Written by shadar :: [Thursday, 03 March 2005 14:26] Last updated by :: [Wednesday, 01 May 2013 13:23]
WRITTEN FOR SGI WORKSHOP 1.1
“Gentlemen, I present to you our one and only female member, the daughter of our founder, Lord Henshingly Croft. The famous Miss Lara Croft.”
A smattering of applause greeted the tall brunette as she walked through a side door and up the steps toward the raised podium. Lara Croft had been a controversial figure in the Explorer’s Club since she’d been inducted as the first female member twenty years earlier, as much from her long disappearances and mysterious discoveries as her gender.
All eyes were on her back as she walked toward the stage, admiring the way her chic leather outfit clung tightly to her slender frame, dark hair hanging nearly to her waist. She appeared taller than they remembered, her trim body moving with the fluid athleticism of a jaguar, not to mention looking startlingly younger than the last time she’d attended one of their meetings. By the calendar, she was nearing fifty years of age.
She paused in the front of the room with her back to the audience for a few brief moments, and then she spun around on her toes, her eyes large, and shimmering with a unique shade of aquamarine. A soft gasp ran through the crowd as every man’s gaze was drawn to the daringly low cut of her leather top, her skin so beautifully tanned and healthy. She looked closer to twenty years, not fifty.
“Gentleman, explorers, adventurers all,” she said in a rich, slightly breathless voice, her aquamarine eyes unnaturally bright. “I bring you greetings from Isis.”
Several of the men smiled, and a couple coughed politely. The chairman, Lord George Segway, rose to his feet. “Young lady, I have no idea who you are, but you are clearly not a member of this club.”
“I assure you, Lord Segway, that I am the Lady Croft. While neither my eyes nor my body are as you remember them, I am the same person who has sat in this room dozens of times. If you have any doubt, then let’s authenticate.”
“Agreed,” he replied. “And the code of the hour is?”
Lara unconsciously did the calculation, based on the current date and time, and the number appearing as if by magic in her conscious mind. “27582.”
The Chairman gasped and sat down hard in his chair, glancing around at his equally astonished companions. The equation to derive the authenticator had been hypnotically implanted in each member’s mind upon joining the club. It could not be revealed or learned by any other person, as the members were not even consciously aware of the equation. “My lord, you really are Lara Croft. But this cannot be… not the way you look.” His voice trailed off as he waved his arm weakly in her direction.
“My tale of Isis will explain it all, Lord Segway.”
Lara had spoken several times before about the goddess Isis, describing her as an alien being from an advanced race, but she’d never been able to provide any real evidence to support her claims. After a noisy and contentious debate, she had left the last meeting with the promise of returning with proof that the Egyptian goddess was truly from another world.
“I have just completed the most dramatic exploration of an Egyptian tomb ever attempted.” She paused, watching their eyes narrow with new doubts. Many of those in the audience had participated in the extensive excavations of Egyptian tombs thirty years earlier. “In fact, I penetrated all the way to sublevel twelve beneath Cheops.”
A disbelieving murmur traveled around the room as the thirty-three men who made up the exclusive membership of London’s premier exploration club glanced at each other. The Chairman cleared his throat again and said politely, “There is no such chamber, Ms. Croft. Cheops was fully explored decades ago. I myself led the last expedition.”
“That’s what I thought as well, gentlemen. But Egypt, as always, has presented us with another of its endless supply of mysteries. You see, an ancient scholar in Cairo, a friend of my late father’s, Mohamed Musfari, discovered a lost scroll that referenced a level called Spectra. The scroll was written my none other than Cheop’s third wife.”
“Mohamed Musfari has been dead for eight years,” Lord Leonard Brixby said from his front row seat. “Many of us who worked with him still regret his unfortunate death.”
“His death was staged with my help, Lord Brixby. It was merely a rouge, designed to protect him while he dove into the occult lore that surrounded this scroll. You see, Cheop’s wife was what is called a Diaboli. A worshipper of Elders, a space-faring race that was already ancient when the apes first walked on two legs here on our Earth. A race that used technology that has been called ‘magic’ all these years.”
More frowns and murmurs, along with some raised eyebrows. These were practical men, explorers all, and they didn’t believe in witches or fairy tales. They did, however, believe in revealing the dead history of Earth, and they knew well that much of that history had been distorted in modern times. They had open minds, but that didn’t extend to believing in aliens.
Nevertheless, the name Diaboli had been found in more than a few ancient scrolls, with the writers usually portraying them as sorcerers or witches. And given Lara’s current appearance, with nearly three decades of age erased, they were willing to at least grant her an audience. All eyes were on hers as she began her tale.
“Six months ago, gentlemen, Mohamed summoned me to Cairo, and four months ago this day, Jacob Anders and I found the hidden passageway that led down to Spectra; a chamber that subsequently revealed the greatest secret on this Earth. Unfortunately, he did not survive the expedition.”
She paused to let the impact of her words sink in. Clearly word had not yet reached them of the disastrous collapse beneath Cheops.
“Most importantly, I have discovered the true builders of the pyramids. And they were not Egyptians.”
The men all began asking questions at once. Lara waved her hands to silence them. “Rather than Egyptians, the builders were an ancient race of spacefarers. They were, in fact, the very aliens who gave the spark of sentience to we humans so long ago. Their devotees, the Diaboli, called them simply, Elders. Most of us would call them gods.”
The shocked looks and murmurs grew louder. “Ms. Croft, please. We have tolerated your presence among us in respect to your father, and in recognition of your own distinguished career. But this is hardly the place for fairy tales or speculative stories about alien species. We are the explorers of Earth. Unearthers of facts, not fiction.”
Lara shook her head slowly as she crossed her arms, accenting her bosom enough to draw some eyes away from her hypnotic stare. “No, this is exactly the right place for my tale, gentlemen. For I have come to know the secrets of the Elder goddess who took the name Isis on Earth. The goddess who brought love and the celebration of sexuality to this Earth. Even more importantly, she gave us the art of healing.”
She saw the men’s eyes shift focus, doubt and disbelief their primary emotions. Far from being discouraged, she smiled as she cast a hint of pheromones into the air. She heard the quickening of their hearts as they inhaled its sweetness, and saw the blood racing faster in their veins, the dilation of their pupils. A hint of musky male arousal began to color the air, bodies quickening with arousal as their scents intermingled with hers. They were signs that an ordinary human could not detect with their primitive senses.
She smiled brighter.
These men might be in the last third of their lives, but they were still vital and healthy, and their physiologic reactions were paying silent respect to the fact that she was once again a profoundly beautiful woman. It had been some time since she’d been young enough to garner that reaction merely by standing in a room.
“Tell no one what I tell you here today, or death may find you sooner than your allotted time on this Earth.”
Leaving that ominous threat hanging in the air, Lara walked slowly towards the edge of the stage. The room suddenly felt too warmth to her, stuffy even. She knew this was the beginning of an Awakening. A period when Isis spoke to her. She remembered her first Awakening, coming as it did during the last moments of her old life as she and Jacob lay dying in an underground chamber. Her dying wish had been granted by Isis.
Empowered now in a way she’d not dared to dream of since she was a child, she pushed off gently with her toes and floated up into the high domed ceiling that covered the room. All eyes craned upward as a blaze of starlight seemed to surround her, and her strong, commanding voice filled the ancient room. “Behold, the goddess Isis. The great lady, the God-mother, lady of Re-a-nefer; Isis-Nebuut, lady of Sekhet; lady of Besitet; Isis in Per Pakht, the queen of Mesen; Isis of Ta-at-nehepet; Isis, dweller in Netru; Isis, lady of Hebet; Isis in P-she-Hert; Isis, lady of Khebt; Usert-Isis, giver of life, lady of Abaton, lady of Philae. I come from the star my people called Sept, which you call Sirius.”
Her words were still echoing inside the dome as she floated back down to land in the middle of the crowd. Most of the men rose to their feet, stunned, while a couple of them, overwhelmed by her words and her presence, bowed at her feet as was the ancient fashion.
“I am Awakened, and I am here to tell you the story of a very special life. A life that stretches back in time to the very origins of your modern civilization. To the time when I, the Goddess Isis, changed your world forever more.”
Jacob Anders lay on his stomach, his upper body wedged inside a narrow tunnel, leaving only the soles of his dusty boots visible. He coughed as the choking dust coated his tongue, and found his throat was too dry to swallow. He tightened the mask over his mouth as he played his flashlight across the rocks in front of him again. “Damn it, Lara. It’s just another dead end.” His voice was muffled and weak.
Lara Croft played a flashlight across the handwritten map she held, the edges frayed from being handled a hundred times. “This is the last tunnel, Jacob. It has to be the right one.”
“Well, Mohamed screwed us big time. We’ve tried every side tunnel in the place, and none of them go anywhere.”
“Check the walls near the end of the tunnel. Scrape off the dust. Maybe the symbol is covered in dust.”
Jacob signed as he wiggled in another foot, struggling at the same time to tighten the mask even more. As if it wasn’t dusty enough already, he thought. He closed his eyes and began to scrub the walls of the tunnel with his camel hair brush. The air was instantly filled with chalk-like dust. “Nothing but more damn dust and…” He paused as something glimmered in the beam of his flashlight. He quickly brushed that area again, only to gasp as an elaborate silver emblem appeared. “Hey, I think I’ve got something,” he cried excitedly.
“Describe it,” Lara called back down the tiny tunnel.
“It’s a human figure, but with wings, like an angel. Looks like its made out of the same purplish metal as the artifact.”
Lara reached in her bag and pulled out the small figurine that Mohamed had given her. It looked more like a Christian’s representation of an angel than any Egyptian artifact she’d seen. The style and workmanship was completely wrong for Egyptian, and metallurgical tests had proven it was made of steel alloy. A sample of that metal had started an uproar in the field of materials science, for the metal had ten times the strength of the finest chrome-molybdenum steel. Even stranger than that, the artifact looked as if someone had shaped the hard metal with their fingers. An x-ray spectroscopy analysis of the stresses in the metal had identified fingerprints, which made so sense at all.
“I think I’m going to need the key,” Jacob called back up the tunnel.
“No. Let me try it,” Lara said.
Jacob gratefully wiggled out of the tunnel, shaking his head to send a cloud of dust flying around him. “You got it, boss lady.”
Lara put on her mask and quickly crawled down the tunnel. Despite the steep downward angle, it was easier for her to maneuver her slender body in the tight spaces than it had been for Jacob. She braced one hand against the end of the tunnel as she turned the artifact over in her other hand until it aligned perfectly with the recessed emblem on the wall. Then, taking a deep breath, she pressed it forward.
It snapped perfectly into place.
“It fits, almost perfe…”
Her words were drowned out as a tremendous THUD shook the ground beneath them, and the end of the tunnel snapped opened as if on spring-loaded hinges. Lara fell forward as a huge gush of fresh air blasted up the tunnel, sending a hurricane of dust into Jacob’s face.
She landed on a cool, metallic floor less than a meter below the exit of the tunnel. Sitting up, she shone her flashlight around, shocked to find that she was inside a huge chamber. The walls, floor and ceiling shimmered with gold.
“Oh my god, Jacob… we’re in!”
Jacob quickly wiggled down the tunnel to join Lara. Together, they explored the chamber, traveling in opposite directions to meet back at the far end. Astoundingly, they found that everything in the room was made out of gold. The walls, the floor, even the ceiling were formed out of seamless sheets, almost as if it they’d been poured into the chamber. A large golden throne drew Lara’s attention toward the middle of the room.
“There’s got to be thousands of tons of gold here,” Jacob said breathlessly as examined the edge of the tunnel opening. “Even the wall is two inches thick, and it appears to be solid gold.”
Lara tested a corner of a golden figurine with her fingernail, and was able to make an impression. “Very soft too. Must be nearly pure.”
“And look at these stones,” Jacob gushed as he walked over to join her. He traced his hands over the jewels that were embedded in the arms of the throne. “Mostly diamonds, but I’ve never seen ones this large or with such depth and clarity.” He focused his halogen flashlight at an angle through several of the stones from the side. They lit up with a bluish glow. “Never seen such a strange color either.”
Lara’s thoughts were racing wildly as she eased herself down onto the throne, only to find to her surprise that it fit her body nearly perfectly. “This seat was built for a woman of my height and build,” she commented. She shone her flashlight around the room, admiring the perspective from the throne. “And this isn’t a tomb like we thought, Jacob. More like a seat of power. This is the place where she met with her subjects.”
“She?” Jacob asked as he began to study a large figurine.
“A woman of great importance.”
Jacob was about to volunteer the name Isis, but given Lara’s fascination with her, he wasn’t going to encourage her. What was clear, though, is that anyone entering here would have been intimidated by its location underground, and overwhelmed by the wealth and splendor of the décor. “So who was the lady? The queen of Egypt?”
Lara ran her fingers along the hieroglyphs that formed the armrests of the throne, recognizing enough of them to discern the high rank of the previous occupant. Her heart leaped as she found the symbol for divinity. And then an even more familiar one. “No. Someone far more important than a mere queen.”
Jacob frowned as he heard the note of soft reverence in Lara’s voice. “More important than the supreme ruler of a kingdom?”
“Yes, Jacob. The woman who sat in this seat was a goddess. Her name was Isis.”
He scoffed. “Right. And my grandfather was Zeus. You really buy into all that mythology?”
“How many times have we suspected that the myths we attribute to the gods were merely deeds performed by the aliens?”
Jacob rolled his eyes. Lara had become obsessed with legends of alien gods and goddess for the last few years, ever since she’d been healed by that guru high in the Himalayas. As she told the story, she’d been shot in the chest at close range by her arch-enemy Dr. Stephen Froham, and she was breathing her last breath when the weathered old guru rested his leathery hand on her breast and her wounds closed. When she stood up mere minutes later, the crumpled bullet lay on the floor, caked in her blood, and the inside of her chest ached. But there were no marks on her skin.
Some kind of hallucination, he assumed. Froham was a master of disguise and deception.
“Well, goddess or not, these artifacts are worth billions,” Jacob added as he continued surveying the room. “Maybe tens of billions.” He returned to the large figurine near the back of the throne. It depicted a tall, graceful woman dressed in a long robe. He found himself strangely drawn to it. It looked so realistic, resting the way it was on a tall, slender golden stand. Looking into the figurine’s eyes, he suddenly felt as if he was looking into a living woman’s eyes. Without thinking of the consequences, he reached up and touched the figurine. It felt warm to the touch, despite being formed out of single crystal that looked like the blue diamonds. It had to weigh thousands of karats.
“No, don’t touch anything!” Lara shouted as she saw his fingers closing around the figurine. She leaped from the throne to reach for his wrist, but she was too late. Jacob lifted the figurine from its stand. “You worry too much, boss. As you say, this isn’t a tomb, but rather the place this queen or whatever ruled from. People would come and go, so it would have to be stable and…”
He stopped in mid-sentence as the floor beneath them shifted slightly. Then, without warning, the wall by the tunnel entrance gave off a serious of loud, booming pops, and then a deep groan that sounded like a foghorn. Another hollow BANG filled the room, and the huge block that had been suspended over the tunnel entrance began to descend.
Jacob’s eyes opened wide in fear “Shit! We gotta get out of here, boss. Now!” He dropped the figurine and began to sprint toward the tunnel entrance. Lara just stared as the diamond figurine hit the floor, and then blazed with a blinding blue light.
Half blinded by the sudden flash, Lara stumbled toward the opening, barely able to make out Jacob’s form as he motioned anxiously for her to hurry. He turned and was about to dive through the now half-moon opening. Lara took one look at the block, then the opening, and instinctively grabbed the back of his belt to pull him back. “No! It’s too late, Jacob. You’ll be cut in...”
The massive block covered the opening and slammed into the floor only inches from their hands, crushing Jacob’s flashlight like an eggshell. The thundering boom shook the room like a strong earthquake. Jacob hung onto Lara with a death grip until the reverberations began to damp out minutes later.
Once the floor stopped moving, he rose to his feet and began searching around the block, looking for another exit. Lara picked up her flashlight and calmly walked back to the center of the room to sit back down on the throne. She felt strangely calm as she started to reason her way out of this jam. Clearly, the block was the room’s protection system against intruders, and the debris-filled tunnel they’d entered was the only exit. The walls were otherwise seamless. But just as clearly, she knew that the goddess who’d sat in this room had a way to open it back up.
She just had to find Isis’ trick.
“Jacob, I’ve got an idea.”
Lara was sitting against the wall of the chamber twenty-seven hours later, her clothing soaked in sweat, Jacob leaned heavily against her, both of them gasping for air. They’d searched the room high and low until her flashlight had begun to dim. Their pack with spare batteries, food and water was on the other side of the closed tunnel.
“And here… I thought we were going to die… of thirst,” Jacob panted, barely able to keep his eyes open. “But its… its gonna to be air… isn’t it?”
Lara closed her eyes and tried to swallow, her thoughts growing sluggish. The room had been full off fresh air when they entered, but it was now hot and stuffy. Her lungs were burning from her rapid panting and it was becoming very hard to focus. Hypoxia was setting in. She struggled to lift her arm, aiming her dying flashlight back at the glittering throne.
“The secret of raising the block has to be there.”
“We’ve been over the throne a dozen times,” Jacob said, his voice breaking up into a hoarse cough.
“Help… help me get back there,” Lara gasped.
Jacob nodded, and took a deep breath before struggling back to his knees. He used what strength he had left to help Lara stand. She promptly staggered and fell back to her knees, her hair falling over her face to blind her. Neither of them was strong enough to walk now.
Jacob brushed her hair away, and put a steadying arm around her. Together they crawled across the golden floor toward the throne. With the last of her energy, Lara climbed up into the seat, while Jacob collapsed against its base.
It was an effort just to lift her flashlight and begin examining the arms of the throne once again. She’d barely started when the bulb dimmed and finally blinked out.
Lara’s eyes opened wide in fear, the sound of their gasping lungs sounding louder in the dark. Still, she refused to give in to the rising panic that was squeezing tighter and tighter around her neck. There was still time if she could just find the key. She slowly ran her fingers across the runes on the chair, imagining that she was Isis. A goddess would have been too proud to ever rise to activate the door, so she must have had some kind of control that she could activate without anyone realizing she was doing it.
Lara relaxed and let her arms move to their most comfortable position, opening her fingers wide at the same time. She was surprised to find that the fingers of her left hand slipped naturally into three small depressions. She moved her right hand until she found the same depressions on that side. She began to press her fingers into the depressions.
She started moving her fingers in sequences, purposeful at first, then at random as her consciousness slowly faded from the lack of oxygen. Feeling sleepy, her chin falling, she was slipping into a half waking dream when she suddenly remembered something Mohammed had said. Something about a counting sequence. Six, four, two, six. Yes, that was it. The sequence ran down the sides of the scroll.
She began to tap out that sequence with her fingers. She was on her third attempt, leading off twice with her right and once with her left, when a brilliant beam of light lanced out from the far wall to blind her. Lifting her head, she stared with open pupils, her hypoxia so deep that her brain barely registered the glare.
Instead, a strange image formed in her mind. She saw a tall, slender woman who looked shockingly like she had thirty years earlier. The woman was floating on air, her hair and silk robe floating around her as if she was weightless. She began to speak in a whispering voice, asking Lara what form her savior should appear in.
Not understanding the question, thinking it was merely her imagination, Lara found she couldn’t stay awake, despite the wonder of the light. Her eyes closed again, and she slipped deeper into her a dream, the air now too thin to breath.
She found herself in a very familiar dream, the same one that had haunted her when she was young. Her lips curled softly as she saw her fantasy lover again; that special man who made love to her in her dreams. The man who had made her so envious of his power that she’d wished to become him many times. A man who could never be trapped in an old tomb like this one.
The light blinked out as his image took shape in her mind, her dream expanding to fill all her dying thoughts.
Moments later, her smile faded and her chin fell to her chest as her heart went into a dangerous arrhythmia, racing for a long moment before suddenly skipping a dozen beats and then stopping.
Lara woke inside her dream. She saw the throne room around her, but instead of darkness, the room was now filled with an eerie blue light. Floating upward as if weightless, she saw her own body slumped on the throne below, hair covering her face, with Jacob lying at her feet, the skin pulled back form his eyes and mouth. She knew that look from her desert travels. He’d been dead for days, his body dehydrating. She didn’t need to look beneath the tangled, graying hair that covered her own face to know she looked the same. Many days had passed since her last breath. Possibly weeks.
Death? This is death, she asked herself. Instead of the pounding of her heart and the cold sweat of fear, she felt only calmness. Silence. She moved in slow motion, as if she had all the time in the world to understand this new consciousness.
“Death will no longer haunt you,” a strong, resonant male voice replied from behind her. “You have moved beyond its power.”
She spun around to find herself face to face with the man of her dreams. He looked to be early 30’s, his body lean and hard, dressed in a pair of red formfitting shorts. He had the body of a dancer. Until he moved, and then a fantastic array of tight muscles shaped every square millimeter of his body. Lara felt her eyes drawn lower, finally pausing on the skintight fabric that revealed all of him. Every detail was identical to the dreams of an erotic Superman that she’d had when she was young. The Superman of her dreams had not been a virtuous Boy Scout, but rather, an erotic lover, a scoundrel who seduced young girl’s in the darkness. A man who shared his enormous power with his lovers.
“This… this I don’t believe.”
“You wished me to save you, to even become me, so I came.” His voice was deep, his words flowing like honey.
“This was my dying thought?” Lara thought, horrified that she’d wasted her last moment on silly fantasies. Of all the things in the world to consider in her last moments, she’d returned to her girlish fantasy of being not only a man, but Superman. A fantasy that had clearly come from the guilt of her father’s unfulfilled wish for a son. That, and her desire for power, for invulnerability. For the immortality that she’d devoted so much of her adult life to searching for.
“I was in your dreams all these years,” he answered, seemingly reading her thoughts. “Even when you quit listening to them. But now, Isis can make all dreams come true.”
As sexy and powerful as he looked, Lara quickly found that she’d grown past at least one part of her youthful dream. “But I rather like being a woman.”
“Your body is no longer usable.”
“Well, I’m not about to become you,” Lara said angrily, finding the mere thought revolting. She’d experienced many things since she’d been a girl, and she’d found that being a woman had not held her back the way she’d expected when she was fourteen. Instead, she’d lived a life driven by the desire to explore, to experience, to find treasures that no one else could find. By the age of seventeen, what with the development of her remarkable figure and stunning beauty, she’d found she could open doors that no man could. Literally and figuratively.
“Besides, you’re just a figment of someone’s imagination. Outside of my dreams, you were but colored ink on cheap paper.”
“Everything under the sun is the result of someone’s imagination,” he said, his voice as deep and calm as the ocean itself. “And the imaginings of one dimension are reality in the next.”
“Multiple dimensions? All realities existing? This sounds like Marcus Demore’s writing.”
“He was a Diaboli,” a softer, feminine voice spoke in her head. “So yes, of course, he would write such things.”
“Well, if that’s the case,” Lara blurted out, frightened by the foreign voice inside her head, “I want all your powers, and your strength, but without that ridiculously large sexual organ. In fact, I want to look exactly like I did thirty years ago.”
The man in he red trunks smiled, and suddenly transformed back into the image of a slender woman. Lara recognized the woman as herself, but many years ago. “Instead of a super man, a super girl.”
Lara started to open her mouth to reply, only to scream as the floor and walls fell away, and she began to fall into darkness.
Lara woke up again, but instead of feeling disconnected and calm, her heart was beating strongly in her chest. She licked her lips, and found them moist, soft and a bit salty, almost like she’d been swimming in a tropical lagoon. She rose, and found that her body seemed to be weightless, her energy boundless. Twisting, she discovered that her body felt so supple, so flexible. So young.
Looking down at her feet, she saw that Jacob’s body was little more than leathery skin stretched over bones now. Clearly, further weeks had passed, possibly months.
Feeling a twinge of remorse that she’d led him to his death, she closed her eyes and ran her hands over her flat stomach, and then upward until she could cup herself. She was startled to find that her breasts felt firmer and higher on her chest than they had in years. Fuller too. She extended her arm and made a fist, only to see impossibly strong tendons rising across her hand and wrist. She pulled the sleeve of her blue top up and clenched her fist again, this time marveling at the lean, powerful muscles that shaped the supple skin of her forearm. She’d always been strong, but now her arm looked like a slender version of Superman’s.
That brought an obvious thought to the surface: this wasn’t her body. While it was her body shape, looking the way it had been in her twenties, it clearly wasn’t formed from her DNA.
Yet her thoughts seemed to be her own.
The realization that she’d not only died, but also had been resurrected sent a sliver of fear stabbing into her stomach. Her heart beat faster as a rush of anxiety came over her. Her adrenaline surged, filling her with the physiologic reactions to stress. The feeling was familiar, but also so very different than the silent calmness she’d felt when she first awoke.
People didn’t rise from the dead. Not very often anyway.
No, she couldn’t truly be alive, despite the bodily sensations that filled her. This was just another part of the final fantasy that her mind had created in a desperate attempt to cheat death.
A fantasy that lasted for months?
A more compelling thought crossed her mind. Perhaps such a thing as an afterlife truly existed? If so, was she in heaven, perhaps even one of her own making? A sliver of fear returned. Or a hell whose horrors had yet to be revealed to her?
Lara forced herself to smile. At least she was here and here was a lot better than lying on the floor turning to dust like Jacob’s body. In addition, she seemed to have some control over her body, for she clearly remembered bargaining with the Superman in her dreams.
All of which meant that her fate wasn’t sealed.
She struggled to push her hesitation and fears away as she’d always done. Action had been her sure-fire remedy for self-doubt. And now, feeling this strong, she felt her old confidence returning, bringing her insatiable curiosity with it.
She relaxed her hand, watching as her arm returned to feminine slenderness. She tensed it again, and then relaxed, fascinated by the startling transformation. Bending over, she picked up the diamond figurine that had triggered the stone block, remembering the way Jacob had given in to his curiosity and doomed them both. She angrily squeezed the ill-fated figurine with all her strength, blaming it for Jacob’s death. And her own.
A riot of cracks instantly rippled through the figurine as it gave off a horrible squealing sound, and then exploded in her grip, sending shards of diamond racing outward to embed themselves in the golden walls like shrapnel. A riot of pinpricks stung her across the front of her body.
Shocked, Lara tried to imagine the amount of force that would be required to shatter a diamond crystal that large. It simply wasn’t possible. No machine, no weight could damage pure diamond that way, let alone the mere grip of a woman’s hand.
Or could it. She thought of Superman again, and the promise he’d made. Looking down at herself, and saw the unblemished perfection of her bare breasts, sitting so firm and high on her chest. Her tits hadn’t looked this good since she was eighteen.
“So this is my heaven?” she wondered, feeling a twinge of fear now. “Being trapped in this throne room? Being this beautiful, this strong, but unable to escape. Trapped like Isis was?”
That soft, female voice returned. “We will not be trapped this time, Lara, for this body you have created is more capable than my last.”
Lara spun around, but saw only her reflection in the crystals. “Who… who are you?”
“Isis, of course. You have brought me a suitable body so that I might live again. As a reward for giving me such a powerful shell to live in, I will allow you to share it with me instead of banishing you to the underworld.”
“It’s my body,” Lara said, her voice low. “And thanks. I guess.” She didn’t like the idea of sharing a body. It sounded too much like possession.
“Hardly your body, Lara Croft. If not for my power, yours would be turning to dust like your friend. A power unlike any other on Earth.”
“So you are from another world?” Lara asked, her heart racing even faster now. “And you can talk to me after death?”
“You aren’t dead, Lara Croft. Instead, you are more alive than you have ever been.”
Lara looked down at the withered corpse of her friend, and wondered: Was he experiencing similar thoughts in his afterlife?
“No. He simply died,” Isis answered her silent question. “If it makes you feel better, he traveled peacefully from consciousness to nothingness, like most humans who haven’t developed their souls.”
A wave of sadness washed over Lara. The world was going to be a lesser place without Jacob’s smiling face. Developed soul or not.
“We call ourselves Elders,” Isis interjected. “One of two races who have competed for the right to control sentient life in this galaxy for the last million years.”
“And the other race?” Lara asked softly. She felt a dreamlike sense of unreality surrounding her like a fog.
“Need not concern you at the moment,” Isis answered. “Although the man who saved us is much like them. As you are now.”
Lara looked down at herself again, seeing the younger, firmer curves of her body. “So I’m a Kryptonian?”
“You are what you imagined. If that is called a Kryptonian, then so be it.”
“So how’s all this work?” Lara asked warily, not at all certain that she wanted to become a figment from her imagination.
“I will always be in your mind. But you will control our body most of the time. A partnership.”
Lara looked at herself in the reflection from the larger crystals. “I look so young.”
“Just as you wished.”
“And I truly have all the mythical abilities of that man from my dreams?”
“I searched your thoughts, I found all your memories of him, and I made you what you imagined he was,” Isis replied. “Except that I prefer female hosts.”
“A stroke of luck for me,” Lara said with a tiny smile, her keen sense of appreciation at the ironic returning.
“No, luck did not play a role. It was merely my choice.”
“So I’m a host now? For you. With abilities I invented?”
“We are sharing this body, as I said. You have the physical powers you dreamed so many times, useless as they usually are, and I have other abilities that we will use.”
Lara blushed as she allowed her thoughts to drift back again to her earliest imaginings of Superman. He’d been her first sexual fantasy. When she was fourteen and merely imagining what would be like to have sex with a man, her dreams had been filed with images of a very cute, young Kryptonian, his age barely more than hers. He’d come to her bed each night, and had used his incredible body to show her the myriad ways of love.
She felt a flush of arousal even now as she remembered the way her body had opened to thrill him in return, and how each time they made love, she’d drawn a portion of his strength into herself. They’d made such wondrous love in her dreams. Dreams that had been her obsession for several years.
Then, as her body developed faster and stronger than her friends, she’d discovered what real men were like. They weren’t nearly as dramatic as the man in her dreams, or as skillful, but the emotional involvements were more interesting. And by then, she’d discovered that she liked being in control.
Her girlish fantasy had slowly faded into the reality of discovering that she was one of the rare carriers of the alpha-alel3 gene sequence. Only one in a hundred million people were born with it, a researcher told her, and they all exhibited superior strength.
By the age of seventeen, Lara was stronger than her father. By twenty-one, she was stronger than any man she’d met, despite her slender frame. Her breasts were also larger than other women of her build, but she was so fit and they were so firm that she rarely needed supporting garments.
She ended up living a man’s life in a woman’s body, or so some of her male friends told her. Yet she luxuriated in using the unique opportunities that feminine beauty provided. Her gender and her skills at seduction had opened doors that no man could unlock.
Now, amazingly, she was a Kryptonian woman. She smiled, realizing that strength was something she already understood. She’d been born to power. But being this young again… now that was truly magic!
She came back to herself, and realized with a shock that she wasn’t breathing. Strangely, she felt no discomfort. “There’s no breathable air in here, is there?”
“No,” Isis replied. “But that is not an issue for a body that draws its power from the sun.”
“That doesn’t make sense. There wouldn’t be enough power this far away. Not underground.”
“I borrowed a few tricks from our foe. They’re called the Supremis. It’s why your breasts are full.”
Lara had no idea who those Supremis were, or what they had to do with her tits. Yet instead of asking more questions of Isis, she walked over to the massive block that had fallen over the entrance. Her practiced eye judged it at hundreds of tons. It was mounted in grooves, so the only way to move it was to dead lift it.
Was that something even a Kryptonian could do, she wondered?
“My last body was that of a twelve-year old Supremis girl,” Isis volunteered. “She was called a Velorian and she was able to lift it.”
Lara squatted down and started to work her fingers under the stone. She wondered what kind of twelve-year old girl could lift a block like this, and then shrugged. If a girl could do it, then so could she.
She pushed harder with her fingers, and the gold plate on the floor squished aside, providing ample room for her fingers to slip under the massive block. Leaning forward to press her forehead against the block, she began tense her arms, no matter how ridiculous the task seemed. Remarkably, instead of running out of strength in seconds, she felt her arms and back continuing to tighten, muscles flexing larger and harder each moment, her strength building in an incredible rush that seemed to have no bounds. A pleasant, prickly thrill coursed through her body as her strength soared, finding its way frustratingly to that nub of womanly pleasures. She squirmed her legs to try to dispel it, but succeeded only in sending a stronger wave of tingling warmth radiating outward. Gasping at the strange physiological response to exertion, she was stunned when the huge block began to groan and lurched upward.
Maintaining the strain, marveling at the way her muscles were growing warm from her fantastic exertions, she slowly straightened her legs, using their greater strength. The hundreds of tons of granite scraped and grumbled in its grooves, chips of rock flying from it, but it continued to rise.
Soon she was standing with knees locked, her forearms horizontal as she struggled to lift the block higher with only the strength of her arms. She bit her lip and concentrated, and the block continued to scrape upward until she had lifted it over her head. Rising even taller, standing on her toes as her calves burned from the strain, she saw a huge locking dog snap outward to slip under the block, securing it.
Lara was gasping for air that didn’t exist as she tentatively released the block, afraid it would slam back down and trap her again. It held.
Turning back around, she stared back into the chamber with narrowed eyes, catching her reflection in the crystals again. She dropped her arms to her side, lifting her hands, still feeling the weight of the stone resting in them.
“My God. I don’t look like Superman, but I’ve got his muscles.”
Isis whispered smugly in her mind: “Are you satisfied with my handiwork?”
A strange thought thrilled Lara. “Does anyone else possess such power?”
“There are many Supremis,” Isis replied, her voice sounding irritated as Lara asked another question instead of acknowledging her artistry. “Like my previous host, although she worked harder to lift that block than you did.”
“What about Kryptonians?”
“Until my artistry of today, they were only a figment of your imagination.”
Lara smiled, luxuriating in the sense of profound power that filled her body, suspecting she was now one of the most powerful beings in the universe. “Then this is going to be fun.”
“Only if you finish what I’ve started. Your power is only temporary. To make it permanent, you need to find the man we borrowed it from, and complete the transfer.”
Mablevi Atemu snapped his cell phone closed as he motioned for the drivers to begin loading the camels. This final collapse of the tunnel entrance beneath Cheops was beyond hopeless. His men had spent the last weeks digging through the loose rock in the main tunnel and found Lara and Jacob’s packs beneath a small, sloping side tunnel. It had taken days more to reopen that tunnel, only to find their way blocked by an immense block of stone.
The Englishmen who’d rushed the site had suggested drilling and blasting, but ultrasound testing had shown the block was twenty feet thick. It would take a dozen small blasts to tunnel through it, which was impossible given the fact that it was beneath one of the valuable cultural artifacts of Egypt. The authorities had made it clear: nothing but hand tools could be used on a tomb site.
Mablevi regretted Lara Croft’s loss. She’d engaged him to support her on a dozen digs, and she’d become more than merely a client who paid handsomely for his services. She’d become a friend. Sighing, he turned from the tunnel entrance and headed toward the camels.
The drivers were having trouble with the beasts this morning. They were snorting and prancing around, refusing to kneel so that their loads could be attached. The drivers were cursing foully in their local dialects, and whipping the camels with their long reeds.
Mablevi was about to intervene when he felt the ground shift beneath him. He froze in his steps, and then felt it again.
An earth tremor?
Impossible in the Egyptian desert, otherwise the tombs and pyramids would have collapsed long before.
Then he felt it again, but stronger this time.
Two hundred feet beneath the ground, Lara Croft was gritting her teeth as she pushed upward on the block, arms outstretched over her head and standing on her tiptoes. The massive weight was off the locking dogs and resting on her hands again, and now she had to figure out how to fly upward.
“Are you are sure you drew all the abilities from him?” she asked Isis.
“Everything he was, you are,” she replied.
“Then how does flying thing work?”
“I know how it worked with my last body.”
“So, pray tell?” Lara grunted.
Isis said nothing for a long moment, suggesting to Lara that she was searching her memories. How that was possible when they were in her own brain, Lara had no idea, only to be startled as a flurry of images suddenly filled her mind. A thousand images flashed before her eyes before the flow slowed and narrowed down to focus on a young, blonde girl. Lara watched as if in a dream as the young girl lifted this same block, her body so slender yet so strong, her feet floating off the floor before she could lift it high enough to engage the locking dogs.
“She squeezed her legs together, tensed her backside very tightly, and then focused on sending this wave of tingling warmth from her pelvis to her chest. There is an alien organ there. Just like the one I’ve given you.”
“That’s how Kryptonians fly?” It sounded vaguely sexual to Lara, although that didn’t make sense given the age of Isis’ previous host.
“I have no idea. But it is how she did it.”
“A goddess who doesn’t have a clue to how her host does things?” Lara quipped. “What happened to all that omnipotence?”
“You overestimate me.”
“Won’t happen again,” Lara grunted as she tried to perform the feat she’d seen in her head. She squeezed her legs together with every ounce of strength she had, and tightened her ass as hard as she could. She was promptly rewarded with a wicked rush of tingling heat that seemed to radiate outward from her pelvis. More specifically, it began teasing that nub of pleasure again. The tingles were nearly driving her crazy by the time the heat rose, and a wave of lightness that was almost like nausea coursed through her. The unpleasantness passed quickly, leaving behind a wave of prickling heat that found its way to her nipples. They grew hard and began to burn as a wave of weightlessness washed over her.
She instinctively pushed off with her toes, and found that they were no longer touching the floor. Fascinated, she envisioned her body soaring upward, and a wondrous sense of lightness filled her chest. She tensed her body even harder, and the block gave off a horrific groan and began to rise.
Mablevi was knocked off his feet as another powerful ground tremor radiated outward from Cheops. The waves of energy were visible in the sand as they spread in a circle like waves in a pond. An area of sand exploded into the air a few meters from the side of the Cheops monolith, and a block of stone as large as a tour bus rose into the air. It climbed upward for several hundred feet, and then paused and began to descend slowly, casting a shadow over the camel drivers. The beasts panicked and began galloping away into the desert, the drivers racing after them. A few of the men simply stared upward in horror as the block slowly descended over them.
Mablevi’s eyes followed the men’s, only to be shocked to see a naked woman pressing upward on the bottom of the stone block, her body tight with a fantastic array of muscles, as she appeared to be wrestling with its weight. Her back was facing him as her feet touched the sand, and the block fell the last two meters to bury her. It hit with a lurching thud, sending an explosion of sand flying outward.
Mablevi turned his head to shield his eyes from the spray, his thoughts racing wildly. He was witnessing something that had only been hinted at in the ancient scrolls!
By the time he turned around, the woman had tunneled her way upward from beneath the block and was standing beside the block, hidden from all eyes except his. She brushed herself off, shaking her head to send sand flying in all directions, and then smiled at him.
“Mablevi. What are you still doing here?”
His jaw fell. “Lara. Lara Croft?” He tried not to stare at the famous breasts that he’d dreamed about so many times, and instead willed his eyes to remain on hers. They were now a strange aquamarine blue instead of her usual dark brown.
“I bring you greetings, Mablevi Atemu. Greetings from Isis herself.”
The name of the ultimate goddess of Egyptian mythology was enough to finish off what Lara’s miraculous appearance and incredible strength had failed to complete.
His eyes filled with black spots and he fainted dead away.
Lara rushed over to lean over Mablevi, checking his vitals to confirm that he’d only fainted. Behind her, the shouts of the camel drivers started to come closer. In seconds, they’d work their way around the block and she’d have many men’s eyes on her. Realizing that she’d be considered the manifestation of a living goddess, an event that would send profound ripples through all of North African and Middle-Eastern theology, she decided to save that treat for another time. She rose and leaped upward instead, concentrating all her strength once again on flight. Her acceleration was so rapid that she would have simply blinked out of sight if anyone had been watching.
Bare seconds passed before the sky turned purple above her, and the stars began to show themselves despite the noonday sun.
“Oh shiiittt,” Lara moaned with the last air in her lungs. She looked down to see the blue orb of Earth so far below. Her heart was racing, but she managed to relax her body, ending her rapid acceleration.
Unfortunately, her momentum was great enough to keep her racing upward. The Earth began to visibly shrink beneath her.
She tried to twist herself around, but it was nearly impossible in zero gravity. Finally, after several attempts, she managed to point her body back at the planet. She tensed her legs the same way as before, and exploded forward like a bullet from a gun.
Jim Mabry was helping his men herd their sheep down from the Scottish highlands when he was dazzled by a brilliant glare overhead. He looked up to see a meteor racing across the sky, the point of light so bright that it looked like an electric welding torch.
The blue-white glow intersected the face of Lockmare Mountain a mile away, and a spray of rock and smoke exploded outward from the impact side.
The ground lurched beneath his feet, and an earsplitting burst of ripping thunder drove him to his knees. Gasping in fear, his eardrums burst when the shock wave from the impact arrived seconds later, sending him tumbling across the meadow along with two hundred of his sheep and three herdsmen and two yelping sheep dogs.
Lara woke to find herself jammed into a narrow tunnel. She remembered her largely uncontrolled re-entry, and the way she’d tried to aim for the tiny spot that was Britain. She’d kept her body tense, trying to fly toward the rapidly growing island, only to find that she was blinded by the intense corona of superheated air that enveloped her as she descended. Flying blindly toward her last reference point, she’d crashed into something very hard.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been out of it. Seconds, minutes, hours? All she knew was that she was surrounded by cold rock.
Her best guess was that she’d hit the side of a mountain and embedded herself in the rock, much like a bullet would in a tree. She tried to spread her arms to her sides, and indeed, the surrounding rocks began to crack and pop, but they didn’t move very much. She tried again as she struggled to ball herself up, finally managing to form a small pocket in the rock. She turned to look back up a long tunnel toward a point of light at the end. She saw a cloud drifting past.
Convinced now that she’d indeed flown into a mountainside, she put her newfound flying power to use. She leaped with all the strength in her legs as she turned on her flying power.
As before, she overdid it. She was moving at rifle bullet velocities as she exited the twenty-foot long tunnel. Yet instead of climbing out of the atmosphere this time, she extended her arms and hands and tried to use them as flight surfaces. Seconds later, she was skimming across the Highlands, soaring down the long valleys and up over the ridgelines and peaks at fantastic speed.
It was the most exhilarating moment of her life!
She’d just about gotten the hang of atmospheric flight when the farmland below began to become dotted with houses. She dropped lower yet, barely above the trees, and streaked into London from the north, her speed just below Mach 4.
Two hours and a lot of broken glass and a couple of flattened cars later, she gripped the security padlock on an unused service door in an alley behind the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. She gave a quickly look around, saw no one, and squeezed the lock as hard as she could. The steel gave off a piercing squeal and crushed in her hand, and the hasp snapped free of the mangled lock.
She opened the door and began sprinting up the staircase toward the Piccadilly Suite, her home whenever she spent time in London. She was soon faced with a locked door to the suite that she didn’t want to force for fear of drawing attention. Debating how best to get in, she had a sudden inspiration. She stuck her fingernail into the lock and twisted. The steel cylinder shattered and the door opened.
She collapsed into the bathtub minutes later, the water hot and soapy. Then she took a long shower, the water turned to full hot, filling the suite with steam. That was followed by a quick survey of her closets to find a black pant suit, one that she’d wore on those rare occasions when she was trying to impress a man. Or seduce him. The front was cut very low, revealing the charms that had always drawn men’s eyes to her.
She opened the safe and took out her backup wallet and credit cards, and put in a call for the locksmith to fix the door. Once he arrived, she headed down the elevator and into the lobby.
Isis had given her less than forty-eight hours to find Superman and cement the bond between them that would ensure her continued powers.
A quick look at the London Times revealed two articles about Superman. Also a reference to Metropolis and a very wealthy businessman named Lex Luthor. She smiled, realizing that Isis had created an entire dimension filled with the reality and knowledge of Superman and his friends. She flipped through the pages and found a scathing editorial denouncing Lex Luthor’s predatory business practices. He’d apparently just collapsed the British aerospace industry.
She decided to take a taxi to Heathrow, and booked a Virgin Atlantic flight across the pond. Instead of New York, the largest city in the US was now called Metropolis.
She knew she could have flown there under her own power, but there was so much to learn about the changes in her world and she needed time to study it. In many ways, this world was the same, although enough of the details were different to cause confusion. Fortunately, reading newspapers and surfing the Net all away across the Atlantic enabled her to get the gist of most of the changes.
She quickly decided it wasn’t going to be hard to find Superman. While ordinary people seemed oblivious to true abilities of the man who masqueraded as Clark Kent, Lara knew everything there was to know about him. And as soon as she got close to him, she knew she’d be able to see through his disguise, both literally and figuratively. She could now see through just about anything, which had made walking through the airport a bit disconcerting. The trick was to only use her x-ray vision when she needed it.
The magazines on the airplane revealed that Superman was a very public figure in this world. She read accounts of his superhuman feats everywhere. The man who’d always been portrayed in the comic books as the ultimate Boy Scout had been hard at work since he’d left Smallville.
The plane landed at Luthordome outside Metropolis, and she took another cab into the city. There she debated walking in the front door of the Planet and asking for Kent’s office, but in the end, she decided to be more cautious. Superman had both friends and enemies and she wasn’t ready to meet any of them.
Instead, she forced the lock of a service entrance and found the private elevator that led to the editorial offices. A burst of heat vision burned out the locked call button, and the doors opened.
Kent’s office was easy to find, given that she could see through walls as easily as air now. She pulled the fire alarm in the hallway to create a distraction, and waited until everyone in the newsroom had cleared out. Then she strolled in and slipped through the door of Clark Kent’s private office.
She was startled to find an extremely attractive blonde girl sitting on a metal-framed dais over near the windows. She looked up calmly as Lara entered, hands clasped between her legs. She looked sad. “It’s about time you got here. What did you do to my father?”
Lara just stared. The girl was seventeen, maybe eighteen, 5’8” tall, and was wearing a black dress that left her shoulders bare. The outfit rose to close with a choker around her neck. Her skirt was very short, and her legs were wrapped in a wide fishnet of gold strands. Startlingly, a faint ‘S’ emblem rested high between her small breasts.
“Supergirl?” Lara blurted out.
“Duh,” the girl said as she rose to float in mid-air, her tiny skirt revealing legs that were long and shapely, her skin a wondrous golden shade of tan. “Actually, I prefer my given name. Mischa. Mischa Kent.”
“Mischa,” Lara repeated, rolling the word around on her tongue. She’d never heard that name before.
“You need to tell me what you did to my dad. Right now. Before my mom finds you.” Her voice was deceptively calm, every word smoothly but precisely articulated. “And before I kick your ass halfway to Kansas.”
Lara ignored the threat as her thoughts raced. Kal was married? He had a daughter? She hadn’t ever read anything about that. Clearly, Isis had taken some liberties with her teenage memories, making it hard for Lara to integrate the differences between the three worlds. Her old one, the one that had been written about in graphic novels, and now this so-called new reality that blended the two together. With a few twists.
Lara pulled her thoughts back to the present as she remembered her urgent mission. “I need to see your father, Mischa. Quickly. Both our lives are at stake.”
“Like hell you are. I’m getting you as far from him as possible. As in, out of this whole damn solar system.” Mischa reached out to grab Lara’s wrist, jerking her off her feet. She began to fly toward the window.
Lara pulled back, struggling to fly the other way, but the girl was both stronger and more experienced. Lara grabbed Mischa’s hair and twisted her head to the side, only to be blinded when the girl’s eyes blazed into hers, filling her eyes with tears. The little bitch had used her heat vision!
Blinded, it was all Lara could do to slip her hands down Mischa’s wrists to interlace with her fingers. She tried to twist her hands backward, only to find that Mischa was stronger. She bent Lara’s fingers until they felt like they were going to break. The unexpected pain robbed Lara of her concentration, and Mischa took advantage of the lapse to pull Lara closer to the window. Lara fought back even harder, turning their struggle into a contest of raw strength.
A contest Lara quickly found she was losing.
Mischa was just about to pull her through the window when she heard herself shout: “Shal’akmaree.”
Lara had no idea what the word meant, it had obviously come from Isis, but it worked. The girl froze to float in mid-air.
“Hold her upper arms with both hands,” Isis commanded, her inner voice strong now. “I need better contact with her body.”
Lara slipped her hands upward along Mischa’s arms, surprised to feel the powerful muscles that lurked beneath the deceptively soft skin. Lara squeezed her flesh with all her strength, finding that the girl seemed frozen in place, muscles hard as steel, her eyes staring unblinking back into her own.
“I need better contact. Wet your lips and connect to her.”
“You mean, kiss her?”
“Complete the connection. Quickly, before I lose her. Her mind is amazingly resilient.”
Lara wasn’t fond of that idea, but she knew better than to refuse Isis. She ran her tongue over her full lips to wet them and did as Isis requested.
The girl gave off a little squeal as their lips touched, her neck muscles straining against Lara’s strength as she struggled to turn her head. It was Lara who turned her head slightly and opened her lips to kiss the girl deeply, their feminine softness melting together.
“That’s it… harder. Your tongue too,” Isis murmured inside her head.
Lara’s kissed the girl deeper as she found that she tasted faintly of honey and wildflower. Her delicious perfume sent an unwanted flurry of tingles tracing through Lara’s body again.
“Interesting… her mother is a Velorian. I guess it figures that a Kryptonian would choose such a woman to bear his children. Procreators they are.”
“Velorians?” Lara gasped as she broke the kiss. “You mentioned that word before. Another one of the races you’ve invented?”
“Hardly. They are one of our foes, but are otherwise much like your invented Kryptonians. This girl would surely try to kill you if she knew what you were.”
“I was human the last time I checked,” Lara quipped. “Now I’m Kryptonian. I think.”
“Not exactly, Lara dear. Not with me inside your head. Instead, you are mostly an Elder, along with that imaginative bit of so-called Kryptonian tossed in.”
Lara was staggered. She was an Elder? The same race as the goddess Isis?
“How do you like being a goddess?” Isis asked.
Lara could have sworn she heard Isis laugh at her reaction, only to be assaulted with another wave of images. They were vision from Supergirl’s life, the flashes of light playing forward at hundreds of times normal speed. “What are you going to do with her, Isis?”
“The usual. Find out what we can about her, and then make her forget everything, including her name.”
The kaleidoscope of images slowed on a memory of her making love to a young man inside a large cave filled with scientific equipment. A caped black uniform with bat-like ears lay on the floor beside a red and blue uniform. Supergirl was having an affair with Batman? Lara started to laugh, only to have the images begin to race forward again.
“Will she remember us?”
“Maybe, maybe not. Velorian brains are hard to predict. She might never regain them or she might be clear as a bell an hour from now. Connect me to her again.”
Lara kissed the girl deeply again, and this time she felt a surging swell of power rushing from her body to the girl’s. The perfumed scent of wildflowers grew stronger, and Lara felt the girl’s tongue move as she tried to kiss her back. Startled, Lara broke off her kiss. “Is she waking up?”
“Yes. Now get rid of her. Quickly.”
Lara carried the girl over to the window and pushed her out it. Presumably, the fall from the 83rd floor wouldn’t hurt a Velorian/Kryptonian. She’d simply wake up in an alley with a bad case of amnesia.
Lara returned to search Kal’s desk drawers, looking for his PDA. She found it, and began to search for the home address for the Kent family. She quickly found it as well, along with a reference to a woman named Rachael Kent. The mother, no doubt. The address was a high-rise bordering Central Park. Expensive real estate for a reporter’s salary.
Slipping the PDA into the pocket of her silk pants, Lara dove out the same window. Yet instead of falling like Kal’s daughter, she flew under her own power toward the Kent address.
Rachael Kent was halfway through the board meeting when her phone softly buzzed inside her purse. She glanced through the expensive leather to image the text message on the phone display. Someone had tripped the alarm back at her apartment.
She cursed silently. Of all the bad timing in the world! Here she was, trying to close a half billion-dollar deal to buy out a rival software company, and someone was breaking into her apartment.
The fact that Kal was still there was hardly a comfort. He was so weak after his last mission that he couldn’t fly. Someone or something had zapped him bad. It wasn’t green K. He didn’t have that pale aura around his body. Maybe some kind of red K. Whatever it was, if the person who’d zapped him showed up now, he or she could easily finish the job.
Rachael glanced at the meeting agenda. Easily an hour to go. As CEO of IBM’s newest affiliate, Armitage Software, she had a responsibility to get this deal completed as fast as possible. She glanced again at the message on her phone, the conflict between her professional and personal life tugging her in two directions.
It was an unfamiliar conflict, for she wasn’t used to protecting Kal. She’d come here to protect the planet Earth, although her marriage to Kal had made that immensely easier. She’d since broken most of the rules that she’d been sworn to uphold as a Protector, the most recent violation having been Mischa’s birth. She’d told herself that she no longer cared about Velor. Earth was her home now.
She resolved the conflict the only way she could. She reached into her bag and pulled out her phone, pretending to read the display before looking around at the rest of the Directors. “Gentlemen, I’m afraid I have a personal emergency. We’ll have to resume this meeting in the morning. I’m sorry.”
Before they could protest, she rose and headed toward the exit, quickly putting the muttering voices behind her as the heavy door closed. She paused in the 103rd floor lobby of the Commerce Center to stare out the window. Her tachyon vision penetrated the brick and steel of her apartment building five miles away, revealing that the patio door had been forced open. She saw a hint of movement inside the apartment, but it was too far away to make out clearly.
She spun around and entered the stairwell, floating upward five flights to emerge just outside the atrium of her penthouse office. “Michelle,” she called as she swept through the outer office, “I’m leaving. The back way.”
Her Admin quickly rose and locked the outer door, then joined her boss in her office. Rachael’s white dress was already lying on her desk, leaving her standing nude in the middle of the room. Since Velor had decertified her as a Protector, she’d not worn her indestructible red and blues, turning them over to Mischa instead, who amused herself by dressing up as Protector from time to time. Besides, bare skin was the best for rapid flight.
Michelle walked over to pick up the dress and hide it in the usual place. “Is Kal sick again, Rachael?”
Rachael opened the large skylight that formed the ceiling of her office. “Somebody’s breaking into our apartment. And yes, he’s still too sick to protect himself.”
“What should I tell the Board?”
“Whatever you want. Make up some kind of personal emergency. Be creative.”
With that, Rachael leaped into the air and vanished out the skylight.
Michelle turned calmly and walked back to her office, and dialed a private number. “She just left, Mr. Luthor. Something about a break-in at her apartment. She said her husband was still sick.”
Twenty seconds later, Rachael was decelerating rapidly over her multi-million dollar penthouse apartment. She’d paid for it from her money, as Kal’s tiny salary from the Planet could barely cover the utilities.
She was still moving fast when she dove into the lush garden of twenty-foot trees and plants that covered the rooftop patio. There she quickly donned a brown, leather trench coat that was hanging on a hook by the door.
Scanning through the walls, she was shocked to see an attractive woman with raven black hair straddling Kal on the bed. Shockingly, he was reaching up to hold her remarkably large breasts as they made love.
She gasped, her first thought one of disbelief that he’d regained enough strength to even have sex. He’d been too weak for that when she’d left a few hours earlier.
Her second thought was one of betrayal, but she quickly pushed that away, finding it unworthy for someone who’d grown up on Velor. If Kal wanted to have an affair, that was his business.
But not with a Prime who was obviously intending to kill him in the act. He should be fighting the woman off, not giving in to her. Kal had been around long enough to know the degenerate ways that Arion women killed men, teasing them in bed until their hearts collapsed from exhaustion. Or simply crushing them during their passion.
The two of them were far too busy with each other to notice Rachael as she floated through the bedroom door and stood watching, her blue eyes taking in every detail. It didn’t take long to realize that the woman wasn’t a Prime as she’d first suspected. She was good, but she didn’t have a Supremis’ extraordinary sexual skills. Instead, she was making love rather clumsily, like a human, her movements jerky and forced, almost as if she didn’t understand her own strength.
Surprisingly, Kal seemed to be enjoying it anyway. Even more amazing, the woman was taking all of his remarkable length. Her body was made for such pleasures. A human’s wasn’t.
Truly puzzled now, Rachael tried to approach the problem the way a Velorian should. With objectivity and curiosity and not emotion. Walking to the side, she watched her husband’s face, only to see the look in his eyes that said he was about to finish. Shocked by that, and knowing that his powerful release was a threat to not only this woman but to the other residents of the building, she tore her coat open and threw herself at the two of them, pushing the woman away hard enough to send her crashing into the wall.
Rachael was left staring down at Kal’s magnificence as it rose like a spear from the apex of his hard-muscled legs. She saw the muscles of his pelvis steeling, preparing his incredible Kryptonian strength for that single, explosive act. He was in some kind of erotic trance, his eyes glazed over, the sweat pouring off his forehead as he seemed to be compelled to perform his sexual duties. Despite being in anything but an amorous mood, Rachael threw herself over him, taking him deeply the wetness of her always-ready Velorian body. His eyes opened wide as he saw through the haze enough to recognize her face, and he gave her a twisted smile just before his face exploded into a grimace of sexual release, his abs flexing to steel as he thrust himself into her with all his Kryptonian power.
An explosion that was nearly nuclear in power burst deep inside Rachael’s body, male hormones meeting female in the way of the Supremis, a weak form of anti-matter that exploded with enough power to launch her body with all the power of a cannon shell. It was all she could do to hang onto her husband’s hips with her knees as she rolled him over, struggling to contain him long enough to wrap her legs around him. She used her powerful hamstrings to dig her heels into his ass the way she had a thousand times before. As always, it took all of her Protector’s strength to contain the orgasmic power of such a powerful Kryptonian. Especially since his orgasm was nothing like that of a human male. Instead, it was closer to a woman’s. Instead of a brief peak of pleasure followed by the exhaustion of ejaculation, it came across him as waves of mind-bending pleasure, each wave falling and rising, with his body ejaculating during each crest of pleasure. In such a way, he was very much like a Supremis.
Kal’s face was flushed, his cries of pleasure/pain echoing from the walls. Rachael rode him, using all her skills to focus his strength inside her body, protecting not only the mysterious woman, but also the other residents, even the very building itself. Despite Kal’s weakness, it was clearly going to take many minutes to exhaust him.
Turning her head, Rachael saw the raven-haired woman floating weightlessly over the bed. All the more evidence that she wasn’t a Prime, Rachael thought to herself. The woman was staring angrily down at Rachael, acting hurt, almost as if she was the one who deserved to be enjoying sex with her husband.
A flash of jealous anger found its way to the surface of Rachael’s thoughts, something that was out of place for the usually democratic sexual nature of a Velorian. She rolled herself back upright, straddling Kal beneath her as she rode him harder, and glaring back into the woman’s eyes at the same time. “Who in the hell do you think…”?
Rachael’s words were choked off as the woman dropped down to wrap her arms and legs around her from the back, straddling Kal as well. The sensation of her touch radiated like an electric shock through Rachael’s body, and a strange thought formed in her mind: it was an image of Kal dying, his body dry and wasted.
“My name is Lara,” she whispered in Rachael’s ear. “And that image is what will become of your husband if he and I don’t mate. Now.”
Only Lara knew that the words were really those of Isis.
Rachael froze as she felt the woman’s hands slip under her arms to rise and cup her breasts, her fingers closing to hold her with tremendous strength. Like a Velorian. An unbidden surge of arousal exploded through her body as old reflexes were triggered. While she’d been able to compartmentalize the pleasant sensations that Kal was creating inside her, she could not resist this mental assault on her libido at the same time. She felt helpless as the woman lifted her off Kal, and then pushed her forward to straddle his stomach as she quickly took Rachael’s place. The raven-haired woman gasped in erotic pleasure as Kal crested a peak and came again, a blaze of heat washing against Rachael’s back.
Lara’s breathing grew faster and deeper as she began to rock herself back and forth, her hands holding Rachael’s breasts so tightly that she felt as if she was melting into the other woman.
Rachael in turn was shocked to find that she could feel Kal’s hardness as if it was inside her own body, a distinctly feminine rush of excitement signaling the approach of the woman’s orgasm.
A orgasm that Rachael sensed, even felt, but wasn’t hers.
Lara screamed a few moments later, with Rachael joining her, the two women locked together in superhuman ecstasy as they experienced the same wondrous sensations.
Lara barely had the presence of mind to roll Kal over, her legs wrapping so tightly around his body now, leaving Rachael gasping and crying out as their senses merged even further.
More of Isis’ magic, Lara thought to herself.
“Oh divine one, it is so wonderful to feel such mortal power, such pleasure again…” Isis cried out inside Lara’s head, her strength coming from sensing both women’s pleasures at the same time, then Kal’s as well.
The three of them began to move as one, every thought aligned with Isis’ needs, all intent on bringing the goddess her pleasures. Ten minutes of ecstasy passed all too quickly, and then Kal collapsed, his eyes rolling up in his head as he passed out.
Lara immediately felt herself separating from Rachael, her thoughts becoming her own again. Whatever mind melding that had been at work was now gone, with Isis retreating back to the dark recess she lived in. Lara rose from the bed, feeling used in one way, but incredibly satisfied in another. The air of the room was filled with the scent of wildflower and honey, which Lara found was keeping her horny despite the orgasm that had just ripped through her body. She reached out to Rachael, only to have the Velorian pull back.
Rachael’s eyes narrowed suspiciously as she stared at Lara. “What the hell just happened here?” she shouted. “Don’t you know who he is? Who I am?”
“I know exactly who he is,” Lara said softly. “And I know you are his wife.”
“Well, among other things,” Rachael said proudly. She barely resisted blurting out that she was both a CEO of a corporation and the Protector of Earth. Lara wouldn’t understand either achievement. “What did you do to us?” She looked down at Kal, seeing that he was barely breathing. “More importantly, to Kal?”
“He’ll live. And for the moment at least, Isis has been quieted.”
“Isis? Who the hell is Isis?” Rachael demanded.
Lara opened her mouth to explain, and then thought better of it. Isis had said the Velorians were enemies. “We have to find your daughter. Isis erased her memories. God knows where she’s wandering.”
“What!” Rachael gasped. She grabbed Lara by the arm and jerked her off the floor. “Where is Mischa? And who the hell is this Isis?”
Lara’s eyes flickered in anger for a moment, but she calmed herself as she saw the worry and motherly concern in Rachael’s eyes. “She’s an Egyptian goddess. Also an alien, much as you are.”
“And where is she now?” Rachael said, clenching her fists as she looked around. “What does she look like? How do I find her?”
“Well, in a way, I guess, she looks a lot like me.”
Rachael frowned. “How about explaining that so I can understand.”
Lara sat in the dining room of the Kent apartment three hours later as Rachael comforted her daughter. Her heart went out to Velorian. She’d found Mischa wandering the streets, lost and crying. Mischa hadn’t even recognized Rachael. She didn’t even know her own name.
Mischa finally curled up and fell asleep on the couch, looking far younger than she had in Clark’s office. Rachael covered her with a blanket and then sat down across the dining room table from Lara. “I think you’d better tell me more about this Isis. How do I contact her?”
“She’s inside my head, but she’s not always conscious. At least, I can’t always hear her.”
“And you said she was an Elder goddess who took over your body and helped you use Kal’s strength to get out of the chamber. Does that mean you and he are linked somehow?”
Lara nodded. “Near as I can tell, we have to have intimate contact periodically for the two of us to survive.”
“Periodically? How often?”
“I don’t have a clue,” Lara shrugged. “Guess when I start feeling weak or hungry or something.”
“Strange. This goddess in your head doesn’t seem all that willing to help you.”
“Isis saved my life, and she needs a body to give her motion and sensation, but she seems content to spend a lot of her time somewhere else. I think she lives in several dimensions at once.”
“A scary thought. So how do I ensure that Mischa gets her memories back? And Kal his strength?”
“I truly don’t know about Mischa, Rachael. Isis said something about the amnesia ranging from hours all the way up to permanent.”
“Shit,” Rachael cursed as she pounded the table nearly hard enough to break it.
“She did say that Mischa’s mind was unusually resilient, so that’s probably a good sign.”
“What about Kal then?”
Lara struggled to find the words. “That’s not as good of a situation. It seems that as long as I have his strength, he doesn’t. Except perhaps for moments, like earlier.”
“And that effort nearly killed him.”
Lara paused for a long moment to look into the Velorian’s eyes. “I intend to keep his abilities, Rachael.”
Rachael took a sharp breath, her eyes blazing with anger. Then she struggled as if she was trying to get control of her emotions, her eyes fading back to their usual blue. She finally nodded. “I guess I have to say that I appreciate your honesty, even if I hate the way you’re interfering in our lives this way.”
Lara shrugged. “I had no idea it would turn out this way. I didn’t even know you guys existed.”
“What would happen if I kept you away from my husband, Lara. Won’t his strength come back?”
“I don’t think so. Isis has done something to him. She said we’d both die without periodic contact with each other.”
Rachael cursed. She’d heard of such co-dependencies before, usually the result of Diaboli mischief. They usually manifested as sexual obsessions. Which made sense with a cursed Elder involved. She leaned back in her chair and sighed, thankful for at least one thing: Kal was awake and conscious. With any luck, the years he’d spent as Clark Kent, pretending to be human, would have prepared him for becoming one.
Mischa was a different story. She couldn’t start her life over, learning everything from zero. No, Rachael had to solve her daughter’s problem first. Kal would just have to wait for a cure. Assuming there was one.
“I’m going to bring Kal in on this, Lara. Maybe he has some ideas.”
Rachael rose and walked into the bedroom, only to emerge a few minutes later with Kal leaning on her arm. He looked very pale and weak. They sat next to each other on the couch.
Lara sat in a chair opposite them, resting one arm on her head, her other hand holding her unbuttoned top closed. She felt powerful and clear headed and healthier than she ever had before. She felt as if she could move planets if she put her mind to it.
Yet at the same time, she was very conscious of the forced intimacy Kal had undergone at Isis’ hands. She’d drained so much energy out of him that she’d nearly killed him. Lara knew it was technically rape, but she refused to say the word, even in her own thoughts.
Kal stared back accusingly at her. “So now that you’ve got my powers, what are you going to do with them, Lara Croft? Help Luthor, or help defeat him? Save the world, or line your own pockets.”
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” Lara admitted. “Getting out of that chamber beneath Cheops and then finding you have been my only priorities.” She paused as she saw the way Kal was looking so enviously at her. Despite having lived most of his days as Clark Kent, he clearly was lost without his unique abilities.
She suddenly felt apologetic. “I was trapped and dying in this chamber, Kal. I had no idea you even existed, I thought you were just a fantasy that found its way into my last thoughts. What’s happened since is all Isis’ fault.”
Kal nodded slowly. “I understand that much. And without her intervention, you’d be dead. Right?”
“True. But I still want to 0apologize for messing up your lives. You, Rachael and Mischa. Isis was trapped in that chamber as well, and when she saw my final fantasy, she saw an opportunity to escape.”
Kal glared at her. “How could you not know about me? I seem to be in the headlines more often than not.”
“Something has happened to my continuity, and perhaps yours, Kal. This isn’t the world I knew.”
“Cross dimensional materialization,” Kal growled. “I’ve dealt with that before. It’s fixable, but only by the person who created it.”
“Lara’s got this entity, this Elder, in her head, Kal,” Rachael offered. “We know her as an Egyptian deity, but she claims to be an Elder goddess.”
Kal blanched. “That’s very bad news. Elder power is the one thing that I can’t fight on my own, any more than a Supremis could.”
“Some call it magic,” Rachael added.
Kal leaned forward, his blue eyes blazing into Lara’s. “All I know, Lara Croft, is that you will get this goddess of yours to fix my daughter’s memories. Whatever happens to you and me is not important. But Mischa is Earth’s future.”
Lara flew back to London three days later. She’d spent that time trying to unsuccessfully awaken Isis. Kal and Rachael had decided that she might as well pick up her life where she’d left off, figuring that Isis might return to her sooner if her mind was relaxed and she was in familiar surroundings.
She crossed the Atlantic under her own power this time, finding that it took her less than thirty minutes to get from the Kent apartment to her home in Wimbledon. She landed on her upstairs balcony and dove into the shower before her glowing skin could set the wallpaper on fire. She still hadn’t mastered the art of flying slowly.
Once she emerged, it took her more than an hour to convince Tony, her long-time butler and friend who was now well into his fifties, that she was indeed the woman he’d been working for all those years. All the while, his shotgun had been aimed at her chest.
However, after she described enough events that the two of them had shared, things that only Lara Croft would know, he’d grudging accepted it was her. He said she looked the same now as when he’d first laid eyes on her.
Lara led the way into the basement exercise room, and asked Tony to load a new program into her battle robot. A cut from Nine Inch Nails was beating loudly in the background. She focused on the small mirror on the other side of the room watching Tony’s eyes on her back as she pulled her shirt off and donned the black sleeveless top that she always wore when she worked out.
“Your body is so fit now that it defies belief.”
“Thanks. I think,” Lara said as she turned around to smile at him.
“I don’t want the safeties engaged today, Tony. And set the intensity on Maximum.”
He started to protest, but then thought better of it. Lara had asked for safeties off before, which meant that the ‘bot could kill her if she didn’t defend herself properly, but never when set to Maximum power. Instead, he just asked, “You sure about that, Lara?”
She nodded. “No safeties and maximum intensity.”
“It might be messy picking up the pieces.”
“Of the ‘bot you mean?”
“I think I’m going to surprise you.”
“It’s your funeral.” He nervously punched in the numbers, but palmed the remote control that activated the emergency shutoff. He wasn’t sure that would help during a fast-paced battle, but it was the best he could do to protect his employer from her foolishness.
The ‘bot lurched to its feet, all four of them, a ton of high-tech killing machine. It had originally been developed as a military defense ‘bot in the US before the US Congress had decided during one of its rare moments of charity that it was unethical to deploy such a lethal and unstoppable machine. Lara had paid fifty million dollars to buy it and the support equipment, and had since used it for her own training. Its legs had blades and saws and boring machines attached, all designed to allow it to not only penetrate secure facilities, but to deal with any attackers along the way. Its outer shell was made of a titanium-stainless-ceramic alloy that could stop an anti-tank shell.
It leaped toward Lara, only to land in the middle of a suddenly empty floor.
Tony stared in astonishment as Lara dashed around the room, moving faster than his eyes could track, skillfully avoiding the super-fast attacks of the ‘bot. She always popped up to hit it from behind, often as not knocking it across the room with her fists. The ‘bot would spin around cat-like in mid-air and land on its legs to leap back at her.
He was astounded by Lara’s newfound athleticism. First she loses thirty years, and how she was punching away as if she was Supergirl. Lara had always been unnaturally strong, but this was ridiculous in the extreme.
The ‘bot didn’t know that. It just kept ramping up its power to try to defeat her. It came at her with its circular saw blade whirring ominously the next time, and Lara leaped off the floor and came down on the blade, clamping it off between her bare legs. The saw motor groaned and buzzed for a few moments before overloading and exploding in a shower of sparks.
Tony stared in even greater astonishment. The saw should have cut her in half.
Then Lara did something even more amazing. She froze in the middle of the room and let the ‘bot come straight for her. It was thirty feet away and traveling fast when she unleashed a blinding burst of light from her eyes. Two laser-like beams reached out at light-speed to punch a hole all the way through the ‘bot, sending molten metal flying out the backside like a firework. The ‘bot crashed to a stop at her feet; another shower of sparks exploding from inside it. The glow of its mechanical eyes faded and then went out.
“Jesus Christ, Lara, you killed it! With just your eyes? Who in the hell are you really? Supergirl?”
Lara turned to give him a cute curtsy. “I thought you already knew that,” she winked.
“If so, then you’ve done a good job of hiding your blonde wig all these years.”
She laughed. “Let’s just say I had an encounter with her father. And I picked up a few talents along the way.”
“Yeah. And you lost thirty years in the process. I’m envious as hell.”
Lara walked over to pick up her trademarked 9mm Automags. “Don’t be. It came with a steep price.” She cycled the slides to load a chamber into the chambers. “Why don’t you take these and try to hit me.”
“You just saw what I can do. I’m bulletproof too.”
“This is fucking, humanly impossible, Lara.”
“No argument here. But I’m something more than merely human now.”
“What did you do? Drain the stuffing out of Superman?”
Lara looked sharply at Tony, realizing that he was just guessing. She shrugged. “Something like that.” She crossed the guns over her chest as her eyes glowed aquamarine in the dim light, and slowly levitated off the floor. She made a circuit of the room before landing in front of him to hand him the Automags. “Which gives me a few new talents.”
Tony was looking around for the wires as Lara walked halfway across the room. She stopped and turned back to face Tony. “I’ll let you get the first shot in, Tony, just to make sure you aren’t squeamish about trying to hit me.” She pointed at a spot on her stomach. “How about aiming right here.”
Tony picked up one of the Automags and flipped the safety off. He started to raise it, but couldn’t bring himself to point it at Lara.
“I’m serious, Tony. You can’t hurt me.”
She wasn’t going to tell him that she hadn’t been shot at since she borrowed Kal’s powers, and had no idea what it was going to feel like. But if she could dive head first into a granite mountain at Mach 8, then bullets were unlikely to have much effect. On the other hand, she did know exactly what bullets had felt like before. She’d taken a .44 Magnum through the chest in Tibet. A fatal shot for anyone else. Yet between her robust alpha-alel3 genes and that guru’s weird healing talent, she’d healed so completely that the entry wound near her nipple had disappeared completely.
It was there, lying in the monastery high in the Himalayas while healing from what should have been a mortal wound, when she’d opened herself up to the possibility that there were things beyond the knowledge of most men that were shaping the history and future of Earth. She’d begun to study the legends of the great healer, Isis, shortly after that.
Tony lifted the Automag again, his hand shaking as he tried to aim it at her bare midriff. He closed his eyes as he squeezed off the shot. The bullet slammed into the wall behind Lara, the shell casing tinkling as it rolled across the stone floor to rest at her feet.
“How about keeping your eyes open next time.”
“This is insane, Lara. You’ll be killed.”
“How long have you worked for me, Tony?”
He had to think for a moment. “Thirty-seven years? More or less.”
“And in that time, we’ve had every kind of adventure. Including people shooting at us lots of times. And me shooting back. Don’t you think I know what my own Automags can do? And that I’d never ask you do anything to truly harm me.”
Tony stared at her, his eyes still filled with the amazing image of her blasting the battle ‘bot apart with nothing more than her eyes. That, and the fact that she looked thirty years younger. He realized on an intellectual level that something profound had happened to her. But on an emotional level, he still saw her as a woman that he cared for. A woman he’d secretly been in love with since the first day they’d met.
He took a deep breath and aimed again. He waited this time until the sight image settled down and centered on her navel. Holding his breath, he focused on that singles spot as he squeezed the trigger. The gun boomed and Lara went flying backward to slam against the far wall, hitting at the same time as the tinkle of brass hit the floor. Tony started to race toward her, only to see her stand back up to rub a smudge off her skin just above her belly button.
“Cool. It felt like a sharp blow, but didn’t really hurt. I’ll try to stand still the next time.”
“Next time?” Tony gasped, staring down at Lara’s perfectly smooth skin. Her abs were the tightest he’d ever seen.
“Use both Automags, like I sometimes do, and blast away. You’re bound to hit me a few times.”
Tony felt as if he was in a weird dream as he raised both guns. He started pulling the triggers as fast he could, his aim far better than Lara had expected. Nearly every round hit her, the force spinning her body this way or that. He hit her more than twenty times before the slides locked open. He just gawked at her now. There was very little left of her top, her left breast totally revealed, what was left of her shirt peppered with large holes. Her eyes looked funny, a bit crossed, smoldering, slightly out of focus. He sniffed, and smelled a strange flowery scent filling the room.
The scent hit him like a ton of bricks, racing inward to find the controls for his usually restrained libido.
“Come here,” she said, motioning with one finger.
He set the smoking guns down and walked up to her; barely able to walk he was so aroused, trying not to stare at the way her nipples were standing up like small thumbs. She took his hands and raised them to her chest, wrapping his fingers around the soft, firmness of the breasts he’d so long dreamed of touching. Despite their long years together, their relationship had always been a most professional one.
“Do I still feel human?” Tony. “Or like some kind of alien.”
His heart raced so fast it nearly leaped from his chest, and his libido escaped beyond his control at the touch of her softness. “Oh, God, Lara. Like a goddess.”
The following week proved to be a busy one as Tony worked with Lara to perfect her borrowed talents. By now, she was able to fly fast and slow, even to hover in the air while holding some very heavy weights.
She practiced walking across the wet grass of the lawn while holding her Hummer over her head, the soles of her bare feet just brushing the tops of the blades.
She sat in one side of the house and read books that were still on the shelf in the library on the other side of the house.
She learned to weld with her eyes, and cut steel like a cutting torch.
She learned to stretch and tear steel bars as if they were warm taffy. She also learned how to shake Tony’s hand without breaking his bones. And to box with him without taking his head off. Her strength was proving to be the hardest thing to learn to control.
The bell on the front gate rang on Saturday afternoon. A messenger dropped off a card addressed to her. It described a place along the perimeter of Cairo that she knew well. It was an ancient fortress that was surrounded by huge stone towers. They’d once been the shooting stands for archers protecting the fortress.
The invitation was for her to be there in thirty minutes.
Clearly, whoever sent it knew exactly how fast she could travel from Wimbledon to Cairo.
Lara undressed and packed a couple of simple outfits into the insulated metal foil backpack that Tony had bought. It was made out of the same material that astronauts used in their spacesuits. Then she leaped naked from her balcony and streaked off toward the east.
Twenty minutes later, she was walking between the hundred meter tall stone towers, dressed in a black top and leather pants, feeling like a hobbit in a land of giants. The sun was starting to get low, sending slanting beams of amber sunlight through the rock walls, highlighting the desert sand that hung in the air.
Despite the bright light, she never saw her attacker until it was too late.
The first hint of attack came with a stunning blow that sent her spinning into the closest pillar, shattering the meter thick stone. Severed from its foundation, the thousand-year old pillar toppled and fell with a roar that shook the earth, taking down two smaller pillars with it. Lara brushed away the shattered stone that covered her; astounded that anyone could have hit her that hard. She got back to her feet, only to see a blonde woman in a flowered bikini holding up one of the weakened pillars. Stunned, Lara watched her float upward with the hundred-meter tall pillar in her hands, straightening it before jamming it back into its foundation. It had to have weighed thousands of tons if it weighed an ounce!
Lara blinked the remaining spots from her eyes as she studied the woman. She appeared to be in her thirties, her waist-length hair shimmering with highlights of gold and red as it picked up the color of the setting sun. She was extremely muscular and tall, about 5’11”, Lara estimated, her legs long and lean. She was also stunningly attractive, the pupils of her blue eyes as clear and bottomless as her own, her skin a beautiful shade of gold.
The woman looked supremely confident as she crossed her arms and stared back at Lara. “Who in the hell are you and what have you done with my cousin?” she demanded. “And how did you wipe out my niece’s memories?”
Reacting by instinct instead of digesting the woman’s words, Lara leaped up to grab the blonde’s wrists, trying to pin them behind her back. They struggled for a few moments, both of them grunting in exertion before it was the blonde who managed to pin Lara’s hands behind her back. Lara continued to twist and turn, trying desperately to pull her wrists free, but the blonde’s grip on her wrists was painfully tight.
“Who in the hell are you?” the blonde grunted as she struggled to keep Lara’s arms pinned. The look on her face said she was astounded by Lara’s strength.
“I’m Lara Croft. An Egyptologist.”
“Ah, the woman who steals the artifacts of these poor Egyptians. And then fucks my cousin half to death and zaps my niece with a mental block of some kind.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Lara blurted out loud. “Kal’s your cousin? Then that means you are…” Lara’s voice trailed off as she drew a blank on the name of Kal’s cousin from the graphic novels of her youth.
“Kara Zor-El,” the blonde said as she saw the blank look in Lara’s eyes. “They used to call me Supergirl before Mischa was born.”
Lara frowned as she felt her muscles starting to burn from her exertions. Kara was even stronger than Mischa had been. She cursed under her breath. Clearly Isis was going to continue to complicate this world. First Kal comes to her in her dying fantasy, and she winds up with his power. That part was incredible enough, but then she’d met his daughter, who in turn wanted to launch her out of the solar system. Then his wife, Rachael, who seemed very understanding enough about it all, which was weird enough on its own. Kal had attributed that to her being Velorian. And now his cousin shows up, not wearing a silly costume like the big guy, but still very much here in the flesh.
Lara decided she’d had just about enough of it all.
“Isis,” she called out, “what’s this all about now?”
“Isis, get back here and talk to me.”
“What did you expect, Lara,” the goddess in her head started to explain. “I couldn’t just adjust parts of your dream. I had to adjust all realities in this dimension to match it.”
“I don’t understand…” Lara sighed. Isis was starting to drive her crazy. “Dimensions, realities.”
“It’s actually very simple. I changed the reality of this dimension to allow the man of your dreams to save you. Now, since he exists, all the other people who are related to him or know him must exist as well. It was the only way I could live again.”
“So Kal and I are really going to be a threesome? Along with his wife.” Lara felt a flush of desire at that thought. Rachael had been sexy and desirable in her own way. Something about being Velorian she assumed. But it was Kal that really made her wild, at least when he had his strength.
“An unusual relationship, I admit. But a necessary part of our reality.”
“Reality?” Lara shouted out loudly. “This isn’t reality, Isis. This is insanity.” Lara felt proud of the way she’d taken this last week in stride, but nothing had been written or said about Kal’s cousin. Now she shows up, angry and combative.
“I found her in another dimension and brought her here. I’m still trying to complete all the aspects of the world that is stored in your memories.”
Lara glanced up at Kara, and saw the questioning look in her eyes as she continued to talk, seemingly to herself. The Kryptonian obviously thought she was insane.
“So exactly who or what are you?” Kara asked. “Something out of Luthor’s stinking labs?”
Lara’s aquamarine eyes stared calmly back into Kara’s blue. “No, I’ve never met him. But that said, it appears as if the two of us have something in common.”
“Obviously the same muscles,” Kara grunted as Lara twisted her body powerfully again, “more or less that is.” She felt Lara starting to tire. “But I thought Kal and I were the only survivors from Krypton.”
“And I thought Kal was stronger than you? Which means I should have been.”
“He is,” Kara said as she cautiously released her grip on Lara’s wrists. “But he’s got twice my muscle to work with. Unlike your skinny bod.”
Lara nodded. “So that part of Kryptonian physiology is the same as human.”
“How strange…” Lara started to say.
“So how did you do it? Take my cousin’s powers?”
“I don’t have a clue,” Lara shrugged. “It just happened.” The words were barely out of her mouth when she thought of something. Isis worked off what she remembered from her teenage reading about Kryptonians. What if she offered Isis something new to ‘remember’ from her past? She had nothing to lose by trying. “Actually, Kara, I think that by working together, maybe we can make it right. As I draw his power off, you replace it. You can pick up power from the sun and bring it to him, and all three of us will be better for it.”
Lara actually had no idea how that would work, but if Isis accepted it as fact, then she’d make the physics possible.
“I mean, clearly his own daughter can’t help with that, even if she recovers,” Lara continued. “And Rachael isn’t Kryptonian.”
“And this power is shared exactly how?” Kara asked cautiously, flexing her cramping hands.
Lara just smiled “In a way I suspect you’ll enjoy. That is, if the rumors of your and Kal’s secret relationship are true.” She was making that up too, but Isis wouldn’t know it.
“What relationship?” Kara asked, a blank look on her face.
“The one that started when you were fifteen. The one that continues to this day.”
Lara watched Kara’s face, only to see her look change from blankness to an embarrassed blush. Isis had obviously picked up the suggestion and had just adjusted their reality again, thinking it was just another part of fulfilling Lara’s dream. Kara’s memories were now aligned to that new reality.
“Nobody… I mean, nobody knows about that.” Kara’s face was truly red now. “We always went off-planet when we…”
“Isis knows. And now me.”
“Don’t you dare tell Rachael or I’ll…”
Lara waved her objection away. “Your secrets are safe with me, Kara. I just need your help to save Kal.”
“Ah, yeah, sure, anything. What kind of help?” The red glow had started to fade from her cheeks.
“I can explain better if I tell you a little story, Kara. A story about an Elder goddess. A goddess who can make all our dreams come true.”
--- End of Part 1 ---