J’karra descended through the skies in the midst of a rainstorm, eagerly hurtled toward the verdant earth that rushed to meet her. As she fell through crystalline skies, through harmless rain clouds, the breathe was stolen from her lungs. A great canopy of a temperate forest stretched across the horizon for miles on end, heaved upwards in some places by great mountains and rolling hills. The tongues of vast rivers snaked through the mystic wilderness, reflecting the rays of the midday sun off of their placid waters. The sight was such a striking contrast to the arid plains that she had known all of her life on the Sept World of Tau.
Aloh Fio was truly a great beauty to behold.
“Right… Time to execute.” J’karra muttered. Despite the protective enclosure that her battlesuit provided, she could hear the wind howl all around her. She felt the untamed gust weather against her nano-crystalline hide. “All squad members, initiate thruster sequence! We do not want to be in free fall when we break through the forest canopy.”
Ve’sa confirmed. “Copy, J’karra.”
Doran said. “Affirmative, shas’ui.”
Elan replied. “Understood, shas’ui.”
The jump pack integrated into J’karra’s XV25 Stealth Suit blazed into life, sapphire flames roared from her back and brought her to a jarring slowdown in her descent. Data rapidly scrolled across her visor as her battle suit’s internal systems adjusted its calculations for the safest landing. She curled the battle suit’s arms around her faceplate as she hammered legs first into the thick forest canopy. Such was her momentum that thick branches shattered like so many flimsy twigs, each with enough force to hit J’karra with a dizzying impact. She shut her eyes against the rough landing but for a moment and when she snapped them open again, her hooves lightly touched upon Aloh Fio’s rain-soaked ground.
J’karra spared herself a moment to take in her surroundings as the flames of her jet pack fizzled into nothing. The local forest that she had landed in had taken on a sinister and primeval appearance throughout its centuries of growth. Lush grass that gazed her waist sprang up from every crevice beneath twisted trees, dominated here and there by groves of wild flowers and patches of moss. In the blink of an eye, she counted half a dozen birds whisking themselves through the canopy. Further into the depths of this alien world, strange beasts roared and growled.
J’karra whispered into her channel. “Stealth Team Cold Inception, report.”
Doran’s voice was the first to reappear over the comms. “Shas’ui? I have landed with Elan some Tor’lek from your position. The stealth drone is with us. We’ll follow your signal and come to you.”
“Shas’ui, I’m here.” A female’s voice broke the tranquil silence mere feet away. Another crimson and ebony stealth suit stomped through the brush into the clearing to join J’karra. “Ve’sa, reporting.”
“Very good,” J’karra managed to sound impressed. “Everyone has made the jump—“
The shas’ui was interrupted by a loud thundering sound that made the earth quake beneath her feet. A flock of birds scattered to the winds. J’karra looked up into the endless rain and through the canopy. The Orca gunship Team Cold Inception had deployed from was a small dot in the sky, but one rapidly growing as it neared the landing zone. Then, in a brilliant flash, she noticed what had caused the earlier explosion that had rocked the gunship and nearly killed everyone inside. Several fiery-golden lances of atomizing energy rent through the skies in an attempt to track the gunship.
J’karra said. Beneath her faceplate, she snarled at the energy lances that seared the sky. “Orbital cannon, they must have detected our presence when we were entering atmosphere. We were fortunate the gue’la only managed to graze us. Wherever that defensive emplacement is located should be our first objective.”
Ve’sa shrugged her stealth suit’s pauldrons. “And here I thought we would be hunting for the gue’la base for hours, at least.”
J’karra waved her hand in the direction of Elan and Doran as they rushed into the clearing. “The gue’la know little about tactics that require concealment. I knew it would not be long before we had our target.” She turned to the hovering hexagonal field that could only be seen due to her suit’s internal monitoring systems. “Drone, resume stealth field. Cold Inception, we have a perimeter to secure and a base to locate. I want to be the first stealth team on the objective. Let’s move out!”
The rain intensified as Cold Inception followed the resounding trail of the Orbital Cannon. Verdant grasses wilted as the land turned into fields of murk, festered with dense groves of flowers and cropping of great and ancient trees. J’karra found that she did not mind the muddy paths through the woodlands. In fact, she was mesmerized by her alien environment. She figured that she may as well enjoy the sights before any combats broke out and the inevitable bloodshed began to flow.
That train of thought did not last.
Elan suddenly fell on one knee at the head of the stealth team and raised a fist into the air. He said in a whisper thin voice. “J’karra, I have spotted movement. Forty Tor’leks to the left, in the clearing.”
J’karra wheeled around the other members of her team and knelt beside Elan. Her gaze followed the coordinates, forty Tor’leks to the left into a large clearing that at seemed odds in such a sprawling forest as this one. The resounding discharge of the orbital cannon shook the earth once again and this time J’karra could feel it rattle her teeth. It was then that she noticed a shadow flicker through the underbrush with reckless disregard. A gue’la male dressed in combat fatigues was on patrol by himself, marked from knuckles to shoulders in strange tattoos that made her eyes ache. Cradled in his grip was a standard las-gun and his face was hidden beneath a rebreather helmet. His flakk armor was too pristine, it had not been scarred or dirtied by combat.
“Hmph.” J’karra huffed. “Ve’sa, wheel around on the contact’s left flank. Doran, take the right. Do not engage. I want to know if he is alone.”
Ve’sa shifted her gaze to her superior. “And if he is not, shas’ui?”
J’karra said. “Wait for my order. I have seen this type of gue’la before. Their military invest heavily warp science. I know what they can do firsthand. We should approach with caution.”