Title: A Remarkable Resemblance
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: The thing was, his name wasn't actually Ardeth Bey. Not in this lifetime. 1500 words.
Spoilers: Mummy Returns (2001); set in ST:TNG timeline
Notes: For jilltanith, who once requested a 'drabble' on the theme, "Why was Ardeth needed in "Return of the Medjai"? This is... more like a suggestion? Set in my "Adventures in Rome" 'verse, which also includes "Death is Only The Beginning".
The thing was, his name wasn't actually Ardeth Bey. Not in this lifetime.
Of all the things he could have fixated on about their unexpected meeting, Rick was aware that his brother's new name was pretty low on the totem pole of importance. There was the fact that Rick and Evie had just been caught trying to 'repossess' the Bracelet of Anubis from a Medjai-run museum. Or the fact that it had been better than four hundred years since they'd seen him last, and even by the standards of the Medjai their story was pretty unbelievable. And then there was the question of why Ardeth, and why now? All of those were pretty significant things to worry about.
But no- the thing that was bothering Rick O'Connell the most was written in flowing Arabic script on an elegant brass nameplate: خالد. Khalid. Not Ardeth, and apparently not the leader of the Twelve Tribes in this century either, given his less dramatic facial tattoos.
It was weird. Of course Ardeth's name would be different this time around. It was just- they'd shared grandchildren once upon a time, and a father a lifetime before that. It made him wonder what his own name would have been, now, if he'd lived a normal lifespan back then. If he'd still have found Evie; if he'd still have stood at Ardeth's side; if they'd have all grown up together, for once. He knew it was kind of ridiculous to be jealous of a version of him that had never even existed, but then, he'd never been all that rational when it came to the hand of the gods moving in their lives.
Rick shook his head and turned away from his fascinated study of Ardeth's face, a little embarrassed, and glanced over at his wife. Ardeth- no, Khalid- had brought them into his private office; irony of ironies, he was actually the curator of the Jonathan Carnahan Memorial Museum. The desk was a huge wooden monster, not one of the modern computer-top glass and plasteel contraptions, and the chairs placed around it matched; Evie made hers look almost like a throne, spine straight and more than a little Nefertiri in the tilt of her chin. She tended to get a little aggressive when she was nervous.
He held out a hand to her, and relaxed a little as she reached back to lace her fingers with his. She didn't so much as glance away from their host, but she smiled a little, and Khalid smiled back at the gesture.
"So," their reincarnated friend said, finally opening the conversation. "You say you knew me a lifetime ago. That you are the Princess Nefertiri and her bodyguard, appointed protectors of the Bracelet of Anubis, and that is why you have invaded my museum." He gestured toward the sculpted golden armband glittering in false innocence on the desktop.
Rick winced. "Uh, she's the protector, actually; I'm just- hers. And, yeah, I know how that sounds."
"It is difficult to believe, certainly," Khalid said, steepling his fingers over the retrieved item, elbows resting on the mirror-polished wood. "I've seen the photographs on display in the Carnahan room; and now that the situation is less immediate, I must admit that could easily be the source of my... sense of familiarity. The resemblances are truly remarkable. And I realize my face is also not unique in the history of my people. But thieves educated enough to have targeted the Bracelet might easily have planned to take advantage of those likenesses."
So he did know the stories; though Rick wasn't sure whether that was a good thing or not. He was much more composed, too, than he'd been when he'd first confronted them. Rick tugged at the collar of his shirt, remembering the pressure of twisted fabric against his windpipe, and wondered if they might have been better off letting the Starfleet android take them into custody.
They'd have been freed soon enough; given the difficulties they'd had maintaining their identities in the years since the Third World War, they'd ended up working for Federation Security half the time, trading privacy for chasing down aspects of 'fairytales and hokum' that could be passed off as advanced technology or alien evolution. Starfleet still wouldn't be able to handle something like the mess at Ahm Shere or an Old One, but in the bigger picture? IDIC- and phasers- had been really handy developments.
They had been part of the inner circle of the Medjai once, but several centuries had passed since they'd stayed among the Tribes for more than a brief visit, and from the outside the desert warriors almost looked like any other regressive pocket of culture these days. They'd wondered more than once if they should have stayed, especially since they'd seen the notice about the Scorpion King exhibit- seriously, what the hell would inspire them to take that risk, if they knew what those artefacts were capable of?- but destined and sort-of-immortal Medjai or not, Rick hardly looked the part. It had been a lot easier for him and Evie to blend in and keep busy once the magical link tying their longevity to Egyptian soil had been broken.
Besides, in all those years, nothing like this had happened, not once. It was as though the old gods had specifically brought back a select group of Seti's court to deal with the Scorpion King, trusting that at least one would survive to deal with Anubis' former champion, then just- let them all go afterward. The only reincarnated human Rick and Evie had met since Ahm Shere's collapse had been a rather specific case, a young woman with a history almost as dramatic as Imhotep's. They'd never seen either of their brothers again, not in four centuries of waiting; Rick had almost given up hoping for it to happen.
"So what would convince you?" Evie asked, softly.
Khalid eyed them both again, forehead wrinkling up in thoughtful concern. There were things about him that Rick didn't recognize- his wardrobe had been updated from Ardeth's layered desert robes, for one thing, though it was still mostly all silver and black; his hair was much shorter; and he wasn't carrying a sword- but he had a lot of the same mannerisms. And he had the same presence: that intensity and effortless aura of leadership that had struck Rick the first time they'd met in Hamunaptra.
No, the second first time. The first time in that lifetime? Reincarnation was hell on the vocabulary.
"It isn't that I need convincing," Khalid said, after a long moment, his mouth drawn to an unhappy line. "It's that I don't, and I am having difficulty articulating the reasons why."
"Trying to play devil's advocate," Rick tipped him a nod.
"Yes." Khalid sighed and rubbed his forehead. "I will have to speak with the elders on this matter, to confirm. But in the meantime- you said that you believed I might have been brought back because I was needed?"
"It certainly seems likely," Evie replied. "We have yet to encounter someone we knew to have had a past life who did not also have a significant destiny in their new one."
"Though what that might be..." Rick shrugged. "The only thing both our previous lives had in common, that I know of, is each other- and Imhotep. But we finally sorted the old mummy out for good a few centuries ago; there's nothing left for him here."
"Except..." Evie said suddenly, grip tightening painfully on his hand.
"Evie?" Rick turned to her, startled.
She wasn't actually looking at him, though, or Khalid; she was gazing out the high-arched windows behind the desk, overlooking the front entrance of the museum. A young woman in black pants and a dark shirt with open chain-patterned side seams was striding confidently up the walk; her hair was dark and straight, and her features the kind of proud, high cheekboned beauty that could cut the unwary admirer like a knife.
"It's her," Evie breathed.
"Anck-su-namun," Rick said, stunned. With pointy Vulcan ears. He'd recognize the poisonous ex-concubine anywhere, though he hadn't seen her since she'd abandoned Imhotep in a crumbling pyramid in Ahm Shere four hundred years ago. That had turned out good for the ol' High Priest, much as it stuck in Rick's craw to admit; but he'd never given the other half of that sturm und drang relationship a second thought. That... might have been an oversight.
"But that is my assistant, T'Ayda," Khalid said, perplexed, as he followed their gaze to the window. There was a certain amount of softening in his expression as he looked at her- and Rick gave Evie a wild, wide-eyed look as the implications of that played out in his thoughts.
Yet another attempt to take over the world? Or- something a little more dramatic?
Whichever it was, he thought as his wife gaped back, they were definitely going to have to stick around to find out.