Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Old Chicago, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“I thought I was done with this shit,” Coop grumbled to himself as he led his fire-team into the sewers of Old Chicago.
“You and me both,” Mike replied. Apparently, Coop was still tied into the team network and broadcasting.
They’d traveled a few hundred meters from the manhole cover and hadn’t seen anything, but it was still early. Their millimeter wave radars were active and mapping every minute detail of the sewer as they moved farther into the bowels of the city. So far, the coast was clear.
What was happening on the surface was a different story. Their HUD’s still updated in real-time, and STRATNET and TACCOM were as clear as they were above ground. The Rats who made up the majority of the anti-war movement were everywhere. They had pushed the infantry brigade back a block from the river, but the brigade seemed to be holding there. The building the Rats had brought down had almost turned the soldiers’ flank and folded them up, but Commander Reinhardt wasn’t a green shavetail fresh out of Officer-U. Coop could still see the Sypders doing gun runs along the enemy lines, and the icons of freshly dropped gas littered the space where the hole in the line had been.
<They’re holding for now.> But the line along the Chicago River wasn’t really the problem.
The problem was that every Commonwealth position to the rear of the line had an angry red circle around the small cluster of blue. The Rats had forced the Commander to commit a large percentage of his force to holding the line while the Rats snuck underground and surrounded the strategic locations they were trying to protect.
<And they’ve sent a four-man team to recon and stop them. That’s just fucking brilliant.> Coop was still brainstorming ways to stop thousands from stampeding through the tunnels when he couldn’t blow anything up.
If there was any good news it was that the couple hundred-thousand pro-defense protestors seemed to be content controlling just the near side of the north bank. With most of the brigade deployed to the eastern side of the river, there were only about fifteen hundred soldiers standing between Coop’s position and the pro-defense people.
<They’re better armed, better trained, and they shot down a Spyder.> That part had been a surprise to everyone, and a fair amount of luck.
Rats in the PHA were always armed, but they didn’t have MANPADS and gas masks able to filter out the riot gas the HI was lobbing at everyone. <Are they burbanites and vets?> If they were, Coop had a new respect for what the softies from the burbs were capable of when they came out in force.
But all of that was semantics at this point. What he really needed to be focusing on was stopping the shit that was happening in these tunnels.
The universe snapped his mind back to the present as his armored boot came down on something with a sickly squish. They were walking in a few centimeters of water, so Coop could have stepped in literal shit or it could have been a four-legged rat. There really wasn’t much of a difference when his one-ton armor stomped down on it. All that came back up was a flattened pancake of brown.
“Let’s get this the fuck over with.” Coop ordered his team to move faster.
“I’ve got contact. Two hundred meters ahead around the bend.” Whitehead informed ten seconds later.
The HUDs updated and a mass of red icons populated on the screen. It appeared that a wave of reinforcements was heading to the capitol building Alpha Company was defending.
“If they wanted a proper recon they should have given us a drone.” Coop looked around their current position for someplace to find cover, but they were in a metal tunnel with nothing but smooth walls all the way forward and back to ninety-degree turns at either end.
“We’ve got about thirty seconds until a few hundred Rats come around that corner.” Melissa was covering their rear, but she still saw everything coming their way through the HUD.
“Fuck it.” Coop growled as their mission fell apart. “Mike, Whitehead, I want gas grenades down their throats the second they come around that corer. We’ll fall back to that intersection back there. Melissa, eject your anti-personnel arty rounds and rig them as sensor mines. Stick them on the walls every fifty meters and have them register anything not in armor as hostile.”
Coop was thankful he’d stayed awake during that rainy afternoon class concerning the alternative functions of the artillery munitions they fired from their 125mm tubes. One such use was as a jerry-rigged mine. He was sure Melissa knew the simple procedure. The hardest part was reaching around your back and getting the round when the computer popped it out of the tube.
There was a loud clang as the shell was discharged from the LACS. It wasn’t exactly meant to be subtle, and that screwed them right now. The red icons on their HUDs paused momentarily and then started to charge twice as fast toward them.
“Melissa, GO!” Coop yelled as he took a knee while Mike and Whitehead rotated their barrels to the grenade chamber.
Ten seconds later Rats streamed around the corner howling like a pack of wild hyenas.
Two gas grenades popped out of the Buss’ barrels and exploded right in the charging mobs faces. Coop saw the explosive detonation blow chunks out of the front rank of charging Rat’s, but he didn’t care. There were a lot of angry people who really looked like they wanted to take a can opener to his LACS, pull him out, and beat him to death with their bare hands.
“COVER FIRE!” Coop and Mike opened fire with the non-lethal rounds as the gas from the grenades did its job, and Whitehead fell back to the intersection.
Ten seconds later, Mike tapped Coop on the shoulder to let him know he was bounding back. Coop barely registered it. He was in the zone. This was what was known as a target rich environment. Everything in front of Coop was red, and his targeting computer barely had to lift a silicone finger as Coop laid into the bottlenecked Rats. He fired until there was a soft click of an empty magazine.
“MOVING!” He let the guys behind him know that he was on his way.
His mind didn’t even comprehend that he’d just fired a thousand rounds into a pack of Rats, and was automatically reloading that chamber with another thousand-round magazine as he ran full speed toward a friendly position.
Non-lethal rounds tore down the tunnel as Mike and Whitehead covered his ass. He rounded the corner at a sprint, ricocheted off the wall, and a second later…BOOM.
One of Melissa’s ten anti-personnel artillery shells detonated as the Rats crossed the laser tripwire. The tunnel funneled the noise to the point that the LACS automatically shut down external audio. The anti-personnel shell wasn’t a real anti-personnel shell that they would have used against Blockie troops. This was a non-lethal one, but it was basically a supped-up version of the buckshot grenades Coop had yet to fire. When detonated, it fired off hundreds of low-velocity little plastic balls that were supposed to break on impact. Of course, break on impact didn’t mean that guy whose head was right next to the shell when it exploded wasn’t going to be turned to mush.
“Back to the manhole!” Coop yelled when a second anti-personnel shell detonated less than ten seconds later.
Those shells had to be taking down dozens of Rats, but it wasn’t slowing them down much. Even the gas didn’t seem that effective.
The LACS audio was still muted, but if Coop had to guess he hypothesized that there would be a lot of screaming, cries of pain, and demands for blood.
<I’m supposed to be on Mars, not in this shithole.> Coop wondered why the universe was trying to fuck him over again when the first red-faced, manic Rat charged around the corner twenty-five meters behind them – and got turned into human pudding when a third anti-personnel shell exploded right beside him.
A few of the plastic balls peppered Coop’s armor, but they didn’t even scratch the paint.
<What the fuck is wrong with these people?> The Rats behind the churned-up guy only paused for a few seconds before charging forward again. <They’ve got to be high as fuckin’ kites to run right into gunfire like that.> Coop was ejecting another thousand-round magazine and reloading before he knew it.
Getting drugged up before a fight had been a tactic since the beginning of time. It heightened the pain threshold, shut down emotions, and let you keep going when your mind would normally tell you to stop. All of that equaled bad news for Alpha Team.
“Mike, get up the ladder and clear that alley. Melissa and Whitehead after him. I’ll hold them off until you’re up top, then I want the fucking manhole cover welded on so they can’t follow me.”
Green acknowledgements lit up Coop’s HUD, and they executed.
The ladder shuddered as Mike jumped to the top and threw off the manhole cover. Then he jumped out and Coop didn’t see what happened, but there was about a dozen red icons that vanished from STRATNET. Melissa and Whitehead went next, and then it was just Coop. All alone with hundreds of angry Rats who were drawing closer and closer no matter how many rounds he put into them.
He popped out another empty magazine with one hand, and held his Buss and fired with the other as the chamber rotated and started spitting out more non-lethal rounds. His weapon was firing on full automatic and mowing down Rats, but they never seemed to stop. When one went down another one took his place, and then another, and another, until Coop’s rifle clicked empty and they surged forward another meter until the chamber rotated and started spitting out more rounds to take them down.
<This isn’t going to work.> He watched the ammo-count on his HUD drop quickly.
Thankfully, he had another option to hold them off. His back was already to the ladder when the chamber ran dry and he turned to start climbing. The Rats saw him retreating and roared like the blood-thirsty army they were and charged forward. They were only fifteen meters away and a few probably thought they could reach him before he exited the tunnel.
They were wrong.
The rail gun mounted on Coop’s shoulder rotated and opened fire on the charging Rats. Thousands upon thousands of rounds roared into the Rats. They fell by the dozens as Coop scrambled up the ladder and into the chaotic area surrounding the Commonwealth Capitol Building.
“Seal it!” He yelled as he pulled his feet out. His railgun went silent, and he grabbed the nearby manhole cover.
“With what?” Melissa’s Buss was chirping out three round bursts at something behind Coop.
“Mike, get over here and use your stun beam.”
Mike trotted over and Whitehead covered down on his position. They’d automatically set up a security perimeter with one trooper facing in either direction. There were quite a few non-moving Rats around them, but Coop didn’t stop to check for vitals.
Coop still had the manhole in one hand and his Buss in the other when the first Rat reached up out of the hole and grabbed him. It was an old guy, probably in his forties or fifties but looked seventy. He had an old pistol in his hand, and he proceeded to empty the fifteen-round magazine into Coop’s crotch area. The LACS armor deflected the low-velocity projectiles without a sweat, and Coop swung the manhole cover at the guy’s head.
The Rat’s brains splattered all over the side of the alley, and Coop kicked the rest of the body back into the hole. Its falling mass took two guys out behind him, but they just kept on coming. Coop rotated chambers again, and fired a buckshot grenade into the open hole. People screamed and everyone on the ladder fell back into the surging mass of humanity beneath them.
“I’ll hold it on, you fire.” Coop slammed the cover in place, and put his full weight on top of it.
Mike came up next to him and started to fire one-second bursts of the stunning beam into the metal of the manhole and the metal of its bracket. As a welding tool, the stun beams sucked, but after a solid minute of firing Mike had a descent seal going; at least enough to hold off a few people beating at it from below.
“Alpha One, this is One-One, over.”
“Report, One-One.” MSG Smith’s voice came back over the company net tense and hurried.
“That was a clusterfuck. Rat reinforcements are on the way. We can confirm they are using the tunnels to move troops around, but we’re going to need something that goes boom if we want to seal the sewers.”
“Negative, One-One, fall back to the capitol building. Civilians are evacuating now, we only need to hold for another twenty minutes.”
Location icons flashed on Coop’s HUD telling him where the MSG wanted his team deployed.
“You heard him, let’s go. Melissa and Whitehead first, me and Mike second.”
“Master Sergeant, we’re coming across. Give us some cover fire.”
“Roger. Cover fire in three…two…one.”
The side of the capitol building facing the alley erupted in a mad minute of fire. Half a dozen HI troopers opened up with their Buss’, shoulder-mounted railguns, and more artillery fired gas rounds. It was clear for that minute that the Commonwealth, despite their numerical disadvantage, had fire superiority if they wanted it.
Alpha Team scrambled back across West Randolph and took up positions where the MSG had indicated.
“Have a nice break?” The MSG himself stepped up carrying a polyplast crate of ammunition.
“Yeah, it was sandy beaches, strong drinks, and topless babes down there, Master Sergeant.” Coop’s reply dripped with sarcasm as he grabbed more magazines. He’d gone through half his load down in the sewer, and his railgun was down nine thousand rounds.
<I wonder how many people I killed?> Non-lethal notwithstanding, that many rounds shot in such close quarters had to have punched somebody’s ticket. Not to mention the dude he’d basically beheaded.
“Hold this corner, Cooper. We aren’t going to be here too much longer, and we’re about to get some relief.”
Coop checked his HUD to see if there was an inbound Spyder with fresh troops, but he didn’t see anything. What he did see, after a minute of looking, was the western half of the pro-defense protesters finally crossing the bridges to the northwest and coming into contact with the north flank of the anti-war protesters. STRATNET had a live feed going, and it was quickly obvious that they were tearing into each other with a level of hatred only possible in opposite political viewpoints.
<Well shit. All we have to do is sit here and they’ll eventually just kill each other.> Several rounds impacting close to his head told him that wasn’t quite true, but he found comfort in the fact that the main aggressors were now fighting a two-front battle.
<Still, I can’t wait to get the fuck out of here and back to Mars. I signed up to get off this planet, not fight Rats in a metropolis’ streets.>
He leaned out around the column and fired off a three-round burst, hitting a Rat running for a new position in the torso, and flattening him into a writhing, screaming mess.
The evac couldn’t come soon enough.