Chapter 55:


From Nowhere to Sender

Two minutes after crossing over the border of the Commonwealth and into the city of New Kantler the convoy was welcomed by station Belveer. It was when each Crusader pulled into the array of open docks that station personnel began flooding into the receiving yard to go about their respective jobs.

Security officers saw to rounding up the faction members and shepherding them into the station swiftly, taking care in patting them down and separating them first. The station's medical officers wasting little time in transporting the various casualties into the infirmary or onsite morgue, while dock engineers collected the various keys to the intact cargo bays and saw to assessing the condition of each shipment. Later, when each Crusader was cleared of its contents, they'd see about repairs to the vehicles themselves.

As the controlled chaos carried on around them the crews of each Crusader went about disembarking at their own pace. Some acted as if they couldn't get into the station quick enough, not even sparing a moment to greet those receiving them. On the opposite side of the spectrum were those who idled in the yard with no express purpose, eager to speak with just about every station personnel they came across or offer words of comfort and celebration to each other.

Among those idling in the yard were C248's Lux, Cade, Evan and Esma. Nocks and Trislter had understandably headed off with the medical officers, the former needing to be stretchered off due to the worsening condition of his leg. Vedmann, who'd switched back with Cade before arrival to keep up appearances, expressing a dire need to use the bathroom. Still the entire crew of C248 had made it to Belveer despite a variety of close calls. Crusader's C217 and C384 not having been so lucky, losing five officers between them.

Lux spoke up first, having placed her rifle behind her neck and rested both arms on either side of it.

"1800 hours work for everyone? I need a power nap if I'm expected to remain among the living."

"Nap? I need a shower. I reek of blood and sweat."

"Cade you've got reports to coordinate right?"

Lux directed her attention to the engineer lounging on the spare Crusader tire beside them.

"Fuck, should've had Vedmann start his while he was on the can."

"Coordinate reports?"

Esma wasn't sure if this was something commonly done among crews or a different beast altogether. Either way she was better off just asking.

"Sorry can't tell you. If we did it'd just be one more person to sync up with."

Evan responded by covering her ears and making la la noises with her tongue, leaving Cade to shoulder the explanation.

"She means to say you can fill your report out as you normally would. No need to revise your recollection of the events that took place."

"I take it something happened that may or may not have violated a bylaw of some sort."

Lux, Cade and Evan all turned and looked at each other for a moment.

"Nothing worth worrying that pretty little head of yours."

Lux reached out a finger and twirled one of the ends of Esma's hair, presumably to distract. But before Esma could protest the lazy attempt at brushing her off a cry of palpable anger and regret sounded nearby. Turning towards the source of the noise the four saw officer Youn Sigurd squatting in the center of the yard with his hands bunched in his hair. Reefe and Everage stood before him sporting grim expressions of their own.

Ignoring the display of emotion the rest of the yard continued about their business, at times having to circumvent the trio in order to move freight. At the very least they had enough presence of mind to leave a wide birth in doing so. Youn similarly shunned the ongoing bustle around him and stayed down a moment longer in order to strike the ground with a fist. Unsatisfied the target of his anger abruptly shifted to the silent men in front of him. Prompting him to shoot back up and point an accusatory finger at them.

"What the fuck were you all doing!? You expect me to believe that neither of you could fight your way through a bunch of untrained, worthless—"

Everage was the first to break his silence and step forward.

"Do you honestly think we just stood by and watched. That we just...let those fuckers punch holes in one of our own."

"Intentional or not that's what you ended up doing anyway isn't it!"

"They swarmed us! Created an impromptu meat shield in the process! We did our best to keep from being separated, but—"

"He saved my life!"

Youn's chest heaved as his glare alternated between the two crew men. Everage ran a hand over his dirty blonde hair in frustration, clenching his jaw and looking off to the side at no one thing in particular. Reefe remained in a silent trance, as if speaking on Preece's demise was making him relive the moment.

"He saved my life today...a life I nearly forfeited. He shouldn't have had to. We should've been the one's protecting him, not the other way around!"

"We're sorry Preece didn't make it to Belveer, but he and everybody else know the risks involved in this line of work. I'm not sure why your so fixated on him to begin with, because we all save each other's asses on a daily basis. It's part of being on the same crew."

Everage moved forward until he was face to face with Youn, who made no attempt at backing down.

"If anything it's a shame you couldn't save some of that sympathy for Laud, or any of the officers onboard C217. In case you haven't noticed, they didn't make it here either."

That did it. A fight kicked off, and this time the station personnel actually stopped what they were doing to watch with mild interest. Watch as the two men, calling upon the dregs of their adrenaline, wailed on one another and rolled across the ground. Lux cursed and ran over to break it up with Cade in tow. Unperturbed, Evan collected her gear before turning around and heading inside the station. Probably to the girl's locker room for that shower.

Esma briefly questioned where Commander Heenan had gotten off to as Lux grabbed and threw Youn away from Everage. She'd think he would have been the type to break up these types of squabbles but saw no sign of him. She did however notice Flannery leaned against the closest entrance taking in the scene. She did not look surprised or impressed. Esma considered going up to the head communications officer but stayed her hand after recalling this was to be her last convoy. The woman might want some time to reflect, say goodbye to old friends...or something. So instead she followed after Evan to clean up.

With the state of things having finally settled down, people resumed their duties. The remaining field service personnel heading inside, save for Reefe who'd remained in the same spot during the course of the fight. Reaching down, he undid the buckle of his service belt with a steady hand. Only to hold it in his hands for a moment, running a thumb across the assortment of badges, pins and emblems accumulated over the course of his time in the LCF. His time, nobody else's. No one to blame for the sinking feeling in his chest that refused to abate, even with time.

Reefe proceeded to drop the belt at his feet and vacate the receiving yard without so much as a second glance. This was where he got off for good. And that realization gave him more relief than he ever thought possible.