Hawk Squadron: From Gue'la to Warrior Pt. 18
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"Drop point?" Rook stood up. "We're not landing?"
The Tau captain laughed, a harsh laugh that was unmistakably Tau, "Landing this thing is like sending out a homing beacon to our enemies. 'Come and get us! Here we are.' Right now we're using energy displacement in order to be undetected. You'll be dropping out the back using those jump packs."
Rook looked over to the bulkhead wall. Sure enough, tucked away behind some supplies were jump packs. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Joking is not the way of a Tau warrior. Get them on or we're just going to push you out of this thing." The Captain said, his face resembled that of stern amusement. Rook make a mental reminder to get that Tau's name and put him on the Hawk's list for practical jokes when and if they made it back alive. The thought of that allowed Rook small grin. Such torment would be enough to make anybody hate themselves for a very long time. "You haven't been around this squadron very much have you, Captain?"
Rook grabbed one of the handles of the jump packs and tugged. The pack came free and haphazardly he put it on. "Alright Hawks, do as I do." Rook took a moment to recall the procedures from Basics as to how one would properly secure a tactical jump-pack. Very carefully, and very concisely, he strapped in.
One by one, the Hawks took down their jump packs and slung them onto their shoulders, strapping on their own as well. Briggs and Laise were already gleaming over the mechanics of them, and Rook could see Ralus struggling to clip his together, "Hey Commander, couldn't the Tau be more practical about these things? They even hid the straps!"
Laise came over and pressed a button on the side of the pack releasing two additional hook-straps. Ralus looked gloom, "You just had to make me look stupid didn't you?"
Laise shrugged, "Do you really need my help for that?"
Rook brought up the control pad for the pack and clipped it onto his forearm plate armor. He dialed up the appropriate keys and watched as the panel lit up. All green and good to go. "Status on jump packs."
The captain yelled from the cockpit, "Get ready we're almost at the jump point."
"Team B, lit and in the green." Ralus said, giving two thumbs up.
"Team C, ready for a fight." Stromf said.
Rook quickly glanced around at his own team members, making sure their packs were on and operational. When everyone came back with the okay, Rook put on his spectral-glasses, and felt them wire around the back of his head and secure themselves in place. I bet Ralus will get a kick out of that.
"Everyone switch your comms over to Hawk Squadron's frequency. It's secure, but could still be tapped if somebody can find it, so let's hope nobody is expecting us." He received several nods in compliance.
The rear door crept open and a subtle breeze found it's way in right before the wind gusts started to pick up. "Chilly night," he could hear Markus under say to himself.
Rook narrowed his eyes, "It's going to get extremely hot."
The red flashing light went green, and Rook was the first one out the drop ship. He somersaulted off the ramp and went spread-eagle.
He tapped his control panel, which counted down until he kicked in his thrusters. Pulling his knees up to his chest and changing his center of gravity, Rook went vertical and punched in a sequence which lit his repulsors. All four fired in sync and slowed his descent.
He keyed his comm, "Hawk's, use the repulsors to get close to your team members. Team leaders find a secure landing zone and report in when you're situated. Make it fast."
He got two affirmative replies from Ralus and Stromf and several others from the Hawks. Rook switched his vision settings from starlight to thermal, picking up several heat signatures below him. The distance was still too great for the glasses to make a specific reading on class or species.
Rook switched back to normal setting to see if he could make an outline. Sure enough, three blue silhouettes resembling humanoids sat directly in place of where the thermal had placed the heat signatures. He opened a comm channel to his team.
"A team, listen up. Three humanoids directly below us. The base is about ten kilometers from here, so my guess is their hostile. Don't fire any weapons. Kill them quietly if you land near them. Click if you understand."
Three sets of clicks came back. Rook nodded. He found a spot about a hundred meters to the west of the humanoids. He cut his main repulsors and touched down heavily. He noticed immediately that the forest would be too dense to use starlight to see anything, which in the end he found to be a blessing. If he couldn't see them, they couldn't see him either.
Cameron, Johnston and Laise had similar touch downs to the one Rook had. Rook released his straps and allowed the jump pack to fall away. The others did as well. Rook pulled up data which resembled a holographic display on his forearm, much like the control panel on his jump pack.
He found the map key and punched it in. He placed marks on his map where he knew the humanoids to be located. He sent the map as an encrypted file to his team leaders. Keying his comm unit again, Rook tried to allow a subtle hint of urgency to creep through his voice, "Place on the map where you are in relation to these humanoids. The closest team gets the honors."
His control pad blinked and he tapped the newly transferred files. He opened the maps and placed them over each other. "Stromf, you're closer, but not by much. Ralus, break your team in pairs and secure the area. We don't want company, so alert us of any movement. Stromf, when you're through, I want you to meet up with me…" Rook looked over the map to find a good observation point, and quickly located a small rise in terrain a few meters to the east of him.
"Meet up with me here." He sent the file. It took a few seconds for Stromf to reply, a few seconds in which Rook could feel his excitement level rising. He forced a cool tone, "Good. Get to work."
The world was retched. It stank worse then the other Tau worlds. It was also extremely cooler then the others, which confused Ralus. Why would any Tau want to live here?
The air temperature was so much cooler then that on Sa'cea that Ralus caught himself shivering. What made this assignment even more unethical was that they had to sit here and wait. Ralus had nothing but respect for the commander, but he could have at least given Ralus' team something productive to do.
Although he understood the necessity of point-guards, and scouts, his team was getting restless. Of course most of that restlessness came from two sources, and neither of them would make this an easy mission. In fact the first reason was directly related to the mission.
The fact was, this was the first time the Hawk's, as a unit, were fighting in a real combat situation. And right now, Ralus' team was not feeling very useful. And with that came nervous anxiety, and skittish behavior. Ralus was expending every chance to help quell those emotions, whether by giving a few pats on the back, or telling a few jokes to brighten the mood. Neither seemed to be working as well as he'd hoped, but occasionally Markus would give him a smile, and Galeo would give a small chuckle.
The second reason was probably less of an actual reason, and more of a problem. And that problem was Harold's pessimism. And most certainly, his jibes at the Commander were slowly deteriorating the morale of Ralus' team.
The worst part was, as he eroded the will of his squadmates, B Team was starting to side with him, "Ralus, this is so incredibly stupid. We should be out doing something."
Galeo was next, "Harold's right. Let's go scouting."
Ralus considered, "No. The fact is we are doing something. We're following the Commanders orders. I won't break them."
Harold snorted, "The Commander." There was no hiding the venom bleeding through his voice, "The Commander is just as new to command as you are. He doesn't know what he's doing. This is the real thing and I think we could do more when active then we could just standing around here doing nothing, following orders."
Markus scowled, "Shut up Harold. You're just sore because you didn't get promoted."
Harold let his voice down to a low rumble, "Damn right I'm mad, you little twit. Who do you think helped get him this command? Me."
Ralus shook his head, "It was all of us. But in all, it was under the Commander's direction."
"Whatever." Harold waved the comment away, "This is stupid."
Galeo nodded, "I want to kill somebody."
"You always want to kill somebody."
"True." He grinned and shrugged.
"Well," Ralus sighed, "that's enough mutiny talk for one year. Time to do what we're told. Harold, you and Markus take the tree line about five meters from here. Galeo and I will remain here. Switch between visual settings so you have a wider range to view different types of threats if or as they appear. Report back anything. Do you get me?"
All three of his team members nodded, some solemnly. "Good. Try not to do anything stupid."
Galeo frowned, "Look who you're talking too."
"Good point. All right, I revise my statement. Try not to do something stupider then normal."
Galeo nodded, "That's more like it."
Harold grimaced as he sat, leaning against a large tree. Impatient, irritated. Markus wasn't helping his mood. If anything, Markus was the only thing making him more irritable. He had this obsession with asking Harold his life story and all Harold wanted to do was sit here and be gloomy. Couldn't the little twit understand that?
"Do you have to keep tapping!" Harold injected sarcasm deep into his voice.
Markus jumped a bit, stopped clicking his finger against his pulse rifle. "Why do you have to be so miserable all the time. You're like a virus all of a sudden, just wanting to make everyone hate you."
"Misery loves company. Why do you have to be such a suck-up?"
Markus let out a loud snort, "I didn't know being friendly was equal to sucking up."
"Well bugger off, you're killing my bad mood." He heard Markus grumble even with the comm unit turned off. "This is so stupid, we should be out killing people, or doing what we're here to do - find things and then kill them. While we're here smelling this retched planet, the others are off saving it. Heck, we don't even have a farthing name for this planet."
"The Commander knows what he's doing."
Harold snapped back, "How do you know!" Markus withdrew. Harold pressed, "You think it was skill and leadership that made it through those tests? If you truly think that you're more ignorant then I thought. You know he just got this command, he has no experience."
"Then why did he get this command? The Tau just don't give auxiliaries covert missions. They just don't make auxiliaries Commanders."
Harold felt his palms tighten at those questions. He didn't know why. He didn't have a clue what the Tau command was thinking, and with no answers that just enraged him further. But whatever those answers were, he knew, he just knew it wasn't because the Commander had skill. He couldn't, because Harold was the one who had it.
Up until a few weeks ago, he was getting everyone into trouble. Up until then, he was the worst soldier in the squadron. All of a sudden he's the best. I can't deal with this garbage.
"I'm going in."
Markus started to stumble around, "Whoa, what? Now you are talking mutiny!"
Harold gripped Markus' mouth tightly to hush him, "Look you little weasel. I'm going in. You can either come and shut up, or stay here and shut up. Do you get me? Nod your head if you understand."
Markus complied. Harold smiled, "Good." He released his grip. Markus set his jaw a few times, obviously checking to make sure it was still in one piece.
Harold checked his clip. It was time to prove himself once and for all. He could get command of this squadron in one night and have the commander eating out of his palm. Tau high-brass would have to give it to him after he saved the mission from the disaster that Darksky was leading them into. It was only rational that he would.
"Lets move out." And with that, Harold pulled off his comm unit and dropped it on the ground.