I hate readying for a drop. It's not the drop itself, it's the chance for sudden painful death as the Raider gets into position.
Fortunately us Raider types get the MkII capsules. With the dramatic improvement of Bug targeting after several years exposure to how the MkI got things done, Fleet Research developed the MkII with some added Bug-Baffling Bonuses.
"Corporal Summers," Ollie came up to me as I was strapping my suit in, "You good to go?"
"Yeah Ollie. Hey Jim-Bob! You hot?" I asked.
My fellow shooter nodded and swallowed his dip. I did the same with mine and we shut our helmet faceplates as the capsules hatches slid shut.
There's a period of about a second when the power shifts from the ship to the capsule's fuel cells. During that shift it is completely dark in the capsule with no indicators at all and you are absolutely positively sure that the power is never coming on and then it does and you're ecstatic because you dodged one plasma beam and you can get ready for the second.
My unit specializes in covert drops. We generally sneak into a system behind some debris and coast in on as little emitted power as possible. Captain Maclay is one of the best. She's been ship boss since before I joined Samson's Sabers and she does not screw around with our safety. We, referring to my fellow Troopers, appreciate that, as when it comes to ship stuff we have no control over our futures. On the ground we can deal, but in the ship it's up to the crewdoggies and the Captain.
The lights came on as the fuel cells engaged. I started running through my checklist like I have a hundred times before. Power, atmosphere, propulsion, ECM, ordinance, augmentation, sensors. All in the green. I knew Ollie was running the same list against everyone in the squad and Top would be checking everybody in both squads. I knew this because if I were in their place, that's what I would do. The MI is the sword and Raider units are the very sharp tip of that sword. My HUD lit up with the Selous's passive sensors being ported in to our data feeds. This was a hot world so we didn't dare go active.
"A-Attention. A-Attention," the Captain's distinctive slight stammer came over our audio link. "We are three mikes from insertion. A-All ship's crew to firing positions. Sensors h-have detected a Trigoce Capital ship on farside. We a-are not currently being painted. Estimated response time from that orbit i-is fifteen mikes after detection threshold reached. Chambering now."
There was a loud chunk and vibration as the cylinder loaded the first capsule into the launcher, then the rumbling of the rest of that feed lane cycling forward. Top would be first out as always. After him would come the rest of the beachhead party which would secure our pickup boat's landing zone. 3rd Squad had drawn that detail which meant 4th, including me, was the assault squad on this op.
"Two mikes till insertion," the Captain's voice said quietly. At this moment the hull was being continually sprayed with a synthetic version of Bug cloaking gel which absorbed radar and most other probe signals. She had also aligned the hull to give the slimmest cross-section possible towards planetary and known orbital sensors.
Then came, "Final A-Alignment locked. Firing," there was a 'whang' that echoed through my head as the first capsule was fired, then the next one a second later after the rumble of the cylinder cycling, then the next. After ten launches Captain Maclay came back. "Shifting a-aim for second wave." I got ready as I felt my capsule get rotated into the launch chamber.
Then, "Final A-Alignment locked. Firing," I was first out for 4th Squad as team leader. Mullak was after me, then Lanzo, then Nunez and finally Arkadi. The Captain had lain in a optimum solution as there was almost no wobble as my capsule punched through the thin atmosphere. The low power micro-pulse transmission between the capsule and the Selous measured my rate of descent and altitude so that I would not have to radiate as well as feeding tiny course corrections so I would be hitting my assigned section of the mission drop zone. My detectors hadn't started screaming at me at least which meant I probably wasn't being targeted. That was all to the good because Raider capsules, MkII or not, are not designed to withstand ASAT fire. They're all about not being spotted in the first place to be honest. As if on cue there was a faint hissing sounding through my suit as a precise mix of liquid gases was being ducted towards the surface of the capsule to reduce its thermal signature. As we Raiders can't afford to open our chutes early, (Can you say radar and visual signature?) to reduce drop speed, we have to cool down in other ways. The capsule's onboard supply of gel was being released as well as the coolant and the wobbling got stronger as the atmosphere thickened. The datalink informed me I was heading towards the ground at about a kilometer a second, stealth shapes for capsules tending to reduce atmospheric drag as well and I was about six klicks above ground level, it was easily time to eject.
The capsule peeled like a banana, the side panels and internal fittings turning into a fine powder as the catalyst reacted to the treated monomer. I was still screaming towards the ground when I popped my jump jets and unfurled the reentry drogue. This small balute kept my jets aligned for maximum efficiency while my rangefinder pinged and then fired the braking blast. As usual I was squashed into the shock padding inside the suit as I skimmed across the rooftops finally grinding to a stop.
Looking around I saw I was right on top of my target building with Mullak landing on my right flank. We were the entry team along with Nunez. Lanzo and Arkadi were our security element.
"Ready?" I asked my guys.
"We got your back!" Lanzo squirted back, even as he was helping Arkadi ready her railgun. Mullak had the massive assault cannon out while Nunez and I had our normal rifles. I came to the roof access and kicked it in.
Out of a suit I wear a 6 Woman's. Inside my suit...well let's just say Cinderella's step-sister's were a lot more petite. My 36 centimeter boot pulverized the door, the door frame and the Trigoce guard who was coming up to investigate the noise on the palace roof. Trigoces are not small being about one and a half Corporal Mullak's in height and mass, but a MI suit, even a Scout version like I was wearing, trumps that easily.
"What did she step in this time?"
"A guard," Mullak replied to Lanzo.
We headed down the stairs, or rather jumped down the hollow center space; cutting our jump jets in to land softly at the bottom. The roar of the jets had gotten everybody's attention though.
"Mullak suppress them! Nunez you're with me!" The incredible roar of the rapid fire rocket cannon started up as Mullak walked a burst across the first squad of guards to appear. I was following the glowing caret in my mapping HUD as I ran through the halls, Nunez right behind me the range was closing to our target. The armored door ahead of us collapsed as we both emptied a short burst into it. I dropped and baseball slid into the room shooting upwards as we entered the cellblock. The ceiling turrets were all on fire as I tumbled back to my feet.
"Disable the locks," I called over to Nunez has I dropped the two stories into the heart of the high security block. The blast of the jump jets knocking down the guards who were rushing to shoot at me. I dropped a denial grenade and listened as the razor wires extended on the end of the tiny spearheads and leaving a web of slicy death blocking off the stairway to the upper galleries. Turning and ignoring the sounds of gel riot shot ricocheting off my suit I followed the caret to the secure section where the guards were armed with lethal munitions I smoked them both with a quick pair of shots from my rifle as the locks, over ridden by Nunez's tech skills, cycled open. I was greeted with more shots including from a roof mounted howler turret. That sonic blast could hurt me even through the suit so it had to go before I could finish my work here.
I ran and jumped hard
, which kicked in my jump jets, before shoulder blocking the turret off the high ceiling. I landed in a crouch and began methodically taking out all the prison guards who continued to fire. Of they dropped their weapons I did not return fire. I moved quickly over to the cell in question, "Ambassador! This is Corporal Summers MI, stand clear of the door!"
I looked through the wall with my millimeter wave systems and when she was clear I tore it open, "Nunez I'm making the pick-up!"
I unslung the bodybag and triggered the inflation of the shock pouches, "Climb in ma'am!" I held the opening towards the Terran Ambassador, "We're getting you out now and make sure to put the mouth guard in, it's going to be bumpy!" She nodded and slipped the bite plate in as she squirmed inside. I sealed it up and slung it on my back, "We are leaving now folks!"
"Beachhead receives! Bring the package home!" Top's voice came across loud and clear.
"Assault Support! We are leaving! Nunez plow the road, Mullak keep them back!" I began running back the way I came and triggered a long jump to get myself up to the upper gallery of the cellblock. Nunez was firing away at the heavy weapons troops that had just made their appearance. I swapped the bodybag over with him and drew the short barreled grenade launcher from its storage mount.
As the explosions died away from the twenty round clip we came charging out of the smoke. The Trigoce had good combat armor, but they didn't have suits so they were still picking themselves up from the impromptu bombardment as Nunez and I charged over them heading for the stairwell.
"Corporal Summers," Arkadi called down, "We got incoming armor!"
"Grav or ground?"
"Close enough. Knock down any with anti-air mounts first."
By this time Nunez and I were up by Mullak who was swapping drums on the assault gun, "Ready to go big guy?" I asked. He nodded and fired a long burst while Nunez and I headed for the roof. Once there I switched my snoopers to telescopic and scanned the horizon. There were six flaming hulks in my initial viewing arc, "Nice shooting Trooper. Now pack it up, we are leaving."
Soon we had leaped off the side of the palace and were bounding along on the bounce. Nunez was between Mullak and Lanzo to help protect the armored body bag from stray shots while Arkadi was in the lead and I was in the rear. We had ten kilometers to cover to the beachhead site and a seriously annoyed planetary defense force out for blood. The good thing about Scout suits is that they are fast. At flat out we can travel at almost 300 kilometers an hour in flat clear country. The sad part is we were moving in tight urban terrain and heading towards the Royal Gardens, that being the only place flat enough and close enough that we could land the Selous's pickup boat without the palace defenses turning it to slag on landing or take off. I was getting worried that Captain Maclay would get spotted and our pick-up would be extra rough until I heard over the nav channel...Give us strength to face all danger,
And where challenge is, to dare.
Guide us, Lord, to wise decision,
Ever of Thy grace aware...
Then it was simply a matter of hauling butt through the beachhead's firebase which was now holding off local militia units and scrambling aboard. As usual Top was last on as the drives engaged and we screamed towards space, ECM at full bore.
I popped my helmet and looked over at Ollie, Sergeant Olaf, "Got yours?" I asked. His mission was to grab the orbital defense codes. He nodded and grinned.
It was a good day.BtVS Property of Mutant Enemy....Starship Troopers Property of Robert A. Heinlein