"Shoot!" That was all they yelled at me to do. It was always either that, or "Get the hell down!" I hadn't wanted this, but I was chosen by the draft. The beginning was the hardest with the St. Joanna's Basic Training Military camp. That was back when I was fumbling with a wooden rifle as a twelve year old, and now here I was, holding an AK-47 in my arms as if it were my child.
"Ladies, I would like to congratulate you all for passing through Florida Military Academy. You are all officially U.S. marines," our unit leader announced from her podium, "Unfortunately, this advanced level of training is only a taste of what you're going to get out west with those Chinks, but I wish you all good luck." She brought the base of her hand to her forehead and saluted. The two dozen female, fifteen year old marines, as well as I, saluted back. It's what we'd been trained to do. With a sharp turn on our heels and a yell from our Jr. Unit leader, Lexi Walters, or Gutter, as we other trainees liked to call her, we marched towards the barracks to pack for wherever we'd be stationed.
"I hope they send me to Missouri. I'd get'ta sit around all day and drink Coke," Middie said as she stuffed her spare pair of boots into her duffel bag. Middie had always been the optimist. Even when we had taken a long, grueling, 10 mile run, she was the one to point out that we beat our time record.
"Coke? Fuckin' Coke? Hell no! You're probab'y gonna be put on a base with a bunch of guys an' their beer," Gutter yelled at her, her blonde ponytail swinging back and forth while she took the sheets off her cot. Gutter was the beauty of Texas… at least she was at one point of her life. The army hadn't treated her looks well, which seem to be the cause of her constant grumpiness.
I, too, was excited, though I didn't say anything in case Gutter felt like shooting another nasty comment. As I shoved the few belongings I had into my bag, a shadow approached me.
"Want a smoke, Target?" the girl asked casually, offering me a cigarette. I smiled and took it up. She pulled out a lighter to start the end of it.
"Thanks, Wheezer," I said through my smoke. Her grey eyes remained unemotional as she walked away. Wheezer was the local bookie; anything you wanted, she could get it for a price. In fact, one time Spike, another girl from our unit, asked for the president so she could tell him to go screw himself for getting us into this goddamned war. A week later, she got a poster of him on her cot. Wheezer had serious skills.
"Ten-hut!" Gutter called, fully packed, "Let's go, ladies! We depart for the loading docks in T-minus 90 seconds!" I sighed, zipping up my dark green duffel. Giving a last glance around the bunks, I reminisced about my two years of marine training. My mind traveled back to when I had entered this room, and how I had met my fellow soldiers.
I looked each one of my friends in the eyes, trying to ingrain every detail of their faces into my brain, so that I would never forget them. Gutter, Middie, Wheezer, Turtle, Chops, Thumper, Rally… the fifteen names continuously scrolled through my mind. Perhaps maybe I would see them again, but most likely not. Seeing that most of the soldiers along the coast of Nevada were killed in a line of bombings from the Chinese, it was unlikely that any of us would go to the same post.
I lined up at the door behind Thumper, who loomed over every other girl at the facility. I could tell she was attempting to keep from crying. Her eyes were all red and slightly watered, but she stared at the ground, not getting much attention. The twins, Tweeter and Twitter, practically skipped up behind me, their brunette braids nearly getting caught in one another. I would have thought they'd have been a little more emotional, considering they had never been separated before. They quietly chattered to themselves, and I realized why they were so ecstatic; they had somehow talked one of the officers into getting them to the same base. Those ass-kissers.
"Ten-hut! We're outta here!" Gutter yelled once everyone was in line. We then marched, counting the one-two-one-two of out boots hitting the floor in synchronization. "Good bye," I whispered to the empty cots.
"Jessica Pector! Base 142! Kansas!" one of the officers shouted over the silence. My unit stood in a line, as if waiting to be picked for softball teams. I was the third in from the left, surrounded by Wheezer and Thumper. As her name was called, Thumper stepped forward and was directed to the van that would take her as well as some of the other girls to their stations.
"Theresa Silvers! Base 089! Nevada!" Middie's eyes were filled with horror. Not Nevada. Every soldier that went that far west came back in a coffin, if they came back at all. The Chinks had practically taken the whole damn state over; it was just that America was too stubborn to give it away, instead taking the bloodshed of thousands.
All of the dreams of Cokes and Missouri seemed to wash away from her face. Even Gutter didn't give an 'I told you so' look. Despite the giving of her death sentence, Middie walked over to another armored-van just like Thumper had done; only Thumper would be drinking her Cokes.
"Alexis Walters! Base 254! Michigan!" Gutter was obviously trying to keep a grin off her face after what happened to Middie. Michigan was basically the heaven of the U.S. now that Canada partially owned it, and the Asians didn't have beef with those ass-kissing Canadians.
Gutter almost paraded over to her van like she was showing off again. The rest of us could simply sigh. A few of my unit members even rolled their eyes, which all received a brutal expression from the officer.
"Bernice Henderson an' Janet Henderson! Base 105! Utah!" the officer bellowed, her tenor voice stern. Tweeter and Twitter strode side-by-side to join Middie, since Nevada wasn't much farther than Utah, yet it was much less lethal.
"Renee Ferguson…" she began to call out. I stood up straighter, sweat dripping down my neck as I awaited which institution I would be placed in. Memories of my family went through my head. My father would be so proud, and Mother, Matthew, and Hailey back in Colorado would be happy for me, too.
"Base 087! Nevada!" As the last word escaped her lips, my mind reverberated. I felt like I was going to puke, but I knew better than to lose composure. I was going to die. That was all I heard. Unemotionally, I took my place beside Middie, Tweeter, and Twitter. The last names that were called were all a blur to me; I was too busy fantasizing that the officer had yelled out the wrong name or station, but this hell was all too real.
By the time my out-of-body state was over, I was in the van with the three girls, almost tumbling out of our seats as the vehicle went over bumpy road. I guessed we were no longer in Florida since the road was never in such bad shape before, but I could've been wrong.
"Damnit!" Twitter swore, holding her stomach from the motion sickness, "This is takin' too long! Why the hell can't we take a plane?" The rest of us stared blankly at the interior of the car. We all knew why aircraft wasn't an option. The Chinese had hundreds of missiles that could only hit planes because of their easiness in being detected pointed at every direction in the air at all time.
There were no windows in the back of the van. We didn't even know who was driving us to our bases. I looked through the emptiness wondering why I was chosen. Was it meant to be? Was this punishment for something I'd done back in training? I didn't know. All I was sure of was that I was going to die. Suddenly, this whole army-thing wasn't a game anymore. No more ten-mile hikes simply for not doing the laundry. No more laughing in the mess hall over some newbie who failed an obstacle course. Not even the marching was necessary anymore. This new, short life would be all about survival and fighting off all those who dared to take it.
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