Gavi and the others were in the hold of a spacecraft after a couple weeks spent in drug-induced stasis after lining up for a 'immunobooster' shot in French Guyana. That was when General Wallace announced what their actual mission was, not Uzbekistan, not counterinsurgency and not working for humans to kill other humans, there was a brief moment when Gavi Benayoun blanked out while thinking, _I could be the first human to kill an alien lifeform._ And then, because Centurion's screenings picked men like him precisely because they were open to new things and system shocks, he digested it and came back down from a mind flashing with possibilities. They had work to do, and it was exciting work. The planet had a name in the Pilavian language, but the troops all called it “Dune” after the Frank Herbert novel that Gavi had read as a teenager, as a lifelong science fiction buff in his off-time from school and during his stint in the IDF. It was a love inherited from his mother and his grandfather. It fit. Like the book, it was a vista of sand and dust, though with hexagonal crystal formations that alluded to some sort of geologic mystery that eluded him – he was a soldier, not a scientist, but it created an intriguing array of crystals that, thankfully, didn't reflect back the murderous light of the system's sun. To him, it was like the Negev – here and there, there were pockets of alien foliage in the waste of a desert, broken up by shelves of those crystals, huge valleys that the Pilavians turned into their warrens. He was on point, but not alone, with his body covered against the dust and the sun, his face wrapped in a camo netting so that only his sunglasses showed above the mask. He was the point, but he was not that guide-- that was the Pilavian scout, what they called in their translated tongue a 'trickster' or a 'lure', attached to his unit that went by Inakel; she was a sterile female, four-eyed and resembling, perhaps, a fennec fox in the sense of long ears, a snout and the shade of her fur. Only one set of eyes was open by day, the other being optimized for nights. She had a weapon of her own, but the Pilavians were not here to fight for the Grathik – this was their homeworld, but they were hunkered down, setting traps. It's how they evolved over the millions of years – they sent lures like Inakel out to divert their predators into the traps. They were bait. Inakel was one of the rare brave ones willing to do that sort of work. And, in a sense, she was still doing the work in that she was bringing the Salvesh, who landed on Dune recently in an attempt to take a vital planet, with a labor force and industrial capability in the warrens beneath the surface, to their doom. A sensor buoy pinged near an abandoned village built in a valley of those crystals, like the old Pueblo Indian settlements in Arizona and New Mexico, in a river valley that was a natural blind spot for the ground-based sensor network, which meant that a squad was tapped to run a patrol of the area. The contacts ghosted in and out of the sensor's detection because of the magnetic interference and the natural cover, and drones were sent up to get eyes on the situation, if possible. When signs of the enemy were located, the drones went on standby as air support while a squad was inserted by high-speed underground rail to a point near where they needed to be on the surface. They climbed up into the dusty sandscape of Dune, with constant realtime updates provided by the sophisticated drone network. And yet, for all the technology, it was the little basics that count. “I smell something.” The Pilavian had some sort of modification that allowed her to speak to the humans in their language and understand when spoken to – Grathik cybernetics not yet introduced for use by humanity. In fact, the squad was out here humping the Grathik-made imitations of human weaponry, reasoning that there was little time to retrain humans on weapons they were unfamiliar with. It was better to send them into the fight with weapons they knew, retrofitted to function viably in the current environment. It was the right call – send the troops in with the weapons they knew and trusted. “There. Good position,” Inakel gestured with a clawed, two-fingered, one-thumbed hand toward an overlook over Village Twelve, the human designation of the area that bypassed the intricate and confusing Pilavian naming, rendered down for military consumption. Gavi nodded, turned around a bit and brought a fist up to head level while getting on the comms, briefly, “Riddler, checking ridge at squad northwest, with the crystals. She says she smells them.” He didn't add that apparently Pilavians had excellent noses in addition to four eyes. Some things, the briefing officers missed, in the urgency of the situation. He made the approach in a crouch that kept him concealed behind the terrain. Gavi and Park knew each other's capabilities, and that was why the Israeli was on point, particularly in an alien desert and working with the alien scout attached to the squad. In fireteam B, Hetzenauer tended to feel that he should be the point, though he didn't particularly react well to the aliens the way the Israeli did. Fireteam A was a mixed bag; Algerian, Israeli, Thai and even a Cuban, but they gelled well, whereas Fireteam B was all German and somewhat unwilling to cooperate overmuch with the American squad leader. Park was doing his best, and Park was more qualified than Neuer, the Fireteam leader, to run the show, but try telling that to these guys. In any case, he told Inakel, “Hold here, I'm going to get the look,” even as he dropped even lower and crawled the rest of the way up the ridge. He'd covered up everything that would glint back light, a predator's eyes caught movement easily, and the idea was to move very gently into place and then start looking, hopefully undetected. They were facing the unknown, and Gavi didn't see the downside of the element of surprise here. The wind was howling through the valleys that could be seen from below, picking it up here and there in little plumes that sent grit catapulting into the air in his direction, occasionally hitting his glasses, but he had a pretty clear view of the terrain...and of the enemy position; the Salvesh had an observation post set up, but it was a hasty position without the benefit of Pilavian input on how to make the approaches, which the humans were capitalizing on. They also didn't have the Pilavian rail system to move them about. He was mostly buried in the reverse slope, and his clothing matched the terrain, a derivative of the crye multicam optimized for Dune. His weapon, an earth-tone colored HK416 with a magnifier on the holo, was kept trained on the appearance of hunched forms moving about their position – Salvesh, topheavy, muscular, hunched over; the first thing Gavi thought was I don't want to get close to one of these monsters. They seemed to loom even from a great distance, but they didn't seem aware that they were under observation. Element of surprise, and Inakel had brought them in downwind of the enemy. She was next to him, laying flat on the sandy rock, watching. Perhaps that was something Pilavians like her did; her weapon wasn't out, but she was intent on the prey. Pilavians were good with traps and the like but didn't do actual combat very well -- but here, the humans were the trap. [i][b]”Riddler, I have seven...make that eight, nine, ten hostiles moving in front of me, range is about three hundred and fifty meters. Repeat, ten hostiles, 350m. Looks like they're laying up here.”[b][/i] His English was good -- slight accent, mostly American-sounding, resonant voice. He'd been to the States before, after all. He focused on the enemy movements, whether or not they seemed alert or not – they seemed like they were bored, which was apparently a norm for Salvesh psychology; the males were into a fight, but somewhat lazy about sentry duty and reconnaissance. His voice reflected a bit of a smile he felt as he tried to interpret the enemy psyche, a novel sensation, [b][i]”They are unaware of our position.”[/b][/i] His thumb found the safety and flicked it down one click to semi-auto, but that was mostly precautionary – he was watching them through his scope and trying to keep the count accurate, rather than try to engage them at range.