AN- And here is the beginning of the sequel of Pandora Sucks, which I've been kind of sitting on for a while. College. I'm sure you all understand. Now, before we kick this bad boy off, I'd like everyone to have a moment of silence for Japan, and to pray for the Libyan rebels who are trying to bring democracy to their country without the United States force feeding them it. Huh. Not much else to say, other than I hope that you enjoy this story, and that you'll be patient with me. We're starting to get into the hectic time of the school year. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this first chapter.
READ, ENJOY, AND PLEASE REVIEW!
Pandora, a large moon orbiting the planet Polyphemus of the Alpha Centauri system. It held the last chance for the salvation of Earth, the superconductor Unobtanium. That was why they were there. The RDA had messed up its chance to have mining rights on Pandora, and now the entire Earth had banded together under one banner, one cause, one fight: save the Earth, no matter the cost. Now, after five years of preparation and five years of travel, they had finally arrived. They were the EEF, the Earth Expeditionary Force, a multinational army that had been training ever since the situation with the Na'vi had turned hostile. British, German, Spanish, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, Americans, even Martians, all had trained to the extent of their abilities, going through countless simulations, studying Na'vi tactics as well as the tactics the RDA had used on the surface, figuring out what worked and what didn't. New armor was made for foot soldiers, combat vehicles were developed, and combat aircraft were tested in the worst of Earth's environments.
Now, after so many years of preparing, it was their chance. No paltry bands of mercenaries were they; they were professional soldiers, contracted to the cause of protecting the mother planet. None of them expected to go home, either. Pandora was now their home. They would die there, whether through combat or through natural means, it didn't matter. They were permanent colonists as much as soldiers, though civilians would be following the military push once the situation on Pandora stabilized. These thoughts and more ran through the mind of 1st Lieutenant Ellen Storch as she made her way through the weightless cargo bay of the Valkyrie Trans-Atmospheric Vehicle that was going to be making several runs with its brother TAV from their ISV to the surface of Pandora. Her company was amongst the first to be flying down to the surface of the moon in the entire fleet that was now orbiting Pandora, an honor that she would not ever forget. Out of the eight hundred soldiers transported by the four ISVs now silently floating above Pandora, it was Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Special Operations Group of the EEF that was being selected to make the first planetfall. She had just finished getting her platoon's roll call, and was now heading to the shuttle's cockpit to inform her company commander. She pulled herself into the cockpit to find Captain Burns on the radio with the other unit commanders, and rather than bother him, she went to the position of attention, a neat trick while floating several inches off the deck.
The moment Captain Burns took off the headset, she snapped off a smart salute. "Sir, Lieutenant Storch reporting as ordered, third platoon is all up and strapped in, sir!" Glancing back at her briefly before fully facing her and saluting her crisply and quickly, dropping his salute so that she could do the same.
"Well done, Lieutenant," he nodded, "stand at ease, such as it were." She knew what he meant. While floating through the air, it didn't make all that much sense to stand (float) with feet shoulder width apart. Instead, she relaxed, and clasped her hands loosely behind her back. "Storch, do you know why our company is being selected to be the first to get on planetside?"
She answered truthfully. "No, sir, but I figured it was because we're special forces, therefore more disciplined and trained for the event."
"Close." He motioned for her to look out the wide windows that dominated the front of the cockpit, and she pulled herself closer to where he was so she could see. What she saw stole her breath away. A beautiful blue, green, and white orb hung seemingly motionless in space, its backdrop completely dominated by Polyphemus, the gargantuan gas giant taking up most of the visual field, beautiful with its soft swirls and streaks of blue and purple. "Beautiful, isn't it?"
"I haven't seen that much green before in my life, sir," she admitted, and felt a brief flare of anger at how humanity had treated Earth. Earth had once been just as green as Pandora. Now it was grey and brown, an urbanized husk of a planet. "I can't wait to get down there."
"That's the motivation we need, Storch. The moment we reach the moon's surface, we have a mission."
"The Harrison retrieval?" As per common sense, the years leading up to the invasion were spent training for specific missions in a facility that matched the exact dimensions of Hell's Gate. One such mission was the retrieval of any humans still loyal to Earth. Upon reaching Pandora, it was discovered that there was still one such man: Sergeant James Harrison, who had diligently been writing reports for the past decade. His name had quickly circulated amongst the officers, and she looked forward to moving out on a mission so soon after getting boots on the ground.
Captain Burns nodded. "Your platoon is the one that takes the mess hall and the living quarters, correct? If things go according to schedule, we'll be arriving at Hell's Gate at around thirteen hundred hours, so your team will most likely encounter him at the mess. You'll find the most current picture of him in this briefing," he said as he handed her a holoboard, and she took it, hazel eyes briefly scanning the data there, focusing on the picture, committing the image to memory.
"Roger that, sir." Without another word, he turned away, obviously dismissing her, and she shoved off of the bulkhead, gliding through the somewhat stale air of the shuttle to her seat. Checking to make sure her gear was all accounted for, she strapped into the seat, securing herself with the heavy duty harness and relaxing. No reason to get worked up when they still had hours to go before the operation started. Currently, she only had her three nine-man rifle squads, her platoon sergeant, and her Radio Telephone Operator with her, though once everything got situated, she'd have her weapons squad, which had her two General Purpose Machine Gun teams of three men each, her two men equipped with anti-material rifles (advanced 20mm rifles that were light enough to be carried by a single man but powerful enough to drop the biggest of creatures on Pandora with a well placed shot…she hoped), and her weapons squad leader. She'd also have her combat medic and her field artillery forward observer with her, for a total of forty-one soldiers. However, each Valkyrie could only carry sixty troops, so the three rifle platoons of Delta Company were being split up between two Valkyries. She was in the second Valkyrie with second platoon and Captain Burns, whereas the entirety of first platoon along with all of the headquarters element to Delta Company (all sixteen of them, as Captain Burns was with the second Valkyrie) was in the first Valkyrie. The remaining soldiers would be ferried down, probably while they were conducting their raid.
Glancing left and right to get a quick count of her platoon again, she sucked in a breath. "Third platoon!" she barked, voice sharp, cutting over the chatter of troops talking and the rattle of gear getting put together, and the twenty-nine other soldiers under her command stopped talking and looked to her. "It's confirmed, we're retrieving Harrison." Instantly the mood within the shuttle changed, becoming more charged and focused. Men and women began to check weapons and magazines, making sure that batteries were charged on red dot sights, range finders, and other such equipment. As she rattled off the mission particulars in a classic Operations Order, her mind wandered to other things, such as what was waiting for them on the surface of Pandora. Finishing, she looked up from the holoboard. "Any questions?" she asked, looking around, and a soldier raised towards the back of the shuttle raised a hand. John Hersey, an automatic rifleman from second squad. "Yes, Specialist?"
"Ma'am, could you repeat the ROE again, I didn't catch them the first time."
She almost rolled her eyes. He heard her fine the first time, she could see it in the anticipatory set of his face. He just wanted to hear it again. "The rules of engagement are as follows: any armed resistance from the humans still on Pandora are to be met with lethal force. Unarmed resistance will be met by nonlethal counters. I shouldn't have to explain it, but let's be absolutely clear: if they shoot at you or come at you with a drawn blade, drop them, but only the one with the weapon. If they are throwing something relatively harmless like a rock or something, the soldiers with shotguns are equipped with stun rounds for just such an occasion."
"Roger that, ma'am, thank you." Hersey leaned back in his jump seat, idly stroking his light machine gun, eyes distant and a cold smirk on his lips. While she kept her face carefully clear of emotion, she knew exactly how he felt. While she wasn't particularly looking forward to combat (only because she might lose soldiers underneath her command, and that was something NO soldier looked forward to) she hoped that the traitors sitting on the moon below them were stupid enough to put up a fight. They knew the names of everyone that stayed behind, as well as their number. Less than two hundred scientists and SecOps personnel would not be able to stand up to a lightening raid, especially if the commandos conducting the raid had the element of surprise. Oh, it would be so satisfying if someone decided to pick up a gun against them…they'd stand no chance.
The intercom crackled to life. "All personnel, stand by for planetfall." Her heart skipped a beat, before kicking it up a notch. She wet her lips, and noticed that her hands were tightly gripping her rifle. She didn't bother to relax them as the entire shuttle shuddered heavily, and she could feel it falling. After a few heartbeats, the craft rumbled to life, and she could feel the G's pulling at her as the craft began its powered descent down to the moon below, and she couldn't help the grin that jumped to her face. They were well and truly on their way…to war, to saving humanity, and to their new home. Knowing that they still had a long flight ahead of them, she settled back in her seat, and forced herself to relax. It took her time, but she eventually fell into a light doze, and stayed that way until the shuttle was making its final approach.
"Lieutenant?" Her eyes snapped open at her platoon sergeant's voice, and she looked over to the man, alert for whatever he had to tell her. Sergeant First Class Yong-sun Tan, a short and wiry Korean national who had served in the Korean Marine Corps before he was selected to have the honor of being part of the EEF. He was a quiet, intense man whose English still bore a faint accent. He also scared the shit out of her. He had the feel of a man who had seen a lot of action, who had both seen and done horrible things. However, he was her anchor point, and she knew that she could always rely on him for guidance. He wouldn't take command of the platoon unless he was the last one to take control, but she knew that if she ever faltered, he'd be there to quietly offer a suggestion, to get her back on the path of leadership.
"We are five minutes from landing, ma'am. Orders are to put our exopacks on now."
She nodded. "Roger that, Sergeant." After quickly glancing around to make sure that the rest of her platoon was getting their gear on, she pulled on her exopack, listening for the soft hiss that meant it was engaged. Once it was functioning properly, she checked to make sure that everything else was functioning properly. The exopacks that the EEF had were new and improved, and had been field tested exhaustively. The lenses alone were expensive as hell, but were also interchangeable, given the right tools. They had the standard clear lens, and then there was the tinted lens that she and her platoon currently had equipped, more for a psychological edge than anything else. There was a third and experimental lens that was thicker, but had light amplifying abilities. It worked much like night vision goggles, only lacked the ability to amplify light as much as dedicated goggles. However, she remembered being briefed that due to the bioluminescent nature of the flora and fauna of Pandora, the light amplifier lenses were sufficient enough in giving humans better vision at night that NVGs weren't needed. She'd believe that when she saw it.
Other features improved better padding for the armor shell, which was also improved, more as protection from the smaller species of animal on Pandora than against the Na'vi. If a Na'vi hit a human on the head with the intent to cause serious damage, they would, helmet or no helmet. One of her favorite features was an HUD feature that included a compass, motion sensor, and a GPS map that was linked with satellites that were being released into orbit probably even now. If she looked over at a soldier in her platoon, she'd be able to see their basic vitals (which were updated every ten seconds by their suit), how far away they were, name and rank, and status, such as conscious, unconscious, or dead. She could see all of her medical information at the lower left corner of her HUD. The medic would be able to see more in depth medical information, from what she understood , but she saw just enough to keep tabs on her troops.
The exopack was connected to their full body suit through a wireless connection, which meant that 'packs were not interchangeable between soldiers, something that had been drilled into all of them repeatedly. It was their suit that kept tabs on their vitals, and also could detect a wide variety of trauma and do basic aid depending on the wound. If struck by a Na'vi arrow, for example, the effects of the neurotoxins would be detected within moments of being hit, and the antidote would be administered automatically by the suit, all while the area around the wound was being compressed to put pressure on the wound to slow bleeding. A broken limb could also be detected and automatically splinted, as well. An overheated soldier would have the suit activate several disposable cold packs located at key areas around the body as well as send a heads up to the unit medic so that the soldier could get treated as necessary. Though it wasn't expected to happen on the hot and humid surface of Pandora, the suits also came prepared to treat hypothermia in much the same way, only with heat pads. If they weren't kill outright, the suits were expected to increase soldier survivability by seventy percent.
The armor was also upgraded, but there was only so much you could do against arrows that had enough force to completely pierce through an armored soldier or through the canopies of Samsons and Scorpions. If anything, their torsos were actually less armored, in order to shift more armor out to their limbs so that if attacked by viperwolves, a soldier could take a bite to the forearm, upper arm, lower leg, or thigh without worrying about skin breaking. The armor wasn't foolproof, but was a fair sight better than the armor previously used, which only covered the torso, and when the Na'vi were able to shoot through that armor regardless…Storch was content with having less armor on her torso and more on her extremities when the torso armor wasn't doing her jack shit, anyway. Plus, even when fully loaded with assault pack, tactical vest, ammo, weapons, and all the other little knickknacks that soldiers carried, the current armor was less restrictive than the old gear.
"Attention all personnel, we are landing in five…four…three…two…one…mark." The shuttle rumbled and shuddered as it made contact with the ground, and Storch slapped at the quick release for her harness, and was on her feet, clipping her rifle to her vest as she quickly grabbed her duffel bag from under her seat.
"Third platoon, on your feet!" Tan shouted, voice surprisingly loud for such a small man, and there was the loud rustling and clacking of men and women getting ready. "Masks secure!"
"One up!" she shouted in response, and the next man shouted that he was up, and so on until Tan shouted that he was up, as well. "We will be going where the base personnel direct us to go, hoo-ah?" she barked, and the platoon roared an affirmative. "Third platoon is up!"
"Second platoon is up!"
"All personnel, ramp is dropping, say again, ramp is dropping." A red light turned green, and there was a mechanical growling as the ramp began to descend, and she could see the difference in atmosphere come roiling in, and she flinched slightly as the Pandoran air reached her, humid and wet and hot. She instantly began to sweat, which her suit's bottommost layer began to wick away from her skin in an effort to keep her cool. She shifted uncomfortably as her forehead also began to bead sweat, the beads slowly rolling down her forehead before gathering in her eyebrows, eventually ending up dripping into her eyes, stinging them.
"Platoon, atten-hut! Forward, march!" Tan shouted, and as one, they all stepped off on their left foot, an entire side of the cargo shuttle moving with military precision, showing derision against the dense atmosphere that pushed against them like a steady breeze, keeping in step despite the lower gravity that lightened their bodies, that made it that much harder for boots to grip the ground. Third Platoon, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Special Operations Group of the EEF had made planetfall, and was the first unit to get boots on the ground. As they stepped into the golden Pandoran sunlight, not one of them felt fear. All of them faced their destiny with all the professionalism and hardened military discipline that they could muster. They would need that professionalism and discipline soon, far sooner than they expected. However, they would forever be remembered for being the first of the EEF to touch Pandoran soil…soil that they would forever call home.