Chapter 28:


From Nowhere to Sender

Lux watched from the front deck as the eastern approach crossed the critical distance threshold with abandon, keen to win further glory after their sustained success with the rear. Watching them charge so enthusiastically had the muscles in her arms and hands twitching in anticipation. Mostly due to the fact what was proving to be a rather large gathering of party members had yet to show signs of breaking into smaller cells. That and the mass of raiders, bucklers and body armor at the ready, continued to close the distance at the same speed they'd initiated with.

Fuck, the amount of time she'd taken to designate targets had allowed the approach to cover far more ground than Lux or anyone onboard was comfortable with. What's more, as sharpshooter it was her job to set the tone for firing discipline, but her assumption that the party would break into groups like earlier led to an inadvertent delay in active resistance. Action needed to be taken immediately or else the growing momentum on the side of the raiders could doom the convoy.

"Cade! We need everyone on the weak side now! And I'd better hear the sounds of empty magazines being discarded in the next couple minutes, or else I'll shoot everyone onboard myself!"

Lux could see Cade rush over to the speaking tube in her peripheral, updating the bridge being the optimal move since speaking tubes connected the bridge to every part of the Crusader. More importantly the bridge informing the crew would save the deck officers from having to yell their heads off, which might not even be possible during stretches of the raid if the gas was in effect.

Taking aim at whoever happened to be out front of the encroaching mass, Lux fired away. Some shots found flesh and bone while others bounced off bucklers and punctured body armor. Then another troublesome development occurred. As if her shots had been the signal they'd been waiting for, the crowd of raiders abruptly split into the aforementioned cells, at the eleventh hour of the approach no less. Adapting quickly Lux settled for the gunner she had the best shot at and targeted a group looking to circle around the front. She watched as the gunner went down hard after a shot passed through his shoulder blade and ended up somewhere in his chest. Entrusting the rest would be handled by C326's security officers she directed her attention back to their own Crusader.

Cade was now behind her, about halfway down the stairs taking her previous threat to heart and firing away. She made out Evan on the back deck laying into another group that must of circled around in the opposite direction. Meanwhile Tristler was down on the platform using one of the deceased raider's bucklers to deflect an incoming canister. Nocks wasn't in sight but she assumed he was somewhere in the corridor taking shots whenever they came available.

Seeing as no call had gone out regarding the rocketeer at this point, Lux focused her efforts on assisting with the boarding party currently harassing Tristler on the platform. Cade had already descended the rest of the way was attempting to stall the use of projectiles by catching the raiders in their throwing motions. But both crew-mates were so caught up fending off the party in front of them that they failed to recognize a single Volt approaching from the rear of the Crusader. And not from a bike either. The raider in question was taking advantage of the spikes that had been planted in the previous approach to reach the platform. Her first instinct was to give the Volt a new piercing in his naval, but he was nearly parallel to her comrades at this point. If either took so much as a half-step back when she fired they'd be hit.

"Trist the rear!" Lux roared over the fighting, lining up the shot in the event it became available.

Turning his head just as the Volt lunged for the platform, Tristler was unable to get the rest of his body around in time to keep from being knocked off balance. The two hit the platform in a tangle limbs, narrowly avoiding a worst case scenario as Cade managed to stay on his feet despite being knocked to the side. The other raiders didn't sit idly by as the opening their comrade created began to close. All the while Lux was trying her upmost to make that same window as small as possible, emptying the remainder of her current magazine. As her muscle memory kicked in for reload another member of the boarding party rose from their seat and jumped to the railing of the platform, just managing to get enough of a hold to pull themselves over. Someone had been counting, not bad. But the success was short lived as Lux spent her first round on the raider as he tried to get up.

His companions didn't take too kindly to that and opened fire on her position. Lux pulled back and felt around for the closest body. With a heave she pulled the body in front of her person before reemerging, using it as a meat shield. In retrospect this action would only serve to piss them off more, but Lux could deal with pissed off people easier when they had fewer bullets. As per her plan the firing cut off for a moment and she weighed whether letting the body drop down the stairs would help or hurt the guys on the platform. She could also discard the body overboard, make them think she'd only prepared the one. Might encourage the hot heads among the boarding party to storm up after her.

Needing more info, Lux peeked the platform and saw that Tristler remained in a fierce wrestling match with the Volt from before while Cade worked on forcing the raider she'd just shot under the railing and over the edge. In response to the new insight, Lux mustered the necessary strength to toss the body over the side. With any luck the body would collide with one or more of the closest bikes. Said body bounced on impact and nearly flailed into the path of one of the bikes, but the driver reacted in time thanks to their own muscle memory. Rather than blame the near miss on an unlucky bounce, Lux took out one of the legs of the raider stalling Cade. With nothing to lean his weight on the man crumpled, allowing Cade to push the injured man the rest of the way over. But no sooner had they taken care of one Volt the other succeeded in dazing Tristler with an elbow and pushed themselves up and into Cade.

Fortunately Cade gained the upper hand quickly, as the raider's muscles hadn't recuperated enough oxygen to recover from the skirmish with Tristler. Using one arm to hold the raider at arms length, Cade brought his rifle up with the other and fired two shots. The first was fired before he had the angle and struck the platform beneath them, but the second struck the raider in the right hip. Recoiling in pain he bounced off the wall of the Crusader before Cade palmed his head and used the man's momentum to fling him over the side of the platform. Sensing that Trislter had regained his senses, Cade proceeded to drag him towards the doorway. Normally this would be inadvisable when one was so close to an active boarding attempt, and yet no wavering was found in any of the engineer's movements. All because of his faith in the presence atop the stairs.

Lux responded in kind, and didn't so much as allow the raiders a chance to line a shot up properly. So focused in her current task, she nearly missed the sounds of slow moving footsteps ascending the strong side stairway. Missed wasn't the right word, more like brushed off. Because it was plausible that Nocks had grown tired of life in the corridor and decided to hobble his way up and join her. At least that explanation seemed more plausible than raiders quietly breaching the convoy's formation. Airing on the side of caution, Lux pulled back from the weak side and hustled over to the opposite stairway. If it was an enemy, might as well take them out on the stairs where they had nowhere to run. Not that she wouldn't rule out them throwing themselves overboard in a panic. It'd happened before.

What Lux didn't expect to see was the legs of someone hoisting themselves on top of the bridge, not unlike she'd done earlier. No chance Nocks could pull that off in his condition. And with everyone else holding the line downstairs...

"You have got to be kidding me."