The operative manning the Zodiac had his back to her as she surfaced alongside the craft.

"Gave you some trouble, did she?" he chortled.

"In a manner of speaking."

He spun at the sound of her voice.

Just what she was waiting for.

She lifted her stolen speargun, and fired.

The barb caught the agent just below his ribcage, angling up.

It was true what they said. The weapon's velocity was substantially stronger out of the water.

The man stared at the spear protruding from his middle, staggered a couple of steps side to side, and crumpled.

Discarding her gun and air tank, Lara let her body sink a foot into the sea. With a final combined thrust of arms and legs, she surged upwards. The effort got her hips clear of the water.

Her fists clenched around the inflatable's side rope, and she locked out her elbows. Finally, teeth gritted and growling, she heaved her lower half onto the boat.

With that, she fell into the slatted interior with the grace of a dead tuna.

Lara Croft: world-class gymnast.

How she had briefly flirted with the plan of swimming straight to shore, she didn't know. It was probably the freshly smothered brain cells.

She was trembling with fatigue. Without the water's buoyancy, her limbs were lead. Still, they were functional enough that she was able to remove her mask and fins.

While she gave her cramped quads and calves a few minutes' break, she started groping over the dead man next to her. The only thing worth taking was his pistol – always preferable to a speargun as far as she was concerned.


Lara battled to her feet.

She had to pilot the craft back to land. It had been a bit of a swim to reach it in the first place, further draining her after her aquatic misadventure. The operatives hadn't exactly dropped anchor right above her. That was probably why they'd been able to sneak up on –

Movement in the very edge of her peripheral vision.

She arced her gun to the right, turning her body with the action.

Facing her, also with his pistol raised, was the stabbed first diver.

Lara had forgotten all about him.

She grimaced. Sometimes she was a little too hasty to discount threats.

This particular foe was propped up against the bow, with his legs splayed out before him. A bloody compress was clutched to his chest. White-faced and oiled with sweat, he looked on the brink of passing out.

His physical weakness was countered though by the intensity of his glare.

Lara had worn that expression herself. She knew what it meant.

Even hobbled, a mentally focused enemy was always more dangerous than one at full bodily strength.

The diver's finger contracted infinitesimally on the trigger.

Lara matched his action, extending the stalemate.

She knew what her opponent was now: a contractor with ambition. That, or he was running on distilled revenge.

A further possibility tunnelled upwards in Lara's mind, triggering a scowl as it breached the surface.

The man was just as likely acting out of desperate self-preservation. She was notorious within Trinity and among its hirelings. Uneasy whispers insisted that Lara Croft brought with her death. Even if you were critically wounded it was better to fight in your final moments. Vicious and cruel, she would show no mercy.

She battered down the third theory as if she were wielding a shovel. As she pounded, a part of her continued to claim that the only reason she was still alive was because the agent hadn't had a clean shot until she stood.

He would have put a bullet through her head in an eye blink if he'd had an earlier opportunity.

He simply didn't.

Now the two of them – bleeding and weakened both – were trapped together within a bubbled instant of kill or be killed.


Lara exhaled slowly.

There was a big difference between taking life in a split-second of self-defence, and proactively executing someone to accomplish an objective.

It took a special something to push her into performing the latter. And afterwards – whether it took minutes, hours or days – she always felt sick to her stomach.

To her soul.

She couldn't forget them, even if she hadn't been looking into their eyes when it happened.

They joined her tally like all the others, lining up behind Anubis and Ammit to wait for the day her heart was weighed.

They were also the ones whose faces seeped into her nightmares. Too often she would wake, and see them standing at the foot of her bed, cot or sleeping bag. That would send her groping for the Remington 1911 she kept under her pillow.

Then, realising she was pointing Roth's old gun at thin air, she would drop her face into her palms, and grind away at her eye sockets with the heel of her hands.

Another Crazy Croft indeed.

She didn't want this man to join her shadow gallery.

They could both walk – or, more likely – limp away from this moment.

As much as for him as for her, she frowned, "You don't have to do this."

It felt like it had been years since she last spoke. Her voice sounded strange. Everything sounded strange after the Mediterranean's muffling effect on her ears.

A twitch in the man's cheek gave him away.

As he fired, Lara flung herself sideways.

It was a goalie's gamble.

Eyes closed, she squeezed the trigger at the same instant.

She hit the deck hard. So hard that for a moment she was unable to distinguish the hurt of impact from anything more serious.

She just lay there for a minute, face down, while her heart found its regular rhythm and her pain receptors reset. She processed every sensation, and found there was nothing new to join the smarting knife wounds and throbbing headache. Tentative fingers crawling over her torso confirmed it.

A charmed life, Lara Croft.

Suddenly she was aware of the silence. Apart from her rasped breathing, and the lap of water against the boat, there was nothing. No more gunshots.

Tentatively, she pushed herself onto her knees, and turned.

She startled. The diver was still glaring at her, with his gun pointed at her chest.

Then blood dribbled from his lips.

His eyes glazed well before his arm dropped.

Lara slumped back against the side of the inflatable, completely finished.

It was done.

She let her pistol – a Glock she noticed – slip from her palm.

In the end, it had been self-defence but it didn't lessen the weight in her gut. As her eyes closed, she muttered, "You didn't have to."

Beneath the exhaustion, she could feel rage building. It moved through her in a swell just like the one gently lifting the Zodiac at that moment.

She was angry at the Trinity operatives for making her act; furious about how she was forced, yet again, to tap into her deep, dark reserves of savagery to survive.

At least she knew the perfect vent for that.


Emre Boztas was sitting in the back room of his shop – the pokey space that tourists occasionally scuffled into when they were looking for a dive boat to charter.

Just like that snooty English bitch had two days before.

He was vaguely remorseful about her fate. What a waste – a woman with a body like that. Especially that arse. He had wanted to take a bite out of it. By now crabs and other seabed scavengers were the only ones who would enjoy that privilege.

But, hey, the American had paid substantially better. And all Boztas had to do was share the woman's coordinates and sail off once she'd been under for five minutes.

The way he saw it, he wasn't doing anything wrong. She was the thief and fool. She got what she deserved.

Boztas shrugged, sipped on his shot glass of zivania and returned to the sports pages he was reading. He really should have bet something on that UEFA game.

"Excuse me."

His head shot up.

It was her. Standing in the doorway to his office.

A half dozen realisations slapped him at the same time, forcing his brain in every direction.

How did she get in? It was after 7 – the store was closed and locked.

More importantly, why wasn't she dead? The American had assured Boztas that he would never see those pouty lips and that bouncy little ponytail again.

Yet here she was. Clenching a Glock in her fist.

If he believed in them, he might have thought she was a ghost – one of those vengeful spirits from Japanese horror movies. She looked like a corpse. Her hair hung limp, and a good percentage of it had escaped its elastic band. She was still in her wetsuit, but it was torn over her side and arm, exposing cuts that looked barely coagulated. They glistened with black blood that could pass for tar.

The woman's face was the most terrifying part of her appearance, though.

He could tell she had a drop or two of the Mediterranean in her by the olive tint of her skin. At that moment, though, she was pasty-white. Her lips were as colourless as the rest of her face, with the exception of a plum coloured bruise creeping around the left side of her forehead.

He thought she'd been cold when she first walked into his shop. Now everything about her was ice: her eyes, her expression.

She spoke Turkish with a clipped, obviously British accent. "I'd like to speak to the manager."

Boztas straightened in his seat, mustering as much physical authority as possible.

"We're closed. Come back tomorrow."

She ignored him. "I have a complaint."

She stepped into the room.

He waved his arm at her, and growled, "Go away."

In response, she reached behind herself with her free hand and closed the door. Her fingers nimbly found the lock.

She didn't take her eyes from his throughout the action. Ominously, he saw a spark of flame in the brown of her irises.

She murmured, "You sold me out."

He snorted. "You're wrong."

"Am I?" She arched an eyebrow.

He didn't like where this was going. Something about her manner was off. Worryingly off.

Well, no more of the bitch's games.

"Get the fuck out of here!" he bellowed.

She raised her pistol and took a further step towards him.

He really didn't like where this was going.

He thrust his chin out at her. "You come in here making accusations and pointing a gun at my head. Just like you arrogant English."

The woman was standing directly before his desk now. If he had stoked her temper further, he couldn't tell. She hid it well. Her face remained blank.

She reached out, snatched up his shot glass and swallowed the rest of his drink. She didn't cough or splutter or grimace like tourists usually did. She simply made an appreciative "hmm" at back of her throat as she stared at the empty container.

Then she placed the glass back on the table, refilled it from the bottle at hand and downed the contents. After swallowing, she wiped the back of her hand across her mouth.

Boztas could feel his limbs stiffening with fury. Was he supposed to sit all night as her hostage while she got drunk?

He glared, "Get that thing out of my face."

The bitch cocked her head. "Excuse me. I forgot my manners."

He wasn't sure how she did it. One second he was in his seat. The next his chair was flung halfway across the room, and he was on his knees; his cheek and palms flattened on the surface of his desk.

He was pinned like that, with his face under her clawed hand, and the gun barrel pressed to his temple.

His eyes widened as he tried to resist – and failed. She was freakishly strong. He had at least 15 kilograms on her, but he couldn't move. He blamed it on the shock to his system.

Still, he wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of seeing him squirm. He sneered, "Fuck you, whore. What are you going to do? Just some girl all on her own."

He couldn't see her face from his position, but he could hear her. "You disgust me."

He refused to be intimidated. He chuckled, "You're nothing. Soft. Weak. You don't have the balls."

"Do you really think that's wise?" The Glock pushed harder into his flesh as the woman's breath brushed over his ear. "Taunting me when I'm the one with a gun and you're the one with testicles to lose?"

He hadn't thought about that.

He tried to keep the fear from his voice when he responded, "You won't kill me."

"You're sure of that?"

Suddenly her weight was on him; her knee and shin digging into his near forearm. In that same instant her fingers released his skull and clamped around his far wrist. He stared at his captured hand, before daring to turn his head and glower at her.

Even in the awkward position of half straddling the desk, the brunette continued to look impassive. She sighed, "You're right. I'm not going to kill you. But that doesn't mean you're not still going to talk."

"Go to Hell," he spat.

She removed the pistol from his temple and pressed it against the back of his baby finger.

"You're going to tell me everything about my betrayal, starting with an exact description of who you sold me out to."

Boztas jeered. "You don't scare me."

The woman blinked at him. And fired.

Boztas howled.

When he stumbled out of the white fog of pain, he found he was snotty and sobbing.

He tried to pull away but she continued to hold him in place.

As much as he was afraid to look, his gaze was drawn to the desk. The action was as compulsive as if his pupils were metal and the table magnetised.

His stomach roiled at the sight of his hand. Where his finger used to be was a mess of splattered blood, bone and chunks of flesh in a dark, sticky soup. It was like someone had exploded a cup of venison sausage stew.

He started rasping, "Fuck, fuck, fuck..."

He felt nauseous; light-headed.

He needed something – anything – to distract him from the mutilation.

So he looked to the woman.

She hadn't flinched. In fact, she appeared bored. Completely indifferent to his suffering.

Once their gazes met, she rolled her eyes to the ceiling. She tapped the Glock's muzzle to her lips as she mused, "I wonder what will run out first: your fingers or my bullets?"

Even with his ears still ringing from the gunshot inches from his head, the apathy in her voice was clear.

Boztas was ready to spit at her. He was going to screech that she was a crazy whore.

What he produced in reality was a nonsensical stammer that started deep in his throat. It dribbled from his mouth like the piss down his thigh.

The woman looked revolted at that. At least for an instant. Then her expression set hard once more.

She pressed her pistol to the captain's ring finger this time.

Boztas gaped at her; tried to find the humanity in her pupils. That sinister combination of beauty and darkness – the closest thing that compared was moonlight on inky ocean waters.

"Puh – Pleeaaase," he stammered.

The brunette's eyes narrowed as her finger teased the trigger.

"Start. Talking."