Excerpt from the article “Traitors or entrepreneurs?: a look at extra-national mercenary groups” by J.J.Johansen, written during his time embedded with “Petrov’s Bears” mercenary troop.
The background growl of the transport plane’s engines is broken by a warning buzzer. The red lights on either side of the rear door turn on, casting a glow over the crowded compartment. Petrov, massive in his armor, stands up and detaches from the rack along the wall.
“Alright folks, five minutes ‘til drop!” As he walks down the center of the compartment towards the back of the plane the rest of his squad starts to get out of their seats. Jackie is the next to leave their rack, a hiss of pneumatics and the whine of hydraulics following in their wake.
“Kit check,” Petrov yells and the squad starts to check each other’s parachutes and harnesses.
Charles “Doc” Croaker takes one last look at his medical kit, making sure it is secured and safe on his chest. Croaker joined the Bears 4 years ago after running away from a failed life in Falls. He lost his medical license after trying an untested procedure to save a patient—it didn’t work. After the news of a promising young doctor’s fall from grace got out, the mob came knocking at his door and made him a job offer he couldn’t refuse. After years of patching up goons and mobsters at all hours of the night, Croaker managed an escape to Domus Alba. Petrov quickly offered him a (slightly) more respectable job. He’s kept the Bears healthy and ready for missions ever since.
Petrov takes out his heavy pistol and checks that it’s loaded before locking it back into its holster. Many of the other mercenaries follow suit, making sure they’re ready for action when they land.
Leo “Lunk” Larkin pulls his auto rifle down from the locker overhead as his loader helps him do his final weapons check. Lunk was never a great shot, so when he joined the Bears they gave him a Thatcher Auto Rifle—he’s carried it ever since. His old life was in the Alden military, where he accidentally shot his squad leader during a training drill. He was thrown into the stockade for manslaughter. Larkin broke out and secured transport to Domus Alba, where he joined the Bears. Manslaughter aside, Lunk is a kind, jovial guy. Great for moral, and his covering fire is a godsend.
Another buzzer goes off and the light changes to yellow. “One minute to drop kids! Line up and click in!” Petrov bellows out over the sound of hydraulics as the rear door begins to open. The sound of the wind rushing by the plane drowns out any chatter and landscape rushing by shows just how low to the ground the transport plane really is. The plane starts to gain altitude in its final approach.
Petrov and Jackie’s suits come out of the torpor of idle as they ignite their armor’s turbine engines. Jackie checks that their drogue chute line is securely clipped in and lightly fires the suit’s retro thrusters. Jaquine “Jackie” D’fantasmi is relatively new to the Bears but is a skilled armor jockey and criminal. Jackie was working as an aircraft mechanic in Elenzio for an “import/export” company. After a few too many shipments came up short, Jackie’s thieving side hustle was found out and they stowed away on one of the other airships at the aerodrome. It took almost the entire trip back to Domus alba for the Bears to realize that Jackie was on their ship. Instead of throwing them off the ship, Petrov offered Jackie a job. Petrov wouldn’t trust them with his wallet, but as long as Jackie gets paid and can run their primero games they stay in line.
A more aggressive Buzzer goes off that can be heard over the roar of the wind as the lights finally turn green and Petrov hops off the end of the rear door ramp.
Petrov’s drogue chute opens as he drops below of the ramp, stabilizing his fall and keeping him upright. At 200 ft he pulls the throttle of his retro thrusters as the ground quickly comes up to meet him. The thrusters strain to slow the heavy suit of armor as it streaks down from the air trying to defy gravity. As Petrov gets to the tree line he switches his suit to full burn and braces his legs for landing. He lands hard but the shock absorbers take the majority of the force. He looks over and sees the flash of light of Jackie’s retro thrusters several hundred feet away and the gently falling forms of the rest of his squad drifting to the ground far more pleasantly. Petrov begins to run towards the rest of the Bears are going to land as a shot glances off his armor, they had a job to do.