Friday, June 28, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VI: Dealing with the Devil, part 2

Lyta walked with barely more enthusiasm than a gallows prisoner and reminded herself that she’d wanted this. She’d sat in Doc Chambers’ office and asked, practically begged, for him to let her see Geddy. But now, as they descended into the under-levels of Hotel Bravo, she wanted nothing more than to bolt back to her room, lock the door, and stay there until she and Todd left for Junira Loresh.

She wanted to, but she wouldn’t. Lassanders went forward. Even into the arms of psychopathic madmen.

The hallways were labyrinthine, but the Doc walked them with a sure step, and Lyta followed beside him. She’d asked for him to be there. She didn’t want him there, not really, but she didn’t know who else to ask. She didn’t want her brothers; she wasn’t sure she could stand the teasing if they saw how much Geddy got to her when he clearly hadn’t gotten to Todd or Ennik or Jimmy. She didn’t want Karin or Ellen; they would play the mother hen, and Lyta didn’t want pity. She realized, abruptly, that the person she wanted at her side was Ti. Ti could be strong for her. Ti could be the rock that Geddy’s waves of madness crashed into and broke against.

Ti was dead.

She put the thought out of her mind. Chambers had agreed to come with her, and that would have to be enough. In truth, she wasn’t even sure why the Doc had agreed to come, except that he was playing some angle. He was always playing an angle. She was just frustrated that she didn’t know what it was.

They walked down the hallways until they came to a nondescript door. Chambers stopped, and Lyta stopped beside him. “The speakers are inactive,” he said. “And the observation chamber is dimmed. From the prisoner’s side, the glass is a one-way mirror until the observation chamber is illuminated. When you’re ready, we’ll bring up the lights and microphones. I imagine you’ll want to talk to him?”

Lyta paused. She hadn’t really thought about it. Part of her quailed; the last thing she wanted was talk to Geddy. But another part of her, deep down, knew that she would never feel safe until he’d seen her and said whatever he was planning on saying. Maybe he wasn’t as big a threat as she thought. Maybe her time in the mine, all the heightened emotions, had exaggerated him. Maybe he was a neutralized factor like everyone insisted. Then again, Kinross had underestimated him, and look where it had got him.

Chambers was still watching her, waiting for an answer. “Yeah,” she said, not entirely convincingly.

The Doc nodded and entered a passcode into the door’s lock. It clicked open and Lyta stepped into the darkened observation chamber.

She heard the Doc click the door shut behind her. The room was barely furnished: two chairs and a small table to place files or a drink, and that was it. Light streamed in from her right, and she turned slowly to face it.

The glass viewing pane into the prisoner’s cell took up most of a wall. On the far side, the cell was a drab beige reflecting the fluorescent light. She saw the tell-tale dome of a camera on the ceiling, but no doubt there were several other recording devices that were far better concealed. The dome, she suspected, was mostly for show.

There was a table in the middle of the room, solid and bolted down to the floor. In front of it were two chairs, also bolted down. In one of the chairs was a man. He was not wearing the rags or leathers he had worn in the mines. Nor was he wearing the clothes she’d seen at the trade-off; those had been splattered with blood, his own and his boss’s and Prophet knew who else’s. Someone at Hotel Bravo had found him a plain set of coveralls. They were baggy on him. He was not a large man.

His wrists were cuffed to the arms of the chair, and they twisted and turned against the restraints. There were dark brown stains under his fingernails.

Lyta forced her gaze upward. The first things she noticed were the scars, jagged and rough around his neck, still bright red. She wondered for a moment what he’d used to cut out the explosive ring around his carotid artery. His machete? Or had he found some other, sharper implement amidst the hellhole of the diamond mine?

His hair was unkempt. He hadn’t combed it recently. She wondered if he’d ever combed it. It was short enough that he’d probably cut it in the last cycle, but wild enough that he’d probably hacked it off with whatever blade he’d had handy. Fashion was not a high priority.

She looked at his face. It was, unmistakably, Geddy. His eyes wouldn’t stop moving, darting about the empty room like a caged beast. And like a caged beast, she was certain, those eyes would focus on her with ferocious intensity as soon as they saw her, a predator catching the first sniff of its prey.

The Doc had settled himself in a corner of the room where he could watch the exchange but where he would be invisible to the prisoner. He watched her watch Geddy.

“Are you ready?” he asked calmly.

Lyta was not ready. She did not want to talk to Geddy. She did not want to be here. But she had asked to be here, and she would not leave now. She would not show weakness in front of Doc Chambers. She didn’t trust herself to talk. Instead, she nodded.

From her peripheral vision, she saw the Doc flip a switch on the wall, and the speakers crackled to life, catching Geddy in mid-rant. “It’s raining today,” he said as his eyes darted about the room. “I love the rain, Papa. It smells so metallic and feels so hot as it slithers down my eyes and into my mouth...”

Geddy’s ramblings stopped abruptly as the lights came up, and Lyta could swear his nostrils flared.

“And then there was sunshine! Oh, I have been a good boy, haven’t I?” His whole body strained as the two-way mirror revealed Lyta to him, heaving himself against his restraints. His face contorted with gruesome glee. Lyta shuddered despite herself. That sickening smile was probably the last thing that dozens, or maybe even hundreds, of people had seen before he’d ended their lives and took their teeth.

Geddy shook his head, looking sly and incredulous. “No, no, no. You ain’t real. You’re just the imaginings of a sick, sick, pick-up sticks.”

“I’ve started him on a course of antipsychotics,” Chambers’ voice spoke softly into her ear. “To level out his mood. It should also help with coherent statements. To some degree.” He concluded without irony.

Lyta stared dumbfounded. Now that she was here, face to face with her boogeyman, she didn’t know what she was supposed to do. Her mind raced as fast as her heart, trying to find something to say, some magical words that would expel the demon and turn the devil into a man she could forget. She closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe slowly.

“No!” Geddy cried out, breaking her fragile concentration. Her eyes flashed open to see him writhing in his seat, his face twisting in pain. His body convulsed and fresh blood wet his wrists. Froth bubbled around the corners of his lips. Lyta stared in morbid fascination as five agonizing seconds passed. She glanced at Dr. Chambers, but he remained impassive, so she waited, horrified but unable to look away. Finally, mercifully, Geddy eased back in his restraints, and it was as though he melted into his chair.

There was sweat on his brow, drool on his stubbled chin, and a slow drip of blood creeping down his hands to his fingers. He was smiling, a broad, satisfied grin like a man after a good meal or some other carnal satiation.

“Nah, nah, Jay don’t play to them drugs. I don’t hallucinate; I dream a vivid reality that scares the lesser minds of the dead walking the sands of Terra Nova, but mine is the unwavering and unflinching gaze of the Prophet's lidless eyeball into human souls, and you are true. I see you, my queen. You’ve returned to Hades just as your treacherous father had promised.”

Lyta licked her lips. She felt rather than saw Chambers standing just behind her, his presence giving her strength, whether or not that was his intention. “I’m not your queen,” she said, “and I haven’t come back to you.”

“But you’ve eaten the forbidden fruit: apples, apples and spice and everything nice. That what makes you up, pretty little Kore. You can change your name, you can change everything except who you are, and that’s why I love you, that’s why we all love you, your dead lovers.”

He couldn’t know. There was no way he could possibly know. Lyta shook her head. He was crazy, and there was no way he could know about Ti or her parents or the Bathani. Her lips moved, but no words came out.

Doc Chambers’ spoke again directly into Lyta’s ear; for a moment she had forgotten he was there. “Lyta, you don’t have to do this anymore. He suffers from complete psychotic breaks. He can’t distinguish reality from his delusions. Everything he says is nonsense.”

Lyta wanted to believe him. It would be so easy if Geddy were just completely crazy, a lunatic grasping at ideas and thoughts that had nothing to do with her. She wanted to argue with him, but found she couldn’t. “My name isn’t Kore,” she said finally.

“Kore or Kes, Lily or Persephone. These are all just masks. Just like your brother. You’re hiding your scars, my love, but I can see beneath them. Flesh is so soft and weak, so soft, so so soft...” Geddy’s eyes rolled back into his head and his jaw went a slack. Lyta wondered if he was having a seizure. Blood dripped off his fingertips from where he had worn his wrist raw. They fell to the floor of the holding cell. Drop, drop, drop. Like sand counting time. Lyta sat transfixed, almost captive. Soon he was back, his eyes sharp and full of mad intelligence once more.

“Pomegranates, not apples. Silly Geddy, tricks are for kids. But both are blood red and that’s what you’ve tasted, my golden queen. You’ve tasted of the same fruit as I have, the juice that flows in our mortal veins. You’ve tasted the fruit I’ve been forbidden from picking and you want more, don’t you? Don’t you? Yes, you do. You want to pluck the life from me. You want me, my soul, my life. You wants all that’s left of old Geddy. You see, I’m the only one who understands you, that’s why old Geddy is the only one for you.”

She did want to kill him. Despite what she had promised the Doc, if she had been in the same room with him, she would have wrapped her hands around his throat and squeezed and squeezed, just to get him to stop talking, to stop the string of words that straddled the edge between insanity and truth. Chambers had said that the best place to hear truth was from the lips of a madman. Maybe he was right. Maybe there was no one left; everyone kept dying. Lukas had almost died not even a day before, and Ti was dead, her parents--

“Lyta,” Dr. Chambers’ interrupted, “I’m putting an end to this. I thought you might get something out of him that no else would, but he has nothing to offer. You’re right, he’s just a deranged murderer, and this has gone on too long.”

Geddy was still talking, the words gushing from his mouth like a waterfall. “Now it’s back to Tartarus for old Hades, but your father promised that you’d be mine half the time. Half in the light and half in the dark. I know about your daddy, yes, I do. His deal is why you’re here with me, why you kill and why you is destined to love and be loved by death. Dancing to its little tune. Pirouettes and flowers on stage. Little feet dangling from the door like wind chimes. Oh, how I love this song...”

Dr. Chambers stepped out of his corner and the lights dimmed in the room. Geddy’s ramblings cut off mid-sentence as the speaker crackled briefly and went off. Lyta stared at him, his mouth still moving though she no longer heard what he was saying. He looked directly at her, and even though Lyta knew he couldn’t see her through the one-way glass, she felt his eyes boring into her. Then his head lolled and he stared at the ceiling, his scarred throat exposed as his mouth kept speaking words Lyta couldn’t hear.

Someone was in front of her, cutting off her view of the cell. She realized she was sitting, that somehow a chair had found itself behind her so that when her legs gave out she hadn’t fallen to the floor. Chambers was on a level with her, one knee on the ground. “Lyta, are you all right?” he asked softly.

Her hands hurt. She looked down to realize she was clenching her fists so tightly her fingernails had drawn blood. Chambers took her right hand with both of his and carefully pried open her fingers, releasing the tension in her hand and her arm. Then he did the same with her other first, all the time watching her face.

“I’m…” I’m fine, she wanted to say, the way she always said it when anyone asked her who wasn’t Lukas. To not show weakness. To be strong. To move forward. The words stuck in her throat.

He was a madman. Everything he said was nonsense. He didn’t know about Ti, he didn’t know about the Bathani, and he certainly didn’t know about her father. Unless, somehow, he did. She looked at Doc Chambers, blinking rapidly. “I don’t think so,” she whispered.

“First step, get you out of this room,” he said. He was so calm. How could anybody be so calm? He took her by the arm and drew her to her feet. She was surprised that her legs were able to support her weight. All the time, Chambers stood between her and the observation window so she couldn’t look in, couldn’t see Geddy, couldn’t know whether he was looking back at her as she left. She let herself be pulled out of the room, the door thudding shut with finality.

She walked automatically, the Doc’s hand still lightly on her arm, guiding her. “We’re going upstairs,” he said. She heard him as though she were underwater. “And we can talk about this.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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