Friday, June 28, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VI: Dealing with the Devil, part 1

19 Summer, 1926

Dr. Tomohiro Chambers' cigar extended its grey arm of ash ever further as he skimmed papers in front of him. “Preliminary Interrogation Report: Geddy Jay Gordon,” read the header. The contents were much as he’d expected: volatile; prone to digressions and extended metaphors, particularly those graphic or violent in nature; unprovoked outbursts of anger; and so on. His people had not been able to obtain much in terms of concrete data beyond what they’d known already, which was disappointing. Still, he had been in custody barely two days, and there was still plenty of time to get answers.

Chambers’ eyes lingered over the middle of the second page, a paragraph entitled “New Queen.” Geddy’s anecdotes repeatedly turned back towards a woman he described as his “new queen,” the woman who would replace his old, broken queen to sit at his side and rule the underworld. Chambers read through the description with increasing interest. The report strung together fragmentary references to Geddy’s “marble bride” with her “hair like gold needles, sharp enough to draw blood” and “eyes the blue of diamonds that glint out of the hard rock.” He referenced how fluidly she danced, “like a stream that flows in the riverbed, so calm and welcoming on the surface, while in the darkness it cuts gashes in the rock that holds it in its embrace.” Geddy spoke about how his queen would dance for him at court, how happy they would both be, how they would subdue anyone who stood in their path.

Doc Chambers let a fine stream of smoke curl up from his lips. It was obvious who Geddy was referring to. The question was what reaction she would provoke on Geddy, and how he could raise the topic with her now that her brother had turned down his request for employment.

He woke from his ruminations by someone clearing their throat. He looked up, surprised, to see Lyta Lassander standing in the doorway to his office. “Doctor Chambers?”

Tom let the surprise touch his voice. “Kes,” he said, mindful that the door was open into the hallway.

“Do you have a minute?”

Chambers regarded her. For a woman who prided herself so much on her tough-as-nails persona, she was remarkably easy to read. He gestured to the chair in front of him, “Please, come in.”

She walked into the room and carefully shut the door behind her, waiting for the green light to illuminate before tentatively walking into the room. Tom watched her, pale skin and gold hair so light it was almost silver, the way she moved with a gymnast’s grace. She would make a fine dancer, he mused, if she put her mind to it. If she weren’t so focused on the arts of death.

She licked her lips as she sat down. “Lukas told me he’d be getting medical treatment here.”

“Yes, that’s right. The best we have to offer.” It still left a bitter taste in Tom’s mouth. He’d met more obstinate people, but usually they were decades older and had empires built up to support their bravado. Lukas was simply stubborn for the sake of it, as far as the Doc could tell, and insisted on increasing the cost of doing business.

Lyta looked mildly relieved. No doubt her brother had informed her that they would not be under his employ, and just as obviously she didn’t care. In his dealings with her over the past week, Chambers had confirmed many times over that her primary concern was an overriding care for her brothers, to the exclusion of practically any other consideration. It was an angle he was perfectly willing to play.

“Torgath and I are leaving tomorrow. We’ll be away for… three weeks, maybe. We won’t be reachable.”

Chambers nodded in understanding. “Your brother will be safe with us.”

If her brother’s welfare had been her primary concern, that would have been the cue for a profuse thanks and for Lyta to take her leave. Instead, her jaw tightened and she took a steadying breath. “I need to ask you a favor,” she said.

Tom leaned forward, cigar held lightly to his lips. “I’m not entirely certain you’re in a position to be asking for favors.”

Lyta sat stock-still. “I know. But I want to ask it anyway.”

The Doc gestured in a sweeping arc with his cigar. “Ask away.”

She was silent for nearly five seconds, just breathing. Chambers watched as the physiological responses played out over her face and body: anger and fear, not of him, but of her request. “I want to see Geddy,” she said.

Sometimes, he reflected to himself, the universe practically contorted itself in his favor. He gave a silent prayer of thanks. Outwardly, he raised an eyebrow. “After our discussion yesterday? What makes you think I’d have any inclination to let you within striking distance of him?”

Lyta shook her head. “Not to kill him. I won’t… do any of that stuff we talked about. I just want to see him.”

Chambers leaned back in his chair. “If you were in my position, having had our recent conversation, how would you respond to this request?”

Lyta closed her eyes a moment too long. “Please,” she said. “I promise I won’t do anything to him. I need to see him. I need to make sure he’s really detained.”

The Doc paused to consider this. Their recent conversation had been particularly enlightening regarding Lyta’s attitudes towards Geddy, and put a large part of her irrational response towards him in context. It would probably give her a measure of closure to see him in custody and incrementally increase his reserve of her goodwill. More immediately though, Chambers was interested in how Geddy would react to seeing her.

He took a puff on his cigar. “Well,” he said slowly, as though he were only just thinking of it, as though it weren’t a standard security measure put in place for just such a prisoner, “we do have an adjoining chamber to the cell where he’s being held. There’s a separator that can be one-way or two-way glass, with a speaker between the rooms. I could probably arrange for you to see him before you leave.”

Lyta set her lips, but the color also drained from her cheeks. “Okay,” she said.

She shifted the weight to her feet, pushed herself a few inches off the chair, held herself there a moment, then sat back down. Her jaw worked a few times, forming sentences before she spoke them. “You’ll probably want a… a witness or something. To make sure nothing happens.”

Chambers furrowed his brow. “There are cameras in both rooms to record any interrogation sessions.”

“Right.” There was a quaver in her voice.

He paused to reflect on her physiological responses. She was clearly in distress, he could observe that, but he didn't know why. "Is there a reason you want a physical witness? Do you expect something to happen?”

Lyta looked like she was about to be attacked by a herd of dawgs. Her breathing quickened and shallowed; her palms gripped the sides of her chair. Still, to her credit, she kept her voice level. She licked her lips. “No, I just thought that maybe… maybe you wanted someone to be there. To… to watch.” Her eyes locked with his expectantly. She held her breath.

Fear, he concluded, was what Lyta's body language was expressing. On another day, Chambers might have drawn it out further, using her emotions as a lever to put her even deeper into his debt. But having her a nervous wreck when she faced Geddy was not desirable; he needed her composed enough to be the rational presence when she spoke with him. And, he admitted to himself, he wanted a front-row seat to watch it happen.

He nodded slowly. “Very well. I can arrange to be an observer when you meet with him.”

Chambers was fairly certain Lyta hadn’t been aware that she was holding her breath until she started breathing again. Some of the color came back to her cheeks. “Okay,” she said. “When’s that gonna be?”

Chambers looked down at the report still on his desk, at the paragraph labeled “New Queen.” He butted out his cigar into an ashtray and stood up. “My schedule’s free now.”

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