Chapter 22:


From Nowhere to Sender

To say the situation had become dire would be an understatement. How dire you ask? Well, Tristler was down to his second to last smoke, so the world might as well be ending. He'd taken up position on the strong side platform upon Cade's request and taken to eliminating any raiders who had managed to avoid the guys up top and clear the gap.

All the while he kept a close eye on the corridor, which was still under threat from the opposing platform to his knowledge. Nocks remained at the junction just in case and the engine room remained locked. Cade having disappeared up top again after recommending adjustments to the defensive strategy. Although he'd payed a quick visit to the cargo bay for reasons that eluded Tristler. He didn't exactly have the privilege of checking at the moment.

From what he could tell it sounded like the fighting onboard C217, which was now pulled forward, remained ongoing. He'd also heard an explosion from the rear of the formation, a possible indicator that the raiders had succeeded in blowing off at least some of the bay door's locks. Amongst these thoughts, the notion of clearing the gap between Crusaders and assisting with the boarding party had crossed his mind. But he wasn't young or spry enough to attempt such maneuvers anymore. Had his smoke supply not been so close to empty, he might be able to convince himself to go nonetheless. As if he needed another reason to stay put, the throbbing from his right ear reminded him that he wasn't the only one dealing with an injury. Nocks being worse off with his limited mobility, and Tristler couldn't afford to run off and leave him without backup. Should the boarding party throw caution into the wind and charge in again, Nocks wouldn't fair well in a physical matchup.

A bitter taste suddenly spread across his tongue, the dreaded sign he was down to his final smoke. He spit the filter over the railing of the platform and weighed the strategic ramifications of lighting it now versus later. He should save it for later. This visit was far from over, and plenty of headache inducing possibilities still awaited them in the home stretch of this route. But boy could he use it now. Normally he wouldn't run out like this, but the guerrilla tactics from earlier had made him more paranoid and stressed out than usual. He was running low on nerve essentially. So why not use whatever little nerve he had left to do something bold. He cast another look at the gap between platforms, a much longer look this time around.


Tristler directed his gaze to the source of the voice standing at the top of the stairs. Lux, still patiently waiting in her zone assignment.

"I don't like that look! So take these and pull your shit together!" She tossed him something from the pouch on her hip.

Tristler caught what turned out to be a fresh pack of smokes, his brand no less and looked up again in surprise.

"It's my bad for forgetting to return them earlier!" He'd forgotten that she even confiscated them. "Save one for Cade if you don't mind, I think this convoy stressed him out more than he's letting on! Oh, and the fools on the weak side plat are taken care of!" Satisfied, Lux disappeared back onto the front deck.

Tristler released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding and wasted no time lighting a smoke from the fresh pack he'd received. Just like that, everything seemed to slow down again. Before returning his attention back to the rear, he made to relay Lux's message about the weak side platform being clear to Nocks. As he poked his head back inside the corridor, Tristler couldn't help but notice that the last smoke in his breast pocket felt much lighter than before. He couldn't really imagine Cade smoking it, or accepting it for that matter. But he was adamant on fulfilling his rescuer's request. Something the engineer would understand once he knew the source of the goodwill.


Esma was getting restless, and no amount of running from one side of the bridge to the other with a pair of binoculars in hand, smothered that growing unease. She'd also been alternating her use of the headset, unsure whether the updates concerning the raid's progress were worthwhile or just distracting.

A bulk of the transmissions revolved around Crusaders C384 and C217 respectively, not that she could do anything about the situations on either of them. Not long ago, maybe even five minutes, she'd been among that racket of voices relaying updates regarding successful boarding attempts to Flannery. According to Trislter's earlier report to the bridge, four Voltigeurs had managed to board. And that was with Nocks being on top of things downstairs, Esma shuddered to think what would have happened if he'd also fallen for the faux gas canisters. But that fear dissipated as soon as she saw the steady form of the security officer on the front deck. Lux would have happened, that's what.

She'd only just watched from other side of the bridge's ballistic glass as the security officer, in equal parts efficiently and ruthlessly, mowed down the remaining two raiders on the weak side platform. And she'd continued watching in a mix of surprise and fascination as Lux retrieved the bodies and began rearranging them at the top of the stairs. Esma still wanted to confirm with her directly, but she figured Lux intended to use them as a trap of sorts. A way to slow the raiders ascension to the front deck in the event she was preoccupied with sharpshooting. A tad cruel, but creative. In fact her placement of the bodies had been careful to the point that Lux must have employed the method before. A method that required placing the bodies in positions that would result in minute jostling or movement, while also ensuring they didn't obstruct her or other officer's ability to maneuver the front deck and stairs.

Just great, her comrades would go so far as desecrating the dead to reach their destination safely, where as Esma might as well be bird watching from the relative safety of the bridge.

"Everything alright over there? You seem jumpy."

She turned to look at her new bridge mate, who while not as nonchalant as Cade on the surface, carried a palpable confidence with him.

"Frustrated actually, feels like I'm just watching things unfold at this point."

"Watchings important too you know, they're plenty of things only you'll be able to see from this bridge."

Those words sounded familiar to Esma. Something of a similar ilk must have been imparted on her before. Abruptly the scene shifted from the bridge of active battleground in nowhere, to the extravagant ramada of a large home on a warm day. A younger dejected version of herself stood alongside a sturdy older woman who smelled of linens and black tea.

"Life is as broad as it is beautiful, but our vision tends to become very narrow at times. During those times, one should do their utmost to observe their surroundings. You'll find there are a great many things you'll only be able to see from that spot, at that time."

Like the tides the memory had come and gone. If only she could've stayed in it awhile longer. But it had served its purpose, forcing the realization that her current position offered its own unique advantages. They only needed to be found and utilized properly.

"Thanks for the pick me up."

For his part Vedmann couldn't fathom the effect his words had on the girl.

"You're a strange one newbie."