Chapter 26:


From Nowhere to Sender

It was shortly after command confirmed another approach from the East that Cade made his way up the strong side stairway and joined Lux on the front deck. This time armed with a spare rifle from the bridge's gun safe. As a fixed precaution he began by surveying the front deck and noticed the relocated bodies positioned near the opposite stairway.

"Already arranged for guests I see."

Lux didn't respond, too absorbed in picking apart the composition of the incoming approach. During such exercises officers prioritized searching for candidates to assume the gunner position. And since approaches always waited until the absolute last second to show their hand, it was a worthwhile challenge. One that rewarded handsomely when conquered, because taking the gunner out quick disrupted both the timing and formation of the approach. Often times to the point of collapse. Not to mention a given raiding party only had so many members willing or skilled enough to fill the gunner position. Theoretically the more you took out, the less effective subsequent approaches would be. A boon during later stretches of the route when resources dwindled and nerves stretched thin.

"Bored of piloting already?"

The fact Lux felt comfortable enough to hold conversation at this moment boded well for the handling of the incoming approach, not so much for the unsuspecting gunner.

"A waste of time more like, final section of the routes dull anyway."

"Says you. I was having a blast driving straight earlier."

"Talk to me again after you've gotten any form of operating license. That aside, you focus on marking the rocketeer. I'll handle spotting duties in the meantime."

"Works for me."

Relative silence permeated the front deck of C248, nothing but the sounds of a prolonged clash over C217's cargo bay filling the void. If asked Cade would describe the situation in the rear as bleak at best. To the extent they'd probably have to forfeit the cargo onboard. Strategically it just made more sense to focus bodies and resources on the battles taking place around other parts of the convoy. It wouldn't surprise him if Commander Heenan called for the remaining security officers onboard C217 to fall back to the junction, effectively surrendering the cargo bay in the process. The raiders wouldn't pursue another clash in such a scenario, not after being dealt so much damage already. They'd much rather achieve even a fraction of what they set out to do in a meager attempt to justify the loss of life on their side.

"What's the situation in the rear?"

Funny she would ask.

"Looking bleaker by the minute, I expect we'll forfeit the cargo shortly."


No response. One might even believe Cade meant to direct the commentary to himself, something he was wont to do on occasion. But there was reason behind the silence. And while it took a trained eye to discern it, it was clear to Cade that his take on the situation vexed Lux in some way. But like it or not, he considered the take accurate, and it was in everyone's best interest for her to have an objective view of the convoy's transport status. As for the source of her discontent, he could make a few educated guesses stemming from—

"Drop it."

Cade's mind ground to a halt, his body still aside from a bead of sweat working its way down his temple and onto the deck. He'd been wrestling with this as of late, but was it really ok for someone to understand his inner workings so well. According to the way he'd done things since joining the LCF, no. Perhaps it centered on the fact she held the advantage in the unspoken race of understanding one another. Something he could forgive if not for the ease at which she managed it. Come to think of it, was figuring out her thought process even necessary to begin with? It seemed every time he strived to reach his own conclusion that—

"I'll explain later in private. Refocus that attention on the route ahead of us, and let me know if anyone circles around from the other side."

There she went, offering the understanding he sought on a silver platter. It made Cade feel disgusted with himself every time. How could it not when he struggled so mightily to recall a single instance in which he'd reciprocated that sentiment. Hadn't she noticed? Would it even bother her if she did? A harsh reminder of which of them was set in their ways, while the other possessed the freedom to come as go as they pleased.

In desperate need of a distraction, Cade directed his attention towards the bridge and saw their new communications officer alternating between scanning the surroundings and casting small worried glances in the direction of the rear. Perhaps something over the headset was giving her reason for worry. Recalling the other headset was hanging around his neck, Cade lifted one of drivers to his ear and listened in on the chatter.

"All present officers are advised to concentrate remaining security forces on the interception of incoming approaches. The cargo onboard C217 will be labeled as compromised going forward."

A sound decision, compromised being a less harsh or customer friendly word choice for destroyed or damaged cargo. It also wasn't a designation you could take back on a whim at a later time. After all, cargo didn't suddenly become un-destroyed. No doubt the remaining officers onboard C217 would take issue with the order since the cargo wasn't actually destroyed yet. Irregardless the order, which wouldn't be given without serious thought, amounted to a failure on the part of the security officers onboard and would in fact go down as such on their official work history. Cade could still remember a convoy some time ago when the Crusader he and Lux were working suffered a similar fate. Had he and another security officer not held her back at the station of arrival, Lux would have assaulted the convoy commander. In front of plenty of witnesses no less. Fortunately her outburst had been chalked up to her being an overzealous rookie and she didn't face suspension.

If such a situation repeated itself Cade couldn't imagine Lux directing her frustration at the CC. She'd glare and offer a few choice words, but the person she'd be most upset with would be herself. For Cade's part he and other colleagues would be stuck dealing with a tetchy Lux for a few days. Finished with that line of thought he began to feel the mental fatigue of the day setting in. The solution to stymying this unwelcome sensation usually involving speaking his mind. As if letting the accumulation of thoughts flow would ease the burden on it. Eager to nip things in the bud Cade started projecting across the front deck, as if it was a stage and his words an opening monologue. Speaking to anyone and everyone that felt inclined to listen.

"Are you familiar with the story of Quiet Murn?"