Chapter 46:


From Nowhere to Sender

"Reporting in, the rocketeer and his escort have pulled back and are now running parallel west of the convoy."

"Fox still in its hole?"

"Affirmative, and we don't have the resources to flush him out."

"Our guys will see what they can do about that, you focus on keeping Scholz unencumbered."

"We're getting swarmed Flannery, we won't have much of choice at this—"

The incessant and reverberating sounds of tapping suddenly filled the bridge, enough to cause Reefe to wince from his position by the side window. The purpose of the noise to summon bridge-goers to the speaking tubes, in this case the tube connected to the main corridor.

"Give me a moment."

Reefe moved over to the speaking tube in question but found himself hesitating to lift the lid, all the while the tapping showed no signs of wavering. A lump formed in his throat as he brought a hand up towards the lid. It was if he could actually feel the message being sent down his arm via his brain with instructions to lift it. In contrast to the time it took for his hand to receive the message he swung the lid open quickly and listened. Immediately the sounds of struggle reverberated up the tube and spilled out onto the bridge.

"Bridge speaking—"

"Reefe! We need bodies down here NOW!"

The urgency in Everage's voice snapped him out of whatever well of panic he'd been in the process of falling into.

"Hold on! We're on our way!"

His eyes flew from the pilot, who wore an uneasy expression not unlike his own, to the doorway leading out to the back deck. I.e Youn and Leora's current whereabouts. No. You heard Flannery. We need Leora to focus on the rocketeer! And she'll need her spotter!

"Fuck..." Reefe look around the bridge for moment before settling his gaze on the gun safe. Rushing over and squatting down he began punching in the code, only to be denied entry. He tried again to no avail before mentally slapping himself. That's the code from the last convoy Corral, get your shit together! Finally punching in the correct code, he grabbed one of the rifles and every box of available ammo, all three of them.

Knowing time was of the essence Reefe scrambled to load a magazine before hustling over to the ladder way. Wait, would taking the shortcut to the stairs of the strong side be better? Dropping down the ladder could expose him to any enemies waiting at the corridor's intersection, or those attempting to enter the cargo bay. So instead he hopped over the ladder way and made a sharp left after emerging onto the back deck.

He extended his head over the railing to make sure no enemies were present on the stairs or platform before hoisting himself up and over. His landing was awkward but Reefe managed to avoid stumbling down the remaining stairs. The sounds of yelling and sporadic gunfire were immediate. Recognizing some of the yelling as members of the crew, he cleared the platform and posted up at the doorway with his rifle at the ready. What he saw matched the image that had been forming in his head.

A tangle of bodies packed the corridor, and among them he could make out Everage. The powerfully built engineer had one raider in a head lock while his free arm repeatedly buried an elbow into the side of another raider's oblique area. He had obviously been at it for awhile based on the state of his face and other exposed body parts.

Just past this initial group he could see Preece on the opposite side of the corridor, desperately trying to raise his rifle so he might get a shot off on his attackers. They remained steady in their defiance however, with one using both hands to keep the rifle pointed at the floor. Another alternated between trying to squeeze past the pair and striking Preece in the face or chest.

It suddenly occurred to Reefe that these attackers couldn't possibly be raiders as they had no firearms, bucklers, body armor, or equipment consistent with raiding parties. Their close combat skill also appeared shaky at best, relying more on grappling in an attempt to fatigue the crew. Members of the anti-faith faction then. But civilians or not, that didn't change the fact they were attacking his comrades. Raising his rifle he took careful aim at the members assaulting Everage, searching for a shot that wouldn't put the engineer at risk. Sensing Reefe's intention Everage mustered the strength to push both men to one side of the corridor.

"Help Preece!"

Reefe knew better than to waste time arguing and raced to shoot the gap, but just as he was about to clear it a woman, who'd been concealed behind the corner of the intersection, jumped out and attempted to push him back. In the back of his mind Reefe assumed the woman had tried but failed to gain entry to the cargo bay. More proof that these were faction members they were dealing with. Raiders having multiple ways of forcing entry, be it explosives or tools.

Seeing she didn't have the strength to overpower him the woman changed tactics and attempted to claw at his face. In response he used one forearm to hold her at bay while continuing to press forward. Then one of the men Everage was struggling with changed his focus and slammed into him from the side, pressing him up against the corridor wall and halting his progress. The thought of discharging his weapon did occur to Reefe but ran too many risks, what with the likelihood of having his aim thrown off by a stray limb. Refocusing his efforts to force his way forward, Reefe glanced down the corridor again to check on Preece's condition.

Upon doing so he could see that the other man had finally succeeded in squeezing past the two wrestling over the rifle. But rather than head his direction or the direction of the cargo bay, he did a one-eighty and pulled a previously concealed knife from his back pocket.


Reefe threw caution into the wind and attempted to fire several shots at the exposed back of the knife wielder. Attempting to do so one handed while struggling against multiple people causing many of the shots to fly errantly. With all but one ricochetting off the adjoining walls before they could reach their target. The one successful shot managing to embed itself in the would-be attacker's right arm.

The man cried out in pain as the knife fell to the floor. At the same time the women in front of him ceased her assault on his person in favor of placing both hands on the barrel of his rifle, she proceeded to aim the end of the barrel directly at her own forehead. Reefe gaped into the eyes of the unwavering woman, stunned beyond words, as silent tears began to spill down her cheeks. He then panicked as past her the man he'd shot moved to pick up the knife he'd dropped with his uninjured arm.

"Preece, turn around! Preece!"

It was no use, Preece couldn't turn around or defend himself properly without releasing his hold on the rifle. Behind him he could hear the sounds of someone being slammed into the wall repeatedly but couldn't tear his eyes away from the opposite end of the corridor to find out who. Growing desperate Reefe tried to wrestle the barrel out of the woman's hands but couldn't manage it with one arm. The other momentarily trapped by the assailant beside him.

"Let go...I need you to let go now!"

The woman only screwed her eyes shut and doubled her efforts to keep the barrel pointed at her own head, the man behind her preparing to jump Preece from behind. There was no time, he'd have to shoot this woman. This "terrorist" who only hours earlier had been nothing more than an active civilian of New Kantler protesting a violation of the city's ordinance. One that threatened its future. Who even weeks before that had likely been a university student, studying hard to graduate and enjoying what free time she had alongside friends. But that was gone now. Her and so many others had lost everything they'd built up over the course of an afternoon, leaving them with nothing to lose. So sacrificing themselves here, for a cause they believed in, probably seemed like the best they could hope for in their young naive minds. He looked to the young mind in front of him and made a final desperate plea.


More tears fell, but the woman refused to open her eyes and meet his gaze.

Reefe's could feel the erraticness of his breathing and the thumping of his pulse as a finger found its way onto trigger of his rifle. It had to be now if he wanted any hope of saving the still green security officer. So he told his finger to do it. To pull the trigger. To end this woman's life. But it never came to pass.

Rather than pull the trigger his finger slid down helplessly, the rest of his hand remaining tightly wound around the grip of the rifle. He couldn't do it. Not now, not to some scared young girl who didn't know better.

And so he and Everage could only continue to belt out warnings and threats, as the the tip of the blade was driven into the top of Preece's clavicle multiple times from behind. A sputtering noise emanated from Preece and reverberated down the corridor. A brutal indicator of what came next. As his body lost its strength and fell to the ground dead. A fresh bout of rage overcame Everage then and he finally managed to bull over the human barrier with a bit of a running start.

Tackling Preece's killer to the ground, Everage proceeded to bash his head in with the stock of the recovered rifle. The cohort who'd failed to grab the rifle before the engineer fleeing out the weak side doorway in fear. Now free from the side presence, Reefe easily threw the woman aside and put a bullet into the man that now lay stunned on the floor. Rather than stand again the woman curled into a tight ball and began to cry again, as Reefe fell to his his knees in the intersection of the corridor. None of them had asked for this.

"Reefe is everything ok?! What's happening on your end?!"

With a shaky voice, he made his report to the head communications officer.

"The intruders on C384's lower level have been dealt with...returning to bridge now..."