Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
<I didn’t join the military to be a fucking waiter.> Coop grumbled as he stood on the edge of the crowd.
He was carrying a clear polyplast serving dish filled with what looked like mini-cheeseburgers. He had to shut his mouth to keep the drool from leaking onto his uniform.
<No one would notice if I had just one.> He convinced himself to break Petty Officer Janney’s standing order.
“Eat anything and I’ll run ya till ya die.” Those had been the PO3’s parting words before the ceremony’s reception.
The ceremony itself had been fine. A crowd of about fifty had gathered for Staff Sergeant Cunningham’s promotion to Gunnery Sergeant. They all got to sit in chairs Echo Company had set up earlier while the basic training company had to stand rigidly in formation. On top of that, the PO3 broke up the squads for aesthetic purposes.
Instead of ten squads of varying size they were divided into eight squads of eight arranged by height; which meant he got split off from second squad and Eve. It wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. The worst thing happened to Bart Aaron, first squad’s leader. He got pulled out of the formation and had to stand up front with PO3 Janney. He got to hold what the PO3 called a Guide-On, which was a flag with the unit designation and symbol fastened to the end of a fake wood pole.
Apparently, it was a big deal.
The second worst detail was the two recruits who got assigned to be ushers. They had to smile, greet people, and show them to their seats if necessary. None of them wanted to be doing any of that. In fact, the whole company had been scheduled for tactical VR training. And no one was too keen on having to spend over an hour at parade-rest and the position of attention instead of virtually kicking the shit out of each other.
But it was the SSG, now GYSGT’s, big day; so Coop didn’t bitch too much. Then they handed him the tray of mini-burgers and he couldn’t take it anymore.
“Don’t even think about it.” Eve appeared out of the crowd with a pointed look that said; “I’m gonna slap you if you try.”
“And stop complaining.” She added.
“What? I didn’t say anything.” Coop grumbled.
“But you’re thinking it.” She took a position next to him, standing straight and tall, with on hand behind her back in a modified position of parade-rest.
She looked professionally hot, and Coop had to control his thoughts.
“No I wasn’t.” Instead of focusing on Eve he focused on lying.
“Sure you were,” she shot back confidently. “You get this look on your face when you think something is bullshit.”
“Do too. And it makes you look constipated.”
Coop didn’t know what to say about that. Thankfully, he didn’t have to.
“Recruit Berg, Recruit Cooper.” The newly minted Gunnery Sergeant Cunningham walked past, her hand quickly snatching one of the coveted mini-burgers.
“Sta. . .” Coop responded reflexively despite himself.
“Gunney.” Eve recovered for the both of them. “Congratulations on your promotion.”
“Thank you.” The GYSGT had a glass of booze in her hand and her cheeks were flush, which highlighted her freckles. “You hang around long enough and you might have these one day.” She pointed at the new rank insignia on her shoulder.
It was also pretty clear she was talking to Eve and not Coop.
“That’s high praise coming from you, Gunney.” Eve blushed a little.
“You’ve got the balls for it, Berg. If you can deal with the bullshit then you’re going to go places.” The GYSGT looked like she wanted to say more, but then they were interrupted.
“There you are.” An athletic brunette walked over and deftly slipped her arm around the GYSGT’s waist. “People are wondering where you wandered off to.”
“Just sharing the tricks of the trade with these young recruits here.” The GYSGT drained the rest of her class and smiled.
“Recruits, this is Terri, my girlfriend. Terri these are Recruits Berg and Cooper. They’re two of the best in my current company.”
<Did she just call me one of her best?>
<Did she just grab Terri’s ass?>
<Is our sadistic drill sergeant a little wasted?>
Coop’s mind had trouble deciding which of these thoughts was more important.
“It was nice to meet you both.” Terri smiled, confirming that he’d just guessed correctly for all of the above. “But I’ve got to get the new Gunnery Sergeant back to the party. She spent enough time with all you recruits and not enough time with me or the rest of her friends.”
<The Gunney has friends?> Coop felt like his perception of the world was getting turned upside down.
“Nice to meet you, Terri.” Eve smiled as the brunette woman guided the GYSGT back toward the group of waiting NCOs and officers. All of whom promptly started yelling at the new GYSGT for not having a drink in her hand.
“It isn’t a party until someone passes out.” Eve seemed to be quoting something from memory.
“Why’s that? And how would you know?” Coop asked.
“Let’s just say I’ve been to a few of these military-style parties, and it can all be chalked up to tradition. Plus, there’s no one higher than a lieutenant commander here so no real harm can get done.”
As she said it a man with two golden stripes walked through the door to the small event hall. Coop watched as Lieutenant Commander Shepherd broke off from the group around the new GYSGT and made a beeline for the new man. Somewhere between leaving the group and arriving at the man a beer had appeared in his hand.
The new officer took the beer with a smile and clinked it lightly against the LCDR’s.
“Shit. You’ve got to be kidding me.” The officer started to move toward Eve and Coop like they had tractor beams attached to their foreheads. “Ok, just stand there, look professional, wipe the constipated look off your face, and don’t say anything unless asked. Understood?” Eve ordered frantically.
“Sure thing, boss-lady.” Coop grinned seeing the perfect opportunity. “But what’s in it for me?”
Eve shot a venomous look at Coop just before the Commander arrived.
“Recruits.” The CMDR smiled and took a pull of his beer.
“Commander,” Eve replied, and Coop followed her lead by snapping to the position of attention.
Automatically, Coop didn’t like the guy. He had specks of blue in his eyes; which the former Rat immediately identified with people who had taken advantage of him for most of his life. Then there was the possessive way he looked at Eve. If it wasn’t for Eve’s command, Coop probably would have taken a protective step between the officer and his squad leader. It didn’t matter that Eve was the better fighter.
Then Coop recognized the name tag.
“Commander Berg?” His statement was half reply half question.
The officer just looked amused.
“Recruit Cooper.” The CMDR read Coop’s name tag and turned his inquisitive stare on him. “How do you know my little sister?”
If Coop had felt uncomfortable before he was tremendously uncomfortable now. His reply was still quick. He’d developed a habit of answering simple questions while his mind was on autopilot. “She’s my squad leader, Sir.”
“Is she a good squad leader?” There was some unspoken communication passing between the CMDR and Eve, but Coop couldn’t tell what it was.
“She’s the best, Sir.” He replied, daring the CMDR to say something different.
The CMDR cocked an eyebrow at Coop, took a sip of beer, and then laughed. The move threw off both Coop and Eve.
“Loyalty in your subordinates already.” He nodded appreciatively. “A fine trait in an officer.”
“I’m just a simple recruit, sir.” Eve replied tiredly, like this was an ongoing argument between them.
“We’ll see about that.” The officer’s face went from relaxed to tense in a heartbeat. “Eve,” he leaned in closer, “I’m here as a warning. Mom knows, and she isn’t. . .”
“ATTENTION ON DECK!”
Coop instinctually froze as a large entourage and security detail entered the hall. All of them were officers with at least three golden stripes, and the few NCOs that were present had the star of a sergeant major between their three chevrons and rockers.
Every NCO and officer who had been having a good time immediately sobered up…literally. Coop saw several popping meds to thin the alcohol from their blood before popping to attention. The old and tired Lieutenant Commander Shepherd looked like he might have a heart attack. But the expression on his face was nothing compared to Eve or her older brother’s.
“Shit!” They both whispered. Both were wide-eyed and looked to the other for help, but then the entourage started to move in their direction.
A full squad of the entourage was armed with M3s and in heavy armor. They kept their eyes on everyone and everything. Between them marched a tall, stern looking woman. One look at the woman’s features and Coop knew.
This was Eve’s mother.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” LCDR Shepherd announced. “Please welcome Admiral Sonya Berg, Chief of Naval Intelligence.”
<Naval Intelligence.> Coop gulped as the strikingly beautiful admiral stalked toward them with the grace of a jungle cat.
Coop knew about the branch of the Commonwealth Fleet from the courses at the beginning of basic, and he hurriedly tried to piece together the information.
The Naval Intelligence section of the Commonwealth Fleet was a network of agents, installations, and warships that spanned the entirety of human occupied space. It encompassed everyone from a destroyer’s intelligence officer to spies on the ground in Blockie occupied territory. Some of the assets were common knowledge and some were covert, with the idea being that naval intelligence had their finger on the pulse of the fleet and the fleet’s enemies at all times.
Naval Intelligence was broken down into six sections similar to the staff positions of infantry units at the battalion level or higher. NI1 dealt with personnel. It did background checks for the Fleet while also keeping lengthy dossiers on important and influential enemy combatants. It ran a network of human intelligence agents that spanned the known galaxy. NI2 dealt with security. Most of the uniformed intelligence officers assigned to warships were part of NI2, but the rumor mill always churned out gossip of the covert operations that NI2 had their hand in. NI3 was primarily concerned with operations. It kept tabs on enemy fleet movements, ran analytical models on probable engagements, and constantly tried to put the Commonwealth in an advantageous tactical position; while combating their counterparts in Blockie intelligence. NI4 dealt with the material issues of the Fleet. Any secret hardware anywhere in the Commonwealth was handled by NI4. Any new weapons being tested also had NI4’s fingerprints on it. On top of all of that, they kept a constant eye on the new classes of enemy warships and worked on countermeasures to defeat them. The section was instrumental in the process of building the Commonwealth’s own next generation of ships. NI5 was the face of the organization. It handled all of the public relations information, including any censoring, disinformation, or media campaigns against the enemy. Lastly, NI6 dealt with signal intelligence. Anything involving spying on the enemy by listening or cracking their transmissions and codes was handled by NI6.
And all of that was handled by Eve’s mother…Her incredibly hot mother.
<MILF alert!> Coop’s brain screamed despite any shred of commonsense or self-preservation.
Admiral Berg looked like an older, dignified version of Eve. Where Eve was just coming into her full beauty, Admiral Berg was a woman who had already bloomed and knew how to use every shred of what she was to get exactly what she wanted; whatever that might be.
Coop knew all of that the moment her cold blue eyes met his. It was like looking into the depths of a frost covered sea with flecks of blue floating at the surface.
Coop also got the impression that the admiral knew he wanted to fuck her daughter, and she did not approve.
<This is going to be awkward.>
Admiral Berg stopped in front of them and focused all of her attention on Eve. Coop could have been a dancing monkey throwing his own shit everywhere and she wouldn’t have paid any attention to him.
“We need to talk…now.” Her tone was just as frigid as her eyes.
There was no questioning that order. Eve just nodded and went with her.