Friday, June 19, 2015

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter IX: We Need To Talk

“We need to talk.”

Fennec announced it without preamble as she entered the hotel room. Ti was looking out the window, deep in thought. He waived the mechanic to the couch and sat down. He was tired, no, more than tired: weary, nearly exhausted. They had only just returned to Jan Mayen the night before from the bloody attack on the slaver camp in the E.S.E.

Objectively he had to concede it was a success. They had not only retrieved intel from Al-Humein’s database which was at that very moment being analysed by Oscar and Ennick, but had also captured and interrogated Azim Abdelfadel who was being very forthcoming about what he knew. A dozen GREL and a pilot had died on their side of the raid, but 167 E.S.E. slaves had been rescued from the hardship of the camp. More refugees for Jan Mayen.

But it felt hollow. Lyta and Ti had barely spoken the entire day spent hiding from Al-Humein’s mercenaries in the jungles before they were evaced. Even the usually verbose Todd had been silent. Lyta was morose and her mood only soured when they reached Jan Mayen. She hadn’t slept last night. She’d paced the hotel and eventually, wordlessly, left. For Ti, her absence was even harder to bear than her oppressive presence.

When Fennec came in he had hoped it was his lover and they could finally talk about what had happened. He sighed and joined Fennec in the living area and opened his hands, inviting her spill whatever was on her mind. Instead she opened up her computer terminal and hit play. Ti recognised their surveillance footage from the shipping dock in Thebes a month back where he still had vivid memories of the slaughter of the webbled slaves. It only took him a few seconds to see what Fennec had cued up. The Mekong slaver on the video was the same that been in the launch with Lukas as he left Azim’s yacht.

“The thought of Lukas associating with these people disturbs me too,” Ti said sympathetically to Fennec, but she wasn’t disappointed, she was angry. She cued another part of the surveillance, the second night, and this one had audio where they had placed the mics.

“Recognise that voice?” Fennec asked, her voice dripping with resentment.

It was the big man delivering the crates to Bhakir. Ti had previously listened to the words for intel but this time concentrated on the voice and it struck him. He would not have believed it possible 72 hours ago, but a lot had changed in those two days.

“Yeah,” Fennec spat. “He isn’t just ‘associating’ with these people, he’s fuckin’ murdering with them.”

Ti went from sullen to sickened.


Lyta couldn’t find peace anywhere. Jan Mayen offered her no respite. Ti kept waiting for her to say something after… after what had happened, but what could she say? She’d turned it over and over in her head, trying to figure out what her brother was doing, but she had never had that kind of mind. Maybe The Doc could’ve figured it out, but she couldn’t talk to him, not after what had happened. She couldn’t talk to Ti either. Every time she thought about talking to him, she froze up. Deep down, she knew if it came to having a conversation with Ti, she’d need to choose. Either she’d have to defend her brother and his damning actions, or she’d have to turn her back on him, and she wasn’t ready to do either.

Lukas must have had some reason for what he was doing, but she couldn’t guess what it was. He couldn't be helping the slavers, not really. He must still be working with HIRA to take them down, or maybe trying to get at the Bear another way. There were possibilities, at least. But possibilities weren’t facts, and the facts looked bleak. Ti and Fennec didn’t know Lukas the way she did; they would be suspicious. They would raise possibilities of their own, like maybe Lukas had finally snapped without his family and done something that couldn’t be defended. The worst part was, Lyta couldn’t be positive that they were wrong.

She needed to talk to someone. Even if that someone was Todd.

She went to his room where he had strict instructions to rest from his wounds. That Mekongese guy with Lukas had put a pretty good hole in him. Back in the jungle, she had been surprised and dismayed at how familiar the motions of tending to his wounds had felt. The only problem was that this time, it could have been avoided. One word, one gesture would have been enough to stop the gunman. “Why did Lukas let him do it?” she asked herself for the thousandth time.

When she let herself into his room, she found Ti and Fennec there too. She swallowed. Ti was looking right her, his eyes full of caring and worry. She couldn’t bring herself to meet his eyes.

“We need to talk,” Ti said. There was something just under the surface that made her nervous.

“Uhm, Jax has totally dark sided,” Todd stated bluntly.

That was not the way Lyta wanted this conversation to start. If they’d already made up their minds, it would be harder to convince them of alternatives. She’d hoped at least that Todd would be on her side. Instead, she was alone, trying to defend Lukas to others before she’d fully defended him to herself. The feeling of betrayal from three of the people she cared about most hit her like a wave, and she sat down hard in one of the free chairs. Her hand traced lightly over the bumpy plastic seat.

“Thank you, Todd, but that isn’t very helpful. Lyta, do you recognize this guy?” Ti pointed to a figure on Fennec’s computer screen.

Lyta looked up to recognize the Mekongese guy who had put Todd in his hospital bed. She nodded, feeling her muscles tense. Ti motioned to Todd.

“He was in Matoux’s camp, along with the grey-haired guy Fennec took down on the dock when we were running for the boat,” Todd said.

Lyta remembered that Todd had gone after the silver-haired guy to get Matoux’s ledger. Matoux’s final lie to put them on the wrong track before Janus finished him. Lyta nudged her thoughts away from Janus -- yet another piece of an increasingly unwelcome puzzle.

Ti touched a key on the computer and it brought up footage of a dock with shipping containers. “This is Thebes a few weeks back. Look here.”

Ti pointed to the same Mekongese and the same grey-haired man; they were next to Bhakir.

“Now look at this guy.” In the next screen-shot was a slightly bigger guy. Lyta swallowed hard.

Fennec’s tone of voice matched her stern expression. “I ran a voice recognition program as soon as we got back. It’s a match. That’s Lukas. He’s there with the same guys as in the E.S.E. The slavers who brought Matoux a webble.”

“And then there’s Janus,” Ti added.

Lyta’s vision contracted and the room grew dark.

“I told them. I had to. Just as we had to show you this.” Ti said apologetically.

“Lukas dealing with Bhakir in Thebes with grey-hair and the Mekong swamp commando murdering a bunch of webbled slaves. A few weeks later Janus and the same two guys show up at Matoux’s camp. We leave Janus alone with Matoux and he gets dead and Janus -- sorry, Lukas -- leads us right into a gunfight with the Mekongese and the silver-haired guy…”

“Uhmm, that might have been a bit my fault...” Todd voiced from his bed.

“Please!” Fennec cut him off, regaining her train of thought. “And we’re to believe that was a coincidence when the same three guys -- Lukas, your shooter, and the older fellow -- end up together thick as thieves in the E.S.E to find new slaves to start the whole cycle of abduction, slavery, biotesting, torture, and murder all over again?”

“We don’t know what Lukas’ intentions are, Fennec.” Ti responded. “His work with these people is how deep infiltration works. If he’s tracking the Comptroller’s operation from beginning to end it only follows that he’ll be in all those places.”

“Yeah, in The Long Corridor by Elizabetha Zakarian, the double agent goes deep undercover to save--”

“Todd! This isn’t one of your books. This is Lukas.” Ti said, exasperated and collapsed into a chair.

Lyta spoke for the first time. “I don’t understand. How can he keep lying to us over and over? How did he let Todd get hurt? Why did he let that happen?”

They sat there in silence. Lyta’s question was the one they had all been too afraid to ask since the fight at the slave camp. The maelstrom of emotions was oppressive. Anger, betrayal, confusion, and disgust swirled around the room resolving into a perfect storm of heartbreak.

“Let’s ask him.”

Everyone looked up at Ti. his expression had morphed into determination but there was faith in his tone. “Let’s ask him.” He repeated calmly.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


LeRoi Singe said...

I can grant points for narrative convenience, but under prolonged conditions, I still find it a bit hard to believe that the tall, bossy, condescending, abrasive bounty hunter named after the two-faced god, who acts just like Lukas, could possibly have spent enough dice to keep us from recognizing him. :p

But hey, at least my suspicions have been confirmed.

Let the record show that Fennec greeted this revelation with the same show of surprise normally reserved for moments like "oh, that dogshit smell actually -was- coming from my shoe" or "oh look, a pimple on class photo day".

Julie said...

Lyta had figured it out earlier, but had kept it secret from everyone except Ti in the hopes that if Janus / Lukas didn't think she was onto him, he might stick around and she could have her brother nearby again. Clearly that did not work, as with most of Lyta's ideas

Game Thug said...

My understanding was that Lyta suspected earlier.

So far as dice are concerned--you underestimate my dice spending, my levels in Disguise/Theatrics, and overestimate the degree to which Janus acted like Lukas at all--which really came down to one moment only, iirc.

Julie said...

Lyta initially suspected and then become more and more certain the longer we were with Janus. I clarified with Georges several times over the course of the op how sure Lyta was that Janus was actually Lukas, and by the end she was convinced. She told Ti but swore him to secrecy. To the best of her knowledge, Ti didn't reveal it to the rest of the PCs until this story.

LeRoi Singe said...

Didn't get notifications for this... to clarify, in case it wasn't obvious in my comments, I don't really have a serious problem with this. It's more that I find it hilarious, because I think that all of us were immediately suspicious of Janus (in the meta), and almost everything about the in-character alpha-dog dynamic was the same as with Lukas practically out of the box. Some of that is due simply to inevitable elements of personal play style, but at some point I do recall Fennec observing wryly "You remind me of someone..."

Lukas is indeed both a master of disguise and a master bullshitter. All that being as it is, I think it still strains credibility that throughout the prep, the op, and the aftermath (and patching the many holes in his body), that we didn't "make" him (or were not provided with frequent reroll opportunities).

Admittedly, this was ostensibly done by proxy behind the curtain, or even hand-waved, for the sake of play novelty and narrative conceit. I simply trusted that such an obvious, difficult, frivolous ruse must be bolstered by some consistently fantastic disguise and theatrics totals, and ran with it trusting that all the uncanniness would pay off in a dramatic reveal (which didn't really come).

The side effect however, is that neither myself NOR Fennec can muster much surprise when the truth finally comes out, beyond a cynical "well... that figures."

Certain Betrayal said...

Not that I considered this particularly noteworthy, but another GM did so I'll share how this subterfuge was done as it was not 'hand waived'.

I had Brock tell me what kind of opposed Theatrics roles he wanted to put out ahead of a session where he was playing Janus. I then had him roll those out and spend whatever he wanted.

I had his rolls banked next to my GM notes and every time sometime would come up which reminded me of Lukas or would likely elicit a possible notice I had you Ariel, Julie or Zac roll two dice. I paid attention to your rolls and adjusted them for stats and incidental modifiers as I saw fit and ran them against Brock's pre-rolled opposed checks. That way It wasn't obvious what I was making you guys roll for.

At the end of the evening I would reimburse any unspent opposed theatrics rolls to Brock.

If your wondering why Brock, a legendary dice hoarder, has far fewer in his cache than usual, look no further than these night where he would be spending 6-8 dice dropping you guys on your notices.

Does it "strain credibility" yeah, but so does anything in this game when you guys start dropping dice the way he did.

Julie said...

Ah, I'm glad to see that Lukas is using his hard-won xp for the laudable purpose of deceiving his siblings and the other PCs. Certainly, I can think of no better use for 6-8 dice. :)

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