Friday, June 14, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VI: Listening Ears

18 Summer, 1926

Kastin Hassan found her by practically tripping over her.

Lyta had been planning to go to the cafeteria after her conversation with Doc Chambers, to get an early breakfast and watch the sunrise from the oasis tower’s bay windows. That plan had broken down somewhere near the bottom of the staircase, and she’d sat with her head pressed up against the wall for the better part of an hour, her body hunched and her arms around her knees.

“Hey, watch where you’re—” Karin cut herself off mid-sentence as she saw what, or more precisely whom, she’d stumbled over. “Lyta,” she said softly.

Lyta looked up, her eyes red and puffy. She wiped at them with her sleeve. She sniffled. “Hi,” she said, trying to pretend that everything was normal.

Karin sat down beside her on the step. “I heard what happened. Some of it, anyway.”

Lyta let her head drop back against the wall. “Yeah.”

Karin hesitated a moment. “You wanna… get some cawfee or something?”

Lyta wanted to tell her no, that she wanted to just be left alone. But she’d been alone for an hour or maybe more, and it hadn’t done anything for her mood so far. And the thought of someone to talk to, someone who wasn’t cold and calculating like the Doc but who would just listen to her…

She looked up again. “Yeah,” she said softly. “That sounds good.”

She let Karin pull her to her feet and lead her down the last few steps, across the hallways, and toward the cafeteria. It was mostly deserted, only a few people sitting at scattered tables with newspapers and mugs. Karin sat her at a table away from everyone else and went off to get them cawfees. Lyta took advantage of the interlude to run her fingers through her hair – matted, as she’d expected, in the back – and to wipe the grit from her eyes.

Then there was a steaming cawfee in front of her, and she wrapped her hands around it as Karin sat down across from her with her own cup. “I’m sorry for what happened,” she said gently. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Lyta stared down into her mug, watching the milk swirl into clouds in the black liquid. “Not really,” she said.

In her periphery, she could see Karin looking concerned at her from across the table. “You sure?”

The gentle nudge broke the last of her defenses. She did want to talk about it, she realized. She looked up, her hands still twined around her mug. “They have Lukas,” she whispered.

Karin’s face fell. “I… I’m so sorry,” she said.

Lyta looked back down into her mug. “Doctor Chambers said he’d help bring him back.”

Karin caught the bitter tone. “You don’t sound relieved.”

Lyta shook her head. “Everyone’s lied to us so much lately. I don’t know who to trust anymore. I want… I want to believe him, but I don’t know if…”

“If he’ll make good on his word?”

Lyta nodded. “Yeah.”

Karin took a sip of her cawfee. “If he said he’ll help, he will. He doesn’t promise things lightly. Bad for his reputation. Bad for business.” She grinned at her own joke, and Lyta wondered if she was forcing it.

Lyta sighed and took a sip of her cawfee. It was better than most she’d had with Ellen, but it was still bitter and she regretted asking for it.

Karin put down her mug. “Give him some time. There’s not much you can do right this second anyway.”

Lyta looked up, intensity in her eyes. “I could go to the Hammer,” she said softly but fiercely. “I could go and ask where they took him, and not leave until I got an answer or I was dead.”

Karin gave a half-serious smile. “Dead? Isn’t that a little extreme?”

Lyta didn’t drop her gaze. “I mean it.”

Karin seemed to realize that Lyta was serious and her smile turned into a concerned frown. “Lyta, you can’t—”

“I won’t lose him,” Lyta said with the same fierceness. “I won’t. Not so soon after…” The words caught in her throat and she faltered, the tiny burst of energy gone and replaced with grief. She hunched down over her cawfee cup.

She felt Karin’s hands around her own, holding her mug. “Hey,” she said gently, “it’s okay.”

Lyta rolled her head from side to side, ignoring the pain caused by the motion. “No,” she said, “it’s not.”

She looked up at Karin, her eyes filling with tears. “I fucked up with Ti. I fucked up so bad.” Her face scrunched up and tears fell onto her cheeks. “I never even told him I loved him. I was going to, and then…” She shook her head again. “And now I never will.”

“Shh…” Karin still held her, the pads of her thumbs running over the back of Lyta’s hands.

Lyta opened her eyes, letting the tears fall. “I tried to go back for him,” she whispered. “After the explosion. I tried to go back…” She took a deep, shuddering breath. “There was too much radiation. I was too sick. I couldn’t…” She closed her eyes again, letting her tears fall on the table and into lap. “I should have kept going. I should have…” She looked up, the intensity back in her eyes. “I will this time. He’s my brother. I can’t lose him.”

Karin’s fingers stopped moving, and Lyta could see conflicting emotions over Karin’s face. All of a sudden, she remembered who she was talking to, and she felt red shame rise to her cheeks. She blinked back her tears. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t even think about you. I’m such an idiot.”

Karin pulled back her hands and took a sip from her mug. “No,” she said, “it’s okay.”

Lyta shook her head. “No, it’s not. Look, I know I said the other day that sometimes our job would keep Lukas away from you, but this isn’t what I meant.”

Karin was quiet. “I know.”

Lyta swallowed. “Look, I don’t know what’s up with you and Lukas. I know you’ve been on dates, but I don’t know—“ She shook her head. “It’s not important. The point is, if there’s something between you and him…”

For a moment, Karin only breathed, controlling her face and her emotions.

This time, it was Lyta who took the other woman’s hands in her own. “He’s not dead,” she said firmly. “I won’t let him be dead.”

Karin took a deep breath and nodded. “Well, between you and the Doc, I don’t have anything to worry about.” She smiled, as much to convince herself as it was to convince Lyta.

Lyta tried to match the expression. “There you go,” she said, as lighthearted as she could muster.

They were quiet a moment as the pale dawn shone into the window, and with it the reflected silver shimmers of the trash heaps. At length, Karin stood. “I have to go,” she said. “I have work to do.”

Lyta nodded. “Yeah.”

Karin touched her shoulder, just for a second. “If there’s anything you need—“


Karin stood a moment longer, watching the dawn, and then she was gone, away towards the hangers of Hotel Bravo. Lyta wrapped her hands back around her mug and stared out the window, trying to figure out how long she was prepared to give the Doc before she took matters into her own hands.


Smoke curled from his cigar, forgotten, as Tom Chambers watched the monitor on his desk, watched Karin Hassan leave the table and Lyta turn silent again. He started to pour himself another measure of whiskey and thought better of it. The sun was up and he'd have to keep a clear mind today.

He considered what he'd just seen on his screen: the ferocious force that had stormed through his office had transformed, in his cafeteria, into a fragile, injured young woman. An hour before, she had been tempered by rage and made strong by purpose and emotion; now the fire had burned too long and she had become crystallized, brittle, and likely to break with the slightest touch. He knew her pain; he had kept the same flame burning just under the surface for the last season. Her vulnerable frame made Tom think of Ti, alone and dying. He knew better than most what radiation did to a person, and try as he might, he hadn't been able to suppress the image of Ti's fate. No more than he had been able to suppress the feeling of resentment that had poisoned him every day since.

He blamed the Lassanders for Ti's death; he had ever since he had heard. But staring at Lyta through the video feed, there was no anger and no blame left. Just sympathy. She had lost someone she loved, just like him. They had lost the same person and that bonded them, whether she knew it or not. He took a long drag on his cigar, contemplating the smoke as it reflected in the dawn light. He was resolved not to see her break; she wasn't going to lose anyone else.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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