Thursday, December 11, 2014

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VIII: Behind the Facade

5 Autumn, 1927

Lyta sat on her Gear’s massive foot and traced the rivets with her fingertips. Fennec had gone off to see to the backpacks they would need to transport Hippolyte’s cargo, and Lukas and Torgath had each gone off to their own private conversations, leaving her alone to check on the Gears. She’d verified that everything was in order, that nothing had been tampered with, and that they would be ready for their nighttime trek in a day or two.

It hadn’t taken long. Certainly it had taken less time than everyone’s conversations.

Lyta watched the comings and goings in the hangar. The sounds of metal-on-metal and metal-on-concrete rang out in the echoing chamber. Lyta tapped her foot.

Abruptly, she stood up. “Fuck it,” she muttered, “we were gonna take ‘em out soon anyway.”


Lyta had never run a city in a Gear before, and she had to admit it was exhilarating. Khayr ad-Din seemed almost built for it. Heaps of wreckage that would have been impossible to traverse on foot were perfectly suited to Gear-sized acrobatics, from husks of airships to half-built prefab constructions. It was a new challenge, and Lyta took to it with excitement. Even Dervish seemed happy to be let out of his cycle-long sleep to move around a little.

She’d been at it for nearly a half-hour, sprinting and climbing and generally pushing the limits of what Dervish was built for, when she saw the ping on her sensors. An active scan, someone out in the heaps, off to her left. Her eyes narrowed as she focused in with her own scans to pick up another Gear’s signature. For all she knew, they’d been passively scanning her the whole time.

Lyta was not a particularly good shot, but her hands went to the firing controls anyway. Mark Kim was still out there. There was still a bounty on her head, and she was alone in the heaps. It would be the perfect time for an ambush. She took stock of the area, trying to find an optimal position to fight or run if she had to.

Her comms crackled to life. “Unidentified Jaguar, those are some smooth moves you’ve got there.”

Lyta ran her tongue over the front of her teeth. No fighting, at least not yet. “Thank you,” she replied.

The Gear to her left crested the front of a broken-down longrunner. Lyta recognized the markings as the voice came again over her headset. “Name’s Solitaire. This is Fang. Maybe you’ve heard of us.”

Lyta pulled her hands off the firing controls. It occurred to her that Solitaire had never seen Dervish. And apparently he didn’t recognize her through the comms. She adjusted the vocal modulation ever so slightly. She wasn’t about to give up the advantage. “I’ve heard of you,” she said.

She could practically hear the self-assured cocky smile through the voice-only transmission. “You’ve got me at a disadvantage, then,” he said. “I make it a point to know everyone on the dueling circuit, but I don’t think I know you.”

Lyta hopped Dervish up onto the top of the longrunner and began ambling towards a set of fallen I-beams. “That’s because I’m not on the dueling circuit,” she transmitted back. She slid down the beams and grabbed a jutting pole, twisting herself ninety degrees towards a wrecked hopper.

“You should be. You could make a pretty penny in the ring with moves like that.” Fang followed in Dervish’s path as his pilot kept up his end of the conversation.

Dervish clambered up the side of the hopper’s rusted engine and began loping along the top of the fuselage, or at least the half of it that remained. “Never really considered it,” Lyta said.

“You should,” pressed Solitaire. “Maybe I can buy you a drink and we can discuss the possibilities.” He paused. “Of course, I’d need to know your name.”

Lyta grinned despite herself. She had to admit, she liked the ‘lady of mystery’ role she had inadvertently built for herself. She reached the edge of the cockpit and jumped up onto an upturned shipping crate. The point of an oasis tower glittered in the distance. A thought came to her, and her eyes sparkled.

“Tell you what,” she said over the comms. “I’ll race you to that tower. You win, I’ll consider telling you my name.”

Fang’s pilot barely hesitated. “You’re on.”


Solitaire was not the sort to go easy on his opponents. But, then again, neither was Lyta. Fang and Dervish raced through the heaps of Khayr ad-Din as though an entire battalion of CEF were descending upon them. Part of her wished the race were televised – it probably would have made for some phenomenal trideo footage. But most of her was too busy racing for idle thoughts.

Fang pulled into an early lead, jumping off an unstable platform that collapsed behind him, forcing Dervish to find an alternate path. “You could quit now,” came Solitaire’s voice over her comms. “Save yourself the trouble.”

“And give up the chance to gloat when I tell all my friends I beat Solitaire? Not a chance.” It was old banter, the sort she had done even as a child on the gymnastics field, and she could do it without thinking. Which was probably for the best, because most of her energy was taken up by trying to make up lost ground.

It was slow going. Solitaire was not one of Khayr ad-Din’s the premier duelists for no reason. And while Lyta had painstakingly programmed Dervish with all the subroutines and macros she could think of, she had to admit that Solitaire was more practiced. For most of the race, she trailed behind as she followed the path that Fang carved out ahead of her.

Her chance came as the oasis tower loomed closer, barely a half-kilometer away. A dip in the heaps lay before them, with a smooth path down below and a narrow strut forming a makeshift bridge between the two. It would be a chancy run across – Lyta couldn’t tell if it would support Dervish’s weight or collapse under the pressure. She could already see Fang headed towards the safer concrete slab leading down towards the bottom of the pile.

Lyta gritted her teeth and slammed Dervish into forward motion. “We can do this,” she muttered to herself. His feet clanged against the strut, and it buckled beneath him, bouncing with the unexpected forces. Lyta’s knuckles wrapped around the motion controls, white with tension.

And then she was past it, and a good fifty meters in front of Fang, who was racing his way up the heap she had just bypassed.

She kept her lead until they slid into the Oasis courtyard barely a minute later. Lyta breathed hard, but the corners of her mouth couldn’t help but turn up in a triumphant smile. Fang ambled over next to Dervish.

“C’mon,” came Solitaire’s voice over the comms. “You can’t leave me hanging after a race like that. There are people I could introduce you to. Important people.”

The adrenaline was making her heart race. What the hell, she thought. “All right, you get a concession prize. My Gear’s name is Dervish. Look us up, if you like. But be quick about it – we’re heading out of town tomorrow.”

She could almost feel Solitaire’s wolfish grin staring at her as she loped away to return Dervish to his hangar.


Lyta sat at the bar of the Lucky Shot Casino. Doc Chambers had moved off to covertly influence his schemes, or however it was he’d put it, leaving Lyta to watch Miss Julie as she worked the crowd. She took a sip of her beer and sighed. The Doc had toasted to knowing what you wanted, but Lyta wasn’t particularly certain she knew her own mind on the matter.

She had just about given up on Solitaire ever coming. Why would he? She’d snubbed him a cycle ago, and she’d rubbed it in his face when she raced him. He had adoring fan girls to fawn over him – he didn’t need to win over a kid who’d already proven she wanted nothing to do with him.

He had kissed her, she reminded herself. It hadn’t been a bad kiss. She could do worse than someone like him. If he ever chose to give her another chance.

She caught sight of him as he walked up to the bar, angling directly towards her. There was fire in his eyes. Lyta held his gaze as he approached. He did not sit down.

“You must have the biggest set of brass balls on the planet,” he said without preamble. “What the fuck were you thinking?”

Part of her wanted to go immediately on the defensive, or to slap him. Anyone else she would have slapped. Lyta put down her drink and breathed out through her nose, a long exhale. “I’m sorry,” she said, “about this afternoon. I got caught up in the competition. I guess that happens to me sometimes. And…” She steeled herself. She didn’t want to say it, but she was going to have to sometime if she was going to move on. Now was as good as any. “I’m sorry about last time. I’d just lost someone. Someone close to me. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t mean to lead you on or anything.” She looked up, searching for some sign that her words were making an impact, but Solitaire was difficult to read. “Will you have a drink with me anyway? I can pay for my own. No hard feelings?”

Solitaire held her gaze a moment longer, emotions playing out behind his eyes. After nearly five seconds, he nodded and took the seat next to her. He waved over to the bartender. “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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