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 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.

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 Laurence Dubois

Laurence Dubois is an undersized, yet brilliant nine-year-old French boy. Before being recruited he had spent countless hours working with his Ager father at a science facility located in the French Pyrenees Mountains. By the age of six Dubois had already established a name for himself with the scientific community. Dubois went through basic training with Ian Thomas and Jackson Shepherd, before moving on to science specialty training in Canada. 

Meeting Kat Chapman

Her full name is Kathryn “Kat” Chapman. She is twelve-years-old, and Hydro-Hawk gunner for Sofia Ann of Raven Squad. Kat was born without the use of her legs on a cold winter morning in London, England. Her father was an Infantry Officer in the British Royal Marines and her mother worked at a family owned bookstore in London’s West End. Both parents were immediately killed in the destruction caused by the great earthquake. Kat somehow managed to endure the quake, as well as the massive flooding. She survived on snack foods and bottled water she managed to gather and stash in a pillowcase. As the flood water began to rise around her, Kat pulled her body upon a piece of floating debris. She was found several weeks later by a rescue boat, as she drifted aimlessly upon the waves of the Grand Ocean. Kat dreamed of becoming a Hydro-Hawk gunner in the New World Military. Although she had scored in the superior range on the exam battery, a council of military Agers believed she shouldn’t be allowed to fight since she was unable to walk. Thankfully for the human race, the Agers’ decision was overruled by a council of young military leaders and the girl was allowed to train for gunner duty. Each day Kat worked excruciatingly hard to improve. Over time she became one of the most successful and highly decorated Hydro-Hawk gunners in the history of the New World Military. Kat is a survivor. She is fiercely loyal to her team. And, she is a most deadly warrior.

Part 2: Ian & Jackson Meet The Recruiters

“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.

The New World

During the morning of March 10, 2038, with what began as a gentle trembling deep inside the earth, quickly evolved into a series of natural disasters responsible for changing the face of the world forever. The people living along the eastern coast of the United States were the first to feel the effects of the terrible earthquake.

About ten minutes after the quake began, the Thomas Family in Colorado Springs was physically shaken awake while sleeping comfortably in their beds. Four-year-old Ian Thomas frantically grabbed at the spindles of his headboard, horrified as the bed bounced around the room as if heaved upon a trampoline. Six-year-old Sofia Ann Thomas somehow managed to sleep through the ordeal until her mother, Lisa, and ten-year-old brother, Conner, urgently shook her awake as they hurried to the local emergency shelter.

The deep fault line ran thousands of kilometers from the northern coast of Antarctica, into Baffin Bay along the coast of Greenland. The widespread destruction also clawed about 4,000 kilometers deep into the heart of the earth, ripping open the volcanic core and releasing deadly gases, poisonous bacteria and boiling heat. Scientists estimated the Great Quake of 2038 to be billions of times more powerful than the strongest earthquake previously on record.

Around the world other disasters quickly followed the powerful earthquake. Mountains crumbled into rock missiles, destroying cities and smothering civilization for hundreds and thousands of kilometers. Soon, the tsunamis came. Mammoth waves of water formed and swallowed up most of the land left uncovered by the landslides.  

Then, the earth experienced the most destructive event of all. The scorching liquid heat released from the earth’s core melted the global ice, causing the ocean level to dramatically rise. Within hours most dry land was covered by rising water.

Lisa Thomas and her three children huddled together, peering down the hillside near the emergency center as the churning waves gobbled up the landscape below Colorado Springs. As the sun peaked over the mountain tops the family watched in shock as the world they knew disappeared before their eyes.

Worldwide, the ocean level rose about 4,000 feet above what was sea level. Now only higher altitude locations remained above the surface of the surging sea. The newly formed body of water was named the Grand Ocean and now covered more than 99% of the earth’s surface.   

Unfortunately, the natural disasters were only the beginning of the problems for mankind. Every human who survived the initial destruction was soon effected by the high levels of poisonous bacteria released from the earth’s core during the quake. Beneath the ocean, the bacteria caused the human mutations called the Hydrotians. Once the bacteria became airborne, it infected the land dwelling adult population with the Ager illness. Lisa Thomas began to feel the effects of the Ager illness within several weeks. Within a year, she required the use of a cane to support her weight as she walked.