Chapter 14:


From Nowhere to Sender

"We read you Belveer, caution will be observed going forward. Expect a full status update at the final check-in point."

With that Convoy Commander Heenan removed the headset and set it on the counter, drumming his fingers along its cool surface for the duration of time it took him to process the new information.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but Crusaders C248 and C384 should currently be employing each of our sharpshooters."

Flannery stood opposite of Heenan using the same counter to mull over attack patterns from the first two visits. "That's correct."

"Moving C384 into an ideal counter position will be difficult without stirring interest from Quiet Murn's Hussards. Moving personnel over isn't impossible, but I know better than to disrupt the synergy developed between the existing crews. Especially two visits in."

"If we're quick we might be able to move from diamond to train and back to diamond before they react."

"Changing positions this late in the route will draw suspicion regardless, so we might as well make any tweaks in formation as efficient as possible. For the sake of avoiding notice I'd have played with formations earlier in the route if the terrain allowed it."

"We'll be showing our hand, two visits in and it's not impossible to assume they've narrowed down who out most skilled shots are."

"You think they'll know we know what they're up to? Moving sharpshooters into position ahead of the home stretch would be interpreted as the smart play on any route."

"It's not a given we have multiple sharpshooters. We could just as easily be changing positions because Crusader C217, which C384 would be switching with, has accrued more injuries. Or perhaps we feign engine issues, either would justify moving C217 to the back of the formation."

Heenan weighed his options and landed on the decision that making the move as soon as possible would give them more options going forward. He gave Flannery the go ahead to transmit the orders and shifted his attention to the end goal of his opponents.

Based on evidence scrounged up by the Council, one of the anti-faith factions had teamed up with Quiet Murn while the other seemed determined to take matters into their own hands. Whether this second faction just didn't trust raiding party's or simply defaulted to the more cost effective method he couldn't say. But Heenan felt a lot better about the convoy's chances if the RED was in the hands of an activist instead of a party member.

He imagined this second faction was at least aware a raiding party had been hired, and planned to use it to their advantage. Unlike a raiding party the anti-faith faction wouldn't have a time limit operating against them. As long as they hit their targets they could have chosen any part of the route to attack since their goal was complete destruction. In this case they'd sit back and allow the collaboration to deplete the overall fighting strength of the convoy before making their move, likely at the very end of the route.

The real problems would start if the rocketeer, and his entourage, decided to approach under the mayhem of another visit by Quiet Murn. Balancing the threat of Harlecher's gas, smoke canisters and rocketeers simultaneously would stretch them incredibly thin and allow nonexistent space for mistakes. For these reasons, preparations needed to be made now if they were going to reach Belveer in once piece.

Naturally word had gone out to all the crews, so between visits they could refresh themselves on hand signals to combat the gas and pre-establish a zone defense if the gas was used in concert with smoke. Now that Heenan had established their formation for the remainder of the route there wasn't much more he could do personally, not the type to compose and deliver a rousing speech of any kind.

He reached down and picked up one the feronetic rifles from the bridge's gun safe and re-familiarized himself with its weight and feel. As he removed the top cover and looked over the coils a brief memory from his last time in combat replayed in his mind.

"Commander, Ms. Villard from C248 would like to speak with you directly regarding the anti-faith factions."

So the girl who'd spoken out of turn during the group transmission had more to say. Not something he felt like dealing with at the moment.

"Is it not your job to serve as a medium for observations made by any of the assisting comms officers?"

"Is it really? I've been winging things for the last 8 years so what would I know. Just pick up the freaking headset already, could be she wants to apologize among other things."

Heenan knew better than to prolong the argument and set the rifle back down before retrieving the other headset. "This is Heenan."

"I'd like to run a theory of mine by you before things get started."

Right to the point with this one, she was consistent if nothing else. "Go ahead."

"As I'm sure you recall both anti-faith factions fled New Kantler before the poorly timed travel restrictions went into effect."

"Your point?"

"You've got a full week to prepare for the delivery, how would you spend it?"

That's right! The arrangements had been made a full week prior! And if those arrangements were made ahead of time, whose to say what other arrangements could have been made in advance. But wait...surely the Council of Mitigation took all of this into account when carrying out their investigation.

"I understand your concerns, but all of this had already been addressed by the Coun-"

"I asked how you would spend a week's worth of preparation time? If you have reservations about the Council of Mitigation please keep them to yourself."


"Alright then, I'd start by narrowing down routes the LCF would use. That way you'd have some form of information to offer Quiet Murn, maybe even offer reassurance that you're invested in their success. Although in this case there was only one real option for the first portion of the route, but towards the halfway point several alternate options would be made available. What of it?"

"Nice to see we're on the same track. Following that line of thought you'd place manpower along the most odds-on routes, hell you could even manipulate the route choice through careful troop allocation and weather watching. All you'd need from there is a way to signal the scattered manpower, a way to inform them on which predetermined meeting point to use."

"...the flag one of your security officers observed just before the first visit."

"I'd imagine the color of the flag, which was white by the way, represented a certain meeting point on the route. In order to make sure we didn't speed ahead for whatever reason and pass that point they instituted guerrilla tactics at regular intervals. This type of job could be left to the anti-faith faction. Since even novices like the faction members can shoot and run away."

"All the while we'd be incorrectly attributing the lack of enemy manpower to the notion that neither boarding or raiding our cargo would be necessary for Quiet Murn to complete its job."

"When in reality the entire party has congregated up ahead for what is probably an all out assault...don't get me wrong, it's not like we can do much more to prepare this late in the game."

"No, but a healthy expectation of what's to come will be crucial to surviving it. Thank you for this insight, it was naive of me to place so much trust in the Council."

"We have a saying in my family, and I've heard it so many times it makes me sick. But what makes it worse is how effectively it can apply to shit situations like these."

"Let's hear it then."

"Only a fool fails to account for other fools."