Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!" I thought, grinding my teeth. God, these two….
It was about two hours after the old man had spoken to us. Things had eventually quieted down, except for a certain pair of boys my bed happened to be sandwiched between.
"You're a fucking fag. Why don't you go cry back to California, you goddamn hippie?"
"Being smarter than you doesn't make me a fag. If it did, you'd be the only straight guy in this room." The red-haired boy shot back to the burly guy on the other side of me. The were both straining against their handcuffs, as though if they pulled hard enough they could break their restraints and rip the other one apart.
They had begun fighting as soon as everyone else had calmed down. Apparently, the red-haired boy was disgusted with the brawny one's lack of concern for the fact that everyone had been kidnapped, and the brawny one was angry that he didn't realize what an honor it was to be here. Everyone around us had taken sides, and were shouting their support.
I thought they were all being stupid.
"You think you're so smart, but you're just-"
"That's it, both of you can calm down!" I yelled. They were both leaning so far over their beds that I could touch them, and I used the opportunity to push them both back.
"I get that you're both really mad and all, but you better stop yelling over me or I swear to God I'm going to snap."
They both continued to glare at each other, neither of them blinking. I rolled my eyes and settled back into my bed in a huff. Boys.
Next to Carma, a girl began to cry. Carma immediately reached out her hand, offering it to the girl with a comforting look. Now gently sobbing, the girl allowed Carma to stroke her hand with her fingers, murmuring words I couldn't quite catch.
We were all on edge. Emotions were running high, and all of us wanted out of these beds, out of this sterile white room. I regretted our earlier outburst, and wished the doctor would come back and explain some more. What were they going to do to us? When could I leave? Could I leave? Frustrated and antsy, I began to drum my fingers against the railing on my bed.
"What's your name?" I turned my head to face the red-haired boy, pondering if I would answer. I was still sort of peeved at him.
Now it was his turn to roll his eyes. "Look I'm sorry I mad you mad, ok?"
I decided that this was the best apology I was going to get. "Amy. My name's Amy."
"What do you think of all of this?" he asked, gesturing with his free around the room. "I haven't heard you speak up at all."
I had spoken up, actually, but I guess he hadn't noticed during the confusion after the doctor left. I glanced at the other boy, the big one. He was looking at me, too, waiting for my answer.
"I don't like it," I answered, honestly. "I don't like being kidnapped, and I don't like being held here with no say. I don't want to be here."
Not to my surprise, the boy to my left snorted. "You sure don't want to do a lot of things. Did you ever think that being here isn't about what you want, but what our country needs?"
Looking around, he saw that everyone near him, including Carma, were paying attention, and continued in a stronger voice. "I mean, isn't this like the draft? Our country is in danger, so we're getting called in to save it. We're heroes," he said, smiling with a mixture of excitement and something else.
"And what's your name?" asked the red-haired boy mockingly.
"Garry Holls," he answered, equally mocking.
"Hi Garry. I'm Abby, and I think you're a tool."
Garry finally snapped. He lunged at Abby, completely disregarding the fact that he was chained to a bed. He threw himself over the railing, knocking his whole bed over in the process. I was still laughing at Abby's name, and was caught completely off guard when Garry's bulk smashed onto my railing, upending my bed and pitching me onto him. Everyone was yelling again, excited by the sudden action.
I was yelling too, but out of pain rather than excitement. The bed had landed on top of me, and the railing of it was cutting into my back. Garry was crawling out from underneath me and trying to climb over the bed, still determined to beat the crap out of Abby. The pressure on my spine increased and I began full-on shrieking.
Abby was straining against his cuffs, screaming, "What the hell are you doing?! Get the fuck off her, you're gonna kill her!"
Suddenly, doors seemed to appear magically in the white walls around the room, Armored men came streaming through them, the pounding of their heavy boots echoing through the rooms and adding to the confusion. They ran straight towards us. Two of them grabbed Garry under the armpits and dragged him off me. Several others surrounded me, hooked their fingers under the railing, and lifted the bed up. I was still handcuffed to it, and was pulled with the bed into a kneeling position. My back felt incredibly sore, and, massaging it with my other hand, I was sure I'd have a huge bruise tomorrow.
Garry was yelling at the men holding him. "It wasn't my fault, man, I didn't mean to land on her," but it didn't look like the men were listening to him. The ones who had lifted my bed were now standing stiffly around it, their eyes trained on something in front of them. Still kneeling next to my bed, whatever they were looking at was out of my line of vision.
A hush fell over the room as everyone began staring in the same direction as the soldiers, or guards, or whatever they were. I heard the thump of another pair of boots approaching where I was kneeling.
A man pushed two of the guards in front of me aside and looked down, eyeing me. Staring up at his face, I could see why all the other kids in the room had been cowed. This guy looked seriously hardcore. The skin on his face was craggy and weathered, as if it had been rubbed with gravel. He had the same salt and pepper stubble on his face and his head, making his eyebrows look bushier than usual. His jaw jutted out like he had a serious under bite, giving him a very stubborn and commanding air. His clear blue eyes were examining me as thoroughly as I was him, and I had to look away. He was at least six feet tall and heavily muscled, and I, sitting on the floor, felt very, very small.
"You ok?" He asked, his voice rough and loud.
I managed a small "Fine," and he nodded. Looking up and addressing the room he said, "Listen up. This is a good opportunity to introduce myself. You can all call me Major Collins. I will be your commanding officer for the rest of your stay here on at Helios. As I know Dr. Gregg has already informed you, you have all been brought here to be made into soldier for the United States Army. It is my job to make sure this happens. I am not your mommy. I am not your teacher. I am your commander. For those of you that don't know, that means I am your boss. You will obey me and else who is above you, which is pretty much everyone else.
"When under my command, I allow a soldier to get three strikes before he is punished. You all have already gotten one strike for the crap you pulled with Dr. Gregg. You three-" he points at Garry, Abby, and I- "have two strikes." Abby opened his mouth to protest, but Major Collins spoke over him. "Though you all may not be aware, we have been monitoring you all in the Initiation Room. We saw how you three started this shit, so don't try to deny it." I thought this was completely unfair, but I really didn't like the way he'd said punishment, so I kept my mouth shut. Abby apparently had the same train of thought, and didn't say a word.
Major Collins looked back out at the room. "So, how have you all enjoyed the Initiation Room so far? Comfy?" A stream of protest erupted from the teens farthest away from us, who apparently felt the safest from Major Collins.
"When I ask you a question, you will answer with a 'Yes sir' or a 'No sir'. Now, have you all enjoyed the Initiation Room?"
"No sir," chorused the room. I didn't join in, still too intimidated by Major Collins to talk.
"Well, too damn bad. You shouldn't have yelled at Dr. Gregg, or you would have been moved to your dormitories before now."
There was some whispering at that.
"What dormitories?" asked Abby.
"Excuse me, boy?" growled Major Collins.
"Sorry. What dormitories, sir," corrected Abby, rather rudely.
Major Collins eyed Abby with a hard stare. "You've got some cheek, boy. Watch it, or you'll land you're sorry ass in the Heater."
Geez, I didn't know what Abby's problem with authority was, but if he should stop acting like a prick before he really took it too far.
"In about fifteen minutes, the orderlies will come down here and escort you to your dormitories. You will be freed of your cuffs and sent to your separate building, boys in Compound A and girls in Compound B. There, you will be assigned your beds and sent down to the Mess hall, where you will be served dinner. I will see you all again afterwards, where I will lay down the rest of the rules and your new daily schedule.
"Until then, remember: you are part of the United States Army now, and will conduct yourselves as follows. Any more of this" he gestures at me and Garry- "and you will answer to me. Dismissed." With that, he did a smart turn on his heel and strode out the door to my left, the rest of the men I now guessed to be soldiers totting after him.
Garry was kneeling on the floor next to his bed, same as me. I wasn't sure what to do, but my arm was getting sore and I wanted to get back into the bed. The soldiers had set it much closer to Abby's bed than it had originally been, so he was close enough to lean way over and offer me his hand. I took it and, with his help, was able to haul myself over my railing. I was a bit embarrassed, because I had pathetic upper body strength and Abby had to help a lot more than he should have. But he didn't say anything. And I was glad for it.
"You sure you're ok?" he asked, watching as I rubbed my back, which was still sore.
"Sorry. It was kinda my fault."
"Yeah," I said, narrowing my eyes. "But at least you apologized." I threw a mean look at Garry, who was pointedly ignoring us both as he climbed back into his own, now upright, bed.
My eyes found Carma, and she gave me a half-hearted shrug. She was probably reeling as much as I was. So much was happening in such a short time. At least, I thought it was short time. How long ago had I been at church, hen life had actually made a bit of sense. Because none of this made sense. I mean, it kind of did, but super soldiers? Me? Either someone was playing a huge joke on me, or Dr. Gregg had made a huge mistake. In P.E., I got worse grades than the kids with asthma. How was I supposed to be a soldier? It was like something out of a science fiction movie.
I was thought about this for another quarter of an hour, until the doors appeared in those seamless walls and about twenty orderlies came in wearing blue scrubs. They looked like regular nurses, except they were mostly male. They began walking down the rows of beds, unlocking handcuffs with their keys and helping each teen out of their bed. They instructed us to stand next to our beds and wait for them to finish getting everyone uncuffed. Remembering Major Collins' warnings, we obeyed.
Eventually we were all standing next to our beds, stretching and fidgeting. It felt good to stand, and I was ready to walk down to the mess hall and get something to eat. Lord, I was starving. Judging from the grumbles coming from the teenagers around me, I wasn't alone in that sentiment.
A soldier walked into the room, one we hadn't seen before. He was young and blond, a big contrast to Major Collins. He put a megaphone he had been carrying to his lips and said, "Good evening, cadets. I am Lieutenant Rudy. You will follow me and my other soldiers out the Dormitories, where you will divide according to your sex. Girls follow me, boys follow Hinner. A soldier, who I took to be Hinner, raised his hand and gave a slight wave from the doorway to my right.
"All right? Let's go." Lieutenant Rudy began walking out of the room, and I hurried away from bed, catching up to Carma. She grabbed my hands in hers and tugged me into a quick hug, whispering "Hey, chica." We let the group push us along, finally leaving the "Initiation Room".
For a while we walked through a white hallway, similar in style to the Initiation Room. Then we were led through a set of double doors, and out into the sunlight.
The first thing that hit me was the humidity. God, it's hot. And wet. Damn, I hate humidity. I guessed we were somewhere tropical. It was getting dark, but there was just enough sun to see that we were in a large, fenced enclosure. The building we had just walked out of was the largest in the area, with several other bulindings joined to it. We were standing in what looked like an Amy playground, complete with a very not-fun-looking jungle gym. It was actually more of an obstacle course, like the ones you'd see in movies about boot camp. Pretty standard, but what really worried me was the wall with a rope hanging down it. I knew from the movies that soldiers were supposed to climb up the wall using the rope. There was no way I was going to be able to do that, considering I struggled with simple push-ups. I hoped it was just for show.
Straining against the fences from all sides was pure jungles. Big, leafy green trees seemed to battle with the fence, trying to push their way into the camp and reclaim it for their own. I had never seen such a dense assortment of trees, having grown up in the city most of my life. It kind of scared me, and I was almost glad to be in the camp.
"I think we're in the Caribbean," Carma said, low enough for me to hear, but not anyone else.
"That's a mamoncillo tree," She said, pointing to a tree with small green balls that looked like limes hanging off it. "Those only grow on the Caribbean islands and the South American coast."
"Jesus, how'd we get all the way to the Caribbean? I didn't think we'd traveled that far."
"Yeah, I wonder how long we were out."
We continued walking until we reached a cluster of buildings slightly smaller than the ones we'd just left. The boys were directed to the largest building to the left, while we were directed to the equally large building to the right. Carma and I locked arms, determined not to be separated.
We didn't have to worry. We were allowed to pick our own rooms. The building was three stories tall, and each floor had several rooms with four twin-sized beds in each. Carma and I picked a room on the second floor with a window overlooking the jungle. It stretched out all the way to the ocean, leading me to believe Carma's notion that we were on an island. Or at least on the coast of the mainland.
We picked the beds at the front of the room, while the girl who Carma had consoled when she had cried and her "partner" from the journey to the camp picked the other two beds. There was a speaker above the door, and from it we were given instructions to write out the names of the girls in our rooms on the small chalkboards on the front of the door. The girl who had cried was names Lisa, and her friend was called Veronica.
We waited for about five minutes, making small talk with each other, until the same voice was heard over the loudspeaker.
"All girls in Dormitory B are to proceed to the first floor, where they will be lead to the mess Hall for dinner.
Veronica, who was a loud, pretty brunette and seemed a bit obnoxious, stretched and said, "Good, I'm starving. Let's go." She grabbed Lisa and fluttered out of the room, leaving Carma and I alone for a moment.
"Carma, I'm scared. I don't want to go to the mess Hall."
"Me neither, querida. I just want to go home. I don't want to be a soldier."
"It's not just me, is it? Doesn't it all seem ridiculous? I mean, super soldiers? Please."
"Ridiculous, yeah. Impossible, even. Doesn't change the fact that this is happening."
"I guess we have to go down, then."
I knew that walking down to that Mess Hall would mean having to admit that I was going to follow these guys' orders. Part of me still clung to the hope that this was all a mistake, or that I could run into the jungle and run away home. But Carma was walking out the door, down the Mess Hall and whatever lay for us their. Carma, who was so quickly becoming my only lifeline in this place.
I took a took a deep breath, and followed her out.