Chapter 50:


From Nowhere to Sender

Even with only one hand to contend with Lux was having an exceedingly difficult time making good on her promise to toss this lanky bastard from the Crusader. She'd been counting on some level of anemia to kick in so that her job might be a bit easier, but no such luck to this point. It was almost like the man's absurd size provided him with an equally absurd blood reservoir. Of course Lux knew the only real absurd thing was the notion human bodies actually worked like that, but from everything she'd seen from this guy he might very well not be.

The introduction of wind gusts wasn't exactly doing them any favors either. It added an extra level of hesitation to all their movements as overextending onto unsure footing left them with no way of recovering from an inopportune blast of wind. That hesitation would have normally been a welcome development as it bought Lux time for the aforementioned blood loss to take hold, but the almost literal ticking time bomb that was the rocketeer remained at large to the best of her knowledge.

In an effort to counter the wind Lux had taken to keeping a count of the seconds between gusts, alas a slew of outside forces seemed adamant on obstructing her efforts. Namely the raider and his insistence on creating a small pool of blood atop the bridge. That meant she now had to be mindful of his reach, the wind and the threat of slipping. What would happen if all three struck at once? Maybe the decision to use a bayonet instead of inducing blunt force trauma had been a mistake.

As Lux persisted in her management of all these factors the universe saw fit to add another, the vessel for which being Cade's low voice.

"Shooting instructions!"

Front deck? Hard to tell with the way his voice carried.

"Right of way goes long, stagger by three shakes! They'll ride the gust so be ready!"

Be ready he says. Kindly fuck all the way off. Anyhow, wasn't three shakes a gamble. The rocketeer would be doing them a serious favor by taking a shot from far enough to allow for such preparations to be made. Although determining who had priority would be easy enough if the rocketeer sought to take full advantage of the wind gust. The real trick would be concealing her intent to intercept the rocket until the last possible moment. "Late hands" being the term introduced during the sharpshooting course.

Basically just an another way of saying, "Don't tip off who you're about to shoot." Ideally the enemy wouldn't even know a sharpshooter was present on the field, that meant efforts were made to avoid supplying any obvious hints. You could forget about getting comfy and setting up for the perfect shot. Instead they were trained to confirm the targets position, adjust for environment factors, then turn and shoot. It should be swift and decisive. No one should know about the sharpshooters because the ones keen enough to single them out will have been among the first eliminated. Fun shit.

It was then it occurred to Lux she might be better off relocating to the front deck when it came time to perform. Sure she'd lose her favorable vantage point but moving lower should theoretically mean less wind harrying her shot. The prospect of the front deck also become more attractive now that Crusaders C384 and C248 had moved up in the formation to be more in line with C326. A subtle tweak as far as formations go but one that gave deck officers an uninterrupted view of the front of the convoy.

Lux's attention shifted to whether the stagger they'd implemented would allow her enough time to get a shot off from the front deck. Jumping down would be a dead giveaway to her intentions and carried the likeliness of being pursued. As her spotter it fell to Cade to prevent outside interference, assuming he was in fact on the front deck, but it would be a big ask for him to hold the raider off on his own. The saving grace was her adversary's party trick wouldn't work this time around since he wasn't the one in her rifle's sights.

Now that she'd organized her thoughts into a plan of sorts, all that remained was listening for the callout that signified the next rocket was inbound. With her attention divided Lux would need to rely on the crew's teamwork a little more than usual.

The callout in question came as Lux had her back turned to the front deck, sweeping under a wide slash from the baselard. As per convention every member of the convoy's crew roster cried out in unison as the rocket emerged from the escort ahead of C248.


Followed by another string of warnings from beneath her.


The timing was actually perfect as a brief glance downward confirmed that her right foot wouldn't have been able to avoid a streak of blood, so rather than run the risk of slipping Lux pushed off the ball of her left foot and began the short fall down to the front deck.

Her mind raced as she braced for contact with the deck, running down a list of potential logistical issues. They'd alerted right, meaning C248 was the intended target. That put Lux second in the firing order. Upon touching down she'd have to go about getting her head around so as to observe the effect of the wind gust on her cohort's shot.

Her cohort being the other sharpshooter whose identity would remain a mystery until they reached Belveer and had that drink. Lux actually had a few guesses regarding the identity of this security officer but refused to look across the distance of the inner sanctum to confirm her suspicions. It was more surprising to her that Cade hadn't given it away seeing as he actually read the manifest and no doubt knew who saved their asses earlier.

Well, if it was who she thought it was there was a solid chance a follow up shot wouldn't be needed. A comforting thought to accompany the sensation of landing on deck. Lux proceeded to her count, doing her best to ignore the presence looming over her from above. But looming wasn't pursuing. Why the sudden change of heart?

A cacophony of what sounded like trumpets suddenly filled the skies above them. Coupled with the ongoing wind gust it was almost like some great beast was preparing to descend on them all. For all Lux knew such a beast was indeed flying over them, but all her focus remained on the rocket closing in on the convoy.