Two Worlds – Chapter 298

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“You’re late,” CMDR Snow stood like a disappointed parent; with his arms crossed and an accusatory glare as the large lift opened up into the ACR’s maintenance bay.

Eve didn’t say anything, which was the smart move, but Coop was having a shitty day, and his response just naturally flowed out. “Sorry, sir. We were deep in the shit.”

The CMDR looked momentarily confused. Being “in the shit” usually meant a firefight for combat grunts like them, but the ACR’s OIC would know if any ground combat had commenced in his AO. In this instance, Coop meant that they’d literally been in shit.

The boat ride out of the PHA had been awful, and Coop still wasn’t sure the craft met the definition of a boat. It was some rusted aluminum with an outboard engine that whined like a tortured child if you went over ten kilometers an hour. The only coverage it had from the drone patrols flying over the PHA was a piece of old, badly-sized cammo-netting held up by four rickety sticks. They nearly snapped in two from the light gusts of wind coming off the lake, and Coop was positive they wouldn’t make it back to shore without getting spotted, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that the boat sat low in the water, so when it went crashing through the swell water sometimes spilled into the craft. At one point, Coop had been ankle deep in brown shit-water. Thus…being in the shit.

The CMDR’s momentary confusion morphed into a frown as he put two and two together along with his sense of smell. “Your squadron commanders will deal with you missing formation, but we don’t have time to screw around. We’ve got enemy incoming, so suit up.”

The last two words sent an immediate tingle through Coop’s nuts. Despite the CMDR’s brisk tone, this was actually a big deal. None of the MOUNT pilots had been inside their MOUNT except for preventative maintenance and familiarization. None of the forty war machines had taken a single step from where they’d been stationed since familiarization week when the pilots were still in the recruiting class. Coop’s mind scanned through his memories of the upcoming training schedule and knew it was another five days before they were going to the range; to range and zero their weapons.

“Wait, enemy incoming?” he asked as his train of thought came to a screeching halt.

He thought back to the reservists swarming the PHA. The maglev they’d jumped on south of the PHA had been busting with soldiers as well. Reservists were being deployed to predetermined positions, and active duty personnel on leave were on their way back to their duty stations. All leaves and passes had been canceled, but no one on the train knew why. Even the LCDR Eve had been able to corner had been given little in terms of orders other than get to a rally point and await further instructions.

It wasn’t just the soldiers. The net was down, and the media programs were on a blackout. No one was talking to anyone outside of secure channels, which despite their authorizations, Eve had not been able to gain access to without CMDR Snow’s approval.

“Beijing decided to stop fucking around and finish this once and for all? Or did the Windsor’s show up for payback?” Coop asked as the CMDR started to walk away. He had to have better things to do then entertain two WOs.

“Neither,” the man snapped over his shoulder. “Unknown enemy is currently engaged with Second Fleet over Mars. Things aren’t looking good. We’re deploying to areas of strategic importance throughout the planet and First Fleet. Your squadron commanders have more details.” And with those parting words he was gone.

<Unknown enemy,> that sent a shiver down Coop’s spine. The worst thing for any infantryman was running into an unknown situation without any idea what the hell was going on. He hoped LT Hillview had a more detailed OPORDR in the works.

He turned to Eve to ask a question, but his girlfriend had gone bone white. “What,” he instinctually started looking her over for injury, and when he found nothing, he shifted his attention to any external threats.

“The baby,” the two words came out a whisper, and it was like someone dropped a lead ball in his gut. He completely forgot about the defenseless little girl they’d left in the neonatal care center at Bethesda.

“It’s going to be ok,” he stated automatically with no idea if that was true. “The best thing we can do is get suited up and kill whoever these fuckers are. Then we’ll go and check on her.” He gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze, which seemed to shake her out of it.

She nodded and hustled off to where the rest her squadron was already suited up. Coop headed to the other side of the bay where third squadron was getting ready.

{Cooper, what the hell man. If I wanted you to fuck us, I would have bent over and spread my cheeks for you!} Camilla’s voice violently assaulted his mind as he reached his MOUNT.

{Yeah, because I totally expected to get marooned in the PHA six hundred klicks away.} He shot back as the crew chief came up with a specialized set of CMUs. The PO1 ignored his temporary nudity as the new set went on. Apparently, it was supposed to keep him more in synch with the MOUNT, but they hadn’t tested or even tried on the new tech before.

<Shit must be going sideways quick,> Coop could put two and two together. <We never asked how Second Fleet was doing?>

{That’s right, take it off baby,} Camilla cat called from four meters up, and Coop gave her the finger for good measure.

{Lock it up you two,} the LT finally stepped in. {Cooper, it’s time to get your head in the game. We’ve got to synch you with the MOUNT. I’ll walk you through the check list.}

Coop nodded as he took the hold of some of his MOUNTS open ports and climbed up into the cockpit. Cockpit might be what the techs called it, but the pilots had come to refer to it as the womb, or, for the more fatalistic members of the ACR: the tomb. It was a snug, dark space directly in the center, and most heavily armored part of the MOUNT. Each womb was specifically sized for the pilot down to the millimeter. Coop wiggled himself in as the LT started initiating the checklist.

The first dozen steps involved the ground crew who buzzed all over the armor like worker bees. Coop provided visual confirmation of the completion of certain tasks as the crew loaded up the MOUNT with ordinance. He watched as the crew forced in canister after canister of 10mm ammo into the rotating sections of his armor where they would spin like an old-fashioned six shooter to align with his mission-specific selection. He didn’t have a great view of the hover-lift used to transport the two dozen, half-meter long rounds he could fire from the next-gen accelerator opposite his graviton cannon. They all looked identical to the shield buster Mr. Gold had previewed, but were the matte gray of traditional, super-dense metal. He could tell when they were loaded due to the weight shift, which told him just how dense those rounds were.

<And this is why we train before going into battle. We need to be familiar with these nuances,> Coop grumbled as the next thing the hover-lift delivered was his three-meter broadsword.

They’d gotten zero training on using the big weapon, which was slated for the end of their familiarization, right before they shipped out to their formalized duty stations. Coop was glad he had some blade-on-blade training from his HI days, but there was definitely a difference between the attached blades and a separate sword.

<Adapt and overcome,> he thought, but still planned on grumbling to his squadron-mates about. <At least it counterbalances those monster rounds,> he looked on the bright side.

Next came the swatter ammo by the thousands for the two defensive hallmark weapons that would keep the MOUNT safe from incoming fire. Lastly, the crew crawled around the front to load the micro missiles. Unlike during the familiarization, Coop hadn’t noticed how close those destructive warheads were to his womb. That was more than a little unsettling. His crew chief must have seen the look on his face because he winked.

“No worries, boss man. The tomb has an extra shield around it in case anyone of these bad boys cooks off. But after all the demo testing we’ve done that almost never happens,” his thick accent made the serious statement sound nonchalant.

“Wait…what do you mean ‘almost never’,” Coop yelled after the man, as he crawled down the MOUNT and gave its calf a pat.

“All clear. Button him up.”

With the ordinance steps of the checklist complete the center of the mech started to inch closed, while at the same time repositioning the womb.

{Wait…what the hell,} he called out as the womb began to change all around him and forced his body into a different position.

{Relax, Cooper. We didn’t get to this yet in training, but it’s what is supposed to happen.} The LT counseled as the womb transformed from a snug, human-impression, into basically a ball with Coop curled up in the middle.

He could move his arms and legs some, but he couldn’t fully extend. <How the fuck am I supposed to fight like this?> There were no HUDs or anything that he could see.

{Stay still, Cooper,} the LT ordered. {Your sync is being initiated.}

Suddenly, the complete darkness of the womb was shattered by a blinding light. Coop screamed as his eyes burned in their sockets. His brain felt like it was on fire, and then it was immediately extinguished to be replaced by a sensation of falling.

{Hang in there, Coop,} Camilla encouraged. {It doesn’t last long.}

The freefall he was in came to an abrupt stop which left him reeling. He felt like a night after a bender and sex marathon with Eve, minus any helpful electrolytes. A metallic taste filled his mouth and he gagged and tried to spit.

{Don’t fight it. That’s a feeding and water tube. You’ll get used to it being there. Your synch rate is at eighty-eight percent. Hopefully it’ll climb into the nineties as you get used to the armor, but it meets the eighty-five percent combat rating. Now, Cooper, I want you to slowly open your eyes.}

He didn’t want to. Bright lights or anything swirling was going to make him puke, but he knew he had to. Slowly he cracked an eye lid and blackness with a blinking cursor at the top right of his vision was all he saw.

{Cooper, initiate diagnostic Alpha-One, and initiation sequence Alpha-Two,} the LT ordered.

<How?> Coop thought, but just thinking the sequences made text fly across his vision. He couldn’t even keep up with the coding, and after only a few seconds he got back a green ‘good-to-go’ and felt the MOUNT begin to rumble.

{Core ignition…optimal performance detected…good morning Warrant Officer One Mark Cooper, code name Ballboy.} A pleasant female voice he didn’t recognize announced in his mind.

{Who the fuck are you?} He now had a good idea why they were supposed to take baby steps in their training to get their MOUNTS up and running.

{I am your Battle AI, Warrant Officer One Mark Cooper. Please designate me as you see fit. I am here to help you with all of your war fighting needs and to allow you to kill the enemies of the United Commonwealth of Colonies with extreme prejudice.}

<That’s not freaky at all,> Coop kept that thought to himself.

{Lieutenant?} Coop asked, uncertain about what he should do next, or what was going on in general. This was not what had gone on with his LACS V2 of V4 rigs.

{Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered, Coop,} both the LT and Camilla answered. {Things are about to get interesting.}

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3 thoughts on “Two Worlds – Chapter 298

  1. If you haven’t yet, I highly encourage you to check out my published works. They’re easily viewed from my Author’s Page. What I earn from those helps to go into editing and artwork costs for future books. So please pick them up, and just as importantly, leave a short review and let everyone know what you think. Every review is greatly appreciated! It’s the best form of advertising for an indie author like me, and I like to hear what people think.

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