CHAPTER NAVIGATION BAR
TALES OF BUFFALO COMMONS
" DAM "
They continued down the clearing - if you could call this overgrown weed-fest a clearing - in the same cautious manner as before. Two noncoms would rush forward ten metres, weapons ready, while covered by the rest of the Squad. * * *
When they held their fists up at the 90, signaling the area was secure, then two more would close in behind them. This undulating motion continued until the Squad had reached the perimeter of the work crew's operations yard.
It wasn't really necessary though. Overheads from Cimarron confirmed there were no life signs anywhere around them, and the Hornets were in position, with their scanners fully active, looking for signs of any opposition forces, lookouts and tells that indicated a threat had appeared.
Knowing this didn't change anything. Tremblay's father was an engineer who had drilled into his son at a very early age that you did everything the same way, the cautious way, each time, so it was habit. That way when the chips fell you reacted with the right habits and not the sloppy ones.
When they moved out of the overgrowth and came into view of the Conestoga trailer that had been the Foreman's office things changed. Their approach now was to spread out, cover the area from all quarters and take a fresh study of the field. It was here that they found a fresh track of telephone cable, which continued, unbroken, across the work yard and into the dam. Kalter cut into the line and retried setting up his pseudo telephone exchange.
This time the display lit up green and confirmed, thanks to the way the original wiring was set up, that three working telephones existed down stream.
Kalter couldn't say if the internal parts of the phone would work, if they would ring, or even where they were, but the display confirmed three responding signals and that meant the lines were good.
"Can you hit all three at the same time?"
Kalter stopped again, then shrugged. He knew he couldn't hit just one telephone without going over the original schematics, and probably taking a course in how these networks worked. No matter what he tried all three lines would probably ring, but he wasn't new to this game so he looked up at Tremblay and said, "Yeah, that should be possible."
Tremblay peered across the open space between them and the dam with an eagle's gaze. "Do it!"
Senior Leftenant Algiers and his squad finally cleared the woods on the hill. Corporal Halsey had a twisted ankle, their first injury in four weeks and it wasn't even from combat. Halsey continued to swear at the uneven forest bed and bramble that tripped him.
For his part Algiers was just happy to be out of the dense foliage. Despite the scanners on his gun and the precise overhead read-outs guiding them from Cimarron, Algiers was becoming increasingly panicked that they were lost. He never thought of himself as claustrophobic but it really was starting to feel as though the forest was swallowing them up.
At least here he could see the sky, the shallow waters on the upstream side of the dam and more importantly the dam itself, their target. At his hand signals his team took up position, along the edge of the forest, in the depression, which ran parallel to the un-maintained, and badly overgrown road, which led up to the gate on this side of the dam's structure.
Slowly, in groups of two, they moved toward the gate, careful to avoid being spotted. Algiers wouldn't take his eyes off the dam, worried that one of the rust coloured doors would open and the opposition would come out, and spot their approach.
He jumped as someone a few bodies down made a sudden noise he'd never heard before. Algiers looked down the ranks, all eyes were on Private Abraham, who had her hands over her lips, embarrassed at the near squeal that had almost erupted from them.
Gertie Abraham was the most junior member of his Squad and Algiers cursed every time she was assigned to his team because of it. He turned to her with a stern glare but she returned his gaze with an intense look that made him follow her gaze.
Sure enough, on the far side of the reservoir, nearly a kilometre upstream from the dam, were two water craft, beached and guarded by three members of their opposition.
Fortunately none of the three had heard her, a surprise really considering how well sound travels over water.
Algiers brought up his Electro-binocs and zoomed in on them. The stock of one weapon was visible sticking out of the side of the nearest watercraft, but none of them were holding any weapons, better still was the apparent low tech nature of the opposition. His concern was that the planned approach for Bravo Squad would have taken them very close to that area.
Algiers brought his rifle up and triggered the bio-metric scanner. He then swept the region around them, confirming once again that immediate area was clear. Then he reached around, removing the faceguard from his kit and as he brought it up to his face, he turned, facing the forest, while crouching low. As a final precaution he brought his hand up to hold the faceguard tight. Then, and only then, he triggered his Comm-Link for Captain Tremblay.
* * *
Tremblay heard the chirp in his earpiece and turned. No one else was reacting, which told him it was a private communication. He brought his Marwayne 350 up and swept the area to make sure no heat signatures were near enough to hear him that weren't already part of his group and then took out his Comm-Link. He glanced at the call display as he brought it up to his ear, automatically triggering the privacy speaker, then he tabbed the activator.
"Talk to me."
"We're in position on the west side but we've spotted opposition one point one seven clicks upstream on the east bank."
Tremblay's expression hardened as he remembered how close to that Bravo was going. "How many?"
* * *
Algiers aimed his Rifle across the water and did a ping, a risky move if they had any receptors but he figured that was unlikely considering their apparel. Sure enough, none of them budged as he got his firm reading. "Three. We see one weapon confirmed but none are carrying."
To anyone else Tremblay's voice would've sounded cool and professional, but when you've served with someone as long as Algiers had you recognized the tightness in the tone as concern. "Cover?"
"They're twenty metres from the nearest tree, maybe the grassland is deep enough to avoid line of sight, otherwise it's just the two boats."
"Hard or soft?"
Algiers was taken aback by the question, "sir?"
"Are the boats inflated or hard shell craft?"
Algiers brought the Electro-Binocs up again and peered through them, this time looking at the craft. They looked like wooden craft with canvas on them. Was that hard or soft? "They're not inflated but I don't think they're that solid either."
* * *
Tremblay smiled. The kid obviously didn't have any maritime experience. That figured, if he remembered correct Paul Algiers was from the Sudd, despite the terraforming efforts in that nation over the last century it was still hardly a camper's paradise.
"Have you clocked in with Bravo?" No point in ringing Tomlinson and his group a second time if it wasn't necessary.
"Secure position where you are and stand by to assist. Out."
Tremblay closed the line and dialed in the code for a Command Gab directly to Tomlinson, he then spoke very clearly and quietly into the Link's microphone, "Gavin, this is Tremblay," he'd know it was a private communication, "Algiers reports three hostiles in position."
He looked at the display on the inside cuff of his jacket, "marker zero-two-bravo-alpha. They're in stand down, PIP your status, over."
A moment later the plain text message, "IP 02BB STB" appeared on his Cuff Display. "In position, zero-two-bravo-bravo, standing by."
Tremblay frowned. The opposition wasn't currently armed, but if they had the chance to warn the rest it would be very bad for them. The question he always disliked was before him: take down, soft kill, or hard?
Tactically it was best to eliminate them as threats. Three quick shots, which they could easily deliver from the far bank of the river, would come without warning and that would be that. But although Martin Tremblay had no problem killing an armed opponent, an immediate threat or even an impending threat; it was a whole different matter ordering the termination of someone who didn't even have a weapon in his hand.
Tremblay keyed up a link to the overheads that Cimarron was providing. It took a moment to zero in on the exact spot where their opposition was, and a moment later to see that they only had two rifles between the lot of them. He tracked over to where Bravo was, they could probably pass by the group and continue to the rendezvous point without being noticed, actually, considering how poorly the opposition was standing guard it would probably be quite easy.
Tremblay re-activated the Link, "Stand-by Bravo."
* * *
Leftenant Gavin Tomlinson held back his swear, partly because the rest of his Squad wouldn't know why he was pissed off, but mostly because they were close enough to the three members of the opposition that such an utterance, even under his breath, was a greater risk than he knew was professional.
They could pull back, deeper into the bush, delay their progress a few minutes and work their way wide of these three, but Tomlinson knew that was a bad idea. It left hostiles in their escape route should they need to come back this way.
He didn't consider taking a human life to be any easier than Tremblay did, but to him tactics took precedence. The Captain wouldn't agree, this was the first stage of a humanitarian mission and some were already arguing that these people had full rights to this land and should be left alone, but they'd crossed a line grabbing Network personnel. His neck and the others on the Squad were on the line to recover them and no risk should be taken with those.
* * *