It was finally happening. Myself and my strategically composed reconnaissance team, comprising of Field Scribe Haylen, Knights Rhys, Keane, Worwick, Brach, and Knight-Sergeant Dawes, were making our way through to the northern section the Citadel where Elder Maxson was waiting to debrief us one last time before beginning our mission. The orange glow of the sun was shining through the chipped, and in some cases completely broken, windows of the Citadel. Each soldier was carrying a pack and completely armed to the teeth. Recon Squad Gladius was birthed for two reasons. First was because of the increasing threat coming from a territory to the north that liked to call itself ‘The Commonwealth’. The sector had claimed a previous reconnaissance team, Recon Squad Artemis. This brings us to the second reason; investigate the failure of my predecessor, Paladin Brandis. The seasoned Paladin was the last of the men I would have considered my mentors. When the Brotherhood had lost contact with him and the rest of his squad months before, I was the first to volunteer myself to lead a search party. I felt it was solely my duty to find him myself. To my dismay it took months of constant debate with Elder Maxson before he approved our mission.
The reverberating sound of five soldier’s boots and two sets of T60 power armor going up the Florentine stairway leading to the helipad was defining. Scribe Haylen, in her excitement, was first to the door. This was her first major mission after being ranked form Scribe-initiate to Scribe. I had the great privilege of co-sponsoring her through her initiate training. She was sharp and devoted. There was no doubt in my mind, when I took up the responsibility of being one of her mentors, that she would make me and The Brotherhood proud. Haylen threw the door open and we all filed out onto the roof behind her. The recon team all stood at attention while Elder Maxson finished conveying his orders to the Lancer-knight. When he finally laid eyes on us his face was stern. I couldn’t help but notice his eyes were plagued with dark circles which dulled his blue eyes. His jaw and chin were covered in two day old stubble which was very unlike the Elder. He was usually pristine in every aspect of his life, even his appearance. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for him. I had seen some of the former members of The Brotherhood Outcasts become more restless as of late. It may have been three years since the reunification of The Brotherhood but I know there is still a large enough number of soldiers who don’t trust the former Outcasts. On the other side of that coin, prior members of The Outcasts were beginning to feel that Elder Maxson was going back on his word. There were whispers that our Elder was no better than Elder Lyons. That Elder Maxson was soft and putting more effort into helping civilians then securing technology that threatened The Capital Wasteland. I could not disagree more. The mere fact that he had decided to send Recon Squad Gladius to The Commonwealth showed that he first and foremost put the Brotherhood before all else.
I was pulled out of my own thoughts when the Elder cleared his throat. “Lancer-knight Monrow will fly you to the northern most part of the Capital Wasteland. From there you will trek to The Commonwealth. Once there your mission is to scout and learn the whereabouts of Recon Squad Artemis and investigate The Institute and their technology. Scribe Haylen,” His eyes flickered to the only female in Recon Squad Gladius “has been given all of the resources, by our Head Scribe, which are needed to stay in contact with The Citadel. Paladin Danse,” I didn’t move as he addressed me, my back and shoulders already rigid from standing at attention. “you are to make sure that past mistakes are not repeated. This mission is vital to The Brotherhood. If our intel is correct, this ‘Institute’ is a threat we can not allow to exist anymore. So, make The Brotherhood proud! Ad Victoriam!” Elder Maxson brought his fist to his chest in standard salute. There were seven “Ad Victoriam!”-s said in return as we saluted our leader.
Knight Keane and I both fastened our helmets to our power armor as the rest of the recon team began to file onto the vertibird. I watched as Knight Keane manned the minigun. I was about to make my way into the vertibird when Elder Maxson moved to block me from going further. He looked much older than his nineteen years. The last few months had aged him terribly. His brows seemed to be permanently furrowed and harsh lines were beginning to make their permanent home across his forehead. “You’re my most trusted Paladin. Take care of yourself. I expect to hear back from you Danse. That’s an order.” He quickly and quietly said to me so that none of my team could hear him over the rotors of the vertibird. Maxson gave the right shoulder of my power armor a hard pat then retreated to a safe distance, pulling his coat more tightly closed around him as the vertibird began to lift off of the helipad. I took two quick steps then jumped easily into the cockpit then turned to look at our Elder as the vertibird began its ascent. Maxson’s face was concealed in a veil of virtue. I just so happened to see his mask slip as we began to turn to the northeast. It felt like frigid led had replaced my stomach when the realization of the Elders doubt hit me. He didn’t believe in us and even if he did, he didn’t believe that we would be a success.
The Capital Wasteland began to shrink beneath us as we gained altitude. Although the wind might have been whipping around us freely, the tension in the air was so thick and suffocating it was almost as if I were trying to breathe in oil. For a few members of our team it was their first time leaving The Capital Wasteland. There was a good chance that not all of us would make it back home. It was a fact that didn’t need to be verbalized but was just understood among the team, but it didn’t make anything elementary. I could hear my heart thumping away in my ears. My head began to swim. I took a substantial breath to curb the panic that was threatening to engulf my chest. It was my responsibility to lead these soldiers. I had to be confident for them. Well, if anything, I had to fabricate the illusion that I was.
The flight seemed shorter than expected. It was a rather uneventful ride other than a few Super mutants who waved their boards at us. Knight Keane put them down quickly. The minigun he wielded did not even draw enough bullets to inaugurate glowing of the barrels before they were all euthanized. “Outstanding!” I shouted over the wind. I was returned a thumbs up by the Knight. I looked back over the edge of the cockpit as we flew over the ruined patchwork of The Capital Wasteland that’s when I genuinely began to feel melancholy. The Capital had been home my entire life and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would never return to see her scarred landscape. This is where I had met and lost my best friend. The Capital is where The Brotherhood had saved me from a life of digging through oddments to possibly earn enough caps just for food from the scrap I found. I silently thanked her for all of the contingency she had offered me.
We then began our decent. Lancer-knight Monrow brought the vertibird down in a field a few miles north of The Republic of Dave. Knight Worwick was the first one out of the vertibird. He hurriedly took a few paces before landing on his hands and knees. His usually golden olive skin was tinted green. Scribe Haylen, who was off next, hurried over to his side with a can of purified water just as he began to dry heave. As if that were his queue, Knight Rhys snickered and said “Oh, this is how we’re going to start our mission is it Knight Worwick? Man the fuck up, we need to move out before the locals come and investigate.”
“Knight! That’s enough!” I rebuked. The last thing our recon team needed was any strife before we even had the opportunity to begin our mission. Scribe Haylen ripped off her goggles and gave Knight Rhys a sharp look as she handed Knight Worwick the can of water she had hastily opened for him. She was undeniably going to give Rhys a run for his caps. The rest of the team disembarked for the vertibird expeditiously. I turned to Lancer-knight Monrow and gave him my thanks and saluted him with an “Ad Victoriam, brother!” before I stepped out of the cockpit. The lancer had the vertibird in the air and was making his retreat back to The Citadel before Knight Worwick had even had a chance to sit up.
“Paladin, the report I read said that the trek to The Commonwealth will take two months. My calculations say we should be there in nine to twelve days. Could the report be wrong?” Knight-Sergeant Dawes asked me while giving Worwick a hand and pulling him up. Worwick had dark wet circles on the knees of his flight suit from kneeling on the wet ground. He efficiently removed the dry grass that had plastered itself on the bottom half of his uniform. Rhys was still giving Worwick a disgusted look, his arms crossed and his upper lip curled.
Before I even had a chance to inhale enough air for a response Haylen answered for me. “The straight path to The Commonwealth would just take nine days but we would only take that way if we want to die Knight-Sergeant. We need to bypass both the Philly and New York ruins. Not to mention something that Scribe Farris called ‘The Glowing Sea’ which is where the bomb that took out Boston was detonated. From what I read in the report, the Glowing Sea is massive. The diameter is at least a hundred miles wide. I have mapped out the safest route, given the intel the brotherhood has of the land between us and The Commonwealth.” The scribe quickly shrugged off her pack and began to rummage through the main compartment. Haylen pulled out an aged manila envelope and began to hand out copies of a detailed map. She had taken the time to outline on each one a route of the trek we were about to undergo. She wasn’t wrong. We were about to do a wide arch to the west, completely avoiding the east coast.
Knight Brach groaned loudly and pinched the bridge of his crooked nose. “All the things that will try to kill us on the way there won’t make it any easier, but I guess animals are better than raiders…” At that I couldn’t help but nod in agreement. Haylen then started to pass around waterproof bags for everyone to place their copies of the map in. I watched as they all folded the papers and stuffed them into the safety of the plastic container and place them into the front chest pocket of their corresponding uniforms. Haylen then walked up to me and handed both me then Knight Keane each a holotape. I nodded at her then placed it in the jack located on the side of my chest plate. There was a quiet whirring sound then the details of our mission flashed across my visual screen along with the map of our course. Haylen replaced her pack on her back and pulled her goggles back down over her eyes. I gave the signal for everyone in the squad to equip their weapons.
“Well soldiers, we better get moving. Safeties off.” I said as I raised Righteous Authority and turned to the north marker on the visual compass on the bottom corner of my power armor screen and began to slog through the tall grass in the direction of The Commonwealth.