Author's Note: I apologize for the unexpected hiatus. My mother unexpectedly passed away in September, and I've been obviously focused on that and recovering from it. I'm only now starting to feel like I can focus on my writing again, so I'm going to try to get through posting these chapters as fast as I can.
I hope there are still people out there who care about this story and these characters, but I understand if not. I will still complete the trilogy for myself.
Once the door was solidly closed, everyone collapsed. They took a few moments to just breathe, focusing on filling their lungs with something other than smoke. But Jalil's groans reminded them how urgent it was to get out of Ahm-Shere, so Kasiya hopped into the pilot seat to begin warming everything up, and Talib and Afzal carried Jalil to the back of the plane, Evy following so she could retrieve the First Aid kit for them.
As people managed to find their breaths and began to think more clearly, things became more chaotic.
"What the bloody hell was that?" demanded Jonathan, looking around at his companions. Some of the others began all talking at once, Rick and Ardeth trying to figure out what, exactly, had happened, how a god could have come back, why he had returned right in that moment, what was going to happen next, with Heather trying to get a word in here and there and failing to while she and Jonathan held hands. Alex and Paige began arguing over why she hadn't told him about her pregnancy. Imhotep stood and made his way to the back of the plane, where the injured Medjai was.
Finally, over the chaos, Fiona's voice was heard. "It was my fault."
Paige heard this and turned her head to look at Fiona with a reassuring smile. "It's not your fault, Fi. How could it be your fault?"
Rick and Ardeth began debating how Set had returned again, and Fiona spoke louder as to be heard over them. "Because I'm the one that resurrected him."
Silence descended the plane, and Fiona heard Kasiya turn his seat to face the passenger side of the plane at her words. For a moment, the only sounds were coming from the back, where Jalil was now shouted angrily, mostly in Arabic but occasionally adding in English, "Do not let that filthy thing touch me!"
"What do you mean, you resurrected Set?" asked Heather, her eyebrows raised, looking impressed rather than disgusted as Fiona had imagined she would. "How?"
Fiona shifted uncomfortably in her seat, feeling everyone's eyes on her. "It was an accident. I was in this little side chamber, and I saw this altar and this mummy that looked like a statue, and I just…somehow, without meaning to, I set the altar and cut myself and said some kind of spell. And the mummy woke up, and regenerated, and it was Set." Panic seeped into Fiona's voice. "I don't know how I did it, I don't know why, it just sort of…happened."
"Like when I read that spell in Hamunaptra," commented Paige. Fiona nodded. "You weren't in control of your body. It isn't your fault."
Rick leaned back in his seat, his mind searching for answers. "But why did that happen? Why Fiona?"
"Perhaps it was destiny," suggested Ardeth, standing. "Just as it was Alex's destiny to wear the bracelet, or Jonathan's to have the spear, or Rick's to be with the reincarnated princess."
Rick sighed and rolled his eyes, as he always did whenever Ardeth began talking about destiny. No matter how much it seemed fate had a hand in their lives, he would always struggle with the idea that his life was somehow already plotted out for him. He made his own choices, and that as all there was to it.
"So what happens now?" asked Alex.
"We leave," said Kasiya, turning back to his instruments. "I am working as quickly as I can, but it isn't a matter of flipping a switch and taking off."
Ardeth retrieved a phone from his pocket. "I need to contact other leaders of the Medjai – the ones that remained in Egypt – and inform them of what has happened."
Ardeth stepped away to make his call, as Imhotep returned to the passenger section of the plane, taking a seat near the back. As he left, Jalil finally quieted his screaming. The Medjai had completely refused any help from the Creature, whom he believed a monstrosity it was his duty to destroy.
As Ardeth began speaking to the other Medjai in quick Arabic, Alex said, "I guess the Medjai have finally stepped into the modern age. Other than the trucks, I guess." He sighed, knowing his attempt at a joke had failed miserably. But he was thoroughly exhausted, and his head was still swimming from Paige's news.
He turned back to Paige. "When did you find out you were pregnant?"
Paige bit her lip for a moment, and then sighed and decided that it was ridiculous to try to hide anything anymore. "Remember when we got back from that tomb that had Fiona's name in it? It was right before Ardeth got there, and I was in the shower for a really long time?"
A flash of understanding showed in Alex's eyes. "And you seemed really distracted when you got out…"
Paige nodded. "I got the result, and stayed in the bathroom a little longer to try to get my head on straight, but I just…I mean, obviously it wasn't that easy."
"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Alex earnestly. "You didn't have to deal with this alone."
Paige shrugged, tears stinging in her eyes. "I don't know. I was freaking out, and thought…okay, I'll process this, and then I'll find the right way to tell him. But then Ardeth arrived and told us about the Set Warriors and everything was so hectic and horrible, I just couldn't tell you. I couldn't add to all the weight that was already on your shoulders."
"You had to have known you couldn't keep it secret forever."
Paige shrugged, then wiped a tear from her cheek. "I guess. I mean, I did. But there was almost no downtime, and when there was it didn't seem like the right moment. I mean, 'I know we're in the middle of the desert riding off to what might be our deaths and the end of the world, but by the way, you're going to be a father'? I meant to tell you, I promise. I just couldn't find the words. And I guess in a way, I felt that not telling you meant it wasn't real. I could keep thinking that maybe it was a mistake, the test was wrong or something. But time kept moving on and I kept having these symptoms. I gained weight, I craved lemons of all things, I was throwing up, I was fatigued, my back was hurting all the time. I knew it was true, I just couldn't handle it feeling true, you know?"
"But why did you come?" Alex wanted to know. "Why did you risk that?"
Paige looked forward, trying to peer into the area where Kasiya sat, hoping he would say it was time to take off and somehow the subject would change, and she wouldn't have to explain what she didn't understand herself. "I know it was stupid. But I felt like…the stress of not knowing what was happening would be too much. I've read stories where women miscarry due to stress, and I felt like that was more likely to happen if I stayed behind, whereas if I came with then at least I had a chance at surviving with the baby. I know it sounds insane, and maybe pregnancy hormones are making me stupid. But that's all the explanation I have for you. That's as far as my thought process went. We both know I'm not the best at thinking things through."
Alex leaned back in his seat and glanced out the window. He couldn't see much through the dirt but a moving, giant ball of orange not very far away. Evidentially, Rick saw it, too.
"Hey ,Kasiya? Can we hurry things along, please?" he shouted at the front. "That fire is getting awfully close to something filled with fuel."
Kasiya looked over his shoulder. "Patience, O'Connell!"
Alex turned back to Paige. "I get it. It's okay. I mean, it's not okay, but it's okay. I know how your mind works. I wouldn't be with you if I didn't know you well enough to know that you didn't intend to leave me out of something this important."
"I didn't," insisted Paige. "I just couldn't figure out when or how to tell you, I swear."
Alex nodded. "Okay. Next question. What now?"
Paige shrugged again, and again wiped the tears from her eyes. "I wish I knew. I guess I try to get a doctor's appointment during the apocalypse. Get on prenatals. Hope I didn't do anything seriously stupid that hurt the baby."
"I was thinking long-term," sighed Alex. "As much as I would love the help, I feel like we shouldn't be living at my parents' when we have a kid. We'll have to get a flat somewhere. Or a house, we could get a pretty good house somewhere if we just want to jump right into that."
Paige shook her head, creases forming between her brows. "How can you think about getting a house? There might not even a world to live in by the time the baby comes."
"I'm trying to think positively," said Alex, forcing a smile. "You said you thought you might be eleven weeks?"
Paige frowned, and counted on her fingers. "Yeah. I think so."
The engines of the plane roared to life. From the front, Kasiya shouted, "Okay, fasten your seatbelts, and let's get out of here!"
"Wait!" shouted Ardeth sharply. He spoke into his phone a moment longer, and then hung up, and took his place at the front. "You can take off now."
Kasiya nodded, and the plane began to move. As he prepared to take to the air, he turned his head back again. "Where exactly are we headed?"
"Karnak," answered Ardeth immediately. Seeing the confused faces at his immediate answer and the grim look on his face, he turned to face the majority of the group. "Something has happened."
"Something more than an ancient, evil god coming back to life, you mean?" asked Rick.
Ardeth took a deep breath, and nodded. "A palace has appeared in Karnak. It is made in the same style as the palaces of ancient Egypt, but rather than being in ruins, it appears to be completely new."
"What do you mean, it just appeared?" asked Heather, scooting forward to the edge of her seat, or as close as she could with her seatbelt on.
Now Ardeth's expression of confusion and awe was clear on his face. "I do not know. The advisor of my village that I called said that it appeared as though a mirage, and then became solid. That isn't the most important information, however."
"There's something bigger?" Jonathan asked, his voice wondering at how things could get any worse.
"As I spoke with my advisor, a man approached. A man with glowing skin."
Heather gasped. "Another god."
Ardeth nodded. "He claimed to be the god Horus, and to have returned to finish his fight with Set. He requested that he speak to Rick and myself face-to-face."
From near the back of the plane, Imhotep spoke up. "In my religion, it has always been said that Horus and Set fought against each other, order and chaos constantly in battle, until one day Set and Horus would have one, final battle. This battle must be occurring now."
Collectively, the group gave a sigh. The idea of being alive during such a battle was intimidating. No one ever imagines they will be alive for the end of the world. And now they were having to imagine such a thing twice.
"So, going to Karnak to talk to this god is probably the best plan we have," decided Rick. "But I for one don't want to go into something like that blindly. I say we go to Hamunaptra first, make some preparations, and then drive to Karnak."
"I agree," said Ardeth, nodding. "That would seem to be the wisest choice."
"We couldn't fly that far anyway," said Kasiya. "Fuel is getting pretty low."
Everyone appeared to agree, and as the plane climbed higher and higher, everyone settled in with their own thoughts. At least, until Heather spoke up.
"There is something I need to tell you all," she announced loudly, so she could be heard over the sound of the engines. She released Jonathan's hand. "I haven't been entirely honest with you, about why I am here, about who I am. There is another secret I have been keeping."
Jonathan turned to face her, concern around his eyes, a small smirk forming on his face in an attempt to hide his fear of what her next words would be. "What do you mean?" he asked.
Heather looked towards him, a sadness in her eyes, before she took a deep breath and the sadness was replaced with a look of strength. "I am part of a secret order, which serves the god Osiris."
Ardeth did not seem to believe her words. "What secret order? Surely I would have heard of such an order. The Medjai are closely tied with all to do with Egypt."
A small smile appeared on Heather's lips. "Do you really think the Medjai are the only secret order to exist in Egypt?" she asked, her voice full of amusement. But when she spoke again, all mirth was gone. "We serve the one true Pharaoh, Osiris. From the beginning, Osiris has had servants among men, training and fighting and watching throughout time. His army has been built time and again of the strongest of all men, the toughest, the cleverest, the best trained. One generation would teach the next, making his army better and better with each generation. As Set chose to mock Osiris by making his army out of the dead, and in the form of Osiris's son Anubis, so Osiris chose to make armies from the living."
Rick blinked. "No. There's just no way. A god hasn't had an army on earth since the dawn of damn time. Someone would have heard about it by now."
Heather turned to look at Rick. "Who gave you that tattoo? Who taught you those specific words, 'I am a stranger traveling from the west, it is I whom you seek'? Who told the Medjai to search for the man who knows that phrase? Do you really believe that there hasn't been some outside force, guiding you all this time?"
"I-" Rick began, determined to object. His life was lived by him, and him alone. And yet he had no answer for her.
Heather continued. "You, Rick O'Connell, were always meant to be one of us, an Osiris Warrior. And beyond that, we always knew that you were meant for an even higher purpose. We have been sent to watch you throughout your life and be certain you survived to fulfill your destiny, whatever it may be. In your childhood, in the military. When you met your wife. Captain Winston Havlock was among our number. As were men in the cult that led Imhotep and therefore you to Ahm-Shere in the first place, to ensure you would survive it all."
"Now I know you're lying," said Rick. "If Winston were in some Osiris cult, he would have told me."
Slowly shaking her head, Heather said, "He only knew you because he was an Osiris Warrior."
"If all this is true, then how come I never got any help with the – the Imhotep stuff," he demanded, motioning to Imhotep in the back.
Heather shrugged her wide shoulders. "We do not get involved with such petty, small matters. Our only purpose is to serve Osiris. Besides, it was all calculated, the numbers processed and abilities understood. We knew you would survive. That was all we needed to know."
The group stared at her, silent. Finally, Jonathan said, "Basically you're saying that you betrayed us."
Heather turned to him. "Is it really such a betrayal? I have been here, working with you and not against you. My only mission here was to discover if Set would be resurrected from his tomb – which we knew was in Ahm-Shere – and he has. Now, I must go and serve my purpose by serving my god."
"So you were lying about why you were here. What else were you lying about? What else was fake?"
"Nothing!" she insisted, reaching for his hands. He pulled them away. "Nothing, I promise you. I only lied about why I wanted to come with you, and I never told you what I do for work. Everything else was real."
"If it was so real, you should have told me who you really were!"
"I wanted to tell you, I meant to tell you when I told you about my illness, that's why I kept putting it off." Her tone was now earnest, and desperate, the calm and collected façade dropping away. "But I knew you would feel betrayed when I told you, and as though everything was a lie, but that isn't true. I just couldn't bear to make you think that I didn't care for you. I do."
Jonathan sighed. "Then explain it all to me now. Tell me who you really are."
"I am who I've said that I am, how I have presented myself. There are only a few holes to fill in," she said. "When I was young, after being taught to fight and survive on the compound, a Russian man came to speak to me. He told me about the Osiris Warriors, and that my strength and determination had earned me a place in their ranks, despite my disability. That's all I haven't told you, I swear."
Paige leaned forward. "Do you know what's going to happen next, then?"
Heather turned in Paige's direction. "All that I know is that there will be a great battle between Set and Horus. It will involve all mankind, and there will be great losses, but in the end Horus will win and Osiris will be victorious and take his rightful place and reign as Pharaoh of all the earth."
The plane began to straighten out, and Evy returned to her seat beside Rick. He looked at her, and glanced towards the back of the plane. Slowly, Evy shook her head.
As their flight continued, they could hear the dying groans of Jalil in the back of the plane. They each tried to drown out the sound with their own thoughts, but found it impossible to not hear them. Fiona felt her heart breaking with each sound the man made. Sometimes, he screamed.
It was an hour of this audial torture before it finally quieted down. Afzal stepped out of the back of the plane.
"Do not go into the back unless you absolutely must," he informed them. "Jalil is dead."