Sunday, October 21, 2012

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter V: Epilogue

26 Spring 1926, SNS server 146, Prince Gable
A time-delayed subroutine activated on the server. Three files recorded over a season ago set on a 7-day delay were triggered, and automatic delivery systems conveyed them to their destinations. 

‘Hey guys. There’s no easy way to say this, but if you’re hearing this recording then I’m dead.’

21 Spring 1926, 19:34
There was no method to his timing. He wanted to know what was going on, so he powered up the Gear. His four days of silent observation were now over, one way or another. Ultimately, the moment he chose to amble out of his shielded hide came down to luck -- in this case, bad. His tactical screen lit up like a Jeruselemite’s Christspruce. A full sensor sweep revealed a total of 25 targets, and he was smack in the middle of them. There was active jamming and a good deal of combat. He swung as his alarms warned of a target lock and he narrowly dodged a volley of missiles. Amidst the confusion one gear caught his eye; Pig Pen was distinctive, bearing the inimical markings of its pilot. “Ennik! This is Ti Corovan, don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” he screamed into his coms, but the jamming was too effective. Switching to a point-to-point laser he tried again. While he was re-sending the message as best he could and dodging between obstacles, Ti also looked over his readings and quickly found what his gut told him was also out there: three Jaguars. The four of them were joining up with another group of Gears and Ti designated the lot of them friendlies. That still left him surrounded by 17 red dots.

21 Spring 1926, Nazarene plains, WFP, 19:25
It had been about an hour since the sensors had tracked the arrival of a small group of Gears to the mouth of the mine. Then the outlying Gears he had observed the day before started moving towards the entrance. He felt the shock even as his sensors shrieked and went dead. Something had just knocked his seismic sensor grid right out and he was blind. More troubling than that was the certainty that a large explosion had just occurred nearby and that it might be too late. That he might have missed his chance to act. Once again he stared at his lifeless control panel and considered if it was time to power up. 

21 Spring 1926, 19:35
Ti knew that there were actually several different mercs and at least one rover gang here working together, which meant they weren’t too coordinated. He punched through their line easily and started getting some distance to maneuver with. It didn’t take long for four of them to break off in pursuit. That meant the jamming wasn’t complete; they were communicating somehow. He set Teddy’s much-hyped com system to identifying their frequency. His Grizzly wasn’t as slow as it could have been, but two of the Jagers coming up on his flank were faster, followed by a Hunter and an old Bobcat. Ti took several glancing blows from a pair of auto-canons as well as flurry of medium rockets, but he had gained the ground he needed and was now clear of the larger pack of hostiles. He swiftly turned Teddy and effortlessly scratched one Jager with a snarl of his snub canon. The three other gears peeled off into a more tactical wing once they had seen the Grizzly’s teeth.

20 Spring 1926, Nazarene plains, WFP
“More movement on tremors 4, 5 and 6. Probably a number of Gears moving past the mine. I can’t tell if they are part of the same group that arrived on the 17th or another.” Ti could have kept a written log, but he remembered that talking was a useful way of staying sane when you were confined and alone. He had enough food and water to last another two weeks using his recycling units and survival suit. Isometric exercises helped fight off atrophy, but the stillness of the body was not his greatest concern, it was the activity of his mind. There is a fine line between resignation and surrender. If he couldn’t stop his melancholy, he might as well pass the time putting his thoughts into coherent statements.  “New log, 20 spring 1926. Ti Corovan’s personal journal. Day 4 of my passive observation and with little other distractions, I can’t stop thinking about her...”

21 Spring 1926, 19:40
Ti was targeting two of his aggressors, which allowed the Hunter to flank him. Some of the hits had managed to disable some secondary systems, but Ti was soon blazing away again with his snub canon, catching the second Jager in the V-engine and sending it tumbling into the old remnants of a tank. The Hunter boldly charged his Grizzly with a vibro machete that landed a solid blow to Ti’s movement systems. But the pilot of the Hunter was too attached to his machete, which was now attached to the Grizzly and not coming away. Ti brought his snub canon directly against the crew compartment and soon only the Hunter’s legs and one arm still clutching a machete were left.

19 Spring 1926, Nazarene plains, WFP
‘There’s a desolation here that echoes my own heart.’ Ti remembered the words from a book he had once read about the history of great battlefields. At this place and at this time the passage came to him viscerally. The field of battle was strewn with tanks and Gears, each with a story to tell. Some scenes painted a gruesome story: half a Gear seized in mid-swing, battering at the remnants of a tank while the oversized bones of GRELs and the decrepit remains of body armour marked the final demise of a battalion of infantry. Everywhere was death and the echoes of past heroism. A desiccated garden of sacrifice that could no longer remember the last drop of blood that had watered it. Ti had very conscientiously and respectfully collected the plating to build himself a hide to bury his Gear and wait. The day after arriving, his first tremor sensor indicated a group arriving to the mine, then nothing for two days. Dangerous as it was, he needed to update some data on the Hermes 72 using Teddy’s overpowered com unit. Running only on batteries and exposing only the satellite dish manually, Ti kept his profile as small as possible. When he was done, he locked himself into his OP to maximise his camouflage. It was an effort not to let himself become overwhelmed by the death around him and obsess over the similarity between his hide and a tomb. 

21 Spring 1926, 19:43
A hail of rocket fire knocked Ti around soundly. A quick damage report told him his snub had had it. On the plus side, his com systems informed him they had locked in on and decrypted an active channel: “No, leave them to us,” a northern accent spoke. “Keep them ringed in and unable to escape the Ezekiel, that is all.”  One of the mercs asked about the Grizzly and Ti noted with some interest that he was “entirely disposable” and they were free to engage him. He switched his targeting system to activate the rail gun and waited for them to try.

15 Spring 1926, Bethesda Homestead, 67 km south-west of Fort James
“Are you gonna take a job with that Northerner? I bet you is.” Bolo said with a mixture of slight knowing tinged with regret. “I’d go too if my damned legs were healed. Still, you ain’t gonna find a better piece of death-dealing, misery-inflicting and ball-busting wrath in the whole rest of the plains.” Bolo concluded his sales pitch with evident pride. Ti had learned of Bolo’s overwhelming Grizzly through a contact he had done a favour for, and this was his reward. She was a beast of a machine, increased mobility, superior weaponry and top of the line coms. “She’ll do nicely, Bolo, and I appreciate you renting her out to me. Though I don’t plan on hiring up with any Northerner. Still, if you let me buy you a drink, I’d be interested in the gossip.” Bolo rolled around in his chair and grinned. “Sure thing, Ti. Just one thing: she ain’t a she, he’s a he. I call him Teddy, ‘cause he’s an old softy!” He was beaming and Ti laughed right along. 

21 Spring 1926, 19:47
Ti fired off a number of shots in succession as the Bobcat dove between piles of junked machines of war. It didn’t take long for the ranged match of light rifle versus light rail gun to weigh in Ti’s favour. A new hail of concussive waves shook the mighty Gear. Ti was momentarily stunned and then positively shocked to find a gaping hole in his crew compartment. A Sidewinder and a Warrior II had launched their missiles at range and softened him up considerably as they moved in closer to pit their increased mobility against the sluggish Grizzly. Ti responded in kind and fired all his missiles in two successive waves on the pair, watching with some satisfaction as each hitting projectile sheared off another piece of the Warrior until nothing but slagged metal was left tumbling to the ground.

11 Spring 1926, Northbound Gama Maglev
His data glove gave him a slight tingle, a notice that he had a new message. Ti activated the switch on his HUD and scrolled down the written data. Ellen had posted an update of a large firefight in progress in downtown Prince Gable. It was centered around an attempted bank robbery at the DN. ‘The DN,’ Ti thought, Wallcraft’s bank. ‘Lawyers, my ass!’ Ti hadn’t expected Lukas to do anything until Todd was healed, but when had Ti ever guessed right about Lukas?

He couldn’t turn around, and there would be no point, though he considered it. He was almost in Fort James and he had to pursue his own lead. The DN was no longer relevant according to Ti’s analysis. Bradwick had done a number of transactions there for Wallcraft in the last two seasons, and there was no reason for him to go there. He was headed to the Narazene mine, or so Bradwick’s movements coupled with the first block of decrypted data from the Kitchen Bill indicated. Ti wanted to do something, though he had promised himself only 72 hours before that it was over. “If I get someone else to help them, though, then I didn’t...’ Ti hadn’t finished his thought; the rationalisation was good enough to act on and he pulled his phone out.

“Ennik, its Ti, how are ya doing? Really, wounded? Wait a minute, Ennik, are you somehow involved in the bank thing downtown?”

21 Spring 1926, 19:50
“The is a test of your emergency broadcasting system. No wait, this isn’t a test, this is an
emergency broadcast. The Ezekiel’s nuclear reactor is about to go critical. Have a nice day.” At
first Ti considered this might be a ploy Ennik was using, but it only took a moment’s glance at
his active sensors to see the building energy signal coming from within the wreck. Ti worked his controls furiously, trying to move his Gear away from the remaining threat. There was a moment’s hesitation as the merc considered the message. Ti did not hesitate, though, and charged the Bobcat, drawing the still ensconced vibro-machete, pitting his size against the smaller Gear. He thrashed it until there was only half of the machine left and no threat to speak of. The struggle had taken him right up against the ravine under the lee of the landship.  As Ennik’s warning began to sink into the minds of the mercenaries, the Gears still cordoning off the westward side of the Ezekiel started to peel off in groups of two or three, and within a minute the whole lot of them were fleeing. Ti looked over the precipice and saw the gushing current ten meters below him. A quick guess told him that the Grizzly would not survive the swim and Ti was pretty sure he wouldn't either. He only had one option open to him: the bridge the Ezekiel provided.

10 Spring 1926, Prince Gable
Ti was walking alone on the streets of the industrial sector, his jacket pulled up snug around his ears in the chill of the coming night. ‘It’s done,’ he repeated to himself, but his head kept going, twisting and contorting with myriad thoughts and feelings. ‘I told Lukas, but I wish Lyta had been there so I could just explain. Even if I don’t know what I would say.’  Ti knew Lukas wasn’t dropping the Wallcraft thing, no matter what he said. ‘I guess I’m used to him lying to me by now, or I should be,’ he thought bitterly. But he kept thinking he had to say something to Lyta, even if he wasn’t sure what. ‘Whatever it is, I owe it to her to let her know it’s over. I’m out of the picture, I’m gone.’ When he got back to his pad he programmed a self-erasing message and hit the record button, staring into the camera’s eye. 

“Dear Lyta, sorry to have to do this this way. I wanted to do this in person; I think you deserved that much. But all you get is this and I’m sorry for that.”

21 Spring 1926, 19:54
Ti was furiously rerouting power form system to system to try and urge Teddy towards the Ezekiel when a black Hunter fell from the flight deck some meters ahead of him. The Grizzly’s com crackled briefly as the Northerner cursed the retreating mercs and then switched to another channel. “This is Captain Wesley to Colonel Gustafson, mission debrief follows, over.” Ti had a moment to react and his gut told him that whatever this guy was about to report concerned Ennik, Lukas, Todd, and Lyta, and Ti wasn’t about to let that happen. Ti diverted his precious little energy from his movement systems to his targeting computer and raised his rail gun. “Hey, Wesley, see you in hell.” The Hunter turned to see where the point-to-point laser communication was coming from, but before he could raise his own weapon, Teddy let loose a hail of devastating super-accelerated metal that tore the black Hunter to shreds. Alarms howled in the cockpit as the massive Gear locked up and every system failed. The Grizzly lurched, teetering precariously. Ti saw the open space before him and the five meters to the ground. Without a moment to lose, he slapped his restraining harness and pulled himself free of the cockpit in one smooth movement and leapt. He hit the ground hard, despite his roll, and came to his feet in a sprint. He had not gained five steps when he was thrown down by the shuddering impact of the twenty tons of machinery that came crashing down behind him. Ti looked back and saw his faithful Grizzly face down. Pushing himself up, he had no time to dwell on what might have been his tomb and turned his attention instead to the Ezekiel looming large just a few meters away, but before he could advance any more a terrible shriek of metal tore through the air as the landship ripped herself in half.

04 Winter 1926, Prince Gable
Ti was working late again. There were scraps of information in the Kitchen Bill that were tantalising but elusive. Crossing this with the WestCorp info was great, but it still left a gap in the data: the money. It was clear to him that he was going to have to get into the Governor’s Palace to retrieve their records. He was already low on resources: Nadya, Markus, and O’Kang were on assignment. Ti would just have to wait until Lukas, Todd, and Lyta were back to put them on the job. He smiled, realising just how integrated they had become to his operation. Not only was their work spectacular -- this latest stuff with Bradwick was a prime example, and Ti was already backtracking his movements to see what part he played -- but he liked having them around. A shadow crossed his face. It was never fun to do, but it felt like the right time to tell them what they meant to him in his usual, if a bit morbid way. He retrieved his last goodbye message, erased it and started recording a new one. “Hey guys. There’s no easy way to say this, but if you’re hearing this recording then I’m dead.”

21 Spring 1926, 19:58
The stern and prow of the ship reared up as the middle bridging the precipice caved in and the
two pieces closed like an enormous pair of scissors, cutting off his path of retreat. The terrific sound and impossible amounts of debris flying about his head instinctively made him flinch as he turned and ran away from the edge. The carcass of the ship had not even crashed to the bottom of the ravine when he coolly realized he had no escape. The open core of the Ezekiel`s second reactor hit the Western river flowing at the bottom of the Nazarine ravine and instantly superheated thousands of litres of water, shooting a steam plumed four hundred metres up. Ti ran from the sound, from the heat of the steam and the knowledge of the radioactivity about to descend on him. Even then his mind flew to his friends and he hoped they were away and safe. His lungs burned from the effort and building heat of the steam now saturating the air, but still he ran. He knew with absolute certainty that it was to no avail. There was nowhere to run to.


There’s a desolation here that echoes my own heart. Walking among the ruins of the defeated and the scars of the victorious, you realise that true bravery is seldom recorded. Glory is fleeting, an ancient general once said, but obscurity is forever. On the battlefield it isn’t the story of luck, survival, or the brotherhood of warriors that resonates, but the long sigh of futility and time’s indifference. 
- Prof. Jacob Desautel. The Great Battles of History -

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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