Hawk Squadron: From Gue'la to Warrior Pt. 8

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Rook Hawkins

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The air was still humid, even in darkness. The night brought no end to the heat on Sa'cea. And to add to the confusion of this mission, a large bulk had risen over the battlezone and created a ceiling.  Although more of a hinder then a help, Rook found himself marveling at the technology used to set such a heavy top onto a place this size without much noise or effort.

However the structure was now only working to keep the humidity in and dampness raked the landscape, leaving no outside breeze to counter the dense putrid air. Only the rancid smell of decaying paper from the fake shrubbery and a stink which accompanied sweat and anxiousness loomed about.  His sinuses tried to refuse the smell but inevitably they couldn't keep it out, and more then once he found himself fighting to keep his lunch in.

The Hawk's were growing impatient now. Not knowing when an attack was coming can cause nerves to stretch and perhaps snap at the slightest instant. Rook could feel his own body grow strained, his back and legs knotted and tight.

The news of the enemy positions seemed to only harden him even further. But their tactics weren't the only thing that bothered him. The "non-human" impression that Stromf clamored on about was puzzling. Were the Tau using human-like drones now during these tests?  Rook shook his head at that thought. Eventheywere given better treatment then humans in most cases. They wouldn't pit up machines against them during such an analysis.

Although drone technology, in Rook's perspective, were far more advanced then the Imperiums own efforts to come up with similar components, drones lacked the motivation that biological beings had to fight. On the battlefield they were mobilized and controlled by somebody with devices attached somewhere on their persons.

No, it wasn't drones. And although efficient, their tactics were similar to the Lions, whom the Hawks had faced during their first engagement. The only factor that was missing to make it identical was that they weren't being overly aggressive. Flanking cautiously is a deadly-efficient combination to employ by the opposing side.

A steady steam started to fizzle from the ground - obviously synthetic - but lifelike to soldiers who were soon unable to see anything. Rook suppressed a curse. Now his men were either without weapons, armor, weaponsandarmor, and now they had no visibility.

Heaving a sigh which Rook rolled into a whisper, "Laise, can you see anything yet?"

"Who said that?"

"No, I mean through your scope on the Gyro." Rook knelt down next to him.

Laise looked around, as if he still couldn't see Rook, even though clearly he could. He started to feel with his hand like a blind man, purposely missing Rook with each pat. Rook rolled his eyes, "When this ends I'm going to have a talk with you all. Don't you know we're supposed to be taking this seriously?"

Laise raised an eyebrow, a gesture which relayed that this was news to him.

"That's what I thought." Rook took the gun from Laises' hands and brought it up as though to shoot.

"Hey! My gun! It disappeared into thin air!"

Rook smacked his head against the side of the gun. "I don't know how Va'tol did it, but I think I actually respect him a lot more now. That's odd, I'm not picking up a signal through the scope."

Laise pulled the gun back from Rook's grasp. He peered through as well and came up looking puzzled. "I could try to fix it."

Rook considered. Laise was very technically inclined, and he had helped Briggs work on corrupting the laser signal in the Gyro's during their last engagement. Briggs knew much about the world of electronics, but knew practically nothing about assembly and reassembly. He could tell you how they worked, but not how to build them, so Laise was needed to actually disable the signal.

And since that last trial, there was no doubt in Rook's mind that Laise could fix the scope before anybody got there, but he wasn't about to assume that he was allowed to let any of his command take apart the uniforms and weapons anymore. He had been hurt too much in the scoring process because of that very assumption.

"No." Rook pursed his lips. "I won't chance that again. You're just going to have to stay attuned. Maybe that is really what the Shas'O had in mind to begin with. Less reliability on technology."

Rook flopped down on his belly and crawled over to Briggs' position. Although he felt a bit hypocritical, he had to find out exactly what was out there. The Hawks expected him to get them through these tests, and he couldn't do that without having an exact number. "Can you see anything through your scope?"

Briggs' shook his head.

"Good, that means they haven't ventured this close yet. Thanks."

"No." Briggs said.

Rook's forehead arched. "No?"

"I meant, 'Nosir'."

"Whatare you saying 'no' too?"

"What I mean, sir, is that I'm not picking up any signals -"

"You told me that."

"- at all."

Rook's head went light. There was an ancient proverb on Viceria. If one person says you look like a Vicerian cattle herder, just ignore it. But if you find that another person says you look like a Vicerian cattle herder, drop what you're doing and grab a stun rifle and start driving antiquated vehicles.

Rook shook his head. Truly there was something wrong, and that only made him feel even more worn. If the command had purposely wanted him to lose by giving him faulty equipment, they might have just succeeded.


Stromf smirked, "Lead, there is nothing wrong with the scopes."

Rook had gathered all the Hawks around in an attempt to try to see how many people were experiencing problems with their equipment. If the problems were consistent, he'd have to rethink his plans. Initially, the Hawks were going to pick the enemy off from a long range, a skill they were known for doing, and then finish the rest off at close range.

Which, Rook also had to admit, would be proper motivation for giving the Hawk's faulty equipment. The Shas'O knew of their capabilities and accuracy.  If they couldn't see the enemy then they couldn't pick them off at long ranges, giving the opposing side a fair shot.

Where he could understand the reasoning behind their logic, Rook couldn'tbeginto comprehend what Stromf meant. "I looked through the scopes, all of them. And so have you. There definitely is a problem."

Stromf nodded, "And how! But it's not the scopes. Mine worked earlier as did a few other Hawk's."

Rook nodded, "Yes but you don't have your Gyro's scope anymore to be sure of that and neither can I. We can't compare your scope to those of the ones I have here because Ralus has it. Even if you're right and it works properly, perhaps you were the only one given a working scope. But up until I have the working one, I can't assume anything."

Stromf shook his head, "We're not assuming." Stromf handed a scope to Rook, "Look into it."

Rook looked through it again, hesitant. Still nothing. "What are you trying to tell me here?"

"No, lookup."

Rook did, still a bit skeptical, but shuddered in confusion after gaining some perspective. "I can see the ceiling."

Stromf nodded. "It's the steam rising from the floor. Laise and I have been talking and it seems that the ceiling is keeping the heat low to the ground and the steam, which we had originally thought was for low visibility, has a bit darker purpose. The scopes we were given are actually pretty old by modern military equivalents, as it only reads heat signatures. By keeping the heat low and giving it a gas conductor - the steam - it creates a wall. The scopes are doing their jobs, it's just that all their picking up now is heat.  The ceiling isn't going to be as hot, as the air from the outside is cooling the top of it, and that is why you could see it."

Rook nodded. It made sense.

"But that's not all." Stromf smiled.

"I don't like it when you say things like that. When you say 'that's not all,' it's usually followed by bad news."

"This news has actually told us a lot more then the rest of the intelligence we've gathered so far. I'll explain. The average body temperature of a human being is roughly between ninety-five and ninety-nine degrees depending on where you're from. However the temperature in here is greatly higher then that, at least by several degrees."


"So if I wanted to make it difficult for two opposing human armies to see each other, why would I need to use even hotter temperatures when all I would have to do is keep it around one-hundred degrees to effectively block our silhouettes from view? Why would you need to over-conceal people?"

Rook began to catch on. "You're suggesting that we're not fighting humans in here, right?"

"Remember what I told you about our enemies being 'unhuman?' Well, I think they're sending Tau against us."

Rook rocked back on his heals.

"Tau?Why?" Cameron chimed in.

Stromf shrugged.

Rook nodded, "I think those questions are better left for after we complete this mission. Laise, do you think that because of our slightly cooler silhouettes that they'll be able to see us through the heat wall?"

Laise shook his head, "Our bodies are natural conductors for heat. They may get a anything rom a faint color distortion to a lighter red around the area of our hearts, but that shouldn't amount to a threat. These scopes aren't built to color-identify parts of the body like the more technologically-advanced models are. The lighter shade will be less then noticeable to any eye. Most likely we'll blend into the inconsistent rise of the steam then anything, which should camouflage us better."

Rook smirked. The Shas'O hadn't considered many details in their attempts to run the Hawk's from the field. One of those things Rook had unaccounted for too, and that was the Hawk's ability to surprise anybody with their ability to be inconsistent. Rook had let himself underestimate his team members. He would not make that mistake again.

"Stromf, how close do you think the Tau are to us?"

"Very close now. Probably some yards away from our lines."

"When you saw them earlier, did they have the same equipment?"

"Yes. During our first run in with them, Ralus and I were almost stepped on. We got a pretty good look at them."

"Good. We're going to alter the plans a bit. Now listen closely...."

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