmly. 'Le Baron Samedi will keep us safe here. You have nothing to fear.'
She can sense her guardian loa's presence strong and close. There is much fear and there will be much death, he laughs to her.
Celestina closes her eyes, clearing her mind, preparing herself to be ridden.
The obelisk in the centre of the chamber starts to pulse with a golden yellow light, as John begins his chant. Sherwood joins in raggedly. Johnny keeps his mouth shut firmly, but he can feel the syllables of the chant pumping through him.
Then there is a crunch from above, and the whole pyramid seems to shake. Fine sandy dust drifts down into the chamber. John looks up, alert. This does not seem to be part of the spell.
The two grenades impact against the pyramid together, breaking away part of its upper casing. The damage is minimal.
'That thing's stood there for four thousand years, it's goin' to take a bit more than that,' mutters Eddie to himself.
Essawi starts to advance towards the pyramid, as his henchmen ready more grenades. He gestures with the flail in front of him, and the crowd parts rapidly as if lashed. The silver brand on his forehead is now clear for all to see.
What do you have for me, little daughter? A fine feast tonight?
I need your help, Papa le Baron. There is strong evil here. Bokor's work.
Laughter. What is evil to me, little daughter? You know I am beyond it. Bokors serve me too.
Not this one. He serves a truly wicked power. Hateful to all humanity – all your people. Celestina is utterly sure that what she says is true.
Hmmm. Let me see...
There is a crash as the Suzuki's side window is put in by a baseball bat. Mickey straightens up out of the footwell, pulling out an automatic handgun, and coolly fires three times into the knot of thugs outside. They rapidly lose their enthusiasm for the assault.
By now all the unarmed rioters have fled: there are just the armed thugs roaming around making trouble and shooting at anything that moves. The pyramid guards appear to be pinned down around the boat pits.
Celestina, her eyes closed, sees nothing of this.
As John continues to chant, the obelisk now glowing brightly, Johnny becomes aware of a fine thread of silver that is descending from a small aperture in the chamber's ceiling. Silver, but giving off flashes of colour.
John notices it too, and without breaking his chant points at Jonathan Sherwood.
The CPRG chief stiffens, his eyes rolling up in his head, and his arms twitch spastically. With a dreadful yell he collapses limply to the ground, and the silver thread thickens, growing firmer and more solid, starting to take on the shape of a human form.
John starts to raise his hand again to point at Johnny.
There is a clang as something strikes the side of the Suzuki, very hard.
Fortunately only Eddie was looking in the direction of the grenade launchers, and saw what it was. His face is absolutely stark white with terror. 'Must 'ave been a dud,' he mutters to himself.
I am with you, little daughter, says the gros mystere.
Essawi, facing the screen of fire at the entrance to the pyramid, points his sceptre directly at it and speaks a Word which echoes flatly about the complex.
There is a hollow crack, like the sound of summer thunder directly overhead, and light blossoms at the sceptre's end.
Johnny can do no more than scrabble feebly as John points at him, and the form – now definitely female – turns in the air above the obelisk. He feels a deathly weakness clutch at his heart.
Then, out from the entranceway, screeches a bolt of fire, which strikes the obelisk halfway up.
At once there is the most fantastic explosion. Johnny is picked up by the blast and flung into a corner. As his consciousness fades he is aware of John screaming, but with two voices – his ordinary human voice, but also a thin, spectral voice that plays eerily up and down the frequency range as it is rent apart.
From outside the concussion is even louder. The centre of the pyramid simply explodes, and its upper portion dissolves into a column of golden fire stabbing upwards into the night.
There is a second of silence, then screams as chunks of rubble start to rain down over the whole area.
Isobel, dazedly wiping blood from her ears, peers through the window to see that the rubble, which is lying thick all about, has left a neat, clear circle around the Suzuki. 'That was lucky,' she thinks to herself confusedly.
Celestina opens her eyes to a scene of devastation. The area is now deserted, all the Cairenes having fled. The pyramid of Khentkaus itself is now no more than its base.
Mixed in with the scattered stonework are fragments of artefact, presumably from the burial chamber of Hetepheres: her sarcophagus must have been blasted into a thousand pieces.
She staggers over towards the pyramid.
Johnny, John and Sherwood are lying in the now open-roofed first chamber. All are unconscious.
The obelisk is between them: it is riven into three pieces, looking like a tree struck by lightning, its inner surfaces blackened.
There is no sign of Essawi.
Mickey, looking out at the fires that still rage across the city, pulls out his mobile. 'Wasim? I think you'd better send those guys over. We might need a bit of help getting to the airport.'
From: K S Pyke, Debrief / 295
To: Operatives: Isobel Blyth, Edmund Davies, Celestina Mirande, John Stone, Michael Thomas, Wotan Andrew Weiser
Subject: Pyramid of Khentkaus
Congratulations to all operatives on their stern resistance to an extremely serious threat. The information your investigation has provided demonstrates clearly that Egypt is one of the most important nexuses of enemy activity.
You succeeded in the terms of your initial briefing, establishing the problem with the Bird robot and inspecting its video, and gained us a good deal of interesting information on the history of Egypt as it relates to our concerns – not all of our interpretation is available to all of you at your current security clearance, although it may be later. Your report on Ben Foster was also of great interest and fits well into a picture of alien activity which we are gradually building up.
By far the most significant point, though, is your report on Abdel Essawi – a man who has given us much trouble in the past – and the occult / magical powers set around Giza. It is clear that future SITU activity in Egypt will demand considerably greater security and precautions against a well-entrenched foe.
Aftermath: the Egyptian government has ascribed the destruction of the pyramid of Khentkaus to terrorist activity. Political instability in Cairo seems likely to continue or worsen.
Willem van Heuvelen: thank you for bringing this man back to us, Operative Stone. Use of hypnotic techniques have proved very fruitful, and we are sure that he has more information that will be of use to us. He is currently residing in a secure establishment, receiving treatment for his paranoid schizophrenia.
Abdel Essawi: the information you have brought back about this individual allows us more fully to map out his powers. He is clearly influential in government and rebel circles, as well as evidencing magical powers. The details of the sign on his forehead are highly revealing. We must regard him as a highly placed and extremely dangerous enemy agent, but you may have given us some ammunition to use against him. We believe that the powers he displays are largely not his, but his mistress's – Khentkaus and Nefertiti are just two of the names she has used.
Haremakhet and Hetepheres: your report suggests that these two discorporate spirits were blasted out of existence with the destruction of the obelisk. This is unfortunate, as they may have represented a potent counter to the enemy holding in Egypt, but it is unlikely that SITU could have worked with them: from your description of Haremakhet, he sounds highly unstable and motivated largely by vengeance and megalomania.
Professor John Torillo: this operative seems to bear no ill-effects from his ordeal of possession, but SITU regard him as compromised and have suspended him from active duty.
Professor Bird's group: their licence to excavate at Giza has been withdrawn by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture and they have returned to Oxford. The early results which they have so far been able to publish have caused something of a stir in the Egyptological world.
The Circles Phenomenon Research Group: we have looked into this group's background, and assess them as essentially innocent and unthreatening. It seems likely that they were initially simply trying to realign the pyramid as claimed – as to the merits or practicality of this exercise, SITU currently has no opinion. It was their misfortune to first fall under the influence of Essawi, who offered them the powered obelisk from Branston Hall to aid their rituals – we imagine that the prayers he also supplied were to serve some secret purpose of his mistress – and then under the influence of Haremakhet, who supplied further prayers designed to free Hetepheres. (It is extremely fortunate that the team were alert to the dangers of Operative Blyth being used as a vessel for this spirit. To have one operative possessed by a Fourth Dynasty ghost might be put down to misfortune: to have two so possessed would look very much like carelessness.)
The Group has now broken up. Sherwood, shaken by his ordeal and greatly weakened – we surmise that Haremakhet drew off a good deal of his life-force to help embody Hetepheres – has retired from activity to write books on his obsession. Pope has returned to his duties at the UK Ministry of Defence. Presley is still sponsoring a range of crop circle groups. Kingston is working as a medium: she may prove a useful contact for SITU in the future, thanks to the bond Operative Blyth has formed with her.
Ben Foster: we are monitoring this individual closely. We are still unsure as to which faction he serves, if any. He is clearly an important figure, but it is not clear exactly why.
Wasim, Sarfraz and Mahmoud: these lowly locals may prove useful contacts for future operatives travelling to Cairo. We retain their details on file.
Wafic Said: a more powerful potential ally, SITU is contacting him with the aid to purchasing his services.