Lara wondered if it was worth opening her eyes. She already knew what she was going to see: nothing. The Laboratory’s rooms were locked and bolted, leaving the patients in darkness, bound to stretchers and without any chance to move.
She silently reviewed all similar situations she’d been in, and came to the sad conclusion that this was by far the worst. Her ankles and wrists hurt when trying in vain to remove the straps. The slightest movement was torture.
Darkness had sharpened her hearing, so she could hear murmuring, far-off crying, and the occasional scream or screeching metal. So at least she wasn’t totally isolated.
But where was she? That place resembled the Strahov Sanitarium, which she knew by Kurtis’ descriptions. As to what they would do to her, Lara guessed it, and while not harbouring any hope of getting rid of that, she resolutely decided not to give the enemy the satisfaction of seeing her desperation.
The door opened with a clang and a pulsing yellow light filled the narrow room, reflecting into the white tiled room, the bright glow dazing Lara. When getting used to the searing glare, she finally noticed the newly arrived person, and gasped. “Boaz?”
The woman looked up, annoyed. Indeed, she was pretty much alike to the Cabal scientist she’d met in Prague, but this one had blonde hair and her skin was perfect, without the horrible burns that framed the other’s face. “Yes,” she said with the same melodious voice. “I’m Dr. Boaz, though not the same you’ll surely remember. That was my sister Kristina. I’m Giselle.” Lara saw she was filling a syringe with a clear liquid. “And I see,” she continued, “you’re the woman for whom mein Meister has taken so much trouble. Disappointing. You’re not worthy at all.”
Lara studied the scientist’s face, her narrowed eyes, her tight lips, and what she discovered almost made her laugh. That woman was jealous! Jealous of her!
Definitely, it was the last straw.
“Let’s swap places,” muttered Lara, “you lie here, I put this crap in you, and when your beloved Meister comes I’ll switch off the light to see if he notices the difference.”
That comment produced the desired effect. Giselle quickly dropped the syringe on the tray and slapped Lara. It wasn’t so hard, but she just jolted her on the cheek already bruised by Gunderson’s punch.
Indomitable, Lara went again. “What!” She exclaimed, surprised and ironic. “Did I offend you?”
Giselle, through clenched teeth, pricked her and murmured: “You’re just a slut. I don’t know what mein Meister sees in you. But very soon you’ll stop mocking us.”
Lara smiled slyly in reply. Enraged, the doctor came out and slammed the door. Back in the hall, Giselle took a few steps and leaned against the wall to slow her breathing, but she couldn’t control the shaking, and dropping her head in her hands, she burst into uncontrolled and convulsive sobs.
Kurtis parked the motorbike in the alley and went out onto the busy street. He’d just arrived in Munich, almost at the limit of his strength. “I need a holiday.” He grunted, rubbing his sore neck.
With a bit of logic, he’d guessed that if the Cabal had one of its bases in Munich, it would be in a prominent but not too obvious place. The city was vast and the base could be anywhere.
Under normal circumstances, he would’ve been patient and kept loose ends away by asking and remaining unnoticed. But time had run out for him, and patience as well. He decided to use his farsee.
He evoked and mentally projected Lara’s face and name in all directions. If someone in that city had seen or heard of her in the last twenty-four hours, he’d locate that person immediately.
The result was a mental noise that almost got on his nerves. Half of Munich had heard of her, of course. She was more than famous.
Cursing himself for his stupidity, Kurtis got rid of the tangle and began again, evoking only Lara’s face.
Bingo. Thirty people had seen her at least in the last six hours. The nearest was only a couple streets from him. Quick and silent, Kurtis started to tail him.
Throughout his life, Kurtis had failed more than he succeeded. Not due to incompetence on his part, but because events had been unfavourable to him. He always made the wrong decision, ended at an inconvenient place or did and said the wrong thing. At the Louvre he’d made the mistake of being too distracted by Lara, which led him to be caught by Eckhardt. At the Strahov he didn’t expect another ambush and so he was caught again, forcing Lara to hand over the last Painting to Eckhardt. He also turned his back on Boaz when he believed her dead. And lastly, in Egypt, he’d lost sight of Lara.
Luckily, he knew how to fix his mistakes, quickly and effectively. But this time, for once in his life, his plans needed to go well. He deserved it! His farsee hadn’t failed him. That man had seen Lara recently. But had he entered into the base? If only he was one of Gunderson’s mercenaries...he only asked for that...
Suddenly, the guy turned around. That surprised him, being almost ten meters and hundreds of people between them. In addition, he’d been extremely discreet. But he knew that guy had discovered him when their eyes locked and both started running at the same time. The guy ran away, before him, bumping into the flood of people. Fortunately, the hunted man made the mistake of getting into an alley to escape the hassle of running through the crowd. So he came to a dead end.
Finding himself cornered, the man, dressed in casual wear, drew a gun and pointed it at his pursuer. Kurtis came to a stop. But before he could even put his finger on the trigger, the whistling Chirugai had taken the weapon from his hands, flinging it out of reach.
“Ok.” Kurtis said, catching the flying weapon in the air. “Now it’s just you and me.”
“What do you want?” Snapped the other, looking at the glaive in fear.
“Just look at this.” Kurtis replied, and moved his hand before his eyes.
Suddenly, the man jumped back and flattened himself against the wall, his eyes wide open. He uttered a cry of horror and began to panic, as if trying to protect himself from some invisible attacker. “No!” He shouted. “Enough! Make that go away!”
“That depends on you. You work for Marten Gunderson?”
“Have you recently kidnapped a woman? A woman named Lara Croft?”
“Yes! Get that outta my sight, please!”
“Where have you taken her?”
“To the Lab! God, get that thing away from me or kill me now!” The unfortunate was curled up against the wall and covered his head with his hands. The thing which terrified him wasn’t real, it existed only in his mind and the more he feared it, the more its power increased.
“Answer me and I’ll make it go away.” Kurtis continued relentlessly.
And the man told him everything he wanted. He was a tough and well-trained guy; he could’ve endured any torture except that horror: an ancient fear which had haunted him throughout his life and was now shaped before his eyes. He described the place where they had brought Lara. He told him how to enter and get out. He told him all identification codes.
Kurtis listened to it all in silence, without moving a finger from his folded arms. “Ok.” He finally agreed. “Now my turn.” And he again passed his hand before his eyes.
The man looked around and sighed in relief, then fixed his terrified eyes on Kurtis. “Who the hell are you?”
“Your worst nightmare.” He answered sharply. “If I were you I wouldn’t talk about what happened here, buddy, or I swear I’ll send that thing back to you and this time I’ll make it stay for the rest of your life.” From that wretch’s facial expression Kurtis felt sure he’d be eternally silent on the issue.
He left the alley despising himself for having used that skill. The Lux Veritatis had the ability to terrify people by showing them their most feared nightmares. Displeased by the possible misuse of that power, they had strictly forbidden its use. They had other resources to fight, and they also could rely on each other.
But now Kurtis was the last one and he was alone, the only one left to face all that evil, against which the entire Order had fought. There was too much at stake to mind rules and scruples.
“The end justifies the means.” He muttered while riding the bike again and driving toward the city’s suburbs.
Lara felt tired and empty. She’d lost perception of time due to the constant fluctuation between periods of consciousness and unconsciousness. She saw only blackness and intervals of yellow light. She met no one apart from that doll-faced doctor, disfigured by hatred and jealousy, and her assistant, the warden Friedrich. She felt nothing other than those piercing straps pressing at her numbed body and the continuous pricking in her arm.
What were they injecting in her? Some kind of sedative drug, judging by the symptoms. Sometimes she passed out and sometimes she felt weakened. Might be some hormone serum to undermine her strength, to make her meek as a lamb, she wouldn’t resist when it came the time to...
No, dammit! I’m not a laboratory guinea pig!
This was a nightmare. It had to be. Maybe she would awake soon…
The door opened and that ghastly light blinded her again.
“Good morning, my little one.”
“Good morning to you, ninny.” Lara muttered, relieved at seeing it was Friedrich and not Karel.
The assistant looked at her with pity. In the end, he felt sorry for that fierce British woman doomed to that humiliating state of sedation to serve their purpose, only to be eliminated afterwards, as they did with all the rest. Just another casualty of war in the Cabal’s great cause. “How are you today?”
“Everything was fine until you showed up.” Lara said.
Friedrich ignored the comment and examined the woman’s joints. Her wrists and ankles were raw. “My little one, I told you not to struggle. Look at what you’ve done. I suggested to Dr. Boaz to loosen your straps, but you have to admit, my little one, that you’re not being a model patient.”
“Shut up. I’m not your little one. Stop pretending; you’re as demented as the rest of your cult.”
The warden sighed. “As I can see, you don’t get enough sedatives for your big mouth. If I were you, I’d be less arrogant. You’ll be with us for a long time. I suppose...” and then he grimaced and said slowly, “…about nine months.”
Lara’s reply was to spit at his face, but he didn’t even flinch, used to patients’ rage and helplessness. He simply cleaned his face and said with insolence: “Well, OK, I admit I said something silly. Actually it won’t be longer than three months, considering the fast development of a Nephilim fetus.”
If glances could kill, Friedrich might have exploded into pieces right there.
“I’ll be back in a while.” He said after pricking her. “Then I hope you’re calmer.”
“Don’t bother yourself.”
“Are you always the last one to talk?”
When he returned, he found her as expected: drowsy, her skin covered by sweat and staring blankly at the ceiling. After passing his hand over her eyes several times, he untied her straps, freeing her arms and torso, and prepared to heal her joint wounds.
He’d just turned to the tray when two flexible arms encircled his shoulders and pulled him back. Before he could even realize what was happening, Friedrich was caught with a sharp scalpel touching his throat.
“Game over, you disgusting pig.” Lara whispered in his ear. “You’ll help me get outta here or I swear on your grave I’ll cut your bloody throat.”