S.P.I.D.E.R. Sindy Cobweb lay on the beach in the French Riviera soaking up the sun, trying to get the chill of her first assignment out of her bones. Arctic Roll Call had taken three weeks to complete out of which two and a half weeks had been spent in routine, inactive surveillance, in temperatures that even a polar bear would have sneezed at. She was still wondering whether she was cut out for the job of a secret agent. It was greatly glorified in fictional works, the prime suspects being the Bond films. It wasn’t sun, sand and sex at all. The job was 95% boredom and 5% danger, there was no glory.
S.P.I.D.E.R. was a new outfit, the W Section of A.R.A.C.N.I.D. (Anarchist Rebellious And Criminal Nonentity Investigation Department) which had a web-work that threaded the entire globe. The W Section had a special licence to thrill.
All of a sudden there was a voice in Sindy’s ear. Funny place for a voice, she thought, it’s usually in my throat. Then she realised that the voice came from the transmitter located in the earpiece of her sunglasses. The voice demanded that she return home tout de suite, which was French Rivierese for as though your derrière was on fire.
Her flight was only delayed nineteen hours but even so her luggage, which had gone via Italy, Dublin, New York, Hawaii, Sydney, Luton and Moscow, arrived in London before she did. With the diplomatic bag, Weeina Mycurry, she quickly whizzed through airport security. The customs officials took no notice as she passed along with various persons carrying two tons of cocaine, a hundred sub-machine guns and nine hundred copies of The Sound of Music. Only when a little old lady with an undeclared bottle of eau de cologne passed did they display any interest.
A fast car had been laid on to sweep her to H.Q. where she had an appointment to see her boss. The first person she saw was the secretary.
“Ah, there you are,” greeted Needapenny. “Glad you’re back.”
It was obvious he had a thing for Sindy but although they had periods of jovial banter laced with innuendo he had about as much chance as making it with all the Spice Girls at the same time. Lou Needapenny had had a promising career as a high court judge cut short when he sentenced an unpaid parking ticket offender to 99 years hard labour. The Law Society decided he was taking his job just a little too seriously and so took his wig away. After this he was packed off to be P (Don Aswell)’s secretary. To Sindy he was definitely a spent penny.
“P will see you now.”
Sindy entered the bookcase lined room, no books just cases, and just went over to P at his desk. He sat grimly overflowing his chair. His nickname of Marrowfat was well earned but no one uttered it in his presence for he could give a nasty bounce when aroused.
“Late again W7,” he grumbled. “Sit down. I have most grave news to impart.”
“Another assignment so soon?”
“The most difficult and dangerous assignment you will ever undertake in your 40 years in the service without looking any older.”
“What’s it all about sir?” asked an anticipatory Sindy, her frost-bitten appendages forgotten.
“What do you know of IC20/20?” P leant heavily on his desk. Fortunately it was reinforced with steel.
“Not much,” admitted Sindy. “It’s a serum being developed to cure short and long-sightedness and eventually, when perfected, blindness itself. It is still at the experimental stage and an extremely ‘hush-hush’ project.”
“Precisely,” agreed P. “So how do you know so much about it?”
“What the eye doesn’t see, or maybe sees but just a bit blurred, the ears may still hear about,” professed Sindy.
“There is obviously a leak,” observed P dryly. “Pillow talk I suppose?”
“Don’t know sir. I haven’t spoken to a pillow in weeks.”
“This is serious W7,” admonished P.
“Sorry sir! Please continue.”
“Last night the experimental serum was stolen. Furthermore, the scientist who invented the stuff, Professor I.C. Nutting has disappeared.”
“Any clues, sir?”
“There is a rumour that this is a joint operation between S.E.P.T.I.C. and S.M.A.S.H. and you know what that means.”
“Yes sir. Co-operation between our two greatest enemies, Ernst Stavros ‘Init’ Blowpipe and Commander Igor A. Smokerskov.”
“Exactly,” confirmed P. “Now you may be wondering why these two would want such a serum for neither are deficient in eyesight; other areas, yes; but not eyesight. Well, you see, this serum produces an off-strain which creates total blindness in seconds when given off in a gaseous form. We have a communiqué‚ which states that unless their demands are met they will start dropping this gas on the major cities of the world.”
“I see. What are the demands?”
“We don’t know as yet. There is to be a broadcast in twelve hours time but I want you out in the field now.”
“Sorry sir, but you’re not my type. Besides the job comes first. What have we to go on?”
“Very little I’m afraid. We’ve heard rumours of a strange unknown pyramid, reportedly seen by numerous tourists but which the authorities say does not exist.”
“How does that tie up with the matter in hand sir?”
“I’m afraid I have to keep mummy about that W7. How soon can you be in Cairo?”
“In twelve hours sir. Give or take the odd week.”
“So soon. I thought the baggage handlers were on a go slow.”
“And so they are sir. This means they are less likely to put my luggage on the wrong plane.”
“Of course. Well, good luck W7. The vision of the world is depending on you.”
“I’ll do my best sir.”
“That is all anyone can ask,” said P. “Except me of course. I want better than the best. I want it sorted. See I before you leave, he has some equipment for you.”
“Right sir,” Sindy acknowledged. “Eye’ll be seeing you. I hope.”
“Get out W7”.
Sindy bade farewell to Needapenny and made her way to that part of the building operated by I branch. As always she made sure that the corridor was empty before entering the gent’s toilet. There was somebody inside. It was agent W2.4. Not one of S.P.I.D.E.R.’s top agents, he was only a Mr Average in the spying game. He turned his head as Sindy came in which affected his aim.
“Oops! Sorry about that Sindy.”
“All in the line of duty,” said Sindy magnanimously, although she was thinking, I’ve heard of taking the piss but this is ridiculous.
“I’m afraid it’s occupied at the moment,” W2.4 informed her.
“That’s alright, I’ll wait,” she replied.
“Suit yourself. There’s not much to see here.”
How true, thought Sindy.
“Just been to P?” W2.4 was always interested in other agent’s assignments as he got so few of his own.
“That’s right. Just got to pick up some equipment.”
Fortunately for Sindy there was a flush, heralding the end of business for the occupant of the desired cubicle. James Pond nodded to Sindy as he exited. One of the more infamous agents in the service. He only got special assignments. Duck to his friends, Ducky to those not so friendly.
Sindy went inside the cubicle and sat down, giving the necessary password to the toilet roll holder. The seat started to lower until she was in the Weapons and Extra Equipment Department deep underground. She soon located I, the chief W.E.E.D..
“Ah, there you are W7,” greeted I. “Come over here, there is something I want to show you.”
Sindy followed I across the laboratory to a large sheet covered object in the corner. I whisked off the sheet to reveal his latest masterpiece. “This is your vehicle for the mission,” he informed her. “The Morris Minor XR69, capable of travelling at twice its normal speed. That is an incredible 60 miles an hour.”
“Well, I must say I, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sindy observed.
“Yes. It is rather impressive is it not?”
“Impressive isn’t the word for it,” said Sindy in mock admiration. “Don’t you think the colour’s just a bit too conspicuous though?”
“Well, I have to be honest, bright pink wasn’t my first choice,” admitted I. “But there was rather a nice discount on bulk supply and you know what cutbacks do for the budget of this place.”
“Now there are certain modifications that have been made to this vehicle which I need to draw your attention to,” began I, opening the driver’s door to indicate his pet features. “Three-sided driving mirror so that you can look your best at all times. If you press this switch a special vanity mirror drops down from the roof, as so. Very useful for catching the sun and deflecting it into the eyes of any pursuers.”
“Illuminating,” said Sindy.
I ignored this interruption. “In cases when there is no sun press this lever here and extra smoke will be expelled through the exhaust system. The smoke comes in three colours, red, blue and green, depending on your outfit at the time. For a more forceful deterrent there are front and rear machine-guns, activated here and here.” I indicated two switches on the dashboard. “You also have a rocket launcher at the front and mini depth charges at the rear. The latter only have a two second delay, so only use them when travelling at speed or you will blow your tail off.”
“Are there no depths to which you won’t sink, I?”
“Finally, you will notice there are no rear doors on this model so if you wish to get rid of any back seat drivers lift the top of the gear lever and depress this button. The back seat will then lift and deposit the occupants out of the rear window. Any questions?”
“What about the rear oil spray gun. It used to be standard equipment in all vehicles?”
“We had to discontinue that particular item. It was far too slick and you know what these anti-pollutionists are like. Nevertheless I think you have enough deterrents available.”
“When will it be available?” Sindy wanted to know.
“As soon as it has been cleaned and polished I will despatch it to Cairo for you to pick up. Now come over here while I show you the rest of your equipment.” I passed into the section of the department where the smaller items were made. “Well W7, what do you think of that?”
“Just looks like an ordinary suitcase to me I.”
“That is an ordinary suitcase,” I snorted. “I’m going on a trip. I was in fact referring to this watch.”
“There doesn’t seem to be anything special about it,” Sindy remarked, eyeing the elegant timepiece.
“That is the whole point W7. If it looked special there would be no point in us giving it to our agents, would there?”
“Of course not I. I was only joking,” apologised Sindy.
“It is a very remarkable watch indeed,” I pointed out. “It is waterproof, shockproof, bulletproof and crushproof. It tells the time in over 60 countries and loses only one second in every ten years. It is also a transmitter and receiver. Here put it on.” I passed the watch to Sindy. “Now to your armament; will you pay attention, W7!” I reproached Sindy who was tapping the watch on her wrist. “This is a Walter JCB. It may look small but its punch is equivalent to being run over by a mechanical digger. This takes a special thirteen round clip because of the smaller bullets. There is spare ammunition in the glove compartment. Any questions?”
“Only one,” said Sindy. “This waterproof, shockproof, bulletproof and crushproof watch that tells the time in 60 countries, it’s stopped.”
“Probably needs a new battery,” suggested I. “See McDonald at the company farm. We’ve a new breed of battery hen.”
“How very eggciting,” smiled Sindy.
“Very funny, W7. If you have quite finished with your usual witty repartee you can go. And I want your word that no one else will drive the XR69.”
“Aye-aye, I, I guarantee it.”
Sindy left H.Q. and went home to do some light packing, then she called a cab. “Just the three trunks?” enquired the driver.
“Yes. I can’t afford to carry a lot in my job.”
Ten minutes and one hernia later and they were off to the airport. The assignment had begun.
Chapter 2 – Mummy’s The Word
Easing back in her seat Sindy decided to get some shut eye before her full attention and concentration were required on the assignment. She was flying the new Egyptian airline, Sphinx Airways, on their introductory Pharaoh Deal offer, this being ‘If you can find a cheaper flight to the same destination elsewhere then take it’. Sindy was travelling in their newest plane, a war surplus, ex-Biggles Hill Air Show Lancaster bomber.
Sindy didn’t take much notice as the stewardess went through the emergency procedures, which consisted of passengers jumping through the bomb doors in groups of twenty, a bit drastic when flying over land as there were no parachutes. Still the airline could boast a perfect safety record, even if this was their maiden flight.
Sleeping was easier said than done because of the noise of the inflight movie. There had been a wide choice; Land of the Pharaohs, Curse of the Pharaohs, Anthony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra and Anthony, Cleopatra’s Great Little Asp, Cleopatra and Ass Milk Baths – The Real Story or Wait Till Your Mummy Gets Home. The vote by the passengers on which film to watch resulted in a tie but only because no one voted and as a result the Captain’s favourite film, not usually for the eyes of the passengers, was shown, entitled Pharaoh’s Curse Aboard Flight 666. This was not a popular choice but the passengers were assured that the fact that they were actually on Flight 666 was purely coincidental. There were definitely no Sphinx jinx links.
Unbeknown to Sindy her full attention was required even at that early stage in her mission for she was under constant surveillance by the enemy. The first lieutenants of Blowpipe and Smokerscov were on the plane. Hatchet women with nondescript faces, the two deadliest agents from S.E.P.T.I.C. and S.M.A.S.H., Sonya Bronchitski-Lungcancercov and Pamelova I. Woodenacovifididnasmokski kept a close eye on Sindy, or as close as they could through the smog they were creating. Their code names were Filtertip and Hightar and they were the best in what they did, smoking out secret agents as well as everything else in the vicinity. They had orders to eliminate the agent that was sure to be despatched by S.P.I.D.E.R. as soon as the theft of the IC20/20 was discovered. Even now they were deliberating how best to carry out the operation within the thirty seconds they could last without a fag.
Before they could decide on a strategy something occurred that took their minds off the problem in hand, which was probably just as well because their minds had enough of a burden keeping their bodies functioning. Cranial capacity was something of a luxury in the ranks of S.E.P.T.I.C. and S.M.A.S.H.
The stewardesses were dispelling liquid gloom in the form of ass’s milk, which tasted as if Cleopatra had been bathing in it for 2000 years. Suddenly a sound resounded throughout the plane. A sound so familiar, especially to the female passengers, but so out of place at 25,000 feet. Everyone gave furtive glances at each other, trying to discern who had had the extremely bad taste, and poor eyesight, to wolf whistle at the stewardess. Sindy gave her share of furtive looks although she knew where the sound emanated from. She had good reason to know that the sound did not mean what the other passengers had taken it to mean. For one thing the stewardess made Nora Batty look like Jane Seymour. For another, the sound came from her handbag. Whilst everyone else was still casting suspicious looks in all directions Sindy decided to visit the ladies room, which was the same as the men’s room, a bucket placed behind a blanket in the tail of the plane.
In the comparative privacy of this extremely convenient convenience Sindy opened her handbag and took out her compact. It looked very ordinary but it was in fact a very powerful radio receiver, transmitter, bug detector and powder puff. It was known as the Wolf Whistle Radio Receiver, Transmitter, Bug Detector and Powder Puff Face Compact, or WWRRTBDPPFC if you used the only slightly shorter version. The name originated from the sound it made when contact with an agent in the field was required. To the very attractive young ladies of the W Section, the boffins said, a wolf whistle would not be in the least conspicuous. There were certain exceptions the boffins had not thought of, this recent incident being one of the less embarrassing scenarios.
Sindy made contact with the compact and was advised that there were enemy agents on the plane. She had been briefed on certain members of prominent criminal organisations and so was aware of Filtertip and Hightar. She guessed they must be in disguise but there would be a tell-tale sign, yellow nicotine stained fingers.
As she prepared to leave she read the sign above her head. ‘DO NOT FLUSH WHEN THE PLANE IS STATIONARY’. Flushing was a manual process whereby the bucket was emptied out through a small hatch, giving rise to the well-known Egyptian saying ‘Bad luck drops on you from a great height’. For realism Sindy carried out the motions.
On the way back to her seat she bumped into someone coming the other way. The man, who had a large bushy beard and was wearing a long fur coat, fur mittens and a fur hat, mumbled his apologies and stepped aside. ‘Fur out,’ thought Sindy, but this was an automatic reaction because her mind was fully occupied on trying to identify her enemies. Otherwise she might have wondered on the unsuitability of such attire for travelling to Egypt.
Sindy decided that a look at the passenger list would probably be the best place to start. She had a quiet shout in the stewardess’s ear, it being so noisy with the sound of the engines coming through the air-conditioning, such being the open cargo door. Her request to see the Captain was granted and she was invited into the cockpit. Captain Mustafa Guidedog and his American co-pilot, Vertigo Jones, were intent at the controls. Sindy flashed her credentials.
“I believe that there may be some undesirables on this flight,” she advised Guidedog.
“That’s odd,” he replied. “I’m usually told if there are any Leeds fans on board.”
“I didn’t have fantasy football fans in mind. I was referring to people with absolutely no scruples and who would not hesitate to harm innocent passengers. I need to locate them quickly. A glance at your passenger list might help.”
“Surely,” agreed Guidedog. “The stewardess will show you where it is.”
“Thank you Captain. And by the way, the name’s Sindy not Shirley.”
There were 26 passengers on board and the list read as follows:-
And so on for all 26 passengers.
“Well that appears to be in order,” said Sindy as she handed it back. “Of course, it gives me nothing to go on so I’ll just have to hope that they slip up somehow.”
Back in her seat Sindy seriously wondered if her prospective antagonists would try something mid-flight, other than the asp on toast now being served. Coincidently the film that everyone was engrossed in not watching had reached the part where the mummified pharaoh being flown back to Britain had come alive and disguised in a long fur coat, fur mittens, fur hat and long bushy beard, was stalking the female agent assigned to look after it.
Sindy was calm and alert, which could not be said of the other passengers when they saw their pilot, Captain Guidedog, tap his way down the plane to the ablutions. She had not a glimmer of suspicion regarding her possible assailants but she was untroubled. If they had not acted by now they would be waiting until the plane landed, she told herself. How wrong could she be? Totally, but what’s new.
Hightar and Filtertip had come up with a fool-proof way to finish off W7 and they set off to the cockpit to implement their fiendish plan. Hightar wanted a drag but Filtertip refused to pull her all the way up the plane. They had a smoker’s bomb to throw into the cabin and disregarding the Health Warning relating to cancer, bronchitis and not forgetting fag breath, they did just that. Within seconds the pilot was unconscious. Vertigo was on the radio but it wasn’t strong enough to hold his weight much longer.
“Mayday! Mayday! I can’t see. The ground’s going round and round.”
“Try a Coward and Bounder Streamlined Toffee,” came the response from the tower.
“Will it cure the spinning?”
“No. But it will take your mind off the crash.”
The co-pilot collapsed over the controls and the plane went into a nose-dive. The two enemy agents were pleased with themselves. The plane would crash and Sindy Cobweb would be smashed to little bitty pieces. They were back in their seats now, smiling and sitting on their brains.
However, they had not bargained for Sindy’s reactions. As luck would have it she had obtained her licence, dog not pilot, and she rushed into the cabin, forcing herself into the pilot’s seat. I hope this is all plane sailing, she thought to herself as she crash landed in the ocean. Truth is she was all at sea but she could not let the passengers know. Hysteria was the last thing that was needed at such a time.
“Do not panic,” she instructed through the intercom. “Everything is under control. Please fasten your seat belts. Our cruising speed is ten knots and slowing. We should arrive at our destination in a week or two depending on tidal currents. Sit back and relax. We hope you enjoy your cruise on Sphinx Seaways.”
Chapter 3 – The Pyramid Game
As Japan was the land of the rising sun so Egypt was becoming the land of the rising pyramid. The strange uncharted structure that certain tourists had reported seeing was reputed to rise from out of the ground, and so it did.
As Flight 666 was making its way at cruising speed towards the continent of Africa, the object of such startling rumours began to rise gracefully from the sand. It was, as had been conjectured at S.P.I.D.E.R. headquarters, connected with the activities of their greatest enemies. It was the brainwave of Blowpipe, a figment of his S.E.P.T.I.C. mind that had matured into reality in a short space of time. It had been constructed in total secrecy, or as total as it is possible to achieve when fleets of lorries are required to transport huge blocks of stone and a tower crane is required to lift them. One could have said that there was a little humanity within the criminal ranks of the S.E.P.T.I.C. / S.M.A.S.H. mixture because unlike the originals this pyramid had not been built at the backbreaking expense of minions. However, in favour of the prosecution it must be said that such would have been the case if Blowpipe could have waited ten years for the use of it.
Once the pyramid was fully erect a gap appeared in the stones and a vehicle with two figures and two dummies drove out. The figures were two eights painted on the side of the Jeep, the two dummies being Smokerscov and Blowpipe. They were discussing their plans.
“How is the good doctor faring with extracting the by-product from his serum?” Blowpipe asked his partner.
“He was extremely difficult at first but I think we are seeing eye to eye now,” Smokerscov informed him. “The ‘I’ Strain should be perfected within a few hours and then we can put our plan into action.”
“I see, or rather I don’t see, if you see what I mean.”
Small things amuse small minds and they were laughing all the way to the Egyptian takeaway, McTuts.
Meanwhile, the tannoy at the C.I.A. (Cairo International Airport) broadcast an important message to passengers for London. “Flight 666 from London Heathrow will shortly be entering the Nile delta. The return flight, errrr … I mean voyage, due to depart immediately on its arrival will take about three months. Unfortunately, passengers will only be allowed hand luggage aboard as that is all the rowing boats can accommodate on their trips to the ship, errrr … I mean plane. Passengers are requested to swim out to the plane at Spitz pace as a quick turnaround is necessary to prevent the sh … plane from sinking. Thank you for sailing Sphinx Airways and have a nice dip.”
Sindy was greatly relieved to be able to enter her room at the inn where she was booked in. Her department could not stretch to hotel accommodation. Still it was the best that the budget could buy. There was enough room to swing a rat and an en suite bathcloset with hot and cold running sand. It did though have four stars in the Mohammed Inn Guide (the half a page booklet on where to stay in Egypt) and that made it a M.I.G. 4, which meant it served plane fare and was subject to turbulence from tail winds.
Sindy skipped dinner and had a kip in the hammock, preferring this to the bed of nails. However, later she did visit the bar to see if she could learn anything about the mysterious pyramid. The place was teeming but unfortunately only with cockroaches. Just four people were present; the barman, Wyatt Surepoison; the town drunk, Mustafa Tinkle; his cousin twice removed from the premises due to his gastric problems, Mustafa Plop; and Vertigo Jones. Vertigo offered to buy Sindy a drink.
“Thanks VJ. I’ll have a Sinbin.”
“I’m sorry miss,” apologised the obviously perturbed barman, “I’ve never heard of it.”
“I’m sure you haven’t,” agreed Sindy. “It’s my own special recipe. Two parts gin, two parts vodka, three parts whisky, four parts bourbon, seven parts Cointreau, two parts brandy and twenty-five parts sherry. What I call a fortyfived cocktail.”
“And what is it usually served in miss? A schooner?”
“Don’t be silly. A bucket. Best to use the ice bucket then you don’t have to add the rocks, as you American’s would say. I take mine shaken and stirred.”
“Why do you call it a Sinbin?” asked Vertigo.
“Because after one of those you never know what you’ll get up to,” Sindy replied, with a mischievous flash of her breast/thighs/legs/eyes (please delete if not applicable.)
Over the next hour, whilst sipping gracefully from her bucket, Sindy learnt of all the local rumours about the strange pyramid. Vertigo was a mine of mostly useless information, like how the Egyptian Department of Antiquities was distraught because of their extra liability to P.A.T. (Pyramid Additions Tax). However, he did know of someone who knew the supposed location of the pyramid and he promised to introduce him to Sindy the next day. That still left the night free. After she had finished her cocktail Vertigo invited Sindy to his room and she eagerly accepted.
However, before they could leave two newcomers entered the bar, a man and woman. She was laden down with two heavy suitcases. “Excuse me,” said the man, “can anyone here tell me where we could find this mysterious new pyramid”.
The locals all looked blank and found their eyes wandering to hitherto unseen cracks in the walls or jousting cockroaches but Sindy was suspicious. “Why are you looking for it?”
“Oh, we just like to investigate unexplained things,” he replied. “By the way my name’s Mouldy if you find out anything whilst you’re here.”
“Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, sorry. This is Scullery.”
“No! Whatever gave you that idea? She’s the maid.” With that they left.
“Funny couple,” commented Vertigo as they made their way to his room.
“Yes. I have Mr X filed away for future investigation,” said Sindy.
They soon reached Vertigo’s room. Once inside they began to frantically …
The next morning Sindy and Vertigo set off to find the man who could guide them to the pyramid. Vertigo was sure of the man’s whereabouts and led Sindy straight to Kaz’s Bar. They entered and at once their nostrils were assaulted by a nauseating aroma. The smell might have been attributable to the fact that the bar was the local opium den or it could have been due to the mass of sweaty unwashed patrons present. (Unwashed because ever since the government privatised the water supply there had been one company striking after another. It was a watershed year for Egyptian trade unions and no water flowed.) The bar’s owner, Kaz Wrightguard, was serving but they had no time for a drink. Vertigo led the way to a table in the far corner, trying not to annoy Kaz’s dog, Brutus 45, in the process.
The man they had come to see was only too pleased to show them the way in exchange for a certain remuneration. However, he soon changed his mind when Sindy described what she could do to certain parts of his anatomy and agreed to guide them free of charge. His name was Mustafa. They certainly must have a lot of Mustafas in Egypt, thought Sindy.
They ended up on a high sand-dune looking out over an undisturbed expanse of white sand but their guide was insistent that it was the right place. And so it proved to be for as they watched a small point appeared above the ground. It grew in front of their very eyes until a fully grown pyramid stood before them. Mustafa ran away screaming as if his asp was on fire.
Sindy and Vertigo were too far away to make out much detail but a vehicle suddenly appeared from out of the distance and approached the structure. It stopped opposite a large cactus for a couple of seconds and then seemed to drive straight into the pyramid. Satisfied she had found what she was looking for she told Vertigo that he could leave but he declined. He was scared of nothing, except heights.
They squirmed their way down the sand-dune to keep as low a profile as possible. If anyone had happened to look in their direction all they would have been able to see was a man and woman squirming down a sand-dune. Fortunately, no one was on lookout but unfortunately there was no need for a lookout because the pyramid had disappeared again. They had been too busy keeping their heads down to notice. All that remained was the solitary cactus plant.
“Oh, blood and sand,” exclaimed Sindy, as she pricked her finger on a cactus needle, a keen observation from her wealth of in-depth training.
“Now that’s what I call a mirage,” enthused Vertigo.
“That was no mirage, VJ,” said Sindy. “I’m anti S.E.P.T.I.C. and I smell them around here. The pyramid is beneath us and I bet that cactus has a password assimilator. All we need is the password and we’re home and dry.”
“It could be any of a million words or group of words,” Vertigo pointed out. “We haven’t got a dog’s chance of guessing the right one.”
“But I’m not a dog.”
“Anyway, who needs to guess?” smiled Sindy. “In these days of healthy living there is only one logical choice. Watch.” She turned to the cactus and said the magic words “Open Sesame seed bun.”
As she had predicted the point appeared in the sand some distance away and grew into the full erection it had been two minutes ago. All they had to do now was find a way in but little did they know it would be made easier for them. They were walking into a trap.
Is Sindy just a doll in the S.E.P.T.I.C. hands of S.M.A.S.H.?
Is Vertigo heading for the heights of despair?
Will this story ever get funny again?
Look out for the next mindfoggling episode.
Chapter 4 – Flying Pigs & Pink Beetles
Sindy had had the spying game up to there, there being her neck which is where the water had reached. She and Vertigo had blundered expertly into the trap that had been set for them. It had not struck them as suspicious how easy they had found it to effect an entry into the pyramid. Once inside however, they had encountered problems. The layout of the structure had been modelled on Blowpipe’s brain and therefore they had spent many hours trudging up and down empty, dusty passageways. Tired and demoralised, Sindy had not been at her vigilant best, which was not the best at the best of times. They had been caught by the security team, Sir Coughogas and his mummy men, and taken to the main control room for an audience with the man himself.
Blowpipe was giving his mind a rest in a leather chair, stroking his pet skunk. Fortunately Smokerscov was absent. The stench of the skunk was enough.
“Ah! So nice of you to pay us a visit, W7,” greeted Blowpipe. “And you have company too. I can’t tell you how pleased that makes me. It means that your last moments on this earth will not be so lonely. I have already despatched two S.P.I.D.E.R. agents recently. Perhaps you know them; Tara N. Tula, otherwise known as W2, and Blackie Widow, W5. Today it is your turn.” Smiling in anticipation he turned to Sir Coughogas, “Take them to their accommodation.”
The said accommodation was a ten feet high glass tank, generally known as the S.E.P.T.I.C. tank, into which they were placed with their feet chained to the bottom. Water was allowed to enter the tank but only at a trickle. As an extra torture Blowpipe dropped his pet leeches into the tank. Being the animal lover he was he had taken the trouble to name them all. Nice bloodsucking names they were too, such as Tax and Vat, not to mention numerous Bills and Charitys.
With the water now up to their necks it was a question of which would claim them first, the water consumption or being involuntary blood donors.
“Looks like the end of the line,” spluttered Vertigo. “It was nice to make your acquaintance.”
“Thank you! It was short but nice,” acknowledged Sindy. “However, it isn’t over yet.”
“Come off it,” spouted Vertigo. “If we get out of here pigs can fly. Even if we stop the water the leeches will finish us off, and even if they didn’t we’re still chained up.”
“Have faith,” Sindy said, hearteningly. “All we need is a water reduction leech repellent chain cutter and just by chance I have one strapped to the top of my leg.”
“Excuse a stupid question,” said Vertigo, indignantly, “but why have you waited until we are three inches from death to tell me that.”
“We had an audience and I didn’t want to lift my skirt in public.”
“Of course, how silly of me. I suppose if they were still here you would have told me in the afterlife.”
“Think yourself lucky. If our hands had been chained up too you would have had to have used your teeth.”
A sobering thought that kept Vertigo quiet until Sindy had managed to get her implement free. Then she showed him how it worked.
“When you press this, like so, the leech repellent is released and as you can see they’re dropping off like … well … leeches. Next press this here and that small missile, the one that just missed a direct hit on your ego, blows a hole in the glass allowing the water to escape. Then finally insert the chain in here and exert a little pressure.”
Five minutes later they were free and splashing to the minor control room exit, thankful that there had not been sufficient water in the tank to reach the level of the electrical equipment in the room. That would have been too shocking for words.
By superb trial and error they succeeded in locating the laboratory where Sir Coughogas was guarding Professor Nutting. While they were watching him watching the professor, Nutting was unable to watch them watching him watching himself because Blowpipe had tested the ‘I’ Strain on him and he was blind.
Unfortunately, someone had been watching them watching Coughogas watching Nutting not watch anything and that was Blowpipe via ACDCTV. He decided it was time to leave. Without Coughogas, who would now be a prisoner, the mummymen were just zombies and so there was no one to defend the complex. He warned Smokerscov by megacom and raced, if one of his bulk could have raced, to the vehicle bay.
Sindy and the others felt the lifting mechanism that raised the pyramid from its underground lair begin to operate.
“Show us the way out. Now!” Sindy told Coughogas. “Otherwise you will be as eye deficient as the professor here.”
“Walk this way,” he said sullenly.
“That would be impossible,” said Sindy, for Coughogas was a master acrobat and was travelling on his hands. “But lead on anyway.” To the professor, “Sorry to leave you like this but you would only be too far in front of us.”
Minutes later as they stepped out into the sand they could see Blowpipe and Smokerscov speeding away in a Reliant Robin, the only vehicle not having been wheel clamped by Sir Coughogas who had been a traffic warden years ago. Sindy took aim with Coughogas’ confiscated pistol. The distance was now nearly half a mile but she figured if John Wayne could do it so could she. True to her marksmanship she missed both rear tyres but luckily the bullet passed exactly halfway between the two and hit the front tyre. The Robin had had its wings clipped and ploughed into a sandbank.
“Come on!” she called to Vertigo. “Let’s go!”
They raced off across the sand but their quarry had also taken flight at the same time. The Cairo marathon had begun.
Not too far away there was located one of those quaint American establishments that pop up invitingly all over the place. No, not a McDonalds, an Air Force Base. On patrol outside the main gates new recruits Leftie Over and Killer Watt were bored. Suddenly one of them spotted something in the distance.
“What’s that, Over?”
“What’s what, Watt?”
“That’s what over there, Over.”
“Oh that! Don’t know what that is. What do you think, Watt?”
“No idea. You’d better get on the radio and inform those inside.”
Leftie left to do just that and inside the guard hut he lost no time in making contact.
“Main Gate to Control. Over calling. Over.”
“Control here. What’s up Over? Over.”
“Unidentified object from the West. Over.”
“Any idea what it is Over? Over.”
“Of course! That’s why it’s unidentified because we know what it is. Over.”
“It’s alright,” roared Watt. “I know what it is.”
“What is Watt wittering about Over? Over.”
“He’s now identified the object. There appears to be no danger. Over.”
“I’m overjoyously overwhelmingly overcome, Over. Over and out.”
A score draw in the sarcasm stakes then but Over was more interested in the object which was still unidentifiable to him. “What is it Watt?”
“Wotsit. That’s what.”
“What’s a wotsit, Watt?”
“A cheesy potato puff,” came the reply.
“Doesn’t look like that to me,” Over stated.
“That’s because it isn’t,” declared Watt.
“What? A wotsit you said, Watt.”
“No I didn’t! Wotsit, not a wotsit. Mustafa Wotsit; that no good bum from town.”
“Oh, right. You must have eagle eyes to distinguish that from here.”
“Effective overall vision, Over. Extremely useful when on guard duty.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what Watt.”
“You certainly know what’s what.”
However, what neither of them knew was what Watt thought he knew was in fact not what was and so Watt was wanting in knowing what was what while Over had overrated Watt’s overall eyesight and was falling over himself to be overawed over nothing. What Watt was wanting in knowing what was what, was the fact that Wotsit was not Wotsit but Ciggy Lighter, an agent of the F.B.C.I.A. (Federal Bureau of Criminals Investigating Aliens). A woman in no sense of the word, her masculine features having been toned down for her role as Mustafa Wotsit, she, for want of a better word, after having identified Sindy via HQ, was off to give assistance. Fortunately for Sindy, who would not have wanted American aids, she was too late and the pharaohs had flown the crypt.
Whatever Watt was wanting in knowing what was what and why ever Over was overly over in being oversomething, be it whelmed, come or awed, were trivial questions compared to how had Lighter left alone for so long local locos like those lithely loping over lonely landscapes pursued by our heroes. An L of a question which would have been posed by Sindy had she been aware of the facts. Fortunately for Lighter, Sindy was not aware of those facts as Lighter had been under cover in the area for two years, so no such question would be forthcoming, at least not in this chapter. Lucky little Lighter.
The Cairo Marathon lasted nowhere near twenty-six miles, at least not on foot. The reason for this was a certain local entrepreneur named Mohammed Alicat, a retired boxer from the local cardboard factory who now ran a very successful transport hire company from a nearby oasis. The same oasis that Blowpipe and Smokerscov staggered into, fighting for breath through the smokescreen they were creating for cover. They rented the two fastest modes of transport available and were off at the gallop. Minutes later Sindy and her companion arrived on the scene only to see their quarry in the dusty distance.
“Two camels quick,” urged Vertigo.
“I’m very sorry but our only two self-drive camels have just been hired out,” informed the obviously intrigued owner, who was seeing more business in the last ten minutes than in the whole of the last week. Taxicam Elimited had a very small elite clientèle. “I have two superb chauffeur driven models I can let you have.”
“Fine! We’ll take those but please hurry!”
“No offendi, effendi. I will let you have my two top drivers. Miguel Mansello, a former Formula Uno driver who retired here from Mexico, and James Huntley-Palmer, an Englishman who remained here following Mark Thatcher’s last rally. It was I believe a coast to coast in the USA which explains why his co-driver ended up in Egypt. He really does take the biscuit.”
Moments later the transportation was ready to go, with the drivers revving up on the grit, Mansello in pole position. No sooner were the passengers aboard than the order was given, “Follow that camel.”
Sometime later it became apparent that they were not going to catch their quarry who were gaining distance with every sand dune. On a query from Sindy, Huntley-Palmer advised that it had been unlikely from the start because the camels they were following were turbo models with five gear humps. And so it proved. Dispirited our heroes returned to the hotel.
“Goodness gracious (or words to that effect)”, exclaimed Vertigo when he saw what was parked outside the hotel. “I’ve heard of pink elephants but pink beetles, and I’m not even drunk.”
“That is a Morris not a VW,” Sindy informed him. “Anyway the striking colour, especially chosen for ease of shadowing, that is for those who wish to follow us, is not really important at this time. We’ve lost the trail and we’re at a dog end.”
Next Time – Vertigo travels North by North West and ends up in Suspense with a Psycho. Another Hitch?
Chapter 5 – The Final Conflict (Thank God!)
After Christmas, New Year and a three week break in the Bahamas Sindy and Vertigo resumed from where they had left off, which was outside the hotel with Vertigo making coloured remarks about Sindy’s transport.
“I’ve heard of being in the pink but this is ridiculous.”
“When you’ve kindly finished we have some catching up to do,” scolded Sindy.
“Right you are. Let’s go!”
“Not so fast. I just need a quick visit to our room.”
After a three hour wash and brush up they were on their way. With the Morris Minor XR69 in turbo mode they were soon slowly speeding through the desert. There were no tracks to follow but fortunately the XR69 was fitted with a super sensitive camel dung detector and soon Sindy had their humps on the scope. She pushed the accelerator to the floor and got an extra mile per hour out of the vehicle, but it was still not as fast as the camels could travel.
It was at this time that some bad luck befell Blowpipe and Smokerscov. This bad luck was attributable to two things. Firstly, fast though the camels were they were grossly unfit through smoking too many of their own brand and could not hold their speed for any amount of time. Secondly, their drivers were nowhere near the class of Miguel Mansello and James Huntley-Palmer. This resulted in a collision on a hairpin, which was slightly unfortunate because it was the last thing you expected to find lying in the desert. Blowpipe and Smokerscov were thrown to the sand and so were unhurt but the hairpin had gone right through one of the camel’s hooves making it lame. The other camel did a triple Salchow with one and a half twists and landed on its back. It was a humpless case but it did get a 6.0 from the Russian judge.
The two baddies pushed themselves up from the sand rubbing grains into their eyes. Feeling a puddle in the sand they used the liquid to wash them not realising it was the professor’s ‘I’ strain that had leaked out of its container. They were therefore blinded by science. The crash had been out of sight.
When Sindy and Vertigo arrived on the scene the two members of the forces of evil were totally helpless. Our two heroes tied them behind the XR69 to tow them along but they stumbled faster than the car so they were placed in front instead. Thus they arrived back at the hotel in record time. Of course, they were assisted in this by passing over a dateline beneath some palm trees.
Justice had been done. Professor I.C. Nutting was back in Britain where he worked for the Government overseeing the bill that increased the charges for eye tests including those to be applied for the first time to children and the unemployed as well as compulsory eye tests for the blind. At HQ there was a happy P and a high spirited I. The criminals were all deported to Fagashtray Island where Blowpipe, Smokerscov, Broncitski-Lungcancercov and Woodenacovifididnasmokski were all in one chain smokers gang. As for Sindy Cobweb and Vertigo Jones, well, they were just hanging around somewhere.