Ground Mission

Adrian wakes up as soon as his capsule unseals, the hiss of transpirating cryofluid loud in his ears; he tries to take a deep breath, reflexively, and gets a little shot of old-fashioned adrenaline when the mask's steady, slow supply of oxygen isn't enough to fill his lungs. He claws it off with fingers still half-numb from cold sleep and breathes in deeply, sitting up in his open capsule.

The entire platoon has been activated, which probably means they're due for a ground mission. Ship-to-ship maneuvers don't usually call for a lot of warm bodies.

Adrian hauls himself out of the capsule to start getting dressed; the sooner he's out of there and moving, the sooner his body can start remembering how to function at full capacity. He stretches, flexes, rolls his shoulders, trying to see if he can detect any differences in the way his body works. Nothing obvious presents itself, so most likely he had only routine maintenance from the medical staff, no new upgrades.

"Subcaptain's address in five minutes," the intercom system tells them, and from the next capsule over Simon starts cursing.

Simon Pollux, Adrian's podmate, is a skinny, snarling little bundle of nerves and venom who bitches about missions even when they're going right and bites like a bulldog when he comes. Adrian probably could have picked him up one-handed even before the muscle upgrades, but that doesn't mean Simon's helpless, not by any means. He was modded primarily for intel gathering, with fine-tuned senses and a jack for offloading memory snapshots, but he's still infantry. His marksmanship is first rate, and he's decent in close quarters, and he has never shied away from a kill that needed to be made.

His black hair is shorn close to his scalp right now, which means he probably did get upgraded during this sleep cycle. Hopefully, the new hardware won't be anything too difficult for him to get used to—his already sunny disposition takes a turn for the completely unbearable when he's trying to adjust to an upgrade that doesn't work the way he expects.

He catches Adrian watching him and smirks as he zips up his landing suit. "Come out of the deep freeze with a boner?"

Adrian rolls his eyes. "Don't you wish." he says, turning away and tying back his hair. He's not sure how anybody could come out of cryo that excited about anything; it always feels like it takes the best part of an hour before he's really functional again. And of course they get their mission briefings in the first ten minutes.

The platoon goes tromping out of the storage bay and down to the briefing room, where the 2-D screen comes on as soon as they're all assembled. Subcaptain can't be bothered to come down and address them personally, looks like.

"Third platoon, beta team," she says. Her smile on the video screen is larger than life and twice as nasty. "This is Subcaptain Szarka speaking. We have a surface mission, and you lucky bastards are up on the rotation."

That provokes a little grumbling; the subcaptain looks entirely too pleased about this, and everyone in the platoon is on their third or fourth thaw at least, long enough to know that when the officers are happy about something, it means all the grunts are fucked.

Szarka can't hear the bitching, of course; why would she need to get their input? "—colonization attempt from one of Earth's first extrasolar ventures," she's saying. The facets of her replacement eye sparkle. It makes her look particularly pleased about this mission. "Scanning has turned up traces of the colony's architecture, the atmosphere is still breathable, and temperatures are in life-supporting range. From up here, this planet looks like an invaluable resource. Your job is to hit the surface and find out why the first colony failed. Bring us back some good news! That's an order." She's still grinning when she shuts off transmission, leaving the details to lesser mortals.

"Is it just me, or do the officers really get shittier every time we thaw?" Simon asks.

"Just you," Adrian says. "Must have freezer burned your sense of optimism. Maybe you can get into sick bay for that and sit this one out."

Simon snorts, stubbornly not smiling. "I should be so fucking lucky," he says. "More likely they'd decide that was a change worth propagating across the corps, and I'd have to donate tissue for culturing."

"Don't sell yourself short," Adrian says, clapping him on the shoulder as they start toward the staging bay to gear up. "The best science in the empire still couldn't replicate your charming personality."

Simon shrugs his hand off and elbows Adrian in the side, but he's losing the fight to keep a straight face, so it's worth it.

They gear up: rifles, masks, rations, sample kits, Simonís comm unit. Standard equipment for a first foray into potentially hazardous territory. No separate armor, because they don't have any indications that they'll be facing heavy combat, and even well-distributed body armor slows a soldier down. Their regular-issue landing suits have a thin armor padding layer that's enough for most missions. Adrian keeps an eye on Simon as they get their gear loaded and stashed, and he knows Simon's doing the same for him. They'll be relying on each other out there.

"Deploy time, people, pod up!" the sergeant in charge calls. Simon meets Adrian's eyes and nods once: he's ready, despite the bitching.

They slide into their landing pod, one of a dozen arranged in the staging bay, and buckle themselves in. Adrian closes his eyes and tries to pretend he's anywhere else. He wouldn't say he's claustrophobic, exactly—that'd be a hell of a flaw for a capsule grunt to get past the medical examiners—but he doesn't like closed spaces, and practice doesn't seem to be making it easier.

"Don't freak out on me, asshole," Simon tells him as the pod hatch closes.

"I'm fine," Adrian says too sharply. He's not a good liar and never has been.

Simon snorts. "Yeah, I know," he says. Their pod slides forward into launch alignment, and his hand finds Adrian's. It's hard to feel much through their gloves, but the pressure of his grip is comforting anyway.