The Stars Came Back -103- Recruits

Fade in

EXT – DAY – Training field on New Texas

Aerial view of a vast grassy plain in full, bright sun. It looks like a really hectic Day One in a HUGE boot camp. On a large training field, there are thousands of young men in companies of a hundred or so running all sorts of speed, agility, and strength tests. Each company has a handful of guys in uniform, and they are racing individuals and teams against one another in a high-speed, highly competitive, multifaceted course selection. The guys in uniform are broad-shouldered, sold-looking, mature men with short hair and a serious look. The recruits range from 18 to 30, and while mostly fairly fit looking, they are NOT all of a type. All ethnic backgrounds, builds, hair styles, and styles of dressing are represented, even a scattering of Sikh turbans. Each recruit has a big alpha-numeric on them, two letters and three numbers, each company of men has the same first two letters. Each of the uniforms running each test company has a head-mounted camera watching the action to record results, and carries a simple tablet/e-reader that they occasionally glance at, then put back into a pocket. Clearly, the recruits are ALL getting a hard workout, and getting compared to each other, being sorted, ranked, measured, and binned in the process. The recruits are all sweating heavily, and numerous water barrels are scattered around.

Cut to

Series of scenes, all ground level

A group of men running ten-meter wind-sprints, back and forth, back and forth, while the rest watch and cheer, or recover from their own recent race.

A company running a longer endurance test, with the company strung out along the edge of the field area, sweating and breathing hard as they sprint the last bit across the finish line.

A company running a simple obstacle courses of tires, logs, walls, posts, and ropes, strung out along it, with a uniform shouting encouragement.

A company standing around a half dozen small circles where a simple strength tests is done. Two guys with large Roman-style shields push against one another in each small ring, trying to shove the other out of it.

A line of twenty men doing simple overhand jabbing-with-a-spear for speed, jab-and-recover, using blunt practice spears, while holding large shields on their other arm. The rest of the company stands behind them, watching. Some are pretty smooth, some are flailing wildly.

A company is arranged into a large square, two ranks deep, facing in, doing a simple lift-the-shield-one-armed a hundred times fast exercise, from low rest to covering the head, the uniform calling the beat.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – Tajemnica ramp near the edge of the training field

Lag, Harbin, and Helton watch the expanse of men getting worked over. A company runs by the ramp, being pushed hard and getting strung out. One of the guys falls out of line a moment, pukes, wipes his chin on the back of his sleeve, and doggedly gets back into the race, as the three watch.

Helton: All I can say is holy shit.

Lag: It’s your plan. Why surprised?

Helton: OUR plan. But a plan is one thing, seeing it in action is… big.

Harbin: Don’t be modest. It’s your plan. We just filled in implementation details.

Lag: And Taj helped a lot on execution.

Helton: Joint effort, for sure. But picking up the 13th, getting here, and having a sorting-out process for nearly ten thousand men into the best twenty-five hundred in less than a week is unreal.

Lag: Being here before and having a reputation helped a lot. Being able to contact every possible volunteer on the planet with a custom direct message, after a basic pre-screening by medical and academic records, helped immeasurably. They all show up, bring parts of the testing equipment with them. Poof. It happens. You’re right, though. With Taj helping run the screening data collection, and an experienced infantry company to manage it on the ground, it’s got to be a record.

Helton: Didn’t think we’d get this many, this fast.

Harbin: They got a couple of suicide bombers just a few months ago, lost more than twenty people, including a pair of pregnant ladies. It’s fresh on their minds. Records screen turned down three times this many applicants.

Lag: Don’t think they mind selling a few thousand sides of beef at a good price to support their men, either. Free training, excitement, revenge, be a part of history. LOTS of reasons to be here.

Helton: So two days of this?

Harbin: Genetic and paper tests only tell you so much. Push a guy hard for a while in a highly competitive environment and the real person shows up.

Helton: But two days with no food, just hydrating and competition?

Lag: This battle will be an endurance test. We’ll be outnumbered ten-to-one at best. Maybe even fifty to one. Endurance and mental toughness when you CAN’T take a break will be more important than a little extra momentary strength. They have to be fast enough, strong enough, smart enough. But in this case, there is no substitute for endurance. Keep going or die.

They watch the action going on all across the field. Another company runs by in formation, each man carrying a five kilo weight in each hand, and with a small pack on their back. It’s not a very tidy formation – they are a bit strung out. One of the men, a big, powerfully built guy, looking like he is struggling, stumbles, staggers, hops a few steps, drops his weights, then gingerly puts his foot down as the rest of the company goes by. He staggers and limps a few steps, wincing, as they watch, then shake their heads as his expression tells them he knows he just twisted his ankle and he’s not going. They shake their heads in silent disappointment.

Lag: Time will tell if that was a lucky break, or an unlucky one.

Allonia walks up next to them, and watches the guys competing for a moment.

Allonia: Managed to get another twenty-two massage and physical therapists for you, and five chiropractors.

Helton: You sure we’ll need that many? Already some on board.

Harbin looks at him with a look of “who’s the professional trainer, here, bub?”

Harbin: Pushing hard for three months will beat up a lot of bodies, even young strong ones like these. Figure five percent get some minor injury a day – back, shoulders, elbows, ankles, ribs, necks, pulls, strains, minor tears, all the rest- that’s over a hundred a day, with maybe a week to fix, so once we’re rolling they’ll be treating nearly five hundred little things a day. Massage and PT helps with recovery a LOT, so we can push harder, go the extra distance. A good team of those folks will make everything else go MUCH more smoothly. We’ll lose fewer. We can hit the ground in peak condition, at full strength, feeling good. They aren’t a luxury under these conditions. If we could train ALL these guys, then select the best 2500 at the end, that’s one thing. But we have to pick, then train and retain them ALL, to make this work.

Helton: Right, as always… I think the self-styled Mahdi is in for a bit of a surprise in a couple of weeks.

Fade to black



9 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -103- Recruits

  1. Training. I always hated running drills….but got so good that after one fire-drill, my hose-team partner actually had to nudge me to wake me up. Hated drilling, but thankful I never had to use the skills.

    where a simple strength tests is done.

    “…simple strength test is done.” Singular. Plural would be “…where a few simple strength tests are done.”


    trying to shove the other out of it.

    I would just end it at “…trying to shove the other out.” Or “…over the line.”

    • There is a single strength test (pushing), but they are running multiple instances of it simultaneously. Fixed / clarified. Thanks, again.
      I didn’t like wind-sprints and drills like that much.
      A long time ago, I did SCA fighting. One of the ugliest tournaments I ever entered was at a small tourney that did a “cumulative injury bear-pit total win” match. Everyone lined up, and the first two fought – the winner stayed in the ring, the loser went to the back of the line, and the next guy in front stepped up to fight immediately. If you had been “injured” in the fight (“lost” an arm or leg by getting hit, so you were fighting one-handed or from your knees) that “injury” stayed with you until you “died” and went to the back of the line. A scorer kept track of how many wins and losses everyone got over the course of an hour. Some fights lasted ten seconds, some five minutes. There were about a dozen of us in the line. The longest I stayed in the ring was about fifteen fights in a row, and I’d lost my legs early, so I was fighting from my knees with a pole arm for most of it. It was a LONG hour, let me tell you. Made working out and wind-sprints seem easy.

      • Back during my running/jogging days, I used to LOVE hills. My best route had one flat stretch…the parking lot of the rec center I started/ended at. I ran a 10k one time, an out-and-back course (hate those things…much prefer a loop), where the “out” leg had three or four rather steep downhills, so that the return leg was all uphill. I heard a set of feet approaching from behind, then we would hit a hill and they’d fade away. A mile or so later, and they were back, until we hit another hill. It wasn’t until the final stretch (a long curve around a lake) to the finish line that the lady finally caught up with me and complimented me by saying “I never thought I was going to catch up! We’d hit a hill, and you would DISAPPEAR! I think you ran faster uphill than on the straights!” Awesome!

        Now I get winded going up a flight of stairs.

  2. Dude, the ambiance is becoming decidedly less pleasant. It’s riveting.

    • Less pleasant? You mean, more tense, or more dramatic, higher stakes, or something like that? I’ll take the “riveting” as a compliment.

      • “less pleasant” as in: more tension, more drama, higher stakes. and uncomfortably clear that there is going to be massive bloodshed brutally administered- which is a compliment to your writing, presuming you’re trying to rivet the readers’ attention, which you have done well in this case. Personally, I am a bit surprised that I did genuinely become uncomfortable contemplating the scene you’re laying out. I was an E-6 but was never at the wrong end of a weapon when it was being fired – perhaps that explains it. Good writing.

  3. Rolf, you may be done with the writing except for edits. In which case, ignore this. I also have no military training, just a layman’s interest in both military tactics and history, so feel free to insult away (I fart in your general direction!). I’m thinking that a sheild wall would be a wonderful defense against Seventh Century barbarians, who think their moon god controlls all, so Whatever, they’re focussed on 72 perpetual virgin girls and innumerable young boys lime pearls, hitting the hash pipe for courage. Those cats would utterly break on a disciplined shield wall.

    • As always, all comments welcome.
      I don’t claim to be an all-knowing expert. But I have done a lot of medieval-style recreation fighting (SCA), and studied history and psychology and related things that have a baring on it a fair bit. A disciplined and trained shield-wall, with proper weaponry, depth, and tactics, is a damned effective tool. But mobs, and just the crush of bodies grabbing and dragging things down, is an amazingly powerful force to be reckoned with. Like flowing water – a bit, not so bad, a bit more, a bit worse, a flood is nearly unstoppable short of a mountain of solid rock. (note – they are the 13th mountain shield company). Kind of like the infamous immovable object meeting an unstoppable force. If you just stand and kill them, simply the pressure of the mounting pile of bodies against the shields means the mob is falling down on you when they get killed. And eventually, if you have no place to take a break, you DO wear out. You get tired, sloppy. One mistake, and you are out. No replacements.
      I remember one SCA “continuous resurrection” battle that I’d been going full speed on, in the summer heat, for an hour. I was kick’n ass and not bothering with names. I was having a GREAT day. At one point I was approached by three guys, coming at me at the same time, together, from the 3, 12, and 9 o’clock directions, and whack-poke-thud, I nailed all three in a lot less than three seconds with my glaive, and moved out after another pair. Then, at about the hour mark, I had gotten bonked and went back to resurrect, and after tagging the pole a water-bearer said “mi-lord, you are looking AWFULLY pale!” I took my helm off a moment, I realized I was on the verge of heat exhaustion and passing out. Sat down, downed a half gallon of fluids in the next five minutes. That was after only an hour, with many short breaks. When you are outnumbered big-time, everything is on hyper-speed. Yeah, the cats may break, but if every 30th one gets lucky, you better not be outnumbered 50:1.

      • Fair enough, as I said, I’m just a total layman. As Jay Severin says, I’m a pretty intelligent guy, but there are tons of things I’m pretty ignorant on. The good thing is, ignorant can be fixed.

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