Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter IV: Two Halves Don’t Make a Whole

12 Summer, 1926

The knock on the door broke her mood. Todd was out – Lyta hadn’t asked where – which meant that she was alone to answer unwelcome interruption. She pressed a button on her data-pad and stood up, checked the peephole, sighed, and opened the door.

Jimmy Croyden strode through like he owned the place. “Have you got the fuckin’ case open yet?” he asked without preamble.

Lyta picked it up from where she’d been working on it. The outer leather had come off easily enough, but beneath it was an almost solid metal interior, the seams so fine that Lyta could barely feel them. She flung it at Jimmy, and he caught it. “I’ll take that as a no, then,” he growled.

“Mekongese security vault,” said Lyta, flopping back down on the couch next to her data-pad. “I don’t know how to open it; I don’t know anyone who does. You need a specialist for this, unless you want me to keep playing with it like a monkey.”

Jimmy tossed it back to her and she plucked it out of the air. “What the fuck good does it do me if it’s not open?”

Lyta shrugged. “Not my problem. Find someone yourself. It’s your op.”

Jimmy started to pace. He hadn’t mentioned Billy since they got back, but she knew he must be thinking about his brother. Billy had already been unconscious when she’d left, and that was before the explosion that knocked the maglev off its tracks in what SNS was dubbing the worst terrorist attack on the TNTR in 150 cycles.

Sadly, knowing that Lukas was stuck in the same explosion, without proper papers or identification, wasn’t doing anything to help her own mood.

Jimmy stopped in front of the mini-bar and helped himself to a bottle, then rummaged around in their hotel kitchenette to find himself a glass. “My resources,” he said as he banged cupboard doors open and closed, “are already stretched unpleasantly thin. That’s what this whole job was supposed to rectify. How am I even supposed to know whether to move forward if you can’t tell me what is in the fucking case?!”

He found a glass, slammed it down on the counter, and upended the tiny bottle into it.

Lyta folded her legs under her and looked at him. “We may have bigger problems than that if you can’t guarantee your boy wiped the security footage.”

Jimmy lowered the glass in mid-sip and glared at her. “I told you it’s done. He scrambled that feed so good its own mother wouldn’t recognize it.”

Lyta stared back, surprising herself with her boldness. “It’s not mothers that I’m worried about.”

“It’s fucking done!” Jimmy’s voice rose, his hands spreading in annoyance. “What do you want, a certificate of completion? Are you doubting my word?”

“I’m doubting the new kid you brought in,” answered Lyta. “Because if he fucked this up, there’s not a city on the planet where we won’t have someone gunning for us.”

“Lyta, sweetheart,” Jimmy said in mock kindness, “you already have people gunning for you in every city on the planet. What’s a few more?”

Lyta ignored the jab. “Speaking of which, are you sure the kid isn’t going to talk? Hacking his way into the train systems is one thing, but if he starts bragging about what he did—”

“The kid’s not going to do anything.”

“You sure about that?”

Jimmy took a slow sip of his whiskey and turned to the window, overlooking the piles of shimmering garbage. “He knows the consequences of talking.”

“Yeah?” asked Lyta, her eye drawn to the TNTR tower where she’d dropped Mads off the night before. “And what consequences are those, Jimmy? You gonna get us to kill him for you? Is that before or after he lets everyone know we were doing a job on the train?”

Jimmy turned around to face her. “He’ll keep his fuckin’ mouth shut.” He paused and polished off his drink, walked over to the minibar, and poured another bottle into the glass. “Speakin’ of people keeping their mouths shut, what about your little guest?”

Lyta’s eyes narrowed. “What little guest?”

“The enemy agent you so generously brought to the hospital in my hopper. The kid’s not the only one who can start talking.”

Lyta glared, but Jimmy had touched a nerve. Dawn’s jump onto her departing form as she parachuted off the train, the ground only meters below her, had been unexpected. Insane. Lyta should have killed her when she had the chance. She still didn’t know why she hadn’t. But once Todd saw her, saw the bright red blood she was coughing up when she’d landed from her suicide jump, he’d insisted she be taken to get medical treatment. “We were wearing helmets the whole time we were with her,” Lyta said finally. “There’s no way for her to ID us. And what’s she gonna say? Anything that implicates us points the finger right back at her.”

Jimmy practically rolled his eyes. “Then you’re blind as well as stupid,” he said, speaking slowly and enunciating each word. “She was there on a legitimate job protecting something of great importance. Something, I might add, that we have stolen from her. Or that we think we’ve stolen from her because, I remind you, you still have not succeeded in opening my Prophet-forsaken case.

“If she wakes up and realizes that someone in this city has her case, she will not stop until she gets it. She jumped off a maglev without a fucking parachute to get it back! She has no way of knowing there were two teams on the train. All she knows is a well-coordinated, well-armed group of people succeeded in robbing her of her charge, and then blew up the train after they got it. If she brings in the law, where do you think her finger is pointing first?”

Lyta ground her teeth. “She doesn’t know it was us,” she said firmly. “Helmets the whole time. For all she knows, we’ve taken the case and are on the other side of the planet right now. She’s not an issue.”

Jimmy slammed his glass on the counter. “You better hope you’re right, for your own sake. And open the damn case.”

Lyta hurled it at him. “Open it your fucking self,” she said as it smashed into his chest.

Jimmy caught it with both hands. For a moment, it looked like he might go for a gun. Lyta tensed, ready to throw herself off the couch and towards her temporary employer.

Carefully and deliberately, Jimmy placed the metal case down on the counter next to his glass. He smoothed his lapels. “Right,” he said, his voice perfectly even. “I’m going to see what I can do about finding someone. Keep it safe, would you, love? Wouldn’t want it falling into the wrong hands.”

He left the room as abruptly as he’d come, and the door thunked shut behind him.

Lyta realized her hands were clenched into fists, and she forced herself to breathe until they relaxed.

She turned back to her data-pad and unmuted the call that Jimmy had interrupted. Alain Vulpei’s face stared back and her. “Lyta, cherie,” he said, his voice full of concern, “what is wrong?”

Lyta shook her head and bit her lower lip. “It’s all right,” she said at last. “Our employer’s being an asshole. It’ll be fine.”

Alain looked at her a moment longer, as though he might argue, then thought better of it. “He must be quite forceful, to bring such emotion out of you.”

Lyta sighed. “He’s worried about his brother. I am too, I guess. I just…” She stopped the thought before she could say it. “He’ll be fine,” she said with a conviction she wasn’t entirely certain she felt. “He’s gotten out of tougher situations before.”

She settled herself back on the couch, her legs tucked under her, and let her hand trace along the seams of the couch. She leaned forward. “So, you were about to tell me about the time you got so lost on a hunting trip you wound up in the Humanist Alliance.”

Alain smiled and drew a breath that Lyta already knew was an indication he was about to launch into a tall tale of probably-made-up adventure. She matched his expression, the tension from dealing with Jimmy already leaving her. “Of course,” he said, warming to his subject. “Let me tell you…”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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