Accolade – Chapter Ten

Rolland Dixon

West of Paradise, Galatia

“Hey, do you guys see that?” Astrid calls down from her perch in one of her favorite trees. This particular tree was one of the largest in the forest, and it was situated perfectly on the crest of a hill that overlooked one of the Coalition’s main military installations on Galatia.

“No, Astrid, no one can see anything down here,” Roland replies as he shakes his head and laughs. Roland glances over in the direction Astrid had pointed out and is greeted with an impossibly thick canopy of trees and some very dense foliage. The Ki’etz twins had a propensity to ask if people could see things when they were the only ones that could.

“They’re doing something weird,” Warren informs Roland and the others as he joins his sister in the tree.

“Like?” Roland presses. The twins somehow convinced him to take a slight detour on their way to a new place to set up their gun and now he was regretting that decision.

Warren goes further out on one of the tree limbs to get into a better position to lay down. Once he’s laying on his stomach, Warren pulls out a rifle scope and stares through it for a few seconds before replying, “Like it’s something I’ve never seen before.”

“Just tell us what you see!” Roland pleads. Admittedly, his interest is now piqued, and he had to know what the twins were making such a fuss about.

“They’re opening the main gate…” Warren answers in a voice that’s barely loud enough to hear.

“Are they sending troops out?” Roland asks as he glances over to Haley who is busy fiddling with something in her pack.

Warren and Astrid exchange a few hushed words that Roland can’t make out before Astrid shouts, “Yes, but—”

“That’s it, we’re hiding the gun here,” Roland declares, interrupting Astrid. Sighing, he dismounts from his horse and then makes his way over to a freshly downed log that he ties his reins to.

“I don’t think we need to do that, Rolls,” Astrid presses, “It doesn’t look like they are coming out to find us. They’re just… Warren?”

Warren quickly finishes Astrid’s thought once she had prompted him to do so, “They’re just standing around like they’re waiting for something.”

“Maybe they’re waiting for us to set up and take another shot?” Haley offers as she pulls some rations out of her pack. She fumbles with the knot on the canvas bag for a moment before handing it to Roland.

Roland unties the bag as he considers what he had just been told. He had been keeping tabs on this particular outpost for a while now, and up until now, nothing of note had ever happened. Coalition ships came and went all the time, but other than that, nothing.

“Should we check it out?” Astrid offers, her excitement evident in her voice.

“Can you stay out of sight?” Roland asks, already knowing the answer was yes. He usually asked the twins if they could stay hidden as a workaround way of telling them to be safe.

Astrid’s laugh rings down from her perch before she teases Roland, “Yes, mom, we’ll be safe!”

“Be back before sundown!” Roland reminds the twins, finishing their usual exchange before they went off on their own somewhere.

“We will!” Warren promises as he and Astrid shimmy down their tree a ways. Once they get about halfway, the twins proceed to cross over some branches to another tree and they start making their way over to the compound. The twins were smart enough to stick to the trees when they went through areas that were more populated with the hybrids, which Roland always found reassuring.

“We’ll be setting up camp on the other side of this ridge,” Roland informs the twins as he helps Haley down from her horse. Once she is firmly on the ground, Roland hands her some of the food from the bag she had been struggling with.

Astrid pauses up in her tree for a few moments and Roland looks up to her. He is about to say something when he hears a flustered response, “Got it,”

“Alright, let’s hide our gun and cover our tracks,” Roland instructs as the others dismount. Nodding, Roland looks around the small clearing that they are in and announces, “This looks like as good of spot as any to hide it.”

“Julius and I got the tracks,” Nick volunteers as he and Julius start retracing their steps.

“And that leaves us to the camouflaging,” Roland nods as he looks over to Haley.

Haley chuckles once before correcting Roland, “You mean that leaves you to it.”

“Oh, stop it,” Roland frowns, “You’re a lot more helpful than you think you are.”

Haley frowns but doesn’t argue. Instead, she makes her way out into the brush and starts hacking away at some underbrush which she starts collecting. Sighing, Roland decides against pressing the matter any further and he starts collecting branched that he would use to hide the cannon with.

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