Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: CWS Abraham Lincoln, New Lancashire, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Let’s go. Hustle. Move it…Move it…Move it!” The permanently irritated SGM yelled every few seconds as over two thousand soldiers streamed into the assault carrier’s main hanger bay.
It was the main hanger bay, but Coop knew each assault carrier contained three. One for the Spyders and infantry to use, one for the gunboat scouts, and the last was for the fighters. Coop would likely never see the other two bays. It wasn’t his job to sit around in a small metal tube or fly the drone fighters the Commonwealth used in planetary invasions and major space battles. He was a ground pounder, and he was proud of it.
The company and battalion NCOICs were already working on getting the soldiers organized. You’d think that two thousand plus soldiers being packed into the bay would be cramped. You’d be wrong. The bay was designed to have the ship’s full brigade contingent and all of their Spyders occupying it at the same time. It was freaking huge.
Coop fell in on the far right with the small contingent of 2222nd soldiers. They were only a company and a half compared to the other two full battalions. The rest of the 2222nd was already deployed, but the replacements still had to get in formation with the rest of the newcomers and receive the initial briefing. The speech, SOPs, and local ROE would be available on all of their PADs through MILNET when they were done, but a commander addressing their troops was something that never went out of style.
“Welcome to all the new faces.” The Brigade Commander gave Coop’s small group a nod. “I hope everyone had a good rest because you aren’t going to see one for the next several months. We are preparing for war, and that preparation starts with us securing our assets. Your missions will be…”
Coop tuned out about then. Their mission was to stop the Blockies. Their mission was to fight and win. The particulars of that mission would get relayed to him by the NCOs directly above him. The CMDR could spout out all the high-level crap he wanted. It wouldn’t affect the day to day duties Coop would be tasked with.
Instead, he took his time examining the bay and counting the Spyders. <148…149…150.> There were some out on patrol, assigned to the planet, or undergoing maintenance somewhere else, but it was the most assault shuttles Coop had ever seen in one place. Even back on Mars they didn’t even have fifty birds sitting side by side. It was an awesome display of firepower. <And it’ll move two and a half battalions of ass kickers at once to any battlefield we’re needed at.> He felt bad for anyone that fucked with this ship.
“Brigade, atten-tion! Dismissed!” The CMDR wrapped up his spiel and executed a brisk about face.
After that it was filled with a lot of yelling as the NCOs took charge. Many were looking at their PADs for their unit’s assignments. One by one, companies began to break off and head out. Some even headed back the way they came to the luxury liner. They weren’t staying on the ship.
“Hey, Sergeant! What are we gonna do?” Coop just had to be the guy to ask that question.
The NCO charged with picking up the replacements was a standard grunt, not HI, so he gave the standard answer.
“The 222nd is assigned with the protection and deployment from this assault carrier. Most of our units onboard train primarily for planetary invasion and repelling boarders. That being said, we have more assignments than we do troops. The other ships have their own marine contingents, but we still need to secure the planets, slingshot, and any forward operating bases we deem necessary. As the biggest unit in the sector that responsibility falls to us.”
It didn’t answer Coop’s question, but it necessitated more.
“Why don’t the planets have their own militias protect them? Isn’t that what they’re there for?”
“Planetary militias, especially out here on the rim, are poorly equipped and undermanned. We supplement them where we can. Mostly we secure the PDC.” The SGT was being politer and patient than Coop thought, so he just kept on pushing.
“Where are we getting assigned?”
“That, Private, is for your commanders to decide.”
Just like that the patience was gone and there was no more talking as the hundred and fiftyish soldiers marched through the assault carrier’s corridors back toward infantry country – the giant space in the assault carrier that was meant to berth ten thousand marines.
Coop took one look at the room he was assigned and was thankful the entire brigade was not on the carrier. He was HI so he was two to a room instead of four, but even then he wouldn’t be able to fully lie down on his cot. It wasn’t long enough to contain his entire frame.
“Do you believe this shit?” Coop poked his head into the cabin next to his.
“Yeah, this sucks,” Mike replied. He had it even worse than Coop.
The only positive was that they had the cabins to themselves. It was a positive as far as sleeping, but a negative when it came to the eventual combat they’d be engaged in. A half-full berth signified a lack of HI, and as Coop knew only too well they were operating at about fifty percent strength with the units he was familiar with.
His PAD suddenly pinged with a priority message from a GYSGT Topper. The name sounded familiar, but Coop couldn’t place it. It requested Coop and Mike’s immediate presence in a briefing room at the far end of grunt territory. It took the two HI troopers longer than they thought to get there. They had to take several corridors that never seemed to lead where they were supposed to. They missed their deck on the grav-lift once because it moved so fast and they weren’t paying attention, so when they finally got the briefing room the GYSGT’s comment wasn’t a big surprise.
“Took you long enough. You stop for a snack on the way?”
“We didn’t pass the mess, Gunnery Sergeant,” Coop answered with a totally straight face.
“Shut your fucking face, Cooper.” The GYSGT lashed out. “I’ve read your file, and I don’t want any of your shit while you’re with my outfit. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Understood?”
<Yes, Gunney stick-up-his-ass.>
“Yes, Gunney.” He didn’t dare say what he was thinking.
“Sit your ass down. Enders,” the GYSGT looked at Mike appreciatively. “You’re a big motherfucker aren’t you? I’ve got just the job for you.”
Coop knew Mike well enough to read the hesitation on his face. Despite being a big bastard, Mike didn’t like to just be used to pick up heavy things, move them somewhere, and then put them down. He was a good trooper, and a good trooper wanted to do something mission-oriented.
“In case you two haven’t figured it out, I’m Gunnery Sergeant Topper. The battalion commander has tasked me to be in charge of our HI assets. You two are one third of my responsibility.” The NCO’s gaze was steely.
“That means I’m going to be all over your asses. I don’t care if you’re five light years away. I’m going to make sure you two don’t fuck up. Understood?”
<Just great.> Coop kept his exasperation off his face. He dearly hoped he got to be stationed five light years from this douche.
“Enders, I’m assigning you to Delta Company. You’ll find the unit details in your PAD, but the short and sweet of it is that they’re in charge with the sector capitol’s defense. So get your shit and get onto the first bird headed planetside.”
“Yes, Gunney.” Mike nodded.
“What are you waiting for?” The GYSGT stated after Mike didn’t move. “Get the hell out of my face. Go do your job.”
“Yes, Gunney.” Mike snapped out of parade rest and without a sideways glance at Coop jogged out of the room.
The assault carrier only shook slightly as he ran.
“Now for you, Cooper.”
“I’ve got a request from an MP company back on Luna to look into you.”
“Right now, two masters-at-arms are looking through your shit. If they find what they’re looking for then you’ll be spending this deployment in the brig. If they don’t, and I don’t think they will, then I’m assigning you to Foxtrot. They’re one of our best companies. It was SGT Takahashi’s company. He met his maker in a fleet action to secure the supply route to this sector. He gave his life to ensure a whole section of the battleship he was hitching a ride on didn’t lose power and get blown apart in space.”
Coop knew better than to react, both to the MAs searching his berth and the SGT he’d be replacing. Nothing he could say was going to get him any leeway in either case.
“The LT and NCOIC know how to handle problem children in Foxtrot, so I expect you’ll be whipped into shape soon. You’re staying onboard, so get comfortable. PT is at 0600 ship’s time. Tomorrow we’re doing PMCS of our armor. Yours better be ready to go. Understood?”
The NCO turned away and Coop got out of there. Mike was waiting for him around the corner, and didn’t look happy that he was going planetside alone.
It was weird saying goodbye to Mike. Not only because the MAs were tossing his room while they stood in the hallway, but also because the two of them had been together their entire military career. From the PHA all the way to now. They’d bled in Basic, HI School, and even fought off riotous Chicago together. Coop didn’t know what to say after all of that.
“My shuttle leaves in ten.” Mike didn’t have a lot of stuff and hadn’t unpacked, so he was ready to go in thirty seconds.
“I’m stuck in this tin can.” Coop shrugged. “I’ll try and grab some leave when I get a chance and check out your swanky digs.”
It depended on the person, but most soldiers preferred a planetary assignment to a shipboard one.
“Just let me know, and I’ll try and get some time away from my five-star accommodations.” Mike grinned. “I heard they even have a pool.”
“Fuck you.” Coop extended his hand.
Mike took it. “You know,” he stated after a second. “The first time I met you I didn’t like you. You seemed like one of those fast-talking leeches that thought they knew everything and were the hot shit. I usually had to pummel those little Rats into seeing the error of their ways.”
“I’m flattered.” Coop smirked.
“You were still a cocky little shit who thought he knew everything, but Berg got to kick your ass instead of me. I think that helped.”
“Thanks?” Coop cocked an eyebrow.
“Don’t mention it.” They finished shaking and Mike turned to leave.
“Stay safe.” Coop called after him.
“You too.” Mike rounded the corner and was gone.
After months together it felt weird to not have the big guy’s hulking figure nearby. He missed it even more when the MAs stepped out of his room with grim looks on their faces.
<What the hell could they have found?>
“You’re clear, Private.” It didn’t occur to Coop that the grim faces were because they didn’t find anything.
“I know.” Coop tried not to sound too triumphant.
<It’s a good thing I blew all that money on booze back on Thor.> His own frivolousness had saved him a trip to the brig.
With that over with he entered his cabin and shut the door behind him. The liner had dropped all the new soldier off in the middle of the night ship’s time. Coop had two hours until PT, so he decided to catch some Z’s. He needed to make a good impression tomorrow.
<Gunney already thinks I’m a criminal. I can’t have the LT and NCOIC thinking that too.> The fact that the Gunney was technically correct didn’t even cross Coop’s mind.