Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Joint Base Mattis, Mars, United Commonwealth of Colonies
The cargo ship’s landing struts hitting the ground jostled Coop awake. He blinked rapidly to clear his vision and wiped away the small pool of drool. After forty-eight hours of sex-Olympics a good long rest was exactly what he needed.
“And that’s it folks.” The Specialist flying the box sighed over the intercom system. It’s been an honor and a privilege serving all of you today. Now, get the fuck off my ship.”
As if on cue the hatch to the ship hissed open and two men with corporal’s chevrons jumped in screaming.
“Infantry, off the bus and fall in. Move! Move! MOVE!” The guy yelling could have given Corporal Collins a run for his money, but that didn’t intimidate Coop anymore.
The corporal might be wider, but Coop was a solid forty centimeters taller, and was fairly confident he could kill the guy with a single punch. All of that put together led to zero sense of urgency.
Coop slowly got to his feet, but the corporal pointed right at him with a glare.
“Heavy infantry, stay where you are!”
<Fine by me.> Coop grinned back at the corporal and plopped back down into his seat.
Mike tried to pull in his knees as the regular infantry grunts hustled out of the ship, but it didn’t do a lot of good. A bunch of people had to hurdle him to keep their new instructors happy, and quite a few didn’t make it.
“My bad…Sorry about that…You can do it.” Mike was nice enough to apologize to all the people glaring daggers at him.
Not that anyone could do anything about it.
When all was said and done the shuttle was empty except for the four men and two women who were obviously enhanced to the standard of the heavy infantry.
“I’m Coop, this is Mike.” Coop made eye contact with one of the girls.
Her body was top notch, but her face looked like she constantly smelled something rotten. Since that didn’t change when she looked at him, Coop diagnosed her with a case of resting bitch face.
She didn’t look like she was going to reply when the ship’s interior descended into darkness. At first, Coop thought someone had shut the door on them, and that was kind of true. A man now occupied the doorframe, a hatch that was meant to allow two normal people to pass through shoulder to shoulder. The new man was also hunched over, which solidified the fact he was also a heavy. The hatch was only two-hundred centimeters tall.
“Everyone out and onto the bus. Don’t worry about your shit. We’ll pick it up for you.” The man rumbled, but his voice was calm and measured. It was nothing like the corporals that had come in hot and raising hell.
“You heard the man, let’s go.” Coop spoke up, and popped out of his seat.
He liked being treated like a human being and not livestock to be driven around.
He led the way out of the cargo ship and into the warm air. It was actually comfortable until the air hit his lungs. It felt like someone had stuck a hot poker into his chest. Coop’s hands flew to his chest as he half-fell out of the door.
The man was standing right next to the opening, caught Coop, and handed him a little blue pill.
“Take this now.”
Coop did as he was instructed and felt the pain immediately cease.
“Your body isn’t used to good air.” The man held up a bottle of pills. “Take one with breakfast and one with dinner for the first week. For the second week, take one each morning. For the third week, take one every other morning. By week four you should be good to go. If not, take a pill when you feel you need it, but see the medic first so we can figure out what’s wrong. Understood?”
“Yes…” Coop took a quick look at the man’s shoulders. “Master Sergeant.”
<Holy Shit!> Coop hadn’t seen someone with three chevrons and three rockers since the podium at graduation. And he sure as shit hadn’t ever spoken to one.
“Good, now get on the bus.”
Coop jogged over to the empty air-bus that was hovering beside the ship. It was painted a deep red. He knew it was the correct bus because the second air-bus, a sky-blue painted one, had lots of shouting coming from it.
<So far so good.> Coop already liked HI school better than basic. Even if Eve was gone.
He ignored the pang of sadness and focused on doing what the MSG instructed.
It took them a few minutes to get loaded up because the MSG had to go through the same pill speech with the other five recruits getting on the ship. Mike hopped onto the bus, eliciting a slight groan from the anti-grav generator, and took a seat across from Coop. The bus wasn’t big, but it would still comfortably fit the seven HI troopers.
“Welcome to Joint Base Mattis.” The MSG was the last to climb the stairs, and the door snapped shut behind him. “My name is Master Sergeant Smith, and I’ll be your HI instructor for the next eight weeks.”
Sitting down and looking up at the MSG, Coop got a better idea of what he would be dealing with. The MSG was a few centimeters taller than Coop, but he was a hell of a lot thicker. Saying he was as wide as two people might have been a little on the conservative side. His head was shaved bald and polished so the Sun’s light reflected off his dark skin.
Coop pegged him as coming from a tropical world or near the equator on Earth.
Beside that, there wasn’t much to say other than MSG Smith was a big motherfucker. His CMUs were in a field setting so all they saw was his name, ranks, and that he was a member of the 1894th Infantry Battalion.
The MSG saw Coop looking.
“JB Mattis is the headquarters of the First Infantry Corps, so this isn’t some training center like where you came from. This is an active military base. First Corps provides boots on the ground for any mission happening in the Sol System. Since that is one of the most populated systems in the whole galaxy they deal with a whole array of shit.” The MSG’s eyes swept the enlisted soldiers to make sure they were paying attention.
“The eighth division is pretty famous in itself. It is one of the most decorated units from the Lunar Skirmish.”
Coop didn’t know much about the Lunar Skirmish aside from it was a fight between the new Commonwealth and the new Eastern Block over complete control of the moon. It took place a couple decades after the end of the Last Terran War. Just long enough for the human race to rebuild, a generation to be born, and to come of age without living the horrors of war.
Both new super-nations wanted control of the high ground over Earth, and the Commonwealth ultimately prevailed.
“The eighth division broke the Blockie siege of Kepler Crater, and the ninth brigade helped lead the charge that drove the Blockies all the way back to the Mare Insularum. Over fifty percent of ninth brigade, fourth battalion was lost in that offensive. But it put the nail in the coffin of Blockie forces during the Skirmish.” His gaze was heavy as he finished recounting the unit’s history. “You are all members of an honorable legacy now, so don’t fuck up.”
Coop looked down and saw that his own CMUs now read 1894th INF BN, and his chest unexpectedly filled with pride.
<Clever bastard.> He thought as the bus started up and zipped off toward wherever it was taking them. <Make us think that we’re part of this big noble tradition. It’s instant motivation. I like this guy.> Coop could respect a man who knew how to get people to do what he wanted.
Joint Base Mattis was nothing like Stewart-Benning. It wasn’t made of endless white barracks and a few administrative buildings. Here, the barracks were ten-story buildings of red brick grouped together in sections. The barracks were at the center, and around them were the administrative buildings. They were made of the same brick exterior, but they drove by one that was getting work done, and there was clearly duro-steel beneath the brick. All the administrative buildings also had logos and holographic images flickering on them. Lastly, Coop saw the same squat duro-steel armories that that asshole sergeant had been in charge of back at the training center. There was one for each of the administrative buildings, and next to those squat buildings was a large fenced area. Coop saw a lot of soldiers in those fenced areas.
“Mattis was well planned out when it was founded.” The MSG followed his new students’ gazes. “Battalions are grouped together, then brigades and finally the divisions. It’s designed so troops can muster and be ready to go in less than an hour. Each brigade even has its own spaceport with attached assault shuttles. Which is why this is a joint base and not just a regular infantry base.”
The bus continued on for twenty minutes, which told Coop that this place was fucking huge.
<Makes sense. A corps is a million men. They need a lot of room to put a million men, all their equipment, and the naval attachments to their units.>
Finally, the bus started to slow down as they came to another fenced section. Two metal statues flanked the gate like some ancient city’s defenders. The statues were a solid three meters tall and armed with giant weapons. Their presence stated loud and clear, “All who enter here prepare to feel the pain.”
Then one of the things moved.
“Shit!” The armored not-statue seemed to fixate on Coop as the bus stopped next to it.
Even though they were hovering off the ground, Coop could have sworn he felt the ground tremble as the thing walked toward them. It wasn’t an awkward robotic walk either. The HI trooper moved fluidly like a normal person. It was weird to watch.
“Guard duty is one of the duties you will be required to conduct when you’re a student here.” The MSG informed while the bus driver spoke to the armored trooper.
The guard cleared them and waved them thru. Over the entrance to the gate, in bold red letters, the motto of the heavy infantry was written for everyone to see.
BRING THE HURT
The school was small compared to everything they’d passed, but that was to be expected. This was just one more battalion area among the ten thousand battalions that comprised First Corps. They just had the added protection of a fence encircling their area.
“Everyone up and out, we’re late.” The MSG ordered as he led the way off the bus and into one of the squat duro-steel armories.
Coop didn’t know what he expected when he walked into the building, but it wasn’t a classroom with another fourteen big people and an even bigger suit of armor standing next to a holo projector.
“Every ass better find a seat in three…two…” The MSG never reached one.
Mike and Coop settled into a seat in the middle of the room that was meant for five times as many people as were here.
“Now that the whole class is here we can get started.” The MSG stepped up beside the holo projector and it sprang to life with a lot of diagnostic information Coop didn’t understand.
“Welcome to Joint Base Mattis, Alpha Company, 1894th Infantry Battalion.”
<We’re a company?> Coop looked around at the nineteen other faces in the room. <I’m not that bad at math, but we’re a few heads short of a hundred.>
“In eight weeks the twenty of you will represent the heavy firepower of two whole infantry battalions. Count it ladies and gentlemen. The twenty of you are going to be responsible to bring the hurt to the enemy on behalf of two thousand Commonwealth soldiers. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, so don’t fuck around for the next eight weeks, because in all likelihood your actually going to be the firepower for five battalions.”
“The military table of organization and equipment,” The MSG keyed to holo from his PAD, “dictates that one heavy infantry trooper will provide firepower for one company of infantry.” The MSG’s gaze swept over them. “If we lived in a perfect world that would be the case, but we don’t live in a perfect world, and the Ministry of War makes a habit of ensuring it stays that way. The infantry is lucky to get five heavy infantry troopers per battalion.”
Coop wasn’t a renowned military strategist, but that seemed like a big tactical error.
“I bet you’re all wondering why I’m telling you this? Why is Master Sergeant Smith saying that the Ministry of War, who writes all of our paychecks, is fucking up?” He smiled at everyone, including Coop.
“I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to live in a world of MTOE’s, METLs, FMs, and TMs. As a heavy trooper you need to live in a real world where you can assess the situation and unfuck whatever is going on around you. The HI doesn’t need big meat-heads. It needs smart soldiers who can see the angles and get the job done.” His smile vanished. “Your basic instructors and recruiters thought you twenty might fit that bill, but it’s up to me to see if you’ve really got what it takes.” Then his smile was back. “So, ladies and gentlemen, expect the next eight weeks to suck. You’re going to do more homework than you did in six months of school, and I’m going to PT you until you’re half dead. And I’m going to do all of that so when five thousand soldiers are counting on you to stay alive you don’t fuck up and get everyone killed. Any questions?”
Coop wisely kept his hand down and his mouth shut. The only thing he did do was pull out his PAD, set it to record, and prepare to take notes.
“Good.” The MSG waved away the MTOE he’d brought up on the holo. “We’re going to do two things today. First, I will go over the curriculum of the course. Second, I’m going to give you a full rundown of the armor you’ll be fitted with tomorrow, and that you will live in for the next eight weeks. The first thing is going to be simple and fast, and the second is going to take most of the day.”
<So much for a Day Zero where we get to settle in.> Coop mentally sighed as he settled in for a long day. It was weird to think he’d been asleep a half hour ago.
“This course will be divided into three phases, each with a final examination to assess your proficiency. If you fail the final, you will be recycled to the next iteration. If you fail again you will be shipped back to the regular infantry. If that’s the case, then you’re enhancements will have to be removed, and trust me, you do not want that.”
Coop gulped. <Going from a super human to a regular old Joe again, no fucking thanks.>
“Phase One starts today.” The MSG pointed at the armor standing on a rack next to him. “Phase one is the introduction, acclimation, and use of your armor. Phase Two,” the rack spun at this vocal command, “is your training to master the art of indirect fire and qualify as joint platform artillery coordinator. This phase is the foundation of our motto. Dressing up in big, heavy armor and running around with a machine gun is not your primary function. Your job is to rain hell down on our enemies. But that is not an easy job. You need to learn to use your targeting systems, you need to learn how to execute fire missions, and you need to learn to coordinate with infantry and naval assets in the middle of a shit-storm.”
It was very evident that the MSG spoke from personal experience.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are descended from the field artillery and armored corps of pre-expansion armies. We bring the hurt because we are the biggest, baddest motherfuckers on the battlefield and that comes with responsibility.”
Coop felt unsure for the first time since learning that he’d be an HI trooper. All the perks were great, but he was now really seeing the reason for getting all the enhancements in the first place.
“The last phase, Phase Three, is close combat.” Meter long blades shot from the forearms of the armored suits. “There will be a time when it is just you and an enemy on the battlefield. You both have firepower, but you’re both also fast. Things are going to get up close and ugly. Phase Three is to make sure you make that poor bastard die for his country. Questions?”
Coop couldn’t take his eyes off the twin blades that looked like they could impale a man easily. They were the dull gray color of duro-steel except for the edges. The edges had a shine to them that looked sharp. He didn’t know the specifics, but he sensed that honed edge could do damage to thick battle armor.
“Now on to the reason why you are all here.” The blades retracted back into the armor as the MSG spoke. “Everyone, this is the Leonidas Armored Combat Suit, or just LACS for short. I don’t need to tell anyone why we decided to name our armor after the Spartan king, do I?”
Coop kept his face neutral, but the MSG saw right through him. Coop didn’t have a clue who this Leo guy was.
“Your first assignment for tonight is a thousand words on King Leonidas of Sparta and why you think we decided to name our suit after him. Don’t give me bullshit, just the facts, and consider this the easiest assignment you’ll get while here.”
No one groaned. Basic had beaten that out of him, but Coop still silently bitched about it. <I didn’t join the Heavy Infantry to write essays.>
“There are currently three versions to the LACS, V1-3. This is a V2, the most in-use version of the armor. The armor is made up of layers. The first layer is an interior malleable woven ballistic composite. Sensors and circuitry rest on top of this weave to tap in the rest of the armor as well as link into your CMUs and transmit your data on STRATNET.” The armor opened up to reveal the first layer inside.
<Kind of looks like a knit sweater,> Coop observed.
“As you can see here,” the MSG pointed to another layer, “the next layer is a ballistic gel to reduce blunt force trauma and protect the circuitry.” The armor closed back up. “Now we get to the good stuff. The main protection is six centimeters of duro-steel. Over that is carbon nanotubing similar to the Dragonscale Armor. But in addition, there are pockets of nanites strategically placed to aggressively defend against specialized ordinance. HI is a target, and they shoot a lot of nasty shit at us.” He patted the armor fondly. “That’s the defensive stuff, let’s move on to offensive.”
“The LACS V2 has two shoulder mounted weapons. The first is an eight round hypervelocity missile launcher to use against hard targets or as anti-air. The second is a hypersonic railgun. It can be used offensively to shoot up infrastructure and enemy soldiers, or defensively, as a portable swatter. The gun only has fifteen thousand rounds of ammo so make sure you use them wisely. On the back, you’ve got a 125mm artillery tube which you’ll use to earn your paycheck. You’ll have a variety of ordinance from EW chaff to antimatter rounds that you’ll all need to know about. But make no mistake; this tube is your most valuable weapon. The hypervelocity missiles might seem kickass, but this tube is the bread and butter of the HI. Never forget that. You’re not regular grunts, so don’t go around fighting like one.”
<Geez we get it, walking artillery not infantry grunt. Roger that, move on.>
The MSG moved on, and six hours later Coop’s brain felt like Jell-O.