INT – Night – cargo bay
In the dim reddish lights of the night shift, Harbin leads two dozen recruits in bayonet drills, very similar to what the monks were doing, but not so slow-motion. Parry, feint, riposte, thrust, butt-stroke, slash, thrust. The recruits are looking exhausted and ragged. Harbin is sweating, but crisp and precise, and his voice calling the moves in a cadence is strong and clear. Barely noticed in the background, Lag is doing the exercises, too, with the smooth grace of much practice and hard muscles.
EXT – Day – Shooting range
Camera is looking along a line of recruits shooting from the prone position with rifles. They shoot one after another, with three to four seconds between each shot. BANG… BANG… BANG… The camera pans to the side, and 50m down-range Darch is holding a pair of target holders out at arms length on each side. With each shot dust is kicking up on the berm behind him. He’s got an agonized expression on his face, there are a lot of holes in the targets, and it’s clear he’s been there a while and is having a hard time holding his arms up much longer.
INT – day – galley serving line
View from inside the back of the galley over the serving line and out the door. Horkle serves the recruits as they file past. The recruits move a bit, and a tired-looking Darch slogs by the hatchway going down the passage wearing armor and carrying a brightly-colored fake training rifle.
INT – night – cargo bay
Harbin and Lag watch the recruits in fatigues as they do their “Cargo Bay Laps”, come out the mid-level window, cross the bay, and up a human pyramid and in the other side. They clearly have the pattern down now, with two guys holding for a guy running and scrambling up, and a guy at the top waiting ready to grab hold if the next guy coming up misses the window sill. Not perfectly smooth, but pretty good, and they seem well spaced out.
Lag: Good. Look’n GOOD!
Harbin: Not bad. But it doesn’t get any easier than this. OK, take a break!
Everyone stops and drops, exhausted.
Harbin: Now lets see how well you manage properly dressed. Back where you are in ten, wearing class three armor!
There is a collective groan from everyone.
Cut to close-up view of Horkel and Kaminski, who are near each other.
Horkle: ARMOR? Oh, god! Is he trying to KILL US?
CPL Kaminski: (shaking head) Save us. It just feels like dying now. Just remember that endurance is life. Run to attack. Run to retreat. Run to reposition. The side that stops being able to run and swing a sword or shoot first usually loses. Supposed to be good for the brain, too.
Horkle stares at him with a look of horror on his face at the thought of a HARDER workout.
INT – Night – cargo bay
Two dozen exhausted recruits in light armor lay sprawled out, breathing heavily, around the center of the cargo deck. To one side SGT Kaushik stands watching them, not in armor, along with Helton. They are listening to sounds of the recruits recovering from another hard workout.
Horkle: My sister was right – I must be nuts to volunteer!
Darch: Nah, you’re just stupid, volunteer or not.
Horkle: Hey, you’re here, too!
SGT Kaushik: Save it for tomorrow. You get to do hand-to-hand sparing, and field expedient weapons.
Darch: Oh YEAH, weapons training!
SGT Kaushik: Yes – fancy things like rocks. A real hoot.
Darch: ROCKS?! That’s little boy stuff! I’ll just shoot the bastards!
Sgt Kaushik: You may not always have a gun.
Darch: I will!
Helton: Darch, if you had to play “Rock-Rifle-Scissors” against someone like First Sgt Reel, you’d lose. Whatever one you pick. So learn now, before you DO have to fight someone for real. You may not get a chance to learn from your mistakes.
Darch: Yeah, right.
Helton: I saw him use a rock in a fight once. That’s all we had… Six punks died inside six seconds.
Darch eyes Helton to see if he’s kidding. He realizes Helton is deadly serious. He looks down.
Kaushik: He pushes you hard, because he wants you to live through a REAL fight. Pay attention and learn. Or not… And don’t.
Darch looks back up at Helton. Then they both turn to face the sound of moving armor to the stern, to see someone in armor, about type 4, mail haubark, greaves, various extra plates, helm, shield, sword in a scabbard, and a spear. In the reddish lights of the night shift, and with the helm, it can’t be seen who it is. He stretches and flexes a bit, moving smoothly. DEFINITELY not one of the recruits. Then, similar sounds are heard from the bow end, and everyone looks that way. Another man, similarly clad, but with a bit of bright brass-work shining around the eyes on the helmet. He, too, stretches and flexes a bit. They stop moving, and face one another across the length of the cargo deck.
Kaushik: (Quietly) Watch and learn.
Suddenly, one of the two men runs to the port side, slings his shield and tosses his spear up through a mid-deck window mid-stride, and scampers up the wall like a giant squirrel up a tree using hand- and foot-holds they didn’t see or trust to use, unassisted, and rolls up and through the window with a grace and speed none of the recruits came even CLOSE to, even when not in armor. The other man starts a lap at the same moment, going starboard and up the stairs. Then they are racing down the mid-deck corridor at full speed, clearly with spear and shield. Then get to the far end, and one takes the stairs down, the other tosses spear and shield out the window while rolling over the sill and down, making it look simple, fast, and easy. The recruits are in shocked amazement – these two were moving far faster than they EVER did. Then they start to realize – they are both running counter-clockwise, and it’s a RACE to try to catch up to the other guy! A combination of speed, endurance, precision, decisions on relative speed and safety of stairs vs windows, and still catching the other guy in good enough shape to be able to win a fight. In a window, down a passageway, down a stair, across the deck, around and around. Simple. Fast. Brutal. The recruits are not sure who they are, but they start cheering them on, anyway. Each man not always taking the same exact rout, stairs vs mid-deck window, one path a little easier, one path a bit faster – unless they hurt themselves landing or get hung up going through a window. The sound of their breathing is loud, but not gasping. Gradually they pull closer together, the one with the brass on the helm gaining ground. Five laps, gained five meters. Ten laps, ten meters. Closing in. Getting close. Brass-mask goes out the window to the cargo deck with spear and shield in hand, and drops down next to the stern stairway hatch and lunges toward it and braces as the other is coming out. Shield-to-shield they crash together, one with more momentum, the other well braced, and it’s not clear who came out ahead.
Kaushik grabs a shield from a recruit, and runs to the bow cargo bay door, while the two men face off with spear and shield. Kaushik leans the shield up against the door, a good 30 meters from where they are, and stands aside. He whistles loudly.
Kaushik: (shouting) Center Accuracy! Here!
The two men in armor stop facing off. They both turn and identify the target. The recruits realize they are between the target and the men throwing, and they stop cheering and hit the deck. Brass-work helm throws, and hits the shield near the top edge, the spear bites deep. The other throws, and hits about a hand-span from dead center, low, also deep. The recruits whistle and cheer. The two men lean forward, hands on knees, breathing hard, race over, a draw, then stand and stretch to expand lung capacity. They are clearly winded. They clasp hands and congratulate each other silently for a race hard run, while continuing to recover. Then they walk slowly towards the recruits, and they fall silent.
Kaushik: Form Ranks!
All the recruits line up in two neat lines, their exhaustion temporarily forgotten in the excitement. The two armored men come up in front of the ranks. They take their helms off. Under the plain helm is Col Lag! Wearing the brass-work on the helm is First Sergeant Reel!
Lag: (still breathing hard) Fights are won by those who are able or willing to do what others will not, or cannot, do. There are few shortcuts in training, only good training and bad training. Now, you must continue to DO what others do not. We expect no more from you than we expect from ourselves. Stick with us, and you’ll suffer in training like nowhere else. You will also win fights and live to tell your grandchildren. Want an easy life? This isn’t it. Want a worthwhile life in ANY field? You have to EARN it, and the price isn’t easy to pay. Would you rather have someone like first Sergeant Reel here standing by your side – or facing you? You have a full day tomorrow, I hear. Better get cleaned up, and hit the rack. Keep at it, and some of you will last long enough to be racing us, eventually.
He nods to Kaushik, and Lag and Harbin turn and walk away.
Kaushik: Aten-shun! Hang you armor to dry, hit the shower, and bed. Lights out in 20, gentlemen! Dismissed!
Fade to black.