The Curse of the Silver Pharaoh

Something ancient and evil is awakening under the sands of Egypt

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9. Chapter 8

"Doctor!" Donna shouted, trying in vain to make a grab for him.

Squinting against the sand whipping into her face like a swarm of angry wasps, her hands swiped thin air. The Doctor was gone. Sunk like a stone into that strange desert whirlpool.

A figure loomed in the corner of her vision. Donna involuntarily jerked back, as the robot-mummy's huge feet landed with a heavy thump, less than two meters away. She staggered, nearly falling into the hole. The mummy's arms once again reached out for her. She was trapped between it, and the vicious-looking vortex which had swallowed up the Doctor.

Abruptly, the Doctor's hand shot up through the sand. He was holding the sonic screwdriver. As the tip turned blue, it gave a loud buzz, causing the hissing, dusty vortex to cease. Keeping one eye on the robot, she looked into what was now an open pit in the sand. Donna could see nothing but blackness. She couldn't even see the top of the Doctor's head. Sensing a movement behind her, Donna turned around to see the robot's hands reaching for her throat.

"Oh no you don't!" She growled defiantly at the robot.

"Donna! Come on! Jump!" The Doctor's voice commanded her, muffled by the screaming sand. Scowling, Donna looked down into the pit again, eyeing the dark hole dubiously.

"Doctor, I'm tellin' you right now. If I end up breaking every bone in my body," she grumbled, "I am so gonna' kill you!" Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, Donna jumped blindly into the hole.

She promptly landed on something that went "Oompf!" Donna gasped in indignation as a hand groped her bum.

"Oy! Hands!" She shouted, batting the wandering hand away.

"Geth. Oarf. M'lach!" Came the Doctor's strained voice from beneath her.

Donna quickly rolled off of him. "Did you just curse at me in alien?"

"No." He replied tersely, "I never swear. Well, hardly ever. Well...never out loud, anyway. I was only telling you to get off me.

"Oh. Erm—you alight?"

"I'm fine, no worries. Are you OK, Donna?"

"Never better. Only, if you weren't so skinny, I might've had a softer landing."

"You humans! What's this obsession you lot have with body weight?" He whinged, raising an eyebrow.

Dusting himself off and rubbing the sand out of his hair, the Doctor shot her a cheeky grin. "Glad you're all in once piece, though. Death by Donna. Doesn't quite have the same dramatic ring to it, as 'death by Dalek."

All of the sudden, sand began to trickle from above them. Brushing more of the grit from his hair, the Doctor backed up and glared up at the hole. Though sunrise was near, a huge bulky form was hovering over the open space, blocking out most of the light.

"Er—I think we might be having some unwanted company. That robot's being used as a beater of sorts. Driving us towards whatever's at the end of that passage, there."

Once again palming his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor used it to light a torch that was hanging on the wall. In seconds, Donna realized that they were in some sort of underground chamber, with a single, dark tunnel at one end.

"You mean, somebody wanted us down here? What for?"

"Call it a hunch, but I've a feeling that this will lead us to an ancient tomb. Quite possibly, the very one Professor Havensworth was so excited about." The Doctor said, heading forward with the torch in his hand. "That hole didn't just open up by itself. It was triggered by a very sophisticated corona positrometer switch. Beautiful workmanship! Not something your average human could get from their local DIY shop. At least, not for another forty thousand years, give or take."

"Alien technology? In an ancient Egyptian tunnel?"

"Yeah, I know." The Doctor said, shrugging as if this were old news to him. Which it was, of course.

"So, some of those crazy theories on the Internet were right? I mean, the one's about the pyramids being build by aliens."

As they walked on, side by side, he suddenly flashed Donna a delighted grin. "Those UFO people aren't the mob of nutters they've been portrayed to be. OK, well, some of them are. Still, Donna. You're experiencing a side of ancient Egypt no tourist will ever see. How hip is that?"

"Uh-huh. Very jazz." A not quite so enthused Donna agreed. "But, if what you say is true, why go to all the trouble of bringing us down here? After hiding away for a few thousand years, why reveal all this alien stuff now? "

I dunno'. I think maybe someone—or something, somewhere up ahead, wants to meet us."

"Or kill us." Donna shook her head doubtfully.

Just then, a loud thump reverberated through the tunnel behind them. Giving a resigned sigh, Donna said, "Like that A&E reject back there, for instance?"

The Doctor glanced back and started to open his mouth.

"Don't say it, Doctor. I know the drill. At least traveling with you, I never have to worry about dieting."

Holding the flickering torch over his head, the Doctor ran alongside her as they pelted off down the passageway.

"And, you're getting a free preview of London's Olympic torch run."

"A mob of beautiful, fit people running through the streets." She said as she huffed along. "What'dya wanna' bet they'd take a pass on doin' that, if they had a killer robot chasing them?"

The two of them skidded to a halt as they came to a T-junction in the passage. Donna kept glancing over her shoulder nervously, as the robot-mummy's heavy footsteps came closer and closer. Donna dodged towards the right hand tunnel, only to be stopped by the Doctor grabbing onto her.

"What is it with you and hands?" She shouted angrily, looking almost ready to deck him.

"Whoa! Careful, Donna. One of these may be a false passage. Booby trapped to ward off tomb robbers."

"Oh, blinking typical. Which way, then?" Donna asked, only somewhat mollified. "And I wouldn't take too much time thinking about it. That thing back there isn't chasing us, cos' it wants to sell us some post cards."

The decision was made for them. Another robot-mummy came lurching out of the dark, in the passage to the right. It charged at them. Quickly, the Doctor thrust his flaming torch into the rags binding the mummy robot. Nothing happened.

"Wrappings impregnated with fire retardant. In compliance with Intergalactic Health and Safety Regs. I should've known." He muttered crossly.

He quickly thumbed a switch on the sonic, and thrust it out before him. It gave off a bone-shaking vibrating noise, causing dirt to trickle down from the ceiling.

"Oy! Watch it!" Donna shouted in alarm.

The sonic screwdriver's insistent noise also caused the robot-mummy to shake violently. Smoke began leaking from under the wrappings. Abruptly, it stiffened and fell forward onto its face, its massive head nearly missing the Doctor's trainers.

At the same time this happened, lights came on in the left side tunnel. Torches automatically flared up, one by one, all along its length, illuminating the darkness.

"Left it is, then." The Doctor shrugged.

"Wait! How do you know that way's not the trap?"

"Er—I don't."

"Well, that's reassuring, ta."

"You could always stay here, Donna. And buy a post card for your mummy from a...mummy."

"Word of advice, Doctor. Don't give up your day job. Come on, then. We'd better leg it before you can think of any more bad jokes."

Less than ten minutes later, the two of them came to another split in the tunnel. Breathing heavily, Donna ,suddenly feeling woozy, leaned against the wall. The Doctor was beside her in a flash, his brow creased with concern.

"You alright, Donna?"

"Yeah, fine. Just...need...to...get...my...breath." She panted.

"I'm sorry, Donna. I should have noticed. It's the air down here. It's stale. And there's not much of it. All those years of wind and erosion, probably caused the sand to cover most of the original ventilation shafts. You rest yourself, Donna. Take slow, deep breaths. I'll take a few readings with the sonic. Try to figure out which way we go from here so we can—"

"—You go to your right, this time...Doctor." Said a booming, commanding voice.

The deep, gravelly voice seemed to come from everywhere...and yet, nowhere. Its sound filled the passageway.

Donna and the Doctor looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Donna sighed and pushed herself upright. She took his hand and gave the Doctor a wan smile. "Well, you heard the man. Looks like we've landed ourselves a tour guide."

They carefully walked into the passage. As they went along, it became more and more elaborately decorated. The roughly dug out walls gave way to stone blocks covered with plaster. They were splashed with huge murals. The designs varied. Some depicted scenes of everyday Egyptian life, while others gave praise to Pharaoh. Painted in vivid shades of red, blue, green and yellow, they looked almost as new as if they'd been painted yesterday.

"It's beautiful!" Donna gasped with surprise and pleasure. "I've never seen anything like it."

"It's good, isn't it?" The Doctor agreed.

They turned a corner and suddenly found themselves in a small chamber piled high with gold and ancient treasures.

"That, however...not so much." Donna muttered, making a face.

Sitting there before them, on a golden chair mounted on a raised platform, was a tall, very pale man. He was dressed in a long skirt and sash, elaborately woven with gold and dark blue threads. His feet were encased in golden, gem-studded sandals. Around his neck was a wide gold collar, decorated with lapis, ruby, onyx and emerald stones.

His head though, was what Donna was having difficulty with. That was quite unlike anything she'd ever seen before The man's head was silver and domed, with the white and crimson coils of the brain clearly showing through the front. His face was hidden behind a silver mask, a grotesque parody of a human face.

"What is it, Doctor?" Donna whispered, almost recoiling with disgust from the sight.

"A Cyber-king." The Doctor said in a low, grim tone. "It's called a Cyber-king, Donna."

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