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Egyptian Airspace, 30 minutes from Cairo

Friday, April 18, 2019 (1:20 PM local time)

 

A Danger International private jet soared above the light cloud cover over northern Egypt as it entered its final approach toward Cairo.  The sleek aircraft began a gradual descent as it continued on its flight path, transporting a rather unusual group of passengers to the ancient city.

 

It had been several months since a group of Thule Society sorcerers accompanied by several enhanced SHADOW clones had attempted to steal an ancient Egyptian artifact during the opening of an exhibit at the Hunter Museum of Natural History.  What the Thule Society had not accounted for was the presence of three Claremont students who had been able to halt the theft.

 

But as the remaining Thule sorcerer had escaped, he had made a cryptic remark about artifact, suggesting that there it possessed some secret the teens were unaware of.  Two of the teens, Veronica Danger and Elizabeth Grey, had been able to confirm that the artifact (the burial mask of the Pharaoh Sanakht) resonated with magic and that it was some sort of key.  But despite their best efforts to research what that might mean, they still did not know exactly what it was a key to.

 

So over the last few months Danger International, with some assistance from the Dakanan Royal family, had made arrangements with the Egyptian authorities to allow for an investigation of Sanakht's pyramid at the Saqqara necropolis.  Permission had not been obtained until after the start of the new year, meaning Veronica, Elizabeth and Kam Kingdom had to wait until Claremont’s Spring Break to take the trip to Egypt.

 

The interior of the jet was rather luxurious, with each of the teens having a large leather seat with plenty of room around them.  The seats rotated so they could turn to face the middle and each other to more easily converse about the expedition they had set out on, or could turn out towards a small table next to each of seat (with connections for laptops and cellphones). 

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Veronica Danger

 

The three teenagers were not the only passengers in the DI jet.  Prudence was present as well, having had a considerable roll in planning some of the logistics of the trip.  The usually formally dressed young woman was dressed a bit more casually at present, wearing a white long sleeve blouse and a pair of khaki slacks.  As always, she was glancing at the tablet she never seemed to be without.  "The vehicle is already at the airport awaiting our arrival."  She stated, glancing up from the tablet and over toward Veronica.  "Customs should not take long and we can be on our way to the dig site."

 

Seated in a seat across the isle from Prudence, Veronica Danger had been looking at a book on hieroglyphics before looking up toward her personal assistant.  "Thank you Prudence."

 

Closing the book and setting it down, Veronica turned her chair to look back toward Liz and Kam.  "Well, almost there.  Getting excited yet?"  The teenage danger was smiling, a certain energetic excitement clearly evident in her expression.  Veronica was well used to such adventures, but with the possible threat of the Thule Society still out there, she was very glad to have her friends with her for this one.

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As his friend spoke Kam tucked his e-reader into the laptop bag at his feet and peered for a moment out the window.  "It is a pleasant change of pace from studies and more banal extracurriculars."  He admitted as he settled back into his seat.  

 

"Are we participating in a dig or focusing on investigating that Thule lackeys claims?"  the Dakanan queried curiously.  With a nod to Elizabeth he added quietly, "Did either of you manage to uncover any hint of what he might have been referring to?"  he shrugged with a gesture to himself, "My own investigations proved fruitless but I am hardly an expert."

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Veronica

 

"Well, 'officially' we are assisting with a DI sponsored dig of some tombs located not far from Sanakht's pyramid.  But, we have access to the pyramid as well, so, we will be trying to learn if there is anything there that might give a hint as to what the Thule sorcerer was referring to."  Veronica responded in reply to Kam’s first question, a slightly excited grin on her face.

 

But at his second question the teenage Danger’s face become more serious.  "No, I am afraid we uncovered little more.  Having been able to study the mask more closely a few times, it clearly radiates faint magic and is a key of some kind.  But there is nothing about it that can aided us in discerning what it is a key to.  And as for any records that might shed any light on what it might be fore, Sanakht has always been something of an enigma, to the point that many Egyptologists did not believe there ever had been a Sanakht, which is part of what made our discovery such a notable one, so there is little to go on."

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"It was so many books!" Liz said, raising her hands in the gesture of one who had suffered so much, and yet still tasted bitter defeat. "So many dry articles and journals by people with terrible handwriting, and nothing worth mentioning. But!"

 

She held up a finger, a smile crawling across her lips and a sparkle in her eyes. "But, that just means we get to solve a mystery and then we get to write the terrible journals and someone else will have to read them in the future, and that will be much better." Her smile broke into a grin, but she none-the-less bobbed the finger as if to make a very serious point. "If I write anything about this trip it's going to be a lot more fun to read and at least mostly true."

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"Well that is certainly a cleverly flexible solution to our investigations."  Kam acknowledged readily.  He hadn't expect much more information to come to light, Veronica and Her Parents after all had investigated the initial discoveries and were hardly ones to miss the obvious.

 

The Dakanan's smile was subdued but genuine as Elizabeth spoke on her plans for any writings on this subject that might yet bear out.  He was pensive as he thought on the possibilities with care.  "Well knowing it unlocks something further is an excellent starting point."  he suggested and looked with a curious tilt of his head toward Veronica, "What is the significance of masks in ancient Egyptian culture?"  Kam was no expert on any of these matters but had a keen mind and a curious streak.  "It might help us to put ourselves in the potential mindset of the creator or user of such a key yes?"  

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Veronica

 

Veronica had a slightly hurt look on her face as she looked over at Elizabeth.  "I happen to think that my personal journals are both well written and interesting."  She stated in a teasing tone.

 

The teenage Danger's expression became more serious once again as she looked over to Kam as he asked his question about the mask.  “"Well, the burial masks, or death masks, had a number of roles in the Egyptian afterlife.  For one, it was believed they would strengthen the soul and protect it from evil spirits.  It was also tied to the importance of mummifying the body.  The ancient Egyptians believed that without the body, the soul would become restless forever.  The mask was intended to allow the soul to recognize its body."

 

"I spent time looking over the other objects in the exhibit, including Sanakht's mummy, I did not sense any magic within them.  If the mask was to have some significance with the mummy, I could not sense it."

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Elizabeth laughed, quietly, digging in her bag for her own mask. "That's kind of ironic, isn't it? Or at least, it's the opposite of a lot of masks," she said, contemplating the face of her artifact before turning it to look at the others. "They're usually to hide who you are, or make you look like someone else."

 

She spun it on one finger and when it turned back around it had become animalistic, a totemic impression of a raven. "Or, ceremony, I guess, or to evoke something that isn't part of your own face." It continued to spin, Liz looking at it like it would answer her - a demon, a fox, a sock & buskin face, a spider. "I kind of like the Egyptian take. If the mask wasn't for the mummy, though, it makes me wonder if it's somebody else's face, or just a pure ceremony kind of thing. I don't think we should wear it if a soul might be looking for it, though, just in case?"

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Kam listened carefully to Victories reply making a few notes in his own notebook a careful neat print of Dakanan characters as he recorded salient points.  "Perhaps related to resurrection then."  he mused quietly, "A key to Sanakhts return?"  he mused aloud as he considered the possibilities.  Such things were rare but not completely unheard of in his limited knowledge of the arcane.  

 

Elizabeth's exposition however jogged his mind as well and he looked between them as he spoke quickly but in a concise and almost clipped manner, "Perhaps you are right."  he nodded to Elizabeth, "If the artifact was not a death mask but for another purpose it might still be among burial goods but was made for use in life and repurposed in death."  The prince raised a brow in question to Veronica a silent question as to hte likelihood of such a thing and what other purpose a mask might have served among the ancients.

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Veronica

 

"The Egyptians had ceremonial masks as well Liz."  Veronica stated as the other teenage girl talked about the various roles of masks within other cultures.  "It was just the burial mask that had a very distinct purpose."

 

As Kam suggested that the mask might be tied to a way to resurrect Sanakht, the teenage Danger gave a small shrug.  "I thought of that as well, but I did not detect anything in the mummy to suggest the magic in the mask had interacted with it over the thousands of years it was in contact with the mummy."

 

"So….there must be something else that the mask is intended to interact with.  Right now, the most logical first place to look is within the pyramid.  If we do not find anything there….then it is back to the drawing board."

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"Well, sure. Masks are used for all kinds of things! They're cool," Liz agreed; her own mask was growing thinner and flatter as it spun, until a final rotation where it was so two-dimensional that it was all but invisible when turned away from the onlooker - at which point it disappeared entirely and she dropped her hand back into her lap. A perfectly normal way to put one's mask away. "We'll just have to keep our eyes peeled for mummies, ghosts, mummy ghosts, ceremonial inscriptions, and faceless or maskless statues that look suspiciously like levers or secret doors."

 

She grinned, turning in her seat to peer out a window; it would have been a better option if she'd taken a seat where she could peer forward instead of back. "Do you know how far out we are?"

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"Well good to know we don't have too long a list to watch for."  Kam replied to Elizabeth with characteristic dry humor.  With less levity he let out a small sigh.  "Yes I had hoped we might get such direction from the egyptians culturla use of such things."  he shrugged slightly not overly bothered, "Regardless we shall uncover more than we knew before if only that there is nothing more to learn there."  he finally agreed and relaxed back into his seat, "Can't be long now."  he tucked his notes away to be ready to disembark once they landed.

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Veronica

 

Veronica smile slightly at Liz's joke about the threats they needed to keep an eye out for.  Turning back slightly towards the window, she looked out, spotting the Nile down below them.  "Yes, we should be on the ground is about ten minutes."  She stated in agreement with Kam’s observation.

 

The statement proved accurate, as the group began to feel the pressure change more rapidly as the plane began its final descent.  Soon, they were down on the tarmac of Cairo International Airport, taxing off away from the main terminals towards a section of the airport for smaller, private planes.

 

Gathering their things, the three teens and Prudence soon disembarked, steeping out to the mildly hot afternoon air of Cairo and were met by customs and immigration officials.  As Prudence had promised, the formalities were rather short, with the clout of the Dakana Royal Family and Danger International having cleared things ahead of time, the officials only wanting to confirm the identities of the disembarking passengers.

 

Prudence once again delivered as a dark green Land Rover sat parked not far off the tarmac, a Danger International employee waiting for the group with the keys, which Veronica took with a word of thanks.  Making her way over to the driver's seat (located on the right hand side of the vehicle) she glance back at her two friends as a wide grin spread across her face.  "Well, let's get going."  She stated putting her pack down in between the two front seat and climbing into the vehicle.

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Elizabeth squinted at the sun and conjured a white, wide-brimmed floppy hat before disembarking, pulling it over her head in a vain attempt to shield herself from the wrath of an afternoon sun. It also might have helped her feel more like the kind of person who should be disembarking from a private plane in Cairo, but she tried not to dwell on that part - maybe she'd earn it for herself one day.

 

"More seriously," she said, pulling herself and her bag up into one of the back seats, "is there anything we should watch out for? With the way our lives go, I'll confess that I'm really not sure where to draw the line between 'crazy traps are just archaeological fiction' and 'crazy traps are a normal part of adventuring life'. On a scale from 'dry history lecture' to 'Indiana Jones', what should we be keeping in mind besides not breaking anything old and important?"

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Kam stepped out into the bright sun with a wide smile and deep breath followed by a small frown.  The tarmac at Cairo International Airport was not exactly the most pleasant of air though it did have something to recommend it over the dry recycled air of the jet.  Shouldering his laptop bag he retrieved his roller and followed the others towards the impromptu customs check, a flash of his identification passing him through with no further fuss.  

 

"I think we can at hte least be assured we are not alone in our pursuit of whatever hte mask unlocks."  the Dakanan replied glancing to Veronica, "As for the tomb itself."  he shrugged Veronica being far more prepared to answer such queries.  "I imagine this situation is sufficiently unique that the general case does not apply."  he smiled to hte Danger scion, "However I imagine it rarely does in such company."

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Veronica

 

Prudence climbed into another of the Land Rover's back seat across from Liz, a slightly worried look on her face as she watched Veronica make a few adjustments behind the wheel of the vehicle before starting it up.  The teenage Danger nodded in agreement with Kam as he mentioned that they could be certain that they were not the only ones interested in what the mask would unlock.

 

"Yeah, I do not doubt the Thule Society has given up on this.  The section of the necropolis we will be at is still closed off from the public, so there should be no tourists about, which will help with spotting anyone that does not belong around the dig."  Veronica stated as she pulled away from the tarmac, headed for the main road that would lead them towards down town Cairo.

 

"As for what to watch for in the pyramid, well, I think Kam is right that we are operating well outside the normal realm of things.  If we uncover some new section to the tomb that we were unable to locate before, we will have to be ready for anything."  As Veronica guided the vehicle through the busy traffic around the airport, the road curved slightly to the southwest as it dropped down ahead.  Out in front of the Land Rover was a view of down town Cairo, the Nile River, and beyond, the Pyramids of Giza.

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"Mm, fair enough. Does anyone else belong around the dig?"

 

Elizabeth was making absolutely zero effort to hide her sense of wonder at the sights laid out before her, watching the pyramids in the distance with eyes like saucers and an obviously barely-restrained urge to shove half her body outside the safety of the car for a better perspective. She had only the presence of mind to keep her voice on-topic, compartmentalizing tourism from heroics for as long as such a thing could last. "If I were trying to sneak into a dig," she said, watching buildings and cars as if they were more magical than anything back home, "which, I haven't, but if I did - I'd probably find or make or steal badges and go in as crew, so that nobody was asking questions. One of the cheap and crude ways to pull a magic act is to have everyone secretly in on it, y'know? Replace the whole team or audience, everyone but the mark, who's going to know and catch you until after?"

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Kam had joined them in the land rover taking his seat and keeping an eye to their surroundings as they approached the city eyes never resting long any particular sight but taking in all that they passed with a studious attention to details of their path.  "Misdirection is a potent tool in the hands of a foe."  he agreed with Elizabeth easily and glanced to Prudence then Veronica, "I expect the staff at the dig site is vetted but likely there are laborers as well."  his voice tilted up making hte last a question.  He knew the Danger family more than capable of providing security against msot threats.  Unfortunately as shown in the museum their likely enemies were both ruthless and unorthodox.

 

"We can hope their focus on uncovering the secrets of the tomb will make them sufficiently sloppy we might notice anything amiss."  he smiled almost seeming pleased at he prospect of hunting shadow agents in disguise like some cold war era spy from the movies.  "Have you formulated a plan for our approach?"  he asked of Veronica not entirely certain how such investigations were carried out in the normal case no less one such as this but eager to learn more.

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Veronica

 

"A valid concern."  Prudence replied as Liz mentioned the possibility of SHADOW sending in some undercover agents to infiltrate the dig.  "Since the incident at the museum, we have increased the security at the dig site here in Egypt.  All of those working on the digs in the area have been vetted, by Danger International and the Egyptian museums co-sponsoring the digs."  She added at Kam's questions. 

 

"The extra security has mainly been to keep an eye on things and make sure no one has been messing around with the staff as Liz suggested.  Still, would not hurt to keep an eye out, just in case."  Veronica added as she pulled onto a freeway that would take them to a bridge across the Nile and over closer to the Giza pyramids on their way south.  "But if the Thule Society and SHADOW do show up, I would prefer they just get everyone else clear so we can deal with them."

 

"As for my plan, right now it is pretty simple."  She replied to Kam's other question with a small grim.  “Get back down in the burial chambers and start taking a closer look at the area to see if we spot something I was unable to see before.  Like you suggested before, I have a suspicion that if we find what the mask is intended to open, the Thule Society will show up soon enough."

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With a smile and a nod Kam agreed with Veronicas approach.  It was perhaps a less extensive plan than he would have worked out but he was at times, inflexible, and one could not argue with the results of the Danger brand of seat of the pants adventure.  "Well it certainly is a concise plan."  he joked lightly with a good natured grin.  He watched as they continued on their path noting the distance and directions of travel just in case it was needed later and looked back to his companions as the Pyramids loomed larger at their approach. 

 

"I admit a certain excitement at such an investigation."  he acknowledged evenly and glanced Elizabeths way as explanation was offered, "My parents can be at times over protective."  the comment was perhaps understatement but while his more clever classmates had likely put together some of his history with his sisters less than circumspect treatment of their identities he was as yet uncertain if she was unaware or merely politely ignoring his paper thin secret id. "I suspect you have at least an inkling of why."  he shrugged ruefully, she was certainly clever enough to see through the thin veneer of his Kameron persona after all.  "But I am of the royal family of my homeland."  he offered quietly.  "I would hope you understand the need for secrecy and apologize for the duplicity."  Speaking it aloud it seemed ridiculous after all this time.  He was no trained actor and his behavior and his sisters complete disregard for the security protocols likely had revealed him long ago but nonetheless he felt it important to share explicitly if they were intentionally going into danger together.  "I visited many digs in Dakana but always under strict security."  he offered a small sigh, "It will be something to take a more active role I think."

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Elizabeth threw her hands up - or at least, as much as she could within the confines of their vehicle - mischief and delight written all over her face. "I knew it! Well, not it, not that exactly, but!" She dropped her hands, still grinning. "It was on the list. The list only exists on my head, but I had you down for either 'royals' or 'secret soldiers on a mission'. I guess 'royals' makes more sense, though - who'd send a soldier incognito to a school? Would you have to be older? That'd be weird."

 

"I have so many questions now that the cat's out of the bag, but I guess we can save them for later?" The expression on her face did not look like she could save them for later. "Once we don't have to worry about evil sorcerers and mummy masks. I do get the secrecy thing, though, and I won't spread the word if you don't want me to."

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Veronica

 

Veronica gave a small grin as Kam lightly teased her about her admittedly simple plans.  As he turned back to Elizabeth to officially revel his identity to her, the teenage Danger stayed quite, focusing on the busy Cairo traffic as she made her way along the highway and to the bridge that would carry them across the Nile.  Prudence turned to look out the window beside her so as not to intrude on the conversation either.

 

Of course Veronica and Janus had known the true identity of Kam and his sister from the start, having known them for years after visits to Dakana to visit cousins living there.  At Kam's request the Danger cousins had not revealed this familiarity.

 

Soon the Land Rover was crossing over the bridge, the waters of the famous Nile flowing beneath them, dotted with a number of small craft making their way along those waters, including at least one tour boat taking passengers down the Nile to view the ancient wonders that stretched along the banks of the great river.  The pyramids of Giza now towered over the highway, despite still being some distance further west, rising up above the sands that stretched out beyond them.

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Kam noted Veronicas polite silence nodding to Elizabeth as she offered her suppositions and theories.  "I will admit the secret has been a shallow one."  he acknowledged with a small shrug,  "It offers comfort to my parents and avoids the worst of diplomatic hazzards."  Frowning he shook his head, "Yes would have to be older to join the military or security service."  he agreed with slight distaste.  "Sending an adult to pose as a student would be uncomfortable all around and I imagine far less full of hilarity than popular film would indicate."

 

Looking out a the distance yet to traverse the young prince shrugged, "Veronica and Janus were aware due to their family connections."  he admitted as well which likely too was obvious in hindsight.  "I think we have some time before we reach the dig if there is anything pressing."  he offered gamely and shot a glance to Veronica, "Unless you feel we need to go over the intricacies of the plan once more."  he teased good naturedly and relaxed into his seat open to whatever questions Elizabeth may have.  It was in fact a comfort not to have to keep up the facade shallow though it may have been.

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Elizabeth drummed her fingers together, carefully pondering the infinite array of questions and mischief that had been dropped into her lap before at least striking out the latter. For now. "....what is the best thing you have ever eaten?" she asked, leaning forward with conspiratorial tone. "Royalty seems like they'd get the really good food, or the really strange food, or the really good, strange food. Knowing what it would be like to grow up royal would be great, and I want those stories some day, but I can't do anything with those stories unless they're really juicy. I'm betting that it just wasn't as fun as it sounds and you aren't going to be married off to a neighboring prince to consolidate your kingdom's power."

 

She paused, letting that one run back through her own ears. "....are you going to be married off to a neighboring prince? Because if so, never mind on the food, we can talk about food later."

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Veronica

 

Veronica continued to focus on the road as they began to travel south on the highway along the west bank of the Nile.  Soon the Great Pyramids of Giza began to recede into the distance behind them as they continued south.  The crowded city gave way to smaller collections of buildings and many cultivated fields all along about a mile wide strip of land along the Nile before the desert began further to the west. 

 

They had not gone very far south when another group of pyramids rose up above the desert sands.  Though smaller than the Giza Pyramids, these seemed much older, their outer shapes crumbling some.  Veronica glanced over to the west as she spoked once more.  "That is the Abusir Necropolis, with the pyramids of Shaure, Niuserre and Khentkaus II."  She stated before focusing on the road ahead once more. 

 

It was only a few more miles before a large step pyramid came into view to the west, surrounded by a number of other smaller structures.  "There is the Pyramid of Djoser."  Veronica stated, pointing quickly toward the step pyramid.  "That is the start of the Saqqara Necropolis, but Sanakht's Pyramid is toward the southern end, just southwest of the Red Pyramid."

 

Veronica turned off the highway that had been following the Nile, passing through the cultivated fields that lay along its bank before reaching the edge of the town of Saqqara and turning south once more.  Along the way she pointed out a number of other pyramids dotting the desert sands around the town, the pyramids of Pepi I, Pepi II, and Senusret III.  It was as they passed the latter that Veronica turned onto a road headed west, about half a mile south of the Pyramid of Sunusret III.  A little over a mile ahead of them on just to the south was the Red Pyramid.

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