The Guardian “Hauberk” locked brakes and came to a gentle halt thirty meters from the crest of the rise it had ground up for the last few minutes. Grey dust from the rough road plumed around it’s armoured wheels and drifted lazily westward on a gentle breeze. On the front flanks of the carrier, the two defensive machine guns gittered left and right seeking threats, whilst the roar of the engine descended into a low growl as the driver idled his vehicle.
On top of the APC the hatches hissed alive and opened upward and forward, clicking softly into lock, and from each hatch opening swarmed an armoured fighter who slid quickly and efficiently over the side of the Hauberk and onto their bellies, then rolled away from the vehicle into the short turf either side of the road in a move that looked synchronised, very well rehearsed and almost poetic. The speed and timing in which a combat squad exited it’s armoured personnel carrier and deployed was often literally, a matter of life and death.
The eight members of the team, four left and four right were in a defensive cluster, their weapons pointed from nine through to three o’clock. All had visors down and weapons sweeping their arc of the defence, and for each, as this was an experienced team, it was as involuntary as breathing. Each team member had the gentle and reassuring murmur of the team communication chatter in one ear whilst the other was being fed the sounds of the rest of the world around them enhanced through their comm helmets and overseen by the comms control system in Hauberk which was also listening out for anything that might sound like the noise of a threat in close proximity to the team and the vehicle.
The lead figure on the left flank moved - leaping up and bent double sprinting forward to just before the crest of the little hill, followed almost immediately by the lead figure of the right flank who threw themselves down in the dust close by the first fighter. For some moments neither said anything, but the side to side movement of their helmeted heads indicated their close scan of the land lying ahead of their position.
“Well Jarl,”, the first figure said finally, her quiet words picked up on her mike and communicated via her helmet comm. to her number 2. “The Sarl valley starts just over there.”
Jarl grunted, his visor scope was set to 3x magnification and he tapped on his wrist pad to increase this vision up to 10x. The road which was really no more than a dusty track snaked down the other side of the rise and pushed on through the low lying ground for half a click before rising steadily, gently up a larger hill. On top of the hill lay the trading post of Jrinn - typical builds in the Claive style and surrounded by low walls to keep the local scavenger beasts at bay - and probably helpful as cover when who ever pulled the triggers fired on the Arden security team that had been sent to formally serve notice to quit. A third building lay just below the hill, along with more walling. All looked quiet. Jarl flicked the rocker switch on his wrist pad and his visors view switched colour - transforming the landscape to shades of grey. Amongst the buildings on the hill were a number of clear blurs of white - human blobs of pale light against the grey. Apparently unarmed.
“We have a welcoming committee, any way, Sann.” Jarl observed.
“To be expected. This is their home. I track three groups just inside the compounds - none look like they are carrying.”
“Roger that, boss.”
“All. Bravo Two to Bravo Lead. Target in visual. Multiple confirmed locals. No heat. Do we go?” Sann had patched through to the team leader back in “the Boss” but had included everyone in the team because there was nothing of note to report which would be good news for all to hear.”
“Affirmative Bravo Two. Let’s take a stroll with our dogs.”
“Roger that Lead.”
Senn looked to her right at Jarl. His face from nose up was invisible behind the visor of his helmet but his mouth, surrounded by a day of stubble pulled a side ways scowl that he always used when he meant “lets get this done” when he would rather be in a canteen somewhere instead - the job having been done.
Senn stood up, Jarl close behind. Both knew that their bodies now stood stark on the skyline for those watching in the hamlet ahead. If there was a sniper there who had not yet been picked by their sensors then the first they would know about it was if their body took a shot. The familiar feeling of naked vulnerability mixed with fear of death or maiming shivered through both mercenaries. Behind them they knew that the rest of their team had stood and would be walking steadily forward, weapons raised, scopes trained on five different potential locations where death might be lurking. The roar of Hauberk’s engines roared as her driver edged her forward.
On the comm, Senn heard Lieutenant Flode confirm to battle group:
“Seven this is Bravo One. Target Juliette One ahead. We are taking a stroll with the dogs.”
“Roger that Bravo One.” came the dispassionate reply from signals operator further back down the road with the Battle Group HQ group. Corporal Senn and her Two section advanced slowly forward with their Guardian class Armoured Personnel Carrier following at the same pace a little behind them. To their rear on either side the other two fire teams would be doing the same - taking a stroll with their “dog”. Behind them would follow the other HQ led elements of Tactical Combat Team Bravo, and behind them the rest of the Seven Valleys Battle Group.
The Rapid Offensive Force was on the march into the Sarl Valley. It would take some stopping.