Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VII: Leaping into Trouble

31 Autumn, 1926, 15:00

Lyta wasn’t sure what morbid fascination it was that brought her back to the Oxford Institute for Physical Advancement. Maybe it was nostalgia for a life she lost when she was only a child. Maybe it was masochism, watching the elite gymnasts while knowing that she could never compete on their level. Maybe it was a desire, on some level, to know the competition, not that she would ever consider the athletes in the gymnasium below her truly ‘competition.’ She was half-curious what Doc Chambers might think of the entire thing. No doubt he’d have something clinical and unwanted to say on the subject.

The class ended and Lyta sat down on the bench overlooking the gymnasium. After a few minutes, the door opened and a young woman in training clothes looked at her inquisitively. “Bonan matenon,” she said politely.

Lyta, who had been picking up at least the basics of Intralingua over the half-season she’d spent in the Humanist Alliance, returned the greeting.

“Ĉu vi estas skolto?” asked the woman.

The last word gave Lyta trouble, and she shook her head. “Do you speak Anglic?”

The woman shifted languages to match her guest. “Of course,” she said. Lyta wondered that so many Oxford citizens spoke Anglic, but then again, she supposed there were plenty of Badlanders who’d made their way here after the war. “Are you a scout?” she repeated in Lyta’s native tongue.

Lyta shook her head again. “No.”

“A coach? A gymnast from the Badlands?”

Lyta shrugged. “Not a coach. I used to do gymnastics, before the war.”

The woman broke into a smile. “And you're here to continue your training! Marvelous!”

Lyta hesitated. Had you asked her five minutes before, she would have insisted that nothing was farther from the truth. But something in the woman’s manner wanted to make you like her, and Lyta didn’t want to refute her outright. “I…”

“You are out of practice, I understand,” she said. “We can help you. We have classes for all levels. The group classes, without a private trainer, are quite reasonably priced.”

Lyta shook her head, trying to figure out a way to work her way out of the situation. “I wouldn’t even know what level to be placed in anymore.”

“It is no matter,” said the trainer. “There is a gap before the next class. I can evaluate you, and we can place you in the right session.” She held out a hand. “I’m Emilee Andyrs. Are those your training clothes?”

Lyta found herself taking the hand and nodding despite herself.


The gym was deserted except for Lyta and Emilee, who had placed Lyta in the center of the large training mat. They’d started slowly, front and back rolls, handstands, and various permutations from one to the other. Kid’s stuff. But, then again, Lyta had mentioned that she hadn’t trained in years, and Emilee was just being thorough.

They quickly moved to more difficult maneuvers. “You’re kicking out in the landing,” Emilee chided gently as Lyta came out of a front handspring. Lyta sighed. She’d forgotten all the tiny minutia she’d had to think about in formal gymnastics: toes always pointed, keeping the feet together on landing, and landing in a precise posture. The B’Ti didn’t care how you came to the end of the course, so long as you made it in seven minutes. Often, ending a leap with legs apart was preferable to legs together, because it gave a better base to start a sprint.

But Lyta was not in Junira Loresh, and if she was training at the OIPA, she would have to play by their rules. She tried the front handspring again. Again, her foot went out to steady herself. She barely held herself back from cursing.

“It’s okay,” said Emilee gently. “You’re out of practice; your form needs a bit of work. You’re still doing well, really well. Why not try a Mekong Front?”

Lyta put the flubbed landing out of her mind and stared at the coach blankly.

“Did you not practice that, back where you trained?”

Lyta shrugged. “I have no idea. Could you demonstrate it?”

Emilee nodded enthusiastically – she did everything enthusiastically, Lyta was chagrinned to see – and launched into the move. Lyta stared, surprised to realize it was simply a backwards half-turn followed by a front flip. She copied it exactly, and Emilee clapped her hands, delighted.

They continued like that a few moments longer, with Emilee demonstrating and Lyta copying to the best of her abilities.

It was the double back that did her in. Lyta watched as Emilee leapt and half-spun before doing two full rotations and then hitting the ground again, toes perfectly pointed. Why would anyone need to do two rotations, Lyta asked herself, when one was enough to get through any obstacle? How could you even vault yourself high enough to do two rotations without an elevated start or at least a springboard? Emilee clearly had managed it, but Lyta found herself struggling to figure out the point of the move, let alone how to gain the proper height to accomplish it.

She shook her head and tried it. She managed to get through a single rotation before she landed. She stepped back and tried again. Again, a single rotation.

She made her way back to the very edge of the mat, ran, and leapt. She had gone through one and a half spins, nearly two, before she realized with a sickening feeling that the ground was coming up too fast and that she was going to hit it before she’d regained her feet.

She got her hands and feet out beneath her just in time to break-fall. She groaned. At least the training mat was padded.

Emilee reached out her hand. “It’s okay,” she said. “That one’s tough. Usually we only teach it in the advanced classes. But you’re really good! We can put you in the intermediate for sure! Once you get your form under control, we could probably move you up to the advanced in…” she considered for a moment, “maybe a half-cycle. Maybe a bit less, depending on how often you come. There’s an intermediate class this evening, if you want to start today.”

Lyta shook her head and got up from the ground. “Thanks,” she muttered, knowing that she would not be coming back. The regulations that had once ruled her life now seemed confining and arbitrary, and she wondered how she had ever put up with them.



Lyta stared up at the OIPA’s façade in frustration. She wanted to move, not across a gymnasium floor, but through real space, in all dimensions, feeling the progress of getting from one place to another where there were no other people to impede her progress. For a half-season, she had held herself back, knowing that to run properly in the Humanist Alliance would give herself away. She knew she shouldn’t. She knew it would be a mistake. And yet…

And yet Oxford taunted her. Torgath had told her once that the whole city, especially the architecture, had been based on some Old Earth city of the same name, some university city. And, oh, what architecture! If there had ever been a city designed for running, it must be Oxford, Lyta thought to herself. The columns, the flying buttresses, the arches and spires and domes and curious little features that protruded where you least expected them! Her hands itched. Her feet tapped on the flagstones.

She knew she shouldn’t, but already her eyes were drawing a course for herself: a quick leap up the wall to reach the top of the arch, then across to the column and up the ridges, over to the balcony and a few steps to reach the buttress, then grasp hold of the spire over there and use it to shift directions to that building…

She couldn’t do gymnastics, not anymore. She knew that now. It would do nothing but frustrate her with its unnecessary rules and pointless grading schemes. She couldn’t fight. And she couldn’t run. She knew she couldn’t.

She sighed. ‘Just this once,’ she promised herself.

And, silent as a shadow, she leapt up and away over the streets of Oxford.



The four coaches, three women and one man, sat together in OIPA’s viewing room. More incongruously, a Public Order Protector in full uniform sat behind them, manipulating the display. In front of them, in high-definition trideo, Lyta spun and leapt and ran across the buildings of Oxford. The Protector was silent for the fifteen minutes of the recording, but the coaches occasionally found themselves gasping as it appeared that the athlete would miss a handhold or plummet to the streets below. And yet, she never did. She always caught herself at the last moment, using some aspect of the architecture that was hidden from the trideo or pulling herself up with sheer strength and skill.

When the woman in the trideo had descended back to street level and blended back into the crowd, the Protector thumbed off the recording and raised the lights. “She began here,” he said, “having emerged from your institution. We thought you might be able to shed light on her identity.”

The youngest of the four coaches, her hair pulled back in a green headband to match the bands around her ankles and wrists, nodded. “She’s been here the last few days, observing. I helped her run through a placement for gymnastics training this morning.”

The Protector nodded. “Do you know her name, citizen?”

Emilee consulted a terminal next to her, pulling up the records. “Ryss Norril,” she said after a moment.

“Do you know anything else about her?” asked the Protector, making a note of the name.

Emilee’s brow furrowed. “She said she did gymnastics before the War. In the Badlands, I assume; she speaks Anglic but not Intralingua. It must have been at a pretty high level. Her form isn’t great, but she’s really, really good for someone who hasn’t trained in a decade.” She looked dubiously at the viewing area, now dark, as though to conjure back the image that she’d just been watching. “Unless she has been training, of course.”

The Protector got to his feet. “Thank you, citizen. You have been most helpful.”

The head coach, a middle-aged woman with creases across her face, stood with him. She was no longer as lithe as she once had been, no longer able to do the high-impact moves of her youth, but she still had a keen eye for talent and ran OIPA’s gymnastics program with the highest level of efficiency. “May I ask what she’s done to deserve the intervention of the POP?”

The Protector gestured to the now-dark viewing theatre. “This, what you’ve seen. As we tracked her, we identified fifty-eight cases of trespassing. There may also be charges of public endangerment. We must find this deviant before she hurts herself or others.”

The head coach shook her head in astonishment. “She’s not deviant, she’s amazing,” she said. “To think of the level of training that must be involved to do something like that, with that level of confidence…” Her voice trailed off.

The Protector was unmoved. “We appreciate your admiration, citizen, but the fact remains that she imperils herself and perhaps others, to make no mention of property and property rights.”

The coaches exchanged a glance before the head coach looked back at the Protector. “Well, if you find her, please offer the OIPA’s facilities as a constructive alternative to rehabilitation.”

The Protector tapped his data-glove. “Noted,” he said. “Thank you again for your cooperation.”

He reached for the recording out of the player when Emilee cleared her throat. “Could we…” she stopped herself as the Protector turned to her. For a moment, she blanched. Then she mastered herself. “Could we have a copy of that trideo? For… For reference?”

The mirrored surface of the POP’s visor gave no indication of what the Protector might be thinking. Emilee glanced at her superior, who nodded. “Excellent idea,” she said in defense of her subordinate. “Clearly this is some new form of training that we will want to study and potentially replicate… in controlled circumstances, of course.”

She maintained a level gaze at the Protector’s visor. After a moment, he tapped the player. “Very well, citizen,” he said. “You are the authority on these matters. I have duplicated the recording to your player.” He slipped out the original and pocketed it, then nodded to the assembled coaches. “Good day.”

The door shut behind him, and there was a pause in the room as the four trainers considered the implications of the meeting. Then the head coach sat back down. “Find the copy, would you, Emilee? I think I need to see this again.”

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