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Major William Quinn waited in the shade of the Quonset hut, a prefabricated building that could quickly be assembled and just as swiftly taken away. He stood calmly surveying the scene before him. Everywhere he looked there was activity. He glanced skyward as a flight of Avenger jump craft rocketed past. They banked sharply and climbed for altitude. Quinn’s interest shifted as a drop ship hovered momentarily over the landing pad, its engines screaming while the main drives were swivelled for landing. A dozen ground crewmen waited expectantly. Even as the turbines wound down, the different doors and hatches were already swinging open. The ship’s loadmasters pushed the cargo pallet out onto the ramp for hoist trucks to pick up and disappear. The line of passengers, with all their personal gear jumped to the harshly shouted orders of the NCOs waiting outside. He saluted automatically as a marching squad of men, kitted out with their combat gear, were headed to the airfield, each man in step. The Lieutenant offering the courtesy as they passed.

 

Quinn looked at the face of each man, they looked determined and confident; men who were sent here to do a job and do it well. The Major critiqued everything he saw. Even though this was simply the Staging Point for the army, morale looked good. There was no sign the men in this command weren’t up for the job. For the first time the officer allowed his emotions to spill over. This was just one of the operations that didn’t go as expected, but it didn’t mean that personnel should be changed. They had been planetside now ten months and the High Command was even thinking about calling for a re-issue early. They had lost just under four thousand men. Quinn slung his combat harness over his shoulder, grimaced unexpectedly at the painful pulling in his back. He worked the shoulder for a minute easing the sudden spasms, then being a bit more careful he bent and grabbed hold of his L34 assault rifle and started for the landing area he could see to his left. He passed a number of men heading resolutely for some important task. He moved with purpose. Even though he personally thought this assignment was ridiculous, he was determined to see it through.

 

He paused at the sentry post and mindful of the pain the unguarded move cost him, set down his combat harness, and took his identifying disc from around his neck for the guard. The man saluted and passed him on with a minimum of fuss. Quinn nodded and returned the salute. He stopped and looked at the aircraft waiting on the line. He took off his glare resistant goggles, blinking in the sudden bright sun and surveyed the area. There were fifteen of the sleek jump jet assault gunships. Even on the ground they looked to be a thing of beauty and extremely lethal. The ship was about thirty feet long, had rear loading ramps and assault doors, just aft of the cockpit on each side of the fuselage. Quinn knew the ship could carry fifty men and their gear, and once it touched down, the assault troops could get out in fifteen seconds. The craft was heavily armoured and he could see the turret on top of the hull, and one in the tail. The gun mounts under the dihedral wings were moveable. The fixed rockets could cut a swathe through anything. He looked sharply as a man ducked under the nose section and looked up into the nose landing gear wheel well. Quinn carried on forward.

 

He straightened and reached for the small of his back and his fingers probed the small metal screws there. He suddenly could see the jump jet screaming across the sky. It was three years ago when he had commanded the 23rd Infantry Battalion. He had rustled up a pilot to make a flyover to check on troop moments. They had a hard time getting good intel on the jungle world they found themselves fighting on. The jet, piloted by a junior inexperienced officer soon covered the area; however he was reluctant to go too low for fear of hitting the hidden terrain. Quinn scowled, remembering the screaming of the interceptors and the Lieutenant sobbing as he tried to shake the attackers. He swiftly climbed into the cramped turret, his tall body confined in the limited space. The four fighters weren’t expecting trouble, as there had been no defensive fire; as a result, they got overconfident and careless. The heavy guns jerked in Quinn’s hand as the rhythmic pounding echoed in his head; deadly scathing fire caught two of them in as many seconds. The survivors quickly launched air-to-air missiles, and the pilot either didn’t hear the electronic alarm buzzing, or Quinn’s frantic shouts. The exploding ship spun out of control and crashed. Quinn spent six months as a POW in the hospital. The doctors, while brilliant didn’t have the technology backing them up to heal his broken back. So when the war ended two months later, Quinn spent the next six months undergoing painful operations, and then a year of rehabilitation. The Chief Medical Officer was almost chronic in his attempts to get Quinn to take the juice. Quinn shook his head remembering the long arguments. In the end, it was Barnes that settled the problem. The Sergeant Major had simply told the officer that if Quinn was juiced he would find him. After all there were only so many places a person could hide on the ship.

 

 

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