“Raven-Zero-Zero that was one smooth landing, welcome home soldiers.” Said the Embry Base air control captain. “How’s she handle Gridley?” asked an excited voice through the tac/com in their ears. Marcus could hear at least four other voices in the background all asking questions.

                “She’s a bit lumpy but the new girl’s got a lot of potential.” Said the pilot with a chuckle. “She just needs a bit of TLC before we get her to handle properly.”

                “Just a shame that you never learnt to handle a woman then I suppose.” Joked one of the other pilots. Jumping from the Raven Marcus’s legs burned with a savage pain, What you get sitting on your ass all day. Rolling his limbs in their sockets Marcus looked around a sight that had become so familiar to them that it was almost like a second home, Embry Military Base, also known as ‘Hells gateway.’ Because this was the place where the rooks left as soldiers, and landed into all sorts of shit. Even as Marcus watched dozens of awestruck young faces exited the barracks or whatever exercises they were doing to watch his team assemble behind him. the barracks were plain deep gray buildings with reinforced roofs to protect the sleeping gears from the weather, there were twelve barracks in all aligned in three rows of four. The rest of the huge space was taken up with imitation training grounds, rifle fields, grenade fields, assault courses and lastly the gym. The most popular area after the barracks.

                “Is there something in my teeth?” asked an unfamiliar voice from inside of the Raven. A blonde man with a set of bright blue tinted welder’s goggles over his forehead was hanging from the wall bar before dropping two foot to the ground. His face was as fresh as his COG armour with high cheekbones and piercing blue eyes.

                “You’re Baird?” asked Marcus.

                “No I’m Santa Clause.” said Baird, a smile not even breaking across his face. “You’re Marcus?” He didn’t answer. “Sorry still don’t like men.”

                “Think your funny don’t you?” said Tai looking like he was about to tear Baird’s head from his shoulders.

                “I have my moments.”

                “Enough all of you!” shouted Bernadette. She looked behind them all with a worried expression. Marcus turned to see a huge hulking mass lumbering towards the chopper. Major Hoffman was a huge man whose COG armour only added to his intimidation factor, not to mention that Marcus had seen several COG veterans crumbled beneath his iron hard gaze. At sixty five he was one of the oldest, still active, COG soldiers. A master tactician and a brilliant leader he commanded his squads with an iron fist. Hoffman was a stereotypical soldier, broad, with a short back and side’s hair cut and all the charm and personality of a corpse. “Good morning Major.”

                “Good morning Sergeant, nice to see you all made it home alive.” His voice was harsh with a strong southern accent.

                “I told you my team was the best.” Said Bernadette proudly.

                “So you did... Fenix!” barked Hoffman.

                “Yes sir.”

                “I just wanted to give you my commiserations,” Hoffman looked suddenly shy and confused. “Your mother was a good woman.”

                “Really? I wouldn’t know.” Said Marcus coldly. It hurt him to say it, but only because he knew it was true. Hoffman flushed horribly before moving away from him.

                “I just came here to tell you that after your leave Command has an assignment for you to do, nothing serious, scout and spy.”

                “I’m sensing a catch,” whispered Baird.

                “OK...” said Bernadette carefully.

                “We’ll talk about it later Sergeant.”

                “There it is.” Whispered Baird again.

                “But before all that you’ve all been assigned your duties here, Fenix and Kaliso, you’re to train the rooks in basic training. Everyone else will be broken up into specialised teams to teach the more advanced training methods.” Said Hoffman before promptly saluting and then walking away from them back towards an awaiting truck.

                “Great, basic training,” said Marcus. “Bottom of the fucking barrel.”

                “Not really, it is with our training Marcus that these people will become beautiful warriors. What we will teach them will become the foundation of their military lives, we have an important job.” The whole group stared at the tall hunter. This was the reverse side of Tai’s personality, his people were very philosophical and Tai was above and beyond. Marcus actually found it refreshing, knowing that there was always another way to look at life.

                “Suppose.” Said Marcus with a shrug.

                “When do we start Sarge?”  Asked Carlos.

                “Go home, get a shower and get changed, training starts today.” said Bernadette as she watched Hoffman’s truck disappear down the long road leading to the rest of Jacinto.


Marcus and Tai stood at the head of a huge platoon of new rooks, all stood to attention with their hands placed tightly around their backs. Some looked excited, most nervous and a few like they couldn’t care less. They all wore their plates with their helmets by their feet. As for the other members of his squad, Carlos and Carmine had taken the more advanced rooks into an abandoned warehouse across the square for a training day in hand to hand combat and urban fighting, whilst Bernadette had taken the other half of the newest rooks for survival training. “Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the COG army!” shouted Marcus. “Today we’ll be taking you through basic training of your armour and weapons, by the end of today you will know the name for each plate from your head to the tips of your fucking toes! You will know how to use your rifle, how to reload and how to clean it! You will learn how to throw a grenade properly! You will learn how to fire your rifle accurately! You will learn how to become a gear!”

“Around each of your necks,” continued Tai. “Hangs a symbol of your country, your fellow warriors,” Tai pulled at the chain around his neck and his COG tags jumped out from behind his chest plate. The two metal cogs glinted in the sunlight like two tiny stars. From a small container hooked onto his belt Tai pulled out several more COG tags...the tags of his fallen squad members. “There are fifty of your here, in a squad there is a Keeper of the dead. They are in charge of keeping alive the memories of their fallen warriors, I am a Keeper, statistically ten of you will become keepers. When a warrior falls, collect these tags. They are a symbol of brotherhood, of bravery, a symbol that you must earn.” The rooks looked suddenly sombre and thoughtful, like they had only just realised that most of them were going to die. “Now all of you sit down.”

“Except you!” said Marcus pointing to a tall thin young man with spiky black hair and deep emerald eyes. “You come here, you can be our model.” The group laughed slightly. “And put on your helmet.”  The rook did as he was told before moving to stand next to Marcus. Tai drifted back and stood by the edge of the sitting platoon. “Now the standard COG plates,” began Marcus pointing to the rook’s chest plate. “Made of reinforced tritanium over a carbon fibre bi-weave, this stuff will stop most things including a punch,” Marcus hit the rook with the back of his hand across the chest at half power, but it was still enough to knock the air from his lungs. The rook staggered back a few paces before recovering and returning to his place. “And a sudden shock.”

In one swift movement he threw the rook to the floor. The other recruits winced in sympathy for their comrade as he carefully got back to his feet, “Good man.” Said Marcus impressed with the young man’s resilience.

“Thank you sir.” He coughed.

“The plates are partially automated, which means that they actually increase your natural abilities, making you faster, stronger, more acrobatic and more resilient to damage. Now the plates consist of four main parts, the helmet, chest plate, arms and legs. Armour is strongest on the chest, weakest on the legs meaning your vital organs are mostly protected but it doesn’t sacrifice mobility by bogging down the legs. So we’ll start from the top down. The helmet, now depending on your speciality there are three main types of helmet. You are all equipped with the standard issue helmets so we’ll go into the others later. These come with a re-breather filtering system for fighting in dusty urban areas or in the jungles, eyes covered with smart glass that allow you pick out movement more accurately, in built microphones and ear pieces that best allow you to use the tac/com,”

“What’s tac/com?” asked a young woman at the front.

“We’ll get to that.” said Tai quickly.

“Finally each helmet has an inbuilt tracker allowing any gear to know the general direction of the rest of their squad, on the inside of the helmet a heads up display can be created showing the direction of your squad and your primary objective.”

“If they’re so good why does only one member of your squad use one?” asked a huge muscular rook near the middle of the group.

“They have their cons...”

“Like?” asked the rook again. Tai shot a worried glance to Marcus.

“Narrowed field of vision makes it harder to spot snipers, added weight and they’re pretty much useless when it comes to gun fire.”

“Really? The COG trainers we had before said they could withstand sniper fire.” Said the rook cockily.

“Did they really...” Marcus looked at Tai who grinned and nodded. “Throw me your helmet rook.” The rook followed his order and tossed the spinning green helmet through the air like a huge Frisbee. Barely letting the helmet rest in his hand Marcus threw it high above his head, quicker than a flash Tai drew his gun from across his back and a single gunshot cracked the air like a hammer breaking stone. The rook stood beside Marcus caught the helmet, holding it in his hands carefully he looked awkwardly towards the arrogant rook. Two clean circular holes had cut through the armour like it wasn’t even there; add to that that Tai had shot the helmet between the eyes...That really drilled the point home. Throwing the useless helmet back to the rook Marcus carried on his training as if nothing had happened.

“Now...tac/com. Every gear has an ear piece that allows them to communicate with any other gear within one hundred miles. It also lets them speak to COG Command or more commonly COG Control from anywhere in the globe. Tactical Communication...tac/com. And I just happen to know that the newest operators are being trained in a building forty miles from here, so, when wanting to call firmly down onto the ear piece,” said Marcus prompting the others to follow his lead, they all did. “And say clearly...Control!”

“Copy Embry Base this is Control...” said a soft woman’s voice through his ear.

“Damn...she’s got a sexy voice!” the rook beside Marcus said pressing the tac/com so far into his ear Marcus was worried he might lose it.

“Thank you...I suppose.” Said the operator awkwardly. Even behind his helmet Marcus could tell the rook was blushing.

“Sorry ma’am.” He whispered.

“Its fine,” said the operator with a small chuckle.

“Now every operator is usually given five different squads, they’re in charge of relaying orders and messages from the gears in the field to Command back here and vice versa. They are your life line...if you need ammo call control, if you need reinforcements call control, if you want a letter to get back to your control.” Said Tai removing his hand from his ear.

“Thanks control...Embry base out.” said Marcus cutting the link. “Any questions? the chest plate...”

The End

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