The Jaffa walked up to Teal'c's command chair and knelt respectfully, drawing an eyebrow of disapproval from the First Prime. "The ground assault stands ready, awaiting your order."
"And what of my previous order?"
The Jaffa looked up, a confused look on his face.
"You are kneeling…again."
"Forgive me," the Jaffa said, standing up in his gleaming red battle armor with only his hands and head exposed.
"Forgiveness would not be necessary if you would simply remember," Teal'c admonished, but he wasn't truly angry. It was simply a matter of breaking old habits.
The Jaffa nodded, but said nothing more.
"Are the Chor'tek prepared?"
"They and their pilots stand ready…"
"There are concerns."
Teal'c stood up, taking the two steps down from his elevated chair to stand eye to eye with the Jaffa who was 63 years old, but a novice within the army of Bra'tac…as far too many of those Teal'c commanded were.
"If they feel they are incapable of commanding them, they should step down and allow another to take their place."
"I have been assured that they will serve ably," the Jaffa testified with a bit of stiffness at the questioning of the pilots' honor. "It is the craft they are concerned with."
"As was I until I gained a proper respect for the Chor'tek. Do not concern yourself with it further. If there are problems I will find new pilots. There are many eager for the honor of becoming a rider," Teal'c emphasized, "and I am sure I can find a few who understand that distinction."
"As you will."
"Return to the hangar and inform the army that they will be needed shortly," Teal'c said, clapping the Jaffa on the shoulder as he lowered his voice to a whisper. "In the future, use the communication system unless the matter is grave and time is of no essence."
"Forgive me," the Jaffa apologized again, bowing his head.
"I do not need apologies, I need learning," he said, giving him a dismissive glance.
The Jaffa left quickly, with the six bridge crew continuing with their monitoring tasks while the H'tel was in hyperspace, though one turned his head and gave Teal'c a questioning glance.
"They are still very young," the First Prime commented with dissatisfaction.
"Indeed," Rak'nor said, his forehead glowing with the red glyph that the Alterra knew as 'Es' but to all Jaffa was now known as the symbol of Bra'tac. All those warriors onboard the H'tel bore the same mark, with a proper Prim'tah within them that altered their vision to see the otherwise invisible emblem. "But they are learning."
Teal'c frowned, his much more ornate glyph marking him as First Prime moving slightly with the forehead contortion. "Slowly," he grumbled, staying on his feet and glancing at the holographic displays near his chair that indicating the remaining time in an obvious countdown that only had seconds remaining.
"I have no doubt they will excel from the battle experience they are about to gain."
"One would hope," Teal'c said noncommittally. "Make sure our shields and full countermeasures are active the moment we exit hyperspace."
"Do you expect them to be waiting for us?"
"I expect them to be the devious foe we know them to be," Teal'c said firmly, referring to the Aschen and their crusade for galactic domination. "Be prepared for anything."
"As always," Rak'nor said as the last few seconds before entering battle were silent on the otherwise calm bridge. The senior Jaffa on the vessel Teal'c had no concerns with, but the bulk of their army was comprised of recent converts. Prim'tah were not yet widely available and each individual had to beat out a large number of others to earn theirs, but old habits and stubbornness were lingering and the galaxy wasn't going to wait for Teal'c and Bra'tac to whip them into proper form before going into battle. These warriors had been deemed 'tolerable' and thus had been brought along, but it was uncertain how they would perform in a major assault.
The H'tel flashed out of hyperspace and into orbit around an enemy-held world. It wasn't their largest, nor their smallest, but one that had a significant defense force guarding an ever-expanding industrial base that was pumping out more of the Aschen Elementals that were their primary and most versatile weapon.
Alongside Teal'c's H'tel were two others, the three of which were carrying a ground army that would be landing to take this world as soon as the orbital defenses were eliminated.
"We have been seen," Rak'nor reported. "Enemy Elementals are moving to intercept in medium-sized clusters."
"Begin firing as soon as they come in range," Teal'c said as he alternated his view between the wall-spanning visual display and the tactical hologram beside his chair that he was still standing in front of. "Focus sensors on their ground defenses."
"Multiple defensive weapons detected, Master," another Jaffa noted. "We are currently out of range."
"See to it that we remain beyond their range," Teal'c ordered. "We will deal with the Elementals first, then take out the ground-based weaponry."
"Objects launching from the planet!"
A side wall lit up as a secondary 'window' that zoomed in to show numerous missile plumes rising from the surface and heading towards the distant H'tel. "They will reach us the same time as the Elementals?"
Rak'nor took a moment to have the ship's computer run the calculations. "Yes, Master."
Teal'c nodded. "Launch Lok'na'te. Have them intercept the missiles while we engage the Elementals. Once completed they are to flee the engagement area. Make it clear they are not to fight the Elementals. I want no suicidal bravado today."
"I will make it clear to them," another Jaffa promised.
"Shift shields forward and ready all weapons for maximum firepower. Our first blow must be our strongest."
Sitting inside the small cockpit of the advanced fighter that had replaced the Death Glider for the new Jaffa order, Vek'sor got the launch order sooner than he expected. With it came a targeting solution that highlighted the incoming missiles rising through the atmosphere and gaining speed.
Pressing a single button the Jaffa activated the automated launch sequence that shot his craft out a short tunnel and into space, with him adding engine power immediately to bring his Lok'na'te around and join the other five fighters that were being dispatched with him. There were more onboard the First Prime's H'tel, but only these six had been selected.
Vek'sor saw that they didn't have much time, but fortunately his craft were incredibly fast. Powering down his weapons and most other systems, he put the Lok'na'te into pursuit mode and accelerated blindingly fast, angling down towards the atmosphere while the first flashes of weaponsfire lit up behind him as the three H'tel used the primary weapons at their peaks to attack the oncoming Elemental groups.
The Jaffa pilots couldn't watch that battle unfold, for they had a different mission. There were some 22 missiles coming their way, and each was bigger than their fighters. They were heavily shielded but had no defensive weapons, intended to ram into large vessels and detonate a mind-boggling warhead. These missiles had been seen before and targeting locations on them were highlighted by the battle computer, showing him where to shoot and where not to shoot in order to disable them without causing them to blow up in his face.
The lead pilot designated three of the targets to Vek'sor, who angled towards the first of them as the enemy weapons continued to spread out, making it more unlikely that they'd be shot down from concentrated firepower. The Jaffa was a veteran pilot in Death Gliders, but this was only the third combat mission he'd made in the Lok'na'te and he was still learning how to fight in the impressive craft. According to the computer holograms sitting directly in front of him, it was going to take multiple hits to take out these missiles, thus a firing pass would be insufficient.
Vek'sor came in at the missile from the side and accelerated hard as he fell behind, coming on a heading to match and catching up before switching out of pursuit mode and bringing his weapons online. Staying with the missile was impossible, for it was still too fast for him to match with his weapons activated and drawing power away from the engines, but the missile wasn't gaining too much distance on him and he had a window of opportunity to take it down.
Firing tiny globules of energy, he pounded into the left rear of the missile until the shields were breached, then the armor vaporized and he slid a few shots into the hull and trashed interior components, finding the missile's acceleration dropping off as it suddenly becoming a floating rock drifting towards the distant battlefield that was lighting up with multiple types of weaponsfire as the two sides came within slugging range.
Diverting to his second target, Vek'sor rushed off in pursuit mode once again to catch up and neutralize the second missile. He barely got to the third before the H'tel were growing too large before him, but the Jaffa succeeded in knocking its maneuvering ability out as the big Jaffa warships continued to adjust position to avoid the now drifting bombs.
Vek'sor swung his Lok'na'te aside as he got a warning from the flagship, noting three Elemental blocks heading his way with a flashing 'do not engage' icon on them. Seeing that there were no more missiles with maneuvering power left, he veered off and ran away with the other Jaffa pilots despite his urge to engage the enemy head on. If he did that the First Prime would remove his Prim'tah, for his orders were clear and Master Teal'c did not suffer disobedience in battle.
Teal'c watched as Elemental blocks blasted apart in front of him while groups of them fired linked beam blasts into his ships' shields, draining them of energy but not penetrating yet. There were more Elementals here than in their last scouting report, but not enough to be able to defeat them. The disabled missiles were another matter, so he ordered weaponsfire diverted from the primary engagement to target the missiles that were going to pass close to them, knowing that the Aschen could still detonate them remotely and do some damage.
The big particle beam on top of his ship, known as a Gra'zel, targeted and destroyed one of the missiles with a single precise hit now that they weren't flying evasively. A new star suddenly appeared for a moment as the warhead blew, but it was still too far away to do any damage. The big gun on the top of the H'tel continued firing, knocking out the missiles with single hits before they could get close enough to do any proximity damage.
"Hmph," Teal'c mumbled in satisfaction when they were all gone, as well as seeing that the Lok'na'te he had deployed had followed orders and got well clear of the blasts. Now all that was left was to defeat these Elementals and insure that none of them got away. To that end he diverted the current Lok'na'te around the perimeter into distant flanking positions while preparing to launch the others in pursuit if/when his H'tel were no longer surrounded by enemies.
If the Elementals didn't flee they would be destroyed before they could take out a single H'tel, but Teal'c knew that if they stayed his shields would go down and the armor would take hits. He didn't know if the Aschen would try to save some of their Elementals or run them off to use another day, but either way he was going to insure that they were all destroyed, after which they'd proceed to clear away the surface batteries and pave the way for the ground troops to take out the Aschen machines on the ground and hunt down the few personnel they had on the planet, wherever the cowards were hiding and controlling their forces from afar.