“Drop in five, four, three, two, one…DROP, DROP, DROP!”
Gabriel’s head was slammed back against the padded wall of the drop capsule, known to drop-troopers as coffins, as the Marcinko spat the team from the drop bay like bullets. Nine capsules shot towards the surface of Poliahu at over seven G’s.
After the initial shock, Gabriel relaxed his breathing and had his neuretics bring up the drop data in Mindseye. Nine green dots, falling towards the surface at over 18,000 miles per hour, all secure telemetry in order. He checked for an update of the LZ, and confirmed the team was on target and all probes showed the same quiet colony. All but one probe, he thought. I only hope that was a glitch.
He noticed one dot slightly off target, double checked that it was Sabra, and reconfirmed her flight path was taking her to the predetermined LZ at the base of the ridge. One more green dot was wavering. He sent a quick burst to Jimenez to adjust course, and his dot came back in line within a few seconds.
Gabriel adjusted his course slightly, tiny hydrazine jets on the outside of the coffin giving a few quick puffs. He wanted to land just outside the circle of his team to not only get a closer look at the colony upon landing, but also to be able to see Sabra better as she landed. He still wasn’t sold on her loyalty; something with her and Lamber still simmered below the surface, and he planned to make a point of keeping a very close eye on them planetside.
They began entering Poliahu’s atmosphere, Gabriel’s coffin buffeted by the ionized air molecules screaming past his falling capsule. The heat inside rose by several degrees as friction took hold, and he ordered the battlesuit he wore to lower its temperature a bit to compensate. His nose itched something fierce, but in his standing position with arms locked at his side, he couldn’t do anything about it. Not to mention the combat helmet would prevent it anyway. Standing upright, paralyzed, in a coffin. Great way to start the day.
The buffeting increased to a shudder and Gabriel’s teeth rattled. A quick check of the drop data showed them just a few seconds from retroburn, so he clamped his jaw and gritted his way through the shaking, hoping his recent filling stayed in place.
As one, the nine capsules reached their IP, ejected their heat shields with a bang, and activated the retroengines. Light blue tongues of plasma fired from the three conical jets on the bottom of each capsule as their heat shields fluttered away above them. Gabriel felt a massive squeeze in his chest and his blood began pooling in his legs, vision graying, as the g-forces of the burn took hold. Slowly the pressure decreased and he took a few deep breaths, checking data once again.
The capsules were all on target, Sabra just north of the others, as they all slowed their descents to a more manageable landing velocity. Twenty seconds to touchdown, he noted, so he began activating the armor’s servos and sensors, bringing the Otero battlesuit fully online. Heads-up displays illuminated his visor, the first bit of light he had seen since entering the capsule over an hour ago. The suit ran through diagnostics, everything in order he saw with satisfaction, and he tensed his leg muscles in anticipation of touchdown.
Gabriel’s retroengine rose in pitch, then abruptly shut off, and his capsule banged into the surface of the icy planet. The shell of the capsule split vertically and spread the doors wide, allowing the weak pre-dawn glow to enter. Gabriel quickly hopped from the capsule, taking several steps away, knowing full well how many men and women had been injured when the eight foot tall capsule had tipped over on them as they emerged.
He turned back to the capsule to see it still standing upright, steam billowing from its underside as the engines ticked and cooled. He stepped back to the capsule, sent a command, and its doors swung shut again. He pushed it over backwards and it toppled into the snow, exposing the blackened engine nacelles and a puddle of water that was quickly refreezing.
He turned back towards the ridge to catch a glimpse of Sabra’s capsule touching down near the base in a cloud of snow. He checked the data and his heads-up displayed her capsule landing safely and opening. Good, he thought. Hers was an important position, and he didn’t want to waste time trying to compensate for a bad drop. Although it did appear she may have landed a bit too close to the valley entrance.
Walking around to the top of his capsule, he reached down, and with the enhanced servos in his battlesuit, grabbed the tow handle built into the top of it and began dragging it to their rally point, leaving a furrow in the snow behind him that began immediately filling back in with falling snow.