Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Joint Base Mattis, Mars, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Lines of Spyder Assault Shuttles were lined up wingtip to wingtip on the battalion airfield. Normally, a Spyder could carry half a company into battle at a time. Fifty soldiers in a fifty-ton war-machine armed to the teeth and ready to break shit. The Spyders weren’t just the taxis of the infantry, they were also the close air support.
Coop had only seen the assault shuttles from a distance, but now that he was up close and personal he was glad they were on his side. There was something predatory about the arrowhead shaped shuttles.
<Maybe it’s the missiles. Or that forty-millimeter nose cannon that fires armor-piercing explosive ammunition.>
Alpha Company trotted up the ramp of the Spyder farthest to the right and took their seats. The shuttle might be able to hold fifty regular grunts, but it could only hold half that number of HI when they were cocked, locked, and ready to rock.
Coop popped a squat on the port side next to MSG Smith. The first thing he did was open up the chambers of his Buss and start loading the ammunition: non-lethal rounds in two, non-lethal grenades in one, and the battery regulator in the final chamber. When he snapped the chambers back into place he was loaded with two thousand non-lethal rounds, three grenades, and a stun setting that was good for a at least several hundred one-second discharges. When he closed it up, he made sure the stun setting was the one lined up with the firing chamber.
<Rats don’t take kindly to being stunned.> Coop would know, it had happened to him more than once.
He stowed his rifle in the bracket next to his seat and started to fasten his six-point harness. He knew from asking around that you wanted to be synched down tight during a combat drop.
<Huh.> He turned to the MSG strapping in next to him.
“Master Sergeant, does this count as a combat drop?”
Coop actually heard the large NCO snort, which meant the man had toggled the switch in his armor purposefully so Coop could hear it.
“You don’t strike me as someone who’s trying to build that ribbon salad on their chest, Cooper.” The MSG replied as he pulled down hard on the straps and effectively locked himself into place.
“I could care less about most of the shit, but a combat drop badge is something to aspire to. Right Master Sergeant?”
“Don’t get soft on me now, Cooper. I need the wise ass that’s got his head screwed on right most of the time and has a finely tuned bullshit-o-meter. That’s why I gave you the team leader slot. You aren’t completely worthless.”
There was no doubt in Coop’s mind that the MSG’s words were the closest thing he was going to get to a compliment. He also noticed the NCO never answered his question.
“Listen up, Bulldogs!” The SGM’s voice roared over the battalion comms network. Whatever was coming was going to be important.
“This is Bulldog Six.” The Battalion CO’s voice popped over the net.
Coop looked over to the opposite side of the Spyder, whose engines were going from a low rumble to an ever-increasing whine, and saw the man sitting only a few meters away. The CO had commandeered the crew chief’s flight seat and was manipulating the holo-terminal to encircle himself with floating images.
“This is the operations order for Operation Tranquil Sea. Please hold all questions to the end.” There were only twenty HI troopers in this Spyder, but the LCDR was communicating with the rest of the three-hundred-man strong battalion through TACCOM and STRATNET scattered across fifteen Spyders.
“Situation. Recently released information from the Ministry of War identified that a cruiser was lost in the Syracuse Sector of the Mid-Worlds on our border with the Blockies. Another cruiser was badly mauled in the skirmish. On top of that, some digging by journalists at the Times revealed an increase of deployments to the area, and a leak from some Admiral’s staff violated OPSEC and let everyone know that half of Third Fleet is moving into the sector to strengthen our defensive posture. For anyone who doesn’t have a GED out there, those are all pretty good signs that we’re about to escalate from sucker punches to a full-scale shooting war with the Eastern Block. A full-scale war like that means rationing, war time precedence in goods production, and a number of other things that make civilians unhappy.”
<They’ll probably lower the BSA.> Coop thought back to the food allowance all the Rats got every week. Now that he’d eaten MREs, he was pretty sure they were made by the same company, and a war-time footing meant more calories for soldiers not Rats.
“As a result of the galactic political situation a peace protest began outside the Civil Administration building in Chicago-Milwaukee-Cedar Rapids PHA Four just to the southwest of Chicago proper. What started as a simple protest has grown from the local collages’ gender-studies professors to mostly outraged, gang affiliated Rats. They marched in force out of PHA Four and are heading toward Old Chicago and the cluster of Commonwealth buildings there.” The LCDR pause for a second. “To make matters worse a counter protest has evolved to voice its own different opinion. This one started outside the Veteran’s Hall north of the city and has been moving steadily south toward Old Chicago.”
<Looks like there’s going to be a party in Old Chicago tonight.> Coop thought, knowing that if this had happened in his PHA a few months ago he would have been marching right along with everyone else and looking to steal some shit.
“Commonwealth citizens are not being designated as enemy forces until they meet criteria set forth by higher in the rules of engagement. Friendly forces are the rest of Fifth Brigade who will be dropping all over the city at other strategic locations. Local police and emergency services are going to take a step back if we have to step in.” The LCDR lit up the area with the appropriate icons.
There were very few blue, friendly icons on that map currently. Even with two thousand officers on the street the Chicago Police Department looked small and weak compared to the protesters. They were attempting to funnel the mass of gray icons away from the oldest part of the city, and they were failing miserably.
“Our mission, Bulldogs, is to secure Commonwealth property and protect it against looting and theft.” Even as the CO spoke, the HUD updated and the number of gray, UNKNOWN/NON-HOSTILE icons grew. There were already tens of thousands of protestors moving toward the city from both directions.
STRATNET zoomed in on Coop’s HUD and rendered a 3-D look at Old Chicago. Old Chicago was a term used to describe the section of Chicago built before the advent of the Commonwealth and the explosion in population. The section of town was huddled against the polluted waters of Lake Michigan. It was a collection of steel skyscrapers, half-millennia old historical remnants of the extinct United States of America, and a few patches of green that the city spent millions of dollars to keep from dying. More importantly, it held the Central Region Capitol Complex of the United Commonwealth of Colonies on Earth, as well as half a dozen important corporate offices.
It was surrounded by ever increasing buildings of duro-steel, polyplast, cement, and nanite-built megascrapers. It was like looking at a 3-D image of stadium seating. Old Chicago’s fifty and a hundred story buildings were dwarfed by half-kilometer, kilometer, and multi-kilometer high structures. Interspersed throughout it all was the neatly ordered PHA clusters. A quick look at the map showed Coop that PHA-4 was only twenty kilometers from Old Chicago.
“Show me likely avenues of approach for the two protests.” Coop asked his armor, and the computer spit out likely vectors.
Lines popped up across the map. Lightly shaded lines were the ones with low likelihood percentages, while dark shades were the most likely avenues of approach. The darkest lines on the map had both protests converging in the center of Old Chicago, right were Coop’s armored ass was going to be.
“Execution.” The LCDR moved on. “Concept of Operations. Our deployment pattern will be as follows: Alpha Company, Regional Capitol building on North LaSalle Drive. Bravo Company, the Daley Center Courthouse on West Washington Street. Charlie Company, you’re tasked with the Thompson Center on West Randolph Street…”
Coop stopped listening and zoomed in to view the building his company would be securing. The Regional Capitol building was the old city hall. It was an eleven-story white-washed block that had been renovated a dozen times over the last five hundred years. The last restoration had built a polyplast dome on the roof to preserve the struggling garden, as well as putting thin, translucent sheets of polyplast over the exterior to preserve the classical revival architecture.
<At least those columns will give us some cover.>
From a tactical point of view, it was a shit show. It was completely encircled by taller buildings within an M3’s effective range. Snipers could rain down hell on any defending force with impunity. It was encircled by street, which meant that an enemy would have to sprint the last twenty meters or so in the open to get into the building, but up to that point they’d have excellent cover and concealment. Needless to say, Coop didn’t like what he was seeing.
<They’re going to blow the place to shit if they have mortars or any other indirect fire method.> Coop shook his head. He was thinking worst case scenario because that was his job, but he needed to still keep in mind that at this point it was a bunch of civilians protesting relatively peacefully.
“We are going to hold these positions. If things turn into a clusterfuck, we’re to evacuate government employees to the roof where the Spyders will evac them to a safe distance. We will either evac with the Spyders, or maneuver to an alternate site here.” The LCDR identified a park four blocks away from their objectives.
“Service and support. The troop transport has a chow hall and is stocked with MREs and fluids. Everyone will grab dinner, top off their bladders, and grab an MRE before we drop. We shouldn’t be there for long, so don’t try to pack yourself full of this shit. We should be back on Mars for breakfast. ”
The Spyder’s engines roared as the assault shuttle rose of the ground and shot into the air. Coop was pushed back against his seat as they went from zero to supersonic faster than he ever had before.
“Everyone has already been briefed on the ammunition, but I want to reiterate that you are to request battalion level clearance to use your missiles and lethal rounds. I will say that again. You are to receive battalion level clearance to use missiles and lethal rounds. These are Commonwealth citizens we’re dealing with. I don’t want body parts flying everywhere on the evening news.”
“Transportation. Venom flight is kind enough to give us a ride to Earth and be our eyes in the sky. Designated Venom Two-One through Venom Three-Five. Get to know your pilots and make sure they have the incentive to cover your ass if need be. Medivac is being handled by Venom Flight. A casualty collection point will be established at the nearest hospital outside the AO if needed.”
<Good to know.> Coop was still busy thinking about the tactical situation on the ground when he felt the weightlessness of the shuttle leaving Mars’ atmosphere.
Unlike other transportation shuttles, the Spyders were loaded down with so much ordinance and armor it didn’t make sense to put in a generator to give the tiny ship its own gravity field. The designers just decided to stick with inertial dampeners for the high-G maneuvers, and rely on the fact that Spyders spent most of their time in a planet’s gravity or on a ship. The six-point harness and rifle brackets kept anything from floating around.
“Command and Signal. Signal. Review the battalion net if you can’t figure it out. All frequencies, call signs, challenges, passwords, and code words were updated on the data dump back at the armory. Command. Chain of Command goes through the command team and then the company NCOICs. Then team leaders starting with Alpha and down through Juliet.”
<Holy shit.> Coop thought. <If the CO, XO, SGM, and all the company NCOICs buy the farm then I’m in charge of the battalion.> As intriguing a thought as that was, if Coop fell into the positon to command a battalion there probably wasn’t much of a battalion left.
“I’ll take your questions now.”
Coop saw the LCDR turn off the display and hand it back over to the crew chief. The other NCOICs had some questions about deployment, and MSG Smith asked two, but Coop kept his big mouth shut. This was so high above his paygrade that he didn’t need to worry about it. His job was to point his Buss at the bad guys, shoot, and blow shit up with his 125mm cannon if someone needed him to. He’d leave the planning to the people who got paid to do it.
The question and answer session between the officers and NCOs lasted until Coop felt the return of gravity as their Spyder entered the artificial gravity of the troop transport’s flight deck.
“Ok, Alpha, let’s get off this bird, pop our helmets, breath some fake, stale air, and grab chow. It’s a few hours to Earth and then we drop.” The MSG led the way down the shuttle’s rear ramp.
Coop felt the spike of adrenaline again, but reigned it in. They still had a long way to go before this was done. He didn’t want to blow his load in the first minute. That wouldn’t be any fun.