Chapter 29:


From Nowhere to Sender

Leora had been keeping a watchful eye on their mysterious visitors to the west when the sounds of frantic shouting reached her ears from the other side of the convoy. She hadn't caught all the words, but a female voice had definitely called for some form of assistance on the weak side. And while the verbal warning hadn't been directed at her, it still provided valuable insight on the actions of the eastern approach. Should C248 come under siege in the coming moments, some form of reaction from the group in front of her was to be expected.

If they were allies of Quiet Murn, maybe even members in disguise, they'd be pressed to begin their own approach now that the brunt of the convoy's security forces were preoccupied. That or they'd circle around and bolster the ranks of the boarding parties. Attempt to overwhelm the remaining security forces with numbers. Not a bad idea if Leora was being honest, though it would require a certain level of indifference in regard to human life. Not totally unheard of when it came to the more notorious party leaders across the Expanse. The fact they'd even attempt another wave of approaches after their costly failure the last time around spoke volumes to the type of lunatic they were dealing with.

As these thoughts churned in her head, Leora observed the gangly rider she'd felt compelled to shoot before as they made a sharp turn and rapidly began covering the distance between them. Doing so with such speed the that others in his group were unable to react and accompany him. This guy wanted her bullet that badly huh, no complaints here. Releasing the sharp breath she'd taken into her lungs, Leora fired two shots on a line at the encroaching figure. The first seeking a spot between the rider's shielded eyes, while the second was aimed at the chest for good measure. His chances of avoiding either shot non-existent at the speed in which he was approaching. They also lacked a buckler or any form of object that might serve to deflect or dampen the bullet's momentum. Attempting a turn was realistically the rider's only option at this point, but doing so would all but guarantee a crippling introduction to the ground. Pick your poison pal.

And then he jumped. But the rider didn't leave his bike seat, not entirely. No, he brought it with him. Along with the rest of the bike. Leora watched in stunned silence as both shots embedded themselves in the front of the bike which now flew at least several feet off the ground. Her eyes immediately flew to the bikes landing site, the weak side platform, where she spotted an equally dumbfounded Preece standing stock still. Move you moron!

Words failed her in that moment...but bullets didn't. Through sheer reflex another two shots erupted from her rifle, both aimed in anticipation of where the rider would be in the coming seconds. The thought of friendly fire did briefly cross her mind, but Leora liked to believe Preece had enough wherewithal to at least move away from the thing threatening his life. Fortunately he did, and an unceremonious dive to the side saved him from a world of pain. In that same moment the rider touched down on the platform front wheel first, achieved by shifting his weight forward midair.

The seconds that followed seemed to stretch on forever as she waited for either the Crusader wall or the shots she'd fired to seal the rider's fate. Miraculously the sound of a crash never reached her, but neither did the sound of her shots ricocheting off the doorway or platform. Therefore it stood to reason her shots had struck the rider as he passed by. Wait, passed by? How in the hell!?

From Leora's vantage point she'd been unable to see it, but upon touching down on the platform the rider had tucked his chin and long arms into his torso and assumed a sort of fetal position on his bike seat. After which he'd placed complete faith in the aim he'd established prior to the jump and allowed the bike to carry him through the doorway and across the corridor of the Crusader. Luck also played a considerable role in this stunt as any such presence in the corridor at the time of his crossing would have resulted in a brutal collision. However no such collision would befall the rider this day, as the corridor had remained clear. For no other reason than a weary Youn taking an extra moment longer to shed his uniform jacket before turning the corner at the junction. Keeping his body tucked in anticipation of the opposite doorway, the rider only unfurled himself when his instincts picked up on the subtle transition of the corridor's smooth floor to the platform's bumpy metal. Following a second expertly timed jump the rider found himself skidding off the top of the strong side railing and into the heart of the convoy's formation.

"I swear, it's one thing after another today..." Leora couldn't help but grind her teeth in frustration as she refocused her attention on the rider's allies who lagged not far behind. "Preece!" The officer seemed torn between pursuing the lunatic or staying put to fend off the rest of the approach with her. "Let Youn handle it! We need to deal with this first!"

If that rider really had made it all the way through, admittedly a big if but she hadn't heard a loud crash or explosion to say otherwise, the convoy would be in a heap of trouble. Especially if the man continued his course and boarded C248 from the strong side. They were caught up with the eastern approach as is. If Youn could just get off a few shots while the man's back was turned, catch him boarding another Crusader or targeting a deck officer.

They did have one thing working for them though, or in this case two. The rider, who'd given himself away as a party member with riding skills of that caliber, had been kind enough to accept both of her gifts. To the upper body if her aim was to be trusted. In the event he'd been saved by body armor hidden beneath his clothing, a shot from her custom-built feronectic rifle still packed enough punch to cause damage with its kinetic energy alone. Damage that would present itself in the man's movements from henceforth. Like to see you pull that bike off the ground now you freak. If anything Leora's lamented the fact she probably wouldn't be the one to finish him off. And it wasn't like they handed out medals for assists.

So help her if another rider from the western approach attempted a similar trick. No way would it work on her twice. Sharpshooters never forgot their misses.