Author's Note: And so begins the first chapter of WWIII: Last Testament. So sit back and enjoy!
Chapter 1: Bunkmates
Recruit Janice Lynn was eighteen years old, and a fresh inductee in the American Armed Forces. She, like everyone else, was standing at attention, in the large parade grounds encircling the massive Training Base Omega, Manhattan's largest Military outpost. Men and women, all new to the camp, were awaiting the CO to welcome them to the base, and get them settled in.
However, unlike all the other fidgety recruits she could see stretching off in every direction, Lynn was not inexperienced. At first glance, one might not notice; but a prolonged study of her young, ice-blue eyes would imbue a sudden sense of fear and horror, for that person would realize they were staring into the eyes of a true battle-hardened soldier. With her short, cropped black hair, and her flat breasts, one might mistake her for male from a distance. But up close, one would notice that despite the serious nature of her aura, and the tomboyish looks, she kind of had a strange kind of sexiness about her.
Her whole life, Lynn had been raised to fight. At the age of five, she held her first pistol. At the age of eight, she was left alone to fend for herself in the harsh and dangerous Amazon. By the age of 13 she even had her first confirmed kill. Essentially, while other children of her age were learning to walk and talk, she was learning to stalk. With martial arts training, survival techniques, weapons training, and the like as her parents, Lynn had grown up to be the perfect tool of death—easily more skilled, cunning, and deadly than any other single person in Training Camp Omega. Like everyone else though, she had to start at the bottom rung of the military ladder and work her way up. Progression would be fast; of that she was sure, but she was undecided on how much of her actual knowledge and skills she should let on at first. Revealing too much about herself would cause questions, and those questions would dig up Lynn's past, and that was exactly what she didn't want to happen. All events beforehand were top secret, part of an unethical and black-funded military project intended to produce a soldier raised in the art of death from birth. The project had been a success, according to her overseer General Webb. She had been beyond their expectations, and as the last part of the project, she was released into the normal military hierarchy. There, she would rise above the ranks and find her own niche to fit in.
Unfortunately, due to her life of training and learning, her personality was something nonexistent—on the rare occasions that she did speak, it was short, to-the-point, and precise. Otherwise, she was silent and observant, and always completely emotionless. This also meant she had no real experience with any other people besides Colonel Webb and other trainers; a life of solitude had produced a complete lack of interaction with other people. The other recruits standing all around Lynn were a strange new experience to her, a new exercise that she felt she was under prepared for. For the first time, she was going to be surrounded by hundreds of others that were considered her equal; if only in rank.
A tall, well-built, bald black man approached the large podium, a powerful sense of strength emanating from the man. Attention from the mass of recruits shifted to him, as if attracted by nature to the alpha male.
"I am Sergeant Major Elias Hawks," the man's voice boomed over the grounds, the speakers filling every part of the yard with his opening statement. "I'm in charge of your sorry asses, and it is my duty to make sure I whip you into shape." Hawks eyed the mass of recruits before him. "I will make sure that each and every one of you are fully certified ass-kickers before you graduate. Not one of you will leave here without knowing how to survive on the battlefield! I will teach you how to strip and clean a MX-9009 assault rifle. I will teach you how to treat a wound. I will arm you with knowledge. I will do everything in my power to ensure you are ready for what lies ahead." He scanned the crowd, glaring at his audience. His eyes lingered on Lynn's for a second, before moving on. "Engineers. Soldiers. Medics. Rangers. You all bring a different flavour of strength, yet each and every one of you are one and the same: A man or woman fighting for their country. Do not forget that. As you look at the man beside you, the man in front of you, or the man above you, do not forget that similarity which ties you together. Age, skin color, religion, skills, these are all things that mingle together to form something unique: a squad." Hawks put his hands behind his back, and stood at ease. "As a single entity, you must share your strengths, and your weaknesses, with every one else. You live together, you die together."
Hawks raised his chin, tilting his head back and looking into the sky. "We all know what still remains as a possibility of happening. We could all wake up one morning to the weatherman predicting a forty percent chance of death showering down on us." The group of recruits noticeably stiffened, seeming to be more in-tune with the Sergeant Major now.
"It is precisely because of that that I ask you all to give it your all while at this camp. America needs you, it's loyal countrymen, to fight with every last ounce of strength so that we can overcome the Middle Eastern Union, and put an end to the nuclear standstill with a hair trigger." Hawks looked at the recruits again. "I hope that you all make me proud in these next two months. Dismissed." With that, Hawks abruptly strode off, and a Corporal took over for him.
"Okay, please report to your designated instructors," the Corporal said as the mass of recruits began milling about to their respective instructors. Each recruit had been assigned to one of the six instructors responsible for each of the six barracks. "The instructors will help you get settled in, and you will find any belongings you had brought with you have already been delivered to your assigned beds."
Lynn just hoped that the person that shared the bunk bed with her was quiet and reserved—the last thing she needed was some over-confident fool exercising his ego with inane banter. She figured that by ignoring any potential socialization, she could minimize the number of people she dealt with, and be left alone to herself.
As she filed in the large hangar-bay styled entrance to the front building, she saw the six instructors spread out across the large empty bay, each of them holding up a large sign with their name. Recruits were lining up in rows of 3, and Lynn recognized her instructor's name, Sergeant Pliskin. She lined up with everyone else, and once all the recruits had found their instructors, they were each led to a separate cargo elevator.
As the group descended and made their way through some lower levels, Lynn realized that the buildings up top were just the beginning to the size of the place. Floors and floors of underground facilities must have been built, and Lynn's sixth sense kicked in and told her that perhaps the camp wasn't just intended for training—it was probably also a cover for secret military research labs or something else equally top-secret. Of course, that kind of stuff was not of Lynn's interest; she knew that the military had stuff like that all over the place, and if it was meant for them to know of it's existence, they'd have been informed of it already. So, deciding that the information wasn't pertinent to anything other than the value of the camp, Lynn set the thought aside as dwelling on it would only cloud her mind and be, at most, a useless guessing exercise.
Lynn's group arrived at Barracks D, which she surmised was theirs. The instructor led them inside, and directed them to their assigned beds. The barracks was a single, long, rectangular room, featuring a grid of bunk beds four-by-ten units in size.
"Training begins tomorrow morning at five A.M. sharp," the Sergeant said, before leaving them to get settled in. It was still fairly early in the evening; it was only six P.M. according to the digital display set into the bunk bed's leg. For some reason or another, Lynn's bunkmate hadn't arrived yet, which was strange. All the recruits were supposed to have gone straight from outside to their barracks. Lynn had gotten the bottom bed, but upon closer inspection of the upper bed, it indeed was assigned to somebody. The name 'Andrea St. White' was stencilled on a cheap card that sat atop a fresh female uniform, boots, and other such necessities that were given to a recruit who couldn't afford them.
The fact that her bunkmate would be female was a bad thing, though, Lynn thought. From what she had learned during her studies, the fact that they were the same gender would probably cause her bunkmate to try and bond with her, and try and be friends. Solitude was Lynn's goal, and she'd have to make it very clear to this Recruit St. White. Though, as Lynn reminded herself, she couldn't judge the recruit yet. She hadn't even had a chance to size her up.
The welcome meal for the new recruits wasn't for another few hours yet, so Lynn decided to exercise a bit. Keeping in shape was one of her top priorities, and she hoped that her regiment wouldn't be slowed down by the recruit training schedule.
Iraq, being a very hot, dry place, meant that any prolonged stay away from civilization meant that lots of water had to be kept on hand at all times, especially if it was uncertain as to the length of your stay. Luckily though, Kubal had plenty of that stowed away in the back of his jeep.
Normally, he'd have liked to be at home with his wife and son, but ever since the bastard the Americans called a president put a price tag on his head, he'd put his wife and son under protection of the five members of the Four Corners terrorist group, aptly named after the five members who each hailed from different parts of the globe. They were his most trusted and skilled allies, and he knew his wife and son's lives stay safe with them. Four Corners was loyal to him, even in these trying times of death and destruction. Many times his will had wavered from his solitary goal, but each and every time he got himself back on track. He wasn't going to stop until it was all over, until everything was settled.
Thus was the reason for the call he was currently placing, while Asad, his driver, tried to navigate the rickety jeep through the sandy desert. Cell phone in hand, and his matted black hair askew, with a pair of dark sunglasses, he couldn't help but smirk at the thought that nobody who looked at him would take him for the single largest terrorist mastermind the world had ever known.
After a few rings, somebody on the other line picked up.
"Speak," a gruff Russian voice commanded.
"Dimitri It is me," Kubal spoke over the noise of the jeep. "How are my wife and son?"
"They are scared," the Russian named Dimitri replied, his thick accent evident. "We had no choice but to take them to the underground retreat. It is not… very welcoming, to say the least."
"I…" Kubal started, his worry almost carrying over into his voice. He corrected himself. "I cannot let the Americans get their hands on my family to control me." His gaze wandered across the dusty landscape that whisked by. "I do not care what happens to me, but I could not live with myself if something were to happen to them. Even if that means making them stay under such conditions." He grimaced at the thought of them staying in the underground retreat—it wasn't kept in the best of conditions. It was dark, dry, and half demolished, but it possessed the one trait that Kubal needed; and that was it being hidden and hard to find. It was tucked away where nobody would find it easily, and allow his family to stay protected for the duration of his plan.
"I want you to keep them safe, no matter what," Kubal told Dimitri.
"With our lives, if necessary," Dimitri answered. The Russian then changed the direction of the conversation. "So Boss, is there any change in the plan's status?"
"No," Kubal replied, knowing the Russian was referring to the raid scheduled to take place in America. "All is to proceed on schedule." He closed the phone and tucked it in his chest pocket. A whole platoon of men under the command of Four Corners was going to strike hard at an American Military facility in Manhattan. It was dangerous, and with the standstill looming over them, it could be considered too risky—but that's precisely why he was doing it. The Americans thought that he was under their control, that he was slowly losing his grip on things, but it was the exact opposite. Never before had he been more in-tune with his plan for victory. And it all began with what lie in Manhattan, under the Military camp: A series of labs and research facilities buried beneath the American's 'Training Camp Omega'. It was a nifty piece of information he had gathered from one of his sources in America: The development centre of all things performance enhancing.
Sure, the drugs, implants, and so forth for increasing performance have been around for the past half decade or so, but the methods of application have been suboptimal at best. Injections, oral doses, and implants required a long process of adaptability so that the body didn't reject the changes. The time and cost to performance ratio was too low to make it worthwhile.
However, it seemed the Americans were developing a new method for delivery, one so advanced it was like it was out of a science fiction novel. Nanomachines. Microscopic cell-sized robots developed to provide a multitude of uses. The things were made to be an accumulative mind, their processing power spread across the millions of micromachines in a person's body. Through wireless short-band communications, the things were able to communicate with each other and act like a normal computer, while performing tasks never possible before—like in this case, an ultra-fast, stable delivery of amplifications to a soldier. The Americans were expecting the new delivery method to provide recipients with all available enhancements, with a projected performance increase of twenty to thirty percent compared to before. All within a short amount of time. It was a decent increase in abilities to be sure.
It was ironic that he was going to strike hard and fast, and steal that very new technology from America and use it for himself. It would show the American President just how far he was willing to go for his cause. By the end of the week, he would have these nanomachines under his control.
The evening meal had come and gone, and still, the upper bed of Lynn's assigned bunk remained undisturbed. As she lay on the cold, cement ground doing sit-ups, she was beginning to wonder if perhaps she'd be left alone after all. However, about an hour before lights-out, Lynn finally sensed one of the recruits approaching her bunk. At the time, she was doing push ups, so she had to crane her neck to take a look at her bunkmate.
Standing before her, Lynn saw a timid-looking girl with brown hair past regulation lengths. The girl had a dark tan, and her frame was so small for someone supposedly eighteen and enlisted. As sweat ran down Lynn's face, her gut told her that something wasn't right about her. The girl seemed too young, and seemed like she didn't belong at the camp at all.
Luckily the girl appeared intimidated by Lynn, and didn't say a word. She looked extremely nervous, and was fidgeting with her tunic. She eventually climbed the ladder to the top bunk in silence, and seemed to set to work on organizing her new belongings. Lynn continued her exercises as the girl ferreted around on the upper bunk until the Drill Instructor came in and ordered Lights Out.
Blanketed by the dark, Lynn lay flat on her bed, slightly damp from perspiration. Exercise helped clear her mind, and it would allow her to get a good night's sleep. Her bunkmate had stopped whatever she was doing when the lights had gone out, as there was little light to see by in the dark underground barracks. The only thing audible was the rustle of sheets from the multitude of recruits, save for a few coughs or other involuntary sounds.
Lynn was perfectly accustomed to ambience, of course; she had slept in plenty a noisy atmosphere. However, it was hard to fine tune the ability to both sleep through harmless background noise and snap awake at the sound of anything suspicious or dangerous. Just like all her other abilities and skills, it was something she needed further training in. The barracks however was a friendly place, and she felt no need to worry about possible threats. She fell asleep quickly.
The next morning Lynn woke up bright and early at 4:30, a half hour before the Wake Up Call. Just like prior to sleep, Lynn liked to exercise post-slumber as well, to help wake her up and warm her body up for the day ahead. Stealthily rolling off her bed, Lynn began some warm up stretches, working out some kinks in her well-tuned muscles. Her well-toned body stretched taut, and she felt the familiar, gratifying pain twinge in her ligaments. As she gently fell to the floor face-down, and began some push-ups, she became aware that her bunkmate was awake, and sensed that she was watching her. The girl was just sitting there, her small legs draped over the end of the bed. She looked tired, as if she hadn't slept all night; but perhaps it was just because the girl had not been accustomed to military hours. Either way, it was strange that the girl was awake so early.
So far, the girl hadn't even said a single word, and seemed very quiet and timid. She continued to watch Lynn in silence for the next half hour with a faint look of awe on her face.
It wasn't until the Drill Instructor arrived and turned on the blazing lights that Lynn's bunkmate shifted her attention off her.
"Listen up recruits! You have one hour to wash up, shave, shit, and whatever the heck else until you report to the Dining Hall for breakfast!" the Instructor yelled aloud. His loud voice combined with the bright lights did a fine job of rousting all the freshmen from their beds, who rubbed the sleep out of their eyes and yawned. As the instructor walked away, everyone began a slow process of their morning routine.
Lynn sat against the side of her bed, her breathing slightly elevated, watching as her bunkmate clumsily mounted the bunk ladder to get down, and ended up missing her footing and falling down. Amidst a short squeak, Lynn watched the girl's tiny frame drop to the floor in a crumpled heap. She wondered for a second if her bunkmate had injured herself, as the girl had landed in an awkward position. The girl seemed fine however, as she shifted to a cross-legged sitting position, directly across from Lynn. She rubbed the back of her head absent-mindedly.
"S-sorry for disturbing you," the girl spoke softly. "It's, um… a very strange experience for me."
Everything about this girl was wrong to Lynn. Nothing about her seemed to say 'military.' The weak way in which she carried herself, her appearance, even her size deeply contrasted with any other one recruit in the barracks. The term a needle in a haystack played through Lynn's head, playing the analogy in a different sense.
"You don't belong here," Lynn said abruptly, looking in to the other girl's eyes. Upon eye contact, the girl looked away, to the floor. She stayed silent, as a few recruits bustled past.
"I… know," the girl replied simply, after a minute of silence. She looked uncomfortable to say the least.
"Go home," Lynn said blatantly. She knew she shouldn't be feeling this way towards fellow soldiers, but the girl that sat before her just seemed kind of… pathetic.
"I can't," the girl replied quickly, noticeably seeming to lean upon herself.
"War is no place for children." This statement seemed to hit home, and the girl looked back up at Lynn, and it was then that Lynn noticed the signs of emotional damage in the girl. Her eyes betrayed her of the presence of mental scarring. Which was great; because it even furthered Lynn's belief that the girl was out of place.
Lynn was just about to further her argument when she suddenly sneezed. The girl then seemed to inspect her, leaning closer and cocking her head innocently.
"You're getting a cold," the girl said quietly.
"It's a frequent allergic reaction to dust I exhibit," Lynn replied solidly. "Do not concern yourself with my health."
"But…" the girl started, leaning back to her original position. She paused. "I… I don't mean to, um, say that you're wrong, but… you do have a cold." She smiled weakly. "Trust me."
Come to think of it, Lynn thought, it had been rather cool in the barracks, and Lynn had fallen asleep with damp clothes from her sweat. It was at that moment Lynn noticed the red and white insignia embroidered on the young girl's tunic, the red cross of a Medic.
The thing that surprised Lynn though, was that she herself wasn't able to tell she was coming down with a cold, and she now had a sneaking suspicion that the girl was right on the money in her diagnosis.
"Here," the girl said shyly, and produced some medicine in a small bottle. "It's cold medicine… when I saw you fall asleep last night in sweaty clothes, I thought this might happen…" She leaned forward, holding out the bottle to Lynn. Lynn hesitated, before slowly reaching out to take the small bottle from the girl's comparatively small hands. Lynn noticed a small flinch from the girl when she made momentary contact, as she took the medicine. She examined it, turning the bottle around and reading the label.
"My name is, um, Andrea," the girl said quietly. She read the name stencilled on Lynn's tunic. "Your name is Lynn?"
"Recruit Lynn," Lynn replied coldly. "Don't be ignorant of the military rank structure."
"Y-yes, of course, I'm sorry!" Andrea apologized hurriedly. "I… I just wanted to help…" She looked hurt. "I know you think I don't belong here… but I want to be here. This is where I want to be more than anywhere else…" She smiled weakly. "Helping people like you."
"If aid is your only goal, private practices are a more practical choice." Lynn's response stirred Andrea, and for a moment Lynn thought she saw a faint glint of anger spark through the younger girl's eyes. It was a split-second ordeal, but it spoke volumes to Lynn.
"No," Andrea said softly, shaking her head. "All my life, I've done nothing but study and learn, and I want to use that knowledge… how I want to. I think that out there, in the fight, is where I can help the most." She looked at Lynn with a look of compassion. "I want to make a difference in other people's lives."
If nothing else, the young recruit had conviction, Lynn thought. She downed the cold medication. She handed the empty container back to Andrea.
"What is learned in books does not equate to experience," Lynn said flatly. Silence. "A soldier needs to be able to rely on the person beside them. As Master Sergeant Hawks adeptly explained, the weakness of a part becomes a weakness of the whole."
"How… how do you know that I'm not reliable?" Andrea asked simply, downtrodden. It was true; one could not be assigned failure until failure was attained.
"You lack discipline, and experience," Lynn explained coldly. Andrea shifted uneasily.
"But… isn't that what we're here to learn?" Andrea retorted quietly.
Perhaps the girl was right, Lynn thought. The training camp was to take fresh civilian men and women and turn them into something proper. Not all soldiers were born as soldiers, some were forged from the fire and flames of training.
"Teach me," Andrea asked suddenly. "You look like a strong person… you seem completely different than anyone else here too." She smiled again. "You and me are very different, but… maybe not different at the same time."
Lynn contemplated this for a second. In a sense, what the girl was saying was true; upon further reflection on herself, she too stuck out from the innocuous crowd of recruits.
"Help me," Andrea asked again, softly. "If you teach me these things, then I'll look after your colds." She smiled weakly. "I'll prove that I really want to be here, and that I can be relied on…"
"Cut your hair," Lynn said simply. "It's past regulation lengths, and it shows disrespect towards your uniform."
"Oh, r-right," Andrea murmured, looking at her hair. "I guess it is kind of long, isn't it?"
"I am not a babysitter," Lynn stated, standing up. "It's up to oneself to learn what they need to know, and look after themselves." She turned, and gathered some things for the shower.
Hopefully, Lynn thought, she had gotten through to the young recruit, and she'd leave her alone now. As Lynn walked away, she reflected back on the conversation she had just had. She realized she had conversed more than normal, and wondered what had gotten her to do so. As much as she thought she would, she didn't quite find the younger recruit irritating at all; simply just a bit lacking.
Lynn entered the women's change room, deciding to let it go for now. After all, interaction with other people wasn't exactly something she had attained a lot of experience in, and she had already discovered a great deal just from Andrea already.
Author's Note: And that concludes Chapter 1! What I really wanted to stress here was the conversation between Lynn and Andrea, so that there's a well-established connection between the two, although currently it amounts to nothing. I hope I made it somewhat interesting, and that your Reader's Curiosity has been piqued. Good reading!