Saturday, June 21, 2014

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VII: Glorious!

“How’s Lyta?”

The question dampened his mood as violently as the train had screeched to a stop on the Marigold spur, and it left him dangling nearly as precipitously.

“She’ll be fine,” he responded vaguely before realising an ambiguous answer would just make Ellen go from worried to angry.

“What do you mean? How badly is she hurt, Doc?”

This was not the conversation he had wanted to have. The whole time the Hermes 72 uplink was connecting and the security protocols validating his connection with Peace River, he was preparing to give an ebullient description of his incomparable charge at the head of a battalion of mounted GRELs.

He couldn’t help his mind from drifting back to that afternoon, revelling in self-admiration at the grandiosity of it. Granted, he wasn’t really commanding the GRELs -- they had a handful of Jans and Col. Bakov there to give the actual orders -- but it was his design.

“Doc! Is she badly hurt?”

Ellen cut through his daydream just as he was considering commissioning a portrait of himself astride his noble mount surrounded by purple warriors -- in the background of course.

“She’ll be fine. We got there in time. I’ll tend to her and her crew tonight, and then they will require a few weeks of rest, but there should be no lasting effects. Honestly, Ellen, she is fine. Tell me, how did Paxton react? Are they pleased?”

Ellen sighed audibly over the video connection. The Doc had sent her to Peace River to organise a talk between the AST ambassador and Paxton execs this very day.

“Well, it was damn good timing. The two parties were sitting in conference when they were both alerted to the situation brewing in the Lonely Hills. I was there when the Paxton delegates ordered Commander Tunnel to stand down and withdraw to the other side of the Marigold trench. He sounded pissed.”

The Doc smiled broadly. “That is because he was itching to see what his Warrior IIIs could do. The Commander couldn’t see the strategic gains.”

“I’m not sure I do either, Doc. Why were Paxton so willing to back down before the MILICIA? Are they currying favour or something? Are you getting something out of this?”

The Doc actually chuckled. He was indeed in a very good mood and it annoyed Ellen only slightly less than his apparent callousness.

“Of course I’m getting something out of this. I am, in fact, getting a great many things out of this. But as far as Paxton is concerned, they actually won today. You see, the MILICIA may have won the confrontation on the southern side of the trench, but they have de facto conceded that the PRDF have jurisdiction until the other side of that trench. By pulling back 5 km, Peace River have advanced their area of influence nearly 1000 km further south, right up to the very border of the AST.”

Ellen’s eyes twitched as she processed that and put the pieces together, including her part in the whole affair. She remembered the smug look on the AST ambassador’s face when Paxton said they would withdraw their Gears back to secure their own interest.

“You orchestrated the conflict between the MILICIA and the PRDF. You wanted to take them to the very brink of war so that when the PRDF backed down, the MILICIA would be too pleased with the short-term victory to notice the shift in regional power. You used them and you put Lyta in harm’s way to do it!”

“Now wait just a moment, Ellen. First off, being here was Lyta’s choice, or at least it was her brother’s. Secondly, as for manipulating the situation, yes, but this was never going to be a war. A skirmish at most.”

“And what happens if Paxton finds out you used them?” Ellen asked accusingly.

The Doc shook his head calmly, condescendingly really, but luckily the Hermes72 connection didn’t capture that.

“I pitched this idea to Paxton a week ago. The BCG organises a trade meeting which coincidentally is interrupted by an escalating situation, thereby allaying any suspicion that Paxton had planned this outcome. They ate it up with a spoon! Of course, Commander Tunnel didn’t know any of this going on, but...”

“Dammit, Doc, you were playing with their lives!” Ellen muttered through clenched teeth, colour rising to her cheeks.

“Ellen, I don’t play with lives because this is not a game. This is war.”

He watched her as her jaw worked, grinding teeth underneath.

“Ellen, trust me. If I had not manipulated this situation there are good chances things would have gone very much worse for everyone involved. Especially our dear friends stuck in the middle.”

Ellen seemed to concede silently. The Doc could make out her shoulders relaxing and her complexion returning to normal.

“Just do me a favour and have a discreet meeting with Paxton tomorrow to remind them that the real gain here was their defense zone. As it turns out, they will be getting a lot less merchandise than they had bargained for, so they need to see the right spin on the outcome. Alright?”

Ellen nodded.

“I’ll send Lyta your love, alright? Trust me, I’ll be by her side all night monitoring her condition just to be sure.” Before she could dampen his mood any more he terminated the connection.

The Doc considered his gains today. They were legion: tokens to ingratiate himself to the GRELs of Jan Mayen -- which should just turn a decent profit. Another marker from Paxton to add to the pile. A blow to Polar influence in the Badlands. Laying the foundation for eliminating Matoux. The Doc took a moment in his itemisation to scoff at the truly clumsy attempt Matoux had made to foil this deal by alerting the SRID. Not only had it allowed the Doc to enlist the PRDF in chasing down Matoux’s rover alliances but, potentially even more importantly, it meant that the Lassanders would help him eliminate this rival once and for all.

It had been a largely bloodless day of battle in the war. A war the AST, Paxton, Jan Mayen, Matoux, and the Lassanders were fighting in for their own trivial pursuits. Everyone had their reasons; the Doc just ensured that they were fighting for a good cause, even if they didn’t know it.

There was one other significant thing the Doc had gained out of the day’s events, and one word to describe it. He closed his eyes and pictured himself once more in the gathering storm, a cloud of dust and thundering beasts as his purple army chased the MILCIA off the field of battle.


Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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