Thursday, September 25, 2014

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VIII: Promises

35.Sp.16, Baja

He was in a semi-conscious state: like sleeping in and knowing that a new day lies ahead, that the sun wants to pry your eyelids open but you linger in a half-doze. All he wanted to do was sleep and rest a little more, like he used to. He could snuggle with his wife and share a moment of peace and intimacy before the rays of Helios came crashing in, or worse, Lyta and Lukas.

This thought sent a sickening chill down his spine. He was not in his bed, he realised. He was not even in his house. The ground was cold under him and he was trembling. The more his mind strayed away from the warmth of his memories into the stark sensations of reality, the more he became aware of the noise and dust and the acrid smell of spent munitions in the air. There was no warm and bright sun; there was darkness and pain. A lot of pain. Still, the thought of Lukas and Lyta and Todd, too, made him claw back to consciousness, and then Donavar remembered where he was.

The street was littered with rubble and the remains of half-destroyed buildings. The crater he was on the edge of, however, was clearly a new scar on the face of his once-beautiful Baja. There was smoke in the air and breathing was difficult but not as challenging as moving. Donovar managed to roll to one side and found he had been covering Lyta. She was unharmed as far as he could tell, though she was unconscious. He rolled the other way and saw two more bodies thrown clear of the blast radius, protected under a partially collapsed footbridge. He wanted to go and see. He was desperate to make sure they were all right, but his legs weren't responding to his will. He looked again forlornly. It was Titan and Todd, he realized.

Donavar was panting and thought he felt cold, or at least his upper body felt cold. He was sweating. He wiped his brow and found blood. He looked around as best he could but there was no sign of Lukas, and Donovar became dizzy. A sudden, heart-wrenching thought occurred to him: he had failed his family. He had led them out here to get them away from Baja before the main push, to save them, but he hadn't and now they were all going to die. His vision began to collapse in as darkness and stars overcame him. His stomach lurched up, forcing its way past his lungs uncomfortably to lodge itself in his throat as his spirit broke. This was it. He had failed his family.

"Hello, my friend, how are you going?"

Donovar had drifted away. His eyes were closed and tears rolled down his cheeks freely, mingling with blood and sweat. His despair was so complete that the awkward words and cheery accent that carried them were impossible to understand, as though spoken in a foreign language he could only comprehend in a nightmarish logic. He opened his eyes to find Kaspar crouching over him.

"You?" Donavar's raspy voice asked in confusion.

Kaspar stepped over him and checked Lyta at his side.

"She will be fine. The boys over there, too. You, my friend, you are not so good." Kaspar said, his tone conversational, shaking his head disapprovingly as though Donovar had been imprudent to get himself critically wounded in the mortar blast that had landed on them.

"Save them..." Donovar meant to say more but he choked on blood and gurgled helplessly. Kaspar turned his head and drained some fluid so that he could breathe.

"Sorry, but this is not good time for the heroics. I must be going." And with no further delay, started to leave. A moment before Donovar had believed there was no hope for his family and he had resigned himself to their death. He now felt an overwhelming fire burn in him. His legs still couldn't move but his sat up like a bolt. The spark had been his guilt, the guilt born of giving up, and it acted as an accelerant, consuming all his love in a furious blaze, it erupted: "NO!"

Kaspar stopped dead in his tracks, surprised by the dead man's vigour. Donovar's gaze held him and Kaspar felt compelled to backtrack.

"Save them," Donovar pleaded.

"I have places I must go..."

"Save them!" Donavar commanded.

Kaspar shook his head again, not a gesture of regret but of pity. Donavar held his gaze, his eyes still burning brightly. "I'll make you rich. I'll give you everything I have to save them."

Kaspar smiled. "What use does dead man have for money? No, I go."

Donovar's right hand lept out and clutched Kaspar's collar, holding him in place. His left one reached into his tattered jacket and released a hidden seam. It emerged with a small data rod.

"What is this?" Kaspar asked flatly.

"A Stock-KE, or Stock-Key-Electronic. Twelve million dollars, you understand? Twenty four million dinar in stock, Paxton stock. My entire fortune, my legacy." Donavar felt the tremble returning; his strength was waning.

"OK, what do we do?"

Donovar was breathing more heavily, gasping. "Over there, the footbridge, it'll make a litter. Take my children to safety and I'll give you this."

"What if I take?" Kaspar’s tone was mild but his strong grip forcefully tore Donovar's hand from his collar.

"Then you get nothing. It’s protected. I need to give you the password or you'll never be able to use the Stock-KE."

Kaspar looked Donovar squarely in the eye. Greed met love and both calculated what the other would do next as they danced on the edge of oblivion. Any second the bombardment could resume or skirmishing battalions could carry the fight to the site of their negotiation.

"OK, my friend," Kaspar said cheerily. He snapped up the Stock-KE and went to where Todd and Ti were sprawled out. He pried the curved walkway fragment free and flipped it over. He then placed Todd in it and started lifting Ti.

"No,” Donovar called, he paused and swallowed hard. “Her,” he directed, pointing to Lyta, his breath was ragged and coming in with difficulty.

Kaspar shrugged and dragged the makeshift litter over. Dononvar leaned over and kissed her gently on the forehead before Kaspar scooped her up and set her next to Todd.

"Where's my son? Where's Lukas?"

"I did no see him. What is password?"

Donavar collapsed back down, his reserves nearly spent, and actually laughed. A short derisive snort with no humour. It was the cynical sound of a heart breaking.

"Get them off the battlefield. When you come back, find my son and I'll give you the password. I promise." Donovar was calm, resigned, there was nothing left in him.

"I'll be back soon. I promise, too. We are close." Kaspar said as he started off, dragging the two children.

"Better hurry," Donovar said too quietly for Kaspar to hear. Lying on his back he realised he wasn't cold anymore. He didn't hurt either. He looked up at the stars above Baja, stars that had been obscured by the lights reflecting off the "Jewel of the Badlands" most of his life. This was where he had lived, and now he felt it was where he could die. Lyta and Todd were safe. His son and his wife had died here and it was time to join them. The last duty of a father accomplished.

"Hello, my friend, not time to die just yet." Kaspar was speaking in hushed tones, his eyes darting around vigilantly. "Soldiers are close, both sides."

Donovar was so tired. He didn’t know how much time had passed. A lifetime? He just wanted to drift off peacefully but Kaspar had different plans.

"No, no. You made a deal with me and you have to keep your promise. Password."

"" Donovar whispered.

"Yes, I promise, they are safe. Now, password, Mr. Paxton." Kaspar said in a gentle cooing voice. "Look, look, you can't die now. I have found your son."

Donavar's eye opened to find Lukas on the litter. He was badly injured.

"Now the other boy and then come back," Dononavar said meekly, his life ebbing away with each feeble beat of his slowing heart.

"No, I don't think so," Kaspar responded and without another word, lifted Donovar onto the litter with Lukas and began dragging father and son through the streets. Sounds of gunfire waxed and waned but Donovar was largely oblivious to them. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain again, his languid heartbeat skipped as Donovar awoke in a fit of coughing blood.

"Password," Kaspar demanded.

Donovar was only semi-lucid. He saw fire and smoke and what looked like a large temporary structure and another and another. Slowly, his blood-deprived brain recognized a camp.

"You kept your word. You saved them." Donovar said with subdued relief.

"Not yet," Kaspar whispered and Donovar realised that Todd, Lukas and Lyta were on the ground near him. "Password and they live."

Donovar searched him memory for the password, it was a long and complex alphanumeric but easy to recall: His wife's initials followed by their wedding day, Lukas's initials and birthday followed by Lyta's, and Todd's initials and the day they adopted him.

"Now?" Donovar asked once he had related the password to Kapsar.

"I will take them to hospital now. I will watch over them and make sure they are safe. This is what you have paid for and what I promised."

Kaspar released the artery in Donovar's leg which he had pinched, stemming his blood loss and causing him enough pain to get one last coherent moment out of him. Donovar didn't realise what was happening except that he felt no more pain and closed his eyes.

He was in that space in between, where memories and half-dreams fill your days with promise. All he wanted to do was sleep now and rest, and maybe, just maybe, Anastasy would be there to rest with him.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


Game Thug said...

Now that sucks the fun out of chasing after the money, now doesn't it?

Julie said...

We've still got, what, nearly two million dinar? Certainly enough to retire to a comfortable life of not following Georges' plot for the rest of our characters' lives. :)

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