Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter XI: Unsettled

They came at her fast and fierce. Two on her arms – she kicked up, her foot smashing into a face. Let the kick carry into a spin to land behind the other one, twisting the arm that held her. Too slow. Another had come in, rushing for a take-down. She slid underneath, a snap-punch to the ribs as she passed. Three more, this time with knives. She used a table as a makeshift shield, then twisted around it, taking out three sets of legs. One more, this one big and fast. She grabbed her staff off the chair, extended it, pole-vaulted over. A jab out with one foot, hooking the ankle, and big-and-ugly was on the floor, and she snapped her staff down at the exposed throat. Her attacker looked at her with murder in his eyes—

“And cut!”

Lyta lifted the staff and helped her attacker to his feet. He clapped her on the shoulder as they both moved towards the water station.

“That’s a wrap for the day, people! We’re going over the new choreography tomorrow at 0800 sharp. Everyone’s on deck except Kes. Do not be late, or so help me!” A few annoyed groans at the B-unit director as the various stuntspeople grabbed water, stretched out their muscles, and started getting out of their costumes. Somehow, the director never seemed to anticipate that a room full of professionals could actually act like professionals, and so insisted on treating them all like kindergarteners. Lyta rolled her eyes at her erstwhile attacker, who returned the gesture with a nod of his head towards the director. He grabbed a glass of water and went off towards the dressing rooms.

Jared cornered her at her at the water cooler. “Kes, darling, you were magnificent as always.”

Lyta straightened up. “Aren’t you supposed to be looking for new talent or something?”

Jared raised his eyebrow the tiniest amount. “Of course I’m looking for talent, darling, but that doesn’t mean I can’t come over and watch you perform sometime.”

Lyta gave him an even stare. “What do you want, Jared?”

“Want? Why, to wish you well on your trip, darling. I can’t believe your agent managed to arrange for you to have time off during filming, but…” A vague wave of his hand, as if to say he outmaneuvered me but I’m too proud to say so.

Lyta downed the rest of her water. “You want to make sure I’m coming back, is what you’re saying.”

“Of course you’re coming back, darling!” But Lyta could catch the hint of hesitation in his voice. She had, after all, jumped out the window to avoid him the day he tried to make her sign his contract.

“I’m coming back, Jared,” Lyta said with a roll of her eyes. But she grinned when she said it. “I promise you won’t have to give up your finder’s fee.”

“Finder’s fee! The very farthest thing from my mind, darling!”

Lyta held his gaze.

Jared opened both his hands. “You’ll be the death of me yet, Kes. You’ll make me tear out all my hair and get implants. But you’re worth it, darling. Have an excellent trip.” He leaned in and kissed the air beside her cheek.

Lyta sighed and made her way to her locker. There were a few good-natured pats on the back, a few well-wishes for her trip, a few requests for souvenirs. Lyta smiled and waved, promised she’d be back soon, and assured them she’d kick all their asses when she got back, which earned her a few rueful chuckles.

The moment she stepped out of the studio, though, her smile dropped. It had taken all her mental tricks to keep focused during the afternoon’s shoot. And it was all because of Fennec. Fennec and Ti.

The scavenger-turned-Kin had come back to Prince Gable that morning, and the two had taken lunch together between takes. Lyta had been vaguely aware that Fennec was continuing to covertly gather intelligence for Ti, tracking down leads to the Comptroller in a way that Lyta, with her increasingly-public face, was no longer able to do.

She hadn’t realized that Fennec had actually found something. Or, more to the point, someone.

Fennec hadn’t thought much of it when she mentioned off-handedly that she’d run into Lukas on a mission nearly a season before. Why would she? Didn’t Lyta live with Ti? Hadn’t she been part of all these missions herself until just recently? Fennec had assumed that Lyta had already known, and Lyta had played along, pressing Fennec for information as though she were only looking for “all the juicy details” about what had happened.

In a whole season, Ti hadn’t said a thing.

Lyta pushed it to the back of her mind through the rest of the meal and through her afternoon shoot, but as she walked home, she couldn’t help but return to it. A whole season, and Ti hadn’t told her. Not that they’d found more information about the Comptroller. Not that they’d taken a prisoner and handed him over to the Doc. And not that Fennec had encountered Lukas.

The thought came back again and again: Why? Why hadn’t he told her? Why had he kept her in the dark about his operations? Didn’t he still trust her?

Didn’t he?

She was in a black mood by the time she pushed open the apartment door and was greeted with the smell of food. Ti stood by the counter, and his face lit up as he saw her. He came to the door and greeted her with a lingering kiss, his arms wrapped around her shoulders. When he disengaged, he made his way back to the kitchen. “I picked up Mekongese. I hope that’s okay?”

Lyta’s stomach rumbled in response. “Great,” she said with more enthusiasm than she felt. She let her bag drop to the floor beside the door and locked it behind her.

“How was your day?” Ti’s voice came to her from the kitchen as he spooned the food from its take-out containers and onto plates.

I saw Fennec. She told me she’d run into Lukas. And you didn’t tell me.

“Fine,” Lyta answered. “I think if Jared were any more obvious about how much he doesn’t want me to bail on him, he’d have to get dinars tattooed on his forehead.”

Ti walked over with her plate and kissed her brow. “You’ll be back.”

“I told him that.”

“Then he’s got nothing to worry about.”

They settled down on the sofa in front of the trideo, and Ti flicked it on to some Badlander movie, full of hardened carvanners and plenty of guns and Gears. It was based on a book; Todd would probably have read it, but Lyta had never even heard of it before. Still, it was entertaining enough for brainless entertainment. “One day, that’ll be you,” Ti pointed out as they watched one of the evil mayor’s nameless lackeys take a bullet and practically spin himself through the air from the impact.

“Mmm,” Lyta agreed, not looking at him, focusing more on the trideo and her food. It tasted slightly bitter, as though to match her mood.

The trideo moved on, the hero and the heroine having a touching moment on top of the caravan, looking out at the vastness of the desert. It reminded Lyta of every caravan trip she had ever taken. Every guard shift. Every boring armadillo ride ensuring that there were no incoming rovers.

Her mind drifted back to an early caravan trip with Ti, before they’d even started dating. She remembered how she’d bared her soul for him, only to have him rebuff it. The first of many times he’d told her that he cared about her, but didn’t trust her. Not yet. How she’d gone to him that evening and told him she understood, but she hadn’t. Not really.

She’d earned his trust eventually, after he’d died and come back to life. She did everything he’d asked. Told him everything he wanted. Revealed all her secrets.

Almost all her secrets.

She shook herself out of her thoughts and stood up, a little too abruptly.

“You sure you’re all right?” A hand on her wrist, a concerned look on Ti’s face.

She looked down and tried to smile. “Yeah, fine. I’ve just gotta finish packing. I think the Humanists don’t let you in unless you’ve got your packing list written up in triplicate.” She glanced at the empty space beside the front door. “You probably should too. Or are you gonna wait to find out if they hog-tie the mayor and bring him to justice?”

A look crossed Ti’s face, halfway between embarrassed and chagrined. The look he used when he was about to deliver bad news. “I… can’t go,” he said softly. “Something’s come up at the last minute. Business.”

Lyta looked down at him, incredulous. “Were you planning on telling me before you dropped me off at the Maglev?” She couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her voice.

“Lyta, I’m sorry. It just came up today and it can’t wait. I know this trip means a lot to you, and to Todd. You know I’d go if I could.”

Lyta took a long breath. “Yeah,” she said, falling into old monosyllabic habits.

Ti stood up and held her shoulders. “Please don’t be like that,” he said. “I’ll try to get down there as soon as I can.”

Lyta shook herself away. “Fine.”


“It’s fine. You have business. I get it.” She hopped over the back of the sofa and stomped towards their bedroom.

Behind her, she could hear Ti’s sigh, feel him weighing whether it was worth it to follow her and try to make up, or to leave her alone to let her vent her frustration without him. She assumed he’d chosen the latter when he didn’t appear within a few minutes, and she flung her suitcase onto the bed with quite a bit more force than was necessary.

He didn’t tell me. He meant to tell me. He was going to tell me. He still trusts me.

...Doesn’t he?

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