By the way, Tomb Raider, Lara Croft, and her likeness are all copyright (c) EIDOS Entertainment, 1996. This story is copyright to me, and may not be used without my express permission. Any references to incidents or persons, either living or dead, is purely coincidental.




Lara surveyed the room in which she stood. People were milling about quietly; the subdued murmur of Appellate conversation combined with the subtle yet elegant clink or champagne glasses. Lara hated these functions (especially the polite, and above all, meaningless conversation), but she had to show some respect to the museum that had just bought her latest find. People tended to be a little offended if you refuse to go to a function on the grounds that you hated sharing a room with pompous upper class superficial socialites. She wondered how many of them actually cared at all about the museum (or more accurately, its contents) and how many of them were just here to show how fashionable, intelligent and, probably more than anything, how rich they were.

She didn't really feel comfortable in the black pants and tasteful sleeveless gray top she was wearing, but she felt distinctly more comfortable than she would have in a constricting formal gown. The atmosphere reminded her of the social events she used to attend as a teenager, and that was an association she didn't care to contemplate right now. Instead she let her mind wander to the times she had spent here as a small girl, staring in wonder at the ancient mummies and jeweled artifacts. When she was young, she had seen a movie where two children were trapped in a museum late at night, and wished that she could go exploring through the darkened corridors, cabinets throwing strange shadows in the gloom

"Miss Croft, no ?"

Lara's private reminiscences were interrupted by a male voice. She glanced around to see a brown haired and black suited man standing at her side. He looked as if he was in his early thirties, and she groaned inwardly. One of the things she tried to avoid at these functions was the inevitable attention of upwardly mobile men who wanted to tame the wild Croft, or who felt that they could entice her back into the aristocracy. His condescending tone placed him firmly in the last group in Lara's mind, and she began to frantically concoct excuses to depart immediately.

"I read your book recently Slaying Bigfoot. A charming work of fiction, I must admit. It's been amusing for me to see how you've plunged the zoological world into turmoil. What on earth persuaded you to write a book like that ?"

"The large shaggy rug on my loungeroom floor," snapped Lara, turning on her heel. She had to get out of here, before she said something she might regret (although right now she could think of quite a few things to say that she doubted she'd regret at all). The man reached for her retreating arm, and as he grabbed her wrist she whirled around and twisted her arm sharply, bringing a surprised wince of fairly severe pain to his face.

"I'm sorry, but there's something I simply must attend to in the next room," she said in a sweet voice edged with steel. She strode towards the door, the middle aged security guard startled as she pushed past. He walked after her,

"Miss ? I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to stay out of there. This part of the museum is closed for the evening."

"I'm very sorry, but I don't like crowds, and I'm feeling a little socially claustrophobic. Could I just rest for a few minutes in this room ? I won't go anywhere, I'll stay where you can see me."

The security guard smiled.

"I don't blame you. Myself, I don't feel comfortable with all these rich types. I'd rather be down at the pub any day."

Lara smiled back, "Believe me, I know how you feel"

She wandered the cool sanctuary of the quiet, empty room, she hoped that none of the museum's important figures had seen what had just happened. She sighed - well, it could have been worse. She wandered the room, always taking care to stay within the sights of the security guard. Walking up to one of the cabinets, she traced her finger on the glass, looking at the display of small clay votive figures. Of course Lara herself had provided quite a few exhibits for the museum, exhibits which had brought a lot of comment from the archaeological establishment. Her most important or dangerous finds were kept at home, locked away where they would be much safer than here at the museum. She smiled at the thought of the Ark of the Covenant, hidden in the secret room underneath the stairs. One of the most beautiful and special artifacts that she had retrieved. Still uneasy about her decision to commit her latest find into their care, Lara thought over her arguments for and against that had been continually battling inside her head - she still wasn't quite sure if it was totally safe. She pictured the intricate metalwork on the bracelet in her mind, the circular designs framing the large dark red stone in the center. The way the light used to glint off the silver, and refract strangely within the stone.

One of the main reasons she had decided to give to bracelet to the museum was because even having it in the house made her uneasy it was too mesmerizing. She caught herself staring at it for long periods of time, entranced by the play of light and dark in the stone. She didn't trust herself around it, and at least here it would be out of reach. Hopefully the hundreds of people who wandered through, gaping at the exhibits mindlessly would not pay too much heed to the entrancing stone, the polished surface hidden by a half-inch thick layer of perspex. She wondered why on earth it was her lot to constantly discover dangerous artifacts ? Why, for once, couldn't she just find something boring, like ancient Peruvian potsherds or the tomb of a completely unremarkable ruler who had nothing to do with sorcery or ancient genetic engineering ? Smiling wryly, she answered herself - "Because then it wouldn't be any fun."

In the room next door, the constant murmur of voices fell to silence as a figure stepped behind the lectern in the center of the floor, and began to speak.

"S'about bloody time," whispered one slightly tipsy guest to another. The other wasn't really listening, preoccupied as he was with massaging his still-sore wrist.

"Here, what's wrong with your wrist ? Let me have a look, 'madoctor". The self-proclaimed if slightly slurred doctor grabbed his wrist, and bent it so it was in the light. The owner of the abused wrist gritted his teeth against the squeal of pain that would have otherwise emerged.

"Needs a bandage," said the doctor, and promptly proceeded to drag his would-be patient towards the room containing, amongst all the historical artifacts, Lara.

"Look, let go of me you drunk loony !" he hissed. Trying to be as discreet as possible , he attempted to disentangle himself from this strange man. Still, every eye in the room was turning towards him and his undesired companion, and he received a particularly frosty glare from the speaker behind the lectern. This must be the most embarrassing evening I have ever had - first rejected and injured by Miss Croft and then this ! he thought, as he felt his face turning that particular shade of red. To save any further embarrassment to himself and any further damage to his social standing he stopped struggling, hoping that when they reached the privacy of the room ahead he could get rid of this idiot.

Lara stood with a slightly suppressed smile on her face as she watched the couple weave towards her hiding place. She probably should be returning to the main room in any case, to hear the curator talk about how wonderful she was for finding that beautiful artifact, etcetera, etcetera, and how much the museum appreciated her contribution. If they actually knew what she had given them they might not be so glad of it, however. Unfortunately this train of thought distracted her to the point where the two men had reached the door. Lara watched as the security guard rose to meet them, but after a few seconds he returned to his seat, and they entered the room. Lara moved to circle around the outside of the room hopefully she could get past without them noticing, and avoid their attention in this secluded room (that didn't even bear thinking about). She stepped sideways behind a large cabinet containing a sarcophagus, and started to edge towards the door.

"Stop right there, Miss Croft."

She froze, uncertain. She was sure that they could not have seen her, and certain they could not have heard her quiet, sure steps. Who was this person, and what did they want ? She was severely tempted to dive behind the cabinet in front of her, roll and, well, unfortunately carrying firearms was not considered proper in polite society, and she hadn't precisely been expecting anything out of the ordinary. She shook off the acrobatic compulsion, and turned to face the person who had addressed her.

He was standing in the shadows, and Lara could not manage to make out his features. However, it was easy to recognise the previously pompous, but now exceedingly frightened aristocrat who had harassed her earlier in the evening. The object of his fear now rested a few millimeters away from the side of his face - a small handgun.

Lara's gaze immediately went to the door, and saw that the security guard was slumped, as if asleep. "The security guard - what did you do to him ?"

The hidden man chuckled dustily.

"Nothing he won't live through. I'm not here to kill just anyone."

With this, he pushed away his captive, and swung the gun around to face Lara.

She reacted immediately, ducking and diving forward towards the shadowed man, hoping it was what he least expected. The sound of the gun firing and cabinets shattering behind her filled the air, and little bits of glass showered her body. She heard the former captive scream, and scramble from the room, and the raised voices in the next room. Her desperate dive connected, as she cannoned into his lower legs, sending him crashing to the floor. Unfortunately, one of his boots slammed into her ribs as they hit, winding her and forcing a breathless grunt of pain out along with the air. Even though she was screaming at her body to get up, get away, she was forced to lie still for a few moments before she could breathe again. She heard the steps of high heeled and expensive shoes at the doorway, and the gasps as they found the prone body of the security guard, but they did not venture any further into the room, unable to see anyone in the shadows where Lara now lay gasping for breath. As soon as she was able to move, she started to scramble up painfully, hoping more than anything that the shadowy man had been knocked unconscious.

When she knelt to stand, she felt the right side of her face explode in a burst of pain. The apparently unconscious figure had swung the gun at her face as soon as she began to rise, connecting and throwing her sideways. As Lara fell, he rose to kneel above her, and started to bring the gun around into her face.

She saw the gun swinging into her line of vision, and she raised her hand to try to stop him. His wrist slapped into her palm, but it took all of her strength to keep the gun pointing just a few inches away from her ear. Panting from the fall and fight, he looked into her face, and began to smile.

"Imagine - I will be the one to kill the," and here he laughed, "famous Miss Croft. Who has evaded many and survived much but I will have you !"

"Not likely."

Bringing her knee up, Lara aimed for an incapacitating blow. Surprised and caught off guard, the man lurched awkwardly to the side, trying to avoid her attempt to put him out of action. Which, of course, was all Lara needed. Grabbing onto to the man's shirt, she pulled him further off balance, and slammed his head into the marble floor. She was gratified to see that his eyes rolled up into his head, and his body went limp. Swiftly retrieving the gun from his hands, she stood, smoothing out her now hopelessly messy clothes. Strangely, though, she felt far more comfortable in them now.

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