Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter IX: Wound Up, Wound Down

39 Winter 1928

It was a cruel joke of the universe, Lyta reflected, that placed her hotel room directly across from the square where Jan Sebastopol led his Perfect Form sessions. Three times a day, a crowd of hundreds assembled to perform the fluid motions that were part martial art, part dance, part meditation. They eclipsed everything else in her view of the city, a battalion of GRELs moving in time under the orders of their commander. Lyta had taken to keeping the blinds closed.

The lock chimed and Lyta’s hand was immediately on her gun. She brought it to bear as the door opened.

Ti Corovan stepped inside, saw the barrel aimed at his chest, and raised his hands. His eyes widened. “Whoa, there. It’s me. It’s just me.”

Lyta let out a shuddering breath and put her pistol back in its holster. She looked away. “Sorry,” she muttered.

Ti shut the door carefully behind him and sat down on the bed next to her. He placed a hand on hers. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Lyta’s free hand traced the seams of the bedspread. “No.”

Ti’s fingers moved gently over hers. “Lyta, if you don’t want to come on the next op, if you want to pack your bag and head into the desert or grab the Beta Maglev and go, I don't know, anywhere but here, it’s okay. I won’t think less of you, I promise.”

Lyta’s jaw worked a few times before the words came out. “I want to come.”

Ti exhaled slowly. “Then you need to calm down.”

“I am calm.” Lyta looked up at him sharply, fire in her eyes.

Ti raised an eyebrow. “You just pulled a gun on me.” He cupped her cheek with his right hand and gently turned her head to look at him. His voice was quiet but insistent. “You’re wound up so tight that I'm afraid you might snap. I know you want to do what’s right, and I love you for it. But this mission to the ESE will require you to work in close quarters with GRELs for weeks. Do you think you can handle that?”

Lyta gritted her teeth. “I’ll manage.”

Ti shook his head. “I’m sorry, Lyta, but that’s not good enough. You’ve been keeping your distance in Jan Mayen; you barely leave the hotel. That’s not going to be an option when we start running drills and staging for the mission. If you can’t get yourself under control, you’re going to do something you regret. You’re…” He paused, thinking through his words. “You’d be a liability to the team.”

Lyta pulled back her hand and twisted away. “I’m trying.”

Ti’s hand rested lightly on her shoulder. “I know,” he said. “I've got an idea. Want to try something?”

Lyta’s breath came shallow as she tried to conquer her pride, the voice that said she could no longer trust anyone, that told her the only way to succeed was alone. She closed her eyes. “Okay. What?”

“Have you ever tried guided meditation?”

Lyta let out a small exclamation, somewhere between a snort and a laugh. “I’m not good with meditation.”

Ti reached forward and took her hand again, leading her until she was once more facing him. “We can try,” he said. “Here, close your eyes.”

Lyta settled herself on the bed and closed her eyes. She felt the denim ridges of her pants against the sides of her hands, felt the small swirling of air as Ti exhaled slower and deeper.

“Okay,” came her boyfriend’s voice, soft and even, “just breathe. Focus on inhaling and exhaling, in and out. In through the nose, out through the mouth. With every breath, feel yourself getting more relaxed. Start with your toes, feel them relaxing one by one…”

Lyta tried. As Ti spoke, she tried to follow his instructions, letting her muscles relax as she focused on her breathing. Through it all, she could feel the oppressive presence of the GRELs below her window. As her body sat still, her mind wandered. What would it be like to spend weeks on the road, confined with GRELs? Eating with them, sleeping beside them, bathing in their view, naked and vulnerable?

She stood up abruptly and began to pace, blinking furiously. Ti watched her from the bed and sighed. “Lyta…”

Lyta shook her head and forced herself back to the present. “Sorry. I told you I’m not good at this.”

Ti stood up and wrapped her in his arms. She stiffened at the touch before she could stop herself. Ti rested his head against her. “I love you,” he said in her ear. “Do you want to try again?”

Lyta closed her eyes. “No.”

His hands held her arms protectively. “I know this is hard, but you need to figure it out. Otherwise… I can’t let you endanger the mission. I’m sorry, Lyta.”

Lyta spun to face him. “What?”

Ti’s face was compassionate but firm. “We’re leaving in a week. I’ll help you as best I can, but you have to want it. You have to get yourself under control, or you’re putting everyone at risk.”

Lyta tore herself away from him. “I do want it.”

“Then you have to figure it out.” Ti regarded her as she paced the length of the room. “If not meditation, then something else. You’ve been through hard situations before and come out the other side. What do you usually do to calm yourself down?”

Lyta thought about it for a moment as her hand tapped the back of a chair. “I run,” she said. “But I can’t do that here, and I can’t do that on the road.”

Ti nodded. “What do you do on the road?”

“I don’t know.” Lyta turned away, anger and shame competing for equal places at the forefront of her mind.

Ti touched her elbow. “I’m sure there’s something. It’ll come to you. Something you do that relaxes you. If you can’t think of it, come to me and I’ll try to help you.” He kissed the nape of her neck. “I love you, whatever happens. Whether you come to the ESE or not. I promise.”

Lyta did not watch him as he left, but she listened as the door shut and his footsteps faded away.

The room was suddenly claustrophobic, and she tore open the blinds to let in the mid-day sun. Across from her in the square, Sebastopol’s noon session had already started. Lyta glared at them as they worked through the Perfect Form movements. In her mind, she anticipated them: the arm circles down as the weight shifts to the front leg, turn on the balls of the feet bringing both arms around in parallel, shift to the back leg and bring the arms close…

She shook her head, dislodging the thoughts. She remembered the square, a smaller and prettier one, in Oxford. She remembered how she’d felt working through the movements with Terrance. ‘If not meditation, then something else.’

Lyta set her jaw and closed the blinds. She would not go down. She would not let herself be surrounded by GRELs in the midst of martial arts, not even for the mission. Still…

She walked to the middle of the room and closed her eyes. She centered her weight on the balls of her feet and let her arms hang at her side in a ready position. Slowly, she slid her right leg forward, shifting the weight over her toes as her arm came up, twisting the wrist and pressing with the palm, turning to the left and shifting back as her other arm came up from within and circled left…

Her mind cleared. Her breathing deepened. And, though she could not see them below her in the square, three hundred people matched her movements in perfect time.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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