Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Beginnings

Jan Augusta sat in the galley of a Longrunner caravan truck as it rocked gently, staring down at his cup of cawfee. The truck's giant wheels were insulating the worst of the rough terrain of the Karak Wastes, but the winds had picked up, buffeting the ten-truck caravan.

"You ain't ever been to Massada before, eh pilgrim?" an older man took the cawfee pot and poured himself a steaming cup, sitting down across from Jan.

"No, can't say that I have," Jan lied. There wasn't a major settlement on Terranova that he hadn't visited, especially in the Badlands.

"Yeah, I could tell," the man's thick Indo-Arabic accent pegged him as a Norlight, probably from Sorrento, "first time pilgrims always look so grim. Like they gotta review their life's worth and work before they enter the Holy City."

Jan smiled bitterly. "You got it."


The view from the sub-orbital shuttle was spectacular, if short-lived. Laurene Manasco watched the stars fade out as the sky turned blue once again. The re-entry was bumpy, but also short-lived. And that's when she realized that she was over the Southern Republic. She was home.

After so many cycles away, after so many hardships, she had finally made it back. The wave of relief was palpable. Laurene let tears flow down her cheeks, a luxury she had not allowed herself but once in ten cycles, when she heard of her love Robert's tragic death on Lake Esperance.

"Miss, are you alright?" the Paxton Air flight attendant was handing out customs forms, and looked concerned.

"Yes, yes, I'm fine," Laurene drew herself up and smiled coldly, composing herself. She knew she was still being watched, and proceeded to busy herself with the customs form. She trusted that whoever was watching her would not leave the shuttle in Port Oasis.


"Alms! Alms for the poor!" a Massadan monk called as he trundled down the tight confines of the Old Quarter of Massada. The morning air was crisp, and a mist had settled into the cobblestones. The monk's voice carried well enough, and Jan could hear it over the imposing and stalwart walls of the quiet monastery courtyard he had entered. He walked on the sandstone bricks arranged in a simple geometric pattern, examining the mosaics on the floor and the murals on the walls.

"Hello pilgrim," a lean-faced monk in white robes and a prayer shawl approached Jan so quietly that the former operative turned on him quickly.

"Oh," Jan visibly relaxed, and began adjusting his awkward pilgrim garb. "Hello, er... brother?"

The monk smiled, "Brother Kano, of the Order of the Waters. Welcome." Kano looked Jan over discretely, his serene smile doing more to make Jan feel uncomfortable than anything else. "You are here for a reason." He said simply, "would you like to tell me?"

"No, not really," Jan replied flatly. Kano was about to offer a diplomatic response when Jan smiled, "I don't want to tell anyone what I have to tell. But I should."

"Oh," Kano was visibly relieved.

The sun broke over the monastery's walls and warmed Jan suddenly.

"I... do we have some place private to sit? And do you have anything else you have to do today Brother Kano? Because this may take a while."


The room was lit and arranged in such a way to make Laurene feel exposed while implying that her superiors had all the power. Their chairs were dimly lit, but Laurene was bathed in fluorescent light. They sat higher up, while she sat at a simple table. She had no one sitting next to her, while they sat together. She could see them confer with one another without being heard.

"Laurene Monasco, of the Southern Republic Foreign Affairs Ministry, Intelligence Directorate, this tribunal's findings are as follows:

"1. You are not guilty of incompetence, nor of dereliction in the discharging of your duties.

"2. You are not guilty of breaching clause ninety seven of the Republican Secrets act.

"This tribunal is hereby closed."

Laurene let her head hang a bit, her shoulders relaxed, her fingers flat on the table. It was not a successful operation, to be sure, but considering all the political factors, she felt vindicated somehow. She had not yet received a new assignment. That made her tense.

The tribunal panel left her alone in the small room. The lights remained on overhead. Suddenly Laurene heard footsteps in the darkness beyond.

"Laurene Manasco?" the man's voice was a little too predatory to be outright friendly.

"Yes?" she stood, as a tall man with sandy blond hair entered the light. He wore a tailored suit, but Laurene was drawn to his good looks and the boyish smile playing on his lips.

"My name is Andy. I heard you had a run-in with some friends of mine in Peace River. I think we should talk."


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