Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Peeing in a cup, while another guy glared at his dick, was just the beginning of Coop’s first real day in the military. It only took half of the allotted three hour time period for everyone to pee in their cups. The other half was dedicated to getting rid of the all the people who failed.
The company lost eleven recruits, one of which was from second squad.
Coop thought they’d just get a swift kick in the ass on their way out the door. But that wasn’t the case. There was paperwork to be filled out and all their gear had to be inventoried. Since the offending recruits were quarantined by the military police that left their squad members to clean up the mess.
<Fucking inventories. We did these eight hours ago. We haven’t done anything since then. Why do we have to pull out all this shit again?> It didn’t help Coop’s mood that Eve was still pissed at him, so she detailed him and Mike to the tedious task.
Second squad’s victim was Ethan, the guy who stood next to Mike in formation. Coop didn’t know anything about him aside from his name, but Mike said he was cool. Ethan had been a Rat just like them, but from the Vancouver-Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia-Portland Metropolis.
Unlike the guy in Coop’s pee group, Ethan tested positive for Schedule One narcotics. If Coop had to guess, Ethan probably partied it up the night before he caught the bus to this hellhole. No harm no foul in Coop’s mind, but Coop wasn’t in charge. Even Eve looked a little pissed when the MPs dragged Ethan off in handcuffs.
“Clean this place up, and form up outside in ten mikes,” SSG Cunningham ordered before exiting the barracks.
“Mikes means minutes,” Eve clarified before Coop could ask the question.
<Yep, you’re a fucking psychic.> If Eve heard Coop’s thoughts she didn’t show it, so he decided to test his theory.
Mental debauchery ensued for the next minute. Coop thought of every dirty sex act he’d ever performed, heard, or read about. He imagined himself doing all of them to Eve.
She didn’t even acknowledge him.
<Oh well. At least I’ve got some ammo for my spank bank.> Coop helped stow the rest of Ethan’s crap back in his locker.
If the day started out bad enough it only got worse from there. At 0600 sharp they stood at the position of attention while reveille played. They weren’t the only ones.
As far as the eye could see there were other companies standing in formation in front of their barracks. <Holy shit! There’s got to be five thousand people.> Coop couldn’t look left or right after they fell in, but his peripherals still showed the sheer magnitude of personnel.
When reveille ended the other companies went a hundred different directions, but Echo Company stayed right where they were.
“We’re going to start with the basics, Recruits.” SSG Cunningham faced them, her eyes sharp despite the early hour.
“Y’all a worthless sack of weaklin’s,” PO3 Janney spat as he stalked the edge of the formation.
That pissed Coop off. Weakness led to death in the PHA, an environment that Coop had thrived in. The PHA had made him strong. <That country, backwoods sister-fucker doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.>
Coop spread out as he was ordered to and started the PT session with fire burning in his gut.
It got doused real quickly.
When SSG Cunningham said the basic she meant the basic. They spent thirty minutes doing nothing but pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, flutter kicks, and overhead arm claps. It wasn’t the exercises that were difficult, it was the number.
They did hundreds maybe even a thousand of each exercise. Coop push, pulled, kicked, and clapped with the rest of his squad; and like the rest of them he failed. When he failed, the SSG and PO3 were there to verbally motivate him to get off his ass and keep exercising.
Thirty minutes of basic exercises with the two drill instructors from hell completely destroyed Coop, and all before the thirty minute run. It was at the same double-time pace as the previous evening; but after hundreds of squats Coop felt like his legs were made of lead.
“I wanna be an Infantry Ranger…”
“I wanna be an Infantry Ranger….”
“…live a life of guts and danger…”
“…live a life of guts and danger…” they repeated.
The SSG introduced them to more running cadences. She belted them out, her voice ringing through the morning air, while the rest of the company struggled to breathe. The only other voice to be heard was PO3 Janney screaming at the stragglers.
“Take a breather, you’ve got two mikes.”
If Coop had to guess, the SSG had taken them on a ten kilometer loop because they were standing back in front of their barracks.
“You are going to run everywhere while you are here, so get used to it.” The SSG was sweating, but she didn’t look tired.
“Sip don’t chug the water.” The PO3 bellowed as they swarmed the water dispenser attached to the side of their barracks. “Y’all gonna puke all over my clean road.”
Coop had just reached the dispenser and received his water when the SSG called them all back. “Line up here. Squad leaders in front, facing me, and everyone behind them.” She watched impatiently as they formed roughly straight lines.
SSG Cunningham towered above all the recruits, so she always seemed to be looking down on them. Today that was literally and metaphorically true. Her eyes scanned the sweaty, tired, sagging bodies of her company and she was not impressed.
“I see a lot of you looked pissed off.” Coop was one of the people she was referring to. “That’s good,” she smiled. “But you better harness that energy into something productive or I’m going to break you like I did Davenport.”
The rumor-mill worked as fast, if not faster, in the military than it did in high school. PO3 Janney had kicked the crap out of someone on the top floor around the same time as the SSG’s beat-down, but his victim didn’t end up with a gruesome compound fracture.
“We’re going to have a little competition,” a smile tugged at her lips. “Competition breeds excellence, and you are here to be the best of the best. There is no silver medal in war, Recruits. It’s you or the enemy.”
The SSG turned and looked down the road to where PO3 Janney was suddenly standing. No one ever heard him leave.
“We are going to conduct a relay race, and the winner will be allowed to do cool-down stretches and hit the latrine. The losers will continue to run relays until we’re left with the worst squad in the company. That squad will meet me every day for extracurricular training.”
Coop immediately wanted to win. No one wanted to spend one more second with the SSG than was necessary.
<This doesn’t look too bad.> The PO3 was only about twenty-five meters away. Going down and back wouldn’t be too taxing.
“Staff Sergeant,” Eve’s hand was in the air. “What should the squads with less than ten recruits do?”
“People will have to run more than once,” the SSG replied. “You have one mike to figure out your order.”
The arrangement was naturally unfair. A person running a second time wasn’t going to be as fast as a fresh runner. But Coop knew saying that would just lead to more pushups. Their instructors just didn’t care.
“I can run twice.” Coop immediately put himself forward as the choice.
Eve gave him a look, and he immediately had to defend himself.
“I’m quick over short distances. Let me go first and then last so I have time to recover.” Coop glared back at her.
There was a moment of gridlock but she relented. “Don’t fuck this up, Cooper.”
“Call me Coop, boss-lady.” She just rolled her eyes at him before organizing the rest of the squad into a good order.
“Ready…get set…go!” The racing order wasn’t set by half the squads, but Coop was ready.
He shot off the line and sprinted down to the PO3. Coop stutter-stepped as he slowed down at the turnaround point, but he was still in the lead. He bolted back toward line and crossed it a full body-length ahead of the next runner.
“That’s what I’m talking about, Cooper!” Eve congratulated him.
<Holy shit!> Coops’ heart was hammering in his chest. <That was a rush.>
Coop could feel the excitement in his body. Even though he was exhausted, adrenaline was pushing down the fatigue. Eve grin helped too. She had a glint in her eye that made her look half crazy, and Coop was pretty sure he had a bit of that himself.
He wanted to win. He wanted to smash the other squads’ faces into the dirt and piss all over them in celebration. He wanted to be the best. He wanted his squad to be the best.
While the competitiveness raged inside of him, Olivia, who’d run after him, had lost the lead.
“That’s ok, I planned for this.” Eve gave Olivia a high-five while Coop glared at her.
Mike was next, he fared better. Coop saw Eve’s strategy then. She’d put the slower runners after Coop and relied on the faster runners’ competitive spirit to make them run a bit faster near the end. It was a solid plan, and second squad wasn’t the only one to do it.
One by one the runners ran. Most of the squads were quickly outpaced and fell behind, but a few remained in contention. By the time the last two runners were up only two squads were still in the running.
Eve was the second to last runner of second squad, and she took off like a bat out of hell. Coop would have spent a little more time watching her ass bounce up and down, but he was in the zone now. His entire squad was screaming at Eve to run faster, and for him not to lose.
Everyone wanted to win. The added incentive of extra PT was lost on everyone.
“Fuckin’ move!” Mike roared as Eve crossed the line and Coop tore back down the road.
Coop could just see the other runner in his peripherals. They’d been lined up by squad number, and the other squad fighting for the win was down in the eight-nine-ten range.
<Damn this guy’s fast.> Coop couldn’t make out anymore of his opponent than he was tall and his legs seemed to blur as they ran toward the PO3. <Fuck no you don’t.>
Coop slid the last meter toward the PO3, shedding momentum.
“Go!” Even over all the yelling, Coop could hear Eve screaming.
Coop ignored the pain as he pumped his legs ferociously. They had to be neck and neck as they approached the finish line, but there was no way Coop was losing this now.
Not with Eve standing right there watching.
Typically, runners threw their chests out at the last minute to gain a little extra distance at the finish. Coop and the other runner did this to varying degrees. The other runner did it a reasonable amount.
This was why he lost.
Instead of being reasonable, Coop threw himself across the finish line at full speed. He fell hard as his squad scattered to avoid him. Coop didn’t put out his arm to break his fall, that was a broken wrist just waiting to happen; so he tried to turn the fall into a roll. It partially worked. Coop lost some skin on the side of his face, and would have a few bruises later, but other than that he was good to go.
Second squad went crazy; all thoughts of the rigorous PT session forgotten.
Eve practically howled in celebration. Even soft-spoken Emma was cheering. Andrew was commenting on how the small lead he’d gained allowed them to win, while Mike talked trash to the losing squad. They all gathered around Coop and helped him to his feet.
“Yuh fuckin’ stupid, Coopa. But yuh won.” PO3 appeared amongst them.
He pointed the rest of second squad over to the side to do cool-down stretches while the rest of the squad lined up to go again. He also took a quick look at Coop’s face.
“Yuh fine.” He smacked the side of his face after examining him. Coop recoiled at the sting. “Go join yuh squad.”
Coop did just that, and received a round of applause and a few high-fives for his effort.
“Way to go, Coop.” Coop noticed Eve’s transition in addressing him.
“You told me not to fuck it up, Eve. So I didn’t.” They grinned at each other.
<And I’m in.> Coop knew that look in a woman’s eye. He didn’t give a shit about the SSG’s fraternization rules anymore.
He was going to fuck the shit out of Eve Berg, and she was going to love it.