Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Ow . . . ow . . . easy there, watch the goods,” Coop groaned as the team of techs attempted to gently extract him from his MOUNT. “Remind me again why I signed up for this?”
The question was directed at Eve, who was going through the same painful process. “I don’t know,” she grimaced, “maybe because if you hadn’t, you’d be dead by now.”
“Good point,” he couldn’t fault her logic.
The large hanger protected by the might of the mountain surrounding it, plus layer upon layer of shield generators was bustling with activity. Vehicles hovered and rolled by carrying soldiers, supplies, and refugees. Spyders lay parked wingtip to wingtip, all grounded because the Commonwealth no longer had air superiority. At the moment, they didn’t have anything in the air at all. All of the atmospheric fighters had been destroyed in the aliens’ landing. They’d been able to down some of the alien fighters, but nowhere near enough to be effective. The brass were holding aircraft back now for when they really needed them. The only thing Coop could think of that would warrant that was another breakout.
His current experience with breaking out of a besieged position was not good. He and Eve had been able to take down the shield generator that was boxing the hospital in and turning the area into a microwave. As far as he could tell from their actions, the ETs normally had four such shield generators per their SOP when conducting the human BBQ. The one bright side was that it took all four to sustain the operation, and keep people like him and Eve from engineering a breakout. With one of the four shields down, their swords with the shield breaker bits embedded in them were able to cut through the emergency containment shield the ETs threw up with ease, and shepherd the battalion out. Of course, that didn’t mean the ETs didn’t try to stop them.
Engaging in a running battle for some two hundred miles was possibly the worst experience in Coop’s entire military career. Mostly because when shit hit the fan, the BN needed the MOUNTS everywhere, and there weren’t enough of them to go around. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept, or felt so sore.
“We’ll get her fixed up, sir,” a SSG in oil-stained overalls reassured Coop when he finally reached the ground.
This was the first time in more than a week – way beyond the tolerance level of the armor and pilot – that Coop had seen his MOUNT from the outside. It looked like it had gone through the meatgrinder and come out some patchwork monstrosity.
The running battle to the mountains had inflicted enough damage that the repair bots had run out of material. From head to foot, battlefield repair jobs were evident by the off-colored duro-steel replacements from his original, stronger armor. Once the materials were gone, Coop was forced to redesign his shield’s deployment methodology to cover the weak spots. That didn’t always work as well as he’d hoped because the aliens’ blades could cut through shields with enough force just like his sword could.
As he looked at his home for the last week, he saw several gaping holes and exposed wires. An electrician growled and cursed as something finally overloaded and showered him in sparks before going dark.
“Yeah, we had one hell of a party,” Coop ignored the man’s glare, and gave him the finger for good measure. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with anyone else’s shit. He was having trouble dealing with his own.
To start, he needed someone’s assistance to walk. He’d been curled up in a ball for so long that his body refused to start working again. Everything was cramped beyond the worst cramp a human being had ever experienced. His muscles protested the most normal range of motions. When they pulled him out of his womb, he’d been placed on the ground until he could straighten his spine, legs, and arms enough to support his own weight. As a proud, powerfully built, top-tier ass kicker, Coop felt completely useless when two of the techs helped pick him up and carry him over to a bench with waiting medics.
Thankfully, Eve was similarly afflicted. Coop’s ego couldn’t handle any more hits at the moment. The medics spent some time looking them over. Running them through a multitude of scans, and shooting them full of medical nanites while attaching them to standard IV drips of nutritious materials. About half an hour after arriving in their battered and broken MOUNTs, Coop and Eve were clear to report into the base commander.
They limped into the command center, and he winced at the amount of external stimuli assaulting his senses. The base clearly wasn’t wired with the new IOR technology in mind. Everything was out-of-date hardware: large screens dominating the walls, stations where soldiers and spacers were hard at work, and one large holo-tank projecting from a large table with seats around it. That table was crowded with officers looking over a tactical map of the area.
Coop knew things weren’t good when he saw the person at the head of the table. The woman only had Commander bars on her uniform. CDRs commanded a few thousand troops at most. Not the tens of thousands of personnel and civilians that had been stuffed into the mountain complex.
“Warrant officers,” the words sounded strange on the CDRs tongue. She clearly wasn’t used to the new rank structure. “Thank you for getting those companies here safely.” It was meant as a compliment, but Eve and Coop involuntarily winced.
The thousand-soldier-strong battalion had lost thirty percent of its strength in the defense of the hospital, but they completed their mission. They held their ground and allowed the doctors, patients, and mission critical materials to be evacuated to the mountains. They would live, while the doctors and materials continued to save lives; not to mention the embryos from the OBGYN department had successfully made the trip. The next generation of Earth’s babies would be born underground during an occupation.
The fighting retreat had taken another four hundred lives. Fire and maneuver, the backbone of modern warfare tactics was difficult in enemy territory, when you were moving as fast as possible to get the hell out of there. When elements broke off in flanking maneuvers, or dug in quickly to provide fire support so the main column could keep running, they usually didn’t come back. The former battalion had entered the mountain bunker with just over three hundred soldiers left, not including the BN commander who’d died during the last leg of the trip.
It was more accurate to call the surviving units companies, but when taking into account what they had started as – a crack frontline infantry battalion – the end result could only be looked at as a failure. As the big guns designed to protect the more vulnerable grunts, Eve and Coop felt a lot of that regret land on their shoulders.
The CDR seemed to realized her mistake, and uncomfortably cleared her throat. “You did all you could,” she reassured, but that was all she could offer. “Let me bring you up-to-date,” she quickly moved on for all their sakes.
The holo-tank reformed to show the entirety of North America. “They hit us from both coasts,” she began as red icons swooped down from orbit and hit major metropolises along both stretches. “They quickly established secure landing zones and began pushing inward.” The timestamp on the bottom of the holo-tank sped up and slowly the lands on the coast faded to red of enemy controlled territory, and the dark crimson started to move inward. “Those are verified dead zones.” She pointed at black blotches that were popping up all over the place. “The aliens seem intent on killing as many of us as possible, and their shielded microwave method is incredibly effective.” Casualty projections also accompanied the presentation, and the numbers were staggering. Tens of millions were already dead on the coasts alone.
“We intended to marshal troops from our reserves in the Midwest, but secondary landings in the Yucatan and Canada put the enemy in perfect position for a pincer movement. We moved as quick as we could, but only got about half our forces out of the midwestern FOBs before the enemy bisected the country and cut us off.” The holo-tank showed the brilliantly executed maneuver, and the growing spread of black encompassing the continent.
“Sure, everything looks brilliantly executed when you have overwhelming technological superiority,” Coop grimaced as he saw his old metropolis go dark. “I could have been stuck there.” Being stranded in the PHA with Eve and Hailey felt like it was years ago. “Hailey!” he had no idea if his ex was still alive. Looking at the holo-tank, and knowing what he did about the fleet’s failure, those odds weren’t good.
“We’ve got no coms or intel from the Blockies or Euros, with all the satellites shot out of orbit, but we expect it’s probably the same as it is here,” the CDR shrugged. Coop agreed, he could care less what was going on in Europe or Asia when his own backyard was on fire.
“How do you know all of this?” Eve asked as she circled the holo-tank with a critical eye.
“The brass spent the last few hours before the invasion laying hardlines to the frontlines. Whenever the enemy finds a buried line, they break it, but more of the undersea cables are untouched.” The CDR’s face grew frustrated. “Of course, every time some private trips over a cord we lose all comms with the west coast, but that’s just the suck we’ve got to push through.”
Intelligence and communication were the backbone of warfare. Without it, they might as well bust out swords and shields and line up nice and neat for the ETs to mow them down. <Well . . .> Coop corrected himself. He’d killed a fair number of BAMFs with his sword and shield routine.
Eve nodded along with the CDR’s explanation. “What’s the plan?” was her next question.
It was an obvious one, but the CDR just stood there with a thoughtful look on her face. “We’ve got some . . . deliberation going on about the appropriate course of action,” she answered diplomatically.
“Translation: you don’t know, or people are swinging their dicks to get their plan approved.” Coop scoffed, which got a glare from both women.
“The remaining brass are considering two possibilities: stay sheltered in place and repel enemy advances until the cavalry arrived, or take the fight to the enemy.”
Typical infantry doctrine favored violence of action and taking the fight to the enemy. Coop was all for that. He loved to kill him some ETs, but in this case . . . “I like living more.” It had taken two MOUNTs to stand up to any significant number of BAMFs. A brigade of grunts with HI support would last an hour against a company of BAMFs and those fucking roaches running around. He had no doubt the commanders arguing for the shelter in place were being called cowards, but Coop had to agree with them. Having fought his way through hundreds of miles of ET controlled territory, waiting might be the best course of action. It was hard to admit that, and the wave of exhaustion that coupled the revelation nearly put him on his ass.
“You two look like shit,” the CDR concluded. “Go get some shuteye. If I know anything about the infantry, it’s that it’ll be a bit before the brass agree on anything. I’ll make sure you’re there for the FRAGO.” She dismissed them with a wave, and Coop was more than happy to comply.
He didn’t even pay attention as some PVT led Eve and him to quarters. He didn’t even ogle as she stripped down to nothing and crawled into bed. His pants had barely hit the floor, and his head the pillow, when he was out cold.