Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Joint Base Mattis, Mars, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Coop hustled toward the armory with the rest of the company, because this didn’t feel like a feet-dragging occasion. Everyone was moving, not just Alpha Company. The other company NCOICs were gesturing into the air while they spoke to their soldier’s through their company net’s. Coop imagined it was something motivational. Others were hustling behind Alpha toward the squat, single-story, duro-steel armory where they were going to gear up for riot control. But most importantly, the LCDR, LT, and SGM were walking with a purpose toward them.
“Listen up,” MSG Smith announced just as they formed up outside the armory in a single file line. “We’re doing this just like log PT, four teams of four. Team leaders are as follows: Cooper, Gage, Ramirez, and Sanders.”
“Wha…!” Coop toggled the transmit button on his armor before he could stop himself.
Gage and Ramirez made sense. They were both corporals who’d transferred to HI after stints doing regular grunt work. Sanders was a PFC, probably some high-speed, low-drag dude who graduated at the top of his basic class like Eve. Coop was just…Coop.
“Do you have a problem with my decision making, Cooper?” The MSG asked in a calm, dangerous whisper.
“Um…no, Master Sergeant.”
“Then shut your mouth and do your job!”
“Yes, Master Sergeant!”
“Team leaders, go into your comms menu and set up a team channel. If you can’t do that then I’m recycling you the moment we get back.”
Coop did what he was told to. Setting up a comms channel took access and permissions. When he toggled to the screen, he stabbed the ADD icon with his eyes. Instead of flashing a SIMULATION COMPLETE message like when they trained on this, it added the profile to the STRATNET and TACCOM system and prompted him to add his team members.
<This is weird.> Coop would be the first to admit that he had enough trouble taking care of himself. Now, he was in charge of three other HI troopers.
Instead of toggling through TACCOM to add profiles to the team channel he quickly fell out of line and tapped the three soldiers in the shoulder. The physical contact established an automatic link between the armor and was the quickest way to add them to the team roster.
“Alpha Team, Alpha One-One comms check, over.” As team leader, Coop got the One-One call sign.
“Alpha One-Two, comms check, over.” Mike replied first.
“Alpha One-Three, comms check, over.”
The third member of the newly constituted Alpha Team was Melissa. To put it bluntly, she was a raging bitch who was more likely to stick her fist up your ass then let you stick anything in her. Coop would know. He’d tried to woo her that one night at the bar and he’d gotten a nice shiner for his charming efforts. Despite her personality, she was a hell of a soldier, and she’d scored near the top of the class in their call for fire missions.
“Alpha One-Four, comms check, over.”
The fourth and final member of the team was Whitehead. Honestly, Coop didn’t know the guy’s real name. The moniker Whitehead had been coined on their first day because the dude was pale as a fucking sheet. He’d been born on some planet where the days were a few hours long and the nights lasted for weeks. The result led to pigment changes in the settlers’ DNA that science helped along. On the bright-side, those same DNA changes helped the tall and lanky HI trooper see twice as well in the dark as anyone else, his body resisted the natural urge to sleep in darkness, and he could go days without sleeping and feel just fine. When it came to late night study sessions, Whitehead was the guy you wanted to be working with.
Now that the team was good to go, Coop toggled into the company channel, which he now had access to. “Alpha One, Alpha One-One, comms check complete. We’re green across the board.”
“Roger that, Cooper. In the future, just acknowledge completion on the task menu. Don’t tie up bandwidth with unnecessary chatter. Alpha One out.”
<Sooorrrry.> Coop rolled his eyes and got back in the line that was slowly moving forward into the armory.
Soon it was Coop’s turn, and he stepped through the door and up onto a conveyer belt.
“Open all ports and enable datalink.” A sour-faced man in CMUs didn’t even look up as clamps snapped down across Coop’s feet.
Coop hit the OPEN/CLOSE PORTS button by manipulating the HUD with his fingertips, while simultaneously using the voice command function to allow a data feed access.
The armor responded instantaneously. There was the hiss of releasing air as the environmentally contained LACS released all the sweat, BO, and farts that it had been collecting throughout the duty day. The waste disposal unit, which was not advertised when Coop agreed to go HI, emptied into a vat before pushing Coop along the assembly line.
It was a choir of whirling gizmos, grinding gears, and the clanking machinery that was the life-blood of an HI armory. Everything was automated, or else it would take hours to get a single trooper loaded up.
First a giant umbilical cord snaked down and jammed itself into the gigawatt battery pack on Coop’s back. A surge of power quickly recharged the armor from the eighty-eight percent it had been hovering at to the full one hundred. Simultaneously, a missile-box shoved down into Coop’s open shoulder-port. The impact made him grunt, and bend his knees to lessen the pain, but it was comforting to have the eight-round hyper-velocity missile launcher in its place. A heartbeat later, ammunition started to flood into the open cavity below his opposite shoulder. It was an avalanche of clinks that stuck out in the massive automated orchestra.
Coop toggled to the weapon’s menu and saw the ammunition reader on the shoulder-mounted rail gun showed ten thousand rounds and was rapidly climbing to fifteen thousand. Although, all of them were labelled non-lethal. It also reported all eight missiles were functional, but they were strictly SAMs.
<Why the hell would we need surface to air missiles during a protest?> He didn’t get time to think about it.
Next up were the jarring thumps of the LACS 125mm artillery shells loading into place across his back. The normal compliment was thirty-eight rounds of various types. Once the loading was completed, the weapons menu read: 20 Gas, 10 Anti-Personnel, 8 Flashbang.
With the arming sequence completed the LACS ports started to close, but the one on the back of his head remained open for another thin chord to slip into. UPLOAD INITIATE/CANCEL lit up on the HUD, and Coop hit it with his eyeballs. Over the next ten seconds the LACS neural network uploaded with the latest data available on the Chicago-Milwaukee-Cedar Rapid metropolis, as well as the access codes, passwords, and command and control information for this mission.
“You’re good to go.” The armorer did a quick visual check to confirm all ports were closed before giving Coop a thumbs up.
Coop made sure to step off quickly to avoid falling flat on his face. He’d jumped on one end harmless except for the blades on his forearms, and he came off the other ready to put the hurt on any Rat who decided to stick his dick where it didn’t belong.
“Weapons issue, Alpha. Let’s go!”
Coop could hear the MSG’s no-nonsense scowl over the company net. Coop counted off his team, who popped off the conveyer-belt in twenty second intervals, and pointed them over to another armorer standing not too far away. She was at the entrance to a large room that was normally concealed behind a thick duro-steel door. That door would only open for the LCDR, the company NCOICs, and her.
“GIC.” The woman ordered each trooper who approached.
A fully armed, and armored HI trooper stood guard next to the open door scrutinizing everyone. Coop walked up and presented the underside of his armor’s forearm. A holographic representation of the GIC below it appeared and was scanned.
“1894A103.” She said out loud before disappearing for a second and returning with a big-ass rifle.
The rifle the armorer handed Coop was nothing like the M3 he’d fired back in Basic. From the moment Coop had first seen this b-e-a-utiful weapon at the beginning of HI training, he knew he’d never be able to go back to the M3. That was weak-sauce compared to the Blunderbuss.
The Blunderbuss, called a Buss by everyone, was the handheld rifle of the heavy infantry. It was a meter and a half long, with a long, thick barrel capable of firing heavy-caliber ammunition. The middle of the rifle contained four rotating chambers, like an old-time six shooter, except these chambers were a third of a meter long. Each of the chambers contained a different set of ammunition.
One chamber usually contained standard ammunition not that different from what the M3s fired, except the Bus’s rounds were 3mm instead of 1mm. The second chamber fired the 3mm plasma-tipped rounds usually reserved for a squad’s automatic weapon. The third chamber was reserved for grenades of various varieties. You could stuff three into the specially designed chamber so you didn’t have to reload after every shot. Finally, the fourth chamber was designed to hold a single cell capable of firing a five-megawatt blast. The cell was a one time, use-and-lose shot, so it was best used as a last resort.
The rifle ended in a thick stock solely controllable by an HI trooper in a LACS, which contained the battery that fired the electromagnetically propelled rounds at incredible velocities. The Buss was a true multi-purpose weapon, and every HI trooper was qualified on it. Coop had hit the Sharpshooter ranking in it just like on the M3. No matter how many times he shot, he just wasn’t able to crack into the Expert tier.
Coop took his assigned Buss from the armorer, synched the weapon to his armor, checked the HUD for its status, and visually checked it to make sure it wasn’t loaded and it was on safe.
<Gunnery Sergeant Cunningham was right.> He mused with a smile. <I’m never going to fuck up with a weapon again.> His jaw tingled at the thought.
“Ammo, people, let’s move it. This isn’t a sightseeing trip.”
Coop grabbed a standard load of ammo as determined by the mission. He stowed ten extra thousand-round magazines of the non-lethal ammunition in his preferred armor section. There were no plasma-tipped rounds being issued, but he could use that chamber for the non-lethal ammo too, so he grabbed another three magazines when the armorer was grabbing someone else’s rifle. The grenades issued were more flashbang and gas rounds, but they were each given five buckshot grenades. They weren’t supposed to kill people when they were fired at low velocities, but they would still fuck someone up good.
Lastly, instead of single cells they were given a regulator to stick into the fourth chamber.
Coop toggled to the MSG that his team was green on ammo, using the assigned task menu, when they were all finished.
“Quick brief.” The MSG announced over the company net. “Non-lethal rounds, he held up a clear 3mm needle he’d ejected from a magazine. “These babies are made from some fancy gelatinous substance. They’re designed to explode on impact. It will still knock a Rat on their ass, but it isn’t going to break skin.”
<What the fuck are they good for then?> Coop kept the thought to himself.
“The kicker is this little speck.” The MSG continued. “This is a small pocket of nanites designed to spread on impact. They will proceed to a person’s vital areas and execute their mission to annoy the shit out of them. It will make people so itchy they want to rip their own faces off. It will make their eyes so dry they can’t see. It will give someone the worst case of crotch-rot you’ve ever imagined. Females…you don’t even want to imagine what it will do to you.”
<Ok, never mind.> It appeared non-lethal was a different type of lethal.
“Next, this regulator goes in the energy-cannon chamber. At the end of this regulator is a small, rechargeable battery. That battery will filter through the regulator and fire a stun beam that will smoke any idiot stupid enough to take you on. It has a one discharge per second capacity, and you’ve all been issued a few reloads. You should be good for a few thousand discharges each. Order of preference for use of force is to stun before resorting to the ammunition. Use of your buckshot as a last resort, and any missile launches needs to be cleared with the CO before engagement.” He looked serious about that part, and Coop understood why. A missile, even one designed to be a SAM, would blow a dozen people into itty-bitty chunks.
“However, I want you to protect yourself, each other, but still follow the ROE. Are we clear?”
“Yes, Master Sergeant!”
<I doubt we’ll have time to ask for permission.> Coop had a bad feeling about that.
“Good, now let’s hall ass to the Spyder. The CO, XO, and Sergeant Major will be pairing up with each team. Cooper, you’re stuck with me.”
Coop saw that as the lesser of all evils as the severely understrength HI company hauled ass to the airfield and onto the Spyder.