Thursday, February 23, 2017

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter X: Across the Chasm, part 1

23 Winter 1929

The computer beeped softly as Gabrielle Summers leaned back and stretched. “This round of decryption algorithms will take approximately twenty minutes,” she reported in her precise, clipped Anglic. “There is little we can do until then.”

Lyta nodded. She stood comfortably against the bulkhead of the hopper, one hand tracing the seams in the metal. She’d positioned herself so that she could see the screen of Gabrielle’s terminal, but all it was showing at the moment were streams of numbers and loading progress bars.

Gabrielle glanced up at her for the first time in nearly an hour. It was not lost on the NGIS agent that Lyta had kept her in eyesight since they’d landed, except for the brief team conference several hours earlier. “Are you to be my keeper, then?” she asked. The words were more resigned than hostile.

Lyta shrugged.

Gabrielle leaned back in the pilot’s seat and swivelled so she could more clearly face her silent interlocutor. “Your brother doesn’t trust me, does he?”

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

Gabrielle’s expression quirked. “And he killed my father and kidnapped me on more than one occasion.” She said it as calmly as though she were discussing the weather.

Lyta, once again, shrugged.

“And you?” Gabrielle asked, shifting the topic slightly. “Do you trust me?”

Lyta frowned and hesitated. “Does it matter?” she said after a moment’s silence.

A narrowing of the eyes. “Of course it matters. Without trust...” Gabrielle’s voice trailed off.

Lyta’s frown deepened.

“So,” Gabrielle returned to the more conversational tone, “where do we stand with one another?”

Lyta thought about this for a moment, considering. Lukas and Todd had diametrically opposed views of the NGIS agent, with Lukas viewing her as a threat even after she’d helped him, and Todd seeing her as an ally even after she’d attempted to get him killed. She wasn’t sure either of them were seeing clearly on the matter. Then again, she wasn’t sure she was herself. “I don’t know,” she 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 goals.”

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

It was not the direction Lyta had expected the conversation to go. People didn’t ask Lyta for advice, certainly not seasoned intelligence agents. She might have been willing to act the older sister for Miranda, but she had no idea how to play things with Gabrielle. “What sort of advice?” A pause. “And which one?”

Gabrielle let out a short, conflicted laugh. There was no joy in it. “Both, I guess. But Lukas first.”

“Okay… what about Lukas?”

“How do you get someone to forgive you for betraying them?”

Lyta wanted to laugh, but she held it back before it reached her lips. Of anyone, she was hardly the best authority on how to get Lukas to forgive anyone. She wasn’t entirely certain he had even forgiven her. “Are you sure you’re asking the right person? Isn’t that the sort of thing you would bring up with your priest, or something?” A flickering thought that she didn’t actually know if Revisionists had priests, or if Gabrielle was religious. Lyta supposed she must be. Most Northerners were. A half-shrug. She supposed it wasn’t important.

"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."

Lyta let her hand trace along the seams of the bulkhead. Back to that. She supposed it wasn’t surprising. No doubt it was just as hard for Gabrielle to work with Lukas as it had been for her to head into the ESE with several dozen GRELs. Yet somehow, she had done it. “That’s not really advice about my brother,” Lyta said after a pause. “That’s advice about you.”

Gabrielle’s voice took on a resigned tone. “I’m sorry, I’m being vague and cryptic. I said I had to trust you, so please forgive me for being blunt.” She hesitated. “Lukas wasn’t at Creighton. Torgath told me some of what happened in White Rock. How do you… how do you reconcile his sense of betrayal with your relationship with Ti?”

It was the core question of her last cycle and a half. Lyta stared at Gabrielle, trying to figure out how much to say, how to put into words what had mostly been a swirling mass of undefined emotion, how to distill the core nuggets from a dozen conversations into something comprehensible. “I decided I can’t let him put me in the middle forever,” she said. “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.”

A quirk to Gabrielle’s lips. “Heh, which one?”

Lyta blinked, confused, before realizing the ambiguity in her own words. Which one, indeed. “Lukas. Stuff with Ti was… easier. Eventually.” After I decided I couldn’t lose him a second time. After I bared my soul to him in the desert. After I told him my deepest fear and he accepted it.

“I’m happy for you.” The NGIS agent seemed sincere, as far as Lyta could tell. “And you’re right, this is advice about me. I just don’t know which me. You must think me mad.”

Lyta’s brow furrowed at the strange phasing. “How many ‘you’s are there?”

Gabrielle waved her hand in a vague gesture. “Torgath says there are four of me. There may be more. I don’t know. I guess I’m just trying to understand how I can love Torgath and my father with what Lukas did in between.”

How could she, indeed. Lyta heard echoes of conversations with Ti, so many conversations. How for so long she’d let love for her brother come in the way of love for another. She remembered the moment she had stopped.

She realized she had been silent for longer than she’d intended. “I guess you just have to decide what’s important to you. No one can choose that for you.”

Gabrielle’s eyes narrowed as her expression turned upset. “Easy for you to say, you have it all. You get to keep your brothers and your lover and your mission to avenge your father all neatly wrapped up into one.”

It was not the reaction Lyta had expected, though she supposed she might have. She held herself back from a sharp rejoinder. They still had to work together, she reminded herself. And Gabrielle didn’t know everything, no matter how much Todd had told her. “Now. Maybe. I still don’t know what’s gonna happen when this is all over. And I made that decision when it looked like I would never have Lukas again. I still might not.”

It hit her abruptly that she had still not had the long-awaited conversation with Lukas. Nearly a cycle later, and she still didn’t know whether he’d forgiven her. They were working towards common cause in pursuing the Bear, but what would happen after that? Would he leave again? If you’re leaving, don’t come back, he had said. Only the mission had pulled them back together again. And their operational window was getting shorter by the day.

Lyta realized she had stopped paying attention to Gabrielle, and only barely caught the edge of the Northerner’s finger swiping away at an errant tear. “It’ll never be over for me.”

Lyta glanced away, giving the NGIS agent a moment to get her emotions under control while she tried to do the same with hers. She sighed. “What do you want me to tell you? That 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. But you have to choose which is more important to you, revenge or love. And then you have to live with it.”

She paused. She had not intended to say so much, or speak so bluntly. But there it was, the truth of the matter. When she spoke again, her voice was quieter. “That’s the best I’ve got.”

As Lyta spoke, Gabrielle had turned inward, her head down and shaking, her hands clasped around the scar of her stomach wound. By the end, she was practically curled into a ball around her core. Then, suddenly, her head whipped back, hard enough to smack against the bulkhead. She wiped the tears from her eyes in a quick motion and brushed back her hair.

She stood up, the smile on her face reminding Lyta not so much of Gabrielle but of Dawn, back when they’d first met in Port Arthur. It was disconcerting. “Thanks. I just came for your advice, not your pity. May I wait for the encryption to finish over there?” She pointed to a spot just beyond the hopper’s gantry, in the open field.

Lyta stared. She had no idea what to make of Gabrielle’s emotional outburst, nor of the rapid cover-up. Ti would know what to say, or Jonas. Hell, even Doc Chambers would be able to give some insight that might have helped. But Lyta was none of them. She did not have their skills, and no doubt never would. She frowned. “Sure.”

Gabrielle nodded and strode out of the hopper, Dawn’s expression firmly on her face.

Lyta sighed as she left, positioning herself on the other side of the bulkhead so she could keep an eye on the NGIS agent. Her fingertips absently traced the seams of the metal. No doubt Gabrielle had not liked what Lyta had to say, no more than Lyta had liked it when she’d been told the same by any number of her friends and allies. Ti, Alain, Ellen, Jonas, and even the Doc… it had all come to the same thing, in the end: you have to choose. And in the act of choosing, you have to give something up, or at least accept that you might give something up if things didn’t turn out the way you wanted. She still loved Lukas; he was her brother. But she’d had to give up the idea of constantly being in his shadow, being at his side, being beholden to his goals, in order to be her own woman. Gabrielle would have to make a similar choice, sooner or later.

Lyta wasn’t certain what Gabrielle would choose. If she chose to avenge her father, to kill the man who had caused her pain… Lyta frowned as she watched the entryway to the hopper, her weight subconsciously shifting to the balls of her feet. Well, she wouldn’t be the first person who had tried to kill her brothers, and she would probably fare as well as any of the rest of them.

She sighed and leaned back against the bulkhead. Later. They had at least until tomorrow, until they’d dealt with Layson and the Comptroller, before that became an issue. Parallel goals, Lyta reminded herself, not identical ones. It would have to be good enough for now.

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