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Planet Cirokko, mountains outside the planetary capital Rhada Spring
Mike never thought there'd come a day when he'd be thankful for his childhood. He saw much of his home planetit had been Hades in all but fucking namein the harsh landscape around him.
The fucking sun, for one. She was a merciless, stone-cold bitch.
"Why couldn't the Doctrine make a grab for something more hospitable? This planet reminds me of holidays at the in-laws."
Mike tugged at the cloth wrapped around his head and barked a laugh. The local dialect didn't sound as strange to his ears as it had six months ago. He and Pat had spoken nothing else from the time Alliance CovOps Command had started planning this operation. Didn't know how long ago that was. Or how long they'd been freezing their nuts off in the mountains. Mike swore his were finally beginning to thaw out. Not that he had any real use for them, currently. Didn't know why he was bothering to complain, even inside his own head. In another couple months, his nuts would be cooking instead.
"There." Pat growled the word and twisted on his side, aiming digital binoculars at a faint smudge on the horizon. The dust plume kicking up into the cloudless sky was unmistakable. "Just what we've been waiting for. If that's not a sizable troop movement, my name is river mud."
"Rivers don't have mud around here, jackass. Just rocks," he muttered, not even moving his lips. Long moments and a few rock bruises later, the plume discharged its source into sight.
"Breaker, breaker, looks like we got ourselves a convoy!"
The sudden injection of Alliance standard, spoken in a heavily accented drawl that reminded him of home, was so disjointed and foreign to Mike's ears that he just shifted his gaze and stared at his fellow CovOp in disbelief.
Thank the gods they were out alone on this little venture. It was rare; usually the local resistance fighters eagerly served as guides. Even something like six months wasn't enough to know this geography as well as the natives. Or eight months. Or however fucking long they'd been here. He'd lost track of when exactly the Doctrine had begun massing troops on the neighboring planeta sure sign their rhetoric about invading Cirokko would be turned into reality.
At least winter was over now, and for the next month or so they'd be able to feel like semicivilized humans, while green things grew not only in the lowlands but also in the mountains, and it might actually rain. Knowing that the current weather patterns wouldn't last long did nothing for his mood.
Those were infantry transports. Hovercraft variety, most likely. Easier on rough, unpredictable terrain, negating the impact of minefields and booby traps. Cirokko was littered with them, its history rife with sociocultural unrest. And invasion attempts. One thing about Cirokkansthey definitely learned from their past.
"That's a roger on the supply-line route." Mike felt the grin on his faceit was cracking his lips. He took a moment to suck the abused flesh into his mouth, enjoying the painful sting of sweat burning the wound before his saliva washed it away. Sweat was a luxury they'd be doing without before too long. In another couple months, moisture would evaporate before the skin could even register its presence. The metallic tang of blood sang against his taste buds, and he chewed on his tongue to distract himself. "And if that isn't enough good news, I'm seeing what looks like a security detail leading the way."
Pat lowered the flat-black sighting device to share a cheesy, shit-eating grin with Mike. "Boo-yah, baby."