by Vendikarr DeWuff
“For the last time, no! This is Carter Hall’s expedition, and I work for him. I am not making any arrangements for the sale of artifacts.” There was a pause as the man on the two-way radio listened to the caller, then he shouted, “No!” and slammed down the radio. Talking to himself, he said, “Damn that man. Still thinks I owe him! Stupid marriage to his daughter ends, and he still has the nerve to call himself dad.”
He walked away from the tent to check on the status of the dig. Musaf felt confident they would find it today. But then he had been saying that the last four days; eventually he would be right.
The man thought again about his ex-father-in-law. That man and his quest for artifacts –always going on about the tokens of power used by ancient Egyptians, just waiting to be found. Yes, there had been isolated cases, like his employer. But those artifacts were myth.
He pulled out a pad reminding him to check in with Carter’s son. He had not heard from Carter Hall since the message came, telling him to start the expedition seeing as Dan was sick and he was involved in Hawkman business. His damnable super-heroics would be the end of Carter some day, he had thought then.
And when the Crisis on Infinite Earths ended, Carter had been injured and was off in the land of those bird-people being cured. He hoped they would find it today, because it would surely help Carter’s spirits.
As the man walked to the pit, Musaf came running toward him screaming, “We have found it! We have found it!”
“Calm down, Musaf, what did we find?”
“The vault! Thick stone slab. Diggers struck it about thirty minutes ago, and we began clearing it. It appears to be the vault-covering mentioned in the legends.”
“Well, let’s take a look.”
They climbed into the pit, and sure enough it was a cover stone. The diggers were using pry bars, trying to lift the stone. It began to budge, just slightly, then more, and a little more. He grabbed a pry bar himself, and they moved the stone enough for a man to enter.
Musaf asked, “Do you want me to send a digger ahead, in case of traps?”
“No. Carter was always the first one down the hole, and he always had good luck; I can’t think of any better way to do this than his way. I am going myself.”
Musaf handed him a flashlight, and he strapped on his toolbelt, then tied a rope around his waist.
“Just imagine, Musaf — after all these millenia, the tomb of Kha-ef-re has been found.”
“It’s a great achievement for you,” replied Musaf.
“Not for me — for Carter. I’m just the hired help. But I am glad to do this — glad for the opportunity to show Carter he didn’t make a mistake leaving this excavation in the hands of Jared Stevens.”
With that, he was lowered down into the hole by the diggers.
Jared turned on his flashlight and began to survey the tomb. There were no evident treasures, but plenty of artifacts were seen, such as pottery, ancient tools, and bodies. Upon closer examination, the bodies didn’t appear to have been placed there. They looked like tomb raiders.
“Curious,” said Jared. Then he thought to himself, Robbers don’t normally seal the tomb after themselves.
Jared took out his notebook and pencil and began a rough sketch of the room and its possessions, then looked at the robbers’ bodies.
“Acid. Poor devils fell for one of the oldest tricks.” Jared moved forward, indicating the trap, knowing that acid only happened once.
Checking the walls and floors, he came across a skull, its body several feet away. Jared stopped cold, looking for the trigger. He spied a stone on the floor, slightly raised and moving the length of the corridor. He noted it, stepped over it, and continued.
As Jared moved further into the tomb, he ran across trap after trap, even springing a few. As he continued to map his route, he noticed fewer robbers had ever made it this far.
Finally, he came to a dead end. Knowing one of the walls contained the entrance to the burial chamber, he pulled out his guide to hieroglyphics, muttering that Carter could do this from memory.
He translated the words, which basically said that only the worthy may enter, and it indicated a pull switch attached to the torch holder. Jared pulled it, expecting the burial chamber and personal treasure to be behind the wall.
The wall opened, and all the room contained was the sarcophagus. Moving over to it, Jared braced himself and pushed the lid away.
All of a sudden, the room was flooded with a blue light, and Jared felt a searing pain on his chest. The last thing he remembered before losing consciousness was the voice in his head, saying, “You have been found worthy of wielding the power to rid the world of evil. The power of…”
Jared struggled back to consciousness, forcing his eyes to open with some effort. He saw his flashlight nearby, burning dim. He started to rise and felt a jab of pain throughout his head. Stopping, he put his hands to his head and felt the growth of hair on his face.
“A few days’ growth,” he commented to himself. “I’ve been out for a couple of days.” He picked up his flashlight and pulled himself up, then peered into the sarcophagus.
“Empty? I fell for a trap?”
Jared slapped himself upside his head, adding additional fuel to his headache.
“Damn. I let Carter down. This is nothing but a dead end.”
He took a sharp breath and felt something on his chest. He reached down and touched it. It was cool to the touch, and smooth. Jared then walked over to one of the reflecting mirrors used to reflect light into the chamber before it had been sealed.
He looked at himself in the mirror, and the first thing he saw was a tattoo on his face in the image of a scarab, centered over his right eye. Then, looking at his chest, he saw it.
“It’s a damn blue beetle embedded in my chest!” He pulled at it and felt pain radiate throughout his whole body.
And then he remembered.