Actions

Work Header

Dust Off

Work Text:

Dr. Daniel Jackson, archaeologist, linguist, all-around inciter of trouble on at least a good three dozen planets and current hastily-called-in consultant on Trinity College's Mayan dig, tried one more time to get his handcuffed hands past his feet so he could work on the locks in front of him. No dice. Jack's never going to let me out of the country again...

"We're going to be fine, right, Dr. Jackson?" Alexine Townsend's voice barely quavered as the young embassy assistant huddled by him on the dirt floor of the dim shack. A few last shards of sunlight leaked through cracks in rough-built wood, fading into the Guatemalan night. Like him, Alexine's hands were cuffed behind her back; unlike him, she seemed to have no idea how to take the strain off her shoulders. "I mean, we're Americans... they've got to know we're more valuable alive."

Americans. Not Tau'ri. Odd thought, that people from his own planet might want to kill him.

A thought I should've had before I ever came down here, Daniel berated himself, squirming over so he could press his side against hers, compensating for some of the warmth her torn blouse and skirt were losing. These weren't the mountains, Mayans hadn't been real big on mountains, but the highlands got cold enough at night to be risky. "We'll be okay." I hope. The anthropologist in him had just toted up their relative status in regard to their captors - evidenced by his bruises, versus her bruises and torn clothes - the fact that Alexine was female and not unattractive, and the usual tactics employed by Hispanic cultures in subduing prisoners, and winced. I've got to draw their attention to me.

A tactic Daniel'd already used at the dig itself, hopefully allowing most of the local archaeologists and Trinity College students to vanish into the underbrush when heavily-armed gunmen poured down the hill. Drug runners, revolutionaries, mercenaries, all of the above - he had no clue. They were armed, they were wearing camouflage, and they were not happy to catch just a paltry pair of Americans out of the dozen that had "invaded" territory they claimed as theirs.

Daniel wasn't too happy about it himself. If Alexine had only run, instead of sticking to him like glue-

"It's all right, Dr. Jackson." She flashed him a brave smile. "Hazards come with the job."

Poor kid, Daniel thought. When the American embassy had sent her along with him out to the dig - public relations, they said, the locals had been cooperative and the U.S. wanted to keep them that way - he'd found himself saddled with her bright-eyed, almost Valley Girl enthusiasm, vivid contrast to her conservative white and gray outfit. Alexine wanted to know everything. From the tools used in the dig to the meaning behind the archaic symbols that had drawn him here in the first place; she listened and bubbled and nodded in all the right places, drawing him into an impromptu lecture for the length of their rough drive.

Frankly, he'd needed the distraction. Checking out symbols that the SGC thought hinted of Hathor, even if they were all but certain there was no actual Goa'uld involvement, ranked somewhere near the top of his list of Things I Never Want To Do.

Wish the team were here.

Unfortunately that had been out of the question. It was hard enough to get Teal'c out of the base; the thought of an actual alien visiting politically unstable Central America was enough to give the Joint Chiefs conniption fits. Sam had duties back in the SGC; something to do with SG-7 and odd fluctuations in the naquadda reactor. And Jack - well, Colonel Jack O'Neill, former Black Ops, had somehow managed to make Guatemala's Do Not Grant Visa Under Any Circumstances list.

Good going, Jack.

So it was just him. And Alexine.

At least I'm pretty sure Hathor wasn't here.

Easy to see how the SGC analysts had started hyperventilating, though. Hieroglyphs that clearly indicated human sacrifices, references to a mother goddess bearing the "warrior of the stars", snakes for a skirt - oh yes, Daniel could sympathize with the hapless research assistant who'd pressed the panic button. One telltale trait of a Goa'uld was a legend out of place; and Coatlicue, bare-breasted Aztec goddess of the ancient earth, Eater of the Dead, Mother of the Moon, Stars, and Huitzilopochtli Who Fights The Night, was unquestionably not who you'd expect to find in a Mayan temple.

So Coatlicue might well have been a Goa'uld. But she definitely wasn't Hathor.

Thank gods.

Freckles stood out against Alexine's pale face. "They're coming."

"Why do you-" But then he could hear them too; angry Spanish and coarse laughter, overlaid by a clatter of weapons-harness.

The door slammed open, letting in a river of night-flying gnats and a small horde of cammo-wearing men. "¡Puta!" The angry-eyed Hispanic in charge gestured to two of his men, who plucked up the embassy assistant. Alexine wobbled, but found her feet, eyes wide and fearful. "You come with us."

"Leave her alone!" Great. Use a Castilian accent down here. Bright, Dr. Jackson. What's next, British English in a back alley in Northern Ireland? "We're scientists, we're just here to study the artifacts. Everything we find goes to your country's museums. We're not taking anything-"

The slap wasn't much, compared to Apophis' backhands. His head still rang. "Norteamericano," the headman spat. A nod, and a thickset underling in a stained black tee shirt slammed the archaeologist against a splintery wall. Held him there, by a muscular arm across his throat. "You think we are all fools?" the headman sneered. "You burn the fields of our birthright. You try to keep us from hunting el tigre. You take gold, jade, the statues of the gods. You take them from the people. You take them from us."

Definitely a possessive us, there. Add that to the revolutionary speech he'd heard on their forced march up here, the pervasive scent of coca emanating from the sweaty bar of muscle on his neck- "Artifact thieves," Daniel gasped. And that was probably the most legal thing these people were into. "Go figure."

Slam.

Oh. That one... really hurt.

At least his glasses hadn't shattered; something that disappointed the headman, based on his angry wave at Black Tee. A wide hand yanked off the frames, dropping the archaeologist to the ground.

Daniel felt more than saw the door shudder closed, shutting him into night. A lock clicked shut, metal-on-metal almost hidden under Alexine's desperate Spanish as she tried to talk her way out of whatever mayhem they had in mind. "We can work this out, my government will listen to your demands..."

I've got to get out of here.

No time for finesse. If he couldn't get the cuffs in front of him, he'd just have to pick them behind him. Somehow.

And do what? a frightened corner of his mind pointed out. You know there's a guard out there. Maybe two. Even if you get past them, there's a whole camp of these maniacs to deal with. What are you going to do?

First things first. No wire, no picks, Daniel thought, backing up against the splintery wall. Trying to ignore how rough-hewn planks scraped his knuckles raw. At least here he knew where he was. "You're just going to check out the carved rocks," Jack says. "Don't bring anything illegal," Jack says. "You don't want to cause any more international incidents," Jack says-

Wait. Splinters.

Carefully the archaeologist felt behind him, running a finger along the grain until he'd sorted out a long, loose shard of limber wood. Pinched the middle of it between thumb and fingertip, gingerly working it free of its host board.

Gotcha!

A few twitches of fingertips, a bit of fumbling with cold steel, and he had the tip of the splinter into the lock. Up, and pry, and-

Clink.

Double-locked. Okay. Ease the splinter back into the hand, feel around the side of the cuffs for the second lock, and... was that a thud, outside?

Daniel squinted at shards of night, listening hard. He could have sworn there was someone sneaking around the side of the shack, just out of sight of the guard. But that didn't make sense. Why would someone be sneaking in this camp...

A muffled gurgle; Daniel's blood ran cold. You never forgot the sound of someone knifing a man in the throat. "Jack?" he hissed. "Help?"

Someone muffled a laugh as they unlocked the door. "Well, we ain't pizza delivery, kid."

American English. With an Italian accent. Not Chicago. Who the heck? Daniel squinted as two black- and gray-clad forms ghosted in the door; one blue-eyed and lean, the other brown-eyed and hefty, wrinkles creasing his cammo face paint. "Dr. Jackson?" the lean man asked in a low tone, dropping to one knee to finish unlocking the cuffs as his partner eased out the door. "We're here to get you out."

Daniel rubbed his freed wrists, pulled out his spare set of glasses; swallowed as the older man came back, hauling the limp form of the guard. Not much in the way of blood. Just enough to stain the kidnapper's harness... and the edge of the knife on the lean man's arm. "Couldn't you have talked to them, first?"

"No." Ice. The man's gaze was blue ice. He pulled a semi-automatic pistol from a shoulder holster, offered it butt-first. "Townsend. Where is she?"

Checking the safety by fingertip, the archaeologist flushed. Gods, that poor kid... "They took her. Toward the commander's tent, I think." He pointed. "Please, you've got to get to her, I think they're going to-"

Black-capped heads jerked up, like hunting hounds at a rabbit's cry; the lean man's teeth showed in a snarl. "There."

"Keep fighting, kiddo," his older partner murmured as they eased into the night. "Just keep 'em off a minute more..."

"What are we going to do?" Daniel demanded in a low whisper, trying not to trip over his own feet. Bad enough navigating rough terrain with his glasses in the daytime; how were his rescuers seeing? "I couldn't count them all, but there's at least thirty. And I can't see-"

"Shh." The lean man took point, while his partner put a guiding hand on Daniel's arm. "We've got a distraction."

"A distract-"

Fire howled from the sky.



Truck, truck, gas stove... good, Cait, don't hit the ammunition dump. Yet. Airwolf's firing coordinates floating in the back of his mind, Stringfellow Hawke ran through the chaos of fireballs and panicked men, counting on Dominic to keep their target archaeologist with them. He kept his hearing focused ahead, away from the explosions, toward a larger tent where a man fumbling with a zipper suddenly gurgled, and others loosed a rush of obscene Spanish.

Now!

The blast covered their entry into the commander's lair, gleamed off the blood trickling from Townsend's lips, blazed across the faces of a pair of stunned bodyguards as String aimed and shot.

"Arriba los manos," String said coldly to the half-dressed man with the bitten-off earlobe. Three bodies were gasping on the floor; he kept half an eye on them, just in case. Nice knife work, he thought approvingly, gaze flickering over the exposed man crumpled against the tent wall. The Hispanic hadn't had time to do more than make it clear he never wore underwear before slim steel had found his heart. "Alexine?"

"H-here." Crimson paled to pink, as tears mixed with the blood on the young Firm agent's face. She was sprawled on her side on a steel bed frame, shoes missing, one torn wrist locked into a welded cuff. Blood streaked her hands, painted a red splash down one breast. Angry Spanish curses laced the air outside fabric walls, coupled with panic and firecracker snaps as more of the ammunition cooked off. "I'm... here. Who...?"

String kept the would-be rapist covered as Jackson unlocked her. Not the first time these bastards have done this. But based on the slashes and fingernail-scrapes covering the one survivor's torso, it was the first time one of their would-be victims had fought back. "Michael sent us."

Blackened eyes closed, leaking more tears. "Thank god."

"It's gonna be okay, kiddo," Dominic's voice soothed as he looked the agent over, hid his wince as he saw the bloody soles of her feet. "Just keep it together a little longer, and we'll all go home." Airwolf's chief engineer glanced up. "She ain't walking out of here, String."

Fine. Then they didn't have leeway for prisoners. "Dom. Hold Jackson."

"W-what?" the archaeologist stuttered as Santini closed a vice grip on his shoulder. "Why-"

"You!" The sweat-streaked man puffed himself up, sneered at the silenced pistol in String's easy grip. "Just who do you think you-"

Snap.

String watched him fall, crimson spreading across olive skin. Breathing, breathing... not breathing. Good.

"My gods." A breathless whisper. "Why?"

"Why?" Alexine's laugh was bitter, punctuated with harsh gasps as Dom sluiced clean water and disinfectant over her tattered soles. "Guess... briefing was right. You are innocent."

"Briefing? What briefing? What's going on?"

"Later," String bit out, watching the scurry of people through the explosion-racked camp hesitate, start flowing their way. Barely hearing the rip of tape as Dominic finished Alexine's bandages. "Carry her." Clear them out, Lady!

A snarl of talons and teeth in the back of his mind; Airwolf in full combat mode, awake and angry.

Informed pilot Caitlin of casualties, limited movement capability.
Pilot aware of aircraft commander hazard.
Clearing LZ.

30-mm slugs ripped the night, sent screams in all directions as darkness and rotors howled. Tent walls rippled, bowed under hurricane-force winds.

String ran into the steel-edged storm, let its cool rage mingle with his own. Let Airwolf's crisp, computer-generated tracery of trajectories help him pick his targets, as Caitlin cleared their way and Dominic gunned down the idiot trying to sneak up on them from behind. One. Two. Three-

And they were at the sleek black hull, hatch opening with that welcome hiss of pressurized air. A freckled Texan face grinned at him from under the copilot's black helmet; Caitlin, just as firmly tangled as he was in Airwolf's combat high. "Get in, already!"



I've been kidnapped by lunatics, the archaeologist thought crazily, squeezing into the back of the high-tech chopper. His two rescuers - if they were rescue - were shedding black jackets and harness with record speed as the helicopter lifted off, revealing unmarked gray flight suits slicker and sleeker than any he'd seen the Air Force sport. No name tags, no ribbons; nothing but the shoulder patch of a snarling wolf, rabid fangs under white sheep's wool.

Rabid. Daniel shuddered. He'd seen soldiers riding the wave of adrenaline before. Surfed that vile surge himself; shooting and killing and sickly, shamefully glad to be alive when the fight was over. But he'd never seen anything like this.

And I thought death gliders were horrible...

Something spanged and rattled off the hull beside his head; Daniel felt the craft pivot, throwing Alexine against him. Their pilot snorted, pressed a trigger on the stick in her grip. "Get down an' stay down, you idiot!" Daniel felt a light vibration; some sort of guns cutting loose?

Definitely guns. Flames gave just enough light to reveal the cringing forms left in their wake.

"Brace 'Lexi up against the hull, there," Dom directed, strapping himself into a seat before lowering a black helm over his head. "And don't touch anything!" Tan fingers danced over a computer console, checking various engine functions before calling up what Daniel dazedly recognized was an IR scan of the area. "String - grenade launcher!"

"Turbos!"

Gravity's fist slammed Daniel against steel, striking near the tender spot left from the now-dead headman's pistol-whip. The archaeologist dragged in air, fighting the clutch of darkness. G-force, he thought dazedly, recalling Sam's description of just what it felt like to pull max gees in an F-16, heading past Mach 1.

Helicopters don't do Mach...

The world grayed out.



Dominic caught the change in ragged breaths, the young blond's sudden slump against the hull. Muttered a swift Italian curse; no way could he leave the Lady's engines on their own while they were still racing the night to get back into friendly airspace. "He's out, String."

"Hit?"

"Don't think so." Alexine's voice wasn't much more than a whisper, but the agent's eyes were clear. "He... was trying to keep them away from me. Valdez... hit him a few times."

String slowed them, just enough that Caitlin could unstrap herself and squeeze back to tend their passengers. "Oh yeah, he's got an ostrich egg here," the redhead sighed, probing around the swelling lump alongside the archaeologist's temples. "Think we better let the Lady keep an eye on him."

"You sure, Red?" If the kid had been hit too hard in the head, the Lady might be able to warn them in time to drop stealth and just run for the nearest trauma center. But letting anybody near the neurological biofeedback mechanisms that touched Airwolf's mind... brrr.

Accessing Firm files, Dr. Daniel Jackson.
Not pilot-qualified.
Not cleared.
Neural link program will not enable.

"If you say so, Angel," Dom murmured. Still. Just because the Lady wasn't worried, didn't mean he had to like it.

Caitlin flashed him a tired smile, lowering her helmet over Jackson's glasses. "Only going to be once, right?"



Warm, Daniel thought, not quite willing to open his eyes. And... cool. Like sitting in the sun on the first day of spring, just after a chill rain had gone by. His mind felt calm. Clear. Even joyful; like a raven, playing in the wind.

Which was weird, considering somebody had apparently let a giant with a jackhammer loose on the side of his head.

Helmet, Daniel realized, fingers sliding across slick plastic. Where-

"Easy, kiddo." Large hands braced him against the unmoving hull, gentle as a lioness carrying her cub. Dom. "Don't move too fast." A firm grip lifted off the helmet, drawing an involuntary gasp from the archaeologist as the calm swept away. "Mama mia, they sure worked you over good."

Daniel licked his lips, catching sight of starlight through the open hatch. "Where-?"

"Good ol' U.S. of A., Doc. Home, sweet home."

The wind did smell like a Colorado night; dried wildflowers, spruce, a touch of snow from the Rockies. And the stars, as Dom handed him out the door... the stars looked right. Well, for just before dawn, anyway. "Alexine?"

"She'll be okay. Tough kid. We let her off first; looked like you needed the nap."

Almost against his will, Daniel found himself trusting that gentle smile. A warm smile, comforting as Teal'c standing watch on a quiet night. If only he could forget how easily this man's partner had snuffed out lives...

The Italian was leaning against the jet-black hull, casually scooting a glance toward the flash of gray flight suits checking something near the front of the helicopter. "You want to talk about it?"

"I..." Gods, how could he say this. "Alexine, she..." But that was self-defense, wasn't it? She'd seemed like such a nice person.

Yet - what kind of embassy attaché carried a knife? And knew how to use it?

Dom's eyes creased in a wry, rueful laugh. "Well, you sure ain't in the business, kid." He patted the archaeologist on the shoulder. "Don't think about it tonight," he advised. "Trust me on this one. Tonight's too close; you'll wrap your head up in knots Alexander couldn't handle with a Ginsu knife. Think about it tomorrow."

Okay. That made sense. Sort of. Ask Jack, Daniel told himself, rubbing at tired eyes. "String. He... killed people." A lot of people, gods, how many rounds had this horrid machine let loose?

"Sometimes that's our job," Dom shrugged. Dark eyes were anything but casual. "Maybe we don't like it, Dr. Jackson, but sometimes it's him or you."

"He liked it." Like he sometimes thought Teal'c liked it, like he sometimes - horribly - suspected Jack enjoyed destroying his enemies. Like he feared he would eventually learn to like the destruction of another life, as long as it was in his way...

"This' been eating you up for a while, huh?" Dom sighed. "Kid... Daniel. You want to listen to a guy who's lived a little?"

"I - yes, I-" Daniel spread empty hands.

"Yeah. That'll do." The older man nodded. "Yeah, you're right. He did like it. But not the way you think." Dom stroked deadly black armor like a lover. "The Lady could've wiped that eyesore off the face of the earth. Blown it right down to the bedrock. We didn't have to leave anybody alive."

Daniel shook his head, disbelieving. "And that makes it all right?"

"For a bright guy, you're not listening too good," Dom said dryly. "We took out who we had to, and just who we had to, to get you and Alexine out of that hell-hole in one piece. And you better believe we liked that, kid." Something dark moved in Dom's gaze. "'Cause let me tell you, there's been times we got there too late."

Too late... "How - how did you get there at all?" Daniel stammered. "What briefing? Who are you?"

"No one you want to know." String rounded the aircraft's tail, blue eyes cold and watchful. The lean blond held out a blank CD case, waited until the archaeologist took it. "Your people will be here in about ten minutes. Try to stay in one piece."

Rotors howled, and they were gone.



"Not quite a concussion," Dr. Janet Frasier judged as Jack O'Neill walked into the infirmary, snapping off her penlight. "You can take him, Colonel, but make sure he takes it easy for a few days. Rest, in a real bed; not sprawled over a pile of Incan artifacts. And lay off the caffeine."

"Mayan, not Incan. And take me-" the archaeologist's indignant tone was split by a yawn. "Where?"

"Up to see the general, Danny." Jack offered a shoulder to lean on, steered his linguist out toward the elevator. Inwardly he was still shaking. Bad enough Daniel had landed in the middle of some Guatemalan smuggler-CIA type shootout, but to take that CD case... Right. Lecture time. "Daniel, we do not take gifts just because the guy offering them isn't shooting at us. Last time you did that, you ended up married..."

Ah, no. Maybe not.

Still. If what they thought was on that CD actually was... "Sir." Jack passed the briefing room guards, saluted with his Daniel-free arm before trading reassuring glances with Carter and Teal'c. Yeah, I've got him, he's in one piece.

Carter didn't look reassured. Carter looked downright pale. And Teal'c... hoo boy. Teal'c had that expressionless calm that meant somebody was two breaths away from ritual dismemberment. Fortunately, we are not on Chulak, Jack thought dryly.

Or maybe unfortunately. The colonel throttled back his own rising anger, guided Daniel toward a waiting chair. "So. That's the real intelligence briefing on beautiful, friendly, armed-to-the-teeth Guatemala."

"According to the Pentagon." Forget stormy; Hammond's face was a friggin' hurricane as he tapped the offending CD. "They say they have no idea where our information was tampered with."

Of course. "NID."

The general looked grave. "I hope so."

"Um..." Daniel shoved his glasses back. "Someone want to tell me what's going on?" He searched grim faces, appealed to the one that looked most likely to crack. "Sam?"

The astrophysicist swallowed, shook her head. "It wasn't safe for you to go down there, Daniel. It wasn't safe for anyone in the field of antiquities, not in that part of Guatemala." Short nails pressed into solid oak, turned Carter's neat fingers white. "And they knew it."

"Lucky for you, so did somebody else," Jack said dryly. "Any progress on who, General?" Who'd known enough to spike the NID's wheel? And why?

"Secret agencies who keep operatives as attachés aren't exactly few and far between, Colonel." Humor glinted through the anger; faded out of Hammond's face. "And anyone above a certain clearance level would have had this briefing."

"Alexine was an... operative?" Daniel jumped in, eyes wide. "She was a spy?"

"Agent," Jack corrected. "Yeah." Wasn't it obvious?

No, probably not. The colonel sighed. Go easy on him; he's never been mixed up in the Game. "We got that much out of the embassy. Townsend was specifically asked to escort you out to the dig site. Boil it down, somebody pretty high up the food chain cut her orders to play bodyguard." Some orders. Man still managed to end up kidnapped.

Which is... probably not her fault, Jack told himself firmly. Daniel Jackson, remember? Guy who throws himself in front of an avalanche so people he doesn't even know can get out in time? Ought to be glad she kept his head down as much as she did.

"Such orders imply an individual who is aware of Daniel Jackson's value to the SGC." Teal'c raised an inquiring eyebrow.

Yeah, I got that too. "And those ought to be pretty damn thin on the ground, Sir," Jack stated bluntly.

"True," Hammond nodded. "Unfortunately none of them, so far as we know, contacted Townsend."

Urk. Uh. Uh-oh. "None of them, sir?" Bad. Very bad.

"Sam?" Daniel pleaded.

"Daniel..." Carter swigged some of her own coffee, tapped a finger on a stack of printouts. There were rings under her eyes, legacy of long hours with the SGC's computer analysts tracking down the few fragments the dazed archaeologist had been able to give them. "We're pretty sure the NID tampered with our on-world briefing to make it look like you'd be safe. Which means we have to check everything in our database that comes from outside." She blanched at the thought. "But more than that... someone we don't know knew you were in danger. You. Specifically."

"Most spooks would've just slapped you with a bodyguard and washed their hands of the whole mess," Jack picked up the thread of the conversation when Carter went wordless again. Damn, it'd just been too close. "This guy sent in a team to pull you out." He shook his head. "One hell of an expensive gesture of good faith, General."

Hammond raised a faded red brow. "Is that what you believe this is, Colonel?"

Jack hesitated. That assessment was more instinct than anything else... but then, he wouldn't have made it this far without good instincts. "Yeah. I think so, sir. After all," he waved a hand at the slip of paper that had been tucked in with the CD, "Bad guys don't usually have a sense of humor."

Next time, just send him with the Marines, the typed note read. It'll be safer for everyone.



"So who is this NID?" String asked, pouring a glass of champagne for the white-clad man leaning against his cabin bar. Airwolf could give him a status report on Michael Archangel any time, but it still wasn't as comforting as seeing the man himself alive and well in front of him.

"Trouble. On a scale I hadn't been aware existed." Michael rubbed wearily at the skin by the darkened side of his wireframes, studied the pale golden liquid in his glass. "If it hadn't been for the Firm's flag on Dr. Jackson's movements, we'd never have known he was heading into the regional equivalent of a fresh minefield."

"Overkill."

"Not quite enough kill, I'd say," Marella said wryly, taking one last look at her files before determinedly locking them into her briefcase. She picked up her own glass with relief, inhaling the sweet scent of a good California year.

"Yes; apparently this is one archaeologist with a veritable knack for cheating death." Archangel grinned darkly. "It wasn't enough for them to arrange for him to walk into danger. According to what Alexine was able to entice Vasquez into boasting before you so rudely interrupted them, he'd been paid a considerable sum to execute any American he could catch."

"Tried to have his cake and eat it too, huh?" Dominic shook his head, nursing a beer. No one here was planning to fly today. Maybe tomorrow, after the shakes died down. "Ah, that'll get you every time."

"Which is why you threw Alexine into the mix," String pointed out.

"It is a cultural tendency of the region, underestimating women," Michael acknowledged. His smile faded. "I'm glad you were prompt."

"Yeah." Archangel sent agents into the risk of rape and death every day. That didn't mean any of them had to like it.

Caitlin looked up from scratching Tet under his chin, pushing off the hound when he wanted to climb into her lap. "So what's so important about an archaeologist?"

Michael stared into the depths of his glass.

Across the room, Marella cleared her throat.

"Yes," Michael said softly. "Yes, I suppose I should tell you... some of the details. Possibly you can see an option I've overlooked." He sipped his champagne. "It's a long story."

Dominic leaned back in his chair. "We look like we're going anywhere?"

Archangel smiled wryly. "As far as we can determine, it started with an excavation on the Giza Plateau..."