Tomb Raider | Two-Hands Crossover, Tag: Tipplynne

Lara's perspective: Chapter 1 - following Revy's Chapter 1

"Miss Croft?"

She felt a hand descend on her shoulder, and gently shake her.


"Miss Croft, please, we're about to land."

Lara opened her eyes and gazed up at the dainty Asian stewardess. The woman strained a smile but it failed to stretch up to her eyes. Still, she seemed relieved. No doubt she had been worried about Lara's reaction to being woken. Thanks to tales about her exploits on Yamatai, and thanks to graphic video footage of her attacking a tabloid journalist back in the UK, she had developed a reputation for unpredictable viciousness. The human equivalent of a scorpion. No matter how polite she was, people remained skittish around her.

They were actually scared of her.

Part of her revelled in it. It meant that she was left alone, just like she wanted.

But another part was saddened every time someone jolted away from her, or their smile faded the instant they recognised her. It was a reminder just how much she had changed – how much she had been forced to change by Himiko and Mathias, and everything that had happened after that bloody island.

She reached up to rub her face awake, and she saw the stewardess stiffen.

Oh, right.

She drew her sleeve over the raw, swollen knuckles on her left hand. People did tend to be frightened of her when she looked like she had just been in a fight.

Which she had.

That French prick DuPont had been waiting for her in her hotel room in Phnom Penh. At the time all she had wanted was a hot shower, a strong drink and a single night on a comfy mattress after a week of camping on the hard jungle ground. It was her treat to herself.

Instead, she was ambushed.

She got in a few good strikes but as she reached for her pistol, the thief had clubbed her with the same bottle of Glenfiddich she intended on savouring into the early hours.

Her planned evening of luxuriating clean, comfortable and slightly tipsy, ended up as a night spent face down on a carpet soggy with spilled whisky. She woke with an egg-sized lump on the back of her head, a migraine-strength headache, no aspirin and an empty room safe.

"Sod it!" she yelled as she slammed the safe door, and then instantly regretted it as her brain pounded back in retaliation against the inside of her skull. Cringing from the continued reverberations, she slumped down on the edge of the bed and groaned. It was like having a hangover without the preceding benefit of a few blissful hours freed from her skin, crowded as it was with so many nightmarish memories and regrets.

The Mongolian job offer she had originally accepted as a last-minute filler had suddenly clambered up the pyramid of importance. It was a way to help regroup the funds that she had pumped into her Cambodian expedition, and ultimately funnelled into DuPont's pocket.

Although she had boarded her flight for Mongolia in a foul mood, she was actually grateful. The Mongolian government had spared no expense, going so far as to charter a Gulfstream to transport her into the country. Evidently they were so keen to impress the "Tomb Raider" that they had conveniently forgotten how poor their nation really was. Then again, in her current state she wouldn't have been able to cope with five hours on a budget carrier, strapped in next to a shrieking toddler.

There was a lot to be thankful for but she'd still nodded off in her seat while brooding about DuPont and his black-market brethren.

She was sick of thugs for hire. Wankers, the lot of them.

Still groggy, she reached reflexively for her thigh, fingering the spot where her gun holster was normally strapped. Of course she wasn't wearing it right then. Even on a private jet, where she was the only passenger, the twitchy ground staff refused to let her board with her equipment as carry-on luggage. So her pistols, bow and pick were stored in the hold until landing.

Ultimately it didn't matter. Next time she'd be prepared.

The plane touched down on a dirt runway, evidently in the middle of nowhere. Lara felt her eyebrows climb as she stared out the window at a vast expanse of grass, sprouting in messy, sunburnt tufts. So this random piece of earth was the long-lost resting place of the almighty Genghis Khan? Evidently slaughtering hundreds of workers and soldiers hadn't been necessary – nobody would look twice at this nondescript piece of terrain.

She was still pondering the pointless bloodshed when she took her first steps onto the runway. She trudged across its gritty, gratifyingly crunchy surface with her backpack slung over one shoulder, and her case of weaponry in her other hand. The crew had insisted they carry her gear for her but she'd snatched it up as soon as she saw it. She hated relying on others. It was always better this way.

Standing in front of a Humvee on the other side of the runway was her employer, flanked by two soldiers in military camo.

The senior official from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science strode forward. He was a short, squat man in his sixties, barely reaching Lara's shoulder when he stood before her. Despite his stature, he retained an air of authority. In his mismatched suit pants and blazer, he reminded the Englishwoman of some of her old uni professors – silvery and dignified around the edges, but on closer inspection clearly uncomfortable at being forced into formal wear away from the field.

"Lady Croft, welcome."

"Lara, please," she grimaced as usual.

"Badar Batzorig; we've been communicating by email." As he took her hand between his soft administrator's palms, he winked, "You know, we've actually met before."

That drew a disconcerting blank. "I'm sorry. I'm terrible with names but I normally don't forget a face."

Batzorig chuckled, "Oh, you won't remember me but I recall that you were an exceptionally strong kicker. Your mother kept insisting that you were going to be a football star." He added, "May I say how much you resemble her?"

The admission astonished her. "You knew my parents?"

"I met them once many years ago. Lovely people. Your father was mounting an expedition here. Your mother came with to interpret for him as she so often did. She must have been about six months pregnant with you at the time." He grinned, "She was so radiant, and exceptionally beautiful, just like her daughter would become one day."

Lara ignored the compliment, but she couldn't supress a smile at the thought of her parents. She could see them, their arms interlinked, huddling together for warmth despite their bulky parkas. Lanky Richard Croft bent over slightly so that he could rest his hand protectively on Amelia's abdomen.

As Lara loaded her equipment into the vehicle, Batzorig continued his small talk. "You didn't take up what I think you call footie?"

Lara smiled, "I've always preferred archery."

That seemed to please the man who had hired her. "Ah, a very respectable Mongolian pursuit. Are you absolutely certain you weren't conceived here? "

Lara laughed politely. "I'm pretty sure."

"Still, exposure to our nation in the womb no doubt helped shape who you were to become. A fierce warrior."

Wrong on both accounts. A cursed island did that.

Batzorig was still chortling as he held open the Humvee door for his hire. "If you are successful with your task here, you could even be rewarded with honorary citizenship. Lady Lara Croft, the Mongol; how does that sound?"

Not too bad actually. Lara gazed out over the gentle swell of the hills and nothing else. She could get used to the isolation. No wi-fi. No phone reception. No pleading calls from Sam.

Except it didn't last. Within twenty minutes they had driven into a town, a village; it was difficult to tell the scale of the settlement. It was unremarkable though – a few rundown streets, ramshackle apartment blocks and urban decay to make the plains, golden in the afternoon sunlight, that much more appealing.

Their vehicle pulled into the yard before a blocky Soviet Era building Lara was willing to bet served as a multipurpose Ministry building: town hall, municipal office, voting station. Curiously, the perimeter of the property had been coiled with barbed wire and security guards were patrolling with rifles and holstered pistols.

Batzorig ushered Lara inside. As expected, the space was sparsely decorated cement; grey and gloomy. Slits for windows made the building very defendable in the event of unrest, but it also meant very little natural light reached inside. The air was damp and oppressive as a result. It seemed to suck all chilliness from the concrete and dart it straight through Lara's clothes into her skin.

When she left London she'd packed for the South East Asian tropics – not Siberia – so she was particularly grateful when her employer directed her into a small office and offered tea.

Lara warmed her hands over a blistered old oil heater while Batzorig fiddled with an electric kettle and cups. The way he treated such a bog-standard British activity with chanoyu reverence confirmed Lara's theory that he was UK-educated, even before he said in his overly articulated English, "I actually studied at Birmingham University."

Once the older man and younger woman both had their cups and saucers, they got down to business. Batzorig seated himself at the monstrous desk that dominated the room. Lara preferred to stay standing. While she sipped her tea, she assessed the portrait of the Mongolian prime minister hung behind her employer.

Batzorig began, "I do not believe anyone ever suspected that one day the resting place of our nation's most renowned leader would be found here. But then some German seismologists stumbled onto the site while setting up their equipment. Evidently an earthquake finally revealed a long-forgotten entrance."

Lara tested the back of her skull with a tentative fingertip. She winced and withdrew her hand.

"I don't mean to sound ungrateful for this opportunity, Mr Batzorig, but if you've already located the tomb, why do you need me?"

"We requested your assistance because the site's requirements are a bit beyond our capabilities. A few initial assessments revealed complex subterranean catacombs, set with some rather devastating traps. We believe you have experience with this sort of thing?"

"It is in keeping with my skillset."

"You were the obvious first choice, Miss Croft."

Of course.

Batzorig added, "We want to make this is as simple for you as possible. We have a Special Forces squad already on-site. They will be accompanying you down into the tomb, for extra protection while you decipher its many mysteries."

Lara frowned, "I prefer working alone."

The truth was that she was afraid what would happen if she turned to find men with assault rifles following her. Yamatai had only been two years ago. She still struggled in some situations. A combination of crowds and flashlights in her face was guaranteed to set her on edge. Energy would coil in her limbs, waiting for desperate release. And then she'd lash out in unthinking, unwarranted self-defence, and cause all kinds of trouble for herself.

Batzorig wouldn't listen to her though. He waved his hand in good-natured dismissal.

"Your reputation for self-sufficiency and self-reliance precedes you, Miss Croft. However, this operation is a substantial investment for my government. The soldiers are our insurance."

"It's unnecessary. I can take care of myself." Her eyes darted towards her case of weaponry, reassuring herself of its presence. A death-soaked safety blanket.

For the first time Batzorig's smile flat-lined. "Word has reached us that the Chinese Triad wants whatever is down there, and they can be VERY insistent."

So can I.

Lara placed her empty cup back on the desk. She drummed her fingers on the polished wood. "I'd like some time to assess the initial finding reports and draw up a list of what I need. May we continue this discussion tomorrow morning?"

Batzorig frowned, "Miss Croft, I don't think you grasp the urgency here. You go tonight."