Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine, the worlds are not.
Summary: ST:TNG/The Mummy. Data attempts to understand the human fascination with the past. 1500 words.
Spoilers: General Star Trek: Next Generation and "The Mummy Returns" (2001)
Notes: For jilltanith, who requested ST:TNG/The Mummy, "Data, Rick & Evie or Ardeth; no holodeck; reincarnation". Ended up being set in the future of my "Adventures of Rome" storyline, though knowledge of that fic is not necessary; all you need to know is that the events of TMR have made R&E immortal in this 'verse.
Data stood in front of an exhibit featuring several samples of early Egyptian hieroglyphic writing. He had heard it said that artwork must be seen in person to be truly appreciated, but so far, he had not detected any measurable difference in appearance between the duplicate artifacts he had created on the holodeck as a test prior to visiting the Jonathan Carnahan Memorial Museum in Cairo and the artifacts actually present in the museum.
The museum itself was not an old one; it had been constructed less than a century prior to honor a twentieth-century archaeologist and scholar whose work had not been well regarded in life. It did, however, contain many artifacts of great antiquity, donated by a tribal people called the Medjai who still maintained anomalous pockets of pre-industrial culture in several desert habitats on Earth. Captain Picard had received word that an exhibition of artifacts that had never before been shown to the public would be on display while the Enterprise-D was in dock. He had invited Data to accompany him in order that the android might further observe the human fascination with preserving and glorifying the past.
Upon arrival at the museum, the captain had made an appointment with the museum curator and advised that Data make his own way through the exhibits. Thus, for the past 2.63991 hours, Data had been meticulously inspecting each object on display in turn, comparing them against the images extant in his positronic memory banks. No anomalies had yet presented themselves, but 21.765 of the museum's contents yet remained to be examined.
He left the display of hieroglyphic writing and proceeded into the next hall, in which was displayed many artifacts linked to the semimythical Scorpion King. The details of the reign of that early ruler were still a topic of debate among Earth historians, due to a dearth of artifacts dated to his reign; many of the objects recently placed on display in that hall were already being used as the basis of new theories on the subject.
In the center of the hall, a heavy golden bracelet lay on display atop a solitary support pillar, surrounded by the barely visible shimmer of an active security field. A stylized scorpion shape had been affixed to the band of the bracelet, its pincers facing away from the wearer and its tail extending up behind the band in a golden curl.
Data approached the pillar slowly, contemplating the bracelet and its possible purpose. Had it been intended as a decorative piece of armor? Or as jewelry? Its size indicated that it had indeed been intended for a masculine arm, yet it--
--Data blinked, suddenly, as his positronic brain reset itself. In the corner of his peripheral vision, he could still see the pillar in front of which his memory insisted he had been standing mere fractions of a second before; the angle of the view suggested that he was sprawled upon the floor, and the absence of the previously observed force field suggested that a power-related anomaly had taken both he and the display down at the same time. The presence of additional voices in the hall further suggested that criminal activity was involved. Data continued to lie completely still as he endeavored to assess what was taking place around him.
"...Just an android," a masculine voice protested. "I'm sure he has all kinds of back-up systems; he'll be fine once someone finds him and resets him."
"I still don't like it," a clearly feminine voice replied, her voice slightly distorted in the pattern Data associated with human frustration. "This was supposed to be quick and clean; the sensors reported no life in here!"
"Evie, just chill," the masculine voice said again, and a pair of muscular legs clad in denim appeared within Data's range of vision. A shadow fell over him momentarily as the man's torso blocked the light, then a sparkle of gold became visible far above him as the intruder drew back again. "Is this it?" the man asked.
A second pair of legs, smaller in diameter but similarly clad, appeared next to the man's. There was a brief pause, then the feminine voice uttered softly, "It's the real thing." The stressors in her voice faded into perceptible relief.
"Good," the male grunted. "Hundreds of years they spend guarding this thing, and then they put it out for public view? The Scorpion King might not regenerate again until the year sixty-nine hundred and thirty-three, but there's plenty else a determined bad guy could do with Anubis' bracelet in the meantime. Especially in this day and age."
"As you would, no doubt, be aware due to your own nefarious plans," a third, unexpected voice declaimed from somewhere behind Data. The vocal patterns matched those of the museum's curator, a man of ethnic Medjai descent whom Data had observed with Captain Picard upon their arrival. "Drop the bracelet and step away from Lieutenant Commander Data."
"Hey, buddy, I'm not planning... any... shit. Uh, Evie?" The male thief's voice wavered uncertainly.
The woman gasped. "I see him too, Rick," she said.
Data's internal diagnostics completed their checks of his system in that moment, and informed him that he had completely recovered from the shock that had taken him down. A fraction of a second later he had leapt to his feet, determined to take advantage of the moment of the thieves' distraction. The male proved to be tall, with blue eyes and a face that did not match those of any known Earth criminals in Data's mental database; the female had dark hair and eyes, and was equally unidentifiable. He grasped each of them by the front of their shirts, then lifted, his inhuman strength making the task a simple one. One of the pair dropped a golden, flashing object that resolved itself in Data's visual circuits as the scorpion-adorned bracelet; the other dropped a small object of indeterminate function that resembled a tricorder.
"I suggest, sir, that you reclaim the bracelet and summon the authorities," Data said, addressing the curator as the man moved into his field of vision. "I will detain the thieves until they arrive."
"That's not... necessary..." the male thief said, his voice half-strangled by the twisting of his tunic collar about his throat. "Ardeth! It's... me, Rick. O'Connell. The, uh." He coughed, his face reddening, but doggedly continued. "If I said... to you... that I was a stranger... traveling from the west... seeking that which is lost..."
The curator froze in place, an expression that Data tentatively identified as dismay quickly contorting his tattooed features. "Then I would say to you I am a stranger traveling from the East," he replied in a wondering tone. "It is I whom you seek... What do these words mean?"
"Oh my God," the female thief said softly. As Data watched, a drop of wetness escaped from her right eye to trace a path down her cheek. "It is you. Ardeth!"
Mystified by the humans' behavior, Data lowered the thieves again until their feet touched the ground. The curator approached them, his expression wondering as he gazed between their faces.
"I-- you seem so familiar to me," the curator stated, wondering. "And why is it that I no longer feel outraged at your attempt to steal the Bracelet of Anubis?"
"Because she's the reincarnation of Princess Nefertiri, whose task is to protect it," the one called Rick said, quietly. "I'm her personal guard. And you--" He paused as a notable huskiness began to distort his voice. Neither he nor the female, Evie, were paying any attention to Data as the android continued to restrain them; it was most confusing.
"You first met us in the nineteen twenties, by the old Gregorian calendar," the female thief continued. "I never-- we never thought we'd see you again. But it makes sense; if I can be brought back when I'm needed--"
"I do not understand," the curator broke in, shaking his head. "But I feel that you speak the truth." He looked past them then, to Data, and addressed the android calmly. "You may release them on my recognizance; I will take care of matters here. Please return to your captain; he is at the front entrance of the museum awaiting the completion of your tour."
"Sir, I feel that I must remind you that these persons have assaulted a Starfleet officer and attempted to steal a valuable artifact from this museum," Data objected, as perplexed as a computer-driven entity could be at the incomprehensible nature of the conversation that had just occurred.
"And I shall take full responsibility for their actions," the man replied, firmly. "Please."
Data released his grip on the thieves' clothing, and they both stumbled before moving to place themselves behind the curator.
Humans, Data thought, as he turned to follow the man's directives and locate Captain Picard. The museum visit had been a failure all around; he feared he was doomed never to understand them.