(Rough Draft Monday)Escape from the Free Republic
by Floyd Looney
“Toe the line!” The Sergeant shouted walking up and down the line of new recruits standing at attention in the cargo hold. “That is the number one rule in our beloved Corps! You toe the line! You do not question orders, you do not have a political opinion. Am I making myself clear?”
Up and down the line of sixteen recruits the answer was instant and automatic. “Yes, sir!”
“We are soldiers of the Free Republic. We do not know how to be anything else, only how to be a soldier. We have no opinions, we have no thoughts outside of our job. Even when you are sleeping you are to dream about how to be a better soldier! Is that clear?”
“You have all passed basic. You have all passed the aptitude enhancement barrier. Yet, you are not Marines!,” He told them, “You aren't Marines until you have been tested in combat and you don't shrink from protecting the back of your fellow Marine. Once you truly understand that your lives depend upon each other, you will be able to call yourself a Marine!” The Sergeant told them. “Understood?”
They were all assigned to various units in the ship, once dismissed from this welcome ceremony they might not see each other again. Not all of them at least.
Tom Grier was assigned to the 1st Expeditionary Group. They were always the first ones sent in on the ground. It was a scary assignment, they understandably had the highest death ratio of any outfit in any branch of the fleet. He had known it was a false hope to be near Maggie Anders had been assigned to Command & Control, where the combat operations were monitored by the brass.
They'd always have the alley between Barrack A & B to remember each other by.
“With the war, your orientation period is moot. You will have to fit in and do your duty immediately, the Free Republic is depending upon it!” The Sergeant told them. “You know where your duty stations are, now get. dismissed!”
All sixteen of the new recruits raced to one of the four exits, depending on which better led to their assigned area of the carrier. Tom Grier stopped just briefly to watch for Maggie Anders, the pretty girl with the weird grayish hair. She turned toward him and flashed a smile before moving through the open hatch. Tom felt a tiny bit better as he followed Eric Munger through the hatch, they were both assigned to the same unit.
The Carrier Umbrage was the largest ship in the First Fleet. It was the flagship, command center and home of the space fighter squadron known as Onyx Flight as well as the drop ships of the 1st Expeditionary Group. They double-timed through the corridors and up the ladders from Deck eight to deck six.
“Grier and Munger reporting for duty, sir!” They called out to the Captain in charge. Colonel Lem Nelson didn't look too impressed. He checked the holographic projection above his wrist-com before nodding and pointing down to the far end of the bunks, “Team Four. To the end!”
They noticed that all of the soldiers seem to be getting ready, locking on their battle armor and checking their QBR-44's. When they arrived at the end a First Lieutenant pushed them toward a couple of bunk-lockers and told them “Get suited up!”
They opened the lockers and started taking off the jackets of their dress uniforms.
“This is a bit faster than I expected!” Eric Munger told him, clamping the armored boots over his own and locking them.
“I know, right?” Tom responded. “I can't believe they're going to drop us into a hot zone so quickly!”
Once the chrome suit was on Tom's implanted enhancement logged into the suit and soon it was a part of his own body. The readouts inside of his eyes told him that the suit was fully functional and had no damage at all. Once everything was in place he reached back into the locker and picked up the Quad-Barreled Battle Rifle, known as the QBR-44.
It was massive. Without the powered-suit Tom Grier could not have lifted it. Once he touched it, his enhancement made it a part of himself as well. He and his suit and his rifle were one, just as Marines have been since ancient times.
Tom had been nervous, but he felt totally calm once he had suited up. The fear he might have felt melted away and he now felt... dangerous. The enemy didn't know what was about to hit them, they might as well surrender now.
“Are you ready?” The Captain, now wearing a blue armored suit of his own, asked.
“Yes sir!” The two hundred Marines answered in unison.
“We've got some hunting to do!” The Captain told them.
“Ooh-Rah!” They answered.
“Into the drop ships! Move it!” He told them just as the four large doors slid open. Fifty Marines climbed aboard each one and began strapping themselves into the slots against the wall, the interior was a big circular space. After they were locked in, the doors shut and a countdown began.
The basic outline of what they faced was now fed through their enhancements. There was a rebellion in progress on Sync, the garden world of the Free Republic. The Marines were not told why they had rebelled or what their demands were, just that these are the people who need to be killed or taken prisoner.
“As always, if they are armed in the area of operations, they are the enemy!” The orders proclaimed, “This rebellion is a threat to the integrity of the Free Republic, it must be quashed at all costs, it must be ended with prejudice.”
Tom Grier felt the dropship shake as it disengaged from the bottom of the carrier. Then it would accelerate toward the planet for a fast atmospheric entry. An outside observer might think the carrier had given birth to four small metal children.
“Remember what we do the enemy?” The Captain's voice came to them.
“We zot them!” They all answered in unison.
“I am now handing you off to Controller Four! Semper Fi, Marines!”
There was a loud thump and Tom felt like they had bumped into something, for just a second the power had blinked off. In that second the bravado, courage and confidence had vanished. It was just Tom Grier, hearing himself breathe in the dark, becoming scared. Suddenly the lights returned and he felt okay again. It was a strange but fleeting moment and he put it out of his mind.
“This is Controller Four, or just Control to you.” Came a familiar feminine voice. Maggie? “You will touch down near the center of the AO, a village called Jexas, it is the center of the rebellion. You are to take control of the village and round up the adult male population for interrogation!”
They were nearing the surface of Sync. The rockets on the bottom of the drop-ship engaged and slowed them down so that touchdown was not too violent. All of the harnesses released on their own and the Marines stood at the ready as the main doors swung open, letting bright daylight flood inside.
“Good Hunting, Team Four!” Maggie told them.
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