“Recruiter Apprentice McCain, will you please give these gentlemen details?” said the Major.
“Yes sir!” responded the young Recruiter, opening his blue folder and thumbing the pages for his prefabricated remarks. “I would like to welcome you both to the New World Military and the next class of recruits for the Denver based training school. I’m pleased to report that both of you have received your first choice of preferred duties. After completing basic training in Denver, Jackson Shepherd will remain in Denver to train with the Deep Water Warfare Command. Upon successful completion of the intensive program, including mastery of light weapons, explosives, sniper skills, and hand-to-hand combat, you will be assigned to a Deep Water Warfare Unit. Jackson, you’ve been accepted into the most elite combat training program in the world, Trench Operations.”
For the first time since birth, Jackson Shepherd was speechless. He glanced nervously at Ian, then quickly back at the two men. Ian could only shake his head in utter disbelief.
“Ian Thomas,” said the young recruiter, glancing back down at his notes. “Upon completion of basic training in Denver, you will report to specialty school at the flight base in Mexico City. There, you will receive extensive flight training and learn to pilot the Turbo Hydro-Hawk 3000 Combat Fighter Craft.”
“Mr. Thomas,” interjected the Ager Major, “I understand you may already know someone who’s pretty handy in the cockpit of a Hydro-Hawk?”
“Yes sir, my older sister, Sofia Ann,” replied Ian, proudly. “The Trenchers don’t like her much.”
The Major smiled and nodded at Ian, approving. “Gentlemen, are there any questions, so far?” asked the Major.
“No, sir!”, the two boys answered emphatically and in unison.
“Very good then,” said the Major, shifting his weight, slightly grimacing as he turned toward the parking lot. “As is customary, Recruiter Apprentice McCain and I will drive you both to your homes, giving you the rest of the day to prepare for transport pickup early tomorrow morning. I highly recommend you read the pre-basic training packets Recruiter Apprentice McCain has for you. The packets contain very useful information about training.”
Ian and Jackson shook their heads, trying to appear as if they were actually listening to the Major’s instructions. Both boys were still mentally processing the fact that they’d been recruited.
“So,” the Major continued, “while you both gather any personal items from your classroom, the Recruiter Apprentice and I will wait for you both in the truck.”
Ian and Jackson exchanged high-fives, watching as the men inched toward the parking lot. Mrs. Campbell, who had remained silent throughout the entire recruiting scene, held out her arms and pulled the boys close. She began to hug the boys quite firmly.
“Hope you don’t get any of my blood on your sweater, Mrs. Campbell,” said Ian, contorting his eyes, peeking above the bear hugging arms, searching for blood on the white sweater.
Jackson giggled under his breath, remembering how Ian bloodied his face minutes ago in the midair collision with big Robert.
“Don’t worry about mussing this old sweater, son,” replied Mrs. Campbell, squeezing the boys even more tightly. “I want you both to know how proud I am. You will both do so well. I just know it. Please come see me when you can.”
The boys escorted Mrs. Campbell to the classroom one final time. Mrs. Campbell took a towel from her cabinet, allowing the water from the faucet to warm. She wet the soft towel with the warm water and began to scrub the dried blood from Ian’s face. Jackson helped by standing behind Mrs. Campbell, making goofy faces at Ian. Jackson loved to make Ian laugh. This time Ian smiled, but closed his eyes. He was enjoying the pampering Mrs. Campbell was providing. As she rubbed the warm towel across Ian’s face, he was reminded of his mother. This was something his kind mother would have done for him.