Ian & Jackson Arrive at Basic Training

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11-year-old Ian Thomas, Jackson Shepherd, and the other young recruits aboard the Colorado Springs transport began to feel a bit more anxious as they sat in silence, awaiting their first official instructions from a representative of the New World Military. And, it didn’t take long to receive that first set of official instructions. Suddenly, a very serious little person in a flat brimmed hat flashed by the bus windows. He bounded up the stairs of the transport, turned and addressed the recruits. Quite loudly.  

“Off my transport!” he screamed, banging a metal baton upon the steel wall of the transport. “Stand up, grab your gear and line up with your feet on the black line! Go! Go! Go! Go! What are you babies waiting for?!”

The gruff, angry little voice belonged to none other than twelve-year-old Drill Sergeant, Dwayne “Pinky” Perkins. It was rumored that Sergeant Perkins had earned the nickname Pinky, when he lost the smallest finger on his left hand, due to an unfortunate weapon malfunction during a training exercise.

The recruits urgently grabbed their luggage and exited the transport as quickly as humanly possible, each simply wanting to stay off the loud little man’s attention grid.

“Holy cats, I hope that’s the last we see of that little guy,” Jackson whispered to Ian as they waited in line to exit the transport.  

“Man. Un-Freaking-Believable,” said Ian, exhaling deeply, puffing out his cheeks.

In seconds, the recruits had scrambled from the bus and firmly planted their feet upon the wide black line, as instructed.

Sergeant “Pinky” Perkins, along with a group of other Drill Sergeants stood in a group, speaking and observing the new class of recruits. Jackson Shepherd immediately recognized little Perkins from the brief, yet explosive encounter aboard the transport. Jackson elbowed Ian in his side a couple times, attempting to get him tickled at the sight of the serious little Sergeant.

“Dude, stop,” whispered Ian, trying not to smile.

It was all the two boys could do to keep from laughing out loud at Perkins, who was now pacing about the parking lot with his pants pulled up beneath his armpits like a mean old man.

“Now listen up and repeat after me,” Drill Sergeant Perkins instructed. “I am a recruit. I know absolutely nothing about anything.”

    “I am a recruit. I know absolutely nothing about anything,” the 200 recruit voices answered in unison.

“The way I will learn something, is by shutting my mouth and listening to my instructors,” continued Perkins.

“The way I will learn something, is by shutting my mouth and listening to my instructors,” answered the recruits.

“Out-Frigging-Standing, children!” blared Drill Sergeant Perkins. Now listen. I will only say this once. You will be divided into squads of ten and taken to different areas of this incredible military installation for housing and to collect your military gear. There are 200 of you, therefore, there will be twenty teams of ten recruits each. If you studied basic math at your blessed elementary schools this year, what I just said should make perfect sense to you.”

Ironically enough, there were some recruits who seemed puzzled by the Sergeant’s math, but none were brave enough to ask questions, nor doubt the math.  

“Standing behind me are nineteen of the finest Drill Sergeants the New World Military has ever created. These talented young men and women are here to transform you children into friggin’-killing machines,” roared Perkins, boasting, tapping the metal baton upon his leg as he spoke.

More than a few of the recruits’ eyes widened with anxiety. Until now they’d never imagined themselves as friggin’-killing machines and weren’t quite sure what to think about the idea.

“I will now read your squad assignments,” explained Sergeant Perkins, studying the clipboard. “These will be the people you bunk with, eat with, train with, cry with, and bleed with. Do you understand?”

“Sir, yes, sir!” the 200 voices exploded.

“Each squad will be identified by a letter of the ancient Greek alphabet,” Perkins explained. “For example, the first ten names I call will be assigned to Alpha Squad. When I call your name, go stand behind one of the Drill Sergeants standing behind me. You will know the appropriate Drill Sergeant, because he or she will have his or her hand raised.”

Ian and Jackson waited impatiently for their squad assignments. The two boys watched as 190 names were called ahead of them. Then, finally…

“By my calculations,” said Perkins, carefully scanning the clipboard, “there should be ten of you left on the black line. You ten recruits will be under my tutelage for the next eight weeks of basic training. Congratulations!”

“Aw, fudgesicles!” Jackson hissed through his clenched teeth.

Ian stood silently, either completely shocked by the news, or possibly uncertain what the word tutelage meant.

“Baker, Chu, Dubois, Espinoza, Gregory, Sanchez, Shepherd, Irwin, Thomas, Weber,” barked Perkins. “You ten recruits are Upsilon Squad.”  

As the final ten recruits jogged into position, Perkins reviewed a few final details with the other Drill Sergeants.  

“Ian, what the heck is an Upsilon?” Jackson whispered, confused.

“Did you not read the pre-basic training packet last night?” Ian replied, very serious.

“Yes, said Jackson, “well, not all of it. Was Upsilon in there?”

“Dude, yes,” said Ian, with his eyes widening as he spoke, “right next to the section about rats and stinky food.”

The two boys erupted with laughter momentarily, then suddenly shut up as they remembered where they were. Jackson skillfully transitioned from laughter into a fake coughing fit, complete with snot spitting, trying to hide the chuckles from the sergeants. After taking a few breaths, Jackson signaled toward the sergeants, just to let them know he had lived through their horrible, fake choking ordeal. Perkins glared back at Recruit Jackson, wrinkled his face in disgust at the snot spitting episode, then shook his head, and continued the conference with the other sergeants. Ian stared straight ahead, and pressed his lips together tightly, managing to hold his chuckles to a couple mild snorting noises that sounded more like sneezes.

The Girls’ Not So Quiet Training Run

The two girls weren’t expecting to see any Hydrotians tonight, as they were on a simple training run in shallower water than the Trenchers normally frequented. The sky was clear, and the bright moon lit up the waves, like fire dancing in the night. Along the way, a five ship Squadron of enemy Hydrotian fighters engaged the Hydro-Hawk and prepared to pull into firing position. Captain Sofia Ann Thomas expertly maneuvered the much faster Hydro-Hawk out of harm’s way, while Lieutenant Kat Chapman managed to lock on radar, and destroy two of the enemy ships with rear-firing missiles.

Sofia Ann then piloted the ship upward, rocketing through the surface of the ocean, escaping into the clouds to regroup.

“We’re right above them,” said Kat, squeezing the weapons controls, and adjusting her battle position in the nose of the tiny fighter ship. “I’ve got the last three of them on radar.”

“Alright, be ready,” Replied Sofia Ann. “Let’s show ‘em why they need to stay on their side of the ocean.”

Sofia Ann shoved the Hydro-Hawk’s throttle forward with all her might, and shot directly downward toward the sea. The powerful hydro-turbo engine screamed, as the ship plunged back into the dark waves of the Grand Ocean. Sofia Ann checked her helmet’s radar display and jetted toward the unsuspecting enemy ships. Within a fraction of a second, the ship was in firing position.

“I’ve got a lock!” yelled Kat. “I’m firing! Missiles away!”

The dark water suddenly illuminated like it was a sunny day at the beach. Within seconds, Kat had fired two missiles, and filled the water with hundreds of rounds of automatic weapons fire. The Hydrotian fighters didn’t stand a chance. The broken enemy ships dropped to the bottom of the Grand Ocean in flaming pieces.

“Kat! Well done!” exclaimed, Sofia Ann, reaching forward and slapping her gunner on the foot.

“Do you think the deli is still open back at base?” asked Kat, inquisitive, switching from battle mode, rotating her body back into a normal upright sitting position.

“Let me guess,” said Sofia Ann, giggling, “you’re craving cheese, right?”

“Well, yeah. Duh,” responded Kat, smiling, rubbing her belly while looking over her shoulder at Sofia Ann. “You know me, I always crave cheese after blowing up stuff.”

“After a night like this,” said Sofia Ann, grinning, patting her gunner on the helmet, “I think I’ll have some cheese with you.”

Sofia Ann set course for base and hurried away from the scene. The girls could breathe a sigh of relief, as the surprise encounter with the Hydrotians was now completely under control.

 

The Agers

Scientists were baffled as to why land dwelling children were not affected by the illness. Only land dwelling adults experienced the effects of the Ager illness. The adults afflicted with the illness, or Agers as they were called, suddenly acted as if they were elderly. The Agers didn’t appear to be any older, they just behaved as if they were old.

It was truly bizarre to see a completely normal looking nineteen-year-old man or woman with young, smooth skin, behave as if he or she was 115-years-old. These Agers walked slumped over, usually needing a cane or wheelchair to support their weight. Within a couple years of the earthquake there wasn’t an adult left upon the face of the earth who had not become an Ager.

Meeting Conner Thomas

Conner Thomas is the seventeen-year-old brother of Ian and Sofia Ann. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but moved to Colorado at an early age. Although Conner is technically an Ager, he manages the illness much better than most people his age by using experimental Ager illness treatments. Conner is a brilliant scientist. He has spent the past several years at the science institute in Canada, working toward a cure for the Ager illness. 

Origin of the Playground Warriors

Military recruiting always took place on school playgrounds, during recess. Studies conducted by the military indicated that playground recruiting was less disruptive to the overall learning process for the student population than recruiting during class time.

As a note, the nickname “Playground Warrior,” was originally coined by a ten-year-old student from Indonesia, who was recruited from her school’s playground for combat training. The nickname quickly became popular with the children, who began to use the term interchangeably to describe all children recruited by the military.

Regardless of duty assignment each child was trained with a common purpose in mind; to battle the evil Hydrotian Empire. With no less than the survival of the human race hanging in the balance, the children answered the call to arms. These children from all across the world became the champions of humanity. They were young heroes born at a most desperate time in history. These children of destiny were known as the Playground Warriors.

Meeting Keiko Amari

The voice was that of thirteen-year-old, Captain Keiko Amari, the lead Hydro-Hawk pilot for Devil Fish Squad. She was born in Tokyo, but evacuated the city in the aftermath of the earthquake. Keiko’s family managed to escape to higher ground as the rising flood waters covered much of Japan.

– The boys watched as Keiko’s ship dropped through the clouds and pulled alongside. The two Hydro-Hawks were now cruising side by side, wings just meters apart. Keiko flashed a smile and waved her hand at the boys, like she had just won the Miss Universe Pageant. The Hydrotian fighters had bugged out, and were nowhere in sight. Keiko was indeed, Ian’s and Sherpa’s newest hero!

Meeting the Marino Bros

The two brothers were Tommy Marino, age twelve and Joey Marino, age ten. Several months before the big earthquake the brothers were sent upstate to live with their Aunt and Uncle on their farm in the Adirondack Mountains. The boys were good kids, they had just gotten into a bit of trouble back in Brooklyn. A fresh start in the mountains seemed to be just what the brothers needed to get back on track. The boys were a team, training as pilot and gunner for a Hydro-Hawk Squad.