Two Worlds – Chapter 362

Eve Berg

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“I want extra ammo on everyone,” Eve ordered as the six MOUNTS stood in a line in the shuttle bay.

Machinery whirled all around them as their crews stuffed the war machines full of every implement of death they could carry. Eve knew it wouldn’t be enough. There were undoubtedly enemy MOUNTs on the world. The enemy wouldn’t come to the dance without them. The Gold’s tech was batter than the Commonwealth’s, she wasn’t going to bullshit herself by thinking she had the best toys; so, she needed to have more bullets. Plain and simple.

“If the magazines are stuffed, mag-lock them to the armor, she snapped at a confused crew chief. “We’re all trained to load if we need to.” She rotated her armored helm to look at the tiny man, and he hurried to do what she said.

She took the time to run more diagnostics and review the results of the last round of simulations. Simply put, despite having the capabilities to do an orbital insertion, it wasn’t a good idea. On their best run, only half the reinforced team made it to the surface of the planet. That was unacceptable. There just weren’t enough MOUNT pilots around to justify losing three over nothing.

She was still willing to try it, but she got shot down. As a mere WO2, her opinion was the least important, especially since the staff officers saw her judgement as compromised. On little slip that her fiancé, and father of her child, if on fighting the Confeds, and all of a sudden, she can’t be trusted to make sound decisions.

“If you drop that shell, I’m going to toss your body on top of it so I don’t scratch my paint,” she snarled at a crew member who bobbled an artillery round.

<Okay, maybe I’m a little off my game,> she took a few controlled breaths.

Her AI pinged her that her heartrate was elevated, but she didn’t think anything of it. She was about to drop into battle, but couldn’t do anything to protect herself. Who liked that feeling?

In the end, the brass had opted for a traditional assault. They were going to force the Confed navy to move their asses, and then Spyder with infantry and MOUNTs would use the cover the task force provided to make a dash for the surface. It wasn’t as quick as trying to sneak past the ships while they were still in an orbital blocking maneuver, but it was the best they could come up with.

All of that meant, when she was locked and loaded, she’d be stuck in the back of a Spyder until it was skids down on the ball of rock. Up until then, she was just a passenger who couldn’t affect the outcome of the battle. That sucked.

“Chief,” the infantry LCDR walked over to her in full battle rattle. “Get ready to load up. Battleships are about to get enter outer engagement envelops. The admiral wants us off his boat.”

“I’m more than happy to oblige,” she banged her metal fists together.

She was tired of feeling helpless. It was time to get in the shit.


Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

He was in really deep shit. No MOUNT. No big guns. His hands were jacked up. He’d taken a bullet in the keister. He was wearing a borrowed set of dragonscale armor that didn’t fit, and been pulled off a dead dude. The rifle felt like a toothpick in his hands, and it took an entire magazine of ammunition for it to do anything. He was pissed.

“Sir. What now?” the NCOIC asked as he slip into the depression Coop was using as a command center.

“I . . .”

Boom. He ducked as an explosion went off nearby. A big one. Chunks of dirt as big as his hand rained down around him. He quickly checked the readings of what was left of the Commonwealth troops. By sheer luck, no one had died.

“We can’t keep this up,” during the entire battle, the NCOIC had never had an ounce of defeat in him.

Coop got it. Shit was bleak, but could he just throw in the towel? Was that even possible? Coop and company had killed a lot of Confeds. Like, a lot. Way more than a force their size they normally could. They were entrenched, and up until recently could have kept up the fight. Now, ammo was drying up. People were dying. All the MOUNTS were down, and all it would take was one of the Confeds MOUNTS to walk in here and kill them all. Game over. Do not pass go. Do not get to see his baby girl again.


“Reinforcements are on the way,” he had to throw it out there. He was in command with the LT down, and that first command looked like it was going to end in a defeat-surrender combo.

Normally, he wasn’t one for his career, but that was going to sting. <Fuck it. You can’t have a career if you’re dead.>

“How do we work this?” he sighed. “I can’t just stand up and wave a white flag. A sniper will shoot me in the face.”

“There’s a universal code we can broadcast,” the NCO waved over the commo specialist. He technically wasn’t the real specialist, he’d died a few hours back, but the new guy knew how to rudimentarily work the gear.

“Great. Spin it up, but don’t send it just yet,” Coop ordered.

He listened to the sounds of battle. They had died down a little. His troopers were trying to conserve ammo, and the Confeds were probably shifting or massing. Either way, what came next wouldn’t be good.

“Come on. Now would be a good time to save the day,” he looked at the sky. He had no comms to space. The Confeds were doing their best to jam anything that left the besieged settlement. The only way he’d know of the cavalry arrived was to see the contrails of burning atmosphere around the Spyders.

He’d been on that ride. It wasn’t fun, but it was better than where he sat. Despite the plea to the heavens. No one was burning to save his sorry ass.

“Okay,” he tried to hold his head high, but it was hard. He’d never surrendered before.

“Sending,” the NCOIC sent out the signal burst, while simultaneously telling all the remaining grunts to stand down.

Coop dropped his rifle to the ground and took a seat with his back against the wall of dirt. He leaned to the side to relieve the pain in his aching ass. They’d have to wait for instructions from their new lords and masters. They’d likely wait a while, cautiously moving up to make sure this was some ruse. So, he had a minute. Until then, he laid his head back and closed his eyes to enjoy the quiet that had suddenly fallen over the settlement.


Two Worlds Update

Hey everyone,

I think i’ve kept you waiting long enough, so i wanted to let you know my plans going forward. I’ve been posting Two Worlds in one form or another for something like 5 years now, and its been a wild ride. The ride isn’t coming to an end, but it definetly needs to slow down. My life is radically different now from what it was when i staretd. Time and money are tight, and there is just no way i can keep up with the release schedule i used too. 

So, long story short, i don’t know exactly when new Two Worlds chapters will happen, and they’ll be intermittent at best. 

Even more improtant, i’m going to change how i’ve been approaching things. Two Worlds has been a great way to hone my craft, but with things the way they are i’ve got to change things up a little. So, starting August 1st, i’m going to be moving the first 100ish chapters off of my blog and RRL. They’ll be moving to the new Kindle Vella deal to try and attract any new readers. The later chapters will remain up, and will start to fall off as i movie closer to their release on Kindle. If any new chapters come out. They’ll be available on my Patreon, and on Kindle Vella once i reach that point in the story. 

I’m not sure what else the future holds for me, but i’m grateful for everyone who has read, enjoyed, and commented on Two Worlds over the last nearly half decade. Coop and company have been a hell of a lot of fun to write. I’m sorry things can’t keep going as they have been, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. I’ll post the link to the Kindle Vella page when i have it.  

Happy 4th of July!


Two Worlds – Chapter 361

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.



I just want to give everyone a heads up to what I have coming up. I’ve got a big life even about to take place which will probably take me offline for about two weeks. After that, posting is going to be a bit sporadic. I might have to cut it down to two or three chapters a month. I’m not sure yet what my schedule will look like, but I’ll let you know as soon as I have an idea. This will also effect my Patreon page, and you can see this message there as well.

I just want everyone to know so I can manage expectations throughout the coming few months.



Two Worlds – Chapter 360

Eve Berg

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

{Initializing,} the AI chimed as it started its boot-up function.

Part of that was the flood of drugs that got pumped into Eve’s system. Her eyelids slowly peeked open as she was returned to consciousness, and a soft groan escaped her lips.

“Mission clock,” she commanded.

{Thirty-two hours and twelve minutes,} the AI replied.

“Go verbal. I don’t want anything in my head while its pounding like this,” she ordered.

A straw automatically reached out to touch her lips and she drank deeply.

“Activate display,” she stated when she’d gotten her dehydration under control.

“Command recommended that we wait until we hit the thermosphere before going online,” to her ears, it sounded like the AI was whining.

“I know what command said, and if I was some tin-can skipper, I might think that way too. I can’t lead if I can’t see. Boot up the display. Now,” she snapped.

There was a flicker and the display came to life. It wasn’t technically a display. She was seeing everything through her IOR’s sync with the MOUNT’s computer systems; but telling the silicone brain to turn on her eyes just felt wrong.

<Whoa,> she couldn’t help but gulp as her visuals popped to life.

She was surrounded by the complete and utter darkness of the void. She’d never been claustrophobic in her life, but one look outside her MOUNT, and it was enough to make her reconsider her chosen profession. One misplaced decimal point, and she’d be stuck in this metal coffin for the rest of her life.

<Lock it up,> she told herself and focused on the mission.

It took up most of the space in front of her. A big brownish gray ball. It didn’t have a name. No one really lived on it. It wasn’t some holy site, but despite all of that, men and women were dying on its surface in the name of the almighty dollar. One of those people was Coop, her fiancé, father to her daughter.

Put all that together, and it pissed her off. She should still be on maternity leave, dealing with dirty diapers, and an uncooperative Coop who didn’t know a baby wipe from a frag grenade. That’s what she should be doing right now; not hurtling through the void for the first-ever orbital drop of Commonwealth MOUNTs.

“How long until we hit atmosphere?” she asked.

“Seventeen minutes,” the AI promptly calculated.

“What are the chances the Confed ships will pick up a tight-beam communication?” she inquired.

“Sixty-two percent,” the AI killed the idea formulating in her mind.


The RADM’s plan was simple in theory, difficult in execution. The fleet needed to clear out the orbitals. That meant the battleships and their escorts duking it out with the Confed’s cruisers. The ending of that story was already written. The only part left to be decided was time, and time was something the grunts on the ground didn’t have. So, ironically enough, it was Eve who suggested the orbital insertion.

The MOUNTs were capable, and it was the fastest way to get boots on the ground without clearing the orbitals and launching Spyders. They could shave as much as eight hours off the time to get their soldiers the support they needed. Plus, six MOUNTs were more than enough to clear an LZ on the ground, provide security for landing troops, while simultaneously taking the fight to the enemy. It was a win-win for everyone; except maybe the MOUNT pilots.

So, the enemy couldn’t detect them, they had to launch from far out through the ship’s missile pods. The hope was the enemy would be so keen to watch the oncoming battleships, that they wouldn’t notice the tiny MOUNTs passing through their orbital blockade.

With only a few minutes left until they hit the atmosphere, Eve was well inside their engagement envelope. She wasn’t dead yet. Of course, the real fireworks would begin once the hit the natural barrier around the planet. They’d been fired out of the ships on a course to take them on an orbit of the planet starting on the opposite side. They’d light up like a signal beacon as they descended through the atmosphere, and hopefully be low enough once they hit the opposite hemisphere to avoid any surface-to-air ordinance. It would be a race to the surface, and one Eve was determined to win.

She instantly regretted the decision when she hit the atmosphere. It felt like her feet leapt into her throat, and someone donkey kicked her in the vajayjay. Her MOUNT rattled like a decades-old air-car, and she was positive her whole trajectory was out of whack. She ignored that, and left any adjustments to the AI.

“All Red elements, check in,” she ordered as she brought the armor’s comms suite online.

Stealth was out the window now. It looked like half a dozen shooting stars were streaking across the sky.

“Red-three, repeat status,” she asked when one of the MOUNTs failed to check in.

“Red Four to Red Leader, I’ve got a visual on Red Three. He’d splattered over half the continent.”

Eve didn’t let her frustration show through the comms. “Anyone see what happened?” she had her own AI checking for anything out of the ordinary.

“I think the cannon cockers messed up, chief,” Red Six chimed in. “Probably . . .”

The pilot cut off as alarms started to beep simultaneously in all the MOUNTS. Their scanners were going ape shit due to the surface-to-air missiles blazing towards them.

“Evasive . . .!” a concussive blast threw Eve’s failed human body against the metal shell, and Red Four’s icon disappeared off her TACNET.

“Elevation?” she asked her AI, the panic in her voice rising.

“Thirty thousand meters,” it replied. That didn’t help at all.

They were sitting ducks. Their shields were already taxed from reentry, and the weapons systems weren’t designed to fight like this. Eve deployed her swatter, and it lasted about thirty seconds before the stress torqued the weapons of position. It didn’t rip it right off her frame, but it jammed the ammo feed; so, she was just as screwed. She slaved her anti-personnel cannon to her AI and let it do the shooting, but there was only so much it could do against the Confed ordinance.

She saw the streaking missile heading for her. She felt her MOUNT rumble as it returned fire, and she had just enough time to realize it wasn’t going to be enough. There was a bright light, and white-hot pain as things ripped through her. She screamed, but it didn’t do any good. She felt her MOUNT, and herself coming apart in the air above this fucking rock.

Her last sight before she blacked out was all of her Red elements getting torn up by enemy missiles thousands of meters above the deck, and nowhere near completing the mission of rescuing Coop.

<Well, shit,> she sat up gasping for breath as the dim lights blazed to life and she shook off the VR shock. The IOR’s were too good at completely immersing you in a scenario.

“Chief,” she’d barely had time to shake her head when the infantry commander was beside her.

“Sir,” she kept on blinking until her vision focused properly.

“That was an unmitigated, fucking disaster,” the CMDR shook his head. “It was a good idea, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to launch your team as a vanguard.”

“I’d like to run it a few more times, sir. Refine our approach. See if we can do anything differently,” she wasn’t pleading, but it was close.

The CMDR looked at his watch. “You’ve got nine hours left until we hit the system. After that, we’ve got to present something to the admiral.”

“Roger that, sir. We’re on it,” she gave the infantry OIC a nod, and he walked off. “Take five everyone, and then we go again.”

There was more than one groan, but her glare shut them up. No one there had as much at stake as she did, and if she could shave a second off the time it took them to relieve the embattled grunts planet side, it would be worth it.

<Hang in there, Coop,> she’d been saying that a lot to herself.

Five minutes later her IOR took her back into the all-too-real VR simulation.



Two Worlds – Chapter 359

Eve Berg

Location: Alamo, Equatorial Sector, Lone Star System, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“All hands, Echo Flight arriving. I say again. All hands, Echo flight arriving. Clear the flight deck.”

Eve wasn’t anywhere near the flight deck, but it irritated her every time an announcement like this came over the ship’s intercom. She felt like kicking a private that just happened to be walking by when Charlie flight arrived, and she might have scared a couple LT’s when she stomped into the officer’s mess during Delta flight’s arrival.

Logically, she knew it shouldn’t rub her the wrong way. Every flight meant more men and firepower the ship could bring to bear on the enemy. She still didn’t have a great idea who the enemy was, but she knew it involved Derrick and Coop. The last thing she wanted to be doing was sitting around on her ass while her brother and fiancé had god only knew what was happening to them.

“All command staff level officers, report to the flag briefing room at 1500 hours. All command staff level officers . . .” that got her attention.

It was ironic that as a CW2, she was a command staff level officer in this case. It probably wouldn’t be the case again anytime soon, but this shit show was being thrown together at the last minute, so there wasn’t enough time to get a proper MOUNT contingent together. Emergency orders had come down, and she currently had six pilots onboard; a team and a half. The other team leader was onboard, but she was the ranking officer of the two of them. That, plus the regular infantry commander didn’t know a MOUNT’s capabilities, she’d been elevated to the lofty status for the duration of the mission.

Her IOR said she had fifteen minutes to make the time hack, which on a beast the size of a battleship was not enough time. “Make a hole!” she yelled, and through her bulk forward. If people didn’t move, it was their problem.

She made it with thirty seconds to spare, but looking at the faces of the officers in the room, she might as well have been five minutes late.

“Pull up a chair, chief,” the only person that didn’t give her grief was the one that mattered.

The rear admiral at the head of the table wasn’t one she recognized, but there were plenty of those. She’d been on maternity leave so long, she probably wouldn’t even recognize the lieutenant commander she routinely got email traffic from. She was just relieved he wasn’t pissed.

She was the lowest ranking officer in the room by a mile. Technically, she wasn’t even the same class of officer. There was the RADM and a CMDR that was his XO. A pair of other CMDRs looked like the infantry and CAG OICs, and they had a couple staff people tagging along; but they all kept to the sides. She was the only person below O-4 not sitting against the wall and trying not to be noticed.

“I’m not going to lie people, it doesn’t look good,” the RADM pulled up an image from a tactical plot. It wasn’t Eve’s forte, but she’d been around enough to get the general picture.

It didn’t look like that big an enemy force. From what she’d seen coming aboard the ship, it should be able to take a couple battlecruisers and destroyers alone. <If it was that simple, Derrick would have handled it,> she reminded herself.

“We’ve got a clock on us,” the RADM continued. He’d explained the enemy disposition, but that didn’t concern Eve. She needed to get boots on the ground to make a difference. “They’ll have been down there fighting it out for close to two days before we’ll hit the system. Even then it’ll take several more hours to get to a point we can do anything, and that’s only if the Confeds cut and run.”

Eve didn’t realize she had a death grip on her chair to the point it was starting to warp. She didn’t want to be sitting in a metal tube tens of millions of kilometers away when she could be on the ground helping Coop. It was literally the most infuriating thing she’d ever felt.

““All hands, Foxtrot Flight arriving. I say again. All hands, Foxtrot flight arriving. Clear the flight deck.”

The RADM looked up at the announcement. “That’s the last of our gear people. Department heads, I want a readiness brief in thirty. We’re going to put the pedal to the medal right out the gate. Infantry,” he turned to the CMDR and Eve, “I want a battleplan on my desk by the time we hit the system. I don’t want us sitting on our hands longer than necessary.”

“Yes, sir,” Eve was the first on her feet, and the first out the door. If the other officers were offended by a mere CW2 taking the lead, they could suck it.

<Hang in there, Coop. I’m coming.”


Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

Coop spun, and barely avoided taking a round up the ass. Literally, there was a Confed grunt with one of those overpowered man-portable missile launchers that nearly sent one straight up his poop shoot. That would have royally screwed him, especially with his shields at thirty percent. Having his shields above twenty-five was a blessing.

The Commonwealth grunts were still fighting, but it was starting to sink in that the perimeter wasn’t a defense anymore, it was a noose the Confeds were closing tight around their throat. Still, they didn’t give up. Neither did Coop. He was running around like a mad man, trying to plug all the holes in the line. There were so many, that if this was an old wet navy ship, they’d be sunk.

Even worse, his ammo was just about shot. Down to less than ten percent on everything. It was just that kind of day.

“We need . . .” there was a large explosion behind him, and the transmission cut out.

His battle AI told him what had happened as he sprinted around the side of a building. He zigged instead of zagged out of instinct, and the atmosphere exploded around him. His MOUNT emerged through the flames like some type of ancient war god, and he couldn’t think about how close he’d just been to buying the farm.

Ever since he’d killed the other MOUNT, the dead enemies’ buddies had been gunning for him. He expected it, but things were starting to get dicey. The Confed brass hadn’t committed another MOUNT to the field, so maybe Coop took out the commander, and they were just going to wait him out. Why ruin a multi-million dollar piece of equipment when you could just bleed Coop’s MOUNT dry.

<It’s what I would do,> he ignored the next-gen magnetic accelerator shell with his name on it, and focused on plugging the hole.

The swatter covering the sector had run dry, and an arty shell had smacked right in the middle of a fire team’s position. Medical status informed him they were both already dead, but sensor showed the Confeds were trying to take advantage of the chaos to advance. The only thing between them and separating the Commonwealth defenders, one Mark Cooper.

He barreled into the opening just as the lead Confed elements reached the big hole in the ground. He didn’t bother opening up with his remaining rounds. He just kicked the first person in armor her saw. The poor bastard went sailing back out of the crater and hit some of his buddies with the front side of his armor sticking out the back. 

Blades came out, and Coop played lumberjack. He ignored the screaming, he just cut, hacked, and sawed at anything that moved. The Confeds didn’t go down without a fight. They pumped rounds into him until his shield was only showing five percent. It held there as Coop stomped his big metal boot down on an enemy grunt and pancaked him.

“Fucking hell,” one of the sergeants had been able to peel a single man off their portion of the line to reinforce Coop.

Over half a dozen bodies surrounded Coop’s MOUNT, and they all look like they’d died hard. Even though he hadn’t lifted a muscle, Coop’s chest was heaving inside the war machine.

“Set up here. If you feel you can’t hold, radio in, and fall back,” Coop knows the kid won’t be able to hold for long. But a few minutes was a few minutes, and if the Confed’s tactics continued, they were going to hit another part of the perimeter now.

“Ye . . . yes, sir,” Coop could hear the grunt gulp as he hopped down into the crater and went prone. He didn’t even have a shield generator.

“All clear in sector four, repositioning to . . .” Coop never finished.

The whole world lurched, and the lights went out. 



Two Worlds – Chapter 358

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Hold . . . hold . . . move!” Coop yelled as he popped up and opened fire.

He’d been running around like a chicken with his head cut off, reinforcing the lines where they were weakest, and generally keeping the Commonwealth’s war effort above water. Just like every time, it felt like this was the time the dam was going to break, and they were all going to drown in a river of blood and bullets. But every other time he’d survived, and kept the grunts alive with him.

This time, he’d been crouched among the soldiers in their dragonscale armor, and was giving them another fighting chance to get out of here alive. On his command, they jumped up from the trenchworks encircling the settlement, and ran for it. Coop didn’t run, he stood and faced the tide.

His shield sparked and lit up like the surface of a pond in a thunderstorm. The flashes were so bright and continuous, he could hardly see. Not that the MOUNT needed his eyes to fight. The battle AI took over, and directed his movement like a symphony conductor.

<Missiles here . . . bullets there . . . artillery shell over yonder . . . and a next-gen magnetic accelerator round right up the center to keep them honest,> he was going through ammunition like crazy, but what else was there to do? Let all the grunts die?

Coop was a cold-hearted bastard, but even he couldn’t bring himself to do that. If there was an afterlife, he didn’t want to be a dick right at the end. That wouldn’t look good.

“Set!” the squad leader sent as the grunts got to the next set of trenches.

The Commonwealth’s perimeter was steadily collapsing. The Confed hordes were doing the same thing Coop and the Commonwealth had done when they took the place; push, push some more, make them fall back, until you had their balls in a vice and were fighting house to house. It was how these things were done. There was nothing nice about it. That’s why they called it war.

“We’ll cover you, chief,” the SGT radioed as Commonwealth weapons started to add their fire support to suppress the enemy focusing on Coop’s MOUNT.

It was much appreciated. His shields had dropped below fifty percent since he started taking the pounding.

“Moving!” Coop didn’t wait. He turned his back on the enemy and ran.

“Chief, we need you in sector two. We’re about to . . . ahhh!” the LT’s voice cut off abruptly.

“Shit, LT’s down. I say again, LT is down!” the NCOIC came over the net.

<That’s just what we need,> Coop grunted, as he angled toward sector two.

The radio call saved Coop’s life. The next-gen accelerator round came screaming in through burning atmosphere before his AI could even squawk a warning. The shockwave nearly blew him over, but he turned it into a combat roll. It would suck to look like an idiot in front of the grunts.

A person can think of the weirdest things in a life of death situation. 

Coop came out of the roll, his own weapon at one hundred percent power, and fired back toward the source of what nearly made him piss myself. Whoever the other pilot was, he had too much confidence in his MOUNT’s camouflage abilities. Why shouldn’t he? He’d got within five hundred meters of Coop without him knowing any better. The only problem, the EM spike from the monster gun was the equivalent of a “please shoot here” sign.

The armor bucked as Coop’s round flew downrange. <That’s right you son of a bitch,> he growled when there was a spark of a shield overloading, and the cammo failed.

There it was, a Gold Technologies MOUNT; in the flesh . . . sort of. All Coop knew was that it was a better armored, better armored killing machine than the knock-off he was wearing. If he wanted any chance of surviving, he had to ignore that and believe in himself. That might sound like some self-help bullshit, but it was really all he had working for him.

He also had decisions to make. He was in the open between the MOUNT and the new defensive lines. The squad currently shooting at the new arrival on the battlefield had a better chance of growing wings and flying away than defeating the enemy war machine. It was either give up this section of the perimeter, and retreat into the settlement’s structures, or fight.

That wasn’t a hard decision for Coop. He reoriented himself and charged right at the other MOUNT. Again, the pilot showed how green he was. He took a step back and hesitated. He’d likely been the biggest kid on the block until now.

<Now you get to see what it feels like to take a real punch,> Coop grinned. Unlike the Gold mech, he’d been the underdog plenty of times.

Coop let loose the last of his missiles at the enemy to buy him time to cover the distance, and recharge his accelerator. His was underpowered compared to the Gold model, but he should be able to get a second shot first . . . hopefully.

The enemy’s swatter came to life and started knocking them from the sky. That wouldn’t do, so Coop detonated the last couple prematurely. A small slice of hell appeared in between the MOUNTs, blotting out their sensors. That helped Coop, not the enemy. He took a chance, and hoped the enemy MOUNT wouldn’t fire along the same trajectory. After all, this was the perfect opportunity to reorient your angle of attack. That’s what Coop was doing, just not in the typical way.

The Gold pilot was at least not stupid enough to waste ammo firing blindly into a firestorm, but likewise, Coop didn’t have any idea where the other guy was.

<Come on luck, don’t fail me now!> he took one more leaping bound, and hit his boot thrusters. <Up, up, and away!>

He rocketed up and over the dying ball of fire, with his recharged accelerator ready to go. The surprise advantage bought him a few, critical seconds. The Gold MOUNT was sweeping back and forth, waiting for Coop to burst through the flames, so it took the enemy AI a few digital heartbeats to register him in the air, and then tell the pilot.

Coop had to give it to the other pilot, he reoriented quickly, but Coop was already pulling the trigger. The accelerator going off fucked up his flight path, but it was worth it. The heavy round smashed right into the other MOUNT’s chest plate. There was a shower of sparks as shield and metal failed, while the machine got knocked on its ass.

Despite the power behind the hit, and the damage done, the Gold MOUNT wasn’t out of the fight. Coop saw it trying to sit up as he crashed to the ground. It wasn’t a graceful landing, but there was no time to worry about that. He scrambled to his feet and charged the damaged machine.

It seemed Coop still had a little luck left in the tank. The Gold MOUNT got its accelerator aimed at him, but nothing happened. He practically heard the proverbial click as something broke down in the weapon’s firing sequence. Then, Coop was on him. Out came the blades, and the injured pilot didn’t stand a chance.

Coop lost track of what he was doing for a second. When he came back to his senses, he’d chopped off all the MOUNTs major limbs, and driven a blade repeatedly into the hearth of the machine; right where the pilot was stationed. He looked at his blade; it dripped black with vicious fluid with a slight tinge of red mixed in.

“HA!”his exhausted laugh echoed inside the armor.

<Commonwealth one, Gold zero,> he staggered back away from the destroyed MOUNT; his exhaustion translated into his own MOUNT’s movements. <Ain’t done yet,> he told himself, and turned back toward the lines.

If the LT was down, Coop was the ranking officer. That was some scary shit; scarier than going up against the superior MOUNT.

“Chief, what are your orders?” the NCOIC asked. The guy had more experience, but they were both up shit’s creek right now.

Coop hesitated. The lives of the entire garrison were now in his hands. “Hold the perimeter,” he replied. He didn’t have any better solutions, and until a good one presented itself, he’d keep going with the LT’s final orders.

He hustled back toward the settlement. Ignoring the smaller impacts of his shield as he headed back to protect his men.



Two Worlds – Chapter 357

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Ammo. We need ammo!” the call came over the net as Coop laid down suppressive fire on a ridge. A couple Confed marines were getting uppity, so he showed them the error of their ways.

“Private . . .”

“On it chief!” the grunt working the faber was pulling double duty.

They didn’t have the men to spare to pull guys off the line to run ammo back and forth to the forward positions, and those guys were going through rounds like there was no tomorrow. Because there probably wasn’t going to be. So, not only was the PVT running the faber while Coop protected him, but he was making balls-to-the-walls runs all over the place to rearm the people who were keeping their perimeter from being overrun. There were some shitty jobs out there, but that had to be one of the shittiest.

<Guy deserves a fucking medal,> Coop grimaced as the young man started mag-locking bandoliers of ammunition to his scales. Then, he started throwing stuff over his shoulders, and took two huge crates of power packs under his arms. By the time he was ready to roll, he looked like a walking ammo dump.

“LT, we need covering fire from zero to ninety, ammo run,” Coop sent the transmission.

“Roger,” the young officer’s voice was stressed, but at least he was confident Coop wasn’t trying to stab his company in the back.

Coop had access to all the old command net functions, he just wished he didn’t. It was a massive clusterfuck, and the Commonwealth grunts were only holding on with their fingertips. With the SGT down, Coop was the only legit heavy weapon system left beside some plasma-tipped slug throwers. Whether the LT knew it or not, this fight was getting closer and closer to done.

“We’ll either die or surrender; nothing in between,” Coop knew the score, and he tried not to think about anything else. Wandering thoughts would just kill him quicker.

“Send him,” the order came back, and the PVT didn’t wait. He took off like a rabbit spooked by a gun shot.

Coop watched him go, dropping artillery on some pre-established coordinates where Confed’s liked to poke their heads up from. He was already running low on the big artillery shells, but the faber didn’t have time to churn out anything but rounds for the grunts.

<Weapons have to be getting hot,> he wondered.

In olden times, barrels used to have to be changed out on machine guns and other weapons if they were used too much. That normally wasn’t a consideration with modern guns, because the material could survive orbital re-entry, and magnetic accelerators instead of chemical explosives cut down on the rough treatment of the metal. Still, throwing so many rounds in such a short time was going to tax even modern equipment’s structural integrity. Coop was still waiting for the first call that a barrel had blown. They had a small stockpile, but when the first one hit, he expected an avalanche of requests.

There was nearly a continuous rain of fire outbound from the small settlement. A fire-team of reserves was running around like chickens with their heads cut off to reinforce the perimeter at weak points, but aside from the ammo runner, that was the only movement. Everyone else was getting small in their hole, or shooting at the enemy. There was no third option.

<Go, kid, go,> Coop urged the PVT on as he ran through an exposed part between two buildings.

He made it, rounded the corner, and . . . crack poof! There was a sound like the universe itself crying in protest, followed by a poof of red mist from the corner the kid had just turned. Half a second later, what was left of a helmeted head hit the dirt.

<Motherfucker!> Coop was really starting to like that kid.

“Sir, runner is down. I say again, runner is down,” every part of Coop’s training told him to go to the runner, but he had his orders.

If he left the faber, the enemy would take advantage and they’d be as good as dead.

“Got it. Second squad, send a member to the following rally point and grab the ammo,” the LT was on it.

“Roger,” Coop listened to the SGT’s response through the command net.

“Moving. It fifty meters to . . . ahh!” the fed cut out, and Coop toggled to medical status.

Another grunt was down; yellow, not black, so he was still alive. Judging by the readings, he wasn’t moving anywhere quick.

“Can anyone get to the ammo?” the LT yelled, his composure cracking.

“We’re pinned, sir!”

“I think I can . . . fuck . . . no I can’t.”

“Are you shitting me? I’m not getting out of my hole unless it’s to hitch a ride home.”

“Lock it up,” the NCOIC finally stepped on the chatter. “That’s a negative, sir. All forces are occupied and pinned down.”

“Chief?” the LT asked.

“I mean . . .” Coop let it hang there. Everyone knew the implications. “I can try my active cammo. Maybe they won’t see me leave my position, and I can get back before they notice.”

“I don’t care if you project a digital stripper flashing her titties to occupy their attention. I need ammo, now!” one of the SGT’s added his colorful commentary.

“I’m red.”

“Me too.”

“How about you all stop talking and bring me something to shoot!” rifle fire and the deep thud of heavy rounds impacting dirt followed the last transmission.

“Do it, Chief,” the LT gave a heavy sigh. They all knew how this would really turn out.

Coop didn’t rush right in to do it. That’s what the Confeds were looking for. He really wished they had some portable mortars. If they did, he could set them on auto-fire and convince the enemy he was still here. They’d figure out the shells were smaller, but it would buy him a minute. That’s all he needed. He repositioned, using the building as cover to obscure activating his cammo.

He’d told the engineers who built this bucket of bolts that the camouflage wasn’t good. He told them it was shit compared to the old MOUNTs. It didn’t translate motion well on this new model. There wasn’t enough power going to them, or the paint wasn’t polymorphic enough. He wasn’t an engineer; he didn’t know the terminology. All he knew was, in training, he could always tell when a MOUNT was on the move.

“Stupid, penny pinchers,” he grumbled as he activated the cammo, gave it a second, and moved to emerge from a different position. That would keep him from getting a next-gen slug in the brain. He was conscious the enemy MOUNTs were still out there, biding their time, and looking for a good opportunity to punch his clock.

He stayed low and sprinted out of cover. The ammo wasn’t that far, and he covered the space in a few seconds. He skidded around a turn between the buildings, full-on grabbed the PVT’s body with all the ammo still strapped to him, and threw up debris on his pivot. He didn’t run the whole way to the front lines. He got with about twenty meters, dug his heels in, and underhanded the body.

It was borderline desecrating a corpse, but no one gave a shit. They just wanted the ammo. It didn’t matter how it arrived. With the PVT’s body airborne, Coop pushed his actuators to the limit. He took the turn tight enough his clipped the nearest building. It slowed him down a half second, but the building got the raw end of that deal.

<Holy shit, this is going to work,> he closed in on the faber that was still spitting full magazines of ammo into a nearby crate.

He was only ten meters away when the round hit the Commonwealth’s most valuable piece of equipment on the battlefield. The shield didn’t do shit to stop the attack. It was a next-gen slug. Coop had used the same rounds to kill alien bosses back on earth, and their shielding was a hell of a lot better than the squad-level gear they were operating with.

The machine went up into a million pieces, and the explosion of the round passing through the equipment, and into the ground, put Coop on his ass. Not for too long. He crab-walked behind cover, and tried to get a back azimuth on where the round had come from. The data was sketchy, but he sent a parting gift anyway.

“Sir,” he gulped. “The faber is gone. Without my extra shielding it didn’t stand a . . .”

“I know,” the LT sounded very tired all of a sudden. “Weapons free, chief. Pick your targets, and act as a mobile reserve.”

The former reserve was already fully committed, and judging by the increase in fire, it wasn’t going to be moving anytime soon. The Confeds knew the faber was down, and were pushing to seize the initiative. They might just take it.

Coop scoped out the battlefield, looking for opportunity, when something caught his attention. “Mounts at ten o’clock high, coming down the mountainside!” he screamed, and sprinted off in that direction.

He counted at least two, but that was enough to cut their lines like it was a ticker-tape parade. If that happened, they were fucked. The fat lady would sing, and they’d be six feet under.

<These fuckers will know they’ve been in a fight,> Coop ran to meet them head on. It was the only thing he could think of to do.



Two Worlds – Chapter 356

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Steady . . . Steady . . .” the LT’s voice ordered over the comms.

Coop knew the you officer was trying to be strong, reassuring, and lead from the front. It didn’t quite come off like that, but it was worth the try. After all, they were facing ten-to-one odds. The enemy was better equipped, and hadn’t been in a knock down brawl only a few hours ago.

Coop tried no to let the weariness get to him, but it was tough. There was only so many times your adrenals could kick in before you just needed to lay down and take a nap. <Good thing this thing has a portable pharmacy.>

His AI was set to disperse the welcome cocktail if it sensed he needed it, but now wasn’t the time. “Anything?” he pinged the SGT.

“They’re knocking our scouts down before we can even get close,” the SGT replied.

The Confeds weren’t the only ones with drones, and the LT had commissioned the faber to build a few scouting versions. They took less time and resources without having to build weapons, but they’d still only gotten a half dozen set and off by the time the Confeds hit the ground. Their FOB was far enough away, and with a mountain between them, that Coop couldn’t reliably hit them with indirect fire. Plus, with the LT still keeping him out of the decision-making loop, things were getting tough. Add to that the fact there were legit MOUNTs on the ground, not the retarded step children versions Coop was piloting, and this whole thing was a shit ball rolling down hill and gaining steam.

<A lot of hurry up and wait,> Coop kept his position at the faber, as ordered. It was too valuable a resource to leave unguarded; especially after the drone attack.

“Movement in sector 7!” a panicked PVT yelled.

“Damnit, Kinski, give us distance, direction, and description,” the NCOIC scolded him over the open channel.

Coop chuckled. Sometimes it was good to see an NCO be an NCO, even if they were hip deep in shit.

“Yeah, um . . . sorry. I’ve got approximately eight Confeds, six hundred meters, at two hundred and fifty degrees, sergeant,” he replied properly.

<Just eight,> Coop still had a chief’s codes, so he could peek into the PVT’s head. He toggled to the PVT’s video stream and rewound.

Sure enough, there were eight Confed troopers in their half-HI armor getup, working their way around the perimeter. They were making themselves a juicy target, even with their heavier shielding, and the portable generator one guy was carrying on his back. The LT was already diverting forces to deal with the first enemy contact, but Coop got a bad feeling.

He pulled up his topographical map and overlaid it with the footage of what he was seeing. It didn’t make sense. Forty meters back there was a draw that would have allowed the Confed troops to move into position without being seen. Either the SGT leading the Confeds didn’t know his head from his ass, or this was meant to draw the LT’s attention.

Coop immediately set his sensors to scan the opposite side of the perimeter. “Sir, this feels like a feint. We should . . .”

“Keep this channel clear, chief,” the LT but in and shut him down.

<Seriously, did that kid just . . .> he never got to finish.

The scream of incoming rockets hitting the perimeter was all the confirmation that Coop needed to tell him he was right. He counted the explosions as three rockets hit the outer perimeter. If the Commonwealth grunts weren’t dug in tighter than a tick, they’d be ash. One rocket bypassed the perimeter and streaked straight for the faber. Coop’s swatter sprang to life, but took longer than necessary, and more ammo, to bring the guided rocket down. In the end, it dipped instead of dived, and Coop blew it to pieces. Debris rained down around him, sparking off the shield as the attack commenced in earnest.

“SGT, plug the gap!” Coop yelled, but the other NCO was already on it.

A volley of micro missiles streaked toward where the rockets were coming from, and where no less than sixty Confed marines were leap-frogging toward the Commonwealth lines. Stunned by the rocket attack, the grunts took precious seconds to orient on the threat and bring their weapons to bear. The SGT’s missiles struck home, punctuating the fight with thermal blooms, and giving the grunts a second to get in the game.

It was still sixty guns on about a dozen, and even firing on full auto, it was obvious the grunts were going to be overrun within a minute. Then the Confeds tripped the mines. Payback’s a bitch, and the ground rumbled in rebellion of mankind’s ingenuity. Dirt geysered into the air, along with marines, as the mines stopped the advance cold. That allowed the SGT time to get into position and bolster the defense.

The SGT let go with everything he had. Micromissiles, next-gen magnetic accelerator cannon, anti-infantry gun, and even the artillery tube on his back got into the game. It was an exquisite display of modern warfare, and against the odds, it drove the Confed’s back.

Artillery shells rained down on their lines. Missiles streamed in for the first punch, before the SGT unleashed his cannon for the haymaker. Enemy shields failed and marines died left and right. They quickly pulled back to cover, leaving their dead smoking on the field.

<About time we got to dole out some hurt,> Coop gave the SGT a mental nod, and got back to his job.

With the SGT repositioned, more of the lines came under his responsibility. His AI continued to scan and tag potential threats, and, above all, kept an eye out for the enemy MOUNTs. If he hadn’t instructed the AI to report anything that might even resemble a MOUNT to him, he would have missed it. Even then, it was too late.

The bloom of a true MOUNT’s next-gen magnetic accelerator was the first sign of the thing. The heavy round, which punched way above Coop’s MOUNT’s weight class ripped through the atmosphere, leaving a trail of fire. Its target, the SGT fucking up the Confed’s attack plans.

“Ser . . .!” Coop started to yell, but the NCO was already in motion. They’d made sure their own AI was looking for the only war machine on the battlefield that could stand up to them.

Because of that, the round meant to threaten warships in close-orbit only took him in the shoulder instead of the chest. The screech of metal still made Coop wince in his armor, and the friendly MOUNT was blasted to the ground.

<Fuck,> Coop almost abandoned his position, but stopped himself. If the faber fell, they were totally fucked.

Thankfully, the grunts on the ground responded. They clambered to the downed MOUNT and started working the ejection sequence. It wouldn’t work one hundred percent, because the MOUNT was wrecked, but a quick check of the SGT’s vitals showed red. They were still alive, but needed a medic pronto.

Coop was a few seconds late on the uptake after seeing his battle buddy go down. His AI realized the threat before he did. The SGT’s MOUNT’s shielding didn’t do jackshit to stop the incoming round. Sure, it probably blunted the impact enough it didn’t turn the whole MOUNT into a frag grenade, but it had failed to stop a single shot from the enemy weapons system. If the SGT was the logical first target with their defense of the lines, then it didn’t take a genius to figure out the second target.

His AI activated his boots and threw him out of the way as fire and death ripped past the structure covering the faber. The civilians were nearby, so to do it was one hell of a shot. To thread the needle like that took some big balls, but it also kept Coop alive. He was still knocked on his ass by the shockwave of the round passing, but with the miss, it went careening off into the distance, clearing the horizon before Coop could breathe a sigh of relief.

Since he was already on the ground, he sent a volley of artillery rounds along the back azimuth to the enemy. He doubted he’d hit anything, but it would fuck up any follow-on attempts to kill him while he got to his feet and put the building with the civilians between him and the threat.

<I’m getting too old for this shit,> Coop groaned as his heart beat like it was running the Kentucky Derby. The enemy wasn’t even in front of him yet, and he was already on defense. <We need to go on the offense. Take back the initiative,> Coop thought. But that was easier said than done when the Confed’s had already set the noose, and were starting to squeeze.


Benjamin Gold

Location: CCIWS Stakeholder’s Views, Contested System, Unaligned Space

Ben watched the battle unfold from a camouflaged tent at the FOB the marine captain had set up. The holo-tank, which looked like it had been stolen from a destroyer, dominated the space. Several communications nodes surrounded it, with specialists waiting to relay orders to the troops in the field. Ben wasn’t about to start backseat driving the marine, but if it was him, he’d be out there with his troops fighting.

“The initial assault is completely stalled, sir,” a PVT relayed as the friendly, blue icons started to fall back.

Ben’s eyes weren’t on the marine line, they were on the enemy MOUNT a bunch of grunts were trying to pry open to rescue the pilot. “You should have taken my deal, Coop,” he wasn’t sure if that was his old teammate, but it was a fifty-fifty chance it was.

“Sir,” Mike-One successfully disabled. Mike-Two neutralization is a failure,” another communications tech relayed.

“Damn. So close,” the captain slapped his palm on the edge of the holo-tank.

The entire first thrust was designed to bring out the Commonwealth’s big guns. If they could take out the enemy MOUNTs, they’d be able to easily overrun the Commonwealth’s lines with hardly any casualties. The MOUNTs were such force multipliers on a battlefield, the captain didn’t want to risk slaughtering his men to get the job done.

That point was proven for the two platoons he sent to attack and draw the MOUNTs out. It was still hard for Ben to imagine the Confederation’s new organizational system, but he could see the value in having units bigger than squads and smaller than companies in a small-scale fight like this. Whatever their designation, the failed attack had cost five KIA and twice as many WIA. Twenty five percent of the attack element was out of action in a few seconds. That’s what MOUNTs brought to the table.

The captain looked like he was considering the same thing Ben was. “Lieutenant,” he called, and a face replaced the battlefield on the holo-tank.

“Sir,” the no-nonsense man replied.

“Take your team in there and dig them out.”

“Roger, sir,” the element’s MOUNT commander cut the link, and went to execute the captain’s orders.

<Damn. I hope you were in that first MOUNT, Coop,> Ben sighed.

It was better they be wounded than dead, and after those losses, the Confederation MOUNT were going in hungry for blood.   



Two Worlds – Chapter 355

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Shift the machine gun over there,” the NCOIC stated, and an icon blossomed on Coop’s HUD.

Since they didn’t have two extra guys to lug around the heavy equipment, Coop and the SGT were playing Ripley from Aliens. He hoisted up the heavy weapon and shifted it to a new pit they’d established. It wasn’t much, but oldies were goodies when you didn’t have a choice. They’d dug a hole and stuck a shield generator beside the gun. It had commanding views of a potential avenue of approach.

In the end, Coop knew it didn’t matter what weapons were covering what areas; the Confeds would drown them in bodies. The satellite network in orbit had been left intact by both sides. Both were too arrogant to think the enemy would were be able to benefit from the data being broadcasted down to the settlement. Because of that, Coop had a good idea what was coming. Or . . . he didn’t once the LT clued him in.

He was on the outs with the command group, which was probably going to get more than one person killed. <Ben fucking Gold,> Coop wasn’t sure he bought the innocent slip of the tongue excuse.

If Gold had been trying to sow discord, he’d hit the ball on the head. The LT was playing things close to the chest, and the NCOIC was using him as a human wheelbarrow. On the bright side, he was still breathing, so he had that going for him.

“Here they come,” the statement suddenly rang through his MOUNT’s audio, and everyone else’s.

A link came over the net, and Coop opened it. <Shit. There should be some Wagner playing in the background,> he scoffed as a shit ton of Spyder-like assault shuttles detached from the warships in orbit. <If they carry anything like a Spyder . . . then . . . two, four, six,> he stopped counting.

Fifty bad guys a shuttle, and they were already outnumbered ten to one, and they were till coming. He was still amazed anyone wanted this ball of dirt that bad. As far as things went on the cosmic scale, this place was a dump. Sure, it had some good resources; but it wasn’t a pleasure planet. People wouldn’t want to emigrate here; especially with it being on the border of two contesting powers.

At most, you’d get temporary boomtowns, like in the old west of the Americas. They’d pop up at a dig site; mostly to supply beer and women. They’d be there for six months, pack up, and move to the next sight. It would be rough people on a rough world, and they probably would never even realize a bunch of soldiers killed themselves over dirt and metal.

<It’s not for us to wonder why. It’s for us to do or die; or something lie that,> Coop thought. The shuttles were hitting the atmosphere, so they had ten to fifteen minutes before things got interesting.

“SGT, you’re on the front lines,” he ordered.

Grunts were already streaming out of the makeshift barracks to their assigned positions. Everyone had a place to be at this dance, and for now, Coop’s place was indirect fore control. He’d also be guarding the most important asset in the entire place.

Once the Commonwealth took the fabbers from the Confeds in the first takeover. It was only a matter of time. Especially with modern warfare, people needed a lot of rounds, or powerpacks, to get through extra shielding. Fabbers provided those materials, and they’d been cranking out extra supplies ever since. A few hours, and they had the rounds to fight all day. It was Coop’s job to make sure the supply line kept flowing.

He ran a diagnostic to make sure he could make that happen. He was green on everything. His shields were one hundred percent, all his ammo had been replaced, and even his micro-missiles were cocked, locked, and ready to rock. It took a hell of a lot longer to produce a missile than a plasma-tipped round, but it was worth it for the damage he could do.

The swatter would be key, and the single grunt running the fabber had the dual duty of reloading the MOUNT’s swatter ammo when he ran dry. That would suck ass to do solo, but there wasn’t much of a choice.

Coop was still looking over his inventory when his AI blared a warning at him. “Drones!” he relayed to everyone. “Heads down.”

Drones were something he’d expected. The warships overhead couldn’t take a shot at them, and neither could the shuttles; but drones were a different deal. The ones his sensors were picking up intermittently were small versions. They’d infiltrate the lines, take shots with their single onboard energy cannon and soften things up for the troops. The swatters were the counter. Thankfully, it wasn’t just Coop.

The SGT’s guns spun up as well, along with three more individual swatters the defenders never had to bust out. That was some silverlining in all this, those guns were fresh since the Commonwealth had only mounted a land operation. Those guns came to life as the drones came in hard and fast.

Nothing was slaved to Coop’s AI. It might have been the smarter move to have the AI assist with targeting packages; but the LT wasn’t in a trusting mood. Still, Coop could push the packages to the guns when his AI got a better read on the drone’s camouflage and firing patterns. The first update got pushed five seconds into the attack; just about the same time there was a scream and an explosion. All the drones had ganged up on one position, overwhelmed the shielding, and torched the heavy weapon’s emplacement.

<Shit,> it was the one Coop had just moved the machine gun to. <Sucks for that guy,> and just as much for everyone else. They didn’t have the men to spare.

His buddy was yellow on medical, only some mild flash-burns from the laser, and was jumping on the gun. Tracer rounds flashed all over the place as the swatters tried to kill the drones like the annoying insects they were. Fireballs started to fill the sky as drones died. It was a beautiful sight.

A drone even had the balls to take a shot at him. It didn’t do any good. It was built to take out fighting positions, not a walking war machine. His shields dropped ten percent, and started to recharge as his swatters blasted the drone out of the sky.

Of course, the chaos was the secondary objective of this entire thing. Sure, it was good to kill a few guys, hassle the enemy, and general cause some mayhem. Hell, maybe the Confeds would even get lucky and hit something or someone important. The real objective was so the shuttle could set down unmolested by indirect fire. If the drones weren’t wreaking havoc along the Commonwealth’s lines, Coop would be dropping thermobaric shells all over the enemy LZ.

Everyone knew the shuttles were most vulnerable when they were disgorging their troops, and it was usually the point of an invasion when the enemy force was most exposed. The drones did a perfect job of covering for that. By the time his AI registered the last of the drone’s dying, the satellite links showed the assault shuttles off the ground and in an overwatch pattern. If the Commonwealth troops strayed too far from the settlement, they’d get a 30mm round up the ass.

Coop had the SGT firing an artillery shell at the position just in case he could catch the enemy with their pants down. A Confed swatter took it out before it even got close. The enemy command was doing things by the book. They’d landed and consolidated their forces, put up protections against indirect fire, and were organizing a march to the settlement. In less than an hour, there would be close to two hundred Confed troops kicking down their front door.

<Two hundred?> Coop had his AI count those numbers again. For the number of shuttles he’d seen that was too low.

<Oh, fuck me,> he groaned when his AI started to filter the satellite imagery.

They were hard to see, and trying to be sneaky, but the Commonwealth had a lot of data on their cammo gear. It was hard to make out, and only for a second, but Coop caught the outline of four Confed MOUNTs. Not these shitty first generation, Commonwealth reject MOUNTs. These were the real deal ones Coop had fought in back on earth.

He felt his pucker factor dial up to eleven as he replayed the footage three times before sending it to the LT. It didn’t matter if the guy was wary of him, this was shit he needed to know. The fight just went from hopeless to absolutely no chance in hell they’d live through it. All of a sudden, surrender didn’t seem like a bad plan.

Just when things couldn’t get any worse, the satellite link went dark. He immediately cut any connections he had to that net. It probably wasn’t a virus. The Confed’s wouldn’t want to wreck their own gear. That shit was expensive, but better safe than sorry. The last thing the underpowered, soon-to-be overwhelmed defenders needed was a malware attack fucking with their coms.

“Sergeant, did you . . .?”

“Roger that, chief,” she sent back. “It’s been good knowing you.”

“Make’em bleed,” he sent back, and then focused on his own shit.

Coop put everything he was worried about in the back of his head. Eve, Emily, everything, he shoved it all in a black hole in the back of his mind. He couldn’t worry about his mortality in a fight like this. It was time to be a human buzzsaw, and kill as many of these assholes as he could before his clock went out.