AMPED TO KILL: The Unofficial Follow-Up to Neil Blomkamp's "District 9" (formerly known as 'Alive in JoBurg') with elements borrowed from Rockne S. O'Bannion's "Alien Nation", James Cameron's "Avatar", and Steve Jackson's "Ogre". Other similar elements (e.g., Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers", Joe Haldeman's "Forever War", David Drake's "Slammerverse", Robert Aspin's "Bug Wars", Keith Laumer's "Bolo", John Steakley's "Armor", Masaya's "Assault Suits Valken" and "Assault Suits Leynos", et al.) contributed greatly to the author's vision of mecha-based mayhem.
REQUIEM TO LANDFALL
"Truth be told, Rook; I find Earth prawn delicious. They're great eating even if I have them grilled or cooked. Stupid Afrikaner slokaa. Why'd they call those filthy beasts 'prawn'?"
Miles, already a bundle of nerves before the drop, only listened with half an ear to the woman while he walked down the hall and fiddled with the various protuberances on his battle-dress. While Miles was a soldier, he would not be taking on the "poleepkwa" in battle fatigues. As the Van De Merwe Incident demonstrated years ago, that would be suicide, especially the aliens were now hostile and actively organized to kill anything that looked remotely human.
Speaking of aliens, the woman with Miles wasn't from Earth per se, but she was at least humanoid. The Newcomer female was slender, and at least as tall as Miles; he himself was a prime specimen of humanity at six feet and change, but that meant little. If Miles and his bald alien ally physically wrestled like two school children, she'd easily beat him down like a rag doll.
The Newcomer appeared far more at ease than "the Rook"; she occasionally stroked her smooth spotted head and kept chatting about her slim pickings of cooked Earth food as they headed for the drop bay. Soldiers tended towards nervousness regardless of how much they trained, and Miles suspected she was using idle chatter to keep her mind off the fact that they were both underwater in a submarine carrier.
Any hull breach meant the incoming seawater would dissolve the pretty alien woman in seconds unless she reached the escape vehicles, sealed herself inside a battle blister, or scrambled into a survival suit made for her kind.
Miles reflected on the many aliens now living on planet Earth. The prawn ship came to a stop over Johannesburg in 1982 and no one stopped to wonder if that species was the only one in the neighborhood. The insect-like aliens were called "prawn" by the South Africans, but everyone else called them something else; "crickets" by the British and Australians, but other countries had other monikers, all which focused on the JoBurg aliens' speech, which sounded like clicks and clacks.
Ultimately, the mystery of why the "prawn ship" stopped on Earth was answered when the Newcomers' slave ship crashed in California's Mojave Desert six years later in 1988. Between a space wreck and an inoperable craft, the best minds humanity had to offer surmised that a mid-space accident had somehow occurred, and that both craft touched down on the planet much like a two vehicles after a traffic collision.
Once dirtside though, the fortunes of the two alien races diverged rapidly. The Newcomers, having landed in the United States, were first held in quarantine as a precautionary measure, but ultimately assimilated into the human population. Not so with the "prawn" in South Africa. Their radically inhuman appearance, coupled with the vast political and social changes in South Africa at the time, proved to be the prawns' undoing.
Then in 2010, Wikus Van De Merwe happened. Miles' mind still reeled at the ineptitude of Multi-National United, and how poorly they handled the situation. While the United States was never officially invited to participate in anything MNU-related (having their own extra-terrestrial situation at home), America did send unofficial observers - even Newcomer scientists - who watched the events unfold in District 9.
Without any idea what would happen if the prawn came back, the United States erred on the side of caution and prepared. Armed with the scant technological scraps from their new alien allies and information on the aliens in South African, DARPA managed to developed the "amplified mobility platform" (AMP) to combat the hostile alien threat.
After initial teething troubles, America had started a new technological revolution in warfare with a militarized version of the AMP, the Gibbon CoRi (COmbat RIg). With help from Newcomer scientists, DARPA managed to get their various armaments programs working, and just in time too. Less than a decade after the stricken prawn ship departed for its home system, their invasion fleet arrived on Earth. Strangely, the prawn didn't come to "rescue" their brethren in South Africa, but to harvest the raw materials instead.
Miles and his alien comrade-at-arms entered a large loading bay where a dozen or so other operators were lined up. They were all in similar body-hugging battledress. Their codpieces sported protuberances and inputs much like as his. The group's commander - a 'Tactical Sergeant' by his insignia - was a short, wiry Chinese man with a dour face, and a more dour disposition.
"We're wrapping up," the sergeant's bald head glistened under the interior lighting as he glared at the new arrivals. "Small change of plan. Rook, you're ridin' alone. Tits will be driving Ginny. Move out."
At that, the others started moving towards ladders marked with names on large signs. A blonde woman with a mediocre but perky bust stepped up and waved to the Newcomer, saying, "C'mon Mary. See you in the Bactrian."
"All right." The Newcomer - Mary - turned and gave Miles a friendly punch in the arm as she strode off, "See ya, Rook."
"Uh, sir?" Miles seemed hesitant as the sergeant started off to his own ladder.
"Don' you ever 'sir' me. I work for a livin'."
"Yes Sergeant Cheng," Miles quickly corrected himself. "So, how's this going to work? I thought my blister was set for the Bactrian instead of a Gibbon? I thought I was to escort Miss Webster?"
"I swapped the control cards," came his response. "Just because you're not driving the Virgin Mary around -" a play on Webster's name and call sign "- doesn't mean you're not on baby-sitter duty."
Miles started up his ladder as Cheng continued in his American drawl.
"You're still new to movin' in a blister and cradle. Gibbons ain't training machines. Bein' on your own means you can make mistakes that won't get my people killed - 'specially my bot controller," the sergeant said simply. "You stay near the Bactrian, but do exactly as Tanya says. Understand?"
"Yes sergeant. Understood."
Probably more so than you want, Miles thought darkly as he settled into his battle blister. Tanya "Tits" Doyle, the unofficial bodyguard of their squad's bot controller, was rumored to have been a stripper, a porn star, or a hooker before the prawns invaded Earth. Miles heard a few sordid stories aboard the submarine carrier that ran rampant in small circles of how Doyle got into the CoRi program.
Some said she and Cheng were having some fun before the invasion, but that didn't hold up, as the sergeant himself was rumored to be a refugee himself. In any case, once the shooting started, Doyle, like Sergeant Cheng, quickly earned new infamy as skilled rig drivers with an adroitness when it came to killing the enemy.
Now, whether "Tits" and Sergeant Cheng were an item, or still an item seemed moot - Cheng and the slender Newcomer female, Mary Webster, were often found eating together in the mess, much to the disgust of the crew. The raw meat diet of Newcomers wasn't exactly a welcoming sight, except to other Newcomers.
Miles tuned out the innuendo and he concentrated on getting himself ready. He connected the waste line to a metal orifice on his codpiece, followed by the wash/rinse line. That done, Miles slipped his arms and legs into the metal and polymer cradles inside the blister.
With his limbs so encompassed, he would be able to control any rig his blister was installed into just as he would his own body - at least hands, arms, legs, and feet wise. The cradles' many joints were wired or motorized to provide resistance to his movements, if just to give the operator a sensation of feedback; physically and practically, he was a walking five meter tall metal giant, with proportionate strength.
The blond rookie was primarily standing, although there was a small rest protruding from the rear wall of the blister to allow Miles to rest on his buttocks. He seldom did so, as sitting like that was painful if he did it too long. To actually "sit" comfortably in a blister, Miles had to remove his legs from the lower limb cradles (in essence letting the auto-walk take over - not a good idea in combat). So, like any soldier, Miles toughed it out and took short sits when his legs were feeling tired.
There was a slight bump, and Miles felt his battle blister shudder. He was being loaded into his Gibbon. The war machine stood between nearly five meters tall; its upper body was voluminous enough to encapsulate the cylindrical cockpit containing its operator. So enclosed, the only means for the person to see while inside one of these assault suits was through the cam-plate - the prefabricated armored faceplate with bundles of fiber thin cables serving as cameras to the outside world.
The cam-plate wrapped around the Gibbon's bulbous upper-body and came down in a bib-like fashion over the forward and side facings of the torso. Special optic mountings in the outer frame's crotch and arm pits allowed the to "see" the ground beneath him.
.... There is more of this story ...