Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VI: Detained

13 Summer, 1926

The stairwell behind the cafeteria was quiet and empty. Few people took the stairs when an elevator was easily available. And so the staircase remained disused, secluded, and the perfect place to escape to when you wanted solitude.

Ennik found Lyta sitting on a window-ledge, her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs. He stopped a moment, suddenly reminded of how young she really was, despite the hard life she had lived in her few cycles. He caught himself thinking about his sister.

“Want a drink?” he asked, mostly to break his mood.

Lyta didn’t look up. “No,” she said. “Thanks.”

“C’mon,” Ennik pressed. “It’s grape.”

Lyta took her head out from where it was resting between her knees and saw that Ennik was holding a soda bottle. With a wink, he peeled off the cap and held it out.

For a moment, Lyta could do nothing but stare. Then the dam broke and she grinned. “Well… just this once. Thanks.”

Ennik passed over the bottle. Lyta took a sip and made a face. “You sure this is grape? It tastes like someone’s sock dipped in sugar.”

Ennik shrugged. “Yeah, well, it’s purple." He took a sip of his own soda and tried not to grimace. Instead, he moved over to the stairs and plopped himself down, arms resting on the railing, head on his hands. “Can I ask you something?”

Lyta eyed him suspiciously. “Is this gonna be something that’s gonna make me want to punch you? Because we’re not on a job now. I’ll do it.”

Ennik returned her gaze. “Maybe. The best questions usually do. But if you’re willing to give me an answer, I’ll take the punch along with it.”

Lyta sighed and let her head drop back down between her knees. “If you’re gonna ask who we’re working for, I’m still not telling you.”

“I figured as much,” came Ennik’s voice from beside her. “But it’s sort of related. Did Lukas tell you that you’re, uh, being detained?”

Lyta scowled, not that Ennik could see it. “Yeah. Not sure what that’s all about. Didn’t stick around.”

“We had Lyta-repellent at the table,” said Ennik. “It comes in the same color as the drink.” Lyta held back from commenting on the GREL, because Ennik was still talking. “Anyway, there ain’t no easy way to put this. The Doc wants to know who you’re working for and he ain’t giving up Katchelli or you guys until he knows.”

Lyta looked up, her face clearly expressing that she had no interest in discussing the situation. “That’s Lukas’ business. He’ll deal with it. He always does.”

“Yeah…” started Ennik, then stopped. He scratched his head and patted at his chest to find a pack of smokes, only to discover the pocket was empty. “Figures,” he muttered to himself. Then, louder: “Uh, well, I was there at the table and Lukas and the Doc… Well, never mind that. Here’s my question: Do you think Lukas would let you guys die rather than give up your employer?”

Lyta looked up sharply, every sense on edge. “Die?”

Ennik took a long swig of his sock-juice. “I’m not gonna pretend I know the Doc too good, but that was a mighty heated argument. And let’s say that if the Doc was bluffing, I wouldn’t want to play poker with him.”

Lyta stared at him, incredulous. “He’s going to kill us? What the hell went on in there?”

Ennik patted his chest again, and made a face as he realized, yet again, that it was empty. “Yup. That's pretty much it.”

Lyta hoped he was joking. She searched his face, and didn’t see a trace of humor. She leapt up from the windowsill, balanced on the balls of her feet. “I need to get to Lukas.”

Ennik held up a hand. “Hold on, Lyta. Let me at least fill you in. Katchelli knows some heavy stuff, and the Doc doesn't want anyone else to know about it. So he doesn't want her to get handed over to just anyone, and, well, you know your brother. He don't like being told what do to. And he's got his code about doing what he was hired to do, no matter what."

Lyta paused, torn, part of her wanting to rush away to Lukas’ rescue, but another knowing that whatever Ennik was about to say was something she should probably hear.

When he realized Lyta wasn’t running off, Ennik continued. “So the Doc says Lukas and you can't go. Lukas says that if the Doc messed up his business, Lukas will make it his mission to mess with the Doc. See where this is going?”

Lyta sat down on the windowsill, hard, and shook her head. “We’re all gonna die.”

“Well, like I said, I don’t know the Doc too well, but Ti thought he was okay, so I find it hard to believe he’d just kill you.”

Lyta tried to take Ennik’s platitude seriously. “That’s… promising, I guess.”

Ennik turned the thoughts over in his mind. “On the other hand, Ti and he had a falling out, and Ti felt he had to hide stuff from him. Like, a lot of the stuff about Tantalus, the Abacus list, and the Jezebel project, and such. And I guess you don’t get to his position without making hard decisions.”

A thought came to Lyta, and she glanced up at the corners of the stairwell. “Look, before you say any more… are they listening? Do you really want to talk about this stuff if they are?”

Ennik shrugged. “I ain’t said anything that they don’t already know. Ti told me about the falling out, and so did the Doc. After Ti died, I hoped he had transmitted his database to the Doc. He asked me the same thing. Ti’s info is still unaccounted for. As for everything else, I’m not gonna tell the Doc anything he doesn’t know he said.”

Lyta sighed. “I guess. The Doc seems to know everything anyway. Well, almost everything.”

Ennik leaned forward. “This is big, Lyta. As big as it gets. Katchelli knows stuff about the Bear’s moles, where they might be, and from there we can guess what they’re doing. The Doc knows the stakes; I don’t think he’ll back down. So what is Lukas gonna do?”

Lyta turned away and stared out the window. “We have a job, Ennik. We went to get her for a reason. Deadline’s tomorrow, and the Doc knows that. You think he can’t get what he needs in time?”

“Nope,” came the voice from behind her, “or he wouldn’t have gone this far. I mean, if it was just a matter of denying your employer the intel, that’d be one thing, but the Doc wants to know as much as he can, and that means you guys missing your deadline. It also means knowing who wanted Katchelli. Because they must know or suspect she knows what she knows, and, well… Hell, what does it matter?” Lyta felt the air move as Ennik stood up. “I know you think of me as the Doc’s stooge, and you’re still pissed at me because of the Bakov op. But you helped me with Calisteria when you didn’t need to and when you could have hurt me, and you didn’t. I know you aren’t bad people, and I can’t believe you’d knowingly hand Katchelli over to someone who would try and turn the whole planet over to the Earthers. I know you’re better than that. But the Doc don’t know you like I do. He only knows what he’s feeling.”

“Yeah?” asked Lyta, turning back to face the larger man. “And what’s he feeling? He feeling in a murderous sort of mood?”

“He don’t trust you. He figures that hiring you was the biggest mistake Ti ever made, and that trusting you guys cost him his life. He hates you.”

Lyta blinked, trying to process what Ennik was saying. “Wait… he thinks Ti died because of us?” She stood up and began to pace the tiny landing, a beast trapped in a cage of its own making. “Okay, I lied. I don’t think the Doc knows anything at all.”

“Well, he knows you didn’t kill him, or I’d be in the same doghouse as you. The Doc knows that Ti counted on us all and that we ended up in the same fight, and that we came out alive and Ti didn’t.”

Lyta flushed, her hands clenching and unclenching at her sides. “Yeah, well, maybe if Ti had told us that he was gonna be at that fucking battlefield in the first place, we could have been watching out for him! You were there, Ennik! You know how it went down!”

Ennik’s voice was soft, almost mournful. “Yeah, Lyta. I was there.”

“Does he think we’re happy that we came out alive and Ti didn’t?!” All the hostility, all the anger, it all had a target, and Lyta let it out at the man who was most likely watching the cameras, or at least who’d get the report.

“Like I said, he knows we didn’t kill him. He sure as hell doesn’t think you’re happy about it, or you wouldn’t be breathing right now.”

Lyta forced herself to stop, to open her hands, to breathe. She looked at Ennik. “So… I don’t understand. Why does he hate us?”

Ennik laid it out as plainly as he could. “All I know is the resistance and the Wolves. It’s a sort of a family. When a Wolf goes into a fight or a raid, he counts on the other guy completely or he could die. Ti didn’t trust you guys and he died around you guys. I guess in the Doc’s world, that’s enough to lay some blame. I don’t know, that’s just the way I figure it.”

Lyta’s jaw worked, trying to figure out what to say, but Ennik wasn’t finished, his voice still soft and contemplative. “Do you ever wonder if Lukas had told him the truth, if Ti and you and me and all been open and on the same page, if he’d still be here with us today? I do. But I don’t think the Doc does. I think he’s got his answer, and that’s why he hates Lukas.”

Lyta sighed and sat down on the windowsill again. For a long time, she was quiet, thinking through her feelings, thinking through what Alain and Ellen had told her. “I can’t ask that question, Ennik,” she said at last. “Do I wish Ti was still here? Yeah, of course I do. With everything I’ve got, I wish he was back. I wish he’d told us he was gonna be at Nazarene. I wish he’d broken through the jamming earlier, so we’d have known and he wasn’t left all by himself. I wish we had a dozen more people with us to fight off whoever the fuck it was that was coming after him.”

Her eyes got a faraway look as she thought back nearly a season. “You know we went back for him after the explosion, me and Lukas and that Kain guy. The hopper pilot said it was suicide. Too much radiation. Me and Lukas spent a week in the hospital. But I did it because I wanted Ti to be alive. I wanted to… to do all the stuff that the Doc said I should do. Tell him that I love him and that I didn’t care what bullshit he had about the mission being the only thing that’s important, because there’s more to life than that. Every single step I took through the radiation, all through the nausea and the pain and the vomit, I was praying that he could just be alive and give me a chance to make everything work out. But… he wasn’t. And wishing isn’t going to bring him back, and neither’s guessing about what might have been different if only we’d done something else.”

She bit her lower lip, thinking. “Look, I know Lukas and Torgath, they didn’t love him the way I did, but they did love him. And if the Doc thinks that we… that we set him up or something… We didn’t tell him everything, that’s true. We kept our secrets. But if the Doc thinks we would do anything that would put Ti in harm’s way…” She shook her head and let the thought trail off. “Well, he can think whatever he wants, but he’s wrong.”

Ennik watched her as she spoke, unused to seeing Lyta’s vulnerable core beneath her usually steely exterior.

“Lyta....” Ennick shook his head, as though shaking a thought free, “We're all in the business of keeping secrets. Lying comes with the job. I didn't know Ti like y'all did and I can't say I loved him, but I think the Doc did. You tell me you didn't do anything to put him in harm's way? You tell me you don't feel any guilt over his death, that you and your brothers’ consciences are clean? Well, lying comes easier to some than to others.”

With a little groan he got up of the steps and walked to the exit. “I don't think he hates you because you were responsible for Ti's death. I think he hates that you think that you aren't responsible at all.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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