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Authors: Adrian d'Hage

The Alexandria Connection

BOOK: The Alexandria Connection
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Contents

About the Author

1 Alexandria, Egypt

2 Villa Jannat, Islamabad, Pakistan

3 Cairo

4 Venice

5 Peshawar, Pakistan

6 Château Cornucopia, Corsica

7 National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland

8 Alexandria Harbour, Egypt

9 Corsica

10 Alexandria Harbour

11 Kashta Palace, Alexandria

12 Cecil Hotel, Alexandria

13 CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

14 Creech Air Force Base, Nevada

15 Cairo

16 Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan

17 Kashta Palace, Alexandria

18 Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo

19 Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

20 Stockholm, Sweden

21 Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

22 CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

23 Villa Jannat, Islamabad

24 EVRAN Headquarters, Dallas, Texas

25 CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

26 EVRAN Headquarters, Dallas, Texas

27 Alexandria

28 EVRAN Nuclear Laboratories, California

29 Ploutos Park, Dallas, Texas

30 Mirjaveh, Pakistan–Iran Border

31 EVRAN Headquarters, Dallas, Texas

32 CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

33 Hermit Road Mega-church, Dallas

34 The Amazon

35 Evran Headquarters, Dallas, Texas

36 Mena House Hotel, Giza

37 Missoula, Montana

38 Evran Headquarters, Dallas, Texas

39 Missoula, Montana

40 Bir el-Samman Well, Giza

41 Lolo, Montana

42 The Great Pyramid, Giza

43 Islamabad, London, Melbourne, Chicago

44 The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Dallas, Texas

45 CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

46 Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Dallas, Texas

47 Melbourne and Dallas

48 London and Chicago

49 Cairo

50 Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor, Sydney

51 CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

52 Venice

53 Château Cornucopia, Corsica

54 Figari Sud-Corse Airfield, Corsica

55 Château Cornucopia, Corsica

56

Author’s Note and Acknowledgements

About the Author

Adrian d’Hagé was educated at North Sydney Boys High School and the Royal Military College Duntroon (Applied Science). Graduating into the Intelligence Corps, he served as a platoon commander in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Military Cross. His military service included command of an infantry battalion, director of joint operations and head of defence public relations. In 1994 Adrian was made a Member of the Order of Australia. In his last appointment, he headed defence planning for counter-terrorism security for the Sydney Olympics, including security against chemical, biological and nuclear threats.

Adrian holds an honours degree in theology, entering as a committed Christian but graduating ‘with no fixed religion’. In 2009 he completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Dean’s Award) in oenology or wine chemistry at Charles Sturt University, and he has successfully sat the Austrian Government exams for ski instructor, ‘Schilehrer Anwärter’. He is presently a research scholar, tutor and part-time lecturer at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (Middle East and Central Asia) at ANU. His doctorate is entitled ‘The Influence of Religion on US Foreign Policy in the Middle East’.

ALSO BY ADRIAN d’HAGÉ

The Omega Scroll

The Beijing Conspiracy

The Maya Codex

The Inca Prophecy

For Jacqueline

Prologue

F
lying near its ceiling, the CH-47 Chinook was touching 140 knots. Captain Brett Bestic had positioned himself just forward of the starboard door gunner. He leaned on the backs of the seats of the pilot and co-pilot, and scanned the dark valleys below through his night-vision goggles. A member of the famed SEAL team six, the dual Navy Cross winner was on his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan, but he had promised his wife, Sally, this would be his last. His son Ryan would turn four next month, and Sally was right. Ryan hardly knew he had a father. It was time to pursue a new career and leave the fighting to the young ones coming on. He had done his bit. Far below, the distinctive beat of the Chinook was faint, but it still carried clearly to the mountains above the Korengal River.

‘The Infidel! He is coming!’ The young al-Qaeda commander quickly extracted from its box the Scorpion surface-to-air missile that had been delivered by mule, only that morning, and he moved to a position behind a pile of rocks. Both he and his number two were already proficient on the Stinger, which the United States had provided when Russia had invaded Afghanistan, and although the Scorpion was a next-generation missile, it had taken less than two hours to master the new technology. The commander locked the battery coolant unit, or BCU, into the grip stock, to provide power for the missile’s pre-flight systems and argon gas to cool the infrared seeker system. He locked the sight assembly into position and pointed the launcher toward the sound of the approaching helicopter.

‘He is flying very high,’ the commander observed, engaging the safety and actuator switch, which in turn activated the BCU. He could hear the missile gyro systems spooling up, and he searched the sky with the system’s thermal-imaging night sight. The Scorpion system was capable of detecting both fixed and rotary-winged aircraft well beyond the missile range of 14 000 feet.

‘I have him!’ The infrared acquisition signal beeped and the secondary signal vibrated against the young man’s cheekbone. He un-caged the seeker, holding the switch down, and the signal was stronger still. The commander smiled grimly. The argon-cooled detector in the missile’s seeker system had focused on the infrared energy of the Chinook. The young man held his breath to avoid the toxic fumes of the missile’s rocket motor, and slowly squeezed the trigger.

The Scorpion launch rocket ignited in a blaze of fire and smoke, shooting the missile out of the launcher. Clear of the firing system, the dual thrust rocket motor lit and within seconds, the long, thin missile reached its cruising speed of over 2400 kilometres an hour. The passive infrared and ultraviolet sensor arrays in the missile nose cone tracked the Chinook, the computers continually anticipating the target’s course and changing the missile’s trajectory as it closed in on the aircraft at over Mach 2.

‘Incoming!’ the co-pilot called, but they were the last words the pilot and Captain Bestic heard. The highly classified Scorpion missile not only had a much longer range than the Stinger, its systems had been specifically designed to defeat the CMWS, or common missile warning system, fitted to Chinooks operating in Afghanistan. It was even capable of defeating the new advanced laser-jamming systems.

The Chinook from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment exploded in a fireball of fuel, propelling aircraft, engine and body parts into the fiery night. They fell in a surreally gentle series of blazing arcs toward the dark mountains below.

1
Alexandria, Egypt

C
urtis O’Connor casually turned and searched both sides of Alexandria’s Sidi al Mitwalli Street. Old habits died hard, even for CIA agents taking a break. The pedestrians were mainly Egyptian men and women, some wearing the hijab, others more Western in their dress. Since the street protests over the military’s overthrow of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, hundreds of Egyptians had been killed by the military, and tourism was almost non-existent.

Tall, fit and solidly built, O’Connor’s thick dark hair fell roughly into place. His face was tanned, and his blue eyes held an air of mischief, but that could be deceptive. Curtis O’Connor had one of the sharpest minds in the CIA.

‘I love this place!’ Aleta exclaimed, her long black hair shining in the sun and her dark eyes dancing with a sense of discovery. The renowned archaeologist had gained international acclaim when she, together with O’Connor, had unearthed the Maya Codex and the Inca’s lost city of Paititi. Aleta and O’Connor wandered past Alexandria’s wedge-shaped Attarine Mosque, its ornate minaret soaring above the bustling intersection of Sidi al-Mitwalli and Mesgued el Attarine streets. ‘Did you know that mosque was once a Christian church dedicated to Saint Athanasius?’

‘The fourth-century patriarch of Alexandria,’ said O’Connor with a grin. It was a game they played, challenging one another’s knowledge. ‘Wasn’t he the guy who got cross with people who denied the Trinity and the Christians’ claim that Christ was God incarnate?’


Cross
doesn’t quite cut it,’ said Aleta. ‘But religion can be such a crock . . . Christ never uttered a word about the Trinity . . . that “God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost” dogma. That was
our
invention.’

‘Council of Nicaea, 325 AD,’ O’Connor agreed, ‘the three-in-one proposition.’

‘We’re a strange species,’ Aleta mused, a thoughtful look on her oval face. They turned south, headed toward Souk el-Attarine, one of Alexandria’s most famous markets where the stalls were filled with ornate brassware, carpets, antique furniture,
galabiyas
– the long traditional dress of the Nile Valley, spices, perfumes, gold, leather goods and
sheeshas
– the charcoal-burning devices characterised by a long hose through which flavoured tobacco smoke was drawn through a water jar. But for Aleta, this was no ordinary shopping expedition. Ever the archaeologist, she was on the lookout for documents and anything else that might shed light on the ancient Egyptian civilisation.

‘One of my contacts put me on to an old stall in the market where they make papyrus,’ she said. Made from the pith of a tall grass-like plant that grew in abundance in the Nile Delta, papyrus was a paper-like substance that had been used by the ancient Egyptians for centuries, dating back to around 3000 BC. ‘A colleague of mine made a brief visit years ago, and he thought they might have some older documents,’ Aleta added excitedly. A short while later they reached the souk, where the goods overflowed onto the narrow streets and alleys.

‘In here,’ said Aleta, disappearing into a narrow doorway. O’Connor checked the alley and followed her into the shop, the walls of which were festooned with hand-painted papyrus. The intricate designs included scarabs, the beetle-shaped amulets that were said to protect the ancient Egyptians from danger; Horus, the falcon-headed god of kings with his sacred eye; ankhs, the key of life; the funerary mask of Tutankhamun; the tree of life; and myriad other Egyptian motifs painted in bright blues, yellows, golds and blacks. Inside, a young girl wearing a dark blue hijab was making papyrus, an art as old as the pharaohs themselves. The girl flashed them a beckoning smile, and Aleta and O’Connor went over to her heavy wooden workbench.

‘Your first time in Egypt?’ the young girl asked.

‘No, but it’s good to be back,’ said Aleta.

‘Have you seen the papyrus-making?’

‘No, I haven’t actually,’ Aleta lied easily, sensing the disappointment in the girl’s voice. ‘What’s your name?’

‘My name is Aliaa.’ Her dark eyes mirrored the warmth of her smile, and she picked up a long, thin-stemmed papyrus reed.

‘This is the papyrus plant that grows along the banks of the Nile,’ she said. ‘It was holy to the ancient Egyptians, firstly because of the flower on the top, which looks like the rays of the sun and is used for making perfume; and secondly, because the triangular stem is the same shape as the Pyramids.’

Aliaa picked up a knife, cut the stem into 20-centimetre lengths and deftly sliced the pith of the reed into thin slivers. ‘Once we’ve cut the plant, we need to squeeze out the excess water and sugar,’ she said, rolling the slivers with a well-worn rolling pin, ‘and then we soak the strips in water.’

‘How long do you soak them?’ asked Aleta.

‘That depends on what colour we want the papyrus paper. For a light colour, we soak them for three days, and for the darker colours, for six,’ she said, extracting a sliver that had already been soaking in a plastic tub of water.

‘Once we’ve soaked them, we can start to lay them crisscross on top of each other, to make the paper.’ Aliaa laid one strip at a time on top of a small piece of carpet, alternating between horizontal and perpendicular.

‘When we’ve formed the paper, we cover it with another piece of carpet and put it under this press for three days,’ said Aliaa, sliding the carpets under the old machine and spinning the handle to apply the pressure.

‘And
voilà
!’ Aliaa picked up an already formed papyrus. ‘If you hold it up to the light you can see the lattice-like patterns.’

O’Connor reached into his wallet and extracted fifty Egyptian pounds.

‘Oh . . . that’s very kind, sir, but not necessary . . . not necessary at all,’ said Aliaa, waving O’Connor away. Since the trouble on the streets, the exchange rate had fallen to the point where an Egyptian pound was only worth fourteen cents, but Aliaa was having none of it. ‘This is my job . . . it’s enough if you feel you would like to buy one of our papyri.’

‘Do you have any older papyri?’ Aleta asked.

‘We do . . . but they’re kept in the storeroom and my father has gone to the mosque for midday prayers,’ said Aliaa, a note of uncertainty in her voice. ‘He won’t be back for an hour or so . . .’

‘That’s such a pity. Do you think he’d mind if we had a look?’

‘I guess not . . . the storeroom’s in the cellar,’ she said, leading the way toward a heavy wooden door. Aliaa switched on the lights, which were encased in rusted iron grilles, and she led the way down stone steps to a narrow passage where storage shelves had been hewn out of the rock.

‘The papyri have been here for a very long time . . . the shop was started by my great grandfather,’ Aliaa explained. ‘I’m not sure what you’ll find . . . my father’s getting on and he doesn’t come down here any more, but you’re welcome to have a look around. I’ll be upstairs if you need me.’

Aleta opened the first of the cardboard cylinders and translated the hieroglyphics. ‘Wow. This one’s a medical treatise . . . I’d say around fourth-century BC,’ she added. She opened a second, and then a third. ‘What an extraordinary collection,’ she said finally. ‘Surely the old man must know how valuable these are?

‘Who knows?’ O’Connor replied, keeping an eye on the stone steps, ‘but since my ability to read Egyptian hieroglyphics is on a par with my prowess at quilting and knitting, I’m not going to be much use to you here, so I might wait for you upstairs.’

Aleta smiled. ‘Never comfortable when there’s only one exit, are we,’ she said, reading his mind. ‘We’re on a diving holiday . . . who’s going to be looking for us in Alexandria?’

‘Call it a sixth sense, but I’ll remind you of the holiday status when we get back to the hotel room.’ Curtis let his hand wander down Aleta’s back.

It had only been a few hours, but that didn’t prevent Aleta wanting him. ‘Stop it . . . we’ll get arrested . . . although I won’t need reminding,’ she added, and she kissed him softly.

Almost an hour passed before Aleta emerged from the cellar carrying two cardboard tubes. ‘Is your father back yet, Aliaa?’ she asked.

Aliaa smiled and shook her head. ‘
Salat al-Jummah
 . . . Friday prayers. He’ll probably be having tea with the Imam and the other elders. Did you find anything that interested you?’

‘Just these two . . . although they don’t have prices on them.’

‘I’m not even sure I should be selling them, but my father won’t miss them. Would a hundred pounds be okay?’

‘Very reasonable, and buy yourself a little something,’ Aleta said, handing over three Egyptian fifty-pound notes.

‘Oh . . .’

‘I insist,’ Aleta said, ‘and there’s no need to wrap them.’ She gave Aliaa a warm smile.

‘So what have we found?’ O’Connor asked as they emerged into the alley.

‘We need to get back to the hotel, because if these are what I think they are, your amorous thoughts might have to wait until we examine them more closely.’

‘No more shopping . . . they’re
that
good?

‘That good,’ said Aleta, linking her arm through his. She could barely contain her excitement.

Built in 1929, the elegant white colonial Hotel Cecil overlooked Alexandria’s eastern harbour and Saad Zaghloul Square. Winston Churchill had stayed here, as had Somerset Maugham and Al Capone; during the Second World War, the British Secret Service had maintained a suite here as a base for their operations in Alexandria. The walls held many secrets and they were about to stand witness to the uncovering of another.

O’Connor and Aleta walked into the lobby, into the charm of a bygone era of marble floors, brass lamps, and old-world furniture. Huge white stone columns decorated with ornamental gold figures supported the high ceiling. The bellboy opened the lift cage’s ornate wrought-iron door and O’Connor and Aleta rode the old wooden lift to the top floor.

‘So . . . what have you found to excite your archaeological senses?’ O’Connor asked, when they had gained the privacy of their suite. He pulled the curtains to the balcony, revealing stunning views across the eastern harbour to Fort Qaytbey on the far western breakwater.

‘Let’s keep the best till last,’ said Aleta, putting on a white pair of gloves and extracting the first papyrus with all the care one might employ to handle a delicate piece of Murano Venetian glassware, ‘but this is still going to send a shiver down the spine of all those evangelicals in the Bible Belt, not to mention the Vatican,’ Aleta said, laying the ancient papyrus out and translating the beautifully inscribed pintail ducks, reeds, eyes, flamingos and a host of other symbols the Egyptians used to record their ancient messages. ‘Over the years, archaeologists have found fleeting evidence that Christianity might be based on the religion of the ancient Egyptians, but until now, we’ve had to glean pieces here and there from the Book of the Dead, the Coffin Texts, the Pyramid Texts . . .’

‘Until now?’

‘This is the fabled Horus Papyrus,’ she said excitedly. ‘The Egyptian equivalent of the Christian Bible . . . and possibly the only time the complete Egyptian religion was recorded in a single document.’

‘So what’s the threat to Christianity?’ O’Connor asked, a bemused look on his face.

‘Look . . . this is Horus, the 5000-year-old sun god of Egypt,’ Aleta said, pointing to the hieroglyphic symbol of a falcon-headed man with a red and white
pschent
, or crown. ‘His mother, Isis was often depicted as the “Mother of God” and “the Great Virgin” or
hwnt.
The Egyptians afforded her the same reverence as Christians give to Mary.’

‘So this virgin birth idea is not unique to Christianity?’

‘Far from it. There are any number of ancient gods with a virgin birth attributed to them . . . the Indian god Krishna was born of the virgin Devaki with a “star in the east” heralding his arrival; Dionysus of Greece had the virgin mother Semele, and performed miracles like turning water into wine; Mithra of Persia . . . the list is extensive, but the parallels depicted on this papyrus get even more intriguing,’ Aleta said, pointing to another series of brightly coloured hieroglyphics. ‘Horus was born just after the winter solstice, on 25 December, the same date the Christians chose. His birth was heralded by a star in the east: Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Christ’s birth was accompanied by three wise men or what the Christians called magi, but in Egyptian mythology, the wise men are represented by the stars Mintaka, Anilam and Alnitak from Orion’s belt.’

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