Desperate to escape a life of poverty on his desolate home planet, Ryck Lysander enlists in the United Federation Marine Corps, hoping to make a better future for himself. However, Ryck soon discovers that the Corps is more than a means of escaping his former life as he is pushed beyond the very limits of his strength and willpower. From bootcamp brawls to skirmishes with galactic pirates, Ryck's new life presents him with unimaginable adventures and forces him to prove his mettle as he forges his new identity and fights to earn his place as one of the Brotherhood of Marines.
This is Book 1 of 8, with three other series and more short stories set in the United Federation Marine Corps Universe.
"Hey, Colonel! I read your Recruit, and it isn't a half-bad book!"– Jerry Pournelle
"Well written coming of age tale, a boy becomes a Marine. Loved the combining of various historical Marine Corps into one while retaining their significance. The technology is impressive but, nobody can close with and destroy the enemy as well as a Marine infantry unit. The characters are well developed, I "knew" someone like these guys. Kudos, Colonel, on a job well done. I plan on spending my liberty money on the rest of your stories. Semper Fi!"– Amazon Reviewer
"Col. Brazee very very obviously knows his stuff, up, down and sideways in regards to the Marine Corps (Duh!) but the book comes across very well for a new recruit on how the Corps works. I'm not former service but I have read a ton of military sci-fi over the years and there's parts that ring true from former service authors."– Amazon Reviewer
Sergeant John Nbele barely glanced at his heads-up display as he climbed the huge rise of tailings leading to the open-pit mine. Small green triangles being projected onto his visor represented each of the men in the squad, and all were moving in the squad V formation, two fire teams out front, one trailing between them.
This was the sergeant's fifth campaign, but his first as a squad leader. He'd risen up through the ranks quickly, with two meritorious promotions, the last one a battlefield promotion for valor on Case's World. He knew he was on the fast track, and this operation would cement his reputation as not only a fierce fighter, but also as a leader of Marines.
He didn't really expect this campaign to amount to much. Atacama was sparsely populated, and the miners didn't have a military as such, only a small police-slash-guard force (the type of guards Marines and Legionnaires called Jimmylegs) that was formed to protect the mines. They had no heavy weapons. John had bet a bottle of Jack—the real stuff from Earth, not the fake shit that most people drank—with Royal Teristry, a sergeant in Bravo Company, that the Jimmylegs would bolt at the sight of the platoon's Marines in the assault.
His suit subtly shifted to remain vertical as he started up the tailings. Wearing a suit was pretty easy. Most recruits could walk, run, and jump within 30 minutes of being introduced to them. Still, there were a few tricks to them. Sergeant Nbele's body instinctively wanted to lean into the hill as he climbed, and he had to relax and let the suit take over.
The suit was the 980 kg mechanical monster each of his Marines wore, the PICS, or Personal Integrated Combat Units. With its sandwiched Ceramic Array and LTC (Lutetium Tungsten Carbide) armor, it was impervious to all small arms and most larger weapons. While the Corp's PICS were not the modern Rigaudeau-3s that the Legion and some world militias had, or even the Brotherhood's Saul line of combat armor, it was more than enough proof for the poorly-armed miners. Naval intelligence had assured the Marine command of that.
"Bentley, close it up," he sent to the PFC in First Fire Team.
Corporal Kim should have caught his lagging Marine. He, as the squad leader shouldn't have to be getting after individual Marines. He'd have to have a one-on-one with Kim when all this was over. He stared directly at Bentley's triangular avatar, blinking his eyes once long and hard to initiate a full data dump. The Marine's data filled his visor. Heart rate, respiration, suit dynamics, all were within normal range. Bentley's nerves were fine; he had just lost focus.
That was a bad precedent. While this mission should be a cakewalk, losing focus on a more dangerous battlefield was a recipe for disaster. Nbele's battlefield promotion on Case's World was a result of his squad leader on that mission "losing focus." Three Marines had been KIA, and Nbele had had to jump into the breach to save the rest.
He blinked away Bentley, then brought up Kim.
"Corporal Kim, monitor your Marines. I don't need to be keeping Bentley in line," he said on the direct person-to-person comms.
"Aye-aye, Sergeant," was the reply.
Sergeant Nbele's Second Squad was the point of main effort. He and his 12 Marines were the heavy squad, the ones with PICS. First Squad had taken a blocking position at a crossroads on the other side of the mine, some 15 kms out. Third was providing security for the platoon headquarters back at the LZ. Normally, 13 Marines, even suited, would be too few to be operating like this, but no one expected much, if any, resistance. Third Platoon had taken its objective, the mine headquarters at the planetary capital, over an hour ago without a fight.
His leading fire teams crested the tailings, ready to descend into the pit. He switched to monitor Corporal Kim's view, which showed up to the right of his visor. There were the same pieces of heavy equipment in the pit as he had seen on the satellite photo, but it was still good to get confirmation. There wasn't any sign of miners.
As always, the projected display was somewhat transparent so he could still see the real world through the image. He wanted a better view, so he picked up his pace from inside the V formation. His suit's servos adjusted. While it didn't take any more effort from him, the motion of the suit swung into a higher tempo as he went up the rest of the incline. Cresting the hill, he could see down into the pit, and he closed Kim's feed.
The pit was huge, maybe 1,500 meters across and 400 meters deep. Unlike the open-pit mines he'd seen elsewhere, this one had several smaller sub-mine heads, holes leading deeper into the ground as they followed veins. From the plans they had downloaded, he knew those mine shafts went on for kilometers underground.
He held up the squad as he linked to the eye-in-the-sky. The drone circled somewhere out of sight, but the feed was clear. There was no sign of any movement in the pit. It was possible that the miners had bugged out, but a leader who wanted to live a long and prosperous life didn't assume anything. He checked all his data feeds, but everything was quiet. He considered sending out one of the two dragonflies housed in his sleeve to get a close-up look, but the threat was pretty low, and he wanted to save them in case he might need them later.
"Zipper-six, this is Zipper-two. There is no indication of any enemy activity. We are commencing our descent into the mine, over," he sent to his platoon commander, careful, as always to keep the Houseman slums out of his voice when on the radio.
"Roger that, Two. Keep your heads down. Six, out."
Sergeant Nbele gave the command, and the squad started moving down into the mine pit. Their march discipline remained tight with good dispersion as they descended. Unless the mine was abandoned, there had to be eyes on them now, and the more professional the Marines looked, the more intimidating and the less likely that any Jimmylegs would want to tangle with them. Loyalty to an employer could only go so far.
He glanced to his left for a visual on Kim's team. The icons projected onto his visor gave him an exact picture of their movement, but human nature sometimes took over, and he wanted to see them with his eyes. He could see three of the four Marines as they made their way through the rocks and dirt of the pit slope.
He blinked at Kim's icon to bring him up on a direct comms when with a flash, his visor's electronics went blank, and his suit came to a sudden halt. His PICS had failed, something that had never happened to him before. He thumbed the emergency reset, but nothing changed. He tried it again, but with the same result. Of all the times for this to happen, it had to happen now, on his first assault as a squad leader! He cursed CWO2 Slyth, the company ordnance officer, the man in charge of keeping the suits operational.
His Marines were well-trained. They would continue the mission, but he would be out of it. Corporal Castallano would have to take over the assault. It was only then that he looked out at Kim's fire team. While the projections on his visor were gone, he could still see through it. The three Marines in sight had also stopped, one in mid-stride.
Sergeant Nbele's heart sank. This wasn't a simple malfunction. Something had taken down all the PICS, not that he could imagine what could possibly accomplish that. But he couldn't ignore the evidence before his eyes. He kept hitting the reset, hoping against hope that it would finally work, but his suit remained a quiet prison. He started calculating. Third Squad was 15 km away, and with the lone company Stork, they could get there in a couple of minutes. But he didn't know where that transport was. It might take 30 minutes or more to get it to Third's position, then another five to embark, reach the mine, and debark.
Sergeant Nbele felt his frustration threaten to take over. He took five deep breaths to calm himself. They would just have to wait there for however long it took for rescue. It wasn't as if the miners had any heavy weapons with which to attack them. With the power of the suits out, the kickbacks, the tiny jets that went off when a projectile hit the skin of a suit, thereby slowing down the projectile, wouldn't work, but the inherent protection of the sandwiched armor would still be effective.
Something stirred in his peripheral vision. He leaned forward, pushing his face closer to the clear visor, trying to see to the right. At the edge of his field of vision, several men came out of one of the mine shafts, hugging the rock walls. One took out what looked to be nothing more than a folded umbrella. Sergeant Nbele had no idea what it was until the miner pointed it at the sky, and with a flash, a rocket-like missile took off. The men ducked back into the shaft. Whatever that rocket was, it was certainly homemade, and if its target was the eye-in-the-sky, that drone had countermeasures.
His cheek was pressed against the visor as he tried to watch. A few moments later, the miners hesitantly came out again. They were searching the sky. They were a long way off, but with his electronics dead and zoom non-functioning, it seemed as if they were arguing on what to do.
More men came out, several pointing to where the Marines were. One man had the controls of an industrial mule which towed a piece of equipment out of one of the mine entrances, and with that in trace, he started guiding the mule up the slope, following the other men as they approached the Marines.
Sergeant Nbele kept hitting his reset, but still nothing changed. His suit was dead. He wasn't sure what the miners could have done. The suits were hardened against EMP attacks, so as long as they were intact, the suits should work. Obviously, however, the miners had managed to disable them somehow.
Halfway up the slope, several miners grouped together. Arms were pointed, then three men split off to move toward Corporal Kim's team. Two, including the guy controlling the mule, came forward toward Sergeant Nbele, and another three started to the squad leader's right, most likely heading to Second Fire Team. They were out of his field of vision within moments.
As the mule trundled forward, its six tires having no problem purchasing the rough ground, the sergeant's heart sank as he suddenly recognized what it was towing. It was a powerful industrial drill. As a boy in the Houseman slums, the young John had dreamed of working in road construction on the planet, where crews were blasting tunnels in the mountain ranges. One of their pieces of equipment was this type of drill. Sergeant Nbele wasn't sure if the hardened LTC bit could penetrate the LTC in his suit's armor, but he knew he didn't want to find out.
With all power gone from his suit, the first blast actually rocked him. A cloud of dust rose up from where Corporal Kim's team was frozen. Sergeant Nbele stared as explosion after explosion sent more plumes upwards.
"Get some!" he shouted as he realized the explosions were supporting artillery from his unit.
The incoming rounds started walking across the slope toward him. He glanced back to see the two miners who had been approaching him run pell-mell back down the slope to save themselves.
"Fuckin' A, I owe you bastards," he said in awe as round after round landed. "Screw Teristry, that Jack is comin' to you guys!"
Shrapnel pinged as it hit his suit. It didn't do any harm, as the arty Marines firing the shells would have known it wouldn't. But against unarmored miners, it would be devastating. Sergeant Nbele looked back over to the left. The three Marines he could see were still standing, but at least one of the miners was down, a bloody mess heaped in the dirt. He couldn't see the other two miners, but they had to be down as well.
It looked like the two men who had been approaching him had made it to safety, but the drill seemed to have taken a direct hit as the rounds were walked from his left to right. He wanted to shout out with joy each time a round landed. Too soon, though, the rounds stopped.
The platoon only had one tube, the old but venerable M229. It fired a 155 mm shell that packed a powerful punch. Some shells were anti-personnel, such as what had just been used, some were anti-armor, some were EMP and other pulse-type rounds. The gun was a great piece of gear, but even with advances in shell-casing technology, the rounds were still heavy and took up space. A mere Marine squad could only carry so much. They weren't some planet-bound militia that could stockpile huge stores of rounds ready for use. They had to carry in whatever they thought they might need.
Sergeant Nbele thought the platoon HQ had most likely expended all their anti-personnel rounds in that fire for effect. The question was if the miners knew that as well. Nbele hoped that the threat of more rounds would keep them in their hidey-holes until the rest of the platoon could come and get the squad out of this mess. Then the miners would find out what it meant to face the Marines.
Motion back at the entrance to the mine shaft caught his eye. The miners had to know that time was limited before reinforcements could arrive. If they were going to do something about his squad, they would have to act fast.
Four men darted out, and by bounding back and forth, hitting the deck before bouncing back up for another burst of 15 meters, they made their way up to the mule in front of Sergeant Nbele. Once there, they stood up and stared at it.
Typical civilians, he thought as he saw that. All that dodgin' and bobbin' to get up the slope, then they stand around gawkin'. I wish to God I'd left a sniper up behind us.
The mule looked worse for wear. He could see that several of the tires were blown. He hoped the drill had been messed up, too. All four men turned as one to look directly at him. They were only about 30 meters away, and Sergeant Nbele could see them arguing, several times pointing to the ground between them and him.
One guy got on the control and started the mule up again. It lurched forward, then the drive shaft of one wheel started to spin while pieces of the tire flew off. Two of the men got behind the mule and pushed. It lurched forward again, this time going maybe five meters before getting stuck once more. Once more, the men got behind, and with brute force, got it moving again.
Whatever Sergeant Nbele had hoped about the mule and its cargo, it looked like the miners would make it up to him. If they did, he had to rely on his armor to keep him safe until help could arrive. No matter how many scenarios he went over in his mind, nothing he could think of would make any difference. He had no secret powers, no way to fight back. He didn't even have some way to jury-rig a suicide blast that would take them out with him like what happened in the Hollybolly war flicks.
Within a surprisingly short time, the miners were right in front of him. One of them, an older guy with a two-day's stubble covering his face, stood on the mule to stare inside Sergeant Nbele's visor. The guy looked like anyone. Dark complected with a narrow face, the only thing notable about him was his icy-grey eyes. Even with the eyes, though, Nbele would never have given the man a second glance if he passed him walking down the street. He seemed so, well normal. The man looked to be studying him as well. After a few moments, he shrugged and got back off the mule.
As the men struggled to horse around the drill, Sergeant Nbele had a sudden urge to take a piss. With his suit powerless, though, he didn't know if the catchment gel would work, and he would be damned if he was going to piss down his legs with the miners out there. He couldn't see the drill bit anymore, but when it clanked against this armor, he almost let his bladder go.
He heard the muffled whine as the drill was turned on. His suit dampened most of the outside sounds, but as the drill bit started to try and force a way into his suit, the screeching reverberated loudly enough to make him wince. Sergeant Nbele felt the vibrations, and his suit tilted slightly back before the drill skittered to the side and lost contact.
His armor had held!
They wrestled the drill back, and set the bit directly on his front carapace. Once again, as the bit made contact, the sound filled the inside of the suit. But just as before, the suit deflected the drill, sending it off to the side. This seemed to put a pause to things as the men stopped and started discussing the issue.
"Fuck you too, you freakin' slugs," he said quietly to himself. "Just keep a'tryin', and before you know it, the lieutenant's goin' to get here, and pow, fuck you up but good! So you keep talkin' and jabberin' like that, you stupid negats."
The men obviously came to a decision. Two of them got on the mule and put their hands on his chest carapace. Both seemed to be avoiding looking into the visor to see him. They looked back at the mule operator, and the vehicle gave a lurch. He heard it hit him low on the legs as it rocked him. It wasn't enough to tip him over though. But it backed up and lurched forward again, the men pushing as it hit him. The mule couldn't back up much or the two guys on top would fall, but even a foot or so gave it room to gain some momentum. On the third push, Sergeant Nbele thought he was going to fall over, but the suit's mass kept it upright. It took four more tries before that magic center of balance was surpassed. He teetered for a moment before falling over backward.
Without the motion suppressors working, Sergeant Nbele had the breath knocked out of him as he fell, something digging heavily into his back. The suits were pretty comfortable to wear normally, but without power, they were only so much junk.
On his back, he could only see the sky. He scanned what he could, waiting to see the Stork come into view with the rest of the platoon onboard. What he did see was the same guy who had looked at him before. The man leaned over to look into the visor. They stared at each other for a moment before the man crossed himself, bringing his fingers his lips as he finished the cross. Then he nodded and stepped back out of view.
When the drilling started again, the noise filled his ears. It kept going, though, not skittering off his armor. They must have gotten him wedged, or maybe the drill itself wedged. They still would have to penetrate his armor, though. It might be over 50 years old, but it was pretty formidable.
The sounds of the drilling changed pitch, getting lower. A sense of panic filled the squad leader. That meant the drill bit had gained purchase. The sound reverberated everywhere, but he tried to locate from where it emanated. With the vibrations that he could now feel, it seemed to be from about his waist, maybe where the chest carapace met the pelvic shield. The newest Legionaire suits were seamless, but the old Marine suits were not. Could the drill bit have gained some sort of purchase there?
The vibration started getting stronger, and the sounds of the bit slowed down even more.
"Break you mother!" he shouted at the unseen LTC bit.
Looking down into the small gap between the skin of his suit and his chest, he had a momentary glimpse of a spinning metallic shaft before it plunged into his groin. He was overcome by an intense flash of agony before his world went dark.
1 Case's World: A Class 2 planet in Sector 14. Two corporate proxies started a war for control of the entire planet, causing the Federation to send in the Marines to quell the fighting before turning the mission over to the FCDC
2 KIA: Killed in Action
3 LZ: Landing Zone
4 EMP: Electromagnetic Pulse. A type of weapon designed to scramble or destroy electronics by emitting a pulse electromagnetic energy.