Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“So, Berg. That’s an interesting name.” Coop jogged next to his squad leader as they were hurried outside by Corporal Collins.
“It’s Swedish,” she replied curtly.
“Swedish?” That took Coop by surprise. “You’re a Euro?”
They were forming up into their ten squads of ten outside the building, but she spent a few seconds looking at Coop and rolling her eyes.
“No, you moron. Sweden isn’t part of the EU.” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “Just because the origin of my name is Swedish doesn’t mean I’m from Sweden. My great grandfather emigrated to the Commonwealth from the Union nearly a hundred years ago. Wait…why the hell am I telling you this?” She frowned, and snapped her eyes forward.
“It must be my naturally charismatic personality,” Coop smiled.
The look Berg gave him said that clearly wasn’t the case.
Coop recalled his geo-political knowledge from freshman year of high school and figured out that Berg’s reference to the “Union” meant the Scandinavian Union not the European Union. The mega-state was a nation made up of the former countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. In terms of economic, political, and military influence the Scandinavian Union was far below the United Commonwealth of Colonies; but they still had a few planets colonized and a navy to protect them.
Coop stole another glance at Berg out of the corner of his eye and decided that her explanation made sense. She definitely had Scandinavian features. She was tall, almost as tall as Coop at just under one hundred and eighty centimeters. Her blonde hair was cropped in a short pixie cut designed to be low maintenance and keep the hair out of her eyes. Those eyes were blue, and several shades lighter than Coop’s own storm-colored eyes; but they were sharp and cold. Her face was beautiful, but her high cheek bones and personality gave it a permanently fierce quality. The smartcloth CMUs hid a lot of her body, but he could tell she was fit and a fine specimen of the female form.
Coop had read mythological holo-books growing up, and Berg was the spitting image of a Valkyrie; strong, proud, and a warrior down to the bone.
<I’m still gonna bone her.> Coop grinned to himself as the gunnery sergeant stepped to the front of their formation.
“You’re in luck, Recruits.” The look the gunnery sergeant gave them didn’t make Coop feel lucky. “You get to eat some chow before you meet your instructors.”
Now Coop felt lucky. The first thing he wanted to know about the military was how good the food was, and all the answers he’d received said it wasn’t half bad. <It can’t possibly be worse than that BSA shit.> Coop executed a right-face with the rest of the company and started marching toward the chow hall.
“Left…left…left right….right a left…left….left right…” the gunnery sergeant called out what foot should be hitting the ground. Even with the help, Coop didn’t think they looked like the professional military units he’d seen marching in parades.
They walked for a solid ten minutes until they reached a long rectangular building. Their marching was better by the time they got there, but it didn’t have the precision or snap of the other companies they’d passed while marching.
“Listen up, Recruits.” Corporal Collin stepped forward. “The chow hall is set up in a buffet style. You will move through the line and gather what you want. You will not go back or cut in front of people. If you need to return you will go all the way to the back of the line. The line moves in a clockwise fashion, so do not fuck it up. Understood?”
“Good,” he smiled, and pointed at a bunch of bars next to the four sets of double doors. “Everyone will execute ten pull-ups every time they enter and exit the chow hall. Execute!”
Everyone rushed to the pull-up bars and formed lines behind them. Coop had never done a pull-up in his life, unless you counted pulling yourself up and over a wall when another group of Rats tried to steal his hard earned shit.
Berg was up before him, so he watched her closely; partially because he wanted to see how they were done, and partially because she had a nice ass that was bobbing up and down in front of his face. The form was simple enough; palms facing out, gripping the bar at shoulder width, raising yourself up until your chin was over the bar, and lowering yourself until your arms were fully extended. Berg knocked out ten without any problem.
When she was clear, Coop jumped up and copied her movements. It was not as easy as it looked. His back screamed in protest, and he had to throw his legs to get himself up after the first six.
“You’re all fucking pathetic.” Corporal Collins didn’t even yell, he just leaned on the railing and shook his head.
“Come on, Cooper!” Berg was standing in front of him and urging him on.
“That’s easy for you to say.” Coop was dangling with his arms fully extended. He had two more to go.
“Move your ass! Let’s go!” Berg pushed the person behind Coop aside, grabbed two handfuls of his ass cheeks, and pushed.
She was surprisingly strong.
“At least buy me dinner first,” Coop wheezed.
“Dinner is free. One more.” She grabbed again and prepared to heave.
“At least tell me your name then.” Coop turned around and gave her a pained grin.
“You get your chin up over that bar by yourself and I’ll tell you my name.”
That was all the motivation Coop needed. He pulled, thrashed, and kicked his way into a pullup. His hands slipped on his way down and he fell straight on his back. Berg stood over him with her hands on her hips, and a slight smile teasing the corners of her mouth.
“My name is Eve. Now get off your ass, you’re holding up the line.”
“Eve.” Coop felt the name roll off his tongue as they walked up the stairs and into the air conditioned chow hall. “That’s biblical.”
That got him a raised eyebrow. “You know the bible?”
“Just the basic bits.” Coop grabbed a plain, white tray and joined the line of people slowly moving forward. “Eve was the first girl, right?”
“Yeah,” she eyed him like she was seeing him in a different light.
Religion was a touchy subject on post-Expansion Earth. You would think that humans exploring the vastness of space would create a greater appreciation for the divine, but the opposite was true. Just like the other nations, the various religious organizations took full advantage of the Expansion and the opportunities it provided. The growing starfaring nations, like the Commonwealth, didn’t like that. They labelled religious organizations like the Roman Catholic Church, Islamic states under Sharia Law, and Judaism as sovereign states when they settled other planets. As such, those states were not permitted to interact with communities except through authorized consulates, and those consulates were usually limited to one per planet.
You couldn’t walk down the street in a Commonwealth metropolis and spot a church every couple of blocks, and with a lack of accessibility came a lack of followers. Individual communities could still congregate at a worship center, but after a few hundred years those centers’ beliefs and traditions had changed drastically from the dogmatic doctrine of the original church. As a result, religion was a changing, fluid thing that only a few outside of religiously founded nations practiced.
It was something a welfare Rat like Coop would had little or no experience with. Which was why it was surprising that Coop knew anything at all about the Bible.
“You don’t look like an Eve.” Whatever goodwill Coop might have earned, he quickly ruined with his big mouth. “I’m gonna call you boss-lady.”
Eve couldn’t stop the single laugh from escaping.
<I’ll take that as a win.> Coop smiled. He could still feel her hands pressed against his ass.
The chow hall was huge. There had to be hundreds of tables across the hundreds of meters of space, and a lot of them were filled with sweaty, dirty, tired recruits. Coop followed Eve’s lead until they reached an open table in the middle of the room. They were quickly joined by the other members of their squad. They took a few minutes to get to know each other.
Second Squad of Echo Company 132nd TRNG Battalion consisted of six men and four women. Eve was the squad leader followed by Coop. After Coop in line was Nate, who still looked miserable that he wasn’t going to be an officer. Next to him was Emma and then Olivia, followed by John and Mike, the other Rat Coop had met back home. Next to Mike was Harper, who never seemed to shut up, and constantly placed her hand on Mike’s thigh despite the bigger former Rat’s uneasy protests. Rounding out the squad was Ethan, and last but certainly least Andrew; the asshole from the ethics training who everyone in the squad knew was going to get them into trouble as some point. It didn’t help that Andrew was a bigger guy who looked like he knew how to handle himself.
Coop shoveled down food as the people around him talked. He was in heaven. The food in the military wasn’t just good, it was great! He ate two bowls of pasta, half a dozen meatballs, and then got back into line for ice cream. Eve told him to take it easy, but he shrugged her off. He was eating like a king for the first time in his life. His mind literally wouldn’t allow him to waste the opportunity.
Chow was scheduled for thirty minutes, which meant they had to finish eating in twenty, get their trays into the auto-cleaner, do their pull-ups, and be back in formation by that thirty minute mark.
Echo Company failed to meet that thirty minute time frame, and the two new people standing in front of the unit did not look happy about it.