Thursday, February 5, 2015

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VIII: Choices of the Heart

25 Autumn, 1927

The first rays of dawn poked over the horizon as the Gamma Maglev hurtled northwest. Lyta sat on her pull-out bed, her knees drawn up towards her chest, her arms wrapped tightly around them. She had finally given up on sleep. What little shut-eye she’d managed had been fitful and full of nightmares. It was only natural, she supposed.

Fennec and Todd were still sleeping. She could hear Fennec’s deep and even breathing on the bunk above her, and Todd lay quiet on the top bunk of the opposite side of the cabin. Lukas’ and Radsley’s bunks were conspicuously empty.

Her brother’s words were still loud in her ears: “If you go, you’re going. Don’t come back.” She had left him behind in Khayr ad-Din, one of the four people on the planet she truly cared about. One of the four she would give up her life to protect. She had left him, maybe forever. She pulled her knees in tighter.

And for what? The last time she had spoken to Ti, he had cut them loose. He didn’t want to work with them; he didn’t want to be with her. And the last time she’d seen him, in the desperate few moments at Nazarene when she suddenly realized the colossal depth of her mistake, she’d left him for dead. What if he didn’t want anything to do with her? What if she’d given up everything for nothing?

Lukas was wrong, though. She hadn’t left her brother for Ti. Sure, she wanted to see him. The part of her that wasn’t terrified of their reunion desperately wanted to see him again, to know with her own eyes that he was alive. But she hadn’t gone back just to see Ti. She had been willing to take the job for HIRA, the one in the swamp, the one that would push her past Ti’s window in Port Arthur. She’d been willing to accept that she might not see him for a long time. She’d been willing to do what needed to be done, personal feelings be damned.

She hadn’t gone back for Ti. She’d gone back for Ti’s mission.

It was only when Fennec explained what was on the hard drive, explained what Ti wanted to use it for, that she had made her decision: it had to get back to Port Arthur, and Fennec couldn’t do it herself. Despite what Lukas said, there was more to life than the payoff at the end of an op. There was more to life than money. She wanted to be part of Ti’s goals: to unify the Badlands, to protect Terra Nova from people like the Bear. She wanted to be part of something bigger than herself for once.

Because Lukas was wrong about something else: she did understand the stakes. They had left HIRA in the most unfortunate way possible, with a live-fire shootout in a crowded airport terminal. They were burned no matter what they did. There would be no negotiating with them. HIRA would go after the people she loved. They would come after her. She might have only a half-season to live. And if HIRA didn’t pull the trigger, there were plenty of other organizations who would be happy to take up the slack. SRID, NGIS, the Brotherhood, any of the Bear’s other front organizations, the CEF. Lyta did not expect to see her twenty-seventh birthday.

The thought did not upset her as much as she’d expected it would. Part of her acknowledged she was already living on borrowed time. The number of shoot-outs they’d been in, the number of grenades that had exploded in her near vicinity… she couldn’t begin to count them. She’d been on two crashed trains and one crashed hovertank on the verge of a nuclear explosion. She’d been threatened, detained, and assaulted by private individuals and global organizations alike. She had no reason to still be alive.

If she was only going to see another few weeks or another few seasons, she might as well make them worthwhile. She might as well go out with a bang, doing something that would help people and not just herself. She could do at least that much.

The train passed through a short tunnel. When it emerged, the sun shone brightly on an empty bed. Lyta’s momentary confidence faded. She wished Lukas could be with her. She wished she could protect him. She wished he could see that Fennec had done no more to him than he had done to Ti, with the same unfortunately predictable results. And, once more, she had lost someone she loved.

She felt herself hardening, the way she had when her parents had been killed, the way she had when the Bathani Ratir had been slaughtered. Better to not feel at all than to be hurt again and again. She felt her icy façade falling into place, the steel casing closing around her heart.

“No,” she whispered to herself.

If there was one thing everyone had tried to tell her – Ellen and Alain and Jonas and the Doc and even Ti – it was that she could control her emotions. She could choose how she felt. And if she only had weeks to live, she would not spend them angry and afraid. She had lived like that long enough.

Her mother’s wedding ring hung heavy around her neck. Gone, but not forgotten. She would not let herself drown in the guilt and the spectre of things she might have done differently. Not again.

“Whatever happens,” she whispered to herself. “Forward.”

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