Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
His lips softly brushed up against hers. His were chapped and hard while hers were soft like velvet. The kiss started tentative and wary. They both knew this was wrong. They both knew they could get caught, but in the moment they didn’t care.
Coop pulled back a little, but Eve grabbed him tight and pressed her naked body up against his. That was all the invitation he needed. The tentative kiss became aggressive. His tongue parted her lips and danced around her mouth, eliciting a small groan from the woman he’d waited months to bang.
When he came up for breath she attacked. She gripped him around the waist with her legs, pulled off his shirt, and went to work on his belt. She quickly got his clothes off, and then they were laying naked beside each other.
Coop looked into her striking blue eyes, which he could swear were glowing in the soft barracks lighting. He could tell from that look she needed him as much as he needed her, and a quick look down showed he needed her a lot.
Eve ran her hands through his short-cropped hair, dragging her fingernails along his scalp, which sent tingles town his spine. “Are you ready?” She maneuvered him so he was on top of her.
“Yeah.” He replied breathlessly.
She looked up at him again. Her light blue eyes locked with his stormy blue ones and she grinned.
“WAKE UP, COOP!”
Coop jerked so hard as Eve’s scream woke him out of the wet dream that he almost rolled off the bed. Reflexively he caught the opposite side of the thin mattress and shifted his weight so he didn’t fall face-first off the top bunk. That would have been embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as flashing his hard-on to everyone in the squad.
“You awake now?” Eve asked, her head popping up next to him. “And apparently pitching a tent too.” Coop saw her blush before she ducked back out of sight.
“Yep, I’m all good boss-lady.” He tried to keep his voice steady.
<It’s better to let her see if she can handle me now than be in the moment and her back out.> He tried to put a positive spin on the situation, and the “I’ve got a big dick” ego boost did the trick.
“Second squad, get off your asses and get ready for formation. Coop,” Eve singled him out, “please put some clothes on.”
Coop noticed she didn’t make eye contact and was still blushing when she addressed him. That made his day, because the last few days had sucked donkey dick with a side of shit salad. They’d finished up their last VR training exercise nearly a week ago. It had been a long pain in the ass, but it had been fun as hell.
Coop felt completely at home sitting in the middle of shit blowing up all around him. It was a twisted mindset, he realized that on some level, but Gunney Cunningham also told him to embrace that shit because that was where he was going to spend his career as a heavy infantry trooper.
After the VR crash, which hadn’t been bad because he’d lived through the whole battle, and enough sleep to keep the company functional, they’d headed back out to the ranges. Those who hadn’t qualified on their M3s yet did so, those who had qualified tried to do better, and those who still couldn’t qualify got recycled, or in one case just booted out of the armed forces all together.
“Soldiers don’t need ta be able to do a lot. They need ta be able to sleep wherever, fuck whenever, and shoot whatever they’re ordered ta.” PO3 Janney shouted at all of them as the poor recruit from sixth squad got driven off the range. “If y’all can’t do that then y’all are worthless ta me.”
Coop had supreme confidence he could do all three of those things without fail.
The range had been the best part, although it was hot as balls out and his piss was florescent yellow no matter how much he drank. In the end, Coop had upped his qualification score to an eighty-seven out of a hundred, and that earned him the Sharpshooter badge. He thought he was pretty hot shit for about ten seconds until he looked over and saw Eve had hit ninety-nine out of a hundred.
Every time he was looking at her boobs, and she caught him, he said he was admiring her Expert badge. He didn’t know if she bought it. Hell, she might have enjoyed all the attention, but she was pretty pissed about the one target she’d missed.
The fun had ended at the range. They’d spent a night out under the stars, where they thankfully hadn’t been ambushed. They’d done their own ambushing of new company weeks ago, and it was a hell of a lot more enjoyable kicking ass then getting your ass kicked. The morning after the range they had their final test.
“Our task today is to conduct a fifty kilometer road march.” GYSGT Cunningham announced, her glare daring anyone to complain. “Conditions are nominal, and you can find weather data and the route on your PADs. The standard for completing this road march is twenty hours for recruits going into fleet specialties, fifteen for infantry, thirteen for heavy infantry, and you, Recruit Berg, have only twelve hours to complete the march.”
Coop looked around the formation and saw that everyone looked supremely confident. <Thirteen hours is a lot of time.>
“For those of you who struggle with basic arithmetic, that means you future fleet pukes have twenty-four minutes per kilometer, future ground-pounders have eighteen minutes, future heavies have a little over fifteen and a half minutes, and Ms. Berg you have a little under fourteen and a half minutes per kilometer.” The GYSGT looked around at everyone’s confident expressions and gave a grin that wiped them away. “That might not seem like a lot, but you are doing this all in a full kit and carrying a normal combat load for your squad.
<And there’s the ‘fuck you’ I was waiting for.> Coop’s feet hurt just thinking about it.
“Everybody go get your scales on, pack up according to standard, and reassemble for inspection at 0600.”
They did as they were told, and everybody but a girl from tenth squad passed inspection. She got recycled for an integrity violation. Echo Company stepped off on their fifty klick road march at 0630, and it was the longest, most fucking awful thirteen hours of Coop’s life. He’d tried to keep up with Eve, and succeeded for the first fifteen klicks, but then she pulled away. He saw her at the end getting looked over by a medic when he collapsed across the finish line at twelve hours and forty one minutes.
Not everyone else was as lucky. A number of recruits collapsed from heatstroke and couldn’t finish, and some more didn’t make the standard. They all got recycled and had to endure that shit a second time.
At the end of their formal training, Echo Company 132nd Training battalion was down to forty-four recruits, and second squad was down to seven. They’d lost Olivia and John during the ruck march.
“Good job everyone.” For once the PO3 and GYSGT looked like they meant it. “We’re on a twenty-four hours stand down. Get checked out by the medics, get some sleep, eat like fat little piggies, and we’ll see you all at 0600 tomorrow.” Then they were gone, and the company followed their orders to the letter.
Coop got shot full of medical nanites, he ate his weight in pancakes, turkey clubs, and cheeseburgers. Then doubled it in ice cream. He slept like death, and had erotic dreams that would win awards.
And now he was right back where he started; standing in fresh CMUs outside the plain, white barracks as the GYSGT and PO3 gave them a morning inspection. Coop didn’t even pay attention while it all happened. He was too busy about thinking where the dream with Eve could have gone.
“Right face, forward march.”
Coop executed the commands on autopilot, and followed Eve’s gorgeous backside as they marched across the training center. He found it odd they weren’t running, but he wasn’t complaining. <Why run when you can walk.> Even thinking the thought felt wrong after going through basic training.
Since they were marching it was a long march, but he recognized where they were going. The medical center loomed over the cookie-cutter white buildings that dominated the training center. The building was huge, sleek, and shiny. It was still white, but this was medical, sterile white, not the hastily painted barracks white. Coop thought its exterior walls were probably duro-steel. He’d been inside the building more than once and there was some expensive shit in there.
<If I was going to attack or rob this place I’d go straight for the medical center.> He thought. <Knock out the enemy’s ability to care for their wounded.> The tactician inside him chimed in. <Or steal all those drugs. That shit would fetch a fortune on any market.> The thief added his two cents.
Huge doors opened up at the front of the building and the whole company marched right in. The GYSGT led them down a slanted hallway, underground, and into what looked like a large hanger bay. The bay was divided into sections and filled with doctors, technicians, and their equipment. There had to be five hundred people in the room already.
GYSGT Cunningham halted the company, did an about-face, and waited for someone to come get them. They waited for nearly half an hour before a woman with a cute, heart-shaped face and a warm smile came out to meet them. Coop recognized her. She’d monitored him after his poisoning and getting his jaw shattered. He liked her.
“Commander.” The GYSGT greeted the officer, saluted her, and then moved around the formation to the rear. The Commander took charge by stepping into the NCO’s spot.
“Relax everyone, I’m Commander Ives, your Brigade Surgeon. And I’m here to give a brief explanation of what will be occurring this week.” Her good-natured bedside manner immediately put everyone at ease. “But first the paperwork.”
Everyone’s PAD gave a synchronized chime. Coop took his out and started to read the pages of waivers that were attached to the email.
“The short of it,” the doctor stated after allowing them several minutes to read, “is that we are going to change all of you to be better soldiers and spacers. This change is needed to do your jobs, and the changes are proprietary and property of the Commonwealth. I can answer questions if you have any?”
“So we’re going to be owned by the Commonwealth?” Aaron, the recruit going into OCS asked.
“You are already property of the Commonwealth, Recruit Aaron.” The GYSGT answered that question.
“The moment ya signed on the dotted line we owned ya ass.” The PO3 added with a smile.
The doctor just shrugged, and Aaron went back to reading.
“Ma’am.” Coop raised his hand like he was back in school.
The doctor gave him a warm smile. “Nice to see you again, Recruit Cooper. It looks like your jaw has held up nicely.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Coop smiled back. “Is there any chance you could elaborate a bit more on what these changes are? These documents don’t give a lot of specifics.”
“That’s because the enhancements we’ll be making are dependent on your assigned military occupational specialty. Your MOS will determine what you need to do your job to standard.”
<Enhancement.> Coop found the wording intriguing.
“For example, most of you recruits are going to be in the 92 series, which is automated systems technicians. You’ll get qualifiers as you train and become competent in specific systems, but a 92B is a catchall for most enlisted spacers. Physically, you will receive very little enhancement because no matter how strong we make you no one is going to survive getting hit my a missile or a laser.” She looked sad at that. “We’ll do some skin grafting and sure-up your internals to ensure you’ll survive the void for up to a full minute of exposure. But beyond that it isn’t cost effective to do anything more.”
A lot of the future spacers in the room looked a little put off by that.
“The good news is that the 92 series procedure isn’t too bad. It’s only a few hours on the table and a day in recovery, so you’ll have a lot of downtime over the next week.”
That got some spirits back up.
“Now the future infantry recruits, the soon to be 11Bs, your enhancements are a little more invasive. We need to build up your entire muscular-skeletal structure. Bones need to be strengthened, muscle-density needs to be thickened, your quick-twitch muscle fibers need to be manipulated, and all your internals need to be upgraded to meet the increased needs of your new body. All of that needs to be done so you can wear and fight in your armor effectively.”
<That makes sense.> Coop gulped. <I wondered how we were going to be able to do anything with ninety extra kilos on our backs.>
“On top of the physical we need to work on mental capabilities.” The doctor smiled. “92Bs will get a boost in cognitive function so they can handle the multitude of data input you’ll be getting. 11Bs will get their neural pathways hardened to reduce the likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. But everyone is going to get a complete DNA and genome mapping for our epigenetics program. We’re going to analyze your DNA and make sure behaviors and attitudes needed in your job description become prominent. We’re going to bring out that warrior gene in all you 11Bs that’s for sure.” Her warm smile didn’t do much to calm Coop down.
<They’re gonna turn me into fucking Frankenstein?!>
“I see we’ve got a couple heavy infantry, 13B, and an 18B, a Ranger Candidate. Hmmm.” She looked surprised to see that. “I’ll be working on all of you personally. Your procedures are the most invasive, scaled up versions of what the regular 11Bs get. You need to be able to handle the powered armor you’ll be assigned. Trust me, they make the Dragonscale armor feel like paperweights.”
<Fuck me sideways and call me uncle.> Coop wasn’t going to cry, but he felt a little pee dribble out.
“Don’t worry, Cooper.” GYSGT Cunningham called from behind them. “It sucks when it happens, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
<She’s heavy infantry?> He kept his jaw from dropping. <But she’s hot.> That put at ease one of his reservations. He didn’t want to give up his roguish good looks to be able to kick in a door better.
“Recruit Berg.” the Doctor turned to Eve. “You’re getting a lot of special and classified upgrades. I’m going to say I’m sorry now because you’re going to hate me when this is over.”
“Yes, Ma’am. No hard feelings, Ma’am,” Eve replied, but she looked a little paler than normal.
“I’ll ask for your forgiveness after the full recovery week you and the 13Bs are going to spend with me.” That sad smile was back. “Now if everyone will please sign the waivers and pay close attention to the side-effects. It could be anything from severe nausea to death. We try to avoid the latter at all costs, but accidents do happen.”
<Don’t even think about it.> Coop ordered himself as he pressed his GIC to the PAD and confirmed he’d read and understood the documents. <They already own my ass.>
“Excellent.” The doctor stated as confirmations filled back onto her PAD. “Let’s get started. Some of us have a long week ahead of us.”