Chapter 20:


From Nowhere to Sender

"Preece! Go tell Scholz to stay on deck no matter what! Once she knows, come back around from the strong side. And while you're at it drag Laud away from the edge of the platform! One wrong jolt and we'll be informing his next of kin!"

"I can't leave now! They're about to rush us!"

"In a space this small too many bodies becomes dangerous! Besides, if you're quick about we can set up an impromptu crossfire situation."

Youn knew that Preece didn't have much experience with hand to hand combat situations and needed him out of the way. No way in hell Scholz was stupid enough to leave her zone assignment in these circumstances, although Laud really was in a precarious situation. Things would be so much easier if Youn could bring himself to be more honest in high stress environments, to straight up tell Preece to fuck off since he was in the way. Like Lux, Lux wouldn't think twice about saying such things. But in Youn's case everything he said had to go through a filter of unease and allusiveness. He didn't have the convenience of being direct with people, a product of the culture and family he'd been raised in.

Even earlier when he'd directed that volatile remark at Lux over the group call, he'd left room for interpretation. But that could have also been because he didn't mean it. Everyone knew what he'd been alluding too, what people associated the western branch of that organization with. Which is exactly what made it such low hanging fruit. Lux would never withhold information if she thought it would put the safety of the convoy at risk. Youn was doing what he hated most, thrusting his unreasonable demands and expectations on another. Figures he'd take out his personal frustrations with himself on someone who couldn't understand the weight of this particular self-imposed burden.

As Youn watched Preece disappear up the ladder he actually lowered his rifle in preparation from the incoming rush of Volts. In the close quarters of a Crusader's corridor, there were times when raising your rifle was as ill-advised as it was ineffective. At this range it became easy for a raider to grab the end of the rifle and redirect it or rip the weapon away altogether. If a security officer did shoot it would be from the hip during the brief openings created in the brawl. Less accurate to be sure, but more lethal up close. At least enough to breach the body armor worn by Volts. Granted their armor had to be limited in coverage and weight, otherwise it would limit the mobility required to board and maneuver a moving Crusader.

Youn steadied his breathing as four Volts rushed in single file, another strategy for limiting the damage of his rifle. He met them head on, using a running start to increase the force behind his body check to the lead Volt. The stout man lifted his buckler at the last moment in an effort to cushion the tackle, but Youn had dropped his hips and lowered his shoulder prior to contact, causing him to hit the buckler from below rather than head on. The upward force sent the Volt backwards into his associates, knocking two of them down. Taking advantage Youn shifted his attention to the closest standing raider and used the butt of his rifle to strike them just below the sternum, right in the solar plexus. Reeling from the momentary paralysis to his diaphragm, the raider dropped his chin which became the target of an upward swipe from the butt of his rifle. One down.

The victory was short lived as one of the raiders from the ground sprang forward in an attempt to grab Youn legs. Not good, his only option to avoid the grapple was to roll backwards which meant taking his eyes off of the four in front of him. A possibly lethal prospect if one of the raiders felt trigger happy. It'd be a risky move to fire in such close proximity to fellow party members, after all there was no predicting when someone may move into the line of fire abruptly. A solution to this problem would be to voicing their intent to shoot, but it would also tip him off and allow for immediate countermeasures.

But what if he didn't avoid the grapple? Part of the training for security officers was learning to fall properly which meant he could avoid hitting the back of his head. And falling back meant a clear shot at the raider grabbing at his legs, leaving him with only two more to contend with. Both of which were on their feet. Safe to assume they'd be on him immediately after the shot had been fired. Just like that the solution became obvious.

Youn allowed the raider to grab hold of his legs and fell back, bracing himself and raising his rifle as he hit the ground. He aimed at the furthest standing raider first, and fired. Had he shot the closer one first the one in back may have used his buddy as shield to protect himself and close distance. The shot went straight through the raiders neck causing him to fall back in the direction of the platform. The closer raider stood stunned for a moment as what just happened finally processed. Youn had to credit the man for having the awareness to keep his eyes forward and figure it out through audio clues only.

The raider let out a cry of anger as he lunged forward. As much as Youn wanted to shut the man up he could tell that the raider who had him by the legs was reaching for something on his person. So instead he fired his second shot into the grappler's head, causing him to fall limp immediately. A new problem arose as the weight of his carcass made it impossible for Youn to move his lower body. Understanding this the final raider sprang through the spray of his comrade's blood and knocked Youn's rifle aside, before attempting to jam his right forearm into Youn's neck.

"I'm going to kill you for that!" the raider growled through clenched teeth, as blood and sweat dripped down onto the security officer's face. "Council dog!"

Youn let lose his own primal growl as he tried to muscle the other man's forearm off his airway. His other hand scrambling to jab at the man's face. No good, his other hand couldn't reach due to the proximity of his right arm to the corridor wall. Small flecks of white light began to flitter across Youn's vision as his airway remained trapped by the forearm. He desperately attempted to raise either of his knees but the combined weight of two raiders was too much.

On the verge of losing consciousness, a surplus of thoughts both related and unrelated to his current predicament flooded Youn’s mind. However two stood out most. How much longer could his trachea withstand this guy's forearm? As for the second, why didn't Dad ever speak out against his mother's emotional abuse? No matter how poorly he'd been treated, his kindly father had always returned to his spot at the end of the dinner table, from where he was forced to endure his supposed partner's unreasonable demands and behavior. Night after night. Day after day. It'd affected Youn so much that he'd find reasons to avoid dinner altogether, even if it meant going hungry.

If Youn survived this encounter, would he grow up to be like his father? Become a pathetic person who couldn't confront people with their honest thoughts and opinions? Sorry Dad...I know you weren't the pathetic was your useless son, who despite being the one who took issue never said a thing. It was your disillusioned wife, who realized you'd never refute her and took full advantage.

That same father had died from overwork when Youn was attending Federation Academy. He'd left his father there, alone with that woman. But Youn didn't want to see his father again just yet. He couldn't, not until fixed himself! Only then could he look his old man in the eyes and apologize properly!

Summoning every last bit of strength in his body, Youn used both arms to lift the raider's forearm off his throat. The man stunned by the sudden and unexpected burst of strength quickly moved to replant his forearm when a shot rang out. The raider fell forward dead, via a shot between the eyes. By tracing the bullets path one would find the source of the shot to be Preece, who stood in the doorway of the strong side platform.

Youn groaned at the dead weight piled on top of him before meeting the eyes of a concerned Preece who'd run up and taken in the grizzly scene. "I take back what I thought about you getting in the way...good work."