t's What's Inside by Bradygirl
An unexpected visitor shows up at the SF house setting everyone on edge, especially Nick. Unknowingly, their new guest releases the spirit of the goddess Isis by descrating her mortal ashes. Will the Legacy be agle to seal the urn in time or will this accidental mishap seal the fate of them all? Introducing Aidan Haliburton as the SF Houseصs newest member.
"There she is again, tending to her mortals," whispered Hathor as she eavesdropped on her enemy, Isis.
The beautiful black woman with ebony hair streaked with the colors of the wind hovered near a man in the streets of San Francisco. She appeared to be murmuring something to him -- probably more awful words of wisdom from her majesty, the saint. Hathor didn't know how many more centuries she'd be able to watch and wait until the time was at hand. The perfect time to get rid of that ghastly do-gooder once and for all.
So many years she'd waited. So many years she'd watched each generation from Isis' mortal line guard her ashes like they were some sort of golden treasure. But soon, the time would be right. The knowledge would not be passed on. This would be Hathor's time to strike, while the iron was so deliciously and ironically hot.
Red hair that had once rained down Hathor's back in fiery waves was now cut short. The blunt cut around her chin brought attention to her more desirable qualities -- an ample bosom and long swan-like neck. The Goddess Hathor would do anything to get the attention of Set. He was the God of Evil, after all. The one destined to reign in Heaven and on Earth. And she was his Goddess of Love meant to reign at his side.
But Set, it seemed, was not interested in the Egyptian love goddess. He was enthralled instead with the good Isis. The mother god. The once mortal who gave humanity its benevolence, its wisdom -- the truth. It was Isis who said that truth is beauty, and she seemed to revel in this truth she offered the humans in mass quantities. But the truth, it turned out, was the one thing that eventually destroyed the species. It was an ironic twist of fate.
So Miss Good was not quite so good after all. The more she spread her virtue and justice mumbo-jumbo, the more the people she tried to help paid no heed to her words of wisdom. The same was true today, for the man she murmured to ignored her pleas and set along his merry way walking into the human traffic jam that lined the busy streets of San Francisco. But this did not deter Isis. She merely chose another victim trying to instill goodness into them.
One after another she chose them, talked to them, tended to them. Throughout time, throughout the ages. Yet in all her attempts to spread the truth, the world was not a better place, it was worse. An almost lawless wasteland.
Hathor laughed at Isis' attempts to sway the human species. They could not see her nor did they even believe in her any more. They didn't believe in any of the Egyptian Gods. The veil had been lifted long ago. Now the humans didn't need a gaggle of gods to lead them. They all ascribed to the knowledge of the one true God, the master of them all.
Hathor had never met this one true God but she had heard whispers of his existence and she knew not to dishonor one as powerful as he. But Isis was different. Isis was her enemy, her competition.
"And in the spirit of competition, my dear Isis," Hathor said softly, with a joyous lilt to her voice. "May the best Goddess win."
Present Day: The San Francisco Legacy House
Suki Kin walked into the mansion as if she owned the place lock, stock and lease. With the authority of an Egyptian pharoah, she flipped her straight, black hair over her shoulder. It rained down her back shimmering like onyx rain contrasting nicely with her skin which was a light bronze, and in San Francisco in the winter she looked particularly sun kissed. The arrogance in her demeanor left temporary precept, Nick Boyle cold.
"Is it just me or did it just drop ten degrees in here?"
Rachel glared at him and offered their new guest a drink. She led the woman to the opposite side of the room. At the same moment, Alex entered toting a mug of fresh coffee warming it between her hands. She regarded the Asian woman with a curious eye and then noticed another person step inside the foyer. Nick turned to see whom she was eyeing.
Trailing behind Suki by about five minutes was a younger man, twenty-three-ish, with acorn colored hair and a stumble in his step. He was lugging what looked to be every piece of luggage the two had brought on their journey.
Hadn't the guy ever heard of moderation, Nick wondered.
Before the young man made it over the threshold, he had knocked one of the suitcases against the door jam which sent the rest tumbling to the floor like a stack of dominos. As one of the smaller bags impacted the hard wood, it jarred open revealing a colorful array of silky apparel. The young man glanced up nervously and offered an impish smile to Nick, Alex and Rachel.
"I'm so sorry," Aidan Haliburton muttered, his eyes darting two and fro like a frightened child. "I'm such a clutz."
"Ya think?" Nick grumbled.
Alex put her free hand to her lips attempting to stop the coffee from spewing forth from her mouth. She tried to hold back a snicker but was unsuccessful.
Suki continued on into the foyer as if nothing unusual had transpired. She raked her hand across the new stairway railing and found it lightly covered in dust. She peered at the dirt and grimaced with disgust. She blew some of it from her hand.
"Not quite back in working order, I see." Suki walked off into the sitting room leaving the rest to follow her.
Nick's eyes narrowed in that "excuse-me" sort of expression that required no words to relate his feelings. "Is this dame for real?" he whispered to Alex.
"Quite real," Aidan replied fully knowing neither was talking to him. He spoke in a volume so low it was barely audible.
Nick turned and took in the stranger's appearance. He again had the majority of the luggage either slung over his shoulder or gathered up in his arms. He was doing such a delicate balancing act that Nick almost felt compelled to help him... almost.
"Who are you? Her personal luggage rack?" Nick said.
Alex was the one who replied first. "Leave the kid alone, Nick."
"No, I'm not her personal luggage rack, as you say. I'm Aidan. Aidan Haliburton. From the London House." Aidan attempted to offer Nick his hand in welcome but he didn't seem to have a spare one at the moment.
"That's obvious. Nice accent, mate."
Aidan tried to ignore Nick's total unprofessional manner and continued. "And my friend... well, she's not actually my friend. We only met on the plane yesterday..."
Nick glared at the boy.
"I'm rambling, aren't I?"
"Her name is Suki Kin. Hong Kong House." Aidan tripped on the carpet and stumbled forward straight into Alex.
Nick realized since Alex had entered the room Aidan hadn't been able to tear his eyes off her. Maybe there was hope for this boy after all, he thought in retrospect.
"So sorry," Aidan said brushing at Alex's shirt straightening it. "We're here for the test." Aidan said the words slowly, distracted by Alex's beauty.
Nick's tone erupted in a sudden blast. "Test? There's a test?" He glanced at Alex who only shrugged then helped Aidan with his luggage.
"I'll show them their rooms," Alex offered.
"No one said there was going to be a test!" Nick boomed. "I hate tests."
Suki appeared in the foyer again and ascended the staircase before Alex could take the lead. The three of them disappeared around the corner. Nick took Rachel aside.
"Okay, who ordered the bitch in high heels?"
Suki materialized over the balcony suddenly and responded. "No one ordered me, Mr. Boyle. I'm here to see you." Suki said 'you' with all the warmth of a deep sea creature. Aidan emerged seconds later his head popped over the balcony as Suki calmly walked down to the first landing with a determined assurance.
"Us," Aidan corrected.
Suki acknowledged his presence, then replied. "All right, Haliburton. Us. No one ordered us." She then turned to Nick and without missing a beat said. "The San Francisco House is in quite a shambles, Mr. Boyle. I do hope you're up to the task of your new responsibilities."
"I can handle whatever you and your cronies dish out, sister." Nick said standing his ground. He wasn't going to let some two-bit Legacy hack tell him what was what.
"That remains to be seen, Mr. Boyle. We'll talk more later." With that, she dismissed Nick and returned upstairs to her room.
"Pleasant woman," Rachel said trying to remain objective.
"You say that about all the looneys."
Nick stalked into the kitchen and grabbed another cup of coffee. He knew only one thing for sure at this moment. If she created waves in his life, he'd create a typhoon in hers.
Aidan sat in his room, emptying his suitcases. He sighed but decided if he were going to be anywhere, he'd rather be stuck wherever Alexandra Moreau was. Aidan had heard stories about her while in his final year of college, just before joining the Legacy, but he had never once heard how beautiful she was.
He already knew what Nick Boyle thought of him. Nick saw Aidan as a push-over, a wimp. To be honest, maybe he was. He let Suki push him around, didn't he? He sighed again. If he was going to work with the others at the SF House, Aidan knew he'd have to grow a backbone quickly or he'd continue to be shoved around and ignored.
Suki walked into Nick's make-shift office as if she owned it, too. She eyed the former SEAL carefully. A mischievous grin stained her lips. Suki sat down, crossing her legs. Her eyes never left Nick.
"Where is it?" she asked, sweetly.
"Where is what?" Nick didn't attempt to feint pleasant conversation with Suki.
"Don't play games with me, Mr. Boyle. I'm here to help you with an urn you recently acquired. Where is it?"
Nick pushed aside the paperwork he had been reading. "See Alex or Rachel," he told her. "Anything else?"
Suki sprang from her seat and moved towards Nick with cat-like grace not uncommon with most Asian women he knew. "No, not yet," she hissed. " But I'll be sure and let you know when I do." Then, deeming the conversation over, she turned on her heel and stalked out elbowing past Aidan as she passed him in the doorway.
"Not very pleasant, is she?" Aidan asked, slipping into the room.
"You mentioned a test earlier. What was that all about?"
"Oh, yes, right. Well, the London House decided to test your skills as a Precept," he replied, sitting down. "I don't quite understand it myself, but I'm here as part of the test."
"Obviously," Nick curtly replied. "Look, Aid. I appreciate you filling me in, but . . ."
"Actually, my name is Aidan."
"Whatever," Nick said, waving him off. "Can you tell me anything about these tests?"
Aidan nervously laughed. "Well, actually . . ." He attempted to cross his legs and knocked some paperwork off the desk. Aidan flashed Nick a smile. "I'm such a . . ."
"I know. You're such a clutz. You keep proving it," Nick said in a slightly irritated tone. "You were saying?"
"Oh. Right. Well, I don't know any more about these test than you," explained Aidan. "I wish I --" He paused, thoroughly knowing he didn't have any answers for the new precept. "Maybe I should just go. You have so much to do here and I could probably help . . . elsewhere."
Nick nodded. "I'm sure Miss Kin could use your help with that artifact."
Aidan winced. He didn't enjoy the petite Asian woman's company. He slowly got up, careful not to knock anything else over. "Whatever you say, Mr. Boyle," Aidan replied. "I mean, you are the boss around here."
He nervously laughed. Seeing Nick wasn't amused, Aidan nodded. "Right. So I'll be leaving now."
Suki eyed the urn carefully. It was the third piece to her puzzle. It had to be or she wouldn't have left Hong Kong for this. She spun on her heels ran smack dab into Nick's hard, hazel eyes.
"Where did it come from?" Suki asked in a demanding tone. She couldn't let on what she already knew about the artifact.
Nick inwardly shook his head. This woman didn't care one lick about another person in the world but herself. He'd be surprised if she had any friends at all considering her icy attitude toward everyone at the manor.
"Cairo sent it," he replied.
"How's the translation coming?" she asked Aidan who was secured in front of one computer terminal in the control room.
Aidan's head shot up from the books he'd been buried in. "I haven't been able to find anything yet," he informed her. "I'm still waiting for a few books to be sent over from home. I hope to have something by . . ."
Suki needed more information on the mysterious urn if she was to get the cash she needed for her mother's surgery. The urn would lead her to the mysterious Egyptian vault of riches her mother had always told her about.
"No excuses!" Suki snapped. "We have deadlines, Haliburton."
Aidan stared at her agast. Deadlines? What deadlines? He couldn't help but wonder what the angry Asian woman was up to. He wasn't there for any sort of deadline. Neither was she as far as he knew. Aidan had to wonder what was really going on. He eyed Suki as she taunted Nick with a verbal sparring match, one she was sure to win sooner or later.
"I'm the one in charge of this House, Ms. Kin," said Nick. He arose from his chair and stood nose to nose with the coldest woman this side of the Mississippi. "I'll give the orders around here. Not you." Nick was not going to let some dame come stalking into his House and reek havoc on all their lives.
Suki smirked and took a step back. Given different circumstances, she might have found herself attracted to the man. Right now, she was merely irritated with the way he ran the House.
"Of course," she said, feigning sweetness. "Forgive me for stepping on any toes. I'm still getting used to the way you run this manor."
"Finally someone put her in her place," grumbled Aidan.
"What did you say, Haliburton?" Suki moved to him like a cat stalking its prey.
Aidan buried his face in the books around him again. "I was just . . ." He cleared his throat and adjusted his reading glasses. "Ah, nothing."
Suki didn't look back as she stormed out of the room off to complete her hidden agenda.
"Good job, Aid." Nick said, slapping him on the back.
"It's not Aid. It's. . ."
"Just keep researching," Nick told him. "I have a few things to take care of, but call me when you find something."
Aidan merely nodded. Thankfully, he felt at home among the books. "Oh and just have my books from home brought in here if you'd please."
Nick snickered. "You got it, mate," he said, still teasing Aidan about his accent.
After Nick left, Aidan sighed. "I really wish he'd stop doing that."
Light played on the dark wall of the small room. The tree outside Rena Kin's window shaded her from the harsh rays of daylight. The shadows frolicked for her doing an ancient dance only the wind could perform. Save for the small column of sun cascading on the wall, the room was oppressively dark. Rena's usually tan Egyptian face was sallow and drawn. The medication she'd been taking wasn't working like the doctors had hoped, so now she was home among family. Where she needed to be. With her husband.
Gan sat on a chair opposite the bed wringing his hands in worry. It was all happening too fast. Each minute that passed by was one less minute in his wife's life. Since she had been home, he tried to cherish every last moment with her.
For weeks his wife had tried to get their daughter to come home, but Suki wouldn't accept her mother's eventual fate. She was more concerned with paying their debts, dealing with the financing, things that didn't matter and could be dealt with later... afterward.
Rena struggled to speak. "Suki. Where is my Suki?"
Gan Kin wiped a cloth over his sweet wife's face, then mopped his own perspiring brow. His eyes were lined with worry. He knew that moment had come.
"No, no," he said, softly. "You must not strain yourself. Lie back down." His comforting voice and the gentle pressure of his hand forced her back into a supine position.
"Where?" she whispered, hoarsely. Rena would not be deterred from her path. Time was short She must tell Suki the truth, reveal to her daughter her true destiny. Fore when the information she possessed wasn't passed on to the next generation, truth, beauty and the laws of man would be banished from the world, forever. If she didn't contact Suki in time, all would be lost.
"Don't worry, my wife. Your daughter will return soon. She has gone to America." Gan brushed a black strand from Rena's forehead. "She will return soon."
"No! Today. Now!" The small woman attempted to get out of bed, but was stopped, forced to remain where she was. "You don't understand, Gan. Our daughter has to know. She has to know her destiny."
As Rena struggled with her husband to rise from her death bed, she found she could not. She was too weak and the darkness was all ready trying to consume her, pulling her into its void. Her exertions grew fainter until her efforts ceased all together. Rena's body fell forward into her husband, Gan's awaiting arms.
As he brushed the long back hair from her face, he sobbed.
"No, no. Not my wife. Not my beautiful wife." His cries of grief could be heard well into the night. His wife, his soul mate, was dead.
Hathor could not believe her luck. "Yes!" She danced around in victory. "The circle has been broken. My time has come at last." Her laugh rumbled through the heavens.
Realizing she needed to get organized, a dayrunner appeared before her hovering in mid air. The pages moved by a will of their own and landed on the date of the current day. Her finger ran a wild course down the page. Discovering she she had no obligations pressing on her godly agenda, Hathor decided to move forward with her plan.
"Time is a wasting." Then like Samantha from Bewitched, she winked out, disappearing with a snap of her fingers and a twitch of her nose.
San Francisco Legacy House
"What did you find out about the urn?" Suki was unusually interested in the ancient relic, but it was far from an enlightening find, at least in Alex's mind. The urn was merely that - an urn. The only unique aspect to it were the seven bizarre Japanese etchings on the outside of the object. Alex had attempted to decipher the writing but so far she had been unsuccessful in her endeavor. Aidan was looking into the idea he'd had that they might be related to the Goddess Isis. She thought it was a good idea. Leave no stone unturned, as they say.
"Well?!" Suki said, overly stressing her words. She seemed to need to know the answer at that exact moment. Black eyes bore into Alex as the seconds ticked by. Suki managed to wait nearly ten mind boggling seconds before snapping again, this time her Japanese accent was more noticeable. "Tell me!"
Alex smiled softly at the small Asian woman trying not to get angry at the inappropriate rage the woman was displaying.
"I honestly don't know what to tell you, Suki. We've been able to carbon date it, but beyond that this relic is a mystery. I'll need more time to research its history..."
"Have you decoded the writing on the surface?" Alex was cut off by Suki's question. The woman was obviously annoyed by her lack of answers.
Alex was annoyed in return and gave Suki a suspicious sideways glance. She had a feeling Suki Kin knew more about this artifact than she was letting on. But if this was how she wanted to play it - this was how they'd play it.
"No, we haven't. Not yet. The writing is definitely Japanese, but so far that's it." Alex exhaled a ragged breath and stretched her fingers to the ceiling. "I'm beat. I think I'm going to take a break for awhile."
"No..." Suki appeared to consider a response to Alex's rest and relaxation remark but then must have thought better of it because in the end she kept her thoughts to herself.
Alex was thankful for small blessings.
"Just what is her problem?" Alex lamented rather loudly as she entered the sitting room.
"By her I assume you're referring to our delightful Ms. Kin? She's quite charming, in her own way. But for some reason I've found her more appealing from a distance. A large distance. A cavernous distance. She's on one side of the Grand Canyon and I'm on the other."
Alex smiled at Aidan's attempt to console her.
"I find her more tolerable in another room," Alex added, as Nick sauntered into the room holding an armful of large texts.
"How about another country?" he said unexpectedly. "I'd vote for another planet but as far as I know - there isn't intelligent life out there." Nick dropped the books onto the table in front of Aidan who jerked his feet off the coffee table before the tomes impacted his ankles. "And considering how cold its been in here since she arrived, I'm wondering if our Ice Princess is even a living, breathing being."
Aidan knew Nick was joking but something about what he said gave him an idea.
"I may be out of line here but has anyone had a normal reaction to Suki?" Aidan rubbed the bridge of his nose and adjusted his glasses in thoughtful retrospect.
"Oooh," Nick said, acting scared. He waved his fingers at the boy in a child-like frightening gesture. "Is she a vampire? Maybe I should slay her." Both his visitors were obviously annoying Nick to no end.
"Give Aidan a break, Nick. That's a perfectly logical question given the circumstances. I mean, what do we actually know about her? I personally only knew Aidan was coming, not Suki. So that leads me to wonder. What is she really doing here and why is she so interested in an urn that is nothing more than a vessel for ashes?" Alex had jumped onto Aidan's train of thought.
"Exactly what I was thinking," Aidan said, smiling broadly.
"Exactly what I was thinking." Nick mocked Aidan using a British accent.
"Stop it Nick!" Alex said, using a more forceful tone. "What do we know about her?"
"Nothing. But soon that's going to change."
"Come up with anything?"
Nick was anxious to know what super bitch was up to. But deep down he knew it was more than that. Even with her considerable attitude and lack of respect for his house members, there was something about Suki Kin that made his blood boil, and he couldn't figure out if it was in a good or a bad way.
Maybe it was the fact that she so resembled Julia. Those big black eyes. Full lips. And thinking of Julia made him realize all he'd missed over the years. Love, a life, a relationship. For a time he thought - maybe Kristen. But that wasn't to be. She died before anything started between them. It was the same with Julia too.
Was he destined to step up to the plate of love only to go home with a strike out? Maybe that was why he was so hesitant to get into another relationship. Maybe he thought he was jinxing these women to death. His involvement in the Legacy not only didn't provide job security, it didn't necessarily mean he'd be alive tomorrow to be in a relationship. And how was that fair to them? How was it fair to himself?
Aidan observed Nick's far off expression. He seemed to be looking in his direction but not actually seeing anything. Whatever he was thinking of must be terribly important to him. A look of genuine concern graced the new precept's features for a moment then was gone.
Aidan wondered what so touched Nick's heart. He also wondered if Nick would ever let him in. Would he let him be there for him as a house mate and as a friend? Why did he feel that Nick trusting him would be a long time in coming?
"Nick," Aidan said finally. "Is everything all right?"
When a response wasn't forthcoming, Aidan stretched his neck searching Nick's throat for any odd markings. Maybe he'd been bitten by a vampire, he thought suddenly, worry masking his own features. Well, maybe not a vampire, he decided finally. Some other sort of demon perhaps? One that could inhabit a human and steal his spirit? One never knew when an evil entity would strike next and take over a person's body.
"Huh? What?" Aidan's question drew Nick from his ruminations. When he finally concentrated on the young Englishman, Nick found Aidan eyeing him strangely. "Mind telling me what you're looking for?"
Startled, Aidan lurched backward nearly losing his balance. Two legs of his chair reared up off the floor threatening to topple him over. Nick brought a hand up and yanked hard on Aidan's collar. The movement brought Aidan back on stable ground.
"Thank you." He said, out of breath from his ordeal. "I just have this habit of ... well, of..."
"Doing things just like that?"
Getting back to his original question, Nick asked again, "Well, did you come up with anything on our house guest?"
"No, nothing," Aidan said, clearly distracted by other facts he'd discovered about the woman. "But this is quite interesting. We know that the Cairo House sent us the unusual urn. Guess who sent it to them?"
"Oh, don't tell me."
"Apparently, she showed up there unexpectedly three weeks ago. They were all getting ready to leave on an important assignment out of the country and didn't have time for her project." Aidan took a breath and continued. "Since the Legacy recently provided the San Francisco House with all this new state-of-the-art equipment, Cairo suggested she try getting it analyzed here."
"I should send them a thank you note for the referral." Nick laughed. "This is beautiful, just beautiful. A woman with a hidden agenda. How did I get so lucky?"
Alex, who was only an arms length away from Nick and Aidan, was completely oblivious to their conversation. She was finishing up the examination on the urn and was shocked by the results. For a moment she waited for the computer to download the results into the central data bank. Maybe her conclusion was wrong but then again, maybe it wasn't.
This was what she truly loved. Downloading facts. Gathering data. Yet some part of her still yearned to be out in the field side by side with Nick kicking paranormal ass.
"What about you, Alex?" Nick asked the beautiful black woman.
"What about me?" she said, not understanding the question.
"The urn. What did you find out?"
"Oh, that." She typed a few keystrokes and brought up the information on the screen for them to see. "According to the carbon dating process the urn is between eighteen and thirty years old. And that's only a ball park figure. I'm still running the symbols through our data base."
"That's odd," said Aidan. "Very odd.
"So let me get this straight. Suki wants us to find the history of an urn that has no history? Why?"
"Why indeed," Aidan said, then suddenly added mostly to himself. "I was sure it was older than that."
"What do you mean, you were sure?" Nick asked suspiciously.
"Oh, I don't know. Every once in a while I get these feelings. Nothing really. Sometimes things come to me and later I discover them to be true. I mean, I don't have the sight like Alex or anything." Aidan used his hands as visual aids. "I merely feel things."
"Maybe you're an empath." Alex hinted.
"And maybe I'm not." Aidan seemed agitated by her suggestion.
Alex hadn't noticed Aidan's reaction to her insight, but Aidan didn't want her reading anything more into the remark so he retreated to the kitchen, and hid among his books, throwing himself into the research on the urn. It didn't matter that he wasn't getting anywhere. The mindlessness of scanning ancient texts kept him busy and his mind off other rather irritating things -- his father and that whole empath business.
Still, Aidan's mind wandered a bit. Was Alex right? Was he an empath? He had never given it much thought. Well, maybe he had, in a way. His mother had been an empath, a very powerful one, and Aidan had been told at a very young age that being like his mother was a bad and terrible thing. He'd carried that threat into adulthood along with the fear his father instilled into him.
If he was truly an empath, any roads leading to that information had been detoured. His mother had died years ago and with her any information about the chances that he was "special."
Had he pushed away any thoughts of being like his mother because his father had threatened him? Surely not, why would he? He adored his mother. It was his father he despised. But then again, the threats and the fear his father had indoctrinated into him must have come at a great price. Maybe not realizing he was an empath was the price he had paid.
Aidan grunted, tired of thinking about such troubling things. He pushed the book he was attempting to read aside. No matter how intriguing the Egyptian Goddess Isis was, he couldn't concentrate on her. He removed his glasses and set them aside.
He had been working in the kitchen, and found he needed a good dose of fresh air. Maybe this was the excuse he required to delve into the world that was Angel Island. It was about time he explored his new surroundings a little.
As Aidan stepped out on the grass, his mind slowly cleared, and a soft breeze enveloped him in a whisper of circling air. Aidan was never more happy to be outdoors than he was at that moment. So peaceful. So quiet. Aidan smiled to himself. This was just what he needed after all he had been through.
The serene moment was broken by the harsh bellow of someone from the main house.
"What are you doing out here when you should be inside working?"
Aidan spun around and gulped in a mouthful of air to replace the oxygen that had retreated from his body. God, why did she have to be so ... so... awful? Aidan asked himself. "I needed a little air," he replied, tongue tied, tripping over his words. "The urn isn't going anywhere. What's your interest in it anyway?"
Suki impatiently tapped her foot. "My interest in it isn't important," she snapped. "Now, get inside and get back to work!" The venom in her voice was lethal and Aidan didn't want her to inflict any more of it in his direction. He was glad when she spun on her heel and stomped back into the manor.
Aidan shook his head and jogged to catch up to her. "That woman's made of ice," he muttered. "Pure ice."
"What was that, Haliburton?" Suki snapped.
"Nothing. Just talking to myself, it seems."
Alex struggled with the urn. The top was unusually shaped and wouldn't come off. She'd been trying for an hour with no avail. "Ah! This is so frustrating!" she muttered, loudly to herself. "Why won't you come off?"
The lid appeared to be so well fastened to the urn that the entire piece seemed almost unopenable.
For awhile, Aidan watched Alex toy with the urn, turning it this way and that until she thrust it away from her in frustration.
The phone rang down the hallway and Aidan ran to retrieve it. It was for Suki. A quick search revealed she wasn't anywhere around, neither was Nick. That could mean only one of two things. Either they had killed each other or were in the midst of one of their daily fights. He guessed it was the latter. Knowing they verbally sparred either in the control room or Nick's office, he went in search of Suki in the direction of the office since he'd just come from the control room.
And he had been right. They were both, even now, going at it. Back and forth throwing verbal punches at each other. The door was closed but he could hear the conversation rather well. Deciding he liked the position of his head today and didn't want it bitten off, he took the call himself.
"I'm sorry but Suki can't come to the phone right now. Can I take a message?"
Aidan's face paled as Gan Kin told him the bad news then related the information Rena had been stressed to let her daughter know about.
"I'm so sorry. I don't know what to say."
"The information. You must get it to her quickly."
'So, wait." Aidan said, softly. "The urn was your wife's?"
"Yes, for many years. It's been passed down from generation to generation. Now it is Suki's time." Gan cleared his tight throat.
"It must be rather important then. What's inside it? If I might ask?"
"My wife swore it was the mortal ashes of Isis. She said if the orb sealing it were to ever come off, the fate of the entire world would be at stake. I don't know if it's true but it was her dying wish to let Suki know this."
"The orb mustn't come off then?" Aidan said, distraced by a vision of Alex tugging at the lid of the urn. "Good Lord!"
Aidan nearly dropped the phone as he bit out a hurried good-bye and dashed off in the direction of the control room.
From somewhere on high, Hathor was able to keep an eye on the three people who had retained so much of her time over the years. The ghastly Isis, Rena Kin and her cold daughter, Suki. Now that Rena had been dealt with and rather effectively. She now only had two victims with which to contend with. Isis and Suki.
Ironically, Isis had found her way to Angel Island and was tending to a mortal who worked on the ferry boat. But this mortal was lending a listening ear to the good goddess and it made Hathor steam in jealousy. Maybe not all had forgotten the ways of the righteous as she had hoped.
Knowing this was partly disturbing and partly exhilarating. The time she had been waiting for was almost at hand. The time for vengeance and victory was close. If all went as planned, Isis would be cast down back into mortal form destined to live out the remainder of her numbered days until she finally died.
Set, of course, would be heartbroken as would the good Osiris, but they, like the rest of the world would soon forget. Like they too, had forgotten so many mortals over the centuries.
Hathor had considered impersonating, Kristen, the angel that infested this island like a virtuous watch dog, but found dodging her would be too troubling. And in the end, she hadn't needed to prod any of them to remove the orb from the urn. The one named Alex was attempting it for her.
From her place on high, Hathor took up a ring-side seat and waited for the fireworks to begin.
Aidan rushed down the hallway. He couldn't let Alex open that urn. He suddenly had a very bad feeling about it. He mustn't let it happen. Before he could take more than three steps the door to Nick's office swung open straight into Aidan's path. He ran flat into it and stumbled backward, reeling from the impact. Suki peered around the corner observing whomever she had knocked down.
Nick brushed past her and helped the young Englishman up. "See, Aid. Exactly what I was telling ya. She's a destructive force of nature."
"Apparently." Aidan considered correcting Nick once again about his name but he didn't have the time. Alex could be in a grave amount of trouble. He side-stepped the precept, then made a mad dash for the control room.
"Was it something I said?" Nick asked Suki.
She eyed him intently. "I don't know. You do have a strange effect on people." She regretted her words the minute they slipped from her mouth.
"Like on you, for instance?" Nick moved in closer, but as he traveled into Suki's comfort zone, she backed away.
"No. No, don't be ridiculous." She surveyed the hallway Aidan had seconds before hurried down. "I think we should see what's wrong."
Nick laughed. "With Aid? Or with you? Aidan's form filled the doorway. He was far from a looming presence but he had to convince Alex not to open the lid of the urn. It was imperative. He didn't know why he felt so compelled to stop her. Gan Kin had been very vague in their phone conversation.
"Alex. Wait. Stop!" The words barely left his mouth before Alex found the latch that removed the lid. The small vessel exploded in a shower of fireworks to rival any fourth of July celebration. Alex held the urn away from her as if she was being electrocuted. He body shook in convulsing waves.
Aidan ran to her side as the storm of fire lessened and the urn fell to the floor forgotten.
"Alex. Alex, are you all right?" Aidan fell to his knees on the floor and rested Alex's head in his arms. "You're going to be all right. You have to be all right." He cradled and rocked her hoping for her to regain consciousness.
Suki and Nick entered the control room and found Aidan. Nick ran to his side when he saw Alex unconscious and wounded. Her hands were red and steaming.
"What happened?" he asked sternly.
"She removed the lid from the urn." Aidan said, all his concentration focused on Alex. He brushed back her long black locks and prayed she would be all right. "She's going to be all right... Isn't she?" His eyes searched Nick's for some glimmer of hope.
"You are damn right, she's gonna be all right." Nick found a blanket stuffed beneath a shelf and covered Alex with it.
Nick glared at Suki. "If she dies, this is all on your head!"
Long minutes ticked by before some of the color returned to her face.
"She's coming too," Aidan said joyously with a sigh of relief.
"Alex? Honey? Can you hear me? It's Nick." The newly deemed precept hovered over the slim black woman's body as she opened her eyes.
She slowly sat up and regarded them both with a sudden interest. "Why do you call me, Alex? I am Isis."
Nick and Aidan exchanged equally confused looks.
"Okay," Nick started, trying to explain to himself why Alex had suddenly turned wacko. "One minute she's removing the lid to the urn, the next she thinks she's Isis? As in the Egyptian Goddess Isis? How in the hell can that be possible?"
"I'm sure there is a logical explanation." Aidan said.
"Then explain to me why you seemed to know that Alex was in trouble? You ran past us in the hallway like a bat outta hell." Nick was not going to relent until Aidan came clean.
Aidan cleared his throat. "Well. While you and Ms. Kin were in your office... um... doing whatever you were doing. I got a phone call from Gan Kin, Suki's father."
Suki glared at Aidan.
"I'm sorry. You were busy at the time. How was I suppose to know he'd tell me that your mother had died and the urn was the vessel that contained Isis' mortal ashes?" As the words slipped out, Aidan wished he could bite them back. He didn't want her to find out her mother had passed on like that. "I'm sorry, that was so rude of me."
"My mother? Dead?" Suki looked as if she wanted to cry but the tears wouldn't come. "I knew she had cancer but I never... I never thought it would really kill her. Lots of people who have cancer survive. I thought for sure she would be one of them."
Suki glanced up at both Aidan and Nick, tears streaming down her face. "I have to go."
Before she could exit the room, a woman appeared at the door. Her red hair glistened. "No, you have to stay."
Isis, now in Alex's form, found her strength and rose to meet her sister Goddess. "Hathor. I should have known."
"Yes, you should have. And you should have known better than to try and take Set from me."
"Set? You cast me down for Set?" Isis, even in her pain, laughed. "You didn't need to go to so much trouble. I have no interest in him."
"But that's not the point, my dear sister. He has eyes for you. And I cannot have that."
Nick came between the two women who were now shouting at each other.
"Woah, hold on a minute." He turned to Isis. "What do you mean , cast down? Where's Alex?"
"She is here, in this form. Do not worry."
"Oh, please, Mr. Boyle. Worry. Because if you can't get that lid back on the urn within the next day, your friend Alex will cease to exist." Hathor laughed.
"I will stop this nonsense right now." Isis reached for the lid but Hathor was faster. She used her magic to lift the orb-like lid into her grasp.
"Never again will you be a Goddess, Isis. And soon, all the Gods will have forgotten the mother god, Set included. Say goodbye to your precious freedom." Hathor waved her hand over the orb and it disappeared. A second later, she was gone as well.
"I am open to suggestions," Nick said as the San Francisco Legacy house members met in the conference room. Rachel and Aidan sat on either side while Nick took his position at the head of the table.
A minute later, Alex wandered into the oblong room her eyes curiously taking in all she could experience. "Why was I not invited to this gathering?" Isis asked using Alex's voice and body. Everyone in the room found this case of body snatching quite disconcerting.
"Well," Rachel said, using her best soothing doctorly tone. "We thought it was best..."
"Best? What is best? I am a Goddess. I know all. I see all."
"Well, I doubt you're seeing a lot now, unless one of Alex's visions has hit you." Nick didn't mean to yell at the woman but she had stole his friend's body and he didn't like it too much. In fact, he didn't like it at all.
"Well, then... Isis," Rachel thought it best to use the goddess' own name. "Why don't you tell us how we can get our friend back?"
"It is simple. You must go where the orb is?"
"And where might that be?" Aidan asked.
"Back before the veil was lifted." Isis paced around the large table taking in everyone's concerned faces.
"In English, please." Nick was in no mood for goddess games.
"Hathor has sent the orb back in time." Isis said, as if she traveled the earthly time line every day. Aidan found all this a bit confounding.
"That's nice and all, but I don't think we'll be able to get it back if that's where she sent it." Nick said trying his best not to be too cynical. He wanted Alex back as bad as the rest of them but back in time? It was a little hard to swallow.
"I have enough magic in me to send three of you back in time to where the orb is. But be warned, Hathor can also put herself into the time line as well."
"Of course she can," Aidan whispered.
Rachel, Nick and Aidan all agreed that they would journey back to save Alex's life. Because if they couldn't find this orb, they didn't want to think what might happen to their friend.
Isis stared at Rachel. "No, you cannot go."
Rachel's eyes grew wide. "I have to go. We have to save Alex."
"One of you must be the chosen one. And now that Rena Kin has passed on, the next in line is her daughter. She must be the one."
"Like hell!" Nick boomed. "I am not putting Alex's life into her hands."
"You must, Nick." Isis said, her tone softer. "It is the only way. She has the power of my line. Without it, I cannot send you back."
Nick glared at Suki but in the end agreed. They had to save Alex no matter who they had to partner up with to do it.
"As soon as we get that orb back," Nick said grimly. "You are outta this house, and I hope I never have to lay eyes on your icy mug again."
"No more talking!" Isis boomed. Alex's eyes glowed an eerie white gold. "You must go now, while my power lingers."
Isis stood to Alex's full height and leveled her hands at the group. The room took on a sudden ominious glow. Rachel stumbled backward in horror at the intensity of the light spewing forth from Alex's fingertips.
"Wait" she screamed. "I don't think this is such a good idea."
Isis slowly turned her head toward Rachel, her black locks flowing in the wind that now consumed the room.
"You cannot stop it now, good Doctor Corrigan. It is their destiny."
Then like a flicking of a light switch the brightness was gone, along with Nick, Aidan and Suki. Her three friends had vanished. Rachel fell into the nearest chair.
"Oh, my God... What have we done?"
Waves of time passed by them in intricate light sensations. Backward they traveled, hurling through a void of space and time. Aidan couldn't exactly explain how breaking through the boundaries of ages felt. All he could think about at that instant was the momentum. It was making him curiously queasy. It was a sensation somewhere between a roller coaster dropping your stomach out and sea sickness. All he could envision was making it stop so he could go somewhere and upchuck his crumpets.
Finally, after what seemed an endless eternity, the backward thrust their bodies had become use to ceased. Aidan was thankful it was over. Then he remembered he had to do it again once they found the orb. He winced at the pain of the thought.
The three of them found themselves in a darkened tunnel. Nick came up behind Aidan and slapped him forcefully on the back.
"That wasn't so bad, was it Aid?" Nick's spirited 'good going' slap further unsettled Aidan's upset stomach.
"Please, if you wouldn't mind. It's Aidan. Not Aid. Not any variation of Aid. Aidan." He tried to remain emphatic in his intention but his stomach butterflied anew. Aidan placed his hand on his stomach in an effort to calm it down.
"Sure, whatever you say, Aid... Aidan." Nick slapped the Englishman on the back a second time.
As they explored their surroundings they discovered they appeared to be in a long, darkened passageway. Each footstep they ventured forward revealed the rough, sandy nature of the terrain. They weren't on solid ground. More like a dirt, sand, and a dry mud combination. It was like walking on the beach rather than on a hardwood floor similar to ones in the Legacy manor.
Nick set forth in the lead, using all his SEAL training to force his eyes to penetrate the darkness. His hazel stare sliced the dim obscurity, two somber pin points of concentration.
"What is that smell?" Nick asked, as a light near the end of the passage became clearer. "Smells like a thousand year old bucket of muck."
"More like three thousand," Aidan muttered, still slightly upset by the whole "Aid" thing. It was plainly disrespectful to call a subordinate a name they obviously hated.
Suki brought up the rear, clearly out of her element among the dust and stench. "God! Don't they have a housekeeper?"
Aidan offered Suki a troubled gaze. She couldn't see his expression.
"If Isis has truly sent us back in time, as she implied... housekeepers haven't been invented yet."
Suki threw Aidan a wan smile. "Hardy, har, Haliburton. But..."
Suki ducked as a shadow of a bird or some other loathsome creature flew by her head. She flapped her hands in the air trying to shoo it away. A tiny squeak of emotion penetrated her icy exterior and Nick glaced back at the commotion.
"Haliburton," Suki said, more warily than before. "You don't really think she sent us back in time, do you? It's not possible."
Their exit became visible and the three walked out of the dark passageway. Sun shone down hard upon them in glaring rays of red, yellow and orange. All they could see for miles were pyramids, endless looming stretches of sand and strikingly new statues of the Egyptian Gods. The monumental statues lined the walkway to their left.
"You were saying?" Nick uttered, somewhat in awe at the awesome state of things around him.
Nick, Suki and Aidan immediately set to the mission at hand. They had to find the orb and they had to do it quickly. For hours they searched the area. Aidan managed to get himself trapped a number of times, but Nick came to his rescue. Suki, however, was more enthralled with the architecture of the buildings and pyramids than looking for the orb. For the third time in five minutes, Nick warned Suki that she was treading on thin ice by her distraction.
"Listen, sister, if you don't start looking for the orb..." Nick threatened, his eyes thinning to two small slits.
"Or you'll what? Kill me? I don't think so."
Suki put on a good tough guy front but Nick wasn't buying it. She was just a frightened girl trying to act hard and difficult because it was the only way she knew how to deal with adversity.
"Don't tempt me." Nick warned. "If we don't find this orb, my friend Alex dies. And that is not going to happen on my watch!"
"You really do care for her, don't you Nick?" Aidan said coming up behind the two. His brown hair was lighter due to the dusty nature of the sand and how many times he'd fallen into it over the last few hours.
"Damn, straight! Her and Rachel and Kat... they're the only family I have. And I'm not going to let her die without putting up a huge, knock-down, drag-out fight."
Again they split up, deciding that three sets of eyes in various locations were better than nine looking in the same place. Aidan gazed up at a large cylindrical carving of what seemed to be a bull with horns. It reminded him of Isis' orb.
"Beautiful, is it not?"
Aidan turned at the soft voice next to him. The woman who came into his vision was one of the most strikingly beautiful women he'd ever seen. Her black skin shone brightly in a aura of health and wellness. Aidan smiled shyly at her, and she warmly beamed back.
"Yes, quite extraordinary. So much like the symbol of an Egyptian Goddess I know." Aidan tried not to stumble over his words but he found the beautiful woman's presence disconcerting, to say the least.
"You know one of the gods?" she asked with surprise.
"Yes, Isis, actually. She sent us back in time..."
The woman laughed. "You are trying to trick me. I am the one called Isis. And I am not a goddess. I am a slave to Egypt."
Aidan gaped at the woman. "You're Isis?" This was clearly mind boggling, he thought to himself. " She sent us farther back in time than I first thought."
They both gazed up at the huge symbol again, but this time the harsh sun glinted off an unusual object. It was shiny, and glowing a strange blue.
"Oh, my god, the orb! It's the orb!" Aidan yelled for Nick and Suki who ran over to meet him. "There it is!" he said triumphantly. "We can save Alex."
Nick scaled the wall on which the large symbol hung. There weren't many footholds or hand rests so getting to the top was surprisingly difficult. Nick came within an arms length of the glowing blue object. He reached for it, extending his fingers to the maximum.
"NO!" Hathor appeared and wrenched the symbol free from it's resting place using her mighty powers.
The entire wall shook in a tremor of motion. Nick lost his balance and began to fall when the orb left it's position. He didn't fall to his death. A large invisible hand stopped him slowly lowering him to the ground.
"I will win, I will be with Set!" Before she could destroy the orb for good, another person materialized beside her. It was Set.
"I have seen enough!" he boomed. "I may not be able to have Isis for myself, but I will not let her die at your hand or that of any other!" Set threw a fiery bolt of energy toward Hathor.
She screamed in anguish then vanished.
Aidan turned to Isis. She smiled at him again with a grin to light up the heavens. "I am to be a goddess?"
"Yes, the greatest Egyptian Goddess." Aidan turned to join his friends but before he walked away he said, "You will be tested. You'll find your treasure in the Nile River."
Isis cast him a curious glance then looked up to Set. So much like his statues. Tall, dark and imposing. Too bad he was not a god of a good nature, she might then find him attractive.
"Now go back to whence you came, mortals. Save my love, my Isis. Bring her back to me." With a wave of his hand, Set threw the three of them back into the time line , back to the present, where they belonged.
Aidan could hear someone calling his name. It had been weeks since they saved Alex from the evil ends of the Egyptian Goddess Hathor. And since then, all he'd been able to do was sleep.
The soothing voice drew him out of his slumber and into consciousness.
"Alex? Is that you?" he said, slurring his words.
"No my dear friend, not Alex. It is I, Isis."
Aidan sat straight up in bed, his heart racing. "What's wrong? Is it Hathor again?"
"No, no, be calm mortal. She is being punished. She is no threat to you and your friends."
Isis' hair blew behind her as if a slight breeze was whispering. But the room was quiet and the window closed. Her hair melted like soft black rain down her back.
"I wanted to thank you. For thousands of years I have waited to find you and give you my greatest blessings. Your message to me, back then, helped me to save my one true love Osiris. I did as you said and I found my treasure in the Nile. But you, my young friend, will find your treasure here, in this very house."
"How do you know?" Aidan said in surprise.
"I'm a Goddess. I know all."
"Yes, I guess you would." he said with a wary smile.
"You're ultimate fear is never finding a place to call home. This, Aidan, is your home now. And you have already found a great love here."
"You may not realize it now but you have." Isis placed her hand on the Englishman's chest. "I feel inside you there is a great pain as well. But also a great capacity to love. This is your gift to the world. But you are holding back this love from us all because the small child inside of you is afraid. Afraid of rejection from your father, from the Legacy... from Alex?"
"Sooner or later they'll discover I'm a fraud." Aidan found himself near tears.
"You have your own definition for what that means, my young friend. But not everyone shares your views of yourself. Not everyone is as cruel and unkind as your father. Not everyone will judge you like he does. The people of this house, they are your kindred spirits. They see the truth in you. Even Nick, in his own way. This dear Aidan is exactly where you were meant to be. This is your destiny."
Before Aidan could question her further, Isis was gone. A knock came at the door seconds later. The massive oak frame opened slowly.
"Nope, it's just me," Nick said walking into the room. "Just got the word. Looks like we get to keep ya."
"I don't know whether to celebrate or say I'm sorry."
Nick placed a firm hand on Aidan's shoulder. "You saved Alex's life out there. That goes a long way with me. Welcome to the family."
Aidan inwardly smiled. He'd finally found the place he'd been searching his entire life to discover. He had finally found a home.
Supporting Cast Set...Armand Assanti
Suki Kin...JiHo Kim
Aidan Haliburton...Christien Anholt
Gan Kin...Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa
Rena Kin...Joan Chen