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The Boaz Connection
By Kramer
Prologue
Kristina Boaz had been part of the evil sect Cabal. An organisation led by Pieter van Eckhardt, a madman and alchemist who believed he could revive the Nephilim race. Together with the scientists Grand Muller and Kristina Boaz he had tried to do this but he got stopped by two people.
Adventurer Lara Croft had killed Pieter van Eckhardt and destroyed the sleeper the first specimen of Nephilim. During her search for Eckhardt she had met Kurtis Trent, the last living member of the Lux Veritatis. They decided to work together to defeat the Cabal. While Lara took care of Eckhardt, Kurtis got in a fight with Kristina Boaz. She already had been made victim of her own work and deformed horrifically. It was her own leader Eckhardt who believed she was not loyal.
Kurtis killed her but got wounded badly and sprayed with a pesticide like liquid.
With the last strength she had in her weakened body she had raised up once again and managed to stab her skewer into Kurtis back. She saw how he collapsed to the ground.
The same moment she heard a rustling sound and in the last seconds of her life she saw how a blade flew into her. A sharp pain in her neck and then the world went black and quiet. Like someone switched the television off in the middle of a program.
Kristina had no family or friends. In fact, everyone who would hear about her death would probably release a sigh of relief, the monster is dead. Because even before she turned into a hideous deformed creature, the word monster did suit her perfectly.
Kurtis meanwhile grunted as he slowly lost his consciousness. He felt the terrible pain of his chest wound and his skin felt itchy because of the green grossness she had sprayed on him.
I
Moscow, Two Years Later
A thick blanket of snow covered the streets of the Russian capital as a black Mercedes made its way through the darkness. The snow was shining bright in the front lights of the car; the streets were not very crowded, not with this weather, not at this time of the day.
It was half past ten in the evening and people stayed in their houses to keep away from the freezing temperature. Some cafes showed some activities and homeless people gathered around iron barrels which they had set on fire.
The car continued its way until it reached a big building. Most of the windows looked dark but in the lobby and at the top floor there were some lights on.
The door swung open and a man in a long black coat got out. He took the low steps leading to the main entrance. A bouncer asked for his papers but when he saw his face he immediately opened the door.
The man took his ushanka from his head and shook some snowflakes out of his long brown hair. Another man walked to him and offered to take his hat and coat. Welcome to our hotel, the conference room is on the top floor. The elevator is over there.
When he arrived at the top floor he saw how one of the doors was opened and everyone was already inside, waiting for him.
He rubbed his neck with a painful looking face and entered the conference room. All the people stood up and nodded politely.
One man who was sitting at the front row came to him and shook his hand. Glad you are here. And dont worry. Youre only five minutes late.
The man nodded and made his way to the desk at the front of the room. He checked the overhead projector and then cleared his throat to make sure everyone had his attention.
It became quiet in the room. His azure eyes stared into the group of people for a second before he began to talk.
For those who perhaps havent heard of me, my name is Kurtis Trent. I considered myself the last living member of the Lux Veritatis. Recent research proved that this was a mistake. There are more people in this world whose forefathers were part of this secret organisation. And Im proud to take a leading role in the project to get them together and work together to make this world a little less evil.
He switched on the overhead projector and the screen showed a map of Europe. Kurtis pointed at the right corner of the sheet. In the year 1119 the order of the Knights Templar was established in Jerusalem. They were in direct command of the Pope, their main target was to protect the pilgrims of the Holy Land. In 1291 they moved to Cyprus and the cult began to fall apart. One group of people who decided to leave the order formed an offshoot called the Lux Veritatis, Light of Truth. The Lux was an independent organisation and their main target did not focus on the Christian believe itself but on suppressing activities of alchemy and sorcery.
He remained silent for a few seconds and looked around before he continued. Since the twelve hundreds the Lux Veritatis was in a constant battle with the Cabal. The Cabal is a dangerous, evil group formed around the person of Pieter van Eckhardt. This black alchemist created five so-called Obscura Paintings, which were. Yes, whats it?
One man in the front row had raised his arm. Mr. Trent, we do appreciate you want to provide us with all this background information. But I think its better if you inform us about our plans for the present day.
Kurtis was a little surprised by this, but could understand what the man said. Yes, I got you. Well, as most of you know, Eckhardt managed to get these paintings together in 2003. He tried using them to revive The Sleeper but thanks to me he failed. However, the world will never be completely free of evil, and therefore I decided to investigate the possibilities of making the Lux Veritatis a big and more influential organisation again.
He placed another picture at the projector. The screen showed again a map of Europe but this time the cities of Moscow and Paris were coloured red and were joined together with a red line.
Kurtis cleared his throat. I started my search in Russia because my father was born here. I managed to find a small group of people whose parents or grandparents were part of the Lux.
He smiled. That group of people Im talking to at this moment. The men in the room smiled too and nodded politely to each other.
Our mission is to create cells across whole Europe and establish a network of informants. At this moment we have two, one in Paris and one here, in Moscow. Plus, across the world we have some free agents.
II
Patagonia, Argentina
At this time of the day the heat was almost unbearable. Ivan Aros, bartender of a café in a little town somewhere near the Rio Chubut was wiping the sweat from his forehead with the teacloth on his shoulder.
Patagonia was a lonely area, only one percent of the entire Argentinean population lived here. Most of them were sheep farmers. Others tried to earn a living out of tourists, lots of backpackers came here to explore the mountains and plains.
It was not very crowded today. The only customer sat at the far end of the room, near the window, and was almost completely covered in the shadow from the blinds.
He took the teacloth he had just been wiping his head with and held it under the tap for two seconds. Then he started to clean the wooden tables one by one, at the end he reached the table were the customer sat.
A young lady was leaning with her back against the wall, balancing on two chair-legs. In the table in front of her stood the bottle of Corona she had ordered ten minutes ago.
She was wearing army boots, some kaki shorts and a tight camo top. Her long brown hair was tied into a braid and rested at one of her shoulders. Some shades lay at the tip of her nose.
Were about to close. Ivan said. Siësta.
The woman nodded. I go after I finished my drink, she said in Spanish. But with heavy English accent.
Are you on holiday here? Ivan asked interested while he began to empty the ashtrays into a big dustbin.
No, Im an archaeologist. Im looking for caves and temples of your native culture.
The man looked surprised. Oh really? I got a lot of old books and maps of this area, made by the first settlers who arrived her. If you come back this evening I can show you some.
The lady smiled politely. Maybe, thanks anyway.

3

III
Traces
It was late night when Kurtis returned to his apartment. Not far from the hotel where he just had been giving the lecture about the future of the Lux Veritatis. After his speech he had spoken to a few people about their role in the brand new organisation. Most of them would function as informants, gathering information and creating files of everything that could be involved with alchemy or other kinds of witchcraft. Other people had promised to invest money to pay for communication equipment, weapons and transport. Some of them had shady backgrounds. Kurtis plan was first to get as many suitable people involved as possible. With the current group of about 75 people with LV backgrounds he already got more then he had expected when he started the whole project.
But as soon as the organisation was up and running they probably should get rid of the less suitable people. Its like a kite, Kurtis said to himself while walking upstairs to the bedroom, first you need to have someone to hold it for you, so you can start running. But as soon as you run far enough the person could let go and the kite could fly up in the air.
He walked into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror, and he was looking at a tired man. He turned the tap on and made a bowl of his hands. With a sigh of relief he washed his face with the cold water. At the same time he felt the pain in his neck again and grunted. He looked in the mirror again and felt a light dizziness; he grabbed the sink with both his hands and took a deep breath.
Since he came back from Prague he sometimes had this dizzy spells. In the first few weeks he thought it was a side-effect of the healing process of his wound. He took his shirt off and carefully touched the scar on his belly. But it was almost two years ago now and he still had moments of dizziness sometimes. He kept saying to himself it perhaps was a psychological effect, he had been through some emotional moments. But deep inside he knew that couldnt be the reason. He took a strip of painkillers from the shelf above the sink and swallowed two with a swig of water. Five seconds later his stomach twisted and he threw up both the painkillers together with a bit of green slime.
Right, he said while hitting the sink with his fist. Thats enough; I go to see a doctor tomorrow.
When he had showered and brushed his teeth he walked to his bedroom. He took his wallet from the desk in a corner of the room and stared at a little picture he had kept there for two years. A brown haired woman smiled at him. After the incidents in Prague he had never seen Lara again. She had visited him in the hospital and had told him she wasnt the kind of person to stick around with other people. It did not bother him at that time. But in the months to follow he realised he wanted to speak with her again about what happened in that building. It would do his mental condition good; the dramatic moments still followed him. But every time he decided to start and find out where she lived something prevented him from doing it, but he couldnt explain what.
Good morning Mr. Trent, have a seat please. What can I do for you?
Kurtis sat down in the uncomfortable chair in front of the doctors desk. He smiled shyly and then told what was wrong with him.
Do you have any idea what could cause this? the doctor asked.
I thought it might be a mental problem, said Kurtis. You see, I served in the army for a few years and you sometimes hear these stories
The doctor nodded and then pointed to a room next to his office with a sweep of his right arm. I think its best if I examine you, he said.
Five minutes later they sat in the office again. Well, I cant find anything unusual Mr. Trent. I think its best if I take a few blood samples and send them to the laboratory. The results will be available in a few days. I will call you then.
Nine days later the telephone rang.
Trent.
Good afternoon Mr. Trent. Its Dr. Sjarapov speaking. I just got the results of your blood samples and
What do the results say?
Im sorry Mr. Trent but we have found a poison in your blood. Erm the strange thing is that it is an unknown poison. They contacted other laboratories across the world but nobody ever saw this.
Kurtis remained silent. The words of the doctor echoed through his head. He knew what this would mean.
The poison has been in your blood for quite a long time. Two years we think. But it seems it slowly multiplies itself. We cant say anything about what it will do and how your body will react. And we dont have any treatment. Im sorry.
Kurtis switched the phone off. He sat down and began to think what his options were. Boaz that damn woman although he had killed her, their final battle had left its marks
He realised that the only person that could have had an antiserum was Kristina Boaz herself.
An evening sun was sinking slowly, casting a surrealistic orange colour over the plains and hills of this lonely area. It was hot and dry weather and the soil was suffering heavily from erosion since enormous amounts of sheep graze here every day. Bits of brown-reddish sand and little stones rolled downwards from time to time as Lara made her way uphill.
From this point she could see the little village lying in a valley, a few miles away. This evening she had gone back to the café and talked to Ivan the bartender. In his house he had a few maps and journals of the first Spanish settlers that arrived here, a couple of hundred years ago.
He had been very hospitable and gave her everything she could use. Back home in England Lara had found out that beneath these hills she could find numerous of caves with secret treasure rooms and hidden temples, a remainder of the native culture. Very few people knew exactly were to find these places. The Spaniards had killed almost the complete native population of South America.
Lara had asked Ivan if he wanted something in return for all the documents he gave her. A share in the profit if you find anything, he said with a smile. But I doubt youll do.
After more then an hour of walking Lara sat down on a small rock and wiped some sweat from her forehead. She took a bottle of water from her backpack and poured some on her shoulders. It was evening and she was high in the hills but the temperature was still boiling.
She browsed through Ivans documents. One of the most interesting things was an old poem that someone wrote on the backside of a map. It described a hidden temple somewhere in these surroundings. According to the poem she could find something very special there.
El comienzo del viajero con un V
Está después el O
Sigue la serpiente
Entra en el cuarto
Si derrota a protectores
Encuentra una recompensa
En tres tazas doro
El líquido diablo
She studied the first two lines. The traveller starts with a V, she whispered. Well, what is that suppose to mean? And next is an O
She looked around the caves; maybe somebody drew a V somewhere. She began to walk around, carefully examining the rocks to see if there was a V.
She walked down a small pathway between two walls of rocks but did not find anything. She ended up at a dead end. The rock in front of her did not look climbable. From here another small pathway took her back the way she came. The rocks separating the two pathways seemed a lot friendlier and she decided to climb it to get a better view of the area.
She began to work her way up, carefully looking where to place her feet for the next step. It wasnt an easy climb but eventually she reached the top. It certainly was too steep to climb for the sheep and that explained why the top of the hill was covered with grass, bushes and small trees. But she still couldnt find any Vs.
She walked to edge of the hilltop and looked down to the little path where she just had been walking. The other path went exactly the same way. The oblong-shaped rocks she was standing on stood right in the middle of this narrow passage. The two little pathways formed a V together.
It took a few seconds before she realised what she just said to herself. She had found the V! She was standing right in the middle of it!
She took a look at the poem again. And next is the O maybe the opening of a cave she said. Lara began to look around. One particular group of bushes in the middle of the grassy hilltop could be hiding the entrance. She made her way through the thigh mass of twigs and leaves until she ended up on a clear spot. A small circle surrounded by the green bushes, she could only see the blue sky above her. Lara smiled, she had guessed right. Right in front of her she saw the O, an entrance leading into a cave.
She grabbed the parchment with the poem again and read the next two lines: he follows the snake, and ends up in the room.
Lara felt the usual adrenalin boost, she checked her backpack, touched her 9mm handgun for a second, just to make sure it was still there. Then she drew a flare and walked into the dark cave.
Home sweet home, she said with a cynical giggle.
IV
The Curse of the Snake
While waiting for someone to pick up the phone he looked through the window of his bedroom. It had been snowing the whole night and the streets were covered under a white blanket. Kurtis walked downstairs and took a bottle of orange juice and an egg from the fridge whilst holding the phone between his cheek and shoulder.
Hello.
Ah Boris, finally, what took you so long?
I was taking a shower, what are you calling for?
I think I got a first job for you, as our brand new Lux Veritatis informant.
Dont mention that name.
Boris was an old friend of Kurtis and ex-KGB agent. With his experiences a valuable member of the new Lux Veritatis. But after years of serving in the Russian secret service he had developed a habit of being paranoid and making things more secret and important then they really were.
Kurtis grinned. Dont play the secret agent, nobody is overhearing us.
Sure?
Yes. Now, listen. I want you to look for any information you have on Kristina Boaz.
What you need it for?
Thats not important now. Ill explain later.
Ok, wait a minute. I have a look in my files.
Kurtis poured himself a glass of orange juice and took a piece of bread, a plate and a pan from the kitchen cabin. He heard how Boris switched on his laptop.
Just a second it takes a while to start up, he muttered.
Take your time, Kurtis said and put the pan with the egg on the cooker.
Ok. Here I have her record, Kristina Boaz, daughter of a German mother and Argentinean father. Was born in 1947 in Buenos Aires and died in 2003 in Prague.
Kurtis nodded and a wicked smile appeared at his face. Who killed her?
Oh, I have that somewhere wait a minute she was killed by a Kurtis Tr you bastard! Dont fool me around with your stupid jokes. What you want to know?
Kurtis sat down at the kitchen table and began to peal his boiled egg. Sorry, couldnt resist. I want to know where she had her houses and offices.
It remained silent for a while and Kurtis could hear him typing. He cut his egg in slices and put them on the piece of bread. Do you have information on that?
Of course I have, Boris replied. Here it is. She had an office in her house in Buenos Aires and a second, smaller office, in the Strahov. But that building was demolished last year. Oh, she also hired an apartment in Prague.
Kurtis took a mouthful of his egg sandwich. Right, do you have an address of these houses in Buenos Aires and Prague?
I do. Shall I e-mail them to you?
Yes please. My plan is to go there and look for some important information.
Boris coughed. After this help, I deserve a little explanation.
Ok, they found traces in my blood of an unknown poison. Presumably the green liquid Boaz sprayed on me.
I see right, I will help you of course thats what the order is for. You first start looking in Prague?
Yes.
Fine, Ill send Bex to help you. Shes a member from the Parisian LV-cell. Born in England but lives in France since 1994.
Kurtis nodded. Great, thanks. Send me the details on where to meet her together with the other information in your email.
The light of her flare was casting tall shadows on the walls of the cave. It was obvious this tunnel represented the snake, mentioned in the poem. And it seemed to be going on for ages. But if the ancient text was right she should eventually end up in the room.
At least it was cooler in here then outside. The path went slightly steep, so every meter took her deeper into the ground. Sunlight had no change here. Lara stood still for a moment and looked back. The flare was almost out and the light from the entrance of the cave was out of sight. She had only one more flare in her backpack.
She continued walking, the flame in her hand got smaller and smaller and finally disappeared. It was completely dark now. Lara took her backpack from her shoulder and opened it. In the few seconds she needed to grope her way to the last flare a strange feeling lurked inside her head. The complete darkness brought up some unpleasant memories. She laid a hand at her forehead for a while and took a breath. Visions of the past flew through her mind like a slideshow. The run to the opening of the pyramid, the rumbling sound behind her, the voice of Werner, and finally, the darkness. Her accident in Egypt still haunted her memory.
She released a sigh of relief when she drew the flare. A save circle of light appeared around her. But she knew it was the last flare, she hesitated. She could go back and buy a flashlight, and return here tomorrow. She looked into the darkness in front of her and then back the way she came from. But then Laras curiosity and urge for adventure defeated her fear to be sentenced from light. She continued her way deeper into the snake.
After another long time of walking she saw something in the distance. She began to walk faster and finally saw a bright light. There was light over there, but it was still far away.
While she was getting closer to the light in front of her, the second flare began to flicker. She threw it away and began to run. After a short sprint she reached a wooden door, firmly set into the wall. Two torches were standing on both sides of it. She took one of the torches and examined the door. An inscription was written on it. Esto es un lugar terrible, she whispered.
It took her a few seconds to translate it. Just like the poem it was in Spanish. This is a terrible place.
Lara felt a shiver running down her spine and she involuntarily looked around her. She opened the door and carefully took a few steps inside. She bumped with her foot in something; she bent forward to look what she had hit. The hollow eyes of a human skull looked into her. The same moment she heard a rustling sound and as a reflex she ducked. A second later she saw an enormous blade coming out of the wall; it missed her head by centimetres before it disappeared in the opposite wall.
Lara stood up and began to run, a second blade popped out of the wall, but this time she could easily jump over it. A third one came from the ceiling, still running Lara dived to the ground, rolled and stood up again to avoid the fourth one from the floor. She hugged the wall, waited for the blade to disappear and continued running again. She saw a second door, only be separated from her by a deep pit. From here she could see flames coming out of it. A running jump sent her over the pit and in front of the door.
With both hands she opened it and entered a tall room. It was extremely light in here and her eyes had to get used to it after the darkness of the caves.
Lara wiped a strand of hair out of her face and looked around. Bricks were set into the walls and the floor was covered with tiles of the same type. Who did build this? A staircase in front of her was leading up to a round platform. Big grated doors prevented her from going into archways in all four directions. She could see torches everywhere.
She carefully walked further into the room. Just in front of the stairs she saw a golden bowl filled with water standing on a low pedestal.
She took the parchment with the poem again and read the last four lines. Defeat the guards. And receive a reward. In three golden cups. The liquid devil.
Lara examined the bowl. It was gold, but not a cup, and it was only a single one. She carefully smelled the water. Just ordinary water, she muttered. No liquid devil
She walked away from the pedestal and began to climb the stairs. After a few minutes of climbing she reached the round platform. In the middle she saw another pedestal, but bigger then the one downstairs. She examined it closely and saw three empty slots. On the surface she saw an inscription: Tres tazas doro. Three golden cups.
They are gone, Lara hissed. Someone went in here before me and took the three golden cups. She angrily hit the pedestal with her fist. A second later she heard a rattling sound below her. She looked down and the four grated doors lifted and groups of men in wooden masks entered the room.

4

V
Prague
Kurtis got a slap in the face of the sudden coldness when he stepped out of the taxi in the centre of the Czech capital. He paid the driver and although it was only a few hundred metres to the café he had agreed to meet Bex he tucked his hands deep into the pockets and folded the collar of his jacket around his neck. Why didnt the Cabal build their damn headquarters on Jamaica, he muttered and he could see his breath as little puffs of steam in the air.
He checked his notebook for the name of the bar where Boris had arranged their meeting plus a description of Bex. Short, red haired girl, smokes a lot, he read from his notes.
A few minutes later he entered the café and tried to look around without being suspicious. Most people where men so it wasnt difficult to find the right person. At the far end of the room near the window sat a short, red haired girl. She was wearing some jeans and a maroon-red t-shirt with long sleeves. Her messy red hair was covering her ears and curled up at the end, she had laid her feet at another chair and was staring into a glass of Scotch in front of her. A cigarette balanced between her index and middle finger.
Boris had insisted that they should use a code to make sure nobody would spy on them. Kurtis walked to the table and pointed at the chair she had her feet on. Is this seat available?
The young woman looked up and smiled. Who will take it? she said.
The light of truth, Kurtis replied.
She smiled again and reached out to shake hands. From the moment you entered I knew you were the right one but old Boris wanted to do it this way.
Kurtis sat down and smiled too. Yeah, he never healed from the overdose of paranoia he got at the KGB. Can I get you anything to drink?
Bex pointed at the glass in front of her. No thank you. This is my second one, better for both of us not to take a third.
Kurtis snapped his fingers and a waiter came to their table. Do you speak English? he asked. The man shook his head.
Deutsch vielleicht? This time the man smiled and nodded.
Ich möchte gern eine tasse kaffee.
The man walked away and returned two minutes later with a cup of coffee.
Right, said Kurtis while taking a sip of his coffee. Today we will take a look in the old apartment of Boaz. It is presumably taken over by someone else, but maybe we will find some traces.
And what if we dont? asked Bex.
Kurtis took a piece of paper from his pocket and spread it out on the table. Look, we got several places to look. The first one is the apartment. The second one is her house and office in Buenos Aires.
Bex too the last swig of her whiskey and bent over to watch the photos closely. Who took these pictures?
Kurtis was a bit unsettled as she was practically touching his face with her nose. Boris, he said. And some other Lux Veritatis informants I dont know by name.
The woman snorted and sank back in her chair again. You dont know every member personally? Oh, you smell nice, by the way.
Kurtis put the paper back in his pocket again. No I dont know everyone personal, and to be honest I think we should screen some of them since Im not sure they are fully trustful, especially one of our investors. He looked at her. Its important to keep our relations professional. Hoping she would catch the double meaning of this according to her comment about his aftershave.
A short while later Kurtis rang the doorbell of the apartment that once was owned by Kristina Boaz. It took while before a male voice came through the intercom.
Can we come in? Kurtis asked. We have to ask you something really important.
The intercom remained silent for a while. Okay you can enter said the voice.
They took the elevator upstairs and walked to the right apartment. Before they reached it a young man opened the door and looked suspiciously at them.
What you want? he said with a heavy Czech accent.
A friend of ours lived here and we wondered if she left some belongings behind.
The man nodded but didnt seem to feel any more comfortable. Yeah, when I bought house all things were still here owner was gone
What did you do with it? Bex asked.
Police took some but did not find err how do you say solution and said I can have all of it. I sold most of chairs and tables but I have books and err papers and photos
Kurtis nodded. Can we have a look at it? It has a great emotional value to us she was our friend.
The man let them in and showed them some cardboard boxes he had stuffed with documents and books. Kurtis and Bex began to browse through them. They found some photo albums and a lot of dossiers about the Cabal and Boaz activities.
This is indeed of great value, Kurtis whispered and grinned. Maybe it includes a list of medicines and drugs they used in the sanatorium.
Bex took some under her arm and showed them to the man who was looking a little surprised at them. Can we take this with us?
Sure, the man said. But if you are her friends do you know where she is? Maybe you should talk to the police.
No, said Bex firmly. We already did. And now we must go. Come on honey.
A minute later she and Kurtis were standing in the elevator.
Why did you call me honey? he asked.
To let him think we are a couple, she said dryly. To leave a less suspicious impression.
Kurtis couldnt suppress a laugh. Less suspicious? He will call the police any minute I think. He looked at us if we were a bunch of Mafiosi.
-
Lara was a bit overwhelmed for a few seconds by the sudden entrance of these tribesmen. They were dressed in traditional clothing of the native people and they were armed with spears and wooden shields. The group of about 40 men quickly made their way to the stairs while yelling a war cry with high pitched voices.
Lara drew her pistols and began to shoot, the front row of the garrison collapsed. While continuing shooting she ran down the stairs. The group scattered and the men looked anxiously for safe spots, some of them threw their spears at Lara but she could easily avoid them. She stopped shooting and waited what the remaining tribesmen would do. When nothing happened she lowered her pistols and began to reload them. Immediately the men stood up and ran the way they came from, through the four archways.
Lara holstered her guns and walked to one of the men she shot. She examined him closely and discovered a little silver amulet on a necklace around his neck. She took it and put it in her pocket. She looked around; all the four archways seemed identically. Lara randomly took one of them and walked carefully under the raised grated door and found herself in a long straight hallway. She followed it down until she reached a dead end. But in the wall in front of her she saw a big wooden lever. She firmly pulled it and waited for something to happen, it remained silent for a while but then a thundering sound made her grab onto the wall to keep her balance. A second later the floor beneath her feet began to shake and some of the tiles gave way, leaving deep dark pitches behind. Lara turned around and began to run the way she came. She carefully zigzagged through the hallway to avoid the holes in the collapsing floor. The thundering noise became louder and more and more pieces of the floor collapsed in front of her eyes. She jumped over a big hole and made her way to the side, hugging the wall. She wouldnt make it to the end if it kept going like this. She looked up and discovered some loose bricks in the wall; she began to climb and eventually started to traverse sideways. She successfully reached the iron grating when suddenly the whole wall and a bit of ceiling came down. She fell on her back and held her arms around her head to protect her against the bricks falling down. Lara grunted and stood up, brushing some dirt and marl-like dust from her clothes, she walked back into the central hall. She breathed heavily and walked to the bowl of water in the middle of the room and splashed some cold water in her face. I guess I took the wrong door, she muttered.
She walked around and carefully watched the four archways; something should tell her where they would lead. A second look told her each archway had a small symbol painted on the wall above it. But she never had seen such symbols before and couldnt read them.
Lara sat down and retrieved the papers Ivan had given her from her backpack and start browsing through them to see if they would provide her some information. After a few minutes of searching she found a simple sketch of what could be this hall. Underneath the drawing someone had wrote down a quick note containing the four symbols from the archways. One of the symbols was underlined and the owner of the book had written safe route north next to it. Lara wrapped the parchment and took her compass, just to make sure; the symbol was indeed painted above the northern archway.
Lara cheerfully putted the parchments and the compass back in her backpack and took the archway which was meant to be the safe route.
She ended up in another long hallway but this time it did not end at a wall with a lever but an enormous door. Lara tried to open it but failed. She took few steps back and kicked it firmly but the door did not move a millimetre. It did not seem to have a lock, only a little round shaped slot in the middle. Suddenly she remembered something; she reached in her pocket and retrieved the little amulet she found at the necklace of the tribesman. It fitted perfectly in the slot and with a crack the door swung open. She now entered an even bigger hallway then the one she came from, with walls reaching hundreds of metres above her. She looked up and realised it wasnt a hall but a mountain-pass; she could see the blue sky high above her. Lara carefully continued her way in the same direction, admiring the enormous rocky slopes left and right of her. The pass got wider and wider and developed into a valley. Suddenly she recognised windows, doors and steps. It was a pueblo, a village of hundreds of little houses chiselled out in the rocks. The houses and flat spaces consisted of hundreds of plateaus and went uphill like a staircase, connected with wooden ladders. Between the pathway she was walking on, and the first houses, she saw green fields with all kinds of vegetation and a lot of crops like rice, vegetables and corn. She kept walking until she reached something that could be the town square or whatever you would call that in this kind of place. People came from their houses and looked surprised at her. Lara tried talking in Spanish to them but they shook their heads and smiled politely. Finally some of them began to talk to each other, in a language Lara never heard of. They pointed at her and nodded to each other. Then a young child ran away and climbed one of the wooden ladders leading to a big building in front of her. Five minutes later he came back with a woman dressed in the same clothes as the guards Lara had encountered in the hall, including a mask.
The woman held up her left hand with her palm turned to her face and Lara decided to do the same, assuming this was a way of saying hello.
The woman smiled and lowered her arm. Welcome in our village stranger, she said in Spanish. How did you find us and what brings you here?
Lara pointed to the direction she came from. I came from your underground temple and
The woman interrupted her. How did you get in there and how did you open the door to our village, the lost city of Matorana Civella?
Lara showed the silver amulet she got from the tribesman and which she used to open the door. The woman took a few steps back and then made a short bow. You found the secret entrance you survived the traps and defeated our guards. I must have much respect for you, stranger. But tell me, what are you looking for here?
Lara held up three fingers. Three cups of gold, they are supposed to be in your temple. But I did not find them.
The woman nodded. Let me invite you to come to my house, I will tell you everything about it. My name is Meila and Im the leader of this little tribe.
Lara nodded politely. Lara Croft, adventurer. Im pleased to see your people decided to put a woman in charge.

5

VI
Results and Mistakes
With a sigh of relief Kurtis dropped the box with documents on the bed of his hotel room. Bex put her pile of files on the floor and sat down on one of the cheap uncomfortable chairs. She fetched a packet of cigarettes from her hip pocket and offered one to Kurtis. He gratefully accepted one of her Marlboros and while inhaling the sharp taste of his cigarette he took the first stationary-case of documents and spread them out on the table.
She didnt label the damn things, so I guess we just have to go through them one by one to see if there is anything that leads us to the possible whereabouts of an antiserum.
Bex looked sceptical when browsing through the first few sheets. And do you have any idea whats the name of the poison that you got in your blood?
Kurtis grinned and showed her his cigarette. Nicotine I guess?
Save me from your cynical sense of humour, dont you think we are looking for a needle in a haystack at the moment? said Bex with a sigh. Dont you have any idea where to look first?
Kurtis remained silent for a while. She turned into an ugly deformed monster with the help of one of Mullers creations, he finally said.
Bex frowned. Grand Muller, the biologist? That might give us a trace; try looking for documents concerning that bio dome. Its more likely we find something there then in the administration of Boaz department.
Yes, but if thats true we might start looking somewhere else. Where did Muller have his head office?
Bex hauled her shoulders. Rome, but I doubt its still there. Lets look in this paperwork first, who knows what we can find?
After half an hour of browsing, reading and studying Kurtis snapped his fingers and waved a little piece of paper in the air. We got something Rebecca, an e-mail from Muller to Boaz.
Bex bended over to look what her colleague had found. Give that to me, I cant read it if you keep waving it in the air. And dont call me Rebecca, it reminds me of my mother.
She took the sheet from Kurtis and read:
Kristina,
Thank you very much for the LD-48, I think it will be a great addition to my research. I understand the emotional meaning it has for you because of your mother. I think I will use it in my latest creation which I call the pod.
I ensure you this unique material is in safe hands and you, I and the whole Cabal will be very happy with the final version of the pod now I got this poison to equip it with.
Regards,
Grand
Bex whistled between her teeth. Good job handsome, it seems this is the poison that Boaz shot at you.
Kurtis nodded happily and underlined the first line of the e-mail. We now have something to look for, LD-48. I have no idea what it stands for but it might appear in lists and other documents we have got here.
Bex took a second cigarette from her packet and lit it. But theres one thing that puzzles me, she muttered with the cigarette between her lips. Why does some toxic material has an emotional value for someone? Did her mother give it to her, or what?
Kurtis stood up, walked to the balcony and shook his head. I dont know, but I dont think thats really important now. We made some progress. And he carefully rubbed his neck.
Is the pain getting worse? Bex asked.
Yeah, Kurtis said without looking back. Its horrible sometimes, especially during the night. Pain killers dont help. He stretched his arms and kept staring out of the window.
Bex stood up and opened her suitcase. The night is still young, pity if I would go to my own room by now already. What about a glass of Glenfiddich?
Kurtis turned around and looked surprised. Excuse me? What you got there, a bottle of whiskey? How did you get that in here?
Bex giggled and took two plastic cups from the bathroom. Who cares, some Scotch might relief you from that terrible pain.
Kurtis smiled. I doubt it, but I cant refuse such offer, and he took one of the cups.
A while later they sat on Kurtis bed, with their heads leaning to the back wall. The content of the bottle had already reached way down the label and they both acted unnaturally cheerful and funny.
Well, its been a pleasure. But maybe its time for this little girl to go to her own hotel room now said Kurtis followed by a loud snicker. Bex shook her head and a wicked smile appeared at her face. Oh, but arent Lux Veritatis warriors supposed to protect each other every time of the day?
No, seriously, Kurtis continued with a thick voice. This is a one person bedroom, and its not meant to be occupied by two, otherwise it would
Bex didnt let him finish his sentence as she rolled over and kissed him on the lips. It lasted for several seconds before Kurtis gently pushed her away from him. We shouldnt do this; this is a very bad idea. He muttered with his eyes half closed.
Bex sat on her knees in front of him and took her top off with a majestic sweep. Are you sure?
Kurtis remained silent for a second and then reached out to embrace her. Oh, to hell with it, nobody sees us.
The next morning Kurtis woke up of an early sunshine warming his face. He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling for a few minutes. In bits and pieces the events of last night came back to his mind. He sat up and immediately grabbed his head with a painful grunt.
Good morning.
He looked to where to voice came from. Bex sat in one of the chairs with nothing but his t-shirt on, smoking a cigarette and looking in his wallet.
Whos this? she said, holding the small photo of Lara he kept there.
Why are you going through my things? he whispered with a dry throat and he looked at her while trying to keep his eyelids up.
Answer my question, who is this?
He sighted and stood up. She is someone I met two years ago. We didnt even have a relationship; we went through some emotional moments together. And for some reason I keep that photo of her in my wallet, she didnt even gave it to me, I tore it out of a newspaper.
Kurtis walked to the bathroom, turned the tap on and splashed some water in his face.
Where did you meet her? said Bex while she was busy putting her own clothes back on.
In Prague, we crossed paths in the Strahov.
The red haired girl shook her head. Thats the most transparent crap I ever heard. You always tell everyone it was you who killed Eckhart. There wasnt anybody to help you.
Kurtis said nothing.
Im going back to Paris. Boris will contact you when we are going to take a look in Boaz house in Argentina. See you later, Demon Hunter. And with that she took her suitcase and closed the door behind her.
Kurtis walked back into the room and angrily threw a towel on the table. Why I am such an idiot? he said loud.
Lara followed Meila up the ladder to her house. She was still dressed in the same clothing as the guards from the temple, including the wooden mask. They crossed a plateau were a group of women was busy colouring wool in large tray filled with red paint. They climbed a second ladder and then entered Meilas house. Lara saw a large room with two windows overlooking the valley and a balcony. The floor was covered with carpets of the same red colour she had seen in the tray outside. The room contained some simple wooden furniture, including four chairs, a low table and two cupboards. The walls were decorated with masks, beads and other wooden objects.
Please sit down, said Meila and took her wooden mask off. Lara could now see her face, Meila seemed about forty-five years old. Her dark brown eyes had a trustful glance and her pitch black hair rested casually on her shoulders.
Lara sat down at one of the low chairs in front of the table and the woman took place on the opposite chair. She took off her poncho revealing two bare arms and shoulders, her skin had a vague reddish tan.
She smiled friendly at Lara and then yelled something in her own language. Two seconds later a man came in carrying a plate full of rice, fruits and nuts. He put it at the table, nodded politely to both woman and left the room.
Welcome in my house, said Meila. You seem hungry, so feel free to eat. And while you are eating I will tell something about the cups you were looking for. But I also want to know how you came here and why you wanted to have the cups. She had a deep voice with an unusual timbre and her way of speaking was like a real leader, certain but friendly.
Lara took some fruits and nodded. Thank you for your hospitality. But about why I wanted to get my hands on the cups is not an easy question to answer. She remained silent for a second.
What would you do with them if you had them in your possession? asked Meila.
Nothing, said Lara. I put them in a display case in my house and look at them. Your face tells me you dont believe it, but thats the truth. I travel the world in search for hidden treasures and artefacts, the adventure of this gives me the accomplishment I look for. Its my life.
Meila looked at her for a while and ate some of the food. Its hard to believe you, she said finally. Many people from outside this country have come here and most of them were looking for goods, money and power. And they didnt hesitate to kill to get what they wanted; only a small part of the people that once inhabited this country is left.
Lara nodded slowly. I understand what you are trying to say. But I wasnt planning to sell the golden cups or to use them for any purpose that would hurt other people. I just want them.
Why?
I I dont know.
I lived a few years outside this village, said Meila. I learned Spanish and talked to a lot of people and tried to understand their culture. Ive also heard of people like you, doing things not for money but for the adventure, the honour, accomplishment. I dont fully understand it but I do respect it, you are a brave person. You have experienced a lot, I can see that in your eyes, you have seen death; you have seen the end of the world. But you did overcome this and thats a gift. Im sure if you had the golden cups they would be in safer hands then they are now.
Lara wasnt able to respond to this immediately. This lady seemed to look right through her, how could she tell she had seen death?
Who has them now? she said.
Meila closed her eyes for a few seconds. Its not about the golden cups you know, its about the content of the cups.
Lara almost jumped up and grabbed her backpack. I know, I got a poem with clues how to get here and it mentioned that. She took the paper and read the last line of the poem: In three cups of gold, the liquid devil.
Meila took the paper from her and read it quickly. Translated from our language, thats why it doesnt rhyme. The cups do indeed contain the liquid devil, the strongest poison on earth.
Lara frowned. And it was stored in your temple?
Yes, it was created long time ago by a witch doctor. It was kept in the temple for hundreds of years, even the Spanish colonists couldnt get their hands on it. The small bowl of water in the middle of the temple is an antidote. But it works only if you take it less then five minutes after you got infected with poison.
But when did it disappear? And who took it? asked Lara.
Meila stood up and walked to the balcony, Lara followed her. You are the second foreigner in our history to find this valley. Years ago, before I was born, another group of European people came here and they snatched the poison. I think it was 1948 in your calendar.
Lara looked out over the pueblo and the flat green fields, the steep mountain slopes and the sky high above her. Thats a long time ago, she said. Do you have any idea what they did with it or where they took it?
No, Im sorry.
What kind of people were they?
I wasnt there, but people said it was a woman joined by group of armed men.
Didnt they leave anything behind that could be a trace to their whereabouts? asked Lara.
The other woman turned away and walked back inside the house. There is, actually, she said. That woman lost her bag. We still have it somewhere here. I sometimes show it to people from here that never have been outside this village.
Meila opened one of the cupboards and retrieved a leather handbag. Lara took it from her and examined it closely. It was a very old fashioned model, which was not surprising since the woman lost it in 1948.
She put it on the table opened it carefully. It contained a mouldered packet of cigarettes, a tin water flask, a small notebook and finally a handgun.
Lara opened the notebook, little notes were scribbled down on every page and some photos in sepia were glued at the last few pages. She studied a few of the notes, some of them were written in Spanish, others in German. Lara wanted to put it back in bag and study the handgun when her eye met a little note written down on the first page.
It was a message for someone who would found the book if the owner lost it. It mentioned a street address in Buenos Aires and a name, Ulrike Boaz.
Lara frowned and began to dig in her memory. Where did I hear that name before, she whispered. Is it any help to you? asked Meila.
Lara looked up. Yes well, if I could take this booklet with me
The lady nodded. Sure, if that will bring you closer to the golden cups. You want to leave now?
Lara put the notebook in her backpack and stood up. Yes, if you dont mind?
No, not at all. I will take you uphill to a safe route away from this village. But one thing, what is that kind of gun? I have never seen it before.
Lara looked at the handgun on the wooden table. Its a Luger; it was a very common firearm in those days and standard equipment in the German army.
Half an hour later Lara was standing on a high hilltop overlooking the secret valley. Meila was standing next to her.
I leave you here, the woman said. I think you can find your way to the civilised world from here at your own.
Lara nodded politely. Yes, Im sure thatll be okay. Thank you for your hospitality and the information about those people who stole your cups.
Meila stared at her with her dark eyes. You wanted to do the same, remember? But lets not get into a debate about that. I wish you luck in your search, and please dont tell anybody about the lost city of Matorana Civella.
Lara turned around and continued the walk uphill. I wont, she said.
VII
A Dark History
Kurtis Trent was taking a bath in his apartment in Moscow when his mobile phone rang. He reached out to clear his right hand with a towel and grabbed the phone from the bathroom table.
Trent.
Hi, its me Bex.
Kurtis tried to react normally. Hello.
I got an e-mail from Boris today, she continued. He can arrange a flight for us to Buenos Aires on Thursday. We will take a plane from Düsseldorf Germany at six in the morning.
Kurtis frowned. Where do we meet?
Just outside the airport, he gave me a detailed description of the location. We will fly directly to Buenos Aires and from there another Lux Veritatis contact will pick us up and take us to Boaz house.
Okay, said Kurtis. That seems all right to me and oh, Bex?
Yes?
About that night in Prague, I err
It happened and I dont want to talk about it anymore. See you in Düsseldorf. And with that she switched her phone off.
Ten minutes later Kurtis sat fully dressed at his desk doing some paperwork. For the hundredth time he browsed a bit through the documents they found at the apartment in Prague. Suddenly his eye fell on a little album he did not spotted before. He read the first page: Ulrike Boaz, Diary.
He felt a sudden feeling of excitement. The diary of Boaz mother, what can we find in here? He enthusiastically began to read.
The world is still at war. But in the meantime we fight our own little war, a war against time. Its the spring of 1944 and Pieter van Eckhart is kept prisoner in a Lux Veritatis stronghold, and we did not find out where.
In the meantime we try to make a start with his great work. We have the possession of a chateau in the Bavarian Alps where we can practise our projects fully secretly. In a dark, underground facility, far away from the outside world.
We made a start with doing experiments on people. My heart is beating with joy when I walk past the cells with patients screaming in agony. Knowing that each of them will bring us closer to new discoveries. The moment we will be able to create Nephilim will be the greatest day in my life.
Kurtis closed the book and stuck out his tongue in disgrace. What a horrible lady, he muttered. No wonder she gave birth to such pure hell.
Although some of its passages made him sick Kurtis decide to read some more in the diary. Perhaps it would lead him to more valuable information.
He found another entry that got his attention, it was written about two years after the first one.
Today was a big day for several reasons. How happy we were when we heard the great Pieter van Eckhart was finally found and released. He has sworn revenge against the warriors of the Lux Veritatis.. All this events took place under rather unusual circumstances. The war is almost over and American troops are at the outskirts of Germany. The fall of the third Reich is only a matter of time. Together with another small group of people from the Berlin authorities and their elite troops we have decided to escape to South America before it is too late.
Kurtis had heard stories like this before. A lot of Germans fled from their country to South America at the end of the war and although the Israeli secret service tried to find them, a lot of them managed to stay hidden and spent the rest of their lives in peace.
And apparently one of them was Kristina Boaz mother, who was not only part of the German authorities but also a member of the secret organisation Cabal.
He put the little booklet somewhere apart from the other documents and switched on his computer, time to do some financial administration. Kurtis checked his latest bank accounts and made some notes. Suddenly his eye felt on a deposit of 20.000 euros from a Russian company he never heard of. But he recognized the amount of money. It was the usual 20.000 the Lux received from one of the investors.
Kurtis grabbed his mobile phone and dialled the number of the man who was apparently behind this.
Smertin.
Hello, its Kurtis.
Trent, how nice to hear from you again. Did you receive the usual twenty thousand?
Yes, but listen, whats this company got to do with it?
Oh, dont you worry about that. Its a small business from a friend of mine. Its most profitable for both of us if we do it this way. You know, taxes and stuff.
Kurtis frowned. Are you sure its legal? And what does this friend know about us? We are a secret organisation remember?
He heard how Smertin said something inaudible. Yes, yes, its fully legal, he then said in the phone. And this friend doesnt know anything. We are secret, but also small and independent. Thats a big advantage you know, the changes of leaving traces are minimal.
Okay, I just wanted to check. Thanks for the information, said Kurtis.
No problem, hear from you soon Trent. I heard from Boris Shoukov youre about to go to Argentina?
Thats right, said Kurtis. We have to sort some things out concerning a Mrs. Boaz, former Cabal member.
I see Well, good luck over there. Speak to you soon.
Smertin switched his phone off.
What was that? said the other man.
Trent. He is getting suspicious.
The man frowned. We have to be careful. Theyre going to Argentina right?
Yes.
What are they doing there?
They found out something about Kristina Boaz.
Lets keep an eye on him.
A few days later a black Mercedes drove up the parking spot of the airport in Düsseldorf. It was five in the morning and it was still dusky outside. In the light of one of the streetlamps stood a man in a black trenchcoat and a hat. The black Mercedes stopped in front of him and another man got out of the car. A drizzly rain was pouring down on the streets and together with the sad colours of the concrete buildings it gave the whole place a cold atmosphere.
Kurtis slammed the door shut and locked the car. In the distance he could hear the traffic on the motorway and there were some activities around at the airport but apart from that it was a quiet and lonely place. It was like a painting made with only different types of grey paint, apart from a dead tree next to a powerhouse and some grassy strokes next to the crash barriers. He felt a terrible headache coming up and muttered something to himself; he was in a grumpy, sad and almost melancholic mood.
Boris gave him a short nod and offered him a cigarette. Kurtis shook his head.
Bex will be here any minute.
Kurtis checked his watch. You got everything arranged?
Sure, I got money, fake passports, tickets and some other useful things.
And our man over there?
Pablo? Great man and devoted Lux Veritatis warrior, you can rely on him.
Suddenly a second car appeared and a minute later Bex joined with the two men. She was wearing a blue parka and a scarf.
Right, said Boris. Here I got everything you need. He handed Kurtis a white envelope. Two tickets, 800 euro in Argentinean currency, passports and a key to a locker on the airport in Buenos Aires.
Bex rubbed her hands together against the cold. And what we will find in there?
Some hardware, you never you what crosses your path.
He tapped on an imaginary watch on his wrist. You better go now, your plane while leave in 45 minutes.
VIII
Arrivals
Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and situated in the east of the South American country at the mouth of the Rio Riachuelo. The city has three million inhabitants and is famous for the harbour, the meat industry and its numerous universities and libraries.
For Lara it was quite a change after her stay in the deserted area of Patagonia. After she had left the hidden city in the hills she managed to return to little town where she had met Ivan from the café. She had bought a second hand car for a song and had started her long journey to the east.
After two days on the road she now reached Buenos Aires and the old rusty Chevy was almost worn out. When she parked it somewhere in the centre of the enormous city the engine grunted like a wounded animal.
Lara decided to leave the car behind and look for a taxi to drive her to the address she had found in the notebook. It didnt take long to find a taxi; they were similar to the classic ones in London only they had a yellow roof.
She showed the taxi driver the address and sat down at the backseats.
You are a tourist arent you? asked the man while he was manoeuvring the car through the busy traffic.
Im not from this country, said Lara with a sonorous voice,
I was just wondering he continued. You look like a backpacker to me. So it surprises me you want to visit the neighbourhood you directed me to.
Lara frowned, half annoyed by the nosey man and half interested what he meant with the last comment.
Why? she asked.
The driver hauled his shoulders. Its a rich neighbourhood, only big villas there. You dont seem the person to me to be familiar with the kind of people living there.
Lara leaned back and gave the man a lethal stare in the back mirror before putting her sunglasses on.
You have no idea.
Kurtis tapped Bex on her shoulder. The young woman had been sleeping the last few hours of their flight and didnt wake up when the pilot announced that they would land in a while.
She opened her eyes and looked bored as soon as she realised where she was.
Are we there yet?
Kurtis put Boaz diary back in his bag and nodded. Yes, the pilot just announced we are about to land in a while.
Bex stretched her arms. Have you found anything interesting in that book?
I think so. After Ulrike Boaz escaped from Germany in 1945 she settled down in Buenos Aires in a big villa. She met a man, they married and got a daughter, the daughter was called
Bex smiled insipidly. Kristina.
Kurtis ignored her attitude and nodded happily. Yes, it seems we are really getting somewhere. Because a few notes further she mentioned she had set up an expedition in the hills of Patagonia and found a secret temple.
The plane was approaching Ezeiza airport and everybody had to sit down and fasten seatbelts.
And what did she find in that temple?
Kurtis stared outside the airplane window admiring the view of the Atlantic Ocean and the enormous city stretching out alongside the coastline hundreds of kilometres.
A poison, he said. I know the changes are remote, but
Bex took a packet of Marlboros from her hip pocket and putted one cigarette behind her ear. Despite I think youre a bastard, sleeping with me while you already have a girlfriend, I hope youre right and we find an antiserum for you in her house. Plus I think its our duty as the Lux Veritatis to find and destroy the actual poison before it falls in hands of the wrong people.
Kurtis had to wait a minute before reacting to her comments as his speech was drowned out in the noise of the landing.
A few minutes later when they were waiting to pick up their luggage he tried to explain for hundredth time he did not have a girlfriend.
Maybe not now, but that time in Prague you certainly had, Bex hissed. Ive had enough men in my life to know what a photo in a wallet means.
They made their way to the lockers and Kurtis looked up the right number matching with the key Boris gave them. So you had a lot of men in your life, he said trying to sound interested.
Bex nodded. Im a free spirit.
The heavy door opened and Kurtis carefully retrieved a cardboard box and dropped it in his bag. A free spirit? he said amused while zipping the bag shut. I thought we call that a
Bex began to walk to the exit. Dont complete that sentence.

6

IIX
House of the Death
The taxi took a sharp turn and drove into a shaded lane. From the car Lara could only see the gates and hedges blocking her view into the front gardens of the houses.
The car slowed down. What number was it again? asked the driver.
Lara took the little notebook and checked. 254.
The man looked at her in the back mirror. Are you sure? Are you one of those?
Lara frowned and slowly shook her head. Whats that suppose to mean?
The man grinned and drummed at the dashboard with two fingers Oh, come on. Dont try to hide it; youre one of those freaks looking for spirits and shadows. Ever since the owner of that house at 254 disappeared, I think it was two years ago, you hear this stories of ghosts. They say the woman was a mad scientist. Police cleared out the whole house but couldnt find anything. Its empty now and available for sale but nobody wants to move in because of these stories.
Lara remained silent for a few seconds. No, never heard of that. I think I got the wrong number, its 252.
The man nodded. That sounds more likely to me. Are you visiting a friend?
Yes.
You wont find any at 254, I can assure you.
After two minutes the car stopped in front of a big iron gate guarding a big villa. The digits 252 were printed on a small sign next to the letterbox. Lara got out, paid the driver and waited for the car to disappear. Then she walked to the next house and found herself in front of another impressing looking gate. Through the grating she recognised a driveway leading to a house.
One of the big trees flanking the lane offered an easy way to get to the other side. She jumped up and grabbed a branch reaching over the fence. She carefully traversed to the right and tucked her legs up to avoid the nasty spikes at top of the fence. When Lara reached far enough she let go and landed softly on the sandy pathway. She followed the gravel driveway up to the house and walked round it to look for a way in. It was remarkably quiet here, some bright sunlight peaked through the shady woods and she could only hear some pigeons and traffic in the distance.
The windows and doors of the house were sealed with planks and it seemed she would need some force to get them removed. Maybe there was an easier way to get in.
Lara walked to the back of the house and looked out over a huge backyard. The grass at the lawn hadnt been mowed for ages and reached almost knee high. Her footsteps echoed loud at some grey tiles when she checked the backdoor, but it was locked. She looked up and saw some old police tape was strapped around the cast iron balcony. Lara took a few steps back to get a better view of the balcony and spotted that the door leading to the rooms upstairs wasnt sealed.
The balcony was too high to reach from here and she began to look for something to use as a ladder. Next to the garage she found an empty iron barrel, Lara shove it next to the balcony and climbed up. Now she was standing high enough to grab the gutter, traverse around the corner and pulled up at the balcony. An instinctive feeling made her grab a gun before she carefully opened the door leading inside. With a squeaky sound the wooden door swung open and she entered a dark and empty room. The opened door provided just enough light to find her way. The wooden floor creaked under her feet as Lara walked around to examine the room. But apart from a wooden cupboard and an old black and white photo in a broken frame there wasnt anything that could help her. She took a quick look in the cupboard but it was empty.
While she opened the door to the next room she kept thinking about the name of the person who lived here, Boaz. She was sure she had heard that name before but it was a long time ago and she couldnt remember when or where it was.
Lara found herself at the top floor landing. Four other doors prevented her from seeing what was in the other rooms, some steep wooden stairs, covered with a red carpet lead her downstairs. She holstered her gun and took a flashlight from her backpack to get a better view around. She was standing at big Persian rug, the walls were covered with a thick seam of dust and cobwebs. Frames on the wall showed photos in sepia of serious looking people.
Lara decided to take a look in every room. The first one was exactly the same as the one she came from but the second door gave her entrance to the bathroom. A stale, musty smell filled her nose as she took a quick look around. A mouse dribbled on a shelf in front of a broken mirror, the bath was half full of brownish water. She walked back to the landing when she suddenly spotted something shiny on the floor; she bent over and picked up a nailfile.
When the third room also turned out to be completely empty she made her way downstairs and wandered around in the spacey living room, kitchen and dining room.
Apart from some old tables and chairs covered in sheets the rooms were empty. She heard mice running around and in one of the kitchen cabinets she found a dead barn owl.
Just when she began to think there was absolutely nothing to find she discovered a small desk in the corner of the room. It seemed made out of heavy pinewood and contained three drawers. Lara tried to open them but without success. An idea popped up in her mind and she walked back upstairs to get the nailfile she had found earlier.
It worked, with a metallic click she could lift the little lever and opened the first drawer. She took out some old yellowish papers with mouldy stains. Beneath the papers she found a small key with a label saying lab.
She put it in her pocket and opened the next drawer, empty. The third one contained more old mouldered papers with notes in neat handwriting. The text didnt seem very important; she wanted to put it back when a little photo dropped out of the pile. She brushed off the dust and held it in front of her flashlight. Laras breath caught when she recognised the man at the picture, Pieter van Eckhardt.
Her memories went back, two years ago, Prague. She remembered his cackling voice. Gunderson, release Boaz
-
Kurtis opened one of the many pockets in his combat trousers and retrieved his sunglasses. He put them on his nose and reached in another pocket to get a cigarette. He looked out over the busy street next to Ezeiza airport waiting for a red hummer to stop. Boris had told them their contact Pablo would pick them up in a red hummer as soon as they landed. But he had not arrived yet.
Kurtis lit his cigarette and stared at Bex who was standing a metre away from him. She couldnt see where he was looking and her blue eyes unknowingly met his. Eyes full of bitterness, thought Kurtis silently to himself.
After five more minutes they finally spotted a hummer driving their way. The car was covered with a seam of dirt but it couldnt hide it had been red a long time ago.
Kurtis raised his hand and the vehicle stopped in front of them. A man, somewhat in his late twenties, got out and shook their hands with a broad smile. He had a tanned skin, short black hair and long stylish sideburns. He was wearing a red bandana and some sunglasses dangled casually at the collar of his white t-shirt.
Nice to meet you two, my name is Pablo Sanchez and Im the only member of the Lux Veritatis from Argentina. Kurtis nodded politely.
My granddad lived in Mexico, continued Pablo with a heavy Spanish accent. And he came in contact with some Irish immigrants from The States. Well, its a complicated story, but Im so glad to see the organisation flourish again. I hope we can set up a third cell here or maybe in Rosario, thats the city where I was born.
While telling all this he had helped Kurtis to put his bag in the back of the car and now they all had taken a seat and were ready drive off. The man kept on talking, rarely allowing Kurtis and Bex to squeeze in an answer or comment.
When he finally remained silent Kurtis grabbed the opportunity to ask what was on the programme. Pablo enthusiastically patted Kurtis knee. I have it all figured out boss, dont worry. I found a nice hotel for us, in the city centre. And inside the dashboard cabin I got a detailed map of the area with the quickest route to the house we are looking for.
Bex, who was sitting at the backseat opened Kurtis bag and took out the cardboard box. Kurtis, you didnt check yet whats inside.
The American took the box from her and carefully opened it. I didnt want to look in it when we were standing inside the airport. He announced with a grin. Our contact Boris arranged it for us. I dont even want to know how.
The box contained two MP7A1 machine pistols. Pablo whistled between his teeth. Nice contacts we have in Europe. But what do we need it for? Is he afraid Boaz will show up?
Kurtis handed the guns to Bex and she put it back in the bag. I know what you mean, our man Boris likes to show of a bit. Its always good to have some defence in case we get in trouble with authorities or possible splinter parties of the Cabal. But I have to admit its not really necessary to walk around with this kind of gun.
The three people remained silent for a while when suddenly Kurtis phone rang.
Trent.
Hello, Trent. Its me Igor Smertin.
What can I do for you?
I have bad news. The thing you called me about, the little company in Russia that transferred my donation onto your bank account, they
Well?
It seems you were right, its not fully legal. In fact, they have sort of connections with the underworld.
Kurtis frowned and bit his lip. That doesnt very good, he muttered angrily.
I know, I know, said Igor. He sounded nervous. What do you think Trent? Shall we continue with this or not? Its up to you.
Of course not, say we dont want to get involved with this.
Yeah okay, that seems the best thing to do. Ill do my best.
Make it so! snarled Kurtis, before switching off the phone.
Pablo steered up the parking lot of a hotel. Kurtis put his phone back in his pocket and felt a terrible headache coming up. He rubbed between his eyes with two fingers. The last thing he heard was Bex asking if he was okay, the next moment the whole world turned black.
He woke up on a bed in a hotel room, Pablo and Bex were standing next to him. Oh, you are with us again, said Pablo with a smile. It seems the poison is getting worse, maybe in combination with the hot weather and your jetlag. Why dont you stay here and rest for a while?
Kurtis nodded. Yeah, I think thats better. You two go the house and if there is something really important you can call me.
Suddenly all the memories of the incidents in Prague came back to Laras mind. The Cabal and their secret projects, Eckhardt, Karel and Boaz. She remembered seeing Boaz, just before she had left Kurtis behind to fight her. The papers showed some letters she had sent to Eckhardt. Most of them had a very flattering nature; she seemed to admire Eckhardt like he was some kind of guru.
Lara stood up from the desk and walked around the room one more time to look were the key could fit she had found in one of the drawers. But she couldnt find any locked doors, the whole room was empty besides some old tables and chairs and an old dusty rug.
Lara walked back to the stairs to see if she missed something upstairs. But she tripped over the rug and had to hold onto a table to keep her balance. One side of the rug curled up and revealed an iron bolt.
Lara crouched down to examine it closely when she suddenly heard the sound of a door cracking open. She grabbed her gun and walked to the hallway. The front door was opened and she looked into the grey blue eyes of a young woman, her messy red hair was shining in the bright sunlight.
Drop your weapon said Lara calmly.
But before the woman could answer there was a loud noise from the room and a moment later a man in a white t-shirt entered the hallway carrying a gun. Lara realised she was chanceless, and now it was her who had to drop her weapon.
A minute later she was sitting at a wooden chair with her hands and ankles cuffed. The man and woman were standing to the left and right of her.
Who are you? asked the guy.
Not of your business, hissed Lara.
The woman fired the next question Do you work for the Cabal?
No said Lara and she frowned. Dont you?
What do you know about them?
I got involved with them two years ago in Prague.
Pablo looked at Bex. It seems she speaks the truth, he said. But Bex didnt look very convinced. What took place there?
I crossed paths with Pieter van Eckhardt and I killed him.
Pablo pointed his gun between her eyes. Thats a lie. Kurtis Trent killed Eckhardt and destroyed the sleeper. He told us that, hundredths of times.
Laras eyes turned bigger. Do you know Kurtis Trent? He knows me; he will tell you I am not Cabal. Im at your side.
Pablo shook his head. Nonsense, youre one of those and youll need to be cleaned up.
Bex suddenly grabbed his arm. Wait a minute I know her face Kurtis has a picture of her in his wallet. And he told me that he met a woman in Prague, maybe she is right.
I doubt it, said Pablo. We should kill her.
Lara knew she had to convince the guy to save her life. Are you Lux Veritatis? she asked.
Here, said Bex. She even knows us. Lets go back and take Kurtis here and he will tell us if she tells the truth or not. You get him, I guard the front door.
Pablo holstered his gun. Okay.
They tore one of the sheets and strapped it around Laras mouth. After that they left the house.
IX
Lara and Kurtis
Lara heard how both people left the house. I stay here and guard the door, said the woman. The man said something she couldnt hear and a second later she heard a car driving off. Apparently they were serious about getting Kurtis.
The time she had to wait gave her the opportunity to order her mind according to the events of the last ten minutes. The house she was sitting in belonged to Kristina Boaz, the female Cabal member she and Kurtis had met in Prague. The notebook Lara got from the woman in the pueblo probably belonged to her mother.
The two people who caught her inside the house and did tie her to the chair were members of the Lux Veritatis, the religious cult Kurtis was part of. Lara had still no clue how they ended up here. And it seemed Kurtis had told his colleagues that he was responsible for destroying Eckhardt and the sleeper. That, she now realised, had almost cost her life. Because they didnt believe her when she told she had met Kurtis in Prague. And now she was sitting here, tied to a chair in an empty house somewhere in Argentina. It was not as dark anymore inside the living room as some of the planks sealing the windows were removed. She had waited for about twenty minutes when she heard the grinding noise of a car driving up the gravel in front of the house. She heard voices outside and a moment later footsteps in the hallway, the door swung open and she looked into the azure eyes of Kurtis Trent.
Lara Croft, he said slowly as if he tasted every syllable like expensive wine. His lips curled up in a smile and he wiped a strand of brown hair behind his ear.
What is it that we always have to meet under such unusual circumstances? he came closer and took a little knife from his pocket. Lara couldnt answer since the piece of white sheet was still strapped around her mouth.
Let me help you to get out of this uncomfortable chair, Kurtis continued amused and cut the ropes that were keeping her ankles together. Lara stretched her legs with a painful face and looked angrily at Kurtis who had turned his attention to her gag and only last took care of the sheets around her hands. That moment Lara flew up from the chair and gave him a firm smack on his jaw. He stumbled and fell backwards to the ground; he slowly tried to get on his feet again while rubbing his jaw but Lara grabbed the collar of his shirt and pulled him up. Are you out of your mind! she yelled at him. Your funny stories of Kurtis the superhero nearly got me killed!
Kurtis was a bit overwhelmed by the situation and didnt reply immediately. Lara stared at him with furious eyes, her face only inches away from his. She was still holding his collar.
Hey easy the American finally sighed. Im sorry about that I he coughed. I recently started to get people together to form a new Lux Veritatis. I had to tell them about the incidents in Prague but didnt want to include you. People would probably contact you or come round your house. Plus we still are not sure the Cabal is completely wiped out, they couldve tracked you down. I wanted to safe you from all that.
The anger in Laras eyes eased off somewhat and she released him from her grab. Well, I guess I need to say thanks for that, she muttered and nervously brushed the creases from his shirt.
Kurtis gave her a short nod. Gotta say my version of the story wasnt worth much, but it was the only thing I could think of. He walked to the small desk where Lara had found the photo of Eckhardt and picked up two pistols. These are yours?
Lara quickly took them from him and put them back in the holsters. Yes, thanks. She said without looking at him
He saluted. Good to see you again, howre you doing? What brings you here?
She smiled and looked up, realising they were sort of friends again for the time being. Im okay. And I got here because of Boaz.
Kurtis raised his eyebrows. Interesting, me too, what exactly lead you to this house?
I was exploring the hills of Patagonia a few days ago, looking for three ancient cups of pure gold. They turned out to be stolen from a hidden temple where I found an old notebook with this address inside. She remained silent for a second. And you?
Kurtis grinned shyly and bit his cheek. I err you remember that green slime Boaz sprayed on me?
Yes.
It so happens to be very toxic and Im in search of an antiserum.
Laras mouth dropped open. Toxic? Did you perhaps found out the name of the poison?
Kurtis frowned. I think it was DL46 or something, no LD-48, why?
LD, Liquid Devil. Thats the name of the poison that was originally kept in those golden cups!
They looked at each other with a mixture of surprise and horror. That moment the door creaked open and Pablo poked his head in. I hope I do not interrupt? Me and Bex were wondering whats going on. he said with a smile. If its not too private, he added.
Lara was sitting at the low steps to the front door, Kurtis stood next to her leaning to the wall. He had just introduced Lara to his colleagues and now he was explaining how they both ended up here. Pablo sat at the bonnet of the car, looking at his dangling legs while listening to Kurtis. Bex stood a few metres away with her arms folded and looked bored.
So, you never saw each other again after those incidents in Prague and its pure coincidence you crossed paths again? said Pablo and he laughed loud. Isnt that great?
Lara looked surprised at Pablos reaction and Kurtis gave her a short wink saying dont pay attention, hes always like that.
The Argentinean jumped up from the car and rubbed his hands. But now I guess we must take a look inside the house again, dont we all agree?
Bex frowned. Wait a minute, she said. Maybe Ms. Croft is a friend of Kurtis but she is not a member of our order. How can we let her take part in our mission?
Kurtis shook his head. I just told you she helped me two years ago in Prague. I know I can trust her and she will help us. Wont you Lara?
Lara stood up from the steps and stared disdainful at Bex for a moment. I came here to find the golden cups, she said. And thats still my main target. But now I heard about this poison I sure will try to help you out. She playfully pushed Kurtis chin up with two fingers. Youre a sort of friend after all.
Bex watched them and produced a cynical grin. Sort of friend? Kurtis also kept denying you were, or still are, his girlfriend.
Dont you listen? He just told you we havent seen each other for two years, snarled Lara at Bex and she turned around. Now lets examine that bloody house. Bex silenced and turned her face away while muttering something to herself.
Kurtis and Pablo followed Lara inside the house. Lets not get angry, shall we? said Pablo cheerfully while putting his arms at Lara and Kurts shoulders. I know Bex is a pain in the neck he added under his breath. But discord in our team is the last thing we need now.
They walked into the living room together and Lara showed them the bolt she found under the carpet just before Pablo and Bex had caught her. Together they removed the whole rug and discovered another rusty bolt and two hinges to the opposite. They carefully undid the bolts and with a squeaky sound they opened a big wooden trapdoor. A blow of dust spread through the room and it took a few moments before they could check what was beneath the trapdoor.
Kurtis coughed loud and wiped some dust from his face. Stairs he said whilst pointing down. The others joined him and saw some wooden stairs leading down to a hidden cellar. What did she keep here? asked Bex. I have a feeling it wont be a wine cellar, said Pablo jolly.
Lara walked down the stairs with the others on her tail. Pablo took a flashlight and examined the door downstairs. It said lab and was locked. Lara dug in her pockets and took out the little key she had found in the wooden desk.
Nice job Croft, said Kurtis.
They key fitted in the keyhole and a second later she swung the door open. The same moment they all took a step back as a horrific stench hit their noses. Kurtis cursed loudly and covered his face with one hand. Lara did the same and squeezed her eyelids when she carefully took a few steps inside. A terrible rotten smell of death came from the room.
What the hell is in there? asked Pablo. A slaughter house, a morgue or both?
Lara managed to find a switch at the wall next to the door and a second later some bright strip lighting illuminated the hidden cellar. Four pair of eyes scanned the room and saw a small laboratory. The white tiles at the floor were covered with dirty stains and small pools of brownish water. In the middle of the room they saw a dentist chair with a shapeless carcass on it. Alongside two walls they saw some working benches, desks and filing-cabinets. The tables were covered with piles of papers and sheets, test-tubes, microscopes, surgery instruments and a computer. At the other wall stood three empty beds, the mattresses looked creasy and dirty. The walls were decorated with posters of scientific drawings of the human body and mysterious other mammals. The flickering strip lighting gave the whole place an extra sinister atmosphere.
Oh my god, oh my god, whispered Bex. This is horrible. I need a fag, call me when you need me, and she ran up the stairs.
Whats this boss? asked Pablo.
Kurtis bit his lip and nodded slowly. Ive seen this place before. Well, not exactly this place of course. But the room reminds me of the sanatorium in Prague.
Still with their hands covering their noses the three people began to examine the laboratory. The corpse on the dentist chair was in a late stadium of decomposing and it was hard to tell if it was once human or perhaps another kind of creature. In this condition it certainly was an awful picture and provided a horrific display of Boaz activities.
Lara, the little booklet you found in that hidden temple. You said it belonged to her mother?
Lara nodded. Yes, it was owned by an Ulrike Boaz and considering the date it could well be her mother.
Im almost sure she is, said Kurtis. Bex and I found an e-mail Muller sent to Kristina in which he mentions the emotional value of the poison for her. He switched on the computer on the desk but it didnt work. She had a sick mind, he added. Having emotional feelings for a lethal poison.
Pablo went through a pile of documents he found on top of the filling-cabinet. And you said there actually was an antiserum in the temple?
It was Laras turn to nod again. Yes, but it does only work short after the victim gets infected.
Thats why we are here, muttered Kurtis. Even sick people like Boaz and her mother should have developed a better antiserum before putting the actual poison into practise.
Pablo suddenly waved a little notebook in front of Kurtis eyes. I found something. Looks like a diary again, from the hand of Boaz junior this time.
Kurtis yanked the notebook from Pablos hands and scanned the first few entries.
This is the first entry in my new diary and the first one after mothers funeral. From today I shall fully take over her work and serve the honourable Pieter van Eckhardt.
I already spoke to him in Prague and he is certainly a genius. Im proud to be part of the Great Work. One of my colleagues is a biology scientist who lives in Rome. I told him about the LD-48 and he was very enthusiastic. If mother was still alive she would be proud to hear her discovery would be used for such an important issue.
This confirms our theory, said Kurtis happy Lets see if she has anything else about this.
Next week I will get the keys to my apartment in Prague. Now the moment of truth is getting closer its important to be there more often. At the moment Im working at a unique experiment. If it succeeds we will have a proto-Nephilim. Im sure Master Eckhardt will be proud as soon as he finds out what I did.
On my flight I will also take the antiserum of LV-48 with me. Its safer if Dr. Muller has it in his office on a safe place. It is a better version of the original serum; mother developed it after she got the poison from Patagonia.
There we got it boss, announced Pablo cheerfully. She did actually have an antiserum. And its in Mullers office.
Kurtis grinned cynically. Muller is dead and his office was inside the Strahov, which is demolished.
What is this? asked Lara, pointing at a small floppy piece of paper sticking out the diary. Kurtis took it out and gave it to her. An article from a newspaper, he said dryly and hauled his shoulders. Its in Spanish.
Lara began to read and with Pablos help she could read to Kurtis.
PLANE CRASHES NEAR SECRET MILITARY BASE
A Boeing-737 from Lufthansa on its way from Buenos Aires to Düsseldorf crashed on a small tropical island in the Atlantic Ocean. Not far from Cuba.
The only inhabitants of the island turned out to be American soldiers manning a military base on that very island. They could provide quick emergency service.
Since the presence of the base is top secret theres still a diplomatic war going on between various embassies across the globe.
The American military authority has claimed some of the luggage that was on board of the airplane saying it contained suspicious material. Some of the luggage was kept at the islands base and never returned to its owner.
An Argentinean woman had been held for questioning but got released after two days.
Kurtis frowned whats that suppose to mean?
Maybe it was actually began Lara but she didnt complete her sentence. Give me that book again, will you.
Pablo handed her the little notebook. Do you think she was carrying..?
Yes, I think she was, said Lara while looking for the right page. Yes, you see? The date of that entry matches with the article in the newspaper. The day she said she would take the antiserum to Prague was the day that plane crashed.
Kurtis slapped his forehead. Of course, a plane crash. Thats why her face looked so strange; it was burned after that plane crash.
Lara put both the notebook and the article at the working table. Seems like you have an island to explore my friend, got any relatives on Cuba?
I do know someone there actually, said Kurtis with a grin. An old friend of my father lives in Havana. He paused. But what will you do Lara? It seems there isnt any trace to the golden cups.
Lara hauled her shoulders. I have a better look in her diary tonight. Maybe she mentions it somewhere. Then I have to think what I will do.

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)) 2009-06-07

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