Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

The TARDIS materialised in a cleft between two reddish-yellow rocks on the crest of a low escarpment. Presently the door opened and Jamie McCrimmon stepped out. He was wearing his kilt as always but had left off the full plaid in favour of a loose cotton shirt. It was hot, here, stifling hot. The sun beat down unremittingly on a desert landscape.

Victoria was in a cool muslin dress with a parasol to keep the sun from her face. Jamie smiled as he watched her step forward. She looked so very pretty and delicate, almost too delicate for what seemed to him to be a savage environment.

“This is a cruel looking planet, Doctor,” he said as the last and most important member of their crew came out of the police box and closed the door. He was dressed as he always was in an ill-fitting and mis-matched suit. He was always the same no matter where he went, even in the presence of royalty.

“This is your planet, Jamie,” he replied. “Earth.”

“Oh!” It was Victoria who stepped forward from the relative shade of the rocks and saw the full vista of the Giza plain. “Oh, it’s Egypt. Those are the pyramids.”

“Oh, aye,” Jamie responded, though in fact he had never heard of the pyramids before. Egypt to him was a far off place mentioned frequently in the Bible but of no significance beyond that. It was Victoria’s generation of English intellectuals who had begun the obsession with all things Egyptian that was literally changing the landscape in places like the Giza plain as tombs and pyramids long buried in the sand were brought to light again by archaeological excavation.

“My father was very interested in it all,” she said. “He talked about coming out here… but that was before the Daleks.”

Her voice lost some of the enthusiasm as she remembered her father’s untimely death. The Doctor touched her gently on the shoulder and reminded her silently that she wasn’t alone.

“I have many friends among those who made the great discoveries of this time,” he said. “I’m sure you will love meeting them. They are men just like your father and his circle of friends, enthusiastic to learn and discover new things. Men after my own hearts, indeed. It is why I chose to travel in my TARDIS, to learn and discover new things.”

“Yes, Doctor,” Victoria answered, smiling and banishing the sad thoughts. She walked at The Doctor’s side down from the escarpment onto the plain itself where the three Pyramids and the magnificent Sphinx were not the only examples of ancient Egyptian architecture to have been discovered. There were signs of new excavations that were uncovering more wonders every day.

“Wait a minute,” Jamie said. “Victoria, you shouldn’t look. That man over there… he’s working naked.”

Victoria averted her gaze. The Doctor laughed softly and urged her to walk on, assuring her it was quite all right.

The man wasn’t naked. He was working in a suit of ‘Long Johns’ – the underwear men of these nineteenth century times wore in any climate. This particular pair were pink, which gave the impression from a distance that he was unclothed.

“A clever way of keeping tourists away from your work,” The Doctor said, going up to the man and holding out his hand. “Matthew Flinders Petrie I believe. I’m The Doctor. The British Museum sent me and my young friends to lend a hand.”

Jamie was looking at the collection of Egyptian pottery that had been excavated with an amateur but genuine interest. Victoria was still averting her eyes. Men’s underwear was not something she was accustomed to looking at any more than their naked bodies. Petrie nodded in understanding and excused himself for a few minutes, heading towards another low escarpment with man-made holes cut into the rockface. He returned with trousers and a shirt covering his foundation garments. Victoria allowed herself to be introduced to him, now.

“Waterfield,” he said. “Yes, of course. Your father was a very clever man. I’ve read some of his papers. His death was tragic for the scientific world.”

“Thank you,” she responded. “His work was in a very different area, though. I don’t know very much about archaeology.”

“I dinnae kno’ anything about it,” Jamie added. “But if The Doctor thinks we ought to have a go, then I’m willing to learn.”

“It’s nearly midday,” Petrie said. “It’s getting too hot to work at all. Let me offer you lunch within my humble abode.”

He brought them to one of the square cut entrances to the escarpment. Within the wholly man-made cave he had made a living space for himself with a camp bed and a cook stove and a whole library of books, maps and assorted papers. There were even pictures fixed to the rock walls of two people who had to be Petrie’s parents.

“It… looks quite charming,” Victoria managed to say more or less truthfully.

“Aye I’ve seen worse,” Jamie added. He probably had. This was far more spacious than some of the crofter’s cottages on his laird’s estate and housed only one man, not a whole family.

“It’s a good use of the space,” The Doctor agreed. “Perhaps an even better one than originally intended.”

“Why?” Victoria asked suspiciously. “WHAT was the original use of this place?”

“It’s a rock tomb,” Flinders Petrie explained. “Or it was meant to be one. It was never sealed, so there was never a body in it.”

“Oh!” Victoria was a little disturbed to discover that their host was making tea and putting a selection of bread and cheese and cold meat onto plates in a kitchen that was built as a grave. Petrie’s bed was on the rock dais where the body would have lay within its sarcophagus.

Jamie noted that the dead in Egypt had more space than the living in the Highlands of Scotland.

The Doctor wasn’t at all worried. He sat on a rock that suited as a stool and accepted the cup of tea that was offered. It was Earl Grey with lemon. Milk was available, but it came from a camel, not a cow, and newcomers would not like the taste in their tea.

Jamie sat on the floor. It was clean and no more uncomfortable than many places he had sat in his time.

Victoria was invited to sit on the only wooden chair at a small table to take her tea. She looked the very picture of a Victorian lady with the cup and saucer held delicately. Petrie addressed her politely as a man of his upbringing was expected to do. He explained to her about the dig he was involved in around what seemed to be a small stepped pyramid buried long ago in the sand, and perhaps containing treasures of antiquity that had not been plundered already.

“There is also my quest to measure the great pyramids,” Petrie added.

“Why?” Jamie asked. “Doesn’ae anyone kno’ how big they are?”

“Not precisely,” Petrie explained. “With my experience in surveying I intend to produce accurate measurements of all of the dimensions of the pyramids and prove just how remarkable a people the ancient architects were, producing such magnificent wonders without modern surveying tools and without any standard units of measurements.”

“The Doctor could measure them easily with his….” Victoria began, then she realised that using the TARDIS to scan the pyramids would not only be cheating, but also taking away the achievement from a very great man.

“It sounds like a noble work,” The Doctor said. “We should all be delighted to get involved.”

“Excellent,” Petrie said. “We’ll get started as soon as the sun has gone past its zenith.”

Even by two o’clock when work began again, it was still stiflingly hot. Most of the local workers helping with the dig were shirtless. Jamie’s outfit caused some surprise among them, but they accepted him readily as a man who could shoulder a spade and work alongside them at the job of digging out the sand and shoring up the trench beside the as yet unknown pyramid.

Victoria was stationed under a canvas canopy at a table where pieces of pottery found around the site had been brought for careful cleaning with soft brushes to reveal their intricate painted designs. She learnt how from the two young students of Egyptology who were already at work. Her small, quick hands proved useful at handling the pieces and she learnt quickly. She even started to reconstruct some of the broken bowls, cups and vases that had been lost in the sand for thousands of years using a special cement that smelt terrible but set quickly.

The Doctor aided Petrie himself in his great work of surveying. In fact, he KNEW the dimensions of the pyramids. He had visited this place when they were being constructed. He knew all about the methods the Pharaoh’s tomb builders used to ensure that each side was equal to the other and the pinnacles of the pyramids were aligned with the stars in the sky.

But this was the time when humans were learning all kinds of things for themselves. They had to find them out their own way, the painstakingly slow, back breaking way that made their discoveries so much more satisfying.

They worked as the sun set lower in the sky and the day finally cooled. After dark Petrie brought his new friends back to his peculiar home where they ate their well-deserved supper under the stars in the fragrantly warm open air and talked about Egyptology.

Victoria, who had talked proudly of her contribution to the work was the first to hide a yawn behind her delicate hand and declare that she was ready to sleep. Beds had been made up in a nearby unoccupied rock tomb, and she had forgotten to be squeamish about the word as long as she could sleep.

Jamie, whose limbs must have ached after such a full day of effort went to bed shortly after her. The Doctor and Petrie stayed up until long after midnight in deep discussion of ancient Egyptian geometry, but finally, they, too, retired to their beds.

The work began again early the next morning when it was still relatively cool. Jamie declared himself well rested and ready for the day’s exertions. Victoria said she was, too, but she didn’t look it. Her eyes were tired and she moved languidly. She had eaten very little of the breakfast of oatbread and butter made of camel’s milk, but she assured The Doctor that she was fine.

“I slept all night,” she said. “I had some strange dreams, but I slept.”

“Dreams about what?” The Doctor asked.

“I… really don’t know,” she answered. “I can’t recall them now. But that’s how dreams are, sometimes, aren’t they?”

“Yes, my dear, they are. Make sure you keep to the shade as you work. And drink plenty of the distilled water and lime juice. It won’t do any good to be dehydrated.”

“I’ll do that, Doctor,” she promised and went to do the work she had enjoyed yesterday.

The Doctor continued to assist Petrie in the measurement of the base of the Pyramid of Chephren – or Khafre, the middle one of the three ‘Great’ Pyramids. From time to time, though, he excused himself and went to check on Victoria. She seemed to be managing all right, though. Perhaps it was sleeping in such unaccustomed heat that had made her heavy eyed in the morning. She just needed to acclimatise.

For a Scotsman, more accustomed to rain and bitter winds on his highland moors, Jamie acclimatised well. He and the other diggers worked hard and chatted among themselves cheerfully. He was enjoying the relative normality of being on Earth, albeit a very different part of Earth than he knew, and not having anything peculiar and alien going on around him.

Again, the cool of evening and the cessation of work was welcome. They relaxed under the stars. Victoria went to bed even earlier than the night before. The Doctor was pleased with that. If she got some extra rest she would be better in the morning.

He was puzzled when, the next morning, she appeared even more exhausted and heavy-eyed than the day before. He questioned her about her sleeping pattern.

“I slept all night,” she assured him. “I dropped off right away and didn’t know anything else until Jamie told me it was breakfast time.”

“And what about dreams?”

“I… did dream… yes. I think… I think there was somebody calling me. But I can’t remember anything else.”

“Take it very easy today, my dear,” The Doctor told her. “If you feel you want to rest, come back and lie down. Don’t try to do too much.”

“All right, Doctor,” she agreed. She smiled brightly at him and went on her way.

He checked on her throughout the day. She seemed to revive her usual vivacious mood as she worked, and didn’t feel the need to rest. All the same,The Doctor made her lie down at midday and ensured that she ate and drank plenty before returning to the restoration tent. He was concerned for her, though and shared his feelings with Jamie later when they had a few minutes alone.

“I’ll keep a watch on her in the night if you want,” the young Highlander offered.

“You need your sleep as much as any man,” The Doctor told him. “There’s no need for that, but just be aware of anything unusual.”

“Aye, Doctor,” Jamie agreed.

That night Victoria again went to bed early. Jamie went soon after and made up his camp bed in the open air in front of the rock tomb. He would sleep, but he would be on guard against anything that might disturb Victoria’s rest.

He woke some time in the darkest part of the night when the moon had set. Something was moving in the dark. He reached for his dirk, ready to challenge any intruder, then he realised that the figure in a long white shift that drew close was Victoria herself. She bumped into his camp bed and seemed puzzled at first, then she moved around it and carried on into the tomb.

Jamie put the dirk back under the thin mattress of his bed and crept inside the tomb. Entering the place where a young woman slept was something he knew he wasn’t exactly supposed to do, but he wanted to make sure she was all right.

“Victoria?” he called out in a loud whisper. She didn’t answer. He crouched by her bedside and put his hand over her forehead. She was fast asleep, unaware of his presence.

She had been sleepwalking? That was odd. She had never done such a thing before, even at the start when she was still grieving about her father and puzzled by her new life in the TARDIS and there was every reason for disturbed nights.

But she was in her bed now, and she seemed to be all right. He crept back out again and lay down in his own bed once more.

In the morning, he told The Doctor what had happened.

“Very strange,” he agreed. “Tonight, I’ll get her to take a sleeping draught. That should help. We certainly can’t have her wandering around in the night on her own. there are all sorts of dangers – snakes, scorpions….”

“Great big holes that we’ve dug into the sand,” Jamie added.

“Yes, those too.”

He didn’t mention his concerns to Victoria, but when they drank lemon tea in the evening before bed, he slipped a powerful concoction of his own into her cup. It was tasteless and she knew nothing about it. She went to bed soon after, and a few minutes later Jamie checked and confirmed that she was sound asleep.

Again he slept outside her door. this time, he took a strange precaution, looping a piece of string across the stone cut doorway at ankle height and then attaching it to his thumb. If she came out of the rock tomb tonight he would know.

Jamie slept soundly without his alarm being triggered. He woke before Victoria and moved it out of the way before she questioned what it was for. She would be upset if she knew that The Doctor and Jamie were watching her in such a way.

She looked healthier this morning, and The Doctor was relieved. Just to be sure, he gave her the same dose the next evening, too. Again, Jamie set up his warning system but it was not triggered.

The next evening, The Doctor thought it would be all right to let her go to bed without a drug in her tea. Her sleep pattern had returned to normal and she looked rested.

Jamie wasn’t so sure that all was well. When he retired to his camp bed he again set up the string so that he would know if Victoria had moved from her cool, safe haven in the rock tomb during the night.

He was woken by a tugging at his hand to see Victoria pushing through the string, breaking it eventually. He lay quietly until she had fumbled her way past his bed, and then he got up and followed her. He brought a lamp, but even without it she was easy to spot in the dark by the white shift that flowed around her body. She looked for all the world like some ghostly figure haunting the battlements of some Scottish castle except that she was walking barefoot on desert sand.

He hung back in case there was a perfectly simple reason for her wandering, but she went in the opposite direction to the ‘earth closet’ built downwind of the sleeping quarters. If it was not such a reason, then what would a young lady like Victoria, brought up to be within doors when dark had fallen unless she was with a safe chaperone, be doing at this hour?

Jamie was surprised to see her go to the place where he and his fellow diggers had been working. He moved closer in case she fell into the wide, deep trench that had been excavated. But she stopped well clear of it and picked up a spade. Jamie was surprised. Victoria carrying a spade was a peculiar sight and a peculiar idea.

Even more peculiar was Victoria using the spade to dig down into the sand some three hundred yards from the structure he was helping to uncover. What could she be doing?

Jamie crept closer and was further startled to notice that Victoria was still asleep as she worked with the spade, pressing it down into the sand with her bare feet. He felt the metal himself through a good pair of shoes after an hour or two. It must be cutting into her feet dreadfully. But she was unaware of any discomfort as she shifted the sand, murmuring to herself in her sleep.

He stood right next to her, listening to the words she was saying.

“I’m coming, my lady… my mistress. I am coming to you,” she murmured. “Yes, I am coming to release you.”

“Victoria,” Jamie whispered, putting his hand out to her shoulder. “Come, lassie. This isn’t right at all. Come on, awae, now.”

She took no notice of him. He was afraid to be any more forceful or to talk louder in case it woke her suddenly. He had heard tales of sleepwalkers who died of shock when awoken.

He did take the spade from her. She didn’t resist, but she dropped to her knees and carried on digging with her bare hands. He tried to stop her, but she pushed him aside and kept on working.

“Yes, I am coming to release you,” she kept on saying.

“Release WHO?” Jamie asked, but of course she didn’t reply to him.

Jamie examined her excavation. She had pretty much had to start again after two nights without coming to work on it. Dry, loose sand had poured into the hole she had dug and after half an hour she had only just started to dig into new ground.

There was something in the sand. He could see what looked like a miniature of one of those giant pyramids that Flinders Petrie was so interested in. He realised that it was no such thing, but the very tip of a much bigger pyramid – perhaps as big as those others. Victoria was working all the way around exposing more and more of it as she worked.

“That will need shoring up if you get much deeper, lassie,” he whispered. “Or it’ll cave in and you’ll be trapped.”

That terrible thought kept him there, watching her carefully. He didn’t even dare run and fetch The Doctor or anyone else to help in case she came to grief while he was gone. It pained him to see her wearing out her fragile body in such labour. A girl like her was never meant for such work. She was brought up to reading and piano, needlepoint, a little light gardening with a trowel and hand fork at the very most. This was work for men who were accustomed to daily toil.

But every effort to stop her, short of lifting her bodily and carrying her back to the rock tombs failed. She pulled herself away from his grasp and carried on at her task.

“I dinnae kno’ what to do, lassie,” he said. “Except I’ll have to tell The Doctor in the morning. He needs to know about this.”

It was starting to get light when Victoria finally gave up the work and climbed out of the small trench she had created. She walked back to the camp in the rock tombs, stopping to wash her face, hands and feet in a trough of water used by the diggers for that purpose. That done she carried on into her cool sleeping place and got into bed. When Jamie checked on her she was sleeping soundly, unaware of anything untoward.

He sat by the doorway until the dawn was fully broken across the pale, beautiful sky and then he roused The Doctor. He quickly explained what he had witnessed. The Doctor agreed that Jamie should not have left Victoria alone in such a dangerous condition, and he was relieved that she was back in her bed, now. But the matter was grave.

He went right away to look at Victoria. He examined her feet, noting the wheals left on the instep from using the spade without shoes. Her hands were in a dreadful state, too. Her nails, usually kept clean and nice, were broken. Bits of sand and grit encrusted them even though she had washed. Her face and hair bore witness to her efforts in the night, too.

“Fetch another sleeping draught from the TARDIS,” he said to Jamie. “And ointments to soothe her skin. We’ll take care of her before we go and look at her excavation.”

Jamie did as he said. He sat and watched as The Doctor tenderly treated Victoria’s feet and hands and her sand-blown face with a sweet smelling ointment that began to repair the damage almost immediately. He knew that ‘Doctor’ didn’t mean a medical man in The Doctor’s case, but he tended to Victoria as if he were the finest and gentlest physician in the world.

“She’ll sleep most of the day. As long as we make sure she gets water from time to time that will heal most of her troubles. Now, show me where she went.”

Flinders Petrie had roused himself and was setting out to do some quiet surveying before breakfast, but he came instead to view the nocturnal ‘dig’. He confessed himself astonished when he saw what Victoria had unearthed.

“It is a pyramid!” he exclaimed. “An unknown pyramid. And look – it is in perfect alignment with the three Great Pyramids. Could this be a fourth, unknown until now?”

“Is that some of the funny Egyptian writing on it?” Jamie observed, pointing to the west side of the pyramid where nearly a whole yard had been exposed. Petrie and The Doctor both looked carefully.

“Sakhmet. It’s a name,” Petrie confirmed. “But what a strange place for it to be inscribed, right at the top where nobody would see it.”

“We can see it,” Jamie pointed out.

“But when this pyramid was built, the ground was lower than it is now,” The Doctor explained. “Centuries of sand has blown into the valley, raising the ground level by as much as a hundred and fifty yards in places. We are standing where empty air would have been in the time of the Pharaohs who had these great monoliths built.”

“Which means we have no idea how high this pyramid is,” Petrie added. “It is a magnificent find. I shall get the diggers working upon it as soon as they come on duty.”

“Ye plan to uncover it?” Jamie queried.

“Indeed,” Petrie responded. “This is a magnificent opportunity to survey an unknown, untouched tomb.”

“If whatever’s inside there was making Victoria hurt herself trying to get into it, then we ought to bury it again and make sure nobody goes near it,” Jamie said firmly.

“Nonsense, boy,” Petrie responded. “The girl was over-heated by the sun, unused to it as she was, and wandered in the night, imagining she was taking part in a dig. That she actually found something was a coincidence, that’s all.”

“She said…” Jamie began, but Petrie wasn’t listening. He was kneeling by the top of the pyramid, tracing the lettering carved into the side with his fingers.

“Sakhmet… the name of a powerful woman. But who, I wonder? What woman was powerful enough in her own right to be buried here at Giza alongside great pharaohs such as Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure?”

“An enigma, indeed,” The Doctor responded.

“I don’t care,” Jamie countered. “I’m going to make sure Victoria is all right. Doctor, if you need me, that’s where you’ll find me – at her bedside.”

The message in his tone was clear enough. He felt that The Doctor ought to be with Victoria, too.

“That’s a wilful young man,” Petrie commented when Jamie was out of earshot. “Downright rude, really.”

“He’s fond of Victoria,” The Doctor remarked in defence of him. “He was upset to find her in such a bad state. Let him be for a while and he’ll realise he’s been petulant about this whole thing.”

“If the rest of the pyramid is in as good a state as this pinnacle, it’ll be quite a find,” Petrie said, forgetting about Jamie’s mood in his enthusiasm for the work of excavation. The capstone looks as good as new. The corners are still as sharply defined as the day it was placed, and it still has the covering of electrum. As for the rest… the casing stones are still largely intact. The sand has protected it from the elements that wore down the other pyramids over the years.”

“Yes,” The Doctor acknowledged. “It is in magnificent condition.”

That much could be safely acknowledged. But The Doctor had his doubts about many aspects of this discovery. A powerful woman, Petrie had called the probable corpse within the tomb. Yes, powerful enough to call to Victoria over those thousands of centuries. The Doctor didn’t believe any more than Jamie did that the find was a coincidence. He remembered the words Jamie had heard Victoria say as she worked through the night, risking her own health in the effort.

“I’m coming, my lady… my mistress. I am coming to you. Yes, I am coming to release you.”

The Doctor stayed with Petrie for a little while before coming to talk to Jamie. He was, as he vowed he would be, sitting beside Victoria who was still fast asleep, lulled into dreamlessness by the potion The Doctor had given her. The wounds on her feet looked a lot better, but her fingernails still looked ragged and broken. Jamie was gently cleansing her hands and face with the lotion, paying particular attention to the places where grains of sand had scratched at her fair skin.

“Jamie, I agree with you,” he said. “I don’t believe this tomb should be uncovered. Flinders Petrie is a very clever man, but he is wrong about the way the tomb was covered. He has made a surprisingly elementary mistake.”

“What mistake?” Jamie asked. He had decided he didn’t care a jot what Mr Petrie said after the way he had disregarded both Victoria’s plight and his opinions on the matter, but he was interested in what The Doctor had to say on the subject.

“The ground Victoria was digging in is on the same level as the base of the Great Pyramids. It has not been covered over in sand over the centuries. I believe this pyramid was built in a pit and the sand filled in over it.”

“Why would they do that?” Jamie asked.

“I don’t know. It is not a thing I have ever heard of before - unless it was so that the occupant of the pyramid should be utterly forgotten.”

“Why?” formed on Jamie’s lips, but The Doctor didn’t know.

“She must have been a noblewoman to have been buried in a pyramid,” he said. “But perhaps she committed a crime of some sort.”

“What sort of crime?” Jamie asked.

“I don’t know. Probably NOT murder. That went on all the time. Fratricide, regicide, patricide were all par for the course in ancient Egypt. Cleopatra had her sister and both brothers killed one way or another in order to rule absolutely, and nobody thought of bringing her to task for it. Adultery, on the other hand, would be enough to get a woman into trouble, if not a man. Or perhaps she betrayed her husband in some other way – giving secrets to his enemies or some such thing.”

“It doesn’t seem like a nice place to live,” Jamie commented.

“It was a fascinating place and time,” The Doctor assured him. “But there were some customs we would not find palatable.”

“Aye.” Jamie was thoughtful for a while. He paid attention to Victoria.

“But what she was doing… what she said… about releasing her mistress…. And don’t you go telling me she was over-wrought from the heat or any such nonsense. Victoria is a finely brought up lassie, but she isn’t some fainting fancy. She’s brave and strong, and something must have affected her mind other than too much sun.”

The Doctor shook his head again.

“I agree, but I couldn’t begin to guess what it is all about. As I said, I strongly believe that you are right. The tomb should not be uncovered, still less opened. But if Petrie won’t be told, then at least I mean to keep an eye on him and make sure nothing foolish happens.”

“I’ll not have hand nor part in it, Doctor,” Jamie insisted.

“Then you look after Victoria for me,” The Doctor replied. “And if she says anything in her sleep let me know exactly what. As for when she wakes… if she can remember the dreams she’s been having, that might help.”

“I’ll no’ leave her side,” Jamie promised. He had been given a mission he would have taken on even without The Doctor’s bidding. He was satisfied so far as that was concerned. But the whole situation disturbed him deeply.

Of course, it disturbed The Doctor, too. But Victoria was in the best possible care. Jamie would lay down his life to protect her. Meanwhile, he could keep an eye on Petrie.

He was only slightly surprised at the level of activity around the Pyramid of Sakhmet. Petrie had brought half of the men from the established dig to continue excavating this fascinating new discovery. He did a lot of the work himself, stripped down again to those pink Long Johns that were cooler than the ordinary clothes of a Western man. By the time it became too hot to continue they had uncovered nearly three yards of the steeply inclined pyramid sides.

The Doctor ate his lunch with Petrie, who talked enthusiastically about how magnificently well preserved the casing stone was. The fine white limestone that had once covered the outside of the three Pyramids they could see from their vantage point was gone but for a few fragments lying around in the debris at the base. Their capstones or pyramidia were either gone altogether or missing the gold or electrum covering that had once made them reflect the sunlight so gloriously. Those who came to admire them could only guess how fantastic they must have looked when they were new.

“From the angle I believe it must be at least the size of Khafre’s Pyramid,” Petrie was saying. “What a find. What a find! The girl will have to be acknowledged, of course. But this will be my greatest achievement to date. Just think of the papers I shall be able to write about such a magnificently unspoilt pyramid.”

“Indeed.” The Doctor said nothing more. He didn’t have to. Petrie was talking enough for both of them.

The Doctor was thinking enough for both of them. He was thinking that Flinders Petrie was acknowledged as the father of Egyptology. His methods of surveying tombs, of analysing every piece of pottery found in an excavation, and his insistence on historical context not merely the collecting of treasures, was the benchmark for every archaeologist who came after him. Howard Carter, who made world headlines with the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen and thus became the most famous archaeologist in the world – other than Indiana Jones – was one of Petrie’s own pupils.

But Petrie’s fame lay in his measurements of the Pyramids and work on the physiology of ancient Egyptians based on portraits found in the tombs he excavated.

He was NOT famous for discovering a perfectly intact pyramid that lay perfectly in line with the three Great Pyramids of the Giza Plateau.

Which meant that something VERY peculiar was going on.

When he returned to the dig after the two hour period when it was too hot to work The Doctor was surprised to see more than twice as many men involved. Petrie had pulled in every digger from the other projects and was directing them to excavate the Pyramid of Sakhmet as a top priority. He was digging enthusiastically himself, and was so red in the face and sunburnt that The Doctor almost suspected he had worked through the hottest part of the day. Mad Dogs and Englishmen – the song would not be written for another half century, but it was certainly appropriate.

By the time they stopped for tea, the excavation was being shored up with beams and a ladder was fixed to get down to the new ground level which Petrie estimated to be only a quarter of the way down the full height of the Pyramid. He was very pleased with the work.

Victoria woke and took a cup of lemon tea and some soft white bread sandwiches sitting up in bed. She was puzzled to find that she had slept almost a whole day, but she looked much healthier now.

“You are not used to this heat, and it is scarcely cooler at night,” The Doctor lied. “You were just over-exposed to the climate.”

“Thank goodness,” she answered him. “I thought it was malaria or something. I feel better now, but I felt, even as I slept, such an ache in my bones, as if I had been walking for days.”

She shook her head as if trying shake something out of it.

“I dreamt again. But I still can’t remember what it was about. I’m sure, just on the point of waking, I know everything, but then it goes.”

“Don’t you worry about the dreams,” The Doctor told her. “Don’t worry about anything. You’re going to rest here in the cool of the rocks. Jamie will be with you. Eat some more food and drink later and then a good night’s sleep and I’m sure tomorrow you will be just fine.”

Victoria smiled brightly. It was like an English summer sun, welcome brightness and warmth, not the searing oppressive heat of Egypt. Jamie smiled back at her and held her hand. The Doctor smiled, too.

“When we are done here, we should find a place with a beauty parlour,” he said. “You need a day’s utterly indulgent pampering, my dear.”

“That would be nice,” she said as she lay back down in the bed. The Doctor watched her for a while, then left her in Jamie’s care.

As he stepped out of the rock tomb one of the diggers rushed to him with news that Mr Petrie had collapsed.

“Sir, he has worked all day without a break, even in the hottest time. He has not stopped to eat or drink. Two shifts of diggers have rested while he carried on.”

“I should have realised,” The Doctor sighed. He could see the diggers carrying Petrie on a makeshift stretcher back to his own rock tomb home. They laid him down and The Doctor examined him. Yes, the signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration were obvious. He called for distilled water to wet the patient’s cracked lips and his parched throat and cool, damp cloths to bathe his skin.

Petrie was murmuring in his semi-conscious state. The Doctor listened carefully to the words.

“I’m coming, my lady… my mistress. I am coming to you. Yes, I am coming to release you. Yes, it will be soon. I will release you from your prison.”

Almost the same words that Victoria had spoken when she was digging in her sleep. There was absolutely no coincidence, and it was not a repetition of what he had heard before. Petrie had not been told what Victoria had said, only that she had been sleepwalking.

And what, beyond ambition to be recognised as a great archaeologist had driven him to such foolish extremes? Petrie was not an amateur. He was not new to the climate. He knew full well the need to stop work at the midday hour. He knew he had to drink plenty of water to replace what was lost in perspiration. He knew that it was dangerous to push himself beyond his limits in this climate.

Of course, ambition could be enough. He had seen the light of enthusiasm in Petrie’s eyes. He had seen that look in many men’s eyes. He had been fired with such enthusiasm himself many a time.

But he had every reason to think that something else was driving him. Something had taken hold of Victoria, first. Perhaps because she was a woman, or because her very lack of ambition made it easy to put new ideas into her head. When she was prevented from fulfilling the task, Petrie became the focus instead, for the very opposite reason that he was a strong-willed, determined and ambitious man. The will, determination and ambition were turned to this new purpose of uncovering the pyramid and therefore releasing the imprisoned mistress he spoke of.

When he was sure Petrie was out of any immediate danger he left him in the care of two of his most faithful native workers and walked up towards the dig. He stood and looked for a long time at the feverish effort still going on. He strongly suspected some of these diggers would soon be forgetting to rest and drink water. They would work on into the night murmuring about releasing the mistress. The influence was upon them, too.

“I think not,” he decided. He turned on his heels and headed back to the camp, first.

“Jamie, come with me,” he said. “Victoria will be safe for a while. There’s something we must do.”

Jamie came with him up the escarpment to the cleft where they had left the TARDIS. He followed The Doctor inside and did as he told him, pressing buttons and pulling levers as The Doctor calculated the short, but nonetheless difficult journey in mere distance that he needed.

“Everyone is so anxious to open that pyramid. But I’m quite sure it should not be opened. That’s why we’re going inside, first.”

“Inside… the Pyramid?”

“Inside,” he repeated.

Jamie was worried on two levels – first because going inside the Pyramid that The Doctor believed should not be opened sounded like going into a dragon’s den, but also because he was never entirely sure about the TARDIS and The Doctor’s ability to navigate it. what if they ended up on the moon instead? What if they got lost and couldn’t come back for Victoria?

But he didn’t voice that fear aloud. He didn’t want The Doctor to think he didn’t trust him.

Besides, for once, the TARDIS did exactly what The Doctor wanted it to do. It materialised inside the Pyramid. Two things surprised Jamie as he looked at the viewscreen.

First, bright lights came on inside the Pyramid as soon as the TARDIS materialised within it.

Second, it didn’t look anything like a burial chamber for an ancient Egyptian – not if the stories he’d heard in the past few days were anything to go by.

“It’s a space ship,” he said.

“Yes,” The Doctor commented without any obvious surprise. “I was beginning to suspect as much.”

He opened the TARDIS door and stepped out. Jamie followed, curious, but also extremely nervous about what they might find out there.

This was the bridge of a relatively small ship, but a powerful one. The Doctor confirmed that it had warp-shunt engines that could cross a galaxy in minutes.

It was a one man craft.

One woman.

One alien woman. Jamie studied the figure lying on a palette in the middle of the room. She was tall and slender with an elongated forehead. She was wearing an ornate ancient Egyptian robe and headdress, but her turquoise skin marked her out as very different from the people of the Giza plateau.

“Not dead,” The Doctor confirmed. “More like a very deep sleep… a very LONG sleep if the ship has been buried as long as Petrie thought.”

“Doctor… can you hear her?” Jamie asked. “She’s trying to speak to us.”

“Yes, I can hear her,” The Doctor answered. “She wants us to release her. But I’m not going to do as she asked. There was a reason why this ship was buried. I want to know what it is.”

He turned to the ship’s controls. He wasn’t interested in its navigation, yet. Instead he looked for the log. He was not entirely surprised to find that it was stored on a telepathic circuit. He engaged it and for almost a minute he stood rigid, his eyes wide and unblinking, as the information was fed directly into his brain.

“Doctor….” Jamie called out to him in alarm.

“She’s from a planet called Dephlon Gamma,” The Doctor said after blinking and taking a deep breath. “She was once a queen of that world, but her tyranny led to an uprising and she was put on trial for her cruelty to the people. Her punishment was to be sealed into this ship and sent into an endless journey through space. By freakishly improbable chance the ship soft landed here on the Giza plateau, about three hundred years before the first of the Great Pyramids was built. Still in suspended animation, locked within her prison, she nevertheless was able to use the power of her mind to influence the native people. They worshipped her as a goddess. But again she went too far in her cruelty and again she faced a rebellion. They buried the Pyramid in the sand, levelling out the land so that no trace of her existence was known. Even her name was forgotten, only the epithet ‘Sakhmet’ – powerful woman. Her only legacy was the shape and outer form of her ship, which was used eventually in the construction of the Pyramids of Giza as burial places for the Pharaohs.”

“Why didn’t she speak to anyone before, then?” Jamie asked. “She’s been down here for thousands of years.”

“Nobody lived on this part of the plateau. It was a place for the dead. Only now that archaeology has become a real science, thanks to our friend Petrie, is there life for her to reach out to. She found Victoria – a woman, and a traveller like herself. Then Petrie, a man of ambition and enthusiasms. She had a chance to influence minds again and to free herself.”

“But we’re not going to let her?”

“No, we’re not. It’s time for her to leave this world.”

The Doctor turned to the navigation drive. The long journey that brought the craft to Earth was still logged in its system. It had been in power-save mode ever since it landed on the Giza Plateau, but even after thousands of years it was fully functional. It was easy enough to programme it with a new journey.

“Let’s go,” The Doctor said. “The ship will be taking off in a few minutes.”

“I… can’t!” Jamie answered. “I… I have to stay. She wants a… servant.”

The Doctor turned and looked at Jamie. He was standing by the dais. Sakhmet’s hand was outstretched, grasping him around the wrist. The Doctor tried to free him, but her hold was like iron.

“I can feel her inside my head,” he said. “She wants me to stay.”

“Let him go,” The Doctor insisted. “Let him go, or I will cut off your hand to free him. Don’t think I won’t. Your time in this place is done. Let him go, now. Hear me, Sakhmet, or whatever your name is. Let go of his mind and let go of his arm or it will be the worst for you. You think you are powerful. My mind is ten times stronger than yours. If you want a fight, you will lose.”

Jamie sighed deeply as Sakhmet released him, mentally and physically. He ran to the TARDIS. The Doctor followed.

The TARDIS materialised again near the place where the Pyramid of Sakhmet was being excavated. Jamie and The Doctor ran to warn the diggers to get out of the way, but they were already running. The Pyramid was vibrating noisily. Everyone was already well out of the way when it burst out of the ground, spreading sandy soil all around. The Pyramid ship hovered momentarily above the plateau, as big as Khafre’s Pyramid. Then it accelerated upwards and disappeared into the sky.

Flinders Petrie missed it all. He was still unconscious. By the time he had fully recovered, the hole the ship had burst out from had collapsed in on itself and loose, dry sand was blowing into it. In a few weeks all trace of what had happened would be obliterated by the unrelenting sand that had buried so many of the ancient treasures of Egypt.

“A spaceship?” He stared at the hole and tried to take in The Doctor’s explanation. “The Pyramid was a spaceship, from another world - with an alien woman aboard?”

He shook his head.

“If I tell that to anyone at the British Museum, they’ll think I’ve gone mad out here in the sun.”

“I expect so,” The Doctor told him. “Best carry on with your survey work. It’s what you do best. You’ll be famous enough for that. Your diggers aren’t going to talk about the matter. They don’t want to be thought of as mad, either.”

“Yes,” Petrie decided. “I suppose that’s the best way.”

The Doctor left him to contemplate the missed opportunity and found Victoria and Jamie ready to leave. They had both seen enough of the Pyramids of Giza for now.

“An afternoon at a beauty salon for Victoria,” The Doctor said. “And perhaps Jamie and I will have a haircut while we’re at it. Then a slap up tea somewhere with air conditioning.”

“Sounds good to me,” Jamie agreed as they stepped into the TARDIS.