Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
There were no questions. There was just stunned silence.
“Nothing?” The little SGT smiled slightly. “Very well, let’s move on.”
“I’ve got a question. Why the fuck did you just try and shoot me you miniature ass-face!” Coop roared.
Fortunately for the irate former Rat, he didn’t understand how the helmets audio systems worked yet, so no one heard his insult. That was probably a good thing, because at the very least he’d be cleaning the shitters for a week for such a disrespectful outburst.
Coop didn’t care though. <The little shit just tried to kill me.> Was all he was thinking.
Even with the comfortable smart-cloth CMUs clinging to him, Coop could feel the cold sweat running across his skin; and he was lucky there wasn’t something warmer running down his leg. If he thought he could get away with it he’d have charged the little SGT and smashed his armored shoulder into the guy’s head. . .repeatedly.
The armor’s weight and the adrenaline crash Coop was experiencing put an end to the vengeful plan. He wouldn’t be able to take two steps toward the little gremlin before the man knew he was coming.
“Staff Sergeant.” The SGT called politely when no one had anything else to say. “Please get your company fully suited up. In an hour we’ll continue.”
Staff Sergeant Cunningham just nodded. “You heard the man, break out your plates. Get them inserted and then spend the next hour reading the manual. If you feel like it you can start trying out some of the features. However,” she grinned at the company, “if I ask you a question you have better know the answer. No one wants to do burpees in their full kit.”
Coop stood and watched as the rest of the company grabbed their individual plates and teamed up to insert them. Eve walked over to him with a grimace on her face. Everyone was guaranteed to be sore after today.
“Do you know how to get that off?” she pointed at her head.
“No.” Coop replied, but just got a blank look for her, so he shook his head back and forth.
“There are shortcuts built into the system, and the computer will learn your preferences over time, but if you’re in a pinch it will respond to voice commands.”
“Hey, armor.” Coop didn’t know how to address the ninety kilos weighing him down. “Get this fucking helmet off.”
“Command not recognized, Recruit Mark Cooper, GIC TBCD0425241412631.” A robotic voice replied. “Please try again.”
“Try ‘remove helmet’, or ‘helmet disengage’,” Eve offered. She couldn’t hear what was going on inside, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Coop didn’t have a clue what he was doing.
“Disengage helmet.” Coop tried again.
There was a soft pop, a hiss of air, and Coop felt the weird slithering sensation as the neck gaiter of carbon nanotubing detached. Coop reached up with arms that weighed at least twice as much as they normally did, and removed the helmet.
Surprisingly the air he had been breathing inside the suit smelled better than the air outside.
“The helmet has built in filters to process out any impurities or poisons,” Eve explained when she saw Coop’s nose crinkle in displeasure. “That way the armor can be worn in any environment.”
“Good to know.” Coop ran a hand through his sweat-dampened short hair and let out an exhausted sigh.
“You good?” Eve asked with a worried look on her face. “There’s a small bladder to drink from just below the computer on your back. Just ask for a drink next time.” She misinterpreted the source of Coop’s trouble.
“The little asshole Sergeant just shot me, Eve,” Coop growled. “He just pulled that gun out of nowhere and pulled the trigger.”
“You were never in any danger,” Eve said with a matter-of-factness that surprised him.
“Didn’t feel like that. Felt like the little shi. . .Sergeant was trying to put a bullet in my gut.” Coop stopped himself just short of open insubordination. Eve was giving him a little leeway, but her patience had its limits.
“No. . . well,” Eve paused. “He might have been a bit vindictive, but he wouldn’t put anyone in danger just like that.” She snapped her fingers. “Did you look at the gun?”
“It was about the only thing I did look at.” Coop deadpanned.
“Did you notice the puffs of smoke after he fired?”
That part caught Coop by surprise, but when he thought back on it he did notice that.
“Which means. . .?” Eve looked on expectantly, like a mother teaching her child to walk.
“It means he still fuckin’ shot me.” Coop spat back.
Eve sighed theatrically and shook her head. “It means he shot you with a chemically propelled bullet.”
Coop gave her a confused look. Which lead to another shake that tossed the beautiful squad leader’s blond hair back and forth.
“That bullet couldn’t have been going more than a thousand meters per second. Something with such a slow velocity doesn’t have a chance of penetrating armor even at point blank range. Don’t worry so much,” she finished with what sounded more like a command than reassurance.
“Berg, Cooper.” PO3 Janney stalked over. “Stop buttfuckin’ aroun’ and get readin’. You’ve got five second ta tell me how thick the duro-steel on your scales is?”
“Three centimeters on the main armor and one on the body plates, Petty Officer,” Eve replied instantly.
The PO3 just glared at them. “Keep studyin’, I’ll be back.”
That’s exactly what they did. The PO3 kept his word, which led to Coop doing five burpees in full armor. It was the most miserable fucking thing he’d ever experienced.
But not all of the time was awful. Coop and Eve worked together to get a handle on the armor. Coop finally figured out how to get the audio system working, and Eve showed him how to open a link over TACCOM with him. How she knew how to do this he could only guess, but it was nice to have a private conversation with her; even if it was discussing the secondary repurposing abilities of the ballistic gel.
Apparently, all that sweat that Coop had running down his back would get collected, filtered, and fed back into the liquid bladder on his back.
So on top of the already shitty day he was having Coop realized if he was in armor for long enough he’d be drinking his own sweat.
<Fan-fucking-tastic.> All fantasies of him and Eve doing the no-pants dance vanished with that unpleasant realization.
Soon the hour was up, and SGT Tiny reappeared.
“Everyone gather around.” The SGT was holding something in his hand, but it was hard for Coop to see through the crowd of armored bodies.
Coop roughly pushed aside a few smaller recruits so he could get a better look.
<Now that’s what I’m fucking talking about.>
In the ornery little SGT’s hands was a rifle.
“This, ladies, is the Infantry Assault Rifle Model Three. The IARM3 is the primary weapon of the Commonwealth Infantry. You will learn to love this better than your own cock, or whatever you ladies choose to love. This will be your lifeline, your protector, your fucking everything. Understood?” There was no mean glint in the SGT’s eye this time. He was dead serious.
“Yes, Sergeant!” Their reply was equally as serious.
With a fluid motion the SGT ejected a block from the bottom of the weapon and held it up for everyone to see.
“This is the ammunition of the IARM3.” He moved his thumb and a silver object popped out.
The object was thin, nothing like the bullets Coop had seen in the western holos his father liked to watch. Judging by the size of it you could fit a whole shit ton of them into the metal block the SGT was holding.
“The IARM3 uses electromagnetics to fire these one millimeter needles. It has a muzzle velocity of three thousand meters per second and can fire two hundred rounds a minute on the five-round burst setting. Each magazine holds five hundred rounds and you carry six magazines in your basic load. That’s three thousand rounds for you dumbasses,” the SGT clarified. “This weapon is accurate out to two kilometers even if most of you recruits won’t ever be able to utilize its full potential.” The SGT’s sneer was back.
“You will most often hear this weapon referred to plainly as a M3 or sometimes, due to the nature of the ammunition, a “Needler” if people are being a little more informal.” The SGT held out the weapon in front of him for everyone to get a good look. “Now line up, recruits, to receive your weapon.”
Coop just about jizzed in his pants. The romantic nature of the armor was long gone, but the imagery of him gunning down the enemy to save the captured college co-eds, and receiving his due rewards, was still alive and well. Coop was the first person in line to get his weapon.
“Point the weapon down and check the chamber.” The Sergeant was glaring at him, but it was a business-like glare. “Always make sure the weapon is not loaded.” He pointed at the chamber. “Not loaded.” He pointed to a green light on the side of the weapon. “This is the safety readout. Green means it is on safe and will not fire. Yellow means a round is in the chamber but the weapon is still on safe, and red means you’re ready to kill. Repeat that to me.”
Coop repeated the color-coded safety and chamber specifics.
“Good, don’t screw up, and get the fuck out of my face. NEXT!” The SGT turned his attention to the recruit behind Coop, who just happened to be Eve.
Coop walked away from the line of recruits and examined the weapon. The butt of the weapon was bulkier than the rest. A look at the manual on his PAD explained that was because the battery was stored there. A battery that was good to fire fifty-thousand rounds before it needed to be swapped out. The rest of the weapon was a little smoother, with fewer angles to the design, except for the electronic sight on top. Overall it was about 1.25 meters long and weighed about seven kilograms.
<And this goes here.> Coop brought the weapon up to a crevice in the shoulder of his armor. If fit the spot perfectly.
Coop looked down the barrel through the electronic sight, which was off, and aimed at a building far in the distance.
He didn’t even see the fist fly out of nowhere and knock him the fuck out.