Updated 10.5.1998

Looking for a Dog

Röt Rafen Chapter 3

by Carlos Lourenco

Return to Bri's Science Fiction Collection


Aboard the KRS Köhl
Röt Hafen System (LTT 1583)
22 July, 2193, 0200 ship’s time

Kapitän z.r. Hauser leaned forward in his command chair, his mind racing. The plot showed Köhl drifting away outbound from Röt Hafen along the slingshot trajectory as they had intended. However, they had picked up a tail. Passive sensors indicated two Kra'Vak ships, similar in size to those KSII/14 had engaged several weeks ago, were definitely sniffing along the Köhl’s trail. The enemy ships were not closing, but neither was the range between them increasing.

Köhl had made its insertion per plan right up to the point where Waldek had released the NAC reconnaissance team. At that point the shuttle had fallen off trajectory. With no communications allowed, and only passive sensors, Hauser had been unable to determine the nature of Waldek’s problems. Nor could he slow up or attempt a recovery. It was her responsibility to maintain the insertion profile. Köhl had continued along, deploying the surveillance satellite, then sling-shotted away from Röt Hafen.

There had been several Kra’Vak ships in the immediate vicinity and Hauser had slipped by them undetected. Or so he thought. At 300,000 kilometers out, the two Kra’Vak bloodhounds had begun a slow pursuit. Emissions had increased dramatically within the system. Were the Kra'Vak somehow able to detect the Köhl?  Had Waldek's ship been detected? Had they been captured? Hauser had to assume the worst.

Soon he would have to make a decision. If the Kra'Vak could put together a tracking plot against the Köhl they could close to within firing range rapidly, given their speed advantage. Hauser had to assume they were piecing together something against him given that the ships had maintained a steady course on his trail for some time now. Hauser scratched his beard. He could no longer worry about Waldek or the soldiers; he had the safety of his own ship to worry about.

"Number one, I need the ship prepared for FTL jump as quickly as possible."

Hrabek frowned. "The engines are recharged, but the plot will take some time. As you know it was our intention to remain in system."

"Yes but I have to believe that our two friends are on to us. If we don't get out while we have to range advantage, they will be on us as soon as we spin up the FTL drive."

"I understand that, but where to?"

"Sir if I may interject?" It was Lt. Bester, from the navigation console. "Our fastest plot in this case would be a reciprocal back to our last jump point."

"But we are nowhere near the point we entered this system."

"Agreed, but I could turn around the calculations on that last known jump point fastest. However, given the lack of plot time I can't guarantee anything higher than a seventy- percent accuracy rate."

"That will do. It is more important that we leave here than that we arrive exactly at our destination. How long until we can be ready to jump?"

"Thirty minutes."

"Not good enough," said Hrabek. "Have the calculations ready in fifteen. We need to get that jump sequencer on line as soon as possible. As soon as we begin final preparations we will be lit up like a Christmas tree and those two Kra'Vak ships will begin maximum acceleration." There was no question in anyone's mind of their ability to fight off the two alien ships.

As soon as Bester turned back to his console, Hrabek and Hauser spoke leaned towards each other.

"Once we make transit, we can reacquire our bearings, pour over our sensor logs and figure out the best way back in."

"Agreed Kapitän. We're not required back in system to query the surveillance satellite for another five days."

Hauser nervously eyed the clock and the plot as the minutes ticked by. At any moment, he expected tail to light up their main drives and chase the Köhl down. Hrabek was leaning over Bester, helping him along with his jump preparations. The crew was notified of the impending jump and made their preparations also.

"Kapitän, closure distance from red one and two decreasing. They are accelerating", said the sensor chief. "I estimate that our window to leave unscathed will close if we don't jump in seventeen minutes."

"Bester. Now." Said Hrabek.

"We have it Kapitän. Two minutes."

"Boch, ready one of the missiles. I want to release it as soon as we spin up the FTL engines. Once the missile is clear, give it a five-second deceleration burn to push it clear of the ship. Cooking up he FTL drive should mask the burn from the enemy. Have it lay dormant for ten minutes then target Red Zero One. Maximum yield. That will give our friends something to think about."

"And the other missile, Herr Kapitän?"

"Keep it. It's a long war." Boch fed in the parameters to the ships weapons control system, which in turn programmed the missile through the jury-rigged feed.

"Red one and two are spreading out and accelerating further. Estimate they will be in firing range in nine minutes."

"Attention all hands, Jump minus ten minutes, jump minus ten minutes. All hands to jump positions. Internal gravity will be off-line in five minutes."  In the mantra of NSL FTL jump procedure, Bester, notified the crew.

"Missile programmed Herr Kapitän."

"Release it."

"Weapon away."

"Range to red one, one quarter light second."

There was no indication that the Kra'Vak noticed the small package Hauser had left for them. The crew worked frantically to complete final jump preps and get to their jump positions in time to receive the necessary fast-acting, pre-transit meds. When the internal gravity cut out, numerous crew were still working. The transition to zero gee did not make their tasks any easier.

With the Köhl lit up for pre-jump, any doubt of their quarry had been removed from the Kra'Vak. They were accelerating at maximum speed to bring themselves within range. On the bridge, the meditech handed out the fast acting domotril shot, which would safeguard their minds from the effects of warp transit. Soon the automatic sequencers would shut down the main cortex from the ship's computer. Hauser found it difficult to remain in his shock frame, helpless against their pursuers. There was nothing they could do now but pray. As the drowsiness swept over him, he could feel the ship shudder. Deep in his sub conscious knew they had been hit....

In the aft engineering compartment, Chief Braun was screwing the domotril capsule into his vaccsuit's injection port when an explosion behind him set off every alarm in the compartment. His heart leapt into his throat as he saw the FIRE alarm flashing on his console. Fire, one of the greatest threats to any ship. Without thinking twice, he decoupled himself from his shockframe and moved to the damaged compartment. Three other engineering staff had done the same. The damaged compartment, just aft of the main sequencer, power coupling had already sealed itself off, letting the vacuum of space extinguish the blaze. But fire had leapt to the sequencer room itself and threatened the ships jump drive mechanism. Halon flooded the compartment. Braun and his three techs worked at the fire. The biggest threat was a bent line that snaked by a shattered junction box. The box was sparking heavily, threatening a fire. Keppler, worked a portable Halon unit over the shorting box, while Becker sought out the O2 feed shut down. The shutdown itself was damaged, explaining why it had not automatically closed.

"Stezni, get the spanner!" Called Becker.

The wide-eyed tech pulled open an emergency kit, and handed the spanner to Becker. The zero Gee through him off balance and he went careening into a wall. Becker pushed himself after the young tech. A moment later, a spark from the junction box ignited the leaking O2 line and another explosion ripped through the compartment. Braun was sent tumbling out the main hatch and smashed into the opposite bulkhead headfirst. he drifted away, unconscious. Keppler screamed in agony as the explosion shattered his faceplate and flooded his face with superheated gases.

Becker had been saved as he lurched after Stezni. He knew that the Jump was less than a minute off. He grabbed the spanner from the flailing Stezni,, pinned him down and activated his Domitrol injector., then pushed himself back to the damaged conduit. He expertly touched the wall below the one-meter blue jet of escaping O2-fed flame. With one hand he grabbed Keppler's floating hand-extinguisher while locking his legs into undamaged conduits along the bulkhead. He used the extinguisher to bend back the busted O2 feed, directing the flame away from the burning junction box. That done, he rapidly affixed the spanner into the manual valve shut down nut and closed off the escaping  O2, and extinguishing the blue jet. That done he flooded the box with Halon, then pulled the red hot fuse relays with his gloved hands cutting off all power to the damaged section. A blue haze filled the compartment. for a second, Becker thought he had electrocuted himself, before he realized the ship was entering warp. He stared wide-eyed at the beauty of the moment before everything went blank.

As soon as Köhl was safely out of the Warp cycle, Hauser unstrapped and received a damage report. Shaking off the lingering domotril effects, he headed aft to engineering, accompanied by Hrabek. The good news was that they'd survived and escaped their pursuers. The automated sensor log showed the hidden missile activating and bearing on the nearest Kra'Vak with little time for the enemy to react. The trick had worked perfectly. However the results of the missile explosion had been discernible as the Köhl had warped out soon after. The jump CEP (Circular Error probability) had been a dismal 34%, but they were free and clear.

The bad news was that Köhl had suffered two hits aft, and preliminary reports had severe damage in the aft-most engineering spaces as well as damage to the main drive.  Arriving at main engineering, the assistant chief reported the aft access control compartment penetrated and vented to space, two hands lost. The Aft power flow conduit compartment, had been penetrated and sealed, however the resulting fire had killed three crewmembers there. Fire was extinguished and a damage control party was picking their way through now.  The main sequencer room had also suffered damage. The fire had been dangerous, damage severe. If it hadn't been stopped when it was, they may have had to dump the power core.  Main drive was down. FTL drive would not make another jump. It was a miracle that the whole ship had not gone up in an explosion during the last transit.

It was going to be another hour before they could get someone outside to look at the main drive damage. Engineering room clean up and repair was going to take a day in itself. Navigation's estimate was that it would take at least that long to get an accurate fix for their next jump. The Assistant chief estimated three hours before he could have an accurate repair estimate. Hrabek agreed to remain in engineering and cut that time to 90 minutes.

Hauser made his way into the damaged compartment. He saw the wrecked junction box and O2 line damage. The fire must have been horrendous. The casualties had already been sent to sick bay. Passing through to the power flow conduit control, he spied even more damage. There had not yet been time to evacuate the bodies. Hauser cringed at the site he beheld. Two of the crewmen had died strapped into their shockframes.  The fire had been so hot, that the lower torso of their vaccsuits had been melted away. He could see their exposed femurs and knee joints, but the lower legs had been turned to ash. Inside the sealed helmets, he could see their horribly cooked faces were contorted in agony. The Halon system had taken minutes to extinguish the flames. The third crewman was frozen in position on his hands and knees, below a burnt control panel. Only the blackened, charred remains we left, both suit and body melting into a barely discernible mass. The entire compartment had  a sickening smell, plastic, mixed with well-cooked meat. Hauser turned and left, leaving the damage control team to their dismal task.

His next stop was sick bay. What he saw there didn't make him feel any better.  Best off was Chief Braun. An explosion had thrown him against a bulkhead. The Doctor said he was suffering from a  concussion and would be out of action for possible two days.

On the next bed, lay Keppler. Still in his suit, with his helmet on, Hauser saw the lifesign monitor reading bare minimum. His helmet faceplate was gone, and Hauser could see the boy's face was gun, flesh burnt away, eyes missing, lips gone. His teeth pulled into a grim smile. Rasping breath gurgled in his throat. An orderly looked up and shook his head somberly.  The doctor approached. He conferred silently with the orderly, and the man administered something into Keppler's IV admin port. There was a slight groan, as if Keppler was being released from something. On the monitor, his lifesigns flatlined.

The doctor turned to Hauser. "There was nothing we could do, Herr Kapitän. You saw his condition."

"I, I understand Herr Doktor."

On another bay lay Stezni. With the upper torso of his vacc suit removed, his arm lay in a sling, his shoulder dislocated. He was resting.

A cackle erupted from a bed in the corner.

"Becker," said the Doktor. He too, had his upper suit removed. He lay back both arms being attended to by orderlies.  "Third degree burns on both hands. The heat must have been incredible to burn through his gloves. Stezni says Becker saved the ship. He saved Stezni too, administering the domitrol just before jump."

Becker cackled hysterically.

"What's the matter with him."

"He went through the jump without the drugs. He's mad. insane. Doesn't even feel the pain, or so it seems."

"Mein Gott."

The Doktor continued. "So the total casualty count is six dead, three injured. Stezni and Braun should be back to work a few days. Becker, forget it."

"Thank you, Herr Doktor. Do what you can for them."

"Jawohl."

As he left Sickbay, Hauser felt ill from the suffering he'd witnessed. Despite fifteen years of service in the KriegsRaumFlötte, it was something he never grew accustomed to. He forced himself to focus on the mission. The Köhl  was out of action for at least two days, maybe more. That meant they miss their first scheduled query from the Satellite. There would be no communication with Captain Gerard and his men or Leutnant Waldek. They would be on their own. Of course, right now, that was the least of Hauser's worries.

Röt Hafen
22 July, 2193, 0500 local

The aurora shimmered above the team in day glow greens and oranges, as solar radiation collided with Röt Hafen's magnetic field. The lights were spectacular, stronger than anything ever seen on Earth. They shimmered like curtains flapping in a breeze, drying on a clothesline. However, 946 was too intent on their movement to appreciate it. After the fourth spill in fifteen minutes, Gerard figured it was time for them to take a break. Progress had been slow and difficult since leaving the DZ. Everyone was dragging ass. He signaled up the line and Donner selected a rock overhang. He walked 946 past it, then doglegged back to it. The overhang would offer both cover and concealment. The patrol moved into a perimeter and sat silent for ten minutes using their ears and watching their sensors, to ensure they weren't being followed. Gerard gave the signal to rest. Gathered in a tight circle, Gerard, Mellor, Lawrence and Donner reviewed the route.

"This sucks. What's up with this washboard terrain? Up and down, up and down," observed Gerard, eyeing Donner.

    "Hey Sir, don't look at me. We landed way the fuck off the map. The ass ends of planet  are not that well surveyed. We landed off the surveyed area, for which I have resolution down to one over twenty-five. For this'n here area all's I got are one over five-hundreds."

"Worse than that, contour interval is two-hundred meters," added Mellor. "So anything in this flat open valley that's smaller than 200 meters high shows up as open terrain."

"And every damn hill around here is only 199 meters high. What the fuck?"

"All right all right I get the picture. When will we be back on track though."

Donner, squatting on his haunches, toyed with a small nob on the side of his helmet, adjusting his HUD. "Well, the way I figure, we got at least another hour moving on our current heading then we'll be back on the right map sheet. Then I'll thread ya through this shit like thread through a needle."

"Sounds good, we'll rest here for another ten minutes then move out," Said Charlie.  He removed his helmet and scratched his head vigorously, getting some blood flowing through his scalp.

"This sure is a god-awful planet. It's freezing. And there's nothin' here but rocks and them shitty little ferns."

    "Well they're not really ferns, they just look like them. They're actually closer to lichen."

"Whatever, Sir."

Frament interrupted. "Yo yo yo, keep it down. Listen!" Faintly at first, then growing louder, they could hear the whine of engines. With rock walls surrounding the place it was difficult to tell what direction the sound was coming from. Despite being under an overhang, everyone hugged the ground.

"Something's coming." remarked Molitoris, unnecessarily.

The sound grew louder, suddenly turning into a roar as two flying vehicles passed overhead within 500 meters of their position.

Observing through his NODs, Lawrence made a note of direction and estimated speed. He'd never seen craft like these before. They were flat, and smooth. Their shaped was something square like, with a boom protruding from the leading edge of both corners along the direction of flight. There were no discernible markings. He guessed they were about ten meters across. The pair flew in a loose line abreast, maybe one hundred meters between them. Charlie estimated their speed at around 100 kilometers. They quickly disappeared from sight. The men listened until the sound was gone.

"Good lord, Sarge. Did ya see that?" Asked Donner, somewhat redundantly.

"Kra'Vak." Said Mellor.

"Brooks did you catch direction of flight?"

"Yeah."

"Make a note of it in the patrol log."

"Already doin' it."

Charlie traced the azimuth of flight from their locations. He followed the path somewhat alarmingly back to the general area of their insertion point. "Shit."

"What?" Asked Gerard.

"They might be on to us. Looks like they're heading back towards the DZ."

"How could they know?"

"I don't fuckin' know. OK guys, lets saddle up and move out. We need to get where we're going as quickly as possible. Try not to make too much mess along the way, in case we're being tracked. "

    The team moved out of their hiding spot, and stepped off quickly. They moved with a new sense of urgency, cold and fatigue forgotten.  They were being hunted.

Röt Hafen
22 July, 2193, 0520 local

Nonna Waldek, sat inside a small scooped out opening in a rock wall that passed for a cave, curled up under a blanket. Try as she might she couldn't sleep, despite her fatigue. Her emotions that night shifted back and forth between fear, anger and despair. Stuck on an alien planet, far from any chance of rescue, she found it difficult to sleep or think. She was a trained pilot, and a good one, but her training had never included anything like this. Sure she'd had a short three-day survival course many years ago as a flight cadet but she was hard pressed to remember anything now.

The night's events flashed by her again. She had regained control of the shuttle at eight thousand meters. Despite her desire, she realized that she had neither the fuel nor the opportunity to reach the Köhl again. Nor could she risk alerting possible defenses by attempting to communicate or run after the ship. her only chance of survival had  lay in finding a place to set down.  She chose a spot north east of the intended dropzone. The landing had gone well, and she brought the shuttle as close to a tall rock wall as possible, setting it down between some massive boulders. It was the closest thing to cover she could find. After taking a moment to catch her breath and regain her wits, Waldek had powered the ship down zeroed out all the communications gear and dumped the main computer core onto a disk which she had in her back pack. The ship was now dead, and anyone who found her would retrieve no useful data as to who was piloting it or what they were there for. Nor could the shuttle be operated unless it was programmed. That would take time.

She sat up, hugging the blanket tight around her shoulders. Taking stock of her meager kit, she was thankful that Sergeant Mellor had given her this little rucksack full of survival kit. Had they suspected it was a one way trip? Waldek inventoried her gear. Together with her normal kit, she had three liters of water, signaling mirrors, flares and flare gun, a small collapsible 4mm survival rifle, a med kit, about a weeks worth of high-concentration, freeze-dried survival rations, rope, needles and thread, small light and several powerpacks, fire starting materials, a tiny hexadrine stove and some fuel tablets. A small one person survival tent, and several other knick knacks rounded out the sum of everything she would have until (if) help arrived.  She had an emergency transponder/communicator, which she made damn sure was off.

In one flap of the pack was a small survival booklet. With nothing to do and too tired to sleep, she thumbed through it. It contained information on how to use all her gear and survival techniques for different environments. She found the first chapter most interesting. Waldek read on about survival principles. The chapter covered the Key Word: SURVIVE. (It was a NAC manual, hence in English.)

S=Size up the situation. The manual stated how the worst thing to do was to start running off without collecting ones wits and taking stock of their situation. She figured she was doing that right now.

U=Undue haste makes waste. Often, people in a survival situation made their lot worse than necessary by figuring the had to run or hurry to try and get un-lost. This only wore them down more and got them further lost and in trouble.

R=Remember where you are. This pertained to fixing one's location. Waldek had the advantage of remembering where she had set down. She had a large scale map of her area that also pinpointed Röt Hafen. whoever she had no experience at navigating along a land route and GPS was not functioning here. She would have to take an on the job crash course on map reading and land navigation the old fashioned way.

I=Improvise. There was no way her survival kit, though comprehensive, could cover everything she needed. The manual stated that a person in a survival situation would have to improvise with what they had or what local materials could be gathered, to make stay alive.

V=Vanquish Fear. Hmmph, she laughed. Easier said than done. She was stuck on an alien planet, with sparse population, occupied by an enemy that would probably skin her alive if they caught her. none of this made her feel very good. Worst off, living off the land just was not in her repertoire, she was a pilot not a landser.

A=Act like the natives. Waldek only wished she could find some natives. Isolation from other humans scared her most of all.

L=Learn the basics of survival. Well the book contained lots of information, but how much of it was pertinent to Röt Hafen? It's easy to read out of a book, but could she make it happen for real?

The whine of engines pulled her out of deep thought. She scrambled to the opening of her little hiding spot. Engines? Help! Waldek almost shouted with joy at the thought of rescue. She grabbed for the pack and fished out the flare gun. She fumbled with the flare loading mechanism then aimed it skyward as two craft appeared over head. Before triggering the flare off, she realized they were unfamiliar in shape. She pulled back from the opening, realizing with horror that she'd come within seconds of exposing herself to the enemy. It made her tremble. The ships moved over the next ridge. Their direction would take them over the shuttle's land sight in a few minutes. Waldek quickly gathered her things, slung the pack on her back, and rushed off in the opposite direction. She was breathing hard and anxious to put as much space between her and the landing site as quickly as possible.

 

They were making faster time now. Thirty minutes earlier, 946 had finally reached the area for which Donner had detailed navigational information, and he was threading the team through some forbidding terrain. High craggy walls, sand dunes and rubble hemmed in the team as it negotiated the maze of corridors through the valley. As it became light, the rock walls glowed red, and the aurora of the upper atmosphere was replaced by wisps of high altitude clouds. At ground levels they passed through patched of the odd moss-like plant life alternating with steaming fissures radiating heat. As the sun rose, a thin layer of fog rouse from the deep valley as condensation burned off.

Each man moved in silence, alone with his own thoughts. Despite the low gravity, the rock strewn ground, and their quick pace, combined with the weight of their rucks, began to tire them. Gerard had forgone breaks for the past two hours in an attempt to make up time. Twice they had taken cover under low overhangs as additional Kra'Vak ships passed over head, all along the same course. As the sun rose they stayed closer to potential overhead cover as they moved. Mellor had surmised that the valley was used as an easily identifiable navigational reference for the Kra'Vak pilots. Gerard was sure that they had been spotted on infil.

By 1000 the team was too exhausted to move much farther. After a quick stop and check of the map, Gerard selected a  tentative patrol base, and they moved forward two kilometers until they were close. The team gathered into a tight concealed perimeter. Gerard, Donner, and Miner, left a contingency plan with the team and moved forward to recon the patrol base, two hundred meters ahead. They found a spot amongst a number of house-sized anvil shaped boulders spotted with the moss like substance and thick with fern-like vegetation. Gerard dubbed  the spot suitable for a patrol base, with good cover and defensible. He left  Miner and Donner at the patrol base, leaving them a contingency plan also, then walked back alone to the team. After a quick briefing of what they had found, they moved out to occupy their temporary home. Their route took them past the patrol base in a number of doglegs, then a sharp cut into the perimeter. Frament and Brooks remained at the dogleg, while everyone else settled into their position. Freeman set of the gun at the six o'clock position, where they had entered, and everyone laid down and waited.

The circuitous route would lead any tracker or pursuers stomping around the actual patrol base, making plenty of noise and alerting the team. They struggled to stay awake for twenty minutes, then Lawrence gave the OK to go on 50% security. They'd remain there for six hours.

 

Waldek awoke with a start, then looked around in a panic. It was dark! Above her the shimmering aurora was dimmer than before. Only a splash of washed out green against the canvas of Röt Hafen's night sky.  She had slept through the whole day. She lay silently for a moment listening in the event anyone was nearby, but after several minutes felt safe enough to get up and do a more proper search of her immediate vicinity. Several minutes later she was back in her hiding spot, reasonably secure that she was alone.

She had put distance between her and the shuttle, moving quickly most of the morning until roughly noon, then overcome with fatigue despite her fear, she had laid down for a quick rest and some water. Ten hours later, she was awake again. She cursed her stupidity. Anyone could have stumbled upon her  and killed her as she slept. However, as she shook the last of sleep from her head, she had to admit she felt much better. Fishing through her kit, she fished out a concentrated ration bar and greedily ate half. She broke out a small cup, filled it with water and coffee and heated it over  a small power cooker which emitted no flame or light. She sipped at the hot brew while nibbling on the second half of her power bar. This small pleasure was more treasured than any other experience she could remember, and her spirits rose accordingly.

She studied her map, plotted the course she would follow at night. Packing up her kit, Waldek was careful not to leave any trash or sign that she'd been there. She then shouldered her small pack and set off into the darkness.

 

"OK listen up", began Gerard. 946 was gathered in a tight perimeter, tucked away between to large rocks. They'd conducted another eight hour movement without incident, and were close to the rendezvous point.

"This is how it's going down. Pretty much a standard SOP link-up. I'm taking Kenny and Colin with me, We're about a klick from the site. We'll be moving out in five minutes. Once there we'll observe the site for an hour, the far recognition signal should be in sight. Kenny will set up a good position where he can get  a shot at the RP. Colin and I will go forward and await the near recognition signal. Assuming they're there we will go forward, establish bona fides, then move back to here. The whole thing should take about two hours. If we get hit, move to rally point Delta and we'll go from there. If you get hit, same thing.  If either of us gets to Delta wait thirty minutes from the last contact then move out to Echo, where we will meet in twenty-four hours. Any questions?" There were none.

"Ok, you guys ready?" Mellor and Frament nodded. "Then let's go." The three slipped silently out of the perimeter. Lawrence readjusted security and they settled in to wait.

Mellor scanned the RP through his scoped Gauss rifle. They'd seen the far recognition signal, which was a pile of crossed rocks at a designated coordinate. That in itself had surprised him. deep down he didn't expect to see any living humans on this desolate planet. He forced himself to beware that he might not. It could be a trick. Three hundred meters away, he could see Gerard and Frament, patiently waiting, crouched down behind some rocks awaiting the proper time.

Two minutes before the appointed RP time, Frament broke open an Infrared Chemlight and placed it atop a rock. It was to stay lit for exactly four minutes.  Mellor scanned the surrounding area intently. If an ambush was going to occur it would be now. Three minutes ticked away slowly, and Mellor was beginning to think this would be a no-show, when suddenly another IR chemlight illuminated 100 meters from Frament's. Mellor focused in on it controlling his breathing. OK, he thought to himself, who's gonna go first? Over his radio, Gerard issued a quick, "moving", then got up and walked out into the open, slowly.

Gerard moved towards the chemlight, his weapon slung but his pistol holster's retaining strap was undone and he was ready to draw if necessary. After he moved ten meters, Colin stood and followed, his weapon in the low ready position. By the other chemlight, a lone figure arose and walk slowly towards him.

Mellor placed his crosshairs on the man's chest.  He wasn't carrying a long gun, but he could see a pistol in a holster. Mellor, moved off the lone man secure in the knowledge that Colin would handle him if necessary.  and scanned the rocks behind him. He flipped to thermals and made out two dull glows, which would be the other guy's security hidden behind rocks. One signature glowed brighter, until part of its head was exposed. Mellor hoped the thermal dampening of his stealthsuit was working. He switched to IR and placed the Guass rifle's crosshairs on the man's head. He zoomed in to maximum magnification and could make out the muzzle of a gun sticking out ahead of the target.  Using the stadia sights, he estimated the distance to target at 175 meters.  If he had to take the shot, he do a quick lase just before squeezing the trigger, and the rifle would make its own final corrections.

Kenny whispered his observations into the mike. "Got one target up in the rocks at your ten o'clock. He's dialed in. Another signature about twenty meters to his right, but still concealed."

"Gotcha", said Colin. "I got the main guy heading towards us."

Gerard approached the figure before him and held out his hands, palms up. The other man did the same.  They stopped three meters from each other. Colin remained ten meters back. The other man was a bit less than two meters in height. He wore a mottled, baggy, service coat, (hard to tell the exact color in the dark with IR), and his face was hidden behind goggles. He wore a non descript brimmed cap on his head.  He was wrapped in a parka and a pistol was attached to a equipment belt at his waist.


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