The shuttle bay closed behind him, its steel gates sealing him off from the dark hands of space. Out there he’d suffocate but not before he froze to death. All it took was a little slip up, and it did happen often in the shuttle bays. If one of the locks wasn’t sealed properly, the air wouldn’t pressurize properly and would suck any and all who weren’t nailed down to the floor. They’d lost ten technicians the day before. They were victims of the wrong-place-wrong-time effect. Sometimes he wondered what their final thoughts were. Did they have any other than pure and sudden shock? Did they think about loved ones or did they simply think someone would come out and rescue them? It didn’t matter. They were dead. Gone. Frozen. Beyond their reach and whose bodies would float forever down the hidden channels of space. It wasn’t his job to worry about the dead.
He hadn’t been a cog in the Great Human Fleet for very long. He’d just graduated from basic training which took a mere nine months. The training they went through was incredibly tough. From demanding physical requirements that had to be met, to psychological tests that would break at least one-third of the group in-training. The tests were hard for them all, but those that made it out were permitted to join the human fleet. Once all grunts reached the final month of their training they were given physical enhancements to allow them to run their new battle-suits with very little difficulty. Muscle mass was increased artificially, nano-bots were injected into their blood in order to test blood pressure, heart rate, etc. Once these were injected, they had their vision and hearing enhanced, and finally reflexes were also enhanced. In essence, they created super-soldiers in only nine months. After training, they would be assigned a starship. Each grunt in his school had been assigned to this ship, though he doubted that they’d ever meet up . The fact was, the ship was huge.
The star ship was called the Imperious and it was one of the largest in the whole of the Earth Star Fleet. Galactic Military Operations and Transportation (GMOT) oversaw the production of these star ships. When they created the Imperious they were attempting to build the galaxy’s finest star ship, with high capacity plasma cannons, three rail guns, and a pulse shield that protected the entire ship from small projectiles like meteorites. The ship came equipped with three hundred Venator ships, one hundred Murmillo transport ships, sixty battle-tanks, and seventeen full regiments of infantry. The ship also came equipped with an on-board factory, allowing it to manufacture more fighters, transports, and tanks. The Imperious had an on-board crew of one thousand and sixty souls; each one had a job that donated to the survival of the ship. Along with the crew members, weapons, and vehicles, the ship was given three separate A.I. that assisted in piloting and strategic operations. There was not a single captain, but four. Each one commanded four sections of the ship and would make decisions based on the best possible outcome for the Imperious and her crew. When the GMOT set out to create the greatest ship funded by the entirety of Earth, they had mostly succeeded. What they had failed to take into consideration, however, was updating most of the outdated sealing technologies. The blast doors were fine as they were basically solid hulks of steel that collapsed into a slot in the ground, but the shuttle bay doors were meant to open up in a hexagonal pattern, that way if one of the pieces broke down, smaller star ships could still escape through one of the other holes. The major hangar bays were roughly two kilometers long and one wide. There were twelve squares in the hangar surrounded by white fluorescent lights. Those squares were where the transport shuttles docked. There were an additional four floors to the hangar bay; each one had a rack of smaller attack-class Venator star ships. Some of the other soldiers were curious as to why they simply didn’t just build smaller hangar bays beside the major ones. The reason was obvious, of course; money and time constraints. Even though the government wanted the greatest star ship, that didn’t mean they hadn’t set a designated time for its completion. The star ship was completed just a day behind schedule, on October 24th 2446.
Today was Felix’s first day aboard the Imperious. He’d just stepped off a murmillo transport ship. It was heavily armored, equipped with twin plasma cannons that, while slow to fire, were strong enough to punch a hole in a Venator attack ship with little difficulty. The murmillos opened up with twin sliding doors, once opened the doors would instantly create a small pulse shield to prevent plasma bolts from killing the crew inside. As Felix stepped through the pulse shield, his whole body shivered and the hair on his arms and legs stood tall. There weren’t many things that made him uncomfortable, but stepping through those shields was one of them. He stopped to gaze around the hangar bay.
It was beautiful.
Lines of highly trained warriors were marching up and down, some were wearing full power armor, and others were in standard issue fatigues or PT gear. Their hair was cut short or shaved off, with the latter being the most popular amongst the warrior women of the Imperious. In the far corners Assisted Lifting Carapaces (ALC’s) stacked crates atop each other, usually full of fuel or ammunition. The gargantuan mechs stood twice the size of a man with bi-pedal legs and a matte grey finish. Their hands had three flat fingers with high-power magnets to allow for better handling of the crates. Some pilots were talking in hushed tones over a bunch of schematics on a Vid-Screen. Felix had been so busy taking in all of the excitement in the hangar bay that he hadn’t heard the sergeant speaking to him.
“I said, is that clear soldier?!” He demanded in a tone not unlike that of a barking bull-dog. “Or are you from some little cave and haven’t seen the great powers of metal and plasma? Speak up!”
“Sir, sorry sir!” Felix stood straight up, chin high. “I hadn’t been paying attention, sir!”
“Damn fucking right you weren’t. Get your lily ass to Container C, room eleven. Get moving!”
Felix gathered his gear, a single crate of clothing, two books, and a ovular canteen, then made his way down to Container C. Whatever that was. He hadn’t been told of the unique way the Imperious organized her mighty legions. He’d thought they’d follow basic battalion organization, but instead each group of soldiers was put into a ‘Battle-Group’ of sixty four soldiers. This was further divided up into eight squads of eight. These squads were further divided up into multiple groups of two; these were called ‘Battle-Brothers.” Supposedly this new system allowed for each soldier to form a better relationship with the warrior beside him, they’d grow to trust them, rely on them.
Felix made his way through the winding and twisting halls of the Imperious. The only time these long hallways ended was when there was an elevator that would take him up to another deck of the ship and from there the halls would resume. There was even a tram system aboard the Imperious that ran from the barrack section of the ship to the shuttle bay. Felix had chosen not to take that path because he’d wanted to get himself acquainted to the rest of the ship first before taking the easy route. It was a little trick he’d learned back home. If the trams were shut down he’d be unable to find his way anywhere through these halls. Better take them now than risk being lost aboard the ship when he should’ve been on the battlefield. Sometimes the halls would lead to a dead end with rooms filled with computers or other kinds of hardware. Sometimes the rooms were filled with just a long series of cooling cables that ran along the entire ship to the generators at the back end. Other times there were just empty offices. The issue with building such a giant ship was that you’d have extra rooms with nothing and nobody to put into, so these rooms would just be semi-empty squares; occupied by only a lone desk and a rotting plant. It was a shame these rooms were wasted.
Felix eventually made his way to container C. The room was about fifty meters long, filled to the brim with bunks, trunks, and warriors. The containers were unisex, in wartime discrimination was just a distraction. The men and women of the Fleet had learned in no time to curb any carnal desires they’d once had for the opposite sex. Self-control was key in any public spaces for Fleet troopers. If you proved to be unable to adjust to these conditions and curb any frowned-upon-behavior, you were thrown into a ‘Dead-room’. It cut you off from the rest of your squad and allowed you complete privacy, while this would initially sound like a good thing to any loner, the soldiers in the dead room would be unable to make necessary bonds with his fellows and wouldn’t be able to perform to their maximum effectiveness on the battlefield, which would lead to their inevitable demise. That was why it was called the “Dead-room”.
As soon as the door to container C opened, everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at Felix. He was overwhelmed. So many eyes! All staring at once, some were seeing past him, into him, burning into his skin with every ticking second. But God were their eyes strong. And dead too, Felix thought. Dead because they’ve seen people like me come in and never come out. Dead because they saw their friends get blown out of a fox hole. Dead because they know that they’re as dead as I am. Most of them returned to their duties after a few moments of silence and staring (Those dead eyes!) others continued for a while, measuring him, noticing the hawk brand on his uniform and concluding he’s a standard trooper and weighing his usefulness with each second that passed. They all came to a single conclusion and turned away from him. Not a word was said. Not a word had to be said.
Felix moved to ‘room’ eleven, if it could be called that. The ‘room’ was a little niche cut into the wall with eight bunks lining the wall. There were two soldiers sitting on their bunks pulling things out of ruck sacks or trunks. They both were covered in their share of scars. Felix was caught staring by one of the soldiers. The name on her shirt was ‘ELIZA B’. She was taller than Felix, covered in plasma burns all across her arms and three straight cuts on her left wrist. She hadn’t tried to cover them up. She knew what those cuts meant and, more importantly, she knew that other people knew. She gave him an half-glance before returning to her trunk. The other soldier turned back to face Felix. He was Alex G, according to his name tag. His hair was cut tall and he was bald on the temples. He had a hard cut face with a maze of lines across both cheeks. His eyes were ocean blue. He moved with a profound swiftness, grabbing Felix’s hand before he could even react and pull away and before Felix could utter any words and he could only think that this man should’ve been a scout. He probably was because of his swift movements. When Alex grabbed his hand, he yanked Felix into room eleven, allowing for a group of grunts to pass by him. He hadn’t even noticed he was in their way.
“Get in here, grunt,” he said in a stiff, throaty, voice. “I ain’t got time to hold your hand, see that timer at the front of the room?” Felix glanced at a huge counter at the top of the door that leads into the barracks. “That’s the deployment timer. We around here call it DT. Don’t keep your eyes off that shit. Looking at it now we got about four hours before we have to drop into the fray. Get your equipment out and under your bunk. If you get one of the top bunks than put it beside the ladder. Got it? I don’t give a shit. Get to work.”
Felix hurried, unpacking his gear. His bolter was the last of the equipment out of his pack. It was broken down into three separate pieces, the barrel, which was about a foot long, the folding stock, also a foot long, and the grip. In all, the weapon was roughly three feet in length. The bolter fired steelium rounds with white hot plasma contained inside of it. However there was also a version of bolter that replaced the plasma with concentrated electrical bursts, allowing an armored trooper to deal damage to heavily shielded enemy units. What Felix found amazing was the fact that the bolter was a standard front-line weapon that everyone was issued. It was the framework for the more complicated fire-lancers and sniper rifles, while also being a reliable piece of equipment, the stock of the weapon was fitted with a sharpened spike for melee combat. The bolter was an ugly weapon. The bolter was an effective weapon. The bolter was a killing weapon. Born in the fires of industry, chemistry, and technological understanding, it was a brutal weapon. If Felix weren’t holding the pieces in his hands at this moment, he’d also be unable to believe their construction.
The next thing out of his pack was a standard issue medi-kit, civilian credits, cigarettes, a water canteen, and a combat blade. The combat blade is an oversized version of the ancient KA-BAR knife. The blade was made out of steelium, and made so sharp that it could cut through an armored trooper with relative ease. Still, it was a CQC weapon and would only be used as a last resort. They hadn’t come this far into the future to go back to stabbing each other with swords again.
He placed all of these items in a large chest at the foot of his new bed. The sheets were pale green, the pillow was brick shaped and didn’t look any more comfortable. At the foot of the bed were two small blankets, far too small to even fit his lanky frame. Evidently, they were expected to use both blankets to cover their entire bodies. Felix sat down on the edge of his bed and inspected the rest of his battle brothers. They were all worn, tired, weary. Their eyes were dark sockets and the hair of those who kept it even slightly longer than standard issue buzz cuts was greasy and matted. All of them, Felix saw, were nervous. Some of them had obvious nervous jitters like shaky leg or flexing their hands into fists. A woman named Brittany was huddled up in a corner with absent eyes. Her body was shaking, but not a tear fell down her cheek no matter how much she wished they would. Oh God, what had he been pulled into? How had these people become this way? Ghosts of who they were before they ‘dropped’ onto the battle field.
The squad sergeant finished packing his gear and walked to the head of their niche that created container C. His tall figure seemed to dwarf those of his fellow soldiers. It took a moment for Felix to notice that he wasn’t taller than anyone else (actually he was shorter) he was just standing up tall with his chin held up while the rest of them groveled on the ground or had their knees pulled into their chests. The sergeant inspected his men. Felix didn’t know what he was thinking, maybe disappointment, and maybe anguish at having to send these people back onto the field. Whatever it was, Felix hated him for it. He understood the captain was only following orders, but that didn’t make it right. The sergeant pulled the cigarette out from his pocket, lit it, and took a long drag. His combat boots were strung tight around his camo fatigues. He looked a lot more impressive with a cigarette, Felix thought. Older maybe. Wiser.
The sergeant spoke up in his no-nonsense tone, brassy, and throaty. It immediately caught the attention of container C. “Listen up, bitches,” he said, smoking. “I look at each and every one of you and I ain’t seeing a warrior. You wanna know what I see? Cowards. We’ve all seen shit, I’ve been right there with you the whole goddamn time but that doesn’t mean I’m going to curl up and cry about it. They killed our friends, they killed our sisters, brothers, warriors, they killed everything they could get their greedy claws on and now here we are, at the head of the assault. And you know what I think?” –another drag- “I think we should kill their friends, their brothers, their sisters, and their God. Damned. Warriors.
“Each of those little fuckers hasn’t got anything on the Warriors of container C. Hell, Eliza has bigger balls than those shit-eating bastards. Get off the ground, get out of the corners, and get ready for a war they’ll never fucking forget. Warriors, battle brothers, let’s show them who the real killers are. Aye?!”
“AYE!” A resounding call from the whole container; even a few other troopers beside their container cheered. The sergeant glanced at the clock on the far wall. He smiled, a real killers smile. Pointed teeth and all it seemed. He looked back to his troopers and called for them to get suited up. Each warrior stood up, all of them seemed to be wearing smiles now. They were ready for this. Each warrior got into line, Felix took the end. They left the container.
The walk to the Armory took about fifteen minutes. The bay was outfitted with hundreds of rooms; each one serving out a soldier’s armor class. Snipers took the rooms at the end, demo troops got the rooms to the right, scouts took left, and standard warriors were given the center rooms. Their classes were assigned as soon as they joined the military through a crude sort of lottery, although some were given recommendations from their teachers during training back on Aegis III for particular classes. Felix took the center rooms and was outfitted appropriately.
The armory walls were littered with special attachments for the bolter rifle. Some warriors preferred to throw on scopes or longer barrels for better aim; however each of these parts would weigh down the average soldier or get in the way when they were involved in close quarters combat. The armor itself was in the center, attached to a moving rack.
It was made of steelium, a material that did not glow or shine under the dark lights of the armory. The visor of the helmet wrapped around to his cheeks to give him a full field of vision. Along jaw-line was a pair of tubes that recycled his oxygen and, most importantly, allowed him to smoke by attaching a nicotine tube to a small ovular nodule on the side of the left tube. The armor granted him full protection with heavy pauldrons on either side of his arms. His right forearm was given a small shield for use in melee combat. It could be detached manually and used as a sort of buckler if needed. The chest piece was granted the insignia of the Imperious; two heavy shields on either side of an eagle. The chest piece covered every bit of him until it reached his belly button, where the black under suit could be seen. This was one of the very few weak spots, but was necessary to allow him more mobility. The greaves of the standard warrior armor were the most impressive. They had been given small jump jets on the sides of the feet to give him a speed boost, granted they were much smaller and compact compared to the scout boots. The belt of the armor had twelve clips to attach explosive devices and along the back was a magnetic seal that held his weapon in place.
The armor was popped open, welcoming him with open arms. Felix stripped down, put on a black under-suit that would make a neurological link between him and the suit, stepped into the embrace. Felix felt the cold steelium wrap around his naked body. The armor closed around him. The under-suit locked itself onto the armor and after a few seconds of making connection, the armor was brought online. Felix grabbed a helmet from a nearby rack and put it on, twisted it left, sealed it. The armor became an air-tight vacuum. Felix sat still, in perfect darkness, as the armor recognized the helmet as another part of itself and made connection. After ten seconds, his vital signs flashed green across his visor, telling him he was uninjured.
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