So after twelve hours and a restless night, I was finally able down with Lara and talk.
We were at a small cafe in London that came with a complimentary view of the Thames. And tea, can't forget the tea. I'd asked for some Earl Grey, mainly because that was the only type of tea I could name.
Lara, for her part, had skipped out on her own cultural heritage and instead ordered an Irish Coffee, which she proceeded to pour down her throat she wanted to be drunk yesterday. Given that's more or less where'd I'd been two days ago, I could sympathize.
I swear, the parallels between us were just uncanny sometimes.
I'd ordered a 'cuppa', but hadn't touched it since stirring in a spoonful of sugar. I just watch the wisps of steam gently float up off its surface, dissipating into air.
With a thunk, Lara set her mug down on the wooden table. She didn't say anything. After a moment I glanced back down at my tea.
Maybe if I sat here long enough we'd skip the painful breakup and get right to the tearful reunion. Because, seriously, haven't we already gotten through the 'Girl loses Girl' part of this arc?
As if on cue Lara shifted. Our eyes met.
She opened her mouth, brow furrowing into a darker expression.
"Okay, no," I said, cutting off her tirade before it could even begin. "You don't get to be mad at me for this. You do not have any ground to stand."
Lara glanced away "That was different."
I nodded, sitting up straighter in my chair. "Of course it was," I shot back. "I had a reason."
"Oh and I didn't?"
I shrugged. "Not a good one."
Lara actually looked offended at that, but I stood my ground. "How kind," She said. "Considering I just flew across an ocean to make sure you were all right."
"And I guess we're just forgetting the reason I flew across said ocean in the first place, right?"
Lara didn't reply.
I sighed, slumping slightly. "Sweetie, I…" I shook my head. "I don't want to fight over this. I made a mistake, okay? But please, please, don't try to pin this whole mess on me."
Lara quirked her lips at that.
"Look," I said. "How did it feel? When you checked the hospital and I wasn't there, and I hadn't checked out, and I wasn't answering my phone?"
She deflated, all of that prickly pride evaporating like morning mist.
But maybe harsh reality was what this situation needed.
When she realized that it wasn't a rhetorical question, she sighed. "It felt like," Lara said "It felt like… everything was meaningless, and that maybe it would have been better if I'd just rolled over and died after all."
I swallowed thickly "Yeah," I agreed "yeah it did didn't it."
Then Lara looked at me again. Except, maybe (hopefully), this time she actually saw me. Not the damsel in distress she needed to save, not the hated remnant of Himiko, but me. Samantha Nishimura.
"Oh, Sam," She said softly "I'm so sorry."
"You keep saying that," I replied, looking away "but I don't want an apology. I want a promise."
"Please, Lara," I said, looking back to her even as I tried to keep from crying "I can't- I can't go through that again. Please don't make me go through that again…"
Lara didn't reply right away, she just looked at me. Slowly, I lowered my gaze, glancing up at her through my lashes.
Please, Lara, please, please, please.
Instead of answering she reached out and snagged my tea, taking a long sip.
"Fine." She said.
I did a little dance in my seat. I won't deny it.
"Sorry, not sorry!"
After a moment, she chuckled in that affable British way of hers. "If you embarrass me anymore I'm sending you back."
"Why, Lara Croft, you wound me!" I said, grinning even wider. "I embarrass you? Perish the thought!"
She rolled her eyes. "Alright, that's enough." She said. "Now tell me what you were saying about Camelot, or whatever, before I come to my senses."
"Ah, yeah." I nodded, settling back into my chair.
It' was probably a good thing I hadn't had any of that tea, the last thing I needed right now was another energy spike. I tried (and failed) to stifle another grin.
"Right. So, there's been an amateur archaeology team looking into the ruins of Cadburry castle, you know the old… iron fort hill."
"Iron hill fort." Lara corrected absentmindedly.
"Whatever," I waved off the detail. "The important part is, most likely due to their disregard for proper procedure or whatever, that they punched a hole through a wall in one of the lower cellars and stumbled across a previously undiscovered vault, or serious of vaults or something. Details are sketchy after that."
Lara blinked. "They punched through a wall?" She asked. I could tell she was caught between scandalized and intrigued.
I laughed. She was just so aghast. Like she hadn't punched through her fair share of walls back on Yamatai.
"Apparently, the whole thing started out as some big joke. Some trust fund baby, thought 'finding Camelot' would be a fun thing to do with his brand new Bachelors in Archaeology."
"And how did you figure that one out?" She asked.
"Social media," I said. "Facebook is everywhere. The guy was pretty proud of it actually."
I think I almost saw a smirk at that one. "That all sounds quite horrifying," Lara said "but there's nothing supernatural about idiots at uni."
"Why, Lara, I'm offended!"
She snorted. "If you want to call yourself an idiot, be my guest, Sam. Meanwhile I have yet to hear anything supernatural."
"Okay, okay," I said, smiling, "I'll get to the interesting part!"
"Has there been a string of unfortunate accidents?" Lara asked (drolly), "I don't suppose that forward progress has come to a grinding halt, or something else out of a B rate movie."
"The opposite, actually," I said. I rested my chin in my hand. "They've been making pretty absurd progress. The interesting part is that there seem to be a huge network of vaults and chambers beneath that hill."
Lara, of course, caught on right away. "That no one's ever found before." She said, before shrugging. "The last expedition to Cadbury was in the mid-nineties. Not exactly surprising."
"Yes, well, excuse me if the name Camelot was what drew my eye in the first place," I said. "But we're here anyway, right? Don't tell me you weren't going to come back to Surrey at some point. So I thought we could check it out."
"Why this one," Lara asked. "There are dozens of similar 'discoveries' each year."
"They've been making a lot of big claims." I said. "Animated suits of armor, shifting corridors, etcetera. Of course, no one believes it but…" I shrugged. "It sounded fishy, or something. Call it a gut feeling."
Or at least, that's what it was after I'd actually sat down and looked into the situation. But hey, no point in telling Lara that I'd been running around like a headless chicken and picked England on a lark and a half-baked idea.
"Oh?" Lara gave me a knowing smirk.
I slumped. "Okay fine. It was a random guess. But now it looks interesting."
"You had time to look into it?" Why did she look so surprised?
I sighed. "I had half a day, you know," I said. "I'm not completely useless at research. I had term papers too you know!"
With a smirk, Lara polished off the rest of my tea. "Of course."
I rolled my eyes. "So are you interested or not?"
"Well, it's certainly worth taking a look at," She said, drumming her fingers on the table. "The problem is just getting on sight… If they're as lackadaisical as you make them out to be, there shouldn't be too much security, but even so…"
I let her stew on that for a second before pulling my phone out of my pocket. "Oh that?" I asked nonchalantly. "Don't worry, I already got us an invite."
This time I did snap a pic of her gobsmacked expression.
"Sweetie, you're like, the most famous person in archaeology right now. You're responsible for the biggest find of Heian slash Kamakura period architecture in the past century of something." I gave her a look. "Did you really think you'd be able to keep your anonymity after the media storm we just weathered not even a month ago?"
Lara looked conflicted. "I thought," she paused. "Well, I had hoped that things would have… died down by now."
"Not a chance," I said. "Haven't you been watching the Japanese News?"
"I don't speak Japanese, Sam."
"Well I do." And Portuguese as well, but that was less relevant. "And all of the major channels are still covering Yamatai. People over there are going crazy over the quality of architecture. Not to mention all the various 'artifacts'."
Lara chuckled. "Some of which were probably used to disembowel people within the last decade."
"I know right? But anyway," I waved my phone in her face again "you wanna meet the guy? Oh, and his team too I guess."
"Yes," Lara said. "And is there anything you know about his team? You haven't mentioned them yet."
"Well, not as such," I said, waving my hand. "But if the lead is any indication, they're probably just his college buddies with enough associated majors to pass muster."
Lara sighed. "I can hardly wait."
I patted her on the shoulder. "We can't all have a team composed of card carrying bad asses, Sweetie."
Left unsaid was that, this time, we hopefully wouldn't need them.
"No it's really, really, excellent to have you here!" Alex Taylor said. No, I think 'said' was too soft a word. How about effused? "Quite Grand, Lady Croft. Really it's an honor." He still hadn't stopped shaking Lara's hand.
Lara, for her part, looked like she was two seconds away from ripping his arm off, or else just running away and blowing the whole meeting. Since that would be… pretty-bad-out-of-ten for our future plans (and also because I was annoyed at how much attention he was paying to Lara) I decided to cut in on his smooze fest.
"Look, Alex, is great that you're excited about this." I said, smiling "We actually do need to get a look through the site, you know? You already have my vote, of course," Well, mostly "but Lara still needs to be convinced about the importance of this excavation."
This time it was the little lordling's turn to look aghast. "Oh my, of-of course" he said. "How foolish of me!" He gave a hearty chuckle. "Your pardon, Lady Croft, but I was just so excited to have you here, I just seem to have forgotten why I thought to invite you in the first place!" He shook his head. "Really, let's get right to it then! I'm sure your insights will prove invaluable to our research."
"I…" Lara started, before apparently thinking better of it. "Yes, of course. Let's take a look around." She paused for a moment, a flicker of seriousness stealing across her otherwise nonplused expression. "I would be interested in seeing those walking suits of armor you've been talking about."
Alex blinked at that, before seemingly reaching a conclusion. "There really was… more to Yamatai wasn't there?" He said, glancing at both of us. "I wasn't quite sure, just based on the scant news it could have been anything really, but…"
"Alex, I don't think-"
"Ah, yes of course," he said. "My apologies, Miss Nishimura, you two have hardly come here to relive bad memories." Lara and I both winced slightly at that. "In any case, you're the first to be open minded in the slightest about Sir Galahad."
"You think it's the legendary Galahad's armor?" Lara asked.
"Hmm? Oh no, probably not. Or maybe it's hard to tell," Alex said. "We named it that because the suit seems to capture the essence of knighthood."
I nodded in understanding. "Hence, the perfect knight."
It took a few steps to realize that neither of the Brits were still following me. I glanced over my shoulder to find Lara and Alex both staring at me with… were those confused expressions? I had to stifle a laugh
"Oh, honey, you didn't think I was just a pretty face now did you?"
"Yes, well," Alex managed to cough out. "It was-"
"Sorry, Sam, you just surprised us." Lara's recover was much more admirable. "I guess those old English literature classes are finally paying dividends?"
I sighed dramatically. "Yes, though I'm still not sure how you talked me into them." Lara laughed.
"Let's continue then, Alex?"
"Ah, yes, right," He said. "This way please."
"So what about 'Galahad' makes it the perfect knight?" I asked.
Alex hmmed. "Well, it's not so much any one thing." He started. "But I personally think it mainly lies in the cut of the armor. It's archaic without being old, or something to that effect. Really, the most interesting aspect is just how good condition it's remained in."
"None of the typical signs of decay?"
"Not a one," Alex told Lara.
"And when you call it a moving suit of armor," I said "What do you mean exactly."
Alex laughed sheepishly at that. "Ah, well, nothing so grand as an actual walking suit of Armor you know. It just… ends up in different places each day." He shrugged. "I'm still half convinced that one of my mates is moving it around, except that everyone checks out each night and there's a security team at the entrance…"
I nodded, pondering the worn, roughly hewn stone beneath my feet. The passage we'd been walking in had passed by a few vaulted rooms, and though I was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic with all the dirt overhead, this certainly didn't look like a place someone could sneak into.
"Have you tried cameras?" Lara asked.
"Oi," A new voice interrupted, "hasn't Alex told ye yet? Camera's don't work a lick down here. It's a bloody miracle we got the lighting up at all it is!"
"Oh?" I peered around the next corner, "who's this fellow?" Fellow? I brushed it off. All the british must be getting to me.
"This is Thomas. My technician." Alex told us, some of that earlier giddiness was seeping back into his voice. "See Tom! I told you Lady Croft would be coming round the site. And this is her agent, Sam."
"Well, I guess I see now why ye wanted the place all tidied up a touch." Tom said, he shot us a knowing grin.
Lara and I shared a glance.
I nodded. "Uni."
Tom just laughed, though I think Alex looked a little miffed for a second before brushing it off.
"But yes," He continued when Tom finally quieted down, "Tom's one of the most integral members of the team. Without him we'd be examining this place with oil lanterns and match sticks."
"Something to do with the camera's not working?" I asked. As Alex nodded I started fishing around in my bag.
"We don't really know why, but electronics in general don't seem to function well beneath the ruins of Cadbury," he said. "More delicate items tend to shut down entirely. It's a bit of a pain in the arse to be completely honest."
I laughed. "C'mon, Alex, you were doing such a good job of sounding professional in front of your idol!"
He paused. "Yes- well,"
"Oh come off it" Tom groused. "Pain in the bloody arse is the best way ta put it. I swear that this place has it out for me. Can't string a cable without sommat ripping or giving out!"
"Tom's studying electrical engineering," Alex said by way of explanation.
I glanced over to where Lara was kneeling on the ground. "That explains the heavy duty lines," she said quietly. "More robust material has a better chance of lasting?"
"Has a chance of functioning at all, more like. Anything with a motherboard is done for, can hardly even keep a torch running in this pit."
"Really?" I murmured. "Mine's working just fine…" I flicked through the options on my brand new C300. The thing was marketed as an indestructible fortress of camera-ness, so I wasn't exactly surprised by that.
But according to these two nothing else had ever worked down here. How odd…
I almost missed the glance that Tom and Alex shared. "What do you make of that then?" Alex asked his friend.
Tom shrugged. "Didn't you buy one a those models just a week ago? I don't see why this one 'd be different in the slightest."
"Well, it won't be the first mystery of this place to be unsolved," Alex said. "Shall we continue the tour? We've cleared out five vaults so far, with a tangle of passageways in between. I'd like to show you at least the most important ones before we have to get to work again."
"Just a moment," Lara said. "Sam, could you hand me that?" She gestured to my camera.
"Sure?" I passed it to her. The moment I let go of it the screen started to flicker, lines of static that quickly started to multiply. The screen cut out after less than a second.
Then she handed it back to me. I looked at her, but she only gestured towards the C300.
Dutifully, I turned it back on. And it was fine.
"Well I'll be damned…" Tom muttered "looks like your lady friend has the magic fingers aye?"
"Mr. Taylor," Lara said "I think that Sam and I would be delighted to join your expedition, if you'll have us." She finally looked away from the camera, taking in the narrow passageways around us that had laid undisturbed for a millennium. "I think you've stumbled across quite a find."
Alex Taylor said nothing. He just continued gazing at the camera with something like awe writ plain on his features.
"So this is the fabled 'Sir Galahad' " I mused.
The suit of armor actually was pretty impressive, without a single fleck of rust to be seen. The thing had to cap out at six five at least, with pauldrons that would make professional linebackers seem skinny.
Really, whoever this suit of armor was made for must have been a giant. Weren't people back then supposed to have been really short or something?
"Fascinating," Lara murmured.
"Took the words right out of my mouth, Mr. Spock."
Alex chuckled. "We're not quite sure what he's made of, but," he gestured to the longsword it held, which was very much not unravished by the sands of time "it's clearly not normal iron or steel."
"And what haven't you taken a sample for testing?" Lara asked.
"Well," Alex started. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him blush slightly "we can't really bring in any power tools, or even a camera to show this find to a specialist. And as of yet no one else has taken this find all that seriously, most people think we've stumbled across an old root cellar…"
Lara nodded. "I can see how the lack of pictures would make things difficult like that. What do you think Sam?"
"I can probably take a few," I said. "Should be enough to get things moving along right? Still, it's a bit awkward."
"Hmm?" Lara glanced over at me.
"I'm gonna be the only one who can use a Camera down here, or at least that's what it looks like," I said. "Pretty sure that most people will just think we're fabricating evidence."
"Bloody typical," Alex grumbled. "No, you're probably right. Still, it's a far sight better than anything we had previously, if you would do the honors Miss?"
I shared a glance with Lara, and she nodded. "Alright," I said, pulling out my camera again "Here goes nothing."
I focused on the suit of armor and turned on the flash.
And, just going by Alex and Lara's facial expressions, I wasn't the only one who was vaguely disappointed when nothing else happened.
"Well that was…" Lara began, "surprisingly painless."
I looked at my camera, the picture came out fine, even if the suit of armor was in pretty start relief due to the wonky lighting. "That'll be that then," I said, snapping a few more just for insurance. "I'll send you the pictures on facebook after I upload them."
"It's a start," He said, though I think his was undermining his normal British reserve. "Would you mind taking pictures of the rest of the site as well? Hopefully we can start making up for nearly a month without verification."
"Sounds like you have your work cut out for you."
"Please," he shot back, "if I'd wanted an easy job I'd be at Father's company."
I gave him a knowing smile. "Isn't breaking with generations of tradition just the best?"
You know, I think I was starting to like this Alex guy. Didn't hurt that he was pretty cute in that trust fund baby kinda way. But I've always had a soft spot for the guys who could afford all the best toys.
"If we could take a look at the rest of the site now?" Lara cut in.
I glanced over at her in surprise; she'd sounded a bit peevish there. But for some reason she was already looking down the next hallway.
"Ah yes, of course." Alex took the lead once again. "There are only two more rooms that we've opened up thus far," He said. "Most of the chambers themselves seem to be in rather good condition, I've seen several examples of what I've started to think of as proto ribbed vaults which seem to be holding up well enough."
"Really?" Lara asked, "But this stonework is so roughly hewn. There's no way that this place was built with gothic architecture of all things."
Alex laughed. "That's what the rest of the world keeps saying as well!" He said. "But I know what I've seen, and even then, it's just remarkable that this whole complex hasn't collapsed ages ago."
I noticed that Lara paid quite a bit more attention to the ceiling after that. "The corridors are a bit different… but they seem to follow the same structure of a roman arch."
"Which is why they were much more prone to collapse. My team has been reinforcing them at key junctures but it can still be a bit touch and go at times."
Finally we got to the next room. The ceiling didn't seem all the special to me, but the way Lara's jaw dropped told a different story. "Absolutely incredible," she whispered.
"Exactly!" Alex said, gesturing to the stone. "Don't you see! This is why I'm so sure that this is the location of Camelot. I can't imagine how the Anglo-Saxons discovered these techniques-"
"But even still this type of architecture is centuries ahead of its time," Lara finished. "Yes the stonework is much less precise, but that only indicates that these blocks were shaped using Iron Age tools."
"And that just makes this even more of a technological wonder than it already is."
Lara nodded. "How deep are we?" She asked.
"A few meters beneath the topsoil," Alex said. "Low enough that no expedition here had ever dug until hitting these ceilings."
"And that's after god knows how many years of erosion,' Lara murmured. "How did they ever move so much earth so as to construct these cellars in the first place?"
"Maybe they just dug it out and put the stone in afterwards?" I said, shrugging.
Alex sighed. "That's been our best guess as well. Though that wouldn't explain why anyone saw the need to make an underground cathedral* of all things."
"It boggles the mind."
Given that the two of them were so caught up in this architecture stuff, I decided it would be a good idea to take a few pictures. The two of them were still going over all the various features a few minutes later, but I made sure to take a few shots of anything that they pointed out.
It took another hour or so to get enough pictures for Alex (and even more so Lara) to be satisfied. She was really diving into this expedition feet first.
It was a bit strange, being on the periphery after all this time, but still it was nice to see her so animated. The past few weeks had been an emotional roller coaster for us in the worst of ways. It was nice to see her evening out again.
"The rest of my team will be here again tomorrow," Alex told us as we were walking back towards the surface. "I gave them the day off, since we'd finally finished going over the last few vaults we'd gotten access to."
Lara nodded, "Where are we going to look next?"
"Well, that mainly depends on whether Sir Galahad moves tonight or not," He said. "For the last two days he's been standing in the same spot. It's actually a partially collapsed passageway behind him, though it looks like an alcove at first glance. We can't get any braces of lift gear into position with it in the way."
Lara nodded, before frowning. "What are the lot of you even using to clear the passageways? I understand supports not being a problem but have you managed to get a mechanical winch working?"
"Nothing so straightforward," Alex said with a wry smile. "It's been a bit of a slog, honestly, but so far we've gotten by with pulleys, car jacks, and moxie."
"Gotta love those complex machines…" I murmured.
"That would explain all the debris," Lara agreed.
"Oh god I can't even imagine the amount of work it would take to move all that stone to the surface," Alex said. "Hopefully that won't be necessary… but if there's a collapse we'll be forced to deal with it regardless."
"Maybe we can see if my magic touch extends to gas engines or something?"
Lara laughed, "Something like that would be a pretty bad idea down here."
"Indeed," Alex said. "The carbon monoxide build up could be hard to deal with. So far we haven't had any trouble, I suspect some air vents have been cut through in some of the deeper rooms, but there's no point in overtaxing what must be a fairly simplistic system." Lara only nodded in agreement.
I looked back down the long passageway as we stepped back out onto the hillside. "And by now you're probably too deep to put an engine out here and just run a chain all the way down."
Lara looks over the entrance to the site in silence for a few moments, even as the security team eyes us openly. "Yes," she says. "I think it will be a pleasure working with you, Mister Taylor."
Christ, his answering grin was almost blinding. Turn down the hero worship a notch would yah!
"It is an honor, Lady Croft."
We ended up parting ways there, and Lara had a small smile on her face all the way back to our hotel.
Yeah, it was super great, to see her this… happy.
"So what do you think?" I finally asked as I pulled into a parking spot. It was a bit of a drive, since our hotel was in 'London proper' but we'd probably find someplace to stay closer to Cadbury castle tomorrow.
"It's definitely something," Lara said. "You really outdid yourself, Sam."
I smirked. "Well, naturally."
"What do you think about the interference?" She asked, pointing at my camera bag.
"Hmmm." We got out of the car.
It was an interesting question, not the least of which because it required me to dive into Himiko's gifted knowledge of the supernatural. She had very little experience with occidental systems, but maybe…
"If I had to guess, it would probably be because I'm disrupting whatever is going on there, if it's magic that is," I said. "I have a pretty strong spiritual signature, so if the working was delicate, or if it's faded over the years, my presence would be enough to destabilize a part of it." I shrugged. "If I'm on site long enough the whole thing might unravel, though really I have no idea if that'll actually be the case."
The elevator door closed and I hit the button for our floor.
I glanced over at Lara, blinking at her tone of voice before I caught sight of her poleaxed expression.
That was when I realized what I'd just said.
"Ah, shit…" I muttered. "Um, I promise I'll explain, this is a recent development I swear?" Lara nodded. "Just, please no guns this time?"
There was a minute pause, and then Lara nodded again.
I sighed. "I have the feeling we're gonna need some schnapps to make it through this one boys," I murmured to myself. But really, how could I have expected this to have gone any different?
Hopefully she wouldn't try and shoot me this time?
Lara looked at me silently for a few seconds after I finished my explanation, slowly blinking a few times.
"And you're sure that she's gone this time?" she asked, finally.
I sighed. "Pretty sure," I said. "Not that I can think of an easy way to prove this, or anything. Not to mention I'd really prefer we don't set 'interrogation at gunpoint' as our go to litmus test for these types of things."
"Tell me about the first time we met," Lara said.
"Oh, Sweetie," I said, shaking my head, "If Himiko was able to mimic my mannerisms for this long it goes without saying that she must have my memories as well."
"Hence, me asking for one that she'd consider unimportant."
"She actually had a pretty high opinion of you," I said quietly. "Not that I got a comprehensive look at her naughty list or anything. But I'm pretty sure that she found you more impressive than anyone else who's set foot on that island for centuries," I gave a wry smile at that. "myself included."
"Sam," Lara said, pinching her nose, "just answer the question."
"You were sitting in the shade of those awful pillars with this huge honking archaeology text book," I told her, rolling my eyes. "And I thought to myself 'no girl that cute should be wasting her last day of freedom'. Plus, I needed another extra for my film project. So I went over and dragged you into it."
Lara smiled slightly.
"Now," I said, "if I knew that you could shoot the wings off a fly with any weapon at hand, maybe I would have been a bit more circumspect, but I didn't."
"And the rest is history," Lara finished.
I shrugged, "Yeah basically."
"What were you wearing?"
"I—" I blinked, "I'm sorry, what?"
"What were you wearing that day?" Lara asked again.
I almost had to gape at her. "What I was wearing?" I asked, but she only nodded in response. I snorted. "Well if I could remember stuff like that I have had a much easier time on my finals…"
Lara cocked an eyebrow.
I shrugged again, "Clothes?" I guessed, "Generally speaking a pair of tight jeans and a cute top, because that's basically all that I wore freshman year?" Still nothing. I wilted, but Lara's face might as well have been made of stone. "Laraaa! How on earth can you expect me to remember this stuff?!"
She crossed her arms. "Fine, what was I wearing then?"
"A tank and a pair of cargo pants, duh?" It been a really baggy example of both as well. Like, I'd never seen a beautiful girl disavow her assets so thoroughly, not that I'd said so aloud at the time. "I remember thinking it was weird how you weren't wearing a jacket because it was super cold that day."
"And yet," Lara mused, "You can't remember what you were wearing?"
Yeah that… would seem pretty weird… "Um… yes?" I tried. No matter how much I wracked my brain I couldn't remember what particular ensemble I'd put together that day. It had just been another day! I mean, I'm sure I had dressed nice, but I always did that!
I felt myself scrunching in on myself as Lara continued to stare. Finally, I couldn't keep eye contact any longer, and looked away.
Was I hyperventilating right now? I'm pretty sure I was hyperventilating.
"You're sure you don't remember?" Lara pressed, voice hard.
I chocked back a sob. "Yes."
There was a chuckle. "That's my girl," Lara said quietly.
Then she hugged me.
"Sam," she murmured into the fabric of my shirt as I stared uncomprehendingly at her, "you need to stop doing these things to me. I don't like doing this either."
"I… I'm sorry?"
Lara sighed, pulling back slightly. "I feel like I've been saying this a lot, but I had to know."
I shrugged, though the movement was kinda stifled by Lara's hug. "At least it was less… physically damaging this time?" I asked. "But, um, I'm still not seeing what just happened there."
"There really were only two scenarios that made sense," Lara said, "given the context."
I blinked once, before I made the connection. "Either I was me, with all of Himiko's memories…"
"Or you were Himiko, with Sam's," Lara agreed. "So I asked a question with that in mind. If you remembered the clothing you were wearing that day, or rather, if you had an immediate answer, you would have obviously been Himiko."
"Is that a jab at me having too many clothes?" I griped.
"But there's more to it, right? I get a feeling that this is gonna be a bit overthought in the end, isn't it…"
"Hmmm. Well," Lara started, "there was also a chance that Himiko might have realized that ploy, or else just not remembered and decided to fake a fear response."
Fear response? I even started to say something, but Lara was already moving on.
"That's why I slipped the question about my outfit in there."
"Because if Himiko was deciding to 'fake it', or had seen through you… she wouldn't have switched back half way?"
I shook my head. "But, Sweetie, what if I didn't remember?"
Lara laughed. "Do you remember how many times you've taken me to task for my fashion choice?"
"Um…" I blinked, "Isn't that just what friends do? It's called fashion advice for a reason?"
"And," Lara said, in that tone of voice that let me know some triumphant conclusion was just around the corner, "since that's the way you remember those times, there's no way that Himiko would have ever seen through my ploy."
I thought about it for a moment, before groaning. "I was right, you really did over think it."
"Aren't you the one who said you wanted a different form of litmus test?" Lara teased, "I was sure that you'd appreciate the amount of thought I put into it."
"I am only vaguely mollified that you didn't pull the g-gun on me again," I manage after a moment. "But… ugh. Lara why is this always so exhausting?"
To the surprise of no one, Lara and I made our way back to the site the next morning.
I was starting to get tired of British tea. Now I've never been the most avid of tea drinkers, but in my personal opinion all the coffee in the United Kingdom was shit. So I wasn't really spoiled for options or anything.
What's worse, something that you can stand but don't particularly like? Or something that is a betrayal of everything in the world that you love (not including your best friend and cute clothes ofc).
That one got away from me a bit.
Point being, I was drinking tea because I was an unrepentant caffeine addict and it was better than the coffee. This morning, however, I woke up with a craving for some green tea and was sorely disappointed when I had to settle for earl grey once more.
Maybe I'd start letting Lara pick, if, you know, she drank the stuff at all. C'mon girl, you need to represent your culture.
"I think I'm doing a fine enough job of that without the tea, thank you." Lara said.
Wait, did I say that last bit out loud?
And apparently, I was still doing it…
Lara cocked an eyebrow. "Yes… Should I be worried that you've basically started to orate our adventures?"
I chuckled sheepishly. "Just a temporary lapse in concentration, I swear," I said. "We were up late last night you know," I murmured suggestively. Lara just rolled her eyes.
"We're here," she said, pulling into a parking spot. I would have driven but, you know, the roads are all backwards. Fortunately, Lara remembered how to drive here, or else had good enough reaction times to fake it.
Could be either really. I'm not sure how her license wasn't expired, something to do with being nobility?
I mentally shrugged. Mentally.
"Let's get to work then," I said as I pulled my camera bag out of the back seat. "So what do you think about the moving suit of armor?"
"Hopefully nothing more than a particularly well thought out prank," Lara said. "But best be on our toes."
I smiled. Sure that's what she was hoping for.
You'd think that I'd be leery about this turning into Magical Fortress 2: Electric Boogaloo, and really, I was. But that was just drowned out by the growing sense of excitement.
There was a reason I'd decided to back Lara's first expedition after all. In my own way, I was just as much of an adventure nut and adrenaline junkie as my best friend, even if I usually preferred to be on the other side of the screen.
Though that might be changing now.
It wasn't everyday a girl got storm powers and an encyclopedia of magical knowledge to go with them. A part of me (a pretty large, X-men reading part of me) wanted to test them out. I wanted to show off.
And if push came to shove there was a lot of reassurance in that I could just call down a bolt of lightning on the next mummy bent on taking over my body. Call it the world's biggest security blanket.
"Sam," Lara said, "Sam, no."
"I know what you're thinking," she said, "and it's not worth it."
"Oh?" I asked, cocking an eyebrow. I picked up my pace, moving ahead of her as we descended into the vaults "What's wrong with a little adventure now and again?"
"I swear to god, Sam, if this all goes pear shaped-"
I gave her a wry smile. "Don't worry," I said, "I promise that I won't get kidnapped this time. I even brought the Condom." I patted the right side of my jacket.
Lara slumped, before turning her gaze skyward with a much put upon expression.
Oh c'mon, Sweetie, I know you don't like my gun's nickname, but do you really think you're gonna get any sympathy from my clouds?
Plus, that name was damn perfect okay? Came straight from my favorite line out of AVP (and in my opinion the only good line out of that movie). Better to have it and not need it, after all!
"What did I do to deserve this?" She asked no one.
I patted her on the shoulder. "Sometimes, we're punished for the actions of others, Sweetie." She shot a glare at me.
I set up my camera gear, and started taking more pictures.
Alex showed up a bit later, telling us that the rest of the team would show up in about an hour. There was a bit of finagling going on with the generator in the background, but since I couldn't really stand next to it for the entire rest of the dig I just ignored it.
At one point Alex and Lara started pointing out specific things they wanted captured in more detail. Lara mainly for the sake of completion I felt, but it seemed like Alex was hoping to bring the photos to some experts.
"How'd the last ones I sent you turn out?" I asked him.
"Mostly good," he said. "There were some blurry bits of course, but for the most part very professional. I'm hoping that we can get the same quality of pictures over the rest of the site."
I hummed. "Just out of curiosity," I started, snapping another picture, "what happened when you guys tried some old fashioned mechanical cameras?"
"They-" Alex paused.
"You didn't try any, did you?" I asked.
"Uh, no. We didn't…"
"You didn't try mechanical cameras?" I repeated.
He chuckled sheepishly. "Ah, well, nobody thought of it?" He said. "We were all simply… focused on just getting the lighting to work as is. Camera's fell by the wayside, I suppose."
I rolled my eyes, amateurs. "Well it's pretty moot at this point," I said, snapping another picture. "Not like we have an army of photographers, and still no video unless you want to try and dig up a handcrank camera."
"But would finding a mechanical one be so much easier?" Alex asked.
"Oh, loads," I said. "Any film department worth its name'll have at least a dozen brick toting purists who'll insist that the old fashioned way is better." I chuckled. Indexicality was their only remaining argument, and it was a bad one. "Hand-crank cinema on the other hand?" I shook my head "Good luck. I mean sure, we've almost reached the point where it's artistic Avant Garde to use subpar and outdated techniques. But finding someone with a functional rig, who's willing to let a bunch of archeologists use it? Fat chance."
"Film major," I heard Lara whisper.
"Yes well," Alex mused, "I should like to get a mechanical camera at least. Even if it serves no other practical purpose, it will be interesting to see if that type of device works."
I frowned, biting my lip.
Up until this point I hadn't spent more than a few moments thinking about the working that lay on Cadbury. Fear that your best friend will shoot you (again) will do that, right? But still it was something to think about.
"I agree," I said. "If nothing else it might help us pin down what oddness is going on down here. It certainly doesn't make much sense so far." I left the thought of magic alone for the time being, as did both the Archeologists.
Lara, I think, because she was still hoping there was some benign explanation.
"In any case, it will be nice to be making some sort of progress again," Alex said, taking a glance at a pocket watch. "Of course, I can't text down here, but just going by the time the rest of the team should be arriving shortly."
"Thank god for heirlooms, right?" I asked, nudging Lara in the side.
"Indeed." Alex smiled wanly. "This belonged to my grandfather, I never thought I'd take it out of its box, much less that I'd be winding the watch spring every morning!"
All jokes aside though, I really wish I could make sense of whatever was going on here.
That ambient magic was enough to disrupt delicate technology made sense in and of itself. 'Magic' was a catchall term in the same way that 'Science' was, and contained about as many high-energy emissions, so no surprise there.
What confused me was how, for some reason, anything that I was holding functioned fine. And I do mean anything, we even managed to get some additional 'testing' in on that front. Watches, flashlights (oh, I'm sorry, 'torches'), etcetera. If it was on my person it worked fine, give it to someone else and it shorts out.
The only think I could think up off the top of my head was domains. But… I was hesitant to call it that.
No point in jumping right to three-dimensional integration when good old fashion geometry will do, or something like that. Domains were… intense.
Leaving that problem aside, Lara and I did get to meet the rest of Alex's team. Namely Colleen and Pierce. Colleen was an anthropologist from Southern Ireland, blond and peppy. Pierce on the other hand aspired to become a historian with a focus on Great Britain, or as he called it 'the most interesting pair of islands in the world'.
Now, I'm sure Himiko would have taken exception to that, (I certainly thought Yamatai deserved one of those spots) but I let him keep his Eurocentric worldview.
"Well it's great to meet everyone," I said, once introductions were complete. "Are we finished with pictures too or is there anything else you want me to get?"
Alex shook his head. "I think we've fairly well cased the whole thing by now," he said. "If you would just send the pictures to me?"
"The moment after I've finished saving them to my laptop." I'd probably upload them to my server as well. Never hurts to have some extra insurance. "Are we ready to move on? Has Sir Galahad unbarred the way?"
"He has, actually," Lara said as she came out of the nearest passageway. "We are ready to progress." I cocked an eyebrow at her. Anyone with eyes could see that she was more than a bit nervous, but she just shook her head.
"Excellent news," Alex said, brushing some dust off his pressed cargo pants.
"Ah, it'll be good to get moving forward again," Colleen said in her musical lilt. Everyone here had a pretty accent except for me… "Shall I start laying down the wires?"
"Just a mo, Colleen," Alex said. "I think we're going to try torches again. If you would Miss Samantha?"
Tom handed me one of those heavy-duty flashlights. You know, the kind that FEMA uses in disaster zones. I clicked it on.
The lightbulb flickered once, gaining some strength before sputtering out again.
I frowned at it. "Well, that's something," I said, before looking back at the rest of our party. "Shall we get to those power cables then?"
Yep. This was looking more and more like Domains.
Despite that, setting up was relatively quick and painless. Tom had brought the extra cables on the chance that I couldn't work my magic (snerk) on the flashlight. Granted, he bitched about the extra work for the whole time, but I figured that things like that were just par for the course for him.
"This is most of the reason that we've moved through so little of the ruins," Alex told Lara as he picked up a box of lightbulbs and sockets. "We have to light each room before moving on. It's a slog."
Lara smiled wanly. "I can see that. You'll forgive me if I keep my hands free I hope?"
"Scared of the dark, Lady Croft?" He joked, smirking.
"Of course not," she said. "Merely the monsters that it might hold."
And on that happy note, we started into the yet unexplored section of the ruins, spooling wire behind us.
As the last one through the opening, I patted the suit of armor on the shoulder. "Hold the door, Sir Knight?"
I was about to duck under the collapsed lintel when I heard a rattle of metal.
Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that the suit of armor had not moved an inch.
Maybe it had just been my imagination.
Yeah right.I sighed and turned back towards the passageway. "I'll take that as a yes, I supposed."
A/N: Not much to say this time. Sorry that it took me a while to cross post this, it's been finished on Space Battles for a while now but I didn't get around to it until now. Finals and all of that.
In better news, I have found a Beta Reader. He's looked at all the sections from 3.4 onwards. So everything beyond that point should be much cleaner and Typo free. Despite a brief Hiatus I have started work on chapter 4 and since I'm on break from Uni things should move a bit more quickly. That said I do have a few other stories that I'm working on simultaneously.
Finally, I hope everyone enjoys this chapter! Don't forget to leave a review!