Dr. Alexander Ranulf Ian Coimhead looked up into the blazing hot Israeli sun and truly wondered what he was doing. He could be relaxing on a beach somewhere—so why wasn’t he? Lately, these questions seemed to torment his soul. Alec loved what he did, but his rugged good looks made him appear more suited for a movie screen than the grueling and much-maligned field to which he’d devoted his life. But against all odds, here he was. It was an opportunity to prove himself—and change the world. Xenoarchaeology, Alec. And hard evidence. Alec looked around the dig site and could not believe his luck in achieving placement on the IAA's official dig. Dealing with the Israeli Antiquities Authority was difficult at the best of times. Alec began to think that none of his colleagues back at the University of Glasgow would even be interested in this dig, nor take it seriously. At the very least, something interesting had happened at these ancient sites, but if the stories were written off as folk tales, all that would be ignored. He could hear them now: xenoarchaeology isn’t even real; blah, blah, blah… Startled, he noticed a bottle of water being thrust at him, just mere inches away from his face. As he looked up into the unfamiliar and happy expression staring back at him, he wondered who the new female staff member eye-humping him might be. "You looked thirsty, Doctor Comb-head." The young American girl continued to hold out the bottle of water. Alec gently took the bottle of water from the girl, opened it, and took a small swallow. "Thank you, lass. Oh, and by the way, the name’s pronounced Coim-heed, not Comb-head." Alec smiled at her. The young girl became so embarrassed and flustered, she quickly fled to another part of the dig site. Alec just shook his head, pondering the dig. By the Gods—Dudael. Could this really be Dudael? "Alec? Hello…Alec? Wake up, you numpty." Alec looked over to his left and saw his beautiful partner-in-crime and everything else: his best friend, Clementine Bonnie Armistead. As usual, Clemy was dressed in her jeans, combat boots, and a tank top, her long blonde hair up in a ponytail. "Do all Americans yell like a banshee to get someone's attention?" "Only us Southern belles, sweetie. I see you're still wowing all the interns with your charm. Honestly, Alec, I’ve been trying to get your attention for the last five minutes. Where did you drift off to this time?" "Very funny, Clemy," Alec grumbled back. Alec could never be mad at his Clemy. The best thing in the world, Alec thought, was beauty and the brains to match—and that she didn’t mind digging in the dirt with him. How many years has it been since we first met at the University of Edinburgh? he thought to himself. "You're doing it again," Clemy said. Alec looked up again to see her standing over him. "What? Oh, yes, Mother." R.R. PEARL Clemy put her hands on her hips, in her usual pose of feigned anger—but it wasn’t working. "I'm only two years older than you." "You know, ye sound like Grandma Rose." Clemy just kept staring down at him. "You're lucky she's not here with us, or she would crack you upside the head." They both started laughing. For some reason, Clemy always took Alec under her wing and treated him like her younger brother. "Anyway,” Clemy said, “come over here. I think I found something you may find very interesting." Clemy helped Alec out of the hole he’d been digging. "So, what did ye find? An ancient rectal probe?" Alec joked. He wasn’t really expecting anything, especially not this early. "Hah. No, you numpty. Something much better. Look at this. " Clemy picked up a statue of a half-man, half-goat. Rather than a depiction of Pan or another satyr, the statue’s claws reached forward, its mouth gaping wide, the ferocious pointed teeth tearing apart a human. "It can't be!” Alec felt shock overwhelm him. “Azazel? If this is Azazel, then this is definitely Dudael.” "Hang on. I agree, this looks like descriptions of Azazel, but the area actually fulfilling descriptions of Dudael is something still to be decided on." Alec gazed down at the statue in his hands. He just knew this statue was a depiction of the evil demon god from the Book of Enoch. With his photographic memory, he knew the statue’s image would stay with him forever. He couldn’t help automatically reciting something from his studies. "Azazel was one of the original Watchers from Heaven. At least, that’s what Enoch said. He and his other cohorts were to look after man, but never involve themselves in their everyday lives." "Yeah. We all know how that worked out." Clemy let out a grunt. Alec placed the statue down and started to look over some jars with rolled up-papyrus scrolls in them, then over at a stone tablet. Something about the tablet inspired a yearning in him. He went to pick up the tablet and stopped abruptly when the pudgy and bearded Professor Shimone of the IAA came over to the table. The leading archaeologist of the dig was a pleasant-enough fellow, but had as much imagination as a dead toad. "So, what have you two loveable mashuganas found for me this time?" Professor Shimone's Israeli accent was quite thick, but still understandable. Alec and Clemy began a rapidfire litany of what Clemy had found, but once Alec stated that the statue depicted Azazel and that this must be Dudael, Professor Shimone's face went white. "Stop, stop, Alec! Please, you’re jumping to conclusions again. There’s no proof of anything like that on this table." "But Professor, the etching in the—" Shimone put his hands up to stop him. "Enough! Alec, it all needs to be reviewed." Others around the dig site stopped working to watch the exchange. Clemy gave Alec a look. She said calmly, "Professor, may I bring these items into my tent for further R.R. PEARL inspection? Even though I also believe, as you do, that there is no evidence of Azazel here or Dudael." Why would she be saying that? Alec looked over at Clemy with incredulity. "Clemy, you said that—" Clemy interrupted Alec quickly, with feigned anger, "I said nothing of the kind, dear boy.” She looked back at the professor. “May I have the items for the evening, Professor?" Alec saw a great deal of thought going on behind the professor’s eyes. More than was necessary, he felt, for such a simple request. Does Shimone not trust Clemy? he wondered. However, after a few moments that felt like an hour, Shimone shook his head in assent. "Yes, yes, Clementine, you can have just this evening with the artifacts. Then the artifacts go to the examination tent.” Shimone quickly rounded on Alec and stated matter-offactly, "You are an excellent archaeologist, my boy, but you jump to such conclusions. Also, please keep your thoughts and ideas to yourself." Shimone quickly departed, leaving them to stare at each other. Everyone around the site went back to their work. Alec and Clemy watched the professor walk away. "Thanks for throwing me under the bus, Clemy. I owe you one!" "Oh please, Alec, you’re so naïve at times. I do believe you. However, did you see Shimone's expression when you told him it was Azazel and Dudael? His face went white as a sheet. I thought he was going to soil himself. In fact, I think he did." She grinned. "What's to be afraid of? It’s just a dig site. The way he went off, you'd think Azazel was going to jump out of the ground and kill everyone." Clemy just looked at Alec and shuddered. "He certainly wasn't going to let us look at the artifacts if you kept disagreeing with him and causing a fuss." Alec stamped his foot a little and gave her a little shrug of his shoulders. Clemy just nudged him. "You can be such a little boy at times, Alec." "Ha ha, very funny. All you have to do is look at him, and you get whatever you want." Clemy stood up proudly to her full height of five-five. "No, it’s because I’m smarter than him, and you, too." "That, and you’re terrifying." They both smiled, but Clemy looked impatient. “Now, let's get this all into my tent, where we can have a real good look at it." Clemy gave Alec a big smile, and they started to collect up the items on the table and started for Clemy's tent. *** Professor Shimone threw open his tent flap and started to rummage through the briefcase on his desk. He pulled out his large, black long-range military satellite phone, looked up the code, started pressing numbers quickly, and leaned it against his head and neck. At the same time, he reached for a brandy flask, leaned back, and took a long draw from it. "Hello, Vaughn here," an English accent stated from the other side of the satellite phone. Shimone stopped drinking abruptly. "Get me Kassadine. I found it." R.R. PEARL *** Alec and Clemy sat around a rickety wooden table with all the artifacts. Alec grabbed another scroll from one of the earthen pottery jars and started to review it closely. "Would you like some more tea, Alec?" Clemy asked as she got up, holding her heirloom teacup. Alec simply looked up at her, handed his teacup to her, then continued looking over the ancient parchment. Clemy looked down at him in horror. "Hey, be careful. That's the family Royal Crown Derby, thank you. Not one of your Scottish Royal Standard." At that, Clemy daintily took the teacup from Alec, went over to an antique tea cart, and started pouring tea. Alec was so engrossed in the parchment; he didn’t even realize his arm was still extended outward. Clemy walked back over to the table, where Alec was staring at the parchment, and plonked the fresh teacup back into his outstretched hand. Still engrossed, Alec simply took the cup and began sipping his tea. "Thank ye, Clemy." Clemy simply shook her head in disgust and went back to the tea cart to refresh her own beverage. "You know, Clemy, Azazel appears in the Bible in association with the scapegoat rite. In some traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam, it is the name for the fallen angel. However, in Rabbinic Judaism, it is not the name of the fallen angel, but literally means, ‘for the complete removal.’ In other words, it meant designating that the goat was to be cast out into the wild, instead of the goat sacrificed for Yahweh. The Bible goes on to say in Leviticus that two male goats were to be sacrificed to Yahweh, and that one of the two goats were to be selected by lot. Supposedly, Yahweh was speaking to man through the lots." Clemy interrupted with a whistle. "So, he always gets the choice cuts, I guess." Alec looked up at her. "Very funny. Seriously, the final words are, ‘either for absolute removal’ or ‘for Azazel.’ Then the goat was shoved out into the desert as a part of Yom Kippur. In an older version of the King James Bible, Azazel is translated as ‘a scapegoat.’" Clemy picked up the statue of the half-man, half-goat Azazel and looked it over. The detail was astounding, and from the look on her face, she couldn’t help but let her imagination run wild a little. "So, that's why he looks so much like goat-boy here." Alec grabbed the statue from her and placed it back on the table. "Seriously, Clemy, just from what little we've read here and reviewed, it's obvious that this is Azazel, and that we're digging in Dudael. Why can't Professor Shimone see it? Even the site is located east of Jerusalem. This is where one of the worst Watchers was finally beaten and imprisoned." "Alec, I know. You're preaching to the choir. The Book of Enoch clearly states that the Angel Raphael was told by God to imprison Azazel in Dudael. Nevertheless, no one is sure where the head honcho Samyaza was buried. I assume he got a real special spot. Anyway, I will say this—when you told Shimone that this was Dudael and the statue was Azazel, he went white as a ghost." Alec stopped, then looked over the parchment, and glanced quizzically at Clemy. "You know, he did look a wee bit nauseous." R.R. PEARL Clemy burst out laughing at the memory, then sobered. "Still, it makes no sense for him to be all worked up like that. He’s not exactly the superstitious and credulous type." "That's for sure. Well, let's see what this great tablet has to tell us." Alec reached across the table for the tablet. As his fingers caressed the surface, the tablet seemed to light up with a blue hue. Alec's eyes widened and his stare went blank. As he looked at Clemy, it felt as though he was quickly traveling backward out of the tent. All he could see around him were multicolored streaks of light passing by him as if he were in a tunnel. Suddenly, all the streaks of light came to an abrupt halt, and he was at the dig site again. Alec knew it was the same spot, but as he looked around, there were no tents, no equipment for digging, nothing. A battle raged around him—an army of what could only be demons fighting angels. Alec knew it was impossible. As he watched, creatures with horns and fangs were ripping apart what looked like men wearing armor. Moreover—could those be wings flapping on their backs? Alec's eyes focused on one of the armored men. Wielding a staff shaped like a double-headed-snake, the man beat back creatures that looked like large, red-horned dogs. Each time the man hit one of the demon dogs, a bright green light shone, and the flesh of the creature ripped open, killing it instantly. Alec looked harder at the man. My Gods, he’s gorgeous! As he ducked down, he realized that now wasn’t the time to ogle some guy, but he couldn’t take his eyes off him. Six-foot-seven, if not more. Shoulder-length dirty blond hair whipped around as he battled the creatures. Even though the man wore armor, Alec could see something of his physique— heavily muscled and fit. At that moment, the god-like man turned toward Alec, as if he could see him clear as day. Alec froze as he stared into the man's otherworldly emerald eyes. Suddenly, the man raised his staff. It looked like he was yelling something. Alec quickly turned around and was shocked to be staring up into the blazing red eyes of the half-goat, half-man Watcher demon, Azazel. He screamed and closed his eyes, holding up his arms, and hoping that he’d wake up and discover that it was just a horrible dream. He quickly blinked and opened his eyes to see Clemy standing over him. "Alec! Alec, are you all right?" Clemy screamed at him in total panic. Alec looked at Clemy, completely confused. "What? I, I'm fine—fine, Clemy, I think. What the hell just happened to me?" Clemy helped Alec off the floor and onto her cot. "That's the fifty-thousand-dollar question of the hour. One minute, you touch that damn tablet over there, and the next minute, I can’t even pry it out of your hands. Your face went blank, and I started screaming at you to let go." "I don't know what just happened. I touched the tablet and then saw all—" Alec stopped abruptly. "Saw what?" Clemy asked, concerned. Alec looked up at her from her cot with a blank stare. R.R. PEARL "Clemy, I don't know what the hell I just saw! Angels fighting demons, and…creatures." Alec shook his head from side to side, starting to get excited. Clemy sat down next to him and put her arms around him. "Take it easy, Alec. Relax. Lay back on the cot. I’ll get you a little tea and a shot of whiskey. Hang on a second." Clemy got up and started to go over to the tea cart. Alec laid back down fully on Clemy's cot. What just happened was totally impossible. It had to be. He turned his head over toward the stone tablet and just stared at it— frightened, yet excited for some reason. He closed his eyes and began thinking of the unbelievable things he’d just witnessed, or thought he’d witnessed. Was it real? Did he really see a battle between angels and demons? Most important, who was that incredibly gorgeous guy yelling something at him? *** His eyes snapped open, and he sat up quickly. "That gorgeous guy, he had…wings?" Alec said to no one in particular. Clemy dropped her teacup on the floor, which shattered. She quickly looked over at Alec and just stared at him, confused and frightened. Alec woke up with a start. He looked around the tent. It was Clemy's tent. "Where am I? Clemy, what am I doing in your tent?" Alec asked, confused. "Well, good morning to you too, Mary Sunshine." Clemy was just putting the finishing touches on breakfast for them. She went over to Alec, who was still sitting up in a confused state on her cot. She leaned over, and in a very deep, sexy voice, whispered in his ear, "Sex was great, Alec. Wow, you're a dynamo in bed." "Ach, you're nasty. You're like my sister, Clemy!" he said, ready to retch. "I know." Then Clemy hit Alec with a pillow. "Get up and have some breakfast with me." Clemy walked over to the table as Alec got up slowly from the cot and hobbled over as well. More seriously, she said, "You had me worried last night, Alec. What happened?" Alec took a long sip of the tea. "I'm not rightly sure, lass. I touched that stone tablet, and…" Alec looked over at the other table, but noticed everything—from the tablet to all the scrolls—was gone. "Where the bloody hell are the scrolls and the tablet?" Clemy sat down next to him and touched his shoulder. "Calm down. Shimone took possession of everything this morning before you woke up. In addition, before you start with, ‘Why did you let him,’ I couldn’t stop him. He runs the show here. We can look them over again later." "Yeah right, if he'll bloody well let us." Alec tried to keep his anger from flaring up at Clemy. After all, he knew she was right. "Alec, what happened to you last night?" Clemy asked again, looking concerned. Alec thought for a second to collect his thoughts about last night's events. "All I know is this—I touched the tablet, and it started glowing blue. Then everything just went strange. You know when you drive through snow on a pitch-black road?" Clemy shook her head in the affirmative and smiled. R.R. PEARL "Well, it was like that for a second or so. Then I was outside, here at the excavation. But it wasn't like this." "It was the excavation, but it wasn't the excavation?" Clemy looked confused. Alec started to get frustrated and clenched his hands. "No, it was the site, but it was like the whole temple mound was new and fresh. Then these wee critters that looked like they came out of Hell itself were battling—" Alec stopped and thought a moment. Clemy was getting worked up. "Like what? Battling what?" "Well, battling…angels, I guess," Alec said calmly and matter-of-factly. Clemy was wide-eyed with disbelief, shock, and misunderstanding. Her mouth opened a bit. "I'm serious! I'm not joking, Clemy!" Alec yelled back at her. "Don't you believe me? You think this is the sort of thing I would make up?" "Of course I do. I mean, not make up—of course, I believe you. If you say you saw demons and angels fighting, of course I believe you," Clemy promised, looking unconvinced. "Thank goodness, lass, because I can hardly believe it myself." Alec picked up his teacup and sipped the Earl Grey tea he loved so much. He took a bite from one of Clemy's scones, setting the teacup down with a start as he remembered something. "Then, while I was trying not to get killed, I spotted this amazing guy from across the battlefield." "What? Only you could go looking for a guy on a battlefield." Clemy shook her head. "No, Clemy, really, this guy was amazing! Six-footseven or more. Long, sandy blond hair past his shoulders; and his body was like a god’s. Oh, and he had wings too," Alec said excitedly. "You got me hooked, sugar. Sounds amazing, and—" Alec interrupted her quickly. "And this is where it really gets weird." "Only now it gets weird?" Clemy looked at Alec quizzically. "He stopped fighting and stared directly at me like he could actually see me, and those amazing eyes of his, they were just like the brightest greenest emeralds you've ever seen. They were otherworldly." Alec stared off into the distance. "Hello, numpty. Come back to earth." Clemy shook him a little. "What? Huh? Anyway, then this nasty hell-goatlooking thing leaned over and tried to kill me. I screamed, raised my arms up over my head, and then I woke up on the floor of your tent." "And you got all that from touching that tablet. Strange. I touched it, as well as Professor Shimone. Nothing like that ever happened. Only to you—very strange." From outside the tent, they heard someone saying something they could not quite make out. At the same time, they both turned their heads to the flap at the front of the tent. They got up and walked outside, only to see the entire area crowded with IAA troops. Clemy and Alec stared at each other in total surprise. One of the heavily armed troopers lifted a megaphone to his mouth. "This is the Israeli Antiquities Authority. This R.R. PEARL dig is to be shut down at once! Nothing is to be removed, and everyone is to stay where they are!" Alec started to walk up to the troopers and spotted something out of the corner of his eye. From out of nowhere, black-clad soldiers started shooting at the IAA troopers and the dig staff. Bullets flew everywhere. The IAA troops started firing back. From above, Black Hawk helicopters flew over, dropping more black-clad soldiers. One of the Black Hawk helicopters dropped a woman about thirty years old, thin yet muscular, and with very long, straight black hair. She immediately began shooting back with her Heckler and Koch MP5k, spraying the crowd of people with bullets. Both the IAA troops and the dig site civilians fell under the hail. Alec and Clemy dove for cover, trying to get away from all the shooting. In minutes, the black-clad troopers were the only ones left standing alive. The woman with the long black hair issued her orders. One of the black-clad troopers approached her. "Miss Erebos, ma'am, the site is secure, and the troops are making sure there are no survivors." "Good. I don’t want a living thing left behind here. See if Shimone is still alive, cowering somewhere, and find those artifacts." She smiled with satisfaction. The trooper walked off. Alec watched as the woman began to check around the dig site herself. She saw someone trying to crawl away, and walked by the crawling person, then shot her in the head. As she looked over the site, occasional gun sounds went off in the distance. Again, she smiled. It chilled Alec to the bone. Clemy and Alec looked at each other. "Did she say ‘Shimone’? What did he do?" Clemy whispered to Alec. "No wonder he didn't want us having those artifacts! It doesn't matter what the son-of-a bitch knows, or did. We need to get out of here—now!" Alec said, quite out of breath. "I know, but it seems there are troops everywhere." From behind them, Professor Shimone scuttled in, his arms full of the parchments, the stone, and other artifacts that Clemy had found the day before, a WWI-style revolver shaking in his hand. "Professor, what the hell is going on here?” Clemy demanded. The professor pointed the gun at them both. "Excuse me, you two, but move it." The professor waved the gun for them to leave their hiding spot and out into the open. "Move it, now, and put your hands up where I can see them." They all got up and started walking out into the center of the dig site. "Ye bastard. You won't get away with this," Alec snarled at Shimone. "Yeah, right. Just keep moving, Mr. Coimhead, or I'll blow your head off." Seven black-clad troopers surrounded them. The commander began to speak into his shoulder walkie-talkie. "Miss Erebos, ma'am, we have Professor Shimone and two others." "Hold them there. I'll be right over." Everyone heard Erebos's voice over the walkie-talkie. She walked up to the group with more troopers. "Well, well, what have we here? Shimone, is this everything that was found?" she asked. R.R. PEARL Shimone stammered. "Well, all that's been found so far. And, and, these are the two who found the artifacts." The woman looked at Shimone with her steely green eyes. She opened up one of her side holsters, took out her Smith and Wesson M&P 45, and shot Shimone in the head. "He called us too soon. Oh well," she said breezily. Despite his terror, Alec noticed her Greek accent. "Commander, pick up all the artifacts." She looked over at Alec and Clemy. "Athens, Greece, I believe?" Alec asked. "Very good, Doctor Coimhead. I grew up there. Oh, yes—I know who you and your partner are, Doctor Clementine Armistead," Erebos stated matter-of-factly. Clemy looked at Alec in disbelief. "Why do you always do that?" Clemy hissed at him, dumbfounded. “This isn’t the time for pleasantries!” "Who are you people, and why did you have to kill everyone?" Alec asked incredulously. "I would love to tell you both all about myself and the organization I work for, but time is truly a-wasting. Is there anything other than these artifacts? Or do I have to rip both what's left of this site and yourselves apart?" "You can’t just destroy our life’s work this easily," Clemy snapped. Erebos smiled, backhanding Clemy. "Doctor Armistead, I have no time or patience for your nonsense. Very well. Commander, kill them both and begin to search the site." Before the commander could even raise his gun, his head exploded. His body dropped to the ground. Blue-clad troopers began to flood the dig site, firing at all of the blackclad New Watcher troops. Alec and Clemy ducked, noticing artifacts next to the dead commander's body. The commander, Erebos, also seemed to notice them. She reached for them. Clemy swung a haymaker at Erebos, smacking her in the mouth. Unphased, Erebos jabbed her in the face with a sharp punch, dropping her to the ground. Alec set down the artifacts he’d scooped up, hoping to defend her. Erebos lifted her gun and shot Alec in the right shoulder. He dropped to the ground, next to Clemy, who looked stunned. Erebos picked up the artifacts and looked down at Alec, who clutched his wounded shoulder. She raised her pistol and pointed it at Alec and Clemy. "Well, nice meeting you, Doctors. A shame it was all too short a visit." At that moment, the blue-clad troopers started shooting at Erebos. A tall man wearing green armored fatigues moved towards them. Erebos bolted, clutching the artifacts and running towards her surviving troopers. Alec’s pain was incredible. He’d never experienced anything like it in his life. Stunned, he began to fade in and out of consciousness. As he writhed in pain, he noticed out of the corner of his eye what looked like the corner of another one of the stone tablets partially protruding out from the ground. He stared over at the blue-clad troops coming closer. Then he noticed the tall man leading them—he was absolutely gorgeous. R.R. PEARL "Gods, Clemy's right—I really do think of the strangest things at the wrong time," Alec mumbled to himself. Alec continued to fade in and out. Before he lost consciousness completely, he thought he saw the tall man's hands glowing green. He ran towards Alec—but Alec finally succumbed to his pain, and passed out.