CHAPTER THIRTEEN PART THREE INTO THE LATAL GORGE
FROM PART TWO
Having made the final adjustment, Tasca removed two small black cubes from the underside of the thopter. “We’re good to go, Sergeant,” he said, handing the cubes to Maseru. “Remove the green cap from underneath each scanners thermal links and insert them into the slots.”
“Yes, sir.” Maseru took the cubes and with little effort removed the green caps and inserted the cubes. “Done, sir. The damned thing looks like a cross between a grasshopper and a bat, sir.”
“Now that you mention it, it does. It’ll never win a beauty contest, Sergeant. Tech designed it to monitor all movement within a sixteen k bubble. “I’ve entered an omega search pattern. It will fly at a height of six-hundred meters with continuous feeds to our scanners. As long as the sun charges its power cells, it can stay airborne indefinitely. At least that’s what tech said.”
The fact tech said the very thing about the stalker traps didn’t escape Maseru’s attention. “So far it sounds good Colonel, but two questions: What’s its ceiling and can it be shot down?”
“It has a max altitude of fifteen-hundred meters and with the weapons the Scavs have, no. The thopter’s body is made from cast durrilian. It’s ultra quiet and its design makes it virtually invisible at altitudes over two hundred meters. Does that answer your questions?”
Tasca’s reply gave Maseru’s confidence a sudden boost. “For now, sir, but I’m sure I’ll have others as we work our way up the gorge.”
“No doubt you will, Sergeant.” Placing his hands on his knee Tasca pushed himself up then motioned toward the scanners. “Open the black compartment at the back of each scanner.”
“Got it, sir.” Maseru picked up the first scanner and opened the compartment repeating the act with the second. “I see four green-numbered buttons next a black switch. “I’ll bite, sir what are they for?”
“Each button designates a search pattern. The black switch is the self destruct command. To make the thopter return you press the search pattern button a second time. Quite simple, really.”
“Sounds easy enough, Colonel. Is there a control that overrides the auto command?”
“Yes. To engage manual control you depress the striped bar below the scanner screen and a joy stick emerges. Push forward, back, left or right and the thopter moves in that direction. For altitude depress the joy stick and move it forward, to bring it home, pull it straight up. The thopter has sensors that automatically decrease its speed as it descends. Both scanners can fly it should one become damaged.”
“Seems easy, Colonel. I take it you’ll control the thopter?”
“Yes, Sergeant, for now. If nothing’s tailing us when we reach the end of the gorge, you’ll take control, but until then continue scanning the area around us while I get this thing airborne. Once it’s functioning properly I’ll have it return before we move forward. The map shows the buried container about twenty meters closer to the left side of the gorge, giving the Scavs an advantage if they fire on us from above.”
Maseru pointed at the thopter. “Since this will give us the Scavs positions, wouldn’t it negate their edge, sir?”
“It should, Sergeant. You ready to see what this can do?
“Make her fly, sir.”
With a low whirling sound the machine lifted off the ground and shot straight up. “So what do you think, Sergeant?
“It’s damn quiet, sir. They’ll never hear it.” Their vulnerability to a Scav attack until they reached the outcropping weighed heavy on Maseru. They would be in the open far too long for his liking. But what choice did they have? “We sure as hell can’t approach this DBS the way we did the last, Colonel. It won’t do us much good if the thopter gives their positions if we can’t make it to the site.”
“It will give us their positions before we make for the site, but if they’re standing next the edge above us we won’t have much of a target. It’s imperative we reach the container. Should they fire at us from the top of the gorge, you’ll lay down suppressing fire while I make for the site. Once I give the command you’ll break towards me as I return fire. We’ll maintain this until we’re at the outcropping. Questions, Sergeant?”
They had used this maneuver on different missions. Maseru understood Tasca’s mindset on such matters, his sense of duty, of not letting anything interfere with completing the mission. “That could work, sir, but I don’t like you being the bait.” There was genuine concern in the Sergeant’s voice.”
With a disarming grin Tasca spoke: “In all my encounters with the Worlar they were always piss-poor shots unless they’re right on top of you and even then they had trouble hitting their targets. Since they’ll fire from a steep angle they’ll have to expose themselves and when they do…”
Careful, sir. You’ll give away my position,” Maseru said with a laugh.
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
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