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Egyptian Escapade


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September the 5th


Egypt. Land of culture, history, and Gods. 


And right now, political upheaval was rife. But this is where Doctor Zero's experiments had started, back decades ago into the cold war. It seemed that whenever Doctor Zero and the Sleeper where involved, politics was a storm. 


Between Synapse and Foreshadow, the trail had twisted, turned, and obscured. But it had lead here, Cairo. 


And in particular, a Professor Zaki. Professor of history and politics, who had looked most carefully at President Nasser's allegiance with the Soviet Union. He had strong suspicions that the Soviets - and Zero in particular - had used Egyptians as guinea pigs in developing Darwin X


And in some sweaty coffee shop in a dusty Cairo street, he waited for the pair...

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Dee Farrington made her way down the Cairo streets, doing her best to avoid attention.  The Englishwoman was dressed more conservatively than would be normal, wearing a pair of dark blue jeans and a loose, khaki button up short sleeved blouse over a white T-shirt.  In addition, she wore a headscarf, which wrapped loosely around her neck, along with a pair of sunglasses. 


Dee's trail to Egypt had been a long one, as she had spent a fair bit of time over the last several months since the Winter Olympics trying to follow up on what she had glimpsed from the Sleeper.  Mainly it had resulted in lots of dead ends or cold trails.  But between her and Erick (who had been conducting his own investigations when he could), there had been just enough uncovered to lead them to Egypt, and the man waiting at the quiet coffee shop in this ancient city.


<"As-salamu alaykum Professor.">  Dee stated in perfect Egyptian Arabic as she came up to the table where the man sat.  <"I hope you have not been waiting too long?">

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Professor Zaki looked up from his coffee into the eyes of Dee. 


"<I did not know you could speak such good Arabic, madam>" he replied graciously, gesturing her to a seat. 


"<These are difficult times for our country>" he said, almost apologetically, before switching to almost equally fluent French. 


"<Do you speak French as well? I would prefer this language. What we talking about are not for idle ears that could overhear us. Many speak a little English. And besides, English is a language that could raise suspicion in these turbulent times>" he explained. 


"<Egypt is a land in flux, as I am sure you know. A time of shadows, whispers on one hand, and revolutions on the other. I fear the people are tired of it>" he said, stirring his coffee. It was thick, black, and aromatic, full of richness and bitterness. 


"<Tell me, madam, what do you know of Darwin-X?>" he asked, straighforwardly. 

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Erick walked up shortly after Dee and the professor had been discussing.  Erick had donned a button down white shirt and dark jeans.  His eyes covered by a pair of dark sunglasses.  Erick's Summer had been spent tracking old Soviet pet projects when he could find the time.  Looking for any underground signs of the Sleeper and the Doctor's criminal doings.  At least the part of the Summer not filled with getting his bachelor's and attending to the local villains in Freedom City.  Leaving him immensely grateful to the fact that Dee's own investigation was ongoing while they were communication.


"<As-salamu alaykum Professor.  Apologies for my tardiness, the market was more difficult to navigate through than I expected.  So if I caught the tail end right, perhaps I should begun with Bonjour?>"  Erick extended his hand out to shake the professor's before sitting down next to Dee.  He only gave the British woman a curt nod.  Not wanting to accidentally attract the wrong kind of attention by seeming overly familiar in public.

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Dee took a seat when the professor had gestured toward it. She gave him a small understanding nod as he mentioned the troubles in the country, and the replied to his change in languages in near fluent French. <"French will be just fine.">

When Erick arrived, she glanced up at him, giving him a small nod in greeting. I hope it was not because you felt the need to run down every pickpocket in the market. She mentally teased the costume vigilante as she focused her attention back on Professor Zaki. <"I am afraid not as much as we would like. We know that it was part of an old Soviet project to try to reliably create metahumans, developed by a man known as Doctor Zero. There were a number of trials of the process, but that it never proved stable enough for widespread use.">

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Zaki ordered another thick gloopy coffee for Erick. 


"<I hope you like coffee down here. Rich and powerful. Like Egypt once was>" he sighed sadly. Given the brownouts and infrastructure chaos of the last year or two, his sadness was not undeserved. 


The coffee was indeed good. Thick, powerful, aromatic, in a street vendor way. Zaki clearly knew the nooks and crannies of Cairo.


"<Doctor Zero. Ah yes. You know how he got his name? Most think it is because of his famous weapon, the Cold Gun he uses. No. He is patient Zero. From his blood, his DNA, Darwin-X was synthesised. It is a highly unstable, dangerous virus. It forces the body to evolve, you see? But evolution is a blind watchmaker. In nearly every case, the mutations were lethal. Even when they were not lethal, they created monsters>"


"<But with superhumans and supersoldiers running around, every Government in the world wanted their own army. Superhumans are an arms race, just like everything else God and science brings forth. So, despite the risks, despite the horrors, Darwin-X kept popping up. The Soviets had the virus, Nasser had the connections. And Egypt had non Russian test subjects>" he sighed. 


"<I don't know the Politics. I don't want to go digging either. And I would advise you to avoid that road too. But I do know that Egypt acquired the unrefined Darwin X and used it...>"

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I only run down the good ones.  They make good eyes on the streets, after you wrangle their stolen goods from them.  Erick responded half seriously.  He nodded along as the professor explained more about the origin of Darwin X.  It was unnerving to hear.  Yet oddly fascinating at the same time.


The man wasn't only Doctor Zero, but patient zero as it were.  It wasn't that he had refined the athletic serum in such a way to prevent death.  Erick postulated body was already immune to the the risks.  However,  the story only reinforced how Zero couldn't be left to his own devices.  With such a high body count already it would only increase.  Especially with the few survivors that possibly existed.


"<I can't promise anything as far as keeping my nose out of the politics is concerned.  But if Darwin X is floating around in Egypt.  Well then, it might just might have to mysteriously go missing.>"  Erick took a sip of the warm goopy coffee.  It was warm comfort in a glass.  Albeit on an already warm day.

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Dee listened as Professor Zaki gave a brief outline of the Cold War superhuman arms race and Egypt's part in it all. The young Englishwoman was all too familiar with the lengths that some governments would go to try and develop superpowered agents. After all, she was the product of a revived Cold War era program, and the same process had cost her twin sister her sanity.

Pushing those thoughts back into her mind, Dee focused on the present. <"So, where would one look if they wanted to learn more about the testing of Darwin X that took place here?"> She asked, deciding it would be best to just get to what they hoped would be a promising lead.

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Zaki took a long sip of his coffee, without meeting eye contact. 


"Unfortunately, I am an historian, not a spy" he explained, gazing at the bright sky. "Which means I know the past, not the present. Still, history is the road to the future, is it not?" he asked, softly. 


"Truth is, I do not even know if my country has any more of the cursed virus. Even if it has, does my country know of it, or has it been lost in the to and fro of government over the last decades?" he asked. 


"But perhaps I can give you clues. Perhaps I can point you in the right direction" he smiled softly, turning his attention back to the two heroes and enjoying another sip of tar. 


Just then...


Erick had one of his visions. A snap of rifle fire, and Professor Zaki's chest flowering with blood. A clean shot, through the heart, just where he was sitting. 

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American Football wasn't Erick's sport of choice.  It had the production values sure.  But it didn't require the need for absolute perfection that Erick liked to hold himself too.  Looking at him sprawling across the table to tackle Zaki to the ground could have fooled anyone.  The only thing missing before he speared the professor to the ground was a three point stance.  Regardless he was just as ready to pick the man back up so they could attempt and make their getaway.


The great thing about having Dee nearby.  He didn't have to go to lengths to explain his actions.  He wasn't going to go to lengths to make more people privy to his powers or identity.  But, there were clear benefits.  Sniper, vision.  Erick  recanted as his body continued to obscure the professors own.  "I think we'll have to wait on those clues."  Erick replied slipping back into English in the excitement.

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"What the devil are you doing?" demanded Zaki as Erick tackled him. Thick Egyptian coffee went flying, ruining Zaki's suit and Ericks threads together. The Dry Cleaning Bill would be considerable. 




The sniper bullet was silenced, but even so - Erick was ready for the sound, and Erick heard it. The Coffee jar on the table went flying, a neat hole right through it, ejecting coffee in a spiral as it tumbled to the wall. 


Zaki put two and two together fast. 


"A Sniper? But...how? Who could have known?" he gasped, his heart racing. They where hardly out of danger yet. The Sniper was still active, presumably (from the angle of the shot) on the Rooftop somewhere. 


Crack Crack...two more bullets. 

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Dee had just registered Erick's message about snipers when he had already tackled Professor Zaki, just before the first bullet punctured the coffee pot.  The Englishwoman rolled out of her chair and onto the ground as well as the second two bullets cracked by.

<"Two snipers actually.">  She commented, sticking with French.


Then her eyes began to glow red with psychic energy as she reached out with her mind toward the awning over the coffee shop.  The red psychic energy surrounded the awning as well, as it was pulled free from the wall, Dee's mind moving it into position to at least obscure them from the snipers' direct line of sight.


<"We need to move.">  She added as she picked herself up and prepared to run towards a side street away from either sniper.

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<"You don't have to tell me twice.">  Erick called out before picking himself back up with the professor.  It was time for a long distance sprint through the busy Cairo streets.  Definitely Erick's idea of a vacation.  Reaching into his pocket Erick actually took the time to pull out a few Egyptian pounds.  Wading them up so as to leave them behind when the trio left the area.


<"Can't forget to tip for good service.  Everyone ready?">  Erick assumed it was a rhetorical question as his legs readied themselves to jettison forward.  One arm clutching onto the back of the professor's shirt tightly.  Staying to the side the sniper was shooting from.  Ready to take the bullet in the professor's stead.  But hoping to avoid that little bit of uncomfortableness.

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"What are you doing, man? This is no time to pay a tip!" said a shocked but impressed Zaki as Erick dutifully paid his way. 


Crack Crack Crack Crack...


The bullets rained freely now, shattering masonry, furniture, and in one case exploding a porcelain tea pot. But thanks to Synapse's quick thinking, the snipers had lost the bead. They fired anyway, thudding through the awning, but they were firing blind. 


"Yes, yes! Time to beat a hasty retreat, as the English say!" said Zaki following Erick's lead. He was a man of sixty, yet still lean and in good shape. Whilst his reflexes where slow, he was able to run. 


Zaki, Erick, and Dee ran into the nearest side street. It was cramped and dirty, with barely elbow room, but it was out of sniper range. Or at least was for the moment. the street was dingy and had crates, rubbish, and a hungry rat to decorate it. Not the finest site in Cairo, but not the worst either. 

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Dee followed up behind the professor, keeping the awing in place until the trio had made their way into the narrow side street.  The Englishwoman then released her telekinetic hold on the awning, allowing it to fall to the ground back by the table they had been sitting at.  As she did so, her eyes stopped glowing as well.


<"We should keep moving, put a bit more distance between us and the snipers and then find a place to get out from the open.">  She added, not wanting to wait for the snipers to try to relocate...or call in any backup that might be nearby.

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A short while later...


Zaki knew the streets of Cairo well, to their advantage. He lead them through side alleys and cramped passes, until he pointed to a Mosque. 


"There! We will be safe there, at least! One cannot bring Rifles into the house of God!" he said, determinedly. 


The Mosque itself was not big or grand, although like most Mosques in Cairo, it was elegant and had some beautiful artistry to it. The building itself was in between call to prayer and relatively quiet, with maybe a dozen or so worshippers in it. 


"Stay here for a while. Come, pray if you wish, to whatever Gods you hold dear, but be respectful. Foreigners are welcome, but draw attention. For now, be Muslim, or attract more attention than would be wise" he nodded, encouraging the two heroes. 


Inside, it was cool and pleasant and calm. A welcome atmosphere after being shot at. 


With women and men apart, Zaki directed his conversation to Erick. 


"As I was saying. I would start on the Nile itself. Heading south. The Nile is the source of life for Egypt, and whilst poetic, is also true. South, on the river, an old military base. Still guarded...but, in these days, such things are badly accounted for..."

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Erick wasn't sure how well he could blend in.  Blonde hair wasn't exactly common in Egypt.  He was nominally Catholic, personally never attending mass in his adult life.  Leaving him with a bit of uncertainty of what counted as inconspicuous within the confines of a house of worship like the mosque.  So he simply relied upon the foreigners being welcome part of the instruction to fill in all the blanks for any curious onlookers.  


Luckily the location was indeed inviting.  On another day, it might've served as a nice place to visit.  Instead they found it serving not as a tourist stop, but security against the hail of gunfire.  I think that was a record in how fast it's taken me to get shot at while loafing about.


Erick listened silently as the professor explained where they could possibly find their first lead.  And with it the first opportunity for an international incident.  "A guarded military base.  I guess I haven't broken into  an active one of those yet."

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Later...on a nile cruise...


It was undeniably beautiful. The setting sun over the Nile. 


Zaki had insisted on hiring a boat. Somewhere inbetween a large speedboat and a small yacht, it moved slowly down a slow river, motoring quietly. The boat had essentially a staff of two. The captain - a big burly man with the most magnificent thick black moustache anyone had seen, juxtaposed with a bald head. His grin was as wide as his moustache. And the - well, a combination of butler and cook and general steward, a short man of average build, thick black hair combed back and a thing for bow ties. He was a decent cook too, serving up an Egyptian feast of meats, vegetables and fruit for dinner, washed down with tea. 


The boat made good headway down the Nile, whilst Zaki started to recover his nerve. 


"Forgive me my friends, I am not accustomed to being shot at" he said, wiping his brow from the sweat of heat and anxiety. At least the Nile cooled the air to a most pleasant clime. 


"Darwin X was stored, I believe, in a military building, very hush hush, top secret thing, Several miles south of here" he explained. "The building was heavily fortified then. Now, I believe it to be abandoned. However, appearances may be deceptive. For one, it seems our interest has attracted attention...."

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Dee was sitting at a table set up at the aft deck of the boat, looking out at the passing shoreline as they began their trip down the Nile, sipping some of the tea prepared by the ship's cook. She still had her headscarf and sunglasses on, though had retrieved her bag which contained her costume before they had started the trip.

"Bloody wonderful, another old ruin of the Cold War to explore." She commented as Professor Zaki described their destination. "But then, the last one was not completely abandoned either, despite its outward appearance."

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"I fear it may be more than just a relic, as you say" said a concerned Zaki. "But also, I fear it may be more than the Cold War at stake here. The last decades of Egypt have been filled with turmoil and political fluidity. Egypt is proud, and Nasser was proud. Allegiances may have changed, but I suspect that Egypt wished to procure the virus for itself. To experiment by itself, and to create soldiers for itself, not just for the Glorious Soviet Union. Conspiracies are like an onion, yes? You peel back one layer, you find another..."


And then...


Once more, Foreshadow / Erick had a vision. Further down the Nile, when the sun had set, being just a warm glaze on the horizon. There was silence, there was shadows. The gentle rock of the waters against the boat. 


And a hand reaching from the waters to the side of the boat. A mottled, green black and amphibian hand...

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Erick had made sure to bring his costume and escrima sticks aboard in a travel suitcase.  Now finding  himself leaning forward against the railing of the boat he looked around while listening to Zaki's warning.  It momentarily felt as if they were tourist just taking in the sights.  Even if their course was going to be a little off the grid.  There was a warning tingle in the back of his head before the vision.  It was only by luck and a timely withdrawal that he didn't fall into the water after his vision started.  The sensory deprivation that occured behind every vision leaving him content that he wasn't the one piloting the craft.  


"Well that's worrying"  Erick openly muttered.  Seemingly speaking his opinion on Egypt attempting to procure its own super soldiers back in the day.  In reality his concern lied with the contents of his vision.  And as nightfall approached their pending invader.  Deep Ones...no weird nile swamp creatures?  Could be the oddest looking ghillie suit in existence.

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"Bloody wonderful, the start of another superhuman arms race."  Dee muttered at the professor's comments.  "And how many dead or maimed test subjects is Egypt willing to pile up to achieve its goals?"  An old anger simmered in the Englishwoman, although she knew she should not be surprised of what lengths a government was willing to go in order to try to achieve reliable superpowered agents. 


She was pulled away from this by Erick's mental message.  She had noticed he seemed to freeze for a moment and then recover, presumably having received another of his visions.  Swamp creatures?  What are you bloody talking about?  What did you see?

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Forewarned is Forearmed. Especially with Foreshadow. 


Without Ericks vision, it would have been silent. It would have been unseen in the azure low Sun and its long black and beautiful shadows. 


One hand on the side of the boat, then another. Then, it slithered on board, silent and sleek. 


He was short, maybe five feet. And emaciated too, with spindly arms and spindly legs. But he had the limbs of a snake, tight, fast, like whips. He was hairless, and wet, and with big black eyes. His feet were broad and webbed, and he had gills on the side of his neck. 


His speech was distorted and bubbling, and in a corrupted form of Egyptian. 


"<The Nile is ours, Zaki...we have been warned...you shall not take us...the Nile is ours....>"


And with that, he leapt, lithely at Zaki, as three other frogmen started slithering on board, to the tune of screams from the Captain and the Steward...

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"Does that answer your question?"  Erick exclaimed to Dee. He had seen weird before, but mutant frogmen was up there on the list.  Scaling the railing with ease Foreshadow would run across the boat with grace.  Launching himself off the thin metal rod and flipping through the air on an axis to try and bring down both his feet from above onto one of the amphibious creatures.  It moved out the way before his feet could find their target.  Actually.  Do they count as mammalian or amphibian?


Erick's escrima sticks were down below.  But that wouldn't deter him.  Arms raised into a defensive posture Erick watched the creatures momentarily.  Ready to pounce once given ample opportunity.  He knew Dee was more than ready to handle things as well.  Having seen her first hand in action before.

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The Frogmen were nothing like the bloated athletes of Russia that Foreshadow and Synapse had tussled with. Instead, they seemed to have Doctor Zeros quickness and speed. Because they were quick, and they were fast. The Slithering frogman shifted backwards like a limbo dancer or a snake, and them dived into the water overboard. 


The other thee Frogmen jumped on Zaki. He was an older gentleman, but still  vigorous. But whatever strength he has was nothing compared to the Frogmen, whose limbs, whilst scrawny, were wiry like steel. They handled him easily, and threw him overboard like a ragdoll. 


The Captain of the ship and the Steward were half tempted to join him in diving. But if truth be told, onboard with the Frogmen was probably safer than in the Nile with them...or more...

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