Hawk Squadron: From Gue'la to Warrior Pt. 2

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Rook Hawkins


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As was previously predicted, Rook received a large amount of harassment after the run.If I get better at this predicting stuff I might even challenge a few Ethereals. 

As he walked into the barracks he got more then a fair amount of evil stares, several of his squad mates didn't even acknowledge him at all.  Rook had been through this sort of punishment before, during his police academy days when the instructors there also tormented him by using his own squad against him.  So Rook had learned to put aside the irritation, if only for the fact that these men would forget all about it in a few days.

Rook collapsed on his bunk, which moved slightly as his weight hit it. Harris - looking as gruff as ever - came up along side of him and, although as tired and weary as Rook was, had no problems grabbing Rook's tunic collar and getting into his face.  His breath was repulsive and Rook had to look away.

"Leave it alone, Harris!" That was Calvin Briggs, a dark-skinned native of a civilized world called Rhanda.

"Oh sure, so next time we can run forthreefull decs instead of only two." Garis Laise, known for his mechanical skills and rumored to have worked for a weapons manufacturer before he came to the Tau Empire, growled back towards Briggs.

"Why can't you just do what he says, like everyone else!" Veins protruded from the sides of Harris' neck, saliva seemed to fly everywhere with his pronunciation.  His nostrils flared, and Rook knew he would eventually try to swing at him, something Rook really didn't feel like putting up with.  Harris' temper was only matched by his sheer size.  He was massively toned, ripped with muscles, and was even missing a few teeth. 

On top of that, his hair was shaved thinly to his head, only eyebrows gave true clarification to his hair-color. Nobody knew how Harris ended up in Tau space, and nobody seemed brave enough to ask. All they knew was that he was powerful. His looks alone, were Rook not used to them, might have scared away some men. Maybe if people that looked like him had defended my homeworld, the Tyranids might have decided to leave us well enough alone. 

And to make things even worse, Harris was competing for top trainee spot in the unit.  Such a position would put him up for promotion once the trainee unit became Gue'vesas, or "human helpers." And with his size it was pretty obvious that he had the advantage. And I'll just let him continue to think he still has that over me.

Harris seemed to be waiting for some sort of answer, but even if Rook were to give him something substantial, he was certain Harris was going to try and beat him anyway.  It was the type of person he was,  no sense and all ego.  He was selfish, and if he didn't hit Rook, he'd feel as though he had backed down.  His pride was his weakness, and Rook had dealt with his type before.

On the streets the common thug or crime lord had similar aspirations, similar weaknesses.  They were too powerful for their own good, they didn't have the whit to use that power for anything useful.  Time and time again, Rook would bring them down, and Harris was no different.  Harris would not win because Harris had already closed himself off to losing.  The idea of failure had not entered his mind, and chances were in Harris' mind, he already had an idea of how this fight was going to end. With me on the ground, bloodied and battered.  Rook set his eyes. We'll see.

Rook gave an obnoxious snort.  The subtlety of it was enough to send Harris over the edge.  Harris lifted Rook up and as easily as he had accomplished that, he flicked him away.  The feeling of weightlessness overtook Rook for a few moments, he knew he would hit and knew it was going to hurt - and once again he had predicted correctly.  Rook slammed back-first, hard into the bulkhead of the barracks wall,  the crest of his head bouncing off the steel grating.  Stars exploded before his eyes, as they cleared he could only imagine Harris' figure towering over him.

But before he could even see straight, he had already felt himself being lifted from the ground.  His vision gradually cleared to see Harris' ugly grin before him.  What Harris failed to realize, what he had mistakenly assumed, was something he would soon regret.  It's not who throws the first punch, it's who can throw the next.  Rook brushed off Harris' grip, pushing off his good leg - as good as it would be after running for three hours - and stood to his full height, which came up just under Harris' chin. 

Harris sneered, took a step back, raising his left arm and plowed it forward. Rook had seen the move coming, ducked to the right, allowing Harris' arm to hit empty space. Rook then gripped Harris' arm with both hands, stepping under it, coming up with his back towards Harris. With some applied momentum, a twist and proper usage of body weight, Harris was lifted off the floorboards and thrown over Rook's shoulder and onto his back.   

From the ground, Harris' shocked expression shown brightly through his confusion and anger. By every right, Rook could have killed Harris right there.  A little applied pressure from his foot, which now rested on Harris' jugular, and it would all be over with.  Nobody would say anything about it, it would have been considered simple self-defense.  After all, regardless of how much extra work Rook may have made the squad do, that was no reason to strike him.  And if Rook were to finish him, maybe that would have saved Harris some hurt pride, and kept the remarks from his squad to a minimum.  But he wouldn't finish him off.   

Although, in all honesty, he wanted to hurt Harris. Rook wanted to hurt him bad.  Even still, something started to ricochet itself around in his head.Team. Was that it?  Rook wasn't sure, but it might be.  It might have been a number of things.  Perhaps it was his honor, as a former officer of the law, death was a sign of taking an easy way out.  To kill a criminal was to ease their pain.  And Harris wasn't going to get out of this that easily.

Team.  There it wasagain - in his head.  And he understood.  Harris was still a member of his team, and where Harris and Rook differed was in their philosophies.  You don't attack or maim a member of your own team.  Harris didn't seem to understand that.  He didn't grasp what teamwork was, and what it meant.  And up until this moment, Rook had forgotten what it was as well. That knock to my head might have done more then just give me a headache.

Rook had become very independent since he came to Tau space, he had been cold.  His one motivation was to make everything pay, the Tyranids, the Imperium, he wanted blood from them.  But now he could see what wanting blood could do.  He looked down at Harris, who didn't move, who was scowling, that was what Rook could have became.  But something Rook would now reject. 

He looked around, watching the faces of his teammates.  They looked back with similar confusion.  What he did now would set the course for his reputation for the rest of his time in the military.  What he did now would show what kind of character he had, and what type of leader he would be.   

Rook lifted the knife of his foot away from Harris' throat, knelt down next to Harris.  Harris gave the slightest  flinch, probably out of instinct for self-preservation then out of raw fear. But Rook didn't strike him.  Rather, he simply offered him his hand and Harris took it, hesitantly, and pulled himself up.  Rook leaned in close to his ear, whispered, "You wanted me to destroy you.  You wanted me to fail."  Rook straightened back up and looked him dead in his eyes, "I'm just not as stupid as you were hoping I'd be."

Rook braced himself for another attack, but it never came.  Harris just stood there, perplexed and dazed, staring into Rook with fierce intensity. Although somewhat disconcerting, Rook worked to ignore it, turning his attention to the rest of the barracks, to his other team members.  Some had looks of approval or respect.  Others just stayed expressionless.  But none looked at him with horror, disgust, or the same type of mockery they had when they had all first entered the barracks.

"Gue'la!" A cold, rash voice came from the doorway. Rook's stomach lurched.

"Shas'ui!" Rook clicked his heals together with precision, followed by Harris and everyone else just nano-seconds later.

"Whatin the name of the Ethereals of Fio'taun' is going on here?" The fire in Va'tol's eye's grew brighter.

"Shas'ui…" Rook struggled with what to say, "I, ah…"

"Shas'ui," Harris cut in, "Gue'la Rook and I got into a disagreement and in the process Gue'la Rook struck me.  I wish to file a report."

Va'tol looked over Harris, then once over Rook probably trying to sense any contradiction of emotions. "Gue'la Darksky, is this true?"

Rook felt his weight shift from left to right uncomfortably. Harris, you dog, you've turned this against me!  But I'm not going to play this game the way you want me too. "Yes, Shas'ui, it's true."

The Tau warrior nodded, "You took this gue'la by yourself?"

Rook swallowed, not knowing how to respond.

"I see." Va'tol gestured for Rook to follow him. Harris stared after them as the Tau led Rook into the corridor…


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


The newly formed barracks were makeshift in and of themselves. The Tau, although they respected humans, considered them more like honored-pets, and at times it was subtle to sense, but others it was all too clear. The barracks were a prime example of how clear a message it could be.

The barracks were nothing like the Tau academies, which would smell of an over abundance of solvents and other cleaning solutions.  Instead these barracks were rustic, partly because of the difference in training methods. In fact the treatment humans received could be said to echo that of the facilities the Tau provided for them.  In some ways it was worse.

Far from the expanded knowledge and skills Tau received, humans were taught basics and only sometimes were taught how to use Tau technology, although more often then not they got stuck with a weaker weapon such as lasguns.  This was more an issue of trust then it was a matter of cruelty.  And Rook could, in part, understand why.  After all, the members of the human race sought to exterminate the entire Tau species on several occasions.  Such caution would not be paranoia as much as it would be practical.  But that didn't mean Rook particularly enjoyed it.

The corridor seemed to echo such non-luxuries. An extension of the barracks that linked together a complex web of other facilities was usually pretty musty.If that's even a proper word for it. The environmental units installed in the ceiling greatly contrasted with the outside heat, causing condensation to form in the creases and edges in the framework. After setting for a while, the moisture became stale. All sorts of molds and festering spores from the jungles outside found their way into the corridor, causing a green hew through the windows which only added to the effect of the smell.  Usually, all Gue'la trainees avoided leaving the cooled area of the barracks bunk-section, only venturing into the stench for brisk periods or, of course, when they had to get to another facility.

The Tau didn't seem to mind the look or the smell, although they considered the quality a bit primal - it was built by human trainees for themselves after all - and Va'tol's crisp black uniform only made the corridor that much more uncomfortable.

Va'tol assumed the military posture that Rook had become accustomed to seeing on the blue-skinned Tau. He wore his pride around him like a cloak, and where he should. He had served the greater good distinctly, fighting fiercely during the Damocles Gulf Crusade, later being assigned to train some of the soldiers who had fought against him.  A job, Rook feared, that Va'tol didn't exactly take too as well as the Tau high-brass would have hoped.

Never-the-less, he had turned some of the most hardened Imperialists into loyalists of the greater good, working out every illogical flaw in their bodies and replacing it with a sense of humanity that Rook always felt was lost in some of the soldiers he had encountered from the crusade.  That included one or two of them in his own unit, Harris included.

ExactlywhatVa'tol wanted to work out of Rook was still a mystery to everyone but Va'tol himself. His fiery black eyes blazed intently, as they usually did, but there was something hidden behind them that Rook suppressed a shudder for.

"Gue'la Darksky," Va'tol's tone was mild, cool. "As you know your final training is coming up shortly, and soon you will prove yourselves worthy enough to head off to the front." 

"Yes Shas'ui." The training he was referring to was a large scale mock-conflict. A re-enactment with all Gue'la training teams which pitched themselves against one another. The conflict was never the same and the sides were usually secret until the day of the training.

The team which came out ahead of everyone, usually chosen by the Ethereals or the Tau high command who witnessed the events, was awarded certain honors. The team was always held in higher regard and was usually sent on more missions for the greater good, as it was trusted more then the units that had done poorer.

"And as you know the Tau team leader is allowed to choose a member of the Gue'la team to lead the final training." Va'tol blinked, "I have decided."

Rook tried to hide his distressed look as much as possible.  This was it, where he would be told that he would not be promoted like he had hoped.  Nodding solemnly, Rook looked down at his feet.  "Yes, Shas'ui."

"I have decided, and I wantyouto lead the team."

Rook's head shot up so fast he got lightheaded, "What?!"  His skin puckered as he thought of the honor. But confusion had swelled up and taken over his mind, it even crept through his voice, "Why me?"

Va'tol fisted his hands, which Rook had always assumed was a Tau gesture of discomfort. There was an awkward silence, as Rook knew the Tau warrior was searching for the right words, no doubt there may not be a human phrase for what he wanted to say. It's what he's not saying that bothers me more.

"Gue'la, I know you are not very good at discipline, and perhaps that will one day be your end if you do not learn to correct it. But you, unlike many of this command, are not bloodthirsty. I believe the test I put you through in the barracks tonight was proof of that."

"Test?" Rook shook his head in disbelief, "You meanyouput Harris up to this?"

The Tau nodded. "Not to the full extent to which he took it, no. Gue'la Kolt was ordered to your side by me to keep you in line. Every time he failed to help you, I told him he would lose his position as a possible team leader. If he helped you, I promised him the position."

"So Harris was supposed to help me, but instead he attacked me." Rook paused, "But then how did you know?  He could have been telling you the truth."

"He told me a version of the truth."  Va'tol started walking down the corridor allowing a steady pace so Rook could keep up, he would occasionally glance over at the filthy windows in disgust while he was thinking of what to say. "Harris knew that I had been watching for some time.  He didn't know for how long, but he knew it was long enough to see you flip him over your shoulder.  Long enough to see you attack."

Rook nodded, "He figured that if he let you rule me out as abusive, then perhaps you would forget about your old arrangement.  If I assaulted him while he was attempting tohelpme, he would not be held responsible for my failure." 

The Tau warrior gave a rye look, "Harris started off with malice intent, and when he saw me as you threw him over your shoulder, he changed his intent to better himself."

"So because he lied for selfish intentions, you decided against giving him the position?" Rook arched an eyebrow.

Va'tol opened his arms, "There is more to consider as well. Gue'la Kolt was very agitated that because of you, he had to run and work harder, and although you complained, you never threatened me or another member of this team. Gue'la Kolt despised the extra exercise so much that he became violent and irrational, and in combat, his aggressiveness could get him or the rest of your team killed simply because of an order he felt might cause him displeasure."

"But how can you consider me any better, I always give you a hard time."

"Perhaps, but I am not effected by your lack of discipline as you may think. I know that you are only hurting yourself, not me. Besides, you always follow orders, even though at times you exaggerate them and mock them.

"I don't consider that as disrespectful as your past experiences would lead you to believe. You have a sense of humor, and as a leader, that is important. You also could have seriously injured Harris, but you held back, even offering him your hand, and to a man who you could have suffered serious injury too."

"But it never materialized since you were there and his intentions had been changed, Shas'ui."

"But you didn't know that then, Gue'la."  Va'tol set a four-fingered hand on Rook's shoulder, the first intentionally sensitive thing Rook had ever witnessed from the hardened Fire Warrior.  "You acted bravely and humbly at the same time, but most importantly, you were pacifistic about it. And that, I believe, is the true essence of theGreater Good." Va'tol gave a warm look, which gave him an appearance that Rook had never seen before, a level of security in his decision and in himself. And Rook again was reminded as to why he was a part of this cause. "Gue'la, it is also a testament to your skills as a leader. And for your restraint and courage, I feel you are the best candidate for the position of team leader."

Rook felt his chest swell up, but kept aware that personal gain was never a good trait to have in war, and used his thoughts of Harris to remind himself of that.  There was no doubt in Rook's mind that Harris would be sorely disappointed when he found out he had failed.

"One other thing, Gue'la."  Va'tol remained silent for a moment, tapping his chin with a crooked finger, "What made you stop?"

Rook took a moment before answering.  He knew why, could have given a short answer, but Va'tol deserved something more substantial.  "My priorities changed.  I realized that if I wanted this position, I would have to start listening to theGreater Good feeling instead of the 'good-for-me' feeling that I used to.  I don't know how well the rest of the unit will accept my command, but I think for the first time in a long time I'm ready for it.  Perhaps not as ready as I like..."

Va'tol gave a slight nod and started back towards the barracks, "Worry not, Gue'la.  I sense a good change in your attitude since this morning, and I don't know why it's there.  I do not care why, either, just as long as it stays there.  And if you can keep your head clear, remember what you told me today, I don't think you'll have any problems.  And I think you'll do quite well with your team in the final training.  They are excellent marksmen.  I did train you all, myself."

"You did, indeed.  And I hope you're right, Shas'ui."  Rook gave a crisp salute. "Or we both will be regretting it when leadership is the deciding factor between life and death."




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