Thursday, March 30, 2017

Koreshi Chronicles - Capter X: Fated

‘Controlling people is easy, controlling events is an entirely different proposition’.

The thought kept repeating itself in Minnie’s head. The more it did, the more she wondered why she had volunteered to be the instrument of Lukas’ vengeance on the Forzi’s queen, Bev.

 For all her doubts, her plan had the elegance of simplicity. She knew all the snitches in town, so she started by having one inform the Forzi that a group of Brotherhood mercs were planning on muscling in on them. Then she told another to reveal to the Brotherhood that the Forzi were planning on taking their stash of recently acquired guns. So far, so easy.

The main issue for Minnie was timing. How to ensure they went after each other before either of them figured out they had no real reason to. The final hitch was making sure Perry wasn’t around when everything finally and dramatically came to an end.

It turned out the last part was pretty easy. Lukas’s former employee was working a cushy job out of one of the retail Corner Coffees and had a regular schedule.

Perry sipped on his macchiato. If he had been more self aware then he probably would have chuckled at the cliche of a goon sitting on his ass all day sipping coffee. Perry has no such thought and so he enjoyed his coffee in peace.

His immediate boss, whom Perry had been repeatedly told not to call ‘boss’ because he was actually his manager and calling him ‘boss’ could lead to confusion regarding who the real boss was, called him over.

“Yeah boss,” Perry said with his customary insouciance.

His manager sighed and handed him a heavy pouch. “Take this to the boss.”

“Yeah boss,” Perry responded laconically as he hefted the parcel and left the coffee shop. For some reason and in spite of any outward appearance, Perry has a strange feeling that the couldn’t quite place about this rather common task.

Perry was a runner which, when he reflected on it, was not what he actually did. In actuality he walked from the Corner Coffee on Sultana Drive to the corporate office to deliver the daily cash from the various operations the Forzi ran and laundered through the legitimate storefront along with a ledger of operations.

Perry, uncharacteristically, had realized that his title sounded far harder than his actual job and suspected that that arrangement was far better than its reverse.

It turned out that if you controlled enough people, events tended to follow. Minnie let the rumour mill stir a few days before forcing an escalation. She had some very professional people make what appeared to be very amateurish attempts to take out the Forzi and the Brotherhood squad at the same time. Both sides of the imaginary conflict came out incensed but otherwise unscathed and chomping at the bit for a bloody resolution.

‘Easy,’ Minnie thought dubiously to herself. One last shred of information that provided the appearance of advantage with a limited window of opportunity was her crude but effective detonator.

She settled into a position across from the corporate headquarters to see if her machinations would result in anything. Once there was nothing left to do but wait, she considered once more why she had done all this. What pull did Lukas Lassander still have on her that she would coldly orchestrate a bloodbath? She hated the question because the answer made her feel pathetic.

Lukas had shown his true self, had lowered his defenses, if only for a moment, and she had a glimpse at a tantalizing but ultimately torturous snippet of something that wasn’t fated to be: happiness.

Perry was pretty happy, considering. It was supposed to be his day off but a buddy had called in sick, so his boss had asked him to come in. It wasn’t as though he had anything else to do. Kerry wasn’t answering his calls anymore and Perry’s mom had told him long ago that it was better if he didn’t think too much about why things happened and just learned to accept them.

This advice had served him well. When his employment with the Forzi ended in favour of a job for Quinn looking over coffee beans, he took it in stride. When things didn’t turn out so well for him at school, he went with it. When Kerry made up her mind to help him make Quinn’s business more successful, he acquiesced. When that success led to Bev moving in on the business, pressuring Kerry to help the Forzi steal the company left, for some reason, in Perry’s trust, he didn't bat an eyelash.

He took whatever came his way with equanimity. It was easier that way. So it was that even if he had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right, he shrugged it off.

It had been almost too easy. Minnie watched as the Brotherhood moved into position. They had spread out around the Forzi building and were now moving in to strike from multiple directions at once. The Forzi had numbers on their side, but the Brotherhood foursome had the advantage of initiative and better training. She welcomed the distraction from her thoughts as they entered the building. In a few minutes it would be all over.

Perry arrived at the corporate headquarters he visited most days of the week just as Helios set. He strolled in and noticed but didn’t reflect on the broken lock on the security door. He pushed for the elevator and waited.

Minnie’s optics revealed the fight had begun. There were some muffled reports of gunfire, most likely from the Forzi as the Brotherhood were using suppressed submachine guns. The power had been cut, revealing the strobing of muzzle flashes, like a distant storm.

The elevator wasn’t responding. Perry sighed, deciding this was his lot in life. He took the stairs instead.

The punctuations of a violent gunfight abated and became more sporadic. Minnie imagined the Brotherhood sweeping room by room. She switched to a multispectrum array hoping it would give her a better idea of what was going on inside the offices.

Perry heard some shouting in the staircase and that triggered a sensation, once more, that something was wrong. Suddenly, it struck him quite violently, something was off.

He drew the heavy cloth parcel from the safety of his jacket and undid the latch on the zipper. Opening it, he realised that although there were several wads of cash, there was no ledger. It was the weight that had bothered him since his boss had handed it to him at Corner Coffee. He sighed and turned around; he would have to go back and get it.

Minnie could see bodies in the infrared. Several were already cooling down near the entrance. Two of the Brotherhood were still sweeping from room to room. At last they arrived at the conference room looking out over the street -- the last room. Inside the was one person, smaller in frame. Minnie guessed it was a woman and deduced it was Bev. They made a motion by the door and, through her optics, she saw the bloom of a grenade before she heard it. Then there was a larger flash as a corner of the room sparked and blossomed into incandescent red. Then came the explosion.

The grenade set off a chain reaction and somewhere in that boardroom a satchel charge, or something of equal yield, detonated. The entire floor was engulfed in the blast, throwing a body clear of the building, but before she saw where it landed the window Minnie has been observing through shattered in the shockwave.

Perry heard a distant bang and then a rumble, like a heavy truck going down the street, and finally a deafening boom. He crouched down at first -- knowing when to keep your head down was an essential skill for a Forzi.

Time slowed as adrenaline flooded his brain. His synapses flashed furiously through past experiences where he had had a similar fear response, searching for an appropriate reaction. Perry remembered the panic the first time he met Christina Katchelli. He saw the alley where his fellow Forzi were mowed down by Quinn and his team. He saw the look in the eye of the man at the WestEx warehouse where he was sure he was going to die.

He saw all his close calls and all his wasted opportunities, and for the first time felt sad that he had always just let these things happen to him. He experienced this in the span of three or four seconds, and in that time he also realised through the ringing in his ears that the sound had come from above.

Turning his gaze skywards he saw the flames bursting from the building he had just left and debris and glass raining down. He also perceived but couldn't react to the sight of one rather large object hurtling towards him.

Minnie blinked her eyes open when she realized that she was unhurt. She was fighting growing panic as she began to realize the scope of the incident. The upper floor of the corporate office was gone, replaced by a ball of fire in a cage of steel and cracked duracrete. Papers set alight billowed forth, like slow-motion sparks from a welding torch. She had played the Brotherhood against the Forzi perfectly, driving greed against paranoia and pride. They had reacted just as she had expected, but she couldn’t have foreseen these events.

One again her mind flashed on Lukas and she wondered if this was some kind of message, a great metaphor from the Prophet, warning her. Her eye caught sight of a falling body, plummeting seven stories towards the street, towards the innocent pedestrians.

She held her breath.

Perry exhaled, unaware until then he had stopped breathing. The body had landed a mere 30 cm from him. Amazingly he wasn’t even splashed with any of the blood from the partially cremated remains. But the greatest shock was the face of the victim was largely intact. Perry recognized Bev.

Minnie sighed. There were no casualties below. Somehow in the chaos of screeching cars and scattering passersby, no one had been hit, although one person had come close. Her heart was beating harder than if she had been sprinting; there were beads of sweat on her brow and she swore herself a solemn vow she would never do anything like this ever again. She grabbed up her equipment and darted for the stairs.

Perry looked up again at the inferno and back down at his dead boss and stood up on his shaky legs. He took a hesitant step backwards. Perry thought again about his parcel of cash with the missing ledger and realised he could have been up there. He would have died but for a quirk of fate. And then a very rare thing occurred: he had a thought. What if he were dead? He was supposed to be up there, along with his parcel of cash. The only person who knew any different was a charcoaled mess on the sidewalk in front of him.

He took another step back from Bev’s body. He could do this, he could just walk away from the Forzi, from Corner Coffee and Quinn and all this violence. He must have forty or fifty thousand in his pocket. For once in his life, Perry decided fate had smiled on him. He took another step.

As Minnie spiraled her way downstairs she repeated to herself over and over again that she was done. Never again would she do anything like this. No favours for Lukas, no missions for Ti and no more projects for Stone. She would sit in her bar and listen and pass on information until she sold that perfect tidbit which would allow her to retire and leave this life behind.

She reached the ground floor out of breath but suffused with a newfound peace. She could do this; she could get out.

When she reached street level she blended into the crowd of panic-stricken people running this way and that. The smoke and falling detritus was perfect cover for her escape. Almost too perfect. An anxious driver came careening towards her, trying to flee the zone of destruction. He saw her at the last moment and swerved hard, tires shrieking. Minnie watched in slow motion as the car hurled past her. Across the street, an unaware man took a step back. Right into the path of the frantic car. Minnie knew the victim was dead as soon as his body hit the ground. The car crashed into a pole and the driver stepped out in a daze. Minnie didn’t hang around to answer any questions. She was done with all of this.

Perry never saw it coming.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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