Hawk Squadron: From Gue'la to Warrior Pt. 21

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Rook Hawkins


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Avrik Strauhm reclined back in his seat, almost smug was his expression. "Come back, Delas Force. Did you say what I think you said?" He voxed back to one of the troopers.

"Yes, you heard me correctly." The trooper at the other end of the vox transmission seemed almost impatient, and sighed often during their few vocal communications. "Remaining traitorous forces have been annihilated. Are you going to let us in or what?"

Strauhm had been a guardsmen for the God-Emperor's military for most of his life. In that time, he'd learned that following procedure was a positive way to assure the survival of his life, even if it meant discomfort to others around him. And right now the discomfort bleeding through the troopers voice at the main gates was as clear and concise as the transmission itself. But policy was policy, and he didn't much like the attitude he was getting so it wasn't hard for him to decide to keep the trooper waiting.

"Look, you know the drill. Give me the password and you can get through." Strauhm switched his surveillance cams around more to get a good look at the troopers at the gates. The one at the Vox pounded his fist against the steel-framed doors.

"Arg! Are you kidding me? We just left this compound under an hour ago! We've been out in this sweltering heat for hours, through a firefight and you - who has conveniently been behind a desk all day - wants to squander about passwords?" The trooper glared up at the camera closest to him, "Should you want me to come in that room and beat you to a bloody pulp?!"

Strauhm shifted uneasily in his chair, as even through the screens of his monitors he could feel the heat radiating off the troopers glare. But he was not one to stand down from policy. "Look, if you want I'll buy you all a round of drinks later when I'm off-duty. But first I will have to have a password." There - the thoughts of free drinks usually sober up a rowdy trooper fairly quickly around here.

"Hmm." The trooper stroked his chin in consideration, "Fair enough. The password is Falkor."

"Very good, come on in." Strauhm smiled as he pushed the sequence into the panel which opened up the main gates. They creaked some, but they weren't bad for the relatively poor maintenance preformed on them here and there.

The shot-up platoon of guardsmen entered slowly, then they passed through the main corridor leading by Strauhms' watch-office. One of the guys, Strauhm recognized, was the one he had voxed to just moments ago. The guardsman smirked at Strauhm and gestured for him to come out.

"What is it?" Strauhm called through his plexi-glass door.

"Something I picked up on the battlefield. Some artifact or something…definitely Xeno in nature. Want to see?"

Strauhm thought for a moment. He wasn't supposed to leave the protection of his watch-office, as it was practically invulnerable to any small-arms fire. Policy was very clear as to the strictness of this regulation. And, as Strauhm reminded himself, in all his years in the service he never went against policy. But then again, he'd never seen a Xeno artifact before either.

"Sure, be right out." He spun out of his chair and opened the glass door with a small security card attached to a zip-string he wore on his belt. He exited the room and approached the trooper. "What kind of artifact is it?"

"Have you ever seen a Tau emblem?" The trooper held out his hand, and in the center was a circular disk, that fit his palm perfectly. It had an engraving that, from the mission reports, was the Tau symbol for their homeworld.

"Amazing! What's it do?" Strauhm picked it up out of the troopers hand.

"Well," The trooper began, "We think it's just a recording device. To record something, all you need to do is push down on this button here, and hold it for a few seconds. Then, you just speak into it and it saves it. Just like a data-pad."

Strauhm nodded then began to hand it back to the trooper. But the Trooper held his hand out, "Please, keep it." The trooper leaned in as if to tell Strauhm a secret he didn't want anybody else to hear, "I took a bunch more for myself. Just be sure to record a memo about those free drinks that you promised us later."

Strauhm grinned from ear to ear and polished the Tau disk on his tunic. He eyed it over in astonishment before pocketing it. "Thank you very much. I'll do that as soon as I get back into my watch-office."

The trooper smiled at Strauhm again and patted his shoulder a few times. Then he and the rest of his companions entered the facility. Strauhm waved them off then found his way back into his office, this time punching in a sequence behind him to close the glass door. He looked over the Tau memorabilia for a few moments and decided he'd record the message now. He'd heard rumors about the Tau technology, and wondered as to its other possibilities.

He pressed the button down - which led the artifact to make a beeping noise - and brought the emblem to his lips. He began to speak into it, "Free Drinks for Guardsmen later…unit identification…farth…" He'd forgotten to ask them what their unit designation was. Strauhm pulled out a small tablet from under his monitor and checked for arrival times for all the guardsmen in the area. And that is when he realized his fatal mistake. "Delas Force isn't on the charts yet.  They're too early to be back…"

He looked down at the Tau device, which started to emit a dark-greenish gas from all around the sides. He should have kicked himself for not letting go of the button, but it was too late. The gas filled the small room completely, and with no real ventilation Strauhm could feel his concentration leaving, the room started to spin at a slow pace. He felt the gas burning in his thought, almost like a fire had been set inside his lungs and it threatened to burst outward like a thousand needles.

But he would not live to see that happen, as the room had already begun to spin faster and faster, and soon his world began to fade. Then nothing existed except the cold, hard blackness…


----------------------------------------------------------------------


As the small unit of Hawk's made their way through the corridors of the compound, something had struck Rook as familiar.  He'd been in plenty of Imperial compounds before, mostly during his time in the offices of the Arbites, and even then he felt uncomfortable just entering through the doors.  He could even remember them now - bulky structures that held the appearance of extreme power, total control - and found very little similarity between the military outpost the Guardsmen had been using, and the ones he'd seen in the past.

Even recalling the ones he'd visited before he was evacuated off-world from Viceria, he found absolutely nothing in common with the make-shift containers, the various ways the doors were fitted, nothing rang "Imperial" to him.  And he'd gotten quite a good look at the inside of the Guardsmen's barracks on Viceria, so he was fairly certain of his observations.  But even with that realization, he found something strikingly homely to him, and it haunted his mind.  It was there, floating around the same as the thoughts that went out to his squad mates.

He had been lucky enough, if one could be considered lucky in such circumstances, that for the most part the uniforms they were wearing didn't smell too bad.  Since most of the retreating Guardsmen from the platoon they'd encountered had not been lit on fire, the uniforms they'd had were largely left intact, save for the smoldering holes in various places. 

It had been then that he decided to mix and max various parts of uniforms from various bodies, and found that due to the increasingly good accuracy of the Hawk's, most of the wounds had been so precise, he could find a full tunic on one body, and a pair of trousers on another.  The only difficult part had been making Kaerin look more male as to not raise suspicion.

To ensure that they had enough uniforms to go around, Rook had sent Ralus and Kaerin back to their landing zone to retrieve the uniforms off the bodies they had attacked early on.  That had brought with it unexpected results, as one of the corpses had a list of pass-codes, which turned out to be time-oriented during the day.

After packing up all their equipment in some storage crates just outside the main entrance, Rook had Stromf talk to the guard to see about getting in, and at first nobody was certain if the codes were even good.  In the case of failure, Rook had had Briggs and Laise ready with a diversion.  The fact that it had worked was a virtue Rook would not take too lightly. 

Had it not worked, Briggs could have easily hardwired the systems and allowed the Hawk's to enter that way.  The downfall was whatever alarm would have been put in place would have sounded, and that would have made things just that much more complicated, if not deadly.

They tried their best to look casual, walking through the mess of guardsmen on downtime.  Some played various card games inside lounges, and none of them stopped the Hawk's or questioned their motives.  It was a mystery to Rook until he passed by the roster posted on a peg board and realized that there were certain platoons that switched out monthly to ensure that specific units were constantly being rotated to various other compounds throughout the planet. 

Turns out that most of the green troops were being broken in by this method, getting accustomed to the environment and learning from different combat readiness groups.  The insult in this was that the platoon of men they had faced earlier had been mostly green, and Rook wondered just how much the Imperium disregarded the Tau and their abilities if they sent fresh guardsmen to deal with a disturbance in Tau space, on a Tau world.

However the plus side of this meant that as long as the Hawk's played it smooth nobody would bother them.  Rook grinned.

Ralus stopped at one of the doors, "Sir, this seems to lead to the armory."

Rook nodded, looked around, "Proceed sergeant."

Ralus glared at him for a moment, obviously annoyed at his sudden drop in rank.  Rook had secured the officers uniform for himself, granting him certain allowances that the rest of the Hawk's weren't.  Such allowances included shallow and sometimes sloppy salutes from various Guardsmen who passed by Rook in the hallways and entrance-ways.  It also allowed Rook access into otherwise restricted areas without being questioned.

Ralus opened the door, stepped in slowly.  The rest of the Hawk's filtered in.  It was then that Rook found an appreciation for what the structure really was.  "This used to be a Tau research and development facility."  Some whistles and gasps were heard from a few other Hawk's.  They were warranted, as this was no ordinary armory. 

The ceiling cycled up at least a good fifty or so meters, and the vastness of the room was in itself breathtaking.  The walls were lined with electronics equipment, left by the Tau and - as various imperial equipment lay about - it was apparent the Imperium had been studying them.  For what, and why Rook didn't know.

Laise picked up one of the - well whatever it was - and started fiddling with it.  Rook walked over to him, looking around for various forms of observation equipment such as cameras or sensors.  When he was certain there were none in view, he had Briggs and Cameron spread out and locate any and all bugging devices.  It wasn't long before they gave him the okay.

"Well?"  Rook asked.

"Remember when you granted us permission to play with our equipment?"

Rook nodded, "Although I hardly think this is the time or place for it."

"I disagree.  This is an entire research and development laboratory.  Do you think the Tau would grant us permission to just waltz in and use one on Sa'cea at any time?"

"Probably not."  Rook gestured for a few of the Hawks to stand at the ready, in case any Guardsmen decided to stroll in, then returned his attention back to Laise, "Okay, so what do you propose?  You and Briggs stay here with all this stuff while the rest of us go save Harold and Markus?"

Laise nodded, "I know it's not the noblest of things, but you have to understand the tactical value of this lab for a small squad like us.  We may not be able to modify the weapons that Tyon'fa gave us, as they will want to put them back into their armory.  However, we have a full stockpile of Tau technology here, and not to mention," Laise held up one of the Imperial lasguns they had confiscated, "We also have a huge pile of Imperial equipment as well.  With these tools I may be able to crossbreed the technology, where I would not be able to do so otherwise."

Rook frowned, "Fine, but I hate to be down two more men.  Especially reliable ones at that.  But I can understand what you're saying, and I think you've just convinced me.  But, you two have a time limit.  We have to be out of here and back at the LZ before day-break, which means..." Rook checked his chrono, "You both have exactly two hours to grab what you need, do what you want to do, and then we're coming by to pick you up.  Our extract will have to be fast, so you'll have to be ready at any moment.  Understood?"

Laise nodded, then Briggs did.  "Good."  Rook looked around, found the eyes of his Hawk's on him, "Grab what gear you can, get ready to move out.  I suggest stripping out of these uniforms - except for you Kaerin - and into more comfortable garments."

"Why out of uniform?"  Cameron asked.

Rook smirked, "Because everyone here is on downtime.  You want to blend in, don't you?"

"No, I'm a non-conformist."

Rook rolled his eyes, "Any suggestions?"

Ralus raised a hand, "I noticed one or two locker rooms near by, I can go grab a few bundles of clothes from there, in and out, and distribute them back here,"

Rook shook his head, "Not without my uniform.  You'll need it to get back in here without raising too much suspicion."  Rook removed his jacket and tunic, handed them over to Ralus. 

"Ugh." Ralus pealed off the Guardsmen equipment, "It's bad enough we have to wear these, but did we really have to strip the dead guys to get them?"

Rook shrugged, "If you want, we could have just painted little signs that say 'Guardsmen' on them and see how well that worked."

Ralus gave a rueful look, "Might have smelled a bit better."

"How do I look?"

Kaerin grinned, "Uncomfortable."

Ralus sighed heavily, "Well, that's how I wanted to look anyway.  Are we set?"

"Certainly," Rook sat down on one of the storage crates containing the Hawk's actual wargear, "Make it fast, every minute we delay, the more time we lose to save our friends." 


---------------------------------------------------------------------


"Hey!  Hey you! Get away from that door, now!"  Ralph Edison ran down the hallway as he spotted somebody walk out of the old Tau armory.

The man turned around, glaring, "Excuse me ."  The words were precise and separated, enough to make each one of them rattle Edison's bones.  The man turned to face Edison completely, his rank stared Edison in the face. 

"I'm, I'm sorry sir.  I meant no dis-"

"Oh, please do shut up!"  The officer gestured, "If I wanted you to talk I would have ordered you to do so!"

Edison clicked to attention, he hoped he hadn't gotten himself in trouble.  That was one thing he couldn't handle.  He had just arrived here at this facility last week, and the last thing he needed was a reprimand.  The veterans already laughed and mocked him enough, further fuel to this fire would make Edison want to scream.

The officer looked over Edison, disgust in his eyes, "Why should I let you off the hook so easily?"

"I'm sorry, sir, what can I do?  Anything to avoid punishment!"  Edison pleaded.

"You're pathetic, but you may prove somewhat useful. You are new here correct?"

"Yes sir."

"You think you know this facility?"

"Yes sir."

The officer snorted, "Tell me, what is down that corridor?"

Edison thought for a moment, tried to remember, "The control room, facility security rooms and some officers quarters, sir."

"Good.  And what is down the way you came?"

"Just some locker rooms, a door that leads down to the holding cells."

The officer gave a wry grin, "You have been paying attention.  I am here with a small detachment, preceding an inquisitorial assignment.  We have been..."  The officer hesitated, "Delayed.  We were informed that you have some prisoners."

Edison blinked, "Delayed?  It seems more to me like you work pretty fast.  Yes sir, if you head back down that corridor, first door to your left takes you down.  But..."

The officer narrowed his eyes, "But what?"

"Nothing sir, except that - I assume you already have the access card for that doorway, right sir?"

The officer stood up tall and narrow, "Of course I do, you pathetic worm!"  The officer gave a sigh, "What is the Imperium coming to, with weaklings like you in the ranks.  I doubt you could even stand up to one of those prisoners without wetting your pants."

Edison gave his best attempt from keeping his pride from billowing outwardly.  Instead he gave his best posture, "I can handle anything sir."

"Hmm."  The officer eyed him carefully, then leaned in, "Perhaps you can.  The Imperium is looking for strong leaders, and perhaps I can see to it that you may become one of them, if you complete a simple task for me."

Edison nodded, "I will not let you down, sir."

"I think it may be in your best interest that you don't.  For if you fail, I will make certain that your failure spreads father then this tiny outpost in the far reaches of the galaxy."

Edison gulped, "Yes sir."

"Good, now pay close attention."




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