The stares always bothered me. I hated it when I had to wear my class A or B uniform. I was much more comfortable in my skinners or even my Class V assault armor with the annoying battle comp offering analysis. Another stupid formation for yet another commanding officer. Our unit was hard on officers. Lieutenant Hauge was still around proving more durable than his predecessors. I tried not to get used to anybody though. Soon as I got comfortable they got killed or medically retired.
We wore our dress blues today. This was not only for the Company but a new Battalion as well. We were getting a "full-bird" Colonel as well as a Major today. It was fine with me. I was in the back of the formation as always. After all, rank does have its privileges, I thought. I tuned out the speech from Admiral Yoshi. I liked the old guy but he was boring. I looked around the hanger noting that the blast from Corporal Sihng's 'weapon's malfunction' was repaired. That almost caused me to laugh out loud. I actually almost regret pulling his ass out of that collapsed building. Talk about a dumb gung-ho boot. Four jumps and he was a corporal. A wet behind the ears kid was in charge of a fire team. That was not too out of the ordinary though given the recent depletion in our ranks.
In a few weeks we would be back up to full strength unless we got another mission soon. That last jump was a mess. We lost almost a third of our Battalion. They were either dead or undergoing a major medical.
I tuned back into the speech. Our new CO, Colonel Santiago, was talking about how the tide was finally turning in our favor, how he wanted a tight cohesive unit, how things were going to change. I tuned it out again. It sounded like every other speech I'd ever heard. Nothing changed though. Sometimes we won, sometimes we didn't. People died and new ones took their places. It was just the way things were.
Eventually the speech ended and the inspection started. Our last CO wasn't one for inspections thankfully. This one was. He went up and down every row asking questions and commenting on almost every Marine. I really hated the next part. He stopped in front of me. Of course the new Major and my Lieutenant trailed behind.
He just stared first at my sleeves. The upper bare, the lower with six stripes. Then his eyes moved onto my chest. It was absurd I thought. The way we had to wear our medals. For some reason the rule, he with the most medals dies first, did not apply to me. I could see him counting in his head. I noticed the medals on his chest, the typical ones for a Colonel with nothing to get excited about.
He gave me a hard look then moved on without saying a word. The Lieutenant gave me a sympathetic look as he walked by. He had been through a new CO as well. He knew that I really didn't like to be noticed.
When we were dismissed I was the first one out of the monkey suit and back into my skinners.
Three days later we got our new boots. They were fresh from the School of Infantry. Newly augmented and feeling indestructible. Sure they were one hell of a lot tougher than they were before but they would soon learn. Most learned the hard way. Either they got hurt or killed or somebody they knew got hurt of killed. The really dumb ones took a few jumps to learn.
I kept my distance. Or at least I tried to. I always had some shit duty to take care of so it was not hard. Guard duty, maintenance, cleaning, or any other boring or unpleasant job that needed doing.
My summons came right on schedule. Sighing inwardly I stepped into the Regimental CO's office. His aide was at the desk out front.
"Private Sweeney reporting as ordered Sir," I said.
"Have a seat Private," the young 2nd lieutenant said.
She was new. Must have come in with him I thought. We had a quite a few women in the regiment. With the ability to augment the human body, a necessity for Assault armor, there was no real reason to keep women from combat duty. They were just as effective as men now that the playing field was even. A ninety pound weakling in Class V assault armor was as deadly as a 100 kilo muscle bound leatherneck.
Catching myself staring, I instead focused on the bulkhead behind the 2nd lieutenant. Soon as I looked away from her though, she was looking at me. I was pretty bad at figuring out the fairer sex though. I was pretty sure she was looking at me like I would look at an interesting rock I saw on the beach.
Her eyes unfocused briefly and she said," You may go in now Private."
"Aye, Aye Sir." I said.
I stood up and knocked on the bulkhead twice, getting an answering,"Come," almost right away.
I stepped inside. There was not much different about the room. Less of a personal touch than before but maybe he had not settled in yet. "Private Sweeney reporting as ordered Sir," I said standing at attention.
"At ease," he said and I assumed parade rest.
"I see that you have been with this unit a long time. 27 years..." he said trailing off acting like he was reading the file for the first time.
Once again I had been to this show and had lots of t-shirts as souvenirs.
"That is a very long time, Private."
"You've been in the Corps longer than I have to be honest with you."
I figured that. I had been in the Corps longer than most of the people in my Battalion had been alive.
"I did a little research and you are the most senior enlisted in terms of either time served or combat jumps. You are, in fact, the most experienced in the entire military command structure."
That was news to me but I really wasn't surprised.
"I did not know that Sir," I replied.
"I don't think many people do. Tell me Marine, how did you end up here? Your record says that you were enlisted by court order. Your enlistment is for life at a permanent rank of Private with half pay. That tells me that you faced a harsh prison sentence."
I was not inclined to rehash my past with this man so I gave him the minimum information I could.
"I was convicted of murder Sir. It was The Corps or the needle."
"You must have been one of the first of the lifers then. Most don't make it long. Few even ever made it out of training."
I just stood there impassively waiting. Most privates would be sweating bullets by now. It took the new Colonel a few minutes to realize that I really was not like a fresh faced private. He was not going to intimidate me.
Dismissed I left his office. The cute 2nd Lieutenant was at her desk typing on her keyboard when I stepped out. I looked at her and found her nametag said, Swanson. Quickly I moved on and the staccato sounds of her keyboard didn't change as I left her office.
"So what did you do now Sweeney?" asked Cpl. Reed.
"Nothing Sergeant," I replied.
"Maybe you should have done something then?" he asked, giving me a hard time.
He was a newly minted sergeant, with strips only a few days old now and was trying his best to establish the Platoon's pecking order. I shrugged.
In the Corps, nobody liked lifers. I didn't like them either and I was one. Sergeants with two percent the jumps you have, especially don't like you. He wasn't my sergeant though really. We were short one and nobody else from within the company was qualified. We would be getting a new one sometime soon I was guessing.
I ended up with an extra watch. They never figured out that extra watches or duty were okay with me. I didn't have much else to do on ship. I read a lot. That was about it. Eat, read, train, PT, duty, sleep, those were the limit of my activities. I really didn't have much in the way of friends anymore. They were all dead or medically retired. Mostly dead though. My home planet, Gerta 3 was overrun more than ten years ago. I had no idea if my kid sister or parents made it out or not.
Bridge watch was my favorite. I think I was even the command staff's favorite grunt. They seemed to prefer me to anybody else. I would often get summoned to the bridge and ordered to relieve somebody. Of course the watch really didn't do anything most of the time. It was mostly a throw back to seafaring days of long ago.
"Fuck'n aye, how old are you private? You look like my gramps standing there," Lt. Chen jabbed at me.
"Old enough to know your grandma was a hot piece in her day. Who knows I might even be your gramps," I shot back causing everybody on the bridge to laugh, even Lt. Chen.
"Not possible. I know the aug process way back when turned your tool into a limp noodle."
"I can't help it. I get intimidated by officers," I offered with a straight face.
"Bullshit. A fuck'n 1000 kilo brood mother protecting her nasty mountain of eggs wouldn't even phase your dumb ass. Too stupid to be scared, all you grunts are."
"Even a beetle browed knuckle dragging grunt like me knows to stay well away from your mom."
Even the XO laughed out loud at that one and Chen was about to offer a rejoinder when the computer announced that the Captain was on the bridge, silencing everyone.
The Captain was a tough old broad and I had nothing but respect for her but she had little in the way of a sense of humor, and even less for idle chatter.
It was nothing but business until the end of my watch with the Captain on the bridge. I listened and reflected that I had a better rapport with the bridge staff who were officers and Navy to boot, than with my own enlisted Marine infantry. The aug process had changed in the last twenty five years. It had gotten refined and faster, i.e. cheaper. The newly augmented grunt was faster, stronger, and much tougher than a normal human. The few of us alive that were augmented way back when though were a little faster, stronger, and tougher yet. We were even supposedly smarter and sometimes even aged much slower. In today's credits it would cost about five million new dollars to augment somebody, even if the old process was still available, and took over six long and agonizing months. Now it took less than 500k and only six weeks and they got their mission critical results at roughly eighty percent of the original process for a tenth of the cost. You just had to be tough enough to survive wearing assault armor. After all, assault armor took a 50 kilo weakling and made him as effective as the 100 kilo talking muscle.
"Listen up people. This is a simple one. We drop, form a perimeter and let some eggheads from fleet fucking do their science shit. They tell me they will be on the ground for approximately 60 minutes. Kilo, you're inner ring. Golf, you're primary. Whiskey, you will run patrols out at five clicks with OP's posted five beyond that. Anybody sees so much as a fucking skink out there sing out and we fucking grab the eggheads and bug out. Any fucking questions? Good. Better not be fucking any. This is simple as shit and I don't want any of you fucking boots to think. You just listen and do as you're fucking told by your platoon leaders! Drop is at 1400 hours. Muster at 1300 hours. Dismissed!"
I was in Whiskey Company which meant I would be a forward OP. I really didn't care. This was just another drop which would go to shit as soon as the first pair of armored size 50 boots hit the dirt.
It was a new rock anyhow. I had not been to this one yet. Intel was that it was an old Lizard staging area long abandoned. I could see why. Not so much as a piece of lichen on the rocks. You could see evidence of life in the past but the place was toxic now. I was about twelve kicks from the egg heads watching my assigned piece of real estate for 37:42 minutes since mission operation began, when some FNG sang out that he heard something. I got that feeling I get when things are going to go to shit right before I heard it, like somebody just walked across my grave.
Another FNG reported he heard something. This was a veteran of four drops. A corporal and this time the sergeant signaled he was on his way and for the OP's to call in.
"Whiskey two calling all clear," a tightly controlled voice called out.
"Whisky three calling all clear," echoed another young sounding voice.
"Whisky seven calling all clear," yet another young nervous voice called out.
"Whiskey five calling all clear," I replied.
"Wake up Sweeney, you sound fucking half asleep!" reprimanded my brand new platoon sergeant.
"Whiskey niner reporting movement! Grid 27! Fucking Lizards!" came an overexcited voice.
She was to my right at my three o'clock.
"Sweeny get your ass over there and confirm."
"On my way Sergeant. Don't do anything stupid Sanchez. Keep your head down."
I took off at my best speed. The ground was uneven and impossible to navigate in a vehicle and one would be hard pressed to move as fast as even a novice in a Class V could. I was not a novice. The Class V was the best yet. It truly felt like a part of my body and had not gotten any better with the Class VI, which I felt was too complicated for its and the wearer's own good. Luckily us privates, and lifers being the least of privates, would be using the Class V for the foreseeable future. Right now only officer got Class VI.
Sanchez nearly squeezed off a shot when I landed next to her. She must have been scared shitless if her battle comp failed to get her attention at my arrival.
"So how's the view over here?" I asked.
"I know I fucking saw them. They were moving low keeping to the low areas."
"Sweeney! Fucking report!" bellowed Sgt. Gregs.
"Nothing to report yet. Sanchez pointed out a low lying area they are using to move close undetected. Are there any drones up?"
"You're not paid to think! Fucking confirm or not the sighting!"
"Negative. No sighting."
"Get back to your post. Sanchez keep your eyes open!"
"Be ready to bug out," I sent on the suit to suit comm to Sanchez.
Sanchez was green but even a dumb boot knows what a lizard looks like. Hell any movement on this lifeless rock should have sent red flags up to the officers but somebody was always trying to look good for promotion or avoid looking like a fucking idiot over nothing.
I bounced back to my OP keeping my eyes open and my scanners tweaked on high. Four long minutes passed when I heard Lcpl. Hutchins scream. He was at my six on the other side of the perimeter.
"Report!" shouted Lt. Simmins.
"Whisky seven calling contact!"
"Whisky niner reporting activity!"
"Cpl Reed move you squad over to face grid 63. All OP's call out and fall back a klick."
"Aye, Aye sir!" most called out.
I just moved out. They obviously knew we were there so I jumped going to a bird's eye scan. It was bad.
"Whiskey five calling multiple contacts. Lighting them up on the grid. They've got a crawler."
"Ackowledged. All OP's get a fucking birds eye on the bounce and fall back."
"General recall. Fall back. 600 to recall. By the numbers move it!" called the Lt.
As an OP, I was attached to a platoon and a squad so I jumped that way getting scans when I was up. At the third jump I took fire. The crawler opened up and a super heated ball of plasma singed the air and gave me the prickly feeling they do as it whizzed by.
"Crawler plasma fire at grid 27," I called out and then kept my boots mostly on the ground.
"Ground them. Keep down! Fall back to the outer ring," Sgt. Gregs called out.
My battle comp showed me the updated map and it looked like a serious effort was being made to get us to leave this uninhabited rock. There were two nonfunctioning and one walking wounded so far.
Cresting a small rise I surprised about ten Gators. They were running parallel to me and we happened to cross paths. Luckily they were ahead of me. Without so much as pausing I opened up with my coilgun sending 10 gram slugs at hyper velocity making a mess of chewed meat out of the lizard advance team.
"Contact grid 25, ten gators down. They were moving low and quiet."
"Ackowledged. Look sharp people! ETA to pickup 229. Watch your damn battle comps for movement updates!"
When I caught up with my squad they were positioned at the main perimeter. I moved over by Sanchez and shrugged. Most people were unnerved at the sight of Gators. They really did not look like Alligators from Earth. They were sneaky like one though. Even though Alligators were fierce they had nothing on these. Gators were monsters that stood two and a half meters tall and weighed in at around 300 kilos. They did have very sharp teeth set in a protruding snout. Their skin was scaly and a muted green or blue fading to grey.
Lizards did not wear armor like we did but they wore something almost as good. Theirs was biological in nature and was what our eggheads tell us is a tame form of Lizard cancer. The Corps dubbed them Snails. What ever it was it was effective. It was effective at muting energy attacks against them and provided some protection against slug throwers while providing some thermal and visual camouflage. It looked slimy and had an unpleasant odor to us. It was caustic to our skin and if left on, it could eventually kill you. Most of their tech was biological, but not all and it was changing. I'd read that there were reports of lizards adapting their power sources to run tech stolen from our conquered worlds. They were adapting to us as we were to them.
The Lizards, as a whole, favored energy weapons but they were now starting to field projectile weapons as well. Theirs however were also biological in nature which turned out to be surprisingly effective. They had weapons, that our eggheads said were another tame cancer, that used plasma to expel a dart which acted like a sabot and could puncture assault armor at close range. The rate of fire on them though was slow. It was the energy weapons you had to watch out for even with their limited range.
So a two and a half meter slimy lizard with very sharp teeth, claws, and reddish reptilian eyes made the stuff of childhood nightmares. To the boots having never seen one outside of a holo, it was almost more than most could take.
Where I was not a sentimental sort I did try my best to keep the rookies alive through their first few battles. If they made it through two then the statistics said they had about a dozen more before their odds dropped off again. I guess they got over confident. I think that they got numb and needed the risks of death to feel alive.
"You've got lots of drops don't you? That's what they say in the squad bay."
"A few. Relax, everybody has to get their cherry busted at some point."
She laughed at that, "I had to get drafted to get my virginity back. My Dad would be thrilled, restoring the family honor and all that."
"Just remember your training. From what I hear it is much better now and actually useful. Keep your head down and count down to the fifty drops. He with the most medals dies first."
She actually laughed out loud at that and I grinned at her. It was common knowledge that I had the most. I was on my eleventh Hypanthium cluster. It was so rare that it was almost never recognized by people though. A few command level officers had them, but surviving a drop when you're a general is a little surer thing than a noncom or a less. A Platinum cluster signaled either retirement or a crazy Marine. The Hypanthium had a copperish color so looked like a Copper cluster which was for your fifth drop. As soon as you got your twenty fifth drop you got your gold cluster. So how could anybody have eleven copper ones? Anyhow I digress.
"When they sound the recall, just make sure you don't get heroic. There should be a prize for being the first on the Osprey other than living to fight another day."
There was no time for chat after that. I hoped I had distracted her enough. Gators started to crest the butte we were on. I did not wait. I started to snipe at them. It was a long shot by any standard. My battle comp had been adjusted to not mark them out of range until they were over three clicks out instead of the standard one and a half. It was not a sanctioned mod but it was normally over looked and most veterans learned little tricks like that.
The CG7HA was capable of throwing a slug that far but it was more art than science to hit anything that far out. There was enough energy in the slug though, to kill a gator at that range. Single shots were easily overlooked by fire team leaders.
Now the Marine core motto of one shot one kill was a very high standard to live up to, but I think I averaged about three shots to two kills when I was aiming and not encouraging Lizards to grab their asses and look for cover with covering fire.
I knew I was not doing Sanchez that much of a favor by sharing a fox hole with her. Gators had an annoying habit of looking for the spot of highest resistance to assault. The eggheads said it was driven by cultural values and status. If you shot enough of them though they would give up and move on. Getting killed at long range robbed them of any status for their clans or whatever the fuck the eggheads called their units.
The point being, our standard-issue CG7HA coilgun assault rifles had great range. The Lizards energy weapons lost much of their punch at about a click. So the strategy was to shoot as soon as possible, because a live Lizard getting close to you is a terrible thing. A Lizard within arm's reach was even worse.
As soon as her battle comp signaled that the Gators were within range, Sanchez made a decent showing of her shooting skills. After all, at that range, they were just blips on the screen. As the numbers of Gators jumped up radically things went down hill fast.
First platoon was taking heavy fire. More likely they were getting hit more than everybody else, but somebody always gets hit more than everybody else. You just hope it's not your turn.
Sanchez and I had dropped back to secondary positions when I saw a crawler spit an artillery round up. When it landed and melted our forward foxhole Sanchez got a little pale. I winked at her and went back to shooting Lizards.
"Slow down. We aren't getting resupplied. Three round bursts," I told her.
"Aye Aye," she said slowing down.
She was down to just under twenty kilos of slug material. I had almost forty kilos of my original standard issue fifty kilo loadout. The genius of the CG7HA was its ability to fire a lighter slug when called for. The big heavy 50 gram slug it could fire, was only used when firing against lightly armored crawlers or other similarly hardened materials. A nice 5 gram slug was perfect for close work. Most Marines ran out of slugs long before over-heating of the coilgun became an issue or a change out of their power modules was required.
When I jumped out of our hole Sanchez was a heartbeat behind me. Our battle comps relayed our movements to everybody else so there was no need to call out. We were the last ones to fall back to our next position.
While you could not hear the screams of Marines getting wounded or killed, the battle comps edited that, you knew what was happening by the pauses. Or at least the veterans did anyway. We passed a dead Marine. As we passed him our battle comps set his armor power supply for overload. It was SOP to not leave any equipment behind. It would be set to overload by the Osprey at any rate if it was not retrievable and if it was then the overload would be canceled. While we once prided ourselves on never leaving anybody behind we now prided ourselves on never leaving anyone behind to be eaten by the Lizards.
I quickly snatched the slug pack as we skipped by, tossing it to Sanchez. We quickly took up our positions and waited. It was not long before they came. Where you find one Gator, there are always ten more nearby.
The area was quickly swarming with them. We had 142 tics until retrieval. That was a long way off and after being in this kind of situation countless times before I didn't pay any attention to that timer until I heard the sonic boom of the Osprey as it came screaming in for a hot pickup.
Sanchez was doing as well as any FNG could. I was keeping a little bit of an eye on her but I had my own shit-storm I was dealing with. Part of looking out for your fellow Marine was taking care of your own business and if everyone did there was no need to babysit the Marine next to you. Sanchez took her eyes off of her field of fire when a team of Gators broke through to our left. In that instant one was standing within arms reach of her.
At least she swung her weapon around to him instead of standing there frozen but she was too slow. By then though I had my very un-regulation ceramasteel battle ax out and swung it around to lop off the very surprised Gator's head while maintaining my sector of fire and picking up hers. She snapped out of it as the ugly thing's head fell at her feet and had to step aside as its body followed.
Things at that point were starting to look bad. I could see that we needed to fall back. Most of our platoon had left for the Alamo and we were in danger of being cut off. The bodies around us were piling up and that is like a siren's call to a Lizard on the move. Here was where glory was to found and earned this day. I was not interested in glory, just my hairy ass making it off this stupid rock was all I wanted.
"Alamo, leapfrog. Go!" I said.
Sanchez jumped and got her ass in gear on the double not even questioning my order even though she outranked me like everybody else. She took a ten meter skip and turned and lay down some suppressive fire as I skipped past her firing, my battle comp letting me know which Lizards she was aiming at so we maximized our slugs.
When my boots hit the ground Sanchez wasted no time skipping past me in two leaps, a long one and a short one not even trying to fire while skipping. We skipped to keep down, a jump got you shot at like a duck leaving the pond surrounded by rednecks with shotguns. It was however much more difficult and most could not fire with any accuracy while skipping. You had to be able to twist your body around at just the right speed to make the next skip or lose your momentum or balance. The Armor's gyros helped but only a little. Gyro's kept things moving in as straight a line as possible, and in battle, straight lines were for slugs and beams only.
In position, Sanchez was slowing down to single shots. I could see that she was down to under five kilos. I was at fifteen, but I almost always fired single shots. The display showed the gators surrounding the area. The angry red triangles were stacked on the screen. I briefly wondered where the heavy weapons squad was. The red blobs were begging for some frag grenades. Us grunts only carried a few hand held ones generally. The launchers could drop one wherever your black heart desired, they even rounded corners with a skilled operator.
Before I skipped I grabbed one of mine and chucked it over into the ravine next to us before skipping. The muffled thump showed the red blob scattered on the display. The little, okay not so little at four kilos each, balls of death even gave you a picture of the area right before they detonated. Mine landed right in the middle of a packed in group of Gators.
When Sanchez skipped next she caught a beam on her left arm. She kept her cool though and completed her skip which put her inside the perimeter of the Alamo which was a trench with the soil piled into a berm.
I took my skip into the promised land and noticed that the countdown timer was pulsing but stuck on 48. Pulsing meant a delay, when it went red and solid it meant cancel. At that point you had two options; dig a hole and call down the hellfire on your location or dig in and hope your ammo lasted before retrieval or resupply drop. Neither were a good option.
The battle comp showed 67 Marines in green, 20 in yellow, including Sanchez, and 13 red, five of which were outside of the Alamo. I took a field of fire and concentrated on that. I thought that this scene minus the tech had happened countless times over the last six hundred years of modern warfare.
The battle comp signaled a drop of incoming of ammo. It was a hot one and when it hit the beacon sounded clear. It looked like the eggheads here on the deck had some pull. That was a record I thought on a drop.
"Sweeney!" Sanchez sang out and heaved a slug block over into my neighborhood before she tossed the next one. I shifted position and loaded it up without a break in fire. The LT was still alive and was shifting Marines according to resistance. As usual the shifting was away from my position. I picked up three more sectors and was wondering if the coil was going to over heat before I ran out of ammo.
The timer started to pulse again but was reset to 240. That meant a new Osprey was inbound from low orbit. Sanchez, bless her newbie heart, was doing her best to cover my ass. There must have been some frags in the capsule. She showed she had a pretty good arm and was breaking up some large clumps of Gators.
At 19 on the timer my coil reached its upper limit and reduced my rate of fire to what an old timer could fire with a musket. I pulled my last two frags and timed them to do the most damage I could as the recall sounded.
"By the numbers! Kilo at beacon one!" called Major Firsk.
The little green and yellow circles of Kilo peeled off and lined up aligned for the Osprey to catch them on the Jump. I noticed the Eggheads and brass were in that group.
The Osprey's beacon came singing out in a woman's voice, "Deimos One Nine!"
The group jumped together and were zipped up into The Mitt and tossed into the hull. As they jumped Major Firsk called out, "By the Numbers! Golf at beacon three!"
Golf scrambled and were in position in a few heartbeats. There are a few things that Marines truly excel at, killing stuff, breaking stuff, and getting recalled. And I honestly think getting recalled is what we do best.
Before Golf was even in place though, Lt. Hauge was calling, "Whiskey! Beacon five! Grab any disabled and go, go go!"
As the force recon company we usually were the last recalled and we did not do it by the numbers. Everybody knew what needed to be done and either did it or died. As I jumped up out of my little hole I caught a Gator with my ax in the groin nearly splitting him in two. I landed next to a red, Cpl. Reed, and tossed him over to the beacon barely breaking stride.
The next red was Sgt. Gregs. He was outside of the perimeter but the gators had thinned out and would be slow to react to somebody moving to their rear. Even though the guy was an ass he was human and I activated his gyro and launched him to the beacon. Half my platoon was there spreading the load for the jump for those whose suits needed either total support or guidance jumping.
Watching the timer and the Osprey circling back I skipped over to the next red circle, a Pvt. Wakowski, and tossed her into the retrieval area right before a couple of Gators popped over the berm and dropped in for a little party. My coilgun was ready for another shot and the one to my left got a slug and the one to my right lost his arm at the shoulder before I launched myself out of the trench. The Osprey was over head and sounding the recall. I was not in position but jumped anyway. I hit the bulkhead and grabbed a hold of the hull.
The pilot, not wasting any time took off and I got a bird's eye view of the battle field. The Lizards had breached our outer perimeter and seemed confused as usual when we weren't there. It used to be that the hulls of the Osprey's had little in the way of places to hold onto but that was soon changed. Units took to welding grab bars all over the outer hull for the exact reason I was using one for and the latest designs were modified to include them. Armor was space worthy, and while most Marine's did not like hitching a ride this way, it sure beat the hell out of the alternative.
As the Osprey rocketed into the upper atmosphere at several G's I moved carefully over to a hatch waiting for clearance to enter.
"Flea at hatch Gamma four you are cleared for entry," came a woman's voice.
"Aye, Aye, Sir. Thanks for the lift."
"Any time Marine. Any time."