Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“What the fuck’s the point of all this?” Coop growled as he deposited the dry branches in a small pile a safe distance away from the growing fire.
“What’s up with you, Mr. McPouty-Face?” Harper teased from the opposite side of the fire.
“I’m not pouting,” Coop argued. “I just don’t see the benefit of this.”
“Coop’s pouting!” Harper ignored his response and yelled to the rest of the group.
“Coop is always pouting.” Eve slid away from the flames and smiled. “If he can’t find something to bitch at then something is terribly terribly wrong.”
“I’m not that bad,” Coop crossed his arms defensively. “I think I’ve got some pretty valid complaints.”
“Too bad the Staff Sergeant and Petty Officer don’t give a flying fuck about your ‘valid’ complaints.”
Second squad laughed, and Coop couldn’t help but laugh with them. Night was falling on their last day of the wilderness week. The training that had started with them being ambushed by an entire separate company, which was a lot farther along in their training, would come to an end tomorrow morning; and Coop couldn’t be happier.
They’d spent the last week out in the field, sleeping on the ground, and doing tasks that seemed pointless. Or at least Coop saw them as pointless.
“The point of all this is simple,” Eve stated, addressing his original question. “What have we done this week?”
<What have we done?> It was a broad question Coop had to think about.
“We did some land nav, learned how to build shelters, how to dig, how to build fires, and what could and couldn’t be eaten out here. We ran the Gauntlet twice, and we’ve spent the last twenty-four hours doing our final test. Get from point A to point B without dying.” The last sentence was a direct quote from PO3 Janney.
There was more, but those were the highlights.
“Correct to a point.” Eve conceded. “Now let’s think about it in terms of the military, which you need to remember you’re in now. I’ll be the first to admit that not everything the military does has a logical purpose, but Basic training is an exception to that. The curriculum is specifically designed to develop the next generation of warriors. Keep that in mind, Coop.”
Coop did keep that in mind, and endured Eve’s constant reminders.
“So the first thing we did was land nav. We’ve been looking at maps and plotting points for over a week and now was our chance to do real training with that knowledge. It is fine to be able to identify a hill, valley, ridge, saddle, or depression on a topographical holo; but it’s another thing entirely to see one in reality and negotiate how to overcome it and still make it to your objective.”
<But that’s why we have GPS.> Coop didn’t interrupt though.
“Next we learned how to build shelters, including how to dig. Which is a huge mischaracterization of that training,” Eve frowned at Coop. “What we did was learn the best way to make a defensive position. Digging a foxhole or a system of trenches might just be digging now, but it will be home sweet home when Blockies start breaking through a shield wall and storming our positions.”
A haunting look crept onto Eve’s face, but she shook her head and it was gone. But Coop had seen it.
“Next we learned how to build a fire because building a fire is a fucking necessity. If you can’t do what our ancestors did tens of thousands of years ago you might as well go off yourself because you’re a waste of space.” Eve snapped harshly.
“Geez, ok,” Coop held up his hands defensively.
“And we learned what we can and can’t eat from the wild because it’s better than eating MREs for weeks on end, and that’s if we’re lucky enough to have MREs.”
In Coop’s opinion, being lucky enough to have MREs was an oxymoron. The prepackaged Meals Ready to Eat were the military’s version of the BSA rations Coop used to get back in the PHA. They tasted like ass and were better used as a weapon to bludgeon the enemy to death with, because the “pre” part in prepackaged alluded to a production date before anyone in second squad was born. On top of the inedible nature of the food, if you were able to get it down it stopped you up like someone had poured concrete into your intestines.
Coop hadn’t taken a shit in three days.
“Lastly we have our test, which as you all know is a culmination of everything we’ve learned this week.” Eve pointed at the edge of the clearing they were camping in, the fire burning in front of them, and the small pile of berries in a small divot of fabric. “We’ve had to hike twenty klicks over the mountain and through the woods, without food, water, or shelter. We’ve had to survive on our own. That’s the fucking point of this week. It’s as much a motivational boost as it is important training.”
“But how is it important training?” Coop couldn’t help but ask. “Sure I don’t want to eat MRE’s but we’ll have them. I saw them cart a whole air-truck of them out here. Land nav is fun. I mean who doesn’t like walking around in the woods trying to find an orange triangle in the middle of the night. But we have GPS systems for a reason, and they’re on our PADs so we’ll always be able to access them.” Coop felt like he was on a roll, and a few other members of the squad were nodding.
“Who needs to rub two sticks together to make fire, anyone ever heard of a lighter?” He got a couple of chuckles for that remark, but not from Eve.
Eve just shook her head.
“You’ve really got a thick skull you know that Coop.”
Coop didn’t know whether to take that as an insult or a compliment.
“You’ve been here for two weeks and you haven’t seen the pattern yet.” Eve popped a berry in her mouth with a sad smile.
“What pattern? The pattern of us doing pointless shit that our tech could do in a quarter of the time and better than we ever could?”
“Exactly!” The ferociousness of Eve’s response caused Coop to lean back away from her.
“We’re doing the stuff that our tech would usually do.” Eve said it expectantly, like she assumed he would connect the dots.
She frowned when he didn’t.
“You’ve got a pretty face but not much going on between the ears.” She shook her head.
All Coop heard was that she thought he was pretty.
“Let me lay it out for you and anyone else who is questioning the training.” The setting sun and the fire cast serious shadows around Eve.
“We are training on this shit because tech can be broken. What if an EMP blast burns out your PDA? What if your armor takes so much damage it’s useless? What if that air-truck bringing in the MREs gets hit by an artillery round? Now you’re sitting with no gear, no food, and no way to complete your mission.”
<Shit.> Coop hadn’t thought about that, and judging by the look on Eve’s face she clearly thought he should have.
“Tech can fail and it will fail; it’s Murphy’s Law. And you will die if you’re not ready for it.” The haunted look was back and then it vanished again.
“Murphy’s Law?” Emma asked. It was probably better it was her and not Coop.
“It was a statement made by a guy pre-Expansion, but it has proven true time and time again. He said whatever can go wrong will go wrong. So you can’t plan for that MRE air-truck, or that all your tech is going to work flawlessly throughout a battle. We need to plan for it to go wrong, and that is what the early training curriculum is all about. They’re teaching us what to do if everything goes to shit before they give us the fancy gear, because the fancy gear can fail. What we all need to rely on is ourselves and our team. That’s the point of all of this.” Eve waved around her.
Everyone was quiet for several seconds thinking about what their squad leader had said.
“Well…I guess that makes sense.” Coop broke the silence.
Eve looked at him and then laughed. “I’m glad you approve, Coop.”
“You know me,” he grinned back, getting a snort from the squad leader.
With the argument in the past, and it getting late, second squad set up their watch schedule and started to settle in for the night. Their fart sacks had been left behind as part of the mission parameters for the test, so people huddled together for warmth.
Coop looked across the fire at Mike and Harper. The petite female was completely enveloped by the much larger former Rat, and there was the occasional soft giggle. Coop tuned them out. His blue balls were bad enough already.
Coop settled in next to Eve, lying on his back and looking up at the stars. He didn’t pull out his PDA and chart what was up there tonight; which had become a nightly watch time-passer for him. He just laid there thinking.
Thinking never did him any good.
Coop rolled to his side, closed the distance, and draped his arm over Eve. Then he held his breath. Eve didn’t stiffen, pull his arm off, or elbow him in the ribs; all of which he took as a good sign. She couldn’t be asleep already, which meant she knew he was spooning with her and she was ok with it.
<Fuck yeah!> He couldn’t help but get excited.
“If I feel anything poking into my back it better be a stick or I’m going to cut it off.” Eve stated bluntly.
If it was any other woman Coop would have laughed it off, but he’d already seen the wicked-looking duro-steel knife she kept in her pocket. She’d used it to sharpen a stick that had skewered a rabbit which had been the only source of protein the squad had eaten all day.
So Coop quickly got control of himself. The last thing he wanted was to get his dick cut off before he got to do more than cuddle with his amazingly hot squad leader.