Saturday, February 1, 2014

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VII: Held Hostage

Lyta traced her fingers along the flattened rivets on the floor of the van. They’d taken the frames off the fine art and Fennec had somehow managed to find a roof rack, which left just enough space in the interior for two women to sit in cramped quarters amidst the piles of high-value goods.

“I don’t like this situation any more than you do,” Lyta said to the woman who sat across from her.

Theresa Vendar said nothing.

Lyta bobbed her head back and forth, considering her statement. “Okay, that’s probably a lie. I’m not the one who’s bound, gagged, and sedated. So if you were awake, you’d probably like things less than I do. But I still don’t like it.”

She looked up, pointedly considering Vendar’s face. Two strips of fabric wound across it, one over her eyes and the other pressed between her lips. Her head slumped against her chest. Lyta sighed. “You should just have told us what we wanted to know,” she said. “We wouldn’t have needed to do this to you, then.” She paused. “But maybe we would have anyway. I really don’t know what’s gotten in to Jax anymore.”

She wanted to stand and pace, but the van was too small for that. She wanted to hit something, but the only things to hit were the valuable paintings and her unconscious hostage. Lukas would probably be upset if she damaged the paintings, and punching an unconscious, immobile victim wouldn’t give her any satisfaction. She wasn’t a monster. Instead, she unhooked her makeshift staff and began tapping it against her thighs.

“I don’t know why we’re not just going to the POP at this point. I mean, we wouldn’t get the bottles, but I doubt we’re gonna get them anyway. Bhakir’s not an idiot. He’s probably got them stashed somewhere by now that we’ll never think to look.” The tapping became harder, the metal thudding off her flak. “And, really, what the hell would we do with seventy bottles of high explosives? We don’t know how to deactivate them. We don’t even know if they can be deactivated. Maybe just bring them out into the desert and blow holes in the sand until it’s all gone.”

Lyta grimaced. “For all that Jax doesn’t like the Doc, he’s probably one of the least-bad people to have it. At least he probably won’t cause massive damage to urban centers just for the hell of it. Or because he’s a terrorist or something.” Lyta looked pointedly at Vendar’s slumped face at this last remark.

She fidgeted with the toggles on the staff, the ones that would extend it if she pulled out the interior pipes. Not that there was any space to fully extend a staff in the cramped back of the van, but it was something to keep her fingers busy. “I know, I know,” she said in response to an unvoiced challenge, “Without details, the POP would just shut down the party, and we can’t give details without incriminating ourselves. I get that. But would it really be so bad if they just shut down the party? Sure, Bhakir or someone’s probably gonna use the explosives some other time, but it’s not our job to protect the Alliance from people like you. We stop this one plot, and someone else will stop the next one.” Lyta shrugged. “Or maybe they won’t, and there’ll be an explosion somewhere, sometime. But we’re not responsible for stopping every bombing, ever. That’s what the POP’s for. We’re not even Humanists!”

The anger had her halfway to her feet before she realized she wouldn’t be able to stand up to full height and forced herself to sit down again.

“I wish Ti was here,” she said. “Ti would know what to do. He was good at moral dilemmas. He could always just sorta see what needed to be done, and then he’d do it.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what to do. About you, about the party, about anything.”

A thought came to her, and she gripped the collapsed staff tightly with both hands. “I can’t believe we let Fennec wear his armor,” she said through clenched teeth. “I mean, yeah, she needed some, and yeah, it’s not like Ti was using it, but it’s his.” Lyta’s breathing came fast and shallow. “And I know it’s stupid to be mad, because he’s gone and it’s not like he cares who wears it anymore, but…” She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing. There was no reason to be mad at Fennec. Fennec had never even heard Ti’s name. She’d needed armor, and they’d had an extra set, and that was all there was to it. But Lyta still couldn’t dislodge the feeling that it was disrespectful to Ti’s memory to let their new teammate have his stuff.

She breathed out slowly and opened her eyes. “Look, Fennec’s good in a pinch. She knows her way around electronics, she built that ECM jammer outta scraps, and she’s managed to avoid getting shot, which is more than I can say for the last two guys we took on.”

Lyta sighed. “I don’t even know why I’m bothering to tell you all this,” she said to the unconscious body across from her. “It’s not like you care. You just want… whatever the hell it is terrorists want. That’s the thing about Ti: he wanted to bring people together. I think you just want to blow them apart.”

Lyta stared at the covered face of her hostage, as though the half-concealed expression might reveal the deeper workings of Vendar’s mind. It didn’t. Lyta shook her head and stared at the stacks of art. “I don’t know what we’re gonna do with you,” she said. “Or with your stuff. It’s not like we know any fences down here.” She began tapping her staff against her legs again. “Hell, it’s not like we know anyone here. No one but Radsley and Benelice, and look where they’ve gotten us.”

One hand continued to tap the staff against her legs, the other resumed tracing the seams in the floor. “I don’t even know why we’re taking jobs in the first place,” she said. “We’re in the Alliance to lay low, right? Wait around long enough for people to forget us and we can go back to the Badlands. So why not just… I dunno, take a vacation? Grizz can spend every day in the library and I can find a gym and Jax can go to a bar and see how belligerent he can be to people before they kick him out. We’ve got the money, even with all the prices being astronomical here.” Lyta leaned her head back against the side of the van. “It’s so messed up here,” she said, so softly she wasn’t sure Vendar would have heard her, even if she had been awake.

She was quiet for a while. Usually venting made her feel better, but she still felt lost and confused. She wasn’t sure what had gotten into Jax tonight, she wasn’t sure why they were still pursuing this job, and she wasn’t sure why they were still in Gropius at all. She was used to not understanding things; she’d learned long ago that Lukas and Todd were always two steps ahead of her in any plan or analysis, but it still galled. And, what was worse, she was fairly certain even Lukas wasn’t sure what they were doing at this point.

There were three knocks on the back of the van, a pause, and then one more. Lyta unfolded her legs beneath her and, hand still on the collapsed staff, cautiously opened the doors.

Okran Radsley stood in front of her. Lyta let herself relax. “’Bout time you got some sleep, don’t you think?” he said.

Lyta pursed her lips. “I’m on watch,” she said. “I can handle it.”

Radsley gave her a wide smile. “’Course you can,” he said. “Doesn’t mean you should have to. I’ll take next watch. You go get some shuteye. You deserve the rest.”

Lyta eyed him cautiously. He was relaxed, almost too relaxed, given what they’d just been through. Or maybe she was just overtired and seeing ulterior motives where there weren’t any. She hopped out of the van and stretched her cramped legs. “Yeah,” she said. “I guess so. Jax wants me to wake him up early.”

Radsley put a comforting hand on her shoulder, which Lyta forced herself not to toss aside. “Ryss,” he said in a reasonable tone, “we’ve all had a long day. Why don’t you let them sleep in?”

Lyta stared suspiciously. “But Jax said…”

Radsley’s expression didn’t waver, but he did not remove his hand. “I know what Jax said. And you take your orders from him, loyal soldier that you are. But while we’re still on this job, he takes his orders from me, and I’m telling him, through you, that he’s got the morning off. I’ll handle things. Sleep in, have a nice breakfast, enjoy yourself. We’ll reconvene at 13:00.”

Lyta took two breaths, then decided she didn’t have the energy to deal with it tonight. “Fine,” she said, “but if he starts yelling at me for letting him sleep in, I’m sending him to you.”

Radsley smiled a broad smile. “You do that,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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