Private Colcheck was in his quarters, getting out his armour and pondering his doom. He wasn’t huge on pessimism, but he was strong on realism. And realism told him survival was no longer an option. He wanted to believe it would be like the Vidgames, that they would fight bravely and heroically and the cavalry would rush in to save them from the jaws of defeat. But of course that would never happen; no admiral with any sanity would risk a task force to save a few hundred thousand marines. Admiral King was fighting this ludicrously impossible fight just long enough for the evacuation to successfully escape, then he and whatever ships were left, if any were left, would also flee the inevitable carnage. Then as the last Seaportian ships escaped, the League vessels would remove any troops still on the ground, power up their fenton weapons and fire. The intense heat set to the right settings would soon set the very atmosphere itself on fire. The gases would ignite, blanketing the whole planet in a layer of super heated flame. The atmosphere, the very thing which kept them safe from all the horrors of space would become their death. And they couldn’t do anything about, the air speeders would explode as the heat washed over them, the armoured tanks would erupt, and then melt into the scorched and charred ground, the fighters would likewise explode in midair, and the soldiers, the soldiers would all die. Either burnt to oblivion, vaporized by the sheer heat or if any survived the heat, they would be killed by the sudden loss of atmosphere and pressure and get brutally mutilated by the black vacuum of space.
No, I won’t think of this, he told himself. It’ll only do harm. But then again, it couldn’t do anymore harm than having his body fused to the slagged ground. He shook his head, trying to clear the grim thoughts of his inevitable death. Don’t worry, you get killed by that, he assured his shaking mind. No, the Thrals will tear you apart long before. He slumped down on his bunk, sweating cold bullets. The final horror of the fact he and all his friends on the platoon were doomed to die was really sinking in now. He would die, and he would die a million light years from home, murdered by sadistic aliens. In fact, this was probably how the entire population of the Confederation would die. He and all of the frontlines soldiers knew the truth about the confederations dire situation. Despite the Central Naval Intelligences propaganda claiming that the League was being pushed back on all fronts, they knew the truth.
Their fleets, now matter how well lead, usually needed a three to one advantage over the League in order to win, and even then it was a hollow victory, often with eighty percent losses or more. Usually more. No matter the tactics and strategies used, they couldn’t deal with the superior weaponry of the League. That blasted fenton which burned through shields like fire through tissue paper! While they fared well enough on the ground, decimating the League armies, they just couldn’t handle the more important aspect of the war, controlling the space around the planet! Once the league finished off the Seaportian fleets they could simply pick off the ground forces at their leisure, or open up with their main weapons and ignite the atmosphere and finish the bloody job all the quicker. One of the worse things was that no one, not even CNI knew the cause and the intent of the League. From what they could tell, it appeared that the Leagues were species supremacists, believing that no species other than them was worthy of space flight or technology, believing the humans should be either dead or slaves to the master race. But this was just information gleamed from tapped transmissions or captured prisoners who didn’t know much anyway.
Colcheck lay on his bunk; these thoughts are swarming around his head like bees swarming around their hive. He was going to die; there was no doubt about it, but how? That was the one hundred credit question now circling his brain. Burnt to vapour by League ships from high altitudes, blown down in combat by Thrals, head popped open by a sniper, or maybe stuck by a Farrel assassin. Those were just a few of the possibilities on how his life would be cut short. He had always thought that when he enlisted, if he died, it would be in a glorious last stand, over a mountain of his enemy’s dead bodies, or maybe in some heroic action, like sacrificing his life to save a city or maybe the whole planet. He had always figured he would be a hero, someone who’s name would be etched in the pages of history in a big glowing golden font. He’d be the legendary hero kids would ask to be told about time and time again, then being shocked when finding out he was real, that all his glorious and heroic acts were ten times better than the stories said, and no holofilm would be able to do him justice. He would have funds, and charities and all of that sort of stuff named after him, the James K. Colcheck Humanitarian Society. Yeah, that had a nice ring to it. There would be holofilms, programs, weapons, machines, ships, planets and countless children all named after him.
But know he realized, he would not go out in a heroic action, or in a glorious last stand. No, he’d most likely; actually he’d most definitely die in his sleep, or shot in the back, or from far off ships burning the whole planet to slag. This drove the weight of despair even deeper into his already aching heart, it felt like he’d swallowed a bowling ball. Aw man, who was I kidding? Me? A hero? Yeah that’s a good one for sure. I’m a gamer, not a soldier. Heroic death, yeah right. I’ll probably get shot in the face begging for mercy!
Yep, he was getting more sure by the second that his inevitable death would be insignificant, worthless. No one would take about it, no one would write about it. There would be no movies, no games, no funds, nothing would be named after him. Why would they? He was just a marine, a dumb grunt troopers about to be fed into a meat grinder. Yep, he was doomed. Plain and simple. He rolled over on his bunk and checked the small digital clock imbedded in the wall. 1250, five minutes until they had to report back to the lieutenant. Time for him to stop drowning himself in self-pity and get ready. He flung his legs over the side of the bunk, and sighed. He clutched his face in his hands for a moment, and then pulled them off and scooted himself over to the end of his bunk. He dialled in a quick personal code on a small panel in the side of the bunk, and moved his leg out of the way as a large drawer shot out of the siding. The drawer was actually a locker for his gear, including his armour and weapon. He pulled out the chest pieces first, a simple affair of a plate to fit snugly over his torso coloured drab olive green, and a back piece which was more complicated. It looked like another armour plate to cover the upper half of his back, but instead of a featureless surface like its torso companion, it had a bulge mounding out of the upper middle portion of it, with some pieces of machinery visible. This was the shield generator, a device capable of wrapping the wearer in a form-fitting layer of hardened energy designed to absorb kinetic force and absorb and reflect energy blasts.
The two pieces fit together via metal straps which were attached to each piece as to go over the shoulders and touch similar straps on the other plate, which then magnetically locked together. This was the same for similar straps placed at the bottom of the torso as it efficiently lock the wearer in the armour piece. He fitted the twin pieces together and heard them connect and lock with a metallic click. Next he fitted on a smaller piece of armour in similar design to the torso piece, but this smaller piece provided some protection to the abdomen. With this part fitted to him, he turned his attention to limb protection. Plates and guards with were attached to the forearm, upper arm, shoulder, shins, and thighs. These pieces only protected the front part of the body part they were designed for, so the back parts of these limbs were more vulnerable than the front.
Next came the helmet, the second most advanced part of the armour suit. The helmet fully enveloped the wearers head, coming down the back of the wearers neck and curling up as to go right underneath the wearers ears. The face was fully exposed, except for a visor which extended from the helmet and in front of the eyes. On the inside of this visor right in front of the users eyes, data was shown. This was the Tactical View Display, or the TVD for short. It showed the users bio-stats, shield strength, weapon charge and a motion scanner which detected any type of movement created by a life form over the weight of one hundred pounds. It would also show NAV markers if needed, incoming orders from commanders, and other valuable battlefield intelligence. Now that his armour was on, he checked the clock again. 1255, good, he still had some time. He booted up the armour power system, and his TVD flared to life before his eyes. His vitals pulsed in front of him, and his motion tracker started giving out readings, showing him the movement of fellow marines nearby. He shoved his arm behind him and started feeling over the shield generator, searching for the switch to activate it. His probing fingers stumbled over a small switch, which he quickly pushed.
There was pause, then a sound like air popping over him. A sensation like static electricity rolled over him causing him to shiver. In the corner of his TVD, the shield bar flickered, and then slowly filled like a glass of water. He tested it himself, touching his arm. His fingers stopped millimetres from his armour plate; the air seemed to flare silver. Yep, they were working all right. Satisfied with his equipments conditions, he reached back down into his locker and grabbed his firearm. A plasma carbine, though it’s technical name was the FA36 Direct-Energy Based Individual Combat Weapons System. It fired bolts of compressed superheated ionized gas at a rapid speed in a semiautomatic mode of fire as to avoid overheated the weapon. It had a range of one hundred yards, though it was best to use at fifty yards or less. After one hundred yards, the rounds would loose their form and dissipate into gas and float off. Its battery had enough power to fire eighty shots before it needed to be replaced, so it was hard to run out of rounds for it. A formidable weapon, its close range efficiency was made even better so by the addition of an energy bayonet, a sixteen inch long blade of plasma compressed in upon itself via a magnetic bubble until it was solid. He tested it, activating it for a moment.
The small handle-like attachment on his weapon sprouted the blade, a white hot sizzling shaft of plasma sixteen inches long. With his shields off for now, Colcheck could feel the heat radiating off of the weapon, enough to make him start sweating. Satisfied it was working, he flicked it off and watched it power away. His face cooled off quickly as the beads of sweat interacted with the air and became a cool, refreshing liquid. He checked his clock again, 1259. It was about time he made his appearance. Grabbing his carbine, he used the electro-magnetic clasps on the weapon to clip in vertically to the left side of his back armour, then made sure everything was on right, and then he popped open the hatch to the outside and started making his way down the latter, making sure of course to seal the door behind him.
He flung his body down the stainless steel rungs of the ladder, making sure not to step on anyone below him. All around him he could see other members of the 204th platoon likewise getting out of their abodes and clambering down the ladders to the concrete parade ground below. The complex he was in was quite a rather vast place, a concrete structure not unlike an enormous bunker one hundred feet from ground level shaped like a rectangular prism. In the centre was the concrete parade ground were soldiers from the various platoons making up the division would march about, do routine inspections and that sort. Surrounding the parade ground was a layer of small, metal rectangular units which were each soldiers personal quarters. Each was fifteen feet long, five feet high, and had a bed, tiny refrigerator, small sink with a faucet, and a small toilet which retracted into the wall when not in use. Naturally officers had larger quarters with more features. Built in coffee makers, small holovisions, personal computers, and some even had an automatic food service. Of course no one was usually in their quarters. Except for personal time and nigh time, the marines would be out engaging in various sorts of drills, exercises and parades.
These personal quarters were stacked fifteen high in a manner as so that each stack had all of the small doors lined up in a vertical way. In-between each stack was a trio of metal ladders all facing downwards. Some other bases had experimented with gravity lifts to ferry men up and down, but the problem with that concept was that grav-lifts could only go one way at a time, while the ladders allowed more flexibility, letting soldiers go up and down and switch ladders to get out of another’s way.
After this layer of personal quarters came the final layer of rooms and facilities before the wall which separated the complex from the outside air. In this final ‘skin’ were offices for officers and other personal of importance, exercise facilities, cafeterias, libraries and recreational facilities among other things. Then of course was the labyrinth of underground tunnels which was home to armouries, vehicles, equipment, and the central command centre, the ‘brain’ of the facility which was connected to other command centres of all the other likewise constructions of the planet.
Colcheck had reached the bottom rung which now left him with a five foot drop from his position to the cement floor. He let go and fell towards the ground, landing with a heavy grunt as his armoured knees bent automatically to absorb the kinetic force fired up into his body by the impact.
(Authors note: Chapter five is a WIP, and will be finished soon)