Two Worlds – Chapter 36

Name: Eve Berg

Genetic Identification Code: L0303241477211

Physical Health: Good

Mental Health: [Authorized Personnel Only]

Education: High School Graduate

Occupation: Recruit, United Commonwealth of Colonies Armed Forces

Criminal History: N/A

Citizen Status: Confirmed

Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“Recruit Berg, front and center.” Eve had a bad feeling the second the chow hall corporal called the entire room to attention.

The soldiers that ran the facility didn’t call the room to attention every time an officer walked through the door. If they did, recruits would be on their feet throughout their entire meal. There was an unspoken rule in place. Spending even five minutes going through formalities in the middle of a day in basic training pushed everyone off schedule. Throwing whole companies off their training plan was going to lead to headaches that worked their way up the chain to people with multiple gold stripes on their CMUs. Basic training was a highly tuned machine that people shouldn’t fuck with.

All of this told Eve that whoever was doing this didn’t belong here.

“Fuck.” Her eyes scanned her squad quickly. Their reactions varied.

Coop was sitting across from her with a mix of surprise, suspicion, and what she thought was respect. <He would like me being in trouble.> She held back a smile.

Coop might not know it, but she had a pretty good read on him. He was the classic bad boy, at least in his own mind. He wanted the world to go blow itself, and he pretended he didn’t give a rat’s ass about it.

She knew that was a load of horseshit.

She’d seen the look in his eyes when he won that relay race for the squad. She saw the determination to get shit done right, even if he pissed people off in the process. Coop wasn’t a blind lemming that was going to walk over the edge of a cliff because someone with NCO chevrons or officer stripes told him to. That made him dangerous, but it also made him an asset. You just needed to know how to lead him.

<He’s not that bad looking either.>

The first time she saw him, Eve thought he was a scrawny weakling with his clothes wearing him rather than the other way around. Now, after a few weeks of military life, he was filling out his CMUs quite nicely.

The rest of the squad just looked confused. Harper had that look she had when a particularly juicy piece of gossip reached her ears, and Davenport looked like the self-indulged perv that he was. Everyone else was just trying to figure out what their squad leader could have done to get called out in front of an entire chow hall.

“Moving, Corporal!” Eve screamed back. If this was what she thought it was then she was going to act like a soldier.

Without a second glance she ran to the front of the room and stopped in front of the officer who was screwing everything up.

“Recruit Berg, reporting as ordered.” She saluted a few feet away from the stern-faced officer, a face that was so much like her own.

“As you were, Recruit.” The word came out like the officer had eaten a rotten lemon.

“Is there anything else we can do for you, Commander?” The chow hall corporal looked uneasy. This was throwing things off, he knew it, but there was nothing he could do about it.

“That will be all, Corporal.” The commander didn’t even look at the younger soldier. “Outside, Recruit Berg, I’d like to have a word with you.”

“Yes, Sir.” Eve snapped back to the position of attention and followed the commander out of the chow hall.

Loud conversations reached her ears before the door finished hissing shut; conversations that were undoubtedly about her.

The commander didn’t speak at first. He paced back and forth in front of her, his eyes darting in her direction every once and a while. The blue specks in those eyes made him looked crazy when coupled with the throbbing purple vein in his forehead.

He was pissed.

Eve just stood at the position of attention, eyes straight ahead.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Eve?” The officer finally spoke.

“Permission to speak freely, Sir?”

<If you want it you’ll get it.> Eve could practically feel her fingers losing circulation in her trembling fists.

“Yeah.” The commander stopped in front of her and put his hands on his hips like an angry parent.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Derrick?”

Eve’s older brother, Derrick Berg’s glare cut into her like a hot knife.

“What the fuck am I doing here? Are you seriously asking me that question?” His own fists were trembling now. “I’m here because a friend of mine in Personnel… you remember Jeremy…called me yesterday.” Derrick was pacing again. “He said there was an Eve Berg on the roster for Basic class 066-14 at Stewart-Benning Training Center. He didn’t think it could possibly be my baby sister Eve. Then he checked the GIC.”

<Damnit.> Eve cursed. She thought she’d covered her tracks fairly well. She’d accounted for as many contingencies as she could, but a random officer in Personnel looking out for her brother wasn’t something she could plan around.

“Yeah, so?” Her response was anticlimactic, and that made her brother even angrier.

“So?…So!” He wasn’t able to keep his anger in check. “You were supposed to go to Sandhurst or West Point. God dammit, Eve, even RMCC would have been fine.” He seethed. Eve could practically see steam coming out of his ears.

“No, I’m not supposed to do anything. That was your plan for me; your’s and Mom’s.” She shot back.

“We only want what is best for you!” The conversation had long ago lost any sense of civility. It was just a screaming match now.

“No! You just want me to do what you want. I don’t want to go to Sandhurst, West Point, or RMCC. I want to be here.” Eve stomped her foot for emphasis.

“Here.” Derrick laughed in her face. “At basic training with the Rats and suburban rejects. You want to be here with those who couldn’t make it as an officer. You want to be a lowly spacer, crawling around in the bowels of ships fixing loose gaskets for the first four years of your career.”

“Hell no. ” Eve gave him a malevolent smile. “I plan to keep my feet on the ground.”

It took a second for that to sink in, but when it did Derrick Berg took a step back; like she’d slapped him. “You can’t be serious.”

“As serious as a case of hemorrhoids, big bro.”

“You’re insane.” He started pacing back and forth. “That’s the only way to explain it. I’m going to get the base doctor to give you psych eval. Then we can get you out of here.”

“Why is it insane?” Eve was surprised how level her voice was when she asked the question. “I want to learn how to fight like every other soldier in the world. I want to challenge myself. I need to know what the men and women underneath me do so if I choose to be an officer one day I’ll understand my soldiers better. That’s not insanity, that’s being practical.”

“You want to be a grunt, a ground pounder, cannon fodder? No one sane joins the infantry.” Derrick wheeled on her.

“Dad was infantry.” The comeback was quiet, barely above a whisper; but it unleashed a firestorm.

“DAD’S DEAD because he was in the infantry!” The vein in Derrick’s head looked like it was about to burst.

“Dad’s dead because the Blockies decided they wanted something that wasn’t theirs. Dad’s dead because he sacrificed himself to save millions of civilian lives. Dad died a hero.” Eve matched her brother’s anger with righteous fury.

“Dad died in a trench with half his head blown off. A Cross of Honor doesn’t change that. “Derrick’s eyes blazed. “Look what it did to mom. Look what it did to me, and now look what it’s doing to you.”

It was Eve’s turn to laugh.

“Oh yeah, the great Admiral Sonya Berg. How is good old mom doing? Last time I saw her she was hip deep in antidepressants.” Eve shot back.

“Don’t fucking talk about her like that.” Derrick took a threatening step forward; threatening enough that Eve dropped into a combat stance. “You know what she’s seen; you know what she’s lost.” He paused. “Hearing you did this is going to kill her.”

“Don’t put that on me.” Eve relaxed her stance, but her eyes stabbed into him. “She made her decisions, you made yours and I’m making mine.”

Derrick took a deep breath and let it out. Then he changed tactics.

“Why the infantry?” The anger was still present, but it was restrained now.

“I want control of my life?” Eve barely got the statement out before Derrick was laughing at her.

“You want control.” He was bent over, slapping his knee. “You’re in the wrong profession little sister. You have no control in this line of work.”

“Not that type of control, jackass. I want control when shit goes down. I want to hold a rifle in my hand, rely on my training, and make my own way through a fight. I don’t want to sit in a tin can and pray that a stray missile doesn’t get past the ship’s defenses. I’d rather get my head blown off then die suffocating out in the void. I’ll live and die on my own terms.”

“You could still end up on a ship somewhere,” Derrick countered. “You might end up a Marine on damage control duty, no rifle in your hand, and no say in how the battle plays out. You’ll be even more helpless, and you’ll still be crawling around fixing shit.”

“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.” It was actually Eve’s biggest fear, but she wasn’t going to let her brother know that.

Eve felt drained, and when Derrick failed to respond, she expected he was too. He even leaned on the side of the chow hall.

“You’re incorrigible you know that right?” His voice was back to normal now.

“I’ve been called worse,” she replied, keeping her own voice neutral.

They sat in an awkward silence for a few moments before he replied. “You know mom isn’t going to let this go.”

It was a warning.

“I’ll handle mom.” Eve sounded more confident than she felt.

“Good luck with that.” Derrick took a deep breath, before slowly approaching her.

She let him, and they shared a brief hug. “Don’t let it be two years before I see you again.”

Despite the screaming match, which she was sure half the base heard, Eve still loved her brother. <He’s just an overprotective, overbearing, asshat sometimes.>

“I wish I could, but a Battlecruiser doesn’t run itself.” He gave her a brief smile.

They both heard the soft whine of the air-car before they saw it loop around the side of the chow hall and come to a hover beside them.

“Skipper.” A Petty Officer with a few more stripes than PO3 Janney rolled down the window and nodded to Derrick. “Recruit.” Eve was on the receiving end of a much less friendly expression.

“I’ve got to get back into orbit, but I’ll try to make it back for your graduation.”

“Thanks.” She meant it. “Please don’t tell mom.” It was a desperate plea, and she wasn’t sure it would work after their vocal conversation.

“I won’t, but I’d bet my ship she already knows.”

<Great.> They shared another brief hug before Derrick hopped into the back of the air-car and flew off.

With her brother gone that left Eve alone outside the chow hall, something a recruit was never supposed to be. They were always supposed to have a battle buddy; another soldier who went and did everything with them. Usually that was Coop.

Eve didn’t wait for some NCO to find her, she sprinted for the assembly area. When she arrived the company was already gone, but PO3 Janney was standing there like an angry god ready to rain down fire on unworthy mortals.

“Do ya pull-ups, Recruit!” He hollered when she passed the bars. “Ya don’t get special treatment ‘cause ya got ta talk ta an officer. Ya little chat fucked everthin’ up. Ya late for the course now.”

Pull-ups didn’t bother Eve, but this mysterious course did. If her squad was going to go through an evaluation then she needed to be leading it. <If I don’t make it there then Coop’s in charge.>

She finished her pull-ups and sprinted after the PO3. She needed to get back to her squad, and fast.

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