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Soldier Girl: Chapter 8
Posted By: Adam Stark<Xvash2@sbcglobal.net>
Date: 14 October 2008, 4:58 am

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Chapter 8: Full Scale

       In the beginning, there were many who were like Melissa. All of the recruits had hopes and aspirations for the Marine Corps. Things changed over time, people lost faith, lost the will. The hopes that it would be fun, the thoughts that it would be glorious. All of those would soon dissolve into little more than the realization that there was no glamour in the Corps, no fun in living a life that was built for the poor. Only a select few of the remaining recruits still held on, and Melissa was one of them. Most recruits did just enough to get by, but she, she had something that only a few had, sense. War numbs the senses, kills hearing, blurs vision, and in the end, many lose touch with the universe. Many no longer hear anything more than a high pitched scream. Many are trained to see the galaxy through nothing more than a scope. To come out alive, to be able to see, to be able to hear, to feel, was something only true warriors were made of.

       Day Two, forty-four hours into The Breaking Wheel. The D77-TC Pelican landed down at base. Recruits tumbled out of the rear. Their muscles burned of lactic acid, their stomachs cried for food. Sanderson was the last out, her feet stressed as she jumped from the bay door to the soil below. They were herded like cattle through to several puzzle-solving exercises. It was not like the beginning, when they were rested and fed. Work is different when one is burnt out. The puzzles came one after another, and Sanderson made it her job to keep everybody awake. Unfortunately for her, Andersson had a rare ability to sleep with his eyes open. Finishing the puzzles would mean a short break and just a bit of food. It took thirty minutes to finish the problem-solving tasks, but every second was worth it for a small packet of food. Sanderson only ate a little bit and handed the rest to Andersson. He needed the food more than she did. At least by now they had finished 20 of the 36 stations, or "spokes" of the Breaking Wheel. After the short food break, they had the opportunity to sit down and rest. Well, timed assembly and disassembly of eight UNSC weapons was somewhat of a rest. Sanderson struggled slightly, having trouble getting the bolt into the receiver. Jones had already finished six of the weapons, she had only gotten through the M6D, the MA5C, the M19 SSM, and she was finishing up the BR-55. She got it done and set it aside. She picked up and disassembled an M/7, finishing it with ease. Every piece of that M/7 was like a memory. Maybe it was just her sleep-deprived state, but every bolt, every piece she put together her a flash back to her birthday. So full of memories, the gift, her hopes. She lost focus for a moment. Were they really her own hopes, or were they the hopes of her family?

       "Snap to it recruit, this ain't a daycare. Get it moving!" shouted a drill instructor, his strained words filled with disdain, as well as a bit of a southern accent. She finished up the M/7 and picked up the M247. It was a simple weapon, easy to take apart. She got that done, and finished just behind Jonesy. Andersson, Brussel, and Penkala all finished up, and the group checked in with the instructor. They were sent over to a rally area would they would meet up with the rest of the training platoon. For the next four hours that would finish out day two, there would be a night march for ten miles. They returned to the rally area six hours and twelve miles later. Instructors often enjoyed stretching things a bit. The training platoon organized and stood at attention in front of the Senior Drill Instructor. He walked down the rows of recruits before stopping in front of Recruit Jones.

       "Recruit Jones, contraband material was found in your foot locker during the night march. Pack up your gear and get moving, you're marching all twelve miles again. As for the rest of you, organize into your groups. You all have your assignments." His tone was not one of anger, but one of pity almost, something unusual for a drill instructor.

       Shit. Sanderson had just lost a vital team member for the next six hours. They'd be shorthanded for the rest of the Breaking Wheel. The senior drill sergeant dismissed the platoon, which scattered to get the stations done. Sanderson organized her group, which was now just Penkala, Brussel, Andersson, and herself. She worried for Jonesy, but only for a second. The little bastard almost deserved this for making her go shorthanded, but she was getting punished more than he was. Melissa pulled up the schedule, and saw they were due next for the second part of the Urban Assault Course. They hopped a Pelican down to the UAC insta-crete jungle and were dropped outside the building.

       She remembered this area; it was the first part of their CTC. She remembered how they stormed the building, how they defeated the opposing team. It was the same mission, but they were on defense this time. She briefly skimmed the station outline, before ordering the three other recruits into the building. They switched out for paint rounds once again at a locker. She noticed an M247 equipped with paint rounds in the locker.

       "Penkala, I want you on the M247. Go to the top floor. Andersson on ground floor, watch the door. Brussel and I will move around the second and third floor. Get to your positions now, we only got a few before a squad comes through. Go!" The squad dispersed, Penkala hefting the GPMG upstairs. She found a small corner with a knocked out window for a good view from the third floor. She propped her rifle up on a crate and waited. She saw movement, but it was quick and she wasn't sure. Penkala keyed his mic.

       "We got a quick check on the corner, looking for positions."

       "Hold your fire until you get a good shot on them; don't give away your position yet." She paused for a moment, taking a look at the barren street. She then looked through her scope, tuning it to pick off the first person who came around the corner. "Steady up guys, stay alert." She kept watching, the Martian wind blowing dust across the street. She looked up from her scope for a moment, and that's when it happened. A runner darted out from the corner, dodging the fire from Penkala as he zig-zagged down the street. She realized what was going on just then. "Penkala, watch the corner!" Penkala looked up from the sights just for a paint round to hit him square in the helmet.

       "Damnit, I'm hit," spoke Penkala softly over the mic. He wasn't angry so much as disappointed that he let the squad down. He slouched down and laid himself on the ground, indicating he was out. Sanderson was just as angry that she had so easily played into the bait. She zeroed in on the shooter at the corner, but he had already ducked back.

       "Runner is down," marked Brussel as she picked off the bait. "I'm out, reloading."

       "Brussel get up top on the MG," ordered Sanderson. She needed someone manning the heavy as fast as possible.

       "Roger that, on my way up," replied Brussel. She displaced and made her way upstairs, reaching the top floor to find Penkala faking death on the dusty concrete floor. She ignored the act and quickly got to the MG position. "I'm on it."

       "Good, watch for tho-" Sanderson was cut off as paint splattered around her window. The attacking force rushed out onto the street, rifles spitting paint round after paint round. "Displacing!" she quickly shouted over the mic, heading down to the first floor. Andersson was already down there, trying to nail the opposing force that had taken cover behind some burnt-out cars that were in the defilade of the MG. He kept firing, but quickly ran dry.

       "Reloading," he said as he swapped out magazines from behind cover. Sanderson quickly ducked down next to him, firing her rifle over her head. Andersson racked back the charging handle and resumed firing, managing to finally hit one of the opposing team members. "That's two down, Sanderson."

       "Keep putting in the rounds." She keyed her mic, a short buzz humming from it as it waited for her words that it would relay. "Bruseel, move down to the second floor, you'll be able to hit them from there. " She looked over the cover to see the enemy hop out from theirs. Why would they rush so stupidly like that?

       "Sanderson, I'm out." She looked to her left and saw Andersson with paint smeared across him.

       "Get your big head down and let me finish this." She sprayed them with paint, but nothing seemed to hit. They were quickly into the building and she backed up to the stairs. Her magazine ran dry as she was cornered. She couldn't believe herself, that she had been so easily defeated. She would have been cheerful were it not for her poor memory. Brussel jumped down the stairs, blazing paint from the MG that she fired from her hip. With all that airborne paint, the remaining three were quickly hit in succession, and with that, Brussel pulled out a victory for Sanderson.

       "Brussel," she spoke, exhausted from the battle, "I could kiss you right now."

       "I wouldn't mind seeing that," spoke Andersson, covered in paint and sitting up next to a wall.

       "It's a figure of speech your jackass," replied Sanderson, the words escaping with every heavy breath.

       "No shit. But in all serious, nice work Brussel," came the reply from Andersson.

       "Thanks guys, not sure why but I just felt like doing that once," spoke Brussel as she laughed slightly, a smile peeking out from under a normally grim face. The teams collected themselves and moved out to their next tasks. For Sanderson, it would be the last notable one. As the dust settled on that lonely makeshift street on Mars, the day would end and with that, graduation would come.