Thursday, February 23, 2017

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter X: Across the Chasm, part 2

23 Winter 1929

The cabin lights glowed a soft red inside the belly of the hopper while the terminal threw a blue light on Gabrielle. She strained to hear a sound beyond the keys she struck. When she hit the final return key, the silence revealed Lyta’s breath, calm and steady. Though not literally breathing down her neck, the compact fighter was close enough to banish any thought of escape.

“This round of decryption algorithms will take approximately twenty minutes. There is little we can do until then.”

Gabrielle’s own voice sounded strange to her. It was calm, or maybe it was resigned. If she was to be captured, she could think of worse circumstances. Upon second thought, no she couldn’t.

“Are you to be my keeper, then?” she asked.

Lyta shrugged. Gabrielle hadn’t turned from her terminal, but she knew the woman well enough to  recognize the slight ruffling sound of fabric her characteristic response would produce.

Gabrielle’s heart beat heavily in her chest. She did her best to seem calm but she felt trapped. She had nowhere to run and no one to turn to. Gabrielle spun around slowly to look at Lyta, a strange and desperate feeling that she might be the only person in the world who knew enough about her life to help her escape the inescapability of her own claustrophobic doubt.

“Your brother doesn’t trust me, does he?” that same disembodied voice asked.

She shrugged again. “You tried to kill him. And you put Todd on the most-wanted list.”

Gabrielle’s watched as a part of her screamed in wretched pain while another part of her calmly answered. “And he killed my father and kidnapped me on more than one occasion.”

Lyta, once again, shrugged. ‘If she does that again, I’m going to kill her’. Gabrielle laughed inwardly at the empty threat.

“And you? Do you trust me?” Gabrielle asked, and for the first time she thought the voice was her own.

Lyta frowned, unsure how to answer. “Does it matter?” she finally offered.

‘Not in the least’

“Of course it matters.” Gabrielle protested, “Without trust...”

‘Without trust, there can be no betrayal.’ Gabrielle had no answer to that. Lyta’s frown deepened. Could she hear the voices as well? She had no answer for that, no way to silence the demons in her own head, what Torgath’s novel had called her broken reflections.

“So,” Gabrielle spoke up, trying to break free of her twisted inner monologue, “where do we stand with one another?”

“I don’t know,” Lyta said eventually. “I think we’ll be okay while we’re all working to go after Layson. After that… Like you said, we’ve got parallel goals, not the same same goals.”

Had she said that? She would take Lyta’s word for it. She had to trust Lyta knew what she was saying. She had to escape her prison, the captivity of her own mind.

“Then I must trust you. I need your advice, about your brother.”

Lyta’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. "What sort of advice?" She asked. Then, after a brief pause, "and which one?"

Dawn’s voice cackled. A mocking, spiteful laugh. It made Gabrielle shudder, which she covered with a hesitant and fear-tinged laugh of her own. "Both, I guess. But Lukas first."

"Okay... What about Lukas?"

Gabrielle stood slowly from her terminal, looking for a parcel of the hopper bay where she could sink to the deck plates. "How do you get someone to forgive you for betraying them?"

‘What are you asking her for? What does she know of your pain and your responsibilities?’

"Are you sure you're asking the right person?” Lyta answered, her face presenting an embarrassed smile. “Isn't that the sort of thing you would bring up with your priest, or something?"
"My 'priest' would have a simple answer: 'honour your father'. Which is what I've been doing, or at least trying to do. And it isn't working."

‘Ruhig mein liebling’

"That's not really advice about my brother. That's advice about you."

"I'm sorry, I'm being vague and cryptic. ‘Pathetic.’ I said I had to trust you, so please forgive me for being blunt." ‘Get on with it.’ "Lukas wasn't at Creighton. Torgath told me some of what happened in White Rock. How do you…’stand yourself?’ How did you reconcile his sense of betrayal with your relationship to Ti?"

‘Good, now you’re relating. Now we can share feelings and have a good old cry together.’

Gabrielle flinched, but Lyta who had become involved in her own thoughts hadn't noticed as she formulated an earnest answer. “I decided I can't let him put me in the middle forever. If he wants to feel like I turned on him, there's not much I can do about that. I'm not sure he's forgiven me yet. But I can't let that be my problem."

‘As though Ti and Lukas don’t have a say. She doesn’t know if Lukas has forgiven her? News alert, he hasn’t, and here’s another one fresh off the presses, neither has Ti. You’re looking for wisdom from this self-centered child?’

"Heh, which one?" Gabrielle struggled to shut Dawn up, she wasn’t even sure if she had just spoken or not when Lyta gave her a confused look. Gabrielle swallowed hard, a growing sense of panic subsided as Lyta’s expression morphed into some kind of understanding. Luckily, the wrong understanding.

"Lukas. Stuff with Ti was... easier. Eventually."

"I'm happy for you.” ‘Liar. Jealous, petty, covetous liar. The Prophet sees your lies and condemns you.’ “And you're right.” Gabrielle was getting flustered; there were too many conversations going on at once. “This is advice about me.” She bit her lip, eyes dashing in the red cocoon of the hopper, looking for a safe place to escape to but the only thing beyond the oppressive crimson was darkness, an all-encompassing maw that swallowed every sense. Gabrielle suddenly, horribly, realised her only release might be the void of madness. “I just don't know which me.” Someone from a distant point of observation within her said matter of factly, “You must think me mad."

"...How many 'you's are there?"

She beat the voices away like bats swirling around her head. "Torgath says there are four of me. There may be more, I don't know.” ‘You don’t know your own mind. Todd does and maybe Lyta sees you’re crazy but you don’t have a Prophet-be-damned clue.’ “I guess I’m just trying to understand how can I love Torgath and my father with what Lukas did in between."

‘There aren’t four of you, there aren’t six or eight of even twenty. There are as many voices as there are words in the languages of men that signify irrelevance…’

"I guess you just have to decide what's important to you. No one can choose that for you."

‘In fact, there is no you. You don’t even warrant significance in the Prophet’s eyes.’

"Easy for you to say, you have it all!” Gabrielle whimpered from her corner. “You get to keep your brothers and lover and your mission to avenge your father all neatly wrapped into one."

Distantly Lyta replied. Gabrielle could only make out a few words. "Now...when this is all over...that decision...looked like...never."

‘You’re so close now, just a little further and it can all be over. Get up, walk towards her.’

"It'll never be over for me." Gabrielle lamented, hot tears rolling down her cheeks.

‘Lyta is looking away in disgust now. This is your chance, before she knows what’s coming. She’ll end this for you. Do it now while you still have some of your own mind. Do it!’

"What do you want me to tell you? There's a magic way to have everything you want? There isn't. I'm sorry. I wish there was; it would make my life so much easier.”

‘Do it, rush her, pull her knife like you did Todd’s.’

“But you have to choose which is more important to you, revenge or love. And then you have to live with it. That's the best I've got."

‘She’s practically begging you to do it. Put her out of your misery!’

Gabrielle clutched at her stomach. The wound had healed put the pain was still there. The blade had stuck deep and she was twisting it. Bile rose in her throat; she couldn’t take this any more. Every tragic chapter of her life had been an escalation of pain. Losing her mother, then the invasion, losing herself to her work and her faith, losing Petit and her father. Maybe Lukas was right to kill him, maybe he had betrayed the North, maybe the Bear had corrupted him like he had co-opted the NGIS. She had lost the only people she had ever loved and the only causes that had ever mattered.

She stabbed herself with Torgath’s own knife so he would know her pain. He had revenged himself a thousand times with every page of his book that proved he knew her better than she knew herself. Death by a thousand cuts.

‘He truly loves you’

I know

‘So did your father’

I know

‘So honour them both. End this. Honour your father and find him in death and in your final act torment Todd’s love for all eternity’

Gabrielle’s gaze peered at Lyta from under her blonde locks. Gabrielle was good, maybe even good enough to force Lyta to kill her in spite of herself. She pushed herself imperceptibly from the wall, weighing her legs, ready to spring. Lyta wouldn’t see it coming. She was respecting her pain by looking away, but she hadn’t left. Which meant she was still on the defensive. This could work, this could all finally end.



‘Nein my liebling, mein herz’

‘DO IT!’

Gabrielle collapsed, letting the weight out of her legs. She struggled to regain control, whipping her head back against the bulkhead hard enough to see stars. Death was easy, revenge was easy and self-pity was easy. Torgath’s novel had made that all so painfully and beautifully clear. Dawn’s voice, just like her father’s and all the others. were part of her. She would use them as needed, she would not be used by them.



"Thanks. I just came for your advice, not you pity.” ‘Don’t you dare use my voice against me.’

Then to Lyta, “May I wait for the encryption to finish over there?" Gabrielle asked, pointing to a spot three meters beyond the gantry of the hopper in the open field.


Gabrielle wiped her face with her sleeve and brushed her hair back. She rose carefully and stepped out of the abyssal confines of the claret craft into the cool night. Once her eyes had adjusted, there were stars, real stars. She sat on the soft earth, felt the dirt under her hands and stared at the sky. ‘Flickers of hope’ her father had once called them. From across the chasm she let that thought soothe the many voices.

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