SOEIV 'Drop Pod'
Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle
The SOEIV is an angular pod, approximately eighteen (18) feet tall, eight and a half (8.5) feet wide, and nine (9) feet deep with an entry hatch on one side. Within it is a crash seat, communications gear, numerous equipment racks, and a rudimentary control system. In spite of the size of the pod, there is not much room to move around, as the space given over to equipment storage lines the interior attached to the frame.
The trooper enters the SOEIV and straps in facing the hatch. The hardened and shielded communications gear, which is built directly into the hatch, feeds the soldier information relevant to the current operation as well as providing a link between all members of the unit during the drop. While within the SOEIV a soldier’s helmet integrated comm units are redundant and are normally only used if the pod’s comm gear malfunctions.
A 30-second countdown begins on the commander’s mark, and the SOEIVs fire quickly down through the ship’s belly. The SOEIV is balanced to stabilize in a feet-down position. The pod has limited maneuvering capability, used primarily to coordinate landings, but may be used to avoid defensive anti-aircraft fire. However, if defensive anti-aircraft is present it is almost a mathematical certainty that some pods will be lost. If the armored skin that covers a pod is damaged before or during its entry into atmosphere it has a tendency to fail spectacularly. And this is the reason for the SOEIV’s small size—each hit only results in one death rather than the deaths of the entire unit.
UNSC insertion protocols call for the CO’s SOEIV to accelerate after launch, placing it in the front rank of the advance. The reasons for this rule include the strongly held belief that officers should lead rather than follow, should be willing to do anything their troops are asked to do, and should expose themselves to the same level of danger as their subordinates.
The most compelling reason, however, is the need to collect, sort, and organize the troops the moment their boots touch ground. Experience demonstrates that whatever the ODSTs manage to accomplish during the first so-called “golden hour” on the ground will have a disproportionate effect on the success or failure of the entire mission. The commander’s pod is equipped with a lot of gear that the regular “eggs” are not, including high-powered imaging gear, tactical sensors, and a 4th generation “dumb” AI.
After the SOEIV has penetrated the atmosphere, the upper exterior panels separate acting as a drag-type chute, slowing its descent some. At about 50 meters, the pod’s computer controlled breaking rockets engage, slowing the pod further; allowing for a safe though somewhat abrupt landing.
Drag chutes on SOEIVs do fail on rare occasions, leaving the pod’s occupant to die on impact. It’s the death that every ODST trooper fears, and is referred to in hushed tones as “digging your own grave."
Upon landing, each ODST is responsible for stripping their pod of its store of extra weapons, ammo, and other supplies, which are then hauled to the unit’s temporary base camp. ODSTs are used to operating without resupply for extended periods, and they are well known to be at their best when under difficult conditions.