Hawk Squadron: From Gue'la to Warrior Pt. 19
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Usually it would drain from you any ounce of awareness, and you may even find yourself drifting away in sleep. Your muscles would sag and your body would melt, you would ache from standing still for such a long time. In fact, had you indeed managed to stay awake throughout this process, you'd just feel lazier and less alert then had you been studying for an advanced Tau math course.
Rook shook his head, forcing his mind and eyes to focus. He could feel the effects of boredom and the heat and sweat that this world caused made it even more relentless. But he knew his job, or whatever it was he was told his job was. And he had to complete it.
He had decided the best course of action was to wait until dusk to move out of the tree-line. This gave them the cover of the night to move about without much risk of being spotting in open terrain, and that was just the sort of leverage they needed to make this mission work.
Unfortunately, with making the mission work, that also meant making the mission wait.
He motioned towards his team. All three members seemed as bored as he was. He almost snorted as Laise kicked Cameron awake. Cameron shot up straight as if something had bit him in his dyi, leaving small chuckles to fill the silent air for a short time.
Rook waved down the temporary outbreak and was rewarded with smiling faces. This is good. If they can remain motivated here, in this type of environment, it proves we're ready for whatever lies ahead.
Near-silent crackles and pops from behind alerted him to a possible problem. Spinning on his heel, pulled out a small black blade from his belt sheath, he connected the edge to the ribs of his would-be assailant. His eyes went from narrow to wide as Stromf lost his balance on the ground beneath him and fell hard into the softened dirt.
Small chuckles again filled the area in which Rook had posted his team, but three more voices filled the air. Rook felt his face go red, extended a hand to help Stromf to his feet. Stromf rubbed his backside as he came up, a frown on his face.
"I think I have a new motto for the squadron."
Rook smirked. "I didn't know we had one to begin with."
"I think it should be, 'Hawk Squadron - Come if You Want to be Humiliated'."
Rook winced, "Sorry about that. Have you heard from Ralus?"
Stromf gave a slight shrug, "If I know him - and I do - he's probably lost."
Rook tapped his data-pad once more, bringing up his squadron's current location. He had eight blips in his proximity, which signified his team and Stromf's team. On the far corner of his display were four blips, misplaced, and they were all blinking.
"Hmm, Stromf...are they supposed to be doing that?"
"Hmm?" Stromf studied them for a second and came away cold-faced. "Well yes."
"Why are you staring like that if they're working fine?"
"Well they blink when the blips in question are being jammed, or there is too much electrical interference to receive a strong signal. Either way it means - "
"It means," Rook said, feeling his gut grow as cool as steel, "That Ralus and his team are in trouble." Rook checked his data-pad again to get the destination and ETA embedded to memory. This just complicated things, and he had to act quickly before they got worse.
"I could try to bring them up on the mic." Cameron said, holding out his comm unit.
"No. If they are hidden or undiscovered we could give away their position." Stromf shook his head. "We have to assume things are bad there, but we shouldn't assume they are so bad that we could end up getting them killed if we're careless."
Rook nodded, "He's right, and now we need a new plan." Rook looked over the two teams in front of him Without knowing what was out there, and what was happening to Ralus, he could not be nearly as effective. He cursed himself for not being as smart as he wanted to be and kicked out with his left foot, slamming it into something metal. It clanged and a surge of sharp pain ran through his leg. The bio-systems in his armor quickly soothed the nerves allowing Rook to look down and smile at what he had kicked.
"Who brought these jump-packs here?"
"We did." Stromf said, "The area we landed in was too open and had we left the packs there they would have been spotted and our mission would be compromised." Stromf glared, "Not that it isn't compromised now."
"Can we hook somebody up with it and send them above the situation to recon what is going on?"
Laise, who was sitting down next to a tree, gave a disgusted look, "Nope. The energy levels are too low to carry that much weight with them, and even if we could somehow get anybody airborne, they would not have a very good landing. Chances are they'd get a few dozen meters up and fall back down to land with no way to slow their descent."
Rook picked up the equipment and quickly checked the remaining levels. "Can these be modified to carry something lighter?"
Laise looked up, "Hm? What do you mean?"
"Let's say I wanted to rig up a surveillance unit with this?"
Laise looked over the mechanics of the pack, then nodded. "The pack itself is simple, it's made to produce short bursts of energy to propel it up. It doesn't supply any external power except to our glasses so we can tell when to jettison them. So although theoretically it is possible to haul lighter things up longer, I don't see how you would power it."
Laise tapped his chin for a second, thinking about what he had just said. He then allowed his backpack to release from it's housing. "This should do nicely."
Briggs picked it up and looked it over. "I could probably help set it up if I had some way to secure it."
Laise nodded and pulled out his vibro-blade. Quickly he sliced through the straps of the jump-packs. He then handed them over to the other Hawks. "Tie these together in small lines and place them next to my pack."
Rook handed his glasses over, "If you can manage to work it so this feeds us information back to my data-pad, we could be in business."
Laise frowned, "I know I can get this thing to fly around and let the lenses pick up the data, but I don't know how I can get the images to relay back to anybody. The best I think I can do is record them in the glasses themselves. But that brings up another problem."
"When you first suggested recon, you were on the money with something we don't have here with this rig." Laise gestured to the pack, "You need intelligence to operate it. Otherwise it will just shoot up and come down after traveling on a random vector for a few minutes."
Stromf snorted, "Heh. He said were not intelligent."
Laise rolled his eyes and continued, "The pack doesn't contain artificial intelligence, and thus can not be programmed to go a specific course." Laise sighed, "So if we even managed to send it up to a relatively reasonable vectored course we'd have to retrieve the data by locating the fallen device. And as I said, without some manual handling it will just fall back to earth and probably damage itself on impact anyway."
Rook pursed his lips, "You said 'manual handling.' Is there a way to set up a signal from my data-pad to the rig to give it basic directional controls?"
Laise thought for a moment, "Yes. But it will give away our position if the signal is detected."
"How can you do that?" Kaerin asked.
"The pack is already set up to work with our armor, so all I have to do is set it up to receive a signal from the Commander's. The pack will act as if it's directly linked, however the signal can be cut if the distance gets too great. The problem is not only there. We'd also have to manipulate the Commander's data-pad for directional output and that will take a bit of tampering before it's ready. I'll need to program it and the pack."
That was something he'd hoped to avoid. He couldn't remove the wrist-band for him to work on it, so he'd have to allow Laise to modify it while it was still on his wrist. Any wrong twist, a small accident, and this mission would be over as quickly as it began. "I don't necessarily like that idea, but if that is what needs to be done, then let's do it."
"I think I have some small emergency tools packed away somewhere in here, I would suggest everyone take some cover in case something goes wrong."
Rook grimaced, "Your confidence needs some work, never try to be a motivational speaker unless I say so." He flicked his glasses, "And you'll have to have it so the signal that is returned is whatever image these glasses are picking up."
"The glasses will be stationary so you'll have to use your best judgment when determining height and velocity." Laise snorted, "Do you know how much could go wrong with this plan?"
"Yes. Especially before the plan even takes place." Rook looked around, "But do you have another alternative?"
"We could go in with guns blazing." Stromf said.
"The signal alone will be like a big blotch on a scanning device. We'll be sitting targets." Laise agreed, "We'd have better odds of losing less people doing it Stromf's way."
Rook laughed, "Says who? What if there are a bunch of tanks out there? We'd be slaughtered in seconds and in the end we'd have no way of knowing until it's too late. At least this way we can prepare ourselves and move accordingly. At the very least we'll be choosing the ground we fight on, and the enemy will have to come charging at us."
"And," Laise added, "if they have tanks they'll just have to run us over."
Rook set his jaw, "Well let's hope you can all dodge those treads because this is what we're doing." He pointed to Laise and Stromf, "Get to work on that rig."
He stretched out his arm in a comfortable position, allowing also for easy access for Laise and his tool-kit. In his mind, the lives of Ralus and his team hung heavy on his conscious. "And if I'm wrong, may the winds of the great deserts sweep me up and bury me in eternal hellfire."