Chapter 31:


From Nowhere to Sender

" can come out now Guell..."

The young boy methodically moved the shelf concealing him aside, taking care to lift rather than push, not wanting to leave any residual scratch or rub marks on the floor of the small apartment.

"You did such a good job staying quiet again today, you're even able to move the shelf all on your own now."

The boy nodded and lumbered over to free his foster mother from the burden of handling the heavy rice bag. Placing it in one of the cupboards in their kitchen/dining space.

"It's reassuring to see how strong you're becoming. With only so much food between the two of us, I worried you'd be nothing but skin and bones. But you just keep shooting on up in both size and strength. One of your parents must have been quite tall as well."

The boy didn't like hearing about these so called 'parents' of his. As far as he was concerned the woman in front of his was his only family, having been there all his life to this point. He also begrudged this size of his, for it had made it increasingly difficult to hide himself whenever the landlord or peace officers came by to do their checks. The shelf might just be the only thing capable of concealing him at this point. Having put the rice away, he relocated to the center of the room and waited for another opportunity to be useful. Watching as his mother began to pull some basic ingredients together for supper.

"I know I emphasize how important it is to stay quiet, but it's ok to speak some whenever I return. You have such a lovely voice after all, it'd be a shame if it faded away from neglect."

The boy disagreed. It was too risky to speak where the neighbors or a passerby might happen to hear. And he didn't want to be taken away from his home. His mother never did tell him where he'd be taken or what would happen to him if he was found, but the worried expression that would cross her face whenever he brought it up told him it must be bad. He refused to let anything bad happen to either of them! He'd make sure it didn't! Staying quiet was a small price to pay...


Cade had just stepped inside the corridor for a breather when a concerning development reached him over the headset around his neck. He'd only caught the tail end of the transmission, but from what he heard the second anti-faith faction and its dreaded RED had finally made its appearance. Horrible timing, but that was to be expected. Either way he'd need to head back up immediately and resume spotting for Lux. And this small break in the action was as good a time as any.

"Engler, I need to head up and spot Lux. You two going to be able to handle the stragglers?"

"Well manage. Just fork over some ammo and be on your way."

Cade grabbed a mag from the pouch he kept on his lower back and shoved it into Nocks's waiting hand before heading for the strong side platform. Ascending the stairs just as a shot went off directly above him. On instinct he dropped into a crouching position on the stairs and scanned for any signs of the opposition. Coming up empty, and with no clear read on where the shot originated, Cade sprinted up the remaining stairs only to find the front deck void of officers. Not ideal, a rocketeer was about to besiege the convoy and one of their sharpshooters was MIA.

Looking for a clue as to where she'd gone, Cade remembered the headset again and brought it back up to his head. Obviously the bridge will have seen where Lux had gone off to.

"Esma! I'm sure your the last person I need to explain our current predicament to, but Lux isn't—"

"She's above you!"


"I said, she's above you! Catch her!"

Cade craned his head up just in time to see Lux falling from, no not falling, being thrown from, the top the bridge. Thankfully he didn't have to move far to position himself under her, he was more concerned about catching a wayward elbow or knee during the catching process. As it turned out Cade should have been more worried about the direction her momentum was carrying her. The force in which she'd been flung being so great it nearly sent both of them careening over the Crusader's front railing. Much to the horror of the occupants of the bridge.

To the relief of everyone involved, they didn't. Cade mustering the necessary strength to keep them both firmly on deck. It helped that Lux had been conscious during the fall, already having been in the process of bracing herself to minimize injury. Honestly she seemed more surprised that someone had been there to catch her than Cade was when the companion he was looking for literally fell onto his lap.

From their position against the railing, Cade gave Lux a quick once over before she could bolt to who knows where again, and saw that she was bleeding from the side of her forehead. But other than that she must have been relatively fine since she shot up from his lap right away and waved an angry fist in the direction of the bridge.

"If you think throwing me off is gonna stop me from killing you, think again!"

"Someone threw you?"

"Hardly, I got overeager and they redirected my momentum." Lux angrily wiped at the blood dripping down the side of her face and glared into the distance at nothing in particular.

Stubborn as always this girl. "Give me your hemogel, we'll be in trouble if your vision gets obstructed."

Lux pulled a tube of the requested gel from her first aid pouch and handed it over to Cade, who pulled a strip of gauze from the contents of his own pouch. Squeezing a liberal amount of the hemostatic gel onto his finger, he wiped the blood away until the cut itself was visible and promptly applied the gel across the opening. Lux hissed at the stinging sensation but put up with it.

"Should hold until Belveer. Now, according to head comms the rocketeer is—where the hell are you going?!"

"Where do you think? Someone needs to toss that lanky bastard and his stupid bucket off this fucking Crusader. Preferably into the path of another Crusader."

Cade made a dangerous move grabbing Lux by the arm. "That's not the priority right now. Besides, whoever threw you doesn't seem to be actively pursuing anyone. They would have shot us both when I was applying first aid if that were the case. For now turn your attention to the rocketeer, who'll be on top of us any second by the way."

"Didn't. Throw. Me."

"My point still stands, leave them for now. Doubt they want to be blown up anymore than the rest of us."

Lux mumbled something beneath her breath and cast one last look at the top of the bridge where their mysterious visitor still was. He wasn't visible from the front deck, meaning he'd probably resettled into the same position as before.

"Uh, Lux?"

"What!? I'm still here aren't I!

"Where's your rifle?"


Lux reached behind her person, specifically the space her rifle usually occupied when it wasn't in her hands, only to grasp nothing but air. As what must of happened settled in, the anger Cade had managed to subdue through reason returned in full force.

"Now I really have to kill him!"

Cade grabbed Lux from behind and did his best to keep her on the front deck. No easy task when it came to someone as skilled at grappling as Lux was.

"Calm down! I'll give you this one and grab the other spare from the gun safe!"

"You know that rifle is fitted to my specifications! And you're the one who wanted to prioritize the rocketeer! Not that I can't intercept rockets with a standard issue!"

Cade let her go. She was right. As stretched thin as the deck officers were, they needed a rifle fitted for accuracy at distance. And that rifle was currently on top the bridge, in the possession of some guy formidable enough to get the jump on Lux. But how to go about retrieving it?

He didn't like the idea of sending Lux back up, that would only guarantee another fight. And while he had full faith in her capabilities, time was of the essence. He could go up. It'd be a pain getting up there, but once he was maybe he could reason with whoever was there. Try the ole "a rocketeer is trying to blow us all up, hand over the rifle" method. Of course he wouldn't stand a chance in a fight, not if they were capable of besting Lux the first time around. This was no good. They were wasting precious seconds standing around here thinking up strategies.

"I could try retrieving it."

Cade jumped at the unexpected voice from the headset. Apparently Esma had been listening in. Or maybe she'd been watching from the bridge and filled in blanks by listening through the headset. He looked over at the bridge and saw that Esma was indeed watching the two of them intently. She looked serious, Cade would give her that much. But how could he justify sending her up there? Would the man regard her as harmless and let his guard down long enough for her to toss it down?

"No need to look that perturbed. I'll head up, ask nicely and explain the situation if I have to. A similar thought must have crossed your mind no. Besides we need bodies on deck, and that doesn't include what Lux has stacked up by the stairs"

Cade still didn't like it. He'd started coming around to the rookie after their short time together in the bridge and would rather not see her being thrown from the Crusader to her death. The presence beside him stirred again.

"Just let her do it already! She's a big girl capable of making her own dumb decisions!" Lux paused and contemplated the possible outcome for a moment. "And I think it'll work, long as she doesn't antagonize him. I engaged after all."

Cade ran a hand down his face and heaved a sigh. "Fine. Let's give it a shot."

This was not the kind of spotting Cade had in mind today.