Friday, September 3, 2010

A New Dawn

High in the palace tower Doc Chambers sat in an oversized leather cushion on the veranda of the former Emir’s suite. Spread out bellow him was the chaos of civil revolt and social revolution. By now all of Okavanga knew Thoras to be dead, by sunrise; the whole world would know Okavango had joined the ESE rebellion.

Maia stepped out on the balcony near where the Doc had slumped down. The predawn scape sprawled out before her was backlit by an orange glow still too faint to diminish the brightly burning fires of the night’s pandemonium.

“Where is everybody?” she asked the Doc.

“Sam and Gade are out there, in the streets, mopping up Thoras loyalists. Kain went over to security, he said something about a personal mission debrief, I don’t know?”

She nodded distractedly, drawing her gaze away from the grizzly sight of
Okavango’s recent travails, The Doc looked tired, the focus he had during the recent operation was gone.

“How about you, what are you doing?”



He snorted, shaking his head. “I don’t know yet Maia. I guess I’m waiting to see what I do next. How about you, what are you waiting for?”

“I don’t follow.”

“We’re done, our friends are out, Thoras is dead, Brahvo the new Emir and
Oka will join Basel in the revolt. We’re done and so we’re done with you. You’re free, I’ve already contacted Paxton to tell them to dissolve the Demonstration Team.”

Thoughts spun in Maia's head and she slumped onto a cushion next to Chambers, too tired even to remember that she was supposed to be mad at him for getting her into this mess in the first place. The last few weeks had been the most difficult in her life, even counting the seasons fighting the Keff. At least then, they'd had a real sense of purpose and a stark simplicity: everything was black and white. Now, everything was as grey as the swamps before the dawn.

She forced herself not to sigh and stared directly forward, down at the burning fires of
Okavango. "You were behind that, then. I suppose I should have known."

She shook her head, trying to make sense of everything and failing miserably. "I suppose I'll go home. I've wanted to go home since I stepped foot in Basal, and now there's no reason for me to stay." She paused a moment, doing math in her head, and this time she did sigh. "Damn. I missed my anniversary down here. My wife will never forgive me."

For an instant, the thought flashed in her mind that she would have to tell Celina about everything that had happened, and she felt a knot tighten in her stomach. She let her breath out slowly. That was a problem she could deal with later.

To distract herself, she faced the Doc. "You're from the
Badlands, aren't you? You gonna go back? See your family?"

“I don’t have anything waiting for me in the Badlands, well, nothing I would consider a homecoming. At best I can expect criminal charges and a fixed trial, at worst; they stick a knife in my back while I sleep. Sorry I got you into this Kessler, I'm a user, a professional exploiter. Heh, I guess now that I've killed the Emir I can add political assassin to my resume, next to selfish missionary and mass murderer.”

Maia scoffed before she could stop herself. "And now you've fucked up my life, too. Thanks, Chambers."

She looked out over the fires of
Okavango to avoid catching the Doc's eyes. Then the air went out of her. "I'm sorry. That was cruel. And not even true, not really. I'll bounce back from this. If I play my cards right, I can..." She shook her head. "I don't know what I'll do, but I can make this work. You, though..." The words trailed off again as she considered what Chambers had just told her. "That's quite the pile of shit you've gotten yourself into."

"Don't worry about me, the one thing I have going for me is an over-abundance of self pity, I don't need yours. Anyway, While I don't know what to do about my situation just yet, I can help yours. What do you want Kessler, a promotion? Are you trying to prove yourself professionally of just socially because they may be mutually exclusive? Climbing the social ladder means getting more and doing less, the corporate ladder on the other hand, means working more but getting less recognition. I've got contacts, I have strings I can pull and money I can throw around. Consider it severance for the troubles I've cause you and yours. So what do you want?"

Maia shook her head. "Thanks, but no thanks, Doc. I appreciate the offer, but I got where I am under my own power, and if I get anywhere else, it'll be by my own power too. And if I stay stuck where I am, it's still more than my parents ever had, and maybe Tanya'll go farther than me."

She said it with conviction, and she meant it, but a thought tugged at the back of her mind. She knew, wholeheartedly, that she didn't want to accept favours from Doc Chambers. Somehow, she sensed that getting embroiled with him would come back and bite her. Still...

Her brow furrowed, as conflicting desires played out. "Actually..."

The Doc stared at her levelly, waiting for her to continue.

Maia took a deep breath, let it out again. "My wife, Celina. I've been trying to get her promoted for years. I thought that after we got married..." She shook her head. "It didn't work. The systems are too new, everything's too untested. Hell, sometimes I feel like a lab rat myself. Anyway, she always seems to be just below the cut-off, every year."

She put a hand to her forehead, remembering. She'd finally convinced Celina to do the training and take the exams about seven cycles back, when Tanya was first starting school, even though she knew her wife wanted nothing more than to stay at the hospital with her friends. The scene in the house the day the promotions were announced and Celina's name wasn't on it... it was a good thing Maia was sent on assignment the next day, because she was sure she'd be sleeping on the couch for at least a season.

She shook her head, bringing herself back to the present, to the swamps and the fires and her potential patron. "So that's it. That's what I want."

He held her gaze a moment and, to her shock, he began to laugh; a laughter emanating from deep within. Maia started to shake with anger; she could barely contain herself, his laughter stabbed at her, at that moment she could not imagine having been more insulted or more deeply betrayed in her life.

Tom caught sight of Maia's demeanour and it sobered him up like a stim. He didn't need Sam's uncanny ability to read people to see she was deeply offended, even livid.

"I'm sorry Maia, don't take this the wrong way. I'm not laughing at you or your request..." he croaked as he wiped tears from his eyes. " I offered you anything within my not inconsiderable power and you ask for something for someone else. I know you benefit from her happiness, but by the Prophet's graces...I guess I haven't met someone who cared about someone else as much in such a long time. I was just a little overwhelmed. You're request brightened my day Maia, hell, my cycle. Not only because it is so damned selfless, but because it is so damned simple. Consider it done. You have my word on it. Merciful sands! It almost rekindles my faith in love and redemption in the world."

Maia turned to stare at Doctor Chambers. "Thank you," she said, not trusting herself to say any more. "So darned simple," he had said. If only it were! But there was no trace of guile, no sense that he would have any trouble doing what she had been unable to do for nearly a decade.

It took several moments before she felt comfortable speaking again. "And what about you, since we're all putting our souls on the table?" she asked finally. "Now that your friends are free and there's no reason for you to stay here, what do you want?"

“I’ve got to figure something out to save myself, what we did here last night is only the beginning for me. In the spirit of exposed our souls, let me share an insight into my person with you Maia, I only know how to do two things well: Shoot people and build organizations. The first one got me into this jam and I’m hoping the second will get me out. So I guess I’ll stick by Brahvo a while and see what I can do?”

Maia nodded, still uncertain how to speak to the Doc. She was remembering some of her apprehensions when she had met him for the first time, the way he threw out references to ‘Gerry’, as if president Simosa was a personal friend. Sitting here in the Emir’s tower, having toppled a city state, she had to admit to herself that maybe he could do what he said. And now he was going to help Brahvo.

She wanted to shift the conversation away from his emotions and guilt. The callousness she had seen in him after the food riots, that hollow darkness which had so repelled her was part of him, but she felt he resented them as much as she did. Following their slow raft ride into Okavango, she had thought he was decent man, she felt that again now. “So, what’s your plan?”

“Short term? Well Gade’s got some scheme in Raleigh that should score some material for the fight. Also, some kind of coordinated diplomatic meeting is going to have to take place between Brahvo and Shirow, I think I can swing that. Long Term, the free Emirate will need ties and supplies to keep it fighting. But I think more importantly it will need breathing room. So far the AST hasn’t come down on this situation with its full might. If I can figure out how to keep it that way, or better yet, how to get the AST to back off and look at this as an internal matter for the ESE, the free Emirates may actually stand a chance.”

The sat in silence for a while. At last the dawn shone brightly and they both squinted looking out on the city, the fires were still there, but faded in comparison.

“Sun’s up” Maia said for no particular reason.

“Time for you to go home Maia.”


Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.