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Olympus Prime

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Olympus Prime

PostTue Nov 10, 2015 10:42 pm

Chapter 1
The Triton dropship was shaking violently. Even with safety restraints, Alex felt like an oversized chattering tooth in the mouth of a man who’d been pulled out of a frozen lake--and was now in the middle of a beating. His eyes flashed around the cabin; the rest of his squadmates were in a similar state.
Alex the squads marksman and a new member of the squad glanced to the pilot’s seat. Their pilot/drone specialist, Fox, was secured into a more solid, comfortable seat, but even she was still being jolted hard enough to make piloting the dropship seem impossible. No matter how many times he saw this scene, it bothered him: Fox’s limbs were utterly relaxed, almost limp, and her hands were folded in her lap, not touching any of the controls. A swath of tubes and wires hung from the back of her helmet, which was nearly double the thickness of the others. Belying appearances, she was quite in control of the ship.
To be more precise, she and the ship’s AI were, in tandem, directing the ship. The AI interpreted her thoughts into adjustments in the amount of thrust, engine vector, and angle of entry. Communicating with and operating a dropship with AI required the ability to absorb massive amounts of information, process it, and give feedback in real time. In addition, pilots needed to overcome the psychological strain of sharing both their mind and control of their ship with AI. A certain genetic makeup and upbringing is necessary to effectively fuse with an AI core and operate together with it.
It was becoming uncomfortably hot. Normally a Triton A1 dropship would have become a crispy nugget under these circumstances, but the only stock part on this Triton was the hull, which was built for rapid atmospheric insertion and long-range patrol. The missile pods were removed and gun pods were stored strapped to the floor of the cargo bay. Standard bulkheads had been replaced with alloy tubes filled with nano-engineered expanding foam that was cured under heat and pressure. Very light, flexible, and strong, it was incredibly expensive, even for the Post Human Republic.
The enhanced structural reinforcements were not the only things keeping the ship from being ripped apart. Discarding multi-stage ablative shell kept the ship from burning up. The plating made the normally graceful Triton A1 look like a fat, drunk turkey dropping down through the atmosphere. As it plummeted, small strips of the ablative armor were turning red, then white, then peeling off and burning up in layers.
The tension in Alex’s stomach was giving way to nausea.
He felt a presence in the net; Jack “Nurse” Owens, who was monitoring them all. Turn off your stomach feedback--your adrenaline is spiking and you’re going to vomit. Alex gave Nurse a thumbs-up, then closed his eyes and pressed his head into his seat, concentrating. He visualized his adrenal glands as a control panel, and told himself the words Quiet and calm. Homeostasis restored as he slowly pulled down a solid metal lever in his mind’s eye. The processor at the base of his brain, integrated via nanomachines into his neural network, blocked the signals to the digestive system urging him to vomit. His glands were inhibited from releasing any more adrenaline into his system. For Alex, this was a deliberate and rather clunky process. Fox, on the other hand, was managing an entire dropship and integrated system with the AI as naturally as she breathed.
The large ablative outer shell slid off the hull with a shudder. Here’s the fun part! yelled Bogomil over the net. The “fun” had indeed begun; the engines, which were idling and blocked off to preserve them as they were descending through the atmosphere, came to life with a banshee scream at the wide-open throttle.
Now everything inside the dropship was creaking and groaning; it was difficult to breathe, and Alex’s vision blurred with the G-forces. Quiet and calm. Homeostasis restored, he repeated to himself. The pitch of the engine’s noise changed suddenly as the throttle was chopped, and there was a very large, harsh sound as the excessive fuel burned up in the engine.
They came to a stop over a large swamp on the edge of a vast forest of coniferous trees. Narva spoke up over the net: Welcome to Olympus. Skye, this foam shit better work as advertised.
There was a loud hissing sound and several whines and gurgles from the engines, which suddenly--according to plan--shut off as they were quickly filled with expanding foam that was coming out at the intake and exhaust nozzles, blocking them off. There was another shift and a groan from the craft as it settled a few meters down into the swamp.
Everyone’s eyes were on the view ports, which were slowly being covered by the goopy substance of the swamp. As they watched, the entire ship was swallowed in darkness.

Chapter 2

The crew’s apprehension was obvious. Fox, hoping to abate it, calmly pulled up the ship’s information on the central projector in the middle of the cargo hold for everyone to see. This diverted their eyes from the darkened view ports and helped allay the sensation of claustrophobia. “Unclench those cheeks, ladies and gentlemen,” she said. “We have no leaks. Structural integrity is good. Both the oxygen generator and backup are working just fine.”
With a click and a hiss, Narva removed her helmet’s face shield, which also doubled as a display and a night-observation device. “Status check.”
Each member verbally verified his or her status in turn. Bogomil, the squad’s machine gunner, demanded a refund for this terrible flight--he didn’t even get mini liquor bottles.
After carefully removing her bulky helmet, Fox informed Bogomil that Post Human Republic Airline does not serve alcohol to whiny bitches.
Nurse said, “We didn’t even get to Scourge yet and I already have to waste good medical supplies to treat that burn!” Everyone but Narva had a good laugh. Bogomil took it in stride, as this was the daily standard of professionalism among them.
Fox flipped through the sensor and radar data on the holoprojector in the middle of the cargo hold. The squad looked at each other through the green glow of the radar logs being replayed. It was cramped, hot and smelly; almost every power source was off except for the air circulation. They were not even running the oxygen converter because it generated an EM signature; instead, they were relying on compressed air tanks.
Fox finished skimming. “We’re in the clear. Good.” She swept her hand over the projection panel and the hologram disappeared. She pushed several more buttons on the control panel’s displaying screen . The only consistent noise on the ship now was the air filtration unit and the breathing and shifting of the people within. There was an occasional creak or groan as the ship settled on the bottom of the swamp.Narva the squad leader looked at her people. “All right, folks, we are in. Doesn’t look like we were detected. And if they did spot us, the thing they saw broke up in the atmosphere. The only thing traceable is the shell, which is mostly broken up and burned. But if they are smart, though, they are gonna check the trajectory and search this area.
“We are going to wait it out here for 48 hours and make way to the surface. Fox, use passive sensors to try and discern what is going on above.”
Everyone was intently looking at Fox’s and Narva’s data pads. Five minutes in, there was a spike in the EM band, followed by minor changes in the pressure of the swamp.
“Looks like a fast mover did a low pass,” said Fox, “I can’t tell for sure.” There was 20 more minutes of silence, in which everyone basted in their own sweat.
There were several more beeps on the data pads and large spikes in the wave signatures on the EM band.
“Shit, grav drives! Everyone, masks! Skye, kill everything.” Everyone snapped their face shields back on. Skye, the squad’s mechanic and rigger, manually pulled the couplings from the ship. The Triton was now completely off; no air scrubbers, no sensors, no power. They were going off the reserve air tanks that were attached to their suits.

Several very uncomfortable hours passed. Under Narva, though, the crew had long learned not to voice meaningless complaints unless they wanted the verbal equivalent of a cat o’ nine tails. Narva looked at her display; she had 30 minutes of reserve oxygen left . She looked at Nurse.
Hey Nurse, how much oxygen do you have left? she asked via the net.
Twenty-five minutes.
This is what you get for being a fucking giant, Bogomil commented; at 7’4”, Nurse was the largest of the crew by a significant margin. I have 32 minutes, Bogomil bragged.
All right Fox, activate the passive sensors and see if there is anything out there, directed Narva. Skye, see if you can restart the air scrubber and oxygen generator without spiking the EM.
Nothing on the EM band detected in the water or sludge or whatever the fuck this tar shit is, said Fox.
Narva looked at Fox. This tar shit is loaded with hydrocarbons. Skye, if the coast is clear, restart the air scrubbers and get the oxygen generator going.
There were no signatures of any kind on the sensors; ten minutes later the air scrubber and generator were humming again.
Narva took off her face shield. “All right, people, looks like we are in the clear. You can make yourselves less uncomfortable.”
Alex, Fox, Narva, and Skye lost no time disrobing. Nurse and Bogomil took longer . Bogomil had thick carpace armor enclosing his torso and limbs, and an enhanced face shield with ablative capabilities to deal with the heat of plasma. His backpack hanging below the massive rectangular box that was the magazine which fed the RXp-57 “Dragon” automatic rifle through an ammo belt . On his chest were several 40-round magazines of ammunition as backup. He had a reinforced spinal column and osseo-integrated leg implants to enhance strength so he could handle the extra weight of his gear with ease, along with the usual plating and implants for medical purposes in case he were “ventilated”.
Nurse was a different kind of man even for a Post Human Republic citizen. He was a Republican with a capital R, as were the previous two generations of his family. They took the Post Human aspect very seriously. His mother’s uterus had carried and nourished him, but his genetic makeup came from carefully selected donors for the best blend of traits and lack of defects. His parents had also come from a selected genetic pairing. He showed great physical strength and intelligence in early childhood assessments, and--most importantly--excellent compatibility with cybernetic and nanotech implants. Thanks to his performance in military academy during the annual War Games and Field Maneuvers Championship, he got a full scholarship to the prestigious Athens Continent Academy. He belonged to the Academy; in exchange, he received a growing list of cutting-edge implants and enhancements that were too numerous and esoteric to explain in full--although many an eye had glazed over as he tried.
Nurse had the lowest implant rejection rate and the most adaptable body in the Academy. The scientists from the Medical Core practically salivated at his progress, which had spawned volumes of published papers, millions of credits in research grants, and half a dozen tenured careers. After rigorous screening tests, he was informed that his genetic material was selected to be introduced to the breeding program, a substantial honor.
While his ability to interact with AI was disappointingly average, his ability to adapt to implants, along with his old-fashioned physical strength, were exceptional. For three months he reported to the clinic twice a week to “further the Post Human Republic goal of producing an ever-better human”. Meanwhile, he developed an interest in nano-biology and moved into medical education. His combination of physical abilities and medical knowledge made him a prime candidate for clandestine operations.
With whirrs and a clicks his chest piece and back segment came off, followed by leg and arm protective pieces. Small metallic sockets showed at the joints of his vertebrae, as well as those on his arms and legs. They were available for attaching power armor to even further augment his physical performance. Amazingly expensive technology even for the PHR, but having given his body and mind to them as a black check, he was in for the long haul, and they knew it. Only his love for service rivaled his thrill at evolving with each new enhancement. He was a proud Republican and a paragon of the new Humanity.
Not only were his limbs enhanced, but his bones were osseo-integrated with nanotech, and his muscles amplified with nano-fibers. Synthetic ligaments ensured that despite his bulk, his flexibility was still superb. Integral plating protected his muscles and blood vessels. Level by level, his body had a defensive shield for everything.
One of the squad’s favorite games was “Nurse, pick this up”, in which one of them would say, “Oh, damn, I dropped my (insert incredibly heavy piece of equipment)? Nurse, pick this up!” and make bets on the results. It was rarely a good idea to bet against Nurse. Bogomil had started calling Nurse his new best friend after Nurse brought along an additional backpack-sized magazine for him on a mission.
The temperature inside the ship had crept down to a nearly comfortable range. Narva ordered them to get some shut-eye in shifts so that someone would always be awake to monitor the sensors .
After a quiet 48 hours, Narva told Skye to release the drone. The Titon’s missiles had been removed; in their place were supplies and a modified drone, its shape modeled after a stingray’s to glide through the thick mucus of the swamp.
Skye settled into the pilot’s seat and put on the AI helmet. “Okay, I’m in. Firing it up.”
Everyone could hear a blast door to the right of the missile pad slide open. The drone was connected to a spool of compound wire; tension rope for strength and a set of very thin data and power cables. The setup kept EM emissions down.
“I am not picking up any emissions or unusual vibrations; going to see if I can attach this thing somewhere...Got it. Should be good. It’s one meter below the surface right next to some big rocks; we should be able to pull ourselves out.”

Chapter 3

Everyone performed one last ritual gear check. Alex checked his PXp-14 long-range rifle before encasing it in a flexible and translucive protective plastics compound for its journey through the quagmire. Bogomil strapped his automatic rifle to his backpack. They were all pulling on loose clear plastic coveralls that tightened and closed over their necks. There was another part that went over their helmets and attached separately.
Bogomil spoke up: “Are you kidding me? This stupid body condom is supposed to keep this muck out?”
Sky looked at Bogomil. “Really? You’re going to question my gear after all this time?” she asked incredulously.
“It came out of Skye’s 3D printer, so it must be good,” Nurse interjected.
The tension was so thick it seemed to coat their skin like sweat. Close quarters made for close friendship, but those deep-seated connections could also sour quickly in times of stress.
Fox said: “Look, this body condom is strong shit, just ask your mom.”
Everyone in the cabin burst into laughter, dissolving the friction. Bogomil was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes; in between gasps for air, he managed to wheeze, “I fucking love you, you sick bastard, I’ll kill you.”

The Triton dropship had to be modified for what they jokingly called “tarlock” so they could exit the ship without flooding it with whatever was in the swamp. With all of their gear, they were barely able to squeeze into the airlock chamber. They formed a chain with Jack “Nurse” up front, connected via two-meter lengths of nano-filament rope.
Using a compound picture of thermal EM vibrations and a low-powered active form of scanners, they were able to see their surroundings, if only 30 meters out. They pulled themselves along the umbilical cord of the stingray drone. Well, more like Nurse pulling everyone else and them trying to keep up, almost every one Narva was from the Sirens corps.
They stopped when they reached the drone. Narva came onto the net. Alex, up front.
Alex disconnected the carabiner and with some effort pushed through the muck to the front of the line. He clambered on top of the still-submerged stingray. After stabilizing himself, he slowly raised the front part of his rifle so the barrel, optics, and sensor array protruded slightly from the surface of the swamp, the clear plastic did not interfere with the em sensor, visual was a bit impired but thermal and EM told a better story any way. The picture was being fed directly to his optic nerve. Both Narva and Sky were having the sensor data fed to their helmet displays, and he felt their presence on the net, as if they were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
“Looks all clear--move your asses on out, heads up on a swivel,” said Narva. Nurse was the last one out of the swamp, as he was shoving the rest in front of him. They made their way from the rock formation into the forest of evergreen trees; since they were liberally coated in swamp muck, leaving a visible trail was impossible to avoid, but they tried to compensate for that with getting to cover in a timely fashion.


Hawk Talon

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Re: Olympus Prime

PostWed Nov 11, 2015 2:40 pm

Whoooo just whooo!
Great reading, very good tension building!

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