|Coup de Main - Beta Revision, Chapter One|
This I am rather proud of. Though still rough, and I plan on REALLY re-writing it, I think it shows the depth of my universe here.
I like this story a lot... I guess you could say it's my pet project, even though I have done nothing to it in ages. Note that the Mantis units, while they are superweapons, are not the focus of the story. Consider it a subplot for the purpose of developing character. Also, this chapter is set just before the invasion of the Ka'Chin home system.
If you guys think I can make something of this, start harping. :)
Coup de Main – Beta Revision
Chapter One -
The breeze merrily swirled leaves over the concrete paving in front of the main entrance to the Terran Imperial Military Academy. Overhead the sun shone bright and hot, and the trees rustled in the wind. Birds chirped cheerily in the branches, and in the distance a group of cadets trained on the wide, green parade ground.
The Academy was on Caderas, a M-class planet about half the size of Terra. The entire planet was the property of the school, but here at the headquarters and the spaceport 3 miles beyond, was where it all began. The long, hard training began the moment the cadet stepped through the doors, and the new life as a fully trained member of the great Imperial Military began the moment that cadet – no, soldier stepped out those doors.
This was also where it ended. For those who failed, this was where they came to be picked up and shipped home, never allowed to serve again. All walks of life crossed this threshold, and none who crossed it ever remained the same.
Advisor Kalyn D’Arfei felt this sense of inevitable change as she stood on the walk in front of the huge, ornately carved oaken doors. Her light brown hair shimmered in the bright sunshine, matching neatly with her crisp navy blue uniform. She looked up into the blue sky, squinted against the sun, and then focused on a shuttle coming down to the spaceport. She took a deep breath of the pleasantly warm air, felt it enter her blood like a narcotic and lift her already giddy spirits to new heights.
She turned, throwing her duffel over her shoulder, and looked up the short flight of steps to the reason for her good spirits. Commander Anthony Maston had picked her - her! - Out of her entire group. Granted, she had graduated at the top of her class, but to be personally selected, before she ever even left the school, by such a great military leader, was something of which she had never dreamed.
He grinned at her, not having lost his boyish good looks or sense of fun despite having spent the last 5 years in the middle of an intergalactic war. His sandy blond hair and light goatee was cut in the fashion of the Mobile Infantry, showing that despite his being a Naval Fleet Officer, he spent much of his time with the ground pounders. He was tall and slender, with broad shoulders and narrow hips to match.
‘Shall I order up a car, or shall we walk to the spaceport?” He walked down the steps to stand beside her, teeth dazzlingly white in the sun. He held his transceiver in his hand.
She cocked her head slightly and looked up at him, “Oh, no. I’d sooner walk. I like it here during the summer - besides, I could use the exercise.” Kalyn said with a smile, then smirked, and added, “Sir.”
“Okay then,” He said resignedly, and firmly placed his cap on his head. “Ladies first.” He swung his arm out in the direction of the spaceport, and bowed slightly from the hip.
She straightened up, pulled her cap on, and marched smartly off. Anthony stood back up and grinned. Placing his transceiver back in its pouch on his belt, he snapped the cover shut and followed quickly after, still grinning widely.
He caught up with her when she had to stop and wait for a group of soldiers running across the parade ground. “So,” He began cheerily, “Tell me about yo-” and stopped as his transceiver beeped a priority signal. He jerked it off his belt, pushed a button, and held it to his ear. “Yes?” He asked. He listened a moment, then said “Yes, very well. Send the Aidon. No, no, don’t mess with him. No, Catalyst, I want him in one piece. I’ll take him myself - and don’t let any of the men tackle him; He’d rip them to shreds. Ok. Maston out.”
He pulled the transceiver from his ear, pushed a button, and looked at Kalyn, who was watching him expectantly. “It looks like you won’t get your nice relaxed walk. We have to hurry. So, if you would not mind running to meet the Aidon?”
She grinned, and then asked, “Catalyst? You have a Mantis Unit? I thought all those were killed or locked up?”
“Being the best has its advantages.” He said, smiling. “And yes, I have a Mantis Unit. He’s my right hand man, and you as of now, are my right hand woman. I hope you are as good as your scores show.” This last was said into empty air, because she was already running towards the steadily appearing Aidon.
- - -
“He’s having problems in school. He fights with his family. He hangs out with a different crowd (crowd). He lies. He’s destructive. He’s erratic. People think he’s a problem kid; Unfortunately, - He’s an addict (addict).” The words ran madly through his mind. Oh, yes. He thought giddily, I’m an addict. Snickering insanely to himself, he fumbled with military neurojack linkup he had just stolen, trying to get it into his vehicle.
He was in the security section of the spaceport on Caderas. In the shadow of a Warrior-class heavy gunship and with the massive bulk of a Magnaport artillery Mech’ blocking the view from the other side, he felt reasonably secure. He swore as the neurojack slipped from his grasp again and clattered to the paving.
Unbidden, the song in his head switched, “In your head, in your head, what’s in your head, Zombie!” Soon, he thought, very soon I’ll have a plug in my head. I won’t be a zombie; I’ll be better - free. This thought brought back memories of the pain he had spent the last 2 years AWOL from the Naval Fleet in drugs and alcohol to get free of. The painful memories floated somewhere outside the foggy haze of drugs, unable to truly affect him. Grappling once more with nervous fingers, he finally managed to get a firm purchase on the box.
He gave a heave, and in one smooth motion brought the box off the paving and shoved in into his van. Grunting once in satisfaction, he reached over and grabbed the door - and froze. The drugs were not powerful enough to dim his finely honed warrior’s instinct, and he slowly turned around and faced the two Military Police.
They had guns drawn and pointed unwaveringly at him, and he went into a half-crouch.
“Sergeant Vertas Roman? You are under arrest for, among other things, desertion, defamation of a superior officer, and-” here the MP paused with a flicker of wry amusement, “attempted theft of military property. Will you come peacefully, or will we have to resort to force?”
Roman shrugged, and stepped forward. He held out his hands, and one of the MP’s stepped forwards with binders. As the MP reached for his wrist, Roman flew into action. Stepping back and grabbing the MP’s wrist, Roman jerked the MP forwards and kneed him in the gut, then slammed the edge of his hand into the base of the MP’s neck. The MP barely managed a gag before he folded. As the second MP raised his gun, Roman leapt forwards and kicked the gun up and out of the MP’s hands.
Swiftly, Roman hooked a savage left to the MP’s jaw, and kicked him as he fell to the ground. Walking over to where the gun lay, he picked it up and examined it. A standard-issue 10mm autorifle, loaded with antipersonnel rounds in a 40 round magazine. The drug-induced rage had a red haze floating at the edges of his vision, and he raised the gun to his shoulder and took aim through its sights at the disabled MP’s lying on the pavement.
Before he could do anything, a blur flew in front of him, jerked the gun from his hands and simultaneously kicked him in the head. He saw stars and staggered to the ground, pain flooding through the numbing haze of drugs. He looked up and saw what had happened to him: a Mantis Elite Combat Unit. The one person he did not stand a chance fighting, even with the drugs.
The unit nodded down at him, blue eye lenses flashing in the sunlight. “I am designated Catalyst, Sergeant. You are advised to come with me to the spaceport to await the arrival of the Commander.”
- - -
The spaceport was unbelievably busy. The crowds, of both military and civilians, milled around the halls and waiting rooms, some rushing off to another equally packed locale, others simply waiting. Kalyn could see a group of four burly SpecOps soldiers showing off their bump-mapping suits and other gear to some cute teenage girls. And there was a marine she had met in mess this morning. Idly she wondered what he was doing here.
There was a slight stir over near the far entrance, and she noticed a group of soldiers walking towards her and Commander Maston through the milling crowds. Their uniforms and armor were scuffed, torn and scorched. They had the posture of men who had seen real combat and she could see the dull pain of emotional and physical wounds on many of their faces. But she also noticed that when they saw their Commander their eyes lit up with love and admiration.
In the lead was a tall, slender, and wiry young man wearing silvery blue sunglasses. His face was hard and cold, and a scar ran from the bottom of his left ear to just under the corner of the mouth. He had a perfect, almost robotic military manner, and he radiated an aura of confidence and power so strong as to be almost tangible. With a start she realized that she was seeing her first living Mantis unit.
The crowds parted for the group of 15 men as if on cue. None in the crowd touched the warriors, the distance given not out of fear, but of respect. Everyone recognized the insignia on their shoulders: These were the soldiers from the Phoenix: the men under the command of the brilliant Anthony Maston.
Every one of them were heroes in their own right, but the ship and it’s commander - and by default, the soldiers in its battlegroup, the Phoenix Legions - had reached legendary status. Visiting civilians would tell their grandchildren that they had seen, had been this close, to the legendary Anthony Maston and his soldiers.
Anthony leaned towards her and interrupted her reverie, “I’m sorry about the short time schedule, but it seems that Roman, the man in the middle, gave us more trouble than was expected. We have to leave for a resupply stop; then we have combat duty in the next major offensive. I’ll give you the details later, but I need to do this quick, as we’ve only got 30 minutes before the first of the equipment reaches the Phoenix.”
She nodded understandingly as they met the squad, “I understand. I can learn from watching - it’s part of my training, remember?” The soldiers, with the exception of Sergeant Vertas, snapped to attention as they came to a halt.
Catalyst, his military stance textbook perfect, started to bark out a report. Anthony raised his hand. “Hold it, Catalyst. Just can it for now. I’ll debrief you on the Phoenix, but right now, boys, we are on a tight schedule. So, if you men would take the Sergeant to the shuttle, I would appreciate it. Catalyst, I need you to get back to the Phoenix and get the men ready for action.”
He started to dismiss them, then added, “Oh, and one more thing. This young woman here is Advisor Kalyn D’Arfei. I will introduce her in the Legionary Briefing, but you are my very best, and I expect you to treat her with the respect due her. I also expect you to set an example to the men in your centuries. Any mistreatment of her on your part will be dealt with swiftly. Am I understood on this?”
There was a unanimous “Yes, Sir.” And they turned and marched off towards their respective terminals.
- - -
In the shuttle, Kalyn strapped herself in across from Catalyst. She tried to remember what she knew about the units. Developed during the expansion wars, the Mantis Units were cybernetically augmented to give them a massive advantage over any other combat unit. Supposedly combining the best of the human Special Forces units with the robotic Assault Droids, they were to be mankind’s newest superweapon.
They had greater endurance, greater strength, and were totally obedient. They were faster, they could operate better under more stress, and they could fight more than one enemy at a time. They also had one major problem.
After the war, most of the units had been allowed to go home and see the family and friends that they had not seen in nearly 20 years. This was where the problem came in. Used to the rigid and unbending military lifestyle, they could not relax amid the flexible and seemingly anarchistic civilian lifestyle. As stress built up, they responded in the only manner they knew how: Violence.
There were numerous events reported that described this strange behavior. Where a normal person would normally ignore verbal insults or threatening behavior, the Units would invariably kill the instigator. When the police turned up to arrest the Unit, he would resist, and typically kill all the police. This in turn started an extermination mission, and would result in the Civil Defense Units being called out.
Even though the CD Units were trained soldiers, and even though they had better weapons and, in some cases, even armor and mechanized forces, the Mantis Units were so effective that there were invariably massive CD losses before the Mantis Unit was killed.
She remembered distinctly the Carras incident, mostly because she had to do a report on it. In that case, one Mantis Unit took out 21 CD soldiers, 3 armored Legionnaires who were on leave, and one Nova Mechanized Battle Unit- all in 30 minutes. The Mantis Unit had been hit by three sniper railslugs, and one breaching grenade, yet was still able to kill two more soldiers before dying on his own. The Autopsy showed that the Mantis Unit had few bones that were in one piece, and his internal organs were mush.
That incident prompted a full-scale roundup of all remaining Mantis Units, and stopped all plans for future upgrades and production. Under the force of a mandatory order from Commodore Letchnika, the supreme commander of the militia, the arrests were quick and efficient, with a minimum of casualties.
(June 12th, 2002, 10:33 am)
aha, there's something i love to see - a great twist to the old idea. very cool.
overall the story's great. very engaging, and high coolness factor too =) i like it a lot. consider me harping.
i got suggestions for a few bits though, like when Roman fights off the MPs - it didnt seem swift enough; Roman pulls, knees and chops one guy before the other can lift his gun. maybe he should kick the second guy's gun away at the same time as he finishes off the first.
also, why the reluctance to use pronouns for the MPs?
i got a few other things, but nothing big.
but since youre already working on Future Past, i'll voice the other stuff later, when you post this for the issue. right now, just complete chapter 2 of Future Past. or is that finished?
(March 25th, 2003, 12:18 am)
I liked seeing the return of the cyborg(ish) charactors from one of your earlier shorts.
Comes together rather nicely.
I hope you do continue with this story as I'm rather enjoying it.
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