Monday, April 20, 2015

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter IX: The Eye of the Storm

“Are you sure you don't want to pull over?”

“Can’t. We’re still too close to the camp. They’ll be on us like a pack of dawgs as soon as the storm lifts.”

Ti looked out the windscreen at the howling sandstorm battering the behemoth and considered the thirty-plus hostiles still at the camp from which they were slowly escaping.

“I suppose you're right. We’d best keep moving. Just sit still while I check you out. And try not to get too excited.”

Lyta suppressed a smile and then a wince as Ti zipped off her jacket and pulled up her flack suit. He considered closing the hatch to give her a modicum of privacy while he examined her wounds, but one look at the door said it wasn't up to so strenuous an assignment as closing; holding onto its hinges was already stretching it.

“You're lucky,” Ti concluded as he bandaged up two cracked ribs.

“I don't feel it,” Lyta said through gritted teeth.

He dressed her again and turned his attention to her head wound. Meanwhile her focus had never left the wheel or the maelstrom outside. Her fingers gripped the wheel, white-knuckled.

Ti was giving the gauze one final turn around her battered skull when he noticed her red eyes. “Hey, how much pain are you in?”

“I'm fine,” Lyta lied, tears welling up.

“Lyta, what's the matter?” Ti asked, trying his best to look her in the eyes while hers never left morass of sand and rocks.

“It's stupid,” she muttered.

He stayed there, unmoving, crouched by the dash, watching the driver. He extended a gentle hand and brushed away a tear from her cheek but said nothing.

The words spilled out of her as she stared out at the swirling cloud of sand. “I couldn’t control the damn behemoth. It was all I could do just to get into drive. I couldn’t...” Her voice trailed off.

Ti’s brow furrowed as he tried to piece together the end of the unspoken sentence. There was no reason for her to be so hard on herself, at least not on the face of it. She had got them out of there, away from the camp and into the relative safety of a blinding sandstorm.

Then Ti remembered the final view of the camp he had glimpsed.

Fennec had dropped down from the roof hatch while Ti provided covering fire for Janus. From the view atop the behemoth, the remnants of the camp formed a hellish scene. A class III storm was rolling in from the south, but before it obscured the camp completely Ti had glimpsed their handiwork. Janus had chewed up a half-dozen vehicles with his chaingun and a swath of flattened tents lay in the wake of the behemoth gear carrier. Their quiet infiltration op had turned into a chaotic pitched battle.

And a bloodbath.

A good number of the casualties had been accidental or least incidental. Janus had been pretty judicious in his use of the machine gun; the heavy toll lay in the crushed tents and their hapless occupants as the 100-ton behemoth rolled through the densely packed camp. The pieces clicked into place as Ti watched Lyta, her expression a mix of pain and self-reproach.

“I love you,” Ti said softly, almost too low to be heard through the cacophony of hurtling rocks assailing the cabin.

Lyta spared him a quick glance. She did not seem mollified.

“I do. I love that heart of yours that still feels pain when this sort of thing happens. Some people grow callous in this work, in war, while others may never have had any compunctions about killing to begin with.”

Ti leaned forward and gently brushed a kiss on her salty cheek. “Even in an ‘us or them’ situation, even when it was an accident, you still feel bad about it. Regret isn’t stupid, Lyta. Your feelings just mean you’re  a good person in a world with precious few good people left in it. And I love you for it.”

Lyta couldn’t bring herself to look at him. “Your love won’t bring them back. There were a lot of people in those tents. I should have…” She shook her head. “They didn’t need to die. Not like that.”

Ti settled himself in the passenger seat quietly and waited. There was nothing he could say. She didn’t need a pep talk and she certainly didn’t need any platitudes. All he could do for her was listen. He placed a hand on her knee, a steady presence against the swirling cloud outside.

Lyta did not speak and did not look at him. But, briefly, she took one hand off the behemoth’s wheel and squeezed Ti’s hand as she focused on the storms, both the one outside the viewscreen and the one in her own mind.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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