Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Coop ran across the mats to his preassigned square. It was an awkward sensation. The mats were firm, firm enough that he didn’t roll an ankle while running across them; but they also conformed to his foot with every step. It was like running in really shallow sand. Coop had done that once on one of Lake Erie’s beaches before his mother died. Beach being a term used very loosely. Most people would have called it an ecological disaster, or at best a dump.
<7.> Coop reached the holographic number that was bobbing slightly in the air and waited.
Less than five seconds later his opponent appeared.
<I’m going to knock you the fuck out you stupid motherfucker.> Coop could feel adrenaline pumping through his veins as he locked eyes with Andrew Davenport.
Everyone in second squad would have sold their left nut, or ovary, for the chance to whoop Davenport’s ass. Hell, everyone in the company probably wanted to take a swing at the jackass. Ever since his comment back on the first day people had seen him for what he truly was.
Davenport tried to play himself off as a knowledgeable, competent, even superior recruit to everyone, but he didn’t fool anyone. In reality, he was a lazy sack of shit. He always complained, even if it was the simplest task, and he only did just enough to get by. Sometimes he didn’t do it at all and the rest of the squad had to cover down on his workload.
Coop was the first to admit that he also complained, sometimes a lot, but he always got the job done; and he personally thought some of his complaints were warranted.
<If one fails then you all fail.> SSG Cunningham had driven that point home early on, so second squad not only had to accomplish their tasks, but they had to clean up after Davenport on top of that.
It resulted in an atmosphere where Davenport did a lot of walking around and talking while everyone else was working. Since the squad needed a healthy way to vent their frustrations they constantly belittled him, made jokes at his expense, and did their best to not include him in anything they were doing. Because if they did, he would just walk around and give orders like he was the squad leader. Eve had given up on rehabilitating him. Now she just did damage control with anything he got involved in.
All of this meant that there was no greater gift in this world than being given the opportunity to kick Davenport’s ass.
“Andrew,” Coop said calmly, but he couldn’t keep the vicious smile off his face.
“I’m going to wipe that smirk off your face, Cooper.” Davenport cocked his head to either side, his neck cracking audibly. “You’re just another little Rat shit that needs to be put in his place.”
Coop tried really hard not to laugh. “Bring it.”
While Coop might have been daydreaming about this moment for weeks, actually getting the job done wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
Davenport was big, not as big as Mike, but still bigger than Coop. Being a former Rat, Coop had been thin when he arrived at the training center. Since then, regular physical exercise, good air, and three square meals a day had put a good ten kilos of muscle onto his frame. Normally that wouldn’t have been possible, but the wonders of technology could do a lot a normal person couldn’t.
Still, Davenport had joined the military already fit and with a fifteen kilo advantage. The only thing Davenport didn’t slack in was the physical challenges, so while Coop had put some meat on his bones so had Davenport.
While the squad jackass might have had the weight advantage, Coop had the reach. Davenport was about five centimeters shorter, and on top of that Coop’s arms were just naturally longer.
If this was a professional fight between two trained combatants both of them would have been able to make use of their advantages. But Coop and Davenport weren’t trained fighters. This would be a down and dirty brawl, there was no way around that; and Davenport’s physical prowess was going to be a problem for Coop.
Not that Coop was thinking about that at the moment.
“As Petty Officer Janney already stated you may not kill your opponent.” SSG Cunningham’s magnified voice echoed throughout the room. “If you step out of your square you will cease fighting, reenter the square, and then continue. If any of these trainers see you not following that rule you will learn a very painful lesson. Understood?”
“Yes, Staff Sergeant!” The company yelled as a side door opened and another dozen soldiers with corporal chevrons walked into the room.
“Good, because this is your one and only warning.” The SSG waited for the trainers to space themselves around the room. “Each match will last for three minutes. After that, if both of you are still conscious, a winner will be decided. If you win you will have a five minute rest where you are free to see the medics.” Another door opened and half a dozen people with red crosses on their CMUs entered and took a seat at some tables along the wall. “After the rest period is up you will move to the next assigned square to continue.”
“Lastly, and most importantly.” The SSG’s hard eyes passed over the company. “You may surrender to your opponent at any time. If you feel a tap on your body, see or hear a tap on the mat, or are told by a trainer that your opponent is tapping then you will immediately break contact. If you do not, you will answer to me.”
No one needed to be asked if they understood. Facing off against the fearsome woman was the last thing on anyone’s mind.
“Round one begins in thirty seconds. Prepare yourselves.”
Coop didn’t need to prepare, he was already pumped. He danced from foot to foot, cracking his knuckles and shaking out his arms.
“You can’t dance away from me you little bitch.” Davenport wasn’t doing anything but standing there.
Coop didn’t respond to the taunts, he just smiled.
Coop was able to put together enough about Davenport’s past to guess that he’d probably thought he was hot shit in high school. He was from somewhere in the ‘burbs with a rich mommy and daddy who probably got him a fancy PAD or an air-car for his sixteenth birthday. While Coop was sure the bigger recruit had been in fights in the halls, and been challenged in whatever sport he’d played, that wasn’t the same thing as a fight in the PHA. Davenport had fought some other jocks in the halls over whoever was going to tap the piece of ass of the week. Coop had fought people half-mad with hunger, or who were out scavenging to provide something their family desperately needed.
That was what was going to make all the difference between Coop and Davenport. Both might be able to fight, but Coop was going to do what he had to in order to survive.
“Ready. . .set. . .begin.” The SSG counted down the last three seconds.
Neither Davenport nor Coop hesitated closing the gap between them. They didn’t want to test each other, they didn’t want to dance around, they just wanted to get in there and knock each other’s heads off.
The level of aggression was noticed by the nearby trainers, SSG Cunningham, and PO3 Janney through the multitude of high-resolution cameras and the bio-feedback they were getting from all the recruits’ uniforms.
The squares weren’t big, only about five meters by five meters, so it only took a few steps to bring the two recruits within hand-to-hand range. Both recruits were in a general boxer’s stance, although even someone with a week of training would have shaken their heads at the poor footwork.
Coop was the first to attack.
Although he didn’t know his attack had a name, he essentially threw a one-two combo. Davenport dodged both punches by moving his head slightly out of the way. It was clear he’d seen that type of attack before, and he capitalized on Coop’s mistake.
Instead of keeping his distance, Coop’s momentum carried him forward into Davenport’s shorter range. While Coop was able to dodge Davenport’s own jab, he was not able to get out of the way of the body blow that caught him right in the gut.
Whether by luck or skill, Coop would have guessed the former; Davenport’s blow knocked all the air out of Coop’s lungs. It was like Coop was being kicked out of the air-bus on the first day all over again. And he was too preoccupied with trying to draw air into his lungs to even try and dodge the follow-up blow.
Davenport’s fist made contact with the side of Coop’s head. Coop felt his body fall to the side as his vision exploded in a series of tiny supernovas. By the time he’d cleared the fog out of his head enough to see, Davenport was laughing and walking towards him with a confident smirk.
“You little Rat shit. I told you I was going to fuck you up.” Davenport got into position to rain down punches onto Coop.
Instinct took over as Coop saw an opening. He rolled from his side to his back, ignoring the nausea of the sudden movement, and the lashed out with his foot.
Davenport was caught mid-laugh as Coop’s foot crashed into the side of his knee. There was a sickening crunch, and then a scream as Davenport fell to the ground like a toppled tree.
The screaming was so bad that several nearby fights stopped to see what had happened. But Coop ignored all of that. His head still swimming, he crawled over to Davenport and got up onto his knees. He straddled the now crying recruit and proceeded to rain down punches onto Davenport’s unprotected head.
Davenport feebly tried to protect himself, but Coop was basically sitting on top of him now, and had blocked Davenport’s arms with his legs.
<One…three…four…six…> Coop counted the blows he landed, and ignored the growing amount of blood that was splashing up onto him. <They said don’t stop until he taps, and I’m pretty sure this won’t kill him.>
Coop didn’t even care that he was enjoy this. Seeing Davenport’s face smashed until it was unrecognizable made Coop a very happy man.
“Time!” The SSG’s voice rang out, and a trainer immediately grabbed Coop.
“What? I didn’t do nothin’.” Coop protested, but he couldn’t keep the smile off his blood-stained face.
“Get over to the medic, Recruit.” Despite Coop’s struggling, the smaller corporal had an iron grip on him. “Get your head checked out.”
“Fine.” Coop held up his hands in surrender, and the corporal let him go.
With one last satisfying look back at Davenport’s beaten and broken body, Coop strolled over to the team of medics who were being swarmed by recruits.
Coop swayed a little bit in line as he waited. The room seemed to be rotating a little.
“It’s just a bloody lip, stop being a pussy, NEXT!”
“Yeah, your hand is broken. Didn’t you know punching someone in the face is going to hurt you as much as it hurts them. Step over here, NEXT!”
Coop stepped forward and a medic held up a long polyplast rectangle and ran it down his body.
“This blood yours?” The focused man asked.
“Nope.” Coop grinned.
“Good.” He didn’t say anything else until he finished running the device over Coop’s whole body. “Mild concussion. Step over here and duck next time. NEXT!”
Coop stepped over the where the medic instructed him, and swayed right into the business end of a needle.
“What the shit!” Coop jumped at the sudden sting.
“Quit being a baby, Recruit. You’ll feel better in a minute. Sit over there and wait for your next match assignment.”
Coop did what he was told. The medic didn’t lie. Within a minute the fuzziness in his brain dissipated, and he didn’t sway anymore. Even the pain in his head was gone.
<Talk about a fucking miracle drug.> Coop breathed in a deep sigh of relief. <One down a few more to go.>
Coop wanted to win. He wanted to kick ass, take names, get numbers, and get some fine ass out of this whole deal. If he fought well enough Eve might even notice.
“One minute!” SSG Cunningham yelled. “Get to your next assigned square.”
Coop got to his feet and rolled his shoulders. He felt great.
<12.> He saw his combat-square assignment on the wall and headed for his next fight.