Ricochet Through Time: CHAPTER 1
RICOCHET THROUGH TIME
Echo Trilogy, #3
Revive & Revile
“It’s time.” Neffe’s words settled over us, a muffling cloak stealing breath and silencing tongues in the sterile room.
The group of doctors and nurses surrounding Tarset’s bed of stony, opalescent At tensed collectively, prepared. Waiting. In just a moment, Neffe would give the word and they would jump into action, attempting to save Marcus’s frozen-in-time little girl.
Nik stood at the head of the bed, his mother, Aset, at the foot with Neffe. The two ancient, beautiful women were codirectors of their highly trained and even more highly experienced orchestra of Nejeret medical savants. A pair of them stood on either side of Tarset, others standing behind them, ready to tap in once the little girl had been awakened from her eternal slumber and transferred to the waiting hospital bed just a few feet away.
Generic blue scrubs were the outfit of the day for a team that was anything but generic. This group of people was about to attempt to revive a four-year-old girl who’d been on the verge of death four thousand years ago, frozen in At ever since. They would do everything they could to counteract the effects of the ancient poison killing Tarset and achieve the impossible, returning this tiny, dying child to health. But they were Nejerets, mythic gods of time; impossibility lay at the heart of their very existence.
Marcus and I stood with our backs against the wall near the doorway to Neffe’s state-of-the-art laboratory, taking up as little space as we could. Staying out of the way. Keeping our mouths shut. Letting the experts do their work. Trying to not have a damn freak-out.
“Nik.” Neffe’s voice was sure, commanding. “When you’re ready, please begin.”
My hand sought out Marcus’s, our fingers lacing together in a painfully tight grip. We watched, helpless and useless, as Nik cupped either side of Tarset’s head, closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply. He held his breath, looking so strange without his standard garb—no black clothing or leather or spikey hair. Now, his myriad of graying tattoos and silver piercings looked out of place next to his blue scrubs. Now, breath held and clothing matching those around him, he appeared the quintessential team player, a regular joiner.
I suppressed a highly inappropriate laugh and swallowed, cotton mouth making the action ineffective.
As Nik began his exhale, color bled back into Tarset’s opalescent body. First her hair blossomed to onyx black, then her skin to an ashen hue. The blanket covering the rest of her body, a relic woven millennia ago, faded from shimmering moonstone to vibrant crimson, yellow, and teal.
“Wait . . .” Nik’s voice was strained, quiet.
Though Tarset appeared to be made of living flesh now rather than solidified At, her body showed no signs of life.
“Almost . . .”
A tiny, pained noise came from Marcus as he stared at his unresponsive little girl. I gave his hand a squeeze.
This was it—the moment of truth. In just a few seconds, we would know whether Tarset had even the slightest chance of recovering from the ancient poison Apep had tainted the Oasis’s water source with thousands of years ago, or if her damaged organs would give out and she would be truly gone.
I’d made a promise to her mother, Seshseshet, to save Tarset. To look after her. To raise her as my own daughter. To give her a chance at a normal life in a world that would seem foreign and alien. But at least it would be a life, a chance to grow up. At least it would be a promise kept.
A few weeks back, we’d revived the kitten I’d frozen in At with Tarset so long ago. Rus had been a gift from Heru, Marcus’s ancient counterpart, given to me during my first homesick night in ancient Egypt. The fuzz ball was, once again, the rambunctious creature he’d been millennia ago, though his first few days had been a little rough, and that was poison free. Tarset’s transition into modern times would be far bumpier. Which was precisely why the room was packed with a small army of highly skilled Nejerets waiting for Nik to finish the transformation process.
Sweat beaded on Nik’s brow, and I was fairly certain he’d yet to take another breath. “And . . .” he said on the final stretch of his exhale. “Done.”
The room exploded with activity. The four Nejerets standing on either side of Tarset’s ancient bed gathered her up in a choreographed movement and swiftly shifted her to the hospital bed. Before their hands were even free, other Nejerets moved in, intubating, inserting needles, injecting antidotes, setting up IV bags, and placing electrodes. When one moved away from the bed, another would swoop in, weaving between the others and a vast array of bulky machines in a fluid, expertly executed dance.
As the machines came to life with beeps and whirrs, Tarset seemed to revive as well. Her cheeks filled with color, and she coughed on the breathing tube, her small, fragile body writhing on the mattress.
“Administer two milligrams of pentobarbital,” Neffe ordered.
Seconds later, Tarset’s body grew still and quiet, her limbs askew. Her chest rose and fell in time with the whoosh and beep of the ventilator set up near her head.
“BP is sixty over forty—low, but stable,” one member of the team said mechanically while another delivered a pinky-sized vial of blood to Neffe.
“Take another sample after the transfusion,” Neffe told the Nejeret, then looked at Aset. “You’re up.” She gave her aunt’s arm a squeeze, and the two small but brilliant Nejerettes exchanged a nod.
Neffe turned and headed toward the doorway. She paused at the threshold to place her hand on Marcus’s shoulder, flashing him the tiniest of smiles. “So far, so good, Father.” Her caramel eyes were bright with excitement, her cheeks flushed.
“Thank you,” Marcus said, his voice husky.
Neffe pulled her hand back and hurried through the doorway into the lab.
“Sir.” Carlisle, Marcus’s “man,” stepped into the doorway in Neffe’s place, his features tense. “I know this isn’t the best time, but—”
Marcus tore his gaze from the activity surrounding Tarset to look at Carlisle, who leaned back a few inches.
“What is it, Carlisle?” I asked softly.
With a quick nod to himself, Carlisle regained his bearings and shifted his focus to me. “Apologies, Meswett”—he bowed his head, just a little—“but a couple of people were detected attempting to breach the wall at the north end of the compound. Dominic is detaining them as we speak.” British aristocracy dripped off of him with every word and movement.
Marcus looked from Carlisle to Tarset and back, his expression torn. I could only imagine what he was going through. I was barely a month pregnant and I already felt like I’d slaughter anyone who even mentioned harming our twins.
“I’ll handle it,” I told my husband—my bond-mate. “Stay here with Tarsi. I’ll check in soon.” I leaned in to brush my lips against his cheek, then caught Nik’s eye across the room and nodded toward the doorway. He was on his way before I’d even taken my first step.
Carlisle led Nik and me through the lab toward the stairwell leading up to the main floor. We were in the basement of the Heru compound’s mansion of a main house on Bainbridge Island. Dozens of other buildings populated the complex, including homes for other Nejerets in Marcus’s line, garages and outbuildings, a training facility, and, I had no doubt, some sort of detention or holding cells.
“Where’s Dom holding them?” I asked.
Carlisle paused with his hand on the handle of the stairwell door and looked at me. “The dungeon, Meswett.”
I grabbed his arm. “I’m sorry—did you just say ‘dungeon’?” This was the Pacific Northwest, after all. Our oldest buildings were a century and a half, maybe. Hardly built during the age of dungeons.
“Yes, Meswett.” Carlisle glanced down at my hand. “Might we continue?”
He pulled the door open and waved me through the doorway. I hurried up the stairs, Nik and Carlisle close behind me.
“This way,” Carlisle said once we’d emerged in the hallway on the main floor. We crossed the entryway and passed through the tall front door. A posh electric golf cart waited in the driveway, what the inhabitants of the Heru compound used to get around within the walls when they didn’t feel like using their own two feet.
“So who are these intruders?” I asked as we jogged down the stone steps at the front of the house. I figured it had to be someone notable, or Carlisle would’ve waited until Marcus was free.
The look Carlisle shot me confirmed my suspicion, but it was the names he uttered that turned my blood into lava. “The young Nejeret Carson,” he said, holding out his hand to help me onto the cart.
I waved him away, but he remained there for a moment longer, his eyes meeting mine.
That's it for the first chapter. Read chapter 2 here.