The pilot's soft feminine voice came over their helmet speakers "Approaching target in three zero minutes. Final checks."
Captain Rodriguez and Staff Sgt Gurung checked the strike force one last time. Going over armour seals, battery charges, ammo loads and equipment. Radio checks and water packs. They had briefed and gone over the plan, memorized timings, memorized individual jobs and everyone else's job too during the long transit. The Lieutenant, the Gunnies and the fire team leaders had already checked everyone, but the Captain and Staff did it again, themselves, just to be sure. It was their lucky habit every mission.
"10 minutes kids. Depressurizing." A red light clicked on and they could hear the air being pumped out of the troop compartment. Once they were in vacuum, the big cargo doors opened to space. The grey rocky surface of Hyperion slid by a kilometer below.
"Drop zone 1 in... three, two, one!"
"Chalk one go!" Captain Rodrigeuz commanded over the helmet speakers and nine heavily armoured figures stepped over the abyss, dropping towards the moon's surface in the low gravity.
Master Corporal Nakata was on duty watch in the command bunker. She squirmed with an itchy butt cheek that she couldn't scratch. Her hardened combat suit was uncomfortable but regs said duty personnel had to wear it just in case. She monitored the displays and had another window open on the monitor for her course in Introductory Psycho-Economics. May as well work on her degree while sitting in dark, cold postings for the UN Navy. But once her term was up there were a lot of good paying jobs moving stuff around the system and her degree plus experience in the UNN would help her get one. Better than sitting around on Basic watching the water stains grow on the walls anyway.
Sergeant Ouanga cycled through the airlock and removed his helmet. "All quiet, yeah?" He was here to relieve her so she could grab some chow and get out of her suit to scratch her butt. "You logistics REMFs ready to take us Marines in Golgola?" He was referring to the Belter version of bocce ball, played in low gravity and often with the Coriolis effect of spin gravity, it had it's challenges, and could be played anywhere in the system. Any Forward Operating Base or ship in the UNN had a Golgola league set up right after the coffee maker went on line.
"You know it! You Marines just don't have the delicate skill required." She paused. "Everything's quiet. A Belter freighter, the ...uh... Accidental Optimist swung by on a ballistic course to somewhere. I painted her until she dropped over the horizon."
Just then an alert chimed and the perimeter sensors flipped from green to red. "Uh oh!"
SSgt Gurung bounced to the top of the rocky hill, his thrusters barely firing to break his descent. This far out from the Sun he couldn't see a thing without Ladar and IR scopes. His HUD displayed a pattern of red dots squares and triangles converging on the target. Now that he was on top of the hill, his suit started picking up blips switching them from unidentified yellow to Earther green as it collected more data. To his right the red dots of the more lightly armoured rifle platoon were moving by fireteams into the blue rectangles marking the original Belter settlement. The random assortment of shipping containers were pure Belter, cables everywhere, sealant bubbling from seams. Many of them probably worked contracts in the UNN supply yard. But they weren't the target and killing civvies would look bad in the news feeds. A klik from him, by the landing area and refueling tanks his HUD showed 9 friendlies moving in. That was the Captain. Dropped in a semi circle as the ship passed over the surface, the three elements of the strike force now converged on the target, a small listening post and communication relay.
The blue aurora of energy discharged by a rail gun firing announced the arrival of their Close Support. "Hammer Five Three on station. Going in." The gunship was like a maintenance skiff, except heavily armoured, improved sensors suite and a big assed rail gun and missile pods instead of articulated claws and welding gear. The gunship popped over the hill and snapped a shot at the missile launcher on the target, a near miss sending up a spray of rock and ice. As the FOBs targeting laser started to paint it, the gunpod slid to the right and dropped behind some stacks of shipping containers. Another pop up and the launcher exploded in a shower of sparks and metal.
Gurung's HUD lit up as everyone started shooting. On visual the darkness was punctuated with flashes of light from tracers and explosions. Another flare of explosive light as the gunship knocked out an automatic rail gun turret that could have shattered their power armour with ease.
Gurung's threat display was alive with green dots. A trio of more urgently marked threats, a team of heavy power armour, moved towards him and started putting out heavy fire. "Stacey! Your team lay down cover fire on the supply crates. Tony, engage the stunty heavies! Team 1 follow me." He did a long bounce to the firebase spraying fire and popping grenades as he sailed over the Earthers.
On the other flank the Captain was doing the same thing, except sending in two teams while the third provided overwatch from the silos. Gurung keyed the command channel "Cap watch your flank! You've got-" but too late. A devastating salvo of fire from another UNMC power armour team shredded the Captain's fire team as it touched down just outside of the FOB.
Gurung landed on the lip of the missile pit, his targeting optics getting confused by the sparks and heat from the railgun strikes on the defensive works. Some small arms rattled on his chest staggering him a little. They started hopping over the trenches firing down into them at the UN defenders. Grenades fired at close range dropped a couple of his assault team. His display told him some were kept alive by their suits, but combat ineffective. They'd have to sit patiently until recovery.
With the Captain down and the Lieutenant with the riflemen in the center, Gurung took over. "Bartha! Kampur! take the bunkers, jack in and download any intel you can."
"Aye Staff! --unnngh!"
Through the disruption caused by the destroyed weapons turrets, Gurung saw two UNMC power suits by the comms bunker. He shifted his team to get a better shot blowing them over the edge of the berm.
The Last UNMC defender died hard, firing grenades at the giants around him. Breaching charges blew in the doors of the bunkers. Gurung stepped into the command bunker. Two suited Earthers stood against the wall, hands up. Kampur covered them with his rotary cannon, a bit much in the confined space but Gurung wasn't going to complain.
"They were wiping the data cores when I blew the door but we've got a partial" Kampur reported.
Gurung pulled the hard drive out with his armoured hand.
"Yeah But they didn't get a chance to fire the demo charges. Maybe the tech wonks can recover some more. Plus we've got prisoners. "
Since they didn't have a common channel he leaned in and touched helmets. "Listen up pardners, you're now prisoners of the Martian Congressional Republic. Don't make a fuss and well treat you square. Okay?" They nodded their assent and he stepped back switching to the command channel.
"All One Niner call signs targets secure. Cease fire and prepare to move to Romeo Victor Alpha. Good work boys and girls."
His HUD showed him the red shapes of the Strike Force gathering up their casualties and setting demolition charges before the extraction.
He keyed the channel to the Lieutenant. "Hey there El-Tee, Cap's down. Suits says he's alive but. So you're in charge. Everythings going to plan and we're on schedule. Wanna call the ship?"
Back on the Collins heading home to Mars at a comfortable point 9 gee acceleration, the slight brown form of Staff Sergeant Gurung moved around the troop deck seeing that weapons were cleaned, armour repaired and prepped, ammunition inventoried. He dispensed encouragement, fatherly advice and gentle reproofs where needed.
As he passed Lieutenant Mitchell's cubby, he saw her staring at her monitor. "You've got a knot in your face, ma'am, what's up?"
"Oh, hello Staff." She shock her head. "Just trying to write up this After Action. Can't help thinking I messed up on my first drop."
Gurung suppressed a smile. So like his own daughter, serious and perfectionist.
"If you'd messed up more than is to be expected from green Junior Officers, then Gunnery Sergeant Paczk would have let you know very firmly." He paused. "Here, let me show you" Scrolling through the data file attachments to her report, readouts from every Marine in the action, he brought up a HUD of the firefight. "See here, and over here."
Lt. Mitchell nodded.
"You contained this threat with an economy of force and maneuvered on this flank to clear the supply dump. Both actions kept bad guys off my flank, meaning I didn't have a bad day. You aren't Napoleon but you did okay in your first action."
"But the Captain..."
"People get hurt in our line of work. The docs on Mars will grow his leg back and he'll be kicking ass with it by next year. Send me the report and I'll look it over for you before you submit. Okay?"
"Okay. Thanks Staff."
Gurung chuckled. "All part of the service. Now, how 'bout I buy you a coffee and then we go check on the folks in Sickbay?"