It is common knowledge the Egyptian deserts are both scorching hot and adamantly unforgiving. The sun, blinding in its rays, shines brightly throughout the day and survival isn't something taken for granted. Water is a precious commodity, as it is throughout the common world. With miles upon miles of dusty ground, anything can happen and amidst the heat and sand of this dusty land lay the hidden truths of an ancient civilisation. But one question remains; is everything that was once hidden really meant to be discovered?
Karlyn Sanderson stepped out into the warm, dry air. Standing beside her tent she surveyed her surroundings. Sand... as far as her eyes could see. Looking into the distance, the setting sun was just dipping below the horizon. It cast a beautiful haze upon the ground, shimmering with heat and glazed magnificence. It was this part of the day Karlyn enjoyed the most. The day's work was complete and she could enjoy the peaceful and somewhat cooler evenings, watching as the first stars appeared in the sky, twinkling in their distant splendour.
Turning from the darkening sky, Karlyn looked to the group of exuberant individuals gathered around a fire. With almost joyful glee they toasted marshmallows on broken sticks and chatted with enthused excitement. She understood their disposition for she herself was just as excited. This day had been a day to remember; a day they had possibly made the greatest find of the past centuries. It was a find Karlyn had never dared to hope for but it had been every archaeologist's most secret desire. Karlyn wanted to pinch herself once again. This should be too good to be true... but she knew it was. Her excitement was less of a flutter of butterflies in her stomach and more a stampede of elephants. Karlyn was pretty sure her colleagues felt that same way. Imhotep, she thought to herself... famous architect, philosopher, minister, astrologer and physician of antiquity. The man who designed and built the very first pyramid... once a simple mortal and after his death lifted to the status of a God in the eyes of many... Imhotep. He had lived so many thousands of years ago and his tomb had been sought for centuries, yet none had unearthed the prize? until now.
A map was Karlyn's find. It was a map, written in hieroglyphics and carved into five stone tablets. Karlyn shook her head, feeling this was almost unreal. There in Karnak, under the presumed site of one of his temples they had found the map to Imhotep's tomb. What she found slightly confusing was the reason why a map had been created in the first place. A tomb was sacred and once sealed; it was not to be crossed. Why would the followers of Imhotep make a map? Karlyn frowned as she studied the ground below her feet. Pushing her beige, booted foot into the sand, she half buried her sole. Though they had only deciphered half of the first stone tablet, one element was clear; the map was not so much a marker to Imhotep's tomb as it was the directive to something hidden within his final resting place. Karlyn hoped further study of the tablets would reveal more of the answers.
Running her fingertips though chestnut hair, Karlyn grasped the shoulder length strands and pulled them into a ponytail. She sighed and arched her head backwards as a cool breeze tickled her neck. After the heat of the day she welcomed the evening with relish. Wearing only a pair of stereotypical, khaki cargo shorts and a navy vest, the coolness of the night made her feel blissfully content.
"Karlyn!" came a voice from the group around the fire. The archaeologist looked over to her colleagues and students. "Where's William gone?"
Karlyn walked towards the fire. The heat increased, offering a contrast to the cool desert night air. "I sent him on an errand for me." She smiled, her grey eyes sparkling in the firelight. "We've run out of coffee and I can't function without my morning caffeine boost!"
"Oh and don't we know it!" Dean Dodson replied. He rose to his feet and offered Karlyn a freshly toasted marshmallow. "Have you received word from the university yet?"
"No," Karlyn shook her head. "But I scanned each tablet and sent the images to them just this minute so I presume we'll hear back pretty soon. In fact, I figure it will be the minute those images appear on screen!"
"You think?" Dean joked. In the semi darkness, his ruddy complexion lit by the fire, made him seem older than his thirty years.
Clare Allen, who was sitting with her back to Karlyn, turned to face her boss. "It is the real deal isn't it!" Her words, although sounding very much like a question, were a simple statement of fact and they all knew it.
"Although my mind swarms around a million doubts and questions, my gut tells me this is and I've learned never to question the beast!" That statement earned Karlyn a round of chuckles. 'The beast', as she referred to it, was a mix between her large appetite and gut instinct... both were non-to-easily rivalled.
"It's real," assured Sal, a student archaeologist who looked up to Karlyn as his mentor. With twenty years experience in the field, Karlyn was renowned as one of the best instructors and field archaeologists in Europe. She had spent the last four months in Egypt, along with her colleagues and students, on a very important dig. Little did they realise how important it would turn out to be.
Smiling down at Sal's boyish good looks, Karlyn instinctively knew he was indeed right. She held little doubt of the tablets authenticity. Her only concern was the reason for the maps and their original intention.
"Come on guys, make room for an old lady." Karlyn wedged herself in between the circle of bodies and they shifted to accommodate her. Karlyn looked around the circle of thirteen eager faces. The excitement she was feeling inside shone in the expression of each of them. Karlyn knew their current dig would be put on hold. Tomorrow, pending authenticity of the tablets, they would begin working on their search for Imhotep's tomb.
Closing her eyes, Karlyn took a deep breath of breezy, yet warm, air. She looked up into the sky seeing more stars above them. Darkness was falling rapidly upon the land. When the sun rose again they would break camp and travel to a new destination, ready to embark on the greatest find of archaeology. Anticipation prickled Karlyn's flesh, traversing her skin with goose bumps. Would she be able to sleep tonight? Did she want to? By the disposition of her team, she was very sure a night of festivities was on the cards.
Karlyn plucked the crisp marshmallow from her stick. Its sweet scent and molten texture tantalized her taste buds. Around her conversation had continued. They talked about the find, the possibilities it bestowed. Karlyn smiled as she heard her assistant Vicki burst into laughter. The redhead's laughter was infectious, as was her personality. Karlyn was always amused by Vicki's consistency in singing while she worked. They were always the most out of place tunes as well; Christmas carols during the summer time, summer party anthems during the Christmas period. Vicki didn't like conforming to the norm. It was one of the reasons Karlyn got on with her so well; she enjoyed Vicki's happy-go-lucky nature. In fact, Karlyn was happy with her team as a whole. They related well and worked together diligently and with a certain harmony she very much enjoyed.
"The traveller returns," called Dean. Karlyn looked behind her to see William returning from his quest. The middle-aged geologist/archaeologist carried a sand brown box in his arms like precious cargo. A well-worn fedora hung precariously sideways on his head, exposing his receding dark hairline.
"That is a lot of coffee," commented Vicki, shaking out her shoulder length blonde locks as she rose to her feet.
William frowned, "Coffee?"
"He didn't really go in search of coffee," Karlyn admitted and grinned with mischief as she took the box from William. Placing it upon the ground she pulled open its lid and both hands delved inside the container, emerging with green bottles. "Champagne!" she announced. "I thought we needed to celebrate the day in style!" Cheers and whoops of agreement followed as Karlyn passed around the bottles.
"What's the damage, Will?"
"It's on me," William replied as he reached into the box. "I got a good deal with a trader in the bazaar and managed to get these thrown in as well." He produced a packet of cigars. "I love the bartering system in this country." Removing a cigar from the pack he bit off the end, spitting it into the sand.
Karlyn shook her head. Although William had been the newest member of her team, she had grown swiftly aware of his addiction to, as he called it, 'a good smoke'. He worked with a cigarette hanging from his lips most of the day. She wondered if he had one poised in his mouth at night for when he awoke in the mornings.
Cheers filled the campsite again as the champagne bottles were popped and the sweet bubbly liquid overflowed from their green, glass containers. Karlyn smiled, watching her colleagues for a few more moments before her mind wandered back to the tablets inside her quarters and she felt the need to return to the beige, canvas tent. Ducking inside, her eyes moved instantly to the five stone tablets lying side by side upon a delicately covered table. Each one had been photographed, catalogued and placed securely in position for packaging. She walked over to the table, looking down at the written maps. With wonderment, Karlyn ran her fingers over the precisely inscribed hieroglyphics. Although she herself did understand some of the symbols, she wasn't familiar with them all. Dean was her man for that specific job and tomorrow she would allow him the time to go over the inscriptions in great detail. He had originally deciphered a small portion of the first tablet after Karlyn had recognised the name 'Imhotep' and had become instantly enticed. Who wouldn't? Whether it was in the world of archaeology or the silver screen, his name was legendary.
Karlyn frowned as her eyes read the little she was able to understand pertaining to a key. Whatever this so called 'key' was, the first tablet alone made mention of it several times. Intuition told her it was important. Her imagination ran away with an almost childlike excitement.
Shaking herself from the current thoughts, Karlyn covered the tablets carefully. Lifting her arms overhead she arched her back, working out the kinks of the day. She heard several clicks and pops and grimaced. Old age slowly creeping up on me, she thought. Too many years of dig sites, bending and kneeling on the ground. Maybe this would be the find in which to retire her career. She could take a job teaching in the university; she had been asked enough times. Maybe, she thought. Maybe it is time. Taking one last look at the now covered tablets, Karlyn turned to her makeshift bed, a place she knew there would be little sleep tonight.
She jumped suddenly, alarm jolting her system, as a rapid chain of explosions rose around her. Heart instantly rising into her throat, Karlyn dashed out of her tent, desperate to discover the source of the terrifying sound. The sound of horrified shouts and screams erupted throughout her campsite. Eyes darting around wildly she looked on in terror-filled bewilderment as a gang of masked gunmen descended upon them. Armed with what she only knew as machine guns, they fired with abandon upon not just her team but also everything around them. A chain of bullets shot into a nearby jeep and the vehicle exploded, a ball of flames shooting into the air.
Karlyn screamed, ducking as the flames expanded, the heat palpable against her skin. She looked around, desperate for escape yet still wanting to lead her friends out of danger. It was too late though, she could see them falling and the aroma of fresh blood mixing with the heat and smoke curdled her stomach.
"No!" Karlyn cried, running out towards the massacre of bodies. Her colleagues, some still alive and calling for help, writhed in painful shock. Their cries were answered only with a reply of more fire and instant death. Karlyn's shocked grey eyes watched in horror as Vicki, her long time friend, was gunned down in a shower of bullets.
Suddenly realising she was in a highly dangerous position, Karlyn looked around. She saw William running behind a nearby tent and followed urgently. She almost reached him... Almost, was her last thought as an explosion of pain entered her back and surged throughout her body. She fell limply to the ground.
Foot pounding, one in front of the other, Addison Black sprinted across the Cornish coastline. To her left the sea rippled softly beside her. Its gentle sound was always comforting. Sweat rolled effortlessly down Addison's forehead, trickled down her back and soaked into her red sports bra and shorts. Her chest burned, straining to gain more oxygen, yet remain steady in breath. Arms swaying by her side, meters became yards, yards became kilometres, and kilometres became miles. In the far distance she began to make out her home, yet she didn't decrease her speed. Addison was adamant she would burn off her excess energy before nightfall.
It was early evening. The sun was hanging low in the sky, reflecting with striking clarity over the English Channel. For a summer evening it was cool and calm. Addison spied several boats on the horizon, each one making its way back into harbour. This was her favourite time of day to go for a run. Holidaymakers had just about left the beach for the day leaving it so much calmer and quieter. She passed a young couple playing with a dog, throwing its ball into the sea and Addison grinned as it dived into the water, splashing around playfully.
Addison checked her watch, noting the time. She was pretty sure her return would be anticipated. It always was this time of day and although she would have preferred company on her run, it had long become obvious Spike's little legs couldn't keep up with the agent. Instead, the tiny black dog waited for her mistress at home. Usually she would be lying on top of the picnic table, lazily waiting upon Addison's return.
Four months had passed since Skyler commenced training. It had been a long four months, but was necessary if Skyler was to work for Special Operations. She was no soldier and as such would not be expected to carry out one-man missions, but what Skyler did have was a high intellect. She had shocked the government's examiners with an IQ of one hundred and eighty two. Her quick thinking and logical mind were just what they were looking for. She would be highly beneficial to their intelligence sector. However, though she wasn't a trained soldier, Skyler still needed advanced training in weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, operations procedures and further selected programmes that benefited special operations. Addison knew the training was tough, but it was necessary.
There was, however, one downfall to Skyler's training. General Blithe had ordered Addison to keep away. He considered her a distraction and to ensure there were none such distractions for Skyler during this extremely intense training period he didn't want Addison around. Training was tough and Skyler had to stand the regime on her own if she was to pass. Her emotions had to hold up without the aid of a loving arm to comfort her when she had a bad day and with Addison around, he knew she would have that. There was a part of Addison that didn't want that for Skyler. She knew what kind of training Skyler would be facing and wondered how she would cope. Trouble was, Skyler was just as stubborn and adamant that she would face the challenge. That did please Addison and she at least consoled her with the knowledge she would get to talk with Skyler once a week by videophone. The agent also knew having Skyler working within intelligence would be a great advantage.
Mounting a wooden deck Addison slowed down her pace. She was fast approaching home and about to ascend the 76 steps up the cliff face to her lighthouse. A hot shower sounded wonderful and that was exactly where she was heading. Afterwards she intended on calling Skyler to see how she was. There was one more month of training and Addison was counting down the days. Apart from an all too brief three weeks of exploring one another's feelings, they hadn't had any time to build on a relationship. Addison wanted it. She hoped Skyler still did too. Occasionally they would express how they missed each other, but a niggling voice inside Addison wondered just how they would change once Skyler was a member of the S.O. team. The blonde doctor had always been highly career motivated; would she want to concentrate on her work within M.I.5 on a strictly platonic level?
As fatigue set into her limbs Addison slowed her pace further to a light jog. She took the remaining steps slowly and heard a happy bark from above. Looking up, Addison spotted Spike standing at the summit of the cliff happily wagging her tail.
The agent grinned. "Hey there, Spiky." The mongrel yapped in response. "Miss me?" Leaping up the last step Addison slowed to a calm walk. Her breathing was rapid but even. Spike scampered around her feet happily. "Where's my water, Spike?"
Ears alert in recognition, Spike darted off to the picnic table. She jumped first onto its seat and then onto the tabletop. Addison pushed one leg in front of her and stretched out her calf, watching Spike. She was just in time to see her nudge the clear bottle of mineral water off the tabletop. As it bounced onto the ground, Spike jumped back down. Taking the bottle by its cap she proceeded to drag it over to Addison. The agent met her half way and lifted the bottle, tapping Spike upon the head.
Uncapping the bottle top, Addison took a long swallow. She devoured half the container before stopping and looked back down at Spike. The mongrel gazed up at her in a longing manner so she bent down, poured water into her cupped palm and allowed spike to lap away at the liquid. Once the dog was finished Addison brushed her damp hand over her red shorts. "Come on then, Spiky, lets get showered." Pulling a set of keys from her pocket, Addison tossed them up into the air once before making her way towards home. Spike trotted beside her.
Addison entered the lighthouse, kicking off her training shoes as she entered the kitchen. Dropping her keys on the table she made a beeline towards the fridge, opening its door and pulling out a carton of orange juice. She drank thirstily from the carton, kicking the fridge door closed and padding over to the spiral staircase. The agent stopped drinking only as her first foot mounted the step and she ascended the stairs. It was almost eight o'clock in the evening and Addison had planned on an early night. The following morning she would be driving up to London to spend the weekend with Skyler. Once a month Skyler had a weekend off and the last three times Addison had been out on covert missions. One had been a reconnaissance mission, one had been a hostage retrieval operation in South America and the last one was a very delicate mission in which she had to 'obtain' personal files from a high ranking political leader in the East. Each assignment had been difficult in its own way, but even so, the distance she felt from Skyler was just as trying. With only one weekly phone call, Addison missed the doctor immensely and often wondered how she was handling her training. Although it was no way near as harsh as S.A.S. training, it was still intense.
Just as Addison entered her bedroom a high pitched beeping sounded out from her watch. Addison paused mid-step. She closed her eyes and sighed. "No! You've got to be kidding me!" Spike barked and the agent blew out a forced breath in agitation. The page meant only one thing; she was required to contact Headquarters immediately. Nine times out of ten it was General Blithe, and if indeed it was he calling for her attention, she was being called to undertake a mission. Skyler will kill me, Addison thought.
Spinning on her heals; Addison descended the stairs back into the kitchen. She approached a separate door from the one she had entered and punched in a numeric code on the keypad upon the wall. The agent passed through the door and took another set of steps two at a time down into her garage. She turned to a second door, keyed in a second code followed by a hand print scan. Given the green light to enter, Addison was allowed access into her underground database and armoury. She strode over to a large computer and activated the screen. Her fingers danced over the keyboard and within moments she had secured access into the special operations system. Its mainframe recognised Addison's arrival and connected the agent to her caller.
Addison leaned back in her chair, keeping her eyes trained upon the screen and waited for a visual. Her annoyance at being paged turned to one of surprise when she saw Samuel Perkins grinning back at her.
"Sam!" she said in a light tone, "I thought this page," she pointed to her watch, "Was for mission purposes only?"
"Nope, Addison you will be glad to know you are not about to be shunted off on another mission!" He winked perceptively, forcing Addison to shake her head.
"So what do you want? I was just about to jump in the shower?"
The scientist shrugged. "Don't let me stop you."
"Oh, okay, bye, bye then." Addison rose slightly as she moved her hand to switch off the screen.
"No wait." Samuel sighed. "Okay I do want to have a quick chat with you."
The agent re-seated herself.
"I'd like you to come in and see me before you meet up with Skyler tomorrow. I know she wont finish until seven tomorrow evening and you will be here around midday. I've been working on a little project that's almost at completion. I would like it if you came to take a look at it and the sooner the better. We could find this very advantageous to future missions."
"So what is it?"
"That? I am not saying. You're going to have to wait and see."
"Okay." Addison replied. "So, is that it?"
Samuel frowned. "You are not even the least bit curious?"
"Would it make any difference if I were?"
"Well?" Samuel tapped his bottom lip. "It is very good. You might be able to tempt me into telling you early... if you have the right encouragement. I could possibly change my mind."
Understanding dawned on Addison. "Ah ha!" she exclaimed and shook her head. "Not only when hell freezes over but pigs are going to fly out of my arse before I let you take a spin in my new car, Sammy boy."
Samuel was instantly crestfallen. "Oh please?"
"I promise I wont take it over seventy miles per hour. You can sit with me."
"Bollocks." Addison knew that was impossible. "Samuel, your hobby is to chip cars so they can go faster, you are a speed freak."
"How about if I agreed to install a certain piece of apparatus you have always hinted at wanting to?"
"Look, Sam," Addison interrupted. "Begging doesn't become you. Look? I'll tell you what. I'll be there around midday. If you promise me you will adjust my watch so the damn page is not so acutely, ear piercingly shrill I'll, consider it."
"You got it? and I'll even buy you lunch. How's that?"
"Lunch is free, Sam."
Samuel Perkins sighed. "You are such a party pooper, Addy. Okay. It's a deal."
Addison smirked, happy to end the conversation so she could get into the warmth and luxurious stimulation of her shower. "Tomorrow, Sam. Eleven hundred hours." Addison severed the connection.
Watching his screen turn black, Samuel rolled his eyes. "She's so abrupt when she's sweaty!"
From behind his terminal, Skyler's head loomed above the screen. "She doesn't suspect anything?"
"Negative," Samuel replied. "I doubt she has any idea what is going on... and I think I did a damn good job in just stomping on my pride enough to make her think I want a ride in her new A.M.G."
"But you do," Skyler supplied.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah... anyway. The bait is set for tomorrow."
"Great." Skyler Tidwell stepped from around the desk Samuel had perched himself upon. "She's going to be so surprised. Thanks, Sam. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Tomorrow, Skyler. Now get to bed! It has been quite an eventful day!"
"It has!" Skyler hugged Samuel. With a smile of uncontained excitement she left his office. It had been a day, which to Skyler, had passed much too quickly. The day started out as any other Thursday. Skyler had arisen in her two-roomed apartment within a special location inside the H.Q. training facility, at six o'clock in the morning. She was ready for a day of arms training in the morning and E and E directives in the afternoon. E and E were Eyes and Ears training. This was to be Skyler's speciality and job within Special Operations. For any agent going into a situation and needing a constant update of information, Skyler would be providing that. The agent would wear an 'Eyes and Ears' set so she could see and hear everything that was happening and could provide the agent with information in order to carry out the mission. With her wealth of knowledge and quick mind, her assistance would be invaluable on missions that needed a constant update of data. Skyler's input was already invaluable to the operation.
With the day starting out as every other had for the past four months, Skyler was unprepared for any change. She arrived at the target range five minutes before eight and was surprised to find Mark Blight waiting for her. She had seen very little of him since her training began, but knew he was still watching her progress. The majority of his time had been taken up with troubles in the Middle East. At first Skyler presumed Mark was there to give her confirmation of her choice of weapon. She had chosen the typical Browning standard issue pistol, but also requested a second weapon. This one wasn't standard issue within Special Operations, but Skyler felt her judgment was sound enough to carry both. It was called the Advanced Taser M18L series. It was a weapon that appeared very much like a normal pistol yet was obviously designed for Electro-Muscular Disruption. It was a highly sophisticated weapon for bringing down a target without actually causing fatal injury and worked on a principle of overriding the central nervous system to directly control the skeletal muscles. It had proved most successful in the field and Skyler hoped General Blithe would allow authorization for her to carry one of these as well. Even around Special Operations H.Q. all operatives were required to carry their weapons. She had discovered each person had their personal favourite and hoped Mark would allow her the same preference. His visit, however, was for an entirely different purpose, one that even she wasn't aware. What was more, she knew Addison was in for a surprise.
The echo of numerous voices filtered out from Headquarters canteen. Addison listened to their chatter as she made her way towards the eatery. At ten o'clock in the morning she presumed it was the stragglers from breakfast. Ever since the catering facilities had been upgraded, the canteen had become more a focal point for congregation. An adjoined room, previously used as an office, had been renovated and turned into a kitchen. Selected staff from several army bases in the United Kingdom had been enlisted to work for Special Operations and a team of qualified cooks had been assembled. The canteen now had a fully functional kitchen providing a wide selection of hot meals every day.
Slipping off her grey sports jacket, Addison stepped into the canteen. Seven of the ten rectangular tables were occupied and all diners appeared to be involved in one conversation.
"Addison!" Zora French shouted from the centre table. "Come over here." All eyes turned towards Addison. "We need your input."
"Oh no," Addison responded. "What are you guys talking about now? I swear if this turns into another one of those debates you have about the world sex marathon, I'm leaving."
"No, no, no..." Zora rose from her chair. "This is ever so more interesting than that." She took Addison by the arm and led the agent to her centre table. "Sit!"
"Yes ma'am!" Addison complied.
Zora French was Chief Scientist in weapons' research. She had worked for many years as a nuclear physicist but found her work within M.I.5.'s Special Operations branch to be much more rewarding. Zora was dedicated and diligent, but well known for a temper as fiery as her red hair. The short, stocky woman was a force not to be messed with.
"Now then?" Zora sat beside Addison and turned her chair to face the agent. Around them, bodies gravitated towards their table. "Addison... last week, on Wednesday, you attended that conference with Mark."
"Yes?" Addison replied, already knowing where Zora's line of questioning was leading.
"In the security office," Zora continued, "You were there weren't you? You saw it, didn't you?"
"On the C.C.T.V."
Addison looked around in faux confusion. She knew full well what Zora was talking about. It was an encounter that had been captured by Closed Circuit Television by the far wall to the H.Q conference building, which bordered the River Thames. From outside, the building appeared nothing more than a disused car park and factory. That alone proved a desirable location for those who may want to indulge in an illicit encounter away from prying eyes. Little did anybody know what went on under the disused factory.
"Oh," Addison exclaimed with a sudden flash of enlightenment. "You mean the couple we saw shagging in the back of that black B.M.W."
"Yes!" cried most of the canteen's occupants.
Zora fidgeted in her chair. "You did see them then?"
"Don't remind me." Addison forced a sickened expression.
"Well?" Zora pressed. "Did that really happen?"
"Don't act clueless, Addison. You know what we mean. Was it really a government M.P. with a prozzy in the back of that car?"
Addison shrugged; she knew what was coming. "That depends." Although she knew anything uttered within the walls of Special Operations would never pass them, she also knew her colleagues. "What are the odds and on whom?"
Zora placed a hand upon her chest in mock offence. "Do you really think we are placing bets on who had some woman hanging out of his car window as he rogered her senseless?"
"She has such a way with words!" Addison nodded. "Quite frankly, yes!"
Samuel appeared from behind the crowd. "Two to one it's the very 'honourable' Michael Porter. Three to one it's Gordon Whitened. Five to one it's that slime ball Anthony Farewell." Samuel continued to list the suspects on the fingers of his right hand. "Fifteen to one it's Doug Head and the outsider at Fifty to one is Maggie Bulkhead!"
Addison laughed out loud. "Bulkhead! Who picked her?"
"That would be me."
Her head shooting to the left, Addison saw Skyler emerge between a crowd of scientists. Warmth pricked through her veins and she smiled at the welcome sight of Skyler Tidwell. She looked pretty much the same as the last time Addison saw her only her hair was a little longer and she appeared almost? Addison looked closer? stronger! The blonde doctor was well aware of Addison's appraisal and quirked a shy smile. Finding her voice and regaining her fašade Addison said, "Oh you did, did you?" Skyler nodded. Addison turned back to the crowd. "Okay, who placed their bets on Gordon Whitened?"
"Yes!" Samuel pumped two fists in the air. "I knew it was him."
"It wasn't him," said Addison.
Samuels jaw fell. "What?" He sat down on a chair conveniently placed behind him. "Well who the hell was it?"
"Douglass Head? I can't believe it." Zora pulled the book from Samuel's hand. "He's married with two children. I have lunch with him and his wife every month or so." She scanned the list of names that had placed their bets. "I just can't believe it."
With a pronounced pout Samuel asked, "Who bet on him?"
Zora shook her head. "Only Danny Sleet, but he left for a meeting ten minutes ago. I put the odds on him so high because I didn't believe there was a chance in hell it was Doug Head. Bloody politicians, you can't trust a single one of them. Danny put twenty pounds on him. That is three hundred pounds plus his original wager."
Rising from her chair, Addison waggled her index finger. "These things in life are sent to try us. Maybe it will teach you to stop betting!" Addison looked back to Skyler, trying to cover the smile that wanted to shape her lips. The doctor's gaze was still upon her.
"Says the woman who started all this," remarked Samuel.
"We learn, we grow; that's what life's all about, Sam." Addison began to make her way through the dispersing crowd. "Now if you will excuse me, I have some business with Doctor Tidwell."
"I bet," Samuel mumbled under his breath as Addison passed, earning him a prod in the stomach. The agent didn't speak until she was before Skyler.
"Doctor Tidwell," she said politely. "Could I speak with you for a moment?"
Skyler smiled cordially. "Of course, Addison." Delivering a secretive wink in Samuel's direction, Skyler left the canteen with Addison.
They walked side by side down a long wide corridor. At regular intervals cameras were fixed upon the wall and monitored their progress through the building. Dressed in khaki shorts and a navy blue t-shirt Addison's clothes were opposite to Skyler's navy cargo pants and Khaki shirt, standard dress for operatives in training. Above her left breast pocket was Skyler's name and ranking identification. She had already been assigned her operative status... S.O.112. Both women nodded respectfully at passers but contained a manner of silence between them. Eventually it was Skyler who asked, "Where are we going? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but it kind of seems like we're on our way to my room." Addison simply smiled. That was indeed where they were heading.
The remainder of their journey down to the second underground level of Special Operations training facilities was taken in silence. An elevator took them to their specified level and Skyler was the first to reach her room. Pulling a black cord from around her neck she pressed her thumb into the metallic, oval chip and swiped it past her doors lock. The door opened and she entered, Addison directly behind her. The agent closed the door and turned to Skyler.
"How are you?" she asked, taking a step towards the doctor.
"Good," Skyler replied and took a step of her own.
"How's the training?" Addison closed the distance between them further.
"Interesting." Skyler's final step eradicated any space left between them.
Addison cupped Skyler's chin. "I missed you."
"I missed you too." Skyler pulled Addison into a much-desired kiss. She melted instantly, basking in the feel of Addison in her arms. Although time while training had passed quickly, it still felt so long since she felt a personal touch, loving arms and gentle caresses.
Addison held Skyler close against her body, drawing her in further, seeking what her soul had craved for many months. She wrapped her arms tighter around Skyler, almost lifting the doctor into her embrace. Lips parted as their kiss deepened, caressing and stoking their escalating need and relief to touch each other once again. Skyler sighed, causing Addison to turn and push her against the door. Skyler was the first to pull away, her breathing hot and laboured.
"Wasn't quite supposed to happen like this."
Addison kissed her way down Skyler's neck. "Why not?"
The doctor sighed in pleasure. "We were supposed to meet with General Blithe first thing."
"Mark can wait." Addison nipped open the top button of Skyler's shirt. Her kisses ventured further. "Unless you want to leave now?"
For her response, Skyler held Addison's head in place. She knew if it were not for Addison holding her against the wall she probably would have slid down it by now. Unfortunately their moment was interrupted by an abrupt knock upon Skyler's door. The women pulled away, their eyes glazed yet showing disappointment.
"We could ignore it," Skyler offered.
"How do you know?"
"Because," Addison started, "He has this ability to interrupt me when I least desire to see him."
"Yes, but that doesn't mean it's?"
"Addison," Samuel called from behind the door.
Skyler smiled. "See?"
"Mark needs to see you and asked me to knock for you seeing as I was heading down here. He is in his office at the off site cover."
Grinning, Addison delivered her own smile that clearly stated, 'I told you so' in a wide, toothy grin. Skyler pursed her lips and moved away from the door allowing Addison room to open it. "Sam, why didn't he just page me?" Samuel's sly smile told Addison all she needed to know.
"I suppose he thought my presence might be a dousing of cold water to the um?"
Closing her eyes, Addison nodded. "I understand perfectly. I'm on my way."
"He wants Skyler too."
"Skyler?" Addison turned to the blonde. "I wonder what this is about?"
Skyler shrugged but as Addison passed through the doorway, her back to the doctor and scientist, she winked at Samuel and he wiggled his eyebrows in return. They took a flight of stairs down to an underground shuttle that would take them to Mark's off-site office. It was a building in which he was able to meet with civilians. The train journey only took a couple of minutes and as Addison exited the shuttle she ran into Danny Sleet. Even from behind she could recognise his slicked back locks anywhere. They both smiled mischievously and as they passed gave each other a 'high five', exchanging something between hands.
"One sixty; good going partner."
Danny's expression was one of self-satisfaction. "Nice working with you."
Skyler watched the exchange. Realisation dawned upon her. "You tipped him off as to who was with that prostitute so you could share the winnings!"
Waving the folded ten-pound notes in her hand, Addison was unremorseful. "Yes I did. All's fair in love and wagers. Besides... look who has some fun money to take you out to lunch with. Anywhere you desire, anything you would like to eat."
"Anything?" Skyler asked with a leer. She followed Addison up a flight to stairs to Marks office.
"Caviar or melted chocolate off naked skin!"
Obviously easily swayed, Skyler responded immediately. "You're on!"
Flashing another toothy smile, Addison stopped outside Mark Blithe's outer office. She opened the door and poked her head inside. Sitting behind his desk was Mark's new assistant. Joseph Verona was ex navy; he had been discharged a year before after a parachuting accident that had left him with a damaged back. The statuesque man with prematurely greying hair had very much desired to remain working for his country. He was approached for the position of Blithe's assistant a month after the death of Antonia Bakersfield. Passing all security protocols, Joseph was enlisted within two days.
"Good morning, Joseph," Addison greeted, striding into the outer office. "Mark in there? He requested a meeting with Skyler and myself."
"I'll just let him know you're here." Joseph nodded to Skyler with a smile. Leaning over his desk he activated the intercom. "General Blithe, Addison Black and Skyler Tidwell are here to see you."
Marks voice cracked through the speaker. "Send them through, Joseph, thanks."
Joseph held out his hand towards the office door. "Go right in." Skyler accompanied Addison into the General's office. The feeling of excitement, which had tickled her senses through anticipation, dissipated as she spied two smartly dressed gentlemen seated upon Mark's couch. Both men were in their mid forties and dressed in three piece, pin-striped suits. Although Skyler didn't recognise either man she was pretty sure they were government officials.
With a sinking feeling and hope the men before her were not prelude to a mission Addison folded her arms. She did recognise the shorter man immediately. He was Jonathan Bronson, Minister of State for Armed Forces. Addison had met with him several times. He worked for the Ministry of Defence and headed the meeting both she and Mark had attended the week before. The broader man, however, was unfamiliar to her.
"Skyler," Mark began, "This is Jonathan Bronson, Minister of State for armed forces." Jonathan rose and shook Skyler's hand. He nodded to Addison in acknowledgment. His strawberry blonde hair was shaved close to his head. It matched his closely cropped beard. "And this is Doctor Roman Leeds, professor at Evenfall University." Roman rose and shook Addison and Skyler's hands. Both women wondered what their required presence was about. Skyler was sure this was nothing to do with the surprise she had for Addison.
Mark stepped around his desk, leaning against the wall. "Jonathan and Doctor Leeds are here as a situation has occurred in Egypt."
"Okay?" Addison said.
"Doctor Leeds," Mark introduced.
Roman Leeds rose again. His build was stockier than Jonathan, the obvious sign of years of sitting behind a desk. His receding hairline was combed over to one side, shielding his emerging balding spot. It had yet to look as ridiculous as many perceived comb-overs to be. "Yes? well? I run the Archaeology Department at Evenfall University. For many months now we have been funding a dig in Karnak, our most prestigious colleague Karlyn Sanderson?" Skyler cast a brief glance towards Addison. Not only did she recognise Karlyn's name but she had also worked with her almost two years ago. Roman continued, noticing Skyler's reaction. "Karlyn Sanderson and a group of fellow archaeologists and students have been out there since the project started. Karlyn had been working on evidence that she had collected over the years."
"That's right," said Skyler. "She often alluded to a project she was working on that she felt would open a whole new chapter in the history of Egyptian antiquity."
"You worked with her?" Addison asked, receiving a nod from Skyler in response.
"Well we believe she found it." Roman reached over to Mark's desk and picked up a foolscap folder. He lifted the flap pulling out a small pile of photocopied prints.
Mark looked over his shoulder, seeing what it was Doctor Leeds was obtaining. He had already seen those pictures. "This was the reason I specifically called for you, Skyler. You have a background in hieroglyphics translation."
Roman handed the pictures to Skyler who took them eagerly. She glanced down at the printed shots, Addison doing the same. The doctor's eyes scanned over the Egyptian symbols upon the scanned tablets. The further down Skyler read, the more an overwhelming excitement bubbled within her. "Oh? my? God!"
Addison gave her a curious look. "What is it? All I see is a bunch of dodgy shapes and symbols."
"Imhotep!" Skyler stated.
"What? The freaky guy from that film 'The Mummy'?"
Roman shook his head swiftly. "No, the portrayal of Imhotep on the silver screen is nothing like the real man. Imhotep himself was a great man in ancient Egypt. He built the first pyramid. He was an astrologer, recognised as the world's first doctor, a priest, scribe, sage, poet, vizier and chief minister. Truly a powerful man of his time and after his death achieved the status of Godhood."
"Okay," Addison continued. "So what's the big deal here?"
Skyler's fingers traced over the hieroglyphics. "This claims to be the map to his tomb."
"The location of Imhotep's tomb has always been a mystery. Some consider it to be one of the greatest treasures to find. Kind of like if we ever found the lost city of Atlantis." Roman pulled out a second clip of papers. Addison could tell these were actual photographs. They reflected the overhead lights in the underground office. Doctor Leeds held them against his chest as he continued. "What you have there are the five tablets found by Karlyn Sanderson and her team in Egypt only yesterday."
Addison sat down upon the corner of Mark Blithe's desk and once again folded her arms. "What happened?"
Roman handed the photographs to Addison. "Late last night we received a call from the Egyptian police in Karnak. Only hours after Doctor Sanderson had sent those tablet scans to us, their campsite was ambushed.
Skyler looked up quickly. "What do you mean? What happened?"
The highly detailed photographs portrayed the answer to her question. "They were massacred," said Addison, hearing a whispered 'no' from Skyler. "All of them?" she asked Roman.
"The entire team."
Addison flipped to another shot showing Karlyn Sanderson lying face down upon the ground. A scattering of bullet holes and blood marred her body. "And the tablets? The maps to Imhotep's tomb?"
Grinding her teeth together, Addison shook her head. Skyler walked towards her and although her first thought was to remove the pictures from her view, she knew Skyler had to see them. Not only would it appear unprofessional but with Skyler working towards being part of the team she had to be treated as such.
General Blithe pushed away from the wall. He had already spoken with both men about the reason for their request to see him and was well aware of the situation. However, he hadn't been able to properly inspect the photographs. Motioning towards the pictures in Addison's hand, the agent handed them over. Mark studied the images.
"So if you don't mind me asking, what does the Ministry of Defence have to do with this?" Skyler enquired.
"John and I are old friends, when I was informed about what happened I went to him for advice."
Jonathan spoke up. "This has the probability of being a devastating incident in international relations. One of the students was from Italy, another from China. Not only could their murders cause problems as they were under the tuition of a British university but an item which had the possibility of being one of the greatest finds of the century, being stolen for that possible reason, only escalates the situation. Opportunistic thieves are not murderers. This was a planned hit. They knew exactly where and at whom to shoot. If you notice in the photographs of the crime scene, the tent that belonged to Doctor Sanderson was unharmed and free from any bullet holes yet the rest of the campsite was littered. Obviously this happened with the intent of taking the stone tablets. We want them back and we want the people behind their murders brought to justice."
"So this is where I come in?"
"Actually Addison," Mark placed the photographs upon his desk. "This is where both of you come in. "I'm sending you and Skyler out on this."
"Addison," Blithe interrupted. "There is a high chance whoever now has the map is already trying to locate the tomb."
"It isn't going to be so easy," said Skyler. "The further on I read the more the maps' descriptions tend to be cryptic... like riddles."
"Exactly," Roman agreed. "Instead of trying to find and retrieve the tablets we want you to use the scans and find the tomb. It would be a disaster if tomb robbers got there first. The tablet speaks of a key. There seems to be more to this than anticipated and there may be information inside the tomb as to what this 'key' might be and what it possibly unlocks."
Addison still wasn't convinced. She didn't want Skyler out in the field before she had completed her training. She needed to be fully capable of undertaking the responsibilities that would be upon her. Even though, in her job as information's officer, she would be working away from the 'front line', nothing was ever certain in their job.
"As officers of Scotland Yard you will be sent over there to assist in the murders." This single statement told the women their cover without revealing their true identity to Roman Leeds. "You can work with the Egyptian police in figuring out who did this and at the same time Skyler can decipher the map." Mark walked back around his desk. "We believe the initial reasons for the stone tablets' theft was the intent of grave robbery. We need to know who knew about the finding. Who did they inform about this? I'll get a man working from this end. I want the two of you over there to locate the tomb before anybody else. If you can, work out what this 'key' is and obtain information on the people behind the murders."
"And what about Skyler's training?"
"Ah," Skyler arched her eyebrows. "Well actually that was the surprise I had for you. I completed my training Thursday."
"That she did." Mark handed Addison a card in a manner that only she would be able to read. It was an internal identification badge and read 'Agent Skyler Tidwell, S.O. 112, information's officer and U.K. to U.S. liaisons officer'. Mark pressed the intercom button upon his desk. "Joseph, can you bring through the identification packs when they arrive, thanks."
"Two months early." Addison smiled. "That's really great, Skyler, congratulations." The agent contained her excitement and the urge to hug Skyler.
The blonde doctor grinned. "Thank you."
Addison pulled her gaze from Skyler. "When do we leave?"
"Later this afternoon. You'll be given full information packets to study on the aeroplane, standard procedure applies."
"Standard procedure?" Doctor Leeds asked.
"Yes," replied Mark, he didn't elaborate further. It was clear by Mark's firm response that no other information would be shared. Classified information would remain as such. It was enough that the professor had been introduced to the network, he still wouldn't know who they were. Due to complex admittance procedures he would have no idea how to find this off-site office, let alone H.Q. Roman didn't know whom he was dealing with though the Minister of Defence did do the right thing in bringing this case forward to Special Operations.
"Sir, the I.D.'s have arrived," called Joseph.
"Great, bring them in," Mark replied. His focus turned back to Addison and Skyler. "Currently the Egyptian authorities have little clue as to the group behind the murders and theft. Our intelligence, combined with the information they do have, will help to build a profile." Mark looked over to the door as Joseph entered. The assistant handed over two brown, leather wallets. Mark looked to Addison. "Inspector Black, you will lead the investigation into discovering of the group behind this." He then turned to Skyler. "Inspector Tidwell, you will work on deciphering the tablets and finding the tomb. Apparently the map locations are very cryptic and this is why I believe you are perfect for this particular portion of the mission."
Skyler took the brown wallet from General Blithe. She flipped it open. Inside was an official badge; it identified her as Inspector Skyler Tidwell of Scotland Yard. The enclosed picture was a copy of the one she'd had taken for her 'operative in training' profile.
"I suppose we better get prepared." Addison ventured towards the door, Skyler followed.
"There are a couple of issues we need to address before you depart." Mark opened the door for the women. "I'll be over to meet you within the hour."
"See you then," said Addison, and they left the room.
Re-closing the door, Mark turned back to Jonathan and Roman. "I can assure you I have assembled the best two-man team for this operation."
"Two woman team," Doctor Leeds stated. "Not that I want to question you, General Blithe, but are two women really such an appropriate choice for this? Not only are you dealing with cold-blooded killers but the location of a priceless discovery. General, I?" Roman paused. "We need to discover that key; the archaeological rewards are endless. I don't think a woman is capable of?"
"That is precisely the problem Doctor Leeds," Mark's voice was even, yet Roman's words had angered him. "You don't have to think here. This is my playing field. You trusted John enough to go to him and he knew to come to me. I've put the best agents for this? on this? They'll hunt down the killers."
"And the tomb? the key?"
"Under control, Doctor."
Turning away, Mark walked around his desk and sat down. "You have my personal assurance if anybody can do this? Inspectors Black and Tidwell can."
The weapons holding facility was located within the lower most level of Headquarters. It stood as a large section of rooms, each interconnecting and housing different types of weapons and equipment. The first room was dedicated to clothing. It provided a wide selection of garments for any situation or environment. Kevlar vests, camouflage fatigues?all items for operatives were especially designed to be fireproof, lightweight and durable. The second room, connected by a single doorway, housed primary hand weapons, including pistols, shotguns, ammunitions and various types of holsters. The third room was for more heavy-duty weaponry... sub-machine, machine guns and varying explosive paraphernalia. The fourth and final room in the chain was specifically allocated for field equipment, everything from binoculars and communication devices to satellite navigation systems. Before any mission was undertaken the operative would report to this section of Headquarters to make certain they had obtained all necessary equipment.
Skyler led the way into the first room of the weapons' facility. She turned to Addison as the dark-haired agent entered the room. She had been silent through the short journey down to this lowest level and Skyler guessed the reason for her reticence.
"Addison, it really is okay you know."
"Hmm?" Addison asked, emerging from her thoughts.
Addison knew what Skyler was referring to. She sighed lightly. "I know. We can't exactly refuse an assignment, but I am sorry about it. I was really looking forward to this weekend with you, Sky." Addison placed her hand upon Skyler's left shoulder. Her thumb drew unconscious, lazy circles over the doctor's khaki shirt. "I suppose I'm slightly disappointed? for both of us." Addison squeezed Skyler a little and the blonde closed her eyes, resting her cheek over Addison's hand. "We have something pretty special between us. We've never had the opportunity to really explore this? make something a little more concrete between us. I suppose I was also concerned that with all this time apart things might have changed and?"
"Addison, nothing has changed. I still?"
Skyler's words were interrupted by the sudden appearance of Samuel Perkins. "Skyler," the scientist said in a slightly rushed tone. "I just received word from Mark that you and Addison are to leave on a mission." Both women nodded. "Well there's something that needs to be done before you can go."
The doctor frowned. "What's that?"
Addison smiled unexpectedly and shook her head. "You have to be doggy chipped!"
Skyler's eyes grew as wide as saucers. "Ugh? I'd been putting that thought out of my mind." She winced. "I have to do it now?"
The scientist inclined his head towards the door. "No time like the present." He began to back out through the doorframe. Addison placed one hand upon Skyler's back and urged her to follow Samuel.
"This is done by local anaesthetic right?"
"Yes, it should take no more than fifteen minutes."
Addison tried to assure her by saying, "It's really simple, Sky, trust me."
"I have a slight 'thing' about needles. In other people's skin it is fine? in my own and I just?" Skyler felt a wave of nausea hit her. She took a light breath, but didn't stop moving. She knew it had to be done. They had reached the floor above the weapons facility. Implant Procedures was located upon this level. "Needles just make me feel queasy."
Samuel pushed open a wide steel door. "I know what you mean. I feel the same way every time I see somebody shove their finger up their nose. Now my own... I am fine and can root around up there all day if I like, but anybody else and?" Samuels's cheeks bulged. "We all have these irrational little quirks," he said in response to Skyler's grimace.
Samuel came to a halt in the centre of a large, sterile room. It appeared to be sectioned off into quarters by a high metal framework that held privacy curtains. Two of the sections held chairs similar to those found in dental surgeries. A wide selection of medical apparatus adorned the room. Samuel strode towards the far corner section, which held one of the mechanical chairs. A doctor stood by a stainless steel worktop; she seemed to be preparing specific items designed for the chip implanting procedure.
"Skyler, this is Doctor Jacquelyn Cheyenne. She is a medical doctor and assists in this simple operation."
Cheyenne turned, nodding her head curtly but saying nothing. Her behaviour did little to put Skyler at ease and Addison noticed this. She leaned over to her ear and whispered, "Don't let her sour disposition put you off. She can be a bit of a dragon, but give her a few drinks and she is the first to rip off her shirt and do the cancan on a tabletop!"
Skyler snorted and covered her chuckle with a hand. Within a heartbeat her view of the severe looking woman wearing dark blue scrubs and slick back hair changed dramatically.
Pulling on a pair of latex gloves, Samuel addressed Skyler. "If you would mind removing your shirt and taking a seat, Skyler?"
"Is it too late to change my mind?"
"About what?" Addison asked.
Rolling her eyes Addison said, "Way too late, little lady, now park your tush, woman."
Without further word, Skyler began unbuttoning her shirt. She stepped over to the grey chair, pulling the garment from her back and handing it to Addison. "Just sit down?"
"Yes," replied Cheyenne. "We'll do the rest."
Skyler gingerly sat down. The chill of the plastic felt cool against her skin. She felt the seat begin to rise several inches. Skyler took a deep, shaky breath.
"Want to hold my hand?"
"Addison! I'm trying to remain tough here!"
"Oh sorry, of course." The agent began to think of a topic to keep Skyler's mind occupied. Her eyes dropped to Skyler's chest and, more noticeably, her breasts covered in a sheer, creamy bra. She lingered for five seconds before her eyes rose back to address the blonde doctor. "Nice tits."
Skyler's jaw dropped in shock. "Addison? you can't say?" she jumped slightly and turned to the source of the pain seeing Cheyenne pull a needle from her shoulder.
Looking down at her arm Skyler realised she'd just been given her anaesthetic. Her head whipped back to Addison. "Why? I can't believe? you just? Addison!" Her voice was incredulous.
With a simple chuckle Addison draped Skyler's shirt over her shoulder. One of her strong points had always been diversion techniques. She took a step backwards and leaned her back against a steel work surface. Crossing one foot over the other she asked, "So tell me more about this Imhotep."
Skyler had closed her eyes as she began to feel her shoulder go numb. Re-opening them she saw doctor Cheyenne preparing a scalpel. Skyler decided it was best to keep her eyes fixed upon Addison. "Well, Imhotep was a lot of things to many people."
"He really built the first pyramid?"
Skyler nodded. "Imhotep is the first master architect we know by name. He built Djoser's Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara. Before that, burial chambers were mastabas. His idea was a version of the mastaba only his design was to place one mastaba upon another... each obviously smaller than the last. Imhotep is also thought to have had a hand in Sckemkhet's unfinished pyramid. You know the step pyramid is recognised as the first monumental stone structure!"
"Yeah. His name means 'the one that comes in peace'." Out of the corner of her eye Skyler saw Doctor Cheyenne approach again. She could sense that her shoulder had gone completely numb by now.
Skyler didn't look as Cheyenne took her arm and asked, "Do you feel this?"
"No," she replied simply.
"Okay? it will probably remain a good idea for you to keep looking away."
Addison watched Cheyenne as she made her first incision into the area where Skyler's arm met her shoulder. "So how did this guy become a god after his death?"
"Ah!" Skyler laid her head back against the chair, still keeping her vision focussed upon Addison. "It wasn't quite that simple. About one hundred years after his death he was elevated to a medical demigod."
"He was a doctor, right?"
"Yes, his best known writings were medical texts. He treated many ailments such as T.B. gallstones, gout, arthritis, and diseases such as that of the abdomen, bladder, rectum, skin, and hair etcetera. He even performed surgery and dentistry."
"Pretty smart guy." Addison kept her gaze upon Skyler though she could see the colour of bright red blood in her peripheral vision.
"So anyway? it was about two thousand years after his death in five hundred and twenty five B.C. that he became a god and actually replaced Nefertum in the great triad at Memphis. "You know? even after that? early Christians worshiped him as one with Christ. The Greeks worshiped him as well and the Romans and Arabs honoured him."
"Is there anything this guy didn't do?"
Skyler smirked. "He was probably a terrible cook!"
"Yeah and a lousy lay!"
As she listened to Addison and Skyler's conversation, Doctor Cheyenne finished preparing Skyler for her chip insertion. Once the final incision was made and the bleeding cauterised, she turned to Samuel. In a quiet voice she said, "It's ready."
"Okay," Samuel muttered. He didn't look up from where he stood at a desk, his eyes upon a slim line, silver laptop. Attached to the computer through a universal serial bus connection was a small black box. Samuels's fingers flew over the keys as he entered relevant information about Skyler. After another minute of data input he finished and entered the codes. The screen flashed through the information he'd entered. Samuel tapped seven more keys and pressed return. The black box beeped twice and a small drawer ejected from its front face. Inside was a small, uniquely designed microchip; it was no more than half an inch squared. With a pair of sterile tweezers Samuel took the chip from the drawer. He walked over to Skyler and sat down.
Realising it was almost complete, Addison thought of something else to say as Samuel began inserting the chip. "I think a part of me always had this little hope I wouldn't have to see Egypt while working. As much as I've always wanted to go there, I hoped it would be on a holiday."
"You never know. This may turn out to be a really simple assignment and complete within a couple of days. Could we stay on a few days after?"
"Mark will probably make us do paperwork in the evenings, but I'd think so."
"Mark would make us do paperwork in our sleep if he could get me to find a way to make that possible!" Samuel opened a large plaster. Peeling off the backs he moved it over the wound on Skyler's shoulder and placed it down gently. "We've used a glue on the incisions. In about three or four days it will be well on it's way to healing nicely."
Skyler finally turned her head and looked down at the covering upon her lower left shoulder. "Does it set off metal detectors?"
"No? part of the chip is titanium but it isn't enough to set off the security systems at airports."
"That was pretty harmless," she responded.
"That it was!" Samuel peeled off his latex gloves. "Would you like some squash and a biscuit now?"
The blonde doctor frowned. She still found she had to mentally translate the odd English word. "You mean juice and a cookie, right?"
"I thought so. God, biscuits? I much prefer our version in the states. When I was younger I could eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast, lunch and dinner."
Samuel turned to Addison as Cheyenne helped Skyler put her shirt back on. "And you call me weird for eating black pudding."
"You are weird, Sam. Eating black pudding is just an affirmation of that."
"Agent Tidwell," said Doctor Cheyenne. It was the first time Skyler had been addressed using her new title. She decided she liked it. "You will need to rest for about an hour. As the anaesthetic starts to wear off you will feel some pain, but take one of these," Cheyenne handed Skyler a strip of tablets, "every four hours until they are gone and you will be fine? okay?"
"Thank you, Jacquelyn." Skyler took the tablets. Her shirt was buttoned up but she left it un-tucked. "There's no chance of my body rejecting this, is there?"
"Not a chance. Not with this."
All heads turned when Mark Blithe entered the room. In his left hand he held a large, silver metallic briefcase. "I presume all is well?"
"Considering I just got stuck with a needle!"
Samuel strode back to his laptop. "The chip has been installed, Mark." He taped his identification password into the computer. "I'm about to run the primary location test."
Cheyenne, Addison, Skyler and Mark stood around Samuel and the scientist keyed in Skyler's name and ranking identification. As he pressed 'enter' a green map of the world appeared upon his screen. Suddenly a red, hollow square moved over and around the map. It stopped over the British Isles and then expanded to fill the whole screen. Now with a map of the United Kingdom on screen the red square moved again, stopping over the capital of England, London. Again the square expanded filling the screen with the city of London. One final time the square zeroed in on a specific location in London and expanded to screen size. A smaller window appeared in the corner and Skyler's location was stated as inside Headquarters, lower level three.
"That's kind of awesome," Skyler commented, "but have I just given up some of my freedom?"
Mark shook his head adamantly. "No, this is only used for operative location during a mission. Your day-to-day life will not be monitored, that I promise you." Remembering the reason for his appearance, Mark held up the case. "Before you leave, Skyler, I need to give you this? We better find a place to sit and talk."
Pretty confident she knew what type of case Mark was holding, Addison suggested the target range. The General agreed and so together with Mark, Skyler and Addison returned to the fourth and lowest underground section of the building.
They arrived to find three agents practicing against moving targets. The repeated blasts of gunshots were incredibly loud in the enclosed room. "Let's go in there," Mark shouted over the noise, motioning towards a soundproof room to the right. They entered a room specifically used for housing weapons and closed the door. The noise was silenced.
"Okay then." Mark placed his suitcase upon a wooden table in the centre of the room. Around them were metal cabinets housing ammunition and selected handheld weapons. Upon the walls were eyes and ears protectors and posters stating the safety rules of conduct. "Skyler, as you will remember a week or so ago, you made a request for a specific type of weapon. A Taser gun."
Unlocking both sides of the case, General Blithe lifted its lid. "This is the Advanced Taser M18-L. It comes with ten cartridges and shoulder holster. Although you will be required to carry a standard issue weapon, your secondary choice has been approved as the M18-L." Mark took the gun from his case and handed it to Skyler. "It's not currently loaded."
Taking the gun, Skyler looked it over. "Seems pretty easy to use... and I do have a little time to get used to its operations before we leave."
An unexpected high-toned beep emanated from Mark's wristwatch. He gazed down at the face and recognised the four-digit code. "I need to get to a phone. I'll see you before you leave." Without another word Mark left the room.
"How's the shoulder feeling?"
"The anaesthetic's beginning to wear off." Skyler pulled the strip of tablets from her pocket. "I'm glad though as I've had this annoying itch for about twenty minutes now."
"Hmm, I have this itch too." The agent wiggled her eyebrows. "I've been scratching it myself for a while but would really prefer you to do it." Addison sat down on the edge of the table. She pulled Skyler into her body. "Where were we before Samuel interrupted us again?"
Thinking for a moment Skyler said, "We were in the middle of a chat, but for now let's skip all that and get to the good part." Skyler placed her lips upon Addison's. The spark ignited earlier fanned into a flame the moment their lips touched. Addison showed no resistance as Skyler pushed her tongue into Addison's mouth and caressed her deeply. Their sensuous kiss lasted no more than thirty seconds before Skyler pulled away. "I need to take a tablet. This is really beginning to hurt."
"Okay." Addison slid off the table and crossed over to a water cooler in the corner of the room. She pulled a cone shaped paper cup from a dispenser and filled it with water. "Here, use this."
Skyler accepted the water gratefully and took a single tablet. Swallowing deeply, her eyes turned back to Addison with a hint of seriousness. "Addison, I know as soon as we get out there we become colleagues. I know to a point we must distance ourselves from these feelings. I just want you to know I am capable of doing that."
"Where did this come from?" Addison asked curiously.
Skyler shrugged. "I've been thinking about it for a while. I didn't want you to worry about the possibility that?"
"Sky," Addison interrupted, "I know and understand what you mean but you don't have to be concerned by that and it's actually never been a concern for me. You are right that when we get out there the targets and assignment become primary focus, but it isn't going to change yours or my feelings. Like the life of anybody important to you, for whatever reason, it is part and parcel of the working relationship. We aren't always going to be working together though."
"True." With Addison's words in mind Skyler said, "We can do this can't we!"
"Sky, we can do anything we put our minds to. That's the beauty and power in all of us. It's like that saying? 'They can because they think they can'."
"I hear that!"
Addison grinned. "Then what could possibly go wrong?" The agent rolled her eyes at her own statement and they both laughed.
Three smartly dressed men, striding through The Bazaar in Cairo, stood out strikingly from the environment around them. It had passed midday but the sun still shone high in the mid-afternoon sky. Though the weather was extremely hot the humidity was low; the vast desert lands of Egypt were a testament to this fact. The voices of vendors and tourists were all around them. Almost everywhere they looked a merchant could be seen haggling with his or her buyer, determined to agree upon a decent price for their sale. For some reason water pipes seemed very popular.
The Bazaar was located down many narrow streets. The men passed them showing little interest in their surroundings and entered a large square. The warm, dry air held the scent of freshly cooked foods from the many fast food joints, each one offering cool refreshing drinks for their patrons. To the left of the square stood a small sandstone building; it was in this direction the men walked. The building was simple in design, sharp and angular in shape. Its only notable feature was the colourful sign by the door stating the name of the bar.
Walking side by side, the middleman with a dark receding hairline and holding a leather briefcase ascended three steps into the building. They entered the bar, which was sparsely populated by clientele. The mood felt somewhat sombre, stifling and the five customers within the establishment each sat at a different circular, wooden table. By the centre of the opposite wall stood the bar. A lone tender stood, bent over a newspaper, quietly reading. To the left of the bar was a jukebox. The music was low but obviously a classic with American songs from the sixties and seventies. On the opposite side of the bar was a slim door. Its blue faded paint was slowly peeling and well in need of some cosmetic attention. The men headed towards the door. For anybody who may have cared to pay closer attention they might have noticed the shoulder holsters and revolvers attached to each man. Upon reaching the door the middle guy knocked twice. Only brief seconds passed before it was opened and a small woman, dressed in black from head to toe, stood before them. Acknowledgement was made through eye contact and respective nods. She let them pass without a word.
They descended a flight of narrow steps to a single door at the bottom. It opened almost immediately and two more people waited inside. The room was sparse, a shoddy, brown couch by the wall and table with a single chair in its centre. It was a younger man, no more than twenty-three years old, who rose from the couch. "I hear it all went according to plan."
"It went swimmingly."
"Excellent." The young man, whose extremely noticeable feature was his white hair and pink eyes, turned to an elderly gentleman seated at a desk and holding a glass of whisky. "Professor Jerome YaShiln, this is Doctor William Bryson. He has the item we have been waiting for."
With a smile, sickeningly brimming with self-satisfaction, William placed his case upon the table. He opened the double locks and lifted its lid. From the case he pulled out something covered thickly with a dark, cotton cloth. Placing the bundle down, William pulled away the material. There before him lay five stone tablets.
"How do I look?" Skyler asked, standing before Addison.
The agent did a visual inspection. Skyler was dressed very much the same as herself. They both wore light beige fatigues designed for desert conditions. A zip around the knee of the trousers gave the opportunity to remove the lower part of the leg to make shorts. The main difference was their upper dress. Skyler wore a white vest, a shirt that matched her trousers and a utility jerkin, which hid her shoulder holster and Taser gun. Strapped to her left ankle she wore a Browning pistol. Ammunition for both weapons was packed into the many pockets of her jerkin, as was other essential equipment.
Addison on the other hand wore her favourite choice of black tank tops with a heavy-duty shirt over the top. The shirt was capable of shrouding the twin Berettas attached to her back. Along with one knife attached to her right leg and utility knife at her hip, ammunition and a collection of Samuel's explosive pens (which she had taken a shine to) Addison was ready to go. In her top pocket was a survival tin. Addison had learned, through many years, it was better to be prepared for any situation. The agent chose not to carry any larger weapons. Their mission didn't call for the 'heavy artillery' although they were expected to at least carry standard issue.
"You look ready for action." Grinning, Addison picked up two equipped backpacks and handed Skyler's to her. "Come on, we need to meet with Mark and Sam." Exiting the weapons holding facility they took an elevator to the ground floor. "How's your shoulder feel?"
"Numbness has disappeared and the painkillers are doing their job. I feel fine."
Shooting out her hand, Addison pressed a button halting the elevator's upward progress to the ground floor. "Sky, are you ready for this?"
Skyler sighed. "I'm nervous but at the same time the anticipation is surging through me. I feel like I'm about to embark on a great adventure."
Addison smiled and allowed the elevator to continue its journey. "Doctor Skyler Tidwell, heading for the greatest discovery in Archaeology! If this wasn't done through the S.O. you'd probably be famous."
"Don't get ahead of yourself, Addison. We haven't even left yet."
"I'm an optimist and great believer in the power of positive thought." The doors opened and both women stepped out of the elevator. Samuel Perkins was already waiting for them. He handed Skyler a slim line laptop; it was silver and only seven inches across. To Addison he handed a pair of not-so-standard glasses. On one arm of the frame was an attached earpiece.
"Okay, Addison? to use the eyes and ears, just place the glasses on and insert the ear piece. A microphone is built into the frame. A network lattice within each lens sends back to Skyler's receiver everything you look at." He handed her a transmitter. "Attach this to your belt when you use the equipment. It has a twenty-two hour battery life." Next Samuel turned to Skyler. "Your visual receiver has the built in microphone and speakers as you already know, Skyler." Skyler lifted open the miniature laptop. She'd already had many hours of training with the unit and was wholly confident in its usage.
"How far does the transmission stretch?" asked Addison.
"You have a two mile radius."
Addison pursed her lips and nodded, suitably impressed. Her thoughts turned as she swiftly remembered Spike. Pushing a hand into her pocket, Addison pulled out the keys to her Mercedes A.M.G. "How would you like to look after my new car while I'm gone?"
"Are you kidding?" Samuel reached to take the keys from Addison, but she pulled away.
"There's one condition."
"Pick Spike up for me Sunday evening."
Samuel nodded instantly saying, "You have a deal."
Addison didn't move to hand over the keys. "And one more thing. Don't you go and stick my dog in another nappy."
Nappy? Skyler thought. Oh yes, a diaper.
"Nothing wrong with that."
"Nothing wrong? You know my lazy dog doesn't like rain, right?"
"Well a couple of weeks ago I called Spike for a walk. When I opened the door she saw it was raining. She ran off, disappeared... only to return moments later with a hand towel. She dropped it on the floor and sat on it like she expected me to pin it around her arse!"
Samuel burst out laughing.
"It's not funny."
"No, no it's not." Samuel tried to keep the smile from his lips "I promise to take her out for regular walks and not put her in a nappy." He laughed again. "No matter how much she pleads incontinence."
Addison handed over her keys. "Good."
To the side of them a door opened and Mark appeared. "Transportation is ready, Agents."
Samuel held out both hands. He took Addison's left and Skyler's right and shook them firmly. "See you when you get back."
"Later, Sam," both women replied in unison.
Releasing their hands, Samuel watched them leave to begin a mission more unexpected and dangerous than anybody could have predicted.
End of part 1
Continued in Part 2