Friday, July 8, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Chapter IV - Falling Face-First

She was on the floor, face-down, and couldn't move. She could feel the grain of the wood as it pressed against her face and hands. She grunted and spun, twisting out of the near-pin. She caught sight of him as she looked behind her and used her momentum to aim a kick directly at his face.

It stopped less than an inch from Ti Corovan's nose.

He raised his hands in surrender. "All right, all right. You win this one."

Lyta dropped her leg and clambered to her feet, panting. "Again?"

Ti pushed himself off the ground and breathed deep. "In a minute."

The Black Diesel Gym in Mainz was not the best training facility in the city, but it had the benefit of being cheap, and on slow mornings they rented out some of the smaller studios for a few marks. Once Lyta had finally placed where she knew some of Ti's crew, she had suggested an informal meet, for old time's sake and to let off steam from the rescue-turned-firefight a few days before. The rest of Ti's people were already on their way back south, but Corovan himself had business that needed finishing up in the city before heading back, and had taken her up on the offer.

He walked over to the side of the room where they had left their water bottles, and drained half of his in a single gulp. Lyta took hers in small sips.

"You haven't been training."

Ti lowered the water bottle from his lips and looked at her. "What makes you say that?"

Lyta's eyes darted to the centre of the room, then back to Ti. "If you'd been training, you'd have whooped my ass."

Ti grinned. "Maybe you're just that good," he offered.

"Nah. You were always better than me."

Ti's grin grew larger, and he put up a hand in mock-exasperation. "I was four cycles older than you. When you're a kid, that makes a difference."

Lyta shrugged. "You're still stronger than me. If you'd been training, it would still make a difference." She paused to take another sip of water. "So… guns instead of fists?"

Now it was Ti's turn to shrug. "FIsts don't work so well against people in armour fifty meters away, shooting guns at you."

Lyta sighed. "Yeah, I noticed that."

"Hence the staff?"

"Hence the staff."

Ti massaged his wrist, where Lyta had put him in a decent lock earlier in the fight. "You're damn good with that thing. Where'd you get it, anyway? It's not standard-issue."

Lyta raised the water bottle to her lips to avoid answering, her eyes unconsciously moving down to the floor.

Ti laughed out loud. "You gonna be all cryptic like Lukas now?"

His laughter was infectious, and Lyta couldn't help but join in. "Let's say it was a gift and leave it at that. You ready to go again?"

Ti looked as though he was going to press the issue, but then thought better of it. Instead, he put the water bottle down and walked back to the middle of the room, dropping into a ready stance. "Yeah."

"Same as before? Clean fight, no rules?"

Ti brought his arms up to a guard position. "Yeah."

He moved in for a tackle, and Lyta ducked away, rolled below the grab and popped up behind him, aiming a punch at the back of his head. He spun around to face her. "Always the little gymnast." He lunged forward again, and Lyta darted to the side, pivoting on one leg to sweep with the other, but Ti side-stepped it.

"When you're small, you always gotta be moving," she said.

Ti avoided a kick, tried and failed to grasp the leg as it moved past. He caught her wrist as a punch came in towards his sternum. "You're not really training for the Olympics, are you?"

"Not even a little bit." Lyta grinned as she reversed the hold and threw him to the floor. "Now, you here to talk or to fight?"

They traded the advantage back and forth for another two minutes, before a final bout of ground-wrestling allowed Lyta to pin Ti face-first to the ground with his arm locked behind his back. He tapped the floor and she released the pressure. Without even asking this time, they both moved to the water.

Ti rolled his shoulder a few times, working out the pressure from Lyta's arm lock. He broke the silence first. "I notice your brothers aren't too shy about putting bullet holes in people they don't like."

Lyta stared at him over the rim of her water bottle, trying to figure out whether he was baiting her. "Neither are your crew."

Ti shrugged. "Touché."

Lyta turned to face the centre of the room. "We try not to too much, though. A good job is one where nobody ever sees us."

Ti nodded and put down his water bottle. "Amen to that."

Lyta sighed and placed her own water beside his. "I get the sense that your jobs involve more shooting than ours."

Ti hesitated. "Well… I haven't read too many of your mission debriefs, so it's hard to compare. We don't like getting shot at any more than the next guy."

"The next guy isn't trying to save the world."

Ti gave a wry smile. "There is that."

She turned back to him. "Are you really? Trying to save the world, I mean?"

Ti looked at her earnestly and nodded. "In our own small way. You could help, you know. I meant what I said about work. My employer's always looking for good people."

"But you're not going to tell us who that is until we say yes?"

"Maybe not even then," Ti said with a grin. "Not until you did a few jobs."

Lyta shook her head. "We've just gotta take you on your work that we'd be fighting for the good guys?"

Ti shrugged again. "You'll work for anyone now. Would it really be so horrible to be working for someone whose objective is not wholly selfish? Even if you had to take my word for it?"

Lyta tried to think of something to say in reply, and the moment stretched. He had a point, she conceded. But she couldn't make decisions like that, not alone, not without Lukas. The pause lengthened.

"You ready to go again?"

Ti shifted his weight and raised his arms. "Yeah. One more, then I'm done for the day."

This time, it was Lyta who got in the first attack, using a floor-standing punching bag as a pivot-point to gain momentum for a kick. But Ti saw her coming, stepped out of her range, and grabbed the legs as they were moving past. They both fell to the ground, but Lyta jumped up first, preparing an elbow strike that hit nothing but floor as Ti rolled away. She somersaulted back, allowed her legs to continue the move and strike, but Ti had moved and her kick went wide.

By then, Ti had risen to his feet, and Lyta took advantage of an opening to grasp his arm and hook his leg, preparing for a take-down throw.

She found herself on the ground, Ti's weight against her shoulder and her legs pinned. She struggled for a moment, realized she couldn't break the pin without damaging herself, and tapped the floor. The pressure on her shoulder let up.

Ti stared at her suspiciously as she stood up. "You threw that."

Lyta shook her head. "I did not. Textbook leg hook castover. You won fair and square."

Ti helped her to her feet. "If I find out you're lying, I'll come back here and beat you senseless for real."

Lyta grinned. "I'd like to see you try."

She collected up the water bottles and shook out the soreness in her limbs. "So… I'm paying for lunch?"

Ti took his bottle from her and shook his head. "Nope. I'm still paying. You guys haven't been paid yet for your botched job."

Lyta groaned. "Don't remind me." She rubbed the back of her neck. "Lukas'll get it done, though. He's good like that."

"You really have no idea who you were working for?" Ti was looking at her intently, his face clear that the question was important to him.

"Not really. Some business type. I never knew the name. Lukas may have."

Ti deflated. "You often do jobs for people you don't know?"

Lyta shrugged. "Pretty much always. They usually end better than this one."

"So you said." Ti's expression darkened. "That doesn't bother you, though, not knowing?"

Lyta bent down and massaged her calf. "Not anymore."

"You've never wanted to ask?"

She looked up at him, so intent and earnest. "Sure I have, but they pay us lots of money not to ask questions."

Ti's expression soured. "Your family's always been about the money, hasn't it?"

Lyta straightened, and for a moment looked like she was going to hit him for real. Then she turned away and stared out the window. "That's low, Ti."

He came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry. Look, forget I mentioned it. It's just… there's more to life than money."

Lyta spun around, dislodging his hand. "You seem to be pretty well off," she shot back.

Ti shook his head. "Yeah, but that not why I'm doing it. I'm doing it--"

"To save the world. We've been over this before."

Ti searched for words as Lyta tried to calm herself down. She didn't want to be angry, not now, not with Ti leaving so soon.

Ti spoke first. "I just don't want to see you getting in over your head. Some of the people you've been doing 'stuff' for, they're not nice people."

Lyta closed her eyes. "We're not really that nice people ourselves right now. You've seen us in action."

Ti put a hand to her cheek and her eyes opened. "I don't believe that," he said. "I think you've still got your conscience. You can do better for yourself." He hesitated a moment, looking her in the eyes. "Tell Lukas that you were contracted by…" He paused, swallowed, and shook his head. "It doesn't matter."

The words hung in the air. Ti dropped his hand, and the silence stretched into awkwardness. Lyta turned away, glanced at them both in the mirror. She sighed. "So… lunch?"

Ti forced a smile and held the door open for her. "Yeah. I'm starving."

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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