Chapter 19:


From Nowhere to Sender

"Vedmann's on his way up, once he gets here I'm heading out. Need to shore a few things up."

"What would you recommend I do in the meantime?"

Cade gave their newbie a once over in order to gauge where she was at mentally. There would be no point in giving her additional tasks if the stress of their current predicament was already proving too much for her. Thankfully she seemed stable, a bit antsy but stable.

"Grab the binoculars and keep an eye out for that rocketeer, and make sure you stay on comms. If another Crusader spots them first and relays it to command we'll be relying on you to update us."

"Count on it."

The sound of hasty footfalls sent a pang of anxiety through Esma but proved unwarranted as Vedmann entered the bridge. As he made for the controls a hand reached for the inside of his coat and produced the key for the engine room. He tossed it over to Cade who made as if to trade it for the additional headset.

"Keep that, you'll make better use of it than I will. Speaking of which, Nocks has the gun. Don't forget to collect it before we disembark. We'll discuss coordinating reports upon arrival."

"Gun?" Esma raised a neat brow in Cade's direction.

"Save questions like that for Belveer, we have more important things to worry about."

With a nod of understanding from Esma, Cade was off. Exiting onto the back deck, he crouched down and attuned his senses, allowing him a crude lay of the land. He began with the current status of their own Crusader. For now their security officers were currently split between the upper and lower levels. The upper level consisting of Lux who held dominion over the front deck and Evan who was responsible for the back. Tristler, who'd been assigned a utility position and started on the back deck with Evan, had since vacated in favor of holding off the boarding party with Nocks on the lower level. The fact that the front and back decks were quiet meant the two were successful, but it seemed several Volts remained and were in process of regrouping on the weak side platform.

Not for long though. Like anyone else they were smart enough to know that the front deck security officer, in this case Lux, could easily wipe them out from atop the stairs if given the chance. Hence the reason the weak side stairway had affectionally become known as the stairway to heaven. Crew positions aside, the raiding party had probably determined that gaining entry to the cargo bay was their best play since the objective this time around involved destroying the cargo in favor of taking it. Something far more achievable from the interior of the lower level. However doing so would prove difficult now that Nocks and Tristler were camping the junction. Unless the raiders found a way to infiltrate from the strong side platform and coordinate a pincer attack, reaching the cargo bay from the interior would mean considerable casualties. To summarize, the raiders inability to capitalize on the gas canister feint had resulted in a temporary stalemate onboard C248, one that skewed in the LCF's favor.

Assuming Quiet Murn's leadership caught wind of this outcome, Cade expected they'd act right away to relieve their stranded party members or create another opportunity for them to breach the interior. But any actions taken would depend on how the raiding party's initial approach on the convoy had faired overall.

C248 may have the upper hand at the moment but at least two more approaches had been executed simultaneously on other Crusaders. Had they proved successful, the party would be inclined to allocate any additional forces to those Crusaders with which they currently had a larger foothold on. Fortunately Vedmann's insistence on keeping the headset meant he had access to valuable insight on the battles taking place onboard the other Crusaders. Provided he remained connected to the main channel, he could receive any updates meant for the Head Communication officer. This would only be frowned upon if he crowded the channel with crosstalk, but since his mic was off it wouldn't be an issue. By pairing those insights with direct observation Cade could gain a solid grasp of the convoy's status as a whole and act accordingly.

After confirming he wasn't in any immediate danger in his current position, Cade moved to the strong side railing and attempted to ascertain the engagement status of C384. The Crusader across from them in the diamond formation. He saw that at least one security officer he didn't recognize lay incapacitated on the strong side platform but beyond that couldn't glean the current circumstances of the lower level. Though things must be bad if no one had come to administer first aid or move them inside. Cade shifted through his other options for observation. Relying on the sounds wouldn't work since he had no way to differentiate it from the noises coming from the rest of the convoy. Which left...

"Did you really come out here unarmed?" A voice shouted.

Cade glanced to his left and spotted Evan along the rear railing of the back deck, taking shots at what could only be demens taking advantage of the first approach. That would explain why she hadn't taken out the presence on the weak side platform yet.

Rushing over and crouching so as not to become a target, Cade waited for moment between shots before conversing. "Did you see which Crusaders the other two approaches targeted per chance?"

"C384 definitely got pounced *shhook *shhook, but from what I could tell their officers on deck made a judgement call and reacted in advance. As for the other *shhook, I was a bit preoccupied. But it looks like our rear is having problems."

Cade glanced in the direction of C217 and saw that the front deck was void of officers. A sign that usually meant they'd been called on to assist with boarders. A troubling sign to be sure, Quiet Murn's Hussards will have taken notice and directed other party members to the rear of the formation to take advantage. On cue the demens that Evan had been staving off moved away from C248 and shifted their focus to C217. Yulent's voice sounded over the main channel frequency.

"This is C217, all available security officers are currently engaged on the lower level and our bay is vulnerable. Requesting permission to pull forward for assistance. I repeat, requesting permission to pull forward for assistance."

The voice of Commander Heenan responded in kind, "This is command, temporary permission to pull forward is granted. Upper level security officers aboard C248 and C384 are to clear the bay door of C217 post haste. Upon clearing officers are to resume prior defensive commitments."

"Looks like we're responsible for cleaning up after the problem child."

"Every convoys got a least one."

"I'd prefer to keep Lux in her current position, don't want our weak side intruders getting any ideas."

"Help me out and we won't need to bother her."

Cade gave a thumbs up in the direction of the bridge to let Esma know he'd heard the orders. "We'd better make this quick, can't afford to give them another opening..."