Chapter 1, Square OneMature

Chapter One

Square One

June 25th 2140, En route to top secret training facility on the Roman I space station

3:12 P.M.

            "ETA, five minutes," the pilot said. Margaret, Victoria, Brian, and Viktor were riding in a dropship, heading toward the training facility on the Roman I. They were silent, and in deep reflection of what they were about to go through. They knew that that the training process was not going to be easy. Having their bodies adapt to the bio-genetic augmentations was already hard enough. Now, Vapor Team just had to teach them how to hone their skills with their new enhanced genetic structure.

            "Is anyone else nervous?" Brian broke the silence. He was sitting with his legs together and his torso slouched over, fidgeting with his thumbs.

            "Nope," Victoria answered with a popping sound on the 'p'. She was sitting with her arms crossed and her legs spread out.

            "Um, I dunno, like, maybe a little," Margaret added. She was sitting on the edge of her seat with her arms resting on her knees, holding up her upper body. She couldn't find the ability to sit still however, and was either tapping her foot or looking all around the dropship. Viktor was sitting upright with his head turned, staring out of the side of the dropship.

            "What about you?" Brian asked Viktor. Viktor turned and glanced at Brian. He shook his head casually, then stared out of the dropship again.

            "I'm nervous," Brian muttered to himself as he slouched down more.

            "Man up, dude," Victoria scolded Brian. "Do you even know who we're about to be training with?"

            "Vapor Team is like, the most fearful group of soldiers on the planet," Margaret added.

            "Or off the planet for that matter," Victoria continued. "They're the ones who practically won the Great Civil War."

            "Viktor, what do you think?" Brian asked. "Are they really that terrifying?"

            A few seconds of silence passed. "Perhaps so," Viktor finally replied without taking his eyes away from the view outside. None of them spoke for the rest of the ride.

            They hugged a cliff wall until they rounded it, revealing a rich green gulch below them with a beach on one end and a steep hill on the other. A large butte separated the gulch from an ocean of water on the other side. Across from the butte was a massive cliff at the base of a range of towering mountains. Earth became hidden from them behind the mountain range.

            Next to the steep hill at the end of the gulch was a cave that pierced right through the heart of the neighboring butte. It opened on the other side, revealing a long sandy and rocky beach with a small river separating it from a well sized island that lay between the butte and the ocean. The island had a small mountain peak in the middle. The river wrapped around the island and curved to fit the same cliff wall at the base of the mountain range. Several waterfalls dropped lazily in to the ocean below.

            A well sized section of cliff extended out to form an elevated peninsula. In the cliff side of the peninsula was a built in structure with a large blast door that faced the island. The blast door was wide open.

            The pilot flew toward the structure. As they got closer, they noticed four men standing on a landing just behind the door. The men slowly saluted them as they flew over them. They landed on an elevated landing pad in the center of the facility. The facility itself was one big chamber with five sub-buildings scattered around the edges.

            "Here we are," the pilot said. "Find Vapor Team, and good luck."

            "Thanks," Margaret said. The rookies exited the dropship and walked down a ramp to the floor of the chamber. The dropship lifted off and flew out of the way it came until it was out of sight over the mountains. The four men that were standing on the landing had their hands clasped behind their backs and were looking directly at the rookies.

            "Rookies!" one of the men addressed them. "Fall in!" The rookies briskly jogged toward them and stood in front of them in a line, just like the four men were standing. They all stood, looking each other over for a few seconds before anyone spoke again. Vapor Team eyed the rookies closely.

            Brian was an innocent looking young man with gentle but determined eyes. He stood at six feet and an inch tall. He had short deep brown hair and emerald colored eyes.

            Viktor had well defined facial features with sharp eyebrows and a heroic chin. He stood at six feet and three inches tall. He had thick, deep jet black hair and ruby colored eyes.

            Margaret had a soft and rather pretty face that was very inviting. She stood at five feet and nine inches tall. Her dark brown hair hung just above her shoulders, and she had piercing bright sky blue eyes.

            Victoria bore a confident and unyielding face. She stood at five feet and eight inches tall. Her lightly shaded black hair just barely touched the top of her neck, and she had dark aqua blue eyes.

            Each of them had about the same shade of white skin tone. They were rather muscular, due to their biogenetic enhancements.

            "Greetings," one of the men spoke. "You can call me Mist," John said using his call sign. "We're Vapor Team."

            "Call me Shadow," Dale said bluntly.

            "You can call me Fog," Arden said.

            "And call me Smoke," Connor said. "We know better than use your real names."

            "So instead," Arden continued. "We want to know what your military efficiencies are."

            "That way," Dale added. "We can name you all properly."

            "Yes sir," the rookies said in unison. From left to right, John was in front of them, then Dale, then Arden, then Connor. Margaret was in front of John. Victoria was in front of Dale. Brian was in front of Arden, and Viktor was in front of Connor.

            "Start with you," John said, pointing to Margaret in front of him.

            "I-I'm thoroughly trained with rifles," Margaret started a little shaky. "I have a deep understanding of the engineering aspects of all military and non-military land and aerial vehicles. I'm also proficient in battlefield medical procedures," Margaret answered. John nodded twice, then glanced at Dale next to him. Dale gave a backward head jerk nod to signal Victoria to speak.

            "I'm good with carbines and other sorts of heavy weaponry. I was usually given a support role in my past missions," Victoria said with a hint of sass. Dale let a smirk form at the corner of his lip after she spoke.

            "You," Arden addressed Brian in front him.

            "I'm a very skilled marksman. I am great with a sniper rifle, and I'm also an expert in tracking and formulating battlefield strategies," Brian said.

            "Lastly, you," Connor said with a nod to Viktor in front of him. Viktor glanced at the other rookies to his left for a second. "Spit it out," Connor asserted. Viktor turned and faced Connor again.

            "I'm proficient in hand to hand combat and all forms of weaponry and military vehicles. My skills in combat and survival are unmatched." Viktor proclaimed. Connor raised an eyebrow. He was curious at his short, but yet still impressive answer. Each of the rookies gave an approving answer.

            "Some fairly impressive skills you all have," Dale commended the rookies. "But I promise you they pale in comparison to how lethal and skilled you four will be when we're done with you."

            "Let's do a little reshuffle though," Arden remarked. He turned and looked at Viktor. "You, stand in front of me," Arden told Viktor to replace Brian's spot. He then told Brian, "And you, stand in front of Mist over there." Brian replaced Margaret's spot. Arden then told Margaret, "And finally, you stand in front of Smoke."

            Vapor Team glanced at each other, knowing what Arden just did. He intentionally paired each rookies' skills to line up with the skills of their own. They nodded to each other in agreement, then faced the rookies again.

            "The one you see in front of you will be your mentor, instructor, and trainer for however long it takes for you four to be true super soldiers," John addressed the rookies. "That amount of time could be a few months, or many months, or even years if it really takes that long. We will be your new best friend, and most hated companion at the same time. Until you four exhibit the skills we would like to see, you will be called rookies. Your name will be the call sign we give to you. Smoke?" John signaled Connor to start the naming process.

            Connor glared at Margaret in front of him and said, "Your call sign will be Dust."

            "Yes sir," Margaret acknowledged. The naming process moved down the row.

            "Your call sign will be Steam," Arden told Viktor. Viktor simply nodded once to acknowledge it. Arden just barely accepted such an acknowledgement. He wanted to hear a verbal reply.

            "Your call sign will be Haze," Dale told Victoria.

            "Got it," Victoria acknowledged.

            "Excuse me?" Dale intended to correct her informal remark.

            "I mean, yes sir!" Victoria backpedaled. Dale frowned and glared at Victoria with burning eyes.

            "And you," John addressed Brian in front of him. "Your call sign will be Cloud."

            "Yes sir, Mist!" Brian acknowledged. A few seconds of silence followed.

            "These call signs are now who you are," John said. "If you don't like them, tough luck. They mean something. They explain who you are. Wear them with pride and honor." Another moment of silence fell upon them. "We're going to do something none of you were expecting I bet. We're going to take a moment to do an exercise that the instructor who instructed us let us do when we were in IBST. Gentlemen, ladies, at ease."

            The rookies quickly glanced at each other, then loosened up slightly. John continued, "We're going to separate, but stay with your trainer. Cloud, come with me." John and Brian walked to a different part of the landing.

            "Come on, Steam," Arden and Viktor separated from the rest.

            "Dust, let's go," Connor and Margaret walked away as well.

            "Just stay here, Haze," Dale told Victoria. Once they were all at a well enough distance away from each other for some privacy, Dale spoke again. "We're both gonna speak freely with each other now. This way we can get to know each other off the record. It was a very effective exercise when we trained with our late instructor, Colonel Corpus."

            "Yes sir," Victoria said.

            "No 'sir' this time, Haze. Just call me Shadow."

            "Okay, but you should know I'm not the best at small talk."

            "Good, 'cause neither am I." Dale said with a slight chuckle. An awkward silence followed. "So how has your day been so far?" He tried to continue a conversation.

            "Umm, it was good I guess. I woke up and was ushered on to a dropship, so most of the day has been spent traveling through air and space."

            "I see. Are you nervous at all about training?"

            "Not a whole lot, no."

            "Really?" Dale asked very surprised. "Why not?"

            "'Cause I don't get nervous very easily. I'm a confident person."

            "You should be nervous. The task ahead of you is going to be the hardest undertaking in your entire life, physically, mentally, and even emotionally."

            "Ah whatever. I got this bitch."

            "So how did you end up in the army?"

            "Well, I guess I just had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. I never went to college and all I was doing with my life was working at a simple retail job, living paycheck to paycheck."

            "How did the service handpick you for IBST then? No offense, but you don't seem very qualified for super soldier training."

            "What do you mean?"

            "Well me and my brother, Mist, we always enjoyed hunting and practicing with our civilian guns. Guns and tactical experience was already in us before we even signed up for the army. In fact, every one of us has previous experience in something that could be army related. Smoke over there was a professional racecar driver, one of the best. The army took that skill and ran with it, so that now he can drive any land vehicle better than anybody in the world. As for Fog, he was bullied in middle school, so that led him to practice martial arts, and every single one of us has fired guns before too."

            "I guess it's just one of those, something inside of you, sort of things."

            "I'll hold you to that then. You better show me that something inside of you."

            Victoria laughed and replied, "Yes sir, Shadow." Dale smirked at her cheesy reference to formality.

            "So I've been told that you're very opposite from your twin sister."

            "Yeah, she's a little goody goody and I'm probably the more rebellious one."

            "That I believe," Dale said, remembering her previous informality when she was given her call sign.

            "I tend to speak what's on my mind too without care of what it will make others feel. She kind of keeps some of her thoughts to herself 'cause she's scared she'll either hurt other's feelings or make them not 'like' her anymore."

            "You know what, Haze," Dale started. "You and I have quite a bit in common. Off the record, I kind of like you so far."

            "Really? Tight!" Victoria exclaimed with joy.

            "But on the record I'm still your worst nightmare, and you will receive no mercy from my instruction. You can expect us to be working a lot with what both of us are good at. Carbines, heavy weaponry being mainly large machine guns, that goes for vehicle mounted weaponry as well, but something you need to learn if you're going to earn my approval, is stealth."

*

            "So, how are you?" Connor asked Margaret.

            "Um, I'm good sir," Margaret answered.

            "Did I catch you off guard? We're speaking freely right now. Say whatever you want, I won't reprimand you. It's a way for us to get to know each other personally before we hate each other tomorrow."

            "Oh, really?"

            "Yep."

            "Okay!"

            "How did you end up here in IBST? You seem a little too innocent and soft for such a hardening task ahead of you, no offense."

            "I'm guessing it was because of my spirit. I'm always willing to try my hardest and do new things. Even though I didn't have any prior gun experience or anything, I guess it's just one of those things like it was my personality or work ethic or something that made them pick me."

            "I see," Connor remarked, raising an unapproving eyebrow. He was hoping she was more qualified than the answer she gave. "Are you nervous about IBST?"

            "Well, I guess so, like, I just don't know what to expect."

            "Just know that it will be the hardest undertaking of your entire life. Whatever you've done in the past that you had to work your hardest on, you're about to have to work even harder."

            "Oh..."

            "But don't fret, you'll be fine, I know it. You said you have an extensive knowledge of ground vehicles?"

            "Yes."

            "Good, because we're going to be doing a lot of driving and exercises with such vehicles. I'm also going to verify your medical expertise, and especially your rifle performance. Do you have any questions for me?"

            "Sure. How did you end up joining the army?"

            "Well, all four of us instructors joined together, actually. We were all best friends since late elementary school. We all enjoyed shooting guns too. Before we joined though we all spent a brief portion of our lives doing other jobs since we were fresh out of college. I was a professional racecar driver. Shadow actually became a security guard for the government. Mist was a wildlife biologist. He loves being outdoors. It's also what makes him great at reconnaissance. Fog, believe it or not, he was an executive stagecraft coordinator. I guess his creativity and ability to multitask and coordinate things so well is what made him a great hand to hand and close quarters specialist."

            "Wow, you guys had some pretty interesting lives! Why did you join the army if you all already had set careers?"

            "Mist and Shadow had always thought of joining the army before they started their careers. When the Great Civil War started, they took a break from their current lives and decided to fight for their government. Fog might have stayed out of the war if it weren't for his father being instantly rounded up as a POW in Moscow."

            "I see. What about you?"

            "I ended up quitting racing after a certain, personal, tragedy. I had nothing else to do with my life after that, so when I heard my old buddies were joining up, I did too."

            "Ah," Margaret acknowledged. She could tell Connor didn't care to talk about the tragedy he just mentioned, and a couple of seconds of silence befell them. "I actually feel kind of bad for Shadow over there," Margaret started again.

            Connor chuckled and asked, "How come?"

            "Well my sister isn't the nicest person when things don't go her way. She can be stubborn and rebellious, and sometimes just generally rude."

            Connor burst out laughing so hard that he nearly fell down. "All the more reason for her to be worried instead of him," he said.

            "What about you and I?" Margaret asked.

            "What about us?" Connor questioned.

            "Are we going to get along?"

            "That's up to you, Dust. I can't make any promises, but follow my instructions and give one hundred percent at all times, and we'll get along just fine."

*

            "Off the record?" Viktor asked to make sure.

            "Yeah," Arden confirmed.

            "Okay," Viktor said bluntly.

            "So how did you end up in the army?" Arden asked.

            "I joined up two years ago."

            "That's it? No back story or anything?"

            "None needed."

            "I think I'd prefer to hear it. I want to know who I'm working with."

            "I don't share much personal information, much less my life story."

            "Fine," Arden gave in. "So technically you were never a soldier, just a military police officer."

            "Correct."

            "Just out of curiosity, what side of the war did you support? We do know you guys' names, and I know yours is Russian."

            "I supported the Freedom Knights."

            "Really? How come?"

            "My reasons are my own."

            Arden paused for a second. "Okay then," he said, annoyed. "Well, do you have any questions for me?"

            "What should I expect from IBST?"

            "Well, expect me to test you on your hand to hand combat, and close quarters skills. I'll also train you in piloting too. That kind of training will be what you and I will focus on. Otherwise, we'll all train together for physical training, tactics, history, battle strategies, and other weaponry, etcetera."

            "Understood."

            "You know you don't have to be so short and formal right now. This exercise is meant to have both of us understand and get to know each other."

            "Surely they told you I was a man of few words?"

            "Well, they actually did," Arden said. A long pause followed between them. "Alrighty, we're done here."

*

            "I just want to say, it's a pleasure to be your trainee sir," Brian exclaimed.

            John chuckled and said, "wait 'til the end of your first day of IBST and see if you still say that."

            "I see," Brian said a little shaky.

            "So, how did you end up here in the army?" John asked.

            "It's a bit of a story actually. My mother died from child birth complications shortly after I was born. I never saw her face more than once, but it's not like I could remember it when I was that young anyways. My father was just an abusive asshole. I ran away as soon as I was capable. I was found shivering behind a dumpster by a street gang. I forget their name, but they took me and raised me for a year. While they were still not exactly role models, just like my father wasn't, they toughened me up a little and taught me how to shoplift and analyze a situation thoroughly before committing a crime so that I wouldn't get caught. Believe it or not, I still follow those instincts when I am performing recon or using my sniper. Anyways, one night when they were all asleep, I once again, ran away. This time I wound up on the doorstep of an orphanage. From there, they took me in, sent me to school, and took care of me until I was an adult. No one ever adopted me."

            "Wow," John said with one eyebrow raised. "Your life, sucked."

            Brian laughed and replied, "yes it did, but it is what it is, and it turned me in to the man I am today. Very capable and completely independent."

            "Well I'm glad to have you here, but I need to know, your life of criminality is over right?"

            "Of course," Brian genuinely assured him.

            "Good. Any questions?"

            "Um, I guess not, sir."

            "Okay, well be ready to suffer through these first few weeks until you start to get used to IBST. You and I are going to be working a lot on scouting, recon, and sniper rifle expertise. Otherwise we'll cover physical training and other weaponry as a group."

            "Got it," Brian acknowledged. Just then, they heard the faint sound of screaming dropship engines. Vapor Team and the rookies turned to see several dropships flying toward the training complex.

            "Everybody get to the side of the landing!" John yelled out. They all rushed to the sides of the chamber and allowed the dropships to land wherever they possibly could in the chamber. The dropships' doors opened and several soldiers, technicians, and other personnel exited and began unloading cargo as well. Sergeant Nakahara greeted all of the new people.

            "Once all of the cargo is unloaded and the dropships leave, meet here and we'll begin the tour of the place," Nakahara announced.

            "Come on, let's help unload," John ordered Brian. The rest of Vapor Team and the rookies did the same. Soon enough, the dropships were empty and the pilots flew them out of sight. Vapor Team, the rookies, soldiers, trainers, technicians, engineers, scientists, and all other personnel met on the landing. Nakahara brought a crate and set it down in front of them all, then stepped on top of it to elevate himself.

            "Greetings everybody! Welcome to the Roman I top secret training facility," Nakahara  spoke. "We're going to take a quick tour of the place, and then I'll show most of you non-military personnel what you'll be responsible for. Without further delay, let's begin."

The End

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