Saturday, June 28, 2014

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VII: End of the Line

36 Spring, 1927

They held hands as they hurried down the Oxford streets, looking for all the world like two sisters on a late-afternoon stroll. Lyta had become practiced at watching her periphery without obviously scanning the surroundings, and every sense was on high alert. Miranda, to her credit, had not protested when Lyta led her away from the delicatessen in the opposite direction from their apartment. She walked in silence, her free hand clenched in a fist, the bagels forgotten.

When they had gone three or four blocks, Lyta ducked into a door at random. Tasteful paintings greeted them, hung professionally about a small gallery. Lyta led Miranda away from the door, towards the back of the space, and positioned her near the corner as they feigned enjoyment of the artwork. Conveniently, it was also a blind spot in the gallery’s camera system.

“What’s going on?” Miranda asked in a hushed voice.

Lyta allowed a quick look at the door to ensure no one had entered. “Your guardian is in town,” she said softly. “She knows you’re staying with us. She wants you back.”

Miranda’s face blanched. “I don’t want to go back to her.”

“I know.”

“Please don’t make me go back, Ryss.”

Lyta sighed. She had spent most of the walk to the delicatessen trying to figure out what to do, and she still hadn’t come up with any answers. “You don’t need to go back,” she said. “But you can’t stay with us anymore.”

Miranda’s expression, which for a moment had almost ventured into hope, fell again. “Ryss, please…”

“I’m not sending you away,” Lyta said. Then she thought about it and corrected herself. “Okay, I am. But not because we don’t want you or you haven’t proven yourself. You’ve done great – really. But if Morris knows you’re staying with us, she’ll find you. If you don’t want to go back with her, you have to be somewhere else.”

Miranda considered this. “Where?”

Lyta looked down at her. “She’ll find you anywhere in the Alliance; she’s proven that much. We could set you up in the Badlands, put you on a caravan or find a family you could stay with for a few cycles, until you’re old enough to strike out on your own.” Even as she said it, she was torn. Todd was right – Miranda was barely younger than she had been when the Bathani Ratir had been wiped out and they had started their life as “problem solvers.” But she didn’t want Miranda to experience what she had gone through. Better to find her a family and a home than a life of solitude, always on the run.

Miranda bit her lower lip. “What would I do in the Badlands?”

Lyta shrugged. “You’re handy, you learn fast. You could you be useful. You’d be fine.”

Miranda shook her head. “No, I mean – what would I do in the Badlands? It’s not my home. I don’t know the customs, I don’t speak the language. I’d be as out of place there as you are here.”

Lyta ran through the options in her head and came up tragically short. “Look, Miranda, we don’t have much time. Jax and the others are meeting your guardian as we speak. If we’re lucky, they’ll stall long enough that we could put you on a train and get you out of here before she knows we’ve done it. But we have to act now.”

Miranda deflated. “Okay,” she said softly.

Lyta nodded. “Okay,” she said, already planning the best route to the train station. She tugged on Miranda’s arm. The girl did not move.

Miranda looked up. “I guess I’ll go back to her,” she said in a flat voice.

Lyta’s brow furrowed. “What?”

Miranda twisted her hands together. “I guess I’ve always known I was living a fantasy life with you. It was fun, and I hoped that maybe it was for real… but I wasn’t kidding anybody. This is my home. This is where I belong. And if that means going back to… to her, then that’s the way it has to be. That’s my place.”

Lyta put a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I know it’s not what you want.”

Miranda shrugged off the hand. “It’s okay,” she said unconvincingly.

Lyta took a deep breath. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll figure out where they’re meeting.”

She pulled out her phone and flipped it open. She was halfway through keying a query to Lukas when a message popped up on the screen. Her fingers hovered over the keypad, frozen, as she read it. For a moment, she stared at the screen as though she could change it by an act of will.

She shook her head and put the phone away. Every muscle was tense, readied. She grabbed Miranda’s hand in her own and half-led, half-pulled her toward the exit.

“What’s going on?” asked Miranda, desperation in her voice.

Lyta pushed open the door, took stock of her surroundings, and ventured out into the street. “Message from Jax,” she said between clenched teeth. “There’s a new plan.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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