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After and Before AOD
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Before and After AOD

 

 

By Kramer

 

 

North Africa, early nineties

At this point, the observation tower, the heat was even more unbearable. He couldn’t even see the hills at the horizon as the air was blurred. The French flag above him was hanging down, usually a slight breeze was enough to make it wave majestically but there was no sign of any wind. And if there was any, he knew very well, it was a sandstorm making it even more impossible fulfilling his duty, being on the look-out.

He took of his kepi for a second and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the neck-protection. “Private Trent! Are you sure you learned the rules back at boot camp?” Kurtis quickly put on his hat again, “Sir, yes I did, sir!” He looked down from where the sound came, his first sergeant smiled sarcastically at him and walked of again.

For two months he had been at this camp now and most of time he had been on the look-out in the burning sun and with absolutely nothing to see in this endless pile of sand.

He had been in the Legion for several years now but most of the time he had been stationed at Corsica. But a few weeks ago his battalion was shipped to North Africa to gain experience in desert-like conditions. There were rumours going on the United States were planning a war against Iraq, since this country invaded Kuwait.

Of course the French government was keen on letting their famous Foreign Legion take part in this undertaking.

“Hey, Demon Hunter!” Kurtis looked down to see who called him; another soldier was standing next to the ladder leading up to the observation tower. “It’s time,” the man said, tapping on an imaginary watch at his left wrist.

Kurtis made his way down the ladder. “Anything to see?” the guy asked. “Yeah,” said Kurtis, “lots of very dangerous looking sand, I’d raise the alarm if I where you.”

The other man giggled and gave Kurt a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Don’t fool me around Demon Hunter.”

On his way to the main building Kurtis thought about the nickname his colleagues gave him. During boot camp and his time at Corsica he had been telling some stories about his background and the fact he had some unusual abilities. Of course he mentioned just a few things as most of the activities of the Lux Veritatis were top secret.

He arrived at the main hall and joined his platoon mates sitting around a few tables, playing cards.

“We’ll get instructions by the lieutenant in a minute,” one man said, when Kurtis took the chair next to him. He drank some water and watched the guys playing blackjack for a while when the lieutenant walked in.

“Attention, Charlie Company! The afternoon training exercise will start in ten minutes, you have five minutes to prepare. Fall out!”

Kurtis stood up and followed the others. “Private Trent.” He stopped, “Yes sir?” The lieutenant pointed at the door of his office, “Join me in my office for a moment, will you?” Kurtis followed him into the small room. The lieutenant stood behind his desk looking into the big fan for a while as if all the answers would come out of it. “I have something to tell you, have a seat. We received a phone call this morning from France. I’m afraid your father has passed away. I’m sorry.”

Kurtis was shocked, his father wasn’t that old and in good health. How could he be dead? What happened? It was unbelievable.

“How?” Kurtis asked with a dry throat. His lieutenant took a deep breath; it was obvious he found it difficult to tell this. “I’m sorry Trent, but I’m afraid he, your father, got killed.”

Kurtis slapped himself against the forehead and sank deep into his chair. He knew it, from the moment his father told him about the Lux Veritatis and their activities, he kept this in the back of his mind.

“Of course you have the permission to go back to France,” the lieutenant continued. “To do, well, you know.” Kurtis nodded, he had to stay at the Legion for one more year according to his contract. After that he should go and do his duty as the last living member of the Lux Veritatis. He would track down the people who did this and complete the job his father worked on for most of his life.

 

 

Paris

It was already getting dark when Kurtis’ plane arrived at the De Gaulle airport just outside Paris. During the flight he had been thinking about how the rest of life would be like, now his father was killed by Eckhart. Or at least, it seemed pretty obvious it was Eckhart. His father told him more then once about this black alchemist and the Cabal.

When he was younger he didn’t want to get involved into the whole thing. He wanted to have fun and be just like his friends.

But when his father moved to France Kurtis learned more about the activities of the Lux Veritatis. And during his time in the Foreign Legion he began to accept that he would be the last member of the LV if his father would die. Eckhart and the Cabal were extremely dangerous and they had to be stopped.

Outside the airport he called for a taxi. On their way to his father’s apartment the driver tried to chat a bit about the weather and the latest football results, but Kurtis ignored him. While driving through the streets of the French capital his memories went back to the times his father taught him how to use his farsee ability and told him about demons, alchemy and the Lux Veritatis. For a moment, he felt a lump in his throat and he swallowed hard. “Come on Kurt,” he said quietly to himself, “you’re a grown man.”

An hour later the taxi stopped in front of the house. Kurtis paid the driver and walked up to the front door. Someone saw him from inside and opened the door before he had a change to ring the bell; it was his uncle. “Come in, the rest of the family is present as well.”

 

The next morning Kurtis woke up in his father’s bed. Last evening he agreed to take over the apartment, when he finished his time at the Legion he could live and work here. His father did a lot of research and all this information was at his study.

According to his will Kurtis’ father wanted to be buried in the town he grew up, so today they would all take a flight to The States. After the funeral Kurtis would return to North Africa.

He jumped out the bed and after he took a shower and put on his clothes he went downstairs to have some breakfast. He took a look at his watch, time enough to take a look in the study before he had to go the airport. His family was staying in a hotel and they agreed to meet again at the gate.

After breakfast he went upstairs to his father’s study. The room contained a desk with a computer and two bookcases. Kurtis browsed a bit through the desk drawers and the bookcases. In one drawer he discovered a small wooden box; he took it from the drawer. It was remarkably heavy, his father’s initials where printed on the top. Carefully he opened the box and raised his eyebrows when he saw what was in. The chirugai. He grabbed it firmly and lifted it in the air. The blades popped out as the chirugai vibrated heavily. He placed it on the desk, took a few steps back and tried to lift it without touching. Immediately the chirugai went up in the air and started to circle around him. He grabbed it again and smiled, for the first time since he heard about his father’s death.

 

Buenos Aires, Argentina. A few years later

“Excuse me, do you speak English?” The lady behind the reception desk nodded. “Yes sir, how can I help you?” Kurtis couldn’t suppress a sigh of relief, “I’d like to book a room for tonight please.”

The lady handed him a form and when he filled it out she gave him to key to his room. “Would you like me to send someone to carry your suitcase?” She added. “No, thank you,” Kurtis answered and walked to the elevator. When he arrived at his room he put his suitcase on the floor and dropped down on the bed. He watched the ceiling for a few minutes trying to gain some energy. He stood up, took his shirt of and walked into the bathroom. He held his head under the tap for a moment and felt a lot better when the cold water dripped from his hair onto his shoulders making their way down his arms. He drank some water and took a big fluffy towel to dry his hair. He walked back into the room with the towel round his neck and picked up the remote to see if there was anything interesting on the telly. He couldn’t find any foreign channels and switched it off again.

He took a fresh shirt from his suitcase together with a copy of a bank rate he found at his father’s study. On the backside he had written ‘cabal (?)’ with a pencil. The bank rate came from an Argentinean bank and it contained an account number and a name, K. Boaz.

Presumably his father had discovered this bank account was owned by a Cabal member. It was the only serious trace he found after weeks of research through his father’s documents. He opened the suitcase again and took out a map of the city; the bank he was looking for was marked with an X. It wasn’t very far from the hotel he was staying and he could be there in fifteen minutes by subway.

Two hours later he approached the entrance of the bank. He had been sleeping for half an hour and had some lunch in the hotel. Now it was time to see some action.

He walked to the reception desk and asked if someone could help him. “What can I do for you sir?” asked a young lady with a heavy Spanish accent. “I err... want to see err... Mr. Diaz” Kurtis said. “Do you have an appointment, Mr….?” He shook his head, “No, I haven’t got an appointment and the name’s Kaye.” The girl picked up the phone, “one moment, sir. I’ll see if he is available.”

She talked over the phone for a moment and looked back to Kurtis. “Mr. Diaz can see you in ten minutes, you can wait over there.” She pointed at a couple of chairs at the other side of the hall. “Yes, thank you. Err… could you please tell me where the toilets are?” The girl showed him to way to the toilets. Fortunately they were out of sight for the people at the reception. He went into the men’s room for a minute, went out again and dashed into a corridor leading further into the building.

He walked until he found a small office at the end of a passage, far away from other rooms. Hopefully this was a place he could spend five minutes without having people walk in and out all time. He door was opened, and the only man in the room was sitting with his back to Kurtis. “I guess, this is my lucky day,” he said to himself as he sneaked into the room. He took out his pistol and hit the man on his head with the butt of the gun.

He rolled the office chair with the unconscious man into a corner of the room. He closed and locked the door, grabbed another chair and turned his attention to the computer.

After two minutes he found a database with all the customers of the bank and he typed in the account number and the name he found on the bank rate.

“1 match found.” The computer showed the record of Ms. Kristina Boaz. Kurtis carefully wrote the address down on a small piece of paper and put it in his wallet.

He unlocked the door and poked his head out to see there wasn’t anyone in the passage. He walked back the way he came. In the main hall, the young lady who helped him was talking to large man with a very expensive looking suit.

He waited to see what would happen. He could not hear what they were saying, but the girl pointed to the toilet while she said something to who seemed to be Mr. Diaz.

The man raised his eyebrows and walked towards the toilets. Kurtis quickly ran back into the hallway. He had to find another way out. He went back to the room he came from, opened a window and climbed out.

 

It was late in the afternoon when he arrived at the address he found at the computer. Kristina Boaz lived in a rich suburb of Buenos Aires packed with luxury apartments. When he found the right house he checked if his gun was loaded. His plan was to knock her unconscious, search the house and then he could try and see if she would spill any information on Eckhart’s whereabouts.

Kurtis firmly pressed the button next to the door and waited. He waited for half a minute but nobody opened the door. He walked round the house and tried to look through some windows. Suddenly he heard someone talking. He turned around and saw Boaz’ neighbour standing in his garden. He said something in Spanish. “Sorry, I’m American. I don’t speak Spanish.” The man smiled. “Okay, no problem. I speak English. You are looking for Kristina, no?” Kurtis nodded. “Yes, do you know were she is?” The man turned around and called someone in the house, “Mercedes!” A woman came out of the house. The man pointed at Kurtis and he talked to her in Spanish. The woman looked at Kurtis and then answered her husband. He tried to translate this in English: “She says she hasn’t seen Kristina for 2 weeks.”           

“Do you know where she is?” Kurtis asked. It took a while again before the man could answer him. “Kristina travels a lot. But she never told us why and where she goes. She is a bit… err… strange.”  The woman said something again while she pointed at her face. Her husband nodded. “That’s true, she had a... como se dice... how do you call... err.., with plane, when it goes down.”

“You mean a plane crash,” Kurtis said. “Yes, a plane crash. Her face was burned and looks very different. Now she is very shy and does not say very much.”

“Okay, thank you. I’ll see if I.., err... can phone her.” Kurtis said goodbye to the couple and walked off.

But during the night he came back. In the cover of darkness he thought it would be easier to sneak around the house unnoticed.

It was completely dark in the house next door so the couple who helped him earlier that day could not catch him again.

Kurtis made his way to the backdoor and tried the old trick with the credit card. It worked, unlike the one at front door this was a very old fashioned lock. Even a child could break in. Carefully he stepped into the house. He switched on a flashlight and had a look around, he was in the kitchen. All of a sudden he heard a growling sound, he was not sure where it came from. He waited a few seconds but the sound did not come back, he continued his way into the house.

The next room was the living room; he walked in and gasped, as he was looking straight into the eyes of Pieter van Eckhart.

A huge painting of the black alchemist was attached to the wall in front of him. He let out a sigh of relief and laughed quietly at himself. “No doubt this lady is a member of the cabal!” Except this painting he couldn’t find anything in the room and he walked to the stairs to have a look at the first floor. He heard the growling sound again, it was very close now. He took his chirugai and walked carefully in the direction the sound came from.

With a hellish scream a monster-like creature with the size of a big dog flew from the stairs. It ran into Kurtis, trying to scratch him with his front legs. Kurtis made a jump to the side and kicked the beast right into its mouth. It gave him the time to retake control of the situation. At his command the chirugai made his way towards the mutant creature which was preparing a next attack. It cut through Boaz’ pet like a blade through a tree trunk. Kurtis took a closer look at the two halves lying in a pool of blood now. It was actually a dog, but it had some weird spikes sticking out of its back and his nails and teeth were twice as big as they should be.

 

He went upstairs and had a look around in the bedroom and bathroom. Like in the living room, he couldn’t find anything interesting according to Eckhart or the Cabal.

The last one of the three doors was locked. He slowly raised both his hands, preparing to use his farsee ability. He felt kind of an electric current running up his spine, a shock and the world turned red. He began to steer his vision into the room. It was a study; the walls were packed with pictures of the Nephilim and scientific drawings of the human body. The room contained a desk with a type writer and two piles of paper sheets. A bookcase was standing next to a second table with some test tubes and other laboratory equipment. He let his vision return to his body again. He needed to get inside and browse through all those papers.

Kurtis tried to open the door using the credit card trick but it didn’t work this time. He went into the bathroom to look for something he could open the door with. The shelf above the sink was packed with all kinds of things. He took a nail file and went back to the locked door. It worked. He stepped into the room and took the first sheet from the desk.

Fifteen minutes later he gave up, a lot of papers but none of them could tell him anything about the whereabouts of Eckhart or the headquarters of the Cabal.  

Boaz’ neighbours told him Kristina travels a lot but never tells them where she goes. The bank rate did not show any information and even in this study he couldn’t find anything.

He decided to go through the mass of papers one more time. A map! He found a map of what seemed to be a building. He picked it up together with some other sheets and left the room. He walked out the backdoor, again looking carefully to make sure nobody was watching him.

 

Back at his hotel room he made a list of what he found out so far.

 

Father was killed by Pieter van Eckhart, who is a black alchemist. According to father’s stories, Eckhart’s mission is to rebreed the Nephilim race. He gathered a group of people around him called ‘The Cabal’ a shady, mafia-like organisation. Their mission is to find the five Obscura Paintings. These paintings are hidden on five different places.  One of the members of the cult is called Kristina Boaz, she lives in Argentina but she stays abroad very often. Apparently she is one of the key figures in the Nephilim project since she experiments with dogs, turning them into mutants.

 

The map he found showed a large building with a bio-dome and a sanatorium. But it did not say where this building was situated. It was four o’ clock in the morning. He’d better have some sleep and travel back to Europe the next day.

 

In the years to follow Kurtis kept looking for information on Eckhart and his dark projects. He found a trace leading to Venice, Italy. According to an article in a newspaper a mysterious organisation was recruiting men for what they called a holy mission. It didn’t take him much time to find out they had nothing to do with the Cabal. And after 1998 and didn’t hear anything from them anymore.

He almost gave up, until the spring of 2003. A series of brutal murders in Paris got his attention. The police did not want to reveal any details on what The Monstrum, as the people of Paris called him, did to his victims.

A visit to one of the crime scenes was enough to tell him Eckhart was behind this.

Kurtis realised he was running out of time, apparently the alchemist was close on getting his hands on the five paintings. Maybe this series of murders was a sign that one of the paintings was hidden somewhere in Paris.

 

Paris, 2003

One morning he was sitting in café not far from his apartment reading a newspaper. The main article described another monstrum killing.  The police was looking for young lady who was seen at the crime scene short after the murder.

He snapped his fingers and asked for a second cup of coffee. The bartender poured him another cup and placed it in front of him. “Monsieur” he said. Kurtis nodded. “Merci beaucoup.”

He turned his attention to the newspaper again. A young lady. Brown hair, denim jacket… What did she have to do with the whole thing?

He looked up as another customer entered the café. A woman walked in and looked around for a moment before she made her way to the bar.

He looked at her; his first thought was that she was very good looking. In good shape, beautiful long brown hair, eyes to drown in. She looked very smart in the denim ja…. “Oh god, denim jacket!” he said to himself. “Long brown hair, denim jacket, this was the lady the police was looking for!”

He kept reading his newspaper trying to overhear her conversation with Pierre; maybe she would drop any useful information.

 

She and Pierre talked for five minutes. As far as he could hear them the lady wanted to see a man called Bouchard. Pierre said something about a nightclub and a box he left behind. Kurtis had heard about Bouchard before, the man was involved in some shady business in Paris. He was not connected to the cabal; he just did everything for money.

It quizzed Kurtis what this lady had to do with it. He called Pierre and asked him about the conversation he just had.

“She wanted to see Bouchard,” Pierre said. Kurtis nodded impatiently “Yeah, I know that already, do you know why she wants to see him?”

The bartender took Kurtis’ empty cup from the table and walked back to the bar. “No, she didn’t say.”

“Fine.” Kurtis threw some money on the table and walked to the door. “Keep the change.”

Outside he took his motorbike and drove off. He looked behind his shoulder, the woman had seen him.

 

He managed to follow her unnoticed. She made her way to a nightclub called the Serpent Rouge. After that she went back to the café, she talked to Pierre again and he gave her something. Then she went into an apartment not far from the café. From there he lost sight of her.

He drove back to his apartment. From the bedroom window he could see the apartment she went into. He took some binoculars and watched the front door of the apartment for a while. After an hour he gave up. He threw the bins at the ground and watched the river at the end of the street for a while. Suddenly he saw a familiar figure walking down the street towards Rennes’ pawnshop. He picked up the bins again to make sure he didn’t make a mistake. Eckhart! Pieter van Eckhart was here, across the street! He stood up left the room, ran down the stairs and made his way to the street. He rushed to the street where he had seen Eckhart from his window. Nothing. He looked to left and saw the door of the pawnshop being half open. Carefully he made his way to the door. Using his farsee ability he saw the body of the shop owner lying on the ground in the backroom of the shop. He steered his vision around the corner and saw how the black alchemist placed a bomb in the back of the room before he walked back to where he came from. Kurtis quickly let his vision come back again and dashed into another street just before Eckhart came out. From where he was standing he saw the lady from the café walking past. A few seconds later also Eckhart walked past him in the opposite direction.

“I think this means she is not a member of the cabal” he said to himself. He looked around the corner carefully, she was inside.

He walked to the bridge crossing the river and made his way to a safe spot from where he could see the pawnshop. He looked at his watch; the bomb could explode any minute.

He went through his pockets and took a packet of Gauloises and a lighter. He sat down overlooking the river and the houses on the other side. He lit a cigarette and stood up again while the shop exploded. He saw how the mysterious woman dived from the sewer pipe underneath the shop into the river. Seconds before the fire made his way through the pipe like a Chinese dragon taking his last breath.

 

Marten Gunderson carefully knocked on the door of Eckhart’s office in Paris. He carried the Obscura Painting under his arm.

“Enter.”

Gunderson opened the door; Eckhart was sitting at his desk. “Meister Eckhart, I got the painting.” The black alchemist smiled happily and reached out to get it. “Very well done, Marten. Soon we’ll leave for Prague to get the fifth and last one.”

Gunderson cleared his throat. “Meister Eckhart, you might want to know we did not get the painting ourselves. A woman went into the Tomb of Ancients beneath the Louvre and took it.” Eckhart raised his eyebrows, “Carry on Marten, what happened next?”

“Well, me and my team, we tried to get her but she escaped. Then another stranger, a man, took the painting from her and they both made their way out of the Louvre. Fortunately some of my men waiting outside managed to knock them unconscious and we could take the Obscura Painting from him.”

Eckhart stood up from his desk and walked to the window. “Strange,” he said while looking outside. “Do you remember how Kristina told us someone did break into her house and stole some of her paperwork? I thought I had killed all member of this stupid Lux Veritatis mafia. But apparently someone is still trying to stop us.”

Gunderson scratched the back of his head. “I thought it were just ordinary treasure hunters.”

“I’ll finish them off if they dare to come to Prague,” Eckhart said whilst raising his left arm showing the glove on his hand.

 

Prague.

She felt awfully lonely. The enormous arena was all quiet and the only evidence of the fight which took place here was a pool of blood and Kurtis chirugai.

Her memories went back to Egypt, when she was released from the temple by some local people she felt just like this. Eckhart was dead, the sleeper was destroyed and it seemed also pretty obvious Karel was dead as well. She had seen death, she battled evil, and now… it was all over. She felt a strange emptiness inside her.

She looked around but couldn’t find anything else then the chirugai. Where were Kurtis and Boaz?

She picked up Kurtis’ weapon. The thing vibrated heavily and began to drag her towards the room Boaz came from. She smiled, maybe this was a sign Kurtis was somewhere over there. She walked into darkness following the chirugai until she saw a door. She squeezed the chirugai, the blades sank back and the weapon remained silent. She attached it to her belt, took a gun instead and opened the door.

She was standing in a morgue. She saw two tables standing in the middle of the room, both covered with white sheets.

It wasn’t hard to see a human body was lying on the first table. The other sheet covered a shapeless pile.

She put her gun back in the holster and carefully removed the first sheet. She gasped, it was Kurtis.

Lara threw the sheet in a corner of the room and examined Kurtis closely. She felt a knot in her stomach. She hardly knew him, but for some reason she felt terrible seeing him like this.  He gave her his shards she needed to kill Eckhart, he had trust her. Kurtis had been hunting down Eckhart for years while she came across only coincidently because of Werner. And now he would never know that the black alchemist was finally destroyed.

Lara felt really sad; she laid a hand at Kurtis chest and looked at him for a minute. He was such a mysterious person; she wanted to hear more about him and she wanted to tell him she felt proud being a part of his crusade to stop the evil activities of Eckhart and the Cabal.

Suddenly she stopped thinking, she felt something. Breathing! Kurtis chest was moving up and down very slowly. He was still alive.

Lara took of her backpack and opened it. Luckily she had some bandages left. She tore his shirt and quickly she began to wrap the bandages tight around his wound. This should stop it from bleeding.

She bent over to his face. “Kurtis, can you hear me? I’ll get you out of here, okay?” Kurtis moved his head two inches to the right and tried to say something without success. Lara laid her hand at his lips for a second. “Don’t worry we’ll talk later, first we have to find a way out.”

“Hey!”

Lara was rudely interrupted by a guard who walked into the morgue. He pointed his gun at her and tried to shoot. “Click”.

He threw his weapon to the ground and grabbed a knife from his belt. He ran into Lara trying to stab her. It all happened so fast she didn’t find the time to get her gun, she grabbed both his wrist trying to twist them. But the man was very strong. Lara walked backwards, the blade of the guards knife was inches away. She hit the other table with her back, bumped it over and she, the table and the guard fell to the ground. Green body parts were lying everywhere, it was Boaz’ corpse what was the table!

In a quarter of a second Lara was on her feet again, suddenly she felt a deep anger boiling inside her. She kicked the guard who was still lying on the ground; he screamed and threw up some blood together with his teeth.

“You bastards!” She shouted at him. “Hundreds of people are dead, for what! A stupid rubbish talking freak with a nasty glove who thinks he can rebreed the Nephilim.”

The man stood up again, grabbed his knife and tried again to stab her. Lara easily jumped to the side, grabbed one of Boaz’ skewers from the ground and stabbed the guard in the chest. 

She walked back to Kurtis; put her arm under his knees and the other arm around his back. “Come on,” she said softly, “let’s find a way out.”

    

She took the door at the opposite side of the room. From there she walked through a long corridor to find another door. She carefully laid Kurtis on the floor and sat down next to him for a minute to take a rest.

Lara grabbed a pistol, opened the door and peered around the corner. She was back at the large hangar-like room where she entered the Strahov.

At the other side of the hall she could see a large door leading outside. She picked up Kurtis again. “Come on Kurt, we’re nearly there.”

Her eyes hurt when she opened the door leading out of the Strahov, daylight. She had spent the whole night in this dreadful building.

She walked across the street and began to wave to the first car she saw. “Stop, stop, emergency!!”

The car stopped, a man poked his head out of the car window. “Can you please drive us to the hospital,” Lara said. “My… err… friend… is badly wounded.”

The man looked at her as if she said something completely ridiculous. Then Lara realized the man didn’t speak English.

She said the same thing again in her best German. The man smiled. “I see what you mean, come on let’s put him on the backseat.” He stepped out of his car and helped Lara to lay Kurtis at the back.

 

 

Half an hour later Lara was sitting at a chair in waiting room of a busy hospital somewhere in Prague. Kurtis was taken to one of the trauma rooms of the ER. Behind the doors she could hear the doctors shouting instructions to each other.

She realized his wound was rather suspicious and for sure someone would ask her how it happened, sooner or later.

The hospital was an old and miserable looking building, most of the walls had stains on them and some floors were covered with sand or sawdust. Together with the strip lighting it gave the whole place a sad and unpleasant atmosphere.

She was waiting for a very long time. She saw people coming in and out with all kinds of injuries. Sometimes a nurse asked her if she was doing all right but none of them could speak English very well.

She had been waiting for ages when finally a doctor came out of the trauma room and sat next to her.

“Your friend is doing well.” He said. “You saved his life, if it wasn’t for those bandages he would not have made it.”

Lara released a sigh and smiled. “I’m glad to hear that.”

The doctor nodded. “Fortunately for him no vital organs, like the aorta were harmed, we managed to stitch the wound but for the coming days he needs absolute rest. Sudden movements could lead to internal bleeding.”

Lara saw how a couple of nurses came out of the room with Kurtis lying on a bed.

“Can I see him?” she asked.

“Yes, of course you can, they are taking him to his room now. It’s on the ground floor, number 15.”

 

Marten Gunderson was sitting at the front seat of his van. He folded the newspaper he had been reading and threw it on the seat next to him. He thought about his life.

56 years ago he was born in the city of Stockholm, Sweden. His father died when he was only 5 years old.

He lived with his mother in a small flat near the harbour. His mother spent most of the day working but half of the money she spent on alcohol.

When he wasn’t at school he tried to spend his time with schoolmates, as long as he didn’t have to be at home.

When Marten was 18 he joined the navy, he still considered this as the best time of his life. But after 10 wonderful years sailing around the globe he made a bad mistake. He hit an officer whilst being drunk. He was sent back to Sweden and spent some time in prison.

When he was released he started a small security company. Soon enough he got in touch with the underworld. Criminals hired him to protect drugs dealers and do other dirty jobs.

One day a strange man named Eckhart asked him to become part of the Cabal. In exchange for this Eckhart would grant him immortality. For the first time in many years Gunderson saw some light in his darkness. Eckhart gave hope for a better future.

But now, his dream was over. Those two people, this British woman and the Lux Veritatis guy had ruined everything. Eckhart was dead, the Nephilim was destroyed.

Gunderson last wish was revenge.

He looked through the front window of the van and stared at the doors to the ER for a while. Then he knocked at the little window behind him. “Go, now.” He said. The backdoors of the van flew open and six commandos rushed out.

 

 “Hi”

Kurtis turned his head towards her and smiled painfully. “Hi”

“How are you feeling?” Lara asked.

Kurtis coughed. “At the moment I feel nothing at all, only a bit dizzy. I don’t feel any pain. I think I can leave tomorrow.”

“I think they gave you a lot of morphine, that’s why you don’t feel anything.” Lara replied. The both said nothing for a while. Then Lara spoke again.

“Who took you to the morgue?”

Kurtis stared to the ceiling. “I don’t know. I was unconscious. But I think it was Gunderson.” The doctor walked in together with another man. “This is Mr. Smicer, a police officer,” the doctor said, “he wants a word with you.”

The policeman grabbed a chair and sat down at the other side of the bed. “We would like to know what happened to him,” the man said.

“He… was stabbed.” Lara said hesitatingly. The man looked at Kurtis. “What was the weapon?”

“A knife,” Kurtis said. “Someone attacked us with a knife.”

Mr. Smicer wrote something down in a little booklet. “The doctor told me he found a strange, green, unknown liquid on your body.” He continued. “Any idea what it is?”

Kurtis and Lara both remained silent.

“They took a sample of it and sent it to a laboratory. I think you’d better tell me more about this.”

Lara was still thinking what to say when she heard a gunshot. The next moment Mr. Smicer fell from his chair. Blood spurted out of his head.

A man with a gun was standing in the door. Lara dived under the bed just before a second shoot flew over her head hitting the window at the other side of the room. She grabbed her pistol and shot the man before he could shoot a third time.

She crawled back from under the bed, took the machinegun from the dead man and ran into the passage next to the room. Three more commandos ran towards her. She fired five shots while running into the passage and then took cover behind a soda machine. She carefully peered around, one man down.

The two remaining men began to fire their machineguns at every moving figure in the hall. People began screaming and running around. 

From her save position Lara saw how one man shot a little kid. Suddenly she felt an indescribable anger deep inside her. Just like what she felt in the morgue when the guard attack her with his knife.

The next moment she jumped forwards and perforated the two men making their bodies fly through the hallway.

She turned around and walked back to Kurtis’ room. The passage was still filled with people running around and screaming in panic. They did not even realize the shooting had stopped or that Lara had fired at the two men.

Kurtis was already standing next to his bed. “You can walk?” Lara asked. “Yeah, but not very fast,” he replied.

They went back to the hallway making their way through the mass of people. “I’ll go ahead and see if the coast is clear!” Lara shouted, as she ran forward. She looked around the corner into the main hall. “Clear! Come on!”

She turned around just in time to see Kurtis firing his gun twice. Lara looked back into the hall. One man felt through the skylight in the roof and crashed on the floor of the waiting room. Broken glass was flying around. A second man who was standing behind a soda machine collapsed as well.

“Thanks.” She said. “Let’s go.”

They made their way out of the hospital, ran past a black van and dashed into a small street. “I told you I couldn’t run.” Kurtis said. He was breathing heavily.

Lara looked at him. “Sorry, but we had to.”

“What do we do know?” He continued. And suddenly he realized he didn’t know the answer.

Who was Lara actually? They weren’t even friends; they knew each other for just two days. He could just go back to France now. But that would be rude; after all they had been through. “Invite her to come with me?” he thought. “Why should I do that? But on the other hand…”

It was as if Lara could read his mind. “I’ll suggest we take a flight to London and have a little chat together on what to do next.”

Kurtis nodded. “Deal.”

 

Back Home

Lara felt a bit weird when Kurtis sat down next to her in the Boeing 757 which would take them to Heathrow airport. “The other passengers will probably think he’s my boyfriend.” She thought, but immediately followed by, “Oh come on Lara, you never care what other people think about you, why should you now?”

They both said nothing for the first ten minutes. But then Kurtis felt he had to take some initiative. “How did you get in touch with all this?”

Lara stared outside the airplane window, “a friend of mine who lives in Paris was killed by Eckhart.”

“Werner von Croy?” Kurtis asked.

“Yes, he is an archaeologist and Eckhart wanted him to find one of the Obscura Paintings.”

Kurtis nodded. “But the police suspected you?”

“Yes, I was at his apartment when Eckhart… or Karel actually… killed him.”

“Who’s Karel?”

“You don’t know?! Karel was a member of the Cabal, but he was a Nephilim. Even Eckhart did not know that.”

Kurtis was completely surprised by this revelation. “Is he dead as well?”

Lara turned her head towards him now. “Yes, he’s dead. But before I used the sanglyph to destroy the sleeper he spoke to me, and…”

“And what?”

“Well, you know a Nephilim can change his physical appearance, don’t you? Yes, now Karel did that a couple of times. He turned into a few people I met during my time in Paris and Prague, including you.”

Kurtis was a bit unsettled by this and remained silent for a while. Lara laid her hand on his arm for a second. “It’s okay now, it’s all over.”

Kurtis looked at her. “Why do you say that?” Lara said nothing; she didn’t know the answer to that question either.

“Tell me more about how you found out about Eckhart,” she said.

“Well, most of the information I got from my father. And in the past few years I tried to find out as much as possible about the Cabal.”

“But how did you end up in Paris? You are American right?”

Kurtis smiled. “I was born in The States but my father and I moved to Paris when I was 16. Three years later I joined the Foreign Army.”

“Where did you life in America?” Lara asked.

“A was born in a town in Utah. But we moved to Salt Lake City when I was 3. I had a wonderful youth there; it’s a very peaceful city. And the natural environment is beautiful.” Kurtis continued telling about the place he was born. Lara looked at him; apparently he was forgotten all about Prague, Eckhart and Boaz for the moment and even seemed a bit cheerful. She let him finish his story.

Kurtis suddenly looked at her. “Sorry, I’ve been talking for hours haven’t I?”

Lara smiled. “It’s okay, only half an hour.”

“Sorry. I don’t ask anything about you. So, who are you? I mean… what do you do in daily life?”

She laughed shyly for a moment. Lara didn’t like talking about herself but after his whole story about Utah it would be rude to say nothing at all. And for a strange reason he had something what made her feeling comfortable. As if she was speaking to a good friend.

“I’m an archaeologist, but I didn’t do any study or something. People call me treasure hunter or tomb raider.”

Kurtis looked surprised. “Really? That’s interesting. But, is that all? I mean, do you earn a living out of treasure hunting?” 

“Well, actually… I don’t like to brag about it, but I don’t need to. I inherited a large amount of money from my parents.”

Kurtis nodded. “I see. Your parents were business people?”

“No, my father was a Lord. I’m a…,” Lara put on a face as if she was drinking pure vinegar. “I’m a duchess.”

Kurtis raised his eyebrows, looked at her for a while and finally start laughing. “I’d never have guessed that!”

Lara playfully punched him at the shoulder. “Yes, yes. I know. Stop laughing now, will you?”  

“Sorry.” But it’s just…”

“Yes, I know what you mean. I don’t look like an aristocrat.”

 

They spent the following hours introducing them selves to each other a bit more and they talked about their past experiences.

Kurtis was very interested in Lara’s journeys around the world and the things she had seen and done.

Lara didn’t tell anything about Egypt. But deep down she felt she would tell him one day. The way he was listing to her stories and asked interested questions. For the first time since Egypt she had a feeling she found someone she could rely on.

And when he was speaking she looked at him. How he waved his hands in the air, trying to illustrate the thing he was telling about and how he laughed when she told something funny. It was a strange feeling. In the back of her mind she knew what it was, but she didn’t want to think about it. As if she was afraid he would be able to read her mind.

 

They both were a bit surprised when the pilot announced the plane was about to land at Heathrow. “Are we in London already? Kurtis asked. “It feels like we just left Prague.”

They left the plane and were walking through the enormous airport. Lara seemed tired and didn’t say anything. “Are you all right?” Kurtis asked.

“All right? Of course I’m feeling all right.” She looked annoyed. “Are you all right… idiot. I’m glad I’m still alive.” She continued under her breath.

“Sorry, I was just wondering.”

Lara stood still and stared somewhere a thousand miles away for a while. Then she grabbed Kurtis shoulder and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek.

“Yes, I’m doing very well. Thank you.” She smiled at him and began to walk again. “Come on, we’ll take a taxi. You can stay at my house if you like.”

 

A few hours later the taxi arrived at Croft Manor. Kurtis seemed impressed when looking at the big house. The driver pressed the button next to the gate. The familiar voice of Winston came through the intercom: “Lady Croft isn’t at home at moment. Can I help you?”

“It’s me Winston, you can open the gate,” Lara said.

The taxi parked in front of the entrance. Winston came from inside and opened the car door to let Lara and Kurtis out.

“Pay the driver please will you,” Lara said, “and then make us a cup of tea, we’ll be in the room next to the library”

She turned her head to Kurtis, “would you like a cup of tea?”

“Oh yes, that would be very nice,” said Kurtis trying to imitate Lara’s British accent.

Lara slapped him playfully with the back of her hand. “Shut it, Yank.”

She introduced Kurtis to Winston and then took him upstairs. “I usually sit here, or in the kitchen,” she explained.

“Please make yourself at home while I’m getting some fresh clothes.”

Kurtis took his time to have a look around. He had a look in the library and back in the other room he examined Lara’s CD collection.

“Ah, rock music,” he said “I got lots of that as well.” He went down the tray with his finger. “Let’s find some more relaxing stuff… aha… Mozart, very good.”

He took out the box and put the platinum disc into the cd-player standing next to the tray. Seconds later, notes from the 40th Symphony filled the room.

He turned around and walked back to one of the comfortable looking couches when Lara entered the room. She had changed into some linen pants and a sleeveless shirt.

“Good choice,” she said. “I was just in the mood for something like that.” She sat down next to him and placed two mugs at the table.

Lara took a sip from her tea and cleared her throat. “About what happened at the airport...”

Kurtis smiled. “Yes?”

“I haven’t spoken to much people in the past two years. It’s been a bit of a strange period in my life really. So, I mean… maybe I’m acting a bit different sometimes.”

Kurtis looked concerned. “What happened to you?”

“I err… I was trapped in an Egyptian pyramid for a quite a long time. Alone and in complete darkness. Since that time I’m having trouble getting used to normal life again.”

 

 

She spent the rest of the afternoon showing Kurtis the rest of the house and gardens. Including the obstacle course, the racetrack, her fishtank and finally the trophyroom.

Kurtis examined each object in the room with great interest. “Really impressing, Lara. I bet the London museum would be jealous if they see this. Did they ever offer to join you in your travels?”

“No” said Lara. “I’m used to do everything at my own.”

They both fell silent for a while. Then Lara spoke again: “you know what? When I returned to the arena in the Strahov building, I found your frisbee lying on the ground.”

“It’s called chirugai.”

“Yes, whatever. But you see… I picked it up and felt really sad, for a second a saw myself standing here and putting it in a display case, together with my other souvenirs.”

“You thought I was dead?”

Lara swallowed hard. “Yes.”

Suddenly she felt how Kurtis laid his arms around her waist. She looked up and their eyes locked.

The next moment she kissed him on the lips. They looked each other in the eye again for a moment, both smiled and kissed again.

 

The next morning, Kurtis woke up of an early morning sunshine falling through the windows in Lara’s bedroom, warming his face.

He looked next to him where Lara was still sleeping. He carefully stepped out of bed, trying not to wake her. He opened the door the balcony and stood there for a while, thinking about what happened to him the past few days. He overlooked the enormous garden and the Surrey countryside. It was still foggy and dewdrops were sparkling in the sun. He felt extremely peaceful for the moment.

“Good morning”

He walked back inside. “Good morning. Sleep well?”

Lara yawned. “Yes, I did. Thank you.” She walked to the bathroom. “Kurtis?”

“Yes?”

“What should we do after this?”

“Well, I’m a bit hungry actually. Could your butler prepare some breakfast?”

“No, I mean after this. After last night.”

Kurtis heard how she turned on the tap letting hot water streaming into the bath.

“Let’s have a little chat about that after breakfast, okay?”

“Okay, deal.”

 

 

 

The End.

 

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Between Light And Shadow - Fã Clube Tomb Raider Nov.2004/2005.