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Story [HALO] Journal of A Spartan (Diary Challenge 2013) - Updated 4/23

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Volund Starfire, Jan 1, 2013.

  1. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    TITLE: Journal of A Spartan
    AUTHOR: Volund Statfire
    GENRE: Halo
    CHARACTERS: Jason-078 (main), Christy-081, Gary-150, other Halo characters
    SUMMARY: This is the journal of a member of the SPARTAN-II Program from initial selection to the Battle of Reach.
    DISCLAIMER: Bungee owns Halo.





    DR. HALSEY’S NOTE: Jason was conscripted into the program wearing a personal journal bracelet. Against the wishes of CPO Mendez, I am allowing him to keep this item. All logs will be filed directly with Dejá for use with Program Notes.


    1523 hours, September 1, 2517 (Military Calendar) /
    Sol Star System, Earth, Portland

    Something strange happened today while I was at school. We were in free study time and I was playing chess against the AI again. I was trying to be fair and let the AI have a better chance to beat me. I never looked at the board, trying to see where all the pieces were in my head. It was fun, especially since I wasn’t allowed outside because of Tommy’s broken arm.

    I didn’t mean to break it. We were racing to the top of the jungle gym and I got there first. Tommy tried to push me down. I only grabbed his wrist to stop from falling. We both ended up falling, but I caught my knees on a bar. Rather than let go, I kept ahold of his arm and he hit the bars really hard. It was completely an accident. But, it still got me kept inside.

    Anyway, while I was playing chess, I heard the AI go fuzzy. I looked down and the board had shut off. I pushed the AI call button, but it wouldn’t come back. That’s when I saw the lady walking up to the table. Behind her there was a man holding something that looked like the makeup thing mom has.

    She walked up and crouched down next to me. She was pretty, but she was looking at me kind of funny. She was wearing a skirt and hat, but there were no other adults in the room but the man. I knew that was weird because of the school rules.

    She asked me how I could play chess without looking at the board. It was strange, but I told her that I could picture where all the pieces were in my head. She asked why I did it like that. I told her it was because I won too much against the AI if I didn’t. She didn’t believe me, just like the teachers don’t. I told her that I didn’t care if she believed me or not.

    She smiled and reached into her purse. She pulled out a disk of some kind. It was flat and silver. She called it a coin and said something about it being some kind of currency. She wanted to play a game with me and told me that I could get the coin if I won. I didn’t want the coin, but I decided to play anyway.

    She told me to tell her where it would land and flipped it into the air. I watched it for a moment and told her that it would land on White King’s Bishop 3 and stop moving on Black Queen’s Castle 2. It did and she smiles and laughed a little. She told me that I did it wrong, even though I was right. She wanted to know what side it would land on.

    She flipped it in the air again and I watched it and told her on the bird side, landing on Black Queen’s square and rolling to the White Queen’s Knight square. It did. She looked impressed with that. She thanked me and stood to leave.

    As she walked away, I called out to her. She forgot her coin. She said that I could keep it. I told her that it was hers and I didn’t do anything to earn it. She smiled at me and told me that I would. Then she turned and left.

    I don’t know what she meant by that, but the class was about to begin and I didn’t want to run after her. It was funny, just after she left the AI came back online and said he was experiencing some interference. He set the board back up the way we left it. I wasn’t really interested in the game anymore so I beat the AI in six or seven more moves. Class began again and I put the coin in my pocket.
  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    This is very interesting. [face_thinking] I have never played the HALO games, but I like the feel of this - Jason's 'skills' were as intriguing as the lady, and I look forward to see where they go. I particularly liked how you didn't have dialogue in this, it was all from Jason's POV, as he remembered it, and it really heightened the journal feel. I liked the addition too of the computer program at the beginning, very sci-fi, very military-esque. Which was your goal, I assume . . . :p

    Either way, this is off to a terrific beginning, and I can't wait to see where you take it. =D=
  3. NYCitygurl

    NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jul 20, 2002
    Like Mira, I've never played Halo, but I'm intregued! Jason's a funny little kid, and I'll be following his adventures :)
  4. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    DR. HALSEY’S NOTE: I have instructed Dèjá to delete all previous entries in Jason’s journal except for the one where I visited him. Though she is coming around to the idea and reason for the journal, Franklin is still against it. However, since I am in charge of the project, he will just have to come around to my way of thinking.

    Jason is a very interesting case, though. Like most of the children, his mental evaluation shows signs of sociopathic tendencies, but unlike the others, he does not exhibit an overly aggressive personality archetype. Because of this, I was almost tempted to disregard him in lieu of another candidate for the program. However, something about the way he answered my questions during my personal evaluation seemed to stick with me. I will include notes for his strategic training to be increased as well as a heavier tactical training.


    2332 hours, September 23, 2517 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military
    Complex, planet Reach
    Today began really confusingly and I don’t really know what to make of it. The last thing I remember before waking up was mom putting me to bed. I heard my door open and looked to see if dad was coming to tuck me in. I felt a small pressure on my arm and fell asleep. That was the 10th.

    When I woke up, I couldn’t breathe. My eyes were a little foggy and I was really cold. I reached out in front of myself and felt a hard surface, metal or plastic, I think. I tried to sit up, but my head hit it. Something was sticking to my back like when I sat in dad’s chair with my shirt off. Then, whatever it was, opened and really bright light hit me. I shut my eyes tight and still tried to breathe. I wanted to know what was going on, but couldn’t breathe to ask.

    A woman’s voice was the first thing I really heard. It was kind of muffled and sounded like I was under water. She was telling me to relax as she pulled me so I was leaning forward and that I needed to take a deep breath and cough. I thought it was mom’s voice, so I did like she said. I tried to breathe in, but couldn’t at first. Then, I was able to suck in a deep breath and started to cough out a bunch of liquid. It took me three or four coughs before it felt like I coughed it all up.

    After a few seconds, I was able to open my eyes and saw that it wasn’t my mother; it was a stranger. She was wearing white clothing with a long white jacket. She had short black hair and wore glasses. I saw some lights flicker across the lenses and knew it was a pair of display glasses like my teacher wore. She had a winged staff on her chest that meant she was a doctor.

    She pushed me back onto the angled mattress that felt like some kind of gel and gave me an injection of something. I asked where I was and what happened, but she only hushed me. I looked over and saw a man standing on the other side of the thing I was laying in. His clothing was a mix of grays, browns, and greens in a strange pattern that seemed to blend together in my clouded vision. The shoulders of his jacket were a dark gray, and he wore a name tape on his chest. My eyes were still a little fuzzy, so I couldn’t make out his name tape, but I knew it was a uniform like the military wears. I asked him what was happening, but he just stood there. I thought the military was supposed to help. Dad always told me to look for someone in uniform if I needed help; why wasn’t he helping me?

    I felt another injection that kind of hurt and tried to sit up. The man reached out and put his hand in the middle of my chest to keep my down and told me not to move. I heard more coughing and squinted through the blurry images to see that there were others in the room. The walls were lined with strange coffin-like pods. I remembered something about cryo pods in some of those Navy holoshows, but those were meant for space travel. Did I travel in space?

    Each pod had a doctor and person in military clothing standing in front of it. One of the doctors turned and I saw a girl inside the pod that was looking around. I also saw that she didn’t have any clothes on. Looking down, I noticed that I was naked too. I felt my cheeks get hot and looked back at the doctor in front of me. I asked where my clothes were and she told me to wait. I asked why and she hushed me again.

    She nodded to the man holding me down and he moved his arm. She then told me to stand up. I did, and my back unpeeled from the gel mattress of the cryopod. As my feet touched the floor, I got dizzy and the doctor had to grab my arm to hold me up. She gave me another shot and then handed me a pair of pants and a jacket.

    They were the same dark gray as the guy’s shoulders. I pulled the pants on quickly and zipped the jacket up. The jacket and pants didn’t feel like cloth. They felt like really crumpled paper that was flattened. It was warm, though, and that is all that mattered. But, my feet were still cold. Finally, she held out my wrist journal. I took it and clasped it around my wrist. I noticed the guy give her a strange look when she handed it to me.

    The doctor told me to follow a light pen with my eyes then felt my wrists and ankles. I asked if I was okay and why I was here. She said that I was fine and then looked at the guy and nodded. Then, without a word, she walked away and left the room. I looked around and saw other kids receiving similar care and clothing. One doctor even gave a kid a coin like that lady gave me at school a couple of weeks ago. I asked where my mom and dad were, but the guy didn’t answer me.

    One of the girls pushed away from the doctor with a little scream and tried to run the moment she zipped her jacket up. The woman in uniform grabbed her and she tried to pull away making noises like when girls fought on the playground. The doctor gave the girl another injection and she stopped struggling, but she still looked scared. I looked up at the man next to me and he glanced at me and then back at the girl. I looked at the door past him and noticed the guy shake his head without even looking at me. He said for me not to try it. So, I didn’t.

    When the last of the doctors left the room, the man next to me grabbed my upper arm, said for me to come along, and led me to a door opposite the ones the doctors used. On the way out, I noticed that the room above this one, a kind of observation room, was dark and empty. I remembered from all those holoshows that the room should have had people in it. Why didn’t it?

    It didn’t matter how much I looked around, though, the man kept his hand around my bicep and was moving slow enough that I kept up with a fast walk. I knew that we were aboard a ship because of the hallway. It was long and has huge drop-down doors every few meters. If I slowed down, he gripped my arm a little tighter and told me to keep up.

    As I was walked through the halls, though, I noticed that all of the side doors had red lights on their access pads. They were all locked for some reason. If this is a Navy ship, why are the doors locked? I thought the Navy didn’t have to lock their doors, they were all in the Navy, right?

    Then, at the end of one hall, it was blocked by a large door. I thought those doors only came down if something was wrong. Next to it, there was a door with a green light that we walked through into another hall. Just like before the big door had been blocking the hall behind us.

    I glanced at my journal bracelet and was even more confused. It showed only a single saved file, but more importantly, it was almost two weeks later than it should have been. I looked up at the man walking me through the hall and he looked down with a neutral expression on his face. I was about to ask how long I had been asleep, but instead he nodded and let go of my arm. He told me to keep up, though and put his hand on my shoulder like dad used to when we walked through a crowded place. I flexed my arm a little and felt pulsing on it where his hand was.

    We went through another door and were in a hangar. I only knew that because of the ships parked in a neat row in front of the large doors that I think opened on space. At least they were closed, so we were safe. It was just like in those Navy holoshows. The lights were turned down and, looking around, I saw that there was nobody in the control room behind the glass. Then, I noticed that there was nobody at all in the room except for us kids and the adults with us.

    I felt the guy push my shoulder as he looked down and told me to keep moving and then called me a trainee. That was confusing. What was I training for? Also, where were my parents? I didn’t know what else to do. If I didn’t keep moving, he’d just take hold of my arm, so I walked. He wouldn’t answer any of my questions, anyway. We were walking to the third ship, a Pelican I think is what it is called. I had one of those toys under my bed.

    We went up the ramp and he sat me down next to a boy near the front. Reaching down, he pulled a belt around me. A girl was sat next to me and he sat down and put on his own belt. I tried the lock, but it wouldn’t move, so I began looking around the Pelican.

    There were fifteen of us kids on one side of the ship and fifteen of the adults on the other. I noticed that each of the girls has a woman who was sitting across from them and each of the boys had a man. They all wore the same uniform, but some had different pins on their collars. Us kids were also in the same jacket and pants.

    The guy who was leading me around was named Hicks according to his name tag. He was shorter than most of the men around him and had a tightly trimmed haircut. It looked blond like my mom’s, but also showed a little red. For the most part, he was watching me, but also glanced around at the other kids. Down at the end, the girl who tried to run was pulling at her seatbelt to get it off.

    There was a vibration through the Pelican as the door closed. There was no light and I heard the girl next to me gasp. At the same time, the engines began with a dull roar that soon rose to a high pitched whine. I felt the ship moving a little forward and looked at the closed door to the pilot compartment. The only light was a little red one next to the door saying that it was locked. Then, the entire room lit with a red light. It was really odd because it made all of the adult’s clothing turn the same gray color.

    There was a quick roar and I was pushed against the girl beside me while the boy on the other side was pushed into me. That was when the gravity seemed to drop away with my stomach. We were no longer on the Navy ship, but were definitely in space. Towards the end of the ship, one of the boys threw up. A couple of the adults smiled after it happened and exchanged looks between themselves.

    I felt the ship roll, like a rollercoaster my older brother took my on one time, then it began to vibrate and shutter. The girl next to me was holding on to her seatbelt with white knuckles and the boy on the other side had his eyes closed just as tight as her hands. I felt my stomach slowly return to where it was supposed to be as we entered a planet’s gravity.

    The ship lurched once more and turned a little. It started getting hotter in the bay we were strapped into. It wasn’t uncomfortable, just noticeable. The rumbling stopped not too long after and I felt us going faster. It was quickly replaced by a tilting. Then, just as quickly as it had begun, the ship lurched to a halt and the engines began to ease off. At the end of the ship, one of the adults threw a small towel to the boy who threw up.

    When the whine of the engines finally died, the light in the room turned green. Hicks stood up and took off my seatbelt. I saw that there was a small key in his hand that he needed to insert into the lock to completely undo it. I stood up next to him and he put a hand on my shoulder. When the rest of the kids stood, someone pushed a button and the back ramp dropped. He led me out.

    I looked around and saw that the five Pelicans had landed in a field in front of what looked like a school. The grass was wet and made my bare feet itch a little on the bottoms. The last one was still whining and hadn’t opened its door yet. It was dark, too. The only lights were shining on the field making it almost impossible to see anything else. The building had some kind of writing on the front of it, but I couldn’t see it too well.

    It was night time and there were two moons in the sky. The smaller looked more like some huge asteroid, but glowed with a dull gray. The other one was really big and had a ring around it. It was actually kind of pretty, but also confusing. I didn’t recognize any of the constellations that I could see through the bright lights.

    When the last Pelican finally let its passengers out, Hicks put his hand on my shoulder and led me toward the building. There were lights on inside, but they were dim. They gave enough light to see everything in the hall, but cast shadows over the walls. There were pictures and display cabinets on either side of the hall. I tried to slow down to see one, but Hicks’ hand closed on my shoulder like dad used to when we were out, so I kept moving with the rest of the kids. I asked him where we were and what was in the cases, but he didn’t say anything.

    Around a corner, the lights were brighter. At the end of the hall, there were guards standing in front of four double doors. There were two in front of each door holding rifles and had on almost black body armor. Hicks stopped me in front of the second door a step from the guards. The entire group was standing in front of one of the four doors. The guards never moved, though.

    I thought that it was the guards keeping us from going in, but I didn’t know. I wanted to ask Hicks, but he would just shush me again. All I knew is that I couldn’t really wander around or anything because of him. If dad were here, he’d have them turn on the lights and answer my questions. Then, one of the guards raised their hand to the side of their helmet and said “eye eye.” He nodded to the others and the double doors slid open. One moved to the side and the other walked inside and stepped out of the way.

    The room was bright and reminded me of a classroom. It had a high ceiling and seemed to slope down towards a stage. There weren’t desks, but long benches that curved around the room up from the stage. However, what drew my attention was who was on the stage.

    There were three figures on the stage. The first was a hologram of a woman with black hair, a gold hairband, and wearing a white sheet. The second was a man wearing a black uniform that had lots of medals and ribbons on it. The third was the blonde woman with the glasses who had visited me in school, but now she was wearing a white lab coat. Was she a doctor?

    I was moved to the fifth row with Hicks behind me on the next row. He pushed me seated next to two other kids and then sat down behind me. A couple of the others tried to stand, but the adults behind them just pushed them back down. I glanced back at Hicks and he let a bit of a smile lift his mouth and shook his head. The girl who tried to get away on the ship tried to get up again, but the woman behind her pushed her back down and kept a hand on her shoulder, fingers curled around her collarbone like my dad did when he was upset with me.

    The woman on the stage cleared her throat, which made me pay attention to her. The man behind her hadn’t moved and the hologram looked from her to all of us and then back to her. The woman began talking about some Navy code and that we were all con-script-ed into something called Spartan 2.

    I didn’t know what she was talking about and began to stand and ask to see my parents. Hicks’ hand on my shoulder forced me back down. Others did and their voices sounded like the cafeteria at school all together. I turned and he had his other hand pressed to his lips making a shushing sound before point back toward the stage. I looked over and saw that the girl now had a hand on each shoulder and the woman’s knuckles showed that she was holding her rather firmly.

    The woman on the stage took a step forward, the move drew my eyes. She said that we would be trained and become the best and that we would protect the Earth and all of the colonies. That really made me interested. Earth is my home and the home of everyone from what my teacher told me; of course it should be protected. If I could be trained to protect it, then that is what I want. I sat up straighter, just like my teachers all told me to do to show that I was paying attention. I heard Hicks move slightly behind me, but I never felt his hand on my shoulder.

    That’s when the woman said that I couldn’t go home. I didn’t really like that and neither did some of the other kids. I didn’t try to move, because Hicks would probably grab my shoulder and might squeeze, but also because the woman sounded serious about that. A couple of others tried to, though. They were sat right back down.

    She said that we had been called on to serve and to do what others were unable. Each of us was hand selected because we were faster, stronger, and smarter than anyone else. And they were going to make us even better.

    I liked that idea. I used to always get picked on in school because of how better I was than everyone else. My parents were told that I cheated on tests and I was never able to play sports because I was better than everyone else. If all the other kids here were just as good as I was, then maybe we could get along. And, if these people wanted to make me better, then maybe I would stay here.

    The woman said that this place would be my new home and that the other trainees would be my family now. She said the training was going to be difficult and hard, but I would make it. I guess she was right. I know that I could do anything. My mom told me that. But, this woman told me that I would never see my mom, dad, or brother again. But, if these others kids would be my new brothers and sisters, then maybe I could live with that. I don’t know. I was still confused.

    She told us to rest and that we would begin tomorrow. That’s when she turned to the guy and called him Chief Petty Officer Mendez. I thought that being petty was bad? If he was chief at it, then wouldn’t that make him worse than everyone else? I thought that people in charge couldn’t be petty?

    She told him to take us to the mess hall to be fed and then taken to bed. At first she called us children, and then corrected herself and called us trainees. I didn’t know what a mess hall was, but my mom used to call my room a mess all the time. Maybe that’s where we slept, but why would we eat there too. Also, if it was a hall, why would we sleep or eat there? We were supposed to sleep and eat in rooms, right?

    He told her yes and called her a ma’am, like I was told to call people in charge by dad. He took a step forward, leaned toward us and yelled at us. He said, “Trainees, fall out.” I didn’t know what he meant by fall out, but Hicks had called me a trainee before and the woman called us trainees now. It was then that the uniformed man behind me put his hands under my arms and lifted me to my feet.

    I saw that the girl had stopped fighting and instead looked about to cry. She wasn’t the only one; there were others with tears on their cheeks or quivering lips. Others looked angry or, like me, confused. I was moved with the rest of the kids out of the room and back into the halls. After a couple of turns, I saw a light at the end of the hall, through some double doors.

    As I got closer I saw the sign that called it a Mess Hall. Inside, it looked like a cafeteria. There were tables in the center of the hall with four chairs per side. Along the walls were empty counters like the cafeterias at my school. However, the tables already had trays laid out on them. I was motioned over and sat in one of the chairs. I looked back, and Hicks just stood there, like the rest of the adults.

    The food tasted good. I didn’t even realize how hungry I was until I started eating. There were two cups of water, one with grape flavoring in it. I was thirsty so I drank one cup of water down all at once. There was even a chocolate bar for desert! I ate everything on my tray. There were no utensils except for a plastic spoon, though. So, I used that.

    When I was done eating, I looked around and yawned. Others had tried to get up, but were kept seated by the adults. A couple others had their head propped in their hands, falling asleep. Then, as the last kid finished eating, the adults pulled everyone to their feet. I was quick, though, and stood up without Hicks having to lift me. I smiled up at him and he only gave me a glance before leading me out of the Mess room.

    We went down a couple of halls to another set of double doors. These ones opened into a huge room, twice as big as the auditorium. It was dark, except for the lights over a bunch of strange pods. There were seven rows of eleven pods. There were yellow lines surrounding the pods on either side with two sets of three digit numbers like at the library. I was walked to the third row right next to the center path. The pod had the number 078 illuminated on the front.

    I think the pod was actually a bed. It looked strange with a light under the top of the pod. The bottom had a sloping pit under a bed that was suspended over it. The mattress was more of a platform that connected to the wall at the head and there were no blankets. I crawled onto the strange bed and it was covered with some form of gel layer. The pillow was just a sloping piece of the bed. The bed was long, though, at least twice as long as I was. The moment I was inside, a glass sheet moved around and locked me in.

    When I finally lay down, the light inside the pod turned off and Hicks turned and left. When the last of adults left, a couple of others looked around before finally falling asleep. Me, I had other ideas. I activated my wrist journal and sat up. The moment I did, the lights came on in the pod. I waited for a moment, but none of the adults came back in. So, I began this journal entry.

    Right now, there is only one other kid still awake, I think. He’s in the next row up and a couple down. I think he’s awake because his light is also on like mine. I am really tired, though. I hope that tomorrow they explain a lot more. I have so many questions that I want to ask. Not to mention, I hope they at least let me call my mom and dad. Anyway, good night.


    Boot Camp: Issue 1, pp. 21-22, 24
    Halo 4 Opening Cutscene, 0:00-0:11
    The Cole Protocol, pg. 43
    The Fall of Reach, pp. 31-33
  5. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    2140 hours, September 25, 2517 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    Yesterday morning, I don’t know how early, the lights came on in the room and over my bed. It felt like I had just gotten to sleep, and I didn’t know where I was. I was so tired that I just rolled over and threw an arm over my head to block out the light. I heard people yelling, but I thought it was just mom and dad. They used to yell like that, and sometimes they forgot to close their door.

    I felt lightning shoot through my foot. It seemed to streak through my entire body, and it jerked me fully awake. It hurt as the electricity moved through all my body, even the top of my head. I jerked and fell off of the bed platform, rolling down the slanting pads below the bed.

    I looked up and saw Hicks leaning over the edge of the bed and yelling at me to get up and stand to. The glass had moved back into the wall at the head of the bed. I started to move back onto the bed platform so that I could stand up. Hicks kept on yelling move over and over as I was trying to scramble to my feet. I wasn’t moving fast enough though, because he reached in and pulled me out by the back of my jacket.

    He pointed a silver baton he was holding at the foot of the bed pod and yelled at me to toe the line. I didn’t know what he meant, but the boy across the walkway had his feet touching a yellow line right in front of the pod, so I did that too. I kept looking around at the other kids and the adults yelling at them.

    Hicks moved over to give the girl in the next pod the same treatment as me. He touched it to her shoulder, and she jerked in shock. It was then that he pointed the rod at me and looked me right in the eyes yelling for me to keep my eyes front. I stared at the back of the pod in front of me. That’s when I heard someone new yelling louder than all the other adults in the room.

    He yelled out that his name was Chief Petty Officer Mendez. He said that the men and women were our instructors and that I had to do what they told me at all times. His voice lowered a little as he was yelling at someone nearer to him. I looked around and saw that adults were walking around and making sure that everyone was standing in front of their beds.

    I heard a woman behind me yell eyes front and felt the shock from the baton in my side. I hit the ground and jerked a little with some pain. After a couple of seconds, I stood up and stared straight ahead like I was told. I saw the woman continue walking down the line and touch the rod to a girl who was also looking around. The girl jerked and fell over just like I did. As the girl was getting up, the woman yelled for her to keep her eyes front.

    Mendez yelled that the showers and head were aft. I didn’t know what aft was and I was wondering whose head was with the showers. I shuddered, not wanting it to be mine. He yelled that we would return and get dressed. Hicks pulled open a trunk behind the girl and then walked over and opened a trunk behind me. He said, in a lower voice, for me to look.

    Inside the trunk there were rolled pieces of clothing behind little labels: Underwear, t-shirts, shorts, and socks. Beside those were three layers of folded sweatshirts and sweatpants. Finally, there were two pairs of black boots sitting behind one another. Each item was carefully rolled to take up the smallest space possible. The chest of the folded sweatshirt had the stenciled name JASON-078 across it.

    I was still looking at the clothes when Mendez yelled about slacking and something about double. I didn’t know what he meant and was going to ask when an instructor hit my thigh with their baton. The woman who had shocked me earlier was pointing toward the back of the room when I finally looked up. She was yelling at me to move and something about double time. Mendez was also yelling that he meant it and then he yelled go three times, so I ran toward the back of the room.

    The instructors were lining people up behind fifteen sinks. I didn’t want to get in trouble, but I ran toward the urinal first like some of the other boys. Girls were running into the bathroom stalls. They weren’t like what I had seen in school, because they had a curtain instead of a door. When I was done, I ran and got in line behind a sink.

    I was kind of scared and tired as I waited for the line to move forward. Some of the kids were asking what was happening or talking to each other. When an instructor heard them, they would walk up and touch both with that stick and tell them no talking.

    When I finally got to the sink, the instructor pointed to a disposable toothbrush dispenser and told me to brush all of my teeth. She added the word properly with her hand on the baton that hung from her belt. The toothbrush tasted minty, and I threw it into a bin she pointed at when I was done. Then she nodded toward the lines forming for the showers.

    I got into the far line of the five. The trainers were yelling at us to take off the jacket and pants we slept in and throw them in a barrel that was beside each line. It was cold and I felt uncomfortable being naked in front of everyone. I got to the front of the line and the instructor told me to toe the line when it came and to hold my arms straight out.

    The floor of the shower was like mom’s treadmill, but it moved slower and there was no bar to hold onto. I stepped onto it and made sure that my big toes touched the yellow line. I went through a water spray that was warm and soapy, like when dad drove us through a car wash. It burned my eyes and I shut them tight, rubbing at them while trying to keep my arms up. The next spray was really cold and washed off all the soap. Then, I went through a wall of air that blew me almost totally dry and I had to fight to keep my arms up.

    There were two more instructors at the end of the showers and yelled for me to open my eyes. I almost tripped at the end of the treadmill. They were yelling at me to get back to my bunk and get dressed. I ran carefully because my feet were still wet and turned when I saw Hicks standing between my bunk and the girls’. He yelled and I thought I was in trouble, until I heard someone slide and then the girl ran past me to her bunk.

    I got to the foot of my bed and pulled out the black roll that was in the underwear column. I unrolled them and pulled them on. They were not like the kind I was used to and felt more like a pair of not-quite-tight shorts. I pulled the black sleeveless t-shirt over my head and the gray shorts on. Hicks told me to tuck the t-shirt in, so I tucked it into the shorts before I grabbed the socks.

    I sat on the edge of the bed to put my socks on, but Hicks yelled that bunks were for sleeping and not for sitting. Then he touched my hip with the baton. The shock threw me onto the floor with a small yelp of pain. I bent down and put my socks on quickly, even though one foot was still twitching a little from the electricity.

    I pulled the pants and sweatshirt on and grabbed the boots out of the drawer. They were black and shiny with a heavy sole. They fit me better than any shoes I have ever owned. They also zipped up the front rather than tying. Hicks told me to toe the line again and I stood with the tips of my boots on the yellow line.

    I was only there for a second before Mendez yelled at us to go outside and something about triple time and march. I started running toward the doors in the front of the room. My eyes were still burning a little from the soap, but I was moving with everyone else. Mendez was also moving outside, but he was walking in the middle of the hall. He told us that his name was Chief Mendez in case we had forgotten, that he was our commanding officer, and this was now our life. Everyone moved around him, me included, because none of us wanted to be shocked again.

    It was dark out on the field and the lights were still on from last night. The moons were no longer down at the end of the field like they were when I got off the Pelican. The Pelicans were also gone. A couple of jets flew over and there were sounds in the distance where they were headed that sounded like the explosions on war holos my dad let me watch with him.

    Chief Petty Officer Mendez came out and told us to follow him and started running. A couple of kids that didn’t got hit with those shock sticks. He yelled over his shoulder for us to get our legs pumping because we had a long way to run. I was tired and confused and it was really cold outside, even in the sweats. I looked at my journal and saw that it was not even six yet. I wanted to go back to bed.

    We ran by some jeeps with guns on the backs in a parking lot next to the building and there were trainers running around us. A couple of kids tried to run away from the group, but the trainers hit them with the batons and ran them back to the group. If someone started to lag behind, they would touch them with a baton and yell at them to catch up after they stopped twitching. It didn’t last long, only a second or two, but it hurt.

    We were running around the building, but it was a really big building. From the front, Mendez turned around and started yelling at us while running backwards. He said that every day from dawn until dusk, we would do what he said, when he said, and how he said. He asked if we were clear. Nobody said anything, mostly because we were all gasping for air from running. So he told us to stop. I noticed that we were back in front of the building.

    He yelled that we would answer him when we were asked a question. Then he asked if we were clear. I said yes with the others. But, then the instructors began yelling at us to sound off and shocking some of the kids who hadn’t said anything. Mendez yelled that when he asked a question, we were to sound off with “sir, yes, sir.” He asked if we understood and I yelled out like he said, so did everyone else.

    That’s when Chief Mendez yelled that we should make five equal rows of fifteen trainees. Five trainers were standing and yelling for us to get in line with them. Mendez was yelling still and pointed to me with his baton and told me to straighten up the line. I was in the fourth row about five people down. One of the trainers pulled me a little further away from the guy next to me. I glanced to the sides and saw that we were in a straight line and I was right behind the kids in front of me.

    Mendez then yelled to start jumping jacks. Then he said to count off to one hundred. I’ve never done that many before, but I started. Mendez started yelling one, two, three, and then he paused and started over. The instructor near me yelled that I wasn’t counting, and touched my shoulder with the shock stick. I picked myself up off the ground and started counting like the others. Then he told me that he couldn’t hear me and I should yell it out like I had a pair, whatever that meant. Did I miss something when I was getting dressed? I finally got it and started counting one number out whenever Chief Mendez paused.

    The boy right in front of me said that he didn’t want to do the jumping jacks anymore. One of the instructors walked down the line and hit the boy with one of those batons on the thigh. He fell down with a scream as the trainer yelled for him to get with the program and called him a boot. The boy stood up and started doing the exercises.

    When we got to a hundred, my arms and legs were burning. I was breathing harder than I have in my life and I could hear my heart beating in my ears. I was also all sweaty and it was running into my eyes. But then Mendez said for us to start sit-ups and for us to count off to a hundred and not to slack. I dropped to the wet grass as he yelled that the first crewman to quit would run around the compound twice and then do two hundred sit-ups. I didn’t want to do that so I began moving when he started. I thought I was a trainee, but I’m also a crewman and a boot? He told us to count off and said “one two three” again with each move.

    We just kept going like that for what seemed forever. It was horrible. We did a hundred deep squats and then a hundred knee bends. Some kid threw up in the third row then an instructor ran up to him and started yelling at him. He wasn’t the only one, though. I didn’t but only because I don’t think I had anything in my stomach to actually throw up.

    We did a hundred leg lifts and then a hundred push-ups. Mendez was doing all of the exercises in front of us, too. I kept trying to do all of the exercises, but I couldn’t. In the end, everyone was grunting and groaning to try and force themselves to finish. If we stopped, we got yelled at and shocked.

    After the push-ups, Mendez yelled for us to rest and that the trainers should get water. I was trying to force myself up, but my arms wouldn’t move. I just flopped down and rolled onto my back on the wet grass. The sky was starting to get brighter and the lights had turned off. One of the instructors walked by and dropped a bottle of water on my stomach. It was heavy and made me cough and double over on my side. She told me to move faster next time.

    I sat up as best as I could. My stomach didn’t want to work from the sit ups. When I finally got seated, I opened the bottle and gulped it all down. It was warm and salty, like my older brother’s sport drinks but without the sweet flavor. I only stopped to take a breath before finishing it. It was starting to warm up a little with the sun up. I used to watch my brother do exercise when mom took me with her to pick him up from sports camp, but it was nothing like this. Everyone around me was sweaty and it soaked through their clothes just like mine.

    Mendez was standing and said it was a good start. His clothes didn’t look sweaty, but it might have been because of the camouflage colors. He said we were going to run again and to get on our feet. I wasn’t fast enough and one of the trainers hit me between the shoulders with their baton while I was almost up. I got up from the ground as fast as I could and didn’t get hit again. The trainers walked in front of us with trash bags and we threw the plastic bottles in them.

    We started jogging off the grass and onto a gravel path by the buildings. The instructors told us to stay in our lines and follow the Chief. We ran to a road and followed it for a long time. It was further than I have ever run in my whole life. We went by a river, across the river on a bridge, by a large paved area that looked like a runway, and on a crooked stone path.

    I had a pain in my side and was really hungry, but all I could think about was to keep up with the girl in front of me and not fall behind. There was a boy in front of me earlier who started getting slower and a trainer ran up and hit him with one of those batons. I was then told to catch up to the girl. Someone further up got hit with the baton and tripped a couple of people behind her, but the girl and I both jumped over him and now she was in the front of the line. She had blue hair.

    Eventually, we ran toward what dad used to call a cull-duh-sack with a flagpole and some grass in the middle of the road. It was really tall and had a huge flag hanging on it. There wasn’t much wind, but I could see the blue of the flag with a circle on the upper right. It looked like the flag my school had, but it was a lot bigger.

    We came to a stop in front of a big building that looked like pictures from my history class. On the front of the building was a sign that said NAVAL OFFICERS ACADEMY. It had pillars and a sloped roof and actual wooden doors. In front of the doors, standing just under the roof, was that hologram that was on the stage last night.

    The hologram was beautiful. She told Chief Mendez that he did excellent work. She said her name was Déjà and that we should come in because class was about to start. I didn’t want to go to class; I wanted to go back to bed. I was really tired and my legs and side hurt. I wanted to go home. Everyone else did too because we were all groaning.

    She turned and the doors opened up for her. Just as she started to walk inside, she looked back and said that if we wanted to skip our lessons, we could keep doing the cal-is-then-ics with Chief Mendez. The Chief was smiling at us, and it made me feel a little creeped out. If what we had been doing all day was this calisthenics, then I wanted to stop and rest in class. I ran up the steps with the rest of the kids.

    Everyone slowed down as we got in the doors. We were walking behind her down the hallway, even though she wasn’t really there. Someone asked if she was an A.I. and I heard someone else say that she was beautiful. She was, especially up close where I could see the little lights circling her head.

    The hallway was amazing. It had wood walls that were decorated and carved. There were glass display cabinets with starships and swords and hats in them. The walls had framed flags and pictures of men and women in uniforms. All of the doors were also wood, but there was nobody in the offices behind them. I heard some of the kids talking low to each other behind me, but none of the trainers shocked them.

    Déjà stopped in front of a set of double doors that opened as she got near. She stepped aside and waved us in. It was a classroom, but not like any classroom I had ever seen before. The walls were all wooden, like the hall, and there was a long flag on the back wall that was the same as the one outside. The desks were on platforms on either side of the stairs. In the front of the room was a huge table with a slightly glowing white top with a pattern of black six-sided squares on it. However, the biggest thing was that it was cooler than outside.

    On every desk was a tray. It had crackers, small pieces of multi-colored candies, another bottle of water like the ones we had earlier, and a one-quart carton of milk. I ran down to the front of the classroom and sat down at the desk. I liked being in the front of the room, my teachers said that I could learn better there. The chair was wood, just like the desk, but it was the most comfortable thing I have ever sat on in my life. I slouched a little and relaxed.

    After a few seconds of just relaxing, I felt my tummy grumble, so I started eating. The crackers were a little stale, but they tasted good. Mom used to call them ‘gram crackers.’ The fruit things were sweet and squishy and got stuck on my teeth. I didn’t know just how thirsty I was until I started drinking the milk; I drank it all down without even stopping to breathe.

    After a minute or so, listening to the other kids eat, I rested my head on my hands and wondered if I could fall asleep. I looked at my journal and saw that it was almost 0800. The girl next to me tried one of the fruit pieces and made a sour face. She asked me if I wanted them and I gladly took them. I liked the way they squished, even if they did taste not quite like the fruits they were shaped like.

    One of the boys on the other side of the stairs said that he wanted to go to sleep. Déjà appeared in the front of the class the moment he said it. That’s when I noticed that she was bare foot and was carrying a piece of rock with strange symbols written on it. As I looked, the symbols were changing like someone typing really fast. She said that if he went to sleep, he would never know about Ther-mop-o-lee.

    I had never heard about whatever that was in any of my classes, so I sat up a little straighter. My muscles were sore, but I just tried to ignore them by opening my water and taking a few sips. Déjà said it was a battle where three hundred soldiers fought against thousands and beat them back for three days. I didn’t believe that was ever possible. How could three hundred go against thousands?

    The entire front of the classroom, just over the top of the table came to life with holograms of mountains and hills next to a sea. Déjà said the place was called Thermopylae and it was a long, long time ago in Greece on Earth. It was a small pass between the mountains and the sea. The image spun to show us the pass.

    The three hundred men appeared and walked into the pass in lines like we lined up in when we were doing the exercises. When they stopped, they all hunched forward and made their big shields overlap. The only thing that I could see from the front was there helmets and the armor they wore on their lower legs. Each one also had a short spear that they held behind their shields, looking ready to stab.

    I counted as the scene spun behind them and they were standing in four rows. That meant there were seventy-five in the front. The scene shifted over their heads and I saw hundreds of angry men running at them with swords and spears. They were shouting, but I could hear Déjà over them.

    She was explaining what was happening, but I was too busy watching the battle to listen. My parents never let me watch anything like this on the holovision. The scene turned and zoomed to show the fight as the army hit the line of shields. The men never moved, but stabbed above and below their shields into the huge group. Sometimes, the guys in the back row would jump up and stab men with their spears. The first group were cut down as the defenders worked together to protect each other and kill everyone in front of them.

    When the first group was all on the ground dead, there was a whistling from near the far wall. They were shooting arrows at the three hundred. There were so many arrows that I couldn’t even see the ground anymore. Rather than run, the men crouched down behind their shields. They started laughing at all the arrows. We started laughing too because of how easily they protected themselves from what should have killed them.

    After the arrows, more guys came to attack them, but they killed them like before. Déjà said they were called Spartans and they were the best soldiers who ever lived. Only the best of them were trained from childhood to be warriors, just like us. They were unbeatable. I watched them killing the people with spears and swords, blocking other attacks with their shields. It was amazing and really bloody. If mom and dad knew that I was watching this, they would be really angry.

    Déjà told us how they protected each other. She taught us about their tactics and how they won the battle. How they held off the Persian army under a king named Zerksees or something like that. It took the other side three days to beat them, but in that time the rest of Greece had time to prepare their defenses. As the last of the Persians died, the Spartans all cheered. I was so into it that I cheered too, and so did everyone else in the class.

    The hologram faded and Déjà told us that was all for today. She said that tomorrow we would be learning about wolves. This was the best class I have ever had. She said that we would be going to the playground now and started to lead us outside. I loved playgrounds! Even though my muscles were sore, I still wanted to climb a jungle gym so I could rest on the top like I did in school.

    We all ran outside and Chief Petty Officer Mendez and the other trainers were out there waiting for us. He yelled that we needed to get back into five lines, and we did without anyone having to be shocked. He walked up and down the lines, but everyone was straight. Then, he walked back to the front and told us that the playground was just a short run away. With that, he started to run and we followed him away from the building. We turned a corner and started to run down another road. I saw a sign that said the playground was two miles away. That was really far. Another kid said it before me, though, and he got shocked.

    There was another turn right next to a hill, but we stopped in front of the hill instead. It was really steep and there was a stairway up to the top. It didn’t have any grass on it and there were rocks sticking out of it in some places. Chief Mendez told us that we had to climb the hill to get to the playground. If anyone fell, they would get shocked and have to do it again. Then he yelled out go and started to walk up the stairs.

    I ran up to the hill and started climbing it. Some of the rocks were stuck in the dirt deep enough that I could use them to pull myself up, but others came loose. I almost fell twice. I saw a couple of the others fall and heard them yelp when they got shocked. I was almost to the top when someone stepped on my fingers and I slid down a little bit. I didn’t fall all the way down, but it took me longer to get up to the top.

    I wasn’t the last kid to the top and the instructors told us to get back into lines. I did and leaned over to catch my breath. I was covered in dirt and sweat and just wanted to lie down and go to sleep. One girl knelt down near me and the instructor hit her in the shoulder with the shock stick. She stood up as the instructor told us to stay on our feet. When the rest of the kids got up the hill, we started running again.

    When we finally got to the playground, it looked like nothing I had ever seen before. There were really high wooden poles, like the old communication wire poles I saw in the history books at school, coming out of a huge pool of water. Between the poles were wooden platforms, rope bridges, rope nets, ropes hanging with knots in them to climb, and ropes just tied between the poles. There were metal poles to slide down and ropes with wood ladders to climb up. Some of the poles had swings and wood floors hanging between them that moved in the wind a little. There were also other ropes hanging down with baskets tied to them and pulleys. It was amazing.

    While I was staring at it, Chief Mendez yelled for us to get into three lines. The instructors moved in and only had to shock a couple of the kids who weren’t moving fast enough. They moved us an arm’s length away from the kids in front of us, and told us to line up with the person to our left. I did quickly while still looking at the playground.

    Mendez yelled that the people in line with us would be our team. I was in the middle row and there was a boy and girl beside me. The boy’s sweater said Gary-150; he had short blond hair and freckles. The girl’s said Christy-081; she had brown hair and dirt all over her face from the hill. I think she was the one who kept trying to run while we were on the ship and in the room with the woman last night.

    The game was called Ring the Bell Mendez yelled as he pointed to a bell on the highest pole. Beside the pole was a metal slide pole into the water. He said that the goal of was to climb up and ring the bell however we could. We had to do it as a team and then get to the ground double time and back across the finish line. I was learning that double time meant running. He used his baton to draw a line in front of him for the finish line. We would have to swim to the edge and then run all the way around the pool, but it wasn’t as far as we had been running today.

    A boy in the front of the group raised his hand. Mendez called on him and he asked what we won. Mendez said that we would win dinner and called the kid one-one-seven. Roast turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, brownies, and ice cream. The boy next to me whispered that he definitely wanted to win. I looked over and saw the girl licking her lips.

    Mendez said that there would also be a loser and that the last team wouldn’t get any food for dinner. He told us to get ready, but I already was. I had drawn a line up to the bell in my mind, just like I did in some of the holomazes that the AI at school tested me with sometimes. I told the boy and girl to follow me and they both nodded, but the boy looked worried.

    When Mendez yelled go, I ran to the side around the rest of the kids, and to a knotted rope against a leaning wall with little bars across it to walk on. I climbed up and waited for the other two to get up. I grabbed a rope over my head and used it to hold myself up while I walked across another that was tied to the platform. I heard kids splash below me, but kept going. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled across a rope net. Christy’s legs kept falling through, but she pulled herself back and got to the end. I jumped onto a swing and swung it higher until I could jump onto a platform on the other side. Christy made it, too, and we had to grab Gary to pull him onto the platform because he didn’t swing hard enough and almost fell in the water.

    I heard the bell ring three times and looked up to see that kid who asked what the prize was as he slid down the pole. I climbed a rope ladder and then lay down on three ropes that were tied side-by-side that slid across a gap to the bell. It was scary, but I slowly pulled myself across them using the center rope. The bell rang a few more times before I got to the top. I pulled Christy and Gary up with me. I rang the bell, so did they, and then we slid down the pole. I made sure they went first.

    I got to the bottom and hit the water. I swam to the edge and Christy helped me out, then she and I ran across the line with Gary. Mendez looked us over and made a note on his clipboard. We were the third group across the line. Well, we were actually the second, the boy who asked the question was also across the line alone. We introduced ourselves to each other and sat on the grass as the rest of the kids crossed the line. An instructor tossed us bottles of the water, but this time I caught mine.

    One kid, after ringing the bell, missed grabbing the slide pole and fell all the way down into the water. I heard one of the instructors make a huffing sound while shaking his head as he watched it. The kid got out of the pool and ran across the finish line smiling. He said that he made it and missed an instructor tossing him a water bottle. It hit him in the forehead. His name was Murphy and the number of his shirt was 133.

    Mendez said we had done good work and it was time to go back to the barracks for chow. I stood up and helped Gary and Christy to their feet as we cheered. Then, Mendez said that it didn’t include team three. The boy who was first tried to argue, but Mendez said even though he was first his team came in last. We didn’t win unless the team wins. Two other kids, the two that came in last, looked angry at John. That was the name on his shirt.

    We ran back to the barracks and it was even longer than the run to the classroom. We passed an entire field of jeeps and huge tanks that were behind a fence with curling wire on top of it. I was able to keep up at first, but lagged behind a little and got shocked. I thought it was cool that I came in second place in the playground. No, I didn’t come in second place, we came in second place. Gary and Christy were my team. And that woman said last night that we were all a family now. I wondered what my mom and dad would think of Gary and Christy.

    When we got back in front of the barracks, we ate something called an MRE. It was a thick tan plastic bag with a bunch of smaller green pouches filled with food and a bottle of the salty water stuff inside of it, but the water was flavored. Mendez had us sit down in our lines and showed us how to use the heater tab on the packets to warm them up. The meal didn’t taste that bad. It was really close to what I ate last night. We even got candy bars in it. After we finished eating, we were shown how to pack them up for garbage and threw them away when the instructors walked down the line with plastic bags.

    We were lined back up for a class called drill and ceremony. It was how to stand at attention, parade rest (which isn’t really resting), and how to turn left and right and all the way around. If someone didn’t turn the right way, they got shocked. Then we were showed how to walk in a way called marching, how to turn while marching, and how to march in place. If someone was off step, they got shocked. I don’t know how long we did it for, but the sun started to go down before we had finished.

    Chief Mendez showed us how to salute and then told us to salute when some horn music started playing over the speakers on the front of the building. After it stopped, he told us that it meant they were lowering the colors. Someone asked him what that meant and he said it was the right way to say they were taking down the flag for the night.

    After that, we were marched inside the building in single file lines. Only one kid got shocked while we were doing this, because an instructor said he was out of step. We went straight into the Mess Hall and our trays were piled high with the food that Mendez promised. It smelled wonderful as we were told to line up behind our chairs. Except for the three who lost, Mendez had the instructors move them to another table with three jugs of water on it.

    Dinner was amazing. I ate so much turkey and gravy; it was just like Thanksgiving dinner mom made. The brownie was still hot and had a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of it! After I finished eating, one of the instructors told me to wipe my mouth because I still had chocolate around it. I also drank down both cups of water (the flavored one was cherry) and the one-quart of milk. We sat there like last night until everyone was done, then we were told to stand up and put our trays and cups in a slot in the wall.

    We were led back into the barracks and told to take off our boots and then line up for the shower again. Hick was back and told me to put my boots against the front of my bunk. I did and ran back to the showers like this morning. The instructors had us take off our clothes and put them into the same bins that we used this morning. I didn’t realize how dirty I was until I looked at my hands. They were almost brown with dirt and stood out to the pale skin of my wrist where the sweatshirt covered.

    After I got out of the shower, I walked really fast back to my bunk and got dressed again. Hicks told me and the girl not to put on the sweatshirt, sweat pants, or boots. I didn’t. Then, he showed me a small case behind the second pair of boots. He said it was called a shine kit and that I should take it and go to the front of the room.

    A woman trainer showed us how to clean and polish our boots. It wasn’t all that fun, but she told us it was important for us to care for our equipment because it was going to help us to stay healthy and alive. She also told us that the trick was to make small circles in the polish with the shining cloth and to spit on it rather than use water.

    After we were done polishing our boots, we were told it was time for lights out and had to brush our teeth again. I did and then crawled into the bed and fell asleep before I even got to the pillow.

    This morning, the lights came on and I woke up with another shock to my foot. The woman who shocked me yelled at me to rise and shine and toe the line. I tried to move, but every muscle in my body hurt and was stiff. I heard other kids groaning and grunting, with the occasional squawk as they were shocked. I got off the bunk and stood. The woman told me and the girl to flex our shoulders around and our legs to help work the stiffness out of them. She shocked the girl and told her to do as she said. Chief Mendez told us that we were getting better, but still had more to learn, then said for us to take care of business in the head and get outside.

    I ran back to the bathroom, that’s what he meant by head, and got in line to brush my teeth. The woman also told me to rub some kind of a gel under my arms and then wash my face and hands. I did, then used the urinal, and ran back to my bunk. I pulled on my socks and boots, without sitting on my bunk this time, and ran outside to line up.

    We ran around the building and then started doing the same exercises we did the day before. It felt like it was harder because of my sore muscles, but I did it. After we did leg lifts, Chief Mendez called us to attention and we saluted when the horn music began again. Afterwards, he said it was because they were raising the colors. After that, we did pushups, drank water, and then started running like yesterday.

    We took the same running route to the classroom and saw Déjà waiting for us again. This time, though, we were marched into the classroom in lines. It was hot outside and the colder inside felt even better on my muscles. We found the same stuff waiting for breakfast and I sat in the front of the room, but the girl didn’t sit next to me again. Then, after we all got done eating, Déjà appeared and began teaching us about wolves.

    The holograph was a forest next to a river. There was a moose drinking and we watched seven wolves moving through the woods to surround it. At first, we didn’t see them, and then Déjà made them highlight blue through the trees and bushes. She told us how the moose could kill any one of them, but the wolves worked together to kill it. Just like how we should work together on any task.

    When the moose turned to face one wolf that showed itself from the brush and growled, another ran up and attacked it from behind. When it turned to attack that wolf, it ran off and another attacked it from behind. It was disgusting because the wolves killed the moose and then started to eat it right there in front of us. One of the girls shut her eyes, but I couldn’t look away. It was disgusting, but it was cool.

    After class, we ran to the playground again. Someone had sprayed the hill down with water and it was really muddy when we climbed it. I slid all the way down and got shocked and then went back up and made it to the top. One kid, Murphy, got to the top and threw his fists up to celebrate, but slipped and tumbled back down. It took a second for one of the instructors to make sure he was okay, and then he was shocked and climbed back up again.

    When we got to the playground, it was different from yesterday. There weren’t as many bridges and platforms and more of the pulleys and ropes than before. Also, the poles were higher, especially the pole with the bell on top of it.

    Mendez said that we were going to have the same teams as yesterday. I was still staring up at the playground as Gary and Christy came over to me. I saw a good path, but I didn’t know if we all could make it. I asked how good they were at climbing a regular rope. Christy smiled and said that she was good at it but Gary said that he wasn’t sure. I nodded and looked at them with a smile. It was almost funny because they both said “follow me” together before I could. We all laughed, but a trainer told us to clamp down and get in line. We didn’t get shocked, though.

    Like yesterday, Mendez said for us to get ready and then go. I ran with them to the knotted rope and wall like before, but it didn’t have the foot step things on it today. When we got to the top, we climbed a rope net. We got to a basket with a pulley across a pit. It was big enough for all of us to sit in and the other line of the puller was right above the edge of the basket. We all pulled and got across the pit faster than I thought we would. At the end was a really high rope that had ladder planks on the bottom, then knots, and then was just a normal rope for the very top. I had Gary start climbing first and I went after him with Christy behind. It was slower toward the top, but we got there. In the end, I had Gary stand on my head to push himself up the rest of the way. We were working together, just like the wolves.

    When we finally got to the top we walked across a rope with two to hold onto on either side. It was really scary and I almost fell, but we all made it across. Finally, there was a rope hanging over a hole in the platform that we had to swing across to get to the bell. I looked down and shivered because it was really high over the water. I grabbed the rope, took a deep breath, and swung. I felt like my arms were too weak and almost fell down the hole to the water, but I was able to land on the other side. Christy was next and didn’t even look down. Gary was last and Christy and I had to grab him and pull him onto the platform, though he almost pulled us down the hold with him.

    We all three rang the bell. I think we were first, but I was paying more attention to climbing than to the bell. We slid down the pole, swam to the edge, and ran to the finish line next to Chief Mendez. When we crossed the line, Mendez made another note on his clipboard. That’s when I saw that we were first! We all jumped around and cheered a little. One of the instructors told us to calm down, so we did. I didn’t want to get shocked. We all sat down and drank the water that an instructor handed us.

    We ran back to the barracks and ate another MRE. This time I got one called chili-mac that tasted great. After that, we learned how to march to a song called a cadence and how to run to it, too. We also learned how to turn around in something called a counter-column and how to march from a formation into a single-file line called a column. Most of us got shocked because we messed up a lot on both of those. Then, we went in for dinner. It was flat pasta with white cheese sauce and broccoli and chicken and garlic bread. It tasted even better than the turkey. Dessert was hot peach pie with vanilla ice cream on top of it.

    After dinner, we showered and polished our boots. Then, we learned how to roll and fold our clothing. One girl got shocked because she fell asleep. Another boy got shocked when his underwear was too wide after rolling. We brushed our teeth at lights out and went to bed. I wasn’t as tired and stayed up to record this journal entry.

    That’s about it for now. I’m going to sleep now and… Hey, there is a boy and girl trying to sneak out. What do they think they are doing? They are going to get shocked bad. Well, good night.
  6. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    2117 hours, September 28, 2517 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    I’m not as tired as the last time I made a journal entry, but I’m still tired. Chief Mendez is working us really hard and Déjà is teaching us a lot of stuff. Everyday has been the same, even though we have only been here less than a week so far. If this is life in the Navy, then it really sucks. Though, today did have some funny and cool stuff in it, just like every day since we got here.

    Like the past few days, we woke up at 0530 hours. Once the lights came on, I woke up instantly and wiggled my way down the bed until I stood in front of my bunk. One of the trainers walked by and eyed me suspiciously before moving on. I kept looking straight ahead and listened for the familiar pop of the trainers using their ‘motivators’ on any of us that still weren’t moving fast enough. That’s what they called the stun batons: motivators. It didn’t happen.

    When everyone was lined up, Chief Mendez yelled that we had fifteen minutes until formation outside. This was something new. Usually, they ran us back to the head and then out front. Rather than run back to the head with everyone else, I decided to put on my socks and boots first. I wasn’t the only one; about half of us did it rather than stand in line. As soon as I got them on, I ran back to use the bathroom and brush my teeth.

    I ran out the door of the bunk room, through the short halls, and out onto the field. I lined up in the first row, right in front of Chief Mendez. The Chief was just staring at all of us with instructors beside him and around the formation in parade rest. None of them even moved. It was really scary. I just stared straight through him, not daring to make eye contact while standing at attention, just like I’d been taught.

    After a few moments, he yelled that time was up. At that instant, the trainers all began to move. Behind me, I heard the familiar snaps and yelps as instructors started hitting all the kids who didn’t line up in time. The girl next to me looked back and Mendez stepped forward and hit her with his baton somewhere in the upper torso. I kept my eyes to the front. There was more yelling and a couple more snaps and yelps before everyone got in line.

    Chief Mendez yelled out left face and forward march. This was really new, usually he just started running and we had to try and keep up with him. We marched a few steps when the Chief yelled us to double time. We ran around the building in formation with Chief Mendez calling a cadence, it was cool. Nobody tripped on anyone else and we stayed in our lines with the Chief running beside us. A couple of kids were shocked for not answering the cadence. It felt like an easier run, but it was the same pace we normally kept. I think it was just easier because we were keeping it together.

    We got back in front of the building, came to a halt, right faced, and Mendez had us spread out into a Physical Training Formation. We did all of the exercises that we did every day. I still had problems completing all of them, but I was doing better than I was on the first day. At least I wasn’t as sore as I was the first two days. Also, nobody got shocked for not calling out the count.

    After we finished, the instructors passed out more of the vitamin water. We learned yesterday that it was not just salty water or unflavored sports drink. It was full of vitamins and minerals on top of the salty water. The crackers in class were actually fortified, the fruit snacks were also vitamins, and even the milk in class had different things in it that were supposed to be good for us.

    We formed back up and the Chief started us running again in cadence. Anyone who didn’t call out cadence and got shocked had to run all the way around the formation before getting in line at the back. I know that the Chief was singing some of it, but I just yelled it out so I didn’t get shocked. The girl in front of me, Adriana, wasn’t yelling loud enough and was shocked again.

    The cadences were really strange. A couple of them were kind of funny, too. I really liked the one about Captain Jack and a Transport Track. Also, one called Mission Top Secret, Destination Unknown was cool. I was paying so much attention to the cadences that I didn’t even realize we were at the school until Chief Mendez called us to quick time (which means normal marching) and then halt.

    After breakfast, Déjà taught us about someone named Son Zoo; it was funny until she told us how to spell it properly. He was a general in ancient China on Earth and he treated war as an art form. He even wrote something called the Art of War that she said we would cover in more detail over the next few days as it compared to different wars in history.

    He trained the armies of Wu, a small ancient Chinese state on Earth, to fend off the invaders of Chu, a larger and better armed state. With an army of thirty thousand, he fought and beat an army that was ten times larger. Rather than preparing defenses, Sun Tzu decided to invade Chu. Avoiding the main army and attacking the softer targets like watch posts and border crossings, then fading away before the reinforcements arrived. Maneuver, surprise, and deception were his keys to victory.

    Like all of the classes, the battles were in full detail. We saw their martial arts and weapons as they cut their way through the entire force of each skirmish. It would fade back after the battle to show the units as they moved, with Sun Tzu’s in blue and the Chu army in red.

    We studied several of his battles and how his tactics won them, even though he was outnumbered and outgunned. We went over the top three principles that he taught: Know your enemy and know yourself and you will never be in peril; as long as you know the tactics and capabilities of your enemy, as well as your skills and abilities, you’ll win. To win one hundred battles is not the height of skill, to subdue the enemy is; you need to outwit your opponent, not outfight them. Finally, avoid what is strong, attack what is weak; don’t worry about glory, only care about winning.

    We were let out of class a little earlier than normal. Déjà didn’t tell us why, but assured us that we would continue with Sun Tzu over the next few days. With that, we hit the head, and then formed up outside for our run to the Playground.

    Mendez started us in the opposite direction from the playground, though. I know everyone was running with a little more vigor because this was something different. The Playground was getting harder and harder with each day. Yesterday, there were only ropes with knots to climb and the two-rope bridges that you held onto one and walked across the other. It was confusing and my team was almost last because Gary fell off of a rope.

    We stopped running in front of a building that we always ran by to go to the school. Mendez filed us inside and lined us up next to a wall. The front of the line was right next to a door. I couldn’t see anything more, though because of how far down I was in the line. The first five people were told to go into the room and sit in the chairs. The line moved forward, like we were taught, to cover the empty space.

    After a couple of minutes, the doors opened back up and the five came out without any hair. We were getting haircuts! Then I saw that even the girls had their hair cut off. Mendez told them to get into a normal formation with each of them in the lead of a row. He had the next group go in and I stepped up, next in line.

    John was in the first group and I could see exactly what they did. His hair was already short, but now it was little more than fuzz. Daisy was next to him and her head looked the same. At least John’s black eye that he came here with was gone. Daisy looked like she was about to cry, but she didn’t. Next to her, Kurt still had a cocky smile that he always wore.

    The next group came out and I began to file in, Kelly was right in front of me. All of her blue hair was going to be cut off. I didn’t mind because I always liked my hair short, but she looked back at me and was terrified. It was the first time I had ever seen her scared.

    Inside the room were five chairs. Behind each chair was a Marine. Most were Gunnery Sergeants, but the one that Kelly was moving toward was a Master Sergeant. We learned the various ranks from all the services last night. When he saw Kelly moving toward his chair, he got a sour look on his face.

    The Gunnery Sergeant I sat in front of put a sheet around me and began running the buzzing clippers over my head. There was a mirror in front of me and I could see Kelly in her chair. The Master Sergeant ran his clippers through Kelly’s hair once when she exploded.

    She elbowed him in the groin and turned to punch him in the eye. At the same time, she clawed her fingernails down his arm below where his sleeve was rolled. When her hand got to his wrist, she snatched the clippers out of it. He reached for her, but she was too quick. She slid out of the chair and ran for the door. However, Mendez was standing in the doorway, not even moving. She turned and slid into the corner, holding the shears out in front of her like a weapon.

    The woman cutting my hair stopped and ran over to help the Master Sergeant get his clippers back. It took her and two of the others to hold Kelly down enough so that the Master Sergeant could get them out of her hand. They kept holding her as he finished shaving her head. She was half crying and half screaming at them. When they were finished, the Master Sergeant just shook his head and lifted the limp Kelly back to the seat to vacuum the hair off of her.

    The woman came back and asked if I was going to fight her. I replied “sir, no, sir” and shook my head. She sighed and the anger left her face. The Gunnery Sergeant finished buzzing all my hair off and sprayed it down with some kind of water. It smelled minty and burned in a couple of places. She pulled the sheet off of me, ran a vacuum over the back of my neck and shirt collar, and told me to go back into the hall.

    We lined up with the others and the Master Sergeant talked quietly with Chief Mendez. The next group was told to go in. I heard Kelly sniffle a little and leaned over to bump her shoulder slightly with mine, to let her know that it was going to be okay. I heard her sigh and she bumped me back. The trainers didn’t even see us move even though I was on the outside of the line.

    Christy came out with the sixth group. Her head shaved and I couldn’t help but smile at her. She rolled her eyes and bumped my shoulder as she walked past. We weren’t able to talk to each other, normally, so these little bumps let each other know that we were still there. The others finished up and the Chief marched us back outside by column.

    Chief Mendez told us that we were going to test out our new haircuts. He also told Kelly to step out of formation and that she would be running around the formation all the way to the Playground. We got some water first, and then began double-timing.

    It was set up very different from last time. Now, all there were between the poles were the knotted climbing ropes and single lines between the poles in a dizzy configuration. Not only that, but there were two walls set up blocking the view. The walls split the course into three parts. The biggest surprise was that the bell pole had a small platform around it about four feet down and it had ropes securing it to the trees because it was higher than it had been.

    We got into three lines with our teams and I had an idea. Déjà’s class said that we should outthink our enemy. Well, I glanced at the ropes securing the bell to the trees and had a great idea. The closest one to the bell was all the way across the field, but the tree it was tied to was perfect for my plan.

    When Mendez told us to go, I ran with Christy and Gary across the Playground beside the pool. Most everyone began climbing the various ropes in front of them. We got to the tree and Christy asked me what we were doing. I started climbing the tree and told them my plan. Gary loved the idea and Christy said that we were probably going to get shocked, but she was willing to try.

    We got to the top of the tree and carefully pulled our way across the rope tied to the bell pole. It was about thirty feet, but felt like a million. It wasn’t level with the ground, so we were pulling ourselves up, but it was less than if we had used any on the other ropes tied to the pole. On the way, I noticed that the bell slide pole didn’t go all the way down, but only half way. Also, there was a kind of maze of walls in the water to get out.

    We finally got to the top and rang the bell. We were all breathing heavily, but I stopped Gary from going down the slide pole. Instead, I told them to take off their sweatshirts. I did too and flipped it into a roll. I then wrapped one hand tightly in one sleeve and threw it over the line that lead closest to the finish. I rolled my hand in the other sleeve and held on tight as I pushed off of the platform.

    I was going really fast and thought I was going to hit the tree. Instead, I let go and hit the ground. I rolled a little, like we were showed yesterday at the barracks. I stood up and caught Christy as she fell. Gary didn’t let go of his sweater and we both grabbed him to keep him from hitting the tree.

    We all ran across the finish line and Mendez yelled at us. He asked what the hell we were trying to do. I told him that we were trying to win. He thought about it for a second then told us to do pushups until the next group crossed the finish line. We all dropped down and began doing four counts. We were up to thirty when the next group crossed.

    We got water then and sat together drinking it. An instructor spoke with Mendez then walked over to the three of us. I thought we were going to be punished again, but she crouched down and congratulated us for thinking outside of the box. She pointed at the tree and I saw that there was a pad on the trunk that was draped in a camouflage net. She told me that there were other pads under all the ropes in case someone fell. She stood up and then yelled at us to get back into uniform. We put our sweatshirts back on.

    After the last group got back, we formed up and began running back to the barracks. Kelly had to continue running around the formation. She may have been the fastest, but I wasn’t sure if she could keep it up all the way back. Mendez continued to call out cadences and let some of the other instructors call cadence, too.

    When we finally got back to the barracks, Kelly looked like she was about to die. An instructor gave her another bottle of water and we were given MREs. Mine was chicken ala king and didn’t taste all that good. Though, it was filling. I really liked the vegetable crackers and jalapeno cheese. The little bit of burn felt good with the taste.

    After we finished eating and policing our trash, we began training in something called Movement under Fire. It was how to low crawl, high crawl, and three second rush. After we practiced each of the movements, Mendez told us that it would also be a team race with the losing team not getting dinner along with the losers from the Playground. He then said there would be an added incentive to do it right.

    Five of the instructors walked out of the barracks carrying rifles. Mendez said that the rifles were loaded with Tactical Training Rounds. They carried a red liquid that would stiffen our clothing and make anything hit go numb and paralyzed for a few minutes. He yelled that we were encouraged not to get hit or it might make us last.

    We had to low crawl to one point, high crawl to another, and then do a set of three-second rushed to the far side and then do it all again, back to the beginning. If we were too high during the crawls, not moving fast enough, or if we rushed over three seconds, a trainer would shoot us in the arm or leg.

    I stayed up for too long during a rush and got shot in the leg. It hurt for a second and then went numb. I couldn’t move my leg from the knee down, which made it tough to rush properly. Gary took a shot to the arm during high crawl, too. However, we were able to come in fifth place. John’s team came in first, even with all the running Kelly had done.

    During a rush close to the finish line, Murphy tripped over a divot in the grass. An instructor was trying to shoot him in the arm and ended up hitting him in the head. Mendez yelled that his team didn’t cross until they all crossed, so Jorge had to go back for him. He used Murphy like a shield across his back and ran across the line. I think Murphy got shot about five or six more times as the instructors were trying to hit Jorge.

    The feeling came back in my leg after about five minutes and it took Murphy about ten to finally come around. I’m not sure what was worse, the fact that I lost feeling in my leg or the pain from where the round impacted. When I checked later, I had a large bruise where I was hit. I don’t even want to think about what kind of bruises Murphy had.

    We marched in to dinner and I was surprised to find a good sized pizza on my tray. It wasn’t just pizza, though. There were also chicken nuggets with ranch dipping sauce, melty cheese sticks with breading on them, and a huge frosted cinnamon rolls for desert. Instead of milk, there was a milk shake! I was really hungry after the day, so I cleared my plate. I was amazed how much I was eating. I think my mom told me that I could eat anything I wanted as long as I make sure to work it all off.

    After dinner, and showering, we polished our boots during the last class. Nobody got shocked for falling asleep. It was how to visually identify different weapons. I had seen some before, but not as many as we were shown. I got shocked when I couldn’t tell the difference between a MA3 and MA5 rifle. Sorry, Individual Combat Weapons System. That’s what Chief Mendez said to call it.

    I need to sleep now. It’s getting easier to sleep all through the night on this bed, but I miss having blankets that I could pull over myself. It’s okay, though, it’s still warm. And there goes Jai and Adriana, again. They are going to be cleaning the latrine during classes for the next month if they keep this up. Well, good night.
  7. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    It is really interesting following Jason through his training. I especially like the bonds he is forming with Gary and Christy - and the history lessons with Thermopylae and Sun Tzo. I look forward to see how this develops even more. =D=
  8. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    2307 hours, May 24, 2518 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    The moment the lights came on at 0530, I was out of bed and standing in front of it. I was surprised when Hicks walked up to me. Normally, he just made sure I was standing to and moved on. However, this time, he tossed me some clothing and walked on to toss some to René before moving further down the line.

    Chief Mendez yelled out that our uniform had changed. We were no longer to wear the old sweat shirts and pants and they would be gone when we returned this evening. Our new uniform was a new pair of sweat pants and shirt. He said that we had graduated to the next phase of our training and would be given a little more time to do what we needed to. But, if we screwed it up, we would go back to the way things were. He finished by yelling that we had thirty minutes to be in formation and with that, he walked outside.

    The new uniform was similar to our old, but a little darker gray. The shirt was different, though. The yolk was purple and it had a bit of a collar with a split front. There was a pair of purple stripes across the top of each shoulder. There was also a pair of patches on the left and right arm. The right was the UNSCDF patch, but the left was something different. It was a shield shape and had an eagle in the center. The eagle was holding three arrows in one claw and a lightning bolt in the other. Over its head was a star. My name and number was stenciled onto the left side of the chest, just below the yolk. However, there was also a strange upside-down triangle on the left side. It was metal and seemed to be part of the sweatshirt.

    I put the new uniform on and it seemed to fit a little better than the old one. Like usual, I put my boots on and ran back to use the head and brush my teeth. After that, I ran back to my bunk and opened a trunk on the right side. This trunk held disposable cleaning towels that we were told to wipe our bunks with every morning. I wiped down the mattress, slanting pads, all around the outside, and then I climbed up on the back to clean the top and wiped down the back on my way down. I ran out and tossed the wipe in the trash before I reached the door.

    I got into line with the others, falling in at the position of attention. The instructors no longer had to use their motivators on us, but they still carried them on their belts. I think the last time someone was motivated was during our M6 Personal Defense Weapon System disassembly and cleaning class. Alice forgot a step during the functions check. Corporal Santin just shook his head and tapped her in the shoulder without even pulling the shock stick off of his belt.

    Physical training was just as it normally was. We ran around the building in formation and then began calisthenics. We began with supine bicycles, ski jumps, flutter kicks, windmills, push-ups, and cross country skiers, always in one hundred counts. I was able to do all of the exercises, but I was still sweating. We only stopped after the windmills to render a salute to the raising of the colors. It was getting hotter every day and these new uniforms were lighter than the others, thankfully.

    We had a break and drank water before beginning our hour-long run to class. When we got to the main road, though, we didn’t turn toward the Academy. Instead, we turned onto the central road of the base. I wondered if we were doing a longer training at the Playground or something. We kept running and passed right through the main gate to the base. This was definitely new and everyone seemed to perk up a little.

    It was getting really hot during the run, but I kept up. Nobody fell out of the formation and nobody dropped the cadence, either. Even though it was new, there wasn’t much to see. It was lightly wooded and there was grass, so I just kept watching Kelly in front of me.

    She was letting her hair grow out a little bit, like some of the girls. We had to keep our hair cut to military regulations, so everyone was doing what they wanted within that. Kelly’s hair was down to the top of her neck. I think Fred had the longest hair of any of the boys. I kept my hair completely buzzed.

    We ran for about an hour and a half when I saw a sign saying that we were approaching Military Reservation 01478-B. After another half an hour of running we passed a gate with a hand painted sign on the guard shack that said “Painland.” The entire area was surrounded by the chain fence with razor wire on top of it.

    We finally stopped when we reached a Warthog. The area beside the vehicle had a number of logs set parallel to each other, like benches for a class. There was also a pallet of water beside the logs and a sealed container of some kind. I was soaked in sweat already and couldn’t wait to get to the water. Chief Mendez told us that we had fifteen minutes for breakfast before our training briefing and then told us to fall out.

    The container held MREs. James started passing out the water and Cal was passing out the food. I made sure that Christy and Gary had theirs before I took mine over to sit with them. It was stuffed shells and cheese. I drank down the bottle of water and then tore into the meal.

    We didn’t talk much, but we didn’t have to. I noticed that most of the other teams were sitting together, including Jai, Adriana, and Mike, but they sat away from most of the teams. Then again, I was one of the few people not using someone else to sit back-to-back with to relax a little more.

    Gary asked what I thought we would be doing today. I didn’t know, but I pointed to a sign that said obstacle course, small arms range, crawl field, and POL range. Maybe they were going to teach us how to shoot the weapons we had learned how to clean? I just pointed to the sign and shrugged at Gary’s question, though. Christy looked at the sign and kept eating.

    We all packed our empty bottles and MREs trash back into the container. Jorge, Isaac, and Maria put the container on the pallet and then lifted both of those into the back of the Warthog. While they were doing that, the rest of us lined up at ease in front of where Chief Mendez has fallen us out.

    He approached and fell us in, then yelled that training, our training, must become part of our instinct. We would drill until it became part of our bones. We would be running the three courses at Painland today. The first will be a live fire obstacle course, the second would be the razor field, and the third would be the Pillars of Loki.

    We double timed over to the entrance of the obstacle course. It wasn’t really an entrance, but more of an open area in a chain fence with razor wire on the top. There were several walls and large concrete barriers all around. There were room between some of the walls to get through and some of the walls had really smooth areas that looked big enough to crawl through. Mendez walked away from us and then appeared on top of one of the walls. He told us that the course was a maze. We had to run through it. Then he yelled go.

    The moment he yelled go, two things happened. First, we all started running. Second, about fifteen instructors popped up on top of the walls and started shooting TTRs at us. Mendez yelled that we had better run. He emphasized that we should run as fast as we could. And I did, with Christy and Gary on my heels.

    I noticed that there were more trainers on the walls to the left rather than the right, so I veered us in that direction. I could see through a hole in one of the concrete walls to my right that the fence was too close to really run by. Two Pelicans began a lifting off behind the chief and I heard more of the sound coming from the left side through a break about halfway down the wall. That must mean the exit was in that direction.

    Mendez yelled out that if we so much as had a speck of marking paint on us after the exercise, we would be doing pushups until we puked. I heard the angry buzz of a round flying by my ear. Then another round brushed across my shoulder. I didn’t lose any feeling in the area, so I knew it didn’t hit, but it was close. I juked to the right and jumped a concrete block.

    Mendez yelled out that in our lives, we would encounter fear. Just as he said that, Randall took a shot in the middle of the back right in front of me. I ducked to the left and made a bee line for the break in the walls. Mendez continued that we would encounter pain. I heard Gary hiss behind me and then heard a thump. I slowed and turned and felt a round skirt across my left thigh. It didn’t pop, so it must have just barely touched me. However, Gary was down with a shot to the chest.

    Samuel was right in front of me and took a shot to the stomach. He went down and Kelly jumped over him to keep running. I looked back and saw that Christy was still behind me. Mendez yelled out that the key to survival in these moments is to let neither pain nor fear dominate us.

    I passed between two small towers with ladders on the back side of them and saw another break in the fence like we came in through. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the wrong color for the stone or fence. I noticed the flash of a muzzle. I threw myself forward in a roll and ended up tearing my arm up on the sharp gravel that made up the ground.

    I rolled over just in time to have an unconscious Christy fall on top of me, a blob of red paint marking the side of her short hair. I rolled over, stood up and got ready to fight when I noticed that the trainer was only taking a shot at anyone running out of the maze, not at those who had already exited the course. I dragged Christy out of the way of the exit and started yelling back to warn others about the sniper.

    I felt a shock on my right shoulder the moment I yelled. Looking up from the ground, I saw Chief Mendez standing over me and giving me a once over. He had me stand, then about face. He then told me to about face again and said quietly that it wasn’t the time for team drills. He assured me that would be coming soon.

    It was about ten minutes before everyone finally came through the course. It was another fifteen for punishments of people who had been hit. Mendez told us that we had to anticipate the shots and make sure we knew where the shooters would be aiming. We formed up and marched back around to the front of the maze. I thought that we were going to run it again when Mendez told us to gather around.

    He began to walk through the maze and noted the location of each hit one of us sustained. He also pointed out places where some of us, me included, moved correctly to anticipate the shots. He asked a couple of us why we did some things. That’s when he pointed to me and asked why I began running toward the break on the left.

    I said that it was because there were more guards there and because I could hear the Pelicans better on that side of the maze. He asked a couple of others the same thing, they both had similar answers. He explained that the enemy will typically guard a key objective better than any other location. He also pointed out that the environment could tell us more about our surroundings than anything else.

    He formed us up back at the entrance, facing away from the maze. I heard some mechanical sounding thumps from behind me, then some skittering through the gravel. I couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like they changed the course. That would also mean a change in tactics.

    A trainer began walking down each line and spraying the red dye with a solvent that seemed to melt it away clear. Mendez yelled that we were being reset for our second and final run for the day. Same penalty as before, but the last recruit through would also not get dinner. Then he yelled go.

    I turned and waited for a moment, letting the fire begin. I noticed that the guards had repositioned themselves on the walls, but there were three fewer than before. I began running and saw that most of the group was heading for the gap on the left which was guarded about evenly with that on the right. However, the gap on the right was in a different place. I knew it was a trap to go left, too obvious. I yelled out that it was a trap to the left, or started to. But the moment the first sound left my mouth, two instructors turned their rifles toward me.

    I zigzagged across the field to the right avoiding their shots as they began to target other recruits. I lowered my shoulders as if I were going to run faster when I saw one of the instructors start to aim at me again. Rather than speed up, I purposefully fell flat to the ground as a red round sailed right across the back of my neck. I could feel it tickle the hairs there. I felt pain in my palms as well as my chin as I pushed myself to my feet and took off for the gap. However, I also grabbed a handful of the sharp rocks on my way.

    I heard lots of pops and gravel being tossed up behind me. It was just like I thought; there was an ambush through the left wall. But, they would also have an ambush behind this wall, especially if it was the actual way out. The wall to my right was solid and up against the fence. I turned left and threw the rocks the moment I came around the corner.

    The shot went wild over my right shoulder as the rocks hit the trainer in the face. He was wearing a helmet, but that only covered his eyes. I didn’t even register that it was Hicks until I had already rammed my shoulder full strength into his groin. The armor was designed to protect from rifle shots, not from a full tackle aimed between the legs. As I hit, I also punched straight up behind the armor and heard him gasp. He hit the ground and coughed, his eyes closed tight.

    I pulled the rifle out of his hands and shot him twice in the stomach. He relaxed then, the TTRs knocking him out like they would any of us. I kept running, but slowed at the last corner. I noticed that there were three behind me, Kurt being one of them. I fell down and hit the ground as I got around the corner, pulling the M5 against my shoulder and firing at the trainer in front of me.

    One shot hit his knee, the other his thigh. He went down and I fired three more. His right shoulder took a round and his helmet absorbed the other two. He cursed as I fired more at him, but none of the shots were enough to make him pass out. By this time, Kurt was already up to him. He pulled out the trainer’s motivator and hit him in the shoulder with it. John relieved him of his rifle and shot him in the stomach. At that point, John and I took up position on either side of the gate.

    One of the trainers looked over the wall, probably to see why there was no fire from the sniper at the end. John hit him with three shots in the middle of the chest. Another popped up and fired, hitting John in the thigh. However, the moment she came up, I fired. One shot flew just over her head, the second hit her helmet and the third caught her in the neck. No more instructors looked over the wall, but John and I stayed ready to shoot as the last of the seventy-five crossed the finish line.

    Mendez stomped around the building and called us into formation. He called me, John, and Kurt to the front of the formation and asked us what the hell we were doing. We were all still holding the weapons. I thought we were going to get punished, but Kurt stepped forward and said that we were improvising in the tactical situation. He said that the Chief never told us that we couldn’t fight back, only that we had to cross the finish line.

    Mendez pulled out a cigar and began chewing on it. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was probably not going to like it. He looked at John and asked him what he was doing. John said that he was only arming himself because the instructor no longer needed his weapon and we were never told that we couldn’t take offensive action.

    Mendez lit the cigar and let a puff of blue smoke out of his mouth as he looked at me. I said that I knew there would be an ambush. One of Dèjá’s classes said that the first way to defeat an ambush, if you know about it, is with a surprise attack. So, I threw a handful of rocks as a surprise attack. As Petty Officer Hicks would have shot me when he recovered, I eliminated him as a threat, first.

    Mendez looked the three of us over and then had us about face to look at the rest of the formation. He said that we showed good tactical thinking, something everyone else should look to do. Then he sent us back. Though, we were relieved of our weapons before we got into formation with everyone else.

    Hicks snatched the rifle out of my hands and hobbled to the rest of the instructors muttering something. The instructors walked down the lines, tapping everyone who had the dye on them, John included, for push-ups. The rest of us, there were only six, were given a break while the punishment was going on.

    We got water and reformed. It was really hot out by this point. Most everyone was soaked with sweat and the now-clear dye. I was surprised that my wrist journal said it was only ten fifteen hours. We reformed and marched to the second obstacle. Chief Mendez talked to us on the way, saying it was just a little maze.

    We got there and it was a maze alright. There was one way in and one way out. Like the obstacle course, it looked like it could be moved around. However, the maze was filled with muddy water. And, not very high above the surface of the water were strings of razor wire. On the sides of the maze were mats separated by well dented targets. I took in what I could see and plotted what I thought would be the best way past it.

    Mendez told us that we had to cross on our bellies and the only rule was to keep our heads down. He yelled that the last person across the finish line didn’t get any chow. We all dove into the water face first. It was really shallow, so much so that we had to move halfway between a high crawl and a low crawl to avoid the razor wire and still breathe. That’s when something unexpected happened.

    I heard the zip of a bullet pass over my head and felt the thing too. It was more a finger of air right above my scalp. I pressed myself into the mud until only my nose was above the muck. It made my chin burn and my hands too when I began to pull myself along the ground. I also knew they weren’t training rounds. I could hear sharp metal clangs on the targets; the TTRs would make a splashing noise.

    I kept crawling through the swamp, trusting my mental map to make the correct turns. It was distracting with the bullets whizzing just above the razor wire. I made a couple of wrong turns and had to back track. Finally, I came to the end and pulled myself up the ramp in a low crawl. I looked around and saw that none of the instructors were firing toward me, so I stood and jogged a couple of paces to a small group of waiting trainees.

    Murphy was the last one out. The back of his head was bloody from the barbed wire and he kept low crawling until he hit Mendez’s boots. He looked up and jumped to his feet. The move slung a glob of mud straight up to land on the end of the Chief’s cigar. He slowly pulled the ruined brown thing out of his mouth and looked down at Murphy. He simply shook his head and then looked at the rest of us.

    He yelled out, same thing, same rules, but on our backs. He told us to put one hand out above out heads to keep ourselves from hitting the walls and our other hand in the middle of our chest, using only our legs and butts to move. Then he yelled go.

    We all moved back into the maze. I got one last look and mentally plotted how to get through, telling myself that I wouldn’t get hit by the bullets. However, it almost seemed worse as I crawled under the wire. Now, I could see the quick snap of the bullets as they sped right over my face.

    On my way through, I hit someone’s boot. It lifted my head up enough for the razor wire to cut into my cheek. I felt the heat of a bullet fly close across my nose. I kept going, the pain on my cheek becoming a dull, wet ache. I only made one mistake on my way through the maze this time, though. In the end, I was third out the other side. It was still unnerving and I found my hands shaking from it all.

    Tonya was the last out of the maze and she threw up when she finally pulled herself to her feet. We were given water then and one of the instructors has us walk under a cold water spray to get the majority of the mud off of us. It was much cooler after the water, too. Another instructor walked over to me and smeared something on my cheek and chin. It burned really bad and then tingled a little. She told me not to touch it.

    Chief Mendez formed us up again and we ran to the Pillars of Loki. It was a forest of logs like the ones in the Playground. The only difference was that these ones were closer together and in a regular pattern. It looked about the size of a football field and just as long, too.

    The Chief yelled at us that this task was to move slowly and carefully, being aware of our surroundings. We would move in our teams, with each starting in a different location. Our job was to make it through the maze to the other side. Any injuries or dye and we would be punished until it was time to return to the base. He added that we would only be running through once.

    We were lined up in our teams all the way across the width of the Pillars, waiting for the order to move. That’s when Mendez yelled out that last team would join the three losers without dinner and then go.

    Gary started to run into the forest, but Christy grabbed him. She pointed down and told him to watch his feet. About a foot in front of him was a trip wire hooked up to a small box on the back of one of the poles. In the distance, I heard pops and curses by others. A couple of the pops were really close. I reached out and pulled the line. The box popped and a spray of red hit the pole in front of it. It looked like the TTR toxin.

    We began moving through the forest very slowly. Gary was scanning high, Christy low, and me at about belt height. The entire forest was littered with traps. Most were tripwires, but others looked like mines. There was one that was just a small trigger on the ground under a small lump of dirt that was barely visible. We accidentally set off one trap, but missed being hit by it. Well, mostly. Gary got a small splatter on his palm.

    We finally got through to the other side. We weren’t the first group, but we also weren’t the last. The last group that came out was Jai, Adriana, and Mike. Mendez called everyone into formation and anyone who was hit with the red paint had to sprint around the Pillars of Loki until noon-thirty. It was just now noon. They didn’t catch the red spot on Gary’s hand, though.

    The rest of us got to rest on the patch of dirt. Nobody talked much, and the instructor who put the stuff on my face came back to look at it. She said I’d live and then saw my hands. She shook her head and put the same stuff on my palms. After that, she went over to Murphy and put it on the back of his head and then on Serin’s knees.

    At twelve-thirty, Mendez formed us up and told us that this had just been a practice run. Next time, there might be some surprises that could do us harm. He then opened a crate of MREs and left us to eat. I ate quickly because I knew it was my team’s turn to police up the trash. After doing that, and packing it all back into the case, we all got back into formation.

    We began running back on the road to the main base. It was a long run, just like the one out. It was also much hotter than it had been in the morning. Mendez stopped us after an hour next to a Warthog. We were given water and a five minute break before we began running again. It was another hour until we got back to post. We turned down a familiar road and ended at the Officer’s Academy.

    We filed into the classroom and I took my normal seat in the front of the class. Like the rest of the day, things were very much different. Instead of a tray on the desk, there was a datapad, two bottles of water, and a bottle of milk. I drank down the milk and took a few sips from one of the bottles before turning my attention to the datapad. I was wondering if I was supposed to do something with it when Dèjá appeared in front of the class.

    She told us that today began our standard educational courses. There was a general grumble from the room, but she told us that our daily attentiveness would be recorded and anyone not paying attention would be brought to the attention of Chief Mendez for punishment. Everyone quieted down and started paying closer attention to what she said.

    She told us that we would have a total of five classes a week. For six days, we would have four different classes, and then have a military science lecture class on the seventh day. When she told us that the lecture classes were what we have been doing up until now, we all brightened up. Our normal classes would include language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Our terms would be four months long and then we would advance to the next level of study.

    She looked around and then said that our first class was about parts of speech. She said that today and tomorrow, we would be learning how to identify and use adjectives, nouns, pronouns, and verbs correctly. With that, she began telling us about Adjectives. It was interactive with the datapads, rather than her just talking. After that, she gave us a number of sentences that we had to find the correct adjective for. If we selected the correct one, the screen flashed green. If we selected the wrong one, it flashed red. She explained why the correct answers fit and why the incorrect ones did not.

    After that, we began going over irregular plurals by matching related words from their singular to their plural. Then we were taught nouns and pronouns and had to complete sentences with the correct noun or pronoun on our datapad. Finally, we learned the difference between common and proper nouns and had a game on our datapads where we classified different words as common nouns, proper nouns, or not a noun.

    After that, we began our math class and spent the entire time learning about the relation between days and months. Dèjá taught us about how we use a military calendar that is based on the Earth calendar. We learned about how many days were in each month and the difference between days, months, and years. We had to find different days on our datapads that she asked for and then find them after she told us to count ahead by different weeks and months.

    For our science class, Dèjá said that we would be spending the next three days discussing body parts. The first part of the class, she showed us different animals that did not have heads and we had to choose which heads went to each. She taught us how to look at the muscles and color of the body to choose the correct head.

    After that, we had an interactive game which gave us different choices to build a dinosaur on our datapads. Everyone who built a real dinosaur was congratulated by Dèjá and she described their dinosaur to the class. I made a Terrorsaur from the planet Cronky. She said it was a real dinosaur and it was alive today, unlike the others which were extinct.

    Finally, we began our class on Social Science, specifically Culture. Dèjá began teaching us about what a culture was. How it was a learned behavior that included customs, beliefs, rules, life ways, language, food, and clothing. She showed us the differences in the military cultures between the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. While they shared some similarities, each had an entirely separate culture from the others in their behaviors.

    Dèjá taught us how people learn customs from their cultures. Even we were learning customs from our culture as Spartans. To illustrate that, she called out “Squad, Attention!” We all shot to our feet in the position of attention. She said that was a learned behavior and a custom. Our uniforms were part of our specific culture as Spartans, too. Even our food and language was specific to the military and the Navy, and was another custom.

    Dèjá told us that classes were over for today and that Chief Mendez would be showing us where our datapads were located on our bed pods for us to study on our own. And we were required to study on our own every day by completing at least one set of homework on our datapads.

    We were let out of class and I had to go to the head again; I downed the last of the second bottle of water, grabbed all three empty bottles, and tossed them in the trash bin next to the door. After getting done in the head, I lined back up in front of Chief Mendez. He didn’t yell at us or anything. We just turned and began running back to the barracks.

    We got to the barracks in time for retreat (when they lower the colors). After that, Chief Mendez said something kind of strange. He filed us into the mess hall where there was a tray of spaghetti with meatballs, a white cheese on it, garlic bread, and salad.

    The instructors told us that we were allowed to walk back to the barracks on our own after we finished dinner. I did and when I returned, there was a slot opened on the side of all the bed pods. When I looked inside mine, I found a datapad just like the one on the desk in class. It was 1942 hours and people were still coming in from dinner, so I put it back into the slot and started cleaning.

    In the mornings, we were told to clean our bunks. The evenings were dedicated to team cleaning of the common areas. Me, Christy, and Gary were assigned to clean the urinals in the head this week. I went back and pulled out the cleaning rags and spray bottles for the section as they showed up. We each took a urinal starting on the left and went through each of them in a short amount of time. After putting the supplies up, it was only 2018.

    It was strange, but there were not as many instructors in the barracks as there normally were after dinner and there was no class today in here. I brushed my teeth and showered and then went back to my bunk. I pulled out my datapad and began studying like Dèjá said. I didn’t want her telling Mendez that I wasn’t studying.

    The datapad had various worksheets and tests related to what we had all learned today. Each one was five minutes long and covered everything we studied. I ran through all four and then did it again and the found that the quizzes changed. I ran through it a third time and didn’t get any of the answers wrong.

    The lights in the barracks shut off and I knew that meant it was lights out. I put my datapad away and crawled into the pod. I laid down and the light shut off. I felt a slight pop in the air which told me the screen closed. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

    The light came on in my pod and I snapped up almost immediately. I slid out and saw Cassandra standing beside the control pad. We had been on a rotating watch shift since about the second week. Every one of us had to pull a rotating hour of watch every night. With so many of us, it meant that we got watch only about once every nine or ten days. Tonight it was my hour. Cassandra told me that I was up and then yawned. She didn’t even pull herself all the way up to her pillow before she fell asleep.

    I walked around the bay and made sure there was nothing out of place. Sometimes, the instructors came in during the night and take or move things, then punish whoever is on watch for not noticing. After making sure everything was okay, I grabbed my datapad and went to the watch chair in the front of the barracks.

    The instructors told us that we had to sit in the chair during our watch, but told us not to fall asleep. Victor fell asleep last time he was on watch and the instructors found out. They let him sleep through his watch, and then woke him up to get his replacement and made him to calisthenics for the rest of the night.

    It’s now 2307 and I’m going to finish my log and study more. I figure that if I do a patrol around the barracks after each of the tests, I should be able to keep a good watch and stay awake. Log off.
  9. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    DR. HALSEY’S NOTE: Franklin has been talking about reorganizing the children into teams and giving them and overall squad leader. He says that the timing is correct for them to have leadership among their own ranks. I agree, but do not agree that it should be Kurt. I have already selected a leader for the squad, and that would be John. However, I cannot deny that others have approached leadership potential.

    One of those others is Jason. He has shown adaptively and tactical thinking well beyond any other candidate, even John on some occasions. He seems to already be in a leadership role when it comes to his “team.” Both Christy and Gary are following his lead and he seems to take to the role well.


    2119 hours, July 12, 2519 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    For the past year, the instructors no longer come into the barracks for wake-up. We were required to be in first formation out front by 0600 or we would receive extra duty. Well, the extra duty came after motivation and more PT. Even so, it was best not to give the instructors reason to take away this extra time we all had.

    I got dressed and cleaned my bunk before running back for hygiene. On my way out, I collected up Gary and Christy. We each did an inspection spin and nothing was out of the ordinary. Well, almost. I tucked a couple of Christy’s hairs up under her braid. We all ran outside and lined up together. Not the first, but not the last.

    Chief Mendez formed us up and we began to run. However, we weren’t running around the barracks. In the past two years, this was the first time we deviated from our normal morning routine. I recognized the route immediately. We were heading for the airfield, by the most direct route.

    Standing in the middle of the runway was a modified Pelican Superhaul. It looked like a normal Pelican, but was about twice as wide and was a little longer than normal. The sides of the ship had windows on it, but the biggest change was the inside. There were two additional rows of seats within the ship, enough so that it could seat our entire squad.

    We were filed into the ship and, on the way in, were given a parka by trainers. It felt like cloth, but also a little like plastic. Some of the instructors wore them during PT when it was raining. This one was different from theirs, though. It looked just like my uniform, but zipped up the front all the way. I put mine on immediately. It felt a little too big for me.

    The door closed and I strapped in as I was taught. The belt was a simple lap belt with a pair of shoulder straps that fit into the quick-release buckle. I heard the engines warm up and the ship took to the sky. After a couple of minutes, we were at a low-level cruising altitude and Chief Mendez walked out of the cockpit and began pacing the center row.

    He said that our destination was the Reach Military Wilderness Training Preserve. We would have to learn to make friends with our environment to complete the mission. I looked around at Christy and Gary, but still didn’t understand what the Chief meant. He explained that we would do that by listening to the sounds of the environment, the feel of the air, and the shapes of the surrounding area. By getting a feel for the environment, we would know what belonged and what did not. That knowledge would mean the difference between life and death.

    He went on about that for a few minutes, telling us what to listen for and watch for. Then he told us that we were on our own time until we reached our destination. He went into the cockpit and the door shut. Being on our own time is something we all looked forward to. It meant we could talk and move around as long as we didn’t get too loud.

    I unbuckled and stood up, stretching my legs a little. I saw mountains out the window. They were covered in snow. I told Christy that I would love to sled down those. She agreed and Gary said that I’d have to fight him for the first run. Behind us, I heard John, Sam, and Kelly talking about snowball fights. There were other conversations all over the compartment.

    At about 0700, Mendez came into the compartment and we all snapped to attention. He put us at ease and told us to sit down. He told us that today’s mission would be simple for a change. Then he had Kelly pass out a small stack of paper. I got mine and it was a small piece of map with what looked like a river running into a lake.

    He told us that we each held a portion of the map of the local region. We would be set down by ourselves and would have to navigate to the extraction point for pickup. Then Mendez said that the last trainee to make it to the extraction point would be left behind. He then pointed out that it was a long walk back.

    He said that John would be the first to be dropped off in three minutes. I looked at Christy and Gary and showed them my pieces of the map. Gary’s had the legend on it, showing how far each grid square was. Christy’s showed a small camp on the edge and a dirt road. Neither showed any extraction point.

    After a minute or two, I had Christy tap my shoulder and whisper to find the river and follow it downstream to the lake. She shook her head and I passed on the info to Gary. I looked back at John as Chief Mendez called him front and center.

    The rear doors opened and the ramp extended. The air that blew through the ship was cold. John walked up to the door and Mendez told him to watch out for wolves in the forest. I could barely hear it, but it made me think back to Dèjá’s second class. John looked around and I nodded. I saw the same cocky smile that he usually got when he knew he was going to win. Then, Mendez yelled for him to go and he ran down the ramp to the ground.

    Mendez began calling other recruits up by their number as the ship moved all around the valley. We would touch down, the recruit would run out, and we would lift off again. I kept seeing the location of the river out of the window and tried to keep it in my mind as we maneuvered around. I was fairly certain that we were dropping off in a circular pattern, like a spiral spider web.

    He called Murphy up as the ship began to drop to the next point. We were about twenty feet off the deck when the ship shook a little and Murphy fell out of the Pelican. Mendez called for the pilot to hold and leaned out. He sighed and shook his head. He put a cigar in his mouth and told the pilot to move on. I saw him roll his eyes as he lit the thing.

    I was called up next. I walked up to the door and took hold of it. I didn’t want to fall out like Murphy; then again I also wasn’t as accident prone. The moment the Pelican hit the ground, Mendez yelled for me to go and I ran down the ramp.

    I was still cold, but not as much as I could have been. My boots kept my feet warm and the parka kept my upper body warm. I knew that my legs would get warm if I started moving. I took out my map piece and looked at it. It was probably the destination that John had told us about, so I began my walk in the direction of the river, angled slightly so I could reach it closer to the lake.

    I kept my eyes and ears open as I walked. Noticing the birds would stop chirping as I got near them and some would make a louder shrill cry as I walked under them. I heard some snorting behind a bush and decided to give it some space. I knew the Devil Boars lived in the forests on Reach and they would try to take a bite out of anything. Some scaring on the bottom of a tree showed evidence of one sampling some wood.

    I saw some blackberry vines and began filling the pockets of my parka with them. The one good thing about military clothing was that they had lots of pockets. I popped a handful in my mouth. I knew they wouldn’t keep me for long, but it was better than no breakfast.

    I heard a bird’s shrill cry and immediately hit the deck, rolling under the edge of one of the blackberry bushes. I felt some of the thorns grab my pants, but ignored it. The Chief usually put snipers out when we did any kind of exercise, even parade drills, and he also loved to set stun mines. That sound meant that someone walked under one of those shrill birds. I grabbed a rock near my hand and got ready as I saw another trainee walked into the area.

    He looked around and moved up to the blackberry bush. I think his name was Corey. I just sat there as he collected a bunch of blackberries, filling his parka pockets, too. After a minute, I reached out and grabbed his ankle. He let out a bit of a yell and kicked, but his foot caught only the bush and he fell over.

    I came out with a smile and told him that the Chief would be disappointed. He called me a jerk and we began walking. He asked if I knew the direction to the river and I pointed. We got to the river and picked up Jai and Mike. Kelly was on the other side of the river further down with Murphy. She found some stones in the middle to cross. Murphy almost fell in, but was able to get to the other side. However, he hit a loose bit of dirt on the bank and still fell in.

    We didn’t talk much, being too occupied with watching our surroundings. Kelly took point and warned us about a devil boar, but we were able to kill it with a couple of thrown rocks before it could get close enough to charge. Otherwise, we were able to make it to the lake in about an hour. There were some others already there. A quick head count said thirty. Kurt arrived a few minutes later with another seven.

    After a few minutes, another group began walking up to us from around the lake, rather than along the river. The group was led by John. We exchanged friendly insults about how long it took him to get to us, to which he replied with light punches to the arms. We took a headcount and had the entire squad assembled.

    Kelly suggested we collect the map pieces and she went about getting them from everyone. John had Sam get three others and set up a perimeter. He took Fhajad, James, and Linda. We all huddled down with John, Kelly, Fred, Jai and myself under a huge cedar tree while Kelly assembled the map like a puzzle, telling us that some of the pieces were doubles and others weren’t even from the map.

    She pointed out a small green portion as the extraction point and measured out the distance from our location to there. She said it was doing to take most of the day to get there. John called the perimeter scouts back in with a whistle and got us organized for a forced march.

    Kelly was in the middle of the formation, holding the map pieces. She used some sap to stick the important pieces together, using the junk pieces as tape behind the map. John split us into five teams. Sam took the scout team in front of the formation. John stayed in the middle of the formation with main team. Kurt was on the left flank and I was on the right. Jai brought up the rear. Sam’s team was spread in a wide vic formation to cover the entire front as the rest of us were in modified stars with Jai in a line.

    Corey walked nearby with Christy on the other side of me. Gary was forward of us and has been slowly collecting and recollecting a number of pieces of the forest on his parka. If I looked away and then back, it took me a moment to spot him even though he was just ten meters in front of me. He was the far right flank of Sam’s scouts, so he was able to mirror back all the signals to freeze and hide.

    After a couple of hours of walking, Sam began to slow back to John. I walked in, as well. When Kurt and Jai got within whisper range, he voiced that things were too easy to be one of the Chief’s normal field exercises. John agreed and told us all to keep our eyes open. It made me really uneasy. Normally, we would have taken sniper fire or hit trip mines by now. But we hadn’t seen anything.

    We stopped at about noon to rest a little, stretch, and munch on what we had gathered. I traded Christy some of my blackberries for a handful of nuts she had pulled off of a grapenut bush on her way to the lake. They were crunchy, but didn’t even taste a little like grapes. They were filling, though.

    It was Fhajad that brought up the one question that was on my mind, and pretty much everyone else’s from the immediate silence. He wanted to know who would get left behind since we were all going to be at the extraction point at the same time. He wanted to decide now.

    I suggest that we could probably draw straws when John said that nobody would be left behind. Kelly brought up what Mendez said, but John cut her off. He promised that we would all get back to base even if he had to stay behind. Then he signaled for us to get moving.

    I stood, helped Gary, Corey, and Christy back up, and took my place on the right flank. We marched for another five hours when Kelly signaled that we were almost at the extraction point. John grouped us and told us that he and Sam would scout it out with Kelly shadowing them. He fell us out and told us to keep quiet as they slunk off into the trees.

    It took them about half an hour before they returned. In that time, Kurt and me got everyone set up in a defensive formation around a small clearing. We couldn’t see anyone else and took our places just as John got back. He explained that the dropship was at the extraction point, but there were unidentified personnel at that location, too. He didn’t recognize them as any instructors and they were not in uniform. Also, they weren’t in Navy grooming standards.

    John suggested that we find out their intentions with a trap. Kelly would draw one of them away from the group as a rabbit with John covering her. She would lead them back to our location where Sam would fake a broken leg. Sam had Fhajad scrap his shin to get his uniform bloody. The rest of us would be waiting in the brush, ready to come to help Sam if they proved hostile. He slammed a fist into his hand and told us to remember the moose and the wolves.

    He told us to arm ourselves with rocks as Kelly took off her parka. Sam laid down and started playing bait, as Chief Mendez would call it. I found a nice size rock that fit my hand rather well. John and Kelly took off toward the landing zone, and we all waited.

    I heard someone yell stop in the distance and got ready. Kelly ran through the clearing and dove behind a tree on the other side. A couple of seconds later, a strange man wearing normal clothes and not shaven ran into the clearing. He had blond hair and looked like he hadn’t shaved. He walked up to Sam with a strange smile as Sam complained about his leg. The man got closer and raised a stun baton over his head. That made up my mind that he was an enemy.

    I saw a rock fly by from the direction of the LZ. It must have been John. It missed, but got the man’s attention. He spun and Sam took off. A moment later, I threw my rock, along with everyone else. Mine hit him in the stomach, but he was able to shield himself from most of them. Kelly chucked one that hit the man right in the middle of the forehead.

    We came out and surrounded the man. I searched him after John rolled him over. There were no insignia, uniform pieces, or identification. Not even any tags. I looked up and shook my head to tell John that he wasn’t Navy.

    John was right. None of Mendez’s men would ever try to hurt us, not like that. John kicked him in the face and chest, and then told Sam to grab his baton. He did, and gave the man another kick. He said that Kelly would draw them to the edge of the clearing and we would do the rest. John assigned each team to one of the five other people. I got whichever one was on the far right flank.

    We spread out and I collected a couple of other rocks, putting them in my pockets and keeping one in each hand. We moved slowly toward the clearing and spread out just behind the tree line. We were quiet, but a trainer would have been able to spot us immediately. I saw five people down at the dropship, four men and a woman, and they looked bored and not too attentive. Definitely not trainers. Kelly yelled that the guy fell and hit his head, then ran off. All five followed her and began drawing their batons.

    When they got in range, John let fly and so did everyone else. The five people dropped to protect themselves and John whistled. I ran forward with a battle cry, like Chief Mendez trained us to, and made a straight line for the woman on the right flank. She had red hair that was in a buzz cut with a strange tattoo on the side of her head. A skull with a scroll under it.

    She looked at us with wide eyes and spun to land a roundhouse kick into Christy’s stomach, knocking her back. She pulled a fist back and Gary jumped to wrap up her arm with his body, pulling her fist back more. The woman reached for Gary as I slammed her in the temple with the rock held in my hand. She staggered a little with a grunt and Corey wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled backwards as Christy wrapped her arms around both the woman’s legs. She grabbed my shoulder as Jai and Mike both shoulder checked her in the stomach. She hit the ground hard. I dropped the rock and punched her right in the nose, feeling it crack under my fist. Christy double-knuckled her in the forehead and she stopped moving.

    I looked up and saw that the others were knocked out, too. I took Christy’s hand and helped her to her feet. She was breathing heavily and holding her stomach. I had her lift her shirt and felt around her abdomen, and nothing felt hard so it was not bad, but there was already a bruise forming.

    John cleared the dropship and we all formed a perimeter. I took one of the stun batons and shocked each of the rebels. Sarin and James were tying their hands behind their backs. I heard John in the ship talking to someone. I stuck my head in and saw Dèjá’s hologram over the comm terminal. He pushed a couple of buttons and the engines began their startup sequence.

    He ran outside and told us all to get on board. I made sure that Gary, Christy, and Corey were on before I got on. Then, I noticed that John was the last person on. He did a head count and then hit the button to close the door before running back to the cockpit. We lifted off and everyone cheered. It took us about forty-five minutes to get home.

    There were no instructors on the ship, so we all were on our own time. Kurt, Jai, and I were talking with John, describing how we took down our targets. Kurt was bragging that his was the first one to be knocked out. John said it was only because Kurt kept hitting the guy in the sack until he stopped twitching. We all laughed about that.

    Someone found that there was a crate of MREs and water in one of the cargo compartments and we distributed it to everyone. I downed my water in one setting then tore into my MRE. I didn’t even realize how hungry I was until I are the entire Chicken and rice pouch without even heating it. After helping to police the trash, I checked on Christy. She had a bad bruise, but that was all.

    The ship landed and we all filed off and formed up. There were a handful of instructors at the landing field, but Mendez was nowhere to be seen. Maybe those guys back at the extraction point had really killed him. Nah, Mendez was too mean to die. The instructors took a quick count then ran us back to the barracks.

    When we arrived, one of the instructors called a number of us out of formation. John, Jai, Kurt, Myself, Jerome, and Jane, along with thirteen others were ordered into the barracks and to line up outside Chief Mendez’s office. I knew where it was, but nobody went in there. It was where Mendez spent his days thinking up ways to train us.

    John went first and was the first to knock on the Chief’s door. Mendez yelled for him to enter and he did. The door closed and we waited. Jai and Kurt were in front of me and I wished that I could have been further back in the line. I heard someone walking up from behind, but didn’t move. If it was an instructor, and I looked back, I would be motivated to not look back again. Then I heard a familiar voice.

    Doctor Halsey began greeting each of us by name, not by number. She always did that, unlike the instructors. She walked up to me and asked me how I was doing. I told her that I was fine and she smiled at me and moved on. She got to the Chief’s door and just walked in. She didn’t even knock.

    After a couple of minutes, John walked out and closed the door behind himself. He took a deep breath and looked at all of us, then walked back outside. He had a really strange look on his face. Mendez called for the next person to enter. He sounded upset.

    When I finally got inside, I walked up to the Chief’s desk, snapped a salute, and reported. Mendez was sitting behind his desk in a really padded chair. Dr. Halsey was sitting beside him in a similar chair, but she didn’t look as comfortable in it. She also had a cup of what smelled like coffee sitting in front of her on the Chief’s desk. The room was paneled in wood and smelled like the cigars that he smoked. But, it was pristine and cleaner than even the barracks after we had spent an entire day cleaning.

    Mendez returned the salute and told me to stand at ease. I did and picked a knot on the wood above the Chief’s head. Doctor Halsey smiled up at me and began fussing over something on her skirt before taking a sip of the steaming coffee. The Chief was reading something on a datapad.

    He opened by calling me Trainee 078 and asked me why I assumed a leadership role over two other trainees without instruction to do so. I didn’t know what he meant and said that I had assumed no such role. The Chief glowered and looked up without moving his head. He brought up 081 and 150 (Christy and Gary). I said that I worked together with them to accomplish our missions; I did not lead them.

    I heard a smile in Dr. Halsey’s voice as she said that I did now. I broke discipline and looked at her asking what she meant. Then the Chief told me that I was now a team leader. The information would be announced in formation. I was told to keep my mouth shut until then and dismissed. I saluted and walked out.

    Everyone was performing Drill and Ceremony with rifles as I exited the building. I was tossed one by Hicks and told to form up. I did and we kept up the D&C as we waited for the rest of the trainees to come out of the barracks. Taps sounded and we all presented arms with our rifles. After that, we were formed up and Chief Mendez came out.

    The first thing he did was have us all take five steps backwards. Then he had the fifteen of us who were called in line up in front of him, John first. He announced that John was out new Squad Leader, in command of our squad when Mendez and the instructors were not present or otherwise occupied. The rest of us were Team Leaders, in command of our individual teams. John was also announced as Blue Team leader. I was White Team Leader. We were told that we would fall in with our teams from now on; falling in on John.

    The Chief then began calling out who was in each team. When he got to me, He called Christy as White-II, Gary as White-III, and Corey and White-IV. The only difference was Gray Team, which was made up of only Jai, Adriana, and Mike.

    We were marched into the Mess Hall by team and it was completely rearranged. The old long tables were gone. They were replaced with four person bench tables. We were instructed that we would be eating with our team as well as training as a team from that point forward. As such, I sat with Gary, Corey, and Christy. Dinner was okay. It consisted of two hamburgers with bacon and cheese, fries, a milkshake, and a piece of apple pie with ice cream on it.

    When we got done with dinner, we all left as a team. We got back to the bunk room and saw that our team lists were already posted with our areas of responsibility for cleaning. We got one of the rear portions of the barracks.

    I grabbed a broom and tossed one to Christy and told Gary and Corey to get the mops ready. She and I swept as Gary and Corey mopped behind us. After that, Christy and I grabbed buffers while Gary and Corey cleaned the mop buckets and put away the brooms. That’s when I noticed something strange on Murphy’s bunk.

    Someone replaced the sign on the front. Rather than saying 133, it had a number 7 added to the end. I opened his clothing drawer and saw that he had new uniforms. They were purple and his name was also printed with the 7 on the end, but it looked different from the normal letters and numbers, like someone added it on afterwards. I finished buffing and helped put the supplies away.

    I went to my bunk and saw that there were new uniforms in my bin, too. They were white short-sleeve fatigue shirts with dark gray epaulettes. I thought they were based on our Team, since Murphy was assigned to Purple Team. The shirt zipped closed up the center and had a flap that snapped shut on the left side of the chest. There was also an ‘I’ on the sleeve of the shirt. The trousers had a button fly and reinforced knees. There was also a black belt with gray buckle. The material felt more like actual uniform material than the sweats we had been wearing since arriving.

    I went back to the head, brushed my teeth, showered, and sat with the rest of my new team. We all studied while we polished our boots. I checked on Christy one more time, but she told me she was fine and gave me a smack on the shoulder. Okay, we didn’t just study; we also talked about what we did when we attacked that woman.

    At lights out, we all went to our bunks and to sleep. Anyway, good night.
  10. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    0113 hours, September 27, 2520 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    I woke up fifteen minutes before everyone else and was already dressed, brushed, and had my bunk cleaned by the time the lights came on at 0530. Most of the team leaders had been getting up early to help our teams get squared away before first formation. Even then, John is usually up even before I am.

    I made sure that Christy’s, Gary’s, and Corey’s uniforms were squared away and their bunks were cleaned. The instructors would be going through the barracks to inspect all the bunks. If any of ours even had a single mote of dust, we’d have extra duty for a week. It’s even worse if a common area isn’t cleaned right. That’s why I go through an inspection of my team’s bunks and our assigned area in the mornings. It’s always perfect, but it’s what a team leader is supposed to do.

    We lined up in formation in front of Chief Mendez. He nodded and we ran around the building to limber up for morning PT. We spread out and began a hundred-count of push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and cross-country skiers. Looking back, I remember when I couldn’t do all of the calisthenics from morning PT, but it seems like it was part of another lifetime ago. Today, there were barely any grunts of exertion from any of the trainees.

    We finished and saluted as they raised the colors. After that, we were given water. It was Red team’s turn to pass it out. They got up and began tossing the bottles of water to each of the team leaders. I would catch one and toss it over my shoulder to Christy. After three, I caught mine and downed it. When I was finished, I tossed mine back towards Red team who had already downed theirs. I caught the empty bottles being thrown by Christy behind me and threw them up front, too. In all, the entire hydration exercise took about two minutes.

    Chief Mendez didn’t say anything, but did accept a bottle of water that Fred tossed him. He too threw the empty bottle back when he finished it. When the bottles were collected back on the pallet, the Chief called us to attention. We reformed into a normal formation, right faced, forward marched, and began to double-time by the time we got off the parade field.

    It was the same route as normal across the post to the Academy for classes. It looked the same as the day we had arrived. Well, except for a few new shrubs beside one of the routes just before the bridge. I swung my arm wide and hit Christy in the shoulder, a move that was mirrored across the team. Unless an instructor was specifically looking for it, they would never have seen it. My aim was high on her shoulder, telling her to keep her eyes right toward the trees. Had I hit her lower on her bicep, it would have meant left. We hadn’t run this path in a little over a week and the shrubs were not there before.

    I heard John whistle and my team broke left out of formation. We were number six in line and as such headed toward the sixth “shrub.” We hit it just as the sniper began to raise his rifle. Corey ran over him, purposefully catching his foot on the edge of the man’s helmet as he stomped hard in the middle of the man’s back. It wasn’t a kick, but it threw off his line of fire. By the time he pulled the trigger, shooting a red blob into the ground, Gary had already stepped on the end of the rifle and Christy had thrown herself on top of him in an elbow slam. I got there and wrenched the rifle out of his hands as Christy found purchase in a headlock. A double tap to the spine knocked him out cold.

    We formed back into a line and caught up with the Chief. He hadn’t even missed his place in the cadence. My team formed up behind Black, which was right behind Blue. I noticed that Sam and Victor were carrying rifles, so I tossed mine to Gary since he was the better shot out of White. Before too long, we heard a whistle come up from the back, signaling that all teams were in place. Mendez didn’t even change his step or glance over. As if the entire thing never happened.

    We arrived at the Academy and the chief fell us out. Those with rifles deposited them into the back of a Warthog on the way into the school. The only thing that changed in the entire building was the picture of the Secretary-General of the UNSC last year. However, the classroom was exactly the same as normal. Each desk had our datapad and a small tray of crackers, vitamin fruit snacks, a quart of milk and a bottle of water. Though, the stack of graham crackers and pile of candy had doubled since we arrived.

    White team sat down in the front row of the class, left of the center aisle. I made sure everyone was eating before I began on my breakfast. I learned a trick to make the crackers taste better (and eat them faster). I opened both sides of the top of the milk carton and began snapping the crackers into four small wafers. Stacking all four together, I dipped it in the milk for a couple of seconds and then ate the stack. Afterwards, I just drank the milk. I slowly ate the fruit snacks and drank the water throughout the class.

    Dèjá appeared as I began snapping apart my third graham cracker and began the class with Literary Arts. We were covering literature in this block. Specifically, we were identifying the historical periods in which literary texts were written and had to explain the text in light of that understanding. My favorite so far was a novel from the mid-1900s called Starship Troopers. It was written after a major war on Earth to show the benefits of a military society. The training described in the book reminded me of some of the trainings that Chief Mendez put us through. When I wasn’t studying during my watches at night, I enjoyed reading it.

    In the math block, we were going over data analysis, statistics, and probability. We were applying percentages to make and interpret histograms and circle graphs. The percentages were a little tough, but Dèjá explained enough of it that I was able to detail it out on the worksheet she assigned us. I would definitely have to go over it more tonight to get a better grasp, but I think I have at least the basics of it down.

    In the science class, we went over bioengineering technologies. We researched different technologies that advanced our health and contributed to improvements in our daily lives. Today, we looked at the medical use of biofoam as well as the surgel surgical jelly that is applied after any procedure and how it almost immediately seals a wound better than the previous method of stitching or gluing the tissue closed.

    Finally, for Social Studies, we were looking at individuals, groups, and interactions. We were differentiating between the rights, roles, and states of the individual in relation to the general welfare on various planets. We were doing this by looking at the individual rights afforded by the UNSC as opposed to some of the more barbaric values of the Colonies. We especially reviewed the state of the civilians who were usually targets on the Colony worlds when the Insurrectionists launched attacks.

    With classes over, we lined up and hit the head then ran outside. Team White was responsible for the collection of the trash, so I wasn’t able to hit the head. But, I made sure that my team did. Dèjá thanked me for stacking the trays at the back of the classroom before I left. I ran out and got into formation beside John. Gary didn’t have to hit the head, so we were number two team in the formation.

    Mendez formed us up and ran us to the dirt wall. The obstacles on it were more and more difficult every time we arrived. Yesterday, it was covered with a net of barbed wire. This time, there were smoke grenades going off at the base of the wall. As we got closer, the peppery smell of tear gas assaulted me.

    The Chief didn’t fall us out, but just turned and started walking up the stairs. The moment his foot touched the first step, I ran and leaned against the wall as Gary climbed up my back to stand on my shoulders. I felt Corey next and then Christy. They were really heavy and my eyes were burning from the tear gas. I tried to breathe in short bursts, but every inhale set my lungs on fire and I felt snot start to trail out of my nose. I felt the stack get lighter, then again. When Gary’s feet left my shoulders, I began climbing. A few feet up and I felt a hand on my wrist. I grabbed it and began using Christy’s body as a rope ladder, then Corey’s, and then Gary’s as I got to the top. I pulled them all up and got into formation. Three minutes.

    Mendez had us run at an ODST shuffle (about half as fast as double time) waving our arms to get the last of the CS out of our uniforms. A few of us even spit every few steps to get it out of our noses and throats. Normally, we would have been motivated not to do that, but the Instructors didn’t even touch their stun batons. We jogged past the Playground and on to the Sandbox.

    The Sandbox was a large sand-filled training pit. Since January, we had been going over combatives training here. Within the sand area are small wood squares that we faced off against each other in. There was a larger square in the very center where we would have tournaments with our training at the end of each month.

    We all distributed bottles of water and drank them as Chief Mendez began giving us a lecture before the classes began. He told us that there were ways to escape a larger and stronger opponent. He told us that each of those escapes also had counter moves. There were also counter moves to those counters. He looked at me, making eye contact, and said that it was like a game of chess except the pieces were arms and legs, torque and center of mass. However, the most important piece was our mind. I still played chess on my datapad at night. I knew it was against Dèjá, I could tell the way she played, and she always challenged me to learn new moves.

    This month, we were focusing on Judo. I much preferred the Aikido that we learned last month, but Judo was very similar. Christy seemed at home in all of the combatives training and I overheard one of the instructors say that she was probably the most talented in hand-to-hand out of all the trainees. That made me proud of my team. I later heard the same instructor trying to switch teams for the Krav Maga training next month.

    Chief Mendez fell us out for training and the four of us ran over to the wooden square that was painted white. The instructor inside was not one of our normal instructors, but we had been training with him for this month. His name was Gunnery Sergeant Isaev and he spoke with a very heavy accent, he said it was Russian. He wore a set of Marine fatigues with ODST wings gleaming on his chest and the skull emblem tattooed on the inside of his arm.

    We each knelt down on one side of the square and bowed to him as we were shown. He bowed back and told us that we were being taught Nindan Throwing Techniques. Nindan was the term to describe second degree black belts in Judo. Specifically, he said, we would be working on a side body drop, corner throw, rear throw, side drop, and a minor outer hooking ankle throw. Being Team Leader, I was the first up for all of the instruction.

    Gunny Isaev demonstrated the proper form for a side body drop. I recovered and then did it back to him. I ran back to the edge and Christy ran up to him for the same instruction, followed by Gary and Corey. We did this for each of the five moves. After that, he brought me up for practical application. He would attempt to get me into a submission hold and I had to use one of the throws I was taught to break it. If I didn’t, he would pin and probably choke me out… again.

    I bowed to him, signaling that I was ready, and he returned the bow. He leaped forward and grabbed my arm, pinning my leg with his as he tried to push me over backwards. I twisted my body and felt the snaps on my jacket pop open. Twisting, I avoided his arm coming in for a headlock. Falling backwards, I wrapped my arms around him and twisted, slamming him to the sand in as near a perfect side body drop as he had demonstrated. He rose, took a step back, and bowed. I returned it and went back to the side.

    Christy was already on the sand before I knelt down. She bowed and he returned it. However, before he could move after recovering from his bow, she was up to him and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. She twisted and pulled, shoving her boot down behind his so their ankles touched. She then shoved and twisted, throwing him to the ground as he was still reaching to grab her. He shot his feet under him and rose, grabbing her shoulder. She twisted her body around his grip, the snaps of her uniform giving followed by the zipper as she shrugged. She took a step back under his arm, grabbing it and pulling him into the air to land behind her.

    He put up his hand to stop her as she took a step toward him. Recovering he waited for her to snap her uniform closed (the zipper was completely destroyed). When she was recovered, they bowed to each other and she walked back to the edge. I looked down and realized that I was still in the middle of snapping my jacket in the time that had begun and ended.

    Gary stood up and took a step onto the sand when there was a loud snap followed by a girl screaming for a medic. I turned and jumped into a ready crouch. Christy was to my left and Gary had run to my right with Corey beside him. Somewhere, Corey had even found a nice size rock that he palmed, ready to let it fly. All movement ceased across the field, except for Mendez who was stalking forward as another instructor behind him was speaking into a comm.

    The cry had come from the Green ring. There was an instructor on the ground outside the ring and Carris was standing over him. The instructor wasn’t moving and his head was bent at an odd angle against a rock jutting out of the sand. She wasn’t moving as she stared down at him and I could see tears washing a pair of streaks through the sand on her face.

    Chief Mendes finally arrived at their side and knelt down by the instructor. He felt the man’s throat for a pulse. The other instructor was finishing a nine-line medevac report as he got to the Chief’s side. Mendez looked up to Carris who had started to shake and then at the other instructor. He shook his head and reached down to close the man’s eyes. The instructor said something into the radio and then closed it and put it back on his belt. Carris stood there for a couple more seconds, her eyes never leaving the man’s face, and then she turned and sprinted off in the direction of the barracks.

    The instructor who was calling the medevac took a step toward where she was running and opened his mouth to yell something, but Mendez put a hand on the guy’s leg. The instructor stopped, closed his mouth, and looked back at Mendez. The Chief shook his head and walked over to Green-I, talking to Jane in a lowered voice that I couldn’t hear. Jane nodded and said form up before double timing in the direction Carris was running.

    Mendez yelled that classes would be canceled for the day and John would lead us back to the barracks, making sure to tell him to double time. There would be a full inspection before we left for afternoon classes and if he found even one grain of sand, we would be PTing until the sun rose tomorrow. John formed us up and we began to run back to the barracks.

    Nobody sang any cadences, nobody said anything. Was the instructor really dead? Did Carris accidentally kill him with a throw? No matter how much I tried, I still couldn’t get the image of him lying there out of my head. We arrived at the barracks and John fell us out for cleaning. I saw Team Green on the side of the building, protectively surrounding Carris who was sitting on the ground hugging her knees to her chest.

    John said that Blue Team would take over Green’s cleaning responsibilities, but told everyone to shower first to keep the sand out of the cleaned areas. I didn’t have to be told twice. I could already feel a few grains it in my butt crack and it wasn’t comfortable after the mile-and-a-half run we had back to the barracks.

    I dropped my boots into their slot and gathered up a clean uniform, underclothing, and towel. I bundled my uniform up and threw it into the soiled linen hamper beside the entrance to the shower room and set my clean uniform on the bench under my towel. We were allowed to take actual showers since January, so I made sure to clean certain areas extra well. After, I threw on the new uniform and went out to get my team organized for our area of responsibility.

    I saw that Green was assigned to clean the urinals in the head, and since White was assigned the toilets, I told John that we could take the urinals, too. He told Linda to help us and we got to work. Black had pulled sink and shower duty. The showers were mostly self-cleaning, but I guess they were really messy because Black-One and Three took a lot longer to clean them than normal.

    After the latrine was clean, I got to work on my boots and made sure they looked pristine before putting them back on. It took me another five minutes to clean up around my bunk as I had a handful of sand on and in my boots. But it was clean when John yelled that we had formation in five. I gathered up the rest of White and ran outside.

    I looked over and saw Chief Mendez was speaking to Carris next to the building. He was actually crouched down and had his hand on her shoulder. This was strange as it made him look almost human. He stood and helped her to her feet. He nodded over at Green team and they lined up with us. Mendez then met with a couple of instructors outside the door to the barracks.

    He walked around the formation and said that our cleaning job had been acceptable. That was high praise, since we hadn’t been able to clean anything right since we got here according to him. Red and Orange left something to be desired in the main hallway and Black Team would be running around the formation because of the state of the showers. He then began running us to Painland.

    When we finally arrived at the training range two hours later, Black looked about ready to die. They each got an extra bottle of water with their MRE when we arrived. Mine was a hamburger, but it didn’t taste like anything close to the hamburgers we ate at the Mess Hall. However, it also had a vanilla shake, so I wasn’t going to complain.

    After we policed up the trash, Mendez marched us over to the Short range. Since January, we had been doing other things besides just combatives training: small arms marksmanship. This month we were using submachine guns. Mendez told us that we would be doing short burst marksmanship. Highest score would get the desert from the lowest score at dinner.

    I was handed an M7/Caseless Submachine Gun by an instructor. I immediately broke it down, made sure it was oiled and all the parts were in working order, and put it back together. Christy’s was filthy inside and looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a year and had been buried under the Sandbox for most of that time. She got to work on it immediately. Within ten minutes, she had it cleaned, lubed, rebuilt and its functions check was perfect.

    White Team was assigned to lane set 7. PO Hicks was there as our lane safety/spotter. He said that we were doing pop-up drills in our lanes. That was too easy. We had been doing this all week at various distances. Today, there would be UNSC uniforms on some of the targets, which would count as negative two points if they were shot. With that, he passed us each four magazines and told us to scan our lane.

    I got a total score of 80 out of 100. Christy seems to be really good with the M7, almost as good as she was with the M45 Tactical Shotgun, and hit 93. Gary said that the M7 didn’t have any punch or range to it. He pulled next to the lowest score of the squad with 72, even though he was second from top of the class with the SRS99-AM. Corey came out to be about even with most everyone else at 79. Lowest score was Soren who only got 71 and Linda got highest with 95. She seemed to get the highest score every time we shoot. People even started teasing her that she was going to get fat from all the extra deserts she was getting.

    At about 1700, we left the range and double-timed it back to the barracks for dinner. We arrived close to 1900 and Chief Mendez told us there would be a memorial ceremony tomorrow for Technical Sergeant Shujumi during our combatives training time, but we would return to training the day after. He then fell us out for the night and we went to dinner.

    On the way into the building, I noticed Dr. Halsey standing in one of the windows of the upper floor watching Carris. I didn’t pay it any attention as the Doctor often watched us when she didn’t think we noticed. Corey was the first White in the mess hall and already had the closest table to the door staked out. I sat and began eating. It was chili mac and some other stuff. I wasn’t really paying attention. Desert was peach cobbler with ice cream melting on top of it. Linda sure was lucky.

    After I was through with dinner, I dropped my tray in the cleaning receptacle and went back to the barracks. I showered again and brushed my teeth, then checked and decided that the common area was clean enough to pass inspection. I noticed that I had a package on my bunk containing a new undershirt (mine was ripped during combatives). I saw a larger package on Christy’s bunk which probably contained a new jacket for her.

    Christy was the next person from our team to show up and she synced her datapad with mine for studying after her shower. Gary and Corey came in not long after and showered themselves before they also linked in. We all polished our boots and didn’t say much about what happened today as we went through the daily class lessons.

    Close to lights out, Gary looked at Christy and asked her what she thought happened to TSgt Shujumi. She was quiet for a few seconds, but I could see her going over possible moves in her head. She said that he probably tried to fight a throw and Carris used his momentum to power an even stronger shoulder throw. They were probably close to the edge of the square and she just threw him.

    Corey disconnected his datapad and walked over to talk to Carris, after that. I knew they were together when we first were separated into three-man teams. I left Corey alone, he was friends with Carris and I didn’t even really know her, much.

    I told the others that I was going to hit the sack a little early (we were able to now if we wanted) because I had watch at 0100. They understood and left, but Christy stuck around until Gary was out of earshot. She asked me what the Chief meant when he looked at me and made the chess comment during combatives. I told her about the games I played against Dèjá when I was on watch and she smiled. Her smile turned into a roll of her eyes and she punched my shoulder and walked off.

    I put my boots up, stored my datapad, and crawled into my bunk. I was woken up at 1255 by Cassandra. She walked with me as I did my initial patrol. We stayed up a little longer and discussed the homework. She even linked with my datapad and I helped her with the math assignments. At 0120, she finally went to her bunk. I did another patrol and then sat in the chair and linked my datapad into the chess program. Dèjá’s face greeted me and she whispered that she had a new move to try on me, one that Doctor Halsey had used on her. Good. I love a challenge. Log off.
  11. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    1311 hours, October 18, 2521 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    I woke up at 0515, as I have for the past year, and squared away myself and my area. All of the team leaders began their morning with a meeting back in the head with John, to go over the day’s training. Today was no different. I cleaned during the meeting and was cleaning my bunk as the lights came on. I had Christy take over team inspection as I went into the hall to double-check our area of responsibility once more. I was finished in time to jog out to PT formation, with the rest of White Team.

    PT was really easy this morning. It had been getting easier to do the exercises for a while. I didn’t even feel sore or get out of breath anymore. We did the typical hundred counts of seven different exercises. Mendez has been randomizing them for some time, but we had done every exercise numerous times in the past. We stopped to give honors to the raising of the colors and finished with water being passed out by Team Purple.

    Mendez said we would be taking the five mile route to the Academy, the same one we did on the first day of training, and would be doing wind-sprints the entire way. We reformed into two lines, Christy falling in behind me, and began our run. The last person in the formation would move between the two lines and sprint up to the front. When they got there, they would sound off and the last in line would repeat the action. The sprinting didn’t even wind me any more than normal running and when the Chief finally called us to quick-time, it took me only three breaths to get my breathing back to normal. He then fell us out for classes.

    In class we were covering the various forms of community, planetary, and colonial governments throughout the UNSC. We went over the smaller ones first, mostly the small commune councils of the agricultural communities up to the representative confederacy of the Colonial City-States. We then studied the democratic, republic, confederate, and monarchs of the Outer Colony worlds as well as the military-controlled rule of Reach. Finally, we learned about the representation of the UEG in the inner colonies and the few alliances of the Outer Colonies and how they ruled themselves.

    In Science, we studied space travel, specifically the Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine and how it is essential for travel between the various star systems in the UNSC. We reviewed the hazards of space travel, some of which in graphic detail, as well as the use of cryo pods. We even learned that there were some ships that were launched before the discovery of Slipspace toward other planets with their entire crews in cryo. One of those was traveling for two-hundred years before it arrived at the already colonized planet.

    Propaganda and its forms was what we studied in the Language Arts class. Today, we were going over the propaganda from the Second World War on Earth; how Germany used propaganda to unite the entire country and push it to almost conquer Europe. There were also examples of how England used counter-propaganda to unify its people in the same war. We spent a good amount of time on a man named Goebbels from Germany who was better at propaganda than only one or two propaganda makers since.

    Each class was taking a full hour because we were no longer studying health. But, that didn’t make them any easier, especially not the math classes which are getting harder and harder. Today, we were studying ratio and proportion. I only got 91% of the answers correct. Dèjá told everyone to continue studying as these courses would build on each other and would only get harder as the months progressed.

    Class ended and I hit the head on my way out to the formation. Breakfast hadn’t changed, but I downed my water first so I was more hydrated than normal. Chief Mendez told us that we would be wind sprinting across post to the Pool. He formed us up and we began moving.

    The pool was just as it sounded like. It was an Olympic-size swimming pool with green tile walls, floor, and a concrete lip. There were ladders all the way to the base centered on each side. Unlike normal pools, though, this one was only half-filled. Oh, and there were logs in it. Each log was between four and ten feet long and they were just floating randomly in the water. We had been training in balance during melee combat and in the Pool since the beginning of the month.

    We arrived at the Pool and Chief Mendez began giving us a briefing as White Team tossed MREs and water from the waiting pallet. He told us that today we would be having tournaments in the pool to determine who the best fighter in our teams were, then they would go on to see who the best fighter in the squad was. That fighter would receive an MRE for dinner. Oh, and we would be FTXing tonight, so dinner would be foraged.

    Last month, we had been trained in staff combat. The first half of the month involved padded sticks. After that, the pads were removed and we faced off against each other. Solomon won last month. In the Pool, we were using much longer sticks with weighted ends. We didn’t have to knock out opponents out or pin them down, only knock them off of the logs and into the water.

    Blue Team was up as the rest of the squad ringed the pool to cheer on the combatants. It went rather quickly with John winning after the three rounds. Black was up next and Victor barely beat Jane. Purple was actually rather comical as Murphy dodged a shot and then swung, overbalancing and beginning a near sprint on a single rolling log. He fell in without even being touched. White was number seven to compete and Gary and I were the first two combatants.

    I ran at him, dipping the end of my stick in the water and flinging a splash in his face. He dodged the follow-up swing and thrust the end of his at my stomach. I jumped back as it impacted me, but was able to get my feet back under me in time to avoid a head shot. I thrust my stick at him, but let it fall well short of hitting him. He smiled, but only for a moment as I slammed it against the log his left foot was on, shoving it back. He didn’t have anything to support his leg and ended up falling into the water.

    Christy was up against Corey next and she took him apart. She actually landed a full swing into his shoulder. It knocked him, not just off of his log, but against the wall of the Pool. She almost fell in, but stabbed the end of her pole straight down into the water. It was shallow enough that the pole only half-submerged.

    I faced Christy then. I began with a feint (not easy with a nearly ten foot long pole) toward her legs, but she countered with a swing at the log I was standing on. She was quick, and I almost fell in, but I angled my stick to land on four logs and pushed myself back up from the prone. I did it just in time as her swing would have smacked me right in the middle of the back. I closed in the distance to give my longer arms the advantage and tried another splashing swing at her. Unfortunately, I got too close because she jammed her stick into the water and used it like a pole vault to land a jumping kick in the middle of my chest. The water was rather cold.

    The rest of the teams went through, and then Chief Mendez said that the next fights would be three-up until there were only two competitors. Christy was the first up against Purple and Orange. She won. Blue, Green, and Yellow faced off with Blue winning. Well, it went on until the only two trainees that were undefeated were Christy and John.

    Their fight lasted longest of all of them, even the three-ons. They both landed several blows and used every trick not to fall into the water. She even used my brace technique to keep from falling when her log was knocked out from under her. In the end, she was forced off balance and John swung. Dropping her stick, she grabbed John’s and pulled, sending both into the water at the same time.

    Mendez waited until Christy and John both got out of the water to say that there was no winner yet. The only way we would determine who won would be a team-on-team match off: Four on four. An instructor tossed a couple more poles to each team as we all got into the water. The Chief blew his whistle and we began advancing.

    Kelly launched the first attack, running across the logs with her staff swinging at each of our legs. White all jumped at the same time, except for Christy. She just dunked her staff and leaned into it. When Kelly’s stick hit, the momentum carried through and Kelly missed her next step wide, falling into the water.

    Gary and Corey used a similar tactic, crossing their sticks and running straight at John. He parried them aside and stabbed at Corey’s leg. It was a feint because both suddenly pushed from two directions at Samuel, who had begun moving around the formation. Corey and Samuel hit the water at the same time. Fhajad swung at Gary, dropping the attack a second later to shove at one of the logs he was standing on. He stepped off of it and went to stand on another log as John hit his moving foot. He went down next.

    Christy and I were about a pole’s length from each other as we slowly crept toward the two remaining members of Blue Team. Fhajad tried a jumping kick using Christy’s technique against me, but I jumped back and Christy swung, stopping him in mid-leap. He dropped to a pair of logs as John swung at Christy. She parried as I stabbed toward Fhajad’s chest. He moved back, grabbing the end of my staff and pulling. I stepped forward and ducked under John’s swing.

    Leaning back, I jerked my stick as Fhajad still had hold of it. He didn’t release it as it moved in front of his body. Shoving and twisting, I used my own body to lever my opponent into the water. Unfortunately, I lost my stick, too. That’s when John’s stick, still in motion from a deflection against Christy’s, smacked me in the side of the head. Everything began to spin and I saw bright lights snaking through my vision. I fell, but caught myself on the pair of logs I had been standing on.

    John turned and began fighting Christy. I heard the loud cracks as their staves struck each other and the splashes of misses and distractions of flying water. It was only a couple of seconds before I regained my balance and wits enough to push myself standing. I saw him land a solid stab into Christy’s stomach, using pure strength to lift her off balance and push her into the water. Just as he did, I leaped up and sprinted across the logs. My tackle caught him low, just above the hips. I heard Christy’s splash as we hit the water. Unfortunately, my head also slammed full force into a log. Everything went black.

    I woke up on the ground with Staff Sergeant Dallas standing over me. I coughed out some water and flailed a little to get to my feet. Chief Mendez was standing over me as I assumed the position of attention. It was strange, as my head was spinning a little and it burned as I breathed. I coughed a little more, swallowing the warm water that made its way into my mouth. I liked living too much to spit it onto the Chief’s boots.

    Mendez leaned in close and asked me what the hell I thought I was doing with that little kamikaze move at the end. I told him that I was taking John down to win the match. He told me that the mission was not to almost kill myself taking out my opponents. I told him that it didn’t matter who won as long as the mission was accomplished. He leaned in, the smell of the unlit cigar was almost more than I could handle. He turned and yelled for us all to fall in.

    We ran back to the airfield and began boarding a Pelican. My lungs burned, but I finally stopped coughing out water when we reached our destination. As we stepped on board, we were handed a new uniform that was similar to the ones we were wearing, but were uniformly camouflage. The only difference is that the epaulettes were out Team color. We were also handed a parka and M6B Magnums that were filled with TTRs. I changed in the back of the Pelican as it lifted off and had the pistol cleaned, lubricated, and in its holster as Chief Mendez walked into the cabin. John called us to attention. He put us at ease and had us take a seat.

    He said that tonight we would be practicing what we were taught regarding our foraging and fire-building skills in the Military Wilderness Training Preserve. We were required to find enough food to feed ourselves as well as the five instructors and both pilots with us. We were required to collect at least five hundred calories for each person. While foraging, we would also have to build a defensive fighting position around the Pelican and defend it from any and all hostile forces. With that, he headed back into the cockpit.

    John immediately split the group; half would forage and the other half would build the fighting positions. White got engineer duty. I had Christy and Corey go through the back of the Pelican looking for whatever they could to build. Corey found a few trowels and enough camouflage netting to hide the Pelican. Christy found the emergency locker with a flare gun and an empty box that used to hold survival rations. She broke the box in half to make a couple more trowels.

    As we landed, John put Kurt in charge of the foragers and told each team to focus on one fighting position at a time. We would only build sixteen with two teams on rotating patrol. Of the nine teams on engineer duty, we began building in the eight basic directions of the compass with the remaining team camouflaging the Pelican.

    It only took White Team two hours to build to fighting positions. We spend a little extra time on the second position as it was ours. In the process, we also got enough natural pigment clay together to camouflage our faces and hands. John came through to inspect each of our positions as we got an alert that the foragers were returning. John passed the word for a 50% manning and sent Kelly to tell all Team leaders to meet back at the Pelican. I put Christy in charge and ran back to the center of the camp with Gary.

    The foragers had come back with more blueberries, blackberries, walnuts, and grapenuts than I thought there were in the entire forest. They also had four devil boars and a dozen rabbits, each with a red splatter on its side and a snapped neck. Within an hour, each trainee, instructor, and pilot had roughly 800 calories of food cooked over a fire that we built. Mendez tossed John an MRE to split between Blue and White. He divided it up with each member getting one packet.

    I went back to relieve Christy and Corey, letting the rest of the team have their pick of our half-MRE. I got left with a chocolate bar that tasted nothing like chocolate and chewed like bark. I sent Christy and Corey back to get food. They brought theirs and two more meals back to Gary and me. I didn’t get any boar bacon, but I still ate until I was full. Not long after, Kelly ran by asking that all team leaders report to the Pelican.

    John said that Blue and Red would pull patrol duty as he doused the fires. We were told that we should send runners if we spotted anything. After that, we would launch a single attack to the signal of a wolf howl. When we were clear, we would signal with a second howl and John would launch the Pelican’s emergency flare to illuminate the area for other threats. Mendez watched everything and then headed back into the Pelican with the other instructors and pilots. I heard a shuffling of card inside.

    I walked back and relayed the information to the rest of my team. I couldn’t see where Gary was until I saw a branch of the tree behind our position nod. It was a very un-treelike thing to do, so I assumed that Gary was already playing sniper up there. I took first shift as the sun finally began to dip below the horizon. It was uneventful and I woke Christy for the next hour of watch and went to sleep behind the tree. Even though we had a fighting position, we avoided it like the plague. It stood out like a civilian in a marching parade.

    I woke up when something hit my head. I opened my eyes and froze as I heard something hit the ground to my right and another to my left. The even rhythmic breathing of Corey and Christy stopped with each acorn. I heard a little movement and a gentle impact to the team on the right and left and realized that Gary was chucking acorns that he must have gathered from the branches.

    I could barely see him in the clouded double moonlight, but he was giving hand motions that he had spotted something in the distance. Elsewhere in the night, I heard the not-owl call of Sam’s. It was just background noise, but I knew that we weren’t the only ones reporting movement. It was an attack. I immediately sent Corey crawling back to the center to inform John.

    We were hidden from straight on sight, so I stood behind the tree and slowly peered around the trunk. The integrated scope on my pistol didn’t have a night sight, but the moons case just enough light for me to see the field beyond the fighting position. I couldn’t see anyone, but there were four snake-like tracks through the tall grass that meant people were crawling through it. One was double-wide, which meant a total of five attackers. I signaled Gary to hold position and had Christy take up her position on the other side of the tree. With everyone in position, we waited.

    I kept myself as part of the tree, moving only a little to keep the far right side of the snaking trail within the scope. That’s when I saw a head come up over the side of the fighting position. I froze as it scanned the position and slowly oozed into it. Then another followed. After a couple of seconds, I saw it stand and wave back into the field. I barely noticed the same movement in Yellow’s fighting position.

    I saw another shape come up and give hand signals to the others. They nodded and took up positions around the fox hole. Two slid back inside the fighting position and I heard the familiar clicks that told me they were arming an anti-personnel mine. Corey slowly crept up and seemed to unfold to a standing position beside the tree. Christy was in the prone on the other side. In the distance, I heard a wolf howl. It was coming from directly behind me. That was the signal.

    I fired one shot right into the forehead of the person giving the commands, my crosshairs lined up the moment I saw the hand signs being given. The person fell with a huff as I turned a little and fired two more into the chest of the right-hand sentry. The tree was peppered with shots from an automatic weapon and I ducked back behind it. I heard Christy’s pistol fire and another thump. The two in the fox hole didn’t even fire before Gary gave a low owl call signaling that he neutralized them.

    I dropped down and crawled around the scene, double-tapping each person as I relieved them of their weapons. I also pulled the night vision glasses off of one and fit them over my head. The world went green and bright before me. However, each also illuminated the area in front of them with a bright UV light. I tossed it away and let my eyes get used to the night again. No way would I make myself a target if this wasn’t the only wave.

    Corey had already crawled into the fighting position and I heard him chuckle. Before I could even stick my head over, he had disarmed the two mines and began setting them on the front of the position. He used something from the vest of one of the enemy and strung a line back to the tree. I took the SMG and ammunition from one of the downed enemy and tossed it to Christy.

    I heard a noise out toward the tree line and then heard Gary take a sharp inhale and fall out of the tree. He was crawling forward and grabbed the rifle before setting himself up behind the rear edge of the fighting position. I noticed the discoloration on his pants leg that stiffened the material and numbed the limb. Sniper! That’s when all hell broke loose.

    I heard the running boots before I saw them. I slid up to the edge of the fighting position and used my pistols scope. Even though they were in camouflage, their running gave away their position. Each one was wearing the same night vision goggles which distorted their faces. I ducked as rounds impacted the rise in front of me. Instead, I took in a deep lung of air and howled.

    The howl was soon echoed all around me and I counted to ten. As I hit ten, I turned back and got ready. I heard the light thump of the flare being fired and then the entire field was aglow in the flare’s red light. I saw an entire platoon assaulting this side of the perimeter. They had all stopped and ripped off their night vision goggles in the light. And that was their mistake.

    I began picking off members with my pistol. At the same time, Gary was firing with the MA5C. I noticed that none of the troops were dropping at first, until I saw movement in the tree line across the clearing. Then, I saw a big movement as a sniper fell out of a tree. Christy popped up and took out six with her SMG. Then they were on top of us. Corey set off the mines and it took out three as they crossed the perimeter.

    One of them, female from this distance, angled to kick me in the face. I rolled onto my back, feeling her boot tear across my cheek, as I kicked over my head in what one instructor called a soccer kick. I caught her in the stomach. She fell with a huff, but grabbed me and laid a couple of punches into my stomach. I threw a knee into her face, but then she was ripped off of me. I looked over and saw that Christy had rolled on top of her and used the momentum to throw her into the fighting position. The woman popped back up with the glowing tops of a shock stick in her hand, but I put two in the middle of her chest and she slumped forward across the hole.

    Christy righted herself and her SMG clicked empty. She ducked a butt stroke and jammed her fist deep into the attacker’s groin. I saw her make a twisting motion as she pulled her hand back and he fell over, throwing up and going fetal in pain. She shot up and landed a spinning round kick to a second person before relieving them of their SMG and continuing to fire.

    I picked up the assault rifle the woman dropped and propped myself on one of the attacker’s body. Personally, I would have preferred a better sandbag for the prone supported position I was taking, but it was combat so I had to make do. I began picking off the others as they ran up on our position. When my field of fire was clear, I turned to take a couple of stragglers in Yellow’s as Gary took out a couple more snipers from the wood line to the left in Brown’s area of engagement.

    Gary pried the sniper rifle off of one of guys Christy kicked and used its starlight scope to scan the tree line. He fired twice more and I heard the light thump of people hitting the ground. There were no more targets after that and the distant crack of gunfire went silent. After five minutes, there was another howl from the center of the formation. This one was echoed by everyone. Red ran up and checked on our team, then ran on to Yellow.

    Gary and I were covering as Christy was double-tapping each of the attackers. Corey was taking their belts off and tying their hands and feet together. He relieved me and I began going through their pockets with Christy. She got extra ammunition for her SMG and picked up a second for fun. I gave Gary the rest of the SRS ammo and Corey got an Assault Rifle, with five magazines. I refilled my pistol ammo and pocketed five magazines for my Assault Rifle, too. Oh, I also tossed them pieces from a broken down MREs I found in various pockets.

    They were definitely Marines. The woman I shot in the beginning was the highest rank, a Gunnery Sergeant. But, that is not what was so surprising. The woman who tried to kick me in the face looked familiar. She had red hair with a skull and scroll tattoo on the side of her head, the ODST symbol. It took me a second, but then I remembered that she was the same woman from our first training here in the Preserve!

    I covered Gary and Corey as they ran to the tree line and tied the others up. It took them about ten minutes to get the three snipers dragged across the field. Another hour for Christy and I to drag them to the center of the encampment by the Pelican Superhaul. I counted a full company of Marines.

    Chief Mendez was watching everything from the door of the Pelican. We separated all of the officers and put their ID cards and tags in the ship. One of the Marines got their hands free and jumped for John, but was hit by a round to the back of the head. I turned to see Linda covering them from up in one of the trees. I blinked and lost sight of her even though my eyes never moved. John tied the man’s hands again. He told us to get back to the perimeters and keep the normal watch.

    By the time I returned, Gary was back in the tree and had one of the snipers’ ghillie suits covering him and his new sniper rifle. He had another ten minutes, but Corey told him to go to sleep. I was woken up an hour later by Corey and woke Christy after my hour of watch. The sun rose and I woke up at 0515 by instinct. I ate the packet of vegetable crackers and jalapeno cheese that I found in the redheads pocket, apparently she liked these as much as I did.

    At 0530, I woke everyone up and made my way back to the center of the camp. Chief Mendez told us to get everyone together, bury the fighting position, and be ready for dust-off at 0630. I walked back and told the team. However, I kept Gary on over-watch as the three of us buried the fox hole. Oh, and we all took time to “water” the tree before leaving.

    We were told that because we had successfully prevented the taking of the Pelican and had captured the entirety of the Opposing Force, we would be given a day off. The Chief cut the officers of the OpFor loose and they went about freeing their troops. All the while, they were under the cover of EVERY single trainee with a weapon. The redhead with the tattoo gave me an intense stare in the morning light, and then walked off toward the east with the rest of the company.

    The Chief inspected everyone as we boarded the ship. If anyone had been hit, they were given extra duty for the first half of the day. Gary was assigned KP duty when we returned. I told him that I would be with him, but he told me no. He was shot by giving away his position and not seeking new cover. It was lazy and he should have known better. I did what I had to do and he would too. I didn’t argue. I mean, how could I against that?

    We returned to the airfield and ran back to the barracks. Chief Mendez told us that Instructors would be showing up to introduce us to some new equipment we would be training on after breakfast. Breakfast was not an MRE or the normal cracker tray. It was a stack of four blueberry pancakes covered with syrup, two eggs that were actually fried and not scrambled, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of sausage, two pieces of toast with strawberry jam, a big cup of hot cocoa, and a one-quart of milk. It was amazing!

    After eating, I went back to the bay and took a shower. I changed into a clean uniform and made sure that the rest of the squad was squared away. Gary went to the Kitchen for his extra duty as the three of us cleaned our area of responsibility. By the time we were finished, someone called us to attention as the instructors walked in.

    They told us to relax and said that today’s training was informal only. I noticed that they were wearing UNSN Physical Training gear rather than their standard uniforms. I relaxed and followed them down the hall to one of the doors we never used. The door plate read “exercise room,” but that didn’t do it justice.

    The floor was covered with a black interlocking pad. There were six lines of machines, three on either side of the main path through the door. It looked to be about sixty machines. However, the three machines in each row were identical. In the back of the room was a padded mat with a raised padded square in the middle. To one side was a row of punching bags. On the other side were lines of padded training weapons for melee combat. The back wall included a line of wooden sparring dummies. Between the machines and sparring mats were boxes at various heights, balls, and some running and climbing machines. Every wall was mirrored, too.

    We were told that during our free time, we were authorized to use this equipment to further develop our physical strength and endurance. We were told to line up in front of each machine. I chose a resistance machine wet back a little ways. As I stood in front of it, my toes along a line, I heard some gears whirling on the machine and saw a hologram activate to show me the proper movements for it. The instructors told us that we were on our own and left.

    Each machine was set to be used for only fifteen minutes at a time. I don’t know what the weight was, but it was as difficult as PT about a year ago. I was grunting to complete the workout. After my time was up, I lined up at the foot of the next machine. The machines automatically scanned us and adjusted the weight accordingly. It was challenging and I was better at some of the exercises than others. The bench press machine was amazing, though my favorite was definitely the squat machine.

    I rotated through nine of the machines when there was an announcement over the PA system that lunch would begin at 1400 in the Mess Hall. I finished up my current machine and was about to walk back to the bay when I saw Christy. She was using one of the hanging punching bags in the corner. I walked over and we both lined up with the bag and did partner drill attacks on it. I noticed that there was a light above the bag that went red if your heart rate wasn’t high enough.

    A chime sounded over the PA system, a series of bells announcing that it was 1400. White team gathered and made our way to the Mess Hall. We looked like we had just done a ten mile run with the sweat and stiff movements, but we were about to get our reward.

    Lunch was a huge hamburger dripping with cheese and it had four pieces of bacon over it. Fries with ketchup, chicken nuggets with a ranch sauce, and huge milkshakes accompanied it. Gary joined us during lunch and we filled him in about the new workout room.

    After lunch, I went back to the bay and began studying yesterday’s lessons while I was polishing my boots. I didn’t polish them earlier and was glad that none of the instructors called me on it. However, Mike came in and told me that John is planning a game of capture the flag in the Playground in an hour.

    I made sure that the rest of the team was aware of it and decided to update my log. I’ve got to go now so I can get together with some other team leaders and discuss strategies before we all run over. I guess Black Team wasn’t all going to the game, because I saw One and Three heading back to the showers. No biggie, Black was good at tactics and that just meant that the game got easier.

    Log off.
  12. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    His training just gets more and more interesting. I especially liked the staff fighting in the pool. And this line:

    Mendez leaned in close and asked me what the hell I thought I was doing with that little kamikaze move at the end. I told him that I was taking John down to win the match. He told me that the mission was not to almost kill myself taking out my opponents. I told him that it didn’t matter who won as long as the mission was accomplished.

    Was particularly sobering. And hopefully not too forshadowing . . . :(

    Either way, well done. =D=
  13. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    Thank you. I am far better at writing fight scenes than anything else. As for the stick fighting... Well, it is only seen in a single frame in a single comic book. I just expanded on it a little... and by a little, I mean I expanded on it for an entire half of a day's worth of training.

    As for foreshadowing... I'll never say, but each of the Spartans had different mind-sets, didn't they...
  14. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    Sorry my posts are a week off. I'll be catching up with them soon. I can only blade the Convention season that is now upon me.
  15. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    2150 hours, December 21, 2521 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    When I woke up this morning before the lights came on, I felt like something was different. I don’t know what it was, but I could feel it. Something just felt wrong. I walked back to the head and did my morning business, but it wasn’t until our pre-light meeting that I figured out what it was. Jai was missing from the meeting.

    This wasn’t a huge occurrence. Some of us would sleep in until the 0530 wake-up every now and then, even John. But, there was something different. We concluded the meeting and I walked out into the bay as the lights came on. It was still nagging at me, as I helped White Team clean their bunk-pods and did a quick walk-through of our area of responsibility.

    I formed up with the rest of White on the PT field before the 0600 PT formation and that is where I realized what the problem was. Typically, the three members of Gray Team were always at the end of the formation. However, today White was pulling up the back and Jai never fell in next to me… neither did Adriana or Mike. I sent a message up the line through the other squad leaders to reach John. Before he could reply, Mendez began morning PT.

    Today, rather than running through six separate sets of exercises, we did three sets twice: push-ups, sit-ups, and mountain climbers. The second set of each was tough, and there was some sounds of exertion from the squad, but not much. I know I was able to get through all of it.

    We did a slow ODST shuffle through the 3-mile course to the Academy. Seriously, we probably could have marched to our destination in less time, but the exercise was meant to build cardio and not move fast. There were no attacks or ambushes along the way, but that didn’t stop me from pointing out a trio of instructors smoking beside a warthog with one up by the turret. The red-tipped TTRs were visible in the feed-chain tube from the internal ammo compartment. But, none even looked at us.

    When Chief Mendez fell us out for class, I saw John walk up to speak to him. I didn’t know what was going on, but still had the same funny feeling. He came into class and let the squad leaders know that Gray was transferred for special training and we wouldn’t be seeing them anymore.

    I felt like I had been punched in the gut. We have had injuries that put people out of training for up to a week, like Cal’s broken ankle or Jorge’s broken ribs, but we have never lost anyone before. They were one of the strongest teams, too. But I’d never say that out loud. They had to do with three what we all did with four. Even the team-on-team competitions, they came out on top their fair share.

    Dèjá appeared in the front of the class and called our attention to the topic she was presenting. I tried to put Gray Team out of my mind as I began snapping all of my crackers into quarters. Mendez taught us to fall back on our routine when we didn’t know what to do, but not to rely on it. Well, food and the graham snapping was my routine (even if the sound made Dèjá annoyed sometimes).

    Beside Dèjá appeared a man in armor. The armor was really stylized, too. His clothing under the armor was blue, but the armor itself was red. The helmet had a small bill and overlapping plates covering the back of his neck and a gold circle on the front of the helmet over the bill. His cuirass was made of solid-looking plates and had a bit of a skirt made of three overlapping plates that covered his waist. The sleeves were part of the armor and had the same red plates over his forearm and across the back of his hands. There were three wide overlapping plates covering each shoulder, too. He wore a two-piece apron that covered his thighs and a plate that covered his shin and knee. He was also wearing sandals.

    He had a pair of swords tucked into his belt on the left side. One was longer than the other. On the other side of his waist was a knife that looked to be the same design as the swords. In the front was a folding fan. Across his back was a bow and quiver.

    Dèjá told us that the Samurai were Japanese warrior noblemen that dominated Japan from the tenth through nineteenth centuries on Earth. We had all learned about them before in History class and during language arts when we studied the novel Shogun. But I had never seen the armor before, only heard it described in the book. It looked amazing.

    It was strange seeing the Japanese warrior standing next to Dèjá with her Grecian look. But I paid attention to what she was saying. She began telling us about the history of the Samurai. Last week, we went over the medieval knights and before that a series of battles called the Crusades. Personally, I liked the Military History classes that we had. Not just because there was no homework, but also because Dèjá went into a full holo demonstration for us.

    She told us that his two swords were called the katana and wakazashi. The samurai considered the swords to be part of their soul. As she said this, he drew each and began a short kata. I felt Christy beside me perk up and noticed her paying very close attention to the katas. Later, while we were going over the rest of the class, I noticed her re-watching the katana katas on her datapad. I don’t think she was really paying attention to the rest of the class after that point.

    The samurai were also excellent archers, being able to hit targets with their bows up to 330 feet away. I had never used a bow, but from the looks of it, that was something to be proud of. The samurai mounted a horse that appeared beside him and shrank as an archery range appeared in front of the class. He began riding at a full gallop and shooting targets, hitting each and shattering it.

    He stepped off of his horse as Dèjá began describing his armor. It was made of iron, brass, and leather and was brightly lacquered. It took between four and seven months to make and was designed to not impede their movements while also protecting against swords and arrows. Another samurai appeared, wearing black armor and a monstrous mask over his lower face. The two began fighting and the red samurai used his armor to block the other’s swords. He finally spun and sliced the black samurai across the back of the knee, then turned and decapitated him.

    The samurai lived by a strict code of conduct, similar to us. It was called bushido and required utter obedience to their leader. It was to the point of committing ritual suicide if ordered or disgraced. Dèjá showed another samurai committing suicide by cutting across his stomach with the smaller blade.

    Even though the samurai were officially abolished in 1868, after 900 years of rule, their traditions still continued in the practice of jujitsu and kendo. The samurai’s armor dissolved into a white karate uniform with black long pants that Dèjá called a hakama. He pulled out a wooden sword and began running through some of the same katas that we practiced during combatives classes.

    After classes, we were run to the airfield for lunch. We arrived at 1100 and were tossed MREs and bottles of water. I got a teriyaki chicken, but swapped with Gary for the chilimac. As we ate, Mendez told us that we were going to be performing an air-drop into our area of operations for team-on-team A&D (assault and defense). White was first on defense. I pocketed the vegetable crackers and jalapeno cheese for later and threw my trash into the storage bin.

    Mendez called everyone to their feet and we were issued Falcon Wing aerial descent units and a set of camouflage fatigues. I pulled the fatigues over my uniform and was immediately glad of the slight warmth they provided from the winter cold. I strapped the pack on and spun my finger in the air to Christy, who spun so I could give her a once-over to make sure she was good-to-go. She did the same to Gary and he did it to Corey. In the end, Corey checked mine and we all got back into formation.

    The Chief then walked over and began calling each Team up to select their Weapons. White was fifth. Corey chose a battle rifle, Christy a shotgun, Gary a sniper rifle, and I took an assault rifle. We each went over our weapons, tearing them down and putting them back together after a quick cleaning and lubricating, and then attached them to the mag clamps of the Falcon Wings. I made sure each had theirs firmly attached as Christy made sure mine was.

    Each team was loaded onto a UH-144 Falcon that was warmed up on the landing pad. There were no door gunners and the pilot and co were wearing full-faced helmets and pressure suits. I put on a set of the headphones that were plugged into the internal comms and asked the pilot what the drop height was. He looked back at me and then at Chief Mendez. The chief smiled and pulled out a comm unit, adjusting the frequency.

    His voice came over the headset a little louder than I would have liked and he told me that the drop ceiling was the effective ceiling of the Falcon. He then complemented me on my question, and odd thing to hear, and told me that if I were going to drop into hell, I may as well drop with good intel.

    I nodded and passed the information along to the rest of the team as we took off. We didn’t fly straight up, but gradually ascended to the eighteen thousand mark. It was freezing. We flew through a cloud which left us all with slightly damp uniforms, but we still sat ready. Toward the end, we rose to the mark quickly; fast enough for me to have to keep a constant yawn going for my ears. It was also hard for me to catch my breath for the last few seconds of our ascension.

    Finally, the red light came on and we all moved to the sides; Gary and Corey to the port and Christy and I to the starboard. I pulled the headphones off and got ready, keeping the dark green light just in the corner of my peripheral vision. It went green and I let myself fall out of the aircraft. The prop wash of the rotors giving me a slight tumble as I cleared it.

    I was able to stabilize and formed up with the rest of White, taking hands to control our fall a little better. Below, I saw the white speck of our landing point. It was in Painland, and I saw the length of the team-on-team field in front of it. On the opposite side was a purple speck. That meant Purple Team was our opponents.

    I felt a buzzing coming from my bicep and saw that it was the parasail alarm. I pushed off, as did the rest of White and pulled the release for my chute. I felt the pop from behind me, but nothing else. I knew that my chute didn’t open. I looked up and saw that I was wrong. It did open and was about fifty feet above me. All the lines connecting it to the pack were cut.

    I didn’t panic, but deployed the auxiliary chute which opened without incident. I angled around to slow my drop a little more and let the others catch up with me. Corey and Gary were good, the first two into my vision. I looked around for Christy and couldn’t see her. I spun in another circle, and caught sight of her just as she let out the best screech eagle call I have ever heard. It actually started me a little, but I didn’t let it show.

    We all pulled the bleed cords on our chutes to get to the ground faster. It took a little fine-handling, but we landed without incident. I pulled my assault rifle and hit the fast release for the Falcon Wing pack. We formed up with Christy and Corey in the front and Gary and I to the sides before running to our base which was about fifty meters away.

    Our flag was visible on top of the small stone structure that formed the base. Gary dropped back from the run and started climbing a tree overlooking the structure. I dropped into the bunker and scanned in front of the position. Christy dropped beside me, but further back with her sights on the flag. Corey shouldered his rifle and immediately activated the turret.

    We didn’t have long to wait before Purple finally showed up. Maria’s first shot, being her Team’s sniper, almost took my head off. Thankfully, I saw the flash from her rifle which let me go limp fast enough to avoid the round. I felt it slide across my flat top before I heard it splatter against the wall, the report hitting half a second later.

    I heard Gary fire a single shot before letting himself fall out of the tree, his position announced. That’s when Corey opened up with the turret. I stood and took aim, seeing Jorge using the purple turret guard as a shield. He was crawling on the ground with Isaac next to him, popping Corey’s turret guard, trying for a lucky shot.

    I took aim and was able to get Isaac in the leg before he got Corey in the leg. My teammates shots slewed high as his leg stopped working, but he planted the other and brought it back to target. Rather than aim at Jorge, he began covering the ground in front of the pair with the TTR toxin. That ceased their advance enough for Gary to take Isaac with a head shot and me to plant two rounds into Jorge’s side. But, that still left one more Purple.

    Murphy ran up from the side, hitting Corey twice in the ribs and catching Gary in the bicep. I turned and ran for the entrance to the bunker, but I didn’t need to be too fast. Murphy was on top of the bunker and almost to the flag when I heard Christy whistle. He turned just as I poked my head out. I saw the smile on his face fade just as she pumped two rounds into his chest at point blank range. The force caused him to fly back off of the bunker and land sprawled on the dirt.

    Christy saw to the rest of White team before taking Gary’s rifle and covering me as I double tapped all of Purple. With everyone neutralized, we dragged purple to the bunker and waited for the Observer Controllers to arrive and officially score the round.

    I tore into my crackers and cheese as the OC arrived and sprayed the neutralizer on the TTR dye. She gave me a strange look as I shoved another cracker in my mouth. Apparently, she wasn’t a fan of the MRE snack. She finished and told Purple they had five minutes to get to their base before we would be released for assault.

    I just sat there and waited while Purple ran off. Christy traded me a couple of the hard fruit candies from her MRE for a square of cracker with cheese. Gary tore into the stale dry noodles that he pocketed from his MRE and Corey mooched off of the three of us before running back to the landing zone. We watched him go, but didn’t think anything of it.

    The instructor gave us the one-minute warning as Corey walked back to the base with my Falcon Wing pack. He had pulled the auxiliary parafoil off of it though. Instead he pulled the ammunition reserve box out of the turret platform and put it in the pack before hoisting it onto his back. He removed the safety pin from the turret itself and pulled it off of the mount. It was unwieldy, but he was able to heft it enough to aim. He told me that he wanted to one-up Jorge.

    The instructor told us to go. Rather than running straight on, I began walking and called the others in close. I told them that I wanted to play things differently. Gary and Corey would pull head-on, while Christy and I flanked. They agreed and said they would wait until I flashed the face of my journal from behind the base before they launched the diversion.

    It took Christy and I about fifteen minutes to circle the Purple base without being seen. Maria was good with her sniper rifle, but nowhere near Linda or Gary. We got behind the base and I raised my hand and spun it through the light. An instant later, I heard Corey open up with the turret.

    The shots took Jorge by surprise. He spun, but had his legs swept out from under him by the TTRs. The moment he hit the ground, a red round exploded on his shoulder from Gary’s sniper rifle. I heard a shot coming from the left and Christy slowly turned and leveled her shotgun. The second shot from Maria stopped Corey’s fire, but soon the entire tree turned red with the automatic fire of TTRs. Maria dropped from the tree before Christy could get under her.

    I ran forward and entered the bunker, Isaac shooting at Corey and keeping to the side to avoid Gary’s sniper fire. I whistled in the same manner as Christy as Isaac spun. I put two on the middle of his chest before he was able to level his rifle. With that, I heard the fire outside cease, but not the commotion.

    I got out of the bunker in time to see Christy in a fight with Murphy. She was using her shotgun as a small staff to block Murphy’s punches and kicks, but both were moving too much for me to get a good shot. Murphy went for a grab at the rifle and Christy let him have it. Instead, she grabbed his wrist and turned, kicking his right leg out from under him and levering him over her shoulder. He hit the ground, holding the barrel of the shotgun with Christy holding the grip. I heard him say “not again” as Christy pulled the trigger, the explosion peppering his chest with red toxin.

    I walked on top of the bunker and pulled the flag off of the pedestal, winning the round. The OC walked up and told us to make our way, with our prize, to the parking lot. We formed up and began walking over. But, the trainer stopped Corey and told him to leave the turret and ammo. She sounded slightly annoyed.

    We were the second team to arrive at the parking lot with a flag. Black was there, as was Orange. Black was carrying the Red flag and Orange was carrying the Green flag. Blue showed up not long after with the Yellow flag. Apparently, Black was the first team to defend their position and then assaulted Red in record time to take their flag while Red still had active combatants. I shared my Team’s trial with the rest and even John was impressed with Corey’s turret idea.

    The rest of the teams showed up at about 1400. Apparently, if a team lost their flag, they were PTed until formation time at their bunker. Even if the team got their opposing team’s flag, they were still punished, just not as hard. Jorge walked up to Corey and gave him a punch in the shoulder before asking him how he disassembled the turret. Before he could answer, Mendez called us into formation.

    The Chief told us that we had exactly two hours to return to the barracks. In exactly two hours, the doors to the barracks would be locked. Anyone inside would have free time for the rest of the day and dinner, anyone outside would be doing calisthenics until lights out. He then said go.

    Most of the teams took off running toward the base, but I stopped Gary. Things were too convenient. We could make it to post in less than two hours, easy. But nothing the Chief did was ever easy. I called over Black, Green, Purple, and we all met up with Blue. John suggested that we raid the motor pool, to which we all nodded.

    The Painland pool wasn’t guarded, but we were still careful. The snipers shot out the security cameras and we stormed the building. It was empty, but we still cleared it. Through the office, we found a number of vehicles in the yard. I mounted one of the Warthogs with Gary in the passenger seat and Corey on the turret. It was loaded with TTRs.

    In total, we had five Mongooses, five M12 FAV Warthogs, and five M831 Troop Transport Warthogs. All of the FAVs had a full crew of three with the rest in the Troop Hogs. John tasked the Mongooses to pull scout with the FAVs surrounding the Troop Hogs. White was in the front next to Blue, Black was on the right, Green on the left, and Purple pulling the rear. The Troop Hogs were in the center of the formation, ready to pick up the other teams on the way.

    We were less than five minutes out of Painland when we heard the firefight. The rest of the squad was pinned down by a group of enemy from hasty positions beside the road. There were some Spartans down, but the majority had taken cover along the roadside. However, they weren’t going anywhere.

    I looked over for John’s instruction and he made a gun shape with his right hand and wheeled it counter-clockwise in the air, then made a fist and pointed a thumb to the rear. The Troop Hogs slowed and I pulled the Warthog around to the left behind John’s. The Mongoose scouts kept going straight ahead and most ducked their heads to present less of a target. Then we were on top of the firefight.

    The Mongoose drivers sped straight over the built-up and dug-in line of the ambushers, causing them to duck or have their heads taken off by the fast vehicles. At the same time, the five FAVs began to circle their fighting positions, the passenger and turret opening up on them. Chief Mendez called the tactic Circling the Wagons when he taught us all how to drive.

    The Mongooses circled back and picked up passengers and began circling with the wagons as the Troop Hogs drive into the Spartan line and began loading whoever they could. The unconscious were loaded first, followed by the injured/paralyzed, with the rest coming in last. When a M831 was full, it joined the circle.

    It wasn’t long before the ambushers were all unconscious. We stopped to mop up and I found one of the trainers who was only playing possum, but I gave her a double tap to the chest after kicking her rifle away. Everyone loaded up on ammo (and a few broken down MREs) and we took off for the base.

    There were no more ambush points along the road, which worried me. But, that worry turned into something more as we finally neared the base. When I finally saw the guard towers next to the main gate, I heard the familiar whistle of TTR rounds flying overhead. I saw out of the corner of my eye, that Naomi (a turret gunner), went limp. At the same time, red toxin began splattering my windshield. Gary leaned out the door and I heard a shot. A moment later, I saw Linda do the same thing. The turret fire ceased.

    We pulled into the motorpool at 1440 and dropped the vehicles off. We didn’t really have a choice, there were barricades erected on the roads and we were corralled into the motorpool. I didn’t like it; it was too easy for one of the Chief’s training exercises. John felt the same way, so we made sure that everyone was up and running when we left the motorpool. Somehow, Corey even managed to find a M319 Individual Grenade Launcher with three TTR burst rounds. It was a good thing, too.

    The moment we stepped out of the motorpool, we were under attack from covered positions manned by instructors. Corey took a knee and popped a round at the first covered position. He made it in their window and the fire from that position ceased. John had us spit up into two-team groups and leap frog our way through the base back to the barracks. The spread would give each team more of a chance to neutralize its own thread without engaging in crossfire. At the same time, the entire squad would be able to cover a long line of advance in case one team got pinned down.

    We finally reached our destination at 1520, fighting an almost constant battle in the mile from the motorpool to the barracks. We lost five people who were being dragged by the injured. Even I took a round to the arm, but it was only my left arm. To fix the problem, I simply liberated a pistol from one of the trainers and kept my rifle slung across my back.

    As we walked in the barracks doors, Kelly was taken by surprised and dropped with a TTR splatter on her temple. There were instructors waiting inside the barracks, too. So, we went about the entire building, clearing every room. We found eighteen instructors, but didn’t take any more casualties. In the end, we barricaded ourselves in the bay and had to fight off three assaults. However, all the assaults did was give us more ammo (include two rounds for Corey’s grenade launcher.

    At exactly 1600 hours, Mendez’s voice came over the PA system and told us that we had free time until dinner at 1900. However, we had to collect all expended brass and take care of the TTR toxin. He said that if he found a drop of TTR toxin or a single cartridge, we would PT from 1930 until 2330. Then the PA went dead and we all got to work.

    White Team was assigned the main hall. It took us an hour to completely collect all the brass and clean the TTR stains and general grime from seventy-two Spartans after a hell-ride. In the end, we had Black and Blue helping us (Black had the offices which were never touched and Blue had the head). It was finished rather quickly after they arrived.

    I decided that I didn’t really need a shower and instead just washed up in a sink. After that, and slipping into a clean uniform, I went to the gym. My upper body was well exercised from the firefights, but I knew that I should work on my core and legs a little, mostly my core. I wasn’t the only one, but I still got the machines I was looking for before the bells rang, announcing dinner.

    I saw that the rest of White was in the gym and began collecting them. Christy was back on the mats in front of a hologram of someone in a martial arts uniform and black baggy dress like thing. He was going through the same armed kendo routines we learned, but seemed more intense. She was following through them with one of the training swords.

    I pulled one of the disposable towels from its rack and threw it at her to get her attention. To my surprise, even though her back was to me, she spun and caught the towel on the blade of her sword. She spun it a little and sliced forward, sending the towel back at me. I caught it and smiles, Gary and Corey clapping and laughing a little. She turned, bowed to the hologram (which shut it off) and put the sword back on the weapon rack. We all headed for dinner then, with my depositing the towel in the appropriate receptacle as we left the room.

    Dinner was roast beef, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed broccoli and cauliflower smothered in butter, a big piece of cake half buried in pudding, and a huge cup of egg nog. It was really good, especially the stuffing. We got to talking about the action from Painland to the barracks, but Corey still refused to say where he picked up the M319. He said that it was, to quote Petty Officer Hicks, one of life’s little mysteries. We all laughed about that and finished dinner while listening to the stories from the other teams.

    After dinner, we all headed back into the gym. Gary and Corey got onto the machines and Christy and I were practicing some combatives. I knew she was holding back and purposefully not wiping the floor with me, but that didn’t stop her from winning every match. After half an hour, we both got some training knives and began practicing some melee combat. She still won, but it was a little more equal… and by that, I mean she still beat me every time and moved faster than me.

    At 2230, the bell rang for personal time, meaning cleaning time, and everyone cleared the gym. It was White’s area of responsibility, so we began cleaning. I mopped down the floors while Corey and Gary wiped off the machines. Christy took the mirrors. We were finished by 2100 and made our way back to the bay.

    I grabbed my towel and underclothes and met Christy back in the shower. She said I was improving, but still needed to work on some of my grappling. Knife-wise, she told me that I was pushing my attacks too far, which was leaving me open. We kept talking while we showered. It was close-quarters most of the time and Kirk knocked me into Christy more than once before she gave him a snap kick to the back of the knee (a warning to be more careful). He didn’t bump into me anymore.

    At lights out, I grabbed my datapad and walked to the chair. I had first shift of watch and was hoping for some good chess matches in my hour. I didn’t have any homework, so I activated the chess program and made my first move. It took Dèjá longer than normal to make her first move, but when she did, I saw that she was opening with a gambit. That was strange for her.

    It was a very difficult game that lasted almost my entire hour of watch. I even took my pad with me when I did my rounds. It was strange because the tactics seemed too adaptive and random for Dèjá. I activated the chat window for the game and asked who was on the other side. The reply was really surprising. She said she was Doctor Halsey. I was so shocked that I moved my Knight to the wrong location and opened my King for a checkmate by her Queen.

    She told me that I played a good game up until the end. She then suggested that I expect the unexpected when I ask questions which might surprise me and then logged off. I was stunned. I’ve never played against Dr. Halsey and I have never had that much trouble with chess against anyone.

    Well, I need to finish up one more round before waking my replacement. Log off.
  16. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Once again, you were able to keep the war games here interesting. Normally that isn't my genre of choice, but I am able to follow this very well. I liked the more human moments of this too - the loss of the Grey Team at the beginning, and his friendship with Christy. I loved that she wiped the floor with him :p The chess match with Doctor Halsey was very interesting - she's still keeping an eye, and I like the theme of he chess being picked up again. He really is a gifted tactician, it would seem. [face_thinking]

    Another great update. =D=
  17. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    Thank you. I actually pride myself on my being able to write a combat scene. First-person, past-tense is difficult, but fun. It's strange how my mind works, but I think of combat as if from RPG terms. Everyone has a five or six second round that they can make action in. Actions are a movement, an attack, and a supplement (i.e. hand sign or such). Each round is a paragraph (or around there). And, I play it out until it is complete.

    As for Gray Team, I had to do it. In Halo, Gray is talked about as being separated in training. I figured now was as good a time as any. Also, it set it up for my next post (the one below) in that Gray (the three-man team) is not present in the source material I used for the end of the scene.

    As for Christy, I wanted to show the shower scene as having a gender-neutral feel. Not to mention a more family feel with Christy kicking the offending party rather than saying something... like a family dynamic would usually work.

    And thanks for the chess compliment. You will see that chess will be an overarching theme, if not subtle.
  18. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    2107 hours, December 29, 2521 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    We went through the normal morning routine with wake-up at 0515 for the Team Leaders. John met us all with his datapad and told us that today was a non-training day. We all cheered a little at that, if quietly. But, then John told us that instead, after classes and lunch, any team that lost their flag and failed to gain their opponent’s flag from yesterday’s mission would be running the Jungle Gym from 1300 until 1700.

    The jungle gym is a miniature obstacle course. It begins with running through slalom poles before climbing under a log. Then, you jump over another log and have to cross a plate of polished steel with an inch of water on it without slipping. After that, you climb a rope over a wall. Once over the wall, you climb a ladder and have to crawl across a metal pole. On the other side, you run across a sand pit. In the end, you climb a ladder and drop into waist-deep water. Then, you run all the way back to the beginning and start over until Chief Mendez gets tired.

    I saw Jerome shoot a glare at Jane. I didn’t have to worry because I didn’t lose my flag yesterday and got Purple’s. Maria smiled at me and punched my shoulder, telling me that if it weren’t for Corey, we never would have taken their flag. I smiled and shrugged at her and told her to blame it on Murphy. Everyone laughed at that. It was the running joke among the squad, and even Murphy used it.

    I finished cleaning up and made sure my squad was squared away before heading down for morning calisthenics. Like yesterday, Chief Mendez ran us through two sets of three. Today, it was jumping jacks, flutter kicks, and dips. Again, it was hard, but not as hard as I thought it would have been. Although, my legs were yelling at me during the flutter kicks because of the leg work I did in the gym yesterday.

    The run was a little more eventful than yesterday. The signal passed through the line to split and sprint. Five steps later, I heard the whistle and broke left. It was barely in time to miss the spray of an automated turret firing at chest height. It slewed left and right just enough to be able to catch us all if we were still in formation.

    Corey, Jorge, and Alice were beside the turret in a couple of seconds and had it disabled before Chief Mendez passed it. Then, Jorge signaled to single-file behind the Chief as they ran up and disabled the mines that had been placed under the street. Most were fully visible, but there were some camouflaged in the bushes. In the end, they began just chucking rocks at the mines to let them detonate safely before the group could get near them.

    At about the halfway mark, John signaled for us to get back in formation and assigned the top demo specialists to run ahead and disarm the mines. About twelve of the Spartans broke formation and ran ahead on the six mile route to the Academy. I heard the pops of the mines being detonated and saw the red spray of the toxin on the ground, but that was the extent.

    The twelve got back into formation just as we turned down the cul-de-sac for the academy. The chief called us to quick-time and we marched into formation in front of the school. However, the moment he told us to fall out, something in the back of my mind told me to dodge. And I wasn’t the only one.

    The area where we were standing only a moment before turned red with multiple TTR impacts. I counted about five snipers on top of the academy just from the sound of the rifle fire. I weaved and dodged as I ran for the doors of the school. I saw out of the corner of my eye, Jorge and Corey throwing something. It took me a moment to realize that they had collected a couple of the mines from beside the road. The twin explosives cut the number of snipers down to three as I made it through the opened door.

    I waited for the rest of the squad, specifically White Team, ready to sprint out and grab someone if they got hit. John and Kurt were right beside me, pulling people through the door. I noticed, as Gary entered, that Chief Mendez was looking directly at me. He had a look on his face that was somewhere between amusement and something else. Respect? I didn’t know. I didn’t think he was capable of those kinds of normal human emotions. I turned as the last member of the squad came in, taking a head count of White and giving John a thumbs-up.

    Dèjá appeared as I was on my fifth mini-stack of graham crackers. Beside her was a satellite view of Reach. She told us that today, we would be learning about planetary geography for Social Studies. She told us about how geographical regions were formed and what affected their development. Specifically, how weather patterns and mountain elevations dictated where deserts and forests would form.

    I finished my breakfast when we moved on to science and the many uses of water. Besides just hydration and health, we went over its uses as a fuel source for vehicles (like the Warthog) and as a reaction channel for starship drive systems. We also went over how it was used in hydroelectric power stations as well as the chemical reactions it aided.

    Language arts were small-group sessions. We were taught effective discussion techniques and questioning skills in Teams. Dèjá would give us a riddle and we had to discuss it, asking her questions through our datapads, and discovering the answer. Next, we were given a piece of information and had to determine if it was true or false through discussion and questioning.

    Finally, we got to mathematics and the Algebra I portion of our study. Specifically, we were dealing with square roots. It was difficult, but I pulled a 92% on my datapad. Even though the math had been getting harder in terms of what we were learning, it seemed to be getting easier for me. To the point that I sometimes was approached by several people to help with their study assignments.

    Classes ended and I hit the head before running back outside to form up. Blue had class-duty, so John was the last one in formation. Mendez didn’t say anything. He just had us torn right face and begin double-timing.

    It was freezing. While we were in class, it had begun to snow and that seemed to make it feel colder. It was sticking a little bit beside the road, but hadn’t really started to pile. The cold air hurt my lungs a little, but not as bad as last year. It actually got down to about -10 Celsius last year. Though, it was kind of funny to see everyone steaming after the first half hour of the run. Although, that didn’t make my ears feel any warmer. Sometimes I envy the girls being able to let their hair grow a little longer to cover their ears.

    We arrived at the barracks without incident and Mendez stopped us, but kept us in formation. He said that we would fall out for lunch and then confirmed what John said this morning. Red, Yellow, Orange, and Purple would for up at 1300 for a jungle gym run until 1700 to help motivate them to do better. He then dismissed us for lunch.

    Lunch was really good at least. It usually was compared to MREs. Fried rice, shrimp, sweet and sour pork, and chicken subgum. We also had a cup of warm jasmine tea to wash it down with. Gary asked what we were all planning to do with our free time. I said I was going to hit the gym. Christy and Corey said the same thing, and Gary said he’d come along for fun.

    After lunch, I headed to the gym as the losing teams headed outside. I noticed that Douglas shoulder bumped Thomas from Black Team as he walked by. He looked like he was doing it on purpose. I didn’t pay it much attention, though. He was probably just pissed about losing to Black. Maria gave me a motivational slap on the back of my head like Gunnery Sergeant Gibbs, one of the Blue Team trainers as she walked by. But, she also turned and smiled before sticking her tongue out at me. I stuck mine back at her and she laughed and caught up with the rest of Purple.

    I hit the gym and seemed to get into a competition with Gary. We were both using about the same weight (his was ten pounds lighter on most machines), and we were seeing how many reps we would do on the same machines in the fifteen minute time limit. We were about even, but that was because of the machines. I wished I could figure out how to slice into them and change the weight to something a little higher.

    I cut out at around 1600 to do some studying. I passed Victor who was on his way outside. He looked upset and completely ignored me when I asked him what was wrong. I didn’t know. It must have been an argument with his teammates or something. I know that Violet gets into them sometimes, but nothing that they don’t handle. He probably just needed to blow off some steam.

    I pulled my datapad out of its cubby and turned it on. The floor wasn’t as comfortable as one of the chairs in the front of the room, but at least leaning against my bunk, I wouldn’t be asked to help anyone with their math studying. I started working on the Social Studies lesson.

    I was halfway through the Social Studies lesson when I heard someone yell out officer on deck. I snapped to my feet just in time to hear Chief Mendez growl out an as you were. I hadn’t even sat back down when he stormed past my bunk toward the head. As fast as he was storming, I half expected him to slam through the door to the head without slowing down. Instead, he pushed it open and stepped in very quietly.

    It was about ten seconds later that I heard him explode. He demanded to know what was going on. There was silence, and then I heard someone that was muffled through the door. I heard Mendez yell out about regulations and fraternization before. I heard a different muffled voice then, a little higher pitched than the first. Mendez then exploded again and said that they would both be confined to the brig. He added that 140 would receive five days and 115 ten, for being in a command position.

    140 and 115? That was Thomas and Jane… Black 3 and 1. I turned to see both of them, straight faced but blushing, walk past with Chief Mendez right behind them. I was so stunned that I didn’t even call out him entering the room. But, he seemed to not notice. They left the bay and I walked to the front of the room.

    Immediately, I was bombarded with questions. From what I could tell, I was the closest person to the head and the only one who heard everything. I relayed what happened and then had to do it twice more when others came in. The third time, it was to John who looked like he was about to be sick. Not so much about the brig part, but more about the fraternization.

    Two bells rang to signal 1700 and dinner time. I went to the gym to get the rest of White, but they had already left. When I got into the mess hall, I saw them seated midway across the room. I wasn’t surprised to see Jane and Thomas not sitting with Black, but was surprised to see René missing from Red’s table. I chalked it up to an injury on the Jungle Gym and sat with the rest of White.

    Dinner was two waffles with butter and syrup poured over them. There was a fried chicken leg and breast next to it, and a large scoop of macaroni and cheese, with real cheese over top of the cream. It was next to a drink that tasted like someone blended orange juice, fruit punch, and lemonade. Next to it was a quarter slice of cheesecake.

    I told the rest of White what had happened. Gary and Corey were completely surprised. Christy was too, but she was also a little red. Guess she must have been working out harder on the mats than when I left. She asked where they were, and I told her that the Chief had given Thomas five days in the brig and Jane, ten.

    I left for the gym again when I finished my dinner. On the way out, I passed René who looked almost frozen. She was wet and the snow was still falling off her boots. I guessed that she wasn’t injured after all, but probably was given extra duty after the Jungle Gym. I got to the gym about the same time as John.

    I went back to the mats and took one of the “rubber duck” rifles off of the wall for melee practice. I got pretty fast during training to go from the firing ready to smashing the training dummy in the face with the buttstock. The computer told me that my speed was increasing and so was the force of my impacts.

    After half an hour of stock-strikes, I turned to see Li and Christy practicing hand-to-hand. I couldn’t stop watching. Christy was, by far, the best in melee of any of us, but Li was actually holding his own. Lisa came up and gave me a shoulder bump to get my mind back on what I was doing. She asked me if I wanted to spar some, so we did.

    She was good, but not quite as good as me. I let her get in a couple of good strikes, but then took her down to the mat with a wrist bar. I showed her how to get out of it, and she did, but that let me put her into a headlock. Again, I showed her the counter-move, but was able to get her again. After about forty-five minutes, she finally tapped out.

    She told me that I was much better than her in hand-to-hand. Before I could say anything, Christy came up behind me and put me in a rear arm bar and had me on my knees unable to get out of it. She told Lisa that I was only good because I wasn’t sparing her. They both laughed as Christy put a little more torque on my wrist and made me tap the mat to let go.

    I stood up and bumped her shoulder as I walked off the mat as they started talking about what happened to Black Team. I was almost to the machine I wanted to use when Ralph and Daisy caught up to me. They were both asking if I was going to do any math work before lights out. I got the hint and told them that’s where I was heading. They didn’t have to ask if I would help them.

    I got to the bay and retrieved my datapad to find the entirety of Pink Team waiting at the tables in the front of the bay. I sat down, linked up with them, and started the Math work. After an hour going over the rules of square roots and the tests, we moved on to the rest of the assignments and began cycling through.

    About 2000, Christy and Lisa showed up. Lisa kept going to her team and Christy took me away from Pink. We had to clean our area of responsibility (the main hall). I got down to find Corey and Gary already working on the floor. I took the window cleaner for the pictures and door and Christy got the walls.

    At two bells for first watch, 2100, we packed up the supplies and went back to the bay. Someone had opened one of the windows in the shower and it was colder than usual. I jumped up and closed it, but that didn’t help much. So, my shower was colder than I preferred. When I got out, the window was open again and I dried as quickly as I could.

    I was in my bed pod and fell asleep before the lights actually went out. I had strange dreams about people sneaking out of an open window that night. It was strange and I actually woke myself up a couple of times. I went back to use the head and closed the window again. The watch, Solomon, Brown Teams heavy caught me as I came out the door. I told him I had to piss and he moved on with his rounds.

    For the next few days, our training was as it usually is. Wake up with PT, followed by classes. After that, we ran to Painland for lunch. At Painland, we were training with the M-1953 Bell Industries Bullfrog Jump Pack. It’s use, advanced principles of its use, tactics, marksmanship, and a couple of squad tactical drills. After the training, we would run back to the barracks for dinner, then have free time until lights out.

    The most notable thing to happen was with Murphy. He landed wrong during the hopper drills and ended up falling and activating the pack again. He shot right along the ground like a missile, ending up crashing to finally stop. Lucky, he crashed into something that easily broke apart. Unluckily, it was a portable head. Hicks and Gibbs were both trying not to laugh as they hosed him off to cut down on some of the smell.

    On the 28th, PT formation was actually a mission briefing. We ran to the airfield and were told by Mendez that we would be using jump packs to assault a fortified position to capture a flag. Once we had possession of the flag, we were to make our way back to base. We had to return to base no later than 1900 or we would be declared AWOL and face punishment. That would give us about twelve hours, depending on how far away the target was.

    With that, we were issued camouflage cold-weather fatigues that we all changed into immediately. Mendez had us select our preferred weapons and then we were all issued Bullfrogs jump packs. Thankfully the Bullfrogs ran on water with an oxygen ram scoop, recharging it after every jump and giving it almost limitless jump capacity, if at shorter intervals. After checking and securing our gear, we were loaded onto a Pelican superhaul for transit to the target zone.

    After half an hour, I saw that we were crossing the mountains to the Wilderness Reserve. The forest was almost like a second home. Well, aside from the snow covering the trees in the dead of winter. I made sure that my gloves and cap were secured so they didn’t fly off during a jump. The rest of the squad did as well. I wasn’t too concerned with the gloves, but I didn’t want to get my ears frostbitten.

    Mendez entered the bay and told us that the target location was heavily defended and located due east of Bucklew Lake. With that he opened the door and started yelling for us to get off of his Pelican. I was in the second row and fell out the door. We were about a hundred feet over the ground, near the clearing where we found the Pelican during our first time here. I used the jump jets, keyed to the thumb studs in my gloves, to angle toward the clearing, giving a blast just before hitting the ground to keep from being injured.

    Once we were all down, John drew a sandtable on the ground and took a couple of jumps to orient himself and get distances. It would take us about three hours to jump to the lake and then another four to get to the edge of the mountains. On the way, we would have to watch for enemy patrols and find their base. We fanned out by squad, mine being teamed with Pink. Black, being one member short and one member undertrained, took rear guard.

    Leapfrogging to the lake was easier and quicker than I thought it would be. We arrived in about three and a half hours, leaving us either to return to the base. There were no incidents along the way, nor did we run into any patrols. The biggest piece of excitement was when a scout from Orange landed right in the middle of a family of devil boars, but he was able to jump to safety before they could react.

    Once at the lake, we began moving slower and more tactical on our way to the east. We fanned out wide, just at the range of hearing to the team next to us. That’s how we knew when Brown made first contact. Their screech eagle cry sounded like part of nature, but it caused us all to stop. Victor made his way down the line as a messenger. He was collecting the squad for tactical planning.

    I arrived at John’s location with Daisy. The rest of White and Pink were on the edges of the formation in case there was another patrol. John had retrieved a map from one of the Marines that showed the location of their base AND the location of Painland. It was funny, but our base wasn’t listed on the map. It was designated as a life-fire impact zone.

    John handed me the map and I looked it over. The identifying insignia on the Marines said they belonged to Tango Company. If it was a full company, we were looking at about 164, if they were fully staffed. I looked over at the unconscious scouts and corrected it to 160. We could make the outskirts of the base in two hours if we moved cautiously and then take another half an hour to set up.

    If we did a quick raid, in the middle of the day, we would probably take them by surprise. I had Susan strip the highest ranking Marine of her comm gear so she could check in if they called for a status on the patrol. She took one of their ka-bars and messed with the antenna, saying it would give a little static to make her voice not sound to clear. We all agreed that we would attack when we heard John give the wolf howl.

    Daisy and I bounded back to Pink and White and passed on the plan. With that, we began moving to contact. There were two more patrols on the way, but none of them even got a shot off. As before, the comm gear was stripped, the antenna sliced, and handed off to a male or female accordingly. Susan said they were doing hourly checks, but didn’t have code words. Unfortunately, the trip took half an hour longer than I expected.

    The base was bigger than I expected. There were four barracks buildings, probably one for each platoon. There were two hangar with a landing pad in front of them. A company office sat off to one side with an armory beside it and a motorpool beside that. There were manned guard towers on every corner, two beside the main gate, and one in the middle of each fence. In the middle of the compound was a flagpole with a green flag.

    White and Pink were directly behind the barracks buildings. So Daisy and I decided that we would neutralize them. Gary had already sighted in on the guards in the closest tower with Grace taking the next. The two of them had full view to the rear exits of the buildings and would cover them. The rest of the squad would jump onto the roof to take out anyone exiting to the front.

    In the distance, I heard a wolf howl. Immediately Gary and Grace fired two shots. At the same time, I activated my jump pack and glided over the fence to land on the roof of the far right barracks with Daisy. Corey hit the roof next to us, Christy and Gary the next one down, and Ralph and Joseph the far barracks. From all around the base, chaos erupted in time with our jumps.

    Each guard tower had two Marines in it, both were neutralized. The perimeter had pairs of guards on patrol, all were neutralized. Brown team entered one hangar and Green another, the sounds of shots rang out and both teams exited. A full team landed on the command building and another on the armory. In the middle of it all, Blue and Black landed around the flagpole. That’s when Tango finally began to react.

    The klaxon began blaring and troops started running out of the barracks. Most were shot in the back by White and Pink, but I heard the sniper rounds behind us take out the few that tried to run out the rear. Fire began to whistle by in our direction from the command building, which had about seven people unconscious in front of the door.

    I yelled for White to jump and we sailed through the air, peppering the front of the command building with the red TTR toxin. At the same time, Purple passed us in midair, hitting the front of the barracks. I landed and looked around. Blue had the flag almost lowered, but were taking fire from the armory. Violet was jumping from one of the hangars toward the Armory and firing into the windows. Pink landed on top of the command building and I jumped with White to the motor pool. Somewhere along the line, we reacquired Gary. We landed in time to hear the roar of one of the two M808B’s firing up its engines.

    While the Scorpion might not be able to fire its main gun in close quarters, the machine gun could put out more rounds than a turret on a Warthog. I jumped on top of it and, thankfully, was able to pull open the driver’s compartment. Whoever was inside hadn’t locked it. I pulled it open and leveled my MA5B. Inside, was the redhead with the ODST tattoo on the side of her head. She stated up at me surprised, but the surprise was soon replaced by anger. I fired two shots into her chest, noticing that she had been promoted since the last time I saw her, a Sergeant now. I reached in and relieved her of her pistol and a couple of magazines and jumped back on top of the motorpool building. Gary thanked me for the pistol and ammo.

    I heard the familiar whistle coming from John and turned to jump to the east. As part of the plan, we would begin leapfrogging east with our teams until we reached the hills. White landed and waited until I spotted Grace and Joseph. When they hit the ground, we bounded beside them and then further on. The next jump had all of Pink over us. In all, from the first howl until the whistle, five minutes passed. It was another twenty-five before we got to the hills.

    John and Kelly went over the map and decided to take a lower pass between the mountains to avoid the higher peaks and colder air. This was mostly to prevent malfunctions in our packs than anything else. Rather than by-team leapfrogging, we would be splitting the squad in half for the leap. First element was Blue, Red, Green, White, Pink, Purple, Yellow, Black, and Brown. We would jump for half-extent of the short-range tank, then the second element would jump for the full extent. We would leap-frog at full extent until we reached Patton Fields Agricultural area to the west of the base.

    The run was uneventful. We covered about half a mile with each jump. About ten seconds of jump capacity, rest for twenty seconds, and then do it again. I got bored and did the math in my head. We were covering about 60 miles per hour. It took us three hours to reach the edge of Patton Fields. That left only an hour-and-a-half to get back to the base. Not much time since we were still about 150 miles from the post.

    John suggested that, since it was edging into darkness, we open up the packs and do full-jumps to leapfrog. We didn’t have to worry about the surrounding terrain, as the fields were only farms and didn’t have any trees like the hills. It was a tactical risk, but I agreed. It was the only way to get to the post in time.

    Kelly matched up the tether beacon lights in the distance and the lights from Gagarin Air Base to show us the location of the base. We leaped half distance and element two leaped full distance. We were making a good pace for an hour, but still had a good amount of distance left between us and the base. That’s when John made a radical decision. We’d cut tactical awareness for straight travel. He signaled the second element and we all took flight, the travel jets would only last fifteen minutes, but if that wasn’t enough, then we’d be late anyway.

    We all had training with the travel element and how to breathe properly when at top speed. But, that still didn’t make the constant vapor locks pleasant. Halfway through the trip, I saw the landing lights on the airfield and angles a little to the left. I recognized their direction and knew that the angle would put us almost dead on to the parade field in front of the barracks. Most of the teams angled with me.

    We had just passed the outer fence when the fuel warning began to sound. I checked the wrist monitor and saw that I was down to thirty seconds. I moved lower to the ground and almost flew into a pole in the Playground. I was at five seconds when I spun and used the thrust to slow enough for a landing. I was just in time, too. I came to a hover about ten feet up when the pack died.

    I hit the ground and made sure that I didn’t lose any of my team. When I counted all three heads, I ran for the Parade field, visible under its lights at the end of the street. I got there just as Chief Mendez was walking into his formation spot. I was out of breath and my back was sore, but I was in formation with five minutes to spare. The rest of the squad arrived in time, a couple of them limping.

    The Chief called us to formation and called for a head count. All seventy-one of us sounded off with our numbers. He looked at John and asked for the Tango Company flag. John marched forward, presented it to him, and saluted. Mendez returned the salute and examined the piece of material.

    Chief Petty Officer Mendez then told us that because of our tactical brilliance, we would have the entirety of tomorrow off. Dinner was being served now and breakfast was at 0700 in the mess hall. Before he could say anything more, Red Team volunteered to take the jump packs back to the airfield. Mendez narrowed his eyes, but nodded. I guess it was better to volunteer than be assigned. Mendez dismissed us and said that next formation would be PT formation day after tomorrow. We all cheered.

    I stripped my pack and made sure my weapon was attached to the side. I saw that Jerome and Douglas were walking to the side of the field where a couple of Flatbed Warthogs were located. I turned and went in to dinner. Red didn’t show up until close to the end of dinner and they were all smiling about something. I wonder if one of the trainers snuck them an MRE or something. I know that I was starving when I finally sat down to eat. The rest of the evening was the same as usual with exercise and cleaning.

    The next morning, this morning, I woke up at 0515 and decided to roll over and go back to sleep. I woke at 0600 when I heard everyone else moving around. I took my time getting dressed and cleaned up. At 0700, I went into the mess hall for food, but the trays weren’t on the tables like usual. The chief was probably planning something really good or really bad. I didn’t mind, though. I had the whole day to relax, exercise, and maybe read Starship Troopers again.

    At 0715, Mendez walked into the mess hall. We snapped to attention, but he told us to take our seats. Behind him were two trainers in armor with rifles and between them was Jane. But, she was bruised and had a patch over her eye. I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

    He yelled out that she was laboring under the delusion that the code of the schoolyard, whatever that was, was more important than their duty to the UNSC. He said that until one of us stepped forward and tells him who instigated and participated in the brawl, then specifically singled out red team, that mess time would be replaced by a period of fasting so we could contemplate where our loyalties lay. He finished by telling us that we do not abuse each other, that was his job. He asked if we understood, to which we all replied that we did.

    Jane walked through the room to Black’s table. Gary leaned in and asked what was going to happen now. I didn’t know. Well, it turns out that the Chief was serious about the fasting. We didn’t get breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We sat in the mess hall until 0800. That’s when Chief Mendez came in and told us that our free time was canceled. Instead we ran the Jungle Gym until lunch. For lunch, we sat in the mess hall for an hour with only water. After lunch, it was back to the jungle gym. Dinner was the same.

    We were finally released at 2100 for cleaning and hygiene and the Chief told us that our period of fasting was over, but we were back to a lock-down of no free time except for personal time at night for cleaning and hygiene until he determined that we were able to accept the responsibility.

    I am tired and hungry and ready for bed. So, log off.
  19. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    2132 hours, February 20, 2522 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

    I woke up at 0515 and made my way back to the head. John was already there brushing his teeth. I looked at him in the mirror and he shook his head no. Since Red jumped Jane, the Chief hasn’t been sending John any schedule updates on his datapad. We had no idea what to prepare for, even if just a hint.

    I washed my face and brushed my teeth. My arms were still sore from yesterday. Chief Mendez had us scaling the side of the barracks and free-rappelling down from after dinner until hygiene time. My palms are calloused a little more even though we were all using gloves.

    Jerome walked in toward the end of our meeting and we all just glared. Red still hadn’t come forward. Two days of fast and they didn’t come forward. Almost two months of only having 30 minutes of free time in the evening, and they didn’t come forward. None of us would disobey the Chief and beat the crap out of them, but it didn’t mean we had to show them that we liked them, either.

    The bay lights came on and I made sure the rest of my Team was up and running. I went back and cleaned by bunk before running out to PT formation. Cross-country skiers, hand jumps (from close hand to wide arm), and leg spreaders; two sets of each. Finally, wind sprints at a fast run through the six mile course to the academy.

    The moment I sat down at my desk, I downed my entire bottle of water. The room hadn’t changed, but I noticed that I no longer fit in my desk like I used to. My legs were touching the bottom of the desk if I lifted my feet onto my toes. Also, it seemed closer to me than it did before. I looked around and could see that everything looked the same, but also different from when we all first arrived.

    I just shrugged and started eating. Today was a Military History class, so I wouldn’t have to worry about finding time to study. Dèjá appeared and told us that we would be learning about one of the best fighting forces of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries on Earth. The Navy SEALs.

    In many ways, we were like the SEALs. Highly trained, to the point of physical perfection, and prepared to accomplish any mission set before them. They weren’t standard soldiers, but were the height of Special Forces for the United States of America. Comparing regular troops to the SEALs was like comparing a club to a katana. The SEALs were always outnumbered, but accomplished their missions by being masters of their craft. Everything from demolitions to sniping, intelligence to combatives, there were no forces that would beat them.

    Dèjá showed a ship in the middle of the ocean and then illuminated two small rafts moving up along either side. Each raft carried six SEALs, that began climbing up the side of the ship. It was a cruise liner, my datapad said. Crew of 100, 500 passengers, 25 pirates. By the time I looked back up, both teams had made their way onto the deck of the ship.

    Dèjá followed both teams as they walked through the ship, securing it. She explained the tactics and equipment they were using, including their training and how it prepared them. When they came upon a pirate (outlined in red), they took them out with precise shots from their suppressed weapons. The last pirate was on the bridge, holding the captain and bridge officers with an explosive.

    The SEAL sniper and his spotter disengaged themselves and moved to the bow. The sniper climbed a pole on the bow and took aim. I noticed Gary watching his datapad and seeing the sight picture of the SEAL’s scope. One slight movement of his finger and the shot slowed and followed the bullet straight through the window of the bridge and the head of the pirate.

    Dèjá dismissed us today and told us to remember what we learned, as the teamwork and training was paramount to success in missions. I tossed my empty water bottle in the trash as I ran to hit the head. With that done, I ran outside and formed up at attention.

    Mendez looked us over and smiled. He said that today we would be running to the Junkyard. He right faced us and we began the run off post. Once past the gate, we took a left and followed the fence toward the tether. We continued on until, in the distance, I saw what looked like a small town. As we got closer, I saw a little more clearly that it wasn’t a town, but a jumble of some kind. We stopped just shy of two hours after leaving the Academy at the gate of a fence surrounding the Junkyard.

    It truly was a jumble. I saw the parts from Falcons, Scorpions, Warthogs, Pelicans, Sparrowhawks, Mongooses, Hornets, and even a couple of smaller naval ships. There were walls of jagged metal, piles of burned tires, pools of fluids, and an almost dead look to the entire scene. I didn’t believe in ghosts, but if I did, this is where they would live. The light wind that blew through the mass of junk whistled and howled; blowing the rancid odors deeper in the yard toward us. The Chief told us it was a decommissioning yard for older military vehicles and for the vehicles used on the artillery ranges.

    A troop hog pulled up ten trainers got out of it. They were all wearing full combat gear: ODST armor with suppressed weapons. Brown team unloaded a crate from the Hog and began tossing bottles of water and MREs from it. I got the stuffed shells. Not bad, but it only had regular cheese and crackers.

    When I was finished eating, I tossed the empty bottle and bag back to Brown and they put it back in the crate and lifted it onto the Warthog. We formed up and Mendez told us that our mission was to E&E our way through the Junkyard. We would be searching out flags. Each flag would be our team color and contain our Trainee Number on it. Once we found our flag, we would make our way back to him. We were not allowed to touch any flag other than ours.

    Oh, and then he told us that the ten trainers would be searching for us and would shoot us if they found us. He never told us if we would be punished or if we would be docked points. He finished by saying that the last two teams to return would forfeit dinner. Because this was a game of “tag” he would give us one minute head start before he let the Trainers in. Then, go.

    As we were running into the ruins, I heard Angela talking to the rest of Black (they were next to us in formation). She said something about Red, but I couldn’t catch all of it. I lead White into the interior of the Junkyard and by the time one minute was up, I couldn’t see any other team. We ran through it straight to the other side. I saw Blue for a second before they ducked around an overturned Warthog. From what I saw of the width in the front and the length, I determined that it was about a thousand feet on a side.

    We were running toward one of the corners when Gary hissed out. Immediately, we all were on the ground. I rolled over against the hull of a small craft I didn’t recognize and froze. I knew the rest of the team had likewise found cover. It didn’t take long for me to see two pairs of boots, the lower shin armor of ODSTs walk by. I stayed down and didn’t move until I heard a second hiss, this time from Corey.

    We came out and tracked back where they had come from. Around the corner, I saw some drag marks under a Scorpion and ducked my head under to see Arthur from Orange team rubbing dirt on the red TTR toxin on James’ chest. We nodded to each other and I took White further into the interior. On the way, I saw my first flag. Though, it was for Violet.

    We passed a couple of other flags before finding one of the White. It was Corey’s, with the S-134 emblazoned on its rectangular shape. He pulled it down and shoved it into his shirt. Gary’s was next, on the far south-western side of the Junkyard. We passed three more two-man patrols on the way. Unfortunately, we still hadn’t seen mine or Christy’s flag.

    We started making our way back into the interior of the Junkyard when I saw movement. My hiss never made it past my lips as I saw Jane coming out. She was smiling, which was very uncharacteristic of her. Behind her was Thomas, Angela, and Victor. I noticed that Victor had a club that he tossed away the moment he saw us. They must have been looking for their flags, but the only one in the hole they were in was a Red flag.

    Gary gave a slight whistle through his teeth. I looked back at him and followed his eyes up to the tail of a Falcon. On the tail was a piece of white material fluttering in the breeze. I leaped up on the side of the Falcon and climbed on top using the maintenance hatches. The entire thing shifted as I made my way to the end of the tail. It was dangerous, but I needed the flag. As I neared the tail, I saw Gary and Corey assist Christy up to grab the flag.

    The moment she hit the ground, I saw movement over one of the junk piles. It was a dull dark gray object that was round and bouncing lightly with a walk. There was a second one right behind it. I hissed and slowly leaned back toward the nose of the craft. I heard the others take cover and felt a sudden weight in the nose. The shift made me fall and I hit just behind the central hump on the back. I heard boots scraping the dirt faster and then clearer as they came around the corner. I knew their movement sensors would immediately give us away, but they would still have to find us.

    I heard one coming alongside the Falcon closer to where I was at. I heard a slight vibration and knew they were talking. All one would have to do is step into the crew compartment and lift themself up to see me. I heard one step inside the craft and knew that one of my team was somewhere in the nose section. I couldn’t allow that to happen.

    Very slowly I reached up and grabbed one of the remaining running lights. I knew that it was held in by a pinch lock. With my hand all the way over my head, I didn’t have the leverage to lift it out, but thought I might be able to giggle it loose. I just got it unseated when I heard something hit the ground across the clearing. I felt a shift inside the ship and heard two sets of shots hit something and splatter.

    I heard a rhythmic sound of chuckling as both the trainers moved off. When I was sure they were gone, I rolled to the other side and lifted my head to see which of my team had taken the hit for the rest of us. To my surprise, it was none of them. On the ground, slowly kicking in a circle was a jackrabbit. I chuckled a little as well as I hissed.

    Gary slid out from right beside where the jackrabbit was laying. I saw that one of his eyes was half-closed, a drop of TTR toxin paralyzing it. Christy was laying under the port runner from a Hornet. I leaned my head over the cockpit and saw Corey smile up at me from in front of the pilot’s seat. I shook my head and rolled my eyes. Christy and Gary were staring. How neither of the Trainers saw him, I didn’t know.

    I slid down and Christy planted the flag in my hand. I looked at it and saw a 78 not crumpled in my palm. I shoved it into my uniform and looked at the three of my team. Smiling, I whispered that we were set and would meet Christy back at the entry point. She punched me in the arm and Gary moved off on point without a word.

    We continued on for fifteen minutes, passing a couple of other teams and having to hide from a pair of trainers only once. In the end, we found Christy’s flag toward the entrance to the Junkyard. It was half hidden by about a dozen rolls of concertina wire. We had to crawl on top of the wall it was hanging from and lowered Christy down to grab it.

    With the fourth flag, we exited the Junkyard around the side and made our way back to the front. We were the fifth team to make it out ahead of Blue, Black, Green, and Pink. I noticed that Fhajad, Alice, and Jorge had splatters of red on them. Oh, and Murphy looked to have caught rounds from the front and back. Everyone was resting to the side of the entrance where Chief Mendez was standing.

    I walked up and Mendez pinned me with a look. Immediately, I pulled out my flag, along with the rest of my team. He nodded and motioned his head toward everyone else. We went over and caught water bottles that Jane threw.

    For the next half an hour, the rest of the teams slowly came back. We exchanged what had happened, the high points and low points of our searches, and generally kept our morale high and voiced low. Well, everyone except for Black. They were rather somber and kept casting glances at the Chief. It wasn’t normal for them not to get in on a little boasting, but I guessed they were just sore about not coming in first.

    At about 1600, we were missing one team when a Trainer ran out toward the formation. He wasn’t in a pair and was moving too fast to have been patrolling. He spoke with the Chief for a moment, his voice amp turned down on his helmet. I looked around and saw that every eye was on the scene. Mendez’s face got really red and he clenched his jaw several times. Finally, he barked out to form and call for assistance.

    He spun and ordered us to fall in. We did, quicker than I thought was possible. He speared John with a look and told him to run us back to the Barracks. Once there, we would hit the gym until he arrived. He turned and narrowed his eyes at Jane and told her and the rest of Black to fall out. They did and the Trainer walked over and stood behind them. Mendez told John that he had his orders and to move out. I saw the Chief walking into the Junkyard as we turned for the run back to base. That’s when I realized that Jerome and the rest of Red hadn’t come out.

    John kept us at a faster clip than the Chief had on the way out. I didn’t mind, though. Each of the team leaders got a chance to lead running cadences. When it came time for me, I chose Mission Top Secret, Destination Unknown. In the middle of my cadence, a Pelican with the red and white cross of a medical vehicle swooped overhead from the Junkyard. I wondered momentarily if Red had jumped a pair of the Trainers and injured one, but that wouldn’t explain why the Chief had also kept Black there. We made it back to the barracks by 1730 and went straight into the gym.

    For the next hour and a half, we all just worked out. Kelly, Li, Carris, Serin, Maria, Daisy, and Christy were practicing combatives. When one would fall, they’d roll to the side and the next would come in to attack the winner. Most of the fights were Li and Christy until one would get tired. I hit the punching bags with John, Jorge, Arthur, Kurt, and Solomon. Punching for fifteen and then holding for the next person. Well, it wasn’t just punching, but you get the picture.

    At 1900, the bells sounded for dinner. We looked at John and he just shrugged and said it was time for chow. Everyone went to the Mess where we found our trays all prepared for us, except for the two furthest tables which were empty. Dinner was a huge taco salad. It had taco meat, lettuce, tomato, refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, onions, rice, and tomatoes on it. Dessert was a root beer float. Like every other meal we have ever eaten in the mess, it tasted amazing.

    I got done and waited for the rest of my team to finish. Gary took the longest spooning out the ice cream from his root beer before drinking it and letting out a long and loud belch. There were some snickers from another table when someone else let out a belch. Then another belch, and another. Before I knew it, pretty much everyone was belching. Finally, Christy drank down the last of her root beer and let out the loudest belch I have ever heard. It got applause from everyone in the Mess. Someone even whistled over the applause.

    I was laughing too hard to say anything, but I gave her a shoulder bump as we all got up. We took care of our trays and made our way to the gym. Before any of us could get to the machines, though, Chief Mendez’s voice came over the intercom and ordered us into formation after dinner. I just shrugged and we all walked outside.

    He was waiting in his normal position as we exited the door and ran to get into formation. We were next to Green. It took about ten minutes for everyone to gather. The last team out of the building made sure the doors closed tight, dropped for fifty push-ups, and ran into formation. It was something we had begun since Red jumped Black.

    Mendez gave us all a slit-eyed look and stood us at ease. That made me nervous as I turned my head to face him with my body locked at parade rest. I was waiting for the weapons fire when Chief Mendez pulled his motivator off his belt and began to pace in front of the formation. He swung it and slammed it into his palm as he walked. That made me even more nervous. An instructor hadn’t taken out their shock stick for at least a year except when training.

    He told us that Team Black was confined to the brig for the next ten days. He let that sink in for a full minute before telling us that Team Red would join us as they were released from the infirmary. Team Black, acting on a sense of revenge had attacked and beaten Team Red in an ambush while at the Junkyard. He told us that Team Black told him they worked alone, but he wanted to know if any of us had helped them or known about the attack. He spun and pointed his motivator at his to emphasize his last point.

    As one, we all yelled, “sir, no Chief Mendez, sir.” He nodded and told us that any petty grievances we may harbor toward one another ended now. If there was a next time, he let the words hang in the air for a moment. We would get an immediate combatives lesson and would all end up in the infirmary. He then asked us if he was clear. We replied, “sir, yes Chief Mendez, sir.” He then told us that we were to hit the gym until it was time for cleaning and hygiene, and then dismissed us.

    We all ran back into the building and straight to the gym. I got into one of the leg machines and began rotating through legs, arms, and core. I couldn’t believe that Black would do that. Sure, Jane lost her eye to Red, but to ambush them during a training mission? Why would they do that? I didn’t pay attention to any of the light buzz of conversation around me. It was just a little too much for me to deal with, so I just fell into the exercise routine. Well, I did until John yelled out that it was 2030 and time to clean.

    I went back to the bay and showered. White had toilet detail, but we also picked up sinks for Red. It took us a little longer than normal to get things cleaned with everyone cycling through. By the time we were finished, the lights were out in the main bay. I crawled into my bunk pod and did this. Well, that’s about it for now. I just hope nobody else screws up badly, I much prefer the free time we all used to have at night.

    Log off.
  20. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    1744 hours, May 17, 2522 (Military Calendar) / Malibu Shores System, Midway Field Base, planet Emerald Cove

    DR. HALSEY’S NOTE: I am not surprised by the actions that my Spartans undertook this week. When Franklin took them back to total control, I told him that they would rebel. Even the useless ONI psychologists warned that this would happen. What surprises me is the skill they used to undertake such an endeavor. They did not have long to plan it, but it happened with such a masterful precision that I know now this program is succeeding. I have also instructed Franklin to lift the restrictions he had put them under, rather than tightening them even more. Next time, they might not let us find them.


    I woke up to the hissing and felt cold. My eyes hurt as I opened them, but I still forced myself to do so. I swallowed and tried to breathe, but it was just as difficult as the rest of the times we had come out of cryo. I reached out and hit the release lever to open my tube.

    There were trainers in the room, but they weren’t here to help us. They were here to supervise us as they had for the past four months. Trainers in the head, trainers in the shower, trainers in the Mess. Mendez had even attempted to put trainers in the classroom, but Dèjá had forbid it. But, that didn’t stop him from stationing them right outside the classroom door.

    I leaned forward and took as deep a breath as I could. I imagined that this was what drowning felt like, as I couldn’t get any actual air into my lungs. I coughed, feeling the fluid coating the inside of my chest spill out my mouth and onto the floor of the cryo room. I did it again and stood up, finally able to take in a full breath.

    I looked left and asked for a status report from White. Christy, Gary, and Corey all responded in the positive, but Gary did so through coughs. I looked left and yelled out that White was up. I pushed myself out of the gel bed and walked over to the shower unit against the wall. I had to stand in line for a minute behind Dorian, but then a shower head opened up and I walked under it.

    The water was hot. So hot that it actually made my hands and feet hurt with the temperature difference. I hit the button on the wall and closed my eyes as a spray of soap hit me. Scrubbing with my hands, I rinsed it off and moved to the port bulkhead for my locker. I toweled off and slipped into my uniform. After tying my boots, I formed up with the rest of the squad to wait for Chief Mendez to arrive.

    We were aboard the ONI Section Three light corvette, Trial by Fire. We had spent the past week in cryo while we were in transit for Emerald Cove for a training mission. All we were told is that the training involved aquatic and the seas of Reach were too turbulent for the kind of training we would be undergoing. But, that didn’t stop us from being curious.

    One of the first things that anyone did was to look up the planetary statistics on the datapads. It was forwarded to everyone’s datapad and I fell in love with the planet. It was a tropical paradise. Its slow rotation meant that there was very few heavy weather patterns. It was close to the star, but the primary’s size was small enough to keep the average temperature a nice twenty-nine degrees. The largest land mass was a population center, but we would be training near one of the hundreds of archipelagos.

    We were lead in formation to one of the Marine briefing areas on the ship. Mendez was waiting for us there. The Chief had us stand at attention for five minutes while he spoke with a naval officer. Finally, he called us to parade rest and began his briefing. Behind him, the screen lit up with information.

    We would be prepping for the mission on the ship. At 0900 we would launch by Pelican Superhaul and fly to the southern Archipelago near the UNSC Lord Nelson base. We would perform an aquatic insertion with our instructors and make our way 10 kilometers to a point designated Midway. At Midway, we would build a training encampment and go through three days of training. The first day would be underwater demolitions; the second would be underwater combat operations; and the third would be underwater maneuver, escape, and evasion. The fourth and fifth days, we would launch an assault on Lord Nelson base, current temporary duty assignment of Tango Company. We would infiltrate via the sea, capture their flag, and return to the evac point.

    He turned and the screen flashed to the ship’s symbol before deactivating. He walked over to a set of locker boxes. Each box had our numbers on them. We were instructed to make sure our gear was serviceable and prepare for the mission. In each box were a survival skin, our typical weapon loadout, and a diving rebreather. With that he fell us out.

    I found the stack of White Team’s boxes and opened mine up. I took the survival skin out and gave the seals and seams a complete inspection before changing into it. Next, I pulled my Assault Rifle out of the box, broke it down, cleaned and lubricated it, and put it back together. Finally, I pulled out my rebreather and began going over it. It was good to go, but it was the only one in White Team. Gary’s was empty, Corey’s mouthpiece was clogged, and Christy’s had a faulty seal on the main breathing tube.

    I went to John and he was pissed. Apparently, half of the tanks we were issued were sabotaged. That was Mendez and his training practice. He always told us not to rely on technology because machines were easy to break. He proved it by breaking mission-critical items before issuing them to us to make us train around them. Well, this time John had a plan.

    We had been under total control for too long. Everyone was on edge, snapping at each other, and everyone seemed to get more tired every day. Dèjá told us that our grades were slipping and required us to study more, which meant that Chief Mendez pushed lights out to 2230 with mandatory supervised study time. By supervised, it meant that we were watched by trainers and even motivated if we began speaking to each other, even if it meant asking a question. After a month, Chief Mendez even ordered that we no longer be able to link our datapads because he felt we were not studying hard enough in groups.

    John pulled the team leaders aside and told us to follow his lead on the bird, and keep our fields of fire true. He then told us to make sure our teams were cool and to act like nothing was wrong. We all agreed and finished getting our gear on. I attached my assault rifle to the magplate on my dive pack and filled my pouches with the extra magazines in the trunk. I finished it off by attaching the ka-bar to my left shin. I checked the blade, and it was so dull that I could have cut better with the other side.

    The Chief came back in and called us to attention. We stood in formation as he and the other seventeen trainers got into their survival skins. They took their time preparing their gear for the mission, joking and laughing behind us. I even smelled the acrid smoke from one of Chief Mendez’s Sweet William cigars. My back began hurting from the weight of the air tank. After twenty minutes, according to the ship’s clock on the bulkhead, the Chief told us to follow him in a double-file line to the drop bay.

    We boarded up and sat at attention after strapping in. The instructors took their air tanks off and put them in mission lockers before strapping into the front of the compartment. I took off my rifle and held it barrel-down between my feet. As the Pelican began to rumble and the gravity dropped away, I carefully slid a magazine of TTRs into the well. When the roar of atmospheric entry hit, I pressed the charging stud and carefully pulled the charging handle to the rear, the ammo indicator reading a full magazine.

    I wasn’t alone; I heard others doing the same. Mostly it was the light click of SMGs, but at least one DMR was also loaded. One of the instructors unfastened their belts and walked to the rear. He opened the hatch and a rush of warm, humid air filled the cabin. I looked over at John and saw him resting his hand on the butt of his MA5B.

    He made the finger sign for three as the instructor moved back up to the head of the cabin. I reached down and got ready, knowing what would be coming. He made the finger sign for two as the instructor strapped in. I heard the retro rockets begin to fire on the ship. He made the finger sign for one as the entire compartment began to shake. John’s final finger fell and several things happened at once.

    First, the thick atmosphere of the planet began to warp around the decelerating Pelican. This warp created a phenomenon where the ship was traveling faster than its own sound shockwave. It was known in most places as a sonic boom. With the rear door to the Pelican opened, this boom reverberated around the cabin. At the exact same time, every team leader raised their weapons and put at least three shots of TTR into the chest of the instructors sitting in the front of the cabin. The feel and sound of the shockwave masked the reports of the rifles and the wind blowing through the cabin immediately sucked the smell of the cordite out.

    We all unhooked and began prepping for a dirty drop. That’s what Chief Mendez called high speed deployments into the lake. We had been practicing that for the past two months and were doing it in probable preparation for today. The damaged tanks were left onboard and instead, people grabbed the eighteen instructor tanks that were in the mission lockers in the rear of the Superhaul.

    We had dropped to about thirty feet when John gave us a thumbs up, pulled his suits goggles down, and ran out the back of the Pelican in almost a full sprint. That would help to counteract some of the acceleration, we were taught. Blue followed him out, then Black, then Green, and then it was White’s turn. I ran out into the open air and force my legs straight and crossed my arms over my chest. I turned myself into a dart and forced a breath into my lungs.

    I hit the water and slid in smoothly. Opening my eyes, I saw the surface about fifteen feet above me. I let out my lungful of air as I swam up. I heard only a couple more splashes to my right as the Pelican flew off into the distance. I gathered up White and we began swimming toward John. He made a hand-motion toward a nearby Island and we all began heading that way.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, a full-speed combat drop into the water is effective, but it is not very pleasant. My first time, I sprained my ankle so badly that I was limping for a week. That really sucked when we were running. I made sure to check the rest of my team as we took off our dive tanks and locked them together. We all hung on and kicked, using the tanks as floats. It reminded me of the Navy SEAL tactics from a few months ago.

    The island was further away than I thought. It was also much bigger than I thought. We arrived about two hours after we hit water. I was tired. Even with the constant physical training, combat exertion was very taxing on the body. We pulled ourselves up on the sand, fifth team there, and made our way quickly to the cover of the trees. The native vegetation had wide canopy leaves and hid the ground perfectly from aerial surveillance.

    We stacked the air tanks and camouflaged them under a near net of loam that seemed to be the local grass equivalent. After that, John sent us to recon the island, specifically looking for sources of food, water, and signs of habitation. White was assigned to head to the top of the central peak on the island and do aerial recon.

    When I said peak, I meant plateau. Most of the island was a lush forest filled with cocoapple trees, birds (some of which were straight up lizards with feathers and beaks), and not much else. The central part of the island was a gently climbing hill that was about five hundred feet above the beach. It was a relatively easy climb compared to some of the things on Reach, especially the rock wall heading toward the Playground.

    The plateau was a volcano once, but it was dead or dormant long enough for the light weather patterns to erode it flat. From the top, we could see no signs of habitation on the island. Though, Gary did take a couple of pot shots at someone on the beach before laughing as a round flew by. Sometimes, I don’t think any of the squad’s snipers are quite right in the head. We were able to track a spring that flowed down to a small glade before making its way out to the ocean. The water had a slight mineral taste, but read green on the survival card we tested it on. Likewise, the fruits read green (so we each had one for lunch).

    We made our way back to John and gave the report about the spring. The other teams came back and gave similar reports about the island. It was about six miles across at the widest and four at the narrowest. The only native species were the birds and there were three kinds of fruit trees, all citrus. One team found that there were clams, some kind of large prawn, and an abundance of dull-colored fish (meaning they weren’t venomous) swimming around the shallows just off the beach.

    John decided that we should move our gear closer to the spring outlet and set up a base camp. It was a three mile hike under the cover of the palms, but it was beautiful. It was warm, relaxing, and more of a hike than a march. We arrived just short of 1700 and took cover as a Pelican slowly guided across the sky. It was back-tracking the Superhaul and was probably looking for any sign of us. It passed and John said we would set up base there.

    Twice while we were setting up a camp under the trees, a Pelican flew over the island on a patrol route. They were doing visual inspections, but John made sure we cleared our footprints from the shore. Black and Violet took the air tanks and began collecting the prawns, clams, and fish for dinner. Blue and Red made some camo nets that could be pulled over the base camp in case someone actually landed here. Pink and Purple dug out some temporary positions that we could use for beds and lined them with the loam nets. White and Brown dug cat holes for the head about fifty meters south of camp and set up quick pull camo for them (doubling as privacy curtains). Everyone else went into the forest to catch birds and pick fruit.

    When the sun finally set, we built a bonfire to cook with and for general warmth. It wasn’t exactly cold, but without the sun it wasn’t warm either. The food was amazing. It wasn’t spiced, but the citrus juices on everything made up for it. Anton wouldn’t stop going on about the clams, but I preferred the prawns. The bird wasn’t bad either, but it was a little oily. Even the roasted citrus fruits tasted good. About 2100, John set up a one-hour team-sized fire guard and watch, starting with Blue and following with each team in alphabetic order. Then, we all crawled into the temporary positions and went to sleep.

    The next morning, I woke up at 0515, looked around at all the other team leaders, and decided to go back to sleep. I remember being jostled a little at 0530 when most everyone else woke up and moved around before going back to sleep themselves. I woke up again at 0900 and found about a quarter of the squad burying the dying embers of the fire. Someone, I think Ralph said Cyan, smoked a bunch of the clams, fish, and birds for everyone for breakfast.

    Everyone else got up around ten and ate. It was strange not doing PT, even stranger not having to wake up so early. But, the sun was up and it was warm. I went and hit the cat hole before diving into the ocean to wash up. I almost lost my survival skin, but was able to catch it when a wave spun me around. I swam out about fifteen minutes and then back, just to do some exercise so I wouldn’t feel so bad. When I got back, everyone was doing their own thing.

    A few people were weaving nets to catch fish. Some were doing the same to make baskets to hold food and what not. Anton, Corey, and about five others were carving up some fallen logs to make body boards for surfing. I went with a dozen others to check out some caves at the base of the mountain. Christy caught up when we were about halfway there.

    They weren’t steep, but we still tied off to a tree before rappelling into them. Sheila used the light from her magnum to see down. It was an old lava tube and ended after only about eighty feet or so. But, at the bottom, there was a huge mass of quartz. It turned Sheila’s light into a rainbow on the walls. It was amazing. After a while, we pulled ourselves up out of the tunnel and made our way back to camp.

    We were almost there when we heard the engines approaching. A flight of Sparrowhawks were incoming and we each hit the ground and ringed up on the trees. I could see the beach and saw everyone doing the same, including a group out in the waves who seemed to just disappear beneath the tide. After a minute or two, the jets passed over and we continued what we were doing.

    I got to the beach and Corey tossed me one of the body boards he carved and told me that I needed to have a little fun. I didn’t argue. I’d never been surfing before, but it looked easy enough. I kicked my way out to the edge of the surf-line and waited with Thomas, Kurt, Carris, and Cal. When a good wave came up, I started kicked back toward shore and held myself up on the board. It was like flying! Well, until the wave crashed and I ended up with a mouth full of sand next to Corey who fell down laughing. Jerk.

    The Sparrowhawk flight flew by a couple more times before night fall, and each time, we hid. None of us were ready to be found yet. At night, we build another fire and cooked dinner. This time, we made sure to cook and smoke enough for tomorrow so we could eat more than fruit without starting a fire. None of us really slept in the temporaries. I just lounged back and stared up at the stars before I fell asleep.

    The third morning was about the same as the second. I woke up, rolled over, and went back to sleep. At about seven, I had to answer a call of nature and went out for a swim/bath. I got back and had some smoked calamari and fruit. The hard shelled citrus fruits tasted like a cross between lemons and strawberries. Everyone was awake by nine and seemed to follow the same pattern as me.

    When everyone was up and back at the camp, John said he wanted to play tag. So, we organized a team-on-team game of tag and it was decided by team leaders drawing of straws that Blue was It. John began counting to a hundred as the rest of the squad ran off into the forest. I made sure that I had plenty of ammo in my rifle and made a turn for the caverns.

    I heard a single shot fired into the air and knew John had reached 100. I tied off a rope to a tree and threw it into the hole that we climbed into the day before. Rather than climb down, I gave the dispersal sign and went to hide under a bush. Well, it was a baby palm-pine, but it was close enough. I saw Christy climb a tree and Gary just seemed to melt into the rock face. I was wondering when he had built the ghillie suit from the loam net, but I decided not to dwell on it.

    About an hour later, I saw a couple members of Blue walk by with René, Serin, and Vinh. Serin stopped near where I was and scanned around. Vinh looked into the hole and I saw the red stain of TTR toxin on the back of his thigh. I saw René take aim and pull the trigger before Corey yelped. He stood up and flexed his paralyzed shoulder before joining the hunt team. As per the rules, he couldn’t attack any of his teammates or give away their position.

    Fifteen minutes later I felt a snap on my calf and my foot went numb. It took two seconds for the sniper rifle report to reach me. I exclaimed that they had Linda on the hill and got up to begin a search on my own. I wished the rest of the team luck and went off hunting. I was able to tag Solomon and Li within five minutes of each other, then Li tagged Angela and she in turn tagged Alice who was hiding about five feet from her. Well, technically, they weren’t on the same team.

    At the three-hour time limit, we all began calling Oly Oly Oxen Free to bring the survivors out of hiding. There were twelve survivors, Gary being one of them. Somehow, even Soren got tagged and he was the best at hiding of anyone else. I guessed it was Linda on the plateau that tagged him because it was in the same spot as mine. Douglas, Alice, Jane, and Victor walked back to the base camp laughing and joking, which was odd seeing the animosity Red and Black had shared for most of the year.

    The rest of the day was filled with shooting the cut ends of the cocoapples from a hundred meters while they were thrown into the air, what Chief Mendez called skeet shooting, surfing, seeing who could swim the fastest, and then just relaxing in the sun. The saltwater washed the TTR off our combat skins easily and even seemed to take care of the residual sting from the impact.

    There were no flyovers and we built another fire and cooked dinner around it after sundown. Again, we gorged ourselves. Someone caught a small school of squid and we had plenty of roast calamari with everything. After eating, we just sat back and tried to identify where Reach was in the constellations. We were all still trying to figure it out when I fell asleep.

    White had the 0500 to 0600 watch. Gary and Corey took the basket with smoked fish off of the rocks that Violet had on the Embers. Christy made sure the netting was secure and ready over the cat hole and I sat at the waterline and watched the sky. Am I glad that I did, too. I was able to see the flight of Falcons heading toward the islands from the direction of Lord Nelson base.

    Unlike before where the patrol craft would fly in a slow path over the islands, I could make out that each Falcon in the flight was heading toward specific islands. That’s how I could tell that one was coming here, almost straight toward this island.

    I yelled out that we had incoming and everyone exploded into movement. Even if we were taking the week off, you couldn’t take out the training from the past five years from us. Most people were running toward the trees before they even woke up. Christy kicked a pile of sand back into the pit and pulled the net over it. Gary and Corey buried the fire and pulled some folded back loam-vine into place over the stone circle. I ran up and checked to make sure the rebreather tanks were hidden and secure under their vines, blending into the base of a bunch of nettle pine shrubs. With that, White took off to hide.

    The rotary craft circled the entire island before setting down on the beach close to where we made landfall. By the time it finally set down, I knew that the entire squad was completely spread out through the entirety of the small landmass. White was still moving as the ship dipped past the tree tops and its whine quieted to the gentle tone of idling.

    Gary and Corey broke away toward the base of the hill and I saw them hit the dirt with Gary throwing his ghillie net over them both. Christy and I had other ideas. Down in the lava tube, she had found a secondary tunnel that formed off the roof of the main tube. It took us five minutes to maneuver into, but we both finally got in. Though, it was a tight fit and I was half lying on top of her.

    It took an hour before I saw a group of Marines finally come to inspect the hole. I saw they had their eyepieces set and could make out the gently lights of a heads up display. That meant they were using motion detectors. I carefully opened my mouth and began slow breathing and controlling my body not to make more than slow natural motions.

    One of them stopped next to the mouth of the cave, fully visible from where Christy and I were hiding. Thankfully, she had grown her hair out a little longer and let me drape it over my face. It’s probably what saved us from being seen by the search party. Then, I saw who was leading the party… Petty Officer Hicks. In training, he could usually spot even Gary with his ghillie suits.

    I forced myself to not stop breathing as he tied a rope off and made his way into the hole. He looked right at me in the secondary tube, but without any light, couldn’t see me. Even so, I completely froze. At that close range, motion detectors could pick up even careful breathing. He got to the bottom of the tube and I heard a small commotion, someone yelled, and then a small flock of three lizard birds flew out. Hicks cursed and pulled his way out of the hole.

    It was another three hours before I heard someone calling Oly Oly. My calves were cramping a little from the lack of movement and Christy and I were both becoming very aware of the face that neither of us had been touched this much, for this long, ever. It was a little… well, a little awkward. However, with the all clear code being yelled out, we made our way out of the mini-cave and back to the beach. We picked up Gary and Corey too, echoing the all clear.

    Isaac said he was the first to hear Hicks call this island deserted. He was about two meters into the woodline behind the landing zone. The instructor was called to inspect another island that was giving off some hear signatures and smoke. But, from the sounds, the island was at least fifty miles south.

    John had us do a count and all teams were four-strong. We had one sprained ankle and a couple of minor cuts from the incident. Those were taken care of by Dorian and Kirk, two of the best medics during training. The squad leader then ordered that the single-team watch would remain in effect at all times, making sure to keep eyes on the horizon. He gave me a pat on the shoulder as a thanks for alerting the rest of the squad.

    The rest of the day was similar to before. I bathed in the ocean, but this time took a couple of slices of the cocoapple to wash with. Christy told me that was the reason for the smell of her hair and it was generally better than just wiping the salt water on your skin. Well, she was right.

    After that, I did more surfing and then decided to run around the island with the rest of White before sunset. It wasn’t a race, but we ended up in a full sprint back toward the basecamp. We arrived when the sun was dipping low and they were building another bonfire. This one was further under the trees to avoid satellite detection (another thing Isaac heard).

    The next day was entirely full of relaxation for me. I bathed after waking, swam in the shallows and caught some prawns for the food stock, but other than that, I did nothing more than sit against a tree and watch the clouds. I dozed off a couple of times and once woke up to find Grace’s head on one shoulder and Sheila’s head on the other. However, I noticed that I was one of the few able to relax.

    There were a couple of arguments that had to be broken up by Team Leaders and even a fight that John and Christy had to intervene in. At the end of the day, even I was feeling a little antsy from not having done anything for so long. Sure I was able to control it to a lesser extent, but it was still very uncomfortable. That’s when John called a Team Leader meeting.

    He said that he thought he had enough time off and wanted to know what the rest of the squad thought. Jane and Jerome agreed immediately, the uneasy friendship between Red and Black having begun to strain. Kurt, Maria, and Anton agreed, but Daisy said that she wasn’t sure she wanted to go back. There was a small argument at that, and John hushed us all. He said that tomorrow, we’d light a signal fire on the beach and use wet wood to smoke more. After that, it would be up to Mendez to find us himself. We all agreed.

    We broke the meeting in time to see something strange for dinner. William and Alice, two of our best foragers, had collected some quill-root spines and made kabobs. The forearm length spears were used to stack fruit, lizard, fish, squid, clams, and prawn tails before being rested over the fire to cook. I tasted one and it was amazing. The natural sugar in the maple-like sap of the quill root sweetened everything. We each got three before everyone was full. I went to sleep with a full stomach that night.

    The next morning, John woke everyone up at 0700 and told us to bathe and get ready for retrieval. He wanted us to go out with a feast. White, Blue, and Yellow were on bird collection duty. We pooled ammo and let the snipers do most of the easy work while the rest of us collected the paralyzed fowl and reptiles. We got back with enough for everyone to have their very own roast bird.

    Purple, Brown, and Black were preparing more kabobs for everyone with the food that was being brought in. We helped them out by striping the birds and collecting wood for the bonfire. John told us to soak about a quarter of it in the stream until we were done cooking. It took another hour for the rest of the teams, on swim and crawl duty, to get back with the fish, prawns, squid, and clams.

    When the food was all cooked, White got the wet wood from the stream and tossed it onto the already large bonfire along with the loam nets we had cut and collected for the past few days. The result was a column of smoke that reached up about a thousand feet. With the signal lit, we collected our gear and ate.

    It took about two hours for the Pelican Superhaul to arrive. By the time it got there, we buried the remains of our food in the cat holes and had all of our equipment completely services. When the transport landed, two teams put the fire out and buried it over. By the time the door opened, the only thing visible on the beach was our formation.

    Chief Mendez was the one who stomped down the Pelican’s ramp in front of us. He had a Sweet William half chewed apart in his mouth and looked like he hadn’t slept in a couple of days. He marched over in front of the formation and John snapped off a salute, reporting that the squad was assembled for training.

    Mendez growled something that none of us could hear and looked around at our campsite. He then glared at each and every squad leader. It was hard, but I showed no expression when his knife-like gaze landed on me. He yelled that our little vacation was taken up valuable training time that we would have to make up. He then had us file onto the Pelican by team.

    I boarded and strapped in, surprised that he didn’t actually murder anyone. Sure we were all valuable and well trained, well except for Murphy, but he didn’t yell nearly as much as he should have. Come to think of it, he didn’t really yell at all. Everything he said was in his normal, loud tone. The Pelican lifted off and we flew for about another hour before landing.

    The base at Midway was small, but larger than our little campsite. The first thing I noticed as I debarked was the shower tent set up. The ocean was good for washing, but it didn’t quite get all the sand out of placed it shouldn’t be. The mess tent was rather small, as was the barracks tent, but it was large enough to support a small company-sized element. Oh, and the trainers were there.

    Most of them looked both pissed off, tired, and relieved. What’s funny is that they looked all three at the same time. They separated us by Team and moved us to different areas on the compound. Hicks stayed with us and wanted to know where we ended up. I told him that we were on the island that he searched with the lava tube. He looked surprised and asked how I knew he searched the lava tube. He actually laughed when I told him where Christy and I were hiding. It made the stress lessen a little.

    We were completely debriefed by the trainers, with each of us having to explain everything we did throughout the week. We had to relay the same information to some officers from ONI, who seemed rather distant and said nothing. We were given MREs about noon, but were told not to eat while we were being interviewed.

    All of the interviews were completed by 1700. It seemed like a longer day than any of the past five, but we were all concerned what our punishment would be for going AWOL like we did. We were surprised when Chief Mendez told us to get cleaned up for dinner at 1900. After that, we would service our gear in preparation for tomorrow’s training. The training day began at 0530. With that, he turned and went into a tent.

    I found a fresh combat skin on one of the bunks with my number on it. I took it and had a very hot shower. After drying and changing, I dumped my old skin in the receptacle with the towel and went to chow. I was kind of glad that it was chillimac and not seafood of any kind. It was filling and the red-flavored juice was better than just water.

    After dinner, the rest of the team went through our gear. We were able to get the replacement parts for Christy’s and Corey’s tanks (Gary was able to grab Mendez’s) and we detailed out our weapons. There was barely any sand in them. Hicks came up with a box of ammunition and we loaded for deployment.

    John had us stow our gear under our bunks for the night, continuing the guard schedule we had during our break. White was first shift and nothing happened. Though, there was a great deal of snoring coming from the trainer tent. I only saw one sneak out for a cigarette the entire shift, which was kind of strange.

    Well, that’s about it for this journal entry. Tomorrow we begin the underwater training in preparation for the Tango base assault. Log Off.
  21. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 5, 2012
    2111 hours, September 17, 2522 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Reach Military
    Complex, planet Reach

    The past four months have been a huge improvement. We were given back our free time and the instructors were pulled back, too. We can talk while studying, can talk in the head, and can spend most evenings working out or studying or even catching up on some sleep as we see fit! We are still going through training, but we seem to be getting into the larger stuff now.

    All this month, we’ve been going over the GA-TL1 Longsword-class Interceptor. The first week was familiarization with, and maintenance of, the fighter-bomber. After that, we were each trained in the four different positions: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, and engineer. Last week, we qualified on each position according to UNSC training guidelines, but we all also felt more comfortable at different roles. I was a better pilot and Christy was a better co-pilot. Gary took to navigation like it was one of his sniper missions and Corey was a great engineer (I think because he got to play with the explosive loadouts more).

    This morning, I woke up at 0515 with the rest of the squad leaders for the briefing while we got ready in the head. John was waiting for us, like usual. He had already brushed his teeth and wiped down his bunk, and was just waiting for us with his datapad. I brushed my teeth as we waited for Jane to get off the toilet so we could begin.

    Chief Mendez sent John the training schedule this morning and it looked like the majority of the day would be spent in the simulators. We’d be flying a full mission to launch a Shiva warhead at an enemy capital ship. A full mission meant pilot rations. My mouth turned down at the thought of the near liquid nutrient paste.

    Robert and Susan actually made audible sounds of disgust, but they were only saying what the rest of us were thinking. I didn’t mind the zero-gravity training in the simulators, but it wasn’t as good as the real thing. It just felt weird and made my stomach do things that it usually didn’t in real zero-g. I asked John what the schedule was, and he said that it was the same as the rest of the month. But that’s perfectly fine. PT, Class, Training, Dinner, and free time.

    I got back into the bay with about five minutes to spare, so I wiped down my rack and then went to let the rest of my team know what was going to be happening. They were just as elated as the rest of the squad when it came to what lunch would probably be. I asked them if they were good with their positions, and they said yes. We finished getting ready and ran outside for PT.

    With so much to look forward to after class, PT seemed to take forever. Today, we were doing rifle PT and each of us had a MA5 issued. They were all locked and loaded, but I instinctively removed the magazine and cleared it before replacing the magazine. Chief Mendez used the rifles like weights for us to do various calisthenics. Afterwards, he didn’t collect them. That set my mind immediately on high alert. Then, he told us we would be running the eight-mile course to class.

    I may have been a little distracted by the upcoming training, but that didn’t stop me from being aware that Chief Mendez issues us all assault rifles with a full mag of TTRs before a run to classes. I kept my eyes open while we ran and noticed several things out of place this morning. Most were benign, but a couple twitched the wrong way and was rewarded with several red explosions. Not a single trainer was able to get off a shot at us all the way to the Academy. Even the two trainers on the roof of the school were taken down the moment they poked their heads up.

    We got into the classroom and stored our rifles on the right side of our desks. It made them quickly accessible, but we were never attacked in the class. Dèjá said that it made for poor academic performance. She appeared in front of us and began the lessons as we each ate our graham crackers, milk, and fruit snacks.

    In Social Studies we went over delinquency and crime, specifically how the Outer Colonies faced the problems that were not as rampant in the Inner Colonies. Science was about molecular theory and was rather boring compared to the previous block. We went over critical and evaluative reading in language arts by using several military reports specific to Longsword engagements. Finally, we studies logarithms in trigonometry for the mathematics block.

    We got out of class, hit the head, and formed up in front of the building. We moved out tactically, making sure that the entire area was clear by our fields of fire. White Team had starboard-high as we moved out the door. We didn’t see anyone except Chief Mendez standing at parade rest and watching us with an appraising eye. Black and Brown were the first out of the sheltering porch of the academy and turned to survey the roof. Again, there was nobody up there.

    We formed up in the position of attention and waited for Chief Mendez. He stood there for about ten minutes just watching us in the formation before getting us into a run. We had all been in actual zero-g in orbit for some of the training. The insertion training was probably the best. But, the fake zero-gravity was terrible. I could feel that there was real gravity, even though my body was weightless. It made for some vertigo, but nothing I couldn’t push through. It didn’t mean I had to like it, though.

    We came to Chesty Puller Boulevard, the street the train-sim hangar was on, and passed right on by. I felt a tap on my shoulder from Christy and another from Maria behind me. I gave a shrug with my right shoulder and tapped William in front of me. It was passed up to the front and the resulting shrugs came right on back and were passed on.

    That was when we turned a corner and spotted the landing field. Sitting in formation on the tarmac were eighteen Longsword fighter-bombers. As we got closer, I could see they were swarming with techs who were attaching what looked like actual weapon loadouts. That’s when I spotted one of the techs loading an actual FENRIS anti-ship missile on one of the fighters.

    The Chief stopped us in front of the hangar and told us we had fifteen minutes to get into our flight gear, located in the pilot lockers, and be in the briefing room. There were a set of weapons racks beside the door that we would drop our MA5s at before entering the building. Then he told us to go.

    I made my way with everyone else into the locker room and found the locker with my number on it. Inside were a pressure suit, armor, and helmet. The helmet had my number emblazoned in the center, just above the visor. I quickly stripped and put on the underarmor then the pressure suit. I checked the seals on the pressure suit to make sure it was serviceable and then gave the armor a quick once-over. Everything was good. I strapped the armor on, adjusting it slightly to fit my shoulders, and slid the helmet over my head. I attached the neckseal and felt the pop of pressurization before pressing the stud next to the mouthpiece to depressurize and turn on the fans.

    I gave the circular hand motion to Arthur and he spun. I had to tighten one of his back straps. He did the same for me, too. That’s when John told us all it was time and we began moving toward the briefing room. I caught up with the rest of White as we moved. Even without our typical uniforms, I could pick out each of them just by their walk. Christy moved like some kind of cat, and not the smaller ones. Gary didn’t make any noise as he walked, even though his stride was the same as everyone else’s. Corey, on the other hand, seemed to stomp everywhere all the time.

    We filed into the briefing auditorium and saw Chief Mendez waiting on the dais in the front. I sat down and my helmet synced up with the briefing terminal. The HUD came to life with the standard classification information and Chief Mendez holding his finger over his lips giving a shushing look.

    As everyone was seated, the display behind Chief Mendez opened to show the Epsilon Eridani system. The Chief told us that we would be performing a strike mission in orbit of Styx, the gas giant in the system. There, we would find a decommissioned UNSC Mako-class corvette that was our primary objective. Secondary objectives were the destruction of a beacon station on Charon, the largest of the seven moons, and the capture of a satellite that was in orbit over Styx. He then asked if we had any questions.

    Daisy asked if there would be any opposition. The Chief looked us over and said that there would be an undetermined number of UNAF fighters guarding the corvette. We should expect at least a number of opponents equal to our own, if not greater. Cassandra asked about the armaments, and Chief Mendez told us that there were four FENRIS missiles loaded onto Blue, Red, White, and Pink. I saw Corey’s indicator light flash twice on my HUD to show his enthusiasm.

    I paid half attention to the rest of the briefing as I pulled up the flight plan for the formation. It was a straight on plan, but it didn’t look quite right. Going straight in against trained UNAF fighter pilots was suicide and Mendez would know that. Hell, every one of us knew that, but it was in the mission specs. I flashed a double-red light to John to let him know there was something wrong and he replied with a single red flash back. He saw it too. Mendez concluded the briefing by telling we had one hour to make vacuum and to do prep checks on our ships. Then he dismissed us.

    I told the rest of white to find the bird and start pre-flight checks, I’d join them directly. I walked over to John and opened a private channel. I told him my fears and that I had a plan to accomplish the goals, but it would be a little risky if Mendez thought we were going off-mission. I explained it and he thought it was worth the risk. He assigned Black and Brown to pull my wing.

    I got to the White Longsword just as the engines began their startup sequence. Corey was just finishing removing the safeties of the ASGM-10 missile trainers. He gave me a green signal in the heads up and went inside. I didn’t follow, but did a walk-around of the ship. I double checked the safeties and the spin gimbal of the 120mm ventral guns. I saw they were loaded with EM rounds to just shut down and cause system damage to whatever they hit. With my inspection complete, I boarded and shut the ramp behind me.

    I sat in the pilot seat and pulled up my checklist from the navcom. It was fairly straight forward and I got through it in about ten minutes. After that, I had Gary open comms with Black and Brown via laser. I spelled out my plan to them and they agreed that it would work better than a straight on attack. At the same time, I was briefing my team with the details. After closing the link, I asked White what they thought. Corey chuckled and the other two looked at each other and said “follow me” at the same time. It caused an actual chuckle to escape my lips.

    We began liftoff procedures and John had us close formation in our flights. Everyone was in a vic formation around the flight leads (Blue, Red, White, and Pink). I kept about twenty-five meters under Pink until we hit the ionosphere. At that point, I heard the buzz of static over the comms and pulled around quickly into a marked nav path for commercial traffic and Gary killed our IFF transceiver. I knew that the move wouldn’t be seen by anyone groundside as the ground and satellite radars were blind in this small level of airspace.

    I knew that Brown and Black were right on my wing as I opened the throttle to 110%, using the gravity of the planet to increase my speed as I gently pulled into a high orbit. We were up to a 200% velocity by the time we rounded the planet and I pulled the stick for a manual slingshot maneuver. If my readings were right, this should put us in orbit of Styx and around the gas giant just as the battle was engaged by the rest of the squad… er squadron.

    I opened comms with Black and Brown via laser and made sure that my calculations were right. Li confirmed they were, as did Jane. I trusted Li a little more. When it came to null-g, he was probably the best one out of all of us. After that, it was just a bit of a waiting game. We couldn’t risk making contact with the rest of the squadron because their comms may have been monitored and we couldn’t link with navsats because it would alert the rest of the system to our position. So, we just played like asteroids and tried to relax.

    I didn’t sleep, but I did hear Corey begin to snore. It was kind of funny. When he didn’t have a helmet on, he didn’t even breathe heavily when he slept. Put a helmet on him and he could jam an entire squad net. I muted his speaker as I continued to watch the small speck of light shape itself into the gray-green giant of Styx. I cleared the fuel and attitude screen of the center multi-function display and brought up a chess board. Christy reached over and made the first move, saying it as I closed my eyes to give her a fighting chance.

    After an hour in space, I heard my alarm ring. I opened my eyes and saw Styx right in front of us, well a little off to the port. I did a quick check and made a micro-adjustment. Passive radar told me that Brown and Black were still behind me. Somehow, Brown had become inverted, though. I knew it was Li and his piloting.

    I told everyone it was showtime and saw Corey jump a little in his seat. He stretched for a couple of seconds and then flashed green twice. I unmuted him and told him to set the FENRIS for a proximity detonation. Our target was the Mako after the rest of the squadron drew the fighter screen off of it. He got to work as the highest bands of atmosphere whipped past the bottom of the fighter.

    I flashed the running lights twice and saw Black and Brown do the same in the rear cameras. We were on the far side of Styx by this point and I had Gary ready the IFF. We’d reengage it just before we launched the FENRIS. That should keep the Air Force fighter jocks in the dark. Well, more-so than normal.

    We came around Styx and I pulled us out of the gravity well, bleeding speed into the upper atmosphere and slowing us enough for a targeting solution. I saw a small glint of silver in a high orbit over the planet and knew it was the corvette. I told Gary to do it and he activated our IFF and active radar unit for the target lock. At the same time, I saw a flood of information coming in regarding the position of the rest of the squadron.

    Sure enough, the Chair Force pilots had engaged the rest of Spartan Squadron and looked to be getting wasted. Gary had a better look at his station and told me that the squadron was outnumbered over two to one. That’s when I saw it; a red warning light in my HUD that caused me to roll to starboard and dive out of the way. A moment later, the space I was in was lit up with the blue glowing forms of EM rounds fired by another Longsword.

    Gary pinged it and I saw four blips appear on my radar between us and the Mako. Maybe the Air Force wasn’t so inept after all. Black and Brown accelerated ahead and covered us as Corey began his target sequence on the corvette. It was hampered only slightly because of my maneuvering. Christy didn’t mind as she concentrated on her fire-control computer to line up the ventral guns for her shots.

    I saw Brown’s starboard engine shut down and it began to slowly drift into a spin toward deep space. However, they took out one of the enemy fighters before taking their hit. I tried to hail them, but there was no response and their IFF was fading. They were out of the fight.

    I felt the thumps of the 120mm cannon opening up on something and heard Christy let out a small breath as a second red blip disappeared from the radar. Gary warned me that there was a group of three more that detached from the dogfight with the squadron and were about ten minutes out. That was a lifetime in terms of space combat.

    I targeted one of the fighters and waited for the tone of a missile lock and launched. I saw the pilot go erratic for a moment before the tone sounded in my ear that the missile had lost lock. That’s when I heard a second tone and I threw the stick as far forward as I could, jamming the throttle to full as well. I saw the missile as it passed overhead.

    Gary cursed as he brought the ECM suite online and I saw the missile fly off to detonate its radio-wave package harmlessly in the distance. I pulled up and around, inverting myself to the Mako and gave a good lead to the fighter that fired the missile at us. I pulled the trigger on the chin-mounted 110mm rotary cannon and saw the pilot fly right into the line of EM rounds.

    Typically, target locks were required to shoot anything at a distance with any precision. However, target locks gave the enemy warning that you were going to actually fire on them. So, Chief Mendez taught us to fight without them. What he called hip-firing onboard weapons.

    I saw another flash and then the green signal light on my HUD from Black. That meant we had an undefended corvette that was ripe for the shooting. I checked the radar and saw the closest flight of defenders were still four minutes out, but were running at over-thrust. More than enough time.

    I lined up on the corvette and began my bombing run. Corey called off the numbers as we closed on the sleek silver ship. Gary told me that Black was on our wing and Brown would have drifted well beyond the minimum safe distance. Finally, my target lock glowed red. I pressed the thumb stud and pulled up. I jammed the throttle full after-burn to put a good amount of distance between us and the soon-to-be detonation of the nuke.

    We had always been taught to train as if it were real. That way, when the real thing happened, we would be ready for it. I have done dozens of nuke attack simulations in the Reach sim facility, but I have never done an actual FENRIS strike… before now.

    The shockwave was not really anything physical in space, but it blacked out all of my instruments for a moment. Even my pressure suit’s HUD shut down and rebooted. I put the Longsword into a slow roll as the radar came back up. Gary called out that the enemy fighters were bugging out toward Charon. I sent a hail to Blue that primary mission was accomplished and requested further orders.

    My reply was to form up with Cyan to capture the satellite. I acknowledged and sent the redirect to Black. Gary plotted a course to Cyan and I adjusted to put us right on their starboard wing. I queried and saw that we were down five ships. When we were within range, I opened a tight-beam with Cyan and asked Robert how he wanted to play this.

    Robert told us that he would link with the satellite while we flew cover, and then we would use my slingshot maneuver around Styx to make our way to Reach. I acknowledged and had Gary draw up a slingshot course, now that we could use the navcom. We linked it with our flight as Cyan docked with the target. A minute later and we were beginning our acceleration around the gas giant.

    We had just lost sight of Charon when Gary yelled a warning. I glanced at my radar and saw the biggest red blip I had ever seen in my entire life. A capital ship had just made slipspace transition on the opposite side of Styx from Charon. Its approach vector put it directly on a path to the small moon. And, with our maneuver, we’d be in its weapon range in just a few seconds.

    I adjusted course for the polar orbit, but knew it wouldn’t be enough. Alarms rang through the cockpit, not just in my helmet, telling me that the Paris-class heavy frigate had a weapon lock and was acquiring a firing solution. Then, the alarms stopped. The lights were still on, so we hadn’t been hit by the EM rounds or pulse from a training missile. I checked the radar and saw the ship slowly spinning to bring its ventral weapons into attack position. But, there was something else.

    A small red blip that was invisible until it opened fire suddenly turned friendly. Gary sent a query and it was Brown! They had been playing possum all this long and watching over us. They pulled into formation as we crossed the polar axis. But, that didn’t make things any easier.

    The comm channel was littered with jamming, dogfights, and the general static from the gas giant’s radiation. Spartan Squadron was still trying to line up a firing solution on the abandoned mine on Charon’s surface, but they were constantly being harassed. That wouldn’t last much longer with the heavy cruiser coming around the planet. But, that gave me a bit of an idea.

    I told Cyan to start a bombing run at distance on the target. Robert didn’t understand at first, lacking any heavy weapons. But then, I told him to undock the mine and let it sail forward as the warhead. At full speed, the mine would be more than enough to destroy the facility. And, since it was a tertiary objective, all we needed was the data core out of it.

    I heard shuffling from behind Robert over the comms as his engineer retrieved the core. I covered their twelve o’clock as I relayed the Paris’s location to John. He acknowledged and ordered a general retreat back to Reach. He also tasked various ships to dock with the disabled and take on the passengers.

    I watched the squadron flying away from Charon as the Air Force gave chase. Their numbers were a quarter of what they began with. But it didn’t matter. The moment that heavy got within range of the moon, the mission would be over. That level of firepower would wipe out our entire squadron.

    I saw Cyan flash me with a double green of their running lights and I pulled into formation with them, afterburning to catch up with the rest of the squadron. I saw in my rear display that the satellite hit the base and completely crushed it. Primary and secondary accomplished. Tertiary… well, it was partially accomplished.

    The remainder of the flight was uneventful. I had to eat some of the space rations and decided that the cheese spread tasted nothing like cheese and didn’t really even spread much. I played a couple of games of chess against Joshua over laser, but they were quick and easily won. Otherwise, Christy suggested we pull up our datapad studies since we were no longer blacked out. It was a good way to pass the hour it took to return to Reach.

    We landed and ran through shut-down procedures, making sure to update the maintenance logs of the ship. Corey even uploaded the ordnance report that he had written. I amended it with the after-action report and forwarded it to Chief Mendez as we were taught. There was a reply message almost immediately ordering us to return to our normal uniforms and meet in the briefing room.

    The entire squad was in better spirits than we had been for a while. We weren’t talking much, but I could see every face beaming with a smile. I felt a punch on my shoulder and turned to see Jane smiling at me. I smiled back and nodded as I zipped up my uniform. In less than fifteen minutes after debarking the Longsword, the squad was sitting in the briefing room waiting for Chief Mendez to arrive.

    He walked in and Linda called us to attention. We all snapped up out of our seats as one. He put us at ease and had us sit back down. The hour included an in-depth mission debriefing, including a complete grilling of Jane, Susan, and myself. Specifically, he wanted to know why we went black to sneak around the rest of the squadron.

    I took charge, since I was wing commander. I told him that performing a head-on against an unknown number of enemy fighters would jeopardize the mission should we lose too many Longswords. However, sending in a covert team that could accomplish the mission while the rest of the squad took care of the fighter screen seemed like an adequate risk.

    I could see him thinking in ways that made me shutter a little internally. Finally, he congratulated us on a successful mission. He informed John to run the squad back to the barracks for dinner and the rest of the night off. However, any team that was disabled would be subsiding on space rations for dinner and would be the only ones cleaning while the rest of the squad enjoyed time off.

    We did just as Mendez had ordered; running back to the barracks by the shortest route that John could take us on. I didn’t even see a single trainer on the way. We got back to a hot meal waiting on most of our trays: corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, and banana splits. After that, most of us hit the gym. The only problem with space combat is that it is more taxing on the nerves and not so much on the muscles.

    The rest of the night went by rather quickly. I sparred with Anton a little, did some bag work with Malcom, and spent a few rotations just circling the various machines with the rest of White. In the end, I showered and got ready for lights out. I don’t even have watch tonight, so I am planning for a whole eight hours after I finish this recording. Log off.
  22. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    These were a great couple of updates here. I love seeing his training develop. =D=