June 26th 2140, Top secret training facility on the Roman I space station
Eggs, bacon, potatoes, cheeses, oatmeal, toast, orange juice, sports drinks, coffee. Everyone was happy to be eating such a meal, but no one was as happy as Brian, Viktor, and Margaret. They sat together at a table in one of the mess halls, each rookie next to his or her instructor. Vapor Team laughed on the inside at the rookies who were so greedily stuffing their faces. Dale walked up with a tray full of food and sat down with them.
"You didn't leave her behind did you?" Connor asked.
"Of course I did," Dale answered as he pushed a mouthful of scrambled eggs past his lips.
"Dude, how is she supposed to get up here?" John questioned.
"She can figure it out," Dale replied with his mouth full. "She may be weak with her legs, but she's bold and not very shy."
"With all due respect sir, how could you just leave her down there?" Margaret asked Dale. Dale looked at Margaret with a straight face and piercing eyes, very discontent with her question. "Uh, never mind sir, sorry," Margaret withdrew and looked down at her food quickly. Dale continued to eat without replying.
"Sirs, after we eat, what's next?" Viktor asked.
"Next we work on muscle training," John replied.
"Yes sir," Viktor acknowledged.
The mess hall was full of the dull hum of conversations amongst each table. Even with the noise, Vapor Team and the rookies listened for a moment to an AM radio station that was coming through a speaker in the ceiling.
"Astronomers and space frontier investors alike rejoice as preparations for the next modern space telescope launch are finalized. Howard Kissinger, the scientific mind behind the Kissinger Telescope Project, has confirmed the launch date for his team's telescope. We have Doctor Kissinger with us live right now to comment. Doctor Kissinger, how are you?"
"I'm doing fantastic Chuck, thank you."
"Now the world would like to know, when is your telescope going to be launched in to Earth's orbit?"
"The Kissinger telescope is dated to launch on July 22nd of this year, less than a month away."
"Incredible Doctor, can you tell us a little about the telescope?"
"The Kissinger telescope is definitely the peak of modern astronomical technology. The range of the telescope is remarkably further than its predecessor, and the quality of photographs it will take will be spotless, crystal clear, not skewed and very consistent. Now, unlike other orbital telescopes in the past, the Kissinger telescope can detect heat emissions and several kinds of radiation, along with ultraviolet radiation. To top it off, it's faster, it's more precise, and it's planned to last the longest of any space telescope previously launched."
"Alright, well we will be anticipating its launch with high hopes. Remember, July 22nd is the Kissinger Telescope's launch date. Later this month we'll hear from lead project manager of the Kissinger Project, Lionel Carrington, so keep listening for that. Up next we have..."
"Attention!" a food line server shouted across the mess hall. "We're closing the food line until lunch. Anybody who wants more food get it right now, right now!" Dale got up quickly and grabbed five more pieces of bacon, then sat back down.
"Where do they get this food anyways?" Connor wondered.
"I'd imagine they have a few farms already set up on the station," Arden suggested. They spotted Victoria walk in and Margaret waved her to come to them. Victoria looked at the food line for any food, but it was already put away. Sorrow struck her face as she proceeded to their table. She sat down next to Margaret, away from Dale.
"Aww, what's the matter tough girl, don't wanna sit by me?" Dale teased, rudely.
"Shadow," John glared at Dale with a disapproving frown. Dale rolled his eyes. They all finished their breakfast, leaving Victoria with nothing but a rumbling tummy.
"Rookies, take five more minutes for a break. After that we're hiking the mountain to the gym near the peak. Meet at the stairwell to the watch tower. I hope your legs aren't completely useless from our little morning run," Connor informed them.
Dale looked at Victoria and smiled wide and smug. Victoria looked away. Vapor Team left the mess hall. Viktor pulled out two strips of bacon he was hiding in his hand under the table and handed them to Victoria.
Victoria gasped with glee and swiped the bacon out of his hand and mulched it in her mouth, savoring the taste on her thirsty taste buds. "Thank you," she said to Viktor.
"Don't thank me," Viktor replied with an expressionless face. "Just run all the way next time." He got up and left the mess hall. Brian looked at the girls and shrugged innocently, then left as well. Margaret wrapped an arm around Victoria.
"You okay sis?" Margaret asked.
"Shadow's an asshole," Victoria replied.
"I'll tell you later."
"You gonna be okay though?"
"Yeah. I'll be fine," Victoria answered, half heartedly. Margaret rubbed her back to console her. She even got Victoria to crack a slight smile at the corner of her mouth.
"Come on," Margaret urged Victoria to liven up. "You won't make Shadow like you any more by moping in here. Get out there, up that mountain, and show him that female muscle that you always used on me when we wrestled each other when were kids."
Victoria chuckled and said, "alright." They both left the mess hall and went straight to the watchtower stairwell. They were there before Brian and Viktor, which gave them a little joy on the inside. They figured Vapor Team would silently commend them for their eagerness to get there early. After five minutes all eight of them proceeded up the stairs and on to the plateau above the facility. They crossed the plateau and headed up a small rocky path until it opened up wide to the steepness of the mountain in front of them.
"Up we go," John remarked. The gym was meant to be accessed by aerial vehicles, just like the main facility, but Vapor Team wanted to make an extra challenge for the rookies.
Brian breathed in and out steadily, confident he could accomplish the long hike. Viktor sustained his expressionless face, breathing in and out through his nose.
"In through your nose, out through your mouth Steam," Arden lectured him. "Not in through the nose, and out through the nose as well." Viktor glanced at him and merely nodded, then changed his breathing pattern.
Margaret and Victoria hiked side by side, ready to help each other if need be. Dale and Connor exchanged approving glances to each other, pleased with their rookies' teamwork without having tell them to work together. IBST was more than accomplishing training goal after training goal. It was meant to subconsciously build trust and teamwork with each other as well.
They hiked for twenty minutes. Only five minutes were left until they were at the gym. Unfortunately the mountain drastically increased its steepness. They faced a rough rocky wall that leaned at a ninety-five degree angle toward them, almost casting a shadow over them.
"This is impossible," Margaret proclaimed, convinced that climbing such a wall couldn't be done.
"Stuff that attitude somewhere else rookie," Connor shot at Margaret with a look.
"Can't we go around it?" Brian wondered.
"We could," Arden started to answer.
John finished Arden's statement, saying, "but we're not going to."
"Let's do this then," Victoria remarked and approached the cliff wall, hoping to change Dale's disapproval of her by being the first to take on the wall. She climbed a few feet rather quickly, then slipped and almost fell right back down to the rest of them. She caught herself and breathed out slowly with new determination. After readjusting her grip on the wall, she pulled herself higher with persistent force.
The other three rookies were slightly inspired by her performance, and eagerly started climbing as well. Vapor Team exchanged curious looks, wondering how long it would be before any of them fell. A minute passed and the rookies were already over one hundred feet directly above Vapor Team. They were struggling with the slight backwards climb they had to put up with.
Brian grabbed on to a loose and cracked cliff section and mistakenly didn't test it before committing all of his pulling force on it. The cliff gave way instantly and Brian's footing faltered. He found himself falling hopelessly to the ground below, unable to reach far enough forward and grab on to the cliff wall again.
"HELP!!" Brian shouted out, frightened. John quickly moved directly under Brian to catch him. Even though they had reinforced bone structures, they were unarmored at the moment, and a fall from that height would seriously hurt, and damage their skin, but wouldn't kill them.
He fell fifteen feet, then felt his hand getting crushed by something and he stopped falling. Viktor had reached out and snatched Brian's hand with unwavering force, stopping his descent.
"Careful, puffball," Viktor scolded, making fun of Brian's call sign as well. Brian stopped panicking and recollected his composure. "One, two, three!" Viktor counted, then swung Brian as hard as he could to his side and toward the cliff. Brian sailed through the air for a second, then latched his grip firmly on to the cliff wall.
"Thanks, Steam," Brian muttered gratefully. Viktor simply shook his head at how seemingly unfit his fellow rookies around him were for IBST. They all climbed the rest of the way and pulled themselves over the cliff edge.
"Woohoo!" Margaret cheered out in victory.
"How long did that take them?" Connor murmured to the rest of Vapor Team.
"'Bout four minutes," Arden replied. Connor rolled his eyes unhappily.
"Race you guys to the top," Dale suggested.
"You're on!" Connor accepted his challenge.
"Hey, us too," John spoke for him and Arden. They climbed and climbed, almost effortlessly. Forty seconds, and John reached the top, then Connor. Dale came third, and Arden was last.
"Haha, gettin' a little thick around the edges there Fog?" Dale asked Arden, slapping his side.
"Shut up, Shadow," Arden rebutted.
"Make me, bitch," Dale returned with a smile.
"Gladly," Arden said, and almost began sparring with Dale.
"Knock it off you two, save it for later," John stopped them. Dale and Arden sneered at each other with narrow eyes, but both had slightly devious smiles on their faces. They all turned forward and were relieved to see the gym was right in front of them. Four soldiers were outside conversing, then hushed when they saw Vapor Team and the rookies.
The gym was large, and had windows all around the sides so people could work out, and enjoy the station's scenery at the same time. Vapor Team and the rookies passed by the group of soldiers. Dale jerked his head upward at them as if to say, 'sup'.
"Hey," only one of the soldiers acknowledged them. The four soldiers had mischievous looks in their eyes. Connor and Dale noticed that they were mainly looking at Margaret and Victoria, eyeing them closely.
Connor and Dale knew they were checking the girls out. Vapor Team wouldn't deny that Margaret and Victoria had some physically attractive features. Connor and Dale secretly glanced at each other through the corners or their eyes and knew they were thinking the same thing. Those assholes. They continued on however, minding their own business.
Once they were inside, they scanned the room and were almost overwhelmed with the amount of exercise equipment in front of them. A small desk was directly to their right with a young, attractive, fit looking woman standing behind it.
"Welcome to our gym!" she said very enthusiastically, and with a large grin that looked like it hurt her cheeks. "You guys, Vapor Team right?"
"That's right," John replied.
"Wow! Then you four must be the little rookies," she said to the four rookies, this time with narrowed eyes and a slightly disgusted look on her face.
"Hahaha," Dale merely chuckled at her comment. "I like her."
"I don't," Brian openly admitted.
"Whatever," the woman continued, annoyed at Brian's comment. She looked back at Vapor Team and grinned again. "Enjoy the gym Vapor Team!" She looked back at the rookies and the grin was gone. "Try not to break anything little ones."
"How about I break you instead, you little bitch," Victoria spat at her, pointing her finger and briskly walking her way.
The woman raised her eyebrows and donned a sassy look on her face. "Oh yeah?" she returned, unafraid of Victoria. Dale quickly seized Victoria's arm and stopped her before anything got out of hand.
"Whoa, whoa there Haze, easy now," Dale remarked.
"Let go of me!" Victoria demanded. "I need to wipe that pretty little smile off her ugly face!" Dale grabbed Victoria's other arm and lightly tossed her behind him where she still landed on her feet.
"That's enough Haze! Fall in line!" Dale demanded. He turned to the woman and leaned on her desk, then crossed one foot over the other. "Hey there, you can call me Shadow," Dale lightly winked with a smile. "Just a badass super soldier, single."
"Ask him how long he's been single," Connor crossed his arms and told the woman with a smirk, trying to embarrass Dale with how long it's been since he had a relationship.
"Shut up," Dale pointed at Connor behind him without taking his eyes off the woman.
"Come on Shadow, you can flirt later," Arden urged him to move along.
"Fine," Dale pushed himself off of the desk. He tapped the top of the desk once and pointed at the woman with a wry smile. "Call me," Dale brought his other hand to the side of his head, thumb to ear and pinky to mouth. He kept his pose as he backed away. The woman winked at him and blew him a kiss.
Victoria felt betrayed by her own instructor. Dale finally turned around and walked with the rest of them in to the gym.
"Wow, she is such a bitch," Dale murmured. Just like that, Victoria no longer felt betrayed.
"You make no sense," Connor called Dale out.
"Hey, at least I know I still got my charm," Dale replied. "What do you got?"
"Honesty and integrity," Connor answered, honestly.
"You're such a pansy," Dale shook his head.
After stretching, they all worked out their muscles together, spotting each other on and off. Margaret ended up struggling the most. They were bench pressing in sets of thirty reps each.
"Come on Dust, you're only at twenty, you've got ten more to go and you're about to get crushed," Connor urged Margaret. She breathed sporadically and her arms wiggled as she pushed the bar up. The other three rookies finished when she still had six more to go. She pushed out, three more, then barely a fourth, fifth, and moaned as she finished the last one.
Connor was only slightly relieved to see her finish. However, he was still upset that she struggled immensely.
"Thirty more," John ordered them, bluntly. Connor knew Margaret was going to fail this time. The rookies brought the bars down for their first rep. Viktor, Brian, and Victoria continued on, but Margaret couldn't lift her bar.
"Get it up there Dust, you're humiliating yourself," Connor grunted at her, very displeased with her performance. Margaret managed to squeeze in five reps, before she gave out and the bar started falling down. Connor quickly stopped the bar before it smashed down on her chest. "Get up, Dust! Unacceptable! Pitiful performance! Stretch it out some more over there," Connor scolded her as he motioned for her to stretch off to the side. "Tomorrow, you better keep going. You better not give out."
Margaret left the bench and hung her head in shame and embarrassment as she walked to the side to stretch. She almost shed some tears, but fought them back. The rest of the rookies continued on, unwilling to suffer the shame that Margaret currently felt. They finished their reps and got up off of the benches.
They continued all around the gym, working out on almost every machine they had. Brian, Viktor, and Victoria performed all of the needed exercises with more or less of a struggle, but none of them struggled as much as Margaret. Here and there Margaret couldn't even finish her exercises, and Connor yelled at her every time.
By the end of their work outs, Vapor Team felt stimulated and stronger. The rookies however, were much more worn out. Margaret felt awful for letting down Connor, but wasn't going to let it get the best of her.
"You may not have noticed, but it's lunch time already," John informed the rookies. The rookies sighed in relief. Victoria was especially ready to eat. They all headed to exit the gym.
"See you next time sweethearts," the woman behind desk at the front door said to Vapor Team. She looked down at something on her desk, ignoring the rookies when they walked out.
"We'll take a chopper back to the facility. No need to hike back down the mountain," John told them.
"Overall, good performance rooks," Connor addressed the rookies. "Most of you at least," he finished, glaring at Margaret.
"Sorry, sir," Margaret said quickly.
"Prove it, tomorrow," Connor snapped back.
"Let's head to the helipads over there," Arden pointed at a set of helipads with some transport choppers landed on some of them. The four soldiers lounging outside the gym were still there, and turned to lustfully eye Margaret and Victoria again. Vapor Team passed by them and tried to ignore them. The rookies were right behind Vapor Team as they were walking to the choppers. The soldiers didn't even hide their overly flirtatious attitudes.
"Woof," one of them muttered slickly as Margaret and Victoria passed between them.
"Mhmm," another murmured. Another one of them pinched Margaret's butt and laughed. The rest of the soldiers laughed with him.
"Hey! Knock it off moron!" Margaret shouted back the soldier who pinched her.
"Haha, I like 'em a little feisty," the soldier replied with an abusive smile.
"Leave her alone, dipshit," Victoria sneered at them.
"Oh come on baby, don't be like that," a different soldier spoke as he reached to grab Victoria's arm. His reach only got halfway to her when a hand shot out of nowhere and seized his arm with a grip so tight it nearly cracked his bone. The soldier turned to see Dale holding his arm with a large smile across his face. "You wanna tango big guy!?" the soldier shouted at him.
Dale said nothing back. With lightning fast speed, he pulled the soldier toward him by his arm and pummeled his fist into the soldier's chest. He was sent flying backward fifteen feet. The other three soldier's fanned out to surround Dale.
Connor came behind one of them and tripped him, then grabbed him while he was falling down and threw him up five feet in to the air. He roundhouse kicked his center body mass as he came back down, and the soldier was knocked five feet away. He sputtered and coughed at Connor's blow, but failed to get up. The remaining two soldiers split their attention, one on Dale and the other on Connor.
"Let's have a little fun with these two, Shadow," Connor said to Dale.
"Sounds good to me," Dale said in return. Arden and John crossed their arms and smiled, ready to enjoy the show. The rookies stood with their mouths slightly open.
"Take notes," Arden said to the rookies.
The two soldiers threw themselves at Connor and Dale, swinging their fists and kicking. They weren't at all coordinated with their assault as much as a trained wartime soldier would be. The years of peace that had followed after the civil war left new recruits to the FKPD less motivated.
Connor first started by using only one arm to block the soldier's swings. He swept his arm in front of the soldier's fists, left, right, left, down to block a kick, then grabbed the soldier's fist and spun him around, almost as if they were dancing. He used both arms finally, and ended up wrapping them around the soldier's arms from behind in a way that completely immobilized him.
"Let go of me!" the soldier tried to command Connor. It was the soldier that pinched Margaret.
"Hey Dust, wanna get a couple shots on him?" Connor asked Margaret.
"Absolutely!" Margaret replied. She briskly walked to him and slapped both of his cheeks in sequence, then walked away with a sassy sway in her hips just to tease him. Connor picked him up and lightly tossed him vertically in to the air. As the soldier came down, Connor brought his foot up right between the soldier's legs and hit the soldier's privates, just enough to not cause any permanent injury. After that, the soldier dropped to the ground, clutching his crotch.
Dale dodged the soldier attacking him. He ducked under a swing, rolled around a kick, then jumped and front flipped clean over another swing from the soldier and landed on his other side. The soldier swung around with another fist, but Dale brought his elbow up and deflected it upward, then jabbed the soldier's side and finally forced his knee in to the soldier's abdomen, knocking the wind out of him. He fell to the ground stunned.
"Next time, know who you're picking a fight with," Dale spat at the soldier as he was wheezing on the grass.
After the short scrap, the rookies knew that even though Vapor Team was rough with them and yelled at them while they were training, they still cared about their well being and protected them. Everyone had smiles on their faces as they boarded a chopper and Arden took it back to the main facility.