Chapter 35:


From Nowhere to Sender

It wasn't his fault. The man had appeared unannounced, leaving him unable to escape to the recesses of the shelf in time. So instead of retreating, his legs had taken him forward. Towards the confused man, and towards a future neither he or his mother ever envisioned possible.


Just like that it was over. It had happened so quickly that Guell briefly questioned how the corpse of a man with a visibly broken neck could have ended up in their tiny apartment. It was only after his brain was given a moment to catch up with his body's actions, that panic began to set in.

The body needed to be removed, or else his mother could be blamed as the only official resident of this apartment. But what could he do without revealing himself? He settled for moving the body off to the side and covering it with the sheet he used when he slept. It was too short for him anyway, even when he curled up.

Suddenly paranoid, Guell positioned himself closer to the apartment door and sat up against the wall. Pulling his knees to his chest, he desperately searched for ways for them to resume their humble yet peaceful lives. But failed to reach any viable solutions on his own. Leaving him no choice but to wait for his mother's return. Together they'd be able to get through this. Just like they'd done whenever difficulties presented themselves in the past.

She wouldn't be upset with him would she? He hadn't meant to do anything wrong, and he'd even followed the most important rule. Guell had done it all quietly. Things would be fine. HIs mother would never leave him—


A call went up from just about every crew member onboard C248. From Yora and Esma in the bridge, to Cade and Evan on the back deck. The latter two desperately trying to prevent the towering raider from interfering with Lux, who'd just narrowly escaped being launched from the Crusader by a vicious kick moments before.

Pulling air into her lungs, Lux rested her cheek up against the side of her rifle and positioned the incoming rocket in her sights. Releasing her breath in the form of a whistle, she applied pressure to the trigger. The resulting shot connected, triggering a premature detonation of the rocket that echoed across the convoy.

Rather than celebrate her interception of the second rocket, Lux switched her sights to the escort that the rocketeer had retreated into. But before she could follow up, the sounds of an enervated Cade reached her ears from nearby.

Weighing the possibility that Cade was purposefully making his fatigue more vocal than usual, Lux vacated her current position laterally. Proving successful in evading an attempt at grabbing her head from behind. Turning around she saw that Cade was attempting to strangle the raider from behind to no avail as he lacked any form of leverage. Not a surprise considering his legs weren't even touching the deck. Such was bucket man's stature.

"Drop!" Evan called out from across deck. An instruction meant for Cade now that she and Lux had essentially just put themselves in a crossfire position. Although it may have been unintentional on Evan's part considering the angry swelling on the left side of her face and her sudden change in position.

Cade was happy to oblige and released his hold, dropping to the deck awkwardly before rolling off to the side. Lux and Evan followed through, each firing several shots in unison, one aiming high and the other low. A byproduct of working together over the past year. Spend enough time shooting with someone and your bound to pick up on their idiosyncrasies when it came to marksmanship.

In response to his precarious circumstances, the man launched himself upwards without so much as even bending his knees for momentum. Instead relying on the upswing of his arms and torso. And in place of where his legs had been, an array of canisters that had been kept concealed on his person up to this point.

Evan, who'd been the one to aim low, watched as her shots punctured the sides of several canisters and kicked off a chain reaction of smoke and flash detonations. The rest of the convoy could only watch as a cloud of smoke materialized over the back deck of C248 and began pushing outwards over the railing, made more surreal by the intermittent flash of stun grenades going off from deep inside the haze.

All three deck officers, trapped within the maw of the billowing beast and its piercing cries, hunkered down in favor of escaping the smoke immediately. While they each had their own reasons, the main concern stemmed from the overwhelming assault on each of their senses just now. With the near complete loss of both their vision and hearing, recalling or determining one's current orientation became difficult. And rushing out of the cloud in such a state raised the possibility of running straight off the Crusader. So instead they stayed put and donned their respective goggles.

The fourth presence, sporting goggles prior to the diversion, had already landed soundlessly back on deck and was making their way towards the last location of the blonde sharpshooter. Spotting a crouched figure in the direction of the rear, the party leader stalked towards the cause of pain in his shoulder and forearm, when suddenly the sound of a familiar voice reached him from the other side of the smoke.

"Need some help in there chief!"

Recognizing this particular voice as that of his vice leader, Guell debated whether any form of response was wise or necessary. They did have ways of communicating nonverbally, but any type of cue verbal or not could alert the girl and her companions to his position. But then again he'd like to ask Tiberius to find and secure his bucket. He was almost certain it was still on the deck somewhere.

"Sorry pal, but the deck's got a bit of a smoke problem right now!" Evan emerged from the cloud with her goggles on and rifle drawn. "Come back later!"

The man named Tiberius raised his buckler and deflected the shots targeting his chest, before pulling a pistol from his hip. Resting the barrel of the pistol on top of the buckler, he returned fire. Evan sprinted for the cover offered by the small space ahead of bridge, barely making it through the use of a well-timed slide.

As this confrontation went on Cade considered the significance of another member of Quiet Murn reaching the back deck so suddenly. Had he snuck past Engler and Gandlin, or gone through them? The fact he so loudly announced his presence upon reaching the deck didn't bode well for the second possibility. Unless the two were caught up defending the cargo bay. If that was the case he couldn't have arrived from the ladder which sat in front of the aforementioned cargo bay. Not to mention he would have entered the bridge directly rather than run out onto the back deck.

Cade then recalled the raider from earlier who'd taken advantage of the spikes to pounce on Gandlin from his blindspot, back when they'd both been on the platform. That would serve as a viable method for climbing up. Plant one or two more spikes and you'd be in business. Which presented them an entirely new problem to deal with. Assuming this medium was in place, having more party members showing up out of nowhere when they already had their hands full was a nasty prospect. Someone would need to remove these spikes as soon as possible.

Seeing as he was the only one not directly engaged in combat, it would be on him to at least check. But in order to remove potential spikes he'd need to retrieve the crowbar from the cargo bay, the shortest route to which being the ladder way. Off limits unless he wanted to get between Evan's gun fight. Leaving him with no other option aside from dropping down to the platform from the back deck. Basically Lux's shortcut but in reverse. And safer.

Now that he had a set course of action to take, Cade sprang up and felt around for the railing. Because falling over the edge of the Crusader wasn't part of the plan.