Hawk Squadron: From Gue'la to Warrior Pt. 20

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Rook Hawkins

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The work had been tedious and a half-an-hour had already passed by when the last bits of the rig were set in place. It had not taken long to find a spot worth defending, and it was in close enough proximity, according to Laise, where a signal could be sent without the fear of it failing to reach the rig.

However with the stealthy approach to the destination, and with the rigs being carried as to not damage it, time had been used up quite extensively. And Rook began to wonder if he was already too late to save his friends. In fact he had begun to sweat even more then he had been previously due to the heat. His moistened palms were a testament to how nervous he was.

Slowly, over mossy terrain, Rook and his squadron wadded. The area Rook had picked out was about a third of a kilometer away from where the blips were located, in a densely vegetated area with a semi-deep swamp-surrounding that would make a tank commander think twice about trying to thread through it. The heavy foliage and large brush would make infantry movements difficult, while providing Rook and his Hawks with plenty of cover.

Laise and Stromf followed closely behind Rook carrying a few other devices they had just made, a few surprises for the attacking enemy. Cameron and Johnston were catering to the rig, being extra cautious about how they made their way through the terrain. One slip and the rig would fall into the swamp or fall to the ground and possibly damage the delicate configuration. However, as horrid a task as it might have been, the two Hawks seemed to pride themselves in their mission. Even with all the fuss some of the Hawks had initially gave at the beginning, there were no more talks of plan changes and everyone was doing exactly what they were supposed to without a single complaint or incident.

Rook took that as less a testament to his command abilities and more to the quality of his people. He was genuinely impressed with how far they'd all come since they first had started their training together. They were his peers and yet he felt so belittled by their courage sometimes, even though he was supposed to be belittling them.

That was why he had such a sense of urgency about Ralus, and why he chose this particular plan. Any other might cost him more lives, and he wasn't sure he was willing to send his friends into a deathtrap quite yet. He knew, as a Commander, he would have to make decisions that would endanger his squadron. But he knew he wouldn't be making a habit of it, and he certainly wouldn't start that addiction now.

He nodded solemnly as they crested the small island, and carefully positioned his Hawks in a tight circle. He was convinced that they would be discovered, and when they were the enemy would try to eliminate them as fast as they could. Rook narrowed his eyes. We'll see what they think after we unleash the few surprises we have up our sleeves.

Laise did one final check on the rig and gave Rook a thumbs-up right before he jogged away from it and hid low behind a bush. Although Laise had built it himself, he seemed less confident in his contraption then Rook did. But since Rook was the one controlling it, it was an irrelevant concept.

Keying a little sequence into his data-pad, the rig lifted off the ground with a loud roar. The grass beneath it flattened out as pressure from the lifts forced the rig to fight gravity. Eventually when the rig was a good distance up, Rook keyed a second sequence, and the signal started to broadcast.

The image, although poor in quality, did give a very good view. Knowing the amount of energy he had to work with was limited, Rook still decided to test out the controls in a quick manner. He jostled the rig left and right, and used a separate toggle for his repulsors to spin the rig on an axis providing a 360-degree coverage. He whistled to himself as he also found he could toggle the different lighting modes. Rook gave a very satisfied look in the direction of Laise who grinned, as his rig seemed to impress even him.

With that he sent the rig on its way. Allowing Kearin to keep track of the blinking blips, which had moved only slightly since they initially discovered them, Rook moved the rig in their direction. The thermal lighting gave a lot of heat signatures and on his sleeve display he could see bursts and red flashes that he could only assume were gunfire. The streaks of red he knew to be lasgun fire and the bursts of very blue light he knew to be fire from his Hawk's Tau weaponry.

Knowing this he could tell that Ralus and his team were not only outnumbered but also outgunned. The only good news was that he didn't see any heavy armor. He looked up from his data-pad and gestured towards Stromf. "We have them, but I can't tell much from this. Some heat signatures are mixed with others and I can't determine if anybody is dead or wounded. But we're in trouble."

"Well, d'uh."

"Remind me to get you back for that later." Rook checked his mock-up energy-detection device that was temporary mounted to his forearm. It indicated that the rig was low on energy, just as his display gave him a good view at a large portion of thermal heat signatures moving in his direction. "Okay, I revise that statement. We're in big trouble."

Checking the energy levels of the rig once again he gawked in disbelief. He watched as the meter dropped down to nothing, and as such the data-pad showed the tree-line, then below the tree-line, finally static. Rook almost cursed himself for volunteering his glasses for the rig, now he'd have to rely solely on his marksmanship abilities and instincts to hit targets instead of using the light settings for precision.

Rook crouched low behind a jagged rock, moss covered it in patches. Propping his new weapon on a small crevice that was weathered away, he could almost taste the salty sweat of the enemy troops closing in. His plan was working out in his head the way he wanted it to so far. He'd managed to pull a large force away from Ralus and whatever remained of his team, and right into his two teams. He only hoped that the forces at this particular engagement didn't outnumber him enough where there was no escape.

Stromf tapped him on his shoulder, indicating that he was covering his six. Rook nodded but kept his focus square on a large grouping of high-grass and forest where he knew the enemy would be coming from. The Hawks knew how to handle themselves in combat training, and so far they'd been doing the jobs the way they were instructed to.

But time would come later for congratulations. Right now his ability to lead, and their ability to fight, would be what would determine the outcome of this battle; His skills as a commander and as a marksman would be primary to their survival. And he hoped the Tau armory provided him with something useful. The balance of the weapon in his hands was perfect. It made it very easy to aim and he'd wonder how well such a weapon would help him in a situation like this. Rook checked his left magazine pouch noting he'd have plenty of clips to find out the answer.

Las-fire singed away branches and leaves from the tree-line in front of him. Several blue streaks of pulse-weaponry returned towards the same area from the Hawk's. This was it, it was happening. Screams were heard in response. That's exactly when things started to get thick.

A barrage of enemy weapons opened up on the Hawk's position. From the high-grass and forest line a few platoons of guardsmen advanced on them. Rook aimed and pulled the trigger. Then he pulled it again - and again and again. Two guardsmen fell, a fist-sized hole now where his stomach used to be; one com unit sizzled and popped from the back of another. A third trooper stared intently at his wound before falling backwards into his comrades, who was trying to bring his lasgun to bare.

Rook found that the weapon's rate of fire was deadly, and with every trigger pull he could see less and less of the opposition which stood to intimidate the Hawks. Along with the rapid succession of blue pulse-fire that melted away armor and slugged through flesh, the Hawks were making short work of the small detachment. This is nothing like training. Absolutely nothing.

Several new platoons emerged from behind the dwindling skirmishing force. Rook flicked a thumbs-up to Stromf before ducking behind his rock to avoid the incoming fire. Stromf started to tag up some of the other devices they had brought with them. Hastened together using a similar method from the rig's design, the jump-packs were given a forward vectoring path programmed by Laise. Attached to them each was a bundle of explosives the team had been given by the armory before they left.

Several buttons were pushed and the devices lifted from the ground moving over the Hawk's defense line and directly above the guardsmen. Rook shouted, "Down! Now!"

The jump-packs started to fall lazily back towards the earth, towards the guardsmen - they struck, then they detonated. A huge, fiery cloud of incandescent gas and heat erupted from each point of impact, taking with it several guardsmen at a time and ripping huge holes in the advancing formations. Several guardsmen caught on fire and in haste tried to smother the flames by rolling in the high-grass. Screaming loudly, they only made themselves burn faster, as the grass caught fire all around them as well. From there it spread like a vine all around the incoming guardsmen, making the enemy soldiers scamper as they attempted to flee from becoming human torches.

Rook jumped up from his cover and started unleashing his weapon's full potential. Before the other Hawk's could join in, a quarter of the remaining forces had been slaughtered. "Fire, damn it! Don't just stare at them!"

Whatever soldiers were left made a choice to retreat. Perhaps not the wisest choice. Some guardsmen tripped over the remains of their comrades, charred bodies littered the grass, some of the routed men tried to surrender but the Hawks were merciless and cut them down. They had to. If any of the guardsmen were left alive they might escape and get help - such help that could eventually lead his squadron to annihilation. Rook growled, "Kill anything that moves. We can't let one escape to tell this tale."

Stromf was now up and firing along side of Rook, the Hawks advanced a bit further from the island, moving slowly, almost professionally. They were meticulous in their work, several guardsmen tried to put up a defense but were mowed down by relentless ammunition that felt neither pity nor remorse.

Rook halted at the high-grass, which still burned in an ambient light. There were no guardsmen remaining. There were no screams or sounds of the dying to be heard. Rook ordered the area swept for anything they could use later before standing in silence over the dead. It was his only way to show his respect for the bravery they'd shown. He knew no imperial officer would grant him such respect. He knew the dead men at his heals would probably spit at him if they were alive, or worse. But it eased his mind when he saw their faces.

Rook was new to this whole thing, and he knew it. He hadn't a clue as to how he'd react when he finally entered combat. This had been his first fight, and he had come out alive.  Some would argue that, of course.  With his defense against the Tyranid forces that attempted to consume his homeworld.  But those were mindless things, nothing like the red-blooded human beings that stained the ground at his feet.

But that fight had not been fair, it had been a massacre.  The 'nid forces had swarmed his friends and his life all in one.  This time was different.  His men were unharmed save for Ralus' team, which he knew not about. He only hoped for their safety now, knowing he'd have to kill more before he could get them all out of this mess. But that was his responsibility, his job. And he'd do it - for the Greater Good.

"Sir." It came over crackled through his earpiece.

"Go ahead." He couldn't tell who it was.

"I've got Ralus and Galeo. Both are okay, save for several cuts and bruises. Ralus says this planet is a heathen-infested cesspool."

Rook laughed loudly, "What else?"

The com clicked and crackled again, "They're also dehydrated and out of breath. Ralus says their equipment is badly damaged and his com is completely out. Apparently something loud went off near him and blue out the mic."

Rook nodded, "Get them some water. What about the others? Harold and Markus?"

"That's a problem sir. It seems they were the ones that compromised us. They've been captured sir."

Growing cold again, Rook tried to subdue himself from wanting to retch. "We are in a lot of trouble. Get everyone together."

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