Chapter 45:


From Nowhere to Sender

After a tackle from the side took his feet out from under him, Heenan briefly jockeyed with his attacker for a position of leverage. He waited for the moment the raider attempted to stand to grab hold of his clothing, and promptly dropped downwards. This time it was the raiders turn to leave his feet as Heenan planted one of his own into the man's abdomen, a kick that doubled as a way to guide the momentum up and over him. Upon releasing the raider's clothes he watched from his back as the man flew a short ways and struck the back deck's railing hard enough to elicit a sound.

Heenan rolled over and prepared to spring up when the sudden presence of a boot between his shoulder blades stopped him. The sound of a shot rang out just above him and coincided with the debilitated raider in front of him being shot in the head. The boot was promptly removed from his back and a hand was extended to help him up. The hand of Officer Browder.

"Sorry about that. Usually the chatty types have glass jaws so I kind of wrote him off."

He accepted her hand and hoisted himself up, then reached down to collect his rifle from the deck.

"And here I thought you meant to apologize for standing on your commanding officer."

"Would you have preferred an apology for shooting you in the back?"

Understanding the question as rhetorical, Heenan scanned the deck for signs of Quiet Murn's party leader.

"Where's Quay?" Another quick scan. "And Officer Ayfer?"

Before she could answer a head belonging to C248's communications officer popped out from the doorway beside them.

"She's on the roof again."

Ms. Villard's tone indicated she was fed up in some way, and Heenan's powers of deduction concluded it involved a proclivity for scaling the bridge needlessly.

"The roof it is then."

But before Browder could take another step further he blocked her with an out stretched arm.

"The last thing we need is more bodies running around a small surface area with no tether point or alternate safety precautions. We'll assist from down here."

Heenan rushed towards the rear of the Crusader and motioned for Browder to follow. Sure enough the very rear of the back deck enabled them to make out both Ayfer and Quay facing off atop the bridge. From what they could tell Lux appeared to be holding a metal bucket in her outstretched arm in favor of pointing the rifle in her other hand. In place of the sharpshooter the two on deck raised their own rifles and took careful aim. Whatever the context, the party leader was obviously distracted. Save for any sudden movements the distance between both individuals warranted the taking of at least one shot.

"Hold on."

Heenan responded without turning his head or adjusting his rifle's sights.

"What is it?"

"You might have hit him earlier, but I missed multiple times under far more favorable circumstances than this."

"What are you saying?"

"That shooting this fucker might not be as straightforward as we think. Even Lux managed to miss earlier."

It was certainly odd for both of them to miss in general, let alone such a large target. But it had been a long day with no shortage of visits. Uncharacteristic misses could easily come down to weariness of the mind and body.

"Are you insinuating that this is some sort of trap? Or is this about conserving ammunition, because neither of us are so inept that we'd endanger your crew mate."

"Pfft, as if she needs help endangering herself. I'm just making it known that some things don't add up about this guy."

That much was true. What did Quay have to gain by facing off with all of them on deck anyway. From Heenan's understanding the man had snuck onboard, to the extent he made it to the bridge unopposed. Making it to the cargo bay would have been much easier in comparison. Once he was there he needed only toss a few canisters inside and job done. Instead he'd opted to engage the crew, earning himself a broken arm and a fresh bullet wound in the process.

"Assuming that's true, our chances of shooting him are still better than our chances of shooting a rocket out of the air."

A tentative silence.

"I'm over it. On your mark."

Heenan's attention shifted back to the top of the bridge where an animated conversation appeared to be taking place. So heated in fact that both parties were unconsciously taking threatening steps towards one another. Best to nip this confrontation in the bud, prolonged interaction between these two held potentially dire consequences for the entire convoy. But just as he was about to make the call to shoot, Lux abruptly catapulted the bucket in the direction of the back deck and proceeded to produce a bayonet from somewhere beneath her uniform jacket.

The party leader wasn't above waiting for the blade to be fastened in place and swung one of his own in an upward arc.


Browder fired first, targeting the shoulder joint of Quay's functioning arm. In response Quay released the blade at the apex of his swing and dropped the position of his own body before reclaiming it from the air with the same hand. His new position allowing him to deflect the bullet downwards with his reclaimed blade.

Using the time afforded to her by the shot, Lux finished fastening the bayonet to her rifle and rotated it 180 degrees. With two hands she jabbed the rifle downwards at the raider who was crouched around waist level. Hesitation presented itself in the leader's movements then, self-preservation kicking in as a result of the accumulated damage.

For his part Heenan continued to watch from down sights but refrained from making any shots of his own. He wanted to leave a bulk of the shooting in this situation to Browder, owing to her young eyes and more defined rapport with Ayfer. He'd save his bullets for any attempts at an escape.

Having already served their guest once and he didn't plan on letting them leave without dessert.