Hi guys, I'm back. Sorry this has taken me soooo long to put up, but I'm home from university so no longer have a permanent high speed internet connection, I've been busy job hunting now I've graduated, and this story is turning out to be really hard to write! Tricky little character, is our Kurtis.
This story is part 2 in a trilogy that began with 'Home', and starts a little earlier than that installment, instead beginning just after the end of the Angel Of Darkness game.
"Kurtis? Kurtis? Kurtis, it'll be ok, I'll get help. Kurtis!"
The consistent shouts of Ms. Croft and her bothersome touches as she slapped my face and inspected my wound, shifting around noisily as though torn between leaving for help there and then and staying to see whether it was actually worth getting help, poked and prodded their way into my fast fading consciousness. I groaned, my eyes wearily tearing themselves open, wanting nothing more than for Lara to go away and leave me alone. I was just about to die, given over to the fact and too weak to do anything other than welcome oblivion, and she had to interrupt it. Damn her, she was nothing but trouble.
"Kurtis!" Again she tried to attract my attention, and I swatted my arm tiredly towards her, trying to bat her away and make her leave me alone. "Hold on, Kurtis! It's going to be alright. You're going to be alright!" She just didn't quit, did she? I was far gone, too far gone to be bothered with coming back again, so much so that when she probed and examined my wound with her hands I couldn't even feel pain. Her incessant torment eventually dragged me back to this side of the living and I suddenly realised who I was, what was going on, and how much was at stake. My life.
"Lara?" I breathed her name, the first time I'd spoken it, and the sound fell easily off my lethargic lips. I reached out and touched her face, reassuring myself that I had indeed been brought back from the brink rather than tumbling over it and falling sleepily.
"Yes, Kurtis, it's me. Listen to me, you're going to be ok. Hold on, Kurtis, just hold on." She reached and gently took my hand from her cheek, squeezing it reassuringly and laying it to my side. Eyes darting around, her braid flicking madly in the wind and snow outside the Strahov as she snapped her head left and right, her vision locked onto something and she ran off, leaving me. "Lara," I croaked, not wanting to be left, as if her very presence would keep me alive.
Without her constant stimulation, I wasn't sure I was wrong, and I again began to fall backwards into blissful unconsciousness, nursed by the cold. Just as my head lolled to the side and my eyes eased shut, she again grabbed me and pulled me back from the edge. "Kurtis!" she cried as she fell to her knees at my side and took my head in her hands, slapping me lightly to regain my attention. "Kurtis, I've called an ambulance, they're on their way. Hold on, Kurtis, just hold on."
Her words could no longer keep their hold on me, and though I tried to stay awake, my eyes began to close again, and my breathing slowed. I was jolted back to lucidity by the feel of cold metal being pressed into my hands, vibrating slightly at my touch. My fingers closed around a familiar shape and I managed to tilt my head enough to look at my oldest weapon. "Kurtis! What is it? Tell me what it is, Kurtis. Tell me how it works."
I knew exactly what she was up to, but was too tired to even show a slight knowing smile, but, thankfully, was still alive enough to feel grateful for her attempt to keep me conscious by giving me something to concentrate on.
"Chirugai," I breathed, too weak to speak above a whisper or form whole sentences. "Lux Veritatis weapon. Mine. Control with mind." I was slipping again, and she knew it.
There was desperation in her voice as she commanded, "Show me." I couldn't. There was no way I could gather the strength to call it to life, but again she ordered me, and I knew I had to try before my mind shut down altogether.
"Try," I croaked, and I shut my eyes, trying to muster the life force within me into one coherent beam that flowed from my body and controlled the chirugai like an invisible arm. Such a trivial task evaded me, and I slumped back against the wall, spent already. The sound of approaching emergency vehicle sirens, presumably my ambulance, sapped what little resolve I had left, and I gave up, passing all responsibility for my continued existence into the hands of the coming paramedics, too tired to fight my own battle any more.
"Good morning, Mr Trent. Or is it Mr Caldwell? Or maybe it's Monsieur Dupuis." Lara Croft – if that was her name – waved a handful of ID cards and passports at me. "Anderson, perhaps?"
The universe was against me. At some point in time, I had done something to provoke the universe into sending the good Lady Croft to stop me from sleeping. Here I am, in a Prague hospital, recovering from major surgery after a near fatal stabbing, trying to sleep, and what happens? I get woken up by her coming in here and quizzing me about my identity. And the time before that? Well, let me think – yes, that's right, she was the tormentor in my final moments.
I felt a small twinge of guilt at that dismissive thought directed at the woman who had saved my life, but it was quickly quashed when I reminded myself that I was tired, in pain, exhausted after days of running and fighting, and deserved to feel sorry for myself.
"It's Trent," I sighed, "I wasn't lying when I introduced myself as Kurtis."
"And the others?" she enquired in a cut glass accent that I hadn't really noticed before. I was probably too busy worrying about the power cut and it wasn't like I hadn't met foreigners before.
"I'm sure you can appreciate the need to lie low sometimes," I replied.
"Yes," she said, "but I've never gone under an assumed name before." She shuffled my cards and papers into order and replaced them in my wallet, laying it on the bedside table and offering me a glass of water that sat there. I accepted the straw into my mouth and took a sip, but she snatched it away before I could drink much, observing that unexplained medical law that said that ill people weren't allowed to drink too much. "How are you feeling?" she asked, settling back into her chair and folding her hands in her lap demurely.
"Like hell," I answered, with a hint of humour. "Thanks for saving me back there. That's two I owe you."
"Don't mention it," she said. Regarding me for a second, she then said, "Eckhardt's dead. Karel too."
I nodded my thanks, casting my eyes downward as a somewhat numb feeling washed over me. Eckhardt was dead and I felt nothing. The momentous event had passed me by. Before I could muse any more, Lara spoke again. "The doctor said he spoke to you? About your condition?"
"Yeah," I croaked, and then coughed, gratefully accepting another sip of water against my parched throat from my responsive companion. "They spoke to me last night, when I came round from the surgery, said you'd probably be by today."
"Can't abandon my partner in his hour of need," she said, and I couldn't tell whether she was joking or not. She gave a coy smile and shifted in her seat. "Thankyou for your help."
"Thanks for yours," I said, though I wasn't quite sure that I meant it. She'd killed my nemesis. I asked her to kill my nemesis. I chewed my lip and scowled in self torment and she frowned, leaning forward and placing one hand on the side of the bed.
"Are you ok? Not in pain?"
"No." I smiled to show I was fine and forced myself to relax again.
"Anyway," she said, returning to the original subject, "you'll be out of here in about a week. You were very lucky not to be paralysed."
"Yeah." I nodded in agreement, but didn't even pretend to feel grateful or scared that I had had such a near miss. I'd been hurt enough over the years to stop dwelling on my state of health a long time ago, and from the looks of her, she of all people would understand that.
"Well," Lara said, standing, "the front desk has my contact details if you need me. I'll let you get some rest now. I'll come by again. Goodbye."
Just as she reached the door, I decided to ask her what I'd been wondering for a while. "What was all your business in this, exactly?"
"Karel killed my old mentor and I was blamed for the murder. I just got dragged in, and then I found out what was at stake. I had to clear my name and save the world," she said matter of fact-ly, and then left before I could ask her to elaborate.
Too tired to dwell on her story and what I'd already found out about her when she'd first become involved, I settled back down into the pillows to get some more sleep.
The next afternoon, I lay in bed, remembering my father and feeling my hatred towards Eckhardt. I breathed heavily with rage as tears pricked my eyes, and my fists involuntarily clenched at the sight of my dead father in my mind's eye. There was a knock at the door and I quickly composed myself, breathing deeply to calm myself and forcing my palms to flatten themselves against the sheets. The door opened and Lara poked her head around with a smile, seeking permission to enter.
She trotted in lightly when I returned her grin and waved her into the room, and sat again in the chair by the bed. I sat up and plumped the pillows behind me and set my eyes on her. "How are you?" I asked, and she nodded, replying that she was fine, before returning the question. "Not too bad," I answered. "Ready to hear more of your story though."
She must have been expecting it, because she caught my meaning straight away and prepared herself to answer. "What do you know? I get the feeling you'd been keeping an eye on me before we were introduced."
"I had heard someone was poking around, yeah," I admitted. "All I know is that you'd been talking to Von Croy on the phone, then you were seen leaving his murder scene and started going after the fourth painting." I shrugged. "From what I saw you were pretty quick on your feet, so I decided you'd be a better candidate to get the painting than me."
"So you decided to just lie in wait and steal it from me?" Her voice showed not a hint of accusation, and, if anything, humour. Always with a weakness for the ladies, I couldn't resist just a little flirting.
"Well, can't say I was put off by the idea of frisking you for it." I gave a cocky, crooked smile, one that usually had women falling at my feet, and was disappointed to find that it had zero effect. 'Not quite so icy when you weren't expecting to run into me, were you Ms Croft?' I thought to myself with an inward self-satisfied smirk as I remembered the wonderfully overwhelming effect I'd had on her in the Louvre.
Without missing a beat, she took up her story to fill in my gaps. "Von Croy was my mentor and teacher. We weren't on the best of terms, and it took a lot of persuading for me to even come and see him, but when I finally did he told me he needed my help to find a painting, and that his life was being threatened. He was murdered whilst I was sat in his living room. I was seen leaving the crime, the police took chase, I ran to Madame Carvier, Von Croy's contact at the Louvre, not knowing where else to go or what to do, and she gave me Werner's notebook. Reading that, I realised that the police wouldn't be able to track down the real killers if they were as mixed up in this occult business as it seemed, and so, if I wanted to clear my name, I would have to find them. I got deeper and deeper in, realised how much was at stake, and decided that I had to see it through to the end."
Her delivery was calm, factual, not betraying any feeling, but I guessed she was probably still reeling from the whole experience. "I get the impression this kinda thing is the norm for you." There was something going on with this girl, and I wanted to know what it was. I'd known from the beginning that clearly she wasn't just the every day archaeologist the media made her out to be.
"My work can be hectic, yes," she answered, mysteriously.
"Booby trapped temples and curses?" I probed.
"Ah, so you know my work. Actually, it's more along the lines of stopping Atlanteans bent on world domination and imprisoning Egyptian gods of chaos."
"Really? Not what the papers say."
"The papers get the Sunday school version." Her dry humour made me laugh, and I clutched my stomach, pain shooting through the area.
"Look," Lara said, standing once again, "I have to go to the police station, there are still some things to be sorted out with the Parisian police and the Prague forces still want to know just what went on in the Strahov. Funny, they don't seem to want to ask you anything."
"Nah, they'll be wanting to see Monsieur Dupuis about that." We shared a knowing laugh, and she left, and I stayed in my outwardly calm state, my mind half on the rather impressive woman who'd just walked out the door.