Galaxy: Milky Way
System Cluster: _
Solar System: Athena
Planet: Athena IV
Continent / Ocean: _
Nation / Territory: _
State / Province: _
County / Prefecture: _
City / Town / Village: New Olympia
Structure: downtown and the harbor piers
Time Frame: Past
TNH Verse Year: 2517
Local Date: 2517 October 14-15* This thread picks up where Jumpstart left off.
If asked, Auz would explain that to take her pack would not be chivalrous in his eyes; it would be cheating her out of a fun and healthy workout, but Cyd seemed content to try out his own brand of conduct and to get her feet wet again with their training. Once back aboard The New Horizon and Persephone in one of its many hangar bays, Auz asked Cyd if she’d ever flown a Firefly-class transport ship before. “Ever switched from a 650cc bike to a 12-50? This Firefly has a little more ‘umph’ to it. You’ve gotta be comfortable and smoooth with more thrust between your legs. I need you to impress me without even trying.”“This is your ‘flight deck certification’.”
For the next two days before The New Horizon left New Olympia’s port, Cyd flew a ‘left-seat/right-seat’ series of sorties out from the parent-ship’s small hangar, around through the skies of nearby Athena IV, and back again. ‘Left-seat/right-seat’ meant that during those flights, she would slowly move from an observation role, to a co-pilot role, and finally to a pilot role without any assistance during the flights at all
, slowly switching her from the proverbial ‘left-seat’ as a driver or subordinate, to the ‘right-seat’ as a vehicle commander or, in this case, its pilot.
Then, with all crew and ships back aboard, The New Horizon floated up and away from New Olympia’s pier and port, farther still from Athena IV, and out of the system. It would be in-transit between worlds for almost one Earth-month; plenty of time for Auz’s training package.
TRAINING IN THE BLACK
.” was always said with a sneer to test her sensibilities, pride, and self-control. Many nights she was woken up with a broom handle slamming down across her chest or belly; simulating a sudden problem or frightening jolt during ship movements. Any emotional reaction to this was met with swift punishment; ‘water-hazing’ where she had to ‘shotgun’ multiple canteens and then do push-ups, ‘mountain climbers’, ‘monkey-fuckers’, and many other exercises while being sprayed in the face with a hose.
Exercise was also
often done while
studying, and always when reciting knowledge, so the trainee would get used to recalling what she knew during strain and exertion; how it would be in ‘the field’. “We train like we fight.” was the applicable saying, and they meant
that. Most P-T (Physical Training) was done wearing full body armor, as well. Auz always gave her time to stretch and ease into the workouts, but also
always left her sweating puddles
onto the deck plating, and changing colors before they were through.
“Suit Confidence” was written on the daily schedule board one morning, and she found out that it meant sleeping in her astronaut suit, tied to the outside of the ship for 8 hours, floating, pissing into the suit’s recycler, and staring out at the Black; the infinite, uncaring face of God. “We don’t have to train underwater in our suits to achieve that low-gravity effect;”
Auz’s voice might sound again in her memory, “we have the luxury of always training in the real Space with them.”
Every day, fifty times a day or more, regardless of how she was performing, they would all turn their noses up at her, shoulder-check her, and say “Nobody wants you here, recruit. Why don’t you just kill yourself or leave??”
It was a test to make sure she didn’t care
what anyone else thought, and that she
wanted to be there, enjoying the tough training no matter the outcome
. The reward had to be the experience itself
Auz squared off with her one day as if he were about to box at point-blank range, but the flash of anger in his eyes disappeared just as quickly, and he sent a question her way to test her honesty: “Is your ***** wet? Right now. Is your ***** wet?”
He paused -just one second- and elaborated: “When guys get excited, their dicks get chub. Right now I want to know if you’re really enthuzzzed to be here.”
‘Enthused’ was said with the most homosexual lisp of all time, to test her bearing. And if Cyd said ‘yes’, that she was enthused to be there, he would slip his hand in to actually feel
it. “Good. You’re honest and excited."
Then he would sniff and lick the fingers that halfway went in, and do so right in front of her. “Mmm. Clean, too. Thank god. ‘Got good Hy-giene, recruit Bishop. Carry on.”
Though it would be seen as sexual harassment and assault to most Outlanders, to Auz and his own, it was critical training to ensure total trust, as well as to help desensitize them in case they were ever captured and raped. The more they sweat (and were violated and grossed-out) in training, the less they bled in war, and the less PTSD they were likely to ever come down with. That was the theory, anyway. The best way to overcome ‘black magic’ was to first experience it, become
it, then come full circle as you learned how to turn it off
Whenever Cyd didn’t jump back to press herself against the bulkhead, making tons of room for anyone else passing by through a hatch or p-way, Auz would bark: “One arm’s distance, *****! This is for your safety and mine!”
The crew laughed, and Auz did, too, as he walked off, continuing on his way.
Sasha taught first aid, Auz taught marksmanship and breaching, Brahan taught martial arts, and Nyria taught yoga and sporadically snuck Cyd a friendly kiss on her cheek or a silent thumbs-up from across the room. The others probably noticed her doing it from time to time, but it was all part of the ‘good cop/bad cop’ approach; further testing from every angle. Would Cyd let her mind be plagued by over-analyses and ‘what-if’ tangents, or would she just appreciate Nyria’s sneaky, supportive gestures for whatever they were worth?
One morning, Cyd’s wake-up call was the antique, metal trash can being thrown at the wall just over her head, Brahan walking in the hatch to spray her with the hose, and Auz setting off fireworks in her room to simulate incoming-fire. “Good-morning, worm sperm!”
That day, they made her skip breakfast and run to the cockpit to fly in her underwear through a simulated meteor belt on the LCD-layered cockpit window panels. Among other things, they shut down one of the engines and watched her react and compensate. And when she finally got to return to her room, Brahan had completely trashed it, flipped the mattress, and thrown a bucket of sand across the whole place. Auz appeared standing behind her. “Have these quarters inspection-ready by reveille at zero-five-hundred tomorrow morning.”
Naturally, reveille was held at zero-four-thirty by surprise.
For the first week, every meal was cold (she was taught that warmer gases expand more quickly, carrying scents more easily, and giving your position away sooner and over a greater area), every drink was warm water (this was easier for her system to process), and every portion was small. Meals were more like snacks, and he made sure she never had time to eat all of any
of them. She would have to realize she could wrap them up and nibble on them from her pockets as studying and exercising continued. This would keep her metabolism up. She never ate at a table, her only chair was her helmet on the deck, and the food was always waiting for her to retrieve it from the old metal trash can he always threw at her to wake her up.
CAGE QUAL’ING (Qualifying)
The schedule, calendar, and menu (each of which she had to memorize the night before and recite on a daily basis) posted on the bulkhead outside Cyd’s berthing hatch in the neck of the Firefly misleadingly
indicated normal P-T and studying would continue that day, but Auz took her firmly by the upper arm, leading her through Persephone like a captured rioter or prisoner-of-war, and left her in a cage in the middle of the pitch-black cargo belly for two days, with two pieces of bread and one glass of water that she had to ration. If she spilled the water, there would be no more. When she asked to use the toilet, she was ignored, and was forced to **** and **** her pants, and sit in it for the final day.
During this survival and capture training: “Oh, does baby bird want some food? Is she hungry??”
He chewed up a piece of steak and let it fall from his mouth into hers, if she kept it open, or onto the cage bars near her if she declined. “Mmmm. Beef-shake. Made with real, fresh sa-LI-va. Enjoy, *****.”
They waited for her to fall asleep in that rancid, putrid filth, and then turned on all the lights at once. Auz trumpeted as he came down the catwalk staircase: “You have plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead.”
The hose was used to further wake her up, motivate her out of the cage Brahan had unlocked, and clean her off fire-fighter style before she got dressed with all of them standing on the two catwalk levels, looking at her from all heights and sides.
The ongoing tour of the massive, seemingly endlessly expansive parent-ship was not a cake-walk. When they came to the ship’s library, Auz began testing her in every subject he could cram in to their schedule. Martial arts and yoga were the reason for taking her to see the ship’s dojo
, TDGs (Tactical Decision-making Games with hypothetical scenarios) were the reason for finding the other small hangars
, and Field-X’s (Field Exercises) were the reason for going to the grass-carpeted grazing hangar. This subconsciously familiarized her with the more frequented and useful areas of their parent vessel, as her conscious mind focused on the studies and demonstrations throughout it.
P-E (Physical Education) THE SPECWAR WAY
In his ODST suit and with a ruck full of sandbags, Auz jogged around the gym on its rough-terrain track, sprinting at times, strafing and diving into angled rolls only to roll right back up onto his feet and into the same jogging pace, and rotating to jog backwards for a while –in front of Cyd
, who was expected to eventually keep up. No one in the gym commented on it or stared; the humans knew it was the norm and fitness standard for Auz’s race, the ODST detachment shared
it, and most of the other personnel came close.
WEEK THREE – THE EYE OF THE STORM
The third week was more training, but at a more reasonable pace. One day she learned how a stun gun felt, another day: how military-grade pepper-spray in the eyes
felt, another day: how having a hose forced down her throat and water pumped into her stomach felt; all part of interrogation-resistance training. She had to know just how their techniques felt, so she would never get angry and accidentally kill the person they were trying to get intel’ out of. Authorized force had to be proportional; never excessive.
Every breakfast had to be earned with a hike, every lunch: earned with sparring, every dinner: earned with a timed, essay-based, written examination, and every supper: with dead-hang pull-ups on hanging Olympic gymnast rings instead of a pull-up bar, and hanging sit-ups from the same. Waiting for her drink to be just right, Auz sometimes hocked a ‘loogie’ or blasted a ‘snot-rocket’ down into it, “Enjoy,”
then tipped her drink over into her food. “We’re having soup today.”
But the full-body massages and meals seemed to get better every time. Nyria and Auz were miracle workers with their hands, and were always in the Persephone kitchen cooking up an artisan storm while Sasha conducted physical examinations of their new recruit, Cyd, getting her ready and confident for the next day.
And every meal, Cyd’s name would be upgraded (from things like ‘Failure’, ‘Slave-*****’, and ‘***-wart’ to ‘Recruit’, ‘Padawan’, ‘Grass-hopper’ and ‘Trainee’) and she would sit just a little closer to the table until she had her own reserved chair and place setting. Any failing mark on the firing range or other test meant a step back and less food, but she made her progress, despite some of the tests being carefully designed to ensure
After she had started earning her place in their eyes, instead of knocking her drink cups over to make ‘recruit soup’, Auz now told
her to make the ‘soup’, and she was allowed to spill it herself
. He eventually stopped blowing snot into her drinks, too. Things like ketchup, mayonnaise, soda, beer, and salad dressing, however, would never be allowed a-gain; her body was becoming a temple
, and she was expected to only let the purest and healthiest of substances enter it.
But Auz’s wrath would show back up without any warning at all; another way to ensure she would never be startled by sudden changes in crowd attitudes. Some
wrong answers or low exam marks were met with an eerie silence, while others received a seemingly randomized and much harsher response. One night, Auz smacked her hard across her face, then across both tits. “Wrrronnnggg. You’re a fuckin’ *******. Twenty innocent people are now dead because you couldn’t remember how to do your fuckin’ job. Now their families are losing their homes, more are rotting in enemy prison camps, and you’re fired and left on the nearest moon. Try a-gain, Recruit Bar-bie.”
His humor see-sawed just as erratically, sometimes being plain as day (although, as a recruit, she was expected never to laugh until graduation), and sometimes being dry and intentionally made very difficult to interpret.“Cyd, why don’t you go build a bridge, and get the **** over it.”
“How about you go buy a milkshake, and suck it the **** up.”
“If you’re not careful, Susan, you’ll be getting shafted Long and Hard… with my big, stiff, slippery ‘rod of judgment’.”
“Shut-up, Cyyyd. I can hear your eyeballs moving.”
he exaggerated a crying baby’s noise, “my ***** hurts. My name is Recruit Fail-balls. Cyd, if you have a minor injury, such as a missing eye or a flak canon wound, walk it off.”
Was he truly disgusted with her performance, or was he still testing her? That was always left up for her
Mind games to build up her anger and self-confidence were just as random: Auz and the others would tell her to go somewhere, do things, or get stuff, only to then ‘flip’ on her when she came back and say “I never said that. You are a LIAR. Get lost. You keep fucking up and I’ll fire you.”
The idea there was to get her to the point where she no longer cared if she was labeled ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, being supremely confident in her memory of what was asked of her, and ballsy enough to correct her superiors when they
And one day when all of them were standing around, grilling her with knowledge questions, Auz started piping off his material again: “You have a beautiful smile.”
It was another of his classic, surprise, military-bearing tests. “How many cocks can you fit in your mouth? You’re bisexual, right?; Nyria wanted to know. Actually, everyone wanted to know but Nyria masturbates to her memory of you every time she leaves the room. Bra’s got it under control except for his nightly wet dreams. I don’t know about Augustine. I think he blocks it out. He’s bi, too, so he prob’ just has sword fights with the other occifers.”
At that point, all of them had left the room, one by one, hiding the fact that they were about to burst at the seams with laughter.
“So, Cyd,” he looked to her, folding his hands, “Have I got your faucet running? Are you sexually attracted to me and planning on making a joke of an attempt to hide that fact?” After a long, silent moment with a stern face, he let a grin crack. “I know how your body works better than you do,” a flirty smile. “Imagine if your chakras were cleansed and aligned, your energy meridians were kicked up to full capacity, your inhibitions were completely erased, and your sensitivity was sharpened ten-fold…all during the most amazing, rigorous, and deepest love-making, lust-raging *** you’ve ever had and could never imagine… Imagine that.” And he walked off, leaving her there to refocus alone and busy herself with what was posted on the schedule outside her berthing.
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Explosives, a much more advanced subject saved for the tail-end of their month-long trek between the worlds, were finally taught in a cordoned-off area of one of the large hangars
during week 4, and practiced (later
) whenever they made planet-fall. Advanced first aid to certify her as a First Responder, and then as a Combat Aidsman, was taught in Persephone’s medical module so as not to disturb the hospital wing. If she desired to upgrade her skill set in the medical field more, becoming a Medic or an E-M-T, she would be able to on her own time, only then making use of the hospital wing’s facilities.
TAKING UP ORBIT OVER THE NEXT WORLD
“FLY THE AIRCRAFT”
They had been studying, amongst the many other things, the manuals and varying philosophies regarding every piece of gear in the Firefly for weeks, pausing only to eat, P-T, hygiene, and sleep. Auz had pushed her to the point of memory overload every single day, and tested her the instant she’d woken up, asking her every question there was while she put on her clothes, brushed her teeth, used the toilet, stood in the shower; everything.“An incoming aircraft doesn’t see you on its radar, or you don’t see it. It’s flying directly at your cockpit. What do you do?”
The answer was to steadily bank right, changing your bearing by about 30 degrees before correcting your vector, because all pilots were taught to bank right to avoid head-ons.“You just had an engine burnout. Whada you do?”
he paused for literally only one second, not ignoring but talking over any answers she gave, then: “Co-pilot is dead. Whada you do?”
Another second ticked past. “A rocket just blew half of your hull open and you’re venting atmosphere and cargo. Whadayou do?”
No one in the cockpit was laughing. Brahan, Augustine, Nyria, Sasha, and Auz were all staring directly at the back of Cyd’s head so she could feel
as many pairs of eyes burning a hole in her skull. Everyone needed to have faith in their pilot by directly seeing
her perform to satisfaction; not hearing about it or seeing a rank insignia stuck to her collar.
Brahan stepped out for a minute and when he returned, Auz nodded without looking at him, and with that queue, Brahan revealed the fire extinguisher he was holding behind one of his legs, aimed the nozzle at Cyd, and squeezed the handle, filling the room in a startling cloud of blue smoke. Its hiss was as nerve-racking under all the other verbal and notional pressure as was the blast of its air and colored soot. Auz just stopped inhaling while Nyria and Sasha filed out of the cockpit hatch behind Augustine. If Cyd tried to gasp for air, Auz would smack her hard across the face. If she tried to run out for air, Brahan would use his arm to ‘clothes-line’ her, bolting the arm out to his side and locking it to catch and push hard back against her throat with where his bicep met the inner bend of his elbow. She had to learn to stay in control of her cockpit. The goal was to see her calmly don and clear her oxygen mask and continue managing the scenario.
Auz had a Ziploc baggie in his pocket, full of real blood, which he then opened and poured all over Cyd’s fingers and console. “That’s your best friend in liquid form.”
He shook the rest of the blood out of the baggie, splattering it all across her HUDs (Heads-Up Displays) and windshield panels, and the blood started to streak down, making it even more difficult to see. “Fly the aircraft.”
If he caught her trying to lean forward and squint through the blood-splashed windshield, he would only tap the controls to raise their opacity until they were completely opaque and with their armor shell sliding down to cover them from the outside.
Auz then moved to stand behind her seat, rested both hands around her shoulders as she worked with the controls, and started to shake her one way and then the other, push her forward and then slam her back into her seat, and so on. “This is ‘inertial harassment’. The air friction from the mangled hull, along with one engine compensating for the other one burnt-out, as well as your maneuvers to evade hostile fire, are combining to make your body, as well as the body of this ship, feel these changes in gravity and momentum.”
Stepping to the side, he leaned over her and started bearing his weight down little by little onto the tops of her forearms, as if the G-forces were steadily increasing. Somehow, it felt as if the whole cockpit was rocking, and as if the G-forces really were
changing slightly. Were the landing legs of their Firefly shifting and flexing with some simulator program?
“THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL WAS JUST A FREIGHT TRAIN COMIN’ YOUR WAY”
No matter how well she did, the scenario always ended the same way for everyone, just as it had ended when he was in training years ago: “You have total instrument failure. You are flying blind. What do you do?”
Auz didn’t have to keep saying “What do you do? What do you do?” but it was a good way to further stress someone out, further distract them, and further teach them to find all their answers within. There was never time to ask for help or consult a manual. You had to just know
. You had to just feel
. In this portion of the scenario, unless you had meta-abilities, the best answer was to attempt a mayday signal if there was time, lock up the steering with anything you could improvise with (like your seat harness) so that the aircraft would continue in more of a gradual descent than a spiraling plummet, don your parachute, and bail out.
When Cyd donned her parachute backpack and its body harness, Auz continued the scenario. Augustine was now nowhere to be seen. Brahan, with his own harness and ‘chute-pack on, was standing in the cargo belly by its port-side hatch. Auz hooked one of his belt carabineers onto the metal catwalk railing and nodded to Brahan, who unlocked the side hatch and let it slide open. A hiss of air bellowed into a roar that sounded like a freight train or a tornado right outside the ship; while they had been testing Cyd in the cockpit, and as her visibility was brought down to absolute zero, the Persephone Firefly had left its hangar in The New Horizon and descended into the atmosphere of the world dozens of miles below -now flying just below the jet-stream. Donning her gear was not enough to satisfy Auz or his crew. She had to actually use
it, and demonstrate ultimate
confidence in doing so.
Auz unsheathed his oxygen mask from its pouch strapped around his right thigh, donned and checked it, and looked to Cyd again. “I hope you paid attention when I taught you how to pack your ‘chute. Byeeee.”
Brahan motioned for her to approach and jump out of the open side hatch. There would be no friendly reminders at this stage of the training. She had to remember to cross her feet, hug her chest, tuck her chin, and trust in whatever god, gods, or goddesses she believed in. The wind and fabric would do the rest.
At the hatch, Brahan placed a hand to her chest to stop her for a moment, and continued the training scenario, yelling over the wind as if he was used to it: “I am wearing laser sensitive nodes on my suit. As you fall, I will maneuver around you and change my speed to challenge your understanding of how to compensate in your aiming for the high- and shifting winds. If you don’t shoot me, I will notionally kill you when we reach the ground. Your whole crew is dead. You’re on your own. Get some!”
Grabbing her arm, he yanked her toward the gapping hatch and the blinding sun on the outside. The wind wrapped around and caught hold of her, but not before he had time to kick her squarely in the ***, sending her out into it with even more of a shock. Brahan mentally counted to three and leapt out right behind her, folding one foot over the other, hugging his chest, and tucking his chin. The wind grabbed his feet and yanked them toward the rear of the Firefly, and his body was pulled down, following suit.
Nyria, hooked in to another of the railings in the cargo belly, side-stepped over to the open hatch, and used the controls to slide and seal it shut again. As she gave Auz the thumbs up signal, he unclipped from the railing and headed back through the hatch into the neck of the Firefly and onward back up into its cockpit. The atmosphere ballasts in the ship restored pressure as he, still wearing his oxygen mask, shut off the autopilot and took the ship down to the surface a little more quickly. Nyria and Augustine, now very familiar with Auz’s style of flying, were rapidly harnessed into their seats elsewhere in Persephone. Sure enough, after giving them the few seconds he knew they’d need to find and secure themselves in seats, he pushed Persephone’s wheel all the way in and started to turn it to the left, causing the Firefly to enter into a nose dive and then barrel roll while in
that dive. Auz wasn’t doing it to **** with them or get an adrenalin high. He just loved the feeling it gave him in his stomach; the gravity well, of course, being turned off
to feel its full effect.
As Cyd plummeted like a rock straight through the open morning sky, she quickly had to learn how to make her limbs on both sides do the exact same thing at the same time, or she would enter into an erratic spin. The only way to get out of the spins was to extend all of your limbs spread-eagle, and try to make the move you wanted again. Drawing a pistol from a thigh rig meant moving both hands and arms down both sides, even though there was nothing on the other side to grab hold of, unclipping the holster strap with your thumb, getting a very snug grip around its handle, and moving both hands and arms back up your sides, only bringing them together in front of your chest or above your head, to aim the pistol and fire that way.
At that point, you had to very slightly bend your knees and turn your toes in order to rotate to aim. If you pivoted about your waist, another erratic spin would ensue, and this time, if you went spread eagle, the pistol in one of your hands would continue to cause erratic spins, due to its surface area causing more air resistance on one side, so you could only spread your legs wide open to stop the spin.
If you wanted to speed up, you brought your legs together and pointed your toes straight down while keeping your arms around your chest and your elbows pinned in. If you wanted to slow down, you eased out of this position. To slowly rotate, you went spread eagle and only tilted one hand or foot until the desired rotation direction and speed were achieved. To dodge fire, you made sharper movements that resulted in banking left or right, or slowing down or speeding up quickly so the other person darted past you and lost you from their field of vision. The cautious would use these maneuvering techniques to gain as much distance as possible, making themselves a smaller target. The bold, knowing that distance meant more difficultly for them to kill
their target, as well, would try to tackle their opponent by maneuvering suddenly and directly into them. At that
range, both players would attempt to knock the other unconscious and remove their parachute.
Brahan gave Cyd about 20 seconds, after she was thrown out of the aircraft and kicked in the ***, to get used to the feeling of all that wind around her mixed with the oddity of not feeling like she was falling at all (due to her steady velocity; no changes in speed or direction, which gave people on roller-coasters and bungee cords that feeling in their stomach, and the feeling of blood rushing back and forth inside their body parts). Controlling his
fall, he quickly approached her level and matched her descent speed. With his lower legs relaxed, he fell stomach-first, head-up, and looking toward Cyd, with his arms out at his sides. He was waiting for her to draw her pistol and sight in on him. His helmet-mounted camera recorded everything, as hers did the same.
Brahan then let her practice drawing, aiming, and firing with the few minutes of safe free-fall time they had remaining. The pistol she had been issued only emitted a silent laser when she squeezed its trigger. If she lost her grip on it, or if a spin startled her, the pistol flew out of her hands and trailed a few feet above her, still attached to her thigh rig holster by its rugged, coiled lanyard. Once she hit her mark, his suit beeped and vibrated to let him know it registered a hit from her laser bursts, he gave her two thumbs up (so he wouldn’t start spinning), and then rapidly and skillfully drew his own
laser pistol, sighting in on her, and began firing. Not being told her own suit had also
been outfitted with the laser-sensitive nodes, when multiple areas of her body started feeling vibrations at the same time a ringing alarm went off in her helmet, they all wondered if her initial reaction would be overly-domesticated fear, or wild enjoyment at the exciting surprise. Would it cause her to drop her pistol and spin again? The vibrating and ringing stopped after a few seconds each time, and Brahan paused between his shots so each one would set them both off again.
Once it came time to deploy parachutes, her ‘chute didn’t blossom when she tugged on its release ring. Only a large pile of her own laundry flew out and up into the air high above her. (Auz would later say “You needed and deserved a new wardrobe anyway,”
taking her to The New Horizon’s commercial area
and buying her everything she liked as part of her graduation present.) Cyd had to remember to calmly react to this notional ‘chute malfunction, and pull the reserve ‘chute’s release ring. If Brahan saw her reserve ‘chute fly out and blossom, he would immediately open his own
‘chute so that their difference in height would be minute, and therefore the difference in the way the winds carried each of them around would also
be minute, leading to a close proximity at their landing site. If her reserve had failed
to open, he would have maneuvered in to hug her from behind, clipped their harnesses together with his carabineers, wrapped his legs around her own, and opened his ‘chute to go improvisionally-tandem with her the rest of the way.
TOUCHDOWN …BUT NO VICTORY JUST YET
When they landed, she had to remember not to lock her knees, or she could break her feet or legs. Then she had to remember to walk with her ‘chute as she tugged it down to the earth, or it could yank her on her side and drag her for a while. Then she had to remember to quickly repack her ‘chute, find the nearest tree-line, bury her gear with a tactical beacon (an infra-red signaling device abbreviated as “tac-b”) in such a way that it would not be easy for anyone else to notice the disturbed dirt, and prepare for hand to hand combat.
Brahan landed shortly before her, having opened his ‘chute shortly after her. As she made her landing, ran to a halt, and tugged her ‘chute down, he already had his ‘chute repacked and was steadily walking directly toward her. “Good job shooting me. You registered hits. I am now a hostile ground force element. Consider me a Reaver. In a few seconds, I am going to charge at you. If you don’t score another hit on me, I am going to **** you to death while I eat you alive.”
He wasn’t kidding about the ‘few seconds’ part. The moment she was free of her ‘chute cords, he charged into a tackler’s sprint. She only had a few seconds to draw her pistol and fire a tight grouping at his center of mass.“Good. You have successfully killed two people and you just got here.”
Though a joke, he did not show it. “More of my Reaver buddies will be landing soon. They saw you bail from your aircraft and aren’t fools. They’re coming for you instead of the ship. They want to eat first before they steal all your belongings and salvage what’s left of your ‘craft.”
The Firefly roared down into a clearing nearby.“That’s them. Time to move like you’ve got a pair… of ovaries… Yeah.”
Brahan didn’t lead the way, but only jogged beside her as an ‘out-of-play’ coach and scenario judge. Both their helmet cameras continued to record, having no battery life limit, being powered just by being near their bodies.
S.E.R.E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape)
Augustine and Sasha stayed with the ship, and Nyria joined Auz in their full combat loads, exiting the ship in ODST suits. While Auz and Nyria set out to begin their trainee hunt, Augustine and Sasha sprayed down the cockpit with a hose to clean off all the blood. Moving as a sniper team, Auz and Nyria quickly found an infiltration route in dead space where even with thermal optics, it would be impossible to spot them from the ground as they closed in on ‘coach’ Brahan and trainee Cyd. Something like a FLIR mounted on a helo would be needed, which the trainee team didn’t have.
Brahan did not answer any questions or give any tips. He just watched Cyd and ensured she buried her ‘chute pack properly, chose a good route, and made her ghillie suit and hide well. Having been allowed absolutely no food and only one canteen of water, she had to remember how to catch and prepare food, including how to make a fire with nothing but local sticks and kindling. If her tracks were spotted by Auz or Nyria, she had to drop whatever she was doing, even if it was eating or relieving herself, and hike 25 kilometers in the wrong direction just to throw them off her actual route and intent.
While the other sailors and Marines were enjoying shore-leave for another four or five days on the planet, in some colony hundreds of miles away, they, instead, were out in the middle of nowhere, not even getting to use a toilet, shower, oven, or shelter, sleeping in the rain, hiking at night to save energy, catching their own food, wondering when each meal would be (and if there even would
be any meals at all), and sparring violently at least once every day.
Brahan played the voice of the devil on Cyd’s shoulder the entire time, saying things like “Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.”
for several minutes on end while she was hiking, and “You can quit whenever you want to. Just sit down. Just say you give up. It’s so easy. You’ll get a hot meal and a shower right away. Don’t you want to relax and get a full meal? Wouldn’t that feel good? I bet a full night’s rest would really help you out, huh? It’s too bad that in the real world… you are alone, and no one knows where you are, and no one cares, and very, very soon, you will be raped and eaten.”
She had to also learn how to turn off all incessant doubts and worries. Even when all hope was lost, she had to create her own.
When Auz and Nyria linked up with Cyd and Brahan once each day (somehow always finding their tracks and catching up to them), the sparring was always prefaced with Auz beating Cyd nearly senseless while her wrists and ankles were zip-tied together behind her back. Then he would have Cyd strip naked, throw sand at her eyes, and scream into her ears while Brahan used a stopwatch to time how quickly she disassembled, reassembled, and function-checked her weapons. If Cyd ever took her weapons apart, put them back together, and function-checked them in a satisfactory time, her reward was doing it again and again until her hands and fingers locked up, no longer able to move properly. Then she got thrown into the nearest pond or creek, and did it under water with the light current and the silt. Then she fought naked. And again. And again.
The reward for doing something well was doing it again until you failed at it. The punishment for failure was being tied up and beaten again; never enough to break anything, but always enough to bruise and probably scare her. By the time she made it to each meal, she was so exhausted and starving that she would likely eat it feverishly almost like a desperate zombie, ignoring even the odd stench of the foreign animals of their latest visited world, as well as most of the gristle, pieces of fur, and organs. Every piece was savored. Every piece had critical nutrients. Even worms and insects were consumed whole.
During those days, they made a giant circle, returning to her buried parachute pack (she had to use the tracking device without any help from any of them). After digging it up, they sat just inside the tree-line, wearing the ghillie suits they had made, waiting for the Firefly to swoop in and extract them, at which point she would have to demonstrate how to properly ‘challenge and pass’ the pilot, approach the aircraft, get a physical-/pat-count, and secure herself onboard. The Firefly, however, did not respond to her ‘comms’ traffic, though, and they waited there without food for half a day. All Brahan said was “This is the end. Just stay put. Don’t move.”
She had to have eternal patience, as well as self-confidence that her use of the communications devices was flawless, and that the signal was either not going through or being ignored for some good reason.
R-T-B (Return To Base)
When she finally succumbed to fatigue and the elements, and passed out, Brahan carried her over his shoulders back to the Firefly, which had been on the ground the whole time in a different clearing nearby. Sasha checked Cyd’s vitals and helped the others strip her of her gear. Once she came to, they carried her into the cramped, one-person shower, where they all stood completely naked, rotating in for their turn. As Nyria let an exhausted Cyd lean back into her embrace, Auz piloted Persephone slowly and carefully back up into the sky, over the horizon, and back into the side of the half-mile-long New Horizon just about to pull up EM-anchor and leave the dock and port-city of the friendly alien world. None of them would look down on her for ‘crapping out’. The training was carefully designed over countless generations to make sure everyone
ended up collapsing at the very end –even Olympic-level SpecWar ‘hosses’.
Once she had re-gathered her wits and faculties, all of them walked up and shook her hand, patting her on her shoulder, “Good job, Teammate.”
Each said it in their own way. Nyria gave her a big, tight hug and rested a hand on her cheek, letting her know she knew how Cyd must feel, having gone through the same thing when she
was new to their team. Cyd was allowed to sleep indefinitely with no alarm; her graduation ceremony being held only when she
felt like waking up.
At her graduation ceremony in the cleared-out small hangar that housed their Firefly, the Persephone, Auz joked, now in a friendly manner. “Awww… Once altricial, she’s precocial now.”
Auz would never tell her what a word meant if she didn’t know it. She would have to find the answer on her own; another one of his ways to ensure she was self-reliant, resourceful, and strong.
Auz bowed about his waist, took and kissed her hand, then firmly and proudly sealed his with hers, giving her a firm and meaning-filled shake. “Welcome into our family, Pilot Cyd Bishop of Athena IV. My name is Auzdein. I have no rank. Let’s go to war.”
THE WARRIOR’S BREAKFAST
Cyd had made it. While Nyria sat behind her on Cyd’s mattress in her berthing, giving Cyd a heavenly
neck and shoulder massage, Sasha confirmed that her body had responded well to all the training, and that her resting-pulse was very low; right where it should
be as a restored athlete. Brahan gently tended to the remains of any blisters on her feet, and Augustine sent off her graduation paperwork package, letting their chain of command know that a new long-term member of Persephone’s crew was now official. Auzdein, as each of them did those things, brought her breakfast-in-bed to go with her massage. Her drink was upright, un-spilled and cold, and there was no snot in it. All the food was hot at long last, and there was no malice or judgmentality in his eyes what-so-ever.“In keeping with the highest traditions and standards of the Marine Corps, we use old, out-dated, broken-down ****, like this beautiful relic Firefly in allll her discontinued glory. We take 30-year-old ****, or older, and make it work. We get lost on purpose. We eat and drink whatever we can find. Hell and Armageddons are our playgrounds. That is what it is all about; improvising, adapting, and overcoming. And now, if you get captured, it won’t seem so bad.”
Auz kneeled after handing her the breakfast tray, and smiled up to her, finally proudly and approvingly, peer-to-peer.“You are once again Cyd Bishop, and no one will ever talk down to you here again.”
The next week was hers to do with as she pleased. No one monitored her. There was no log-book to check in and out. She didn’t receive a single page, call, or email. Total freedom and confidence had been place in her. There was no money yet, though; no credits in her account. Training was expensive, and she had to pay it forward before she could earn her first e-check.
Now one of their family, and having passed through the fiery, grueling rites, they all became polite, respectful students to Cyd, and listened to anything and everything she had to say about her experiences with piloting, security, intelligence operations, and hacking.
The final morning that The New Horizon rose to and held its orbit over the world they had just trained upon, Auz knocked on Cyd’s hatch, stepping in and turning on her night light, giving her plenty of time to stir more comfortably. “Get dressed and follow me,”
his words were soft and genuine. “It’s time for our picnic.”
[/end]* This thread continues in An ODST Picnic