The inoculations were after they packed all their belongings and loaded them onto transport in French Guyana. It was strange, since vaccines usually took time to work, and the time to do it was weeks earlier, instead of the day before they were set to fly out to Nigeria. New tropical diseases in Africa was not an unknown thing, so a last minute inoculation was not unwarranted.
All the same, Centurion's contractors lined up for the shots. It was not an unknown phenomenon in service, and the whole three months in Guyana was a refresher course for the people hired for this job. There was a line leading to a room, and people went through the door. They exited out another door. Orderly, that.
Jake Robson woke from the shot in an unfamiliar setting, but surrounded by familiar faces, all coming awake in a combination of cot and crib, some sort of high-walled bed. The room around them was sterile white with equipment all around, which made him think of any number of sci-fi movies where the thing burst out of your fucking chest and started killing willy-nilly.
Then they found out that they were being offered an even better gig than fucking Nigeria. A few bowed out at this point and took the cooler home. The rest got on with the job.
Talra station was a mega-structure on the outskirts of the solar system of Qadah, the star around which Saina, their employers' planet, orbited. This station was the gateway to the system, and the enemy will be trying to take it intact as a staging point for their supplies and troops. With Talra, they had a strategic advantage for staging operations in the system. Without it, all they could do was slip in fast craft to land small groups of raiders, too fast for defenses designed to handle the large scale spacecraft that did the real fighting in this part of space. Talra was designed to defend against those and was fine while the Grathik were fighting the Plashi, who were not adept on the ground.
But they started losing other stations like it when the Salvesh came on, to the brink where they took the risk of uplifting parts of Humanity as their Janissaries.
There was a lot of training and familiarization on new gear; they'd woken up on Talra, and inside it was like a large, continual city with a few nice, very manicured, but alien, parks. It had buildings which were more like warrens for the Pilavians and designed largely for the convenience of the Grathik and client races, none of whom were combatants. Because they were in a ring on a space station, the altitude only went so high, and so there were not skyscrapers, though those existed in other places.
They watched the humans undergo exercises in their urbanized rings, which rotated around a core for gravity, with apprehension, but also with speculation. The station was on security blackout, only certain lines of communication in and out for security, but everyone expected that word of some sort of Grathik force would be ready to defend the interior of the station, in gravity, as infantry. Robson studied the history here, of attempts to turn the Pilavians into guerrilla fighters, except they evolved from prey animals and were not fighters by nature. There were the attempts to create sophisticated AI to augment the drone equipment currently modified for human use, and that was a disaster as the killbots turned on their owners.
It was down to some Grathik brain's idea to use a violent tool-user species, some tentacle beast studying humanity since World War II. The other tentacle horrors finally signed on with the idea, despite the perceived risks.
There was familiarization with the antigrav and propulsion systems built into the Universal Combat Pattern-colored suits, with pixelated grey-green blobs for urban warfare, they were issued as a base layer, uniforms with systems for emergency situations in space, such as loss of gravity, pressure, of biological or chemical contamination. The ability to magnetize parts of the suit and latch onto surfaces, an emergency fall-protection protocol that was immediately used by human forces for tactical reasons, such as egressing from an elevated position quickly.
They were armed with human designed, Grathik-improved weaponry, with a variety of different modifications that expanded upon human tactical concepts. All sorts of infantry support weapons were mounted on smaller drones that could be converted, on command, into emplaced weapons like a transformer, allowing a human to fire the weapon in manual mode, and smaller drones were used for recon, counter-drone warfare, and to purge nanites that were sprayed into the air. They fought in a literal cloud of nanites designed to deliver the troops safely to the fight so they could kill other troops, though the nanites themselves were trying to, ultimately, find the right combination of countermeasures that would allow them to break through and kill live infantry troops, the main combatants.
Luckily, the Grathik capabilities here were well-honed. They had good nano-tech and nanite-control protocols. They had sophisticated Virtual Interfaces. They had drones and other information sources providing them with an Augmented Reality overlay goggles for their human troops that was seamless and very useful for identifying targets even when behind cover or at a distance -- when the nanites or drones could break through countermeasures and acquire the targets. In a real combat situation, this would be rival sides, swarms of nanites, drones and fixed systems adapted to defender use vying to establish sensor superiority and relaying what telemetry they could back to the killers in the field, the infantry. \
And, Robson noted, in a real combat situation, these nanites were felt like the occasional spray of mist on a breeze as enemy and friendly nanites fought their war. It wasn't just the mist; they were smeared in nanite gel on their exposed body parts, and the stuff was sprayed onto their equipment. The effect was that it felt like a misty drizzle in the orbital habitat.
Practice with the system, guided by the Grathik and then adopted wholly by human officers, a number of them Air Force types with drone warfare experience, was a relevation. They simulated the total superiority scenario where they could track the enemy and then varying degrees of successful interference, which helped train everyone on how to compensate. In the end, if the enemy was good enough, they'd be down to the old standard of eyesight and field craft.
Luckily, that's what Humanity was used to. Technology was great, but it did not replace good training and effective doctrine.
Squad Park, with its special operators/airborne/ranger/marine types, moved into place atop a designated over watch position in the Gala neighborhood, near the spaceport, when the sensors fired off an impact warning that was different from the others that had been rocking the station. For several days, they'd endured a duel of large-scale weaponry as the enemy's naval forces tried to soften up the station with fire as a first gambit, but then settled for firing off small, agile landers with bore-drills that held enemy infantry, others that were nanite/drone-delivery platforms and some that were total decoys, designed to ensure the survival of the others by drawing fire. One could hear the hum of the weaponry as the power systems worked overtime for their various needs and, toward the end, the crashing and rumbling of things hitting the hull of the station and boring into it. Breachers.
The waiting was over, and they were on a roof spotting for the rest of the company as it started to make its way through the streets in response to information coming in on potential enemy presence, a blob of action that slowly started to shrink as time wore on and the Grathik systems took the upper hand. But then the blob, in their visors' field of vision, expanded again as the Salvesh gained advantage. Robson noted to Park, "So much for the easy way."
They were already on watch. In a MOUT setting Earthside, they'd perhaps go with anti-materiel rifles, GPMG's and bring some LAWS'. Here, they brought their gear, requested resupply by drones and emplaced a couple more drones to provide grenade launching capability and a pair of Ma Deuces at their position, giving their nine men significantly more firepower than a SEAL overwatch element in Ramadi, Iraq, in the efforts to screen. For now, it was the two snipers, Robson and Simmons, a former US Marine Scout-Sniper, providing anti-drone overwatch with Grathik-modified light fifties. Doctrine took hold early in specifying that they did not rely upon the drones for spotting or for security, but to augment. So they were on watch for anything they could report or engage, even if it was redundant. No one trusted a drone that wasn't under manual control, but were happy when they worked.
The Chief Operations Officer of Centurion, an American General named Guy Strafford with significant armor, cavalry and doctrine development experience was the commander, and he wanted squads out there making the contact, not the drones.
"Visual contact, 10 o'clock. Not one of ours," ("noot one-a oors.") Robson muttered into his commo gear with that distinctive Geordie accent. That report would generate a VI-assist report into the data systems, though there were provisions for manual override if it were hacked or corrupted, that then could focus more assets in the area on a pre-determined sweep, subject to override. There were an awful lot of cyber-warfare types, sharp Air Force lads, on top of that side of the fight, monitoring the equipment and ready to step in if the AI decided to kill all organics rather than just the organics it was supposed to.
His finger inched toward the trigger, but did not take the slack up quite yet as he started to track it. Other eyes swept other sectors, because it was expected that one would lead to more. But Robson was disciplined, and knew how to regulate his breathing. It wasn't like killing ISIS types in Syria, or fighting Taliban in Afghanistan. They didn't even have a fucking live enemy out there...yet.
But maybe they'd be able to draw them in. Thankfully, Stafford, in deciding that squads would make contact, also dictated that squad leaders had the initiative in deciding how to engage, at least in most circumstances. "Unless Otherwise Directed" or UNODIR, was his favorite saying, to the point where his men were wearing tabs on velcro that said it.
"Waiting on you, Riddler."