Friday, July 8, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Chapter IV - Purpose

Ti got off the maglev and navigated automatically through the TNTR station. Inside the smell of of Khayr ad-Din was washed through air purifiers and climate control. This place gave him a strange feeling of nostalgia, not quite of coming home but of comfortable familiarity. But he had been feeling it for a couple of days, ever since he had first seen the Lassanders through the camera eye in his detention center in Mainz. ‘What were the odds,’ he thought to himself.

He let himself into the apartment on the ground floor of the oasis tower. It was early evening and Julie would already be gone to manage the Casino. “Ti, that you?” came the Doc’s familiar voice a moment before his head pocked out of the kitchen. “Have you eaten?” Ti nodded, as he did so he felt the bruises of his sparring match with little Lyta. ‘Little Lyta, not so little anymore,’ he thought as he collapsed heavily into a couch, suddenly feeling much older.

Doc Chambers came out into the main living area. The terrace doors were open and a slight breeze rustled the ferns a few meters away. “Interesting read,” he started, pointing at an active datapad with Ti’s after-mission report. “Are you going to recruit your friends? They sound like they could be useful.” The Doc had a plate on his lap and started eating his pasta with gusto. They were very casual around each other. It hadn’t always been that way. Five cycles before, Ti was damaged and the Doc less personable. But over time they had grown close; it was inevitable when they shared something as intimate as the lives of the Lelland kids. It had reached a point where Ti had a room in Julie, Lita and Tom’s apartment in the TNTR oasis tower and came and went freely when he was in town.

“No, I don’t think so. I mean, we could subcontract them through another party, I suppose, but they wouldn’t be a fit for the Lelland gang.” Tom nodded and sipped his wine glass. “Well, of course not. I mean, they haven’t gone through the indoctrination, but we have plenty of allies that aren’t Kin.” Ti shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t like that word.” For the first time, the Doc noticed Ti’s demeanour. He was colder, more introspective, as if he was harbouring doubts.
The Doc put his plate down on the carpet and sat back into his chair, cradling his wine glass with both hands.

“What is it, Ti? What are you thinking?” The Doc asked, concerned. Then softening his tone, he added, “Or feeling?”

“I’m just thinking about the different paths that life led us on. How different things might have been if they had stayed in Baja, or maybe I could have gone another route.What if I’d never met you? Maybe I’d be like them.” Ti never made eye contact with the Doc. It was as if he was talking to himself.

“Like what? What are your friends like?” Tom asked.


There was a long silence. Finally the Doc spoke up, “Just about everyone who was at Baja became lost, forgot who they were or discovered they never knew in the first place. We’re all looking for reasons to go on. The caravaners, the Guild members -- all good people -- but they struggle to reconcile who they are, what they’ve done and what they want out of life. Your friends may need purpose, Prophet knows I did, and we can reach out to them, but what you do can’t mix with that.”

“I want to help them,” Ti said somewhat defiantly.

“I’m sorry, Ti, but you have greater responsibilities.”

“Like saving the world?” He said sarcastically. Chambers’ mood soured. He had never seen Ti doubt anything they had achieved together in the last five cycles. Since they had taken Ti’s band of orphans and expanded on Kain’s idea of the irregulators. Putting them in school, screening out the most promising ones for special attention, special training. Ti had saved these kids’ lives. Not just their bodies, but their spirits. With Chambers’ funding they had built up orphanages, schools and internship programs. The best and brightest were encouraged and nurtured to become the building blocks of a better future in Badlands. Some showed the promise of becoming operatives, the prowess of body and mind that cultivated from a young age would make perfect scions of Badlands independence. The rest would serve in their own way, become scholars, musicians and engineers. Whatever the talent they had, it would be put to use for the Badlands. That was the principal the Lelland Foundation was built upon.

“Yes, Titan, you are saving the Prophet’s forsaken world! Shasha, Oli and Robert are all doing their part. Helping the Guild, helping the Badlands unite and form bonds of business, trade and trust. Just as you and Nadya and Thalia and Markus are doing your part, trying to secure vital technologies which could stabilize the Badlands or threaten the balance of power in the poles. Your friends could come around. They could help the way Avatanya and the regulators do, more overtly, under the umbrella of Guild interests. But what you do, out of sight, away from public view and separated from the commercial interests of any one enterprise, what you and the Lelland kids do is motivated only by what is best for the Badlands and global security. That has always been your mandate. It requires dedication, focus and unwavering commitment!” Tom was out of his seat halfway through his tirade. Red drops stained the carpet where his glass had been unable to contain the wine the way he had been unable to contain his emotions. Chambers sat down again and, setting his glass on the ground, wiped the wine from his hand as he collected himself.

“I couldn’t do what you do, Ti. I couldn’t have reached those kids. There are a rare few people in this world who understand me, who know, who feel what I do and who are willing to do what is necessary. I rely on you to focus on details that I can’t see and to do what I can’t because I’m too visible. I rely on you because you can lead and infuse people with your beliefs.” There was another pause. The Doc was watching his glass, swirling the remaining red fluid, as if it held meaning.

“You can make a pretty good speech when you need to, Doc,” Ti said grinning. The Doc was right, Ti admitted to himself. The Lelland Kin had an important role to play. Everybody associated with the Doc took part in building the Badlands, but the Kin were different. It wasn’t just about action, it was about belief. At their core, they were an embodiment of the very ethos the Doc promoted. He had to admit it was achieved through indoctrination, but it wasn’t brainwashing. He and the Lelland Kin had purpose. It was what set them apart and it was what Ennick, Lyta and her brothers lacked. It was that difference that tore Ti apart with guilt.

Doc Chambers smiled warmly. “I’ve got to know more about the Deuterium, what Northco are up to and why they’re planning on going to Port Arthur. The Arthurians don’t need fusion. They have the current monopoly on the technology. They have no interest in sharing it because that would only weaken their position. So whatever Northco is after, they’re going to take it, not ask for it. I’ve got my hands full with this election and making sure our guy Royz becomes mayor, so I need you to follow up on this.”

“I’ve got my head in the game. The Kin and I will stay on top of it and keep you apprised, Doc,”
Ti said reassuringly. Tom looked him in the eye hard and satisfied himself that Ti meant what he said.

“OK, well, I don’t know about you, but sermonizing makes me hungry and my plate is cold. Are you sure I can’t interest you in dinner?”

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