Royal Marines: 2300AD
The Zeebrugge Group
The Zeebrugge Group is the element of the Corps of Royal Marines assigned to the internal protection of British orbital settlements and outposts. The Group takes a back seat in the day-to-day security on these facilities, leaving that to the station police force, and instead concentrate and wider threats to the stations integrity. Essentially their brief is three fold, counter-intelligence, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism.
These small teams of men (and some women) are a true elite, carefully selected from volunteers from the ranks of the Royal Marines. Their training and operational methods have been distilled from nearly four hundred years of experience from police and intelligence communities as well as military techniques. In the fragile environment of an orbital station these teams are a surgical instrument for maintaining its safety from all possible threats.
The narrative and SFHEF ammuniton are by David Gillon.
'You the negotiator?'
Kate nodded, trying to look harmless.
She stood silently, assessing the situation from a first person perspective instead of through a pinhole fibreoptic. They had labelled the two gunmen Spokesman and Silent. Spokesman had an inertial vest, a shotgun and did all the talking, Silent had ballistic fatigues and a sawn-off something that looked improvised as hell, but two dead security guards said it worked just fine. He also looked psychotic as hell. They had screwed up beyond belief, trying to pull off an armed robbery in L5, but when they'd grabbed a hostage and gone to ground they had picked a real swine of a location to assault. The little rec-lounge had one doorway, an outer wall direct to vacuum and machinery conduits through walls, floor and ceiling that had the Det's demo specialist tearing out what little hair he had left in an attempt to find an area clear enough for an improvised entry. The outer wall was entirely clear, making for a pretty starscape, but the Clearplast was years out of spec and they didn't dare risk conventional fire near it. Even laser fire was contra-indicated (to quote their prissy intel officer), which ruled out blowing them away from outside. The newsies would ask why they couldn't use sonic stunners, but sonics just didn't do the job quick enough, about fifty percent of the time the bad guy would get a shot off on his way down.
'We want a ship out of here,' Spokesman said, 'Or we start hurting the tot...'
Kate glanced down at the child, held by Silent. Her mother might make it, if the surgeon was really good. Silent saw her glance and gave the toddler's arm a malevolent twist to emphasise the threat of the gun he held on her.
Kate frowned as the child began to cry once more. She balled her fists, then shoved her hands behind her back as though to stop herself from lashing out.
'What you lookin' at?' Silent demanded, speaking for the first time.
'A dead man,' Kate whispered as her Bulldog cleared the holster at the small of her back.
Silent jerked as two SFHEF rounds blew his chest open and became
precisely what Kate had labelled him. Spokesman started back in horror,
his shotgun blasting out towards the spot where Kate had stood, but
she was already tumbling away. A couple of pellets hit her, their
impact stopped by her inertial armour, but their momentum knocked
her aim a fraction off. Her third shot hit the Clearplast by Spokesman's
head. Kate winced, but the SFHEF popped and splattered out across
the 'plast, the fragile surface intact. Her fourth and fifth shots
made up for the miss, punching in under the bottom of the target's
vest, the explosive rounds detonating at the optimum moment to rip
his lower abdomen apart. The shotgun fell from his hands as he bounced
back from the wall, the starscape disappearing behind a wash of blood.
Kate kicked the gun away from Silent's hand before bending to scoop up the weeping child with her free arm. She moved to stand over Spokesman as her back-up team stormed into the room. Spokesman stared up at her, still alive somehow. Kate turned the child's head away and raised the Bulldog.
'You're cops,' he protested, an instant before the SFHEF round blew his forehead open.
'No, you moron,' she told the corpse, 'We're Zeebrugge Group.'
The Zeebrugge Group was formed in 2175 when the first three detachments were formed and assigned to British stations in Sol and Alpha Centauri as well as a detachment located in the multi-national Clarke station above Earth. The impetus for the new group came from the activities of another group of Royal Marines, Commander Brooke's Special Planetary Section. The SP marines had undertaken an array of covert operations on multi-national and national stations, which revealed to the British Government the insecurity of their own installations.
Normal security on British stations was relatively lax and in the hands of Station Police when there was enough space on the station to justify the expense. As most stations were scientific or industrial in nature, crime and criminal damage were highly uncommon. However the explosion in colonial emigration led to an expansion in orbital facilities to accommodate the flow of new colonists. In these new, larger stations security was much more of a concern as the normal array of security checks could not be carried out. Agents could easily be sneaked on to stations in the additional flow of people.
There were two approaches to be taken to this threat. One was to increase the numbers of station security personnel and impose harsher security measures that would slow the traffic through the stations. The other was to bring in teams of specialists to act upon enhanced intelligence gathering conducted on the stations. Whilst the British went for the latter option most other nations opted for the former, often replicating the measures used by OQC.
The Zeebrugge Group was formed under the auspices of Royal Marines, as the marines had long fostered a close relationship with the RSN and taken an interest in the emerging problem. The Zeebrugge Group was to be the space born counter-part to the Earth based maritime counter-terrorist Commachio Group. And whereas that body was named after a famous marine raid of the Second World War, the new group was to be named after the Royal Marines 4th Battalion's attack on the U Boat pens at Zeebrugge in World War I.
The Zeebrugge Group has been operating quietly since its formation over 125 years ago without drawing much attention to itself. Some say that it's low profile is the ultimate tribute to its abilities.
The Zeebrugge Group (normally known simply as 'the Group') recruits primarily from the ranks of the Royal Marines. It is a pre-requisite for those volunteering to have completed the Red Commando course, in order to complete the Group selection and training course in safety. Most of the volunteers come from the ranks of the 6 Commando Brigade, but others come direct from the 1st Commando Division on Earth or from Wellon's 7 Commando Brigade.
The second pool of recruits come from the Royal Space Navy and can serve only in Command and Heavy Support Elements. These spacers come from the computer and communications specialist Data rates in the first case and from rates who are highly skilled in EVA operations in the second. Initially RSN volunteers had only to pass selection and training, but they are now also required to undertake the All Arms Red Commando Course. The number of RSN personnel in the Group has declined in recent years as RM personnel have learned their skills.
Group selection is undertaken at HMS Vindictive on Hawking Station in the Alpha Centauri system. It consists on assessing the volunteers skills under all kinds of pressure, and the recruits are constantly monitored and observed. Other testing measures the recruits sense of spatial orientation and ability to shoot accurately in station and zero-G conditions. Selection is undertaken over the course of a month and generally will see nearly 2/3rds of the applicants being rejected as unsuitable for service in the Group and returned to unit.
After selection the training program begins in earnest with some four months of training at Vindictive, mostly on-station but sometimes on ships within the system. The first month of training encompasses the Common Training Phase and is undertaken by all volunteers. CTP involves basic shooting, medical work, communications and surveillance procedures as well as covering common Group doctrine.
On completion of CTP the recruits are streamed into specialised training for Command, Heavy Support and Operations Elements. Command training naturally concentrates on the ability to control operations and utilise the stations integral comms, computers and sensors to the best effect.
Operations troops undergo a testing range of activities that concentrate on CQB weapons skills, work in zero-G or vacuum environments and manual surveillance skills. Operations also acquire delicate explosives skills from a special training team of Royal Engineers and RSN personnel. Those slated for Heavy Support concentrate on combat walker zero-G manoeuvring and weapons skills in addition to training in surveillance and fighting drones.
The Test Phase of training involves a two week simulated operation in Hawking Station against a group of simulated terrorists who have to be identified, followed, bugged covertly before being attacked and destroyed in an assault on their hotel apartment. Once completed the recruits have the final trial of waiting to see if they have been accepted into the Group.
The training program for the Group has been put together from a variety of sources. Counter-terrorist assault techniques from SAS, SBS and SPS. Surveillance from the ISW and a variety of police forces and MI6. Technical intelligence comes mainly from MI5 and so on. These have all been blended into a way that is unique to the Group which constantly refines and alters is procedures and training regimes.
For operational purposes the Group necessarily is dispersed over huge distances. The basic organisation of the Group is into a number of Detachments or Dets, each assigned to a specific station. Dets vary in size depending on the size and threat levels to the site to which they are assigned. There are three key organisations that make up a Det, these are known as Elements and normally consist of four personnel.
Every Det includes at least one Command Element. The Command Element consists of one officer, two signals trained marine Electronic/Information Warfare rates and one RSN Data specialist. It is the job of the command element to co-ordinate the other elements of the Det whilst also monitoring the input of the station's surveillance devices. Obviously much of this work needs to be automated and computerised which is the reason for the presence of the RSN Data specialist. When operations are underway the Command Element permanently mans an Operations Room, which is normally found inside the security section, and has emergency overrides (rarely used) over most station assets.
The officer is in charge of both the Command Element and the Det, and is normally either a senior lieutenant or a captain. His role is often more of a liaison and intelligence one and he will normally never accompany his men on operations. Also linked to the Det although not an integral part of the operation is the station's Naval Liaison Officer (or Naval Attaché on Gateway and Clarke Stations). The NLO/Attaché is actually an officer in the RSN Intelligence Service and his key role is in acting as an intelligence conduit from a variety of sources into the Det.
The teeth arm of the Det are its Operations Elements. These consist of four marines each and are responsible for manual surveillance as well as any assault operations that might need to be undertaken. The Group has long learned not to rely exclusively upon technical means of surveillance and so the Ops Elements are trained to tail suspects as well as place bugs and miniaturised cameras. On these sort of operations the Ops teams are manoeuvred remotely by the Command Element for greatest effect but still rely on their own field-craft to be noticed.
Obviously the members of the Ops teams are dressed in civilian clothes, and equipped with concealed firearms and weapons. Great care is taken so that the operators' dress does not become overly uniform or obvious.
When more direct action becomes necessary, perhaps in a pre-emptory or anti-terrorist action, the Ops elements are responsible for conducting the assault. This will be done in a number of ways depending upon location and circumstances of the target. An operation on an apartment in the main habitat will be relatively conventional, whereas an attack on a suspect freighter could require a breaching operation launched from outside the hull. Dets practise frequently for most of these scenarios.
Dress and weaponry also vary substantially in these operations. From plain clothes, to full-rigid armour over vacc suits to additional exoskeleton power assistance. Weapons selected from lasers, blast grenades to high calibre gauss carbines. In all operations secure comms, sensor arrays and trauma packs are much in evidence. Operations elements are normally commanded by a Sergeant or Corporal and also include a Lance Corporal and two Marines.
The final common element is the Heavy Support who provide a dual role within the Det. HS elements are recruited from both RM and RSN personnel and man both combat walkers and control remote drones. CW provide enhanced sensor and comms coverage and fire support to Ops elements, especially outside the main habitat, as well as motive power for longer EVA moves. Once in position the CW pilot can also control drones to move in to support the ops elements. HS elements also control Explosive Ordnance Disposal drones should these be needed.
All of these Elements are combined, along with certain Station Police units in order to carry out any missions required to maintain the safety of the station.
Wellington Station, Sol
Wellington Station is the UK's national high orbit station and is home to most of its orbital shipbuilding facilities in the system. It is also home to HMS Jellicoe the RSN's main base in the Home System. Access to Wellington Station is fairly restricted and Station Police have a large degree of latitude to pursue their security brief. Nevertheless due to the important nature of the stations resources the Wellington Station Detachment has a Command Element, and four Operations Elements, supported by a Heavy Support Element. However in an emergency the Det could draw upon the
Clarke Station, Sol
Clarke Station is the ESA controlled station at L-5 in practise though Clarke Station is virtually an independent city state in its own right. However there are substantial British interests represented at this British port, and so a small Det of a Command Element and two Operations Elements are present on-station and able to respond to any emergency. The Det commander tries to keep good relations with the station Gendarmerie and other national anti-terrorist elements on-station.
Gateway Station, Sol
Gateway Station is the city-port located at the top of the Earth Beanstalk. The Group Det based at Gateway is seconded to the Orbital Quarantine Command along with other national special forces. This means that this Det is one of the busiest, taking part in numerous boarding actions and the occasional on-station raid and is consequently a popular posting. Gateway Station Det has a Command Element, a Heavy Support Element and four Operations Elements.
Hawking Station, Alpha Centauri
Hawking Station is the UK's orbital station around Tirane, and is the primary entry-point for travel down to Wellon. The station is even larger than Wellington, including a large civilian section in addition to the British Ludlum shipyards and the naval base HMS Dare. The station is home to HMS Vindictive a section within the military sector which hosts the headquarters and training centre for the Zeebrugge Group.
Consequently whilst the actual Hawking Station Det has one Command, four Operation and one Heavy Support Elements, there are roughly twice this number of marines undergoing training on-station. Hawking Station is obviously not a good place to start a fight.
Churchill Station, Queen Alice's Star
Churchill Station is the UK's geostationary orbital station above Beowulf. The station as well as being an orbital terminal and defence base (HMS Beatty) is now also the centre of a constellation of orbital factories and power generation satellites. The tension between British and French colonies on Beowulf in recent years has led the British to increase the security presence on-station. Two command elements, six operation and two heavy support elements are split between the major satellites.
De Villebis Station, Clarksstar
De Villebis Station in the Clarksstar System is one of the most important pieces of colonial real estate owned by the British as Clarksstar is the gateway to the American Arm. As a result De Villebis is a wealthy way-station as well as being an important naval and scientific installation. Consequently the station has a reputation as being a site for espionage as well as occasionally questionable dealings.
The Det has a standard size of one command and heavy support and four operations elements. It has a long history of operations against smuggling and piracy attempting to use the station as a base as well as keeping a watchful eye on the espionage activities of a number of nations on-station.
Spence Station, Henry's Star
Spence Station is the orbital facility above Crater in the Henry's Star system, through which most of the colonies needs and products pass. In spite of the tension between the colonial government and miners on-planet the station never experienced much trouble. The Group presence on-station was always a small one with only a command element and two operation elements.
However with the Kafer Invasion reaching BCV the station was evacuated accept for a volunteer RSN crew and was destroyed on the 27th of February 2302. The Det had remained on station, booby trapping it in anticipation of the Kafers attempting a boarding operation. However the Kafers simply destroyed the station and only one man from the Det, along with three RSN spacers, managed to escape the station and reach Crater.
The Kafers set up a damaged battleship as an ad-hoc station during their occupation, which was even more badly damaged by Rochemont's fleet. The hulk was cleared by Royal Marines with the British relief expedition and repaired enough to act as a station whilst scientists explored the ship. It is expected that a new Det will be sent out to man the station.
Highside Station, 61 Ursae Majoris
Highside Station is the UK's orbital station above Joi in the 61 Ursae Majoris system. Highside acted as the main entry point for goods and colonists for the British and Azanian colonies as well as managing the solar power generation systems. The Elysian conflict on world and caused the British to up the Det size on Highside to combat smuggling and espionage. The Det has a size of one command and heavy support element and four operations elements.
When the Kafer War came to Joi the station was evacuated except for the Det and volunteers from the small RSN presence and the Station Police. Unlike at Crater the station was mostly powered down and made no threatening moves, inside however a whole range of defences and traps had been constructed. During the Kafer attack the station was mostly left alone, but after the third day two Kafer troop transports approached the station.
The fighting on-station was of exceptional viciousness as the Kafers slowly fought through the defences and led by the Det the human defenders extracted a horrendous toll from the aliens. Eventually after three days of fighting and expending every dirty trick in the book (and coming up with some new ones) the British survivors were trapped in the station core and expecting the final assault when Rochemont's fleet arrived to win a decisive victory. The assaulting Kafers withdrew leaving the defenders amazed to be alive, and at a centre of a battle that would become as legendary as that at Rorke's Drift many years before.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Williams RM, Commanding Officer Zeebrugge Group
Lewis Williams is the current Commanding Officer of the Group and is based at HMS Vindictive on Hawking Station. Williams has a reputation as a cerebral officer, but also one with impressive military credentials. He has served with 45 Cdo, before passing the Red Commando Course and serving with 69 Cdo, which led to a tour with the Gateway Detachment. Williams then undertook a career move which will eventually stop his career reaching its true potential. He volunteered for pilot training, serving in and eventually leading 5 Commando Brigade's Air Group's gunship squadron whilst completing his PhD in Intervention Studies at Oxford University.
After several staff positions at the Ministry of Defence Williams was finally offered the post of CO Zeebrugge Group from which he is expected to retire from the Royal Marines. This thoughtful officer has brought in a range of new training routines and doctrines which are expected to increase the effectiveness of the Dets when fully implemented.
Williams is a Cardiff born man of stocky build and Caribbean extraction, who has a spectacularly broken nose from his days playing rugby. He is married with two children and his family lives on Wellon where he often visits them, he plans to settle in Wellon once he retires from the service.
Captain Jonathan Armstrong RM, MC., OC De Villebis Station Detachment
Captain Jon Armstrong is that rare beast within the modern Zeebrugge Group, an SP rate who has returned to the Group. Armstrong was a long service officer with No 2 Section, SPS with a promising career in front of him. He had previously served in 6 Cdo Bde and in the Hawking Station Detachment, ZG. However he was badly wounded in a classified operation and was so long from professional medical attention that he was deemed unfit for SPS service. Armstrong used his contacts to obtain a command position within the Group, and received the prestigious De Villebis Detachment in the Clarksstar system.
Armstrong is a cold but highly efficient officer with a streak of well disguised ruthlessness, his leadership is respected, but in no way loved by his men. Armstrong was raised and educated in Glasgow in the Central Scotland Metroplex where he also gained his Engineering degree. Armstrong has a noticeable limp from his bionic leg as well as a cybernetic implant in his left eye. His brown hair is streaked with white from old blunt trauma impacts to his head. He is not a man to be crossed.
Lieutenant Alexander Grayson RM, VC., Trainee Officer, Commando Training Centre
Alex Grayson is best known for his role leading the defenders of Highside Station above Joi, for which he received both the Victoria Cross and a field commission. As a result he is one of the most famous British soldiers of the Kafer War. He has been transferred back to Earth to undertake formal officer training, but is also used frequently by the Government as a speaker in favour of enhanced British involvement in the war.
A tall, good looking easy going ex-NCO he belies much of the fearsome reputation he has gained as a result of his actions ('Ice Cold Alex' and 'Gray Death' (sic.) according to some tabloid news sources). This Wellon born soldier dislikes much of attention he receives and has feelings of guilt over those members of his Det who did not survive. He hopes to return to an active unit away from Earth as soon as possible.
Petty Officer Alison Hutchinson RSN, MM., Instructor, HMS Vindictive
Alison Hutchinson is another of the heroes of Highside Station. A long service RSN rate specialising in EVA duties she volunteered for selection into the Group when the Heavy Support Elements were formed. She passed selection only to be told that as a woman she then had to undertake the Red Commando course, which she would do with one of the most impressive marks ever achieved by a woman. Grudgingly accepted by her male colleagues she served as a Bowman-E operator with the Wellington Det, before commanding the HS Element at Highside Station.
In the fighting at Highside she displayed outstanding bravery and common sense in appalling circumstances. Her partnership with Sergeant (now Lieutenant) Grayson was vital to the resitance put up by the defenders. Badly wounded, she was briefly captured, tortured and left for dead by the Kafers before their withdrawal. Now fully recovered Hutchinson is serving as an instructor at HMS Vindictive where she is helping to pass on the lessons of the fighting on Highside.
A stocky, somewhat plain woman from Newcastle, her immense determination and self-discipline has overcome a disadvantaged childhood and advanced her into the military. It is rumoured that she has turned down a commission to remain with the Group. Her facial scarring from the botched Kafer execution is still noticeable even after much reconstructive surgery.
The Bowman-E Combat Walker is the current issue to the Heavy Support Elements of the Group. Originally the HS used the much less capable BH-21 licence built and modified by Vickers-Rockwell. The Bowman is a much modified Bowman-D, converted for zero-G operations. It fully pressurised and has zero-G manoeuvring verniers as well as provision for a high capacity manoeuvring pack (HCMP).
Its weaponry consists of a left arm mounted automatic shot gun with four 200 round magazines, allowing the carriage of multiple ammo types. Shoulder mounted is the rapid fire L92A3 laser which provides reserve firepower. The CW can also carry Bowman-D weapons packs if the HCMP is not mounted.
The Black Arrow VT-9 control system has been specially designed and programmed for zero-G operations but can switch modes to handle operations under gravity with equal facility. The VT-9 also includes system for controlling a range of drones from the standard CW interface. Lastly the hull has 'lock on' hard-points for four marines to allow them to stay with the unit when the HCMP is operating.
Smart-Fused High Explosive Frangible Ammunition
SFHEF rounds (usually pronounced 'chef') are the CTW small-arms round of choice for operations in pressurized structures, whether those structures be in space, on board aircraft or in the oceanic depths. They are an outgrowth of APHE rounds and of smart weapon fuse technology developed for deep penetration gravity bombs. The ability to count voids as they passed through them gave bombs the ability to target specific floors in a bunker, but the basic principle wasn't restricted to buildings. With an accelerometer sensitive enough it was theoretically possible to measure penetration through any substance, including the human body. A SFHEF round is essentially a plasticized explosive wrapped around an accelerometer and a detonator. When it senses penetration into flesh the SFHEF fuse delays detonation a fraction of a second, giving the bullet time to penetrate into a body cavity before detonation. If, on the other hand, the round senses contact with a hard surface, the detonator is immediately triggered. The SFHEF round is shaped to throw its blast effect radially to the direction of travel, rather than spherically; in a human body cavity this tends to result in massive internal injuries and no exit wound, against a hard surface most of the momentum of the round is dispersed parallel to the surface, resulting in minimal damage to the surface beyond some minor scorching.
An unfortunate consequence of the technology is that penetration is severely compromised. Typical SFHEF rounds have trouble punching even ballistic fatigues and are reliably stopped by any form of inertial or rigid armour. The surface detonation of the round may cause bruising and minor burns, but is very rarely lethal. APSFHEF rounds are available, but reliability is significantly lower than standard SFHEF rounds due to the more complex scenario -- the fuse must not detonate if it senses that it is penetrating body-armour, but must detonate for other hard surfaces. In practise surface detonations occur for around fifty percent of hits on non-rigid armours, seventy percent on rigid armours and a percentage of rounds will penetrate against any surface. The unreliability of APSFHEF means that CTW teams generally prefer to use SFHEF rounds even on armoured targets and trust in their firearms training to allow them to hit unprotected areas.
SFHEF rounds are available for most projectile weapons (excluding shotguns). They increase DPV by one third over standard rounds, but cost 10L extra per round. They treat non-rigid armor as standard, but deliver only 0.1 DPV Blunt Trauma damage against inertial or rigid armour (or other surfaces).
APSFHEF rounds are also available for most projectile weapons (again excluding shotguns). Like SFHEF rounds they increase DPV by one third, but cost 15L extra per round. Roll 1D10 for all hits. Against non-rigid armour the round functions normally on a 1-5, but delivers only 0.1 DPV Blunt Trauma damage on a 6-10. Against Inertial or Rigid armour the round functions normally on a 1-3, but delivers only 0.1 DPV Blunt Trauma damage on a 4-10. Against other surfaces the round will deliver 0.1 DPV Blunt Trauma on a 1-9, but full damage on a 10.
Zeebrugge Group Dets will most often be encountered during adventures on-stations. The most obvious occasions are if the PCs are mixed up with activities such as smuggling or espionage or are mercenaries passing through to an operation. Normally they might come under covert observation from a Det but will rarely meet them directly. And illegal activity will probably be referred to the Station Police who will arrest or deport the PCs depending on the severity of offence. However if the PCs are planning some violent activity on-station they may end up in a duel with the Det that only the luckiest characters might survive.
Ex-Group NPCs might be found running security on small non-British stations or on larger spaceships. Whilst PCs with a Group background will have a very specialist knowledge of station security measures that might well be exploited.
Copyright 2009, D Hebditch