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Hygiea Recon

When you sign up, they don't really emphasis it, but the truth of the matter is that when deployed, a Marine squad lives in a forty foot container.  That's a little over twelve meters in normal measurements;   about two and a third wide and high on the inside.  In there are bunks for twelve Marines and their personal gear, plus an airlock, a head and a galley.  The hide-and-whack bunk compartments flatten when not in use, so there's some space to move around.   And all six walls of the box have airtight doors, so you can connect them and stack them into a giant Marine cargo maze.   Four boxes make a platoon, sixteen a company and all its gear.  Eighty makes a battalion and four hundred a cohort.   

When they put us in the field, they just drop the containers and connect them into a new Marine hamster maze.  There are big ships that hold a company or battalion at a time, but out in the fleet, we're all broken up into smaller units.  For that, they use a Hawk.  A Hawk is an Assault Lander.  That means it has a bit of armor, a couple of one meter lasers that might scratch the paint off a real warship and a gatling gun for point defense.  A single Marine box fits in the Hawk like a sling.  There's no bottom or back, just the armor of the container to protect us.   The idea is that the Hawk can just touch and go, leaving us to hold the ground. 

So back in '20 when I was just a baby-faced grunt, we're on patrol in the outer belt.  A corvette comes in from Jupiter to join our squadron.  Four spooks without insignia came on board and had a talk with the Major and the next thing you know, it's time to load up and take a ride.  No need to know more than that, and nobody was talking.

Our objective was Hygiea.  It's one of the biggest rocks in the Belt, but it's far out and not good for much.  The Belters abandoned it about fifty years earlier.  It's big enough to have a whole one percent gravity, but that's more of a nuisance than anything else.  A bullet, and even shrapnel, can easily reach escape velocity. 

We headed down to a landing field by one of the old settlements.  The LT lands with the first squad in a touch and go and secures the perimeter.  We touch down next, and the Sergeant gets out.  Suddenly, he sees something moving and then the gatling opens up into the dark.  They told us that for sure nobody was there, so the mess caught me off guard.  

It didn't occur to me until right then that there had to be a reason for coming on down to an "abandoned" old Belt ruin.  Those spooks would have been the clue   But hey, I was young and stupid.  I lived to learn better.

--Master Sergeant Anders van Praag, Martian Imperial Marine Guard, (retired) for the Marine Oral History Project, 2552.

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