Hawk Squadron: From Gue'la to Warrior Pt. 9

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Rook Hawkins


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The steam had risen well above the head of any average-height human. With the darkness, the scopes practically useless, Stromf should have guessed that another scouting party would have been sent out again. What hedidn't count on was that he'd be going out with it as well.

His skin puckered as the heat sucked out droplets of sweat everywhere on his body, forcing him to thank the Ethereals that he wasn't wearing that bulky armor. He had to admit, at first, he was very uncomfortable with the idea of being sent out with Ralus to scout enemy positions. But now, as he had come to find that the situation was horrible for not only them, but the Tau as well, he didn't feel so bad about it.

Also, judging from the lack of any good equipment to help with the sensors, and the additional fact that spotting anybody well enough to bead a shot on them was practically mute, he wouldn't have to worry about getting blasted with pure heat energy anytime soon.

Even without having to worry about that factor, he knew he'd still have to bear the heat a little bit longer.  He tugged lightly on a spot which his uniform was moistened to his skin. Flopping it around, Stromf struggled to fan himself with it, unsuccessfully.

It wasn't that he wasn't used to the heat, having lived on Tau worlds most of his life, for a human it was still unbearable at times.  Especially as he was growing up on Bork'an with his parents, which was rough enough. He didn't remember his original homeworld, such discussions were always taboo at the dinner table, and even when asked by others they always seemed to avoid that part. But he never heard enough stories about how rich and wonderful they had been when they lived on - well,wherever.

There were always some good lavish and exotic tales to tell, to whom it never really mattered with his parents.  Anybody they met at the human colonies would soon know what sort of businesses they had, and how much snake oil they'd sold.  It was bad enough they had been gun merchants, but the fact they helped arm Imperials was despicable.

He looked on it with increasing hatred, not only against his parents but himself. Every time his parents mentioned a new weapon they developed, whether for hive militia or the guard, he shuddered, went off to talk to old Tau veterans and speak with some of the artists and politicians who he had befriended during his trips into the Tau populace.

The idea of helping a cause such as the anti-alien purge of the Imperium was nothing more then ignorance to Stromf. TheGreater Good was so much more realistic, reasonable and in all just more tolerant. He hated his parents for doing what they did, and spent most of his adult life trying to correct that.

He studied hard growing up, learning characteristics of all types of species he encountered on Bork'an and when he traveled to other Tau worlds. Studying with famous Tau warriors whom his parents had befriended.  Due to their high-level of society, the Tau were not as impartial to them as they were with other humans, and diplomats from the Tau worlds came to dine with his family.  It wasn't hard to see how some of the greatest warriors on Bork'an wouldn't want to help their prestige by training one of the rich Gue'la merchants.

His father always said that Stromf would be his personal bodyguard.  The joke of it all was that Stromf wasn't training to protect his father or his heritage, but instead had his own motives to fulfill.  With a little help from some Tau politicians, and a little more help from his pocket after his family died, he was able to convince a few film makers on Bork'an to work up a propaganda machine of their own, devised to bring in auxiliary help from ex-imperials and human adventurers. 

The short Dec-and-a-half flick did quite well, brought in dozens of new recruits to theGreater Good. Stromf smiled to himself. In doing these movies, several in his lifetime, he had tugged a bit at the knot his parents had formed in him. Stromf was accomplishing a balance between them. Where they had brought on countless thousands to the Imperialist intolerance, he had raised hundreds to fight back those which had ultimately been trained to destroy him, his fellow humans and Tau.

However as time went on, and war continued, he found that he was not just sending beings to academies and training facilities like this one on Sa'cea. He had been sending them to their deaths.  Stromf gripped his Gyro tighter.They went under lies and false impressions which I fed them. They went into combat thinking they were invincible, and then were butchered.

Blood started to flow more quickly as his heart rate sped up.  Light-headedness took over as he thought of all the people he had sent to die. In the end, by trying to undo the atrocities his parents had committed, he had only created atrocities of his own. The only way to correct the new errors he made would be to make sure that one day there would be no death, and of course, the military offered a lesser evil to be sure.

He rushed to the recruiting office, cameras following as the media flashed around to show the one-time son of a family of war merchants was really going to war. He heaved a sigh when he found out the next day even more people had joined after he did. It seemed as though there was no escaping it. Not even in the service.

So now here he was stalking a prey he couldn't see inside a dense fake jungle, hotter then any hell, and without any protection, followed by Laise and Cameron to his rear. Rook had gone over the plan pretty vividly before he left. And it was going to work, no doubt about it. Stromf had to admit, that for the trouble maker Rook had been before he got command, he certainly pulled it together in time for these tests.

On his belly, things were even more difficult to see. But one of the only advantages they discovered was that the area which they were positioned had lot's of small indentations in the ground, perfect for ambushing. And with the steam coming from the ground and the heat forced down, it was the best place to avoid detection.

Indeed, when the first wave of Tau came into semi-view only meters away, they had no idea they were walking directly into an ambush. Stromf raised his Gyro quickly, having to rely on instinct and training, firing blindly into a dark silhouette. He was rewarded by a gargled moan and seeing the shadow fall face down. Cameron and Laise followed almost in sequence. Their shots were no less precise, admirable what a team can do with training in specific fields. Three Tau warriors fell one by one, catching body hits here and there.

That was around the time when all hell broke loose.

The problem with an ambush is after the initial first shots, it's no longer an ambush. As the Tau convulsed and suddenly stopped moving as the armor forced them into paralysis, a new squad, out of view, fired from behind the steam, using it as a well placed wall to hide from return fire.

Cameron caught a stray laser bolt to the chest. He sputtered out something that sounded like a curse and then blacked out, his eyes glazed. Several more bolts, this time intentional, kicked up dirt in front of Stromf's prone body.

"I think," Laise started, "that it's a good time to leave. Nowwe'rebeing ambushed."

Stromf gave a pressed grin. "Ah, but my friend, what faith would you have in your comrades if you left your diversion position and fouled up the entire plan?"

"We'rethe diversion!" Laise narrowed his deep brown eyes.

"And how!" Stromf ducked after hearing the sound of more laser fire. He found that to be a good idea, as two shots superheated up the steam where his head had once been.  He pointed out towards the Tau converging on his position. "Watch."

Theonlyproblem with an ambush is after the initial shots, it's no longer an ambush. From his fighting hole, Stromf watched with intensity as several Hawk's jumped from their hidden positions bringing about a display of crossing laser fire, as impressive as it was, each charged bolt of energy blasted through fake trees and steam.  Armored plates sizzled and sparked with electrical impulses raking over them, and bodies fell. 

Laise and Stromf lent their firepower to the fray, although it was barely needed. Within moments all firing had ceased, all the Tau were incapacitated and three Hawk's were on their backs not moving.


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


Rook shifted his weight from side to side, uncomfortably looking over the paralyzed corpses of Tau. Their shoulder insignias placed them as Kais Academy recruits, one of the military installations on Sa'cea. The question that puzzled him was why had they been ordered to play a role in this testing? Wasn't this just for Gue'vesa'la trainees?

If the Shas'O had let this happen, indeed ordered it to happen, what other hands had they secretly played in order to make this difficult. How many more were out there? Obviously they weren't keeping things on the level anymore. How much time was left? What would he do about Cameron, Galeo and Johnston?  His mind raced, and worse yet, he couldn't stop it. Things couldn'tpossiblyget any worse.

Then as if by some bizarrely unrealistic slow-motion picture two Tau squads came into view and raised their weapons. Rook brought his Gyro to bear.  Laise and Briggs were already firing.

"Laise do me a favor?"

"Sure Lead."

"The next time I start to think aboutanything, shoot me."

"Roger, sir."

Rook spouted off two successive shots. The first took the lead Tau in the plated armor above the heart. The Tau's hooves became utterly useless as the armor removed all feeling to them. They easily collapsed under his dead weight.

The second went wide of it's intended target, but the condensed formation that the Tau were using proved to be fatal to the Tau in the rear. The blue-skinned humanoid folded over as the force of the blast connected with his midsection. 

Return fire had begun to increase, as now reserve squads entered into the battlefield. Like an army of extras that nobody wanted, they moved in force, firing along the way. The Hawks' entrenched holes weren't holding out, and would soon fall under the pressure. What was worse was that the other Hawks knew it too.

Rook could hear Markus over the firing, although he detected only a slight bit of dread in his tone, "We aresoscrewed."


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


Stromf pulled himself out of his little crater, coming to a crouched position, dropped out his spent clip and slapped in a fresh one. He applied a bit of force to his right leg, leaping off of it turning his momentum with gravity, causing himself to somersault. As he came out of it, he extended his legs, which in turn drove themselves into the nearest Tau.

The Kais academy recruit hit the ground with enough impact to cause the dirt around him to push outward. Stromf placed the Gyro up to the torso armor and fired, caused the Tau underneath him to jolt.

Wasting no additional time, he placed a quick burst of energy into another Tau recruit before several other Tau got the best of him, tackling him down. He felt a twinge of sharp pain in his lower abdomen region. Then there was nothing but fire. Intense fire that he could feel burning his skin with such heat that he almost imagined that he was disintegrating under it.

The pain moved up his chest into his lungs, and he felt it hard to breathe. If he could have, he would curse himself for being over-aggressive without armor on. Then his world turned blacků


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


Rook saw Stromf leap into the nearest squad of Tau attackers. Rook watched him as he was shot in the stomach and then as the squad moved on to the next Hawk, and then the next. Rook emptied his last round and then replaced the clip, knowing that this was his last.

His days as leader were over. Numbered in the last test that his Hawks would ever have to complete. He had failed them and now he was going to feel the pain they did. Then something strange happened. Even more strange then when he saw the waves of Tau squads.Funny, I thought when I was finally going to be hit it would hurt a lot more.

Waves of intense muscle spasms rocked his body. Need to get up. Need to fight. Rook tried to lift himself but he found it impossible. Then several bursts of intense broad laser fire sprung out in all directions. Several screams were heard, and then nothing. Nothing. And then the buzzer sounded, ending the test.

He had failed, and all his Hawks were gone, paralyzed, including him...




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