APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 11 December, 2001


Long Road Ahead

Bryan Lee

Seeing the twin towers slowly rise out of the horizon brought forth a breath of relief from Tristan. He painted the top of the closest structure with the targeting laser of his gear and read the distance. They were almost there.

It had been an extremely tense trip these past 3 days. Tristans troop of five Warrior gears had been escorting a convoy of eight Longrunner transports on a pilgrimage to the Badlands city of Massada. The previous runs through this territory had almost certainly resulted in Rover bands attacking pilgrims. The fact that they hadn't seen a single sign of Rover gang activity was unnerving. A welcome quiet but he couldn't shake this feeling that something was brewing.

The convoy approached the large, armored doors of the Dorothean citadel of Brandenbourg. As per normal the doors remaining closed, protecting the inhabitants inside from the hostile winds of the Karaq Wastes, those caused by both natural weather patterns and rover attacks. The doors slowly began to swing open and Tristan positioned his gears to watch the back of the convoy. It was unlikely that anyone would attack so close to the citadel but there had been a couple of incidents.

The crowded inside of the citadel provided a sharp contrast to the relatively empty space outside the walls. All along the main road were other pilgrim vehicles, repair shops, restaurants and assorted shops. Tristan lead his group to a large garage that was reserved for them. He parked his Gear and dismounted. He dropped his helmet in the cockpit and rolled his shoulder to ease the stiffness that seemed to have crept in there over the last few nights. Pilgrims exited the Longrunners and stretched also. The convoy leader said a few things to the group and then walked over to Tristan.

"Long drive, eh?" Eldon said wearing a rather large roguish grin on his face. "At least it was boring this time around.'

"Agreed." Tristan said, his mouth dry. He never seemed to carry enough water on these trips. "No rover gangs makes me begin to doubt my own worth."

"Never fear Brother Tristan. Your efforts are always appreciated. Have I told you that my youngest is thinking of joining your order?"

"Many times." Eldon was a man who liked talking. The way that the man talked so profusely about his family both annoyed Tristan and made him jealous. Tristan felt like he knew as much about the Eldons son as the father did. And those stories always made him wonder about his own future plans for a family.

Tristan checked his timetable with Eldon. The convoy was going to stay in Brandenbourg for a couple of days. It was enough time to fix a damaged axle on one of their Longrunners. It also gave Tristan a chance to have some work done on a couple of his Warriors. The units were relatively new to the Order and had faulty dust filters installed in them. There was still a long drive ahead of them until they reached Massada and he didn't want his unit made less effective should any of his Gears seize up.

Tristan conferred with the rest of his group regarding maintenance requirements and prioritization. The junior member of the team was given the duty to give the list to the garage mechanic and make sure that the Gears were taken care of. As he bounded off to tend to his duties, Tristan headed to the head office of the Order to report in.

The Brandenbourg office of the Order of Dorothea was rather unimpressive in its size. The citadel was designed more for functionality and defense rather than beauty and the interior of the buildings reflected this. Tristan entered the office and immediately walked over to the water cooler. He gulped down several cups of cool water then turned to look for Brother Mitch.

"Tristan. You made it." A voice called out. Brother Mitch walked over to Tristan and the two men shook hands heartily. Mitch was the head of the Order and ran the Citadel. There was nothing about him that made him stand out from the others in his order, except that he carried a much smaller sidearm. "Come and sit down. Raul and Jim are in town."

Tristan walked over to the table that Mitch gestured to and was dismayed. Julia was sitting down chatting with Raul and Jim. Tristan paused, a little unsure about how to proceed. Julia and him had a long history together. The two had grown up in Valeria and had known each other since they were next door neighbours. They had always been really close friends, but something in Tristan wanted their relationship to be more than friends. The feeling grew worse every time that he saw her. Before he could work up any semblance of nerve, Mitch dragged him into the group. Tristan shook hands with his fellow monks and pulled up a seat.

"So tell us of your journey here." Mitch started up, getting a little more serious.

Tristan composed himself. "It was pretty quiet. Not a spot of trouble."

"It was quiet for us too." Raul said as he pulled the magazine out of his pistol. "Too quiet. Too uneventful."

"It is almost a shame that we expect trouble." Jim added. "There's nothing wrong with a little peace and quiet."

"It has me thinking that they are up to something." Julia adds watching Raul check his weapon. "Must you do that at the table?"

Raul slides the action back on his pistol and examines the chamber. "Tristan inflicted some heavy losses on that Red Sands group. Maybe the others got the message."

"Not likely." Mitch says as he turns to face Tristan. "What do you think?

Tristan, who was trying not to look too long at Julia, jerks back. "Uhm...I don't think that they are going to be much of a problem for a while. We knocked out most of their heavy equipment when they tried to rob my convoy a few weeks back."

Mitch leaned back in his chair and regarded the ceiling for a moment. "I have to agree with Julia on this. Something about this quiet doesn't feel right. Of course they might also be wary to try anything on convoys we protect after the assassination of the Second Follower. I hear rumblings from Massatown and Forez Station about some rather extreme actions by our brothers and sisters there. It seems like everyone is trying to atone for our...failure..."

The words seemed to stick in Mitchs throat, Tristan noticed. It was a feeling shared by many in the Order. The Brothers assigned to Second Follower Thor Hutchinson were unable to prevent Garner Fulan from drawing and using his sidearm. It was at an award ceremony honouring the NorGuard commander for his valour in Massada. Not a single person there was expecting him to shoot the Second Follower. For the Order of Dorothea it was like a slap in the face. Their reputation had been sullied and there were some press articles that questioned the Orders effectiveness. Some Monks had become far more ruthless in the course of their duties. Tensions were slowly rising throughout the order.

The group sat in silence for several minutes, each monk considering Mitchs words. Raul, who seemed unaffected, finished checking his weapon. With a loud snap he put the magazine back in and charged the weapon. He put it back in his shoulder holster as he stood.

"Time for me to go." He said as he turned to face Mitch. "I'll see you in a few days."

As the monk turned and left the office, Tristan began to wonder about Raul. He had become very quiet since the death of the Second Follower. He may have been affected more than anyone realized. He had heard from some sources in Sorrento that Raul was supposed to be at the ceremony but couldn't make it in time. Raul may be harbouring some guilt over not being there. The man was very dedicated to his duties, and maybe he even felt that he could have done something.

"Catch you later Brother Tristan." Jims goodbye brought Tristan out of his musings. The other Monk and Mitch were already out of they're chairs and making to leave.

"Are you leaving too Brother Mitch?" Tristan asked. He didn't want to be left at the table with Julia.

"I have to make verify Brother Jims route. I should also make sure that Brother Raul gets out okay." The citadel chief pushed his chair in to the table. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

Tristan watched both men leave and felt strangely betrayed. It was purely coincidence that they had left him alone at the table with Sister Julia, whom he had a crush on. Tristan had told no one about his feelings towards her, fearing that it might have repercussions on his career in the Order.

He slowly turned back to face Julia. She sat watching him, a small smile on her face. Tristan gave a nervous smile back and fumbled with his cup. He wanted to say something to her but couldn't think of a single thing. Rover gangs he could handle but being alone with Julia was something that he just wasn't prepared for right now. All he could think of was her smile and how much he liked it when she did.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 11 December, 2001