Chapter 23:


From Nowhere to Sender

Commander! The officers on deck have managed to clear C217's bay door of party members, their reporting that half the locks were compromised in the process. C217 is now on standby and awaiting instructions on how to proceed."

"C217 is to resume its previous position in the formation effective immediately."

"You don't want the Crusader swept of hostiles first? According to Yulent, their security officers remain locked in direct combat with the boarding party."

"If the boarding party learns their comrades failed to blow the locks, they'll get desperate. More so if we don't give them an avenue for retreat. Naturally our deck officers won't let them get away so easily, but providing the illusion that they can escape and regroup is fine for now."

"Understood, relaying orders now."

Despite the chaos transpiring in the rear of the formation, Commander Heenan kept the bulk of his attention upfront. On the lookout for what would surely be their greatest impediment; the unaccounted for, RED toting, anti-faith faction. They'd be fools not to take advantage of Quiet Murn's ongoing visits. Would it be too optimistic to hope they'd been deterred by their recent reclassification from protesters to full on terrorists of the Commonwealth? Most definitely, if anything they no longer had anything to lose from blowing up a convoy or two.

For now all they could do was keep their eyes peeled and their sharpshooters free. It may be hard to believe, but Heenan had faced far worse circumstances with far less competent crews in the past and somehow come out the other side. Therefore there was no reason a crew roster of this pedigree shouldn't be able to reach Belveer. Something he should have relayed to the convoy over comms in retrospect. He couldn't even begin to imagine how a rousing motivational speech from him of all people would come across. At the very least there'd be no debate over how dire a situation they were in. Best commit the words to memory for now, just in case.


While the pandemonium behind C217 was finally showing signs of calming down, the situation onboard its lower level remained in full tilt. One particularly large raider, a rarity for Voltigeurs as it made navigating a Crusader's narrow corridors more cumbersome, ripped the damaged body armor off of an incapacitated comrade and heaved it at the pair of security officers defending the cargo bay. Said comrade, now lighter sans the body armor, was slung over a large shoulder as a third raider made preparations for their retreat. A head injury had led to a small but steady stream of blood down the right side of her face, forcing her to continuously wipe the blood collecting in her eye. The frustration stemming from both the current situation and the impaired vision caused her to lose track of which canister on her person contained the smoke for covering their escape.

Settling for the canister on her dominant side, she waited for the large raider to squeeze by her before tossing the canister down the corridor. She didn't wait to confirm the contents of the canister and instead joined her fellow party members on the platform. On cue the Crusader began to fall back to its original position, which should allow the three of them to be picked up via drive by or preferably by a remaining Demen's net. There being no cargo for the party to collect, meant plenty of room to accommodate the three of them instead. The real problem would be the deck officers taking pot shots.

In a cruel twist of fate, the sounds of boots running along a corridor alerted the raider to at least several presences in the direction of what should be C384. Suddenly two security officers appeared on it's strong side platform and took aim, eager to take advantage of the current proximity before C217 pulled back to the rear entirely. Acting fast, the raider reached for her remaining canister and aimed for the corridor beyond the officers. With only one functioning eye, she'd given up on wiping away the bleeding, the throw would be trickier than usual. Not to mention she'd have to minimize her throwing motion due to the crampedness of the platform. Shortening one's throwing motion was actually a common teaching point among raiding party's and routinely put into practice during mock raids. As taking too long to reach your release point gave skilled officers the chance to shoot the projectile before it left the raiders hand or just after. While she wasn't experienced enough to determine the skill level of the present officers, she leaned on the fact they'd been dispatched to the lower level to counter this approach. The most proficient shots having remained on deck where they'd be needed most.

At this point she'd also figured out that she'd thrown the correct canister earlier, as smoke had already begun billowing from the doorway beside them. The sounds of coughs emanating from the direction of the cargo bay. On the other hand the officers across the way had no way of confirming the contents of this canister until it detonated. They'd be especially wary of the camouflaged stun grenades that had fooled them beforehand. This played into their favor because the canister just now leaving her hand wasn't a stun grenade, but a canister of Pipe Down.

Whether the three would live long enough to be picked up hinged on both officers mistaking the canister for a stun grenade and moving away from the platform. She liked their odds. Guessing incorrectly and standing firm against the effects of a stun grenade at close range was deadly, or at least disorienting enough to risk falling from the platform. Therefore the smart play would be airing on the side of caution and fleeing the detonation area immediately. This would allow the raiders the necessary time to flag down the closest bike.

As expected both security officer's attention immediately shifted to the airborne canister and its current trajectory. One officer reacted by putting a harsh grip on the other's shoulder and the raider felt her breath catch. Was he telling his buddy to stay put? Had he called her bluff? But to her visible relief the officer actually used his grip to push his colleague in the direction of the doorway. He complied and both fled the platform, hoping to minimize the effects of what they believed to be a stun grenade. The raider turned towards her large companion with a wicked smile, eager to celebrate their near escape from death but saw something that both surprised her and filled her with gratitude. Rather than his face she was met by the sight of his large back, having turned his frame away from the direction of the canister's projected landing spot and covered the ears of their unconscious comrade. As if preparing both of them for the detonation of a stun grenade.

That was what must have convinced the officer they needed to head for cover. She couldn't say whether this was clever acting on his part or he actually thought she'd thrown a stun grenade, but she was grateful either way. She tapped him to get his attention while using her other arm to flag down a group of converging party members in the distance. They formed up accordingly and began to head over as off to the side the canister reached its target, ricochetted around the doorway and began releasing Harlecher's gas.

Noticing that the approaching group had gained the full attention of the deck officers, the raider turned her attention the remaining locks on the bay door. She motioned for the big guy to hand over their third wheel and motioned towards the remaining locks. He glanced up at the distracted officers before looking back over at her and nodding. Reaching for the hatchet on his person, he searched for nearby spikes planted beforehand. And found one, but reaching it would require a moving start and every inch of his impressive wingspan. A smile found its way onto the raider's face, like hell he'd waste a chance to take advantage of his size when it usually served as a hinderance to his job.

"Looks like it's my turn."

"Pull if off and I'll consider us even..."

He briefly released the handle of the hatchet and instead grabbed a strip of medical cloth.

"Stem the flow of blood first. This is something you'll want to see with both eyes."