Chapter 10:


From Nowhere to Sender

Larnaca to Belveer

ETD (Estimated Time of Departure): 0800 hours

ATD (Actual Time of Departure): 0810 hours

ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival): 1400 hours

ET (Elasped Time *Since departure): 4 hours

Progress of Convoy: Check-in 3/5

It'd been smooth sailing up to this point and to Evan's understanding they were upon the fourth check-in point. But everything up till now had generally fallen under expectations, aside from maybe New Kantler declaring its less agreeable citizens as terrorists.

Well, they'd be getting a good look at these "terrorists" soon enough. The upcoming section of the route offered by far the most favorable raid conditions, with both the topography and foliage serving as natural covers for approaches. In situations like these convoys couldn't do much more than tighten formation and put their foot on the gas.

Granted countless attempts had been made across the Expanse to make convoy routes safer via manipulating the landscape, but a severe lack of resources and labor made the project nigh impossible. Even when routes were successfully altered, at some point they'd require maintenance and some manner of security force to maintain the changes.

Ultimately it was determined the resources would be better spent on training and equipping more field service personnel to nullify the advantage some routes gave to raiding party's. But even then the steady expansion of Luridia spread the LCF thin, leading to understaffed crews becoming the norm in many regions.

So when the numbers game is eternally out of your favor, how does one even the playing field? The answer was simple. Information. The more informed a convoy, the better prepared. Hence the importance of check-in points along any given route. And those were only the times when convoys were required to contact the station of arrival. Head communications officers often shared observations much more frequently along the route in order to make predictions and narrow down possible threats.

In many cases convoys that made it from point A to point B without a single visit or raid attempt attributed their successes to the predictions and observational prowess of their communications officers. And in all likelihood the competence of their own convoys communication officers would decide the outcome of this political debacle of a transport.

"It's a good thing we narrowed down which raiding party's we'll be dealing with."

Evan glanced over at Trislter who was, surprise surprise, nearing the filter of what had to be smoke number 13.

"They always have all sorts of odd little traditions, styles and idiosyncrasies. Makes for a better sense of community I think. Not unlike Crusader crews in some aspects."

"So they also engulf they're coworkers with second hand smoke?"

On cue Tristler reached the end of his current smoke and flicked it overboard, but rather than take Evan's snarky comment at face value he reached into his breast pocket and produced another.

"For example, one of the raiding party's we're about to trade blows with, Quiet Murn."

"Just going to ignore my jabs huh."

"They have a custom surrounding a common phenomena across the Expanse. You familiar with the sky trumpets?"

"I've heard them during convoys here and there."

"Well if you do, then you won't be having to worry about Quiet Murn. They see it as a sacred occurrence of sorts. I mean everyone's got their theories, but to them and many others the sky trumpets reflect the moment an angel descends into our world. A grand welcoming onto our lovely veranda."

"Maybe that's why they have 'quiet' in their name, it's a condition they have to meet for conducting raids."

"Now you're getting it." Tristler took a long drag and gazed out the doorway leading to the platform. "You know, if the city of New Kantler is so dead set on pushing scripture, the least they could do is call down an angel or two. Give us one less party to deal with."

"Think there's anything we can take advantage of regarding Needless Frenzy?"

"Not likely..."

The two resumed their comfortable silence save for the soft inhale and exhale of smoke. Fortunately Tristler moved over to the platform, so smoke was no longer accumulating at the corridor junction where Evan alternated between checking on Vedmann and sticking her head in the cargo bay.

"Succumb to the fumes yet!" a voice called down the ladder way.

"Fuck off Nocks! Or switch with me already! Not like the cargo is going anywhere!" [Nocks Engler, 23, Security Division]

"No can do! But you can have this!"

Evan watched as a granola bar came flying down the ladder way towards her face. She caught it of course and settled for stuffing it inside her jacket with a huff.

"I figured since you're already protecting the cargo I'd add to your charge!"

"It'll be cold day in hell before I start relying on you for motivation!"

Evan anticipated some manner of fleeing remark but was instead treated to a puzzled "When did that get there?"

"Nocks! Hit the deck!" That was unmistakably Lux's urgent shout.

All too suddenly the sound of gunfire rang out, peppering the railing and deck above as Evan immediately reentered the main corridor and made for the weak side platform. Just as she exited the doorway a strong hand pulled her to the side violently, nearly knocking the wind out of her as she bounced off the wall. A hail of bullets occupying the space she'd just been in.

Tristler, who had narrowly saved her, stepped forward just far enough to return fire. Forced to speculate on the position of the attackers as they didn't have a visual. Evan took the opportunity to collect herself and glanced up at Tristler whose usual nonchalant demeanor was nowhere to be found...along with the lower portion of his right ear. Blood streamed down the side of his neck and soaked into his collar. But if it didn't bother him then she wouldn't let it bother her either.

"Tree line, 35 meters! Changing firing position as we speak!"

"Assuming they're moving parallel to the convoy the front deck isn't an option from this platform!" Doing so would make them easy targets, or easier targets.

"I'll provide cover fire, you head on up from the strong side!" Tristler tossed his smoke and got ready to step out again.

In no position to argue, Evan got into a crouched position and waited for his signal. This was fine, no need to panic. Once she reached the front deck from the strong side platform she'd have a better idea of their current predicament. Speaking of, she could still hear intermittent gunfire coming from all over the convoy but no callouts or orders from the speaking tubes reached them. Is everyone pinned like we are?


Keeping her head down Evan sprinted back through the doorway, covering the distance between platforms in no time at all. In the back of her mind she questioned whether she should say something to Vedmann but figured he knew to stay put until further instruction came from the bridge.

Emerging on the strong side platform she wasted no time climbing the stairs to the front deck, crossing her fingers that things weren't as bad as they seemed.