Starship Troopers – The Hero of Outpost Delta
“Humanities survival depends on its heroes,” Sergeant Benedict said as he straddled the walkway of the troop carrier, trailed by a cameraman.
Jake gripped the shoulder bars of his seat and listened to the legendary soldier. His heart pumped and his hands trembled as the troop carrier burst through Klendathu’s atmosphere. Sergeant Benedict paused before a poster of himself.
“We must be victorious,” he continued once the cameraman had caught up. “High Command is counting on us – on you – to defeat the Arachnid attack on Outpost Delta.”
Jake tried to swallow. Outpost Delta was under siege and he and his fellow recruits were the emergency reinforcements. Opposite sat Trixie. He watched her inhale, count to four on her fingers, and exhale. Jake did the same.
It could have been worse; they could have been assigned an officer as fresh out of boot-camp as themselves. Instead, they were assigned Sergeant Benedict, Hero of the Federation. How many recruits got a hero for squad leader?
An alarm buzzed and an orange light whirled.
“We land in two minutes, First Squad,” Sergeant Benedict called out. “Have courage, fight hard – the Federation expects no less of you.”
Hydraulics hissed and the bay door retracted. Sunlight swept inside with a roar of wind. Jake shielded his eyes as the heat stung his cheeks. Outside, he saw a gulf of blue frame the desert canyons of the Arachnid home-world. Another troop carrier flew into view with thrusters ablaze. The ship’s bay opened and inside Jake spied Second Squad. They clutched their shoulder bars with faces bright in the sunlight. Their stare returned his own.
From below a crackle roared upward. A blue hue grew over Second Squad and in an instant, their craft exploded.
Rock plasma burst through the ball of flames. A projectile launched from the abdomen of a giant Arachnid.
Jake flinched and shielded his face. Around him, First Squad gasped. Shrapnel clattered over their hull and Sergeant Benedict stumbled away, eyes wide. The cameraman dropped to a knee and framed the shot.
Sweat beaded under Jake’s helmet. Training could only prepare a solider so far. He tightened his grip on the shoulder bars and looked to Benedict. The Hero of the Federation wiped his face and straightened his collar. He closed his mouth when the camera refocused on him. Sergeant Benedict was not as broad-shouldered as in his poster depiction, Jake noted, nor was his chin as square.
The troop compartment flashed green as a second alarm wailed.
“Get ready troopers.” Benedict wiped sweat from his brow. “You’re about to land. Remember, you are soldiers of the Mobile Infantry.” He looked square into the camera’s lens. “But you too could be a Hero of the Federation.”
The carrier’s descent slowed with a rattle. Jake looked through the exit and saw the walls of Outpost Delta rise around them. Gunfire snapped and a defence turret thrummed. Beyond the walls he heard the incessant click of legs and mandibles.
The craft landed with a thud.
“Go, go, go,” Benedict shouted as the recruit’s shoulder bars retracted. “Get armed and get to the walls. The Arachnids already attack. Outpost Delta must not fall.”
Jake jumped to his feet and pulled open a weapon rack. He grabbed the assault rifles and handed them out to his comrades. Opposite, Trixie pulled at the shutter of a grenade rack.
“It’s jammed.” She thumped a hinge. “Shrapnel’s bust the latch.”
“Forget the grenades.” Sergeant Benedict turned his profile to the camera. “A true soldier needs only courage and a rifle. Go, go, go, recruits. To the walls.”
Jake passed Trixie a rifle and led her to join First Squad. Heat and dust hung in the compound as the waft of sweat and blood clung in the air. An ammo-bearer pushed past Jake and clambered up a ramp to join the veterans.
“To the walls,” Sergeant Benedict shouted again from the carrier.
Jake took in a breath and crossed the compound with his squad-mates. They reached the foot of a ramp and paused. Bullet casings rolled down the slope with a clink. Jake held a bannister and felt the reverberation of the bugs attack. He tried to recall his training. Keep your distance, aim for the nerve stem.
Jake let go of railing as a fighter bug – twice the size of a man – leapt onto the wall. Chitin scratched metal as the insect skittered towards a defender. The Arachnid thrashed a set of razor-sharp legs and severed the man the instant gunfire tore it apart.
“Oh, God,” a recruit cried. “The bugs are getting over the walls.”
“Hold your nerve, recruit.” Jake stepped before First Squad. “You heard Sergeant Benedict – Outpost Delta must not fall. Come on.” He turned and charged up the ramp.
Trixie pumped the barrel of her assault rifle. “You heard him troopers, to the walls.”
Jake reached the palisade as First Squad huddled up behind him. He raised his rifle to his cheek and took aim. He paused.
Before him squirmed an ocean of chitin. Legs clicked and mandibles chomped. The fighter bugs – countless – swarmed into a horde. They crawled from cracks and leapt from fissures to drive towards the walls. Legs hacked and slashed through a haze of dust. Squeals rang aloud as the defenders shot them back. They came again and again to fall in a heap of blood and guts – a heap that rose higher against the walls.
“We’re doomed,” a recruit cried.
Jake looked along the wall. A bug had clambered onto the turret tower.
“We must save the turret,” he said to Trixie. “Its the only firepower that can hold back the swarm.”
Another bug leapt onto the wall, legs raised like a crab as it sliced the air.
“It’s no use.” Trixie pointed down to the heap of dead bugs. “They have a breach.”
Jake shook his head. “We’ve got to clear it, no matter what.”
He grabbed an ammo-bearer who ran past.
“Grenades,” Jake shouted. “Give me all your grenades.”
“Have em’, rookie.” The ammo-bearer shoved a satchel into Jakes’s hands and raced down the ramp.
“Cover me, Trixie.”
Jake shouldered his rifle, gripped the satchel and ran towards the heap. He heard Trixie’s gunfire snap overhead. As she reloaded, a bug sprang onto the platform with a chomp. It squealed and ran at Jake.
“Get down,” Trixie yelled.
Jake hit the floor and bit his teeth. Gunfire rang over his head. He heard a squeal and felt the splash of blood. He opened his eyes to see the bug slide off the wall. As he went to smile another bug leapt before him. He dropped the satchel and unholstered his rifle. The bug swiped and slashed his arm. Chitin chipped bone. Jake winced at the pain. The Arachnid skittered over him and he kicked his legs to scramble away. The mandible chomped above his scalp.
A chorus of gunfire rang aloud and the arachnid burst apart. Jake blinked as worms of entrails slid off his helmet. He laughed and turned to see Trixie had led First Squad to his defence. They cheered and threw up their hands when he climbed to his feet.
“Keep going,” Trixie yelled. “Wreck that heap before the next wave.”
Jake drew in a breath, ignored the pain of his arm and grabbed the grenade satchel. He staggered along the wall, climbed onto the turret tower and leaned over the railing.
Below, the Arachnids scaled the bloody heap. Jake bit the pin of a grenade and tossed down the satchel. The bundle landed with a slop. Jake turned, crouched and spat out the pin. The satchel exploded.
The walls shuddered at the explosion. Around him, blood and guts fell with wet slaps.
When the air had cleared, Jake grabbed the turret and took aim. The Arachnids wavered as the heap sank into a soup of entrails. They squirmed and hissed, but came no closer.
The defenders’ gunfire ceased and they turned to Jake. Cheer and applause erupted. Jake pushed back his helmet and held his rifle high.
“You got guts,” Trixie said as she jumped onto the tower beside him.
“Thanks.” Jake looked at his wound. “If it wasn’t for you my guts would be everywhere.”
Trixie laughed and slapped his back.
“Get ready for Fed Net,” she said as Sergeant Benedict appeared with his cameraman.
Jake wiped a fleshy lump off his shoulder as the cameraman crouched before him.
“Brave soldier of the Federation,” Sergeant Benedict said as he stepped in front of Trixie. He shook Jake’s hand. “The Arachnids will never win against such courage.”
The sergeant shuffled Jake towards the railings and posed for the camera. Behind them, the Arachnids had fallen silent.
“What’s your name, son?” Benedict whispered.
“Jake,” Sergeant Benedict said to the camera, “…is a true soldier of the Mobile Infantry.” He patted Jake on the back and flashed a smile. “Perhaps tomorrow he too will be a Hero of the Federation.”
The sergeant’s praise faltered as a tremor rocked the outpost. A burst of dust and rubble erupted from a gape in the canyon. Behind a curtain of sand a tanker bug emerged. A great mass that dragged its hulk from the depths. Rocks crumbled beneath its feet as sunlight bent over its black carapace. Behind the giant, fighter bugs shivered into a frenzy.
“Holy Sky Marshal,” Sergeant Benedict exclaimed as he hugged the railing.
The tanker bug rose with a stomp. Between its mandibles a spark ignited into a flame.
“Trixie,” Jake shouted as he grabbed the turret. “I’m almost out, get ready to reload.”
He pulled the trigger and fired at the giant as Sergeant Benedict fled down a ramp.
“Get outta here,” Trixie yelled at his cameraman.
The turret thrummed as gunfire pounded from each barrel. The rounds ricocheted off the bug. The hulk pressed forward.
“Jake,” Trixie yelled as the bug’s flame sizzled into liquid fire.
The giant lifted its head and bellowed from its abdomen. Molten fire shattered over wall’s defenders. Their screams rose and fell, stifled by cooked lungs. Jake clenched his jaw as First Squad disintegrated into globs.
“Quick, Jake,” Trixie shouted as the bug turned towards them.
Jake held his breath and aimed instead for the bug’s abdomen.
The rounds curled through the air and pieced the Arachnid. The hulk staggered with a shiver. Fire hissed from its thorax.
“That’s it, Jake. Shoot its guts out.”
Jake fired again, his knuckles white as the sun baked his neck. The rounds struck again and the tanker bug sunk as liquid flame spewed over rocks. The arachnid swayed and convulsed.
“Oh, shit.” Jake let go of the trigger.
The giant arachnid teetered and collapsed against the compound. The wall creaked and buckled and tore apart.
Jake and Trixie gripped the railing and looked into the compound. The wall lay in ruin around the smouldering giant.
Jake turned to the canyon. The fighter bugs squealed, clicked their legs and raced towards the breach. Outpost Delta was lost.
“Retreat,” Sergeant Benedict screamed as he climbed out of a crate.
“Quick, Jake.” Trixie pulled at his shoulder. “We’ve got to get back to the carrier.”
Jake pushed himself from the turret as the click of legs skittered into the compound.
“Its too late,” he said as he saw a bug leap for the carrier. “Load the turret.”
“We can’t stay and fight, Jake. The craft won’t wait.”
A rattle of gunfire echoed as the pilot defended the craft.
“Take off,” Sergeant Benedict screamed. He shoved past the cameraman and scrambled into the troop compartment. “Take off, take off.”
“Go,” Jake said to Trixie. “We’ve lost the compound but we mustn’t lose the Hero of the Federation. Get to the craft, this turret only needs one gunner.”
“Load the turret and get out of here.”
Trixie clenched her jaw. She grabbed a cartridge and slotted it into the turret with a clunk. She looked at Jake.
“Go,” he said. “Before its too late.”
He took aim at the bugs as Trixie placed a hand to his back. She turned and left for the craft.
The bugs burst through the breach and squealed as Jake fired. Below he saw Trixie run across the compound. He swivelled the turret and shot down a bug that leapt for her. She ducked and weaved and scrambled inside the carrier.
He heard her call to the pilot as she banged the hull with a fist. Thrusters flared, dust bellowed and the craft rose. Arachnids swarmed beneath to stab and slash. Jake let go of the trigger as the carrier climbed to safety.
Stood at the bay door he saw Trixie cast him a salute. Behind her, Benedict wailed as he pulled at his hair. Trixie turned and punched the sergeant into a seat.
Jake smiled. Outpost Delta was lost but he’d saved the Hero of the Federation.
He threw down his helmet and saluted the craft as the Arachnids raced up behind him.
(Originally posted on the Total War Center forum)