Chapter 16:


From Nowhere to Sender

"C326 to Belveer, C326 to Belveer. We have 4th visit inbound. I repeat we have a 4th visit inbound."

"C326 this is Belveer, we read you. Logging 4th visit. Requesting identification of visitors."

"The raiding party Quiet Murn is beginning its approach, I repeat the visitors are Quiet Murn."

"Requesting a rough composition of the approaching party."

"All three categories are confirmed present. No eyes on party leader at this time."

"Keep us informed C326, preparations will be made for your arrival."

"Understood, will relay updates as they become available."

As Flannery notified the station of arrival, Heenan took over communication with the rest of the convoy. He began by handing out provisional orders for the incoming raid attempt. Reconfirming the cruising speed and formation took precedent, although both could be subject to rapid change whenever their rocketeer showed up.

The issue of whether or not the party would actually attempt boardings remained inconclusive, as it was still unknown if the either the party or their sponsors were privy to the rocketeer strategy. Naturally boarding a Crusader that may or may not be targeted by rocket fire was a risky move for all involved. One most raiding party's would rather avoid to conserve manpower. Irregardless, all Crusaders were to act under the impression boardings would be carried out until further notice.

Defensive zones had been established ahead of time in preparation for the use of canisters and sharpshooters had been placed with longevity in mind. Preparations aside, everything hereafter would come down to which side observed the tide of battle more carefully and made the necessary adjustments at the necessary times. This would be when experience came into play.


Rather than charging the convoy head on, all three groupings passed them by with the intention of circling back around. Not a single party member so much as glanced in the direction of their target in the process, entirely focused on maintaining the critical distance between themselves and the convoy. Critical distance referring to the distance at which the bullets employed by a standard issue feronetic rifle lost their effective range. In this case around 90 meters. Granted more experienced members of field service often graduated from a standard issue rifle in some form to better account for their shortcomings or alternatively accentuate their strengths.

The tweaks made to Lux's own rifle were surprising minute considering her qualification. Most of which served the purpose of minimizing the weight of her rifle. The changes helped her visualize the rifle as an extension of her body while also increasing her mobility. She also didn't want to become overly attached to a weapon that could very well be lost or damaged during instances of hand to hand combat. Four rifles, that was how many she'd lost over her first year of field service. Six more over the course of this year and she'd lose a friendly bet with an acquaintance. Lux did not expect to win this bet. Looking back on year one, her number should have been higher if not for Cade recovering some of them for her.

Speaking of bets, the group that broke left during the initial approach should be appearing on the weak side right! Rather than wait for the lead bike to come into full view, Lux chose to predict the timing and aimed according to the height at which the rider or riders would be positioned in relation to the ground. The raiders may have chosen to ignore the convoy during the drive by in favor of focusing on distance, but she had payed close attention to their speed and spacing. Taking into account all of these factors Lux's first shot managed to find itself in the lower hip of a raider riding tandem with the lead bike. The hit elicited both a surprised and pained response, but not enough of one to hinder the driver's motor skills.

"Shit, they took that like a champ..."

In that moment Lux and her unwilling target shared the briefest moments of eye contact. Despite the distance the malice coming from the raider was palpable. Lux didn't shy away in the slightest and even offered a smile as if to say, "one hell of shot wasn't it." The sounds of gunfire deflecting off of bikes, bucklers and the Crusaders themselves resounded around the convoy as she watched the group make a u-turn rather than cut across and circle back.

"Now we're talking, you've got a problem with me, then come aboard and let's settle it face to face."

"Canister on the lower level!" Tristler from the sound of it.

Lux did her best to look for signs of smoke behind the Crusader, but it was proving difficult based on her zone assignment out front. As an alternative she looked to the other Crusaders for signs of smoke but failed to spot anything. Starting with gas then. Even if it wasn't affecting her in her current position Lux tied an old bandana around her face quickly. After all there was no telling when she'd have to rush downstairs, might as well minimize the amount of gas she breathed if or when she did so.

Come to think of it the callout came from the back deck rather than the platform. Meaning Nocks was reliving his misery from earlier. Either way whoever had been responsible for throwing the gas hadn't been very smart. Strategically speaking the gas would be more effective and provide more opportunity if thrown up on the deck where verbal communication was most critical. Additionally if no one got to the canister quick enough the gas would have time to fall or flow to the lower levels, expanding its reach.

Where as now a callout had gone out, allowing everyone ample time to assess the nature of the canister and prepare accordingly. Some may lack the necessary information and guess wrong but could change their approach by observing the reactionary measures of their crews. For all she knew Lux could be in the wrong, not that she'd necessarily be giving herself away since a bandana would be just as effective against smoke. Not that smoke canisters main purpose revolved around blinding. The smoke was actually meant to obstruct the approaches of raiders during boarding attempts. And since each canister only had so much smoke the approach would need to happen quickly thereafter.

Since no call had gone out regarding an approach and only a single canister had made it onboard, the use of gas was all but guaranteed. Funny how much a year of this could teach you. Lux never used to think about all these things. Hold on, hit the brakes. A year of field service had also taught her the dangers of jumping to conclusions.

Only one canister had made it onboard, something felt wrong about that statement. Was the callout incorrect? Certainly multiple canisters had to have been thrown, were there that many misses? Had anything so convenient ever happened in all the convoys she'd ever crewed? Think back further. They were operating under the assumption that Quiet Murn was using smoke and gas, but those weren't the only projectiles raiding party's employed. Surely other types of delayed projectiles existed...ah. Although it'd only been seconds the realization came too late. Ripping off the bandana Lux yelled out across the convoy their mistake.

"They're throwing delayed stun grenades! Not gas!"

A series of incredibly loud bangs echoed throughout the convoy accompanied by flashes of light that emanated from several of the Crusader's corridors. One security officer onboard Crusader C384 had even been in the process of tossing the supposed gas canister overboard when it went off, causing him to collapse on the platform.

Senses reeling from the noise below, Lux returned her gaze to the weak side just in time to see the group from earlier forming up for an approach.


They hadn't been careful enough...