David Gibbins Pyramid

ISBN 13: 9780755354061

Pyramid

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9780755354061: Pyramid

Fans of dan brown and clive cussler will be unable to resist this thrilling new jack howard action adventure from sunday times bestseller david gibbins. Underwater archaeologist jack howard is back with a dangerous mission to uncover a shocking secret which could rewrite history... In 1890, a british soldier emerges from the depths of a cairo sewer. He claims to have been trapped for years in an ancient underground complex, and swears that he stumbled upon an incredible collection of gold, treasure, and thousands upon thousands of jars filled with papyri. Dismissed as a madman who has lost his mind in the desert, his story was lost to the world. Until now... When a colleague of jack howard's stumbles across the soldier's story, the mention of a 'blinding shaft of light' captures jack's attention and resurrects the forgotten ramblings. With the political situation in egypt at boiling point, jack and his team risk everything in a treacherous archaeological expedition to find the truth. Their mission will take them across the globe, down to the darkest depths of the red sea, and back through egyptian history to the bloody reign of akhenaten, the sun-pharaoh - and keeper of a devastating secret...

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About the Author:

David Gibbins is the internationally bestselling author of seven novels, which have sold over two and a half million copies worldwide and are published in thirty languages. He has worked in underwater archaeology all his professional life. After taking a PhD from Cambridge University he taught archaeology in Britain and abroad, and is a world authority on ancient shipwrecks and sunken cities. He has led numerous expeditions to investigate underwater sites in the Mediterranean and around the world. He currently divides his time between fieldwork, England and Canada.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

9780345534729|excerpt

Gibbins / PYRAMID

Part 1

Chapter 1

The Gulf of Suez, Egypt, present day

Jack Howard sank slowly into the depths of the Red Sea, injecting a blast of air into his stabilizer jacket and reaching neutral buoyancy only inches above the seabed. Ahead of him the sand shimmered with the sunlight that streamed down from the surface some thirty meters overhead, blocked only by the shadow of the dive boat at the edge of his field of vision. For a few moments he hung there, barely breathing, perfectly at one with the sea.

When Jack dived he was always seeking the past, in shipwrecks, in sunken ruins, in humble scraps of evidence or fabulous treasures, some of them dating back to the dawn of recorded history. And yet for him the experience of diving was all about the present, about the heightened awareness and rush of adrenaline that came when every breath was precious and your life depended on it. In more than thirty years of diving, he had never lost that feeling, from his first dives as a boy through his academic training as an archaeologist and his time as a navy diver to his years with the International Maritime University on expeditions that spanned the globe. It was the same allure that had drawn men to the sea for millennia, men whose past receded with the shoreline, their future hemmed in by the vagaries of storm and wreck, whose survival could be measured only as far as they could see ahead. For Jack it was intoxicating, his lifeblood. He knew that even if he found nothing this time, the dive would revitalize him, would push him forward to try again, never to give up as long as the past beckoned him to explore its deepest secrets.

He stared around him. To his left a cliff rose steeply up the western shore of the gulf, the rock furrowed and worn. To his right the seabed dropped off to the abyss at the center of the gulf; the slope was punctuated by the heads of coral that rose out of the sand like giant mushrooms. He strained his eyes, scanning the seabed: still nothing. And yet his gut feeling told him to carry on, an instinct borne of more than thirty years of underwater exploration in which he had rarely made a bad call and had never given up while the window was still open. For three days now, he and Costas had dived repeatedly along this coast, covering more than a kilometer of seabed, and Jack was determined to use every last second of dive time available to them. The prize that he knew lay somewhere out there was big enough to justify the risk they had taken coming here, and they might never again have a chance like this.

A voice crackled in his earphones, the familiar New York accent clear even through the intercom. “Jack. It’s my worst nightmare.”

Jack turned, seeing the sparkling veil of exhaust bubbles at the edge of his visibility some thirty meters upslope, exhaled by the diver kneeling on the seabed beneath. Costas Kazantzakis had been Jack’s constant dive companion for almost twenty years now, ever since they had first met and come up with the idea of an institute for exploration and research. Costas had learned virtually everything he knew about archaeology from Jack, who in turn had come to rely on his friend for engineering expertise and general practical know-­how. Jack remembered the last time he and Costas had dived together in the Red Sea, almost five years before. Then, they had been seeking a fortune in gold lost in a Roman ship trading out to India. They were following clues in fragments of an ancient merchant’s guide found by their colleague Maurice Hiebermeyer in a desert excavation. Now, five years later, they were again following clues in ancient writing, but instead of a newly discovered text, it was one of the greatest works of literature ever known, its words and verses pored over and memorized by millions. And what was at stake was not just a treasure in artifacts but the truth behind one of the oldest adventure stories ever told, a foundation myth in one of the world’s great religious traditions, yet a tradition that may have been torn apart by an event of unimaginable destruction at this very spot over three thousand years ago.

Jack tapped his intercom. “What is it?”

“Two sea snakes. Right in front of me, Jack, swaying, working out which bit of my neck to lick. Just like those snake batons from the tomb of Tutankhamun that gave me the jitters in the Cairo Museum. It’s the undead, come back to haunt me for violating the temple we found under the Nile.”

“Those weren’t snakes, Costas. They were crocodiles. A temple to the crocodile god, Sobek.”

“They’re all friends, right? Crocodile gods, snake gods. Violate one, you violate all of them. Right now I wish I’d never gotten involved with archaeologists.”

“Remember our cover, Costas. We’re here to photograph the wildlife. Our dive boat captain’s probably watching us through his glass-­bottomed bucket right now. You need to look the part, but just keep your distance.”

“Don’t worry. Every great explorer has their phobia, Jack. Mine’s just become sea snakes.”

“Yeah, along with, at the last count, rats, skeletons, and anything decayed. Especially mummies.”

“Don’t mention mummies, Jack. Just don’t go there.”

“That’s why I brought you here, remember? To get away from all that. You’re always at me about wanting more down time, and now you’ve got it. A holiday on the Red Sea, and still you complain.”

“Jack, holiday means sun lounger under a parasol, gin and tonics, the occasional splash in the sea, delightful female company. It doesn’t mean another Jack and Costas against-­the-­clock hunt for some lost archaeological treasure. It doesn’t mean the entire Egyptian security service on our tails, our lives dependent on some dodgy dive boat captain who probably moonlights as a pirate. And just to cap it off, a major war about to start overhead.”

“You love it, Costas. Admit it.”

“Yeah, right. Like I love being licked by sea snakes.”

“How’s your air?”

“A hundred bar and counting. Enough for half an hour at my depth, twenty minutes where you are.”

“Okay. You see that triple coral head about twenty meters in front of me? At my four o’clock from that, about twenty meters down the slope, there’s a cluster of smaller coral heads I want to look at. There’s something strange about them. That’s as far as we’re going to get on this dive.”

“Roger that, Jack. Wait there while I take a picture.”

Jack stared, riveted by the scene. For a long time it had been thought that the Red Sea was fatal for sea snakes, it being too saline for them to be able to filter out enough of the salt to make the water drinkable. But reports of sea snakes in the Red Sea had circulated among divers for several months now, and fishermen had brought in several specimens. The captain of the dive boat had spoken of it to Jack the night before, telling him of turbulence he had seen on the surface of the sea at night, patches of disturbed water and phosphorescence that looked like feeding schools of fish but he thought were actually writhing schools of snakes. In the Indian Ocean they were known to rise to the surface to drink freshwater after a rainstorm, and he thought that they had reached the northern limit of their tolerance at the entrance to the Gulf of Suez, where the sea becomes even more saline, and were congregating there in a desperate attempt to find drinkable water. They seemed to be drawn in large numbers to a few places where the water was fresher. Jack had pointed to a desert spring that trickled down the cliff face to the beach at this spot, and he had thought there might be other freshwater upwellings below the seabed near the shoreline.

Jack watched Costas reach out and turn the camera on himself and the snakes, and then he pressed his intercom. “You might not want to alarm them. I’d keep the flash off if I were you.”

“You know how I feel about snakes, Jack. I’m trying not to shake all over. I just need one selfie to show that I’ve overcome my fear.”

“Did you hear what our captain said about the snakes last night?”

“I heard the word snake, and then I put on my headphones. I didn’t want any bad dreams on our final night here.”

“He said the ones he’s seen are Pelamis platurus, the yellow-­bellied sea snake.”

“Got it. Black body, yellow belly. They look kind of Egyptian, the sort of thing you’d see swirling around Tutankhamun in his tomb.”

“Just don’t get bitten.”

“Don’t say that, Jack. I thought sea snakes were pretty passive.”

“Not when they’re thirsty. And these snakes might be a little deranged. They shouldn’t really be in the Red Sea, and they’ve swum in the wrong direction if they want to find water that’s less saline. The Gulf of Suez would be a death zone for them.”

“Okay, Jack.” Costas slowly withdrew the camera. “Give me the lowdown. You should have warned me earlier.”

“I didn’t want to break the spell.”

“That’s done.”

“Progressive flaccid paralysis, leading to muscle breakdown, renal failure, and death. Get bitten out here, and you’re a goner.”

“Great.” Costas sounded distant, and he had gone still in the water. “Any suggestions?”

“You remember that spring we saw above the cliff face? The outflow should be coming into the sea just opposite you. If you slowly ascend and the snakes stay with you, they might sense the freshwater and swim toward it, away from you.”

“Got it.” Costas slowly reached toward the valve that bled air into his buoyancy compensator. One of the snakes slid under his jacket, came out through the neck opening, and coiled itself around Costas’ hand, hovering over his fingers, its mouth open. Costas had stopped exhaling, and for a moment there was no movement. Jack felt his own breathing lessen, as if he too were worried that the snake might be disrupted by his exhaust bubbles. He watched, his heart pounding, barely believing what might be about to happen. After all they had been through, it seemed absurd that a chance encounter with sea life could put an end to everything, but it was an occupational hazard as dangerous as anything else. He held his breath, staring. A few seconds later the snake slid over Costas’ mask and then uncoiled above him, looking toward the surface, its mouth opening and closing. Costas pressed the valve and slowly began to ascend, his legs motionless, letting the buoyancy do all the work. After about five meters both the snakes uncoiled and swam up toward the surface, rising on the mass of bubbles from Costas’ exhaust. He watched them swim toward shore on the surface, sinuous black shapes silhouetted by the sunlight, and then he bled air from his jacket and swam toward Jack.

Jack turned to face ahead, regulating his breathing until he was hanging almost motionless in the water. He thought about what Costas had just said. A war about to start. He stared north along the slope to a rocky promontory that marked the limit of their survey area. Earlier that day an Egyptian navy patrol boat had told the dive boat captain in no uncertain terms that he must not stray into the military zone that lay beyond the promontory. Tensions between Egypt and Israel were higher than they had been for decades, with the Middle East closer to a meltdown than it had been since the Yom Kippur war of 1973. The extremist hold on Iraq had been tightening again; only Iran remained a beacon of stability, ironically courted by the West after years of standoff. To the north of Israel, the true intentions of the extremists who had flocked into Syria during the civil war had become clear, with their attention turning from fighting the regime to sending rockets and suicide bombers across the Israeli border. To the south, the Israelis had watched the political turmoil in Egypt with dismay, as the newly installed Islamist regime was now itself threatened by extremists, a faction whose sympathies lay more with the extremists in Syria and Iraq than with the interests of the Egyptian people. Most worrying, it had become clear that the Egyptian army, in the past a force for moderation, had been infiltrated to the highest level by officers in the extremist camp, a process that had been going on in secret for years.

A military coup now would not bring stability as it had done in the past, but it would provide clout for an extremist takeover. And everyone knew that if that happened, the Israelis would have no choice but to act. A war now would not be a lightning conflict as in 1973, brought to heel by superpower intervention, but a prolonged conflict, escalating into surrounding countries, into Libya, Somalia, and Iraq, drawing in Iran and Turkey. Outside powers would lack the strength to mediate a peace, their credibility undermined by the failed interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The war would start on the eastern frontiers of Egypt, in the skies above them now, and could turn into the cataclysm that everyone watching the Middle East had feared since the end of the cold war: a new kind of world war, one marked not only by a wildfire of conventional conflicts but also by unfettered terrorism, paralyzing the world and bringing fear to people in a way that had not been seen since the threat of a nuclear holocaust two generations before.

As if to underline his thoughts, the deep rumble of a low-­flying jet coursed through Jack. It was one in a succession of warplanes that had been flying toward the Egyptian border over the past few hours. The captain of the dive boat had been jittery enough without the ultimatum from the patrol vessel, and he was now standing off from their anchorage point with his engine already fired up. Jack and Costas were here anonymously, posing as recreational divers, having chartered the boat with the cover of being photographers. The only way now that Jack could extend their time on-­site would be for him to blow their cover and tell the authorities that they were on the cusp of a breakthrough discovery, but to do so would be to court disaster. The new antiquities director in Cairo was a political stooge and had been shutting down foreign excavations in Egypt on a daily basis. A month ago he had been enraged to discover that Jack and Costas had been exploring beneath the pyramids at Giza, had refused their request to clear the underground passage they had found, and had rescinded their permit.

Anything Jack tried now would almost certainly result in the International Maritime University being blacklisted in Egypt, his deportation, and the closure of all the remaining IMU projects in the country, as well as threatening Hiebermeyer’s Institute of Archaeology in Alexandria, an affiliate of IMU. At this moment Maurice was working desperately to complete his excavation of the mummy necropolis in the Faiyum oasis, the culmination of a lifelong passion for Egyptology that might still produce astonishing finds. For him, every moment now counted just as it did for Jack, but Hiebermeyer’s entire soul and career were wrapped up in ancient Egypt, and Jack was not willing to risk his friend’s chance of bringing his excavation to some kind of completion. There was no leeway: This dive would be their last one on-­site, with the chances of them ever returning overshadowed by the cloud that now hung over the entire Middle East, not just Egypt.

Jack closed his eyes for a moment, breathing in slowly and deeply, knowing that each draw on his tank now represented a final countdo...

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