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Soldier Girl: Book 1, Chapter 6
Posted By: Adam Stark<Xvash2@sbcglobal.net>
Date: 30 November 2007, 6:03 am

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Chapter 6: Week After Week

She ran the edge of her fork along the innards of the bowl, scraping up every last bit. The red sauce, each little bleached noodle, the last and littlest piece of meat, the crumbs from the garlic bread. They had seven minutes to eat; she had done it in five. A full serving of spaghetti for each recruit that day. It was delicious, real, cooked food, not a K-ration, not a C-ration. Real, cooked food. Too bad it was all gone. She disposed of her tray and plate in the waste recovery unit near the end of the cafeteria line. She sat and waited, glancing around at the other recruits who tried to swallow their meals too quickly. The fastest ones were harassed by the drill instructors. The slowest ones were harassed by the drill instructors. At the end of the room, Senior Drill Instructor Meehan shouted.

"All recruits dispose of your food and swallow whatever is in your mouth. No more bites. Anyone seen taking another bite will be on head duty with only a bottle of cleaning solution and their tongue as their supplies. Fall in front of my once you are done!" Recruits scurried around and lined up. Meehan was oddly dressed for evening classes. However that was quickly explained.

"Tonight, instead of classes, there will be a fun run. Up Olympus Mons. The challenge is designed to test your true limits. Your goal is to jog to the top without stopping and while maintaining strict water discipline. You don't stop until you make it to the top, or you pass out. If you stop jogging, you will be forced to jog back down. Make it to the top and you get a ride back down. Pass out, and we'll cart you back. Anyone caught faking unconsciousness will have to jog it back down and up and down again. Now get moving or you won't be back until dawn."

The rest of the week was finished out with PT fun runs and combat conditioning. The first Olympus run would not be the last. It was almost daily, pushing everybody to their limits. It would be like this for the next week as well. Combat gear marches, pugil sticks, knife techniques, with classes on UNSC Law and UNSC History sprinkled tastefully in between. But it was Week Three that soldiers looked forward to.

Space Week. Each soldier would be oriented to UNSC Extra-Vehicular Activity Suits (EVA) that were top-rated for space maneuvering. Underground caverns, once filled with magma, were now reinforced and fitted with vacuum rooms and anti-gravity areas. Each soldier would soon become familiar with the gear, how to move in zero-gee, and how to operate a firearm in the cold of space. Then, the epitome of combat training, the ever-enjoyable Rifle Week.

She woke, four in the morning, Earth-relative time of course. Recruit Sanderson piled off the mattress and dressed out. Falling in, first of the platoon. The rest quickly followed. Recruits were happy, who wasn't? Many were there solely to fire a weapon, and even more were there to fire a weapon at a Grunt. It was even better out on the range.

"Squad leader, fall in. You're first to shoot. And try to set an example," barked the instructor. He shoved a BR-55 Battle Rifle into her hands. He didn't know what to expect. She had excelled in nearly every task he stuck her to, but she was still just a greenhorn. He wanted to be wrong, but he set his expectations rather low.

"You all have been instructed how to operate a standard-issue BR-55, now today you will be demonstrating what you have learned. Think of it as…a test. Recruit Sanderson, load one thirty-six round magazine into the weapon and fire at will. She took the BR magazine from the table at slapped it into the well. She slammed home the charging handle and assumed the prone position in order to accurately fire down range. She hit the safety and peered into the gleaming two-power scope. A silhouette of a Sanghelli, more affectionately known as Elite, emerged from the grasses. She aimed for the head and fired a round at the concentration of nerves and sensory organs known as the head. The round penetrated and embedded itself in the sand hill behind the range. The target glowed blue momentarily and then ducked back down. As the next one popped up, she fired a single round and the target retracted to the grasses. Each target, each silhouette a synch, like it was a game. She could not have predicted this to be so easy. Thirty-six targets for thirty-six.

"Recruit, where did you learn to shoot!?" shouted the drill instructor to her face. She was not daunted by his screaming one bit, for he was rather similar to her father at times.
"Sir, from my father, sir!" she replied.
"Good! Show me that again! This time it's for your medal!" he shouted back. Sanderson nodded, racked back the bolt and hit the magazine release on the rifle. The empty magazine fell to the dirt, clattering the ground as it had been expended. She picked up another full magazine from the table and inserted it into the rifle before she slammed the bolt back home. She brought the rifle to her eye, and spotted the first target, the same as before. She fired a single round that penetrated the target once again. The target retracted and she scanned for the next target. She put another bullet into it. The spent casing ejected from the rifle and was pulled to the dirt by gravity, landing among a pile of more spent casings. This piled was quickly filled with thirty-four more casings, many of them still giving off smoke from the minute explosion that occurred inside a weapon whenever it was fired. She racked back the bolt and pulled out the magazine. She set both the rifle and the magazine on the table.
"Congratulations, recruit! That is some of the finest shooting I've seen in awhile! With thirty-six for thirty-six, it is my honor to inform you that you have qualified for sniper school!" barked the instructor. He was damn proud of her; she had fleshed out to become one of his better recruits. Well, she was in the greatest of his favor. He had more skilled recruits, like Recruit Smyth, or Recruit Penkala. But none were more straight-forward and duty-ready than Sanderson. Smyth and Penkala needed to be straightened out a bit more, but it seemed as if Sanderson had already been on a tour of duty.
Only two other soldiers out of the whole platoon managed to match Sanderson's record, but to the drill instructor, their accuracy seemed to be more luck than hardened skill. The rest of the day would be finished out PT exercises, and would proceed like any other normal day. However, tomorrow would be just as much fun, qualifying with the MA5 class, the M6, and the M90. In two weeks, they would have the supreme privilege of firing the M19 Jackhammer as well as the M247 General Purpose Machine Gun, and the AIE 486-H Heavy Machine Gun.