Crown Infernal

Daniel Jackson

A Town Like Alex?

Part 2

The tomb at El-Maraqi:

Behind the block which formed the back wall of the niche was a short passage which led to a steep, narrow stairway. Before descending, Daniel, with the help of Ashley Vaughan, pushed the block almost back into place. He didn't want to draw attention to his find, but neither did he want to risk becoming trapped.

He was a little dismayed to find that the mechanism for bringing the block back into place from within the side-chamber had rotted away almost entirely. However, it was easy to see how it had worked originally, and he figured that it should be possible to jury-rig it somehow with the equipment they had in the jeep. His experiences on many a mission with S.G.1 team had given him much more confidence in that respect.

The vault beneath the tomb was vast. In the centre stood two parallel stone blocks, about four feet long by a foot high, and around five feet apart. Daniel fished a bright penlight out of one pocket and directed it on the surface of the nearer block. It bore a series of striations, and gold-coloured fragments gleamed under the penlight, suggesting that something heavy and metallic had at some time rested there. A sarcophagus maybe?

It seemed unlikely that it had been removed by tomb robbers as there had been no sign of entry via the side chamber, and no other entrances were apparent. Come to think of it, if the sarcophagus had been carried in by the same route that they had used, it must have been quite a struggle - like getting a grand piano down a spiral staircase. Maybe there was another route that had been bricked up more solidly. Daniel looked around the vault by the light from the lamp on his hard hat. There were a number of caskets inlaid with gold and ivory and turquoises laid on the floor along the back wall. Tomb robbers would hardly have left those.

Ashley had knelt down and was sweeping the dust away from something on the floor with his hand.

"What do you make of these?" he asked.

Daniel joined him, flicking more dust away from some curved lines which looked carved into the stone. He didn't need to uncover much to realize that the lines were large concentric circles centred on the mid-point between the two stone blocks.

~ So that's what happened to it... ~

"What do you think they are?" he responded, avoiding the question.

"I've no idea, though I'm guessing you do?"

But Daniel was already engrossed in the paintings and hieroglyphs on the wall. Their content was substantially more interesting than that of the side-chamber. He took many photographs and made copious notes. Then he had that 'Eureka!' moment. Clearly delineated on the wall nearest to where the head of the sarcophagus would have rested was a familiar pair of cartouches:

Suten net ( Setep-ka-en-Ra-meri-Amen )| se Ra ( Ah-lek-san-t-res )|

"Wha—? What you found, Daniel?"

Ashley left off what he was doing and came over to see what his colleague was so excited about. He stared at the cartouches.

"So it's true then. This is Alexander the Great's tomb! Wait till the world hears about this!”

"Ah, don't be too hasty, Ash. Alexander's sarcophagus may have rested here, in fact I'm nearly certain it did. Whether his body was in it is Another Matter. And by the looks of it, neither are here now. Make your announcement too soon, and the hordes of academia will be down on you like a pack of wolves— Take it from one who knows," he added wryly.

As he was speaking, he shone his penlight a little lower then quickly copied down the non-standard glyphs beneath the cartouches before Ashley noticed what he was doing. He felt a real heel keeping him in the dark, metaphorically speaking, but he really had no choice. That fact did nothing to salve his conscience though.

"But we can't keep quiet about this - it's just too big." Ashley went on.

"Yes, yes we can. Trust me."

Ashley gave a snort of disgust. "Oh yeah— trust me, I'm an anthropologist... with an alien fixation!"

"Aw, knock it off, Ashley."

"No I won't 'knock it off'. This is the biggest thing that ever happened to me, and you just want to sweep it under the carpet, like it never happened! The way you're acting, it's like Lord Carnarvon telling Howard Carter to seal up Tut-ankh-amun's tomb and keep quiet about it! "

"Oh, so that's it. You're just after the glory."

"And you're not?!"

"No, actually, I'm not. There's more to this than you know - a lot more."

"Yes, because you won't tell me anything!"

"Look, I'll see what I can do when we get back to Alexandria, but it's not up to me, so I'm not making any promises."


Ashley continued to fume as Daniel went on with his inspection of the walls. One small illustration, low down, piqued his interest still further.

It showed a picture of a protective deity standing beside, presumably, Alexander. The figure was that of a cobra with the head of a woman. Daniel recognized her as Renenutet, the 'Nourishing Snake', the cobra goddess of fertility and raising children who gave her protection to Pharaoh in the land of the dead. In the afterlife, she was said to breathe fire.

And then the inscription on the Famine Stele on Sehel Island crawled into his mind:

"Renenutet is in all things. Everything will be brought forth by the million."

~ Yes, I'll just bet they will! Bet you knew Hathor, too... ~

He cringed at the memory.

Famine Stele on Sehel Island

Next, he turned his attention to the caskets. There didn't appear to be any booby traps, but he wasn't taking any chances. He laid down flat, such that he could just reach the nearest casket with his trowel held out at arm's length, watched by a stony-faced Ashley. He signalled to him to take cover, lowered his head and flicked up the catch. Finding that it had not exploded, nor bought down the roof upon him, he breathed a sigh of relief. He really didn't want to die again... He counted to ten several times before getting up and dusting himself off. You just couldn't be too careful. He used the tip of the trowel to pry open the lid and push it back against the wall.

"Oh, boy!" he breathed grimly.

The box contained a number of small ingots of a dull greyish metallic substance.

"What the heck's that?" demanded Ashley in a voice that said, "I'm fed up with you stalling - I don't care what the U.S. government thinks - I want to know! "

Daniel sighed.

"I'm not a hundred per cent certain, but I'm guessing it's naquadah - and I haven't told you that, O.K.?"

"No. Not O.K. Not until you tell me what naquadah is - and what it's for."

"It's a sort of metallic mineral, and it can be used for— for making weapons. And I haven't told you that either. Now we'd better get out of here and seal the whole place up. I need to contact— someone."

"What the hell's so special about another metal for making weapons?"

"Ashley, use your brain for Chrissakes. Do you seriously think I'd be so agitated if it was just used for making better swords?"

"So... what, then?"

"I can't tell you. I've said far too much already. Come on, we've got to go before anyone else finds out about this."

Alex divider

The journey back to Alexandria was not only long, hot, dusty and uncomfortable. The atmosphere between the two men was tense, fraught with pent-up feelings. Every so often, Ashley would launch into his favourite theme. Daniel was thankful that his colleague was driving and so had to pay some attention to the road ahead, which gave him a bit of a break now and again. Mostly he maintained what he hoped was a dignified silence. During the silences, it seemed that Ashley was rehearsing to himself some new variation on the theme.

On one occasion, Daniel was sorely tempted to tell the man to grow up, but managed to bite back the stinging remark. It had occurred to him that while he, Daniel, had been the high-flyer, with Ph.D.s in both anthropology and linguistics, Ashley had plodded along, earth-bound and having to struggle for every achievement. Not that Daniel hadn't worked hard. He had, but his efforts had taken him far further, and his road had been far smoother than Ashley's. Until he began what Ashley referred to as his 'alien fixation' anyway.

"And that's another thing. I saw you pocket a piece of that nack-whatsit. If you get caught with that, you're going to end up in serious shit— Old buddy. The Egyptians take a very dim view of theft never mind removing historical artifacts. You could get your hand chopped off, and I don't want to lose mine as an accessory! And if you're thinking of trying to smuggle it out of the country— Well, forget it, that's all."

"Ah... I won't be smuggling it out; it'll go via diplomatic bag. So-o-o, I'm, er, hoping you will get me an interview with our Ambassador—"

"What—?!" Ashley stood on the brakes, nearly putting Daniel through the windscreen. There but for the grace of seat-belt...

"Er, Ashley, I'd appreciate it if you'd concentrate on driving. This may not be a particularly busy road, but... um."

Breathing heavily like a dragon about to spew a blast of flame, Ashley rammed the jeep into first gear and gunned the gas pedal. In a performance vehicle, it would have left a very satisfying amount of rubber on the road. Eventually, mercifully, he ran out of anything further to say and finished the journey in a thunderous silence.


Back at Ashley's apartment, Daniel quietly took out his lap-top and began typing.

~ I don't know, I go away on holiday and still end up writing reports! ~

He would send it to General Hammond with the highest level of encryption but still wrote the bulk of the text in code. It was just a simple Caesar substitution code but at least it thwarted Ashley's attempts to read over his shoulder. In the end, Ashley gave up and went off into the little kitchen to prepare something to eat. Pity he was out of arsenic...!

'In conclusion,' Daniel typed, 'I would like to request clearance for Ashley (Ashley Stanhope Vaughan, d.o.b. 7/7/72, Gary, Indiana) so that I can tell him something about what I'm doing. It's only thanks to him that I was able to locate the underground vault, and some of our findings belong in the public domain. We'll need someone to liaise with the Egyptian government about the naquadah, and also to sort out what can be made public and what must remain undisclosed. This will be easier to do if he knows the score - or some of it. I'm quite happy to let him take the credit if that's what's required to maintain S.G.C.'s confidentiality.'

When Ashley returned from the kitchen with food, his manner had changed from volcanic to Arctic. Daniel looked at him sheepishly and sighed.

"You know, I'm not working against you here—"


"No. I know it's hard for you - very hard. In the right circumstances, we'd both be out celebrating, right now. I'm as excited about this as you are. Really. And maybe - soon - I can tell you more."

"Soon? This year, next year, sometime, never..."

"Sooner than that, I hope." Daniel gave him a tight smile. "It depends on if and when clearance comes through for you."

Ashley grunted and looked away. Daniel regarded him pensively.

~ Yes, I guess I've given you a bit of a roller-coaster ride - turned your world right upside down. Last week, you were quietly working away on papyri which might have been run-of-the-mill stuff, then I turn up, happen upon the key to an ancient mystery, drag you out into the field, make a find of international importance, then deny you any part of it. I am so sorry, Ashley ~

He shook his head mutely. No point in saying more until he heard from Hammond.

The fifth day of the holiday:

Before breakfast, Daniel checked his e-mail. The time difference meant that General Hammond would have received his report about midday yesterday, so... Against expectation, there was a reply, and not merely an acknowledgement. Yes, Ashley would receive limited clearance, details to follow. Hammond must have called in a few favours to elicit such a rapid response. Daniel suspected he'd been on the red telephone.

Ashley appeared from his bedroom looking like something from the mummy's tomb. Clearly he hadn't slept any too well. Neither had Daniel, but having become inured to snatching sleep as and when, off-world, he was feeling reasonably fresh.

"Got some good news for you, Ash."

Ashley just grunted.

~ Reverting to the Neanderthal - old buddy? ~

"I got a reply to my request for clearance for you."

"And...?" Ashley said, dully.

"Someone pulled a few strings on your behalf, so you have clearance. On a need-to-know basis anyway."

That pulled Mr. Grumpy up short. He looked his incredulity at Daniel who returned him a bland smile.

"Yi-harr!" he crowed.

Daniel was unable to resist the temptation.

"Unfortunately—", he went on, deadpan, "one name will have to be kept out of anything we publish..."

Ashley's face fell ludicrously.

"Ye-es, Ashley, I'm afraid that name is... mine."


Conflicting emotions chased each other across his face - disbelief, triumph, commiseration, guilt... Then they both ended up laughing.

"Okay, so give!"

"Ahh, not yet..."

"Wha-at?! "

"First you have to go to the Embassy and sign a few papers - should have been faxed through by now."

He pulled something from his pocket and tossed it to Ashley.

"You might as well take this with you. Tell them to send it in the next diplomatic bag."

Alex divider

The rest of Daniel's holiday passed in a light-hearted mood. He spent the time that remained either assisting Ashley, the soon-to-be new star in the Egyptological firmament, or getting in a little sight-seeing like an ordinary American tourist. All too soon, he was taxiing along the runway, heading back for the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Looking through his notebook as the plane took off, he stopped at a certain page. He contemplated the sigils from the wall of the hidden vault and wondered where in the galaxy they would take him.

Alex divider

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Crown Infernal