About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Gus Petraki came down the ladder from the wheelhouse to find his eldest son Nicholas waiting for him on the deck.
"Papa, hey. Papa, listen." Nicholas had stripped to the waist. He had diving tanks on, and held a mask in his right hand. "Let me go down, scout things out for you, all right? Take a quick look, come back, give you the lay of the land, okay?"
Gus shook his head. "No. I said we'd wait, and we'll wait."
"But -- "
"No." Gus glared at his son. "Take the tanks off, and go keep watch off the back, all right?"
Nicholas glared, then spun on his heels, heading for the stern, cursing under his breath. Gus smiled, watched as his son shrugged off the tanks. Nicholas was a good boy, even if he was a little impatient. Not without cause -- time was of the essence here, but it wouldn't do any good for Nicholas to go down, he didn't have the expertise, the knowledge to know what he was looking for. Or looking at, for that matter.
Gus turned his back on Nicholas and headed toward the front of the boat.
His youngest, Jimmy, staring off the bow through a pair of binoculars, turned at his approach.
"Anything?" Gus asked.
"No." Jimmy passed the binoculars to his father. "They're all still down there."
Gus took the glasses and scanned the horizon, then focused downward, into the ocean itself. The water was a deep, dark blue, and clear down to three meters, which was about as good as it ever got. There was no sign of Kristos, or Leyden, or any of their divers.
He passed the glasses back to Jimmy and looked at his watch. Half an hour since the divers had gone in the water. Too long -- he had a sinking feeling in his stomach that they'd found something else.
"You know, Papa, we could call Kristos."
Gus glared, and started to open his mouth. Before he could squeeze out a word, Jimmy went on hurriedly.
"No, no, hear me out. I know him -- you know him, twenty years, right? You know he'd rather work with us than with Leyden, Papa. Yes?"
Gus could only frown and nod reluctantly.
"Yes, but -- "
"Yes, you see?" Jimmy smiled. "And we've got those, right? He doesn't have anything like those."
Jimmy pointed off toward the back of the ship, and Gus didn't have to look to know he was talking about the DPVs. Personal diving vehicles, three of them, the pride and joy -- and the bread and butter -- of his salvage business. Gus had been doing salvage for three decades now, hiring out the Konstantinos and himself to treasure seekers, fortune hunters, family members looking to find loved ones (or their remains) lost at sea -- and only during the last five years, with those sleds, had he been able to turn a consistent profit.
Gus nodded. "Yes, Kristos doesn't have anything like the sleds. But neither did we before that business with the Natla woman, and the Scion. And don't forget who's responsible for that, hey?"
"I didn't forget," Jimmy said. "But look at how many ships there are. How many divers are going down. We have to -- "
"Wait," Gus interrupted. "We have to wait."
Gus ruffled his son's hair.
If Nicholas was impatient, Jimmy was just the opposite. Considered and calm -- a little too much of the thinker, for his taste. Join forces with Kristos? Hah. That would be the day.
Thing was, his sons were right. He didn't know how much longer he could afford to stand by and watch. There might not be anything left to find by the time --
"They're moving," Jimmy said.
He pointed off the starboard side of the Konstantinos, to the other boats. They had indeed started moving, heading northwest, toward the straits between Thera and Therasia.
"Let's stay close!" Gus shouted up to his pilot, Stefano, in the wheelhouse.
A few seconds later, he heard the motor come to life, and the Konstantinos inched forward. Gus went and stood by the railing. Something was happening, that was for sure -- the other boats were all converging on a single spot in the ocean.
He pulled out his cell phone, punched the redial button, and waited.
"We're sorry. All circuits are busy at this time. Please try your call again later."
He restrained himself -- barely -- from throwing the phone in the ocean and looked at his watch. It only confirmed what he knew already.
Close to two hours past their scheduled rendezvous time. He didn't think they could wait much longer.
"They found another one!"
That was Nicholas, behind him, pointing off into the distance. Where a handful of divers had just surfaced, holding something roughly the size and shape of a man propped up between them.
The divers passed it along to waiting crew on one of the other boats, who started lifting it up out of the water.
Another statue. Damn it.
"Mark their location!" He shouted up to Stefano as he walked around the wheelhouse again, to the back of the boat. Jimmy followed him, his binoculars out and trained on the divers.
"Can't make out the statue, but -- that's the Frenchman," Jimmy said. He swung the binoculars around to focus on the other ship. "And over there...Kristos."
Gus shook his head. He picked up the cell phone again and punched redial. Got the same recording.
He sighed, and stared out to sea.
"They're all here...all except one." He made a decision. "Follow Kristos. When he dives, we dive. Maybe we'll get lucky and find whatever it is..."
He frowned. The phone was making a buzzing noise now. No. Not the phone.
He turned, behind him, in the direction of the harbor.
Something was coming up behind them. Fast.
Gus squinted into the distance. It was a boat -- three boats, very small, moving very quickly, and --
No. Not boats at all. Jet-skis. Three of them. The one in the middle, now pulling ahead of the other two, going way too fast, but whoever was riding it was an expert, he was --
No. Not he.
Gus broke into a big smile.
"Hey!" he heard Jimmy shout. "Isn't that -- ?"
Gus laughed. "You're damn right it is."
"Better late than never...." Nicholas said.
Gus nodded, still watching as the jet-skis got closer. Still moving very quickly.
Too quickly, he realized.
"She's not slowing down." Jimmy frowned. "Why isn't she slowing down?"
Jimmy turned to his brother, whose eyes went wide as the lead jet-ski approached the Konstantinos. Barreling straight toward them. Collision course.
Except at the last second, the skier cut her engine, and started to brake -- sharply to the right, away from the ship.
Gus saw what was about to happen, and leaned back from the railing.
Jimmy and Nicholas watched, transfixed --
And got showered with a few dozen gallons of seawater. Jimmy sputtered, wiped his face.
"You were asking? Why she wasn't slowing down?" Nicholas said, glaring at his brother.
"Pay attention, boys," Gus said. "The wake."
He pointed off the side of the boat with one hand, holding onto the railing with the other. Jimmy and Nicholas just managed to get handholds, as well, and then the wake from the jet-ski caught up to the Konstantinos, and the ship rolled. Big wake. Big waves.
The skier wasn't done with her fancy moves yet.
She came in hard again, used one of the wake waves as a ramp, and shot high up in the air.
Gus's mouth dropped open as his head leaned back and he followed her flight. Up in the air, into a flip -- a flip, with a jet-ski! -- and then back down again, at a dead stop, six inches from the Konstantinos's ladder.
The skier brushed the hair out of her eyes and looked up at the boat.
"Hello, Gus." She looked over at Nicholas and Jimmy. "Boys."
She climbed up on deck. Gus folded his arms, and tried to look angry. "Half the world's raiders are already here. You make us wait."
"You know I can't resist a bit of fun...forgive me?"
The skier stood before him, waiting.
"Lara Croft," he said, shaking his head. "All grown up."
Gus glanced from her, then over to his soaking wet sons, and back again.
Then he broke into a big smile.
He could never stay mad at Lara Croft.
"Of course, Lara. You're here. All is forgiven."
He patted her on the cheek.
Lara smiled, then turned to look at Nicholas and Jimmy, who were helping unload her things.
"How are you two?"
"Wet," Nicholas called back, without looking up. "And I don't forgive you -- not just yet."
Jimmy grunted his assent.
"You two ought to know me better," Lara said, bending down to give the boys a hand. Seeing the three of them, together again -- Gus thought back to the summer that Lara had spent with the Petrakis, in Merovigli -- Lara and Jimmy and Nicholas had been practically inseparable. Always fooling around. Diving off the boat, pushing one another into the water. It seemed like yesterday.
It was, he realized, close to fifteen years ago.
Lara straightened up again and smiled.
"It's good to see you again, Gus."
"It's good to see you, too, Lara."
"Thanks for waiting. I'm so sorry I was late." She looked off the starboard, to where the other divers were going down again, and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"It's all right." Gus covered her hand with his own, then turned toward the back of the boat. "Come on. Let's get to it."
Lara had been up before dawn this morning, just in time to pass Bryce on his way to bed, and stop him, ask him obtain one more series of images she realized might be helpful in her task. Getting those pictures proved more time-consuming than she'd thought, so she'd missed her flight at Heathrow, had to grab a second, later one, which hadn't gotten her into Athens till eleven, local time. Still, she'd been at Thera by one, and alongside the Konstantinos on her jet-ski half an hour later. Yes, two hours behind the schedule she and Gus had agreed to the night before, which she was sorry for, but there'd been no way of avoiding the delay. And Gus's anger had been almost entirely feigned, she decided -- and the boys were simply mad at her for one-upping them with the jet-ski stunt. She was sure they'd be seeking revenge for that soaking soon enough.
It was wrong to think of Nicholas and Jimmy as boys -- they were grown men now, and Gus --
Well, Gus was older. Five years since she'd last seen him, and he'd aged twenty in that time. Not recognizable at all as the man she first met, during that long-ago summer when she was thirteen and in the middle of a cross-continent "excursion" arranged by her guardian at the time, Miss Stehlik. The excursion consisted of attending every stuffy society event on the continent, doing the things that were expected of a "proper" young English girl, heir to the renowned Croft name, a few scant years away from her majority.
Lara had been bored to tears by all of it -- the dances, the teas, the dinners, the talk of who was spending the summer where, which plays were must-sees, which restaurants must-experiences, what clothes were in style and what weren't...she just wasn't interested.
What made it even worse, of course, was that their travels had taken them so close to places she'd been dreaming about all her life, places her father, Lord Richard Croft, had drawn for her in bright, vivid detail in the stories he used to tell her before bedtime. Stories about Lascaux, and the cave paintings found there -- the Great Hall of the Bulls, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the most miraculous example of paleolithic art on the planet --
-- And they'd passed a sign for it, Lascaux Cave, right on the highway from Bordeaux heading east, and Lara shouted for the driver to stop, and Miss Stehlik ignored her request completely, insisting they were on a tight schedule.
Lara hadn't spoken a word to her guardian for a week.
It wasn't that long afterward that they'd found themselves on the road to Naples, and suddenly, there was Pompeii -- Pompeii, for God's sake, she didn't need her father to tell her stories to know about Pompeii -- though she did have to refresh Miss Stehlik's memory about the town in order to get her to pull off the road for even an hour so Lara could run through the site, which had resulted in a temporary truce between the two of them...
Until they were on the road to Athens, heading south from Thessaloniki, and drove right past Philip II's tomb -- Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great's father, inventor of the phalanx, the cavalry formation with which his son conquered the world. Without Philip, Lara's own father had been fond of saying, there would have been no Alexander.
"Daddy surely would have wanted me to see this, Miss Stehlik," Lara had pleaded -- all to no avail, no chinking her guardian's armor on this one because they were on a tight schedule, on the clock. So she never got to see Philip's tomb -- not that summer, at least.
Though she soon forgot about that disappointment, because a few hours later they were in Athens, and that was the worst of all. They were scheduled to lay over in the city for only two days -- and she spent the better part of the first of those trapped in a hotel ballroom, mingling with her "peers" as they listened to speaker after speaker drone on about the benefits staging the Olympics would bring to Greece. Dinner turned out to be on the agenda, as well, so by the time Lara got back to her hotel it was nine P.M., and there was no time to do anything, Miss Stehlik told her, except get ready for bed and prepare for her busy day the next morning.
Lara said good night, locked her door, and raced to the hotel window.
She was three stories up, there was a tile roof just beneath her, pitch not steep at all, and a drainpipe that looked sturdy enough leading down to the ground.
Lara was going to the Acropolis, she was going to the Parthenon, she was going to the Piraeus, and any other sight that struck her fancy once she was out and about in Athens, come hell or high water.
She had just changed out of her nightgown into black jeans and a T-shirt when someone knocked on the door. Miss Stehlik, as it turned out, who announced that they had a visitor, an old friend of her father's who wanted to see Lara "all grown up."
"Just for a moment, of course," Miss Stehlik had said, an odd lilt in her voice, "because you need your rest," and then the door had swung open, and Gus Petraki walked in.
He'd stopped dead in his tracks when he saw her, and laughed out loud.
Lara looked to Miss Stehlik, trying to understand his reaction, and was surprised to see her smiling, as well. Odd behavior from her guardian.
"A perfect combination of your parents," he said, smiling. "You don't remember me, do you?"
"No." Lara shook her head, and to her surprise found she was smiling, as well. She didn't remember him, but she liked him instantly, this smiling stranger with the full head of dark, dark hair, the olive skin, and the infectious laugh.
"I'm Gus Petraki," he said. He held out his hand, and the two shook. "Last time I saw you, you were two months old, and glued to your mother's breast."
Lara flushed crimson. Few adults in the circles she traveled in used the word breast. She expected Miss Stehlik to remark on this, as well. But instead her guardian merely giggled. More odd behavior.
Lara ignored it, and focused her attention on Gus again.
"You knew my mother?" she asked.
He nodded. "And your father, as well. You stayed in my house for a month, the two of you, while your father and I worked at Akrotiri with Professor Marinotos."
"Akrotiri?" Lara asked, unable to keep the excitement out of her voice. "You were at Akrotiri?"
Yes, Gus had replied, and then Lara couldn't stop the questions, about Akrotiri, about her parents, and once she learned that Gus had worked with her father on several other occasions, about every moment the two of them had spent together. They'd talked for hours that night, about all of it, and Lara went to sleep no longer angry over what she was missing, but excited about what she'd learned.
The next morning, things got even better. Somehow Gus had talked Miss Stehlik into canceling their plans for the week, and visiting his home on Santorini instead. It was another day of sharing memories, of good food and good times for both Lara and her guardian (it took Lara until the following winter to realize the obvious, that Miss Stehlik and the recently divorced Gus had been having a torrid affair that entire summer, one that lasted for several years afterward). Those good times continued for several weeks thereafter, as the two of them stayed the remainder of the summer season on Santorini with Gus and his young sons, Jimmy and Nicholas, eight and nine at the time. At first the two boys had been a constant nuisance, harassing Lara endlessly. They were the younger brothers she'd never had, constantly in her face with requests to take them here, take them there, do this, do that, and every time she'd complain to Gus about his sons, he would smile and ruffle their hair and simply shrug at Lara, as if to say "boys will be boys."
She smiled, thinking about Gus then, and realized that he had been the spitting image of his sons.
Now the thick black hair she recalled was gone, and he was -- well, to put it charitably, thicker -- and nowhere near as imposing a figure. He looked tired, looked -- as he'd put it in their conversation last night -- ready to retire to a little island somewhere, and hand the business over to the boys.
Well. If she was right about what was down there, he'd definitely be able to do that. Maybe even buy an island all of his own.
She followed him now to the back of the boat, where there was a table set up. The four of them -- her, Gus, the two boys -- gathered around it.
"So fill me in," Lara said.
"They've brought up two statues," Gus said. He pointed at one of the charts. "Found here, and here. That's about all we know that you don't."
"Mmm," Lara said. "Did you get a look at them? The statues?"
The three Petrakis exchanged glances, shook their heads.
"No, not really," Gus said.
"What does it matter what they found?" Nicholas interrupted. "They don't have sleds. We have the sleds. We can cover more ground, we should get down there, we should -- "
"You should know what it is that we're chasing," Lara said.
Gus nodded. "All right, Lara -- tell us. What's all this fuss about? What do they think is down there?"
In answer, she reached down into her pack and pulled out a stack of paper. On top were copies of the images Bryce had shown her yesterday, pictures of the wooden vessel that had bobbed to the surface immediately after the quake. The eight-pointed star, the image of Alexander in the moon...she dropped the entire stack of paper on the table in front of them. Gus and the boys all leaned in close to get a good look.
The elder Petraki was the first to speak.
"The eight-pointed star. Alexander." Gus smiled, and clapped his hands together. "What is it, you think? A shipwreck? Something from one of the garrison towns?" He looked around the table, at Lara and his sons. "This could be big. We should -- "
"Gus." Lara shook her head. "You're missing it."
"Look." She jabbed a finger at the image again.
"The moon." He frowned. "I see it, so what does the moon -- "
Abruptly, he stopped talking and leaned forward again.
"The moon," he repeated. Lara saw his hands tighten, grip the edge of the table until the veins on the back of them stood out. "Lara, is it..."
She nodded. "The Luna Temple."
"The Luna Temple?" he whispered.
"I think so, yes."
Nicholas and Jimmy looked at her, then their father, and then finally at each other. Both were frowning.
Lara realized they had no idea what she was talking about.
Gus looked at them and realized the same thing. He rolled his eyes.
"My sons, if it's not on TV, forget it!"
"The Luna Temple was built by Alexander the Great."
"Who was Greek, in case you don't know!"
Now it was Jimmy's turn to roll his eyes. "We know who Alexander the Great was, Papa."
"You know what he did, then," Lara continued. "Conquered the known world, at the age of thirty. Europe, Persia, India..."
She pulled another piece of paper from the bottom of the stack, and laid it on top so all could see. It was a map -- showing Greece, and Macedonia, Cappadocea, and Armenia, Northern Africa and the Middle East, stretching out into what was now Afghanistan, and into the Hindu Kush. Athens, and Gaza. Babylon, and Persepolis. Damascus, and Nicea.
She pointed from one edge of the paper to the other.
"This is his empire, at its height. He collected treasures from all over the world. He stored them in two places. The majority went here, to his library at Alexandria -- " she pointed to the Northern Coast of Africa -- "which the Romans torched in an act of historical stupidity. But his most prized possessions went here..."
She set aside the map, pulled out another set of images. These were sketches of a massive temple, typical Greek construction, columns on either side, and at the center, a statue. This statue, however, was not of Zeus, or Herakles, or Apollo, or any of the other Greek gods, but of Alexander himself, seated on a throne. Presumptuous, one might say.
Or given the man's accomplishments, perhaps not.
"This is the Luna Temple. By law, no one was allowed to record its location. Then, in 350 B.C. it was -- "
"Swallowed by the sea," Gus put in.
Lara nodded. "Destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Lost forever. Until yesterday." She looked around the table, making eye contact with first Nicholas, then Jimmy. "If the temple contains even half of what was rumored to be in it -- if even half of that temple is intact -- this will be the greatest find since Tutankhamen."
The brothers exchanged a look.
"So what are we waiting for now?" Nicholas asked. "Let's get down there."
"Yes -- we're already way behind," Jimmy chimed in. He reached underneath the table, and pulled out a set of nautical charts, laid them over the temple drawings. "All morning, the others are heading here, along this shelf -- going almost due west."
Lara looked at the charts. Jimmy had penciled in the exact locations where the other boats had stopped, and the length of time they'd spent there.
"Right here," he said, pointing to two Xs on the chart, "these are the places where they found the statues."
"They're following the currents," Lara said.
Jimmy nodded. "Of course."
Lara smiled. "No they're not."
All three of the Petrakis looked at her quizzically.
Lara pulled out a photograph from the stack on the table. It was a satellite image of the Santorini group, the one she'd waited for Bryce to get for her from his friend in Jiquan this morning.
"This is why I was late," she said, showing them the image. "It's a geological taken two hours after the quake. The epicenter was here, five miles northeast of us. Look at the currents along the shelf now."
She drew a finger across a reddish swirl that went from the upper left-hand corner of the photo to the lower right.
Nicholas was the first to see it.
"That's right," Lara said. "I don't know how long it will last, but for right now, the currents are moving north -- not west."
"So..." Jimmy looked from Lara's photo to his charts. "So while they're all diving there, the ruins will actually be -- "
Lara put her forefinger down on the other side of Therasia -- out in the open Aegean.
"Oh boy," Jimmy said. "They're nowhere near it."
"But we will be," Lara said.
Nicholas and Jimmy looked at each other, and grinned.
"I'll do the tanks," Jimmy said.
Nicholas nodded. "I'll do the sleds."
They took off like a shot.
Gus smiled, watching them go. "That is the fastest I've ever seen them move."
"I'm moving, too." She picked up her backpack, hefted it over her shoulder. "Where can I change?"
"Any cabin you want," Gus said. He picked up the charts, and the satellite image. "I'll go plot our course."
Twenty minutes later, the Konstantinos was anchored off the southern coast of Therasia, and Lara was standing on the deck in her wet suit, frowning. She'd used the time not only to change and get her gear unpacked, but to call Hillary at the manor. No one had been there to answer the phone -- which was strange. The way Hillary had been fussing over her last night when she was getting ready to leave, the way he'd insisted on her taking full GPS equipment, so they could find her if there was any trouble...
She would have thought he'd be pacing next to the receiver, waiting for her call. Ah well. Hers not to reason why.
Lara climbed up to the wheelhouse, and took a look back toward the islands. No other boats, anywhere in sight -- she had worried someone might follow them.
She looked starboard, saw Nicholas and Jimmy in their wet suits, prepping for the dive. The sleds were hanging by the side. In the water, they looked like motorbikes, submerged from the seat on down -- though beneath the surface, of course, the sleds had no wheels, no engine block, no exhaust pipes, not even a footrest. They were electric-powered, propeller-driven -- and Nicholas was rotating the propellers now, checking the blades, the batteries, the electrical systems. Jimmy, meanwhile, was up on deck, looking over a row of oxygen tanks. Seeing him bend over, squint at the gauges on the tanks, suddenly reminded her that she had a few instruments of her own to check over.
Lara looked down at her belt, swung it back to front, and glanced at her D1000C. Bryce had outfitted her camera with new housings from Subal just last week. The housings added several new controls, more than worth the expense of the retrofit, she decided after a few seconds of fiddling -- she'd wait to fine-tune the camera until they actually got underneath the water.
Bryce had also spent quite a bit of time last night on the newest addition to her photographic arsenal, a miniature camera housed on the outer rim of her diving mask itself, set to record whatever she was seeing. And speaking of arsenals...
She swung the belt back around, and pulled the retrofitted Colt out of her holster. This was Subal work again, the weapon sealed and armored so that it worked underwater, firing true at almost any depth. She slid the clip out -- saw she had five rounds left, she'd squeezed off a test back at the manor -- then back in again with a satisfying thunk. Checked the spare clips on her belt, slid the weapon back in its holster...
And looked up to see Stefano, the pilot, frowning at her.
She smiled. "Just in case the boys misbehave down there."
Off his confused expression, she descended the ladder, from the wheelhouse down to the deck.
Up front, Gus was standing with arms propped up on the railing, staring out across the ocean, a pensive look on his face. She walked over to join him.
"Something wrong?" Lara asked.
He shrugged. "First Alexander doesn't record its location. Then God wipes it from the earth with a volcano. Now even the currents change..."
"And your point is?"
Gus avoided her gaze. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe this temple's not meant to be found?"
She leaned in closer. "Everything's meant to be found."
"Hey, Croft! Lara!"
She turned and saw Nicholas and Jimmy standing on the deck, waving to her. They'd put the DPVs in the water, moored them to the Konstantinos with motors running.
She waved back at the boys and smiled at Gus.
"Showtime," she said.
Less than a minute later (after a bit of clowning around that reminded her of other times she'd spent with Nicholas and Jimmy, back when they really were boys) she was on her sled.
Lara put her mask over her face, felt the oxygen flowing immediately. She set the digital camera to record, and sat up straight on her sled.
The boys were on either side of her. She pointed forward with one hand, then gunned her vehicle straight ahead. They followed an instant later.
Just before they submerged, Lara turned back to the Konstantinos. Gus was still at the railing, watching. He waved now, his face expressionless.
Lara waved back, and as she did, Gus's words came to her again.
Maybe this temple's not meant to be found.
Suppressing a sudden chill, she descended into the inky blackness of the Aegean, in search of the past.
Copyright © 2003 by Paramount Pictures Corporation