Thursday, September 19, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VII: Tunnel Rats

35 Autumn, 1926

They jogged along the tunnel, staying close to the side to avoid the crates hurtling along on their almost-silent rail carts. Lyta consulted the map that was helpfully included on Bhakir's PDA. Between that and the memory of her last sojourn through the tunnels, she was pretty sure she knew where she was and, more importantly, how to get out without been noticed, at least not too much. The tunnels didn't seem to be monitored closely -- people didn't generally come in here -- which meant that she was willing to risk a little conversation to alleviate the monotony of running.

"That was good," she said to Fennec, who jogged along behind her. "Objective accomplished, no confrontation. My kind of op."

"You an' me both," said the redhead.

"Going between the crates," Lyta continued, "that was genius. I wouldn't have thought of it."

"You got through 'em well enough."

Lyta shrugged. "Yeah, but that's not the point. I didn't expect you to be able to keep up. Most people couldn't." She hesitated, trying to walk the fine line between professionalism and friendliness. "Where'd you learn to move like that?"

Lyta glanced over her shoulder. In the faint glow from the service lamps she could see Fennec flash a grin as she brushed past her. Dancing backward she gave Lyta a brooding look. Her voice was husky and low in mock solemnity. "Lots... of different places." Her tone softened again, and she chuckled. "I dunno. In the camps, the kids used to play tag all across the rooftops. Of course, there weren't more than one or two stories on any of the buildings, so if we felt like a real thrill we'd see who could get to the top of the moisture sail first." The grin, again.

An overhanging cabling strut loomed suddenly out of the darkness ahead, stretched across their path. Fennec was still glancing backward. Lyta almost hissed a word of warning, but the other girl jerked her head aside at the last second, missing a solid knock by a hair's breadth. It was a clumsy gesture, a slapstick sideways limbo under the strut, and yet she'd hardly missed a stride.

"Woo!" she whispered with a wink, "watch your head!"

Lyta pursed her lips as she darted easily under the strut. Whether it was luck or skill, the girl could certainly move... but it wasn't pretty. Or in this moment, silent.

"What about you? Sorry I didn't wait for you back at the crates. I guess I'm used to being on my own in those situations. But when I seen you shimmy your way up top there, I figured you could manage it easy. You don't move like military though, even if you folks talk like it." The line between professionalism and chit-chat seemed distant now. "Well, most of you anyway..." she amended, trailing off.

Lyta shrugged. The other girl was still running in front, half-turned backward so they could talk. “I used to do gymnastics, back before the war,” she said. “I guess I never really lost the habit.” It was a close enough answer to the truth, and one that –she hoped – wouldn’t cause her to answer too many uncomfortable questions.

She heard the tell-tale hum of an approaching train and flattened herself against the wall, trusting in Fennec’s situational awareness to follow suit. Mere seconds later the crate whizzed past on its electric trolley, leaving barely any space for the girls at all. The wind in its wake tugged at her clothes, as though they were a forgotten part of the shipment that wanted desperately to rejoin with the principle.

She used the brief moment of calm after it passed to consult the PDA again. “Seventy-five more meters, then take the branching tunnel to the right,” she told Fennec, who seemed to want to maintain the lead. Fennec bobbed her head, her red hair bouncing where it had come loose beneath her worker’s cap. Lyta would have to remind her to tuck it back up before they emerged into the public.

They started off again at a jog. Eventually they reached the junction that led into the semi-private facility they would use to exit the underground network. Lyta jabbed a thumb upward, indicating the small, unobtrusive blister above the junction: a surveillance hub. Fennec gave a silent nod and the two of them slipped down into the channel where the mag-tracks were nestled. Lyta crouched as she slid along the wall of the channel, while Fennec had deployed all four of her limbs groundward and was moving at an awkward but rapid gait unbecoming of any higher primate. The slight ledge cast a slim shadow, just enough to obstruct a camera's view, at least until they could emerge near the service staircase, cross over the tracks and slip out into the facility amongst the crews that worked the night shift.

They had gone only a few meters further before Lyta saw Fennec tense. Her silhouette bristled. Even her tufts of hair seemed to flutter minutely. Lyta realized in that instant that she felt it too, that faint subliminal pulse emanating from the track, growing stronger, and making her pores tingle. Train!

Thinking back on it afterwards, Lyta was uncertain exactly what path they had taken, how careful they had been about being spotted, or which one of them had offered a hand to the other when they clambered up the railing to the staircase, instants before the train swept under them. In that explosion of adrenaline, the experiences had melted together. Now both were lying on their backs on the small catwalk that led out of the tunnels, breathing heavily and waiting for their pulses to slow. The train continued to rush below them, a longer one this time, carrying ever more containers to the depot or some other final destination. Lyta rolled her head to the side to check on Fennec. The other girl was fanning herself with her cap. She exhaled raggedly before mashing it down again over her hair. Lyta frowned slightly. Big ears, she thought to herself.


Fennec blinked. "Right." She rearranged her hat. "Thanks for the hand there. That... would have been embarrassing."

"Thanks for hearing it coming. Otherwise we'd both be embarrassed. And dead."

Fennec chewed her lip a moment. "Well, my kinfolk would never know about it, leastways. Not really sure if that's good or bad." Her eyes flicked sideways to Lyta. "You and that Jax... you're blood kin, right? He's what... older brother?"

Lyta let her face go blank before returning Fennec's gaze. Instinctively, the shell of operational protocol began to slide into place again. Fennec caught the look and huffed lightly. She began to stand up and make a show of dusting herself off. "Yeah... I can tell. I got one of those too..."

Lyta placed a hand on the panel that would open the door. “When we go out there, we’re just crew,” she said, falling back into work mode. “We say nothing, we head to the exit, and we get out without raising suspicion. Then we’ll call Jax for a pickup. He should still be somewhere nearby. You good with that?”

Fennec nodded and winked. "Can't keep the boys waiting... they'll worry." She screwed up her face a moment, like a child focusing on a difficult question, and then relaxed, letting her haphazard swagger drop away. Head down. Eyes forward. Not convincing, but it would do.

Lyta adjusted her uniform one last time, nodded, and pressed the panel on the door, and the two girls walked, casual as can be, out into the heavily-monitored world of the Humanist Alliance.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


ZAC said...

Dammit! 'lead/led' managed to sneak past me. :P

Julie said...

Typos happen to the best of us. I fixed the mistake, but I wouldn't worry too much.

Game Thug said...

I don't forgive you.

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