Sunday, December 12, 2010

Between the Lines, part 2

He was not happy.

To say that things had not gone according to plan would have been an understatement. The blame could be liberally spread around, but Kain reserved a big share for himself.

He knew he should have personally reconnoitered the demonstration area. It would have been a matter of five minutes to roll around in one of the Paxton Gears. And it was unforgivable that he had not requested direct comms to the hopper and APC crews.

He knew better. He'd been sloppy.

Kain joked about coming to Peace River for a vacation, and he'd been acting the part. Sure, there'd been some action here and there, but nothing particularly extreme. Compared to...well, he'd certainly had busier times. And he'd been complacent about letting the Doc and even Kessler take the lead on making operational decisions. Yes, he had provided input here and there, but Kain had not taken an active interest. He'd been detached, content to watch with amusement as the Doc schemed his way in and then out and then in again with the Free Emirates (ha!) delegation and as Kessler squirmed, caught between a dawg and a canyon wall, clearly out of her depth but too proud to admit it. She'd done surprisingly well, considering, but Kain knew he hadn't imagined the relief on her face when Chambers had bumped her down from security coordinator to liaison officer.

Today was different. Today he'd been shelled, and everyone knew how much he hated being shelled. And he'd been attacked by enemies he had foreseen...and not taken the time to confirm.

So now he sat, scanning the horizon for the tell-tale flash of flak or the contrail of a missile, patched in and ready to warn the pilots if he saw anything. It kept his mind off of the Guild office. And Vemeer. Except when it didn't.

Maia cleared her throat as she approached Delacroix's seat, and the soldier looked back from the window. "Mr. Smith," she began, her PDA clutched in her hand. Her demeanor was, as always, professional, but she wondered whether her eyes betrayed her worry. "I was wondering whether you'd take a look at something for me."

"What? Oh, Kessler. Sure. What is it?" Maia handed him the PDA. Janus' email was open. "Dear Miss Luka...shame...Simba...I don't remember a murder at the Electric I saw this earlier today. What about it?"

Yeah, that had been her reaction the first time she'd seen it too. "Humor me and read the second paragraph a bit more closely. Notice anything unusual?" If he didn't see it right off the bat, she'd have to guide him to it, and she could only assume that would be awkward. Hopefully his instincts were sharper than hers, and he'd be able to give her a straight answer, one way or the other.

"You're wondering about this part where he tells you to be careful? It seemed a little melodramatic to me, but otherwise insignificant to our operations. Of course, given that Janus alludes directly to a danger to you, I can understand why you might be worried," Kain smiled. He wondered if this was the first time the young, shark-blooded executive had ever had someone target her personally. At this point, Kain was so used to the feeling that he took it for granted.

As far as answers went, it was both helpful and... well, not. She wasn't sure whether Delacroix was referring to the warning to Paxton employees in general or her in particular. And, annoyingly, this wasn't one of those times where she could allow him to be vague. "So you think this is some sort of personal warning to me? I wouldn't have thought that Janus knew I existed. Or, for that mater, cared. If it is, though, what do you think we -- I -- should be doing about it?"

"Personal? Of course it's personal. You think Jan Augusta might not have spellcheck enabled? It's as clumsy a piece of fieldcraft as I've seen from him. Who even addresses someone as "Miss" in an email these days anyway?

"If I were you, I would be worried.

"I would worry first that I had come to the attention of the top man in the Special Intervention Unit.

"I would worry second that he would take the time to warn you of a threat to your person--that means he needs you to do something for him.

"And lastly, I would worry that he is warning you, someone who as been near the center of all the recent action here in Peace River, of a danger to your person. That can only mean that something out of the ordinary, something more dangerous than what we have already faced, is headed your way.

"If I had to guess, based on the context of Simba, the Prospects, and so on, I would say that the BRF has targeted you personally for some reason, and he found out." Kain shrugged and handed her back the PDA.

She took back the PDA, her face a careful mask. "Right. Thanks. I owe you one, for the clarification." She held herself back from pointing out that other than "worry," Delacroix had given her no avenues of action that she could fall back on. But, in fairness, that wasn't his job. That's what PaxSec was for. Now that she knew it was actually a warning, and moreover a "clumsy" one, she could take it to Lenaris and figure out what to do.

"Kessler--Maia...wait." Unexpectedly, Kain reached out and took her by the shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said. Maia searched his face for some sign of irony, sarcasm, or simple deception. Instead, she was surprised to see a softness in his eyes.

He took a deep breath and continued. "It's been a long time since I've had to worry about anyone else's feelings. Look. I think it's bad. If I were you, I would move my family some place safe. Some place really, really, really safe, and guard them with the most dangerous people you can find. You're instincts are good; the whole message is unusual. He'll know we're working with you, and for some reason he didn't want to warn you directly. I think that probably means there are other people in PaxSec that cannot be trusted.

Whatever game he's playing, Augusta wants you in it. But you can choose to cash in your chips and get out. You don't have to keep playing, especially if your own stake in the game is small. If I were married--if I were you, I'd take my family and leave as soon as we get back."

Maia took a deep breath. Just about any other reaction from Kain, she could have dealt with: indifference, heartless cruelty, mockery... but his concern shook Maia in ways coldheartedness never would. For Delacroix to show outright concern meant that this was worse than Maia had thought, and, as he so clearly pointed out, the people she normally would turn to for help were unavailable to her. She nodded, thinking. "Thanks." She said it more slowly this time, her tone more genuine. "I... I may just. If anything happened to Celina or Tanya, I'd..." Her voice trailed off, drowned out by the hopper's engines.

With an effort, she shook her head and rolled back her shoulders so that she was standing straight. "I really do owe you, Smith. And Janus, too, I suppose. I'd tell you to stay safe, but I highly doubt you'd listen to me." She forced herself to crack a smile, albeit a small one, and grabbed the handhold to make her way back to her own seat.

Kain watched her go. His teeth were clenched--when she had mentioned something happening to her wife, he'd almost blurted out, "I understand." He'd bitten down and caught himself; Maia had probably been to caught up in her own thoughts to have noticed. The urge to empathize was uncharacteristic. Strange.

Kain turned back to scanning the horizon, but all he could see were Saré's green eyes.


Unknown said...

Hey, doesn't Kain have psyche -1 or something? I'm guessing he wasn't feeling empathy, it was probably just gas :P

Game Thug said...

Kain's -1 Psyche is deeply wrapped up in the events of the War of the Alliance, notably the death of his wife and actions he took before the Battle of Baja, so this is actually one area in which he can empathize.

Thanks for the comment, and I hope you enjoy the blog.

Unknown said...

It's just me man, I forgot how to access this place the old way so I have to do it through google now or something.

Me = Charlie Bottoms = Sam = ...

Sorry should have made it clearer :(

Heavy Josh said...

Psyche isn't just empathy, it's mental/spiritual well-being, karma, luck and positive outlook. Kain's -1 in Psyche doesn't prevent him from empathizing at all. It just makes him all dark and brooding.

Unknown said...



Heavy Josh said...

Oh get a grip, Psyche boy!

Unknown said...


I think you're confusing me with my character?

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