Truth or Dareby
Hillary Winston heard the Lady of the Manor, Lady Lara Croft bellow as he approached the stairwell, carrying tea and blueberry scones. He saw computer geek Christian Bryce sprinting down the stairs holding a digital camera and wearing a guilty expression. Bryce stopped long enough to take one of the scones before running out the back just as a very wet and livid Lara Croft stormed down the stairs, wearing only a towel.
"Christian Bryce!" She growled. "You are a bloody DEAD MAN when I get my hands on you!"
"A bit overdressed, My Lady?" Winston inquired with a bland smile.
"No, Hill." Lara returned the smile. "It seems that Bryce decided it would be terribly amusing to photograph me as I was just coming out of the shower."
"Ah, the mystery is solved. I just saw Master Bryce run by this minute. He took a scone Before running out the back, I believe the Americans would say, 'like a bat out of Hell'?"
"I swear he is going to eat that bloody camera! I can't, for the life of me, figure out why he would do something so perverted. Alex, yes. Kurtis, probably. Terry, definite possibility. Conrad Larson, that is a no brainer. Bryce? I just don't see it. I always knew he had something for me, but he was always discrete."
"I am sure there is a logical explanation, Lady Croft."
"Good." Lara took a scone and ate it with some tea. Another scone and a cup or two of tea later, the Raider's lips curled into a cruel smile.
"Of course, Bryce could be my new human target," she purred, referring to the practice of Winston wearing a tea tray under a metal chest protector while Lara shot paintballs or rubber bullets at him to keep her marksmanship up.
"Really?" Winston's eyes lit up before he feigned a cough. "I mean that is disappointing, but I am sure I can summon the strength to get thorough it." The butler's voice sounded anything but disappointed.
"Well, I do feel the need to shoot something," Lara cooed, giving Winston a playful wink, "but since Bryce is not here, have Zip set up SIMON. I well be down in about ten or fifteen minutes."
"Very good, Lady Croft. Right away."
Twenty minutes later, Lara, clad in a black sport bra and tight-fitting black exercise tights with blue piping down the legs (the workout room in Croft Manor-ANNIVERSARY), scampered barefoot from pillar to statue to saracophagus, firing at SIMON while avoiding the hail of bullets assaulting and barely missing her, courtesy of Bryce giving the robot weapons to even the playing field. She managed to dive behind a large Bast statue just as another round of bullets barely missed her.
"It would seem," Winston mused into the Raider's headset, "that Master Bryce has 'stepped it up', as the Americans would say?"
"No shit, Sherlock!" Zip snorted. "You alive, Lara?"
"Yes, I am, Zip," Lara replied. "Thank you for asking. Winston is right, though. It seems Bryce has provided me with quite the challenge."
"Well, he did say that he made some improvements while you and West were farting around in Thailand. You should be getting those surprises anytime now."
Suddenly, SIMON stopped firing and shut down.
"All right, Mr. Bryce," Lara smirked as she prepared for what was coming next. "Let us see what you--"
Suddenly four very figures appeared. Lara gasped in shock as she realized that they were her! From the French plait to the fingerless gloves to the gunbelts housing the twin fifty-caliber pistols. At first glance, the 'Laras' appeared to be naked, but a closer look showed them to be wearing full flesh-colored bodysuits that were footless and skintight to the point of being almost painted-on.
"Hello!" Zip mused. "That's unexpected."
"It would seem Master Bryce has quite the fascination with you, Lady Croft," Winston stated bemusedly.
"You think, Winston?" Lara retorted.
Suddenly, the 'Laras' opened fire, spraying the Tomb Raider's hiding place with bullets as Lara barely got out of there and sprinted for another place to hide while firing at the pursuing clones. She flopped gracelessly behind a large saracophagus, waiting for the quartet to come toward her. She grabbed the first one that was close enough and engaged it in brutal hand-to-hand-combat. Lara stood triumphant over her four clones lying prone on the floor, but her joy was short-lived as the 'Laras' got up, their lips curved into cruel grins, with arms akimbo. Suddenly, the Tomb Raider's eyes widened as gun barrels popped out of the clones' nipples. Lara barely got away before the barrels began firing at the fleeing Raider.
"Wow," Zip stated, amused.
"Oh, my," Winston observed.
"One word about breasts and guns," Lara growled from the Anubis statue that was her current cover, "and I will rip your tongues out!"
The rain of bullets made some of it hard to hear.
"I would not dream of it, Lady Croft."
"My lips are sealed, Boss Lady," Zip smirked.
"Mr. Bryce and I are going to have a very long talk when he returns from wherever it is he is hiding," Lara hissed.
"I hate to be in his shoes."
"Well, they seemed to have stopped." Lara decided to risk a peek. "Oh, for the love of GOD!"
The Lara clones' nether regions opened and missiles poked out. In an instant, the statue hiding Lara was obliterated. Miraculously, Lara was able to escape before the clones homed in on her. The cat-and-mouse game with the missiles continued for another ten minutes or so. Lara found herself hiding inside one of the saracophagi to catch her breath while the clones searched for her.
"Crotch rockets!" she snarled. "Oh, very bloody amusing, Bryce! Very bloody fucking hilarious! How would you like me to shove one of those rockets up your bloody perverted ARSE!"
"Umm. Would that be known as 'shooting one's load'?" Zip asked innocently.
"Oh, Master Zip," Winston chided. "That is very poor taste indeed."
"Zip?" Lara smiled with sweet poison. "Would you like a 'load' shoved down your throat? Then do shut up."
Lara eased her way out of the saracophagus and was partway from the exit when suddenly, a rain of bullets and missiles barely missed her and, again, the Raider found herself having to find cover. Lara ducked behind another statue as she unleashed a very long and very foul string of expletives. She could hear Winston gasp in shock. "Yeah, Lara!" Zip laughed.
"Lady Croft!" the butler admonished. "A lady does not use such appalling gutter language!"
"Yes, Hillary," Lara retorted. "but who says that I'm a lady? Zip, please tell me that you have some good news."
"Matter of fact," the American tech replied, "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that your 'sisters' are not some of Natla's dopplehoes. They are only robots that can be deactivated by switches found at the base of their spines."
"That is good news. What's the bad news?"
"Well, they can only be deactivated manually."
"Manually? As in get up close and personal manually?"
"Well, I suppose you could use a remote, but I don't know where Bryce keeps it."
"Did I mention I am going to murder Bryce?"
"You may have mentioned it a time or two, Lady Croft," Winston stated.
"Or a dozen," Zip chimed.
"Or fifty or one hundred."
A long couple of hours later, a heavily bruised and dirty, but triumphant Tomb Raider walked out of the simulation room and nearly collapsed in exhaustion. Immediately, Winston was at her side with a towel and bottle water. Zip started to massage Lara's shoulders. Lara purred in content.
"Thank you, boys," she smiled warmly.
"Way to go, Lara!" Zip cheered as his fingers released the knots in the Raider's shoulders. "That was your most kickass performance yet!"
"Thank you. I suppose I owe Bryce a raise for this."
Winston chose this moment to cough delicately.
"Well, Lady Croft," the butler began. "If you are quite finished, please pardon the expression, 'playing with yourself'? I was looking at the computer screen and there is Something that should be of great interest to you."
Lara took a seat at the console and gasped at what she found. The screen showed a half dozen men gathered around a fireplace in an expensively decorated den, drinking and smoking cigars. She recognized five of them as her American ex-lovers Alex West and Kurtis Trent, Conrad Larson, Bryce and the ex-Royal Marine-turned- mercenary Terry Sheridan. The sixth was a handsome thirtysomething man who oozed charm and confidence. The group was playing Truth or Dare and it was Bryce's turn.
"So, Mr. Bryce," the Texan, identified as J.R. Hutton IV, drawled as he patted the tech on the back. "Besides me, you are the only one who has not bedded Lady Croft, right?"
Bryce spat out his drink in shock as Lara felt her eyes narrow.
"Well, what we want to know is have you ever slept with Croft or even fantasized about her?"
"I'm sorry," the tech replied, staring at the other men. "What was that?"
"Have you ever slept with Croft," Sheridan smirked. "We're all blokes, mate. No worries."
"I think I'll take the dare."
"Are you sure?" Hutton asked.
"Yeah. What is it?"
"Your dare is you are to photograph Lady Croft in her birthday suit."
"Her WHAT?!" Bryce could not believe what he heard.
"Lara starkers, as you Brits say," Alex grinned.
"You're all barking! She'd have my bloody balls for BREAKFAST!"
Hutton took out his checkbook and wrote in it. He then tore the check out and placed it in Bryce's hands. Bryce looked at it and almost dropped it in shock.
"T-t-t-ten million dollars?!"
"Damn!" Zip whistled.
"Yup. That's what, about five or six million pounds?" Hutton asked Sheridan.
"Give or take a shilling or two," the ex-Royal Marine smirked.
"Come on, Bryce," Kurtis smiled in mock sympathy. "You saw Lara naked before. What's the big deal?"
"First of all, Trent," Bryce retorted, "I had no bloody idea that you were with her when I accidentally entered. Secondly, I like living, thank you."
"Ten million, Chris. Think of all the toys you can buy. Think of the upgrades you can give SIMON."
Bryce stood there, letting the figure sink in and feeling guilt starting to gnaw away at his insides. He sighed as he closed his eyes in silent prayer. He then opened them again.
"I am so sorry, Lara," he almost whispered. "I'll do it."
"Atta boy!" Larson crowed, slapping the tech on the back. "Make sure to get us copies."
The screen went blank as Lara stared at it, taking in what just happened.
"It would seem Master Bryce's actions were not of his own accord, wouldn't you say, Lady Croft?" Winston said, placing a fatherly hand on her shoulder.
"No, I wouldn't," Lara replied sharply. "I would say Bryce was, as the Americans say, 'railroaded' into doing this stupid dare. He was bribed, which is even more disappointing."
"I don't know," Zip smiled. "If someone asked me to take a nude picture of you, I'd do it for nothing."
He was answered by a chilly raised eyebrow.
"Right. Shutting up now."
"So, this would qualify as 'mitigating circumstances', I take it?" Winston stated.
"No. Bryce won't be too severely punished, but he certainly is not getting away with this."
"Just don't be too hard on him. Okay, Lara?" Zip asked.
Lara smiled as she got up and placed her hands gently on her boys' cheeks. She patted them softly she went upstairs to take a shower. Later that evening, the front door to the Manor opened and Bryce snuck in and eased the door shut. He carried a dozen Sterling roses and a white teddy bear holding a red heart which said I'M SORRY. Bryce figured that he would sneak into Lara's bedroom and leave them on her bedside table while she was still asleep. He got halfway to the stairs when-
"Good evening, Bryce." That familiar posh accent tickled his ears.
"Oh, SHIT!" the tech groaned. "I am in SO much trouble."
"You can say that again. Come here, Bryce."
Bryce turned to the voice and saw Lara sitting on one of the enormous, oversized sofas, smoking a Montechristo and reading Plutarch. She was dressed in a black tank top and black silk pajamas under a green ornately decorated robe and her feet were bare. Bryce walked over until he stood in front of the Raider, praying for a quick and merciful death.
"We missed you today, Bryce," Lara said without preamble, not looking up from her book.
"Yeah," the tech replied. "I was busy all day with errands."
"I see. Are those for me?" Lara put the book down on the sofa next to her.
Bryce handed Lara the teddy bear, which she threw into the fireplace without even sparing it a glance. She took the bouquet, looked at the item and then at Bryce, eyebrow raised wondering how he could afford such an expensive present. She then remembered the check he received.
"Well, I did kind of fuck up. I wanted to make up for it."
"I see. Sit down please."
Bryce immediately complied and sat on the sofa directly across from Lara, who leaned Against the back of the sofa, taking a few puffs and exhaling while placing the cigar in her ashtray on the table. She then folded her arms and scrutinized the man sitting across the room.
"You have exactly one minute to explain why I should not rip out your lungs and feed them to you for that stunt this morning."
"Well," Bryce replied. "I was playing Truth or Dare at this Yank's flat in London last night and it was my turn."
"Yes," Lara cut in, standing up and walking over to where the tech sat. "Your dare was to photograph me naked, which is why you stood outside the shower waiting for me."
"I meant no harm, Lara."
"Yeah. The other blokes speak of you like you're some bloody trollop. Yes, I admit I have a crush on you and have had it since I started working for you five years ago. Of course, I'm just some poor blighter from Lancashire while you're practically bloody royalty. Your family goes back what, nine or ten generations? What chance do I have? Anyway, there are three reasons that I would never act on my crush. One, you'd have my bloody balls for lunch. Two, you are my boss and as such you are the one who, as the Yanks say, 'signs my checks'. Three, you are my friend.�
Lara raised an eyebrow as she felt her upper lip start to curve upward.
"Yeah," Bryce smiled more confidently. "My friend. I know that beneath that hard, cynical shell beats the heart of a loving, gentle, warm, compassionate soul. You're witty, you're smart, you have a shoulder for one to cry on, you have a sympathetic ear to bend, a word of encouragement to raise a bloke's spirit."
Lara's mouth now form a full smile as she listened to Bryce plead his case and indulge in a little shameless ass-kissing.
"In short, you are the sister I never had and a friend I am more than happy to be associated with. I know I can be a bloody pain in the arse, but what I did was inexcusable. I let my hormones and my greed get the best of me. I never meant to hurt you, Lara and I am truly and deeply sorry. I will give you my resignation in the morning before you kill me. Okay?"
The Tomb Raider stood there for a moment before placing two fingers under the tech's chin to raise it so he faced her. She then placed her hand on his cheek.
"I don't supposed you rehearsed all day for this," she queried. "No matter. That was very well thought out and very well said." Lara patted Bryce's cheek. "I know you didn't mean to hurt me, Bryce, but you did. That was a violation of my privacy and my personal space. You let yourself be coerced into doing something that was wrong. You were even bribed, which is even more disappointing."
Bryce hung his head, but Lara again raised it with two fingers placed under his chin. She then stroked his cheek with a gentle smile on her lovely visage.
"However, you did 'man up', as the Americans say, and apologize. For that, I thank you. I do forgive you, Bryce, but you still must be punished. Starting tomorrow, you will be my human target for the next four months."
The tech groaned loudly.
"That's just for starters. I will think of something else, but in the meantime, well done on the program. That was quite the challenge, although some parts leave a lot to be desired."
"Yes. Them. Get some sleep and we'll have a long talk tomorrow about them and some of your other 'upgrades'."
"Okay. By the way, the original photo in on the console in my trailer."
"Thank you. I will deal with Kurtis and the others later."
Lara kissed Bryce's cheek and patted it before heading off to bed. Bryce walked over to the computer area where Winston and Zip were watching the whole scenario on the console. Zip grinned as he put his fist out.
"My man!" he crowed. "Pretty slick there." Bryce touched fists with the American tech.
"Indeed," Winston chuckled. "Well played indeed."
"Not well enough," Bryce groused. "I have to play Human Target Boy for the next four months. Dear God, kill me now!"
The butler patted the tech's back in mock sympathy.
"There, there. It only hurts the first dozen times or so. You get used to it after a while."
"Better you than me, man," Zip grinned. "Night, y'all."
NOTICE: This story is a work of fiction. Lara Croft, her likeness,
and the Tomb Raider games are all copyright of EIDOS Interactive. There is no challenge to these copyrights intended by this story, as it is a
non-sanctioned, unofficial work of the author's own.
Entry for the 4th Village of Tokakeriby Tomb Raider Story Competition, 2009.