Chapter 37:


From Nowhere to Sender

"Flannery, see to it that C384 is noticed of C248's current status! They need to be made aware that they'll be shouldering the burden of the rocketeer for the immediate future!"


Heenan turned his attention to the piloting engineer.

"Keep this convoy going at it's current speed! I don't care how close we are to Belveer, either we come in hot or don't come in at all!"

"Yes sir!"

Grabbing the rifle from the counter, he shouldered it as headed in the direction of the ladder way. Taking notice, Flannery paused her status update and reached for the collar of her superior's uniform.

"Commander, I don't think that's wise. We're better off with you here for the remainder of—"

"LCF bylaw 3 subsection 8, should the acting Convoy Commander be incapacitated, killed or deemed unfit for the role of command, succession of the convoy falls to the acting head communications officer."

"Your none of those things!"

"Not yet, no." A rare smile crept over the features of the normally stern man. "But I doubt I'll be returning to this bridge, and with this being your last convoy, I thought it appropriate you experience the role of a commander. Even if only for a short while."

Flannery was beside herself, that had to be the single stupidest thing she had ever heard. Unfortunately before she could express that anger, the man was already halfway down the ladder.

"I'd better see you in Belveer jackass!"

Heenan could sympathize. This being her final convoy, his death would make for a poor send off. Touching down on the lower level, he resolved to see her off properly at their station of arrival. From the base of the ladder he immediately headed over the the currently sealed engine room door, where he knocked four times in a predetermined rhythm. The number and rhythm of knocks changing from convoy to convoy. A moment passed before the sound of a lock disengaging could be heard and the door slid open partway, revealing a wary Tesra.

"I'm headed over to C248, I require assistance with the gangway."

The engineer stared at him for a moment, as if unsure whether he was serious. The sounds of gunfire, although less prevalent than before, raging in the backdrop.

"Fine." The sturdy woman stepped out from the room and slid the door closed, turning around so she could lock it behind them. She then turned to Heenan with expression most commanders would take issue with. "I hope you realize Flannery is gonna give me hell later. And would it kill you to call down next time? Some of us don't like surprises."

"Yes well, time is of the essence." The two rushed over to the weak side platform where Tesra began the process of unlatching the gangway, while Heenan gave instructions to the present security officer on cover fire.

Crusader gangways were notoriously dangerous; with location, simplicity and lack of safety measures all being a major reason. They weren't even their own entity to begin with, as ninety percent of the time they served the role of either platform's railing.

Essentially the railing unlatched beyond a certain point and that segment could then be swung outwards like a gate. Once that segment of the railing was perpendicular to the Crusader, a mechanism in place allowed it to be swung on its side to form a rudimentary crossing. More or less a kicked over ladder that extended about 1.82 meters. Not very far, but difficult to lower due to the weight of the railing. And it couldn't be placed on its side carelessly, unless one wanted to risk detaching the railing entirely. A task Heenan had called upon Tesra to assist him with.

With the latch undone, the two worked together to swing the railing open and steady it. Now perpendicular, they grabbed the closet rung and carefully lowered the segment onto its side. Securing it in place, Heenan saw the security officer he'd spoken to begin opening fire. Apparently some party members had seen the gangway being deployed and had moved in to investigate what would be a peculiar maneuver so late in the route.

"Now what?! Our current position isn't exactly conducive to crossing!"

Tesra's bangs whipped up into her face as she conveyed her skepticism. No doubt she'd also noticed that no one onboard C248 was there to receive him, ie deploy their own gangway.

"You let me worry about crossing over, I just need you to restore the railing once I'm gone."

"I figured that much, but..."

Heenan brought a hand up to the mic of the headset he still wore, in an effort to shield it from the wind, and directed a question at the person on the other side.

"Is your pilot ready?"

"We're good to go."

Esma's voice sounded over the headset, sounding just as sure of herself as before. A positive sign that things onboard C248 weren't as dire as they seemed.

"I'm counting on you to tell me when to proceed down the gangway."

"Placing an awful lot of faith in a rookie, commander."

"We don't have the privilege of making such distinctions. Not in this part of the Expanse."

"If you say so. By the way, I'm obligated to inform you that my perception is a bit defunct at present. What with all the rockets raining down on us."

"I've noticed, although this confirms that the second anti-faith faction isn't working with the—"


Heenan double checked his rifle was securely strapped to his back and broke into a sprint down the gangway. Or at least as close to a sprint as the rungs allowed. Now about halfway across, watching on as C248 accelerated forward and his landing spot grew closer, Heenan recalled the afternoons spent on the Federation Academy's obstacle course. One section in particular came to mind, the portion dedicated to simulating the act of crossing a gangway.

According to the course's instructor, each individual's stride length determined how many rungs they should take at a time in order to optimize speed. Of course it wasn't an exact science with a formula you could just plug your stride into. What with the various environmental factors to account for during the real thing. Rather one developed muscle memory through countless trial and error. Painful trials at that, especially for the male students.

Fortunately that muscle memory remained intact despite the passage of time and Heenan successfully launched himself from the final rung of the gangway. Landing on the strong side platform that materialized beneath him. Taking a moment to collect himself, he could feel the Crusader decelerating to its previous position in the formation. Grabbing the rifle from his back, he directed a thumbs up in the direction of Tesra who'd shaken out of her daze and began pulling the gangway back into place. Heenan wasted little time racing into the bowels of C248, his destination the back deck.

"I'm onboard! Headed up now!"

"I told you he'd make it."

Turning sharply at the junction, Heenan briefly spotted a pair of security officers engrossed at the opposite end of the corridor, before nearly colliding with young man wielding a crowbar.

"Fuck, I almost bludgeoned the Commander!"

Heenan let loose his own sigh.

"Rest assured I would have taken you with me."

He lowered his rifle and looked over the crewman's shoulder at the ladder.

"I'll help deal with Quay, you go ahead and complete your current task."

"Quay?" He watched recognition turn to panic on the young mans face. "The girls are upstairs facing off with Quiet Murn's deranged leader?!"