Chapter One: The Adventure of the Living Statues of Tutemphotep
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
I could go on and on about it, and maybe sometime soon I will. But it's enough to say, The Adventure Team was over. The advent of World War II had divided us up by our differences, which had been exactly the thing that we had thought to be the glue that held us together. What was really sad was that not only was the Adventure Team done, so were its individual members. Each one of us was a scientist/adventurer, with skills that we wanted to use to help the Allied war effort. But the Allies hadn't seen it that way. Maybe because we're all kind of eccentric. Or maybe because of the company we kept: each other. Anyway, the Adventure Team was done, and we were on our own, and that's not what we wanted, but that's how it was.
And it was infuriating, because we knew the other side better than most of the policy honchos in the big white buildings in Washington and London, and we knew the Axis had people just as talented as we, but with no moral core; and backed by the insatiable war machines that were rolling over Europe, China, and Southeast Asia, it was easy to see a day when democracy would be a footnote.
But none of us are any good at staying out of trouble, which is how it happened that in the Spring of 1942, as the Americans and Brits were starting to square off with the Germans and Italians in North Africa, archaeologist and former Adventure Team "land adventurer" Ted Phillips was on a dig with his wife Satsumi.
Ted had used legends and ancient metaphorical stories to track down the real location of the tomb of a magician feared by all in his day, some three thousand years ago, for his reputed ability to "make stone live." Today his dig team was on the edge of opening the long-sealed tomb.
"I hope you're excited, Ted, you've worked so hard for this." Satsumi worried about the funk he'd been in since the dissolution of the Adventure Team.
"Oh, sure," Ted replied. "It's great. What I'm really excited about is this incredible native crew."
"They're professionals and N'giri is as knowledgeable as any archaeologist."
Satsumi returned to the tent, but turned to look at her man. She could tell part of him was missing. It was true for her, too. A trained doctor from California, she'd been an important member of the Adventure Team. But after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, her parents and younger siblings were trundled off to "resettlement camps." Married to a white citizen, Satsumi was allowed to go free, but a shadow was cast on Ted. It was best they both left the country, but both did so with frustrations and regrets.
Just then, N'giri came running to the camp.
"We've opened it, Ted. We've found a narrow passage way that seems to go all the way down to the chamber. It's a pretty small tomb. I think Tutemphotep was not a very popular fellow." N'giri spoke with a very precise British accent.
"Great news, N'giri. Satsumi, come on, this going to be fun!" Satsumi heard the energy in Ted's voice and felt a boost of joy.
Ted scanned the site from above.
"This is an astounding job, N'giri. Please tell the men."
"Well," Ted said, "Let's get to it!"
"The passage on the left appears to go down the furthest. I'd advise that route," N'giri said.
"Looks right to me," Ted agreed. "Let's get the rope."
Supported by N'giri's strong back, Ted begins his careful descent into the small opening.
Within minutes, Ted is in! His flashlight shines on almost too much information for a trained expert in the ancient world to take in in just a glance. One thing is clear: others have been down here before him. And they never left. "Satsumi!" he yells up. "Get down here! You've got to see this!"
"This is astounding, honey," Ted says, his mind racing over his words. "Look at this... shields from different periods of Roman history, a thousand years after Tutemphotep was buried. And look at their skulls! Set up like they are on display!"
"Who could have done this?" Satsumi wondered. "Were there guards or something?"
"The legend was that he was guarded by his living stone army... these must be them. He was supposed to have a stone that allowed him to bring them to life just by willing it."
"I'd love to have that stone," Satsumi said. "I'd will you to take the trash out and do the dishes."
"Ha, ha," Ted replied.
Satsumi has been on these digs long enough that, even though she is a general practice doctor, she's developed a bit of a speciality in the cause of death of VERY old bodies. But these weren't hard to figure out. "They were literally ripped apart," she says. A chill ran through them both as the flashlights shone on the gold-encrusted stone men.
Something catches Ted's eye. "Here's Tutemphotep, I assume," Ted observes. "Hm, there's something on the ground by that stone..." As he reaches for it, there is a commotion above. It sounds like--gunfire! Then shouting and then, coming down a rope ladder--Luftwaffe soldiers!
"Dr. Phillips, I presume," the oberst in charge says in perfect English. "I have followed your exploits with interest. And the lovely Dr. Satsumi Phillips. Your photographs do not do you justice, my dear."
"I'm not your dear, you asshole," Satsumi replied.
"Who are you and what are you doing here? There's no fighting for a hundred miles," Ted demands.
"I am Oberst--Colonel--Johann Veidt, and I have been sent on a very special mission. It was simple: observe you, and when you have accessed the tomb, capture you and if necessary kill you."
"Why?" Satsumi demands. "What's so special about us--and this dig?"
"We have reason to believe the legends of the stone army, and the stone that controlled it, are true. And the Fuhrer himself has sent me to retrieve these items. Your pistol, please, Dr. Phillips. You are quite an adventurer, and we don't want you getting any ideas."
"Very well, Oberst Viedt," Ted says meekly. But unknown to anyone, Ted was betting good money that the object he had picked up was the very stone that had to power to make stone live! At that moment he concentrated all his will into the object in his right hand, feeling a bit like Dr. Frankenstein telling his creature "Live! LIVE!"
And sure enough--they do!
Ted pulls Satsumi to the side while the long-immobile statues spring to life like trained athletes. He's not sure if they know that Ted's in charge of them or not, so he takes no chances.
Unknown to those down below, things have not gone so smoothly for the luftwaffe soldiers stationed above. N'giri and his men, it turns out, are quite capable of taking care of themselves.
The Fallschirmjager unit supporting Veidt has found itself in a tight situation...
... and compounding it is the sudden arrival of the Cavalry, in the form of a group of desert rats who picked up the trail of Veidt's unit in the desert.
The Aussie and the Brit have followed Veidt's company for fifty miles, curious to find out what they were up to so far from the war.
The dig site has become a battlefield!
The desert rats are joined by a single displaced member of the French Foreign Legion, who has disavowed the now Nazi-controlled Legion and struck out on his own.
German paratroopers use the trench for protection.
Even under devastating fire, the Legionnaire is almost preternaturally calm, holding his horse in check as he aims his Lebel rifle and fires with deadly accuracy.
The desert rats and N'giri's dig workers join forces.
His horse shot out from under him, the Legionnaire joins the Aussie
In the midst of the battle a new element emerges after millennia underground... Apparently drawn by the sounds of battle, the golden statues of Tutemphotep enter the light of day and begin to wreak havoc!
"Augh!" The machine gun abruptly stops its withering fire.
The trench provides no safety, and weapons appear useless against this unstoppable enemy.
"What the hell?" The Brit asks, but N'giri smiles wryly. "Tutemphotep seems unwittingly to have come to our aid," he responds.
Veidt and his henchman emerge from the underground chamber, shaken but miraculously unscathed; they were saved only because the golden statues were drawn by the sounds of the battle. It is obvious to him that he is losing the day, and he signals to his driver, who has cleverly stayed far from the fray, to aid their escape.
But Ted and Satsumi have emerged as well, and have no intention of letting them get away. Ted has recovered his M1911 Colt and fires at Veidt....
... hitting Veidt's assistant instead.
At that moment, Veidt's driver pulls up, even as Ted ducks for cover as a German fires at him. As Veidt gets away, the last German soldier is ripped to shreds by a statue.
The battle done, Ted drops the magic stone and the golden statues collapse to the ground like unstrung marionettes. Their allies run down to the dig site to survey the results and to goggle at the now inanimate stone statues. "Legends do not speak well of Tutemphotep," N'giri says, "but he was a great help to us today."
"That's for damn sure," the Legionnaire says in a surprisingly American accent.
Satsumi examines the fallschirmlager underneath the statue. If he's alive, she'll save him. But he isn't. Ted examines the scene. "Well," he says thoughtfully, "All this raises a lot of questions but the one I'm most interested in right now is..."
"... What the hell are you doing here, Doug?"
"Nice to see you, too, Ted," the Legionnaire replies. "As for why I'm here, well, it's a long story."
"I'm all ears, buddy," Ted replies. "The truth is, I am damn glad to see you--especially now!"