It came as something of a shock, therefore, when the silence was broken by several shots ringing out and echoing from the rocks. Dirk spun round, and grabbed Ms Etye around the waist and unceremoniously ushered her to cover behind the nearest pile of rocks, trying to glance around as he did so. Appraising the situation, Dirk saw that Alistan Wright, one of the hired guards, had been hit by fire coming from the very rocks flagged as their sanctuary minutes before, and that everyone else had also scrambled for cover.
After instructing Ms Etye to keep her head down and stay put, Dirk risked another glance over the boulder he was using for cover. Most of the guards and Crawler crew had sought cover to the right of the trail they had been following. A couple of the guards that had been leading the little party were behind a truncated rock pillar just ahead of Dirk’s position. Another two had fled to the left of the trail, and taken up a position behind a mound of rocks and boulders. Murray Gerbert, the First Officer, was bent over Alistan Wright, tending his wounds. As Dirk was absorbing the situation, a guard from each of the positions ahead fell to the new shots fired by their ambushers. The guards were beginning to fight back however, and Dirk saw a shape behind the rocks ahead spin round and fall out of sight. This must be an infamous Duneraider welcoming party, mused Dirk.
Dirk used a combination of shouting and his comm to organise the guards and the crawler crew to fight back effectively. At the same time he was ensuring that Ms Etye stayed calm and kept her head down and was watching for any sign of hysteria that would pose a danger to keeping her alive. Two groups, left and right of the trail, returned fire whilst two more groups circled round each flank. The volume of incoming fire increased and Dirk couldn’t tell whether that was because his flanking moves were presenting targets or if it was simply that the ambush had been sprung. Dirk saw another guard, Galkilk Istinnash, fall. This meant the firebase in front of Dirk’s boulder had been silenced. Therefore Perez, the First Engineer sheltering behind the same boulder as Dirk, ran round the boulder in a low crouch to re-establish the second firebase.
The flanking moves had uncovered more of the Duneraiders, positioned either to protect the main position or provide a flanking manoeuvre of their own. So pretty well all the guards and crawler crew were laying down fire, including Dirk who, confident that Ms Etye would stay put, moved to the edge of the boulder to fire at one of the Duneraiders discovered by the flanking move. Arlana saw she was most needed on the right flank, and went to help. The Captain virtually dragged Ronald Halfesson in a crouching run from their position next to Ms Etye, round the boulder to join the First Engineer.
This proved to be the decisive point, as the return fire slackened considerably. The crawler crew and guards were arranged in four groups, and Dirk ordered two of these to provide covering fire, whilst the other two advanced to take up position behind more rocks and boulders. From these positions, more Duneraiders could be seen in a small wadi they were using as a trench. Arlana called upon the Dunraiders to surrender, pointing our their position was flanked and assuring them that they would be well treated. The staccato rat-tat-tat of auto rifle fire was the Duneraiders only response.
The guards and crawler crew responded, and given their numbers and superior position, had soon silenced the Duneraiders. This appeared to be the last of the opposition, and Dirk tasked the remaining guards to do a careful sweep through the Duneraiders position to ensure there were no more surprised, whilst the crew set about providing first aid to the casualties, and gathering all the injured and Duneraiders in one place.