Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VII: Speaking Out Of Turn

Karaq Wastes, east of Elayu. 23.SP.27

“We've got to stop meaning like this.” The Doc gave her one of his typical grins as she opened her eyes. He was looking over her bandages and putting a mild sedative into her plasma drip, watching life flow back into her, drop by drop. “Seriously, Lyta, have you given any thought to... never mind.”

“Thought to what?” she asked, her voice clearer than he would have expected.

“This, all this.” With a wave of the hand he took in the cramped longrunner, the cot, and the IVs running into her arm. “And, of course, this,” he concluded, pointing to her wound.

Lyta grimaced. “Didn't we just make you a lot of money? You're in a weird place to be complaining.”

The Doc smiled. He really did like her. “Don't misunderstand. I enjoy making my blood money. I just prefer to make it on the blood of people I don't care as much about.”

Lyta wobbled her head noncommittally. “Anyway, if we were gonna meet anyone, it's probably good it was you. And that you had blood packs or whatever it is you've got me on.”

“Yes, how many contacts of yours have the added value of advanced medical training?”

“Um... probably not many. Ti had a guy with him in Port Arthur. What was his name?” She thought about it a minute and eventually shook her head, wincing slightly at the motion. “Doesn't matter. He probably wasn't as good as you, though. I wonder what happened to him?”

‘The Academy’, Eben-Awad Monastery, Pacifica Range. 16.SP.27

It was a little cramped, but the Doc squeezed into the cave entrance without an objectionable amount of indignity. Inside, he was surprised to find the space very comfortable, even cozy. The ground had a thick layer or pine needles over which a woven wool carpet had been thrown to create a firm but comfortable mattress. There was a small fire further back with a pot keeping something warm. 

Within moments the Doc took his jacket off -- the cave was quite warm without being stuffy or smoke-filled. When he had unburdened himself he found that Ti had prepared him a cup of cawfee. 

“And after spending three weeks in a Gear inside a metal coffin you choose to spend your first vacation in a cramped, albeit comfortable, cave?”

“I had to come here and visit the kids, the last batch of Kin. I owed it to them."

“There are still plenty of orphans out there. The Lelland Foundation still operates quite few outfits. You could start recruiting again.”

“The war is over. This will be that last of the Kin, and I, for one, don’t regret it. If my Kin could live normal lives like your caravan folk, I’d wish it for them. O’Kang, Kam, Markus, Brenda, Thalia… Nadya. You and I know that the mission is what keeps them alive.”

“O’Kang,” the Doc answered. “He’s a good kid, he’s still around. As for our comparative medical skills, he’s less qualified but he believes in healing more than I do.” The Doc’s comment was laced with some melancholy which he didn’t care for, so he abruptly changed the subject. “Where to after your recovery?”

Lyta shrugged painfully. “Probably the same place we were before. I think.”

“Ah, secret places. I can relate.” The Doc responded knowingly.

The Doc waited a moment to see if Lyta would be any more forthcoming, but she fell silent, her eyes closed against the pillow and her forehead creased.

“Lyta, if I may be so bold, you seem tired. I mean, beyond the requisite fatigue which accompanies a wound such as yours. You sound… disaffected. Is everything alright?”

She shrugged again. Again it hurt, and she began regretting the repeated mannerism.  “I dunno. This whole job that we've been planning for... I don't even know, at least a season, maybe more... and it all went screwy. I nearly died. I could have died. And we still lost, on the train…” She trailed off. “And we still have to do a follow-up mission to get paid for this one. The whole thing is stupid.”

With her eyes closed. He was largely responsible for her getting hurt and he had promised himself that he wouldn't put her in harm’s way for Ti’s sake. It seemed almost as though he used hr the first chance he got after finding out Ti was alive. Lyta couldn’t see the guilt on the Doc’s face. He resolved to suppress it before she would.

“But you didn't die, and I will patch you up as good as new. So unless you want me to start putting a small amount of an antidepressant in your IV, I forbid you from feeling miserable.”

She opened her eyes again with a slight smile. “No, I'll be okay. I've got the best medical care a team of longrunners can offer, right?”

“Seriously, Lyta, they can carry on without you. Have you thought about that? There is more to life than this.”

"And what kept you alive?"  

Ti fell quiet and bowed his head. "My kin, my job, you know."

“Actually I don't. I respect you, I even admire you! You are one of the toughest people I've ever met, but I don't understand you.” 

Ti shrugged. “What drives you?” he asked in turn.


Ti smiled. The Doc grinned.

"Ok, so we both feel the calling, right? It isn't religion, it isn't patriotism, not exactly. There is a principal there, but it isn't pure idealism either. So why do you do it, Tom?"

The Doc took a sip of his cawfee. "I asked first."

Ti shifted, uncrossing and crossing the opposite leg. He cast his eyes down, pensive or embarrassed, the Doc couldn’t tell. "I wasn't going to die in that box 'cause of the people I'd leave behind. My Kin, you, Lyta."

"If you lived for her, why don't you want her to know that you are alive?"

"Because it's been a long time. I figure she’s mourned me, maybe moved on. I don't want to tear at an old wound. Besides, it wouldn't change anything."

"I beg to differ. If she is one of the reasons you survived a nuclear apocalypse, I think she deserves to be told. I know I would want to know."

"We still couldn't be together. She'll never leave her brothers."

"Who says she has to? They've worked for you in the past. They might do it again."

“More to life than what?”

“Your brothers. It seems to me they chose to live this life and you just got dragged in.”

She blinked her eyes twice in disbelief. “I'm not leaving my brothers.”

“You needn't go headlong into their folly. They are responsible for their own choices, and you are not responsible for them.”

“I need to know that they're okay. They're all I have left.” She continued more softly. “They're all gone. My first family and my second family and Ti... all of them.”

The Doc fiddled with her IV line, double-checking the volumes. “You could help them find a more reputable employer, if you insist on following them into danger.”

Lyta smirked. “Like who? You? I don’t think Lukas would ever work for you.”

“No, not me. Perhaps someone else.”

Lyta looked at him expectantly.

For a moment, the Doc looked like he was about to say something. His jaw worked once or twice, then he shook his head. He sighed. “I see that I am failing to get through to you.”

“No, I got it. You're saying I don't have to do this anymore, and I'm saying I won't leave my brothers. I keep trying to tell Lukas we can stop, that we have enough money now and it's okay, but I don't think he wants to.” She paused in thought for a moment. “Haven't we had this conversation before? Or maybe that was with somebody else. ”

"I remember us having this conversation before, except you were telling me not to hire them in the first place, and you were right. Lukas had his own agenda, and contrary to what he would like others to believe, it isn’t money. They might have been working for someone else. How can I be with someone I can't trust?" 

“Sounds like you don’t trust Lukas. Why should Lyta suffer for a problem between you and him?”

Ti took the cawfee off the fire and poured the Doc another cup. “Everyone I hang out with wants to psychoanalyse me,” he said without recrimination. “Let’s just say I’m bound to my Kin and to my mission, and Lyta is bound to Lukas. Those are the binds that separate us.”

The Doc sighed and took a sip of his beverage, shaking his head regretfully. "And so you remain dead and I have to lie to her?"

“I’m asking you to respect my wishes on this, Tom. Don’t tell Lyta.”

And there it was again, an unconscious omission. Ti didn’t want the Doc to tell Lyta, but there was nothing stopping him from telling Lukas and, if he was truly the problem between Ti and Lyta, telling him would resolve the issue one way or another. 

“Variations of this conversation arise everywhere in my life. We may very well have had it before. But you are too stubborn to give up your dangerous ways, and I am too stubborn to stop trying to convince you to otherwise. So there we have it. An ouroboros of violence and love.”

Lyta’s brow furrowed at the unfamiliar word. “What's an ouroboros?”

“A snake that eats its own tail. A metaphor for a circular discussion or event that inevitably leads back upon itself. It's bad.”

“And we're one of those? A snake eating its own tail?”

“It certainly appears that way.”

“So how do we get out of it?”

“Introduce a mongoose.”

“I think the drugs are getting to me. Why are we talking about mongooses? I don’t understand.”

The Doc smiled affectionately and pattered Lyta gently on the hand. “It doesn’t matter, my dear. It will resolve itself for better or for worse without your understanding. Sleep now.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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