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Soldier Girl: Book 1, Chapter 7: The Breaking Wheel
Posted By: Adam Stark<Xvash2@sbcglobal.net>
Date: 29 January 2008, 6:22 am

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Chapter 7: The Breaking Wheel

Three days, two hours of sleep, a final challenge. Together, these words perfectly described the UNSC Marine Corps. Collective Task Course, more commonly and appropriately known as "The Breaking Wheel." It consisted of roughly fifty-four hours of problem solving, miles and miles of foot travel, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, completion of multiple physical obstacles, and topped off with a twelve-hour "war-game", all done with full equipment and standard issue MA5 service rifle.
After four hundred or so years of terra-forming, Mars was almost no longer the red planet. Many square miles of land were covered with lush greenery than had begun with simple patches of algae and grown into hectare upon hectare of grass. Neither the former dusty deserts nor the green waves of grass would prove to be good for a soldier. She kept silent about these things that she thought, watching from the back door of the Pelican. Her team, it was her team to her, if only her, was spread out among the rest of the bird. She had been named squad leader for the CTC, but her team ran itself. She had been given a rare opportunity to select the soldiers for her squad, and she had picked the best. Recruit Penkala, he had his skills, but weaknesses at well. He was short and skinny, and had trouble navigating tough obstacles like walls or lifting heavy obstacles. She had guessed all the time he should have spent growing his body was spent growing his brain. He absorbed information like a sponge, and always had a solution. She had seen that he worked well with larger recruits, since he quickly solved problems and directed the rest to solutions.
It was these exact reasons as to why she had picked Recruit Andersson next. Six foot seven inches, two hundred and fifty pounds. He wasn't just big, he was fucking fast. He had taken third place in one of the obstacle course drills, and had good chemistry with Penkala. She made note of his lanky arms and blonde peach fuzz as he talked to the girl next to him. Recruit Brussel, her best friend. She had been bunking with Brussel since the second week. Brussel wasn't exactly bright or strong like Penkala or Andersson, but she was relentless. Give her a wall, she won't sleep 'till she's over it. Give her an unloaded rifle, a target down range, and a single bullet that's somewhere in a ten ton pile of sand and she'll put a hole in the target sooner or later. Recruit Jones, or Jonesy as everybody knew him, was fit for a position in a battalion S-2 office. He wasn't the best fit for field activity, but he had a certain knack for technology, and that made him valuable in this day and age. Some might question her selection of Jonesy, but then aga-
"Thirty seconds out, recruits," declared the crew chief, unknowingly interrupting Sanderson's thoughts. She looked to him and nodded, acknowledging that their tiny little part of "The Breaking Wheel" was about to begin. The view below had quickly transformed from the fields of grass to a simulated urban environment. It was no Olympus City, but rather an insta-crete jungle, like something out of a video game. She could see other squads working their way through this course, but wasn't really able to glean any other information. The Pelican descended down to the landing pad that was marked with red smoke, the roaring engines pushing away the crimson clouds. "Everybody out. Problem Solving Course A begins now." Recruit Sanderson signaled for her squad to exit, jumping out the back herself first. She looked down to her wrist. Her mission clock had already begun. With the rest following in suit, she arrived at the first task. An M12 Warthog idled in front of a small roadblock, with mine signs posted all around. Browsing through her files that she had downloaded, she found the briefing for this.
"Problem One, Course A. Your goal is to navigate this minefield and bring the Warthog through to the other side without sustaining significant damage that may incapacitate either a squad member or destroy the vehicle. You have no mine detecting equipment and no ways around. All mines are live, and live fire ammunition is permitted. Good luck." She grimaced at this problem. Only the first one, and it seemed unsolvable. Luckily, her squad had been browsing the information as well. Recruit Penkala quickly spoke up.
"I have a solution, Squad Leader."
"Well, what is it?" she asked, under the impression there must have been a trick or fault somewhere in the design.
"It's simple, really. Just clear the mines on the road with grenades and bullets, using the Warthog as cover." Everybody stared at him for a moment, before realizing what he meant. They felt rather stupid, since it was really just that simple.
"Good work, Penkala. Andersson on the LAAG gun, and Brussel, prep your frags. I want a wall of chain gun fire clearing a constant path with grenades every ten meters." The squad got to work. Andersson took a single step to get to the back of the Hog, checking the gun's breech, making sure it was loaded. Brussel slung her rifle onto her back and removed several grenades from a pouch. "Open fire, Andersson," commanded Sanderson, hoping this would work. The gun quickly began to spit out bullets at over five hundred rounds per minute. The rest of the soldiers took cover behind the warthog, with Penkala at the wheel. Two mines detonated, sending up columns of dirt. Brussel threw her first grenade, which detonated, destroying another three or four mines. Andersson continued to spray, and the warthog began to crawl forward, each inch a tiny victory for the squad.
A few hours and bruises later, they would come across the climax of the urban test course. This time, they were not facing the environment, or some obstacles, but a whole 'nother team. It was their duty to assault and capture a fixed and fortified position without heavy weapons. At a storage locker, they switched out live rounds for paint rounds and loaded their rifles. It was time for real action.
Melissa ran to a corner, parts of the concrete chipped from bullet fire, simulated or real, it did not really matter. She peered around it, and was greeted with a shower of concrete bits knocked loose by the hard-hitting paint rounds. Those things did not bode well for her team. Once more her eye scanned around the corner, before ducking back. Third floor, blue building.
"The gunner is in the third floor of the blue building at the end of the road. Probably has two riflemen on his sides. Alright, here's the plan. They got five people in that building, and they have the high ground. First, we gotta take down the gun, and then we infiltrate with flashbangs. Let's see…" she interrupted herself to peer back around the corner, minute globs of paint now dotting her helmet. No direct hit, though. "I'll deploy smoke in a creeping pattern so we can move up to the burnt out cars about half way down the road. Then Brussel and Penkala will be runners while the rest of us will cover them. We're sitting ducks here, so let's get moving." The squad nodded in agreement, for her plan was short, simple, and to the point. She pulled out a smoke grenade from a pouch and armed it. She tossed it around the corner, and listened as the metal canister clacked along as it rolled until the top burst open, releasing a cloud of white phosphorus smoke. It filled the street, creating a wall of impaired vision for the gunner. Sanderson prepared to run out, but those thoughts were quickly halted when a spray of paint rounds came through the screen. It let up for a moment, and she saw this as their opportunity. "Brussels, Penkala, go!" she whispered loudly. The two soldiers nodded and darted around the corner, crouching low and running hard. Sanderson gave the signal, and the rest ran into the smoke, and once more unto the breech. It was like flying through a layer of clouds as she sprinted through, no vision, no awareness. But that feeling would quickly diminish as she came out on the other side and quickly took cover by a concrete obstacle. She saw Penkala and Brussel crouched by a dumpster on the opposite side, and the other two were next to herself. She tossed another smoke canister in front of her position and waited for it to fill. Content that the screen was up, she rose and tossed her last smoke grenade down to the end of the street, so that it would detonate at the base of the building. "Go, go, go!" she shouted across the comm. channel. The runners leapt from their position and hauled ass down the road. Moving through the smoke once again, the shooters propped up their rifles on a burnt out car and opened fire on the building, unsure of what they were hitting, since the last smoke screen had covered the building's façade. Random paint rounds flew over their heads, before she ceased fire and ordered the rest to do so as well. He radio crackled as Penkala broadcasted to the squad.
"Enemy squad has been eliminated. Exfiltration Pelican is waiting half a klick out," he spoke, Sanderson hearing full confidence in his voice. The smoke began to clear, and the squad reunited in front of the building. There, she saw they certainly had done overkill. The opposing forces had been hit in the first fifteen or twenty shots. Sure was foolish of them all to put themselves in the windows. She scanned the faces of the other recruits they had just faced. She felt no sorrow for them, she knew she was the better one.
"Let's go," she ordered, looking to the path that led past the concrete structure and out of town. The squad moved at an airborne shuffle-pace, and made it out to the bird in little to no time. Making sure the rest of the team had boarded, she looked back to the concrete jungle once more, plumes of white smoke dissipating into the air. A small smile snuck across her face. She took a step back and sat down onto the door seat of the Pelican, looking out at the beauty of Mars as the D77 ascended into the sky and onward to their next task.

Next Chapter: Chapter 8: Full Scale, coming when it's done.

Thanks for all criticism, just be sure it is constructive. Also, I know I may have some military facts wrong but I try my best. After all, I'm not in the USMC.