Chapter 41:


From Nowhere to Sender

That was cutting it a bit close don't you think?!"

"Don't remember asking for an opinion!"

Leora had just barely managed to intercept the rocket intended for C326 at the head of the formation. A calculated move by the faction and its rocketeer. One that took full advantage of the disruption onboard C248, that of which was currently stalling one of the convoy's two sharpshooters.

The tactic was simple. By going clockwise and waiting until they passed directly in front of C326 to fire, they ensured the optimal amount of visual obstruction to the rocket's initial trajectory. Leaving Leora a much smaller window for discerning the rocket's path and subsequently subjugating it.

Returning to the front deck would theoretically solve this problem by giving her a less obstructed view, but that would only shift the nature of the problem. Because being on the front deck meant putting the bridge between her and the entire back half of the convoy. They'd essentially be gifting the rocketeer more options to get a clean shot off.

The thought of using the shortcut to go back and forth had crossed Leora's mind, however doing so would require precious seconds worth of her attention to pull off cleanly while also compounding her physical fatigue with each leap.

"I didn't ask for your opinion, but I am asking for your ammo. All of it. Your job from here on out will be visual confirmation of the target's position and actions, got it?"

"Not like I have much of a choice..."

Youn turned over what little ammunition he had remaining, half a magazine's worth, and resumed scanning for signs of the escort that concealed the rocketeer. Meanwhile Leora worked quickly to load all of their collective bullets into a single magazine, knowing the time it took to reload could prove fatal.

"Five shots, that's five more rockets I can intercept."

Leora doubted they even had five rockets left, something Youn seemed to agree with based on his reaction to her comment. But suddenly something made him perk up and lower the binoculars.

"The redistribution of ammo! We missed our chance to do it earlier! Meaning the officers onboard C326 should still have ammo to spare! I'll head to the front deck, once I'm there they can toss over—"

"Except your job is strictly spotting as of a few moments ago, is it not?"

Leora gave the man a stern glare, one he met with equal parts anger and confusion.

"The hell are you saying! The more shots we have, the more chances we give ourselves to draw this out until Belveer!"

"The more shots I have you mean, and I wasn't complaining when I mentioned having five shots left. I can and will intercept five more rockets if I have to, but in order to do that I need YOU assisting me HERE. Let Preece gather more ammo if he finds it appropriate."

Leora had no way of knowing the immense amount of remorse she'd triggered within Youn in that moment. Because he'd almost done it again. Much like his late father, he'd nearly left someone he knew needed his help behind. The epiphany stemming from his earlier brush with death amounting to nothing.

Youn swallowed, then released a shuddering breath in an effort to re-enter the moment.

"Your right. I'll stay here, stay here and spot the hell out of that rocketeer-ing bastard. Way we're syncing today, doubt we'll even need all five."

Leora raised a brow at the sudden change in demeanor but didn't question what had made the man see reason. She had a long list of more important things to consider if she wanted to back up her bold words.


"Get on."

Guell stepped onto the wooden lift alongside two of the guards and a moment later began ascending a massive cliff face. When they'd exited the living sector he couldn't say, so troubled was he by the news of his mother. He wasn't even sure of how long or far they'd walked. But his feet ached terribly, and the guards on either side of him on the lift were different from the ones before.

He attempted to turn his head in an effort to gauge their current location but was stopped by a strong hand.

"Eyes forward puller."

Another term Guell was unfamiliar with, the list of which continued to grow with each second he remained away from the familiar walls of the apartment. A place he was beginning to believe he'd never see again. With the intrusion of that upsetting thought, the lift finally came to a stop at the top of the cliff. Stepping off he was immediately struck by the intense heat baring down on the rock face from above. The result of being that much closer to the sun with nary a source of cover in sight.

Raising his restrained arms to shield his eyes, Guell braved a look at what he assumed would make up his accommodations for the near future and proceeded to bare witness to something he never thought to experience on such a grand scale. For he found that the opposite side of the plateau converged to form a large steady incline of rock that stretched so far upwards and outwards that it seemed to serve as a bridge between the land and sky. And resting along the length of the monument-esque formation, a metal chain of unfathomable size.

He was too far to be certain, but the size of each individual link appeared to approach that of the table he and his mother had always dined on. Which in reality had consisted of two smaller tables pushed together to better accommodate his size, while also allowing ample space for activities such as writing practice.

As they got closer he could see that the thickness of each link amounted to roughly that of his leg. Meaning the weight of such a chain had to be tremendous. And so explained the sheer numbers of the workforce responsible for moving it, currently sat on either side of chain in small circles, partaking in some manner of break.

The laborer's appearance indicated that they'd already been at work for some time. Likely starting work at the break of dawn when cooler temperatures made the environment more tolerable. As Guell was led past the various groups he saw that many of them were quite large in size, although he still had most of them beat in height. Some returned his gaze with varying degrees of interest but none spoke out about his sudden arrival. For the simple reason that they couldn't.

Because positioned across the lower portion of each workers face sat an apparatus intended to punish speech. Designed in such a way that the lower jaw would contact an arrangement of multi-directional spikes if the mouth was opened beyond a certain point. Leaving its wearers unable to communicate verbally outside of mumbling. Although a fair number of the laborers seemed to have adopted the use of hand signals to get across basic words and phrases in place of verbal communication.

The trio came to an abrupt stop at around the halfway point of the resting portion of the chain, when Guell knees were struck from behind. Forced into a kneeling position, a metal contraption identical to those of the others entered his vision from behind. But Guell didn't panic, as doing so would result in potential physical harm from the spikes. He also didn't see the loss of his speech as a significant loss. Although he wished he'd been able to ask about the nature of what he'd be doing from now on, along with an even more pressing question relating to the massive chain. Primarily what the other end of the chain was connected to.

Having passed one end of the chain on his way to the halfway point, the other end wasn't visible at all. Disappearing somewhere high in the blue expanse of the sky. A sky Guell was still unfamiliar with. For all he knew both its color and the presence of a massive chain were common knowledge among those who frequently treaded beneath it. Strange his mother had never made mention of it, nor had he read anything about it in either of the storybooks they owned. The "Great Project" the guard had called it. Soon he'd learn what that meant.


The "Great Project", a concentrated effort by a collection of far east city states that relied on the use of slave labor to commit an egregious violation of one of the ancient truths. This particular violation sought to take advantage of the forgotten chain, a remnant of a failed military conquest from a bygone war. The newly appointed purpose of this remnant, to pull the abode of the gods into to the realm of man. So man might one day blur the line between us, and them.