Chapter 2: Drop-Drop-Deploy
Gunnery Sergeant Robert “the Hook” Dunn leaned back into the mechanical claw of the robotic arm and it lifted him off his feet and traveled with great speed along a central track and placed him into the next available Drop chute of the forward Starboard Drop battery.
Many arms like this one, rushed back and forth, performing a mechanical high speed ballet only machines were able to do, bringing more marines from the Hot Standby deployment zone and stuffing them into Drop Chutes.
Gunny Dunn, performed a suit check. He was wearing a SII-Destroyer Main Battle Suit Mark XI, more commonly known the Galaxy over as a Quasimodo.
Marines called their suit systems Mamma, because if you took care of Mamma; she took care of you.
“Mamma, Pre-Drop System Check.”
“Mamma, Online, commencing Pre Drop Suit Check. Nano-Bio Gel layer intact, Auto Doc online, stocked and operational. Warning, Neuro connectors ping commencing in 5 seconds.”
Mamma warned him about sending a neural feedback pulse through all the neuro connectors of the suit. This short but intense reflex impulse agitated almost every muscle in his body and made him twitch like he had touched a live energy socket.
Some marines never learned to get used to the Neuro Ping and hated that moment, some loved it and took it like the start signal before a big race or sporting competition. Robert got used to it all right but he never learned to like it, even though it meant that his suit was now fully integrated into his body and even the most minute movement was translated instantly into the Battle suits synthetic muscles. Six Billion miles of microscopic thin Mylo-Mylar-Nano carbon strands woven and wound into fire hose thick synthetic muscles attached to a Neutronit-Ultronit foam Exoskeleton.
It all was covered from head to toe with 5 millimeter hexagon shaped scales made of Molecule compacted Ultronit, individually molecular bonded to thin layer of Intelli-Fab, making the suits skin into a highly flexible, yet almost indestructible barrier. On top of that followed 260 pieces of semi rigid armor pieces, interlocking, augmented and articulated.
It all meant that he could move this 8 ton battle suit with the precision of a Lavatian watch maker, with the speed of a martial arts master and with the grace of a French Ballet dancer. A Marine wearing one of these could pick up a raw egg, or lift a 60 ton landing tank with equal ease; walk across the surface of virtually any planet, fight in almost any environment known to science and enforce the will of the Union Assembly where ever it was needed.
Highly advanced Shield emitters could engulf his suit with three layers of soap bubble like iridescent purple shimmering Para Dim shields at a eye-blinks notice.
Through the main wet-link neuro connection a dedicated battle computronic transmitted not only battle field data, target information and communications directly to his brain, it also assisted and elevated his reflexes and reaction abilities to machine speed.
Mamma’s soft female voice kept going over each check point, while he did a manual check on his offensive systems. Two chain fed mass accelerator cannons mounted in twin configuration, one on each shoulder. These babies had their origin in the ancient Gauss Rifles the first Space Marines carried into battle. These MACs accelerated plutonium slugs to 99 percent light speed. The relativistic mass created by 6 grams of Plutonium impacting at this speed with a few thousand tons of kinetic energy, and that 12 times per second if necessary.
On his back, in the hump of his suit; the reason these suits were called Quasimodos; was the suit’s main weapon, a Translocator Cannon with a 5 shot Micro load magazine.
This was but one of the many weapon systems available to him, most of them were built into the suit, like wrist guns, finger beamers, mine dispensers and micro missile launchers. However studies had shown that an external independent weapon was preferred by most soldiers as it added versatility and an extra suit independent weapon system.
This was the reason he also carried the SII-TKU Mark 19 Plasma Rifle with a 5 gauge Grenade launcher and Chain Sword attachment, the standard infantry weapon of choice for the United Stars Marine Corps. It was a relatively old system and was with the Corps for over 150 years since the introduction of the Mark 1 in 4780, and the Mark 19 still looked more or less like the old Mark 1 with only minor improvements or changes. Dunn preferred the “Sitku” over everything else, even though he did have a choice of several other systems he could have selected during the Suit Up Sequence, including the Fafnyr SII TKU gatling or the Feuersturm 4500 Chain fed Heckler & Koch Raketen MK.
Technically of course the Sitku had nothing to do with a chemical slug thrower and there was no rifling in the barrel parts of this weapon, but this weapon linked Marines to over 3000 years of Rifle man tradition and because of this, it was still called a rifle.
That the weapon had more firepower than a division of early Astro Marines complete with tanks and artillery was a fact Robert could not really relate to, as he had no idea what kind of weapons Marines carried when Earth became a space faring civilization. It simply was something they always said when they handed out these babies.
Mamma said. “Pre-Drop Check complete. System at 98.87 percent.”
“Mama what causes the one point thirteen drop from the expected 100?”
“The left gauntlet finger control has a seven nano second reaction delay, with a probability of a data trunk damage in the left suit arm. Do you want to abort the drop and receive a replacement unit?”
No Marine had to drop if he felt his equipment was not up to specs and no one would have held it against him if he asked to see a Black Smith, but that meant he missed the first wave drop.
Mamma assured him that the problem could be fixed by Suit Nanites as soon as he had dropped. So he opted to drop and called the status of his suit into Command Net with the Good and all Green message.
The robotic arms zipping back and forth, Marines called “Jar stuffers”, deposited a marine into a deployment chute right across his own and his suit systems recognized the otherwise invisible markers on the other marines suit and identified the man as Human Terran, Private Harry Boscoe.
He had met the kid just this morning, fresh and green as can be right out of boot camp and shipped out for the first time past Union Space.
Even if Robert could have seen through the completely opaque face plate of Private Boscoe’s Quasimodo that was seamlessly integrated into the rest of the suits dark gray color scheme and transparent only from the inside; all he would have seen was the bright blue and finger thick bio-slime that covered every Marine wearing a battle-suit from head to toe, like a second skin.
That blue goo was perhaps the real reason why Union Battle Suits were the very best in the known Universe. The goo did not only act as frictionless padding, allowing a Marine to wear that suit for many months if necessary, absorbing impact shocks the Arti Gravs could not handle and recycle sweat, body waste and every dead skin flake; it also acted in concert with the Auto Doc and provided medical treatment. The bio slime kept temperatures at perfect levels. A marine was never too hot or too cold. It instantly sealed wounds and kept any wound trauma to the absolute minimum.
The S.L.I.M.E was more or less the same stuff Med Techs used in their Re-Gen tanks. The Blue Slime could, if necessary assist the Auto Doc and regrow limbs, bones and basically keep a marine alive even if sixty percent of his body had been vaporized.
The Blue Slime had a few other benefits as well but like the Neuro Ping, it was a thing you had to get used to.
As soon as the Suit was ready to be sealed the slime deployed out of small openings inside the suit and then crept and crawled like a living thing, warm and moist, all over you and entered every orifice. Newbies often panicked when the slime crept into their nostrils, forced itself inside the mouth, into ears and over their faces and eyes. Robert no longer really noticed it.
“Private Boscoe, did you perform a Pre-Drop?”
“All 100 percent Sir.”
“Good to hear. Did you slime up alright?”
“Yes Sir, just completed.” The Private could not completely hide the uneasiness in his voice.
Robert had the individual icons representing his platoon troops, transmitted right into his retina and could access a wealth of data from each of his marines. Boscoe’s suit showed green and so did the vitals of the rest of his platoon.
According to his read out, Private Boscoe’s psych status was elevated but well within parameters. A seventeen percent increase of the young marines respiration rate, combined with elevated heart rate and increased Adrenalin production was to be expected during a first Action Drop. Brain Wave patterns were also within expected regions. The brain regions responsible for emotions such as fear, just a notch above Orange. Robert could see the same data on everyone of his men. Corporal Whitesheet next to him was almost asleep, completely relaxed, listening to Ult harmonics, that Quadiped was only on his fourth drop.
Robert keyed into Boscoe’s suit audio and said. “No reason to be nervous, this is going to be easier than the live fire drops you did in boot camp.”
“But we are dropping on the Noghlers right?” The slightly agitated voice of the Private said.
“Yup, big nasty twelve meter tall sentient Bios, with the latest Kermac battle armor. Tough motherfuckers they are. Still no reason to worry, Private. Do you know why?”
“No Sir, I heard they are quite aggressive and dangerous.”
“Because we are dropping on Glher, their home world. It’s their last planet. We kicked their huge ceramic armor covered asses from twelve worlds. We’re Marines, there isn’t anything tougher and more dangerous out there. Besides you are now with Bravo Company 2nd Platoon, the Master Blasters. Our Platoon leader is Lt. Roy Masters, the toughest SOAB you ever going to meet this side of the Orion Arm. He’s from Green Hell.”
“Yeah heard, but where is he?”
A voice interrupted them both. “I am already down here, advanced Recon and I really could use some help down here. Yes I am from Green Hell, but my mother is a famous scientist and I will pretend not to have heard your last comment, Gunny.”
Red lights started to rotate and loud speakers blared . “Drop-Drop-Drop-Deploy!”
Robert’s suit automatically moved into drop position with arms close to the body and the chute door closed with a metallic clang.
There was half a second of complete darkness and then it felt as if a giant’s invisible hand had taken hold of his feet and yanked him with great force and speed through a short pipe filled with blue sequenced pulsing lights into open space.
Below him was the immense sight of a brownish red planet with a few wispy white bands of clouds and dirty looking oceans.
He and the rest of Bravo Company, including 2nd platoon accelerated head first towards the first layers of atmosphere.
The Stryker was only one of 200 drop ships in orbit around the hostile world, and they all started to deploy.
Through the retina-linked visual sensors, increasing his natural field of view by 60 percent to each side without even moving his head, he noticed the heavy weapon impacts into the shields of their own Drop ship , the USS John Stryker.
He silently cursed the Noghler surface defense batteries as they fired accelerated antimatter loads into the swarms of descending Marines and the fast flashes of Kermac Line Cannon fire coming from below.
Marines doing an orbital drop were small and hard to hit targets, and their shields and armor was second to none, but planetary defense batteries designed to take on space ships could ruin a marine’s otherwise perfectly good drop, especially if it was a direct hit. He noticed seven icons on the Company level board turning red and three more blink out in rapid succession. Red meant severe damage and the three lost icons re-appeared a heart beat later on the casualty list. Three of damage icons belonged to his Platoon.
He pressed his lips together as he knew all three men who had just died, good lads of 1st platoon and made sure everyone was moving at max speed, with the random course deviator program activated, that shifted marines into unpredictable quantum patterns and gave orders to deploy Rescue Cerbs to retrieve the damaged and wounded Marines.
Force fields automatically took on the best aerodynamic shape as they penetrated the first layers of the planet’s atmosphere. Like thousands of glowing shooting stars, trailing superheated air molecules, Union Marines rained in on the home planet of the Noghler,
Robert’s targeting system identified a series of surface batteries, he aimed his shoulder cannons and switched to triple burst, while he gave a mental set of instructions to his Hump TL with the re-materialization coordinates for the micro loads he sent them inside the death dealing turrets below.