The Lightening Armada flew in close to the moon along the dark side to shield it from Terran scanners. After executing the sling around the white orb and closing the final distance to the planet, the crew has been on Alert: Launch Ready Only status. The captain barked across the COMS to initiate final checks on all warfare and defensive systems. Djax closed his eyes and gripped the X-15 Pulse Cannon locked onto his Combat NAV suit.
Lords, how he hated these moments. All that he ever did and knew and was, condensed into the final seconds before launch when everything afterwards was chance and luck and, in many ways, already settled by those brain warts at USCXD when they set up the battle plan.
Intel man. Intel is everything and if they missed something, like a stealth division or subsurface bunker loaded with goons, then launching 10,000 hot assault mutts down to Terran won’t matter a lick. Then everything he was ends in a zap of laser coils and he’d be stardust.
But no one really asks for Djax’s opinion much. They just hand him the assault map with its rally points and supply dump locations, and tell him to gear up, so he gears up because what else is there? This whole cycle is about fighting the fight, so tar all the rest and load up.
COMS blast again with the call that launch sequence has begun. Djax tries to ignore an itch below his neck armor caused by sweat that’s trickling down to his back and filling his tin can suit with humidity. He’s just a hot box of itches and smiles right now, this boy. He starts breathing fast and shallow, getting worked up and trying to focus on the metal hanger door ahead of him, but this just triggers a small jingle in his ear from his BioSense monitoring system, indicating danger from increase in his heart rate. Bloody tar, all of it.
Djax runs a mental list through his gear since enumerating items eases his breathing. One X-15 Pulse Cannon. Four inversion grenades, which create hyper dense point around the target and pull everything in the immediate area into it. Nasty sort, they are. Instead of creating a debris field and shrapnel, they consolidate all the matter into the implosion range, including the target. Good for close quarters. Zeolite Phase Pistol, the preferred sidearm of all assault mutts because of their target lock capabilities and the cross-use Ion Charge Stack, which can be swapped out to power other equipment in a pinch. Don’t want to get stuck on Terran without any juice. DPS, his Dense Particle Shield, which hovers a half a meter in front of him when activated and can absorb most light to medium pulse weapons and some hard matter, at full charge. Also fueled by an Ion Charge Stack, but this uses four that are stored in a forearm armor compartment.
Clunk. The release hydraulics are engaging.
A red caution light is spinning on the ceiling above him indicating that all personnel who are not strapped in better strap in, get out, or get voided. His ear alarm tingles again indicating increased heart rate. Djax’s training takes hold and he slows his rhythms and stares ahead as a line of bright white appears from the hanger door and begins moving up on each side — the door is opening into the maw of space.
Lights flare up across his console as systems alert him to the vacuum and read outs show all greens across as team leads auto-sync final nav and formation instructions into his SMaRT PAc. The hanger door finally stops the painfully slow ascent and the red spinning light is now paired with a blinking yellow light by the hanger opening, its pace accelerating until it becomes a solid tone of color. Then above that, a green light starts the same routine, pulsing then rapidly flashing until finally it stays a solid tone. Ear chatter explodes over his squad COMS and his bracing clamps disengage. Djax and seven others in armored, sealed Combat NAV suits release towards the opening, four meters apart from one another until the reach the end of the bay where then their Accelerators fire in unison and they speed down into the Terran atmosphere. Djax wants to let out a war whoop but his face is pushed back against the G forces and his stomach is rebelling. Everything is shaking since he doesn’t have enough mass to achieve descent stability. If it wasn’t for the auto pressers releasing into his veins right now through his suit’s STIM Port, he would black out.
One minute. Djax’s HelmRes systems all show green and he can see the status of his squad as they fall beside him. The Chief is of course slightly ahead of them all —brass balls, that one. Falling with his helmet jutted out like a dare to the whole Lords’ forsaken planet.
Two minutes. His accelerators have stopped firing and he is freefalling. The view of continents and sea have broken away to just the land mass they are headed for. On it, Djax can see a range of mountains to the west and a river starting to come into sight. The coast lines still grip the edges of his viewscreen. Systems all green.
Three minutes. Just under 15 kilometers to surface. Warning lights on his system readout pick up incoming micro ballistics, probably flak meant to shred Djax’s squad in the sky. So much for surprise. Squad COMS indicates automatic defensive procedures are underway and Djax feels some pressure from his legs as three countermeasure flares release and fall away at speed in front of him, joined by those from his squad now coming into view.
Two minutes. The countermeasures took out the mircos but the resultant debris field cut into one of his squad mates. Djax can see from his HelmRes that it was Perkins, who reads as still alive but critical systems are offline. If his landing thrusters are damaged, he’ll pancake. Djax and the rest are still on auto flight from the sync’d SMaRT PAc and he can’t perform a manual override in these Gs. Perkins is on his own.
One minute. A huge beam surges down overhead of the squad to formally announce the assault, blasting Terran defensive fortifications in their landing vortex. A little earlier next time, brain warts. Perkins is still online but Djax can’t tell which systems are damaged or if his landing sequence will initiate. Auto COMS are deployed reminding the squad of post-landing formation and first rally point. A countdown begins from seven. Djax is breathing heavily, sweat streaming across his forehead and streaking back into this hair. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Chutes deploy. Reverse thrust clicks on, both combine to jerk Djax upwards, his body pressing again into the molding of his Combat NAV suit. Suddenly the green light next to Perkins flips red. His suit must have failed deceleration.
The Terrans were smoked by the particle beam that just hit them. But there will be more who fill in soon enough. Djax drifts to the surface landing on his feet and hears a long buzz as his chute detaches and his suit switches to manual combat mode, releasing his X-15 Pulse Cannon into his grip and a target articulation appearing over his field of view, with a new read out as his bio scanner engages. One of the squad pulls back their helmet visor and pukes. Chief barks through COMS and six respond. No Perkins. Chief calls for High Arrow formation and the squad moves. Djax can see other groups plunking down nearby and more micros hurtling up to try and stop still more drops.
This war sucks. But moments like this aren’t the best place to mull over philosophical differences in High Earth politics. Djax sets his X-15 Pulse Cannon in assault position and scrambles into formation. He doesn’t know it now, but he’s got more riding on his shoulders than just figuring out the blips in his scanner.