June 26th 2140, Top secret training facility on the Roman I space station
'Clink, clink... BANG!!!'
The rookies awoke, deafened and blinded by a white light. It was a flashbang grenade. They were disoriented and scrambled frantically on their beds like a spider stuck on its back. Suddenly, they felt themselves being pulled by their arms, off of their mattresses. Brian and Viktor landed painfully on the hard metallic floor. They heard some muffled voices try to make it past the ringing in their ears.
"Let's go! Boots on!" a voice shouted at the volume of a whisper to them. Each of the rookies were thrown a pair of boots that hit their bodies moderately hard. They blindly fumbled to put them on their feet and tie the laces. Once their boots were tied, they felt themselves being shoved and ushered out of the bedding room. Slowly, their vision and hearing began to return to normal.
"This base is under attack! Move it! Get your asses to the dropships on the landing!"
The rookies still stumbled around for another few seconds, but finally their senses were clear again. Men were rushing out of the barrack, and a base-wide alarm was blaring through the facility. The rookies speedily ran in to the main chamber and noticed a large amount dropships were neatly spaced out on the landing, and a few hovering just in front of the now opened blast door. They had their doors wide open and their engines were screaming, ready to take off at any given moment. The rookies rushed toward the dropships. As they were sprinting, they hadn't noticed before, but Vapor Team was right in front of them, running to the dropships as well.
Arden turned his head around and said, "run your asses rookies!"
John turned his head as well and ordered, "we're getting in the dropship on the left side, hovering just outside of the blast door." It was an eight foot jump to make from the ledge of the facility to the dropship, and a one thousand foot drop to the water below.
"Who's attacking? Shouldn't we grab weapons and armor from the armory first?" Margaret questioned.
"Negative, there is a bomb on the plateau directly above us. When it blows, we get buried. Primary objective is evacuating the facility right now," Connor answered.
"Just disarm it," Victoria remarked.
"Retard, you don't think we didn't try that already?" Dale chastised her. They ran past the dropships on the landing. Base personnel boarded the dropships while they continued to the one hovering just outside.
"Jump!" Arden shouted when they neared the edge. Vapor Team and the rookies cleared the gap between the ledge and the interior of the dropship. As soon as they were inside, Dale and Arden closed the doors behind them.
"Punch it!" John ordered the pilot.
"Strap in!" Connor ordered the rookies. The dropship waved away from the blast door, throwing the unprepared rookies around the cabin. Vapor Team however, held their positions strong and were able to grab a seat and fasten their seat straps. The dropships engines blasted and roared, rumbling the dropship as it sped away. The rookies were sent to the floor when the dropship jolted from the engine blast. Viktor quickly rolled to his feet and strapped himself in a seat. The other three clumsily picked themselves up and did the same.
"Sir, how are we supposed to defend ourselves in just shorts and a t-shirt?" Brian asked.
"You guys, it's a drill," Viktor told them with a tone that was unbelieving of them.
"What? How do you know?" Victoria questioned Viktor.
"Come on, you guys seriously haven't figured it out yet?" Viktor wondered. Brian, Victoria, and Margaret turned and looked at Vapor Team for confirmation, but they remained silent. Vapor Team however, couldn't help but silently applaud Viktor for his intelligence. They were indeed practicing a drill. They felt the dropship angle downward at a steep angle, then level out and slow down.
"What's happening?" Margaret asked.
"We would have told you right now, but Steam already figured it out," Dale replied. Vapor Team unstrapped themselves. The rookies figured they better do the same. Dale and Arden took up positions on both sides of the side door. They felt the dropship thud gently as it landed. Arden and Dale instantly pulled open the door and waved their hands in a circular motion toward the open door, ushering the rookies to exit. John and Connor exited first however and began running.
"Cardio!" Arden said bluntly. The rookies exited and started running a few meters behind John and Connor. Dale and Arden finally exited and ran behind them. They took in the environment around them. Vapor Team had already scouted the area yesterday, but the rookies were seeing it for the first time.
They had landed on the island with the large mountain in the center. They were at the edge closest to the main facility, and could see it high in the cliffs and across the water behind them. The sky was dark however, and the stars were easily visible through the station's smaller atmosphere, compared to Earth's atmosphere. Most of the other dropships that were in the facility had landed on the island's edge as well, and around one hundred standard soldiers and a handful of instructors and other officers were running close behind them.
The smell of fresh water and rich grass assaulted their noses as they breathed in, and out. As the sound of screaming dropship engines died off in the distance behind them, the only sound they heard was the muffled patter of their boots on the dirt. Vapor Team was still in peak physical condition since the war. The rookies however, needed some work. They already started feeling the burn in their legs, but they were far from giving out already.
Ten minutes passed, and they were still feeling fine. Twenty minutes passed, and they started to weaken slightly. Thirty minutes passed, and their pace began to slow from exhaustion.
"Pick it up rookies, we're far from being done," Arden told them from behind when he noticed them start slowing down. "Hell, the sun isn't even up yet."
The rookies ran harder and increased their speed again. They were very demoralized at Arden's remark however. The sun isn't even up yet? they thought to themselves. If we keep running 'til the sun comes up, it'll be another hour and a half. Surely they can't be serious. They continued on regardless of their thoughts.
Fifty minutes went by and they finally reached the other side of the island. Only a very thin strip of land about two hundred yards long and forty yards wide connected the island and a surrounding beach.
"This is where we stop!" an instructor yelled out from behind them.
"Oh thank God," Margaret squeezed out of her mouth and started to slow down.
"Not for us rookies, keep going," Dale corrected them.
"Shit..." Victoria muttered. They breathed heavily as they tried to pick their pace back up.
"Remember," John talked over his shoulder to the rookies behind him. "You're training to be super soldiers. That means you gotta be better than the rest, and we are going to make sure you will be. Run faster, and farther."
"Aim quicker, and more precise," Connor added.
"Fight stronger, and smarter," Arden continued.
"Outgunned, but never outmatched," Dale finished. Their comments gave the rookies a little more inspiration and momentum. They kept running and running. Their legs were on fire and their hearts pumping quick and relentlessly. They crossed the strip of land and ran the width of the beach behind it. Just behind the beach was a large cliff wall that separated the beach and lake from the gulch they saw when they flew in. A cave-like tunnel ran its way through the cliff in front of them and connected to the gulch on the other side. Both openings to the tunnel were spaced just perfectly so that the moonlight from both sides shook hands in the middle of the cave. The inside was still rather dark however.
The rookies looked all around them at the tunnel they passed through, and for a moment, their minds were taken off their weakening legs. If they couldn't enjoy the comfort of sleep, they might as well enjoy the scenery of their morning run.
"Hey Mist, do you think they made this cave to where the light from both sides perfectly illuminates almost the entire cave on purpose?" Arden asked John ahead of them.
"I wouldn't doubt it, actually," John answered. "This station had to have been constructed by the most brilliant scientists and engineers of our generation. I bet they took every single possible detail in to account."
"How much do you think they got paid for their design and effort they put in to the Roman I?" Connor wondered.
"Probably a pay grade higher than Shadow could even count," Arden joked. An hour and twenty minutes passed, and they exited the cave and in to the wide gulch.
"Sirs, I don't think we can go on any longer," Brian uttered out with what little breath he could muster. But before he could give up, Victoria gave out first. She collapsed to her knees, panting and clutching the ground. The rookies feared for her well-being, not because of her exhaustion, but because of what Dale might do to her. They continued running however, and left her behind. They looked back one more time to see Dale stop by her and cross his arms.
"When you guys partake in real combat, you are only as strong as your weakest link," Connor lectured the three rookies still running with them. "I think you three should be more upset with her than Shadow is." They ran up a small hill that was higher than any other part of the gulch. On the far side they spotted where the lake continued from where it stretched around behind the cliff wall to their left, and back in to view.
"There's our destination rookies," John said. "About another two miles. Push through it."
"Yessir!" Brian shouted. The rookies ran with numb legs and violent heartbeats. They now knew no other command for their legs than to put one in front of the other, again , and again. One and half miles left, and the rookies were almost out of air entirely. One mile left, and their legs felt like putty beneath their waist. Half of a mile left, and they nearly lost all feeling and sense in their entire bodies. Finally, they reached another miniature beach at the end of the gulch and they had nowhere else to run.
"We can stop now," John told them. John, Connor, and Arden walked back and forth, breathing in and out, only slightly exhausted from what was to them, a rather short to medium length run. The three rookies with them nearly passed out. They panted and puffed, put their hands on their knees and wanted to collapse and rest.
"Don't fall down just yet, rooks," Connor said. "Walk it out, stretch it out. Don't lay down or kneel or you won't get back up, trust me. Take thirty seconds." The rookies nodded and straightened up to stretch. They stretched from the top of their bodies to the bottom. Neck, to shoulders, to arms, to torso, to upper legs, to calves. Their legs only ached even more as they stretched them, but they knew it would go away in a little while, then come back to haunt them and ache tomorrow morning.
"Normally we'll stretch first, then run," Arden spoke. "But this was an exercise meant to test readiness level and endurance, even when at a disadvantage."
"I would say good job guys," John addressed the rookies. "But what you just did is only half of what should be able to do as standard soldier, and since you are biogenetically altered like we are, you really should be able to quadruple this run and still be able to fight unhindered directly afterward."
"Board the dropship rookies, we're going back to the main facility to grab breakfast," Connor ordered them.
The rookies breathed a heavy sigh of relief. They hadn't even noticed it before since they were so tired, but a dropship was parked just a few yards away down the beach. All six of them boarded it. Arden manned the pilot's seat and ignited the dropship's engines. They lifted in to the air and flew back toward the main facility. The rookie's were finally able to slow down their breathing a little since their run, and the sun was rising over the lake's horizon, but they didn't even notice. All they could think about was food. Glorious, wonderful, delicious food.
"Unbelievable," Dale muttered, very displeased. He uncrossed his arms and began to slowly walk circles around Victoria. "You could be running away with vital enemy intel, and now they've captured you. You could have an out of commission com device in your helmet, and are running to warn the firebase of an impending attack, who now have no clue what's about to hit them, just because you're a little tired. You might even be running to save your fellow squadmate from execution by hostile forces, and now that you've given up, he's already dead. Any way you look at it, you have now failed, and failure has never been an option for Vapor Team. Do you know why? Because we know, that if we fail, how can we expect our fellow standard soldiers to accomplish our task, if our own superior fighting capabilities could not? Answer me that, please?"
Victoria puffed and coughed, but couldn't respond with any right answer to the impossible question. Tears began to well in her eyes from the combination of exhaustion, and Dale's angry, but yet calm demeanor. He didn't stay calm for very long however. His rage came next.
"If this is what you call hard work, you are a pathetic, disgraceful excuse for a human being! The longer you stay down there, coughing and spitting, is the longer you express yourself as the failure that you are! Get up Haze! Come on, you gonna finish out the run!? Or are you gonna kneel there like a little bitch!? STOP DISGRACING YOURSELF! Get up and get going!!!"
Victoria sobbed and tried to stand back up, but her legs simply wouldn't let her. "I'm sorry," she moaned.
"SORRY!? I bet you are sorry! Sorry that you're crying like a baby! Sorry that you don't even know how to stand on your own two feet! Now I'm waiting, rookie! Or should I just call you whelp!? Maybe that's a better title for you! GET A MOVE ON! Get your fucking no good half slice off the ground and RUN!"
"Look, I'm trying!"
"Oh you're trying!? Excuse me, but you seem to be curled up on the ground! Straighten up and act like a real super soldier! Do you even know the kind of soldier a super soldier needs to be!?"
"Can you just give me a break and shut up for one second?" Victoria sassed back.
Dale leaned back in amazement at what she just said. "Oh you think you're bad now?" Dale questioned as he started to walk circles around her again. "You think you have what it takes already huh? Do you? Show me. Come on. GET UP AND SHOW ME!" Dale kicked her with only a fourth of his strength in her side. Victoria was knocked on her back and gasped at the blow. She rolled on her side, facing away from Dale, wishing the nightmare would end. Dale leaned down and yelled in her ear, "take me on, rookie! You think you can tell me what to do, then show me you can walk your talk!"
They heard the roar of dropship engines fly over their head. The rest of Vapor Team and the other rookies were already on their way back to the main facility. Dale looked up and shook his head. Victoria spotted the dropship, blurred by her tears out of the corner of her eye. The dropship disappeared over the cliffs.
"Time's up, rookie. You've just been left behind," Dale said in a lower voice. "You'd better hope some of the other soldiers back on the island can give you a lift back, or else you're stuck down here until we come back for the next training session." Dale turned around and started to walk back through the tunnel and grab a lift back to the facility. "You're also going to miss breakfast now. Pity."
Victoria rolled back on her back and outstretched her hand for a second toward Dale's silhouette walking through the cave. She dropped her arm on the dirt and looked up at the sky, letting her tears stream down her cheeks. She clutched her side with her other hand in moderate pain from Dale's blow. The sky started to fade in to a faint orange, yellow and purple. The sun was rising. She figured she better get up soon, but remained on her back for another couple of minutes anyways. She looked back through the tunnel and noticed Dale boarding a dropship off in the distance, then fly away toward the main facility. Only a handful of scattered soldiers were still on the island.
Victoria mustered her strength and sat up, then rolled on to her hands and knees. She brought her legs in and pushed herself up, wavering a little, as if she was learning to walk for the first time. Finally, she walked as fast as she could through the cave and back to the island. She waved down a small group of soldiers at the island's edge.
"Excuse me!" she shouted toward them. "I need a lift!"