Chapter 44:


From Nowhere to Sender

"It's meant to inhibit our ability to cooperate in the event of an uprising, but more importantly we mustn't let the gods learn of our progress."

"Aye. So many millennia have passed, that they've forgotten the chain even exists. Unnecessary noise would alert them to our presence and summon their wrath."

Guell had joined a group of much older workers around a small fire in the center of the camp. The camp where they all slept and ate when they weren't atop the plateau. Here they could speak in hushed tones, the contraptions encouraging their silence removed upon entry to the camp.

"Those eyes of your's, and that height...your relatives hail from the Endless Country I take it.

This was the first Guell had ever heard of such a place. Were there others like him there? Such things had never concerned him before, but in the time since his mother's disappearance, all sorts of things had started taking root in his mind. So in the gentle voice he so seldom used, he asked the men if they could tell him more of this country and its inhabitants.

"What you need is a Voyager."

"You dolt, Voyagers are more tight-lipped than we are."

Guell looked back and forth between the bickering men before a light tap on the shoulder drew his attention. He turned towards the source, a woman. One of few assigned to The Great Project.

"I'm no Voyager, but many years ago some companions accompanied me to the outskirts of the country you seek knowledge of. Care to hear about it?"

He nodded enthusiastically and reorientated himself to better hear her. The woman smiled and took a long drink of warm water before beginning.

Guell went on to hear several stories from the woman over the course of many evenings around the fire. They were admittedly few and far between, but each fascinated him in new and unique ways. Among his favorites was an account from her time traveling with the aforementioned companions.

She told of a time they came across a very tall but also very bent old man who possessed an odd way of speaking. He called himself "Rift" but expressed confusion over the concept of given names. Apparently he'd possessed something of interest to the woman's companions and happily turned it over, something he claimed to have grown tired of over its incessant whispers. The old man then offered to show the group ancient enchantments that could shape time and move stars. He also spoke fondly of his homeland, despite seemingly being exiled and referred to the place he was headed as his country's "Veranda." The story presented him with so many more questions, only some of which the woman could answer.

Guell eventually reached a point where the woman's stories were the sole thing he looked forward to, but found whenever she recollected a part of her personal history that a deep and penetrating sadness would occasionally take hold of her. He never pried into what plagued her, even when it came in the middle a story. Asking would be such a simple thing for so many, but not him. So he'd wait silently, until the emotion passed or drove her to turn in for the evening with an apology. On one such night in which the emotion had come and gone, it was her turn to stare at him silently.

"Your disposition reminds of an old story, one that might even be familiar to you."

He perked up at this, as any story from the woman was of interest to him. Whether its contents had anything to do with her was of little consequence. More so if it spared her that sadness. And so she asked him—

"Have you heard the story of Quiet Murn?"


"How many rockets have we left?!"

The young man shouldering the RED felt he already knew the answer, but knowing for certain played a crucial part in his upcoming choice in targets.

"This is the second to last one..."

The escort grew quiet as the rocket was loaded into the back of the device, disheartened by their lack of success to this point. Understandable, their best chances at striking the convoy having slipped away now that the raiding party had subsided a majority of its attacks.

"Hand that fucking thing over! You've wasted enough rockets!"

"Calm down! In case you've forgotten, we chose Galway because of his acumen with the launcher!"

"A lot of good that's done us!"

The young man raised an arm to silence the group surrounding him.

"Talud's right. I've wasted our efforts. But all of us are guilty of underestimating their deck officers."

Two of the deck officers in particular had proven troublesome, with both displaying extraordinary understandings of rocket trajectories. Pair that with their uncanny level of composure and they almost seemed infallible. Almost. But those officers were human just like they were. They too were prone to making mistakes and accumulating fatigue. Ammo would have to be a factor this late in the route as well.

Fortunately for them C248 appeared to be caught in some sort of confrontation with Quiet Murn's remaining forces, although despite this they'd still managed to intercept the previous rocket. A rocket Galway had put some serious thought into, purposely aiming high so the rocket might contact the strong side of the Crusader on the opposite side of the formation. But being elected as the rocketeer meant having a short memory. He couldn't afford to obsess over the near misses, only how he'd go about improving the odds of his next shot.

"We're out of time, just fire both in quick succession at the same Crusader!"

The disgruntled carpenter apprentice gestured towards C217.

"We'll target the rear, they should be hurting the most!"

"The launcher requires at least a minimal amount of cool down or it'll overheat. It's especially prone now that we've fired so many rockets."

Regrettably the RED they'd acquired over the black market was an older model. They couldn't afford anything else even with all of their meagre savings pulled together. Hence their attempt at finding a confidential sponsor who supported their cause. But the sponsors they'd reached out to preferred the more surefire option of hiring a raiding party to destroy the cargo. They also doubted how effective a collection of university students and other young people could be against professionals.

It would seem those doubts weren't unfounded after all, as the faction found itself quickly running out of both rockets and options. Branded as terrorists they couldn't simply cut their losses and head home. All they had left was buying enough time for their comrades in the various administrative sectors to challenge the recent ruling. And sacrifices had already been made towards that end. Failure wasn't an option.

"Bring us around! If the deck officers have made the Crusaders off-limits, we'll just have to target something else!"

"What are you—?!"

"The terrain. The raiders used it to their earlier advantage, so we will too."

Those Cinnabark wouldn't reach New Kantler at any cost.