Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
The next two hours were spent doing inventory. Coop had never done an inventory in his life, and he would take his own life before he ever had to do it again. They started with their lockers, which were biometrically coded and locked with their GIC’s. Inside were two duffle bags stuffed to the brim.
“Take your bags, place them in front of you, and dump everything onto the floor.” Staff Sergeant Cunningham paced in front of them.
The medic said Andrew would be back soon, but he still hadn’t returned. That meant the rest of the squad had to inventory all of his gear; which meant more work for Coop.
<Dumb fuck.> Coop cursed the squad idiot as he and Nate were instructed to conduct the extra inventory. The SSG took that perfect opportunity to walk by. <She does have a world class ass though.>
Unfortunately, Eve caught him looking, and he got a punch to the kidney when the drill instructor was farther away. If this had been the PHA, and Eve was another Rat, Coop would have kicked the shit out of her. It didn’t matter that she was a girl. You didn’t start throwing punches unless you were ready to get down and dirty.
Coop didn’t feel that way when Eve punched him. Sure there was a flare of anger, but it was quickly overpowered by attraction. Coop liked it when Eve played rough.
“Everyone should have six pairs of CMUs,” the SSG announced. “Hold them up over your head until I tell you to stop; then put them back in the duffle bag.”
Coop found the blocks of smartcloth that looked identical to the pair he’d received at the Civil Administration building. He held up his six pairs, and three of Andrew’s, while Nate held up the other three. Then they stood there and waited while the SSG went down the lines, to all fifty recruits, and counted how many they were holding.
All nine of the uniforms Coop was holding probably didn’t even weigh a kilo put together, but after holding them up for ten minutes you really started to feel the burn.
“Drop and give me twenty-five, Harper.” The talkative girl was the first to fail in second squad. “Four count, Harper. This is the military, not some community gym.”
Harper struggled, just like anyone else who had to knock out some pushups. <Come on…Come on…you’ve got to be shitting me.> It was worse for Coop because he was holding fifty percent more weight.
Everyone was silent in the room, because they were forbidden to talk beyond the groans of lactic acid filled muscles. The only thing that stopped Coop from dropping his arms was the look on Eve’s face. Her gaze promised swift retribution on anyone else who failed.
<Can’t get beat by a girl.> Coop’s motivation got a second wind, and he was able to make it to the end.
“Recover.” Everyone dropped their arms, and a sigh of relief passed through the room like a heavy breeze.
But SSG Cunningham was merciless.
“Next you will find your Self-Contained Survival Habitat.” The drill instructor showed them what to look for. It looked like a large, retractable cocoon. “There are three settings. Spread your SCSH out in front of you and run a diagnostic. I want to see green on temperate, arid, and arctic, Recruits.”
Coop did as he was told. The SCSH was idiot proof. You pressed a button and the expandable mesh exterior swelled to a size a soldier could comfortably lay in it. There was a small panel next to the opening. You went into the menu and search for diagnostic then hit start.
“You will be able to conduct this from your PADs when they are issued.” The SSG walked among them, making sure everyone was doing things correctly.
Coop kept his eyes away from her ass.
It didn’t take long for him to get three greens. “Hold your SCSH above your heads when you’re finished so I can inspect them.”
Anyone who groaned had their displeasures cured by another round of pushups.
They did this for two hours, and by the time they reached their last item Coop could barely feel his shoulders. His chest was pretty fatigued too.
“Last but not least, we have your PADs. Pull them out and hold them out in front of you.” Coop did what he was told.
The PADs were not what he expected. They were made of clear polyplast, were a few centimeters thick, and smaller than Coop’s hand. They’d obviously seen better days. His PAD had a big scratch down the center that would definitely blur the screen. They didn’t look anything like the sleek models the rich kids had at the recruitment center, or even the ones he’d seen the other soldiers using.
“Hold the PAD up to your GIC and keep it there until it powers on and links to you,” the SSG ordered. “Let me know if it doesn’t work.”
Coop wanted his to fail, but after a few seconds it glowed to life and a slew of number flew across the screen establishing the link. Only two of the PAD’s malfunctioned, and they were instantly replaced with equally old and battered models.
“PADs will be kept here at all times.” The SSG patted a pocket on her right hip. “Stow them now.” Everyone did as they were told.
“By activating your PADs you have signed for all of your equipment. Second squad leader.”
“Yes, Staff Sergeant.” Eve perked up.
“Have Davenport sign for his equipment by activating his PAD when he returns. He can take Cooper and Cruise’s word or do the entire inventory himself. It’s up to him.”
“That’s it for tonight, Recruits. You have thirty minutes to use the latrine and then lights out is at 2300. Reveille is at 0600 tomorrow morning. I’ll see you all then.” Without another word the SSG walked right out of the room.
Even though the SSG was gone they still had tasks. Coop was beginning to think he wouldn’t have enough free time to take a shit. Prison was looking like a decent alternative right now.
“Everyone gather around.” Eve called out to the squad. Every other squad was either busting out their bedding materials or heading for wherever the latrine was.
“Judging by Cooper’s retarded face he doesn’t know what the latrine is.” She smirked mercilessly at Coop. “The latrine is the bathroom, but stop thinking of it as the bathroom. Stop thinking of everything by its civilian terms and start thinking like soldiers.”
“Mike!” She snapped at the largest member of their squad. They were right next to his bunk and he was taking out bedding like the other squads. “Don’t bother with your bedding.” She kept her voice low. She didn’t want the other squads to hear. “You’re going to have to make sure it is pristine every morning if you use it. It’s so fucking hot down here that it’s better to use just one of the blankets and pack it up in the morning before PT. I’d bet my squad leader position that they’re going to chew everyone out tomorrow and tell them just to go with the woobie.”
“The woobie was that nice, soft liner that we inventoried near the end,” she informed before Coop could ask.
Mike just grunted as he stowed his bedding back in the locker and pulled out the woobie.
“Ok, everyone hit the latrine and get some sleep.” With the meeting adjourned Coop went to take that shit.
As it turned out the latrines were co-ed, and there were no doors on the stalls. Coop had to concentrate on forcing out a log while a dude brushed his teeth less than three meters in front of him.
When the lights finally went off at 2300, Coop was exhausted. There was still some light conversation going on around the room, so he decided to take the opportunity to get some answers.
He was on the bottom bunk while Eve was on the top, so their conversations were relatively private. “Hey, boss-lady.” The bed creaked as Eve moved, and then her head appeared over the side.
“What do you want Cooper?” she looked irritated.
<Women.> Coop mentally shrugged. He could have sworn she was mildly flirting with him, not to mention she grabbed a handful of his ass earlier on. <I’ll never understand them.>
“How do you know all of this?” Coop was sure the entire squad was wondering the same thing.
“I’m a military brat,” she answered matter-of-factly. “I was stationed all over the Inner-Worlds with my folks. I’ve known the little tricks drill instructors use to trip up fresh recruits since I could walk.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re our squad leader then, boss-lady.” Coop was genuinely grateful.
Eve just scoffed at him. “Just don’t fuck up anymore, Cooper. Keep your head down and your mouth shut. I’ll get us all through this.”
“Ma’am yes ma’am.” Coop gave her a bad salute, but it didn’t get the smile he intended. “So where are your parents stationed now?” He quickly tried to salvage the conversation.
Anger swept across Eve’s face. She didn’t say a word. Her head withdrew out of sight, and the bed creaked as she settled back into position.
“Uh, ok then,” Coop mumbled, not sure what he’d done wrong.
If this was any other night, Coop would have kept asking. If it was Hailey, he would have gotten to the bottom of it. But tonight Coop was tired, and Eve was a bit of a bitch. Instead he relaxed into the hard mattress. It reminded him of the PHA cots from home, and the familiarity put him to sleep in less than a minute.