Friday, March 4, 2016

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter IX: Cold, Hard Choices

Thirty minutes into flight the cacophony of the storm had abated. “We’re through the worst of it,” Diego called back from the cockpit as the turbulence and wind gave way to the more familiar and reassuring sound of the hopper’s twin thrusters. “I’m going to set her down to check that the fuel lines aren’t too iced over before we continue on to Djakarta Point.”

Alli was out cold. Her wounds had revealed themselves to be pretty bad once Sharon Maddox pulled her armour off. Lyta had assisted in stabilising her after the snowmobile escape. It was a fine line determining if the risk of plunging forceps into and excising bullets out of Alli while being battered by the storm was worse than just letting her bleed and waiting for a safer moment to intervene.

Lyta’s brooded, It seemed as though Alli’s predicament was a microcosm for every decision she had made in the last cycle. Maybe her entire adult life. She was shaken from her gloom by the hatch door slamming shut. She hadn’t noticed, but Fennec had jumped out of the hopper to give Diego a hand. Sharon, meanwhile, had moved to the cockpit to listen for an update from their second team.

“Hippartha? Are you all right, my child?”

The hopper suddenly seemed quiet and confessional. The GRELs and Allison were sedated, which left her and Jonas, in a sense, alone.

Lyta roused herself from her thoughts, still distracted by the scene back at Creighton Aux and the immediate aftermath. Jonas had moved closer and sat nearby, waiting serenely, much as he used to do back in the tents of the Bathani Ratir. “What?” she asked, and then immediately brought herself back to the present. “Oh. I’m…” She nearly tossed out a glib answer, the sort she would give to anyone who asked her how she was doing, the sort that would stop a conversation in its tracks rather than start a dialogue. But she found she couldn’t; the words stuck in her throat before they reached her lips. “I don’t think so, Thralan,” she said quietly.

Jonas leaned forward with his old,  weathered desert hands and placed them on the sides of her head, cradling her face. In contrast to the cold outside, his hands were warm and surprisingly soft. They enveloped her head and gently pulled her toward him until their foreheads met. The world was quiet and her heart slowed. She felt safe. Loved.

“Now, you must do the rest,” Jonas soothed as he released her and smiled.

“The rest of what?” she answered, noting the sudden calm that had come over her.

“I’ve laid out the meal, but you must sit down and share it with me. Tell me your troubles, my dear.”

Lyta nodded and exhaled in a long, controlled breath. “Right,” she said, trying to centre herself and not quite succeeding. She decided to come at the matter obliquely. “After Creighton, we didn't know where they'd taken you. We tried to find Bearden, but we didn't have any leads. Ti had all his people looking, but it didn't matter. He was… wherever he was. Nowhere we could find him.

“Then about a season ago Ti got word about something else that was probably heading to Bearden’s base. We managed to pick up the trail and we followed it. For weeks. All the way across the planet. Every time we lost it, I thought, ‘This is it. This is where we lose Jonas. I failed my Thral.’ But somehow we kept finding it again.

“We killed people. I killed people. I let people die. And I think I would do it again, if it meant I could find you.

“And now we have. I thought… I thought it would make me happier. But then when I saw you, I…” She paused, trying to make the words sting less and failing every time. “When I saw you in the cell, when we figured out you weren't the target of the webble, I was relieved. You were… I don't know how to say this and not make it sound callous. You were better than I thought you'd be. I thought we'd find you like the Koreshi back at Creighton. Or webbled and mind-controlled.” She sighed, upset at herself, both for failing to express herself and the situation that led up to it. “I don't know what they did to you, Thralan. I'm sure it was horrible. I know what Bearden does to his test subjects. I know you look okay now, but three seasons is a long time. And if it weren't for me, you wouldn't have been there at all. If I'd just been a little faster, or if I'd been a better tracker, he wouldn't have caught you.”

She closed her eyes. “I'm so sorry, Thralan.”

“I forgive you Hippartha. What little there is to forgive. I forgive you on behalf of yourself, for you have not wronged me, you have only failed to meet the expectations you placed on yourself. We each have our part to write in the Great Cycle, but no one is responsible for the part of others. That is arrogance, not valour.

“I chose to be in Creighton to save the Koreshi; that was not your choice. I was taken. You did not choose for that to happen, nor I. They wanted my blood and tissue from my bones; I could not stop them. At first, the purple people were harsh with me, not out of malice I think, but because they did not know how to handle me. I’m old and fragile,” he said with a smile, “but there was a Southerner there who was gentle with me and I began to recover. Eventually, he left and never came back. That was not my choice and I believe it wasn’t his either.

“In the end, Hippartha, we have only the conviction of our intentions. What we choose to do and what we choose not to do. You cannot fail at something which you did not intend. Good or bad, we are only responsible for our intentions and actions. I think that what you are feeling is the self-betrayal of acting to fulfil the choices of others. If you wish to embrace fulfilment and find joy, you must stop living for other’s choices and make your own.”

Lyta nodded slowly, amazed at always by the old man who had been a mentor and spiritual guide to her for so many years. She wondered if she would have been as quick to forgive if she were in his shoes, and was fairly certain she would not.

She thought she would have felt relieved by Jonas’ words, but she was still upset, and she sat for a moment trying to figure out why. The obviousness of it struck her, and she shook her head, angry at herself for forgetting. “What if those choices are really bad?” she asked, and immediately regretted how juvenile it sounded.

“You know there is a difference between shame and guilt in our tongue don’t you? It is more precise than in Anglic.

“Our choices are guided by our intentions. They must mirror each other. When they do not it is because of one of two things…” Jonas appeared to be formulating a lengthy and esoteric answer but stopped himself. “No, never mind, my child. I think it is more important to reassure you than it is to try and instruct you right now. Tell me what concerns you and let us consider the specifics for once.”

Lyta hesitated, biting her lower lip. “You know that we left Lukas to rescue all the Koreshi at Creighton, right? There was more to it than that, but I guess that’s the main thing. Anyway, he thought we’d betrayed him. That I’d betrayed him by choosing Ti over him. He fell in with some… some really bad people, Thralan. He says that he was just doing it as a cover, trying to get more information about the Bear’s operations, but I’m not so sure. He came with us to go find you, but that’s all he promised. Now that we have you back… maybe he’ll go away again. Maybe he doesn’t want to be with us anymore.” Her face was drawn and pained. “How can I have you back only to lose Lukas? I don’t know what I’ll do if he leaves again.”

“Remember how he use to run away from the Bathani? I suspect that these attempts showed his love and allegiance to your natural parents. His acts were born from devotion, his intent was good, but his actions hurt you and himself. Eventually, when he was old enough and skilled enough to escape once and for all, he chose instead to stay. I believe he realized that in order for his actions to join with his intentions it was important for him to remain devoted to you and Torgath, his living family, not the memory of his loss.

“It sounds like Lukas may have once again divorced his actions from his intentions, and I believe he will once again come to see the path of enlightenment if you are to help. If you are lost in the desert, does it help you for someone to come with you and be lost as well, or is it better for them to light a fire at the oasis and guide you back to safety? Lukas’ choices remain his own, my dear. They always have. You must make good choices for yourself and hope to be a beacon, not lose yourself in his bad choices as well.”

“Hey, Kes…” Maddox called from the cockpit, “I just got word from what’s left of Mars team. Al is dead and Quinn and Grimm stayed behind to finish the mission. Tatsugoro has the intel and should RV with us here within 20 minutes.”

Lyta’s head snapped up as though Maddox had poured ice water on it. “They what?” But Maddox had already returned to the cockpit to continue monitoring the situation.

Lyta stood up and began pacing in the confined quarters of the hopper’s hold, her hand tapping rapidly against her leg and her face scrunched with emotion. “They’re gonna get themselves killed,” she muttered. “Three GRELs and the reinforcement team must already be on the way. That’s a dozen Zelanis Gears. Maybe two dozen if they got the NorthCo team. And Mark Kim.” She placed her hands on either side of her head, still pacing. “I know we have the mission, but that’s suicide.”

She looked up, seeming to notice Jonas for the first time since Maddox had delivered the news. “What do I do, Thralan?”

“You have always carried such heavy burdens. It has made you strong, but it has also weighed you down. Hippartha, when you find Koreshi without water, it is good and just to share your rations. But there is a great difference between that and throwing one’s water away because he says it would comfort a dying man in the desert.”

Lyta pondered that. “I can’t leave them out there. They’re my brothers. They may be idiots, but they’re my idiots.”

“You must ask yourself, is this a situation where you share your canteen or you pour it out? It comes back to choice. Do not go or stay because of Lukas’ decision. What do you choose to do?”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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