Monday, November 26, 2012

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VI: The one left standing

35 Sping, 1926

Lukas had long known that he could judge his sister’s mood by her body language. When she was focused, she was as still as a statue, whether sitting at a table or balanced on the edge of a balcony. When she was irritated, she would drum her fingers or tap her foot. When she was tense, she would stretch or run her hands along a couch seam or a table edge. The larger the moment, the more agitated she was. It was one of the reasons he’d told her on multiple occasions that she was piss-poor at cards.

He couldn’t tell her that now. Sedated on his makeshift stretcher, he couldn’t tell her anything. And he certainly couldn’t notice that she was not only pacing the length of the homestead, but also clenching and unclenching her hands, pounding them against the walls, and tearing her gaze between his unconscious form and the northeast window.

“This was the stupidest plan in the history of stupid plans,” she told him, unable to keep the fear out of her voice. “You’re going to have to work to top this one.”

She stopped, spun around on her heel, and faced him directly. “Don’t take that as a challenge.”

She resumed her pacing.

Ennik was outside, trying to rig a better stretcher for the antelope. Dawn had said that a medevac was coming, but she’d already betrayed them at least three times in less than a day, and it was always good to have a backup plan. Todd was pigeonholed in the cupola with his rifle, not because Lyta thought he was in any fit state to stand lookout, but because he’d wanted something useful to do and she didn’t want to have to take care of two brothers at once. Lukas was enough. He wasn’t looking good.

She’d done what she could, helping Todd to patch the chest-wound and the leg that looked uncomfortably like something she’d buy at a butcher’s shop. They’d put a blanket over him and given him what drugs they had in their first-aid kit, but he needed doctors. He needed a transfusion and a surgical team. Badly.

“What in Prophet’s name were you thinking, taking this job in the first place?” she asked his sedated form. “I mean, I understand how everything that happened out here – fucked up as it was – just followed. Who would have thought that an entire Northern squad was out here waiting for us? With chain guns? Or that Dawn was working with them under our noses the whole time?” She grimaced. “I’m going to kill her, you know. The next time we meet…”

She shook her head and resumed her pacing. She did two full lengths before she gathered her thoughts again and restarted as though she hadn’t stopped. “But why did you agree to bodyguard Vulpei? He wasn’t our problem! It was Jimmy’s problem! We didn’t need the money, we had our own job to plan—”

She stopped dead in her tracks, between the kitchen and the sofa, and turned so that she was facing Lukas again. “I hope you don’t think we’re still going through with that.” She walked over until she was standing barely a pace away. “Because if you do, you’ve just topped the list of the world’s stupidest plans, and I didn’t think that was even possible after what happened today.”

She perched on the back of a sofa and stared down at her brother, watching the shallow movements of his chest. “Because you’re not in a state to go, Todd’s not in a state to go, we haven’t planned shit, and we’ve got six days to go into the world’s most dangerous prison to rescue someone who wants to kill us. Fuck. That.”

She hopped off the sofa and started walking the circumference of the room, banging her hand against the wall for punctuation. “You’re probably still gonna want to go, that’s the worst thing. I can already hear you saying all the reasons we have to. And you know what? They’re all bullshit. They’ve been bullshit since we took this job in the first place. The mine’s a life sentence for anyone who goes in, if they don’t kill us first just for being there…”

She was silent for a moment, turning over possibilities in her head, trying to calculate the variables, her hand tapping along the porous surface of the wall in a staccato counterpoint to her pacing.

She stopped next to the northeast window, looking for the medevac hopper and seeing only open sky. She wondered how long it would take to arrive from Port Arthur. It should have been here already, she thought, but she wasn’t a pilot. She didn’t know when Dawn had called them, or what she’d told them. Maybe they didn’t know how serious it was, or how quickly they needed to get here, or maybe Dawn had just run off and left Lukas for dead as one final betrayal, so that Lyta could sit and watch her brother die before her eyes like her father had and Ti—

“Fuck Dawn!” she shouted at the window, her voice choked with tears. “And fuck Jimmy! And fuck Minnie and Smith and Auntie Enn, and especially fuck Vulpei!”

She grabbed her staff and smashed it into a chair hard enough to break it, sending pieces flying around the room, to join with the rest of the shrapnel from the morning’s firefight. She stood with her staff extended, panting, forcing herself to stop crying.

“He said he loved me,” she said to Lukas, her voice taking on a sarcastic venom. “Stupid dramatic Southerner. Like he knows anything about it.”

But it was the wrong thing to say because she was thinking about Ti again and wondering if there was any possible way he might have survived Nazarene and knowing, deep down, that there wasn’t. She walked back to the stretcher that Ennik had jury-rigged out of whatever-it-was that he’d found, looked down on Lukas and his hastily-prepared bandages, already stained red, his mangled leg hiding underneath the blanket, his shallow breathing, weak and uneven from too much lost blood. “I’m not going to let you die,” she said fiercely. “You or Todd both. If I have to strap you down to the hospital bed and keep watch over you like I did in the damn tent, I’m not letting you die.”

She perched on the back of the couch again, staring at him from her slight vantage, willing him to stay alive. She didn’t cry, but her eyes glistened. She ran her finger along the embroidered pattern on the couch, staring at her brother and wondering if there was anything else she could do.

Her radio crackled to life. “Incoming,” Todd said over the comms. “Looks like it’s the medevac, like she said. We should probably get Lukas out front. I’ll just stay up here and make sure they’re really what they say they are.” The radio went silent.

Lyta stood up and started prepping the legs of the stretcher. “Yeah,” she muttered. “They better hope they are. Because if they’re not, I’m gonna kill every last one of them, steal their hopper, and Ennik’s gonna need to learn to pilot really fucking fast.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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