Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space
“Perimeter is set, sir,” the company NCOIC was briefing the LT in the shadows thrown by a building, and Coop’s kneeling bulk. “It’s looser than the homecoming queen after the quarterback’s done with her under the bleachers, but it should hold,” that got gruff laughs from the others present. “I’m worried about here and here,” the NCO pointed out two sections of the line. “These men are yellow, and could use a hand.”
“We’ll cover those sectors,” Coop spoke up for him and the other MOUNT.
“Chief, I’d really like to save you for a quick reaction force of some kind,” the LT replied.
“Honestly, sir, this is the make-or-break part of the fight. We either get in and finish this, or they’re going to be able to hold, and we need to beat feet it to those caves I was talking about,” Coop respectfully disagreed. “There is no QRF here. No reserve we can pull from until the rest of your squads and my MOUNTs arrive. We also can’t wait. We have the initiative. The Confeds are on their heels, and they’ve got nowhere to run.”
Coop had a great 3D mapping of the battlefield now that the enemy had been pushed back. The Commonwealth occupied to entire settlement minus the main administration building. It was the biggest structure in the place, and held all the remaining troops and civilians. If they could just bomb it from orbit, or have the Spyder put a nice missile right up its ass, this whole thing would be over and done with. Life just isn’t that easy.
“Assault force is staged here,” the NCO continued. Like Coop, he knew they needed to hustle.
The MOUNTs were no good in this situation. They were too big to get into the building unless the LT wanted Coop to play Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots with the place’s structural integrity. Coop and the SGT would have to sit the assault out, while the LT threw everything but the kitchen sink and the guys necessary to hold the perimeter at the Confeds.
Everyone looking at the 3D projection knew this was a risky bet. The Confeds had proven extremely competent. Their weapons and armor were better, and the only way the Commonwealth grunts had come out on top so far were their superior numbers and attached armored cavalry.
“They’ll have heavy weapons set up in a crossfire here and here,” they were lucky enough to have the blueprints to the building. The Confed’s hadn’t been able to get rid of everything when they scrubbed their servers.
“Which is why we aren’t going in through the front door,” the LT confirmed.
<Thank sweet baby Jesus,> the LT had defied expectations for the typical shavetail, but you never know when he wouldn’t be overcome by some grand idea that officers get right before they get a bunch of people killed. For Coop, this just confirmed the LT knew his shit.
“Charges will go here, here, and here,” the NCO and LT continued to game out the coming breach, while Coop turned his attention to the troop’s readiness. The SGTs would be on top of it, but it was better to have a log of the chief checking in on you than the LT. Especially, with his reputation.
The men were hurting. Close to half were KIA or too wounded to fight. That still gave them a good ratio against the Confeds, but he already knew that didn’t mean shit. About a third of the remaining men had some type of injury, so the number of green, good-to-go grunts was no bueno. He wanted to make sure they had the will left for one more fight. It isn’t always numbers and medical statuses that win battles. Morale was a big deal, and it was up to NCOs, and chiefs like him, to ensure the troops were still ready to fight.
Things were looking good until a blared warning from his suit made him turtle protectively. “Incoming!” someone yelled, and for a few critical seconds no one had any idea what the fuck was going on.
It sounded like god himself was cutting the cheese. There was a loud boom as what could only be an orbital energy weapons struck down from the heavens and sliced through the atmosphere. Compared to that, the Spyder carrying the rest of troops, MOUNTs, supplies, ammo, you name it; exploding was pretty anticlimactic.
“Motherfucker,” the NCOIC started cursing up a storm, but he was smart enough to keep it on the command channel.
The loss of everything was a tactical nightmare, but it also meant morale took a header down the shitter at the worst possible time. They were early, but the Confed navy was back; which meant the grunts were out of time. They needed to take the last building yesterday.
“Chief . . .”
“On it, sir,” Coop marched to the perimeter. “Three-sixty security, people, keep those eyes sharp for any rabbits.”
Coop would have put money on the Confeds using the orbital fire as a chance to attempt a breakout. He expected heavy weapon’s fire to cut a hole in the perimeter so they could make it to the mountains and disappear until their friends arrived. Of course, Coop and the SGT would be there to spill their guts all over this alien ball of rock. So, maybe it wasn’t much a surprise when the Confeds didn’t burst from their hiding place. They’d proved competent in every way so far.
“We’re going in sixty seconds,” the LT sent as he joined the assault team.
As one, they moved forward under the cover of the MOUNTs’ guns. They found whatever segment of the building they planned to breach, placed the charges, and blew them in short order. They rushed inside, and soon, the sounds of gunfire and screams echoed though Coop’s speakers.
<Well, this sucks,> all he could do was sit here with his thumb up his ass until this was over.
Location: Alamo, Equatorial Sector, Lone Star System, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Eve slowly backed out of the room. Emily was finally down. She had the next few hours to herself, and all she wanted was to take a bath and take a nap. She crept down the hallway, like the slightest creak of the floorboard would wake her daughter; because it would. Emily was a terribly light sleeper, and the last thing Eve wanted was peace and quiet ripped away from her.
She’d learned early on to silence her IOR, all notification messages from the apartment AI, and especially the auto-close feature on the door. The little whoosh noise the door made when it sealed woke the baby up every time.
She hadn’t even made it halfway down the hallway when a priority message bypassed all her presets and made a racket. There was a screech in her head and lights blinking in her optic nerve. Lights flashed in the house as the AI went batshit trying to grab her attention; and, of course, a piercing cry came from the room she’d just left.
“What the fuck do you want?” she picked up the call without looking at the ID. “I swear to everything holy in this universe that if someone isn’t dying, I will personally rip off your balls and shove it down your throat!”
“My ex-wife would join you in a heartbeat, Chief Warrant Officer Berg,” a man’s face with Commander bars on his shoulder gave her a tired look.
Usually, when a mere CW2 told an O3 she was going to do destructive things to his testicles, there was getting busted in rank and forfeited pay involved. Judging by the look on the CMDR’s face, he had bigger issues.
“This is an immediate recall chief,” he continued.
“Sir, I’m still on maternity leave. I don’t have anyone . . .”
“An MWR nanny has already been dispatched, and will be there in ninety seconds. Your orders are being forwarded now. There’s trouble, and we need you to lead a team to get some of our boys and girls out of trouble.
“Sir, I’ve got a little girl right here who needs me,” it was the first time she’d ever put something in front of being a soldier.
“I’m sorry, Chief,” the guy must have kids, because they shared an identical look. “CWS Pride of Summer sent out a distress beacon. They need help. Their infantry landing part is . . .”
She didn’t watch the rest. She was already moving. Summer was Derrick’s ship, and he’d been deployed on last-minute orders. Coop had also been sent away with no warning. Despite the secret nature of their orders, it didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. She might love her little girl, but she loved her brother and her man.
<I’ve got to go fix their mess,> she had her go bag over her shoulder when a harried-looking, elderly woman arrived eighty-six seconds later.
“Sorry,” Eve pointed over her shoulder in the direction of the crying baby.
The woman just nodded and Eve was out the door. It didn’t even cross her mind, she might not see her little girl ever again.