Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Pooler, New Savannah System, United Commonwealth of Colonies
<I lost to this fucking guy?> Coop fumed.
Coop was understandably pissed. In his profession you needed to train like you fought. You couldn’t half-ass it, or you wouldn’t be able to cut it when it counted. His death in this training exercise only meant his V4 shut down, but he took it personally, and to finally meet the people that killed him only made it worse.
Coop tried to take a few deep breaths, but it wasn’t working too well. At Endex, the Commonwealth company had been defeated by the system defense company with the tank’s help. This was embarrassing, and the company’s LT and GYSGT were feeling it just as much as Coop. The Commonwealth forces were supposed to be the best, and getting beaten by a jumped up bunch of weekend warriors hurt.
The LT and GYSGT of the system defense company sure weren’t pulling any punches in their gentle ribbing of their counterparts, and the three people of the tank’s crew were merciless. As the HI support from the two companies, Eve and Coop sat apart from them, which helped Coop to not jump over the table and strangle one of the tankers.
Eve placed her hand over his, which was gripping the chair to the point of warping the polyplast frame. “Don’t be a sore loser. Learn from it. I don’t know about you but I sure as hell want to know how the tank survived your attack. I would have taken the same actions you did.”
Eve had just finished when the door slid open and the exercise graders, the SGM, and Thomas Gold walked in. The soldiers stood for the system defense CMDR and Commonwealth LCDR who held their evaluations in their hands. The SGM split off to the side and took a seat with Coop and Ben.
The review was detailed as the evaluators went over the operation step-by-step with the two company commanders. The Commonwealth LT was given good marks for his situational awareness and using the terrain to his advantage and outmaneuvering the system defense force. Despite the defense force’s victory, both the evaluators knew, and made it clear, that without the tank the defense force company would have been rolled up and defeated. Not much was said about the tank, and the company commanders and NCOICs were dismissed. The SGM, Thomas Gold, Coop, Eve, and the tankers remained.
“That was a hell of a show!” Gold had kept himself composed, but now that the others were out of the room, he couldn’t help but smile. “Sergeants, let me introduce you to retired Sergeant First Class Elysa McLamb, retired Command Sergeant Major Marcus Atwell, and retired Lieutenant Colonel Donald Southland.”
<Sergeant first class, command sergeant major and lieutenant colonel? That explains a lot.> Coop thought.
Just looking at the two men and one woman it was obvious they were old. All three had blue in their eyes, which judging from the rest of their look had been administered a long time ago and had run its course. The LTC had more in common with a gnarled tree root than a human being. His skin looked more like worn, tanned leather than flesh. All three had white hair, and more than one had dental implants. Coop was surprised they’d been able to fight.
The retired part and their ranks made them even older. The Commonwealth’s rank consolidation into the rank structure of the larger navy wasn’t recent. It was probably going on a hundred and fifty years, but soldiers and marines had fought to keep their traditional ranks long after the Commonwealth’s formation.
All of that info pieced together gave Coop a better picture of the three people in front of him and why they were here. If Coop was reading the room right, the tankers were here at Thomas Gold’s request not the SGM.
“We recruited these three veterans for their valuable skills as we resurrect a lost form of combat,” Gold continued. “They’ve been involved in the creation of the Model One Patton Main Battle Tank for the last few months. Today was our first combat simulation, and as you can tell, it was quite successful.”
Coop bit down on his tongue. He’d been killed by a proof of concept, not even a real war machine.
“We’re all very interested to know how you’ve resurrected tanks and made them relevant to modern warfare.” The SGM kept his cool.
“Certainly,” Gold hit some buttons and holos sprang to life. “The Patton, or Patty, as the three tankers are affectionately calling her, is the combination of old and new. We’ve taken the expertise given by our three battle-hardened, former tankers and mirrored it with new technology gleaned from the Hegemony. Lieutenant Colonel, if you’d like to give us some historical prospective.”
“Sure, Sir.” The old man rasped. He sounded like he was on the verge of going into a coughing fit. “Tanks went out of style because they didn’t have defenses to stand up to weapons as they continued to modernize. They became hundred-ton moving coffins, and I should know. I saw most of my last command, a battalion of fifty-six tanks, manned by good men and women, pounded into submission without ever getting to fire a shot. Tanks primary mission has always been to have a heavy, maneuverable force that could take punches and dish it back out. When tanks lost the ability to take those punches, they became obsolete.” The old LTC’s somber expression broke into a big grin. “With Mr. Gold, and this new tech, I can now tell you tanks can take that punch again, and fuck up anyone trying to give it to them.”
“We knew tanks needed to be stronger than they’ve ever been, and the new gluon power sources and shield tech have made that a possibility.” Gold stepped back in to take over from the exuberant LTC before the guy had a stroke on the spot.
“I thought all of the grants from the government went to purchasing material for the news ships and personnel?” The SGM asked, careful not to give away more info about the SRRTs to the non-vetted tankers.
“Those funds were allocated according to contracts, but now that Gold Technologies is a licensed business in the Hegemony, we’ve started to make our own purchases.” Gold ignored the frown on the SGM’s face at the revelation and continued. “The Patton’s are our first solo project with the new tech, and the system defense force has been kind enough to let us put her through her paces during their training exercises.”
<Which is why we didn’t know about them going into this.> Coop surmised.
“Now, what we’ve done with the Patton’s is create a new mobile and protective platform to put superior firepower down range while supporting the regular infantry.” Gold turned on his salesman mode. “We’ve incorporated two layers of shielding into a Patton. The first layer is to protect the tank itself. As Sergeant Cooper learned firsthand, it is more than capable of shrugging off multiple hyper-velocity missile strikes. It would take repeated pounding by one of the HI’s 250mm cannons to break through those shields, and with counterbattery railguns and countermeasures, on top of anti-grav maneuverability, we’re confident the tank would be able to avoid attacks as well.”
Coop was impressed. He knew that simulated projections and the real deal were two very different things, but that left the elephant in the room.
“The big concern is still spaceborne capabilities,” Gold continued like he’d read Coop’s mind. “We think that same maneuverability protects the Patton’s from kinetic rounds. A direct hit would likely destroy the tank, but with the time in flight we’re confident in the tanks evasive abilities. With that covered, energy weapons become the focal point. Deployment will always need to be considered in systems where the Commonwealth doesn’t have control of the orbitals, but our tests suggest that the tank’s shield could survive a direct hit from a battlecruiser-sized warship and keep on coming. The dispersion of the beam weapons through the atmosphere is what makes us so confident in our speculation.”
<You think the tank can take a hit from a battlecruiser and keep on chugging. Dream on.> Coop didn’t believe the sales pitch, but the titan of industry was already moving on.
“The second layer of shielding is to provide cover to the trailing infantry forces from indirect fire; like what the good Sergeant Cooper tried to rain down on the system defense force during the exercise.” Gold gave Coop a nod. “The second shield isn’t as strong as the tank’s main shield, but it allows for adaptability to the mission. The shield can expand and condense from a few meters around the tank to one hundred and fifty meters. The more the shield is condensed, the stronger it is.”
“Tanks have been providing cover for infantry since their inventions. This is just an extension of that.” The retired CSM threw in his two cents. “I can also speak from personal experience that they handle like a dream. Anti-grav makes most terrain passable. The Patton’s are pretty light for tanks, only fifty-five tons, and can reach an impressive one hundred and eighty kilometers per hour at full speed. My aging back can also confirm they’re a smooth ride.” The CSM’s comment got a chuckle from the rest of the tank crew and Mr. Gold.
“Sergeant McLamb, do you want to talk about what the tank is offensively capable of.”
“Sure,” the SFC’s voice was surprisingly high-pitched. “As far as my experience indicates, the Patton is a lighter tank than has been fielded in the past. The main gun is only one hundred and twenty five millimeters, but it’s capable of firing several different types of armaments. You’ve got your standard fire-and-forget rounds, which can be anything from anti-tank, HE, to anti-personnel. It also has smart rounds, STRATNET guided to hit within a meter of a certain point. These are great to limit civilian casualties, but none of those two compare to the final mode. It’s the fucking shit.” The woman smiled at her other two crewmembers.
“We were able to have a research team do a walk through on a Hegemony planet…”
“You’ve had interaction on Hegemony worlds!” The SGM’s calm broke. “The Prime Minister has dictated that the government is going to make first contact with further races to ensure continuity of diplomacy!”
“I am well aware, Sergeant Major,” Gold didn’t look bothered by the senior NCO’s outburst. “It was a Twig storage planet. No new contact was made with any other Hegemony species, so we are within the Prime Minister’s edict.” He motioned for the SFC to continue.
“It’s called a gravitational cannon or something like that, but we call it the BitchSlapper, or BS for short.” Coop couldn’t help but laugh at the SFC’s pet name. “Laugh now,” she shot back. “It took you out in one shot.” Her comment sobered him up.
“The only downside is Patty only has a ten-round capability for the BS before it needs a serious recharge and can affect other systems. I don’t know the science behind it, I’m a gunner not a nerd, but it’s got something to do with using anti-grav to condense a lot of energy into something we can shoot out of the cannon. It’s a fire-and-forget projectile, and doesn’t look like much coming out of the tube, but when it hits…” the SFC brought her hand down on the table with a loud SMACK, “you’ll remember it. Just like when you’re momma smacked you upside the head for being a dumbass, Patty will smack an enemy into nothing.”
The SFC didn’t spend much time on the 8mm gun on the exterior hull, as well as the 20mm launcher, or the circular laser repeaters on each of the tank’s four corners. Coop paid attention to those repeaters. They could be used for offensive or defensive operations. He hated to admit it, but these new tanks were beasts.
<I’m still calling BS on the BS.> Coop put his foot down.
Gold must have seen the expression written on his face. “We’re doing some test fires in a few days over on Richmond Hill. You’re more than welcome to come. The Rear Admiral will also be in attendance. Once we get all of the kinks worked out of the system we’ll be taking orders from the Commonwealth.”
Coop didn’t know how he thought about that. Once the Commonwealth started fielding them, every other army would want them as well. Coop was comfortable with the status quo, and being the biggest motherfucker on the field of battle. A tank ended that monopoly, and put his ass at even more risk. That was the last thing he needed in his life.
His attention was pulled off Gold by his PAD chiming. One look at the number and another look at the SGM got him dismissed. This was the call he’d been waiting for.