Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space
Coop awoke in darkness and pain. He took a breath and got a mouthful of smoke. He hacked and he hacked. He was surprised he didn’t cough up a lung, but the real problem was that it didn’t get any better. He tried to orient himself, but in the total blackness, it was nearly impossible.
He needed to get oriented, because he didn’t know what the hell had happened. Everything was offline. His battle AI wasn’t responding, and his IOR was only active because it was powered over his body. At the moment, it was worse than useless, and if he didn’t hurry, he was going to suffocate.
<Stupid, big, hunk of shit!> he screamed and kicked at the armored interior. The only thing that did was hurt his foot.
Big toe throbbing, he kept searching, coughing, and slowly dying. Then, as if the universe was finally ready to throw him a bone, there was a spark.
<Let there be light you beautiful bastard,> the spark fell from his right shoulder across his body.
Now he had a bearing and knew where up was. Her felt around for the first step in the emergency eject sequence. It wasn’t supposed to be easy, and the engineers had overdesigned it so that it wouldn’t weaken the structural integrity of their already weaker design. It was also going to suck ass. Half the time pilots went through the eject, they broke something. That was a problem when the most likely place for an eject was the battlefield. Coop was the perfect example. He was literally on the frontlines and completely surrounded. He couldn’t imagine a worse position.
<Shut up,> he scolded himself. He could worry about getting shot after he avoided death my smoke inhalation.
He braced himself, prayed it wouldn’t be so bad, and then started the sequence. He knew something was wrong almost immediately. There were supposed to be hisses and pops as things started to break apart so he could get out. All he got were groans of warped metal. The final result was for the cocoon he was in to be flung from the MOUNT, and then a self-destruct to stop the enemy from gaining the tech.
He didn’t know why Gold would want to collect inferior tech, but that was above his paygrade. All he knew, was that he didn’t get the mother-of-all whiplashes as he rocketed to safety. There was one pathetic lurch, but he barely even moved.
The only bright side was a literal one. A sliver of light seeped through the armor. Smoke immediately poured out of it, so he could breathe a little better. Of course, when the universe giveth, the universe taken away. It was starting to get hot. Something was on fire.
The animal part of his mind started to freak the fuck out. Mankind had feared fire for millennia; for a good reason. It was also a pain to recover from burns, so he got to work. He fought to get his hands into position to force the opening wider. It was tough going, but centimeter by centimeter the opening got wider. Wide enough he could force his hands through.
“Son of a bitch!” he yelled as he got his hands through and met scorching hot metal.
He had no idea how long he’d been out. He had no idea what he got hit with, but whatever it was, it had messed him up good.
He tried to get his hands out again, to force the opening wider, but the pain was too much.
<Okay. Mind over matter,> he psyched himself up to push through the pain.
It only worked for about a second before he had to pull his hands back in, but he had to do it again, and again, and again. Salty tears flowed down his cheeks and he fought for his life. He was covered in sweat. He could feel the heat, literally; but he wasn’t going to stop, he couldn’t.
Eve and Emily were out there, and he wasn’t going to die on some fucking rock out in the middle of nowhere.
Normally, his HI enhancements were awesome, but this time it was actively trying to kill him. By the time he got the opening wide enough to fit his shoulders through, you could have marched a small army into his MOUNT. Then there were his hands. The skin was charred and peeling off. Blood oozed from where jagged edges had bitten into him, and he’d probably need a round of antibiotic nanites to avoid getting tetanus. He’d been injured worse in his career, but it wasn’t exactly nothing.
With a final heave, he got himself out of the armor before his hands gave out. He hit the armor with his uniformed back as he rolled off, so there was just the smell of singed whatever-the-hell these things were made of. He didn’t even think of it, but the side of his armor he rolled of off was super critical. The universe rolled in his favor again. He thought his luck might just be turning for once.
“Shit, chief, I can’t believe you’re alive,” an armored head appeared from the dirt ten meters away. “Stay down and I’ll . . .” the shield protecting the grunt flashed, and Coop felt the reverberations as incoming rounds hit his immobile MOUNT.
“Just . . . stay!” the grunt yelled.
It was the first time in a long time Coop had been the weakest person on the battlefield. With his burns, probably lung damage, and whatever else had gotten knocked loose on him, he wasn’t going anywhere.
The incoming rounds died down now that the grunt’s head was gone, but Coop knew they were maneuvering for a better shot. He needed to get out of there. The shield had started to spark a few meters from the grunt’s position, so Coop needed to cover about eight meters to get to safety. That distance was nothing, but here and now, it might as well another planet.
There was no way the Confed’s didn’t have this place dialed in. He’d get one, maybe two meters before someone took him down.
<I’ve still got to try,> he told himself. Either they’d kill him on the rush, or when they maneuvered to get a better shot. Move or die.
He got into a track sprint position, and said another quick prayer. He’d been doing a lot of that lately. If he lived through this, who knew, maybe he’d find Jesus.
Before he could talk himself out of it, he was off. His start flung dirt into the air, which probably alerted the enemy that something was happening. It also might give him a little cover. He didn’t keep track of the distance. He just focused on pumping his legs as fast as possible. He needed to go from zero to a hundred in an instant. He had a smile on his face, and the wind in his hair when he hit the shield barrier.
He also felt the sharp sting of the round hitting him in the ass, and the numbness as his legs gave out and he face planted in the dirt. More than a little worked its way into his nose and through his teeth, but he’d made it.
He’d been shot in the ass, but he was alive.