Emma Walker was about as green as a grunt could be. She had wanted to work for the IMC all through secondary school. She had always wanted to join the military, and a recruiter had told her that taking a small time security job for a company, like the IMC, was a good way to get introduced to military command hierarchies and logistical coordinating. So, right out of secondary, she took a seasonal job for some cash, and applied for a job at the crisp age of nineteen. Eight months of 'basic' later, and here she was, a part of the 144st Armored Footmobile Brigade, 4th Battalion, Bravo Company. Unfortunately, no one had deemed it relevant to notify her of the fact thst the IMC had recently engaged in the largest unofficial war this side of the Crab Nebula.

She had been assigned to the unit, and the IMS Hesperides to go along with it, as her first deployment. Her active career had only been four months and eight days to date, and she had already been to seven planets. While she had been racking up frequent spacer miles, she had yet to see any heavy combat. Most of her engagements had been observations of evacuations or simply moving from one planet to another. The IMC Security Division was, compared to other areas of the Corporation, severally understaffed, so most security units had to play the part of site security one day, and be spearheading a reclamation operation a few days later. This sometimes would lead to a unit not being properly resupplied before flying off to a besieged planet that needed reinforcements, which in turn leads to abnormally high casualties. The 144st was only one of seven Brigades operating at full strength. That's seven of the thirty eight brigades in the 4th Fleet at full capacity.

This was actually, as it would happen, the reason PFC Emma Walker was here. She was a replacement.

"Keiko! Where'd you go shōjo," said an armored man from the other side of the armory. The man was none other than Cpl. Takeichi Nishi.

"In here Boss!"

Cpl. Nishi, more commonly referred to as 'Boss', was an anti-armor specialist for her platoon, and she was his assistant. He was a well built man of average height, but was a good head and a half taller than her. His darker hued skin reviled his East Asian lineage, but he actually hailed from some asteroid in the Tau Ceti System. A blatant contrast to her own British ancestry. He was also beginning to show signs of ageing, with his fifty-three years of life overshadowing her meager twenty years, and half of his which were given to military service.

"Just trying to find reloads for the One-Two." The Brockhaurd Manufacturing Model-12 MPATGM was the precursor to the Archer missile launcher. It had more range and was lighter, but lacked as much of a punch and was manually guided. After the introduction of the Archer, many IMC anti-armor teams serving in units unfavorably sacked by the Logistics Department found that the old M-12 was easier to carry additional ammo for, and did just as much damage to Titans provided that you hit them.

"The Q Man hide it again?" The Quartermaster was infamous for rearranging the armories every time he restocked.

"This place is more cluttered than my younger brothers' room." She put her hands up in exasperation. "It's fucking ludicrous!"

Ammo cans were stacked on shelves, guns packed into boxes in the middle of the room, and rows upon rows of other weaponry paraphernalia stuffed into every available niche. A Marine Drill Sergeant would probably have an aneurysm.

"Well hurry up," he replied in a mildly dulcet but authoritve tone. "We're wheels up in six hours, and you still need to get geared up."

'Damn it' she thought. She still needed to get her gear together, check her rifle, stock up on everything else and, if time permitted, take a shower and nap. She was going into seventeen hours of non stop awake and she was beginning to feel the missing sleep crawling into the back of her eyes. 'Coffee isn't going to cut it anymore.'

5 hours later

Walker was sitting on her bunk trying to put her Hemlok back together. She had found her spare HEAT missiles, ready to take out any light armor the Militia could throw at her. She wore her standard IMC gray digital armor, capable of protecting her from most low velocity projectiles. Her CQCT helmet sat next to her, waiting to provide her with enhanced optics.

Her rifle though, was useless. It sat in her hands, separated into its disassembled parts. It couldn't do anything unless she put it back together. A simple task if it wasn't for her shaking hands.

Why were hands shaking? 'Why, why, why? Please don't lose it today.'

If what she got from the briefing from her platoon's Chief Petty Officer was accurate to the impending situation, this was going to be her first real experience in a hard contact operation. Essentially, this was going to be her baptism by fire.

Walker tucked her hands under her arms, closed her eyes, and took in a breath. "Cover, shoot, scoot, cover, shoot, scoot..." On she went, repeating the mantra that had been drilled into her since day one.

"Take cover! Return fire until they stop shooting, then you move!" Her instructors had said that the moment she touched a gun. All squad tactics revolved around suppression fire and maneuver. As long as she remembered at least this one thing, she wouldn't freeze. "You forget, you freeze; you freeze, you die. Guaranteed."

"Walker, where the fuck are you!"

Petty Officer Second Class Arnaud Dubois was a fifty-three year old Flemish man who had seen, according to some, far to much warfare in his life. He served over two decades in the European Union's Agence de Défense et de Sécurité des Colonies Extraterrestres, otherwise known as the EU Colonial Army. After which, he spent several years helping the Pirov Cossacks in their Civil War as a mercenary. He was now working on his eighth year as an IMC Marine, and her current platoon leader. Needless to say, he was probably one of the most seasoned soldiers in the whole Regiment.

"Right here Dubbs!"

His head snapped to his left, hitting her with an expressionless gaze. She would be lying if she said that his eyes didn't unnerve her. He always seemed to have this ability to look at someone and be able to read there emotions with just a glance. Like he could feel her jitters. That, or he could read the dismantled rifle parts in her lap. Either way, if he could read her current mildly anxious state of mind, as he turned on his heel and walked right back out of the bunk room with nothing more than "Assembly in starboard hangar in ten."

"Wilco, Dubbs." She looked down at her rifle once again, and sighed out some of her nerves. "Okay..."

Starboard Deployment Hangar

IMS Hesperides

"Alright Benji," started Kapić "how will you talumatu pilots be fairing us into the hellfire today?"

While Kapić was technically the battalions CO, he was also much more suited for coordinating infantry company tactics than orchestrating the deployment of said infantry companies. He did not pretend to be an expert in aerial deployment into 'inaccessible' LZs. He left that herculean task to the crazy pilots of the Bears, the Peri's domestic Goblin squadron, and their Captain Owen Benjamin. Who was currently drinking a mug of, presumably, coffee.

"Alright," sip "so, Delta and Heinkel are first. This courtyard is our primary LZ, but since this is a blind insert, we'll be using the roofs of these buildings-" pointing to two wide, large building with roof access "-as secondaries. We got lucky this time, with a large courtyard, so we'll be able land all at once. Heinkel will take two Gremlins, eight each, and be landing here and here.

"Alpha and Bravo are next, with five Gremlins each, so you can start securing your OPs ASAP." Another sip. "Once we get back, we'll need a refuel before we take the last sixteen from Barvo-" sip "-and Alpha. All in all... three outings at eight mikes times two for both ways, three deployments at two tops mikes, one refuel, stacks up to about... an hour minus change before all boots on the ground."

"And that's counting on none of us running into MANPADS," added another pilot.

"Yeah," started Benjamin after another sip. "That would definitely shake things up a bit."

A moment latter, and the Flight Deck Control Officer reported to the Captain. "Okay Owen, just got the all clear from all the crew chiefs."

Kapić took this as his queue to rally his men, and one hand up to his ear and made a circling motion with his other while facing the flight deck control room. Three waved circles with a thumbs up was replied to with a quick beep over the ships PA system, followed by an announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, flight 441 to Sanbashi is now boarding. All troops grab your equipment and repot to your platoon leaders on the flight deck."

It only took a few minutes for the three-hundred and nineteen men and women of the 441st to assemble in the loading area. The voices of squad leaders and their subordinates discussing their preparations were soon added to the growing whine of the Gremlin engines spooling up. Not long after, loud hissing noises came from the hangar doors on the port and starboard sides of the bay. Natural sunlight filled the chamber, over powering the florescent bars strung around from steel beams and scaffolding.

The smell of water also invaded the senses of everyone now exposed to the open air. The two Tyrrhenian-class battleships, IMS Pianosa and Ventotene, joined the Hesperides in a low altitude position holding at an altitude of about one hundred and fifty meters above a massive lake. The town of Sanbashi was situated on a peninsula jutting out into lake Asai Mizu, a drainage basin at the feet of a horseshoe of mountains a few miles inland from a larger saltwater body. Since it was also on the windward side of the range, and at a semi-tropical latitude, created a very lush, almost rainforest like, region.

This waterfront aroma combined with the natural lighting entering the hanger, transforming the area from a harsh cargo bay into something akin to an open air, lake side cottage. Except, of course, for the massive amounts of guns, missiles, rockets, and other assorted munitions.

Suddenly, a sharp whistle hushed all the voices, as man dressed in a non-combatant uniform stood up on top of a crate, cupped his hands around his mouth, and yelled out. "Before anyone goes out, make sure you have your Hazard Security Insurance Transfer Agreement's up to date!" He pulled off a sling bag off his shoulder, and removed a binder filled with blank insurance forms. "No one wants to die, but make sure that if you suck at finding cover, or your poor survival instincts kick in, your family or dependents don't miss out on... however much insurance you have back logged."

"Hey Schreiber," a voice called out, "does this come with any-"

"No Dick," Schreiber replied with a smile and a sigh, "you aren't getting any of my gold."

The hangar was filled with light laughter as men and women gabbed the offered paperwork. The HSITA was the most recent in a long line of benefits offered to security personnel. The IMC was trying very desperately to incentives more hirees. While Hammond Robotics continued to develop and produce automated security drones, like the Spectre, the cost/performance ratio just didn't compare to that of actual people on top of the fact that they were very expensive to produce. And unfortunately for the IMC, they were losing people and drones faster than they could be replaced.

Emma had already filed her Agreement earlier this morning.

"Walker!" Emma's head snapped around at her name. It was PO2 Dubois that grabbed her attention. "This way, dame. We're Oscar Mike."

She nodded in acknowledgement and jogged over to him. Neither of them wore their helmets, much like the rest of the battalion, so facial identification was easy. The two began to walk together to the waiting Goblins with the rest of her unit. Her unit, similar to the other four companies in the battalion, was comprised of seventy-six personnel. Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie companies, being Rifle Companies, were sub-divided further into three platoons of twenty and a fourth platoon of sixteen that acted as a heavy support group. She was part of the support group of Bravo Company, but on an EVAC operations such as this, support groups usually traded their three mortar teams and an HMG team for two more infantry fire teams.

"Hey Walker," came the voice of Lance Corporal Brandon Kennedy, "got your death insurance taken care of, yeah?"

Her first reaction was to smile, in spite of her best efforts. She just couldn't get over that amusing rooting of an Irish accent in his speech. Brandon Kennedy was relatively short man of solid build, fair skin, and a red head to boot. The rest of the company took careful notice of this combination, much to the chagrin of Brandon. All in good fun of course as Brandon, a former professional boxer with a few minor class belts to his record, could verifiably punch the living daylights out of anyone who push him to far.

"Yeah, Ken, I filed it this morning."

"This morning?" Nishi checked his watch, "it's zero seven hundred."

"And I filed everything at quarter to six."

Then another voice joined the conversation. "You know that they will not do that for very much longer," came the French accented voice of Jean Danjou. A Kongo man of good height and build, he spoke in a deep voice of a Bantu-French accent, and a refusal to use contractions for reasons known only to him. He was also the platoons self ascribed pundit on internal workings of the IMC bureaucracy. It was if the man had "friends" or "acquaintances" in every department. Essentially, he was the unit gossip.

"Alright, hold the chatter," said Dubois. "Ira and Benoni covering his section, so I'm responsible for you lot. So you all know the drill; pre-launch equipment check sound off."

"Private Sadakichi Kato, rifleman good to go."

"Private Xiu Juan Chiu, riflemen good to go."

"Private First Class Sergey Kharlamov, automatic gunner ready to go."

"Lance Corporal Alejandro de Padua María-" The Lance Corporal was interrupted by those around him swatting and chiding him, while he broke out into a fit of laughter.

"Alright, wijsneus, keep it solid," scolded Dubois.

"Fine, fine... Hernandez, grenadier all good."

And on and on it went, as the fireteams and HMG team sounded off and entered the waiting Goblin. Then it was the AT team's turn.

"Corporal Takeichi Nishi, anti-armor lead good to go."

"Private First Class Emma Walker, assistant ant-armor good to go."

"Mhmm," Dubois hummed in response to the last member of his unit, while signing a piece of paper on a clip board. Part of standard legal procedure before a deployment was a written conformation by squad leaders that all present members of a verbally confirmed a 'ready to go' statement.

As Walker made her way into the Goblin, she noticed the two supply crates, one in front of the other, dividing the hold. Although Walker had never been on a combat deployment, she was aware of some of the habits that units in combat tended to practice. One such practice was to have squads deploy directly into combat with surplus equipment out of Gremlins. Usually, this practice was reserved for forces expecting to be entrenched and surrounded for long durations of time. Quite a rarity for what was supposed to be a run of the mill EVAC operation.

"You know what they say about the Chief," said Dubois. "Man's been a little paranoid of supply shortage since the Cossack Civil War. No need to think we're walking into another Al Naglia, right everyone?"

"Nahnahnah, no," went someone. "Don't even bring that up."

It wasn't much longer after Walker founder her seat that the engines began to spool up beyond starting idle. Three men in grey and white aviation suits quickly jumped on the ramp and shuffled their way through the packed aircraft. They white suited man, the Load Master, stayed on the ramp and informed the flight crew that the craft was full and the ramp was clear to be closed, and the two wearing grey went to the side mounted door guns, a pair of enhanced versions of the EM-4 with six times the ammo capacity and not limited to four round burst. One oddity that Emma noticed was the faint tally marks next to each gunners' position.

When the Load Master tapped his helmet, all the passengers read the que to put on their helmets. In an instant, Emma's world changed. The IMC CQCT helmet had become the iconic IMC helmet, with full frontal faceplate. She however, often wore the plate up, and opted for ballistic glasses instead, preferring to only use the plate for protection in actually CQC environments. Not that she had ever been in combat, but she knew that was going to change today.

Today, she was going to encounter death and destruction, and once she put that helmet on, she knew that some of that death would most assuredly be on her hands.


So yeah, this took a while. Sorry for those of you following this.

I have to admit, I'm not entirely sure how I want this story to end up in some places.

Also, I hate having to say this, but the jokes that happen in this story are jokes and not meant to be taken seriously. Have a nice day, and if you so choose leave a like, follow, or comment. I do so dearly love reading people's opinions on stuff.