The Isis Incarnate

by Annie S. O'Neill


Chapter 1

The only light that shown through the small window into the room was the quarter moon. It cast an eerie glow on the bare chamber, causing her pulse to quicken more that it already was. She decided to check her belongings one more time.

"Backpack," she mouthed, because she knew the bugs planted next to her pillow were fully active, and somewhere in the vast house someone was listening to her every move. Opening her bag, she coughed to cover up the noise. Her ticket was safely nestled deep inside, with an extra change of clothes, toothbrush and paste, passport, and the bare minimum of other essentials for her trip. Coughing again, she closed her bag.

She slipped off her shoes, revealing her money; Egyptian in the left, American in the right. Tightening the belt at her waist while tucking her shirt in, she tried to calm herself down. The last six people that attempted escape from the Cairo House were killed in the process. Of course, nobody knew how they were killed, they just ended up that way. She didn't want to find out the details; she just wanted to leave.

Heart pounding, she checked the clock on the nightstand. The small, red numbers that pierced through the blackness of the room read just after three A.M. It was time.

Coughing for the last time, she slowly opened the door. Poking her head out of the doorway, she looked up and down the dark hallway. Empty. She prowled down the corridor, trying her hardest not to make any noises as she carefully stepped on the old, wooded floor. She pressed herself flatly against the wall, and readied a small, black cloth. A surveillance camera was just around the corner, and if she was seen, this attempt would be for noting.

Tip-toeing around the corner, she reached up and placed the cloth over the camera. She slipped passed it, and continued her trek to the stairwell. Gently forcing the door open, she made her way down to the first floor.

By this time, her heart had stopped beating, she was so nervous. She was well aware that her body was trembling. Her shaking hand reached out for the massive front door. Firmly grasping the handle, she slung her backpack over her shoulder and reached for the lock. Turning the knob to her right, the small crack told her the door was now unlocked. She was free to leave. This calmed her for a second.

Behind her, an alarm c to wail. Cursing under her breath, she realized that they had discovered her missing. She could hear the heavy footsteps of the security guards storming down the stairs, and also from her left and right. They would be there any second. She knew their response time was excellent.

Using all of her strength, she opened the heavy, oak door. The dry Egyptian night greeted her with an eerie silence. Counting to three quickly, she took off from the doorway at full speed, just as the guards reached the door. She heard the command to fire at will. She looked over her shoulder, and in the dim outside lights, she could see the guards take aim. Stumbling over a few pebbles, she fought to stay on her feet. She would not let herself fall. If she fell, she would surely die.

The firing of the guns cut through the desert silence. She had left the range of the outside lights of the mansion, so the guards found it rather difficult to aim on the fleeing woman. Firing blankly into the night, she increased her speed as bullets began to scream by her. She felt a sharp pain in her left shoulder, but realized that a bullet had only grazed her. The throbbing shoulder felt warm as her blood washed over it.

She saw a bright, white light ahead of her. It passed by quickly, and was replaced by the red glow of a car's taillights. She was approaching the highway. The car parked just up the road, waiting for her. As she turned off the path leading to the house, she could hear the guards coming after her. Everything was right on schedule.

Slowing down to a quick jog, she ran sloppily the last few feet to the waiting car. Opening the car door, she threw her backpack in the rear seat. Slamming the door shut, the man driving stepped on the gas. The car screeched out onto the road, leaving the guards behind.

* * *

A small man stood nervously in front of a door. He was wringing his hands, and biting his lips. He did not want to tell him what happened. Opening the door, he found him sitting in the middle of the floor, in complete silence. In front of him was a massive, gold statue of a woman with a lion's head. The rest of the room was filled with exotic plants, small, burning torches, and the pungent smell of incense. His master was in meditation.

"I asked not to be disturbed," he growled. He was not pleased.

"Master," the small man said timidly. He was going to get it for this. "She has escaped. We are prepared to follow her, just give the order."

"You will not."

The small man was puzzled. "Master?"

"She is seeking Rayne."

"We can destroy her before she reaches the airport."

"You will not," his master rose, facing the small man. Clad in a plain, white skirt, and shirtless, he was very intimidating. His jet black hair was slicked back, with a solid gold cobra on the front. Gold scarab and ankh pendants swung wildly from around his neck, and finally fell into place on his bare chest. His eyes, ornamented with deep brown and black makeup, stared into the soul of the man. He began to shake even more. "The great goddess Sekhmet decrees it so."

"I.....," the small man stuttered, "I will not argue with the goddess, just ask for reasoning."

"The reasons shall be delivered at the appropriate time." the master replied. "Now leave me." The small man bowed and quickly left the decorated chamber. The master returned to his meditation.

* * *

She had barely made it to the airport. The last boarding call for Paris had just been announced. Hugging her driver, she ran for the gate. The stewardess at the terminal stared in horrid amazement at the stain on her sleeve.

"Are you all right, Madame?" she asked, her voice heavy with a French accent. Wordless, the woman gave the stewardess a blank stare and boarded the plane.

Walking down the aisle to find her seat, she was met with the glares of passengers that had seen her arm. The person she sat next to took one look at her, turned, and conversed with an elderly woman sitting to his right.

After the plane had taken off, she went into the cramped bathroom and tended to her wounds. Washing the blood off her skin at the stainless steel sink, she used what was left of her black shirt as a bandage, and removed the extra shirt she had packed. Quickly re-dressing, she hurried back to her seat in time for the in-flight beverage.

* * *

The plane arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in the early morning hours. She brushed her teeth, combed her hair, and applied some makeup in the bathroom; she didn't plan on sleeping until she got to San Francisco, so her appearance left much to be desired. When she decided she was presentable to the public, she headed to the terminal of the plane that would take her to Brussels, then to Logan Airport in Boston. From Boston, she would take another connecting flight to San Francisco, and her journey would be over.

Chapter 2

The moonlight from the dark evening sky filtered in through the large windows of the office of Benjamin Yaver. He stood with commanding presence in the window, peering out on the additional security guards circling the large estate. They were barely visible in the blackness. Just above his head, a window pane made of stained glass bore the eye of Ra, an image that provided him with much consolation in his more difficult times.

Sighing heavily to himself, he sat down in a large, brown leather chair, that, in for Yaver's large body, seemed as if it could swallow him whole. The rectangular oak desk spread out before him, papers properly filed, date books in their rightful positions; it was clean, which was not normal trait for his office.

A personnel file was open in front of him. It had been just over sixteen hours since her escape. An informant he had watching the airports had told him she had left on the 4:00 A.M. flight for Paris. Unless she planned to fly around the world before going to San Francisco, she surely should have arrived there by now. The door to his office opened. "Mr. Yaver?" a timid voice asked. Yaver knew it was his aide, Scott O'Brien. From what O'Brien had told him, and from what he could gather from the Legacy database, his mother was an American, and his father was Egyptian, who left Scott's mother before he was born. He was raised in a small town in the Midwest, and, despite his late twenties age, never seemed to have gotten past puberty.

Yaver never really liked Scott. But Scott was cheap labor and a loyal follower.

Scott stumbled into the room with the clumsiness that consumed his entire reputation. He had obviously inherited his appearance from his dead-beat dad; his eyes were wide and brown, (and at the moment, bloodshot.) and his hair was nearly black and very curly. (that too, was messy.) His chin and cheeks were scattered with one-day stubble. "Sir, I would like to apologize for my appearance. With all of this business with Niki I haven't had time to shave..."

"Don't," Yaver ordered, not rising from his chair. "You'll cut your throat. Sit." O'Brien sat, mumbling to himself.

"I, uh," his voice cracked. Yaver rolled his eyes as O'Brien cleared his throat and began again. "I called in some favors in San Francisco. Her flight just arrived."

"Good work," Yaver replied, feeling like he was congratulating a dog who learned to fetch. "What time is it over there?"

"It's uh," O'Brien said, checking his watch. He moved his finger around in the air, as if the math problem was on imaginary paper right in front of him. "It's just after 11:00 A.M." he finished triumphantly. "Should we..."

"No." Yaver growled. "We will contact Rayne at the appropriate time."

"But sir," O'Brien began. "Why..."

"Must you always question the simplest of orders?" Yaver bellowed. He rose to his full height. O'Brien began to slouch in his chair and tremble. "Sekhmet has decided to wait."

"Might I ask for what, sir?" O'Brien croaked, regaining his composure. He sat back up.

"We will contact Rayne in person."

"Sir, are you sure that's wise?" O'Brien asked. Yaver's deep brown eyes became slits on his face, his mouth a menacing frown; he gripped the desk to keep himself from strangling the young assistant. O'Brien soon realized his mistake. "Oh, uh, of course. How exceedingly stupid of me, sir. the Goddess has said so. Right. Shall I make travel plans?"

"No. Sekhmet will decree the appropriate time for departure." Yaver replied.

"Uh, yes sir," O'Brien squeaked. He got up quickly and scurried out of the office. Yaver collapsed back into his chair.

He really hated Scott.

* * *

"Ladies and gentlemen," a filtered, male voice said over the plane's intercom system. "This is your captain speaking. We have arrived in San Francisco. The time is currently 11:03 A.M.; it's a pleasant seventy-two degrees outside, with a chance of showers later on in the afternoon. Please remain seated until the plane has come to a complete stop, and enjoy your trip."

She unbuckled her seatbelt as soon as the plane stopped moving, and retrieved her bag from the over-head compartment. Paying no attention to the stewardess as they bade their good-byes, she exited the 747 and walked out of the terminal. She quickly located the bathroom and walked inside. A few women stared at her arm, where the make-shift bandage had failed to keep the blood from flowing. The began to mumble in a mixture of languages, and one by one, they casually left the room.

She pulled her toothbrush and paste from her bag. Brushing furiously, she pulled a comb through her long, black hair that had been knotted and matted by her experiences. She spat quickly into the sink and used her hands as a cup to wash her mouth out. Searching the small bathroom, she located a first-aid kit. Pausing to wonder why one was in there, she dismissed any doubt and retrieved some gauze. She rolled up the short sleeve of her black shirt and inhaled sharply as she removed the old bandage. Using a small cloth from her bag, she washed the gash in her arm and wrapped it in gauze.

She looked at herself in the mirror to make sure she didn't look completely unpresentable. The whiteness of the gauze was conspicuous, but as long as the wound didn't bleed, it would not present a problem. Repacking her bag, she left the bathroom. The women who were in there before watched her leave, then re-entered. She sighed with relief that they had not contacted security.

Walking quickly, almost in a slow jog, she found the exit. She squinted for a moment in the bright sun, and hailed an on-coming cab. She slid into the back seat, mumbled directions, and the driver, replying with a heavy Indian accent, pulled away from the curb and battled his way through traffic.

* * *

Nick Boyle was tired. He had been searching through the archaic texts of the library all morning for ancient rituals associated with the Druids. He was doing this as a favor for the Legacy chapter in Rome; all of their researchers were either on vacation or sick. It was a personal request from a girl he knew who worked there, who he knew would be more that grateful for his efforts... he smiled to himself.

Nick Boyle was also hungry.

Gently closing the books in front of him, he stretched his arms above him and let out a long, low groan. Bringing his arms down, he looked at his watch. It was nearly twelve o'clock. "Lunch time," he said to himself. Running his fingers through his short, brown hair, he thudded his way down the wooden stairs. As he turned towards the general direction of the kitchen, he heard a loud pounding at the front door, followed by the squealing tires of a car pulling away at high speeds.

He stopped, turned his head to the front door, and waited. The knock came again. "I got it," he yelled to nobody in particular. If Derek's office door was closed, they wouldn't have heard him. He approached the door, and opened it just enough to fit his body in the opening.

A woman stood before him; arms crossed impatiently, foot tapping rhythmically on the stone steps. Nick paused to give her a once-over before speaking. She was gorgeous. Her long, black hair wafted gently in the spring breeze. She was clad in black from head to toe, but the dark clothing couldn't hide her slim figure. A blood-stained bandage peeked out from under the short-sleeved shirt. Nick grinned again. "Can I, um, help you?" he said dryly. Her face remained imperturbable.

"Probably not," she replied coldly. "I'm looking for Derek Rayne." Nick struggled to keep his boyish smile from fading. He stepped aside.

"Come in," he told her. "I'll go find him for you. she complied, walking into the massive house with a few long steps. "Who should I say is here?"

"Another Legacy employee."

"Really?" Nick asked. "Where?" she stared back at him with set eyes. Nick took the hint. "I'll be right back." she nodded., shifting her gaze to her new surroundings. Nick took slow steps away, still facing her, before turning and running for Derek's office.

Derek Rayne looked up with surprise as Nick burst into the office. Nick slammed the door, and leaned against it with a big smile on his face. "Let me guess," Derek began, his voice laced with his Dutch accent. "Mia called from Rome, and you need to take some time off." Nick shook his head.

"Alright," Rachel Corrigan started from her chair in front of Derek's desk. "Mia's here and you need to take some time off."

"No, I don't need any time off," Nick replied.

"Does this have anything to do with Mia?" Alex Moreau asked from another chair.


"Well then..." Alex's voice trailed off.

"The almost perfect woman is downstairs waiting for me to come back." Nick said, with a slight hint of sarcasm.

"I thought you said Mia wasn't involved with this," Derek said.

"She's not," Nick answered, second-guessing himself on even bringing up Mia at breakfast in the first place.

"Then who is this almost perfect woman, and why is she almost perfect?" Rachel asked.

"In that exact order: I don't know and she's looking for Derek." Muffled giggles emanated from Rachel and Alex, as Derek's grin faded away, and his cheeks turned a soft red. He cleared his throat before speaking.

"And who is this, um," Derek struggled to find the right word. "visitor?"

"She said she was 'another Legacy employee'. I believe those were her exact words." Nick told him. "I tried to ask her where she was stationed, but she didn't tell me." Derek set his pen down and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "She doesn't look like the type who likes to be kept waiting, Derek."

Derek found the woman exactly where Nick had left her near the doorway. Nick, Alex, and Rachel followed close behind. "Derek Rayne?" she asked. He nodded casually and extended his right hand. She shook it quickly, barely giving Derek time to appreciate her soft skin or tight grip. "Nikara Lawson." she stated.

"Welcome to San Francisco, Ms. Lawson." he said diplomatically. He directed her attention to the three standing behind him. She nodded a brief hello to Derek's companions before returning her gaze to his face. "Nick tells me you work for the Legacy."

"Probably not anymore, but yes, I did."

"Not anymore?" Derek asked with mild amusement, the grin returning to his face. "What have you done to anger the headquarters in London that they would expel you from our, uh, happy existence?" he noticed the bandage on her arm. "Are you injured?" she shook her head, her hair sweeping around her face and neck.

"It's just a flesh wound. It's not serious."

"And how..." Derek stated.

"Escaping," she replied nonchalantly. She looked beyond Derek to where the three others were standing. She was met with puzzled looks from them, and Derek as well. "I worked at the House in Cairo, if that tells you anything."

"Depends," Nick said. "What's going on in Cairo?"

"In short," she said, "All of the researchers have been placed in something just short of solitary confinement."

"Solitary confinement?" Rachel asked in disbelief.

"We're only allowed outside for an hour, and we're supposed to be with an armed escort. We have to be asleep by ten-thirty every evening, awake at six-thirty, and work non-stop to one. A half-hour break is spent in your room, which is no larger than a closet, where your lunch is brought to you by a guard. Then it's work until six-thirty, dinner, and more work until bedtime." she explained with obvious distaste.

"It's a prison," Nick whispered.

"Just short of solitary confinement," she agreed. "We'd all be mad if we weren't allowed to work with eachother."

"Why don't you just talk to..." Derek asked.

"Listen," she interrupted. "I would be pleased to tell you all you want to know, but I haven't slept since I began this little 'adventure'." Derek nodded quickly.

"Of course," he mumbled. He motioned for her to follow him down the hall and up the stairs, and finally led her to a small room. He turned to close the drapes on the windows. "I know it's a bit small, but we weren't expecting anyone..." he heard her grumble a short reply. "I hope you find it comf-" as Derek turned around, he found Nikara already asleep on the bed. He smiled to himself and pulled a quilt up around her small body. He left he room and quietly shut the door behind him.

"She's asleep," Derek said softly to Nick. "Stay here."

"Why?" Nick inquired.

"Just do it," he replied hastily. "I'm going to try and call Cairo."

Chapter 3

Nikara's mind came to slowly. At the moment, it was the only thing functioning. She couldn't see, hear, or feel a thing. Her senses seemed to come on one at a time, as if each one was being turned on with a lightswitch.

Sound; nothing but her own breathing. Touch; she could feel the warm fuzziness of a blanket around her. Taste; her mouth was dry. Smell; potatoes. And butter. And some kind of meat. Her eyes shot open. Most of the room was dark, but a small lamp next to the bed was turned on. She squinted, but after a moment she focused on a plate of food on the wooden nightstand, and Derek looming over her.

"How long was I out?" she slurred.

"About seven hours." he replied quietly.

"Ok," she replied, rolling over. She began to drift back to sleep when she felt Derek shaking her. "Five minutes," she growled. Derek whispered a negative reply.

"You promised an explanation." Derek told her.

"I said when I woke up," she turned her body again and propped herself up on her elbows. "That's a voluntary awakening."

Derek sat down on the edge of the bed. His kind, hazel eyes contradicted his next statement. "Too bad."

"You're evil," she commented,, sitting up and shifting to Indian style. Derek gave a small laugh.

"That's not the first time I've heard that one," he joked.

"Really?" Nikara asked with keen interest. "Who and why?"

"Your story first," he told her. He stood up and offered her the plate of food. She gracefully balanced the full plate on her knees, and took the utensils from the table. Derek turned on the light in the room and the desk lamp off before sitting down.

"Where do you want to start?" she asked, after swallowing a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

"The beginning always worked for me," he remarked. She gave him a pleading looks.

"This is going to be a long story." Nikara groaned.

"I've got the time," Derek noted.

"Well, about five years ago, everything was somewhat normal at the Cairo House." she began. Derek began to wonder what she meant by 'somewhat', but left it alone. "I was one of the head researchers. I worked very closely with Ben Yaver. He was relatively new at the House, but he knew what he was doing.

"Anyway, there was one day when I came across a few old records. When I had finished translating them, I realized there was a temple somewhere between Thebes and.... I can't remember. The point was, it was somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where nobody really explored.

"The excavation was so amazing. It was the first time I was actually at a dig. I was usually more content back at the House, working on something or another. I put in a lot of time at the dig. I barely ate, slept,... basically, I never took care of myself. The point is, in the middle of the dig, I got sick. I was in the tent sleeping most of the time. When I was awake, Yaver would brief me, but I wasn't allowed to go outside until I was better.

"One night, I heard Yaver leave his tent. I really didn't think a lot of it, because he would get up and pace during the night. But the next day, I heard he had taken command of the House, and I was sent back to the House with no explanation." she paused. "A few of us think there was something in the temple...."

"Do you know what?" Derek asked. She shook her head.

"No. I got sick before the door was opened. That's why I was so mad I couldn't leave the tent." she replied. "After that, all that wonderful stuff I told you about this morning happened."

"And you couldn't take it anymore," Derek concluded. "So you escaped."

"No. Well, yes, but it wasn't that easy." she told him. "Other people tried to escape. We all knew about the attempts, and nobody could sleep when we knew what was going on. During the night, we could hear them scream. We never knew what was happening to them, but the next day we were attending funerals." she stopped to hear Derek mutter something about how horrible that was. "It took me a few months to come up with an escape plan."

"How did you manage that?" Derek inquired.

"Yaver let us go out to a small market near the House. We would go one at a time, with an armed guard. One day, I met an American that ran a small garment shop with his wife. To fool my guard, I pretended I was trying on clothes in the changing room..."

"But you were devising the escape with the American." Derek concluded. She nodded.

"Mostly, all he did was get me my plane tickets, and pick me up from the House." she stopped. "That almost cost me my life." she stopped again.

"How?" he asked, the concern apparent in his voice.

"I'm getting to that." she took in a few forkfuls of steamed vegetables before continuing. "Everything was going fine. I got out of the room with no problem. I got down the hallway with no problem. I made it down the stairs with no problem. I get to the front door...."

"And you have the problem." Derek finished for her.

"Right," she paused to keep herself from upsetting the food on her knees. "I forgot the dammed door had an alarm. Needless to say, the guards came running, and as I was running, I got 'knicked'."

"Are you sure you're alright?" Derek asked with obvious concern. She nodded.

"I'll be fine, thanks," she replied with a grateful smile. She paused. "God, you have know idea how wonderful this house is."

"What do you mean?" Derek questioned.

"It's big. Not that the house in Cairo wasn't big; it was huge. But this room is, like, twice the size of the box I had to live in back home." she paused, widening her smile. "Not to mention it's precept is a perfect gentleman." Derek blushed. "Don't be ashamed," she told him, pointing at the food. "Nobody at the Cairo House would've brought this to me."

"I tried to call Cairo," Derek mentioned. Nikara's hand, in the process of forcing peas on her fork, froze. Without moving her hand, she looked at Derek straight in the eye. She remained that way for a moment, then set her fork down and returned the plate to the nightstand. She wiped her mouth with a napkin before speaking.

"And, um, what did they have to say?" she asked.

"Nothing," Derek told her. "They wouldn't even pick up the phone." she nodded.

"They'll deny everything." she said quietly.

"I know." Derek replied hesitantly.

"So it all comes down to who you believe," she commented, still staring at Derek, who had shifted his gaze to the floor. "Who will you believe, Dr. Rayne?"

"Derek, please." he corrected.

"You're avoiding my question, Derek." she reminded him.

"I don't know," he told her. "I'd love to believe you, but....."

"I understand." she whispered.

* * *

(One week later)

The room was silent. Yaver was again dressed in his meditation garb, kneeling in the middle of the floor. Smoke and the smell of over-burned incense engulfed the chamber. Through the gray haze, the gold statue of Sekhmet loomed over him. The statue was at least twice Yaver's height, and made of pure gold. It featured the lion-headed goddess sitting on a pedestal, holding an ankh in one hand. It was a simple statue for a goddess of a simple purpose: destruction of the enemies of her worshipers.

Yaver had spent the past hour pledging his allegiance to the goddess, praying that she would speak to him, give him a sign, anything to guide him through his situation. At long last, she began to speak. "How fares my servant on this night?" It was a low, female voice, that originated from the statue. As the words came, thick black and purple smoke began to swirl around the statue, and the statue seemed to come to life and stand before him.

The figure was distinctively that of a woman. Her face, however, while still feminine, bore the snout of a fierce lioness; sharp whiskers on either side of her nose, and bright white fangs that protruded from her mouth as she spoke. Her eyes were cat-like; large, brown, and dangerous.

"Troubled, my goddess." Yaver replied in a monotone voice.

"She has not returned." Sekhmet stated.

"She has reached Rayne. He has tried to establish communications, but we have refused." Yaver told her. "This is as we feared."

"It will not be a problem." Sekhmet began. "If it is handled correctly."

"Instruct, and it shall be done, my goddess."

"You will go to San Francisco. There you will negotiate her return to Cairo." Sekhmet ordered.

"And if she does not comply?" Yaver asked.

"That is something that will be dealt with at the appropriate time," Sekhmet responded. "She is too valuable to be destroyed."

"Much too valuable, my goddess." the smoke around the ancient deity died down, and the statue returned to its' dormant state. Yaver let out a long, slow breath. Rising, he put out the torches and took the diminished incense sticks and threw them into a small wastebasket near the door. Exiting the chamber, he found O'Brien waiting for him.

"Master?" O'Brien asked cautiously.

"Make the travel arrangements for San Francisco," he said brusquely, and walked away.

Chapter 4

Nick gently set his coffee on the table as he turned over another page in the morning's paper. He had been reading up on the latest developments in Iraq when Derek staggered to the table. His robe was loosely tied over his royal blue pajamas, his eyes were half-open and obviously bloodshot. "Good morning, sunshine," Nick commented sarcastically. Derek ignored his young friend and slumped down into his chair. One of the servants appeared at his side, and was

about to put milk in his coffee when Nick stopped her. "Better leave it black," he ordered. The servant nodded and walked off. "What happened?" It took Derek a moment to process Nick's question.

"What? Oh, nothing." Derek said sleepily. "Just a rough night."

"Anything I should know about?" Nick asked, concerned.

"Probably not," Derek replied, rubbing his eyes. "It was just one of those...." he struggled to find the right word. "things." he finished with a yawn. He looked around the table. "Where are...?"

"I have no idea," Nick replied. "I heard them leave about an hour ago."

"What time is it now?" Derek grumbled.

"Just after nine," Nick mumbled, returning to his paper. "I think I heard Alex say something about shopping and picking up Rachel." he paused, then smiled. "We won't see them until late this afternoon." Derek grinned at Nick's joke, then sipped his coffee. He was about to comment on how much he hated black coffee when he was interrupted by the phone. He stood up slowly and walked over to a nearby table. Stopping for a moment to clear the cobwebs in his mind, he quickly hit the speaker button.

"Derek Rayne," he said, doing his best to sound awake.

"Dr. Rayne, this is Benjamin Yaver," a male voice on the other end said. "The precept of the Cairo House," he added. Derek looked to Nick, who set his paper down and joined his friend at the phone. "I'm glad we're finally speaking."

"Yes," Derek agreed slowly, "We've been having some, uh, communication problems."

"I apologize for that, Dr. Rayne. Our phones have been malfunctioning the past few days." Yaver explained.

"Great to know they're back on-line," Derek commented, bored and obviously sick of this inane small talk.

"Oh, I'm not calling from Cairo. I'm here in San Francisco," he replied. Derek and Nick exchanged questionable glances. "I'm calling in regards to a recent visitor of yours."

"Really?" Derek said, uninterested.

"Yes," Yaver continued. "Nikara Lawson?"

"She's not here right now," Derek paused. He grinned and changed the tone of his voice to one slightly more satirical. "But if you leave your name and number she'll get back to you if she feels like it." Nick struggled to suppress a laugh.

"Very amusing, Dr. Rayne," Yaver groaned. "Unfortunately, Nikara's situation is no laughing matter."

"I'm sure," Derek responded.

"She is in violation of her contract." Yaver said plainly.

"Violation?" Derek questioned.

"She has left the house without permission. To take a vacation from the Cairo House requires special permission from me." Yaver said. Nick hit the hold button on the phone.

"That's a violation of contract?" he asked in disbelief. Derek nodded in agreement, then hit the speaker button again.

"That's not in the standard Legacy contract," Derek told him.

"It's a special contract," Yaver commented, annoyed.

"Of course," Derek commented sharply. "Do you have any idea why she left?"

"Absolutely not," Yaver replied. "Dr. Rayne, if she is still at your house, we would like her returned immediately."

"Returned?" Derek asked with an incredulous laugh.

"Or have her location disclosed to us if she is not with you." Yaver offered.

"And what would you do to her when you return to Cairo?" Derek asked. Nick could sense his friend getting angrier.

"She would be punished. She is highly regarded at the house, and it would set an example that I plan to stick by the rules no matter who violates them."

"No," Derek replied.

"Dr. Rayne-" Yaver said impatiently.

"I said no," Derek repeated firmly.

"Perhaps we should meet for dinner. My self, my aide, you and Nikara." Yaver asked, deciding this whole conversation was turning into a waste of time.

"My answer won't change." Derek told him with conviction.

"Are you sure about Nikara's answer?" Yaver posed threateningly.

"She'll say no." Derek saw Nick scribble something down on a piece of paper. He held it up and it read 'Is he paying?' Derek again ignored him.

"How do you know?" Yaver asked menacingly.

"I just do," Derek replied, his anger growing by the second.

"I want to hear her say it," Yaver paused. When Derek offered no reply, he continued. "I know this small restaurant in Chinatown. I'll make reservations for, say, seven tomorrow night?"

"Fine," Derek spat.

"Then-" Derek picked up the phone and slammed it down, hanging up on the Cairo precept.

"You believe her now?" Nick asked. Derek gave him an angered stare and left the room to take a shower.

* * *

The loud closing of the front door of the refurnished castle told Derek and Nick that the women had returned from their morning excursion. They made no attempt to locate the two men, they just went to their respective rooms and complained about how much their feet hurt. Derek and Nick followed them, Derek going directly to Nikara's room. He found her already in the process of removing the tags from her new purchases.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" Derek asked with a smile on his face. She shook her head and continued to perform her task. "It's three-thirty in the afternoon."

"And your point would be....?" she posed, pausing to bite a tag off a blouse and spit it into a nearby wastebasket. She disappeared into the walk-in closet.

"You were shopping for over five hours." Derek told her with a small laugh. She poked her head out.

"Well, Alex got tired of lending me clothes," she explained with a smile. "And since you can't really run very fast when you're carrying a wardrobe..." she disappeared again into the closet.

"Did you, uh, get anything 'nice' today?" Derek asked, trying to sound as innocent as possible, because at the moment he was trying to hide his call from Yaver, as well as the fact he thought she looked amazing in a pair of jeans.

"Define 'nice'." Nikara called from the closet.

"Something you would wear to a dinner party." Nick said from the doorway, Rachel and Alex behind him.

"Dinner party?" she asked, once again emerging from the closet. She was met with the serious stares from her new friends. The smile on her face changed to a worried frown. "What's going on?"

"Benjamin Yaver called this morning," Derek replied. "He's here. In San Francisco." Nikara stood quietly for a moment, then sat down on the edge of the bed. Derek motioned for the other Legacy members to leave. As they departed, Derek crossed the room and sat down next to Nikara.

"He wants me back, doesn't he?" she asked quietly, nearly whispering. Derek nodded.

"He almost sounded desperate on the phone," he told her. "I told him no, but he wouldn't leave me alone until I agreed to a meeting."

"When and where?" Nikara asked, sounding like the whole thing was some type of chore.

"Tomorrow night at seven, at a restaurant in Chinatown." Derek replied.

"He always did like that food," Nikara said, not really knowing why.

"So I get back to my original question," Derek began, standing up. "Did you get something nice today?" she looked up at him slowly and nodded.

* * *

Nikara shot upright in her bed. It was after two in the morning, and this was the third time she had awaken in the past ninety minutes. She was breathing heavily, and her heart was racing; this time the dream was very vivid. She wiped the perspiration off her face, and fell back on her pillow. After lying awake for five minutes, she decided to attempt to locate the kitchen and get some milk.

Crossing her arms, she began to make her way downstairs. Most of the house was dark and quiet; its' eerieness made her feel uneasy. The fact that she got lost on the way didn't help her either. Of course, she didn't realize she was lost until she heard the click of a lightswtich and squinted as the lights in the room came on. She was in another library. "Need some help?" a voice behind her asked. She froze; her heart stopped beating, the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. She whirled around to find Derek standing there, an amused look on his face.

"You gave me a heart attack," she breathed.

"I'm sorry," Derek replied. His amused look spread to Nikara's face once she got a good look at him. He was in the same blue silk pajamas (that were rather wrinkled), wearing an unfastened terry-cloth bathrobe.

"That's a good look for you, Derek," she laughed.

"They hardly compete with the fuzzy cats," he rebutted, pointing at her sky blue flannel sleepwear, which was complete with baby pink kittens strewn all over the front.

"Shut up!" she said defensively. "They're warm!" Derek decided to change the subject.

"What are you doing up?" he asked.

"What are you?" she countered slyly. Derek hesitated for a moment, studying her face, for it did not mach her tone.

"You're worried about tomorrow night," Derek concluded softly. "Aren't you?"

"Wouldn't you be?" she posed. Derek nodded. Nikara sat down on a couch, drawing her knees close to her face and wrapping her arms around her legs. Derek sat down next to her. There was silence for a moment. "I keep having this dream."

"Dream?" Derek inquired. She nodded. "What happened?"

"I don't know," she confessed. "It's like, I'm in this alley or something like that. And I see someone lying on the ground. I don't know if it's alive, or who it is, it's just there." she paused. "And on the wall, there's the eye of Ra. And my name." her explanation stalled again. "But the eye is different."

"It is made of blood," Derek finished. Nikara looked at him with surprise. "The blood of the person on the ground."

"How....?" she trailed off in amazement.

"That's why I'm awake," Derek explained. "I've been having the same dream."

"What does it mean?" she asked.

"That we're probably linked telepathically." Derek responded.

"No," Nikara said. "The dream."

"I hate to tell you this, but I don't know." Derek mumbled. "When I get visions like these, I'm not usually wrong. We just have to wait and see what happens."

"That's horrible advice," Nikara stated.

"I know," he replied. Nikara shifted her position so she was leaning on the chair's arm. She allowed her legs to fall down to the floor, and then she discretely began to chew her thumbnail and stare at the area rug. As Derek watched her, he couldn't help but feel sorry for her. He knew she didn't want this meeting to go on. He felt sorry for dragging her into it.

After a few minutes, Nikara realized Derek was still staring at her. She first looked at him with her eyes, before moving her head. As she turned, her thumb fell away from her mouth, although the nail's length was unaffected by her nibbling. Their eyes met, then Derek leaned over and kissed her gently. Their lips weren't together for more than a second when Nikara pulled back abruptly. The expression on her face was mixed; shock, curiosity, confusion. A wave of guilt quickly washed over Derek. He had just made a big mistake. He could feel the blood rushing to his cheeks. "I'm sorry," he said.

Nikara stood up. "I think I'll go back to bed," she said in a loud whisper. She left Derek on the couch, his face still beet red.

* * *

"Nikara?" Nick called up the stairs, while Derek made one last attempt at tying his bowtie. "The bus is leaving!" Nikara shouted back something at the ex-SEAL, but Nick couldn't understand her over Derek's curses at the black cloth around his neck. Rachel shook her head and tied it for him.

"Is everything all set?" Derek asked him.

"Yeah," Nick reassured him. "Don't worry."

"What's all set?" Nikara's voice asked from the stairway. In Derek's bowtie mishap, nobody had noticed the Egyptian woman had descended the old staircase. Derek struggled to maintain his composure, but Nick just let his jaw drop. Nikara was wearing a thin-strapped white dress. It fit her snugly until about the waist, when the fabric began to let out a bit. Her feet, only visible when she walked, wore a pair of imitation gold sandals with jewels on the straps. Her eyes were outlined with black, and the dark brown eye shadow extended from her eyelid to her brow. A very Egyptian look; she made it look fantastic.

"That's an improvement over the pajamas," Derek commented sarcastically.

"Ha ha," Nikara replied, unamused. "What's all set?"

"Nick is going to be at the restaurant," Derek told her. "He's going to be watching the parking lot."

"In case Yaver gets any funny ideas," Nick mentioned. He grinned. Taking her hand, he kissed the back of it gently. "You look beeuteeful, ma cherie," he said in a bad French accent. Nikara giggled as Nick picked up his beat-up leather jacket and threw it over his shoulder. "Well, kids," he said playfully, slapping Derek on the back, "I will see you later." Nick tore out of the room. Derek and Nikara said quick good-byes, then headed out to Derek's Range Rover.

The drive to Chinatown was silent. The two had barely spoken since the previous night. While the Rover was stopped at a red light, Derek finally broke the silence. "I'm sorry I ever agreed to this," he muttered hesitantly.

"It's alright," Nikara replied quietly, not looking at him. "But you're taking the wrap if I kill him." she heard Derek chuckle. "I'm not kidding, Derek."

"Is there anything I need to know about Yaver?" Derek asked, changing the subject.

"Not really," Nikara replied, still not looking at him. "He's got a really short temper."

"I gathered that much," Derek commented. Another fit of silence ensued his statement. After about five minutes, Derek spoke again. "You really do look nice."

"Thanks," she replied, turning her head to look at the Dutchman. "Although, royal blue is much more your color." Derek decided not to pursue that comment.

The two arrived at the restaurant about twenty minutes later. "Where's Nick?" Nikara asked, searching the parking lot as she closed her door. Derek pointed to a small, red Mustang about five rows away. "Oh, now there's something inconspicuous." she mentioned sarcastically.

"I told him not to take that one," Derek said, discretely waving to his friend. Nikara flashed him a quick smile before going into the restaurant. "Do you see him?" Derek whispered into Nikara's ear. She glanced around the dining room.

"Over there," she replied, nodding her head to a small table near a large window. Yaver and O'Brien were sitting on adjacent sides of the table, wordlessly drinking tea. A Chinese man in a tuxedo walked up to them, but Derek, speaking in broken Chinese, told him that they saw their party. The man nodded and walked over to another young couple who had just walked in the door.

The restaurant was a small but fancy one; it had no more than forty or fifty tables. Contrary to traditional Chinese custom, the tables were of normal height (for a table) and chairs were used instead of those close to the ground tables with pillows to sit on. The room itself was decorated with lavish artifacts that could only have been brought from China. In the middle of the room, there was a small fish pond, complete with Chinese gold fish, and at least three different kinds of plants. The window where Yaver and O'Brien were sitting looked out onto a

garden, where some tables could barely be seen in the night. O'Brien and Yaver stood up as Derek and Nikara approached.

"Dr. Rayne," Yaver said cheerfully. "So nice to finally meet you in person." she extended his right hand, and Derek shook it slowly. Yaver's gaze shifted to Nikara. He offered her his hand, but she didn't budge. They stared at eachother for a moment, her stare cold and unforgiving. "Dr. Rayne, this is my aide, Scott O'Brien."

"Good evening," O'Brien said politely, shaking Derek's hand. He nodded to the woman. "Nikara," he said without much tone.

"Scott," she said, in an equally indifferent voice.

"Please, sit down." Yaver invited. He pulled out a chair and indicated for Nikara to sit. She held the back of the chair, and refused to let Yaver show her any courtesy. Yaver let go of the chair. Derek looked from Yaver to Nikara, then sat down himself. A waiter came up to the table.

"Would you care for something to drink?" he asked. Both Derek and Nikara gave polite 'No thank-yous'. The waiter gave the new customers menus, then left.

"This is going to be charged to my hotel room," Yaver said. "Order anything you want."

"Thanks," Nikara replied, staring out the window at the dark garden.

"Why do I get the impression that you don't want to be here?" Yaver asked.

Nikara opened her mouth to reply, but Derek beat her to it. "Because she doesn't." he spat. "Let's just get down to business, so we can all get out of here."

"Of course, Dr. Rayne," Yaver replied courteously.

"What exactly is it that you want?" Nikara asked, still staring out into the garden.

"You know very well what I want, Niki." Yaver said, his voice low and menacing.

"Don't call me that," Nikara ordered quickly.

"We want you back, Nikara." Scott offered pleadingly. "The house isn't the same without you." he paused.

"You might go as far to say we need you." Yaver finished.

"That's bullshit." she said, trying to keep her voice down.

"But it isn't," Yaver told her. Nikara turned her head sharply to look at her former precept. A devilish grin spread slowly across his face. "We do need you."

"I'm never going back," she said plainly.

"That is not an option." Yaver's simplistic tone did not hide the seriousness of his statement. "You must return."

"She doesn't want to go back," Derek hissed. "Why don't you leave her alone?"

"Be quiet, Dr. Rayne," Yaver told him. "Nikara can fight her own battles."

"But-" Derek began to protest.

"Derek," Nikara said gently, looking at him with warning eyes. She turned back to Yaver. "I don't want to go back, leave me alone!" she nearly yelled, giving Derek a quick wink. Heads in the restaurant turned to stare at the noisy table by the window. Yaver flushed slightly, and waited for the diners to return their own meals and conversations before continuing.

"I expect you to be on a plane first thing in the morning," he ordered.

"The only plane I'll be on is one bound for London." she returned heatedly.

"I want you back in Cairo before sundown tomorrow." Yaver commanded.

"I'm thinking of two words, Ben. They rhyme with 'Screw You'." Nikara heard snickers from Derek and O'Brien.

"Very well, then," Yaver said, standing up. "Feel free to finish your dinner." he stopped. "Good-bye, Nikara." He walked away with his normal, authoritative stride. Scott glanced from his departing master and the other two at the table. He then got up, bid a quick farewell, and hurried after Yaver.

There was a silence for a moment as Derek and Nikara watched Yaver leave the

restaurant. "You know? There's just something inside me that's telling me this isn't over." Nikara mentioned.

"Welcome to the San Francisco Branch of the Legacy, where nothing is ever over." Derek commented playfully. Nikara gave a small laugh in agreement, but was quickly silenced by the familiar chirping of Derek's cellular phone. "Derek Rayne."

"Derek, it's Nick." his voice sounded filtered in Derek's ear. "I just saw Yaver and this other scrawny little guy leave the restaurant." he told him. He watched Yaver turn and yell something to the small man, and watched him as he walked over to a rented, black Mercedes.

"That would be his aide." Derek said.

"Are they leaving for good?" Nick asked.

"Yeah," Derek confirmed. "They're not exactly happy with us."

"That's good," Nick offered, not really listening to his friend's words. The Mercedes began to pull out of the parking lot. "What should I do?"

"Hold on," Derek mumbled. He lowered the phone from his ear, and placed his hand over the receiver. "Are you hungry?" he asked Nikara. She nodded, still smiling.

"If it's on Yaver, yes." she replied. She began searching through the menu for something extremely expensive as Derek resumed his conversation with Nick.

"We're going to stay here," Derek told him. He paused, then lowered his voice. "Follow them back to their hotel, and make sure they don't leave. We'll call when we're ready to go."

"Gotcha," Nick replied, turning the key in the ignition. He pressed the 'end' button quickly, and peeled out of the parking lot to catch up to the Mercedes.

* * *

A small statue sat in a corner of Yaver's hotel room. The maid dusted it quickly. She was disturbed by the devilish appearance of the statue; it was a gold woman with a lion's head. The maid wanted to get out of there. The whole room was giving her the creeps. Pushing her cart of cleaning materials, she forgot to leave the mint on the pillow and left the room, turning the lights out behind her.

Just after she left, the statue began to glow a deep purple. The haze seemed to lift from the statue, and float out the window. In a matter of moments, the purple mist had reached the restaurant. It glided about the cars in the parking lot, before finally reaching Derek's Rover. Entering the keyhole, it gave off a quick flash of light, and disappeared.

* * *

Derek and Nikara finally left the restaurant around ten thirty. They had finished dinner around nine, but spent a while just talking. They walked out to the car in a hurried silence; for spring in San Francisco, it was freezing. "I'll call Sloan first thing in the morning," Derek told Nikara, who followed him to the driver's side of the car instead of going to the passenger seat. She mumbled her thanks, and Derek flipped his keys out of his coat pocket. He fumbled with them for a moment, before finding the proper key. He was about to place it in the lock, when Derek placed her hand on his fist.

"Derek, wait," she stated hesitantly. She stopped, choosing her words for her next statement very carefully. "About last night...." Derek closed his eyes and shook his head in confusion.

"I don't know how-" he was stopped mid-sentence by a soft feeling on his cheek that gently stopped the side-to-side motion of his head, and a warm sensation come and go across his mouth. In the moment it took him to open his eyes, Derek realized that Nikara had kissed him. In his hazel eyes, there was a question he didn't dare ask. Nikara responded with a knowing smile, and their lips touched again. Derek's keys fell from his hand, and clanked loudly onto the pavement. Startled by the noise, the two split apart before the kiss was really over. Both wore embarrassed smiles, although neither knew why.

Derek bent down and picked up the fallen mass of metal. As he placed the key in the lock, Nikara turned to go to the passenger side of the vehicle. She stopped, and her smile faded. Derek was about to ask her what was wrong, but the he saw it, too. The Sight had returned.

It was the parking lot. He and Nikara were standing there, waiting for Derek to unlock the door. And as he turned the key, the car exploded into a brilliant flash of orange and yellow fire, and shrapnel searing it's way through the night sky.

The last thing Derek saw was their charred bodies leaning against the smoldering car. Nikara and Derek looked at eachother. "Shit," Nikara muttered, just loud enough for Derek to hear. They looked at the car, then at eachother again. Running for the garden that was about fifty feet away, Derek pushed Nikara's body onto the ground, and covered it with his own. She let out a small squeal of pain as she fell onto the rocks that bordered the garden. He quickly

prayed they were far enough away from the car. Nikara cranned her neck to look at him. "I hope you're insured." she rushed, as they heard the car explode behind them.

The car jumped at least ten feet into the air. It fell on it's top, spraying glass everywhere. Pieces of the belly began to shower down like volcanic ash.

Then they both blacked out.

Chapter 5

Nick, Alex, and Rachel ran frantically down the hallway of the hospital, dodging other doctors, nurses, patients; whatever happened to have been in their way. They burst into a small recovery room off of the ER, concerned looks on all their faces. Derek and Nikara were perched on the side of a bed. Nikara sported a new bandage on her arm, opposite the one with the gunshot wound. Derek's wrist was also bandaged; he was cradling his head in his good hand, while Nikara gently rubbed his back. They looked up when the three entered the room.

"Don't you two look like Hell," Nick commented, slipping off his jacket and throwing it onto a nearby chair. He knelt down in front of Derek. "You alright?" he asked.

"No, Nick, I'm not alright." Derek said bitterly. "I have a splitting headache, I sprained my wrist, the medication the doctor gave me isn't working, I am in excruciating pain, my car is destroyed, and I really want to get out of here."

"Sucks to be you," Nick remarked, patting his ailing friend on the shoulder. "Nikara?" she pointed to her new bandage.

"This is from the shrapnel," she paused, her tone quiet and frail compared to Derek's. "And the concussion is from Derek pushing me on the ground and falling on top of me."

"How come Derek wasn't injured by the shrapnel?" Rachel asked, somewhat suspiciously.

"Derek was wearing a thick jacket," Nikara explained. "I wasn't wearing one at all. One of my arms was free, so whatever shrapnel wasn't in Derek's back embedded itself into my arm."

"Can we please discuss this tomorrow?" Derek groaned. Rachel nodded.

"The doctors said you could leave," she told them. "Let's get going." Nick grabbed his jacket from the chair and draped it around Nikara's cold shoulders. She stumbled slightly as she stood up from the bed, but managed to stagger out of the room with Nick's help.

* * *

Yaver was sitting in his hotel room on the bed, his tuxedo jacket lying haphazardly on the edge, and his tie hanging undone around his neck. He was staring at the small statue of Sekhmet; he wasn't praying, asking or looking for anything; he was just staring at it. "My servant is again troubled." Sekhmet said suddenly. Yaver jumped at the noise.

"Yes, my goddess." he replied quietly. "She did not agree to return, and Rayne would not negotiate."

"She draws strength from Rayne," Sekhmet observed.

"She does," Yaver agreed. "We will not be able to get her back as long as they are together."

"That cannot occur," Sekhmet stated firmly. "The Isis incarnate must be returned."

"I know, my goddess." Yaver mumbled.

"My servant has two options," Sekhmet told him. "Convince Rayne to join us..."

"And the other?" Yaver asked, already knowing her response.

"Dispose of him," Sekhmet replied. Yaver was silent for a moment.

"Perhaps there is another choice," he began. "We could contact Sloan and pursuede him to order her return." The corners of the petite statue's mouth turned up in an evil smile.

"My servant has had a wise idea," she said. "Make it so."

* * *

(next day, London time)

William Sloan sat at his desk in his office at the London House. He was unoccupied at the moment, which was unusual since he was in charge of the entire organization of the Legacy. It was late in the afternoon, and he was actually rather tired. About to drift off, he was awakened by his intercom. His secretary informed him that he had a phone call. He reached for the receiver and raised it slowly. "William Sloan," he said in a business-like tone.

"Dr. Sloan!" Yaver exclaimed. "Ben Yaver."

"Ben! So nice to hear from you," Sloan replied. "How are things down in Cairo?"

"Fine, I'm guessing," Yaver told him.

"Guessing?" Sloan echoed.

"I'm in San Francisco right now." Yaver replied.

"And, um, why is that?" Sloan asked quizzically.

"Some business," Yaver informed him. "One of my researchers went AWOL last week." Sloan leaned forward and propped his elbows on the desk.

"AWOL?" Sloan asked, demanding an explanation with the one word.

"Apparently Nikara Lawson decided she had enough of serving the Cairo House and deserted us for San Francisco." Yaver accounted. "In fact, I was just at dinner with her and Derek Rayne last night. Dr. Rayne refused to turn her over."

"Well, there has to have been a reason for her leaving." Sloan stated, almost refusing to believe that Derek had any part in this.

"None that I can determine, sir." Yaver answered plainly. "She just left in the middle of the night." he paused. "And we want her back."

"Yes, I can understand that," Sloan agreed. He stopped, puzzled. "But I remember reading Nikara's profile when she was first brought into the Legacy. She seemed like a level-headed woman."

"That's what I thought, Dr. Sloan." Yaver concurred.

"Let me speak with Derek. I might be able to get some information surrounding this incident." Sloan said.

"Information's not necessary, sir," Yaver put up. "I just want Nikara returned to the House."

"I'll speak with Derek," Sloan repeated firmly. Yaver did not continue. "I will contact you again, Ben, when I find out more." he hung up, and was about to press a button on his intercom when his secretary burst into his office.

"I just received word, sir, that there was a car bombing last night in San Francisco." she informed him. A worried look crossed Sloan's face.

"What?" he asked in a mixture of shock and disbelief.

"At a restaurant in Chinatown. Derek Rayne and a young woman named, uh..." she stopped to check a small piece of paper she held in her hand. "Nikara Lawson were involved."

"Are they injured badly?" Sloan inquired, concerned.

"No, sir. They managed to get far enough away from the car to escape serious injury. Dr. Rayne has a sprained wrist, Ms. Lawson was injured by some shrapnel, and she also suffered a minor concussion." the secretary replied.

"Get the house on the phone," Sloan ordered.

"Uh, sir?" she meekly protested. "It is still rather early in the morning in San Francisco. It is very conceivable that they are still asleep and will be for some time." Frustrated, Sloan pounded on the desk. After a moment of silent thought, he regretfully nodded in agreement.

* * *

It was close to eleven o'clock, and the entire San Francisco house was awake... except Derek. Nikara, who now had a headache of her own, opened the door to his room gently. Stirring, Derek groaned as she turned the lights on, illuminating the darkened room. "Quit complaining, Derek. Turn about is fair play." she sat down on the edge of his bed, setting down some things she was carrying on a nearby dresser. Handing Derek a glass of water and some aspirin, he swallowed

both with a loud grumble. "Feeling better?" she asked quietly.

"No," Derek muttered, sitting up. She handed him a cordless phone; one of the other things she was carrying. Derek looked at her questioningly.

"You better be," she told him, her voice still low. "Sloan wants to talk to you." Derek took the phone with more distaste than the aspirin.

"Derek Rayne," he said, not bothering to hide his disdain for the conversation.

"Derek, it's William," Sloan's voice on the other end filled his ear. He sounded concerned. "Are you alright?"

"No." Derek said plainly, rolling out of bed. "Can I call you back later?"

"No," Sloan told him back. "I want to make sure I'm actually going to talk to you."

"You've been talking to Ben Yaver, haven't you?" Derek asked, walking around the room. Nikara, still sitting on the bed, looked at him with inquisitive eyes. She could hear Sloan's affirmative reply from across the room.

"Why won't you give her back to the house?" Sloan demanded to know.

"Reasons, William," Derek replied.

"And they are?" Sloan asked.

"Someday, when you die, go to Heaven, and get to know everything, you will know and understand." Derek responded, watching Nikara grin.

"Derek," Sloan continued, unamused. "I don't want to have to bring this in front of the Ruling Council."

"William, are you threatening me?" Derek posed playfully.

"Yes I am, Derek." Sloan replied, steadfast in his last statement.

"Give the Ruling Council my best, then." Derek told him, pressing the 'Off' button on the phone. Nikara's mouth hung open.

"I can't believe you just did that." she said incredulously. "What if..."

"They remove me from the Legacy?" he finished for her, grinning and shaking his head. "They can't do that without an investigation."

"And then the Cairo House will be exposed." she realized. Standing up, she retrieved the phone from Derek's outstretched hand.

"You know, I've always wanted to hang up on him." Derek said, taking her hand in his.

"Thank you," she mumbled. She reached up and kissed him quickly. As she turned to leave, Derek stopped her and gently returned the favor. Smiling, Nikara left the room as silently as she came in.

* * *

In the hotel room, the only audible noises were the whispering prayers of Ben Yaver. O'Brien was out; Yaver sent him to get lunch at a corner deli. The statue was placed on a black velvet blanket on a small glass coffee table in Yaver's suite. The drapes were draw, casting shadows on the suite's features. Sekhmet's voice soon began to fill the shaded area. "My servant," she began. "Sloan will not aid in our quest."

"I fear not," Yaver agreed. "He doubts Rayne, but not enough to trust me completely."

"Then we return to our original options." Sekhmet stated plainly. "Kill him or turn him."

"I do not wish to kill him." Yaver commented. "It would make Nikara's return impossible."

"Agreed," the goddess said. "Then he must be turned."

"He will not come willingly, my goddess." Yaver told her.

"Then perhaps we need a change in our plans," Sekhmet observed. Yaver

was so into the conversation he didn't hear O'Brien open the door. Realizing his master was speaking to the goddess, O'Brien closed the door. But O'Brien's better judgment told him not to close it completely. He stood flat up against the wall, with the door open just a crack.

"How do you mean, my goddess?" Yaver asked, curious.

"Rayne must carry the spirit of Seth." she decreed.

"But I..." Yaver began to protest. He caught himself before reaching full-blown complaining.

"Rayne is close to the Isis incarnate. If Seth is inhabiting Rayne's body, perhaps we could use him to convince her to return." Sekhmet explained calmly.

"My goddess is very wise." Yaver said, disappointment apparent in his voice.

"My servant must understand the severity of the situation. The Isis incarnate must be returned at all costs." Sekhmet replied. "My servant will serve in a very high position in our empire."

"I thank you, my goddess." Yaver mumbled. He heard a small gasp come from behind the door, and Yaver realized O'Brien was listening.

"My servant," Sekhmet's voice lowered. "We must show the allies of Rayne that we are serious about this issue."

"Yes," Yaver agreed, his voice equally as low. "But how?"

"A sacrifice in her name." Sekhmet concluded. "Perform it this night."

"I will obey, my goddess." Yaver whispered. He heard the room's exit shut with a silent 'click'. he turned to the door. "Scott, you can come in now." O'Brien turned the knob again, and pushed the door aside. He threw the subs onto a couch.

"They didn't have any ham, so I got you turkey..." he began, trying not to reveal he was listening to the conversation. After a moment, he noticed Yaver was still staring at him, an evil smile spreading over his face. "Master? Is anything wrong?"

Chapter 6 (later that evening)

Nick's eyes darted from the chips, to his cards, and back to Nikara. He grinned; the look on her face forced him to the conclusion that she was completely perplexed about the entire concept of poker. "Need some help?" he asked casually. She looked at him from across the table. Frowning, she shifted around the five red-backed cards in her small hand.

"Now what do I do?" she asked. Nick closed the cards and placed them on the table, and reached across to Nikara's pile of chips. He lifted three blue-tinted discs and dropped them into the growing stack between them.

Continued on the next page...