Author: Crazed Attourney
With a growl of frustration Willow pushed the heavy textbook away from her - her mind a jumble of numbers, letters and equations. The last few months had been a relentless blur of information and new experiences, from starting her new life in a new country to the merciless stream of knowledge that accompanied her course. The only calm in the storm of her life was a beautiful blonde with bottomless azure eyes.
"S-should I s-save you from the evil b-books." A husky, lightly accented voice called.
"Hey!" Willow squeaked. "Hey," She repeated softly, a wide grin spreading across her face as she recognised woman behind her.
"How are you?"
The redhead rolled her eyes and pouted slightly, "its sooo hard - too many letters, too many numbers, too much of everything."
Tara smiled sympathetically, though internally she was rolling her eyes at her redheaded friend - she knew that in months Willow had been at the University she'd stunned her tutors.
Absently the blonde began stroking the redhead's short silky hair. "We n-need to go over to M-M-Magdalene C-College - Lara and Professor Giles are waiting for us."
"Okay." The redhead briefly squeezed the blonde's hand. "Tara - can I ask you something?"
"Of course." Tara frowned in surprise, the two women rarely spoke in German whilst at college.
"Good.you know I'm a girl, and you're a girl, and... er... we both like girls... and well I was wondering, if maybe, possibly... that you would like... if you're not busy... you don't have to, only if you're not busy..."
"Willow what is it?" Tara grinned interrupting her friend's confused babbling by gently running along her cheek.
Willow blushed, mentally kicking herself she took a deep breath, "will you go out with me?"
"Ms Rosenberg, Ms von Holt - one moment?" A tall man greeted as they entered the classroom, his kindly face was lined with the sun and age, and his light brown hair was speckled with grey. His small glasses and heavy tweed jacket shouted eccentric Oxford Professor - which as Head of Archaeology was Rupert Giles' current profession.
Willow and Tara joined Lara at the classroom's rear, ignoring the surreptitious looks thrown their way by the room's all male occupants.
"Now I have your term assignment." Giles called paying no attention to groans that met his statement. "Working in teams I'm going to give a passage of text and I want you to decipher its meaning, and put together a proposal for an expedition - clearly stating where you believe the place to be, what you expect to find, what you'll need and why.
"Now most of these places have been found, some by alumni of this University, and you can find the information in the library - therefore from the time you pick of your text you're barred from the library, I will give each of you the texts and items you can use - the librarians will also require a signature before allowing access to the Archaeology library, as will the other campuses, anyone caught cheating will get zero marks for this term. Understand?"
"Yes Professor." The class chimed reluctantly, the three women could see the looks of horror spreading through the students.
"Good - you have until tomorrow to come to me with your teams, dismissed." Rupert called firmly.
"You know Rupert you are a cruel and unusual man." Lara teased when the room had emptied.
"And how are you three?" The Professor answered darkly, glowering at the slender brunette.
"We're great... absolutely wonderful!" Willow bounced happily, her grin threatening to break free from her face as she turned the blonde beside her.
"That's great." Rupert answered cagily.
"So what have you found?" Lara said quickly, drawing attention away from the unusually hyper redhead.
"Well I've made progress - some very solid progress." Rupert nodded happily, absently cleaning his glasses as he settled in for a lecture.
"You mean I've made solid progress don't you?" A rich, American accented voice admonished teasingly.
"Well.yes... er... yes... I suppose." The Professor flushed with embarrassment as the dark haired newcomer slunk across the room, kissing the blushing academic's hair before grasping his hand. "And it's all down to that rubbing you brought me... er... us."
Tara bristled at the mention of Lara's illicit acquisition of the golden tablet's contents.
"And..." Lara pressed quickly, trying to avoid the dark look that threatened to mar her friend's face.
"Have you heard of the Rosetta..."
"...Stone?" Michael asked as he sipped a steaming cup of coffee.
Emily Braun frowned running her hands through her thick dark hair. "Stone that helped you guys decipher hiero... hierogl... ancient Egyptians pictures."
One of Michael's assistant snorted - the blazing glare that answered caused an involuntary shudder to run along his spine.
"Yes - the Rosetta Stone carries details of a coronation in three different languages, including ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics - it has enabled us to decipher the language." Michael answered expansively, and Emily could hear the boyish excitement build in his tones. "This my dear Captain is our Rosetta Stone."
He waved towards the wall - the huge slab of intricately decorated gold hung at its centre like a masterpiece, surrounding it were large, scruffy pieces of papers covered with a reproduction of the tablet's artwork.
"So you can read all those funny squiggles?" Emily asked sceptically.
"Not quite..." Michael deflated slightly, "but we've made the major breakthrough - we know what its says and why its says it, we've just to apply it to the rest."
"So what does it say?"
"Simply - 'the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog'." Michael continued quickly on seeing the confused look spreading across the SS Officer's face."It's an English phrase - it uses all the letters of the alphabet. This tablet is basically that - the upper band is the phrase in pictures, the next the phrase in the original language, and the next two bands are the individual numbers and letters of their civilisation, and the last is a phrase without clues."
"So what's left?" Emily asked, still not grasping what von Holt was discussing.
"Unfortunately - the really difficult bit." Michael sighed in defeat."We've got to break down the remaining band - identifying the vowels, the sentence structure and so on - which will I hope allow us to translate it and the rest of the parchments."
"How long will it take?"
"Therein lies the problem - if luck is on our side maybe weeks, probably months - if it is not years or..." He trailed off darkly.
"Or what?" The dark haired woman growled.
"Never - we may never be able to translate it." He answered sadly.
"That's unacceptable." She growled turning to leave the room.
"So you're saying - you may never solve it?" Willow squeaked.
"It's certainly possible." Rupert mumbled, cleaning his glasses awkwardly. "But I believe unlikely - you see we can already identify certain words..." He pointed at different sections of the rubbing, "...as being the same -some of these are their linking words - the, and, on etc. And then you turn to the map - and this gives us the biggest clues of all."
"Are you sure?" Lara asked sceptically. "It's not very accurate."
"That's where you're wrong." Jenny scolded from Rupert's shoulder. "It's wrong now - but when it was created I suspect this is as accurate as the maps your Royal Navy uses."
Lara's brow furrowed disbelievingly.
"Lara, we know that the geography of the world has changed of the centuries - archaeology, palaeontology tells us this." Rupert began softly. "What if this map was created at a time when the sea levels were much lower?"
"Land doesn't just sink Rupert." Lara's tone was still unconvinced.
"No but it can flood." He answered quickly. "There's evidence, such as the Beresovka Mammoth that the world was much colder than now - I believe these ivory sections represent ice, it matches the word from the tablet - ice, ocean, great." He pointed out the symbols - matching them against the corresponding characters on the map. "This ice isn't there now Lara - it had to go somewhere."
"P-Professor - are you t-talking about Atlantis?" Tara's German accent cut through the silence that had followed Rupert's words.
"Atlantis is a myth." Lara stammered weakly, trying to argue against the logic and direction of her mentor's words.
"How many myths have we discovered Lara - how many?" Giles responded quietly.
"Captain - I see you've returned to us?" Michael's voice boomed happily from the ring.
"So it seems." Emily growled back, her face a cloud of anger.
"I take it Egypt was not to your liking?" The archaeologist grinned teasingly.
"It was pointless, they know nothing - could find nothing."
Michael interrupted her angry, contempt filled words - darkness suddenly replacing the teasing tones, "So Professor Munch's expedition is lost."
"Yes - it seems they and there equipment has simply vanished." The Captain growled angrily."I didn't think you and the good Professor got on."
"That's true - we did disagree, often, over our methods - but he was a good man." Michael raised an imaginary toast to his lost rival."Those are the hazards we face - it was probably tomb robbers."
"That is what the local police said - but there was nothing." Emily interrupted, her frustration clear in her voice.
"There is enough desert out there to hide a million secrets and many more bodies." Michael responded with a tired melancholy.
"Yes... well..." Emily answered casually brushing aside the dark thought."I believe you've made a breakthrough."
Michael chuckled happily, his voice suddenly bright once again."Oh well - I think it's more than a breakthrough, we've solved the mystery."
"Really?" Remembering just a few short weeks ago, when the tomb raiders last breakthrough had proved to be the start of a thousand more questions and no solutions.
"Yes - you see my dear Captain we're about to rediscover the lost civilisation of lost civilisations." Michael crowed, he bounced to the centre of the ring squaring up to his opponent.
"What do you mean?" She asked, her eyes narrowing as she watched the tomb raider begin to spar - at first it seemed to be an ordinary boxing match, the two men trading blows to the face and body using twisting their arms and torsos to block and absorb the lightning fast attacks. Michael's challenger changed the tempo of the fight first, as the archaeologist darted away from a clever combination that threatened to breach his defences his partner unleashed a dizzying spinning kick.
He barely managed to get his arm in the way as he rolled with the impact, but Emily could see he was dazed as he opponent pressed home his attack. She recognised bastardised forms of a number of Eastern fighting techniques - everything from Karate to Tae Kwon Do through Thai and Western Boxing formed part of the attack.
And it was the tomb raider's response that caused her jaw to drop in amazement, as instinctive almost desperate blocks became smoother and more effective - each taking a little more out of his attacker and giving Michael room to breath, and when it came, Michael's counterpunch was simple and straight from the gutter - a vicious headbutt followed by a crunching knee to the groin.
"Why Atlantis of course - we're about to find Atlantis." He answered spiting out a bloodied mouth guard before delivering a final blow to his whimpering opponent.
"I can't believe we going to find Atlantis." Tara grinned happily, squeezing her redheaded companion's hand causing the slender youth to smile indulgently at her enthusiasm - the redhead had lost count of the times the blonde had uttered those words throughout their dinner, whether in wonder or in giggling excitement.
"I know, I know - I was there when Professor Giles told us." Willow mumbled absently - remembering the moment when the Englishman had announced with a giddy, awe filled voice that the artefacts were the remnants of the mythical Atlantean civilisation.
The blonde's enthusiasm soured quickly."Are you making fun of me?"
"No... No... No - of course not... never." Willow blushed her pale features quickly turning the colour of her hair.
"Good." The blonde growled, before her voice took on a smooth, seductive drawl."Would you like to come up?"
Willow's green eyes widened in equal measures of fear and desire,"I do... maybe... oh... erm... yes..." She answered weakly.
"Good." Tara grinned dragging a still dazed redhead into her home.
"Good evening Lady Croft, Sir Rupert." A voice called from the room's shadows. "Now, now there's no need for that Lara we're all friends here."
Lara relaxed slightly, lowering her pistol as a light snapped on to reveal a neatly dressed, middle-aged man. "What do you want Paulson?" Giles snarled beside her, his voice dark and suddenly carrying the harsh accent of London's East End.
"I see the good Doctor has not completely tempered your darker nature Ripper?" The man admonished lightly, moving to pour himself a drink.
"Watch it mate." Rupert snarled, only for Lara to lay a restraining hand on his chest.
"Why are you here Alfred?" She snapped.
Alfred ignored the looks of burning anger directed at him as he lowered himself into one of the room's luxurious chairs. "I received some interesting information this afternoon - you've discovered something very interesting."
"How the hell do you know this?"
Alfred smirked. "His Majesty's Government takes a keen interest in the activities of its eminent... archaeologists."
"And what?" Rupert snarled.
"It has been also brought to our attention that you have a competitor in this endeavour." Alfred gave a small amused smile as he swirled his drink - as if he found his statement funny. "Herr von Holt I believe."
"That's correct." Lara nodded, her voice was still harsh.
"The Government would like to see him fail in his task."
"And us to succeed." Lara finished sarcastically.
"Obviously," Alfred agreed tolerantly. "I have been authorised to release whatever resources you feel necessary to accomplish you task."
Lara smiled sweetly, "then we're going need first class travel and lodgings in the Isles of Scilly."
Michael winced as he lowered himself into the soft folds of his armchair, enjoying the way the ancient pillows massaged his aching muscles, and with soft burn of an expensive brandy tickling his throat he could feel the sores and bruises fade into the background.
"You were very impressive." Emily's dark voice called softly.
"Yes - I was, wasn't I." Michael smirked - his eyes half closed."Unusual isn't?"
"Very - there were maybe 5... 6 different disciplines." The brunette agreed."Where did you learn to fight like that?"
"A few places, mainly the army and the east." Michael answered with a sigh.
"You were in the army?" Emily asked in surprise.
"Yes - from 1916 to 1918." Michael's voice darkened suddenly, with a bite of anger behind it.
"You fought in..."
"I was 17." Michael cut her off quickly, his tone effectively ending the conversation.
"So we're heading to the Black Forest tomorrow?" Emily changed the subject quickly.
"Yes, though it's quite remote - we'll be leaving early." He chuckled as the brunette's lip curled in disgust."It'll be fun - the open air, hard work..."