Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Chapter IV - No Apologies

35 Winter, 1925

He awoke slowly, trying to discern nightmare form reality. The cell was dark and at first his eyes didn’t know if they were still closed or staring at darkness. Finally, he had to admit he was awake because he hurt too much to be unconscious. He tried to sit up and found his bruised abdomen screamed a painful protest. He suppressed a grunt and tried again, rolling to his side; it still hurt.

“Welcome back, sunshine"

Ennick’s eyes scanned the dark cave, his hand moved over rough walls for stability and a sense of his whereabouts. “Lukas?” Ennick asked into the void. He still couldn’t see more than a few meters away, which only revealed bars.

“Yeah, I was wondering if you were ever going to wake up. It’s been 12 hours at least since they brought you back from your last round of interrogations.”

Ennick winced as memories of pain and questions he had repressed briefly resurfaced. With heavy breath he crawled towards the voice and found Lukas’ face beyond the rough metal bars separating their cells. He looked concerned, which concerned Ennick; it meant he looked every bit as bad as he felt. Lukas himself had seen better days.

The younger man passed an earthenware mug through the bars, which Ennick took to his parched lips. “Slowly, you need to drink slowly. When you’ve finished that, I have some old bread. It isn’t much, but you need it.” Lukas’ expression was even. His mask was gone and on top of his scars -- which Ennick presumed were the reason he had never seen his face -- he had new bruises and cuts, but his voice was strong and calm. “H-how long?” Ennick coughed between sips.

“You’ve been here 6 days total as far as I know. I’ve been here 8 more, I believe. They gave up trying to beat the shit out of me when they caught you. Either they think I won’t break or they think you have something worth more than what I might know. Did you say anything?”

Ennick shook his head, which he regretted immediately, but then he had to wonder if he had actually broken under the abuse? As he put fragments together, he figured he hadn’t given them anything. Their technique was not particularly sophisticated: pain and deprivation. But enough of that would eventually do the trick.

“Ennick, I’m sorry.” Lukas’ voice drew the mechanic back to the present. “What?” The two men looked each other in the eyes across the bars. Drops echoed as they fell from the cave walls. “I’m sorry, but your rescue sucks,” Lukas said flatly. Ennick chuckled despite the pain. “Yeah, that it does.”


28 Winter, 1925

Lyta sat back quietly as Ennick looked the maps of the compound over. He had arrived the night before, which was as quick as could be expected. Todd had signaled him by Hermes 72 the day before that. Things were moving quickly, she reassured herself, but not quickly enough. Her older brother had already been missing a week.

Todd was confirming most of the guesses Ennick was making about the access and security of the compound. She just sat there, cradling her knees; she should never have left Lukas.

“Well, looks like your approach is probably cut off, and with all the scouting you did, I don’t see how else to get in unnoticed. Look, I only see two options: Negotiate with these guys for Lukas’ release or we go in fighting and get him out ourselves.” Ennick was sitting now, facing Todd and Lyta and drawing puffs in between sentences. His face showed concern, maybe not for Lukas but certainly for Lyta’s emotional state.

“Hmm... I don’t think they’re going to negotiate. Besides, we don’t have anything to negotiate with,” Todd stammered.

“Right then, so here’s the plan. I’m going to sneak Pigpen in as close as I can, hide him under the cover of darkness, then you two cause a distraction, something big and loud and threatening while I come in from the other direction and storm the catacombs.”

“This plan is stupid,” Lyta spoke for the first time. “We don’t know how many of them there are, what new defenses they may have put up since our last infiltration, we don’t even know if Lukas is alive.” Lyta’s red eyes were as defiant as her tone. Todd looked at his own boots while Ennick took a long drag. He put his cigarette out and leaned forward.

“We could do more reconnaissance. We could wait to hear back from Oscar or your Sandrider friends.”

“We’ve waited too long already, I’m not saying we don’t go, I’m just saying this plan is stupid.” Lyta was unable to formulate a more coherent statement, she was unable to vent her self-doubt, her regrets at leaving Lukas behind when the operation fell apart. She was unable to express her gratitude to Ennick for coming despite what had happened, and to have come so quickly and now be ready to fool-heartedly rush into the fray with them to save Lukas. She was unable to express any of the conflicting emotions she was feeling, but most of all she was unable to wait any longer.


21 Winter, 1925

Todd watched Lyta through his scope as she delicately dismantled the wire security around the window on the 3rd floor. According to his research, this compound was built on a disused 12th century Massadan monastery and the inner structure should resemble standard architecture pretty closely.

They had been scouting the compound for several days. It hadn’t given Todd a lot of time to research before they had left Mainz. A UMF trade delegation for a large corporation had been involved in some business dealings with a Badlands group. They had been taken hostage and the corporation didn’t want to pay without proof of life. In fact, it was Lukas’ suspicion that they didn’t want to pay at all. They were hoping for a rescue mission. Lukas had said they would scout the compound first before trying a rescue.

Lyta was through the window before Todd noticed the guards a floor down and across the compound moving with alarming purpose. “Lyta, you’ve been made, bug out!” Todd’s call went unanswered, He tried again, still no response. “They’re jamming us.” Lukas’ voice came tersely though Todd’s com unit. A shift of the scope saw Lukas breaking the door on the ground floor three stories down from Lyta. Too late to coordinate a plan, Todd was now cut off from both his siblings. He shifted his scope left and downrange and found the first window he believed would mark the intersection between the direction of the oncoming guards and where Lukas and Lyta had entered the building. He guessed right and only seconds passed before he sighted bodies running, he squeezed his trigger and didn’t bother to wait to confirm the kill before pulling back his bolt and chambering another round. He slid his rifle right and as soon as he saw more bodies, fired.

By the time he had emptied his clip, Lyta had jumped through the unopened window on the second floor. She came tumbling down in a hail of glass and rolled hard on the stone parapet. In one fluid movement she was up again and leaping over the side wall into soft sand three meters bellow. There, she broke into a run and started back towards the escape route. Todd had put in another clip and was already two rounds into suppressive fire covering her exit. There was some erratic fire coming from under cover behind a heavy door and above a windowsill, but the two dead bodies on the parapet and the echoing threat of the Sandrider heavy rifle gave Lyta time to dash the 300 meters separating her from the compound.

Before she had quite reached Todd’s position she slowed to a limp, she caught Todd’s eye, blood trickling from a cut above her eye. She could sense something was wrong. She did a double take when she realized Lukas was not at the exfiltration point. Todd watched as horror played over her face and then resolution. She turned and set herself to start running back for her brother, but her turn did not stop and she spun around nearly 360 degrees, dropping to the sand unconscious. Todd made a break for her, grabbed her under the arms and pulled her over the crest of the sand dune. Her leg was thickly covered with sand that was clumping to the blood gushing from a deep wound.

Todd ducked as more and more bullets started hitting his lightly covered position. He flinched as he pulled a compression pad and stemmed the blood flowing from Lyta’s wound. He allowed himself one more peek at the compound, holding out hope, but instead of Lukas, he saw the flashes of automatic fire from the building and bodies cautiously advancing on them. Todd hesitated no longer and dragged Lyta to the camouflaged buggy a few meters away.


12 Winter, 1925

Lukas was waiting, but he knew if wouldn’t be long. These Northerners were pretty punctual; time was money to them after all. With 5 minutes to spare before the appointed hour, the UMF businessman showed at the rendezvous in a derelict factory outside Mainz.

Oscar had given Lukas the gist of what he wanted. Some fat cats got caught doing something they shouldn’t have been in the Badlands. Because it was illegal, immoral or both, the respectable businessmen couldn’t go to the authorities for help. Hence, Lukas and his siblings had been tapped. He shrugged mentally, it was a living.

Over the last three cycles, he, Lyta and Todd had built up a reputation as discrete, effective and subtle problem solvers. What had started as a means to find their family fortune had become a means to survive. It had uses beyond keeping them busy, of course. The contacts in the corporate world and the peripheries of the intelligence community had given them some tidbits on the Bear. Unfortunately, one of their best leads, one of the Earther’s associates in Prince Gable, had gotten herself killed. So they continued to work, make contacts and make a new life for themselves.

“Tell me, is the mask for effect, because it works,” the businessman asked casually. Lukas hated these guys. They all thought they were living some trideo spy life because they wore trench coats and asked others to do their dirty work.

“It helps me score with the chicks,” Lukas offered, trying to keep it pleasant. After all, this was a client.

“Just a sec, we’re waiting for the muscle.” Client or not, Lukas was not amused.

“What do you mean? We work alone. This is not the way things are done.” Lukas stepped up from his crate and moved swiftly into the businessman's personal bubble. He was made to feel uncomfortable.

“Uhh… Wow there man, it’s all good. This guy’s cool. Our common acquaintance vouched for him. I just figured that if you guys found my people, you could use some backup with a punch, so I thought...”

“That is what you pay us for. We work alone.” Lukas tried to remain cool but emphatic. His brother’s voice came into his earpiece and warned him that the backup was here. Lukas thought he heard something strange in Todd’s tone but had no time to ask. He turned from the UMF man to see the approaching figure.

“Well, well, well, fancy meeting you here, Lukas. Oscar didn’t go so far as to mention you were the guys I was going to back up.” Ennick was smiling as he drew a cigarette from his jacket and lit it. He looked around the decrepit building, throwing a lazy gaze in the shadows. “Lyta, Todd? Don’t hit me behind the head, OK?”

Lukas turned his attention back to the businessman. “This is your idea of backup? This is what I call a liability. I told you, we work alone. We don’t need him, we don’t want him.”

“Who says I want to work with you, Lukas?” Ennick said coolly as he approached the two other men.

“That’s right, you won’t work with me unless I apologize, so it looks as though we won’t be working together.” Lukas allowed himself a very slightly smug tone before ignoring Ennick. “We accept the job, we’ll get it done.”

Lukas was doing such a great job ignoring Ennick that he missed the right hook to his jaw. It sent him back a few steps before he recovered his footing and dropped into a defensive posture.

“Apology accepted, Lukas.” Ennick said, shaking and flexing his hand. Turning to the businessman, Ennick added, “Whatever it is, they can handle it. Lyta, Todd, hope you’re well?” he said out into the darkness as he went back the way he came.

Lukas relaxed as he watched him go, “Good riddance,” he thought to himself before sealing the deal with the confused businessman.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


Heavy Josh said...

Awww... I never get to have any fun.

Julie said...

Did you not read the next post? You get to have plenty fun, if by "fun" you mean "tortured."

Heavy Josh said...

No, that's not what I mean.

Julie said...

In that case, I got nothin'.

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