Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“AHHHH! Son of a…you’ve got to be kidding me!” Coop cursed as he felt something hot and sharp slice open his flesh. At the moment his life sucked ass, and he was balls deep in the bowels of the MOUNT that was his home for the foreseeable future.
As with everything in the infantry, the start of his time as a warrant officer had been spent on equipment familiarization. To the now infamous CMDR Snow, that meant being able to fix your MOUNT blindfolded if need be. A lot of people had thought he’d been joking, until he busted out the literal blindfolds and broke some stuff inside the multi-billion-dollar war machines. Since Coop had been one of the doubters quietly snickering at the comment, he’d had a long night of trying to figure out what was wrong to let his resentment for the new regimental commander fester. On the bright side, his squadron leader not a total douchebag. Third Squadron of the First Battalion, First Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR for short) was led by Lieutenant Michelle Hillview.
The best way to describe the LT was a lean, mean fighting machine. She’d come over from HI, RECON, and SRRT where she’d spent most of her time snooping and pooping. However, that didn’t mean the warrior woman hadn’t seen action. She had several covert tabs in her file, and she’d been a team leader on another SRRT unit, and she’d even been on Harper’s Junction. It wasn’t to the same degree as Coop and his team, but some of the other SRRT units had splitstreamed down to the planet once the tech had worked out the Windsor’s jamming tech. They’d played sabotage cat and mouse on some of the other, smaller cities across the planet while the main infantry forces assaulted the big targets. Whatever she’d done out there, the LT had received a bronze star with valor for her actions.
It rubbed Coop the wrong way at first to see that, because he’d done a shit ton on the shit planet, and he’d only received an ass chewing for the most popular war hero in the Commonwealth, and a threat of complete, utter destruction from its super spook. The more time he spent with the LT, the quicker the resentment faded. She was competent, didn’t micromanage her team, and best of all wasn’t too bad to look at. Although, he had to keep that on the low down. Eve and seventh squadron were still working in the same bay, and Camilla had a nasty habit about watching what he was watching and then making inappropriate comments that everyone could here. If he had to watch her make kissy faces when the LT’s back was turned one more time her was going to get UCMJ’d for the fight that would break out.
At the moment, there was no risk of that. <At least I’m not wearing a blindfold,> he tried to look at the bright side as the maintenance crew of his MOUNT came running at the sound of his curses.
“What do you need boss?” the PO1 who was the chief mechanic of the MOUNT asked in a thick New Jamaican accent.
“Undo coupling one-one-six, and raise the left arm a few centimeters so I can get my hand out,” Coop ordered through gritted teeth as he read of the schematics the IOR was projecting across his vision.
Like all new equipment introduced to the Commonwealth inventory, Coop and his team were not only doing routine preventative maintenance, but also trying to learn the particulars of how his MOUNT functions. Machines this big and complex tended to have personalities that had nothing to do with the AIs integrated into the battle computers. For instance, Coop’s MOUNT had a tendency to jam it’s left forearm cannon exactly when he need it the most in the few VR exercises they’d done. He didn’t know if the CMDR had fucked with his armor or if this was a mechanical excentricity, but he’d been trying to work through it for the last two days. He finally thought he’d solved it, and now he had a gear slicing through his right palm. The sensation of warm, dripping blood was hard to ignore, and even harder was ignoring the primal urge to yank it out.
That led to the second problem with these machines. They were so technologically advanced, and had so much going on inside, that it was nearly impossible to get at the things buried deep inside their mechanics without a fully-automated maintenance bay to pick the big machines apart. Since the CMDR fondly reminded them that wasn’t likely to be available in battlefield conditions, he was making them fix all the little problems themselves.
<I’m going to straight up murder fuck whoever thought it was a bright idea to put that gimbal there,> his arm was currently bent at a ninety degree angle at the elbow, and he had to stick his hand, palm up, deep into the tree-trunk-sized forearm assembly to try and fix what he’d identified as the problem.
He looked like some idiotic, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic, and now he was stuck this way since a gear had nearly impaled his hand inside the MOUNT. He looked like a complete moron, and he silently prayed no one would…
“You’ve got to be shitting me,” Coop hissed as Camilla came around the bend with the fourth and final member of their squadron, Warrant Officer Bethesda McHenry.
Everyone had started to call the freckled woman Mac almost immediately, and despite her best efforts it had stuck. It hadn’t escaped Coop that he was the only male in his squadron, and so far that had turned out to be a curse not a blessing.
“Hey Camilla, Mac,” Coop deadpanned as his team worked frantically to get the coupling undone and raised the arm to unpin his hand.
“Forearm gimble?” Mac asked.
The last member of their squadron was always quick and to the point. She didn’t talk much, but she hung around with Camilla a lot. It might be a case of opposites attract, but Coop hadn’t spent much time with them off duty. Every second he wasn’t with his MOUNT he was with Eve. Their time together was getting shorter and shorter. They were four weeks into their eight week introduction to these big pains in the ass, and then the Mars component of the ACR was heading off to the red planet. The infantry being the way it was, and the high operational tempo the CMDR had promised for the regiment, and Coop wasn’t sure when he’d get to see her again.
He pushed the growing dread out of his mind and focused on the irritation.
“My my Cooper, I could strap something on and you’d be in the perfect position to…” a groan cut Camilla off as the arm slowly started to bend.
Pain still burned through Coop’s hand as the motion pulled the offending piece of machinery out of his body, but the second it was free he was able to snake his arm out. A surprising amount of blood covered his hand and CMUs, but it was nothing compared to his past injuries.
“Damn, Coop, you’re bleeding all over Commonwealth property there. You really should…” Camilla got a big, bloody middle finger from him just as the LT’s voice cut off the banter.
“That looks deep, Cooper, get to the infirmary and get it patched up. Your team will sanitize, but it looks like you got the gimbal realigned. Good job. That should stop your jamming and misfires. I’ll let the CMDR know you found his little deficiency.”
<Fucking, Snow,> Coop hid his frustration under a smile. The CMDR was really starting to get on his nerves.
“Right away, ma’am.” A trip to the infirmary was a get out of class free card for the next thirty minutes at least. After the frustration with the MOUNT, some time away from it would do him some good.
He climbed down from the MOUNT continued giving Camilla the finger behind his back, and deftly dodged the lazy punch she threw at him as he passed. The infirmary was less than fifty meters from the giant underground maintenance bay that was the home of the whole battalion for the first phase of their training. Despite being hundreds of years old, the metallic-themed corridor was freshly polished and smelled faintly of lemon. Coop held his hand above his heart to avoid bleeding all over the floor, but a few drops still fell. Instantly, cleaning robots swarmed the area and began to sanitize.
“Move!” Coop kicked at one that nearly tripped him up. Whatever the thing’s programming, its mission was to clean no matter what got in its way. “Stupid machines,” he grumbled as he stepped into the infirmary. Today had just not been a good day for him.
“Hey, doc, I need a…Eve?” Coop stopped in surprise to see his girlfriend sitting on one of the beds.
She looked paler than usual, and was looking down at the ground, but there was no mistaking that hair for anyone’s but his girlfriends. Coop thought back quickly to why she would be here. It was Wednesday so this wasn’t a pick me up from too much drinking. She’d gone out with his squadron over the weekend to a dive that had been recommended by one of the local mechanics. The food had been good, but something hadn’t agreed with her. She’d chalked it up to food poisoning and taken a pill, but it still looked like it was affecting her a few days later.
“You ok?” he asked as he approached her.
She finally seemed to realize he was there and looked up.
“What’s going on?” Coop’s situational awareness peaked and he went for the pistol that was always on his hip.
Eve looked afraid, and since he’d seen her come out of being tortured looking better than this, he half expected some Blockie or Windsor assassin to jump out from behind the curtains and take his head off.
His sidearm was out and scanning the room when the doctor entered the room.
“Well, I think…WHAT THE HELL!” the man screamed when Coop pivoted to point the gun at his face. The trageting icon on his IOR had it lined up right between his eyes. “Lower your sidearm warrant officer!” the doctor was a LCDR, and he tried to use a command voice, but Coop had bowel movements with more authority. Still, he lowered the weapon because he hadn’t found any assassins.
“What do you think you’re doing…?” The doctor resumed, but Coop ignored him.
“Eve, what’s wrong?” he rushed to her side while still keeping a paranoid eye on his surroundings. “What happened? Did you fail an inspection? Everything ok with Derek? Did you get UCMJ’d out of the unit? Did your mother call?” He started listing things off with increasing levels of seriousness. He seriously hoped it wasn’t the last, and AMD Berg had finally taken a steaming dump all over his career and personal life, but the doctor interrupted.
“Is this him?” he asked, and Eve nodded.
“Well, Mr. Cooper,” the doc looked on his CMUs to get his name right. “Congratulations are in order.”
“What?” Now Coop was completely lost.
“Coop,” Eve pulled his attention away from the doc. Her eyes were watery and she looked on the verge of tears. The only other time Coop had seen her so vulnerable was when she’d pleaded with him to throw her at the enemy shield back in the palace at Harper’s Junction. She’d just been tortured, and even though the CMDR Snow was tough, Coop knew the man could only fuck with their minds up to a certain point.
“What’s wrong?” he asked again, getting down on his knees so she didn’t have to look up at him.
She took in a shuddering breath, which seemed to affect her entire body before steeling herself.
<She’s leaving me,> Coop’s mind jumped ahead as she set her shoulders and her face hardened to deliver the news.
“No…please…you can’t…” he began, but she cut him off with a glare that cut right to his soul.
“Mark Cooper, I’m pregnant with your child.”
There was dead silence in the room for what felt like an hour. He expected LT Hillsview to come looking for him to chew his ass for being late, but he couldn’t bring himself to move. His eyes were locked with Eve’s as the shock of the statement slowly worked its way through his addled mind.
“Pregnant?” he asked in confusion, which was a whole lot better than asking if she was sure it was his.
“It’s positive,” the doctor finally chimed in. “She’s just over eight weeks. The nausea and fatigue she’s been feeling are morning sickness and typical symptoms of early pregnancy. I’ve got her set up with another appointment at twelve weeks. We’ll do some genetic testing there. Our military health care system offers an array of in-vitro enhancements. We’ll correct anything that we see as an issue, and you’ll learn the sex.” The doctor explained in a rush. “Ms. Berg, you’ll be put on temporary duty for the time being.”
“Temporary duty!” that seemed to get her attention. “I can’t fall behind with my MOUNT training.”
The doctor made calm down gestures with his hand. “I understand that, and there are options. If you want, I can make you an appointment for later today at the fleet’s pre-natal facility, but even then, you’re going to be stuck on temporary duty for at least the next few weeks. I’ve already informed your squadron commander and Commander Snow, and they’ll figure out what to do.”
This was all well and good, but Coop still felt detached from the conversation, and reality in general. “Pregnant?” he repeated. “But she’s not supposed to be able to get pregnant.”
That part was true. Part of the medical care for woman serving in the infantry was a contraceptive nano-package, so they didn’t need to worry about unplanned pregnancy during their service. Woman could still request it deactvated by applying for a waiver, but that had to go through the chain of command before approval, and could be denied based on operational needs.
<Are my swimmers more powerful than I thought,> was his first thought. <Is there such thing as too much sex,> was his second. They were doing it nearly every night at this point. Could that have done it?
In response to his question the doctor looked sheepish. “Normally, that’s true, but there was a clerical error.”
“What?!” Coop’s temper flared, but he took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down.
“After Ms. Berg’s injuries on Harper’s Junction and her cellular rejuvenation therapy, where her nano-package was deactivated for medical purposes, it was incorrectly annotated that it had been reactivated. That seems to not be the case. I scanned the package when I did a full workup just now and it is still deactivated. I’ll get to the bottom of the error, but that doesn’t change your current situation.”
Coop caught the subtle hint and looked at Eve. For hundreds of years the topic of abortion had been a morally and politically tricky one. It had reached its height during the peak of overpopulation on Earth when the government ordered abortions for people to control population. It did a complete one-eighty during the expansion, and humans needed to start breeding like rabbits to populate the cosmos. Today, it was back at an equilibrium, but unlike in the past, there were more options.
Coop looked to Eve for guidance. It might be their baby, but it was her body. Plus, he was still working through the nano-package fuck up that he wasn’t quite in the same mental place that she was. Despite that, he saw a fierce, maternal determination come across her face. That was the only cue he needed…and then reality crashed down on him like a battleship falling out of orbit.
“Ugh,” he suddenly felt like he was going to puke. “Your mother is going to kill me.”