Thursday, April 21, 2016

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter X: Why We Fight - Part 1

Fennec sauntered into the lab which she had become overly familiar with the day before in a way that which only combat can sear into one’s mind. Ti had told her she was to meet with Isabella Damosa. She knew this was part of his objective to bring her deeper into the fold, but beyond the vague sense of his goal, she didn’t know what to expect. Was this going to be an intelligence briefing? Should she take notes? Was she going to have to learn dead drops or secret passwords? She had no clue.

She found the Isabella working on cleaning up some of the damage that had occurred and waved at her. The GREL looked at her dispassionately and nodded. She then pointed her guest to a bench and sat down herself. Fennec waited for the GREL set the tone of the exchange.

“Ti said I should speak to you as I would to him. He wanted you to understand why I am engaged in this struggle. He has explained that this sharing is meant to engender faith and trust."

"Well, faith and trust are usually earned, but if Ti trusts you, then I reckon I can trust you too... " Fennec reached out her hand and grasped the GREL's hand in a firm handshake. The gesture felt suddenly alien to her, a performance she could only watch unfold in slow-motion. She hoped it felt sincere, somehow. "But sometimes, ya just gotta look into someone's eyes, listen to 'em speak, and make a choice for yourself, right...?"

The question was jocular and rhetorical, but it hung in the air for what seemed to be far too long. Fennec released her hand with an uncomfortable smile. Something about the GREL's plainly-spoken, impassive manner made Fennec's words seem... mannered. Adorned. Effusive, yet disingenuous.

The Isabella continued, unphased by Fennec's discomfort. “What you must first understand is that lying does not come easily to a GREL, but neither does trust. I was engineered and bred to be used and to die for others. My life was not my own, my purpose was not my own. In human terms I was born a slave.

“Jan Mayen showed us that there was more to existence than serving masters who had abandoned us. This was not an easy lesson to learn. I wonder if you can understand that,? wWhat it means to be designed and made to serve others.?

Fennec shifted on the bench. "No, not really. I mean, we have... obligations to others, I guess."  Her mind flickered momentarily to unbidden memories of her brother and his frequent ministrations about family duty. "I never gave much thought to what I was made for... leastways, not till recently. But then, I was never much one for following a manual. Tools ain't always used as intended."

She cringed inwardly, abruptly aware that her 'tool' metaphor was not an abstract for a mass-produced slave soldier. She scanned Damosa's face, looking for signs that she had offended her. Could she even be offended? Fennec was suddenly painfully conscious of the fact that she had no idea how to talk to a GREL.

Again, if the GREL had noticed any embarrassment, she made no sign. “On Caprice the colonists did not put up the expected resistance. The CEF force realized they had made a logistical error. They had ‘overestimated the reductive effect of the first military engagement. Consequently there remained insufficient logistical support to maintain the deployed force.’

“In other words, on Caprice, the GREL beat the colonists soundly and not enough of us died in doing it. More GREL soldiers had survived the battle than the CEF had expected and they had not brought enough food to feed them. The solution was simple: The CEF killed GRELs until the numbers matched projections and moved on.

Fennec blinked. She had no reason to like the GRELS, but this seemed far too inhuman, too calculating. She felt a slight burning feeling in her cheeks as a mysterious sense of outrage mounted inside her. It was not anger on the GRELS' behalf, but instead a bitter resentment of an only too human callousness. GRELS were terrifying. They were still terrifying. And yet, it never really occurred to her just how deep the gulf was between herself and the way the CEF saw their creations. After all, GRELs kind of dumb, messed-up, artificial people... but they were still people, right?

“As an Isabella I was involved the the mass euthanasia plan. Yet even after that I did not question my purpose. Even after they abandoned 100,000 of us on Terra Nova like so many trucks and fuel dumps they could not take with them during their retreat, we did not question it.

“But we felt it."

Fennec bit her lip. People.

“I do not know if you can appreciate what it is like to be created by someone who does not care about you. Maybe humans experience these feelings differently; the sense of having no purpose is worse than death."

"Some folks also call that a kind of freedom." Fennec offered.

Did she believe that, she wondered? Hadn't that been her a few cycles back? No purpose. No agenda. Just a drifting life, governed by whim and necessity. Was that so bad? So much had changed for her since then; was the sense of purpose she felt with Ti and the Kith, with the Lassanders... was it a validation of her life? Or was it just the right thing to do? Fennec's brow furrowed, and she focused on Damosa's words.

"Not having the vocabulary to rationalize this sensation of pain without a wound, some of us learned what it meant to have a soul and for that inner self to cry out. If humans think it ridiculous for GRELs to speak of souls, I assure you other GRELS think it twice as perverse. But Mayen, then Sebastopol, and then other GRELs showed us that we could define our our purpose and it made the pain a little less pronounced. Choice, a foreign concept to GRELs, is the only balm for the curse of liberty."

“That is why I do what I do. Because I need purpose, and what I do is give others purpose because if we are to exist beyond the perfunctory function of dying for men, we must live for ourselves.

Damosa's words seemed to loop back upon themselves for Fennec, as she looked on with a faint sense of wonder. Human virtue was so often measured in terms of selflessness, the act of living for someone other than oneself, and perhaps even dying for them. Living only for oneself, on the other hand, was the the state into which children are born, a state of primal selfishness, the center of their own universes. For Fennec, finding purpose - doing the right thing - was about learning to put others first, and risking her life for something greater than herself. For the GREL, this irony was lost. Before they could become something greater than themselves, they first had to become 'human' at that primal, newborn level. They needed to be like newborns, and to learn to feel their own wants and desires, before they could be selfless again.

Fennec's head was swimming.

“I hope this has been instructive.”

Damosa got up and went back to picking up broken glass and putting it in a hazard bin. Fennec blinked a few times, unsure of how to respond or if a response was even called for. She cocked her head to the side, wondering if maybe she'd had a bit too much to drink before coming down to the lab.

"Yeah, you could say that. Thanks for your time."

She stared wistfully at the ceiling as the elevator began its climb back to the surface. Fennec wasn't quite sure if the talk with Damosa had accomplished what Ti had intended... but it had stirred something in her. Was it sympathy? Understanding? Or just a growing resolve to help her do what was necessary in the weeks ahead?

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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