Friday, February 15, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VI: Motives

There was a knock on the door; it was soft and apologetic, and Tom wasn’t in the mood for things soft or apologetic. “Not now,” he said authoritatively and went back to concentrating on his 60-cycle-old scotch and a double magnum cigar he had been toiling at for nearly 45 minutes.

Ellen walked in anyway. The young woman had a soft exterior, the apparent humility of a humble rancher’s daughter, but she was as stubborn as a bull, and Tom was not in the mood to lock horns. Again.

“Go away, Ellen, I’m not in the mood...” Doc Chambers started grumbling threateningly as she turned and closed the door to his office in the TNTR tower.

“Like I give a shit!” Ellen interrupted forcefully. “Now you listen to me, and you listen good, Tom Chambers. I know you think you’ve got the whole weight of the world hanging around that conniving head of yours, but so help me if you harm those kids I’ll...” She left her threat hanging in the air, as thick and heavy as Chambers’ cigar smoke.

“What?” He said, his tone cold and menacing. “What will you do?”

Ellen reeled slightly from the question. She hadn’t considered it. She had been trying frantically to find the Doc since Bill had called her an hour before, and she hadn’t considered any other outcome than saving Lyta’s life. “Doc, those kids are worth more to you alive,” Ellen started again, more placatingly.

“Don’t appeal to my rational interests, Ellen; Bill already tried that. I’m guessing he spoke to you. I know you’re fond of Lyta, but she and her brothers are stone-cold mercenaries. They aren’t worthy of your pity. They have no morals and no scruples. They will lie to anyone and do anything for one thing, their only motivation: money.” He spat the words out and rinsed his mouth with a large swig of scotch as if to get out their bad taste.

“Doc, if gettin’ rich is a sin, then you gotta ask yourself what you’ve been doing all these cycles with the caravan guild and....”

“Ellen, you are not listening. Either that or you have blinded yourself because you have a good heart, but make no mistake, they do not share that weakness. They have access to sensitive information; they can access more. They are playing in the same league as the SRID or the NGIS or Ti’s Lelland kids. They are highly skilled, well connected, and supremely effective. Lukas pointed out to me just how much intel he had sent my way and Ti’s. And he was right. He and his siblings are supremely valuable assets.”

“So what’s the problem, Tom? Sounds like Bill was right. You’d be a fool to piss them off and double the fool to kill them if they’re that useful,” she said frustrated, throwing herself into a chair in front of the Doc’s desk. Equally exasperated, he responded by bounding out of his.

“But they aren’t Ti’s kids. Ti couldn’t control them, he couldn’t even trust them. They work for money, nothing else. At least the Polar intelligence agencies are zealots. I know where their motives lie. But Lukas turns whichever way the money blows. He can’t be controlled and he can’t be trusted. He would sell Terra Nova’s very fate to the Earth for a price and feel a professional duty to kill anyone in his way who tried to stop him.”

“Doc, you’re being overly dramatic, and you’re working yourself into a frenzy to justify murdering some kids whose only crime is they don’t work for you.” Ellen was speaking more softly now, trying to bring down the Doc. He spun around from his pacing and looked at her as though he didn’t know her.

“Ellen, for all the prosperity I’ve accumulated and the wealth I’ve spread out to the caravaners and the Badlands at large, I am a pauper compared to the resources available to our enemies.” Chambers walked to the front of his desk and perched himself on the edge of it, looking intently at Ellen. “My money does not get the guilders to do what they do. Everyone we trust fights for what they believe in first. I can’t and don’t buy their loyalty. And anyone I can buy I cannot trust because someone else will always have deeper pockets than me. Sooner or later, these kids will be our undoing. Not because they’re evil but because they are that good at what they do. And they will deliver our destruction to the highest bidder because that is who they are. And we will die for their greed.”

Ellen swallowed hard past the lump in her throat. The Doc had done plenty of questionable things. He and Kain had always walked a razor’s edge between right and wrong, and Ellen often felt it was hard to tell which one it was, but as serious as he was -- and there was no doubt in Ellen’s mind that the Doc was committed to his reasoning -- killing Lyta and her brothers for what they might do just wasn’t right.

“Doc, I hear what you’re saying. And Prophet knows you’ve had to make hard decisions about your greater strategic goals. But you can’t condemn these kids for what they might do, for who they might work for, and who they might betray. I know Lyta, she’s a sweet kid. She gets excited and confused. She fell in love and she's has been heartbroken. She ain’t the machine you paint her to be, and she knows right from wrong.” Ellen stood and took Tom’s hand as she pleaded for him not to summarily judge and execute these kids.

“If you do this, if you kill these kids for what you think they might do one day, that’s wrong and that’ll make you a bad person. And you’re right, the guilders don’t follow your lead ‘cause of the perks and the comfort. So if you do this, you’ll lose them, sure as you’ll lose me.”

Chamber squeezed her hand lightly, his head down. He drew in a long breath and let out a longer sigh. When he looked up, he nodded. “Okay, I’ll let them go and they can have their Forzi.” He disengaged himself and went around his desk to collect his coat from his chair and pistol from his drawer. Ellen watched, her feelings bubbling inside her, realising how close this had come to desperate ends. She was used to the Doc being sure of himself, but she had never seen him this much in the wrong and it upset her. He put his jacket on and holstered his gun.

“I’m not prejudging them, Ellen,” Chambers said before emptying his glass. “I spoke to Ennick. Ti let them go.” Retrieving his hat, he continued. “He knew that their motives could not be trusted, that they would betray his operation.” They walked a few steps to the antechamber of his office and closed the door. “Next time he came across them, he died. Ti was the only person in the world besides maybe you and Ennick who believed they have any good in them.” He thumbed the keypad and the office locked with a muffled thud. “Ti died for that mistake.”

With that, he walked away, his cigar smoke trailing behind him. Ellen stood in the dark hall, realising Chambers blamed the kids for Ti’s death, and as wrong as the thought of him killing them a few moments before still felt to her, now at least she understood his motives.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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