The IT Files: Lux’s Hunt

by FreezAntix and Zero


ITEA HQ, London, England

            Yeardley Luxby stood up for the second time to straighten out her skirt. She never had to wear skirts before she started working for the International Temporal Enforcement Agency, called ITEA for short or for shorter just IT. She only had four pairs of skirts that she alternated; the skirts were knee length and respectable, perfect for an office environment but she still felt weird in them, that and the pantyhose. The blonde GRID agent had her tresses in a simple ponytail as usual. She was currently wearing both, a black skirt over nude pantyhose and a short sleeved white cotton blouse. A pair of basic sensible black pumps completed the outfit. Her co-worker and partner Avrum Zurer gave a soft chuckle in the seat beside her. She and Avrum were General Response Investigation Department agents or GRID, which were new essentially new agents without assigned teams. It was sort of a proving ground for rookies. GRID agents mainly supported the field teams or investigated suspected leads that might or might not involve temporal activities. Over half of GRID cases did not involve such activities.

            “Its fine, you look good,” Avrum said after Yeardley sat back down. The Israeli agent was seven years senior to his partner and possessed short dark hair with graying sides. He was a handsome man, having the looks of a seasoned adventurer. Avrum had broad shoulders and was generally fit, having spent a decade in the Mossad before joining the agency. Unlike his partner he was comfortable in his tailored Italian gray suit over his white dress shirt and dark skinny tie.

            “I know it is, but it doesn’t feel it. I hate skirts…” Yeardley mumbled and then asked, “What time was this briefing?” She and Avrum had been sitting in the GRID conference room for the last ten minutes. The room was one of the smaller rooms, just having circular table that could fit five, a lone flat screen TV over a cabinet carrying some refreshments in to form of a coffee maker, few plastic mugs, and some bottled water.

            Avrum looked at his silver watch, putting up a finger for dramatic effect, “About now…”

            “What? How do you know…?” Yeardley asked but before she could inquire further the doors to the small conference room opened and three people entered. Avrum smiled at his partner. “Michael is never late.”

            “Good morning Lux, Mr. Zurer,” Michael Bradford said by way of greeting, “I'd like you to meet Interpol Agent Larissa Penbrook and you both know Kimberly…” the GRID boss gestured at the two people who followed him. Michael Bradford, a Scotsman, was handsome and dangerously charming. Unlike Avrum’s good looks, the GRID boss’ appearance and bearing were more regal; the brown haired, blue-eyed man did not even look like a cop. His charm had gotten him in a little trouble with the opposite sex in more times than once but it had never gotten in the way of the fact that he was a good copper when it all came down to it. As usual, the punctual department head was dressed in a nice dark colored tailored suit that looked purple under bright lighting. A dark blue shirt completed the outfit as the senior agent had decided to go tie-less for the day.

            Larissa Penbrook, a youthful looking blonde, was dressed in a gray business skirt suit over a black blouse and pantyhose. A pair of tweed gray heels finished her look. Kimberly Ewart had her wavy brown hair down loose as usual and was dressed in a pink short-sleeved dress with dark trimmings. The hem of the dress sat just above her knees, her legs were clad in black pantyhose and a pair of white heels finished her outfit. Both women held folders in their hands and greeted the two GRID agents with handshakes before taking their seats.

            Michael took his seat last and waited for everyone to settle down before he began speaking. “As you know, Team Beta has been out of the office, in fact out of the country, for a few weeks now. They were sent to investigate a case regarding Type-7 showing up at several posh parties throughout Eastern Europe. They have managed to confiscate a large quantity of Type-7 and made some arrests but the supplier has yet to be cut-off in spite of their best efforts,” Michael explained as he leaned forward on his seat, putting his elbows on the table to make a point. “Beta has been all over Eastern Europe on this one and they’re getting quite worn out, this case has to be closed.” Leaning back in the seat after taking the TV remote from the table, he continued, “that is where you two come in. I’ll turn this briefing over to Mr. Calado.” With that Michael aimed the remote and turned the wall mounted flat screen on.

            The image was black and then blue for moment before Rafael Calado’s image filled the screen. The agency had few men but the men that they did have were good looking. Rafael Calado was no exception; he was dark haired and possessed model-like qualities and a charismatic personality. Next to GRID boss he was perhaps the second biggest flirt within the agency. Rafael was at his desk and at the moment not paying attention to the camera mounted on his workstation. The Portuguese analyst, who was also a department head himself, was looking off to the side, laughing and having a conversation with someone off screen when the audio kicked in. “Why don’t you come over tonight and I’ll show…”

            “Rafael, business,” Michael called out with smile on his face, shaking his head.

            The analyst jumped back in surprise and the person who he was talking to, a female, giggled off-camera. “Michael what happened to calling me when you were ready?”

            “I did; I’m ready,” Michael replied with shrug, catching a smile from Larissa and Kimberly. “What were you going to show? I hear you've got a great stamp collection...”

            Rafael smiled, “That’s private… Anyways shall we get started? So I presumed Michael already has laid out the general facts of the case. Though Beta has made little progress in finding the source of the drug shipments, some shipping manifests suggest that the deliveries originated in Egypt. Beta's already been deployed to Cairo to investigate; Team Epsilon is now covering Eastern Europe. Egyptian smuggling did however get us a hit in the Interpol database.” Rafael paused for a moment.

            “Keep going; I'll jump in when you're done,” offered Larissa.

            “Right... So Interpol has been investigating a possible smuggling operation that, while not showing a one-hundred-percent correlation, does at least seem worth examining in person,” explained Rafael. “Hamunaptra is a recently-excavated ancient Egyptian city located roughly half-way between Cairo and Alexandria. It’s a massive archeological dig site, with hundreds of people there... Interpol believes that someone is using the location as a cover for smuggling operations.”

            “Thank you Rafael… you can get back to your stamp talk,” Michael said with smile and a nod to which his friend responded the same way before the screen went blue and then black. Turning off the TV, Michael replaced the remote on the table and got up. “Larissa, if you please?” he asked as she started to fiddle with the coffee maker.

            “Right, sir,” Larissa said, leaning forward and sliding the file folder that she had brought into the room towards the GRID agents. “We have a team on site right now. They’re with our grand theft unit; they mostly investigate the thefts of priceless items and such, things with irreplaceable values. The senior agent we have on the case right now is Janice Wang and her junior partner is Kathleen Rudd. Both have been in Hamunaptra for about a month now and have gathered intelligence on everyone at the site. They should be a valuable asset to you. The general consensus is that we believe that the smuggling of priceless artifacts is linked circumstantially to the Type-7 trafficking but we don’t have any solid proof yet. This will be a joint operation in the sense that perhaps you can scratch our backs and we can do the same for you.”

            Yeardley and Avrum looked over the information for a moment before Yeardley replied, “We will do what we can.” Avrum nodded in agreement.

            Michael, still focused on the coffee maker, added, “You don’t really have a choice, Nicole is taking some time off and I’ve got Lombardi and Brink working on something in Serbia so, you’re my only available team and Director Castillo wants this case closed. Plus, you two have experience working this kind of environment; it’s almost too perfect.”

            “When do we leave?” Yeardley then asked. Though she was the younger agent in their two-person team, she found herself the lead agent in most cases. Avrum would follow and support her with no questions.

            “You leave this evening,” Michael replied, “Kimberly?”

            “My turn,” the brunette said with a smile, sliding another folder towards the GRID Team. “Your Stone Airways flight en route to Cairo leaves tonight; you’ll be flying first class as usual and the flight is non-stop. When you arrive in Cairo, there will be Toyota Hilux awaiting you; also as usual it’s paid for and reserved for you. I’m afraid the luxuries end there… Hamunaptra is a dig site and Stone Enterprises wasn’t able to get you a suite at a hotel…in fact there are no hotels in the region at all. I was going to arrange maybe a trailer but the director wants you on site ASAP so I wasn’t able to sort anything on short notice. You’ll be sharing a tent…”

            “That’s fine,” Yeardley and Avrum replied in unison.

            “Oh? Do I sense some eagerness?” Michael asked, turning around from the cabinet while crossing his arms. Yeardley and Avrum both looked at each other, unsure of what to say. They were both used to working in close quarters and they were both comfortable with each other professionally; their reply had been automatic. Michael smiled, “Just joking with you two, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…” he added with a chuckle, turning back around to attend to the coffee maker which had just finished brewing a batch. “If you don’t have any questions, you’re dismissed.” With that the GRID team stood along with the other two women, taking the folders with them. Larissa and Kimberly both wished the team luck and shook their hands.

            “Would you to care for cup of coffee? I was just in a mood all of a sudden and had to brew some,” Michael said after his team had left the room.

            “Sure Mike, that’ll be great,” Kimberly said, sitting back down.

            “I have to make some calls…” Larissa said, looking at her watch, “but I think I could stay for a cup, I was running late this morning and did not get a chance to grab one,” she decided, taking her seat.

            “Great,” Michael replied, pulling three plastic mugs from the cabinet and then pouring the freshly brewed coffee into them. He then placed two handfuls of cream and sugar packets on the table. Dipping a stirring stick into each cup, he then gingerly carried them back to the table and took the seat where Avrum had sat.

            “So what’s new?” Michael asked when he was settled. He started to mix some sugar and cream into his cup.

            “I heard that AD Christophe and Agent Nakamura hooked up,” Kimberly said, mixing some sugar into her cup before taking a sip.

            “I think that is hardly appropriate conversation for the work place…” Larissa started to say as she poured two packets of cream into her cup. “Agent Nakamura is young though… I didn’t know he was into older women,” she then said, deep in thought while taking a sip of her coffee.

            “Tak is one lucky man… I remember when Lucy was with Interpol… the woman was such a hard case but did she have a…” he started to say before cutting himself off, remembering that he was in the presence of women. As he raised the cup to his lip he stopped suddenly, looking across the table at the two women. Larissa held her coffee cup mid-way in the air in front of her, her blue eyes were glassy and her lips parted. Kimberly had her eyes shut and smile on her lips as she stiffly held her cup only few inches from the tabletop in front of her. “Damn…” Michael muttered. “They got to the coffee in here too,” he then said, putting his cup down, referring to the rampant Type-7 laced coffee that was floating around the building. He eyed the two frozen women; shrugging, he stood and made sure the doors were locked behind him. Moving to the phone, he picked it up and dialed his office line.

            “Hey Evie? It’s me…I’m on lunch, hold my calls,” he said into the receiver before hanging up. “Well…I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure, might as well, since you’re both here…” the GRID boss said as he moved behind the two frozen women.



Los Angeles International Airport, California

            The aircraft was the first of its type to be cleared for use by civilians. Stone Enterprises had picked up the contract to produce an innovative aircraft that was a mix of a traditional airplane and a helicopter also called a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft. Code-named Osprey, the aircraft had originally been intended for the military before the designs were sold to Stone Enterprises under the guidance of former acting CEO Patricia Mero. The final civilian version had the sleek looks of an executive jet, a contrast from its bulky military incarnation but both shared the dual large wingtip-mounted rotating turbo props that allowed the aircraft to take off and land vertically. The Stone Enterprises product was named Ascension,called SEA (Stone Enterprises Ascension) for short. Though the sleek design became the standard commercial version, there were a few variants as Stone Enterprises took on some private contracts from certain companies to create custom SEAs. One such company was the Brazilian real estate firm Utopia Holdings.

            The Utopia Holdings version of the SEA looked nearly identical to the original military one; it was bit bulky and not as polished. The front looked as if it belonged to a helicopter and the back featured a long horizontal stabilizer tipped with fins at the end. The craft also sat squat and low on its landing gear, much like its military counterpart for easy loading. The only thing that really set the VTOL aircraft apart from the military design was the lack of a rear ramp and a dull gray paint scheme; the Utopia SEA was painted a glossy gunmetal color and featured the company’s trademarked ammonite logo on both tail fins. This SEA currently sat in a private hanger along with a uniformed crew of three women and one man patiently awaiting their VIP passenger. Two of the women were dressed in black skirt suits with white blouses and pink scarves around their necks; finishing their crisp outfits were black hosiery and matching heels. Both women were dark haired and had their hair styled into tight conservative buns. The remaining female was uniformed in a white short-sleeved button-down shirt that featured gold-striped shoulder epaulets marking her as a captain and pilot of the SEA. Her lower half was covered by a pair of black trousers and finished by polished black shoes. Her light brown hair was tied into a ponytail while her eyes were covered by mirrored aviator glasses. The lone male of the group was dressed similarly to the pilot, only his shirt was long sleeved and his epaulets were those of a first officer even though he looked to be senior to the pilot. He was blond haired and his eyes too were covered by aviators.

            The crew had been already waiting fifteen minutes, ten minutes behind schedule, when a white Mercedes E-Class with tinted windows pulled into the hanger parking spot a short distance from the SEA. The driver emerged and quickly hustled over to the rear passenger door as the SEA’s crew formed a line to welcome their client. The driver opened the door, allowing a petite blonde female passenger to emerge; she was dressed in a simple yet elegant white pants suit with matching heels and a strand of pearls around her neck. Her golden-hued hair flowed loosely with a slight wave to it, reaching towards the middle of her back. She held a silvery CyPad close to her chest and her blue eyes gazed from behind wire framed eyeglasses. Following the blonde was a taller woman, a strikingly famous beauty; she was amazingly slender, clad in a beige skirt with a silk white blouse tucked into it. A white silken scarf was draped around her neck; the skirt’s hem fell past her knees and had a slit running up the right side up to her bare thigh. She walked on tan cloth-covered heels. A large white leather purse hung from the nook of her right elbow as she made her way towards the waiting aircraft. Her brunette hair was worn loose and fell to the middle of back; her eyes were masked by large dark diva-style sunglasses. The blonde fell into step behind her while the driver, after closing the limo door, had moved to remove a pair of rolling suitcases from the trunk of the Daimler.

            The pilot and one of the female crewmembers stepped forward to meet the brunette and blonde, as they got closer. “Ms. Jenly, very nice to have you along again,” the pilot said, taking off her aviators and extending her hand with a smile.

            Angel Jenly shook the pilot’s hand lightly, and then looked at the aircraft particularly at the inverted overly large shiny black props. The last time she had flown with her pilot Casey Adams, they had been in sleek executive jet. The aircraft in front of her was anything but sleek; it was clumsy, hulking, and awkward looking. “What happened to the jet, Casey?”

            Without looking back at the SEA and keeping her neutral gaze on the actress, Casey replied, “This is the SEA, Ms. Jenly. It is a hybrid of sorts that can take off and land vertically like a helicopter but cruises as fast as a plane. This type of aircraft is the latest trend… and it’s made by Stone Enterprises, after all.”

            “Is it actually fast? It sure doesn’t look like it,” Angel said doubtfully, looking at the aircraft, not noticing that Casey was still staring at her with an emotionless smile and vacant eyes. Angel then sighed and shook her head, “I just finished a ghastly all-morning meeting. I just want to get back to New York; if you say it’s fast Casey, I’ll take your word for it Casey, you’re the pilot.”

            “Of course, Ms. Jenly, let’s meet the rest of the crew and we can get underway,” Casey gestured, leading the actress and her blonde companion towards the three waiting people. “This is Ivanova Kurchenko; she’s the lead flight attendant in the cabin…” Casey introduced.

            “Very nice to meet you, Ms. Jenly, I’m a huge fan of your work,” Ivanova greeted, shaking Angel’s hand.

            “A pleasure to meet you Ivanova,” Angel replied with nod taking in the tall woman who looked clearly Asian but with a name that said otherwise; she was bit curious about the woman’s back story why she had a Russian-sounding name that did not match her looks.

            Casey continued, “This is Ivanova’s partner, River Peck.”

            “Nice to meet you, madam,” River greeted in a thick French accent and a smile that Angel thought was forced.

            “Where are you from, River…that’s a very interesting accent for someone with the last name of Peck.”

            “Quebec,” River simply replied with nod and smile.

            “Oh, Ok,” Angel nodded in contemplation as she waited for the flight attendant to elaborate but only protracted silence and a wooden smile followed. In the end Angel was glad that Casey continued, breaking the awkwardness.

            “Finally, this is my first officer, David Christophe, formerly of the Royal Canadian Air Force; he flew C-177s for a most of his career so he’s quite experienced,” Casey introduced.

            “Ah at last… I get to meet a genuine movie star; the only reason why I took this gig!” David joked with a chuckle as he shook Angel’s hand gently.  For a moment she thought he might be going to kiss it.

            David Christophe was the oldest member of the crew but Angel found him attractive, with his tousled blond hair and blue eyes. His smile was charming and alluring. Aside from Ivanova, Angel didn’t feel any awkwardness talking to him, there was something about the two that made them seem different from the rest of crew. Even Casey felt odd, ever since the trip to Brazil a few weeks ago, come to think of it. She didn’t remember too much from that trip either. She quickly shook those thoughts from her mind, feeling that she was probably over thinking things as she tuned back into David Christophe’s alluring smile. “So David, what do you think of our new plane?”

            “Well, it’s clearly state of the art, a bit different style from those the big heavy 177s, but it a quick nimble little thing,” David replied, glancing back at the gleaming SEA. “Top of the line to be honest,” he added, looking back.

            “Well, let’s find out how it flies,” Angel said before turning to look over her shoulder at the blonde that stood behind her, along with the driver. “You can go now, Evens, thank you for the ride.” The driver passed the rolling suitcases to the blonde and nodded curtly before heading back to the Benz and heading away. “This is my assistant, Shannon Andrews,” Angel introduced the blonde quickly. “Now that we’re all acquainted, let’s get going!”

            Casey and David led the group towards the open passenger hatch at the front starboard side of the SEA. After the two pilots entered, Ivanova followed, with Angel and Shannon as River brought up the rear with the suitcases. Inside the SEA, the luxurious passenger cabin was in opulently stark contrast from its utilitarian exterior. The cabin was paneled in polished mahogany; seating was in lush padded brown leather seats over thick tan plush carpeting. The cabin was divided into three sections; forward behind the cockpit was a small curtained-off galley that had two fold-up seats reserved for service staff; the main cabin; and the rear section where a small but fully furnished restroom, which included a shower, was located as well as a small space for cargo.

            The main section of the cabin had seating for seven passengers. There were two swiveling seats on either side of the cabin that shared a table between them and an ‘L’-shaped sofa towards the rear that that could seat three more passengers and also had a central table. Two flat screen TV monitors lined the ceiling of the cabin that could flip closed when not being used. Angel looked around the luxury cabin with some relief, removing her glasses and placing them in her purse. She nodded in approval before taking one of the movable seats on the port side of the aircraft, putting her purse on the table. Shannon plopped down in the seat across from her. “This is quite nice, Ms. Jenly,” Shannon observed, though she hadn’t really looked around the aircraft.

            “Shannon, how many times do I have to tell you? Just call me Angel,” the actress chided. She did not get what was wrong with Shannon. When she had first hired her she was nice and relaxed. Now all the sudden she had started calling her Ms. Jenly all the time; she seemed emotionally cold and seemed to be stiff all the time. It was after her trip to Brazil that Angel started to notice the change in Shannon; she often wondered what might have happened. In any case, Shannon was still a great assistant so Angel didn’t want to get rid of her; she just wanted the young woman to be little less formal.

            “Oh, I’m sorry, Ms. Jenly,” Shannon replied, still not using the actress’ first name.

      Angel waited for the blonde to correct herself for calling her Ms. Jenly, but instead Shannon remained quiet and stared out the window. Angel shook her head, sighing, sitting back in her comfortable chair. Just then River made her way forward from the rear of the SEA after storing the suitcase. Angel stopped the flight attendant, “River, would you be a doll and fetch me a Martini?”

            “Yes madam,” River replied with a nod and continued forward. She slipped behind the curtain that divided the main cabin from the service area a moment later.

            With a slight vibration, the props of the SEA started to spin and yet Angel was surprised how she couldn’t hear a thing. She stared at the spinning props in awe, watching them spin ferociously but in silence. The actress could only imagine how loud they would sound outside of the cabin. The engine nacelles and the props started to angle forward a bit, then they started taxiing out of the hanger. They moved a good hundred feet away from the hanger before stopping while the props angled back up. Soon they started to spin faster and Angel was pressed deeper into her seat as they began to take off, feeling buffeted by the wind. The ascent was smooth; it almost felt like a fast moving elevator only that there was a bit of lateral shifting. This was truly an amazing machine, she decided, as she looked out the large window at the receding ground below them. They were pretty far up by her estimation before the props pivoted again and they started moving forward, picking up speed quickly. Angel felt a little lurch when the transition happened, but it was gentle and then they were really moving. The SEA didn’t sound like a jet but it was still fast and it was surprisingly smooth for a turbo-propped aircraft. In no time they were soon above the clouds and Angel had no reference for their speed.

            Turning from the window, she noticed a Martini glass sitting atop a square napkin on the table in front of her. She had not even noticed that River had come and gone, thanks to the interesting takeoff, plus the flight attendant had moved as quietly as a cat. Angel lifted the glass to her lips and took a nice long sip. She was just savoring the taste of the chilled liquor when her senses faded.

            Shannon turned from the window and looked at her boss. The movie star’s eyes were at half-mast and the Martini glass was inches away from her lips. Her free hand rested on the armrest of her seat while her legs were crossed at the knees. The blonde leaned forward and carefully removed the glass from Angel’s stiff fingers. Angel remained in her pose, unmoving, her sultry lips pursed as if she was about to say something as her hand remained in front of her face holding an invisible glass. “The deed is done, mistress,” she said over shoulder, her eyes still on her frozen boss.

            Ivanova Kurchenko, also known as Ryoshi Dawson, emerged from the curtained galley with River trailing her, “Well that went easier and faster than planned,” the Asian woman said with a grin while looking at the unmoving starlet. “Hand me that glass, Shannon,” Ryoshi then ordered. The blond got up from her seat and did as she was commanded. “Let’s get Angel a little more comfortable… strip her naked, Shannon. She’s going to be wearing a whole different outfit soon anyways.”

            “As you wish, mistress,” Shannon replied with a nod and moved over to the frozen actress. The seats that lined either side of the cabin were swivel seats so Shannon simply turned the actress along with the seat; Angel wobbled a bit in the process and fell over stiffly to her left. The blond knelt down and removed Angel’s heels, rendering her feet bare before moving to the scarf around her neck.

            “How was the meeting?” Ryoshi asked as she watched the blonde work. Shannon had acted as a sleeper cell of sorts, keeping an eye on Angel Jenly while being employed by her. The assistant’s chip was updated every night and she reported in every week on the sundry happenings of Angel’s life. If needed, Shannon could chip Angel too when the time came. Ryoshi and Scott currently had three such sleeper cells, two of which were following a crown princess.

            Shannon began her report: “Mr. Nigel May wishes for Ms. Jenly to be in a new film he is making. The role calls for Ms. Jenly to portray a con woman. She however feels that she is above the role, but the two have agreed on a salary already since Ms. Jenly has signed a three-movie deal with Mr. May. Ms. Jenly will take the role only if she is given creative control over her character; if not she’ll break her contract. Mr. May has agreed, since he would lose out if the contract was broken, thanks to clause that was added to the contract when it was signed. The meeting today was to work out her character more. They however made little success,” Shannon spoke as she worked on Angel’s blouse, not facing Ryoshi at all. Once it was unbuttoned, she started to work the blouse and jacket of Angel’s stiff shoulders.

            “Movie stars…” Ryoshi muttered as she watched Shannon before turning to River, “Assist her Ms. Peck,” she ordered, nodding towards the frozen brunette.

            “Yes mistress,” River replied and moved towards where Shannon was working, starting on the starlet’s lower half.

            Heading back into the galley area, Ryoshi placed the drug-laced glass on the counter and moved the short distance to the door that led to the cockpit. She knocked once before opening it. “Are we good?” David Christophe, also known as Scott Dawson, asked turning from the co-pilot seat.

            “We are… Shannon and River and getting Angel more... comfortable…” Ryoshi replied with smile.

            “Some fun in the mile high club?” Scott then asked with a grin.

            “Of course; what else are you going to do with a frozen movie star?” Ryoshi replied. “How are things up here?”

            “Did my first take off with this thing, taking lessons from a chipped woman who really has had no experience flying one either… considering that, the fact that we’re not all dead means I think we’re doing pretty well up here.”

            “That was a very smooth take off, first timer,” Ryoshi complimented him, wrapping her arms around her husband and kissing him on the cheek.

            “Thanks, it was fun… but how about the mile high club now?”

            “Of course… it’ll be a while before we reach New York, right?”

            “Casey?” Scott then asked.

            The chipped pilot who had been silent and flying the aircraft until then reported, “At this speed our ETA at JFK is under four hours.”

            “Sounds good,” Scott said, unbuckling his belt, “How long for us to replenish and be underway again?”

            “Forty-five minutes, sir, to refuel and add the drop tanks,” Casey replied.

            “Good, I don’t want to be disturbed until we reach our final destination,” Scott then said, standing. “I’ll send up River to assist you if needed; what’s our ETA to target destination?”

            “Time to Cairo from JFK will be approximately fifteen hours with current en-route conditions.”

            “Lovely, that’s more than enough time,” Scott said, turning to his wife and taking her hand as she led him out of the cockpit.

            “More than enough… probably get Shannon in on it too; I’m sure she won’t mind,” Ryoshi cooed as they walked through the galley. Scott slyly picked up the Martini glass from the galley counter as he followed his wife.

            Out in the main cabin, Angel Jenly now sat in naked in her leather seat, her hands resting on her bare thighs while her knees were set wide to reveal her cleanly shaven snatch. She looked on with her frozen vacant half-mast eyes and pouty lips as Ryoshi and Scott stepped through the curtain. River flanked the naked actress as Shannon stood nearby, folding her boss’ clothing neatly. “Always surprises me how great this woman looks,” Scott said, taking in the naked actress before him. “Ms. Peck, please assist Ms. Adams in the cockpit for the duration of the flight. Switch to aviation settings…”

            “As you wish Mr. Dawson,” River said with bow, freezing for moment in mid-bow as her chip’s program switched skill settings. It was done in few seconds, the former thief, security operative, and now co-pilot completed her bow and made her way to the cockpit.

            “Martini?” Scott then asked his wife.

            “Don’t mind if I do,” Ryoshi with grin, taking the glass. Scott only smiled as his wife took a sip from the glass.



Hamunaptra, Egypt

            The ancient city had been thought to be lost until its rediscovery in 2007. It was said, though any accurate written history of the region was vague at best, that the city was the lost home of the tomb of Nitocris, the supposed last pharaoh of Egypt's Sixth Dynasty. There were three pyramids sited around the city, one being the tomb of Nitocris while the other two were said to belong to Pepi II and Merenre. At the center of three pyramids was The Temple of Keys that contained a monument to Anubis. The monuments had given the city the nickname of The City of Dead, since ancient Egyptians believed Anubis to be the god of the after-life. Since its discovery, Hamunaptra had been the dig site for several ongoing archeological operations. A vast makeshift town of tents and huts surrounded the ancient city. In this shantytown resided about eight hundred people, most whom were local laborers, while a small percentage were archeologists, private security operators and tourists. Hamunaptra was located only sixty miles from Alexandria, which was where most of the outsiders had come from; there was an international airport located at that city, the second largest city in country. Cairo was roughly seventy miles away.

            The red Toyota Hilux made its way up the dirt road that led towards the main gate of the tent town. Avrum sat in the right side driver’s seat with Yeardley sitting shotgun to his left. It had been a quiet trip, the pair getting a good chance to talk more about their previous desert experience, Avrum’s with the Mossad and Luxby while working for the DEA in Afghanistan. Avrum was sporting a white-buttoned linen shirt with a loose collar and sleeves, Ray-Ban sunglasses over his eyes, and tan pants on his legs. Lux was dressed in pure white, her blouse short-sleeved and her pants very loose around the ankles, but the hijab she'd chosen to wear for this portion of the trip was black. While Egypt didn't prohibit anyone from dressing how they wanted, the Islamic faction of the country still carried some sway, so Lux had decided to at least make an effort towards custom while in Alexandria. It was as the truck approached the gate that Lux finally decided to remove her headgear, enjoying letting her hair loose.

            Avrum stopped the truck at the gate where armed security stood, people of mixed ethnicity dotting the team, though most appeared to be at least from the same region of the world. A fit young woman in desert camouflage gear approached the truck, flashing Avrum a smile. “Hello, welcome to Hamunaptra,” greeted the woman; Lux noted a patch on her outfit that indicated she worked for Triangle Security Services, and below that she saw the officer’s name listed as being Amaya Hernandez. “Do you have your documents?”

            “Right here,” nodded Avrum, returning Amaya's smile and pulling their paperwork out of his breast pocket.

            “Interpol liaison, I see,” acknowledged Amaya after a few moments reading, then returning the papers. “Good to have some more law around here... Where will you be setting up?”

            “Just down-” began Avrum, but Lux, annoyed, nudged him. “Right, sorry, we should really go meet up with our people first.”

            “I'll see you around,” offered Amaya as she stepped back, giving Avrum a quick wink before signaling the gate. Moments later a guard unlocked the chain that held the sections together and the two heavy metal bars that blocked the road into the camp were pulled apart, allowing Avrum to drive through.

            “What was that about?” muttered Avrum as he drove, already knowing where the Interpol agents had agreed to meet them, thanks to some emails they'd studied on the flight over.

            “We're working; you can save the flirting for when you're off-duty,” chided Lux, glancing out the window. Past the checkpoint there was little security visible, instead there were mostly groups with digging tools or carrying bundles that were going about the area. The lost city itself had people dotting the horizon but there were large gaps where no one appeared to be.

            “I have to make up for lost time,” shrugged Avrum, soon pulling up near a small group of tents, including a couple of larger peaked ones where people would have an easy time standing. Finding an empty area, there not really being designated spaces in the desert; Avrum pulled in and parked the truck.

            “I see a lot of undisturbed terrain out there where someone could potentially stash a massive amount of illegal substance,” observed Lux as she changed gears, indicating Hamunaptra and its barren surrounding areas. “Aside from the inconvenience of having to come to a place like this, I could see this wasteland making an effective warehouse.”

            “Not sure about a drug lab though; you'd have to work really hard to keep the sand and dust of this place out of whatever you're working on,” noted Avrum, rubbing his chin. “I remember once I helped shut down a methamphetamine lab in some old ruins and the place nearly blew up.”

            “Drugs would be creative, but they're probably just smuggling relics,” mused Lux, again questioning if this assignment was even worth it. Footsteps approached; the soft sound of boots on sand that was barely audible thanks to the distant background noise of the excavation teams. Turning, Lux saw two women standing before them: their contacts Janice Wang and Kathleen Rudd. Janice was in her mid-thirties and according to the dossier Lux had read, she was formerly with the FBI, and now working Grand Thefts for Interpol. Janice looked to be of Korean descent and was clad in a light blue tank top, stonewashed jeans on her legs and black combat boots on her feet; her windblown hair let down with a Washington Nationals baseball cap on her head. Kathleen was in her late twenties and sported big silver Aviator sunglasses; a white Tilley hat covered her dark hair. Kathleen, like Janice, was in a tank top, hers black but with an open white blouse over it and tan shorts on her legs, desert boots on her feet.

            “You're Agents Zurer and Luxby, right?” stated Janice, pulling off her hat and offering a hand, no smile, as a small gust of wind blew hair in her face. “Senior Agent Janice Wang, Interpol.”

            “Good to meet you,” offered Zurer, Lux quickly saying the same as both shook hands with the senior agent.

            “Kathleen Rudd,” added the junior agent moments later, not smiling either but not bothering to remove her glasses or hat in greeting, as hands were shook.

            “So what's the current status of your investigation?” asked Lux as Janice and Kathleen led the pair towards one of the larger nearby tents.

            “We're trying to avoid searching the place building by building, as there's easily thousands, but we may soon have to resort to that,” admitted Janice, seeming a bit stiff as while she was emoting with her voice, her body language was almost non-existent, and what little the pair saw of her face as she led the way indicated her expression wasn't changing much either. “We've already eliminated several groups as suspects, including the major private security forces and the domestic military presence. We're now looking at private groups, ones that hire out to various visitors.”

            “So, it seems unlikely that any visiting or resident archeologist is behind any kind of drug operation,” contributed Kathleen as Janice led the trio inside the large tent, revealing it to have a makeshift kitchen. A metal folding table was set up with chairs and there was a curtained off area Lux imagined was the bathroom, plus there were other tables that supported cooking equipment.

            “We do have one potential lead on a pattern,” revealed Janice, taking a seat at the empty table, which was covered with paperwork as well as a couple of dirty dishes. “We suspect the next shipment will be moving out within two days, if we're right in the correlation of the data we've gathered. We've thus listed a few names of recent arrivals versus expected departures...”

            Lux sat across from Janice and stared at some of the photos and names that were scattered over the table. “Professor Nadine Vargas of Decker State College,” observed Lux. “Professor Igor Gregovich of Moscow University... Professor Hillary Fox of Trinity College Pennsylvania... Professor James Cole of Harvard University... Wait, and Angel Jenly?!”

            “Yeah, she's here doing research for a movie apparently,” nodded Kathleen, shrugging.  “Go figure.”

* * *

            The black M-Class Mercedes SUV didn’t really fit in with its surroundings, even with its brush guard, skidplate, and winch. The SUV was just too high class compared to the cadre of Toyotas, aging Land Rovers and utilitarian jeeps that populated the tent city. Like the Daimler SUV, the three silver trailers that acted as walls for a large circus tent didn’t really fit either, but at least that was a tent in a city of tents. The SUV pulled up to stop in front of the main tent and three women exited the vehicle, eying the large tent and trailers. The front of the tent lacked a trailer as it featured the flapped entrance of the large dwelling. The women, all of whom were dark haired with one being dark skinned, were dressed similarly in khaki safari gear and black t-shirts. Two of the women had thigh holsters carrying Sig Sauer pistols while the third bore a shoulder rig holstering a Beretta 92F Inox. This last woman also walked in cowboy boots that were covered by her trousers while the other two had tan combat boots. All three wore slim sunglasses and low-key earpieces. The patches on their khaki tops labeled them as members of Talon Security Services.

            Parker Reich adjusted her shoulder rig as she made her way toward the large tent. The two women following her were former colleagues of hers turned into chipped slaves: Greta Stevens and Gabi Lachman. They acted as the main security detail for the operation. It was Parker’s first official operation working with her long time friend Ryoshi Tenzo, now Dawson, and new boss Scott Dawson. She wanted everything to run smoothly and thus had requested a larger team, but that would have hindered extraction, so she was stuck with only two. Scott had assured her these two operators plus herself were good enough. Parker hoped he was right, since it was her job to keep both of the Dawsons safe. They were rich, important, and also wanted people who should not have been on field operations at all. But Parker was new to this business, so there was no way she could have gone in solo either.

            She pulled open the flap of the tent and stepped out of the sun, her companions trailing her. Inside the large shaded space out of the sun it was surprisingly cool. The ground was covered in Persian carpeting with a gas cooking pit positioned in the middle, the fire pit having proper ventilation above it that went through the top of the tent. Low tables and large overstuffed pillows served as the space’s furniture giving it an Arabian flare. The dim lamps that served as lighting hung overhead and gave a romantic hue to everything. “Not bad,” Parker said as she looked around the roomy tent. She pulled out a silver pocket watch from her breast pocket; it had been a gift from her grandfather and served as both timekeeper and good luck charm. Her bosses were due in to camp in thirty minutes. More than enough time for her to secure the site. Parker pulled her CyPocket from her belt holster and began to punch in commands for her two charges.

            “Hello there!” an excited voice declared from behind. Parker jumped and spun quickly, drawing her Inox fluidly as she moved. She found it clumsy to hold the pistol while also holding the CyPocket at the same time, to the point that she doubted she could discharge her weapon effectively. Luckily Gabi and Greta also had drawn their Sigs, locked on to the person that had suddenly appeared between the tent’s flaps. She was a local woman who quickly expressed a surprised, fearful look on her face; her hands held up in surrender. The woman had thick dark hair that was braided into a long thick single braid. She had a light completion, with deep dark exotic eyes. The woman was dressed in tan trousers over brown work boots. Her top half was covered in a white short-sleeved buttoned blouse under a fitted khaki vest. “I presume you are the security detail for Ms. Jenly?” The woman asked; she had a slight local accent but carried a more British enunciation.

            Seeing that Greta and Gabi had the situation under control, Parker re-holstered the Inox. “We are and who are you, exactly?” she asked.

            The woman smiled nervously, lowering her hands, but Greta and Gabi did not flinch, their sights were still locked on. “I assure you… I’m no danger… my name is Nefreri Chalthoum. I work for the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. I have been assigned to be Ms. Jenly’s guide and translator for her visit to Hamunaptra, as she did request one of the best.”

            “Stand down, ladies,” Parker ordered. Her charges both holstered their weapons simultaneously. “My name is Parker Reich and these are my associates are Gabi Lachman and Greta Stevens,” she introduced as she gestured to the other two women.

            “Oh, a pleasure to meet you,” Nefreri said after a sigh, then stepping forward. She attempted to shake Gabi and then Greta’s hands but the two chipped women only looked at her and nodded. Moving to Parker, the two shook hands, “Do you like the tent arrangements? It was set up only this morning.”

            Parker took a moment to finish entering her orders, sending Gabi on a recon patrol of camp and Greta to stand watch outside the tent. Both women left as soon as their orders were received via CyPocket to their Chip. Putting away the CyPocket, Parker turned her attention back to the fawning tour guide. Scott had said nothing about the woman; it was unlike him to miss such a detail. “It looks great… Ms. Jenly will love it,” she replied as she ran through some ideas in her head. Angel Jenly really didn’t need a tour guide for this trip. The trip wasn’t even that kind of trip, but of course nobody knew that officially. She had some extra Chips in the SUV. “So, is there a restroom here?” she then asked.

            “Of course…” Nefreri said with beaming smile, a smile she’d used thousands of times while leading tour groups, Parker imagined. “We have three trailers, two of which are sleeping quarters; both have private facilities… the third trailer has the air-conditioning unit as well as more public facilities for the rest of your party.”

            “Great; show me,” nodded Parker.

            Nefreri was puzzled for a moment but regained herself quickly. Parker figured Nefreri just thought she was another weird American, obsessed with bathrooms, as she knew that came up a lot with tourists. “Of course, right this way.”

* * *

            Mandy Mahina leaned back in the passenger seat of the small Jeep, propping her booted feet on the dashboard. Like the other Triangle Security Service personnel on site, she was dressed in desert camouflage. Her gear was a little lighter than the guards assigned to site, only consisting of a police-type utility belt and handgun. Her long dark brown hair was tied into a conservative bun under her Boone cap and she wore aviator sunglasses over her eyes. Mandy liked the sunshine and the fresh air of the desert as it reminded her of her beachfront home in Oahu. She wished she could have stayed home, but she and her partner were in camp to secure the site contract, as well as to do some networking and see if any of the dozen private companies on-site would consider Triangle to be their primary security detail. It was a little bit of rip-off though as Triangle had control of nearly the whole camp, being that they were contracted by the new Egyptian government to protect everyone in the camp, with the military keeping a minimal presence. The Triangle personnel on-site currently worked closely with the local military and even the city police, providing them with training and special equipment.

            Her partner Lois Picket was tying things up with the Triangle Security supervisor, giving them the last of their corporate orders. The two were inside the small silver trailer that served as headquarters for Triangle. They had been inside for almost thirty minutes now. Mandy and Lois were both due to head to Alexandria in about an hour to catch a flight back to Houston in order to check in with corporate, then they were off for week before heading back out to some other site. For the most part, security work was easy and it paid very well when compared to the government checks that Mandy and Lois used to get. Mandy was a former Homeland Security agent, a job that she’d held for nearly twenty years. She had left the agency mostly for more money. Lois was partially in the same boat, so to speak, having worked for the United States Navy Criminal Investigations Services as an undercover agent and marks-woman. She however had been fired for taking an interrogation too far with a suspect, which later turned out to in fact be many suspects. After being dismissed, private security was the only place left to her. Thanks to her questionable history, Lois was a bit hard to work with but Mandy got along fine with her and the two made a good team.

            The Hawaiian was just falling asleep when the door of the trailer suddenly opened and her dark skinned partner jogged down the steps towards their Jeep. Lois had long dark wavy hair that she wore in a ponytail under her desert cap. She was dressed in a black sleeveless t-shirt; her camouflage uniform shirt was currently draped over the Jeep’s driver’s seat. Like Mandy, she had on desert camouflage trousers on, bloused over brown boots. On her hips she wore a cowboy-style gun belt with a .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson 686P holstered on her hip. Being a marks-woman, Lois favored ‘wheel guns’ over semi-automatics, stating that they were more accurate. She slipped on pair of circular shades as she climbed into the driver's seat. “We’re good.”

            “Good; I was falling asleep out here,” Mandy said with yawn, sitting back up in her seat. She looked at her watch. “We got an hour before we should probably leave… You want to grab a bite before we hit the road?”

            “Sure, that Chinese place again?”

            “That isn’t Chinese…” Mandy groaned, thinking back to one of the many food tents that served only noodle dishes.

            “It looked like it to me,” Lois chuckled as she started up the Jeep. “Their chicken was pretty good...”

“That wasn’t chicken,” Mandy replied with a grin.

Just as they pulled out to the camp’s main roadway a black brand new M-Class SUV passed them. The windows were tinted black so they couldn’t see the occupants. The Mercedes headed a little further down the road, catching the attention of many of the camp’s occupants.

            “Those are some nice wheels…” Mandy observed as she tracked the SUV as it headed towards a big circus-style tent. “Who rented that gaudy tent?” she then asked, turning back to her partner.

            “Oh yeah, it’s Angel Jenly’s entourage; Rusty was just telling me about it. She’s here doing research for a movie,” Lois replied.

            “Who's her security detail?” Mandy then asked.

            “A new group… Talon Security, they’re based out of Brazil.”

            “You want to meet a movie star?” Mandy said with a grin, looking at her partner. If she could get a contract with Jenly to use Triangle, a promotion would be in order as well as a nice pay hike. Her beachfront home in Oahu needed a bigger deck, or possibly a private dock.

            “Not really… But I see where you’re going,” Lois said, turning their Jeep onto the road and following the SUV.

* * *

            They had left River and Casey back in Alexandria just in case they needed a quick extraction; the two chipped women were close enough to the airport to be wheels-up within twenty minutes; the SEA had a short start-up checklist. They were checked into the Stilton of Alexandria and programmed to not draw too much attention to themselves; Ryoshi would be checking in with them every once and a while via satcom router and her laptop so things wouldn’t get too routine for any sharp-eyed neighbors. Both women were, after all, quite attractive.

            Scott parked the SUV behind an identical M-Class in front of a large tent, the largest one that he had seen so far. He had switched identities when they landed; he was now Matt Parker, Talon Security Field Supervisor. Scott was dressed in khaki cargo pants over military hiking boots and a black polo shirt bearing the Talon security logo. He wore a plain black cap on his head and a pair of slim sunglasses over his eyes. A low profile earpiece in his left ear finished his military look. Scott was armed with a Sig Sauer that was strapped to his right thigh. Sitting shotgun next to him was Shannon Andrews, who now was playing the role of Angel Jenly’s personal maid. The blonde chipped woman wore her hair in ponytail and was clad in a sky blue polo tucked into a khaki skirt with white sneakers finishing her look. In the back behind Scott was the kidnapped actress, who was now chipped and programmed. Angel was clad in a light green tank top, khaki shorts and knee-high brown hiking boots. Her hair was tied back into a single braid, Tomb-Raider style, and she wore red tinted circular sunglasses over her eyes. Finishing her stylish look was a worn leather bomber jacket with sheep-fur lining. It was appropriately chic, but wholly impractical for the desert heat. Ryoshi had switched identities after they landed as well and was now Vivian Lu, Angel Jenly’s personal assistant. She had dressed in a khaki sleeveless dress with her silky black hair hanging loose. Diva glasses covered her eyes while she stood in knee-high tan leather boots.

            “Shannon, take care of the luggage,” Scott ordered as he opened his door and exited. Shannon followed suit and moved towards the back of the SUV. Scott moved to the back door of the SUV and looked around his surroundings before opening the door. Angel stepped out, following Ryoshi on command.

            At the opening in the tent the trio was welcomed by Greta, who stood solemnly with her hands behind her back. “Where’s your boss at?” Scott asked.

            “Ms. Reich is inside, Mr. Parker,” Greta answered crisply.

            “Go help Ms. Andrews with the luggage,” Scott then directed. Greta nodded and made her way towards the second SUV. “Parker, I’m on site,” he then said pressing his earpiece that also served as a microphone as well.

            “We’re good Mark, it's all clear; come right in,” replied Parker using his alias just case their com-lines were being monitored. Scott stepped through the flap, followed by Ryoshi and Angel.

            “Oh my, looks like something out of Arabian Nights…” Ryoshi gasped, looking around the large tent with delight.

            “I know, right!” Parker exclaimed, coming from the trailer on the right. “How was your trip in, Ryoshi?” she then asked, giving her friend a hug.

            “It was fun… Didn’t feel it; time just seemed to slip on by,” Ryoshi replied, smiling at Scott, who only grinned back. In truth, he had enjoyed most of the fun as his wife was frozen for nearly the entire trip. She was only revived an hour or so before landing, just enough time for her to freshen up and change her clothes.

            “I see…” Parker chuckled and looked over at him, “You had all the fun, Scott?”

            “Guilty,” Scott answered with a wry smile. “What do we have?” he then asked, getting back to business.

            “The camp's security is handled by a few small private security firms while Triangle Security Service and the military take care of the rest. I’ve got Gabi doing a general recon now,” Parker reported as she pulled out her trusty pocket watch. “She should be back in ten,” she continued, putting the watch away. “I've also got something else to show you guys too.”

            Scott and Ryoshi both looked at each other before Ryoshi asked, “What is it?”

            “I got her stashed in your quarters,” Parker said, leading them towards the trailer she had come out of. Scott followed suit while Ryoshi remained back for moment.

            “Angel, tell Greta to go back out on guard duty once the luggage is brought in. You and Shannon meet us in the right side trailer when that is done,” Ryoshi ordered before following Scott and Parker.

            “As you wish, mistress,” the actress replied.

            The trailer’s interior was decked out like a five-star hotel room. The only difference was the space was a lot narrower. The walls were covered in faux wood paneling and maroon carpeting cushioned the floor. The furnishings were made of elegantly carved polished wood, probably teak. There was king size bed at the far end of the trailer, flanked by two nightstands under brass lamps. Ahead of the bed was a sitting area that included a desk, a small flat screen TV, and a small sofa. A little wet bar sat near the door of the trailer. The opposite end of the trailer consisted of a full bathroom, a clothes closet and dresser along with a powder area.

            Standing at rigid attention in the sitting area was an olive-skinned, dark haired woman dressed in nothing but a thin green string bikini. Her hair fell loose to the middle of her back and her face bore an open-mouthed expression, as if frozen mid-sentence; her wide eyes were locked at half-staff. There was some clothing spread on the sofa and a few documents were laid on the desk. “I didn’t get a chance to chip her yet… but I'd like you to meet Ms. Nefreri Chalthoum. Apparently she’s our tour guide, assigned to Angel Jenly by the ministry of antiquities or some such. I searched her after overdosing her with Type-7; she seems legit,” Parker reported.

            “Good job freezing her; the last thing we need is an outsider poking around in our business,” Scott replied, looking the immobilized woman over. He ran his hands over her small breasts and peeled back the bikini top for a peek, “Interesting choice in underwear,” Scott observed.

            “I thought so too when I got her out of her street clothing,” Parker agreed. “Maybe she likes to always be ready for a swim... She kinda showed up out of nowhere. You guys didn’t know about her?”

            “Nope… but I’m glad to have met her… I think we should keep her,” Scott replied and suggested as he walked around the suspended woman.

            Ryoshi had joined him and was examining Nefreri’s figure for herself when her eyes went wide, “Oh, I remember now, there was an email that was sent to Shannon a few days ago; didn’t seem important…”

            “Thanks for sharing that now, Ryoshi,” Parker remarked.

            That Japanese woman smiled innocently and shrugged, “I had a busy week.” She moved behind the unmoving tour guide and pulled a chip from the laptop bag that was slung from her shoulder. “We did get a new recruit though…” she said as she cleared Nefreri’s long hair to access the nape of the woman’s neck.

            “Right, but still you should have remembered that detail… Parker is already operating shorthanded.  We don’t need any surprises,” Scott chided. It was a detail that his wife should have remembered; their life had gotten too easy and she was losing her criminal’s edge. He had to admit there were some instances where he had to triple-check things too, after not being sure about a decision. He was glad that Parker was with them; she was going to be helpful in the future.

            “Alright, honey… I got it, won’t happen again. Besides Parker and her team is more than capable of handling any surprises,” Ryoshi replied.

            “Don’t jinx me, sister,” Parker warned.

            “Nefreri Chalthoum, that name sounds familiar,” Ryoshi thought aloud as she moved to stand in front of the blankly staring woman. She pulled the front of the bikini bottom down to reveal a nicely trimmed swatch of dark hair. “I think I read it in an old case file…”

            “The Erika Stone incident at the Cairo museum a couple of years ago?” Scott asked. “Only place I could know of coming across someone with an Egyptian name...”

            “Bingo!” Ryoshi remarked as she felt up Nefreri’s firm breasts. “She ended up naked in front of that tour group….”

            “Oh man that musta sucked for her… And now she’s with us…kinda rough luck,” Parker said, looking at the half-naked frozen woman.

            Scott was about to add something when both he and Parker looked towards the door, reacting to something. “What?” Ryoshi asked, puzzled as she played with the tour guide’s lush hair. Now that the Chip was installed, Nefreri’s face carried a blank look; the device was already active so it had triggered on contact.

            “We have unexpected company,” Scott and Parker both said in unison. Both heard the reports of approaching visitors in their earpieces from Greta.

            “I’ll take care of it,” Parker said, leaving the trailer. As she left, Angel and Shannon entered, their tasks finished. She reentered the main tent space and noted the pile of luggage that was neatly stacked on one of the low tables. Parker could see the shadow of another person between the tent flaps. “Standby, Mark, I may need you.”

            “Solid copy,” chimed Scott’s simple and prompt reply.

            Opening the flap, Parker came face to face with a woman of Asian descent: she was bronze-skinned with brown hair. Her features were more rounded than a typical East Asian, making Parker think perhaps Polynesian descent. She was dressed in desert fatigues and Parker noted the Triangle Security Service patch on her shoulder. The visitor smiled at Parker and extended her hand, “Mandy Mahina, Triangle Security.”

            “Parker Reich, Talon Security. How can I help you?” Parker greeted as she took Mandy’s hand. Being outside now, Parker could see a Jeep parked behind the second SUV with a dark-skinned woman seated on the driver's side.

            “Are you in charge?” asked Mandy.

            “I’m the Number Two; Mark Parker is leading this detail, and how can I assist you?” Parker replied and asked again.

            “Well, since you’re the Number Two you really can’t assist me… I would like to speak to your boss or client.”

            Parker gritted her teeth silently before reluctantly pressing her earpiece, “Mark, I gotta little situation out here… Triangle Security wishes to speak to you or the VIP,” she requested. Scott replied back promptly. “This way Mandy…” Parker then said, stepping back and opening the flaps to allow the other woman to enter first.

            Scott was just stepping out of the trailer when the pair entered the tent. “I’m sorry, Ms. Jenly is currently unavailable right now. I’m Mark Parker, the field supervisor and you can direct your business to…” Scott started to say but stopped upon abruptly recognizing the woman.

            “Mark Parker?” Mandy asked and then laughed, having paused for a moment beforehand. “I knew that name sounded familiar! I can’t believe you’re still using that alias, Scott.”

            He had not seen her in nearly a decade but Mandy Mahina still looked mostly the same. She was a tiny and fit woman. From what he remembered she came from Hawaii; single at that time and very career driven. He had met her on a few occasions when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had done joint operations with Homeland Security and two had worked together. Mandy, he recalled, was very capable and easy to work with. They had also crossed the professional line one night after a drunken outing and, for as attractive as Mandy looked, she was not very good in bed. Scott attributed that to the American’s strict work ethic, making a lot of her actions very mechanical. “Hello, Mandy.”

            “Mark?” Parker asked confused, more at the fact that the woman that she had just brought in had just blown her boss’s cover. Should have handled the situation myself; this was the last thing Parker wanted.

            “Parker, it’s alright; please wait outside… I’ll call you back in to discuss Nefreri once this meeting is concluded,” Scott said, looking Parker in the eyes. It took the former FBI agent only a second to understand her boss’ subtext. She nodded and left the tent. Scott closed the trailer door behind her and descended the small steps, making his way towards the petite Hawaiian agent.

            Mandy removed her cap and smiled at the Canadian. Still looks good, he's aged well, thought Mandy. Too bad he's a wanted man... “Well, Scott, I can see you’re still as charming as ever.”

            “As are you, Mandy,” Scott replied, reaching the woman and giving her a hug and peck on the cheek. “You’re with private security now? I would have never guessed.”

            “Pays more… You're a wanted criminal now? I would never have guessed,” echoed Mandy, having given Scott a kiss on the cheek of her own.

            “It also pays more and... people change,” Scott replied with a smile.

            “I can see that. What are the chances of us running into each other like this?”

            “Pretty slim, but apparently not impossible, so what brings you here?” Scott then inquired. He was pretty sure he knew the answer already, but he was in an entertaining mood.

            “Business, Scott, just business. I’m not a cop anymore so you don’t have to worry about me telling anyone who you are or that you’re here in the back of beyond… Yet. By the looks of your lieutenant, I’m figuring your employers don’t really know who you really are; I can keep it that way…”

            And there it is, Scott thought as he smiled, “What’s the price, Mandy?”

            “Turn over Angel Jenly's contract to Triangle Security right now.”


            “We currently have thirty operators on site. I can re-assign a few to this detail while a proper team is flown in from Houston. You and your people will be free to go, and your secret is safe.”

            “Free to go? I have people to answer to Mandy; I can’t just leave this contract hanging,” shot back Scott, trying to sound desperate. His acting was rusty but he knew he had been pretty good in the past and he knew he had sold it when Mandy smiled at him smugly.

            “Scott, business is business; your logistics are not my problem. Just be glad that I won’t be telling anyone who you really are.”

            “Fine, Mandy… You leave me no choice…”

            “What?” Mandy asked, suddenly shocked. She knew something was coming. Scott smiled haughtily at her.

            Pressing his earpiece just as Mandy was reaching for her handgun, Scott ordered, “Execute!”

            The flap of the tent popped open just as Mandy’s PTW Infinity cleared her holster. Parker was ready though, with her Inox in hand at eye level. She let off a shot as she moved inside. There was a muffled ‘pop’ and Mandy Mahina fell over stiffly as the Type-7 projectile smacked her right on the left cheek and froze her instantly in her tracks. Mandy held a shocked look on her face with eyes wide and mouth open. Her body was twisted at the hip with one leg slightly in front of the other. One arm was out in front of her body while the other was now under it, holding the PTW.

            “Contact moving,” Greta reported into Scott and Parker’s earpieces.

            “She has a partner… Probably got suspicious when I moved in too fast,” Parker reported.

            “Neutralize the contact stealthily, no weapons,” Scott ordered into his earpiece. “Parker, be at the ready.”

            Lois had seen one of the two Talon security guards quickly move back into the tent after Mandy had been in there for what seemed like too long. Alarm bells went off in her head. She hopped out of the Jeep and darted towards the lone guard. That girl was slender; she figured she could just charge her way through she had at least twenty pounds on the rival guard. Lois withdrew her .357 as she neared the tent flap. The Talon girl stood unmoving, hands behind her back. She caught the girl saying, “Solid copy.” Before she could react, the Talon guard snapped into action and punched her in throat. Lois saw red and gagged, dropping to her knees, her pistol falling out of her hand. She was falling forward when the guard assisted her and pushed her through the flap. Greta kicked the Magnum behind the flap before going back to standing with her hands behind her back. Lois’s vision faded before she hit the carpet as Parker’s dart hit her on the exposed shoulder.

            The intruding Triangle Security officer fell heavily, face first with hands clutching her throat and legs bent at the knees. Parker holstered her Inox and moved towards the down and frozen woman, picking up the Smith & Wesson. She smiled, looking over at her boss and asking, “She’s not going anywhere… Can I keep the gun?”

* * *

            Nefreri was dressed back into her outer clothing and stood at attention, a smile on her lips. Now chipped and controlled, she had been programmed to serve as their tour guide for the remainder of the trip unless something else came up, in which case she could be easily re-programmed. Ryoshi would work on liquidating her assets later for her move to Brazil as they planned to use her with Utopia Holdings. Her brief resignation had already been emailed to her museum; a phone call was needed later so as not to arouse any suspicion. The Egyptian did have a boyfriend and a small family, which Ryoshi would work on covering for when the mission was over. Standing next to Nefreri, also unmoving, was Mandy Mahina. The now former Triangle Security Service employee was wearing a tight nipple-revealing black tank top and gray boy shorts. She held a blank look on her face and her arms were outstretched in front of her like a TV zombie. Next to her was Lois Picket, who was clad in hot pink satin undergarments that contrasted sexily with her dark skin. She stood in the same pose carrying, an identical empty expression on her face as her Hawaiian co-worker. Ryoshi had already sent their resignation letters to their home office and would work on closing off their past lives up once the pair were back in Brazil as well. The three women stood in the master trailer, shoulder to shoulder, with Ryoshi sitting at the desk. She had changed into her favorite kimono, already planning to just stay in for the night.

            Scott walked in, closing the door behind him. “Just finished the debrief with Parker on the data she got from Gabi’s recon. I think I’m ready to have a look around myself and check out those ruins. I’ve got Shannon preparing some food for us for later. Is Nefreri ready to go?”

            “Yep, she’s actually the only one I finished so far; the other two are just blanks. Working on your one-night stand next…” Ryoshi said with a smile.

            “She was pretty bad in bed before, I wouldn’t count on her,” Scott chuckled walking up to Mandy. She was still fit, even for her age, being five years his senior. He looked her up and down and played with her nipples, which were rock hard, through the tank-top. An idea crossed his mind: “Let’s give her the companion program for now.”

            Ryoshi raised an eyebrow and smiled deviously, “Done… how about Ms. Picket?”

            Scott moved over to the dark-skinned woman, who was built thick and had muscles like an Amazon, “Give her the tactical program, Parker is griping about being shorthanded so this one should appease her a little. Dress her up in our uniform, of course.”

            “Works for me,” Ryoshi replied, going back to her programming work.

            “I’m heading out with Nefreri, Angel, and Greta to check out the camp and see the ruins before dark. See if I can spot our chosen treasures,” remarked Scott, giving his wrists a quick roll to loosen up.

            “So remind me again which artifacts these were?” asked Ryoshi. Scott gave his wife an impatient look but understood to a degree, since he'd researched literally hundreds of possible artifacts over the past week.

            “Well, we're in Egypt, so maybe the so-called Keys of Anubis?” Scott suggested sarcastically. The artifacts were rumored to be in the Temple of Keys that was located in the lost city, but Scott had researched a few possible alternate hiding spots for them around the city he'd need to check into too.

            “Hey, I believe you mentioned something about the Peace Keeper too, and that thing is Babylonian,” pointed out Ryoshi. The Peace Keeper was a giant statue that Scott owned; it created a shield that withstood the manipulation of time. Scott had found rumors suggesting something related to it might be found with the Keys of Anubis, but that story had been hard to substantiate.

            “That's doubtful, but we could get lucky. We should be back in two hours,” Scott said, looking at his watch. “You think you and Mandy will be ready by then?”

            Ryoshi looked up and smiled, “Oh, we’ll be ready… just bring Ms. Chalthoum along too, I’m not quite finished meeting her yet.”

            “Deal; I’ll see you then. Come on Nefreri, time to work.”

            “Right away Mr. Dawson,” the local woman answered in an unusual accent that Scott recognized as one being from Montreal.

            He looked at Ryoshi, who only smiled as she typed on her laptop, “She’s a local, you do remember that right?”

            “She’s unique now.” 

* * *


Alexandria Docks, Alexandria, Egypt

            Coffee was on Team Beta's minds as its four members stood in a shipping warehouse at Alexandria's docks, all four having been working virtually non-stop since they arrived in Egypt. Crates found in Cairo had led the team to Alexandria, which was the country's largest port, and now they needed to find evidence of smuggled drugs, ideally Type-7, since that's what was suspected of being shipped through Hamunaptra.

            Cassandra Flick was dressed casually, the weather only around twenty-two degrees Celsius so she didn't need to button up. The leader of Team Beta was sporting a loose white blouse and was wearing khaki pants, her hair pulled back into a loose bun since she hadn't showered. Cassandra's fiancée Jean-Baptiste Odilon, was next to her, his chin covered in stubble and his hair a mess, wearing a rumpled tie-less blue suit and mustard shirt with a laptop bag on his shoulder. Gregory Barnes had gone extra light, wearing an open white cotton shirt over black-tank top and tan trousers on his legs. His hair had been gelled to hide his own lack of shower, though his thick stubble was nearly of beard-quality. Anna Sokolov was the only one who looked like she'd had time to clean herself up that day, but Gregory had mentioned to Cassandra that she'd gotten up early to do so, thus she was most likely more exhausted now than the rest of them. Anna's short blonde hair was nice and straight, as was her teal skirt suit and white blouse.

            “So, we need to dig through all that?” asked Gregory, glancing at a large stack of crates that was set to ship out in a few short hours. The shipment was destined for Spain, which was where the Type-7 reports had first originated. It was theorized whoever was operating out of southern Europe might be connected to the vanished Adrianna Dashkov, but over a dozen other former members of the Paradise Foundation were also on a list of suspects.

            “Luckily, I've got something that should be able to help,” revealed JB, tapping his laptop bag before putting it down, pulling out a device from inside. “It just arrived this morning. CyTek spent years working on it and we get to field test their latest gizmo...” A white cross-shaped object with a red orb in the middle was placed next to Cassandra. The object was connected to the rest of the bag by a thin cable; JB pressed on the orb. A shimmering image of a woman slowly took shape.

            “SARA online,” announced the holographic image of Stone Enterprises programmer Lana Rollins. SARA thus looked like a cute brown-haired, brown-eyed woman of average height dressed in a generic black and white business outfit, the skirt and jacket black while the shown blouse was white; the avatar had her shoulder-length hair tucked behind her ears.

            “What the...” managed Greg, taken aback by the sudden appearance of the hologram of a woman.

            “Simulated Analysis Recon Assistant, or SARA for short,” explained Anna. Cassandra was not surprised the team's forensic expert knew about the technology since it would help her own field of expertise immensely. “Creates a holographic image as a good visual metaphor and making it, or rather her, easier to interact with. You've probably seen the same thing in the personal assistant software smart phone companies are starting to put out. Think of SARA as the logical extreme of that tech.”

            “And this is going to help us by...?” Greg asked next, looking at Anna with admiration, a boyfriend proud of his lover's knowledge.

            “SARA, I want you to analyze nearby crates, check for any that show signs of someone trying to conceal their contents, or any that came from Hamunaptra,” ordered Cassandra, speaking to the hologram. The SARA image seemed to freeze momentarily, its eyes flashing red for a moment, only to then go from standing at attention to putting her simulated hands on her hips, apparently finished already.

            “Scan comp-” began SARA, only to suddenly freeze, holographic mouth open. Team Beta frowned.

            “Hang on, it’s still new technology, there's glitches,” apologized JB, bending down and adjusting the red orb. SARA’s image flickered for a moment before continuing where she left off.

            “-pleted,” announced SARA. “Second crate from the left, third row in, possesses infrared shielding, but the tag on the box indicates it came from Hamunaptra and is destined ultimately for Barcelona. There are six other crates in the same stack that possess infrared shielding but none, according to shipping tags, came from Hamunaptra.”

            “... Did she just run a thermal scan and check the shipping bar codes on all those crates in two seconds?” breathed Greg, clearly taken aback.

            “Yep, she has a lot of handy features,” giggled Anna as Cassandra headed off to find the crate in question, leaving JB to deactivate SARA. Greg and Anna quickly joined Cassandra as she located the crate in question. The crate was locked, but the ITEA had received prior authorization to open any suspicious containers, so Greg used a lock-picking tool to remove the lock.

            “This thing has glass lining it,” observed Cassandra, noting the crate also contained what appeared to be a large amount of bottled water, all of the jugs even labeled as being from a popular Egyptian water company.

            “It looks like there's lead or something dense here too,” added Greg, getting a good look at the casing for the strange bottles.

            “Gotta be to beat X-rays and thermals,” posited Anna. “Any possible heat generated from the crate's metal shell would be fairly effectively masked. That has to be one of the reasons SARA thought it was suspicious.”

            “The fact that they're shipping bottled water from a dig site to Spain is also pretty odd,” nodded Cassandra. “Greg, get the SIGMA 900 from the rental. I want to test this stuff, but I think it’s safe to assume it’s Type-7...”

            “I'm going to go find the dock manager,” announced Anna, stepping away from the crate. “I'll see if he can get us more information on who sent this crate. Tag it as a bust.”

            “That's fine, I've run enough tests with the 900 to know how to test for Type-7,” acknowledged Cassandra. “I think he was going to check on another warehouse. We should check the other warehouses, but if this is Type-7, we've probably got it solved.”

            “Right,” smiled Anna, walking off. The Russian had only gotten three hours of sleep, sacrificing an hour to make sure she looked presentable, and as a result she'd ended up speaking on behalf of the team more than once despite not knowing Arabic.

            Exiting the warehouse she'd started in, Anna moved on to glance around four more, not finding anyone she recognized in a single one. There were a few dockworkers milling about, but the ITEA's open investigation had shut all outgoing shipments down, at least for the moment, and the Interpol liaison was busy trying to calm down anyone upset by that. After passing a few more buildings, Anna finally found the one she thought she'd heard the manager was going to.

            “Hello?” called out Anna as she quietly stepped into the building. Like the other warehouses, the space was full of shipping crates, but Anna noticed a couple that were sitting away from the rest; one of them even being open. Curious, Anna advanced, but as she drew near to the closer one, darkness suddenly fell as she felt herself being pulled backwards.

* * *

            “Shit,” muttered Pauline Foley, her Scottish accent thick. This suit-wearing blonde woman had showed up when she was half done emptying her shipment to Taranto and in a panic Pauline had decided to jab her with a syringe full of Type-7; more than enough to freeze her for almost a week, though not quite enough for an overdose.

            Pauline was dressed entirely in black, wearing an ankle-length skirt and full blouse as well as a hijab, the headgear masking her natural red hair, having feared that particular feature of hers would draw too much attention in the streets of Alexandria. Originally assigned the mid-management duty of helping to coordinate the fleet of yachts the Paradise Foundation operated, when it still existed, the woman had taken to smuggling after the company's downfall. While Pauline hadn't been a member of the Foundation's infamous Black Department, she'd still found a way to collect the Type-7 formula from company databanks before they were shut down and it had been her source of welfare, that is until some agency had recently started poking around.

            “I don't know who the hell you are, but I'm not going to let you rain on my day,” grumbled Pauline, retracting the syringe in her hand and placing it in the messenger bag that hung off her shoulder while her left hand held the statue-stiff blonde by her breasts; the frozen woman's arms were at her sides and her legs bent backwards, her lips closed and eyes slightly wide. Fishing into her bag, Pauline pulled out her smart phone and sent a quick text to her associates, ordering them to return immediately so they could move the contents of the second box.

            “Lets see... ITEA?” remarked Pauline, finding an ID card on the woman she'd just frozen, still having a bit of fun in holding her with her left arm holding her matching breast. “Never heard of you, Anna Sokolov... Freaking Russians. I can't believe the States never nuked you...” Thinking quickly, Pauline decided on a plan of action. Anna was dragged on her heels over to the open crate, at which point Pauline got to work stripping her naked.

            “Funny-looking watch; nice gun though,” commented Pauline as she pulled off individual items from Anna's person while removing her clothes. Pauline let the watch fall into the pile but decided to tuck the gun into her waistband for the moment, just in case she ran into trouble. Soon Anna was standing stark naked, the only other thing Pauline having kept being Anna's jacket.

            “Get you inside; you're frozen so air won't be a problem,” Pauline casually told Anna as she forced the rigidly posed woman into the open crate, managing to scrunch her in while turned on her side, her knees slightly bent. The lid promptly came down and Pauline locked the crate, proceeding to dump Anna's clothes in the back of the warehouse, just in time for her transport to pull in, with her associates exiting the truck.

            “Change in plans, take both crates in their entirety,” ordered Pauline, indicating the one crate that now contained Anna and the other that held the rest of her Type-7. “I'll transfer the water to another container later. The second crate we'll ship to Stan and Kira in Hamunaptra to deal with...”

* * *



            Lux was straightening out her sleeping bag atop her cot in the tent she'd just spent the last hour setting up mostly on her own. Avrum was busy contacting other members of the ITEA but their Interpol contacts were keeping to themselves, despite being a short distance away. The day had mostly been a dud, but Lux knew she and her partner needed a day just to get oriented to the new location.

            “Big news out of Alexandria,” announced Avrum as he entered the tent, having just tucked his phone into his pocket. “Anna Sokolov has gone missing.”

            “Sokolov... That isn't the one who is usually picked on, right?” recalled Lux, there being two Russian women named Anna in the ITEA. “Do we know what happened?”

            “She vanished while they were looking at crates set to ship out,” revealed Avrum, sitting down on his own sleeping bag, which he'd somehow managed to find time to unpack in between phone calls. “I offered to go help them look for her but apparently the crate they found came from Hamunaptra, so we're to stay here. Plus they've got local police helping them search.”

            “I hope she's okay... The agency has managed to avoid fatalities so far,” noted Lux, having been impressed with IT's statistics given they'd had more than their share of firefights. “Yeah, there really isn't much point in us going back. Good of you to offer, though.”

            “Right,” nodded Avrum, glancing around the tent. “So... I need to change...”

            “So do I; we can use the divider,” indicated Lux. The tent was big enough for both of them to more or less stand individually and had a nylon curtain that would block out any potentially naughty visuals, giving both of them a bit of privacy.

            “Perfect,” smiled Avrum, standing up. Lux considered helping him but let it go, Avrum drew the modesty sheet across the tent. Lux could still see her partner's silhouette but looked away, starting to strip herself. The desert was decidedly cold at night so she was opting for a black T-shirt and gray plaid pajama pants, with a fresh pair of socks over her feet. As the GRID agent let her hair down, she casually glanced behind her, forgetting herself, and immediately went red: Avrum was at least half-naked, for thanks to the lighting she'd managed to see the outline of his manhood.

            “Hm,” coughed out Lux as she rapidly turned away, burying her face in her hands.

            “What's that?” called out Avrum from behind Yeardley.

            “I sneezed, sort of,” lied Lux, hoping Avrum bought it.

            “Ah, almost sounded like a giggle over here,” commented Avrum, and a moment later Lux heard him start to pull back the curtain. Turning around, Lux saw he'd gone a similar route to her own clothing-wise, though his shirt was dark green and instead of pants he was wearing black boxers. Lux did her best not to look and see if she could still see the outline of his penis.

            “Those things are handy,” remarked Lux, trying to change the subject.

            “What are?”

            “The... backpacks we used,” managed Lux, indicating the hiking gear they'd packed most of their equipment in, having opted for it over suitcases in case they got stranded somehow.

            “Yeah, wish I'd had a few when I'd moved to London,” chuckled Avrum, shaking his head. “You have any idea how expensive it was to ship thirty boxes from Israel to the UK...? Well, I guess if you came from the States you have some idea.”

            “Thirty?!” exclaimed Lux, stunned at Avrum's number. “I only had four! What, did you ship your entire house?!”

            “I, ah, have an expensive hobby,” confessed Avrum, moving to sit down cross-legged on his sleeping bag, Lux doing the same on her own. “I collect... Weapons.”

            “So do I!” laughed Lux, clapping her hands. “Wow, you must have a lot more than me...”

            “Well, I've got probably six different swords, including a couple of long swords, two maces, three crossbows...” recalled Avrum, counting on his fingers as he spoke.

            “Wait, wait, wait,” interrupted Lux, suddenly frowning. “You collect old weapons?”

            “Yeah, I'm big into the authentic kind, the ones used in real combat hundreds of years ago,” nodded Avrum, not seeming to get why Lux seemed bemused rather than amused.

            “You really do live in the past...” scoffed Lux, shaking her head. “I'm all about the kind of weapons that are still practical. You know guns. Colt, H&K, Park Tech Weapons...”

            “Colt?” chimed in Avrum, raising an eyebrow. “That reminds me... did I show you this?” Avrum reached into his pile of clothing and pulled out his pistol holster, producing a Kimber Eclipse from it. The weapon was a modern version of the classic Colt sidearm and had a special-looking handle, including a small bulge that Lux figured was meant specifically for his hand.

            “That thing fires darts?” asked Lux, incredulous.

            “Yeah, chamber's been modified to accept a smaller caliber dart as well as the usual .45 ammunition,” boasted Avrum, letting Lux hold it after she held out her hand. “I had the armory girl whip it up for me.”

            “Bethany?” clarified Lux, suddenly feeling a small pang. “Why did she do it?”

            “I... may have sweet-talked her,” Avrum admitted sheepishly, which caused Lux to give him a death-glare.

            “You're quite the flirt,” muttered Lux, hastily handing the pistol back.

            “Hey, what's bitten you?” snapped back Avrum as he took his weapon back.

            Lux decided to avoid answering and instead focused on Avrum's neck, where she saw he had a funny necklace on. “What's that there?” questioned the former DEA agent, indicating the neck gear.

            “Heh... This is my pride and joy,” revealed Avrum, appearing to forget about Lux's attitude just a moment ago. “An authentic arrowhead from the Battle of Agincourt, where the English routed the French with superior archery, signaling the move from the age of knights to the age of ranged warfare.”

            “Huh...” muttered Lux, spontaneously leaning in and taking hold of the arrowhead. Lux then glanced up from the object to Avrum and she realized she was close enough to taste his breath, quickly jumping back.

            “Good luck sleeping, you still seem wired,” commented Avrum, apparently not picking up on why Lux was acting how she was. Avrum started to roll into his sleeping bag and she elected to do the same, letting it go.

            Silence hung the air for a few minutes, Lux laying with her head turned away from Avrum, her eyes still open as she was deep in thought. Then suddenly the silence broke. “Whoa!” exclaimed Avrum, Lux then turning to see him jump up and out of his sleeping bag. “Scorpion!”

            Looking down at Avrum's sleeping bag, Lux saw a yellow sand scorpion on Avrum's bag, confirming the man's claim. Reacting on instinct, Lux jumped out of her bag and grabbed the boot that was sitting next to his cot and slamming it down on the arachnid. Lux then struck several more times, wanting to make sure the creature was dead. Finally Lux stopped and threw the boot away, breathing hard as she glanced down at the smashed remains of the scorpion. Avrum dropped down next to her.

            Lux felt her heart racing, adrenaline coursing through her veins. Next to her, Avrum seemed to have started sweating, apparently having a fear or even full-on phobia of the scorpions. Given the scare, both people were breathing hard and then glanced at each other, locking eyes. Lux stared deep into Avrum's eyes for what felt like an eternity before giving in, reaching out and grabbing his head, pulling herself in. The two GRID agents locked lips, Avrum quickly putting his hands behind Lux's back.

            The kiss was broken when Lux half-dragged Avrum over to her side of the tent, with him on top. Each of them then tore their shirts off and Avrum ducked down, kissing Lux's breasts in turn as she began to moan. The possibility of other scorpions being in the tent quickly vanished from the pair's thoughts.

* * *



The Next Day (late afternoon)

            Dr. Hillary Fox sat at her makeshift desk in her small tent and looked over scribbled notes as she typed on her laptop. She had been at the dig site for nearly two months now. The doctor only had few days left before she was due back at school. Hillary was head of the archeology department at Trinity College Pennsylvania as well as an active professor, or at least occasionally, in between her field work. Every other semester she would head out to a dig site, going solo or taking a group of graduate students. This time she had taken just her top grad student. For this trip, Hillary had chosen to visit Hamunaptra, especially to visit the City of Dead, which was the subject of her next book. She had already amassed enough data but there was always room for more, such as a new discovery. For the last few days, Hillary had been going into the ruins and spending her hours searching, hoping to find an undiscovered artifact. As of yet she had no such luck, though what little she had found most likely would sate if not completely please the College since she wouldn't exactly qualify her findings as artifacts.

            “Dr. Fox, I’m coming in,” chimed a voice outside the flap of the tent before a bright-faced brunette stepped in. “Are you ready to go, professor?” asked Tyra Jones. She was Hillary’s top student in her graduate program and was set to earn her Master's by the end of the summer. Tyra didn’t know where she wanted to go afterward to continue her studies, though Hillary had suggested she go for her doctorate and become her assistant.

            “I’m almost ready Tyra… let me finish this page. How was lunch?” Hillary replied and asked, not looking up from her screen. She wore thick-framed black glasses, giving her the look of a professor while her silky dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Despite her name, Hillary looked to be of Asian descent though she was a native of Pennsylvania. At over forty years old, the professor still had the svelte body of a swimsuit model. Currently she was dressed in an off-white short-sleeved blouse tucked into a pair of tight-fitting brown pants and a pair of worn brown knee-high rider boots.

            “Not too bad, went to that Chinese place; how is the book coming along?” Tyra answered and inquired, the blue-eyed brunette was dressed in white polo under a light brown jacket. A pair of dusty jeans and sneakers finished her look.

            “That place is not Chinese Tyra, you should stop eating there; you got sick last time. The book is coming along fairly nicely. While we haven't exactly uncovered some breathtaking lost artifact, the few pieces we have found are still nice enough, and between those and the book I'd say we're secure for a good while. You know, I really do love the City of the Dead... I should come back next year,” finished Hillary, getting up and organizing the mess of papers that were her notes.

            Tyra moved over to the corner of the tent and started to load a bag with digging tools and a collection kit. “Are you going to take our honored guests with you too?”

            “If they want to come, they’re welcome,” Hillary said, loading her notes into a leather binder. “They contribute key funding for these trips and endorse my books… I can’t really deny them. The Dean would have my head.”

            “Dr. Fox, the last time we were out in the field… in Syria, they arrived and peculiar things occurred; we blacked out for a time and there were some missing, stolen artifacts,” frowned Tyra, thinking back to the last expedition.

            “Oh Tyra, don’t be foolish… There are thieves at these sites too; it’s part of the environment. I’m pretty sure some locals were involved. It’s a shame really; if you ask me these artifacts are part of their cultural history and should be shared by all,” Hillary said, moving to stand next to Tyra to start loading her own bag with supplies.

            “Dr. Fox, they were gone when we came to; don’t you think that was at least a little suspicious?”

            “Maybe they woke up before we did and went for help?” the professor suggested, weakly.

            “Help never came, Dr. Fox… All I’m saying here is there’s something suspicious about those people, even if I can’t put my finger on what. I’m going to look them up later.”

            “Tyra, you will do no such thing; they are respected investors and donors to the school,” Hillary instructed, pulling on a light brown leather coat and then shouldering her book bag. “Now finish up packing and let’s go,” she added, looking at her watch, “It’s about time for the commercial diggers to call it a day so we’ll have the ruins to ourselves. I heard they broke ground on the temple today, I cannot wait to check it out.”

            Tyra pulled on her backpack, “Are these donors coming too?”

            “Of course they are; they’re just as interested in a major discovery as we are,” Hillary replied, stepping through the flap of the tent.

            “Good. I can keep an eye on them…” Tyra mumbled as she followed her professor.

* * *

            Janice Wang looked up from her CyPad just in time to see the two academic women leave the tent. She quickly logged out of the activities reports she was reading, stuffing the portable computer into her backpack. Getting up from the beach chair she had been sitting in, she swung the bag over her shoulders. Pulling her dusty Nats’ cap low over her brow, she made her way through the flood of workers returning from the ruins after a long day of excavating, trailing the two women. Aside from the baseball cap and backpack, the senior Interpol agent was clad in an unbuttoned old blue flannel shirt over a purple t-shirt, stonewashed jeans and combat boots. A Kel-Tech PF9 was also hidden at the small of her back in a leather holster under the flannel shirt.

            Her morning had been relatively easy, starting out by briefing the arriving ITEA agents, whom she suspected had enjoyed a rather hot night in their tent. It didn’t surprise her; rumor had it that ITEA fraternization policies were nearly, if not entirely, non-existent and Janice would be lying to herself if she never once considered pursuing a co-worker romantically. The bulk of the briefing was on the many private organizations and individuals that worked at the camp and where there were possible leads they could look into. After that, the two agents had headed out to start their investigations while Janice and Kathleen had grabbed a quick breakfast and planned out their own day, things being business as usual for them. For the day, Kathleen was following an Australian research crew exploring the west side of the ruins. It was the eleventh such group that she had attached herself to since they had been on site; being a former undercover agent, surveillance was second nature to her. Of course Kathleen had mostly worked with organized crime but the concept was close enough. The potential danger was a lot lower and the risk of losing herself was slim as well, unlike her last assignment where she had nearly lost her whole identity altogether. She had been on the verge of becoming a criminal herself, had it not been for her handler, Sophia Katsopolis. Kathleen’s life would have been very different now if the senior agent had not intervened. That mission was her last for undercover work; it concluded over a year ago and she had not looked back since. She and Janice were opposites with how they did things; she acted on her instincts and thought outside of the box while Janice was by-the-book through and through. Despite their differences, or perhaps because of them, they made a good team.

            For today just like for the better part of their investigations, Janice had assigned herself Dr. Hillary Fox. She felt a bit bad that Kathleen had taken up most of the other work since they had arrived in Egypt. Janice had a hunch about the Pennsylvanian professor though; the woman had been at nearly dozen dig sites, at all of which priceless artifacts had been stolen or gone missing. Looking into Dr. Fox’s personal background and bank records though, Janice found nothing suspicious but she knew there was some link there. Thankfully, Kathleen had been good sport and trusted the senior agent’s instinct, remaining quiet about Janice's little obsession.

            Janice dropped back a few more meters from the archeologists as they neared the vast ruins, known as the City of Dead. The ‘city’ was a mass of tightly bunched buildings that were made of mud and rock, scattered in a warren filled with tight alleys. Most of the taller and large structures have been unearthed already while the west side still remained very much underground. A lot the smaller buildings had either crumbled during the unearthing or were simply deemed unsafe. All in all it was a dirty mess and safety hazard around the ancient city. There were a few main roads that were generally used and were easy to travel on but for the most part most the streets were narrow and maze like. 'There was no shortage in sand' was a phrase that many used to describe the work-site.

            There were still a goodly number of workers and researchers in the city at the moment, but aside from it being half-buried the ruined city was still very large and currently looked almost deserted. As soon as the sun started to set, a majority of the dig teams called it a day. The crowd of workers that Janice had walked against was dwindling now that she had entered the city. She could see her target, Dr. Fox just ahead of her, walking with another younger woman that Janice knew was Tyra Jones, a grad student studying under the suspicious professor. The Interpol agent was too far away to hear what they were saying, but could see that it was an animated conversation as both women were using a lot of hand gestures and laughing. Janice swung her bag around and pulled out her CyPad out before swinging the bag back onto her back. She used the portable computer to take reconnaissance pictures and fill out her activity reports; plus it was also a great tool to use as cover if her suspects decided to suddenly look behind them.

            She noted the time and typed in what was happening before snapping a picture of the pair in front of her. Keeping her distance and stopping every once and while to act like she was examining something interesting whenever she thought the pair might turn around, Janice followed them for about three blocks. Stopping at a street corner, the Interpol agent peered into a one-story building through a window. The building looked to have been a shop of some sort with a hard mud counter and shelves filled with the crumbled remains of clay pots. It looked eerie; had it not been for the two safety-yellow work lamps that stood in the corner along with some excavation equipment, it was easy to imagine some shroud-wrapped mummy stepping out of the shadows. Looking beyond the counter, Janice noted a doorway leading into a jet-black room. She stared at the dark room, curious to see what was back there but then quickly pulled herself away and looked back to check on her suspects.

            Dr. Fox and Tyra Jones had stopped just up ahead as well. The pair was talking to a third woman who had long dark hair tied in a ponytail. She was tan-skinned but a bit too dark to be local, or so Janice thought. The woman was dressed in a short-sleeved white blouse over a dark tank top; khaki safari shorts covered her lower half and she stood on pair of low hiking boots. It was almost the standard ‘uniform’ for foreign workers in the city. She carried large backpack that looked more designed for camping. It took Janice a while to figure out who the woman was as she typed the info down on her CyPad before taking her picture. The third woman’s name was Raja Sanderson; she was an alumnus of the school that Hillary Fox taught at and was a current investor in the school’s archeology program. She and her husband Paul Sanderson had traveled with Dr. Fox to many sites as well. As Janice logged the information, an obvious thought hit her and she cursed mentally: The Sandersons had been at every site that Hillary Fox had been to, and thus every site that something had been stolen from. She never thought to look into their background simply because they didn’t fit her profile. The thief or thieves were someone who knew something about what they were stealing. Suspecting Hillary Fox had been an easy answer and a little obvious, but the Sandersons…  Now that she thought about circumstances, they could easily be the thieves as well. Stupid! Janice thought to herself. She started to scroll through her past reports to see if she had anything on them. Glancing back up, Janice saw that the trio had started walking again. She waited for a minute to give them some space and then realized that Paul Sanderson wasn’t with the women. He almost always accompanied his wife. At the same time that wary thought hit her, Janice’s mind suddenly slipped into darkness.

* * *

            Paul Sanderson’s real name was Edwin Branson. His official title was senior partner in the New York-based acquisition firm of Turner, Anderson, Kenmore and Edwards. The firm specialized in obtaining priceless and highly valued items for a very exclusive client list, by any means necessary. The ‘any means’ part was unofficial; the firm’s short nickname was TAKE, which fit nicely since that was how the firm operated. Edwin had been trailing his clerk and partner, Samia Korai, whose current cover was as his wife, Raja Sanderson. Their present mission had them using an unsuspecting Hillary Fox, as they had in several occasions already, to gain equitable access to the Temple of Keys, where they were seeking some targeted items for a client. Samia had gotten suspicious that somebody was tailing their marks; she was a very observant woman, so Edwin decided to follow Dr. Fox’s movements himself from a distance and to no surprise his clerk had been right.

            The woman he had stopped was slender and Asian; she stood holding a CyPad in her hands, facing in the direction where Samia had been talking with Hillary and grad student Tyra Jones. The trio was now long gone, heading to where Edwin hoped was the Temple of Keys and their goal, as he was getting tired of Egypt; it was hot, the food was terrible and the people smelled horrid. This stalking woman was a different story, though; she remained absolutely motionless, her head angled slightly while looking up from her tablet. Before anyone noticed her unmoving condition, Edwin casually walked up to the frozen meddler and stood next to her. He was middle-aged, brown haired with blue eyes; currently he had some stubble on his face to give him the rugged look of an adventurer. He was dressed in a mesh khaki vest over a blue-striped buttoned shirt tucked into a pair of cargo pants. Brown work boots completed his look. Edwin stuffed the thin silver blowgun back into the belt holster hidden at the small of back. The tiny fletched darts were filled with Sedative Type-7; each dose was good for a two-hour freeze. One dart protruded from the stiffened woman's neck; he quickly removed it and tossed it in the dirt. The Korean remained unmoving, her hair blowing with the wind slightly, which only made her frozen state more noticeable.

            Edwin looked around causally and noted they were alone at the corner. He looked at the unmoving woman and smiled, “Coast is clear, hen, let’s meet proper shall we,” he asked in thick Scottish accent. He had lived in New York for nearly twenty years but the accent of his native land never faded from his tongue. Wrapping his arms around the frozen Korean agent, he leaned her back and dragged her stiff body into the darkened room at the rear of the old shop, then stood her back up against the wall to one side of the opening. The tiny room was pitch black dark so he went back out into the main room and brought back the battery-powered lamp. Setting the lamp in the corner of the small room, Edwin powered it up, lighting the room. The room was a small, square, and dirty; filled with mounded sand and piles of rotted wood. There was just enough room for two people.

            “And then there was light!” Edwin remarked, looking at the rigid woman who did not bat an eye; he could feel a stirring in his trousers. Type-7 was a miracle drug to him, especially when used on attractive women such as the Asian beauty before him. Women under the effects of this wonderful drug were truly his playthings. Thinking of the many women back at his apartment building in Manhattan always brought a smile to his lips without fail every time. He tilted the helpless Korean’s chin up so she would be looking at him and then removed her cap, tossing it behind him. She held a focused look her face with her lips parted as if lost in thought but her large brown eyes were empty. She was young and cute-looking, even though her face had a serious expression on it, she had an innocent appearance; something that was almost school-girl-like.

            He traced Janice’s lips with his finger and leaned in for a quick kiss, “Ah you taste sweet, lass…” he said with a snicker as he pulled down her jaw, opening her mouth so he could give her a passionate open-mouthed kiss. Breaking off, he laughed at seeing that the woman’s tongue was sticking out between her open lips, “What can I say, I’m a talented bloke!”

  “Let’s get to work and see who you are, hen,” he said, removing the tablet from her stiff hands. He scrolled through the data, muttering silently to himself at what he was reading. Flipping through more files and images, he shook his head in frustration. “You’re a bloody Bobby!” he remarked, quickly turning the rigid woman around to access her backpack. Rummaging through it he found some fruit, bottled water, a cheap romance novel, sunglasses, toiletries, and a well-used American passport that identified who the looker before him was. He was quite surprised to find out that Janice was only three years his junior. She looked much younger. Tossing the tablet into the bag so he could have both hands free, he copped a feel of the Korean’s shapely backside through her jeans and also fished out her wallet. Flipping it open, he read the badge ID and cursed, “Janice Wang… Interpol – bloody hell!”

            Chucking the wallet into bag too, he lifted up Janice’s flannel shirt to reveal the holstered Kel-Tec. He pulled it free from her belt and clipped it to his own belt. “Looks like I’m going to be needing this, hen… bloody Interpol!” He then pulled the straps of the backpack away from Janice’s shoulders and dropped the bag in the dust at his feet. “Let’s make sure that you’re not packing anything else, Agent Wang,” Edwin said with smile as he turned Janice back around to face him. She continued to stare blankly at the wall of the storeroom.

            Kneeling down, Edwin unbuckled her belt and then opened her jeans. With one quick jerk and a slight wobble, Janice’s jeans and red panties were yanked down around her booted ankles. Her womanhood was covered by lush curly dark hair. “Keeping it natural I see, lass,” he observed before plugging two fingers into her sex up to the knuckle. Withdrawing his fingers, he took a sniff and moaned sensuously. He spun her stiffly around again in order to have access to her back side where he spread her cheeks wide, “clean, as expected,” he said with a chortle before standing and turning the statue-stiff woman back around to face him.

            Grabbing the bottom of Janice’s top, Edwin pulled it north, exposing the simple white bra that covered the woman’s small but round breasts. He moved Janice’s stiff hands so that she would be holding up her own top as he pulled her bra cups south, revealing her small brown nipples which he sucked loudly. “I never thought Orientals tasted so good,” he said breathlessly after he had his fill.

            “One more thing…” Edwin breathed as he knelt back down at Janice’s feet. He carefully untied both her boots and then slipped them off her small feet along with her purple socks. Pulling a mini pen light from his vest, he examined Janice’s naked toes carefully. “Lovely toes, lass!” he remarked, looking up at Janice’s face.

            He was figuring out a way to better taste Janice’s toes when his phone rang. Annoyed, he fished it out of his vest and answered it, “What!” He closed his eyes to calm his nerves before talking again. “I’m sorry, Samia…I just discovered we hit a wee snag, but don’t worry, I have plan… it’s bloody gorgeous that you’re at the temple now… two guards… don’t worry; I’ll take care of them. I’ll see you there in few; got a coupla loose ends to tie up,” he said before disconnecting. He sat in quiet thought for moment before standing up and looking at Janice in her vacant eyes. Leaning forward, he played with her protruding tongue a little before separating.

            “How do you like to work for me, lassy?” He asked and waited for an answer. As expected, there was none. “It doesn’t truly matter if you want to or dinna, Agent Wang… you see, I have these chips,” Edwin explained to the frozen agent while reaching into his back pocket.

* * *

            The day had been uneventful. ITEA had found nothing out about Type-7, but Cassandra was confident there was still something very fishy going on. She and Team Beta would be on site as soon as they located Anna Sokolov. They would be there regardless by the next afternoon, Anna or not. At the present time there was nothing more that Lux and Avrum could do but welcome the evening. They were sitting on his cot, staring down at a dish of what seemed to be stir-fry noodles under lamb. Lux rested her legs across Avrum’s lap comfortably as she shook her head and said, “I don’t think this is Chinese food…”

            Avrum scooped a forkful of noodles and stuffed them into his mouth. The noodles came back out a second later, “Oh wow! Oh wow! That…” he said, putting the plate aside, “ interesting!”

            Lux giggled, “It looked like you saw another scorpion after you put those noodles in your mouth.”

            “Don’t joke about scorpions, Lux,” Avrum warned.

            “You’re a former commando! You baby!”

            “Have you ever been stung by one?”


            “Then don’t talk that way until you have…” he said huskily, pulling on Lux’s legs so the woman was now seated on his lap. “Let’s skip dinner,” suggested Avrum, moving a hand up to touch Lux's cheek.

            Lux looked around, “It’s still light out… I'd rather not… the Interpol agents could…”

            As on cue, the flap of their tent was suddenly flung open; Kathleen Rudd rushed in with a CyPad in hand. The Interpol agent had dressed in khaki shorts for the day, along with a blue short-sleeved flannel. A pair of dusty hiking boots and a red bandana tied around her neck completed her look. The agent’s hair hung loose and she wore her aviators over the top of her head, unneeded, thanks to the fading sunlight outside. “Something’s happened to Janice!” she blurted out, barely keeping control of the panic in her voice. Kathleen was so worked up that she didn’t even notice that Lux had nearly leaped off of Avrum’s lap; her cheeks were flushed as she looked up at the flustered Interpol agent. Avrum meanwhile only smiled from his spot on the cot.

            “Calm down, Agent Rudd,” Avrum guided; standing up coolly and approaching Kathleen. “What is going on?”

            “My partner is missing is what’s going on!” Kathleen shot back, handing the CyPad over to Avrum and explaining. “Janice and I use our linked CyPads to log our observations and reports. They’re also good to take photos too, without being noticed. If you look at Janice’s chron logs, you see she stopped reporting roughly two hours ago.”

            Avrum flipped through the logs and reports, opening photo links as he did so. Lux mean while looked over his shoulder. “She might have just stopped recording or her battery went out?” Lux suggested.

            “She would have mentioned her battery going out and she never just stops. Janice Wang is probably the most by the book agent I know of. She’s as methodological as they come; that’s why she’s one the best in the business,” Kathleen replied and, despite her worry for her partner, Lux could hear a hint of pride in her voice.

            “Have you tried looking around for her?” Avrum asked, still focused on the computer.

            “What do you mean, have I tried looking around for her? How do you think I know she’s missing? It’s because I can’t find her!” Kathleen recoiled, not even trying to hide the panic in her voice. She had been with Janice for nearly a year. The two of them had traveled the world together, living in hotels, tents, and even cars. They had developed a strong unspoken bond that only comrades in arms could understand. Now with Janice missing, Kathleen felt as if she had let her partner down. “She was supposed to check in an hour ago and she hasn't yet. I already checked her last known location, nothing.  It’s like she vanished into thin air...”

            “Okay, I think we'd better suit up and go find your errant partner,” decided Avrum, patting Kathleen with one hand while tapping Lux with the other. Lux wasn't sure but she wondered if her partner had picked up on the little spouts of jealousy she had been giving out through the day after all, thus why he hadn't just tapped Kathleen.

            “We should be able to track where she started and figure out where she was going, hopefully, but bring your CyPad,” explained Lux. “Go grab your vest too, you might need it. We'll be raiding our trunk.”

            “Okay, got it,” breathed Kathleen, seeming calmer. The Interpol agent left, leaving Avrum and Lux alone. Lux waited for a moment before grabbing Avrum and giving him a quick kiss.

            “What was that for?” asked Lux's older partner.

            “Just a reminder that I wasn't against your original plan before we got interrupted,” smiled Lux, then quickly stepping back and focusing. “Okay, that'll have to be the last of that for a while. You have the keys?”

            “Right here,” confirmed Avrum, holding up the keys to their Toyota. Exiting the tent after grabbing their sidearms, Avrum opened the trunk of the Hilux, revealing some heavier supplies the pair hadn't bothered to unload. Besides the standard issue ITEA team field kit, there was a simple tactical case that Avrum cracked open, revealing a pair of NI Impact Armor vests, a couple of Glock 17 pistols modified to fire Type-7 darts, and even a couple of MP-5 sub-machine guns.

            “As much as I'd like to take them, we probably need to skip the machine guns,” noted Lux with a sigh. While they had permits to carry the automatic weapons, Lux knew they could still get in a lot of trouble before the situation was cleared up, and they didn't need that when someone was only missing.

            “Yeah, definitely a shame though,” agreed Avrum, the pair instead pulling on their vests. Lux really liked the Impact Armor, finding it much lighter than her old Dragon Skin vest and just as effective. As the vests were strapped on Kathleen returned, wearing ITEA standard Kevlar and a USP pistol on her belt.

            “Hey, you might want to borrow this; it's non-lethal,” offered Lux, handing Kathleen a spare modified Glock. “Knowing how luck in our agency goes, you're going to see some weird stuff so you might as well be ready for it.”

            “Okay, thanks,” nodded Kathleen, slipping the Glock into her waistband. “Now let’s go find my partner!”

* * *

            Avrum was normally very professional, his friend David Falk having told him more than once that he came readily assembled from a tank factory and only given human form. Unfortunately Avrum, despite being a bit of a flirt as his age had begun to catch up with him, hadn't been truly intimate in a while so he found his eyes and hands occasionally wandering, especially when Lux was in front of him. Never had Avrum thought his childhood fear of scorpions, dating back to when he was stung at four years of age, would ever benefit him in such a way.

            Following the logs transmitted from Janice Wang’s CyPad, they retraced her path from the tents and through the maze of the ancient city.  Eventually they came upon the excavated former shop building, where they made a discovery.

            “It looks like someone was dragged into that room, but then two people walked out,” observed Avrum, indicating the disturbed sand, which was mixed with flakes of clay and ancient mud. While the work-site had been very busy earlier, many people had retired for the night, so the footstep patterns Avrum saw in the dirt were relatively undisturbed, thanks in part to a lack of wind.

            “Yeah, that's definitely a drag pattern,” concurred Lux, looking at the ground herself.

            “But who walked out and where is Janice?” questioned Kathleen, scanning around with a flashlight at the empty room, though there were portable lights installed those were off. She then spotted her partner’s baseball cap lying in a corner of the room. “She was here, and she never goes anywhere without that hat; something’s happened for sure!”

            “Either there was a partner waiting inside and they carried her, or she was led out,” declared Avrum. “Well, those possibles seem most likely. I do think it’s safe to say she's now a hostage. No blood, though, always a good sign,” he assured, looking at Kathleen as she silently picked up Janice’s cap and stuffed it into her vest.

            “Let’s follow these tracks,” suggested Lux, leading the trio out into the back streets.

            “I can't believe we're not losing them,” observed Kathleen. “Hundreds of people walk around here daily!”

            “Yes but with no wind and it being after work-hours, we lucked out,” pointed out Lux. Avrum let her take the lead but tried not to let his mind wander again. Lux was bending down a bit as she walked, making her nice rear end sway even more pleasantly for him. While Avrum ultimately liked a woman with piercing eyes, hence his initial attraction to his partner, he wasn't above admiring jelly that sure didn't shake like jam.

            After a few minutes of walking, Avrum realized where the tracks were heading but even as he wanted to voice his thoughts they came to a surprising sight: two people standing as still as the half-buried statues they were next to. The area appeared to have sand-covered steps leading up to some kind of elevated entrance, but proper ground hadn't been uncovered in the area so instead two carved statues of the Egyptian God Anubis, half-buried still, were standing as rough markers to the start of the covered stairs. Next to those statues were two motionless women who Avrum could tell weren't with a big security company but rather what looked like freelance guards, there being a few of those around too, despite most being Triangle Security or locals.

            “I remember these ladies from my intelligence files, they're fairly new to the site,” revealed Kathleen, indicating the frozen pair. “Felipa Leroy and Ferah Kartal, mercenaries from Sturmhaven and Turkey respectively, but, just what's wrong with them? They look stiff as a couple of window dummies...” Felipa, who being from the tiny city-nation of Sturmhaven, Avrum figured was Spanish, French and probably a bit of German too. She looked to be around thirty and was dressed shockingly lightly for a night guard, wearing a black tank top that stopped at her belly button and desert camouflage pants, with military boots on her feet. Felipa's dark brown hair went just past her shoulders and had a lot of gel in it, giving it plenty of lift around the sides. A full holster vest was on top of Felipa's tank top and besides the pistol Avrum counted at least nine knives, eight of which were for throwing, and even a pair of throwing stars. Felipa stood with her hands on her hips, her mouth slightly parted and a sort of chiding yet vague smile on her lips. Her partner Ferah Kartal was clad in black leather, a bit more appropriate for the cold desert nights, and had curly black hair with streaks of red in it. A black biker's jacket rested over what looked like a tactical vest of the same make as Avrum's; she had on black leather pants and boots below. Ferah stood unmoving with her arms crossed, a confident smirk still on her lips; Avrum glimpsed two holstered sidearms on her belt as well as a slot for a knife on her vest.

            “Type-7, the drug we came here to find,” announced Lux, indicating the two immobilized mercenaries. “You wanted an example of weird? Here it is: Both women have effectively become statues, at least until the dose wears off...”

            Avrum pulled out a Stasis Scanner, a relatively new device that looked like a bulky gray pen with a green light on its tip. Avrum waved it over both women, noting Ferah looked to be around his own age. “Looks like it is Type-7, as we suspected; enough to last them at least another day,” read Avrum, glancing at the display on his device after running the scan. “They've maybe been frozen for five minutes, if I'm guessing right.”

            “Then we should leave ‘em here for now, it'll take too long to bring them out of it and catch them up,” hissed Lux, starting to run up the half-buried stairs.

            “Wait, Agent Luxby!” cried out Kathleen, but Avrum had already started to follow his partner, not against the idea of backup, but not keen to trust two random mercenaries either. From what Avrum remembered, the building they were entering was the recently excavated Temple of Keys, a place dedicated to Anubis. Avrum was curious just why someone would take Janice inside, but the telltale tracks were still there.

            “Hey!” yelled Lux as Avrum caught up to his partner, getting a quick chance to scan the room: there were three women present, two of which Avrum recognized from the camp dossiers as being visiting archeologists. Those women, an older-looking black-haired woman and a younger-looking brunette, stood facing one another and gesturing, as if frozen while in mid-conservation. The room appeared to have some kind of central lobby or atrium, though Avrum had observed they'd passed some kind of possible outline to a back entrance as they'd entered the temple, and beyond the entry were two hallways that both seemed to angle downward. The last woman in the room, who had quickly pivoted to face them, was Janice Wang, but something was very wrong as her expression looked as empty as a robot’s face.

            “Look out!” cried out Avrum, luckily not needing to tackle his partner but instead grabbing Kathleen, as a blank-faced Janice had raised an MP-5 loaded with a drum magazine at them and fired, with Lux tucking to the right while Avrum dragged Kathleen to the left.

            “She's been chipped!” realized Lux for the trio.

            “What?!” exclaimed Kathleen. Avrum felt the woman's heart race through his arms as he pulled his Kimber.

            “A device that works with that Type-7 drug to turn people into mind-controlled puppets,” explained Avrum. “Right now I’d guess she's been programmed to shoot anyone who tries to enter. Bad news for us...”

            “But, it’s Janice!  She’ll recognize me...” Kathleen pleaded, trying to understand what was happening.

            “Not now,” Avrum replied gloomily, “You’re just another target to be eliminated.”

            “Our darts won't work on her either,” growled Lux, punching the outcropping she was hiding behind. Janice hadn't fired another shot yet but Avrum could see her there, scanning for them with her gun arm outstretched.

            “Neither of us grabbed electros, huh?” groaned Avrum, referring to the special ammunition the ITEA could use to disable people wearing chips without having to resort to lethal bullets.

            “Stupid mistake,” nodded Lux. A second shot rang out, but it was nowhere close to anyone. “We can't stay here,” insisted Lux. “There's another entrance, or at least a path to one. I'll circle around.”

            “Okay, we'll keep her entertained,” agreed Avrum, the silent message being no one wanted to have to shoot Janice with a real bullet, even if she was firing them at her.

            “Be careful!” called out Kathleen as Avrum watched Lux quickly run, crouched down, back out the way they came in. Another shot rang out but again it was very, very wide.

* * *

            Ryoshi loved being dressed in tactical gear again, feeling it had been too long. Ryoshi's full team was wearing Impact Armor and was carrying UMP sub-machine guns, naturally loaded with Type-7 darts and electro-static rounds on standby if needed. Under their armor they were dressed in distributive desert camouflage fatigues with matching caps that Scott had packed for the operation. This gave the group a uniform look so if any witnesses saw them they would be hard to identify. Discovering a forking path through the back entrance of the Temple of Keys, Ryoshi and Parker had decided to split up, with Ryoshi taking Mandy and Greta one way while Parker took Lois and Gabi the other, Scott meanwhile coming through the front entrance with Shannon and Nefreri; both of their chips having the tactical assault program uploaded for the occasion. Angel was left back at the camp since she'd draw attention, though as Ryoshi was well-aware the actress was quite fit and boasted of having done most of her own stunts.

            “It looks like these ramps are leading down into a lit room,” announced Parker over the radio. The back entrance to the temple had mostly been covered up, but as Ryoshi and her team had quickly learned, that was a ploy as the inside of the temple was fairly clean, having little excess sand or dust around the slowly-inclining ramps with their hexagon-shaped support frames. Making her way to the final frame before the path opened up into what looked like a large room, Ryoshi gave her team the hand signal to stop and crept up against the wall, peering out into the room.

            The open space was squarish and fairly large; Ryoshi reckoned it to be around the size of two to three basketball courts. There were some broken columns and what looked like an old slab altar, plus two more passages that looked to go upward, but the other passages away appeared to be clogged with sand. Scattered around the room were several metal crates; Ryoshi recognized them as the standard lock-box variety used for secure shipping, and there was an improvised chemical lab set up along one wall, too. Four people stood in the room, two men and two women; a brown-haired man having just holstered a gun.  Ryoshi listened carefully, waiting for events to unfold.

            “Okay, our guns are away, you can stop twitching,” the dark-skinned female standing next to the man who'd put away his gun said casually. “As you can probably guess, we're present because you've failed to keep in regular contact with us about the situation here. We were told you'd found the temple entrance weeks ago, yet it took until now for us to get to this spot, since you declined to tell us that you had opened another way in!” The woman was raising her voice at two people, a pale man in a white collared shirt, blue pinstripe pants, and vest who had a red tie around his neck. The nervous man's companion was a woman garbed in what looked like a tan trench coat and khaki pants, her T-shirt mustard yellow and her dirty blonde hair tied back sloppily.

            “Look, let’s just start this properly,” suggested the blonde, Ryoshi picking up on a British accent in her plummy vowels. “I'm Kira Chase, this is Stan Criswell. You two are...?”

            “Samia Korai and Edwin Branson,” revealed the other woman, as the men just eyed each other. “So explain to us now, just what is going on?”

            “It seems our shipments were just discovered in Alexandria, and the authorities have leads in Cairo, too,” confessed Stan, sounding befuddled. “We need to move the lab before police track the origin back here. Our people there are covering as best they can, but they are under a lot of stress. We even got sent a really hot naked woman in one return crate with instructions to hide her here!”

            “A woman in a crate?” chuckled Edwin. “You blokes really screwed this up... The agreement was that we get some of the drugs and any relics you find while working here; you get our support in building your cover identities and we don't tell you who to sell the remaining product to. Looks like you sold to the wrong people and now all we've got to show for this operation is what little product and few artifacts you've given us so far.  This is not acceptable.”

            “Hey, you know how hard it is to find precious jewels in, well, any Egyptian ruin?” stammered Stan, waving his arms around the ancient chamber. “These places were picked clean years, centuries, ago!”

            “I'm looking at that raised platform and I see what looks like could be some interesting secrets,” observed Samia, glancing at the old altar. “That plinth looks like it was disturbed recently too... You wouldn't be hiding anything from us, would you?”

            “N... No!” exclaimed Stan as Ryoshi watching him start to flop-sweat from where she was hiding.

            “Stand by to strike,” whispered Ryoshi into her radio, glancing across the way and seeing Parker was in position with her team. “We strike in five... four... three...”

            “Incoming!” Greta suddenly warned, loud enough to make Ryoshi want to curse as she spun around.

            “What the hell?!” exclaimed someone from inside the room as Ryoshi could hear Parker's team opening fire. Ryoshi herself, however, had come face to face with a strange blonde woman who had just pulled Greta's gun from her hands and slammed her hard against the wall. Ryoshi tried to aim her weapon but Mandy got in the way, the chipped blonde butting Ryoshi's second ally with the sub-machine gun and knocking her to the ground, her body left twitching, which meant she'd been hit hard enough to knock her out.

            “Oh screw you, bitch!” yelled Ryoshi, tossing her gun aside and throwing a punch at the blonde, only to find the punch pushed away and a knee being delivered to her face. Right at that moment a bit of regret started to seep in as the emotions started to fade and her rusty tactical mode of thinking took over. It came too late; she should have just shot the blonde.

            “One target hit, two pinned down, one is escaping!” yelled Parker into her radio. Ryoshi was tuning out the gunfight that was going on, focusing instead on the blonde who'd come out of nowhere and had managed to throw her off-balance and was still on the attack.

            “I don't have time for this!” grunted the blonde, revealing an American accent, as she and Ryoshi locked up, Ryoshi managing to punch her in the face once before finding herself kneed again and dropped to the ground. Punches and elbows began to fly as Ryoshi caused the blonde fall on top of her with a quick leg sweep. While still grappling, the pair then got to their feet; Ryoshi managed to just get enough leverage to slam the persistent blonde against the wall, though to her own shock Ryoshi realized her combat strength and stamina wasn't what it had been before. As Ryoshi scrambled for her sidearm, she suddenly felt her arm being grabbed; the blonde looked ready to break it with her knee and Ryoshi was in such a position that she wouldn't be able to block it.

            Just as Ryoshi's arm was starting to be brought down however, a greater force stopped the act, time itself apparently halting in that instant as Ryoshi and her opponent remained frozen in place like a martial-arts diorama. Ryoshi's right arm was hooked and helpless, the Japanese woman's face frozen in genuine fear while her opponent was bringing the locked arm down towards her right knee, her face very determined. Greta and Mandy were on the ground nearby, both a bit bloody and frozen mid-twitch. Out in the central room Parker and her teammates had taken up a position behind a fallen stone column, Parker currently remaining upright with her weapon aimed at the only two people still standing on the other side of the room. Fired Type-7 darts were hanging in mid-flight. Near the altar, Stan was on the ground, staring at the ceiling, three darts in his chest. Behind another column were concealed Edwin and Samia, both still moving while near the center of the room a jade disc was sitting on the ground.

            “Thank God for these things,” breathed Edwin, holding Samia's wrist. “Okay, whoever these people are, we need to abort, now; there might be more coming down right now.”

            “But, the Qin Disc!” protested Samia, indicating object that had been thrown to the ground several meters away.

            “We've got more; but if we get caught we're goosed!” howled Edwin, holding firm to Samia and pulling her away from the motionless scene. “If we hurry we might be able to even catch that bitch Kira...” turning, the two remaining animate people ran for one of the other ramps on the opposite end of the room.

* * *

            Scott was trying to keep himself focused as he knew he was walking head first into danger after seeing the two frozen female security guards standing outside the entrance to the ruins. He had been tempted to chip them as they appeared to be experienced operators with muscle memory, a contrast to the ‘warriors’ he had currently with him at the moment: a museum tour guide and a starlet’s personal assistant. What stopped him momentarily were a series of soft poppings that he knew were the sounds of his specially modified UMPs going off in the ruins. Ryoshi and Parker had made contact and he was out of time. He pulled his UMP up to eye level and charged into the ruins, the blonde and the dark-haired woman following close behind. Though the women were not trained fighters, their chips were updated with the latest version of his tactical program, making them good enough to back him up.

            He heard sharper gunfire up ahead of him that caused him stop in his tracks. Those were lethal live rounds, from a MP-5 or a similar sub-machine gun from what he could make of the sound. Turning to his tails, he commanded, “Shannon, take up the slack position move up when I tell you to. Nefreri, on me.” The women did as they were ordered, with the blonde holding back and Nefreri moving close to follow Scott as he inched his way towards the continuing firefight.

            Crouching low at the entryway of a big, high-ceilinged room, Scott cautiously peeked in and spotted three women. Two seemed to be frozen facing one another while another stood between them, holding an MP-5 at her hip as she fired quick bursts. The MP-5 was modified with a drum magazine. He looked further around the corner to see whom the gunner was firing at and spotted a man and woman hunkered down, dressed in dark tactical gear. The man looked like warrior through and through; the Kimber he held in his right hand didn’t make him look any less intimidating. The woman was an Interpol agent according to the lettering on the back of her Kevlar vest. This only led Scott to guess that the man was also an international cop, though his vest showed no markings.

            Suddenly the woman holding the MP-5 turned in his direction and opened fire. He quickly ducked back around the corner as the hail of bullets smashed into it, spalling off stone shrapnel. The woman was Asian and after getting a good look at her eyes, Scott concluded she was chipped. Nefreri was moving up to return fire as programmed before Scott stopped her just as more bullets hit the corner. He was thinking up a plan when he heard a crash and the machine gunfire went wild on full-auto for a second before abruptly stopping.

            Peeking back around the corner, Scott saw the man standing up behind the female Interpol agent, who was on top of the chipped woman, straddling her waist. The other two frozen women remained in their previous poses but were now lying on their backs. It seemed that the man had caused enough of a diversion for his partner to take down the chipped gunner. From what he could see, the woman seemed to be unchipped now and was looking around, confused. Turning back to Nefreri, he gave her the hand signal to attack. The chipped tour guide nodded her response and raised her modded UMP up to eye level. She rounded the corner, moving in textbook cautious tactical fashion. Scott followed suit, slinging his UMP in favor of the SIG, which he preferred for close range situations.

            “Nefreri, female contacts…” Scott commanded; his eyes were locked on the lone male target. The unchipped gun-woman was still on her back while the female Interpol agent was kneeling next to her, holding her hand.

            “Acknowledged,” Nefreri replied simply in her accented English before firing off six well placed and on-target Type-7 rounds from her UMP as programmed. Scott followed suit, sending a three-dart group into his target.  Sudden silence replaced the sounds of weapons and people yelling as Scott emerged from his cover.

            The gun-woman was still resting her eyes when she was hit, completely unaware, while the man and woman had only heard a voice behind them. They had begun to turn, only to be taken out by the volley of darts. The man stood frozen with his Kimber held low in his right hand, he was turned slightly towards Scott with two darts sticking into the back of neck and a third in his left shoulder. The female Interpol agent had released the gun-woman’s hand and had her right hand touching her holstered USP. She was likewise frozen while still kneeling, with her head turned slightly to her left, with three darts sticking into the back of her neck. The gun-woman was frozen on her back with her eyes shut and her mouth open as if in mid-speech. She had a dart sticking out from under her jaw, one in her cheek and the last one protruding from her neck right above her collar.

            Nefreri held her position over the three frozen people, her UMP still up at the ready, waiting for her next order. He had to admit the tour guide did look hot as a gun girl and she seemed to be an accurate shot as well. Scott then looked over their three targets, satisfied with their immobilization.  He then fired two darts each into the two fallen women that were already frozen, just for good measure. These women were all attractive and he wanted to examine them more closely, but he knew he had to hook up with Parker and Ryoshi’s teams. “Shannon, move up and secure this room,” he ordered. “Nefreri, on me; we’re moving…”

            The temple's hallways seemed to all go up or down but Scott managed, eventually finding footprints in the sand that he decided to follow. Much to his surprise, partway down one tunnel Scott found a small circular object that appeared to be made of gold, cylinder-like and a bit wider than his thumb. “Sloppy thieves must have dropped it in a hurry,” muttered Scott to himself, deciding to pocket the object before moving on. An anniversary with Ryoshi was coming up at the end of the month and Scott thought the gold trinket might be good raw material for a present, maybe a new wedding band.

            Nefreri followed closely, watching his six as Scott found a ramp down and, to his surprise, saw three of his women huddled behind some sort of collapsed column at the base of it. Hurrying down, Scott came to a full stop, amazed at the static scene that was captured before him. Gabi and Lois were both popped up from behind cover, their guns pointed at an empty spot in the room with their darts hanging in the air. Parker was huddled against the column, in the midst of changing magazines on her Inox. A hefty dark-haired man with blue eyes was lying on the ground with three freeze darts in his chest; a strange jade disc rested in the dirt nearby. Down at the other ramp, Scott could see Mandy and Greta were both slumped on the ground and a familiar blonde woman was frozen in place while about to break Ryoshi's arm.  Nobody had so much as blinked an eye or moved a millimeter during the whole time he was assessing effect he was seeing, which went way beyond the powers of Type-7; it appeared as if time itself had ground to a halt.

            “Son of a bitch!” exclaimed Scott, holstering his pistol and glancing around. “How the hell am I...” Scott suddenly trailed off from thoughts of trying to figure out how to fix things by focusing on the jade disc he'd noticed in passing. Trying to keep track of treasures that had the potential for magic wasn't easy, but Scott did remember a legend about some magical discs from China, and that a recent theft from China had been in one of his archeology reports.

            “Okay, how the hell did those discs work again...” Scott asked himself as he walked calmly over to Ryoshi, trying to use his voice to help his memory. “Something about a center to the discs... Something, ah... No, they didn't... Heh heh...” As Scott reached Ryoshi he pulled the gold cylinder he had found earlier from his pocket and glanced at it, then back at the disc; he thought the cylindrical piece might fit in the center... The disc did appear to be Chinese or at least oriental in origin, if nothing else. Scott did not recall the Egyptians using much jade, and certainly not anything with Mandarin script on it.

            “Okay, oh hello, Agent Luxby,” Scott suddenly commented to the frozen agent attacking his wife, realizing the familiar blonde was an American DEA agent he'd encountered in Madrid, though her tac outfit matched the man he'd seen with the Interpol agents. “Hmm... Could you be ITEA now?” wondered Scott, knowing the ITEA had worked with Luxby to try and catch Adrianna Dashkov. “Well in any event, I'd like you to not break my wife's arm... But it was sloppy of her to let herself be taken into such a position by you... I'm not going to test this on her either. Sorry my love.” Scott took a moment to give his wife's panicked face a kiss before moving over to a fallen Mandy.

            “Wake up,” whispered Scott as he applied the cylinder to Mandy's cheek, the former security woman then suddenly twitching, a telltale sign that she'd been knocked out but her chip was still working. “Mandy, go to sleep,” ordered Scott, watching his chipped agent slump down unconscious.

            “Well, looks like I've got myself a magic time disc, and that isn't even what I came here for!” laughed Scott, still a bit shaken by the early possibility that his wife had been frozen, possibly for good, so he was narrating more than he usually did. Pocketing the center piece for the moment, Scott moved past the fallen mystery man, surveying the rest of the large room. There was a drug lab and shipping crates, both of which Scott intended to inspect, but for the moment his focus was the old altar at the end of the atrium.

            “Hmm...” breathed Scott, but he kept his inner monologue to himself. The altar was supposed to have several false stones, which would be where magical artifacts were hidden, but Scott saw at least two of those had been removed, so it was possible whomever Ryoshi and Parker had first encountered had escaped with at least some of the prizes. Nonetheless, Scott was quick to discover that not everything was missing.

            “Oh, you sloppy crooks!” Scott couldn't help but laugh as he produced a few small treasures from behind the altar's remaining false stones. Six beaded necklaces, all made of blue lapis lazuli gems, were revealed, as was a very old-looking brass key. The necklaces Scott knew were Babylonian in nature, having heard references to them back when he'd discovered the two Peace Keeper statues. It was said the necklaces had the same effect as the statues, but had been harder to produce as the man chosen to craft them had insisted on lapis, which was relatively rare and precious. Scott didn't plan to test the necklaces at the moment, but even if they, which he decided he'd dub the Peacemakers, didn't work as claimed, their azure stones would fetch a decent price, and his company could always use more capital. The key meanwhile was a part of the rumored collection that the temple was said to guard, it being after all the Temple of Keys. Scott was fairly sure this was the so-called Fog Key, said to be of Roman in origin and able to manipulate a person's mind.

            “Worth it, absolutely worth it, assuming these all work,” Scott muttered to himself, heading back over to his motionless wife while putting the treasures aside. With great care, Scott pulled Ryoshi from Luxby's tough grasp and lowered her to the ground, gently laying her against the wall and sand. The blonde agent was Scott's next focus; he decided to pull off Yeardley's vest and then stand her at attention before dragging her on her heels into the big room. Equipping himself with nothing but the centerpiece and the Fog Key, Scott carefully applied the former to the agent.

            “What-” Luxby suddenly said as she came back to life, blinking, but Scott was faster, quickly pressing the key against Lux's forehead, tip down, and turning it counter-clockwise. Lux suddenly froze, more or less, her left hand slightly raised; lips stayed slightly parted. Lux's striking big blue eyes still showed awareness though, but she seemed sleepy, almost zombie-like, her body rocking slightly.

            “Who do you work for?” Scott decided to start with, not sure just how much the key could do, only knowing that turning counter-clockwise activated it.

            “I... T... E... A...” gasped out Lux, seeming to shake a bit as she answered, her arm still raised. Scott had seen people who were hypnotized into such a pliable state, being practically mindless zombies. If nothing else, Scott's suspicions about Lux's new allegiance were proven true. He made a mental note to ask Colette to give him the latest dossier on ITEA personnel after he got home.

            “Looks like it’s mission accomplished!” Scott remarked, flicking the key in the air and then catching it. “Now  just a matter of cleaning up…” he then said, looking around the frozen occupants of the room and then back at the blonde ITEA agent, who was more or less his slave for the moment. Yeardley’s jaw had slackened a bit and if it had not been for her open eyes, Scott would have sworn the blonde was asleep on her feet. Pulling the golden cylinder from his pocket he made his way over to Parker.

* * *

            With Parker unfrozen, Scott was able to inspect the alter room and the large entry room that he had encountered first. In the meantime Parker, along with her unfrozen team and the help of Shannon and Nefreri, secured the site. He had gotten all that he needed. The two rooms didn’t yield him any more ancient prizes. The crates, as expected, contained raw feed stocks for the making of Type-7 and even had some finished Type-7 product in them. He decided to leave that lot behind, simply because he already had a lifetime supply of the drug and the ability to mass-produce more already. That, and he wanted to leave something for the authorities to find. The whole temple itself was still fairly unexplored and though he was fairly certain that there was nothing else of interest to his cause hidden within, he was still a little curious. Time, however was not on his side despite the effects of the magical jade disc; he and his team could not afford to linger any longer than they had already.

            Six of the seven frozen people were all chipped, with the three police officers being disarmed as well. From a quick interrogation of the entranced Yeardley Luxby, Scott learned that the gun-woman’s name was Janice Wang, who was a senior Interpol agent while the brunette that he had figured was Interpol was Janice’s partner, Kathleen Rudd. As expected, the dark-haired man in the unmarked armor was an ITEA agent named Avrum Zurer; he was Luxby’s partner. A search through their belongings revealed the two other frozen women to be Dr. Hilary Fox, a professor at Trinity College in Pennsylvania, and her graduate student as Tyra Jones. Scott didn’t recognize Dr. Fox at first, having never met the woman in person, but he knew a great deal about her since he had file of her activities regarding a current long-term operation he was running. The man that was frozen in the altar room was still a mystery but Scott could only guess he was a petty criminal that had been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Parker would run a check once they got back to camp. The six chipped individuals were lined up and marched out, with Nefreri and Shannon escorting.

            Ryoshi was the seventh frozen person, Scott having decided to keep her frozen for now as a sort of punishment for being a little reckless and letting her emotions get the best of her. He posed his wife to stand at rigid attention and had Luxby carry her over her shoulder back to camp. Mandy was healed from her brief forced nap and carried a limp Greta, who had been ordered to sleep to heal, over her shoulder. Parker led her team of Lois and Gabi ahead of the main group to make sure the path was clear for the procession of chipped, frozen and limp individuals. Lucky for them it was late enough in the evening by now and the route they took was fairly obscure so it was easy for Parker and her girls to keep any prying eyes from looking their way. Four wandering workers, a tourist, and a security guard had to be frozen though. Scott and his group had been the last to leave the temple and he was surprised to find the two frozen women who were outside the temple were missing. He figured they had either thawed out or someone had stumbled upon them and got curious. In any case, they weren’t his problem.

            Aside from the handful of unlucky people that Parker and her team had frozen and stashed in order to retain mission secrecy, the trip back to the camp was smooth. Once back, Scott allowed five minutes to Parker to settle in before debriefing. Gabi and a recovered Greta were put on patrol outside of the large tent to act as an early warning unit, just case the situation turned bad with the missing guards and cops, though Scott figured he had the night before things would start to go down that route. Mandy stood just behind the tent’s main flap with her UMP in her hands, making sure privacy was maintained. Scott had Shannon and Nefreri strip out of their tactical outfits and dress in white bikinis before sending both to the kitchen with the service program uploaded on their chips. Lois was still dressed her tactical outfit, sans her armor and weapons; she stood at attention next to Angel. The lovely actress was clad in a white silk robe with matching fuzzy mules on her feet. Her hair hung loose and her face was free of any make-up, but she still looked stunning regardless, especially with the vacant look that was currently engaging her face at the moment. The rest of their guests were safely tucked away in the trailers.

            Scott sat at the main table in the center of tent and examined the nine magical items before him. He had dressed down bit as well, getting rid of his body armor, weapons and fatigue top. Standing behind him was a frozen Ryoshi, who was still clad in all of her armor and fatigues. She stood with her legs spread slightly wide and her gloved hands behind her back. Her face bore a sly smile that Scott had given her while posing; it was a vapid smile that was unnatural to his wife. The expression looked hot on her only because he had given it to her and she was powerless to stop him; having that sort of control over his independent and cunning wife always turned him on.

            “Our mystery man is Stanley Criswell, but he goes by just Stan exclusively. From looking at his record, I can tell you he’s a drug dealer and smuggler,” Parker reported, looking down at her CyPad as she approached the table and plopped down on the overstuffed cushions across from Scott. The brunette mercenary had dressed down to only a black tank-top and blue boy shorts with her feet left bare. Her hair was tied back in loose bun. The look was her sleeping look, which was her normal style when she was home. Scott found it cute on her, so much so that he and Ryoshi had frozen Parker on a few past occasions and had a little fun with her. He wasn’t sure if Parker suspected that she had been a part of more than a few threesomes back at home, but it was best to keep that a secret; she had been frozen for it after all.

            “Have you made Stan comfortable?” Scott asked with a grin, looking up from one the necklaces that he was examining.

            Parker blushed and couldn’t help but grin herself. At Scott’s instance, she had taken charge of their two male guests, ITEA agent Zurer and Stan Criswell. They were both still chipped and currently had the companion program loaded to their chips. Before Parker had left to attend the debriefing, she'd had both men strip naked. Both men now lay in her bed awaiting her return. The thought of the two nude men that she was in full control of made her very anxious; she had not had sex in months so there was some much-needed tension she needed to relieve. “Oh, they’re comfortable,” Parker replied. Looking over Scott’s shoulder at Ryoshi, she asked, “You’re not going to keep her like that, are you?”

            Scott followed Parker’s gaze and shook his head, “Of course not… not forever... she was unnecessarily reckless today, don’t you think? She left your team hanging and nearly got taken out by Luxby.”

            “I had the situation under control, Scott…” Parker replied, placing her CyPad on the table. “She was doing what she does best… taking things head on.”

            “It wasn’t smart, and because of that you guys weren’t effective and we lost some treasures,” Scott pointed out as she moved the magical items in front of him, putting them into order. “I think I’ll wait and unfreeze her when we get back home.”

            “A little too much, do you think?” Parker asked, now eying the items that Scott was arranging.

            “If you had been as reckless I would have done the same to you,” Scott answered, looking over at Parker. “Plus it’s her second mistake during this operation and for a woman that I know who doesn’t make mistakes, well, two is too much already.”

            Parker sighed and looked at her frozen friend, “Fair enough… at least you’re impartial about it.”

            “Indeed,” Scott simply replied.

            Changing the subject, Parker asked, “So you mentioned that we didn’t make it out with everything. What did we miss?”

            Scott sighed and looked up at Parker, “Well, we didn’t miss too much; we were lucky that our rivals were amateurs or they were just incompetent to not know what was in front of them. If anything we broke even since we picked up a Qin Disc,” he explained and gestured at the Chinese artifact on the table. Scott had already explained to Parker back in the temple how the disc worked after her had freed her from its power. He also explained the necklaces in relation to their big Peace Maker statue at home. Regarding the Fog Key, he had showed her a demonstration of its ability by controlling Yeardley. “What we missed was the Keys of Life, which are a couple of necklaces, and their controller, the Ring of Anubis. Both are said to offer great power and an ability to control another one’s mind.”

            “To control someone’s mind? More so than the Nero Chips?” Parker inquired.

            The Canadian shrugged, “Well, we won’t know since we don’t have them, but according to my research this control would be total. The chips are great, don’t get me wrong, but this my dear is magic; there's potentially no limit.”

            “Right… bummer that we missed them then.”

            Scott gave another shrug and leaned back on his hands, “You know how the saying goes, you win some, you lose some. We’ll get another chance to grab more items. Not a bad haul this time; could have been better but not bad at all. I noticed that you made out well with your newly found hobby of collecting guns.”

            Parker leaned over the table on her elbows and smiled, “That male ITEA agent had a custom Kimber that fires out Type-7 projectiles, the thing is gorgeous! I think it’s even better than my Inox.”

            “We made you that Inox,” Scott pointed out.

            “Yeah but you have to check out this Kimber, the chambering is amazing, I think it's rigged to fire both non-lethal and lethal ammo. I think with a little reverse engineering we can arm our people with better weapons.”

            “Maybe, but our weapon systems now as they stand are pretty effective, we did come out on top tonight and it’s not this organization's first victory either,” Scott explained.

            “Fair enough, just a thought… still in love with that Kimber though.”

            Scott chuckled, “Anything else worth mentioning in your loot?”

            Parker shrugged, “A Interpol issued USP and a modified MP5 is about it. Got a pair of Type-7 capable Glocks but they’re nothing special compared to our own Sigs. The other weapons you know about.”

            “Right, well, not a bad haul for you either then,” Scott concluded and then changed gears. “Have you thought about taking Stan back with us? I know the other one is more of a prize but he’s ITEA and we can’t really afford to abduct their people.” When they had brought their party back to camp, Scott had made the suggestion, feeling that Parker needed some sexual fun back at home. She was as straight as he was and though she enjoyed the female company, it wasn’t really her thing. He figured a frozen sex toy or two could fix that.

            Parker thought for a moment, biting her lower lip, another cute quirk that Scott liked about the woman. “Though it is tempting having a chipped boyfriend, it’s something I think every woman wants, and don’t get me wrong, I’m gonna have fun tonight… but we’re already out of space as it is.”

            “Out of space?” Scott asked, raising an eyebrow and sitting back up, “what do you mean?”

            “Well, we’re all exfiltrating via SEA and we had two spots left and I understand you want to take Ms. Chalthoum, Mahina and Picket back with us?”

            Scott snapped his finger, “Dammit; completely forgot about that…”

            Parker smiled and stood, “Well that’s why you pay me the big bucks, boss.”

            “I could drop two so you can take Stan back with us, it won’t be a problem,” Scott suggested.

            “I would go for that if I could take that ITEA agent home, but Stan isn’t really my type and if I get desperate enough I could always get myself a nice local guy… chipping would really make any man almost perfect. Just figure out who you want to drop by morning and we’re good, Scott,” Parker said before turning around to head for her trailer.

            “Shannon and Nefreri are working the kitchen. If you need anything let them know.”

            “Will do boss; you have a good night,” Parker replied, stepping up to her trailer and then entering it.

            Scott stood and turned to his wife, “I guess we have our night cut out for us.” He then looked over at the waiting Angel and Lois and ordered, “Angel, Lois; pick up my mistress and follow me,” he started to make his way to the master trailer after gathering his magical items. Lois and Angel did as they were told and moved towards Ryoshi, leaning her back as she was a stiff as a board. The two women then lifted her up with Angel taking her legs and Lois her shoulders.

            Inside the trailer Scott smiled at the sight before him; like Parker, he too was going to have fun tonight. Yeardley, still under the control of the Fog Key, stood idly by the wet bar, swaying back and forth slightly. Her jaw was slack as if sleeping while her big blue eyes stared forward emptily. Scott had ordered the ITEA agent to strip down to her undergarments when they had arrived. He found that while under the key’s power she was able to take orders as if chipped, the only major difference being her movements were slow and clumsy, as if she were half-asleep. The mind controlled woman was now only clad in a dark blue sports bra and brown boxers. Scott looked her over with satisfaction, eager to meet the agent once more between the sheets.

            Hillary Fox and her student Tyra Jones sat next to one another on the small sofa in the trailer’s sitting area. Tyra sat with her back straight, hands on her knees and blue eyes looking straight ahead. Her face carried a slight smile despite her being completely naked. Scott had made the brunette strip down to her skin before heading off for his debriefing. The younger girl had a slender body with fair skin. Her breasts were small but proportional to her body and were tipped with rosy nipples. Between her legs was a bush of dark curls and though it was natural, it was nicely groomed to stay in control. Professor Fox was out of most of her clothing and was currently only covered by a pair of matching leopard print panties and bra. Both undergarments were bikini-cut and fit the curvy educator perfectly, looking as if they were painted on. Scott figured they were custom-made for the woman. At first Scott had Hillary strip down completely just see the woman in the buff. She was uniformly and naturally tanned throughout; her breasts were nearly perfectly round and only sagged a bit due to age. They were capped with dark nipples while her womanhood featured a wisp of dark hair. After examining the teacher naked for a moment he ordered her to dress back in her underwear and riding boots. Hilary sat with her legs crossed at the knees, leaning against the back of the sofa. Both hands were behind her head and her face held a flirtatious smile.

            The two last women of the group, the two Interpol agents, stood behind the sofa; shoulder to shoulder at attention, awaiting their next orders. Scott moved up to them, thinking what to do with the pair. Just then, Angel and Lois entered carrying Ryoshi between them. “Stand her up next to the bed and remove all her clothing,” Scott ordered without looking at the pair. The two women silently did as they were commanded. Ryoshi was stood upright next to the bed. Lois raised the Japanese woman’s arms up and began to undo the body armor. Angel knelt down and removed Ryoshi’s belt along with her thigh holster. Next she opened the fatigue trousers and pulled them south, followed by the purple pair of panties that covered Ryoshi’s sex. She then started to work on the boots. Ryoshi’s face kept the bogus smile and empty look as Lois stripped off the armored vest followed by the uniform top. The black tank top that she wore underneath was removed next, revealing the Japanese woman’s perfect but medically enhanced breasts. Lois easily picked up Ryoshi by her naked hips as Angel stripped off her trousers, panties, socks, and boots. When Ryoshi’s bare feet touched the carpet again the number two woman of Utopia Holdings was stark naked.

            As Angel and Lois worked to get Ryoshi more comfortable, Scott’s attention was drawn to Janice Wang. Though the Interpol agent had been ordered to stand at attention to await orders she was making quiet moaning noises and seemed to shiver a bit. Scott looked her up and down curiously. He pulled his CyPocket out and ran a diagnostics check on her chip. Everything seemed to running fine. Checking the woman’s pulse he found that it was racing and her heart was beating quickly. He noticed the woman was sweating a bit too. A little worried he considered removing the woman’s chip and just freezing her with Type-7. Before Scott could act, Janice let out a deep moan and seemed to relax. “Curious,” he wondered aloud. He looked over at Kathleen Rudd, who was acting completely normal in regards to be chipped. “Kathleen, strip completely naked,” he commanded.

            “Yes,” voiced the Interpol agent, a simple and robotic reply. The woman kicked off her boots and started to work on her belt and shorts, it was only few moments later that Kathleen stood at attention completely in the buff, awaiting her next command. The agent had an athletically toned body with perky breasts capped by pink nipples, a flat midriff, and slim legs; a brown patch of hair covered womanhood.

            Scott had started to watch Kathleen strip, but his attention was diverted as Janice started making noises again. He moved to stand in front the senior Interpol agent and noticed that her breathing rate had increased as well; it was mostly likely the Chip keeping her from going all out in her breathing. Scott observed for a few more seconds before an idea came to him. He raised Janice’s arms up after removing her flannel shirt and then stripped off her top followed by her white bra. Scott noticed that the woman’s breathing had picked up a little bit more and she moaning more notably. “Well I’ll be…” he muttered, picking at the topless woman’s nipples. They were rock hard. “Interesting,” he added nodding to himself as he began to work on Janice’s belt, her jeans and red panties followed next. The Korean woman’s snatch was moist with her sex juices, along with her panties, which nearly soaked all the way through. “Agent Wang it appears that the Type-7 Chip has caused you a little arousal… definitely a first if I may say,” Scott chuckled as he looked at the nearly naked woman and pulled out his CyPocket.

            As he inputted commands into the hand held computer to Janice’s chip, he quickly looked around the room and noted that Ryoshi was now naked and stood with her hands over head, with Lois and Angel flanking her standing at attention. Yeardley remained idling at the wet bar, the only one the room besides Scott that was able to move. The naked Tyra remained next to her, scantily clad, Professor Fox on the sofa and then finally Kathleen who stood nude and waiting next to her aroused partner. Scott finished entering the commands but didn’t press enter just yet. He moved towards Yeardley and as he did so he commanded Lois and Angel to both get naked.

            He glanced over at the two women who flanked his wife as they began to disrobe before turning his attention back to the blonde ITEA agent. “Okay Yeardley, everyone is getting a bit more comfortable, can you take off the rest of your clothes for me?”

            “Yes…” Yeardley answered dreamily as she peeled off her boy shorts and then her sports bra.

            Scott played with the woman’s small but perky breasts as he looked into her big blue eyes. Not much had changed about Yeardley since their last meeting, though Scott did notice that her womanhood was a little more thickly covered with brown curls. “When was the last time you had sex?”

            “Three months….” Luxby answered, her face still remaining blank as she spoke.

            “With who?” Scott inquired next as he caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. He had to admit the Fog Key was a bit more engaging than the chips.

            “A man I met at a bar… I don’t remember his name…”

            “Fair enough… you won’t remember mine either,” Scott laughed. “Go to the bed and lay down.”

            “Yes…” replied Lux simply as she padded over to the bed and climbed in, laying down straight on one side of the bed.

            Moving over to the bed, Scott wrapped his arms around his frozen wife and moved her to stand at the right corner of bed. He posed her to stand with her hands on her bare hips. Next he moved a now naked Angel to stand at the opposite corner in the same pose. Lois looked great in the buff, though she was a little on the muscular side, her breasts were of a good size, and naturally round. The dark hair that masked her sex was amusingly shaved into a heart. Scott had the security officer move over to the sitting area and stand in front of the sofa. He adjusted Angel and Ryoshi a bit before turning his attention to the three women in the sitting area.

            “Lois, make out with Tyra; Tyra, make out with Lois,” he commanded. The dark-skinned guard and fair-skinned grad student started doing as they were ordered. “Kathleen, start making out with Hillary; Hillary strip naked and start making out with Kathleen.”

            Scott watched as Kathleen moved over to the professor and started to kiss the woman passionately. Hillary however didn’t reciprocate, as she was busy stripping the remainder of her clothing off. The scene reminded him of a needy lover bothering her lover who wasn’t quite ready to play yet. Eventually Hillary was naked and the two began going at it on the sofa. Tyra and Lois were going at on the sofa’s armrest with Lois straddling the armrest and Tyra between the dark haired woman’s legs. Scott figured the four women would be nice and ready when it was their turn to join him in bed.

            Pulling back out his CyPocket, Scott pressed enter, activating Janice’s new programming. Janice’s arms dropped and she turned to Scott and smiled with her hands playing with her aroused nipples. She kicked off her boots and socks along with her jeans and panties before padding over towards Scott with a seductive smile.

            “What are you waiting for, honey?” Janice asked in husky voice. “Don’t you want me?” she asked, wrapping her arms around Scott’s neck and kissing him fully on the lips.

            Scott pulled away after the kiss was done. Janice’s hands were working on his belt and trousers. “How do you feel about a threesome with Yeardley?”

            Janice glanced over Scott’s shoulder at the naked woman on the bed, “Sure, why not; she looks ready to go…” she replied before kneeling down and pulling down Scott’s trousers and boxers. She began to caress his manhood, which became rock hard to the touch. “I see you’re ready too, babe,” she chuckled, looking up at him.

            “I am,” Scott replied beaming ear to ear. “Service the mistress when we’re done?”

            “Of course!” Janice answered cheerfully before putting her lips around his member.

            “This companion program is something…” Scott moaned as he fell back on to the bed.

* * *




            Parker had enjoyed a really good night. It was the best night of sex she'd had in a long while. She was curious now about chipping a local guy when she got home to see if she could get the same experience. Ryoshi’s companion program was a marvel to say the least. Though she'd had her fun with her chipped love slaves, she couldn’t see herself in a relationship with a chipped man. She had first thought it wouldn’t be so bad, but realized after making love to two chipped men who worshiped her, the experience – though physically fun and satisfying – was lacking in any real emotion from her bed companions. She concluded that the chips were good for many things, sex being one of them but not real love.

            “It was pleasurable last night, something I won’t forget,” Parker said, standing up and kissing Stan Criswell on the cheek. “Too bad you’re probably going to jail…” she then stated, looking over her handy work, brushing her gloved hands together. She had just finished tying Stan’s ankles to the legs of the chair that she was currently sitting in. The bindings weren’t really needed, since the drug dealer was effectively overdosed on Type-7 and wasn’t moving a muscle but Parker had always been cautious. Stan’s hands were also bound behind his back as well. Aside from the restraints, Stan was currently dressed in pair of leopard print panties and a matching bra that Hillary Fox had ‘donated’. Neither garment really fit him; they looked ridiculous on the man. Stan’s member was actually sticking out clearly from the left leg opening of the panties. Parker thought it was nice touch. Stan himself bore a foolish smile on his face despite his current predicament.

            They were inside the tent of Hillary Fox. Scott’s plan was to return Hillary and Tyra to the tent along with Stan. Adding the illegal drugs from the temple to their swag from the dig would make an interesting find for ITEA once they showed up. According to Scott’s inside source, Colette Landry, a team that had been in Alexandria was due here by late morning or early afternoon. So far everything was going smoothly, so Parker expected her team be cleared out of the dig site before the ITEA’s arrival.

            Her earpiece chimed, followed by the voice of her newest operator, Mandy Mahina. “Ma’am, the crates from the temple have arrived,” Mandy reported. The former security supervisor was posted just outside of Hillary’s tent, standing watch along with Gabi Lachman.

            “Copy that, let them enter,” Parker replied. A moment later the flap of the tent was lifted and in filed Kathleen Rudd, followed by Avrum Zurer, both pushing hand carts stolen from around camp. The carts were loaded with shipping crates from the temple that contained the Type-7 and Type-7 ingredients. The two cops were redressed it what they had been wearing the day before, sans any combat gear or weapons. “Did anyone see you?” she asked. It was still early so the digging crews would be just getting up and to work; chances were still slim for their actions to have been spotted. The people that she had frozen the night before would be missed, but they would unfreeze on their own in few hours.

            “Four contacts,” Kathleen replied, “Interaction suppressed.”

            Parker thought it over for moment. Her lookouts hadn’t reported anything so she figured the four witnesses didn’t really care. “Very good, unload the crates in the far corner.”

            “Yes ma’am,” both agents replied and proceeded as they were ordered. She watched the two captured agents work while admiring Avrum, picturing the man naked and recalling her fond memory from the night before. The Israeli was her type; he had a certain adventurous look to him. She definitely wouldn’t mind taking him back to Brazil. Seeing that the two chipped cops had everything under control and wanting to stay attentive to the job at hand and not Avrum Zurer, Parker refocused herself.

            The lone cot in the tent was made to fit only one person but it currently held the cuddling naked figures of Hillary Fox and Tyra Jones. Both women had been given sleep sedatives after being unchipped upon reaching the tent. Mandy had assisted Parker in stripping both women down and then posing them in a lover’s embrace. Moving over to the cot, she lifted the blanket that she had used to cover the two women up and eyed them: they were entwined enticingly, a tangle of tan and light skinned limbs. Their legs were intertwined while Tyra’s limp arms rested around her professor; Hillary’s face, which was tucked into the younger woman’s chest, was obscured by her hair. It was a contrived result of celebrating the capture of Stan Criswell. Hopefully the two women would believe they'd had a drunken good time though there was no alcohol around. Even so, the gaps in their memories would make them think and speculate, thus why the sleep sedative was used instead of Type-7. “Nice…” Parker nodded before re-covering the two women, only leaving their naked feet poking out. Checking her grandfather’s watch, she estimated the drug would wear off in an hour or so but wasn’t sure exactly when the women would actually wake up. She wished she could be there when they found themselves in each other’s arms, though.

            Once the unloading was done, Parker led Avrum and Kathleen out of the tent where Mandy and Gabi were still acting as lookouts. The two chipped guards were dressed in the same special fatigues that they had worn on last night’s ill-fated mission but were armed with only thigh-holstered weapons. They both wore their hair in ponytails under matching camouflage caps. “On me,” Parker simply ordered, seeing the two women to fall into step behind Avrum and Kathleen. Parker herself was clad in a short-sleeved brown button-up blouse over jeans and her cowboy boots. Her hands were gloved, as were those of the two women under her control who followed. She had ditched her Inox and shoulder rig back at camp in favor of her new Kimber, which sat snugly in a thigh holster.

            They arrived at their destination a short while later. The morning rush had started to pick up a little as people started to head off to their dig sites. Parker kept an eye out as they made their way towards their destination, though a few people did look at their group curiously; it was nothing that would cause any suspicion. She figure if asked people would mention seeing them but not be able to give accurate details. Their destination was the assigned tent of the ITEA agents. The tent would have been easy to spot, having a Toyota Hilux parked in front of it, but Scott and his team had taken the vehicle earlier for his part of the clean up so that left Parker counting plots, though too late she realized she could have simply asked one of the controlled agents. One they reached the tent, she sent Mandy in first to make sure it was the right tent though she was certain she had counted right.

            The Hawaiian walked up the tent with one hand on her holstered Sig and lifted the flap of the tent. She looked around briefly and reported, “Tent is secured ma’am.” She then entered the tent the rest of the way as Parker led the group towards it.

            Parker left Gabi outside to stand watch as she took Avrum and Kathleen inside. The tent was a lot smaller than Hillary Fox’s tent and only contained two cots, two chairs, a table, and a small cooking pit. There were two rucksacks at the end of the cots. She had Avrum and Kathleen stand side by side in the middle of the tent as she went through the packs as a final confirmation they were in the right place. As expected, she found the passports and clothing of Avrum Zurer and Yeardley Luxby within.

            “Let’s see…” Parker said in thought, looking around the tent. She smiled to herself as an idea came to her. “Mandy move the two cots together side by side,” Parker commanded.

            “Yes ma’am,” Mandy replied and started working.

            “Avrum and Kathleen, strip naked please,” she ordered and took a seat on one the chairs to watch. Both agents gave a simple assent before doing as they were told. Within moment both cops were naked, having been only dressed in their outer clothes before departing. Parker nearly drooled at seeing Avrum’s impressive manhood again. She could feel herself getting wet as she was hypnotically drawn to his sexual instrument. From behind the two nude people, Parker could see that Mandy had completed her task and that brought her back to the real world.

            She shook her head and cleared her throat, standing up, “Weak…” she muttered to herself. Moving over the paired cots, she grabbed one of the unzipped sleeping bags and then draped it over both cots, making them look like a twin-sized mattress. “Mandy grab the rucksacks, give one to Gabi, the other you hold on to and wait outside.” The Hawaiian replied in acknowledgment, hefting the sacks onto her shoulders as she left the tent.

            Taking a deep breath and keeping her mind focused on mission, Parker stepped in front of Kathleen and guided her to the cots, laying her down on her back. She cursed to herself how easy this was. With Hillary and Tyra she had dosed them with the sleep sedative before arranging the scene. The two women had been a handful to manipulate in their limp state and Parker had been forced to use Mandy to help her. It was a careless lapse in her decision-making on her part. This time she remembered though; keeping the two cops chipped for this part of plan was making things move a lot smoother.

            Kathleen was now on her back between the two cots. Parker pulled her ankles apart, spreading her legs wide to reveal her sex. Taking off one of her gloves, Parker felt Kathleen’s exposed snatch. Scott had done the woman a few hours ago and Parker was hoping she was still moist; the Interpol agent was dry, unfortunately. “Kathleen, pleasure yourself,” Parker commanded. The woman silently complied by moving her right hand to her womanhood and began caressing.

            Before Parker returned to Avrum for the next part of her idea, she opened the flap of the tent to reveal her two lookouts standing with their backs to her both women now wore the rucksacks on their backs. Parker focused on the rucksack that was marked ‘Zurer’ and rummaged through it. She smiled as she found what she was looking for. Returning to Avrum, she looked down at his limp yet impressive member.

            “Well, I have to get you stimulated too…” she said huskily as her ungloved hand worked the man’s shaft. He was erect in no time, as Parker had learned from last night; she wasn’t sure if it was the chip or his nature but Avrum was very easy to arouse. “Mission accomplished…” she chuckled, wiping her hand on his hairy chest. She then eyed the arrowhead necklace that he wore and contemplated taking it but decided not, as it did look priceless. She had already taken his Kimber. Behind them, Kathleen had started to moan, showing that she was wet and ready to go too. Parker tore open the condom package that she had found in Avrum’s sack and slipped the latex material on the man’s tool. She then guided the Israeli to the cots and slipped him onto his knees in between Kathleen’s legs. Kathleen let out a loud gasping sigh as Avrum’s manhood entered her sex, the control chip not able to completely suppress the woman’s pleasure. Parker adjusted the woman’s legs so that her ankles rested on the ITEA agent’s shoulders.

            With the scene nearly set, Parker stepped back outside the tent and retrieved two syringes from Gabi’s thigh pocket that contained a small doses of Type-7; each was good for about an hour’s freeze. Back in the tent she ordered Kathleen and Avrum to start making love. Both agents snapped into action with Avrum pumping and grunting and Kathleen squealing and gasping. Parker waited until both reached climax before jabbing them with the Type-7 in their shoulders and then unchipping them.

            The agents froze with Avrum’s head arched back; his mouth was open and his eyes closed. His hands held on to Kathleen’s hips while his powerful legs were spread wide to accommodate the Interpol agent. Kathleen’s back was arched with her head thrown back over the edge of the cot. Her eyes were frozen as they rolled up back up into her head and her lips were open in mid-scream. Her hands clutched her thighs with her fingernails, digging into them while her feet were still propped up on Avrum’s shoulders. Avrum’s shaft was buried deep into her sex.

            “That’s a wrap!” Parker remarked. With a sigh, she kissed Avrum on the cheek, “Until next time…” she whispered in his ear before leaving the tent. Outside, her two charges fell into step behind her as she checked her old watch, seeing she was making good time. Parker just had to clean up shop in the camp and meet Scott on the outskirts of the dig site. They should all be airborne within the hour, as planned.

* * *


Hamunaptra Outskirts…

            Scott was feeling a bit drowsy, having had only two hours of actual sleep the night before. It was all worth it though, he thought, smiling to himself. The night had started with a love-making session with Yeardley Luxby and Janice Wang. As much as he had longed to finally have his way with the ITEA agent again, he found the experience not as satisfying as he had hoped. He attributed that to the blonde being under the Fog Key, as her movements were very slow and clumsy, to say the least. He'd removed her from the Key’s influence soon afterward, which sent Yeardley into a deep comatose-like blackout, a state in which a Nero Chip couldn’t even control. Yeardley spent the remainder of the night draped naked over the back of the sofa. Next, Scott had had his fun with Hillary Fox and Kathleen Rudd as the two women proved to be decently great lovers. Afterward he'd decided to take a short breather and watched Angel and Tyra Jones as they went at it between the sheets; a living erotic movie fantasy. Lois Picket was one who Scott decided he was going to part ways with once the operation ended, so he unchipped her and put her under the Fog Key’s influence. He had a brief make-out session with the entranced woman, not wanting to go all the way since he had learned people under the control of the key were not good in bed.

            Janice Wang had been a surprise; he hadn’t known the woman’s history but he was now curious. The chip’s companion program seemed to have worked perfectly on her, as if she had a lot of experience in regards to lovemaking. Scott found himself saddened to have to part with her after the mission. He ended up the night making love to the Korean woman once more, where he gotten her to orgasm multiple times before putting her to sleep. He himself finally fell asleep during the early morning hours, embracing his frozen wife.

            Parker had gotten them up early and after a breakfast prepared by Shannon and Nefreri, they'd devised a fun plan to execute before leaving. Parker had been in charge of taking care of Stan, Hillary, Tyra, Kathleen, and Avrum. Scott, along with Greta for security and Nefreri assisting, were to take care of Janice, Yeardley and Lois. For Scott’s plan, he'd had Janice drive the ITEA’s rented Hilux out of the camp with him following in his own rented Mercedes. They took a back route to avoid the checkpoints that took them a little longer than expected to reach the area where Scott wanted to leave the three women. The location in question was just off the main road that led into the camp, an open space littered with dry shrubs. It was still early, so the road was clear of traffic for now but Scott had a small time window so he would have to work quickly to avoid a curious passerby pulling over to see what was going on.

            The Hilux and Mercedes were both pulled over to side just off the road, parked bumper to bumper. Greta, dressed in the tactical gear she had worn the night before, was posted behind the Mercedes with UMP in hand, scanning the horizons for any activity. Scott and Nefreri, both dressed similarly in khaki outfits, worked on setting up a tent that they had found among the ITEA gear in the Toyota. The tent was small but Scott figured it could fit the three women well enough.

            After the tent was set up, Scott sent Nefreri to unload the Hilux of any cargo and then go back to the Mercedes, having her sit in the back seat. He was glad to be bringing her home with him as he thought she would make a good addition to the Utopia staff. Walking up to the Hilux, where the passenger’s side front window was rolled down, Scott peered into the quad cab, leaning on the doorframe. Janice sat in the driver’s seat, dressed in a slinky royal purple strapless dress that Ryoshi had packed. The dress was a little snug on her as the Interpol agent was a little larger than his slim wife. Its hem sat at mid-thigh, showing off the agent’s smooth legs. Finishing her look were Janice’s own combat boots, since Scott didn’t want to give any of Ryoshi’s designer shoes to the woman. Sitting next to Janice in the passenger seat was Lois, dressed only in her hot pink satin undergarments. The security officer rocked back and forth as she sat with her hands limply resting her on her bare thighs. Her face bore a sleepy look with her jaw hanging loose. In the backseat, Yeardley Luxby leaned floppily against the back of the seat with her head resting heavily and awkwardly on her shoulder. Her honey blonde hair covered her face while her arms lifelessly sat at her sides. She was the only one of the trio to be completely naked. Scott didn’t know when the blonde would wake up; all he was sure of was that her vitals were good and she seemed to be in just a deep sleep.

            “Is it time to play?” Janice asked with a pout.

            Scott couldn’t help but smile; he was going to miss the woman. “Yes, come on out Ms. Wang.”

            Janice clapped her hands quickly and squealed like a little girl before she exited the truck. She ran around the front the vehicle and wrapped her arms around Scott, kissing him hard on the lips. The Interpol agent played with his shirt as she looked playfully into his eyes. “Should we strip and do it here?”

            “No, let’s go in the tent,” Scott suggested, gesturing towards the small tent behind them.

            “Okay,” Janice replied happily as she began to pull his hand towards the tent.

            “You go first, strip naked; I’ll be in right after you,” Scott said, pulling his hand back.

            “Whatever you say… just, don’t take too long,” Janice replied before heading off to the tent.

            Scott watched her drop to all fours and crawl into the low tent, making sure that he could see that she had no panties on under the dress. She shook her shapely backside a little and he could hear her giggle before vanishing inside the tent. He smiled, shaking his head as he turned his attention back to the truck. He opened the passenger side door, ordering, “Lois step out.” The dark skinned woman did as she was told and stood unsteadily next to the truck. Scott then opened the back door and took in all of Luxby’s gorgeous nakedness before ordering, “Lois, pick her up and follow me.”

            Lois sluggishly moved to the open door, reached in and heavily draped Yeardley’s slumbering naked form over her strong shoulders. Scott led the pair to the tent, where he knelt and opened the flap. Janice sat in the middle of tent naked and cross-legged with her knees bouncing in anticipation. She smiled expectantly when Scott opened the flap. “Are you ready now?” she asked, licking her lips.

            Scott was tempted to have a go, but he knew he was on the clock. “Not quite yet…” he replied. Janice pouted in reply. He turned around to see Lois was standing behind him. “Give me her,” he said gesturing up at Luxby. Lois knelt down slightly and lowered the limp woman’s body to Scott. Scott half dragged and half carried the blonde into the tent. “Help me get her in, Janice.”

            “As you wish!” Janice exclaimed and took hold of Yeardley from under the arms and moved her into the tent. She laid the unconscious agent down on the right side of the tent and looked back at Scott. “Could I?”

            “Not quite yet,” Scott replied before turning back to Lois. “Get in the tent also and strip naked,” he commanded. Stepping aside, he watched Lois drop to her knees and crawl into the tent. She then sat next to Janice, who eyed her curiously as she began to strip. Once she was naked, Scott reached in and pressed the Fog key to her forehead and turned it clockwise. It was just like someone had cut the strings on a puppet. Almost in an instant Lois slumped, falling back heavily, completely out cold. Yeardley had only been under the Key’s powers for forty-five minutes and she was still out. Lois had been under for a few hours, Scott wondered how long the woman would be out for and what lasting affect the Key would have on her. From his research he knew about thirty minutes of being entranced would erase a day’s worth of a person’s memory.

            Janice looked at the two unconscious women around her, smiling expectantly, “How about now?”

            “You may; they’re all yours.”

            “Yay!” the chipped woman replied and started to climb on Luxby.

            Scott stood, closed the tent flaps, and stuck the old Key into his pocket as he withdrew his CyPocket. He punched in few commands into it while he made his way towards the waiting Mercedes. “Mount up Greta,” he ordered, not looking up as he approached the passenger side of the SUV. Greta acknowledged and jogged to the other side of the vehicle, climbing into the driver’s seat. Scott finalized his commands and stuffed the CyPocket back into his pocket. Opening the door, he climbed into the passenger seat, closing the door behind him. Looking back he grinned at Ryoshi, who was sitting, still frozen but dressed back in her flight attendant disguise with a pair of aviators covered her blank staring eyes. Scott thought she looked like ‘Stewardess Barbie’. He planned to unfreeze her once they were airborne, a little earlier than expected, but he already missed her company.

            “Team two approaching,” Greta reported. Scott looked ahead and spotted an identical Mercedes SUV heading towards them. The SUV pulled off the side road and parked on the passenger side of Scott’s SUV.

            “Are we good?” Scott asked, rolling down his window. The driver side window of the other SUV had rolled down at the same time to reveal that Mandy was driving, with Parker sitting next to her. Scott could see Angel, dressed in her bomber jacket outfit, seated between Gabi and a white-suit-clad Shannon in the back seat.

            “Yeah, camp is cleaned up and our guests are tucked away,” Parker reported, leaning forward so she could see Scott. “Are you good?”

     “Just about, I’ve set Janice’s chip set to fry itself in about twenty minutes; that should render it a useless piece of plastic. Might burn neck her a little, but nothing serious,” Scott replied.

            “I’ve gotten in contact with our ladies in Alexandria, they’re all set; the bird is warmed up and ready to go.”

            “Good, let’s get going then; it’s been a hell of trip.”

            “It has... You lead, boss.”

            Scott simply nodded and rolled up his window. “Greta let’s roll, set course for Alexandria airport,” he commanded as he put on his sunglasses and black baseball cap. Greta started the SUV and pulled it on the road. Parker’s SUV following suit. They had only traveled a couple kilometers down the road when Scott spotted a dark blue Hilux heading towards him. He leaned forward to get a good look at who was the vehicle as he had a sinking feeling it was ITEA. Sure enough he recognized the woman sitting at shotgun as the one and only Cassandra Flick. The British ITEA agent looked at him with the surprise of recognition as their SUV’s approached. He smiled at her and nodded. There was a look of confusion on the woman’s face but she nodded in return as they passed. “So much for twenty minutes,” he said to himself, pulling out the CyPocket to destroy Janice’s chip immediately. He predicted that Ms. Flick would come upon the tent in five minutes or less; he only wished he could be there to see everyone's reaction.

* * *


That Evening...

            Cassandra was trying her best not to fume as she paced around just inside a medical tent, inside which over a dozen people were being examined. First there were four workers, who were randomly found around the city during the past couple of hours, a couple of whom still needed a counter-agent as they'd been frozen upon discovery. A tourist and a member of the military's security detachment had also been found, but aside from having apparently been dosed and stashed in odd places they were fine. Two independent agents, Ferah Kartal and Felipa Leroy, had been discovered frozen and naked in an open playa to the north of the dig site. They were found sitting in a stolen jeep and had no idea what had happened. They had last remembered standing guard in front the ruins. The open area that they were found in showed evidence that a helicopter had landed there. Camp witnesses did report hearing a helicopter nearby the previous night. The Egyptians were clueless about any sort of aircraft being that close to the site. Janice Wang had been found with Agent Luxby and a woman identified as Lois Picket not long after Cassandra arrived, she having spotted their tent and the Hilux just off the road. Avrum and Kathleen were quickly found soon after, still frozen at that time in the midst of sexual activity, and the biggest surprise of many had been finding the man known to be Stan Criswell bound in a tent belonging to Hillary Fox and Tyra Jones.

            The cot in the infirmary closest to Cassandra held Anna Sokolov, who was resting comfortably after being unfrozen after her discovery. Early that afternoon after identifying Stan, they'd found her in his tent and also the crate Anna had been stored in. Gregory had comforted his rattled girlfriend for a few minutes, as per Cassandra's allowance, before getting back to work. Pauline Foley, the suspected woman behind Anna's kidnapping, was still at large as well as Stan’s suspected partner, Kira Chase. Facing a long prison sentence for possession and trafficking in both controlled drugs and registered antiquities, not to mention the fact that he had been photographed bound to a chair while wearing women’s clothing, Stan sang like a bird when interrogated.

            Next to Anna rested Lois, who Cassandra now approached. Lois was finally awake having been found unconscious with no clue on how to revive her; the only reason why medical action was not taken was that her vitals showed that she was stable. She was now resting comfortably, dressed in a simple hospital gown. “Miss Picket, how are you feeling?” asked Cassandra gently.

            “I have a really bad headache,” commented the security agent, her voice still weak. “I... Where exactly am I?”

            “You don't remember where you are?” clarified Cassandra.

            “My last assignment was in Iceland... This surely isn't Iceland,” stated Lois, rubbing her head. “Ugh... How did I get here?”

            “You're in Hamunaptra, Egypt, and according to Triangle Security rosters, you were on assignment here to secure contracts and to network with your partner Mandy Mahina…before both of you abruptly resigned,” revealed Cassandra, having looked over the files earlier and spoken to a rep with their company. “Do you know where Mandy is?”

            “Resigned?...” breathed Lois, leaning back in her pillow. “I don't even remember coming to Egypt, never mind anything about me and Mandy... quitting. I wish I can tell you something more, but I can’t.  It’s all foggy.”

            “I'll have a psychologist come and speak to you; we'll try and figure this memory problem out,” offered Cassandra in a low tone of voice, even tapping the side of the bed with her hand.

            “Thanks... I think I just want to rest right now though,” sighed Lois, turning away. Cassandra slowly moved on, deciding the woman needed some space; everything seemed to be big news to her. Hillary Fox was next, also dressed in a hospital gown but already up and reading a book.

            “You seem to be doing well,” observed Cassandra as she approached the bed.

            “Well it was a strange night, but everything's fine,” commented Hillary, not glancing up from the leather-bound book, which appeared to be on ancient Egyptian dynasties.

            “Strange?” echoed Cassandra, a bit surprised. “Professor Fox, you were found lying in bed with-”

            “That didn't happen!” snapped Hillary before Cassandra could finish, closing her book and giving the ITEA agent a death-glare. “It didn't happen,” repeated the professor in a quieter voice, noticeably looking away from the bed where Tyra was next to her. Cassandra decided to leave the professor be for the moment and approached the student.

            “Hi,” greeted Tyra softly as Cassandra approached, the young woman laying reclined in her bed and looking up at the ceiling of the medical tent. Cassandra knew traces of traditional sedatives had been found in their bodies, so it wasn't just Type-7 that had shown up.

            “How are you, Miss Jones?” asked Cassandra softly. “Do you need anything?”

            “Yeah... A way for me to complete my Master's degree without having to work with Professor Fox again would be nice,” admitted Tyra in a quiet tone. Since they had awakened, her once favorite professor and friend didn’t even look at her. “I just... We woke up and...”

            “It's okay, I've been in that kind of bizarre situation before, it can be really shocking,” acknowledged Cassandra, recalling her own experiences. “I promise we'll figure this out.”

            “You sound British,” noted Tyra, turning her head to look at Cassandra, who was on the side opposite of Hillary. “Is your agency based on London or something?”

            “It is actually, though it's international in scope,” confirmed Cassandra with a slow nod. During their initial interviews Cassandra had alluded to not being with Interpol, but hadn't gone into specifics, given the ITEA was a fairly secret organization.

            “I could use a place to email a resume then,” declared Tyra, still quiet. “I don't know if you need an archeology major, but...”

            “I'll put in a good word and keep in touch,” insisted Cassandra, the younger woman offering a hand that she then squeezed. The ITEA did utilize a diverse team of analysts, and anyone with hands-on experience with Type-7 was always a plus, regardless of their field. Cassandra decided she'd plead Tyra’s case to Director Castillo when they returned home.

            After sitting with Tyra for a couple of minutes, Cassandra walked over to the far end of the tent, which was where Janice was just exiting. A doctor had been examining her so Janice was in a hospital gown like the rest but had put her hair up in a loose bun. Seeing Janice looking a bit weak Cassandra ran up to greet her friend, offering her an arm. “I'm okay, just my legs feel a bit funny,” explained Janice, waving off Cassandra. “Apparently I taxed some of my muscles... differently... so they're sore... There's going to be a lotion to help with that waiting for me at the airport.”

            “You're leaving?” asked Cassandra, frowning in concern.

            “Fairly soon; your director talked to my boss and you'll be coordinating with the local authorities, so you don't need us anymore,” revealed Janice, shaking her head. “Remember when I was FBI and you were Interpol? This feels like those days all over again...”

            “Except now we're both in foreign lands,” pointed out Cassandra with a soft smile. “So, really, how are you?”

            “Aside from the minor burn on the back of neck I’m okay, but, this is really weird...” muttered Janice, glancing around for a moment. “I feel... I feel like I just slept with an entire football team...”

            “I'm so sorry,” offered Cassandra, putting a hand on Janice's shoulder. Cassandra wanted to go in for a hug but knew Janice wasn't he sort, not so much cold as just distant. “I've been there... I lost several months of my life... Only good news was that the experience gave me a sense of perspective.”

            “I remember, I cried when I saw the obituary,” nodded Janice, looking a bit embarrassed. “Look, I'm not done with this. I'll be petitioning to get whatever evidence you find out on this case... I'm not about to let the sick mastermind behind this get away. I'm not going to transfer agencies again to do it... Though it has been nice seeing you.”

            “I'll be sure you get an invitation to the wedding, once we set a date,” Cassandra assured Janice as the Interpol agent stood up tall. “You need me to find your partner?”

            “That'd be nice, I really need to change out of this thing and I need to get in touch with my home office… those bastards also stole my passport and gun,” commented Janice as she slowly moved away. “Hey; I don't think I said it yet... Congratulations on the engagement...” Cassandra watched her friend limp away, admiring her resolve. Cassandra had worked with Janice on a few cases when Interpol had been stateside with the FBI. Cassandra didn't think of Janice as a good enough friend to be a bridesmaid or anything at her wedding, but she did want to see her there.

            Heading outside of the tent, going in the opposite way Janice had, it didn't take Cassandra long to find Kathleen, who was in fact standing with Avrum. Both were wearing generic khaki clothes they'd picked up elsewhere, their normal clothing being checked for clues, and the pair seemed to be having a heated argument. Noting the hushed but angry tone both people were carrying in their voices, Cassandra approached them with caution. It was known the pair had been found together in bed. “Is everything okay?” asked Cassandra as she approached the duo.

            “We're good,” Avrum immediately answered, with Kathleen just looking away. “Is, um, how we were found going to be in the official record?”

            “Sorry, yes, but I'll make sure the director keeps the fully detailed version under control,” offered Cassandra, feeling bad for the pair. “Kathleen, Janice was just cleared. She was heading to the other tent to get some new clothes.”

            “Thanks,” nodded Kathleen, purposely avoiding looking directly at Avrum as she left.

            “I take it you've both agreed the... tryst... wasn't your idea?” asked Cassandra, trying to be delicate.

            “Yeah, no way; she's really not too happy about it though,” sighed Avrum, shaking his head. “At least we somehow caught one of the guys... I wish I knew just what the hell happened to us.”

            “Nothing after Janice?” confirmed Cassandra, referring to what Avrum had managed to remember and tell them.

            “Not a thing,” nodded Avrum, frowning. “Ugh... Have you seen Lux?”

            “She's actually just over there,” pointed out Cassandra, indicating the agent in question as she emerged from behind a nearby tent. Like Avrum and Kathleen, she was clad in loaner clothing and had remained in a bit of a daze, apparently remembering even less than her partner. She had been found in the same deeply unconscious state as Lois Picket but managed to wake up about an hour before the security agent. “I need to go see where we are at with the investigation... You're okay for now?”

            “No, but go,” insisted Avrum, biting his lip. As Cassandra left, Avrum noticed Lux was warily approaching him, her hair blowing in the gentle evening breeze that was kicking up sand around them. Avrum decided to walk over to her to cut down the distance. As the two met, Avrum was tempted to grab his partner and kiss her but noticed she was giving him a piercing annoyed look, so he refrained from doing as he wished to do.

            “So, you cleared the air with Agent Rudd?” asked Lux quietly, looking down at the ground.

            “Yeah, that whole episode, how they found us, was just someone's sick prank,” confirmed Avrum, reaching out to put a hand on Lux's chin. Yeardley, however, moved Avrum's hand away.

            “Right, sick prank,” muttered Lux, squeezing her elbows. “So you have no idea how I ended up there either...”

            “Look, Lux, I know about how things went yesterday that you might...” began Avrum, trailing off as he wasn't sure what to say next.

            “I don't remember a thing about yesterday,” revealed Lux in a quiet voice. “I barely remember anything past arriving here. I don't know what I might have said to you yesterday but... Just forget it.”

            “Ah...” gasped Avrum, and as he looked at Lux he realized she was telling the truth. There was no memory in Luxby's eyes of the night they'd shared, or the second night they'd planned to share before everything had gone to hell. Realizing just how shaken Lux was by everything, Avrum decided against saying anything. “Okay,” agreed Avrum, though it wasn't what he really wanted.

            “Now that we’re both decent…” Yeardley said, taking a deep breath as if keeping herself from tearing up before continuing. “We have to get in touch with the home office and explain to Michael how we got all of our gear and weapons stolen.”

            “I can take care of that if you like?” Avrum offered.

            “No, its fine; I’m up to it… but I already can’t remember anything…I’m going to be completely useless!” Luxby shot back before turning and walking away.

            “I’m sorry…” Avrum replied softly, not sure what else to say as he quietly followed his partner, prepared to back her up in whatever was going to happen next.

* * *


Barcelona, Spain

The Next Day

            Freya Downy was lounging in her beach house's living room, enjoying the hardwood floors with taupe-colored couches, plasma-screen TV mounted on a brick fireplace, and the lush polar bear skin rug on the floor nearby. Freya was a blue-eyed blonde who'd been born in Manchester in the UK; by her mid-thirties she'd managed to become one of the top smugglers in all of Europe. Spain wasn't her usual territory, but after one of her clients had given her the keys to the private beach house she was now using, she'd decided to go for it since one of her rivals, Leocadia Braga, had seemingly vanished some time ago. The blonde sat in a fluffy royal blue robe, wolf slippers on her feet and her hair in a half ponytail, sipping a Mimosa.

            “Miss Downy?” called out Freya's assistant, who emerged from elsewhere in the house. Ania Krupin, a green-eyed blonde from Belarus only a year older than Freya, was standing anxiously in a black business dress, her hair in a French Twist, a CyPad held at her side.

            “What is it, Ania?” asked Freya, putting down her glass and sitting upright.

            “Kira Chase has just returned... alone,” announced Ania. “She is waiting outside. Road surveillance has also picked up Pauline Foley approaching, she'll be here momentarily.”

            “Alone... Not good,” sighed Freya, standing up. “Okay, show her in.” Ania nodded and pressed a widget on her pad. A moment later the front door to the house opened and in walked Kira, who quickly approached Freya. The house was equipped with wirelessly networked locks and other such features; the tech being one reason Freya had taken it.

            “Miss Downy, I'm sorry to show up like this, and alone,” offered Kira, but Freya could see her employee had been run a bit ragged: Kira showed signs of sleep deprivation under her eyes and her rumpled clothes were very dirty. Freya, however, noticed Kira was holding a small drawstring sack in her right hand and focused on that.

            “Sit down Kira; I am not an unreasonable woman,” insisted Freya, indicating for Kira to take a seat on the couch opposite the one she had been using. Kira did so, plopping the sack down on the oak coffee table between them. “So what happened?”

            “They got onto us somehow,” revealed Kira, sighing. “Pauline sent us a crate with some international police woman stuffed inside and warned us to pull out fast. Then those two lawyers, or whatever, were accusing us of holding out on them...”

            “Well, they weren't wrong about that,” smiled Freya, glancing at the bag. “Is that it? You found them?”

            “Yes, though I'm afraid Stan was captured,” confirmed Kira. “He was shot with a freeze dart, there was no time; I had to leave him. I'm sorry.”

            “I liked Stan, but he was a bit of a wanker,” commented Freya, dismissing Kira's remarks and grabbing the bag. “So Pauline decided to attack a member of law enforcement when she was found out all hell broke loose... She could be the reason Stan was caught. I don't blame you for leaving him, Kira. He knew the risks... You made the best of a bad situation. Plus, you brought me this... However Pauline, it seems, has become more trouble than she's worth...”

            “Miss Foley has just parked,” announced Aria; Freya had nearly forgotten her unassuming assistant was in the room with them, she had been standing quietly in the corner and listening to her Bluetooth earpiece for the whole discussion.

            “Give me two minutes and then let her in,” ordered Freya, opening the sack to reveal the contents. Three silver objects came falling out into Freya's lap: two necklaces and a ring. The necklaces were tiny link chains with engraved ankhs on them, and the ring had a simple ankh design by itself. With glee, Freya slipped on the ring, which she hoped would be the fabled Ring of Anubis, onto her right ring finger, then handed the necklaces to Kira.

            “Put one on,” ordered Freya. Kira seemed reluctant but lifted the jewelry warily, holding the ankh at eye level. “You do so, and you'll have my full trust again,” insisted Freya; Kira reluctantly nodded as she draped the necklace, known as a Key of Life, around her neck, and paused.  As soon as the necklace was in place, Freya felt a rush. The ring she wore was reacting with the necklace, and Kira suddenly sat motionless after she had let go of the chain; she looked at Freya with uncertainty.

            “It works...” breathed Freya, closing her eyes and letting out a small moan. Kira suddenly started moving again, promptly standing up and walking over to where Aria stood, handing her the second Key of Life.

            “When I give the signal, I want to you to put this around Pauline's neck,” stated Kira, but her voice wasn't her own, but Freya's, sounding like she had achieved some ventriloquist’s trick.

            “So it really does work,” observed Aria, smiling. Freya had just taken total control of Kira's body as her own body remained frozen on the couch; Kira's mind was still somewhere inside her head, but overpowered by the artifact. Legends said that Queen Nicotris had used the ring and necklaces to help control those around her and avoid potential threats; allowing her to move them like puppets, even possess their bodies and permanently alter their minds. Freya was able to now read Kira's mind and confirmed she'd been told the truth.

            “Yes, and it seems Kira is still very loyal,” observed Freya, still in Kira's body, guiding the younger woman back to her couch where she was promptly released from her magical possession. Freya opened her eyes in her own body.

            “Oh, what was that?” blinked Kira, unaware of what had just been done to her.

            “Never mind; the Key works, and I have absolute faith in you now,” revealed Freya. “You can take off the necklace now... There are sadly only two, I can't afford to waste one on someone I know is a good employee.”

            “Thank you... I suppose, but I thought you had given it to me as a gift,” remarked Kira, taking off the necklace and handing it back to Freya, who put it back in the sack.

            “Perhaps, in time,” replied Freya obscurely.

            “I'm letting Pauline in now,” announced Aria, pressing a button on her pad. Moments later Pauline Foley walked into the room, dressed down in baggy jeans and a white blouse with rolled-up sleeves that was clearly too big for her; Pauline’s red hair was pulled up in a poorly-done bun.

            “Sorry I'm here early, but we ran into a scad of trouble at the docks in Alexandria,” commented Pauline, shaking her head. “Someone screwed the pooch on this and I had to bug out... This watchdog organization, the International Temporal Enforcement Agency, they showed up. I remember a former Paradise Foundation friend of mine mentioning they'd come to see him once, but I thought he'd been making that up...”

            “It seems you have sold to the wrong people,” accused Freya, having put Pauline in charge of handling the Type-7. Pauline had gotten the formula through a former Paradise Foundation friend of hers, and for that Freya had hired her on, but it was clear now she was reckless, more trouble than she was worth, despite having a legitimate cover job as a shipping manager for a Mediterranean shipping company. “You acted thoughtlessly and jeopardized my entire operation...”

            “It wasn't my fault!” insisted Pauline, but Freya had already given Aria the nod. Sliding her CyPad into her coat, Aria lifted up the second Key of Life necklace and quickly dropped it down around Pauline's head. The Scottish woman didn't have a chance to react as Freya immediately took control and froze her in place, her lips parted and eyes focused on her employer with her hands on her hips.  Pauline’s mind and body were no longer her own.

            “Wow, just like that,” observed Kira, wondering. “So what do you think you'll do with her?”

            “Well first...” smiled Freya; leaning back on the couch.  She closed her eyes and stopped moving as her mind entered the other woman’s.

            “I'm sorry I'm such an idiot and botched the job; I think she should be turned into a mannequin since your private beach could use a new decoration or two,” Pauline suddenly stated, using Freya’s voice, sounding vaguely robotic. Freya wasn't used to controlling people yet, but she was learning fast.

            Freya stirred from the couch, opening her eyes. “Good plan: so you shall; Aria, remove the necklace,” she commanded, and her assistant did so, but Pauline didn't unfreeze as Kira had.  After a few seconds passed, it became clear she was no longer breathing, as she remained stiffly posed in place.

            “Wow,” breathed Kira, standing up and waving a hand in front of Pauline's blank face. “So is it like Type-7?”

            “Yes, except using the necklace again is the only way to release her, and I don't think I'll be doing that anytime soon,” laughed Freya, getting up to admire her new statue. “Well, she was getting on a bit... Pauline might actually thank me if she was conscious. Now she won't age a day more.”

            “Lucky,” nodded Kira, playfully shaking Pauline's shoulder; the woman was as rigid as stone. “So with our lab in Hamunaptra gone, where can we set up? That location was perfectly isolated...”

            “Madrid is open for business ever since their queen of smuggling went missing,” noted Freya, putting a hand on Kira's shoulder. “Their Interpol section chief is gone too, so I think we'll fit right in...”

* * *


Volos, Greece

Sea of Enchantment Resort

            They had been lucky that there was a TAKE-contracted helicopter FBO stationed in Alexandria or they would have been in some trouble. With the help of the two chipped security operators, Edwin and Samia were able to head back to their tent and pack. They made their escape via helicopter just in time. It had worked out perfectly, aside from the fact that Kira had gotten away in the confusion. Reports were just started to come through now that there was a large multinational police presence in Hamunaptra and the airports around Egypt were all locked down. As per the firm’s protocol, Edwin and Samia were flown via private jet to a stopover location to draw off any suspicions before being allowed to return back to the States. They were lucky that the assigned stop over location at the time was in Volos, Greece, at a high-class resort no less. They were to stay there for two days until the operations people back at the firm made sure it was safe for them to return to the States.

            The firm had rented one of the resort’s two bedroom beachfront villas, which gave them privacy and a no-contest view of the ocean. They had arrived late the night before and after checking in, went straight to bed. It was much-needed restful sleep, being that it was the first time the pair had slept in a real bed in a month. Camile Kennmore, a senior member of TAKE and the operations boss, awakened Edwin and Samia early that morning. They were given the news that they already knew was coming: to stay in Greece for two days. Camile also updated them on what all was happening in Egypt. The two then filled their boss in on their side of the story along with their understanding about what had gone wrong. Camile informed them before ending the briefing that since they had both been identified, they would be reassigned to new clients upon returning to the States.

            Afterward, Samia suited up for a workout and jog before departing the villa, leaving Edwin to order breakfast and look over Interpol Agent Janice Wang’s belongings, which he still had in his possession. He ordered Samia a vegetable omelet with a side of fresh fruit, while he got a steak omelet with a side of hash browns. A large carafe of orange juice and fresh pot of Greek-blended coffee completed the order, which came within ten minutes after placing the order, delivered by a fresh-faced local girl. Edwin tipped the girl generously, being a sucker for a pretty face. He made a note to look her up later as he watched her leave.

            Edwin sat at the glass dining room table in the villa’s living room, facing a large window that overlooked the beach and ocean. He was still barefoot, wearing lightweight white cotton trousers and a white loose dress shirt that was untucked. He worked on his breakfast as he looked through the data on Janice Wang’s CyPad. Not only did she have collected evidence on the failed operation that he and Samia had just escaped from, but she was currently also working a number of cases that were linked to his firm. In looking through her case notes, Edwin had identified several of his colleagues as suspects in the cases. Of course they were still safe, since they all used aliases while in the field, though Edwin could feel the police were getting too close. Regardless, the Interpol agent and her partner Kathleen Rudd were a threat to the firm and its operations. Edwin had mentioned this to Camile in their briefing but he had not gotten chance to truly analyze her CyPad information until now. That was something that had to be presented to the powers to be when he got back to the States.

            Seeing enough of the CyPad for one morning, he logged off and slipped it into the backpack that he also stolen from the agent. Also on the table were Janice’s Interpol ID and passport. He examined both and sighed, remembering how the woman looked and the buff as well as her lovely toes. “It’s definitive; I think we have to meet again, Agent Wang,” he said with smile before putting the IDs into the backpack. The last item of Janice’s on the table was the compact Kel-Tec pistol that was Interpol agent’s sidearm. Edwin ejected the clip and racked the action, clearing the chambered round. He looked at the empty pistol and admired its compact size. He wasn’t much of ‘gun guy’ since the need for them in his profession was minimal, but he couldn’t think of anything better for a first gun since it had some sentimental value to it. Reloading the weapon and holstering it, he decided to hang onto it, following suit with the other stolen items from the agent.  There was no need to let Camile or his other bosses know that he had them.

            Edwin had finished his breakfast and was reading the New York Times at the table while nursing a cup of coffee when Samia returned to the villa, with streaks of perspiration darkening her clingy outfit. The dark haired girl, who had been born in Pakistan but raised in Connecticut, walked into the living room. She was breathing hard as she wiped her face with a towel she had picked up on the way in. “Mr. Branson, you should really check out the beach, it's gorgeous,” Samia breathed, dropping her towel off on a lounger and heading over to the serving cart that held a covered plate and juice, along with the other refreshments. “My omelet?” she asked looking over her shoulder.

            “It is; I must say mine was rather delightful. You, Samia, are in for a treat,” Edwin replied, lowering the paper. Samia Korai to his knowledge was six years his junior. Her standing in the firm was as a clerk; she was basically an assistant to the field agents who were the partners within the firm. He had been working with Samia for almost a year and he had to admit the woman was smarter than he was and she often did most of the work. Her brains and work ethic did match with her formal Harvard education, though. She kept him on track when he got distracted, as well. He had called for equal partnership six months into their relationship after seeing her talents, but Samia kept the relationship as boss and assistant, calling him only by ‘Mr. Branson’ when not using an assignment alias. Edwin felt a little sad that things would be coming to an end between them when they got back to the US, but the team was compromised and splitting them up was mostly for the firm’s protection. Whoever got Samia Korai as a clerk next would be lucky, to say the least; she was very capable and had an amazing depth of knowledge. For himself, he hoped that if he did get another clerk – some partners worked solo – his new partner would at least be as easy on the eyes as Samia had been. At the moment Samia had her shoulder length dark hair bunched in a high ponytail, tied back with a blue band. She was clad in a skin-tight fitted blue tank top that had dark stains of sweat on it, with a black sports bra visible underneath. Her legs were covered in black knee-length spandex while her feet were clad in white ankle socks and blue and white trainers. The ensemble showed off the athletic clerk’s trim body nicely and even without make-up she was still a looker.

            “Great; I’m starving,” Samia replied as she uncovered her plate and then poured herself a glass of orange juice. Unbeknownst to the clerk, her boss watched her as she collected her meal, pulling his paper back up to conceal a smile after she had poured the juice. Samia stacked some silverware on the plate before heading to the table with her glass and plate in hand.

            Taking at seat across from Edwin, she remarked, “I never really saw a nicer stretch of beach; you should definitely check it out when you have chance.”

            Edwin lowered his paper and watched his clerk dig into her omelet, savoring its symphony of flavor. He picked up his coffee mug and took a sip. “I’m sure the beaches in Monaco are even a bit better.” The pair had been in Monaco a few months back, acquiring a painting for a firm client. Afterward they spent a few days exploring the city and beach.

            “I got a point to make, but...” Samia said, swallowing and then gesturing with her fork at the omelet, “Wow this is really good!” Edwin simply nodded in reply, lifting his paper back up. “Monaco was very nice, you’re right, but it was too crowded; this resort has a private beach so there’s no one out there.”

            “I see your line of reasoning… I suppose I’ll take a stroll later,” Edwin agreed from behind the paper. It became quiet after that as Samia focused on her omelet and Edwin listened anxiously to the sound of her fork tapping the plate. The payoff to his anticipation came finally when he heard Samia pick up her glass of orange juice. He waited for a few moments, feeling his member stirring within his trousers. It became silent in the room; the only thing that he could hear was the soft beat of the ocean and quiet moan of the air conditioning unit. He lowered his paper and smiled at the sight across from him. “How was that orange juice, hen?” 

            Samia sat unmoving and silent. Her right hand held the fork to her plate, which carried the nearly vanished omelet while her left hand held the glass of orange juice to her lips. Under the glass table her spandex-clad legs were crossed at the knees. Her unblinking eyes were cast downward towards the glass.

            “It was sure good for me…” Edwin said, putting his paper down and standing. He moved around the table to stand behind his frozen clerk. Leaning forward, he sniffed the side of the woman’s neck, taking in her post-workout odor before kissing her glowing skin. “What an intoxicating smell…” he whispered huskily. “Now hen, I packed enough Type-7 into that drink to put you out for the rest of the day… you’ll have to empty the glass though,” he explained to her blank gaze as he pried the glass free from Samia’s grip, which caused a little dribble of juice to drip from her parted lips. Samia’s hand remained frozen in place as if she still held the glass as Edwin tipped her head back and opened her mouth up with his fingers. He could still see some bit of omelet within her mouth as well as some orange juice. “Bottoms up, hen,” he said as he poured the rest of the orange juice down her throat.

            Sure that Samia would remain stiff for the remainder of the day, Edwin freed the fork from her grasp and lifted the woman out of her seat. Samia remained in her rigid pose as he carried her the short distance to the sofa and sat her down. He had to adjust her body slightly to compensate for the shape of the sofa compared to the chair she once occupied. Her face was reposed to sport a blank smiling expression, a look that Edwin loved on frozen women. The fake smile was unnatural but for some reason he still liked it. Edwin then knelt down in front of her and started untying the laces on her cross-trainers. “I can’t believe we been working together for nearly a year and I have never done this to you…” he said, looking at Samia’s smiling face as he stripped off a sneaker and tossed it behind him. Her sock was peeled off next, rendering her left foot bare. Edwin sniffed her soles, relishing the sweat odor, which some might find disgusting but he found alluring. The other sneaker followed suit, along with its sock; Edwin took time to sniff both feet and suck on the woman’s toes.

            Moving north, Edwin uncrossed Samia’s legs and then hooked his fingers into the waistband of her spandex leggings and peeled them off her hips, down her legs and off her naked feet. Samia wore nothing under the spandex and her dark bushy sex was revealed to Edwin, which he swiftly caressed and plugged two of his fingers into. Samia’s arms were raised overhead next so Edwin could remove her tank-top and sports bra. As expected, his clerk had lovely round breasts that were proportional to her slender body; they were capped with dark nipples that he took pleasure in sucking as he removed the hair band.

            Edwin laid Samia down on her back on the sofa. He then stood and removed his own clothing hastily. “I’ll say if this is the end of a great partnership hen, I can’t imagine a better way to end it than this… too bad you won’t remember the affair,” he said as he spread Samia’s slim-muscled legs wide and entered her. He was surprised even with the naked Samia Korai at his disposal; Edwin found his mind drifting back to memories of Janice Wang. He became even more determined for them to meet again.


The End


Yeardley Luxby – Lauren German
Avrum Zurer – Oded Fehr
Michael Bradford – John Barrowman
Larissa Penbrook – Sophia Myles
Kimberly Ewart – Rachel McAdams
Rafael Calado – Olivier Martinez
Angel Jenly – Angelina Jolie
Shannon Andrews – Tara Reid
Casey Adams – Jessica Biel
Ryoshi Tenzo – Maggie Q
River Peck – Odette Annable
Scott Dawson – Kiefer Sutherland
Amaya Hernandez – Thea Trinidad
Janice Wang – Grace Park
Kathleen Rudd – Danielle Vasinova
Parker Reich – Gina Carano
Gabi Lachman – Gal Gadot
Greta Stevens – Rose Rollins
Nefreri Chalthoum – Bahar Soomekh
Mandy Mahina – Kiana Tom
Lois Picket – Jacqueline Moore
Cassandra Flick – Emily Deschanel
Jean-Baptiste Odilon – Edward Norton
Gregory Barnes – Milo Ventimiglia
Anna Sokolov – Alison Mack
Lana Rollins (as SARA) – Michelle Borth
Pauline Foley – Shirley Manson
Tyra Jones – Elyse Levesque
Hillary Fox – Tia Carriere
Samia Korai – Dilshad Vadsaria
Edwin Branson – Ewan McGregor
Felipa Leroy – Sarah Stock
Ferah Kartal – Lisa Marie Varon
Stan Criswell – Sean Maher
Kira Chase – Alice Eve
Freya Downy – Kate Winslet
Ania Krupin – Natasha Henstridge

Return to the Story Archive