Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Joint Base Mattis, Mars, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Oh shit,” Coop stated anticlimactically as he over-rotated and fell right on his ass. It was the second time in as many minutes.
“Cooper.” MSG Smith’s calm voice came over their class network. “Why the hell are you scratching up my suit?”
Coop mumbled something vaguely insulting to the large NCOs masculinity, while making sure not to transmit. He’d made that mistake once before and that had ended in sweat, blood, and oh so much pain.
“Just trying to add a little spring to my step, Master Sergeant.” Coop tried to sound cheery as he hoisted himself and the two ton Leonidas Armored Combat Suit up off the reddish dirt.
“Do everyone a favor and don’t do it again, Cooper.” The MSG cut the comm link and left Coop to fume as he continued on with his objective.
Over the last two weeks they’d been familiarizing themselves with the LACS. In typical infantry fashion, that all began with the theoretical aspects. Only after sitting in the classroom and memorizing what the suits could do were they allowed to touch them. And that first caress of the hardened battle armor was diagnostic training and field repair. MSG Smith wouldn’t even let them look at something before they knew how to fix it if shit went south.
Conceptually, it was a solid training method, but that left Coop and the other rowdy new heavy infantry troopers with a hard-on for doing something other than circuitry analysis and good old-fashioned spit-shining.
That hard-on quickly became a soft-off with the introduction of suit PT. It was the same as regular PT: lots of running, push-ups, sit-ups, an obstacle course or two, and then the special exercises created just to break a man in a LACS.
Doing a squat was something Coop hadn’t done before going to Basic, at least not as a form of exercise. He had dropped his pants and then dropped a deuce in the squatting position before, but that was just a regular Tuesday night when you were higher than a kite. Then he’d gone to Basic and done air squats until his quads burned and he wanted to puke. But the results spoke for themselves. His old chicken legs had become solid muscle, and he’d been able to run faster and longer than ever before. It also came in handy when he had to lift things, because there was always something an NCO wanted you to pick up and move, even though humanity had figured out the secret to manipulating gravity long ago. But the grand old time of body-weight air squats was gone now. Now, he was knocking out hundreds of squats in the two ton armor every PT session, and ever since the MSG determined they were worthy, every PT session was now suit PT.
<At least I’m getting stronger.> Coop had to concede that point.
After two weeks of PT with the MSG, and only a few days of suit PT, Coop felt stronger than when he’d first played with his new god-like strength back on Earth. Naturally, that over-inflated Coop’s ego almost as much as the blue balls he was dealing with. It was also part of the reason he’d just landed ass first while doing a simple maneuver.
<I’ve got this.> Coop reset himself, mentally shook off his last fall, and executed.
He directed a little bit of power into his armored exoskeleton and went into LACS Battlefield Maneuver One.
“Oh shit.” Coop felt his balance go just like it had last time, and a puff of red dirt told everyone else the same thing.
“Cooper!” The MSG’s usually calm tone now had an edge to it. “Get over here double-time.”
The heads up display on the LACS was deliberately kept in a basic setting so none of the new troopers got information overload, but the blinking icon of a rendezvous point was pretty standard.
“Moving, Master Sergeant.” Coop couldn’t help but sound a little sullen. He had just ass-planted twice in a row on a simple maneuver, and he knew exactly why he was being called over by the NCO.
Coop made sure to do a quick sweep of the area to make sure that none of his classmates were nearby. A collision would scratch up their armor and lead to a night in the armory buffing them out.
The coast was clear, so Coop ran at a good pace to the MSG’s location on a ridge overlooking the training area. Even with the two-ton suit on, Coop could run a solid forty-five kilometers an hour.
MSG Smith stood with one foot up on a rock overlooking the training area like an admiral observing his fleet.
The other troopers were hard at work on the three basic suit maneuvers they had to master today. All of the maneuvers involved moving from a high rate of speed to a sudden stop in order to render indirect fire. The maneuvers could be used offensively or defensively, but they’d been proven time and time again to be a solid way to get rounds on target quickly and effectively in support of other infantry units while opening up the LACS to enemy return fire for the shortest time possible.
<Shoot, move, and communicate.> Coop couldn’t even count the number of times the MSG had said those four words to the class.
“Cooper.” The MSG didn’t have time for Coop to stand there looking stupid. “What have I told you?”
Coop had a smart-ass response locked and loaded, but sensed this wasn’t quite the time to test the MSG’s patience. <Not when he could rip you apart, limb from limb.>
“It’s the man not the armor that makes the soldier.” Coop repeated another frequently preached mantra.
“Exactly.” The MSG turned to regard Coop.
The suit’s helmets didn’t have eyes or ears, just like the Dragonscale Armor’s. Everything was rendered based on sensors, but Coop could feel himself being scrutinized.
“Powered armor, explain.”
<Oh shit.> Every trooper had to do this whenever the NCO asked. It was basically a verbal quiz that had a very real impact on your grade, but more importantly, the MSG’s impression of you.
“Master Sergeant, the Leonidas Armored Combat Suit is powered by a terawatt battery located on the armor’s back. It is the most heavily armored part of the suit, and also the biggest target. The battery channels energy into the neural network of the suit powering everything from the artificial muscles that amplify our movements to the various weapons and defensive systems that allow us to do our job.”
“Battery is rated for forty-eight hours of combat operations.”
“Define combat operations?”
“Continuous use of offensive weaponry, defensive countermeasures, and enhanced maneuvers.”
“What is the best way to conserve energy and extend your battery life?”
<Shit.> Coop felt like he was saying that a lot lately.
“The best way to extend battery life is to execute maneuvers under normal conditions.”
“And what have you been doing?”
“Not that.” Coop exhaled heavily, suddenly feeling very tired.
“Cooper.” The MSG crossed his arms so he looked like a disappointed parent. “There is a reason we don’t use our battery power to run faster, jump higher, and punch harder than you already can. The infantry gave you a tough and strong body so you could do all of that without the armor’s help. Using power on a basic maneuver, however cool it might look or feel, is wasteful. You won’t feel or look cool when you’re in the middle of a week-long fight and your armor gives out because you’ve been jerking off. The hundred guys you’re supposed to be supporting won’t be too happy either.” The MSG’s armored, scaled head looked at Coop for a few more minutes before turning back to the training areas.
“List the order of preference for energy usage.”
“Offensive weaponry, defensive countermeasures, and then enhanced maneuvers.” Coop repeated, as the MSG drove his point home.
“We’ll get to the powered maneuvers, Cooper. Just have a little patience, and if that isn’t enough, then know if you pull anymore stunts I’m going to shut you down and leave you out here overnight. Understood?”
“Yes, Master Sergeant.” Coop had to stop the urge to come to attention.
<Number one rule in the field: Don’t let the enemy know your leadership structure, which means no saluting or other forms of formal rank recognition.> It was also the reason there were no identifiers on their armor. All that stuff was handled over TACCOM and STRATNET.
“Get out of here and get back to work.”
Coop turned and ran back to his assigned training area. He needed to get the maneuvers done or they’d be back out here over the weekend, and that would just piss off everyone.
That was one of the biggest surprises of HI School and JB Mattis. Unlike Basic, HI School went Monday thru Friday. You were on call the entire day, even if it was listed as personal time on the training schedule, and the days on Mars were forty minutes longer, which took a little getting used to. Coop knew it was a lot better than some places throughout the galaxy where the days sometimes ran hours longer. A little research and he knew Venus had the longest day in the Sol System. It also rotated in the opposite direction of Earth, and it took longer to rotate on its own axis than it did to rotate around the Sun. That made its day longer than its year.
That revelation made Coop feel slightly bad for the miners employed by some of the system’s largest corporations, and the inmates of the planet’s penal colony.
<You’re gonna be MSG Smith’s prisoner if you don’t get your shit together.> Coop chided himself and focused on the maneuvers.
As it turned out, the MSG was right. Coop had been sucking ass because he’d been trying to do things faster and stronger than normal. It was easier to do the maneuvers under his own muscle power than with his suit’s added help. Coop did them each a dozen times to make sure he had it down before calling to be evaluated. The MSG did the evaluation, signed off on Coop’s mastery of what the old soldier called “the baby steps”, and then ordered Coop to do them each fifty times to ensure the muscle memory set.
Coop didn’t know if the rest of the class had to do an extra hundred and fifty iterations of running, jumping, and sliding around in their LACS, but he did know that he’d lost kilos of water weight and smelled like week old dick-cheese when he stepped out of the armor.
He did two of the three S’s when he got back to the barracks, which instead of the fifty-person bay was a two-person room he shared with Mike. Smelling less like ass, Coop chugged several liters of water and put on some civilian clothes. He’d needed to buy some when he realized he had the weekends off.
“You going out?” Coop asked Mike as he slipped on a polo shirt.
It was made of smart-cloth, but it didn’t have any of the self-dressing features like their CMUs. He had to put on his pants and shirt like a regular person.
“No, I’ve got a holo-date with Harper on MILNET tonight. She doesn’t have class and we haven’t been able to do more than email for the last week.”
Coop didn’t want to bust the big guy’s balls over it. He knew Mike still carried a torch for the girl.
<Can’t blame him.> Coop still got a half chub every time he thought of the weekend spent with Eve, but unlike Mike, Coop hadn’t heard from her since they departed at the spaceport. <But we’re gonna get over that tonight.>
“Have fun. Tell Harper hi from me.”
Mike waved over his shoulder as Coop walked out the door. From there it was out of the barracks and then out of the school. A call to the base taxi service and ten bucks got him to the front gate, and a private taxi service with a negotiated fee of five bucks got him to Madame Lee’s Massage Palace.
Madame Lee was a cantankerous old bitch who had somehow been able to swing longevity treatment at her already advanced age. She had those blue specks in her eyes, but she was still old, wrinkled, walked with a cane, had fingernails that were way too long, polished, and jeweled. She also barked out orders to her girls like she was a Blockie tyrant. But she sold the cheapest pussy around JB Mattis, so Coop wasn’t complaining.
He walked into the establishment and saw the girls’ eyes go wide. He knew they were thinking a guy his size must have a dick the size of a cannon, so he winked at them, which made some blush and others pay more attention to other clients.
“You sit, have tea, pay, then decide.” Madame Lee waved a jeweled hand and herbal tea appeared in the hands of a scantily clad woman. She batted her eyelashes at Coop, but didn’t linger.
<Holy shit.> The tea was good, but it had to be spiked with something because he started to get hard almost immediately. <Clever bitch.>
No guy was ever going to leave a whorehouse with a boner.
He finished his tea and looked at the menu. They did normal massages, happy endings, and free-for-alls; which Coop knew was a pass to do whatever you wanted to the girls as long as you didn’t leave any bruises. None of this was anything surprising to Coop. He had lived in the PHA.
“You decide?” Madame Lee’s voice was heavily accented, but Coop was pretty sure she spoke perfectly good English. The base’s MPs wouldn’t let any Blockies or Blockie immigrants this close to the base.
Coop paid a hundred bucks for a deluxe package, not quite a free-for-all, but enough to cover himself if he got carried away with his enhanced strength. He picked out a cute little thing, maybe a hundred and forty centimeters, thin, but still with perky fake tits. His only fear was he’d split her in two.
A massage turned into a handy and then into her sucking on him. With almost a hundred-centimeter height different she barely had to bend down to blow him. His strength came in handy when he wanted to go to town on her. He turned her around and was practically able to pick her up with one hand.
But that’s where the fun ended.
The girl was a professional whore, but she had nothing on Eve.
<Come on.> He grunted and growled.
Coop missed the passion, he missed throwing caution to the wind, he missed her screams and her raking her nails through his hair. The whore just sat there and took his thrusts with mild squeaks. It was a total turn off.
Coop still got off though. But it wasn’t satisfying. It was hardly better than VR porn.
Coop finished out his time just getting a standard massage. <Fucking dammit, Eve.> He cursed the woman who’d rocked his world, and spent the rest of his night convincing himself again that he hadn’t peaked at eighteen.
The convincing took copious amounts of alcohol at a nearby bar, which led to a fight, which meant Coop’s fist hit the guy and the guy hit the floor. That was the second most exciting thing to happen that night. The first was the job offer paying five hundred bucks for five hours of work as a bouncer on the weekends.
That was good money the Rat in Coop couldn’t pass up.
The whore barely made it into the top three, and that was being generous.