Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VII: The Ghosts of Olympics Past

40 Autumn 1926 – Oxford, Bodleian Library, Special Exhibitions

Much to Lyta’s surprise, the “Tribute to the Olympics” exhibit was fascinating. The sign on the door said that it was travelling all over the Humanist Alliance. It had already been through the western cities and was now moving eastward, to Oxford, Perth, and Raleigh. It was just luck that she happened to be in Oxford at the same time as the exhibit.

She took her time. Torgath would no doubt be researching most of the day, probably on more difficult subject matter than the one in front of her. There was a scale model of the Gropius Olympic facilities, trideos of finalist matches going back decades, reproductions depicting evolution of the gold medals… Lyta found whole thing riveting.

Towards the end, for the more physically minded, there were even pared-down versions of some of the events: a short archery range, a stationary bike inside a moving trideo field to simulate a mountain track, a trampoline. The ceiling was too low for any complex Olympic maneuvers, but for someone who had never used a trampoline before, it was more than adequate.

Lyta stepped onto the surface and centered her weight. She glanced up and took stock of the ceiling. For a few seconds, she merely bounced, getting used to the feel of the springy material. It had been so long since she’d trained on a proper trampoline, but it came back to her. She closed her eyes a moment, lifted her arms, and completed a perfect barani flip followed by a half-back pike. She smiled to herself.

When she opened her eyes, she realized that a camera had captured her flips and was now replaying them on a trideo projector in front of the trampoline.

Lyta shook her head. Foolish. Childish. The time for Olympic dreams was far behind her. She walked out of the exhibit, ignoring the sign to try her skill at the Oxford Institute for Physical Advancement. She had work to do.


11 Summer 1922 – Prince Gable, Quality Suites Motel

“The hand-off to Alexander in four hours,” said Lukas, poking his head into his sister’s room. “You should get some sleep.”

“Mmm.” Lyta did not take her eyes off the video projector.

Lukas took a step into the room. “What are you watching?” He craned his head to see what Lyta saw.

“Freestyle floors,” she replied. On the screen, a woman in a blue leotard executed an impossible series of flips and tumbles. “They’re so good,” Lyta murmured.

“You’re good,” said Lukas.

Lyta shook her head, eyes still glued to the screen. “Not like that.”

Lukas turned to face his sister. “Yeah, but how many of them can hot-wire an antelope in less than 30 seconds?”

“Probably not many.” The gymnast completed her routine in a leap that took her high into the air, twisting and spinning, and landed in perfect form.

“I’d be willing to bet none,” said Lukas. “Cash money.”

Lyta did not look at him. She watched as the gymnast stepped off the mat and stood next to her coach and her mom to wait for her scores.

Lukas paused to see if Lyta would answer him. When she didn’t, he sighed and stepped back into the hallway. “Four hours,” he repeated. “Be ready.” He closed the door behind him.


20 Summer 1918 – Junira Loresh, B’Ti, 5th Course

Lyta heard the rustle of grass before she saw who was causing it. She glanced up for a moment, realized it was Jonas, and then let her head hang back down. The rock wall was solid behind her, the grass soft against her hands as she trailed them along the jungle floor.

“Hippartha,” Jonas said in his soft-spoken voice. “Amaraa was worried when you did not emerge from the course. He asked me to find you. Are you hurt?”

Lyta shook her head. “No, Thralan.”

Jonas’ expression softened and he sat on the ground beside her. “Your heart is troubled,” he said. “And yet the B’Ti has so often brought you joy. What has caused the dam to overflow?”

Lyta took a few short, sharp breaths. “The Olympics are on,” she said.

Jonas nodded. “Torgath has explained to me that you were in training as an athlete before you joined the Bathani,” he said.

Lyta looked up. “I would have gone to Gropius,” she said. “Like last time. If the war had stopped, anyway. Father was going to take us.” She shook her head and tears fell on her cheeks. “It’s been cycles since I’ve seen any of them. I don’t know who’s competing. I don’t even know who’s alive.”

Jonas held out his arms, and Lyta put her head against his chest. Her body heaved as she cried. Jonas held her close in a protective embrace until her tears ended and she was left spent.

“It is always painful when those we love are taken from us,” he said, looking down at the top of her head. “And the reminders find us when we least expect it. It is a pain that must be smoothed by the passage of time like a rock worn down by water.” He stroked her blonde hair, her fair coloration so unlike the rest of the Bathani. “But know this, child: you are among people who love you. We cannot replace those you have lost, but you can begin to rebuild. Whatever you choose, we will support you and nourish you.”

Lyta sniffed and looked up at the Thral’s face. His expression was full of compassion and love. She pulled herself back and ran her fingers through her hair, straightening the tangles. She blinked and shook her head, letting the last tears fall out of her eyes.

She stood up, placing a steadying hand on the rock wall to support her. “Well, this run is shot,” she said. “I must be at least thirty-five minutes. That’ll never get me onto the sixth.”

Jonas rose with her and smiled, a tender smile for his young charge. “There will always be a chance to run again.”


3 Summer 1914 – Baja, Lassander Residence

Lyta eyed the packed bags suspiciously. She was still in her white leotard, her hands still covered in chalk. She looked to her father, but his expression was unreadable. “Are we going somewhere?” she asked at last. “Did I do something wrong?”

Donovar Lassander maintained his severe expression a moment longer, then his face broke into a broad smile and he held forward a piece of paper. “It occurs to me that someone’s twelfth birthday is coming up. I thought a present was in order.”

Lyta took the paper from her father’s hand. It was thick and stiff, with a perforated edge down one side. Lyta sounded the word slowly, confused by the unfamiliar letter formations. “Grop… iu…” She looked up, excited. “Gropius! Are we going to Gropius to watch the Olympics?”

Donovar nodded. “You’ve been training so hard, I thought you might want to see them in person.”

Lyta launched herself into her father’s arms and showered him in kisses. “This is the best present ever!” she exclaimed. “Are Mom and Lukas coming too?”

Donovar shook his head. “No. I thought this might be a fun trip for just the two of us. Our train leaves in two hours, which should be just enough time for a farewell lunch before we board.”

Lyta’s eyes shone. “Do you think we can sit right up close? Evelyn Salma’s competing!”

Donovar laughed and rustled his daughter’s hair. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said.


9 Summer 1910 – Baja, Body Harmonics Gym

Lyta was confused as she entered the gym. There were far fewer people than normal, especially among the grown-ups and the big kids. She made her way over to the training and looked around for Daniella. Her coach wasn’t there. She wondered what was happening.

“What’s going on?” she whispered to Kenna.

“The Olympics,” Kenna whispered back in an awed voice.

“What are those?”

Kenna bit her lip. “I don’t know,” she said.

“The Olympics are where the very best gymnasts in the world compete,” said a grownup who, Lyta realized, had heard the whole thing. “They happen every four cycles, and they’re happening now.”

Lyta looked up excitedly. “Can I go to the Olympics?”

The woman smiled. “Not yet,” she said. “You need to be at least twenty, and you’re only eight.”

Lyta groaned. Twenty was forever away. Even nine was forever away – more than a season! “When I’m twenty can I go to the Olympics?” It was a stupid question. She would never be twenty. Twenty was forever.

The woman maintained her smile. “If you train very hard,” she said. “And learn your routines very well. We have people from this gym who compete in the Olympics.”

Lyta set her jaw. “I’m gonna compete in the Olympics,” she said with finality.

Kenna nodded next to her. “Me too,” she said.

They both looked up at the coach who was not Daniella. “Well,” she said, “we’d better get started.”


15 Summer 1906 – Baja, Lassander Residence

Donovar and Anastasy heard it at the same time. “Mommy, watch me!” It came from the living room. They looked at each other in alarm and rushed out of the kitchen, just in time to see Lyta belly-flop from the top of the bookshelf to the couch, inches away from smashing her head into her sleeping brother’s shoulder. “Again!” she cried.

“You were supposed to put her in her playpen,” Anastasy shot at her husband. She swept up her daughter with a fierce expression. Lyta pushed herself against her mother’s arm, struggling to get back to the bookshelf. “No!” she screamed, her legs kicking desperately against her mother’s hip. “Again!”

“I did,” Donovar replied over his daughter’s wails. “I suppose I’ll have to lower it again. Or maybe just get rid of the whole thing altogether. I swear the girl is half monkey.”

Anastasy pulled Lyta away from the bookshelf, and Lyta’s screams became a full-blown tantrum. Lukas woke up from his nap, realized something was wrong, and began screaming with her. Anastasy sighed. “All right. Bedtime. I’ll take Lyta, you take Lukas.” Donovar nodded, eager to make up for his earlier oversight.

When the children were in bed, Donovar and Anastasy collapsed onto the couch. The trideo played a live feed from the Olympics in the background. Donovar looked over to his wife. “Lukas didn’t climb like that, did he?”

Anastasy shook her head. “No. He was just talking your ear off by the time he turned two.”

“We should find something for her, somewhere she can get out that energy that’s not our living room.”

Anastasy rolled her eyes. “She’s a toddler. I don’t think that energy will ever run out.”

Donovar tipped his head from one side to the next, considering. “No, really.” His eyes passed over to the trideo player, where a woman in a blue leotard was tumbling and leaping. “How early do you think the gymnastics programs accept students?”

Anastasy considered this. “Five, maybe? I wouldn’t know.”

“That’s barely a season,” said her husband. “I should look into it.”

Anastasy sighed. “If you like. But I swear, if she tumbles into my grandmother’s vase, it’s going to be your head on the chopping block.”

Donovar gave a placating smile and kissed his wife on the cheek. “Whatever you say, dear.” He turned back towards the trideo, to the gymnasts and their tumbling, and shook his head. “My little monkey,” he murmured. “Maybe that’ll be you one day.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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