Chapter 7 - Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

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12th April 2310 21:46 EST - The commotion on the decks of the Athena was intense. Scores of soldiers were running towards their assigned posts each checking their rifles intently before standing to attention by their designated dropship. Loud noises were coming from the corner where the tall six-metre mechanised walkers (mechs) were being prepared for their position in the battle.

These mechs were large fortified walking powerhouses. They took one man or woman and turned them into a two-tonne walking death machine housing an array of highly-rated weaponry. From flame throwers to lasers to rocket launchers to long-range artillery batteries, they were the epitome of one-man armies.

As things stood, though, their role was simply to get prepared and wait. The battlefield would be too tight for them to manoeuvre and would likely cause more damage than it was worth, but they were being prepared for stage two of the operation along with other vehicles.

Jason stood in amazement, admiring the sheer power that these machines held. They looked intimidating with their large metallic hulks, but comforting if you knew they were there to support you.

"Haven't you got somewhere to be Corporal?" one of the mechanics shouted at him.

Jason snapped out of his trance realising his mouth was wide open looking somewhat clueless at that point. He quickly apologised and turned away to make his way towards his dropship.

He was still getting used to the armour he had been given. The exoskeleton of the armour would allow him to run quicker, jump higher and support any excess pressure placed on his body. It would effectively make him stronger as well, but it was cumbersome.

He found it strange that this was the armour that all the troops wore, knowing that the enemy was known for its agility. They already moved quicker than a human without armour, so having this bulk would make even the most agile of humans manoeuvre like a tortoise.

Watching some pilots run past towards their ships he realised that he hadn't placed on his helmet. It was still stuck in his hand but his thoughts had taken him away from doing the most basic of tasks.

He placed on his helmet and allowed the visor to cover his face. The HUD then connected to his suit and in turn his weapon, a Volokov P17, the standard rifle for soldiers, reliable but average in accuracy, good for engagements within half a kilometre but not overly powerful. Basically, they were cheap to produce and therefore perfect for the normal 'grunt'.

A streak of envy crossed Jason as he saw a soldier walking past a Ndegewa FP-9000 sniper rifle. Apparently, he had read somewhere, that they could be deadly at over 5 kilometres.

He examined the data that his weapon was displaying on his HUD. Battery levels, maintenance levels, safeties activated. Before long he had arrived at his drop ship without even realising it due to concentrating on the graphical interface he could see on his visor.

The rest of the squad was already lining up by the dropship that would take them to the surface. Each of them was deep in discussion, mostly about what was to come but it was obvious that they were trying to take their minds off the unknown and potentially dangerous situations they were about to be thrown into.

Jason's eagerness to encounter a real battle meant he was concentrating on making sure that he and his equipment were ready.

"Two Twenty Third, Atten-Hut" a shout echoed across the gangway where they stood.

All of the soldiers stood in line as upright as possible. Their eyes focused on the front, ignoring all surroundings as the Sergeant appeared accompanied by the Lieutenant, both in full battle gear. A woman stood alongside them, she wore the standard uniform and the diamonds on her shoulder suggested that she was the Major of the unit, performing a final examination before sending the troops into battle.

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